Duke of Hades, Zero
Thomas Calabrese — Flame Demons can spit fire out of their mouths and can set most things ablaze. They are irascible, impulsive, violent and highly intelligent creatures and often dispatched by Satan to act as shock troops and to be commanders of his legions in the earthly realm. Botis Vassago was an evil sorcerer who lived in a stone mansion on an estate in Fallbrook, California. He had been stirring the cauldron of hate, violence and discontent for decades and with the presidential election rapidly approaching, he thought now was the perfect time to ratchet up the violence and chaos. He used an incantation to summon assistance from the bowels of hell. “Lord Satan, I besiege you for the power to conceive in my mind and to execute in reality that which you desire me to do, and in the end we will attain anarchy and destruction. O Mighty Satan, the one true leader who livest and reignest for all eternity, I vow my full allegiance. Inspire me to fullfill my chosen destiny. I respectfully and humbly ask you, Lord Satan, that you deem me worthy of your assistance.”
There was a flash of lightning that hit a gas station on Mission Road and it exploded in a ball of flames that could be seen and heard for several miles. Botis looked out the window of his palatial residence and saw the inferno and knew that his request had been answered. When he turned around, he saw a handsome man with jet black hair and dark eyes standing before him. The man spoke in a melodic and hypnotic voice, “I come at the order of the Emperor of Darkness, the King of Hell, the Anti-Christ. I am Dantalion, Grand Duke of Hades!”
Dantalion had thirty-six legions of demons under his command. He was the 71st of 72 spirits of Solomon and could read the thoughts of all people and could change them with his will. He had the ability to initiate the emotions of love, hate and cause delusions in people to make them believe they were part of a world they envisioned, but did not exist. Dantalion was also a shape shifter and had the ability to duplicate the physical appearances of men and women.
Jensen Castiel was a Navy Seal, a young man who grew up in Oceanside, California. He was the son of a career Marine. His father Jack put 27 years in the Corps and retired as a Sergeant Major. Jensen had two older sisters: Michelle, who was an emergency room nurse at Tri-City Medical Center, and Emily, who worked as a computer engineer and was employed by Cox Communications. Jensen was on an extended assignment with his team in Ukraine trying to destroy a human trafficking ring being operated by Albanian gangsters. He was on patrol in the Carpathian Mountains when his unit came across a small structure hidden among the dense foliage. The Americans took cover and Jensen pulled out an infra-red scope and pointed it at the building, “I’ve got nine heat signatures.”
Senior Chief Brice Tillman replied, “Dugan, take point.”
Chief Petty Officer Kane Dugan replied, “Roger that.”
The Navy Seals moved out in single file, staying low to the ground and not making a sound. When they reached the front door, they saw that it was reinforced. Jensen pulled out three small plastic explosive charges with remote detonators and placed them in strategic places next to the door-jam. The Seals backed away and Jensen blew the door off its hinges. The Americans rushed in and killed three human traffickers before they could react. The six young girls ranging from 11 years of age to 14 cowered in the corner.
Senior Chief Tillman reassured them, “You’re safe.”
Even though the girls did not speak English, they got the message from the tone of Seal Team leader’s voice. As they prepared to leave, Petty Officer Charlie Donnell called out as he scanned the area with binoculars “We’ve got company. I make out 30 hostiles.”
Senior Chief Tillman, “Castiel, hang back, give them everything you got, you stay 30 seconds no more, then I want beating feet to catch up, understand?”
“Comprendi,” Jensen smiled.
Senior Chief Tillman turned to Petty Officer Boomer Morland, “Give Castiel the grenade launcher. Remember what I said…30 seconds…don’t make me come back here to get you!”
“I got it…I got it,” Jensen replied, “Now go before none of us are going anywhere.”
