An explosion rocks the line of men cordoning off the city of Las Vegas from the rest of the country. In the light of the fire, a figure can be seen to leap atop a tank, reaching down to grasp its cannon’s barrel and then, with a great snap, ripping the turret free of the vehicle’s body, proceeding to wield the ungainly assemblage as a club against the surrounding soldiers.
From the blaze emerges a figure cloaked in robes, a hood concealing its features – though a pair of bare feet peek from the bottom of the robe, floating a good foot off the ground with no visible means of support. The figure holds the limp, broken body of a soldier by the throat in one hand, reaching up to throw back its hood with the other. The woman revealed smiles at the soldiers arrayed before her, who seem paralysed with fear.
“Gehenna,” she speaks, voice dripping with ire. “The word fills you with dread, and you don’t even know what it means.”
She tosses the body to the ground, continuing to slowly float towards the assembled soldiers at what would be a languid pace were she walking.
“Some of you may have vague images of a fiery pit, of damnation and torment. Fewer still may recognise it as a reference to Armageddon, the end of days. But I tell you, Gehenna is not a distant spectre, to frighten and cajole the wicked to righteousness. Gehenna is real; Gehenna is now.
“These are the Final Nights.”
She casts her arm wide, the sleeve swirling in the air behind it, holding it before her as if delivering a benediction.
“The Grandchildren stir, their long slumber soon to end. Their foul progeny, the secret masters of your civilisation since time immemorial, weave their own plots, both in service and opposition to masters even more ancient than they. One of the Thirteen has risen already, to be destroyed by those who would stop the inevitable, leaving a wake of destruction that threatens the very foundation of our reality. All with blood in their veins shall be their prey, for they seek strength to oppose an even greater threat.
“The Father is coming.”
Her lips curl in a sneer. “Not your father, Kine, for Seth, like all mortals shall be in time, is truly dead. It is our Father who comes; the Immortal Father: Caine. He shall pass judgement upon his grandchildren, and those of their spawn that stand with them. And He shall find them wanting. He shall find them without remorse, without redemption – for there can be no redemption in a world of sin.
“‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ – and yet, cast stones we do, for we cannot help but sin. The world is sin; born of sin, formed of sin, bathed in sin, cleansed in sin. Entering this world is itself a sin, for which we can never be forgiven. The Almighty has forsaken us, left the world to the devils, for who else deserves the sin that is the world?”
Her eyes narrow, casting a glance that to ever onlooker seems to be into their very soul. “Look into your heart, Kine. Ask yourself: am I without sin?” A pause. “You are not. Those who believe they are without find themselves guilty of the sin of deceit, for they have lied to themselves. All who inhabit this world sin. It is in our very natures.”
She raises a hand towards the sky, where the smoke billows and swirls, obscuring the stars. “And the Father shall judge us as well, He born of sin, sustained by sin, cast out by sin, shall know us by our sins. And only one path to salvation lay before us: to serve the Father. To punish the Grandchildren, and all who would support them. To oppose their rise, to deny their blood, and to destroy their corpses.”
Her arm falls. “Two already have fallen,” and here her arm rises again, holding forth a sword, its tip poised at the soldiers, “for we are the Sword of Caine: the path of salvation, through sin. Take up the blade, or throw yourself upon it; either is preferable to what the Grandchildren will do.”
She drops the tip of the sword, and a horde emerges from the flames, charging the lines.