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Angels and Demons
Continued from Hunt the Hunter and Direct Action

Hasan walked among his followers as the cool, still night air meandered past him, bearing just a hint of salt water smell on the lazy eastward breeze. Silence fitted his thoughts like the funeral shrouds wrapped around his bodyguards who were in tow. Sorrow and joy sang in his heart for them; sorrow that the Adversary had taken them and joy because they were undoubtedly in Paradise with almighty Allah. Who would not want that eternal reward for those whom they loved in this life? Attempting to understand the mystery that was the way of submission was a fine line to walk, like the keen edge of the sword.

Hasan plodded on in silence. He had insisted they bring the dead by foot all the way to the Grand Mosque. Let the people see what the devil had done and let them see the martyrs. The exhaustion that sank into his soul was but a part of the penance he planned to serve -- not because he'd done anything wrong, of course, but because it was only right that God's instrument should bear the pain and suffering of His people. Had it been only hours -- or even that long? -- since that horrible attack by that devil? And what was to be done about it?

Politics and demons make strange bedfellows
It was obvious the jinn had some goal of its own to accomplish. The idea that the CCD would send uniformed soldiers to attempt a capture or assassination was simply ludicrous. Either the Great Adversary sent a demon in control of a CCD unit, or a demon faked the unit's allegiance to make it look like the CCD was trying to take him. The rage at defilement simmered within him, kept at bay only by the knowledge that he would not be tricked into waging the holy struggle against the wrong person. It was not political war he was being called to wage but one of holiness, against Shaytan himself. Allah commanded it.

Hasan distanced himself from the caravan for a moment and forged ahead upon the highway. And that was when he saw it -- out of the corner of his eye.


Was it in the shape of a man? Hasan turned his head and saw nothing, only a run-down dwelling off the side of the highway. Some sheep nibbled at sparse blades of grass.


There. Hasan turned his head the other way. Again, there was nothing -- but this time he was certain he had seen a silhouette of some sort. It had been there. The caravan was some fifty or sixty meters distant. Some sort of unseen wave rippled through them, like an invisible breath stirring grains of sand, and was gone just as quickly.

Malak al-Maut.
Hasan dropped to his knees right in the middle of the highway. He would have hardly been surprised to have glimpsed the Angel of Death earlier, at the Mosque, calling the righteous and the damned alike. One never saw him face to face until Allah decreed it was his time. To the holy, he would appear as the most beautiful creature; to the unjust, he was a horrible, hideous thing to behold, a visage worthy of nightmares.

Was the angel coming for him? Now? It made no sense to Hasan for this to be the end of his journey -- but it was nonsensical to question the wisdom of the Almighty.

He prostrated himself. "Allah's unworthy servant greets you, Malak al-Maut,"
Hasan called out. Some old writings said the Angel's name was Azrael, but the Holy Quran did not mention this. But one did not try to run from the angel of death. Not unless a man had something to fear, at least. "Allah knows the hidden things in my heart. If my service here to him is at an end, take me home."

There was no voice in response, not even the whisper of wind. Instead, the response was whispered to his soul.

Hasan's forehead was still touching the road surface when the first of his followers caught up. "What is it, Mahdi?" called out one of his students.

Hasan lifted his head. "Allah has sent the Angel of Death to us to bid us tidings,"
he said. He left the obvious unsaid: I saw the angel and survived.
No one, no one saw the Angel of Death until it was his time to leave the world. "The final struggle is at hand. It is the will of Allah that this shall come to pass and that we prepare for the end."

Hasan stood and said no more for the remainder of the night. Talk of angels and demons he left to his followers.

Prepare for the end.
Malak al-Maut was going to be very busy in the weeks and months to come.

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