The Navy Seals left with the rescued girls while Jensen fired high explosive grenades at the rapidly approaching human traffickers. After firing 15 rounds, he raced off at a full sprint to rejoin his team. When he reached the top of the ridge, he saw an image of a woman being pursued by two beastlike creatures. Jensen had to make a split second decision, let the woman defend herself and rejoin his team, or help her. He had sworn an oath to protect those in trouble so he changed directions and followed the woman. When he reached her location she was trapped against a rocky cliff. From his viewpoint, it looked like she wearing a high tech multi-colored one piece tracksuit that matched the foliage of the forest. She was holding a shield in one hand and a glistening sword in the other. Despite her situation, the woman did not seem fearful at all. Jensen had never seen anything like these creatures. They were part animal and part human. They were the size of a bear, with the face of a wolf, but the lower part of the torso had big human legs and feet. Jensen called out to distract them, “Hey!”
The two creatures turned around and began moving toward him. The Navy Seal fired two grenades and the creatures were knocked off their feet. Even though they were both seriously wounded they both got up. The woman came up from behind and decapitated both of them with two powerful swings of her sword.
The woman communicated telepathically with Jensen, “Thank you for your help. We’ve been watching you and your friends and we approve of the work that you’re doing. My name is Thalrania.”
“Who are you and what are these things that you just killed?”
Thalrania switched to verbal communications, “It might make you a little more comfortable if we spoke instead of exchanging thoughts. I am a wood nymph by birth and a demon hunter by profession. These two creatures are not of this world,” She kicked the severed head of the monster and it rolled down the hill “There’s a technical name for this particular breed, but we just call them, ‘Bearserkers’. They are immensely strong, but as dumb as a rock. They fall into the general category of beast demons’. Walk with me and I’ll explain more to you.” The beasts disintegrated into dust, leaving no trace of their existence.
“Okay,” Jensen answered.
As they walked under the forest canopy, Thalrania began to speak, “Whenever there is centralized evil, it creates a massive negativity field that weakens the world’s defenses against hell. The portals that lead from the bowels of depravity to civilization sporadically open and close during this chaotic time. Evil sorcerers use these opportunities to call for Satan’s assistance. I am a part of a larger group called ‘Hunters’. The Devil doesn’t like to play by the rules so whenever he brings in his demons, we respond. Sometimes when you’re on a mission we stay close-by, but out of sight. We do this to make sure that you are not facing an adversary that you don’t have the training or weapons for.”
“Considering what I just saw and speaking for my teammates, I extend our sincere gratitude for your assistance,” Jensen said.
“Not necessary, we do it for the same reason that you do your job, it is our sworn duty.” Thalrania said, “We might have a slight problem, though.”
“What kind of problem?” Jensen asked.
“You may have crossed some kind of line by engaging in a battle with a beast demon. I won’t know for sure until I discuss it with my commander.”
When they reached a clearing in the forest, several men and women were sitting around a campfire. A middle-aged man wearing a camouflaged uniform approached and he wasn’t pleased, “You know better than to bring him here.”
Thalrania explained, “He got involved in a fight with two bearserkers.”
“That does change things,” Gideon Windwalker replied, “Have a seat, Chief Petty Officer Jensen Castiel. I’ll need to contact my superior to see how he wants to handle this.”
“How do you know who I am?” Jensen asked.
“We know the name of everyone who serves in the defense of honor and freedom,” Gideon smiled.
Thalrania got a big plate of food from the outdoor grill and brought it over to Jensen who sat down at the table. As soon as he tasted it, Jensen commented, “This is great!”
“Just one of the many benefits of serving at the pleasure of the Great Almighty is that we get a lot of heavenly recipes,” Thalrania smiled.
When Gideon returned, he sat down across from Jensen, “We are prepared to offer you the following; we know that you have a prior commitment to the Navy Seals and we would never ask you to violate that oath. There may come a time when you need our help. All you have to do is ask and we’ll be there. Since we have the same core values and goals, your victories will also be ours.”
“I don’t see how I turn down a deal like that,” Jensen replied, “How do I get in touch with you?”
“Since Thalrania has already communicated with you telepathically, we have your thought waves on file.”
“Finish your meal and I’ll lead you back to your team,” Thalrania suggested.
“There is one thing that we would like to ask of you in return,” Gideon said, “This is only a request, not a demand.”
