I appeared in the midst of the huge waiting room. Souls of various ages sat in silence, looking confused, terrified and occasionally bored. The Doobie Brothers' "Black Water" played lightly from the ceiling-mounted speakers.
Azraal stood in the approximate center of the room. He looked, surprisingly, scared and humbled. It was a new look for him and as best I could tell it was a look he wasn't faking.
"Azraal," I said flatly. It was one of those manly, suspicious greetings. Like in movies right before the bad guy and the good guy circle each other and begin an epic fight scene.
"Thanks for meeting me," he said.
"Why are you here?" I asked irascibly. "Shouldn't you be busy trying to usurp my throne?"
He shook his head. "I want to propose a temporary truce," he said.
"A truce?" I echoed incredulously. It was impossible to tell if I was being excessively paranoid, but this seemed like the beginnings of a trap. "Why?"
"I've heard rumors," Azraal explained. "Some kind of pre-demonic species has been unleashed somewhere down in the Department of Torture. Their leader is bent on destroying all of us."
He stared at me as though he expected an answer despite having not asked a question. "Okay," I said.
"They're not rumors," Azraal summarized.
He was looking to me for confirmation. "No," I said. "Their leader, Halkkor, is in my office right now. We've reached an agreement--which is likely temporary--to work together to improve Hell's efficiency. For now, that's what I could do to stop the slaughter."
Azraal nodded. "Then how do I help?"
I shrugged. "You don't," I said. "I don't trust you. I can't trust you. How many times have you tried to take over?"
Azraal snorted. "Look," he snapped. "As soon as we take care of this problem, I'll be plotting my rise to power again. But even though I may be a power-hungry conniving, backstabbing, egocentric asshole, I understand what's at stake here. I'm not selfish enough to see that if we don't work together here, we're all dead."
"How do I know this isn't a trap?" I asked.
"You can trust me," he assured me. "I may be selfish, but the only way that I can serve my own interest of survival is by combining forces. Once we kick these things' asses, then you won't be able to trust me anymore. But for now, I'm the most powerful ally you can have."
I wasn't convinced, but he was starting to convince me that I couldn't afford not to be convinced. This might be a risk I had to take.
"Okay," I finally said. "I think I know how you can help."