Father Terrance looked up from his notes, to watch the steady stream of folks seeking refuge from the fighting outside. Since Black Jack and his crew had attacked the Union-controlled buildings in town, many people had found themselves once again homeless - or simply too afraid to remain in their homes. Many had fled to the outlying hills, or sought protection from Brigadier-General Pattersons troops, but a good number had turned to God to save them.
Normally, Terrance would be among the refugees, tending to the sick and disillusioned, denying adversitys grip upon them. But today, his attention must be paid elsewhere, with the Order of St. George and their eternal struggle against the forces of darkness. Reverend C.A. Johnson and Enrique Alonso brought with them a different approach to the horrors lurking at societys fringe, taking the fight directly to the Devils own doorstep, a tact which Terrance found most appealing. He knew immediately that he must lend his own efforts to their cause.
Today, that meant translating a text left behind by one of Elijahs Flock, an unholy scholar known only as The Missionary. The book was salvaged from the wreckage of Elijahs parish by Auger OReilly, an offensive, foul-smelling pawn-broker who had earned far too much from the pain and loss of Gomorras population. It reeked like a week-dead cow and bled pus and mire onto the burlap hed placed over his reading desk, and the ancient script and images graven within scattered away from his vision, fading and moving at will. But the information presumably lost within its hated pages was vital to the coming war, and Terrance was the only one in town who understood Aramaic.
Skimming another line, Terrance jotted down the words he knew and started making comparisons for the rest. The latest passages hed stumbled onto were fascinating, describing a second war between the Archangel Gabriel and his fallen brethren, which would be fought here on Earth, in a place described as "risen from the ashes of the Great Seductress". Gomorra, the priest guessed as he completed another translation. The second war will be fought here
The text also referred to something called "the parting of the shroud", an event that would signify the start of the final battle, when the Fallen would stage an assault upon the gates of Heaven, seeking to reclaim their birthright. The parting of the shroud ? wondered Terrance as he leafed through reference texts. Could this refer to the Shroud of Turin, which Christ was wrapped in after his death? Or is it something less literal?
"Father?" A palm rested carefully upon the priests shoulder, though he was unsure how long it had been there. Turning to meet the intruder, Terrance found himself oddly calm. Perhaps being away from the needs of those huddled in the courtyard outside his window had been enough to level his frayed nerves
Maxwell Baine stood behind him, apparently having entered from the parish interior. He wore the pained expression of a man burdened well beyond what most could stand, though his posture remained defiant and strong. Terrance had always respected the resilience of the Sweetrock patriarch, quietly applauding his attempts to purge the company of corruption and protect the welfare of his laborers.
"I need your help, Father," Max began, without fanfare.
"Of course," Terrance replied, rising to block the Bible from view. (No need for Baine to know that he was studying Satanic texts ) "What can I do for you, Mr. Baine?"
"Im told you work with the Rangers on occasion."
Terrance smiled. "And Ive been warned that you can be blunt."
"I apologize, Father. Ive just returned from a rather uncomfortable meeting."
"Its quite all right. I understand that your position is delicate at the moment. I havebeen known to assist the Rangers when they require a man of the cloth, yes."
"I think something very wrong is happening up at the Elephant Hill mausoleum," Baine stated flatly. "A source informed me that the Confederates have set up a base in the crypts lower levels. Im not sure, but I think Pattersons boys are harvesting Gomorras dead."
Father Terrance was silent for some time before responding. "Youd like us to look into it because were already close to him."
"If you could," Baine answered.
It didnt take Father Terrance long to decide. "Well put our best men on it, Mr. Baine. If theres something down there, well find it."
"Thanks, Father. God bless."
Before Baine could turn to leave, his attention was drawn outside, above and beyond the huddled forms within the parish courtyard. A high whine was descending across the town, like the scream of a man falling to his death. Terrance instantly recognized the sound, flashing back to the terrible explosive force of the artillery Patterson had brought with him from the front lines - enormous guns that could level a mesa with a single blow. Seconds later, the sound was trailed by a tremendous blast and a cloud of dust, far out on the plains.
Anger and remorse laced Baines words. "Its only a matter of time, Father, before the silence ends."
Terrance looked back down to his notes and the wretched book, recalling its predictions. " And time, Mr. Baine, is something we are running rather short of."