“If I can.”
“Keep this meeting and our agreement secret, even from your teammates. We like to consider ourselves the ultimate covert operation.” Gideon said.
“Absolutely, of course. I can do that.”
The beautiful wood nymph moved so quickly down the mountain trail that the well-conditioned Navy Seal had trouble keeping up with her. When they reached the top of the hill, Thalrania pointed down to the river below, “Your men are down there. Take a look at your radio.”
Jensen complied, “It’s not working.”
“They are going to ask you why you didn’t communicate by radio. Now you won’t have to lie.”
Jensen looked away for a moment and when he looked back Thalrania was gone. When he got back to his team, Senior Chief Tillman was obviously relieved to see him, “Where were you?”
“I had to take some evasive action.”
.Senior Chief Tillman, “These girls came walking into camp and said that a man rescued them. I assumed it was you. Why didn’t you radio for help?”
Jensen looked off in the distance and saw Thalrania standing next to a tree. She gave him a crisp salute and he knew that her group was responsible for the latest rescue. Upon his return to California, Jensen and his team were sent back to Camp Pendleton for a joint training exercise with Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance operatives. It only took a few days for Jensen to realize that something seriously wrong was going on in the area. Two armories on base were robbed, several Marines were badly beaten in downtown Oceanside and there were a series of fires in the North County area. Navy Seals need to be able to assess danger, develop a plan and execute the mission. Jensen’s senses were heightened to a level he had never known since his return. He knew that he wasn’t the same man that he was before he met Thalrania.
His teammates noticed the physical changes. Jensen, Boomer Morland and Charlie Donnell were in the 13 area fitness center on Camp Pendleton. The three Navy Seals were doing bench presses. Boomer maxed out at 310 pounds, Charlie struggled to do one rep of 315, “You’re up, Castiel.”
Jensen added two 50 pound plates, one on each end of the bar and easily popped out ten reps. “What the hell!” Boomer marveled, “When did you get so strong?”
The three Navy Seals went outside to the track to run three miles. They were running side by side for the first two laps, “I’m going to pick up the pace a little,” Jensen speeded up and before Boomer and Charlie finished their 12 laps, he had passed them twice.
Later that day there was another incident on base where several armed men in a pick-up truck attempted to race through the front gate. A gun-battle ensued between the military police and the occupants of the vehicle. Two Marines were injured and their assailants were killed. Two hours later, a fire broke out by Edson Range and quickly spread to 15,000 acres with zero containment. Jensen exited Camp Pendleton through the Naval Weapons Station on his way to the Pala Casino to have dinner with former Navy Seal Ray Lighthorse, who was in charge of security at the resort. He stopped off at Daniels Market in the River Village Shopping Center to pick up an anniversary card for his parents. As he was standing in line, he felt an overwhelming sense of evil and danger sweep over him. Jensen moved slowly through the store looking for the source of the negative energy. When he turned down the ice cream aisle, the feeling got much stronger. A young Marine and his wife were playfully joking around with each other about which ice cream flavor to get. Botis Vessago came up behind the woman and touched her on the shoulder and grinned maliciously, “I have many flavors of ice cream at my house. Why don’t you join me for the best banana split in the world?”
The young Marine stepped forward, “Back off, Bozo!”
Botis reached out with his hand and grabbed the young Marine by the throat and lifted him off the ground, “What was that again?”
Jensen came up behind the evil sorcerer and kicked him in the back of the knee, then grabbed his arm and pulled it right off the Marine, who gasped for the air. Botis tried to use his immense power against Jensen to get his arm lose, but couldn’t do it. It was at that time the evil sorcerer knew he was facing a Hunter. When they made eye contact, their stares burned deep and both men knew that they were facing their sworn adversary. When Jensen released him, Botis turned around and rushed out of the market.
Jensen turned to the Marine who was rubbing his throat, “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I think so, that guy had a grip like a vice. Thanks for your help,” The Marine coughed, “I wish I had my M-16 with me.”
“Hang in there,” Jensen said.
