The Angel Azrael and the War Ghosts
I’ve written another tale of Azrael, the angel gunslinger, that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has been kind enough to publish. “The Angel Azrael and the War Ghosts” follows the fallen angel Azrael as he crosses paths with some soldiers that refuse to die and who just can’t leave the past behind. Here’s the opening bit:
It was a gunshot that woke the angel Azrael from his dream of the wars and put him on the path to redemption. A single shot that cracked through the hot air of the day like the world had snapped and broken somewhere.
At the time, Azrael was slumbering in the saddle atop the dead horse, letting it take him where it would across the badlands, for he had no destination of his own. He was dreaming of the final battle at the Jericho Wall, of the angel Lazarus standing amid all the dead in the breach in that wall, his bible burning in his hands and flames in his eyes as he stared accusingly at Azrael. The battle cries and screams of the dying were so loud in Azrael’s ears that he almost didn’t hear the shot.
He opened his eyes to find himself riding across the same lifeless plain as when he’d drifted off to sleep hours or perhaps even days earlier. The ground was hard and cracked from the unrelenting heat. He suspected it hadn’t seen a rainfall in his lifetime. It rose and fell here and there, providing just enough cover for someone to set up an ambush. But Azrael saw no other soul, living or dead, and no bullet struck him. There wasn’t even a mark of one hitting the ground anywhere nearby. The shot must have been fired somewhere else, at someone else. He rested his hands on the guns at his hips nevertheless.
The dead horse was following a wagon trail, but that trail had come to a crossroads where it split in two. One branch angled off to the west, while the other disappeared into the horizon in the opposite direction. There were no signs indicating where the trails might lead.
Azrael squinted up at the sky, searching. The merciless sun filled the heavens with a bright emptiness. The two buzzards that accompanied him everywhere were circling to the west, a sure sign there was something of import that way. Azrael nudged the dead horse in their direction. The buzzards had a sense for trouble that was rarely wrong. Experience had taught him it was best not to ignore them.
Bonus feature: I’ve just finished a working draft of the first Azrael novel, and this story hints at a few things that take place in the novel.
Bonus bonus feature: The issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies also contains a new Bone and Gaunt story by Chris Willrich, “On Magog’s Pond.” If you know Willrich’s writing you’ll be as excited about this as I was. If you haven’t read Willrich yet, then you’re in for a treat.
Bonus bonus bonus feature: The issue also opens up the BCS archives to republish Lavie Tidhar’s “Drowned God’s Heresy.” Does it get any better than this? No. No, it does not.
This marks the fifth Azrael story that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has published. If you’re curious about the order in which to read them, I’m partial to the order of publication.
Please also check out the audio version of “The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies” with a new introduction I recorded for the story.