John Constantine: Hellblazer #183 (June 2003) Solicitation Text : Black Flowers" Part 2 of 2. Now that the door to the land of the dead has been kicked open, a horde of old souls is clawing its way back into flesh - pursued by something much more dangerous. Unfortunately, the cure that John comes up with may be worse than the disease.
Standing atop a hillside on the outskirts of Bedfordshire, John Constantine and Kev watch as the crazed patrons of a burning petrol station enact their basest of desires upon each other amidst the flames that rage around them. The possessed revelers are interrupted by a host of robed and masked men who sweep down into the burning forecourt, striking down those they pass with the shepherd's crooks they wield. Necklaces made from human hands adorn the necks of the robed killers.
The robed figures continue their advance towards Bedfordshire, striking down some but leaving others alive in their wake.
Constantine follows his nose, so to speak, and arrives with his hapless chauffeur at the gates of St. Peter's Psychiatric Hospital. Convinced that the cause of the madness sweeping across Bedfordshire lies within, John sends the terrified Kev off home and continues on alone through the gates of the hospital. Finding the hospital grounds overgrown with more of the toothed black flowers, Constantine scoops a fistful of dirt from the midst of a hissing patch of aggrieved foliage before passing through the double doors of the main hospital building...
...where he's summarily set upon by a gang of possessed locals, including the unfortunate postman we saw not too long ago. Using some fancy footwork, a little of the old Irish brogue and the recently procured dirt, John manages to disable his attackers - leaving them flat on their backs behind him. Scaling the stair case that dominates the building's entrance hall, Constantine stumbles across a pair of the recently possessed patients trying to knock down a door with a statue-turned-battering ram. The pair turns heel and run when John threatens them with the remains of the dirt he still has from the garden.
A familiar voice issues a string of curses from behind the door, which eventually swings open to reveal Angie Spatchcock, holding a bloody great big knife in her hand. Angie explains to John that she managed to stop herself from becoming possessed like everyone else in the hospital by hurting herself - the pain apparently enough to dissuade the errant spirits from setting up shop in her skin and bones. Lying at her feet is the bound form of her unconscious brother, Jason, who she cops to having laid out with a cut glass paperweight. In turn, Constantine does a little explaining of his own - telling her that the Celtic king of the dead, Arawn, still keeps court in their current neck of the woods and that someone has managed to open a door to his realm. Able to roam free, the hosts of long dead Celts have been taking full advantage of the situation to eat, drink and be very fucking merry indeed. John names the robed figures as the Gironnved before untying Angie's brother and slinging him across his shoulders.
Outside, the Gironnved arrive in the grounds of the hospital, continuing their slaughter of the possessed that cross their path.
Finding their route back down the stairway blocked by some unseen disturbance in the hallway, John and Angie are forced to head further up the staircase. Constantine fills Angie in on the Gironnved - calling them the shepherds of the dead. Sent to round up the escaped ghosts, the Gironnved are only interested in killing those who have become possessed, thus sending the possessor back to Arawn's court. John muses that there'll be a massacre once the Gironnved get to the town of Stone Cross. Pulling a makeshift divination device come empty box of Silk Cut from the folds of his trench coat, Constantine learns that the open portal is located at the bottom of the lift shaft that runs through the building.
With the Gironnved making their way slowly up the stairs towards them, John proffers the opinion that they need to make a sacrifice ("something in Arawn's own currency") to close the portal. Angie adds one and one, coming up with three and thumping Constantine, thinking that he plans to kill her. John quickly corrects her but his alternative doesn't exactly have Angie all smiles. Working together, Constantine and Spatchcock suspend Jason over the lift shaft. John holds Angie's knife in against the now conscious man's throat as the Gironnved arrive before them, their lead member rising his crook to strike at Jason...
...only to get a throat full of knife as Constantine stabs him and flings him down into the depths of the shaft, uttering the words of the spell required to close the portal as the shepherd plunges into the darkness. John's gambit pays off as the portal closes, causing the remaining Gironnved's robes to fall empty to the ground and the people of Bedfordshire to shake off their possession.
Angie and John light up as Jason, none too enamoured with being left strung up over the lift shaft, hurls a barrage of insults at his sister. Pondering the words of Albert and Clarice at the end of Red Sepulchre, Constantine realises that things are far from over.
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