When Botis reached his sanctuary, he was very upset. Dantalion looked over as he approvingly watched the news coverage of the fire on Camp Pendleton that he started, “What’s wrong?”
“I just had a confrontation with a Hunter,” Botis answered.
“And you’re still alive, that’s unusual. Do you know what kind?”
“Military type” Botis sighed.
“That is not good ,” Dantalion pondered the revelation as flames shot from his mouth, “Patriotism always makes things more difficult for me.”
When Jensen came out of Pala Casino, Thalrania was sitting in his Toyota Highlander. He commented, “Why is it I have a feeling this is not a social call.”
“Maybe because I don’t do social calls,” Thalrania answered, “Drive.”
Thalrania directed Jensen to a home on Gopher Canyon Road. Gideon Windwalker and a group of Hunters were preparing their weapons for battle, “Good to see you again…I wish it was under different circumstances.”
“If it was, you wouldn’t be here,” Jensen commented.
“The man you met at the market was Botis Vessago. He’s a sorcerer who has summoned Dantalion, a powerful demon and his legions. If we don’t stop them, things will only get worse for the world…much worse,” Thalrania said.
“How does this work, I’ve never fought demons before,” Jensen asked.
“Our weapons are blessed and whoever is killed in battle is vanquished and cannot return to earth for two hundred years,” Gideon explained, “We will meet at Mission Vista High School to see whether good or evil prevails.”
When they arrived at the school site, hundreds of Demons were lined up on one side of the football field. Jensen, Thalrania and Gideon walked out to the 50 yard line to face Botis Vessago and Dantalion who spit fire high into the sky.
Gideon said, “It’s been a while.”
“Two hundred and forty three years and seven months but who’s counting,” Dantalion responded, “Satan sends his ill wishes. Thalrania, looking good as always. I told you before, you’re fighting for the wrong side. You can have massive wealth and great power if you join my legion. I’ll make you second in command.”
“I’m still happy where I’m at.”
Dantalion looked over Jensen and sized him up, “Navy Seal, huh? I’ve heard about you. The last military Hunter that I came across was a guy called George Washington.”
Thalrania reminded Satan’s warrior, “I imagine you wouldn’t forget him, he sent you to the bowels of hell for two centuries.” .
“He got lucky,” Dantalion snapped back, “That won’t happen again!”
“You going to talk us to death?” Gideon said, “Or are we going to do what we came here for?
“That is the only thing I like about you Gideon, you get right to the point. Even though we’ve been fighting for an eternity, you still don’t like to waste time, ” Dantalion waved his right hand and his legion of demons moved forward.
Gideon did the same and the Hunters also approached from the parking lot. It only took several seconds before the opposing forces were engaged in heated battle. Every time a demon was destroyed, it turned into a fireball and it went deep into the earth on its way to hell. When a Hunter was lost, a bright light shot into the skies. Neither would be allowed to return to earth for 200 years. Before long Thalrania was facing off against Botis while Jensen did the same with Dantalion. Thalrania quickly moved to the left and lunged forward with her sword. The blade went through Botis’ chest and came out between his shoulder blades. In a moment a bright ball of fire appeared and burrowed through the earth.
Jensen and Dantalion dropped their swords and came at each other with their knives drawn. The Navy Seal lunged forward and the Demon grabbed his wrist. Dantalion made the same movement and Jensen grabbed his adversary’s wrist. With their blades only an inch away from their intended target, they kept pushing. Dantalion smiled, “You’re human and your first death is always the most painful. I’m glad to be the first one to give it to you.” Just when Dantalion’s blade touched Jensen’s shirt and seemed ready to penetrate, things slowly began to change. The Navy Seal’s knife slowly punctured the Demon’s flesh and Dantalion cursed in frustration, “Aw hell!” and burst into flames and disappeared into the earth.
Thalrania walked over and placed a reassuring hand on Jensen’s shoulder, “You were destined for this.”
Gideon laughed, “Prince of Patriotism, one, Duke of Hades, zero..,rematch in 200 years.”