This was originally the intro to a story that has since stalled out and pretty much died. But this part caught my eye, and demanded a revision, which resulted in the bit below. I've worked it so it will work for whichever version of The Shadow you want, namely the Movieverse or the Pulpverse that it was originally intended for.
I hope you enjoy. Please review! If you can think of a better title, I'm open to suggestions.
The old man was dying.
He recognized the sensation from past, near-death experiences, but those had not resulted in his death. This time, he knew it was real. There were countless times in his past when he expected to die; to die from a bullet, a blade, a shock, acid, poison, gas, a trap, a mistake, a last resort… a sacrifice. Never in his younger days had he ever dreamed he would die of old age. He had wanted to go down in a blaze of glory. The small part of his younger self that was left laughed at the thought.
'So many times, you cheated death,' he thought. 'So many people thought you were invincible, that you were immortal. It played to your advantage. One once said death would never be able to find you because of all the names and faces you assumed. Death would never know which man to go after; he would be left collecting the souls you left behind.'
However, death was smarter than that. Death and taxes: both were inevitable and unavoidable. After all, here he was, lying on a hospital bed, his body slowly shutting down. They had brought him here five days ago, and the doctors were amazed he was still alive. He had made slight improvements, but the old man knew he would not see the sun rise in the morning to chase the shadows away. He knew his time had finally come. He would be the shadow that the sun burned away, unable to survive in the light any longer.
This brought him back to his original predicament: how did he know? He laughed quietly at the question. Though his laugh was a shade of its former self, the laugh still filled the room with a foreboding sound. The laugh carried the answer, but he still chose to voice it.
"The Shadow knows," the old man whispered.
The Shadow knew many things. Some, he would take to the grave; it would be better that way. Others would live on, carried and passed on by his successors. The Shadow as a name would never die. The Shadow could never die. There would always be one to emerge from the shadows and take up the black cloak, hat, scarf, guns, and name.
There was another piece that would complete the new Shadow, a piece that would bind everything together.
Slowly, the old man lifted his left hand. At one time, it was strong an youthful, but like the rest of his body time had turned it old and tired. His skin had an almost transparent quality to it, allowing him to see every vein even in the darkness of his room. Finally, his eyes fell on his third finger. A single gold band encircled the finger, the sight of which brought warm tears to his eyes. He blinked them away. He one who wore the ring's partner had already traveled to the shadows where she was waiting for him. He hoped they would be together, though his actions in life threw some doubt into his mind. Still, she was waiting for him; she had promised that she would. Death parted them, but only temporarily.
There was another ring on his finger next to the gold band. This one was silver, with a large gem inlaid. It was not the original ring that he once wore, but its twin. The two rings were identical except for two secrets that only a select few knew of. There were other rings, but they were only copies made to identify a select group of individuals. The rings stood as symbols of who these people were loyal to and the secrets he held. Many had died because of what the ring stood for, all were buried wearing it. More were still living, and still more would join them.
All followed the same rule: never take it off.
He closed his eyes, and pictured the original ring. He could see the girasol glowing with its mysterious inner light. He knew it was worn by the right person, currently the third person to take the mantel and name he started. Following the tradition, he had passed the ring to his successor, who then did the same. Later, years later, a fourth would take the name, followed by, he hoped, a fifth.
The old man gathered the last bits of his mental strength, and reached out with his mind. He traveled until he was in a bedroom. There were two children: one ten, and the other nine years old. Both were sleeping. Neither stirred as a shadow broke away from the others in the room and took on the form of a man in a cloak and hat. The shadow stood watch for a few moments before suddenly shuddering, and vanishing.
On the other side of the city, a man moved silently and unseen through the shadows. He wore a black cloak, hat, and red scarf, though no one could see him. Suddenly, he froze, and looked down at his hand. On his left finger were two rings: one covered by a black glove, the other displayed on the outside. The outer ring was a girasol that glowed with a mysterious, inner light. The man watched as the light grew dimmer, and finally went out. A wind blew through the alleyway, carrying with it a ghost of a laugh.
The Shadow knew.
The old man was no longer dying.