The Story - Chapter 1 - Apocalypse
As the gods faded from the world, the sky was lit aflame. The earth heaved, the seas roared. Stormclouds blotted out the sun. Blood rose from every crack in the earth, pooling upon its surface. The humans panicked, rioted, turning on one another in fear and anguish. The end of times had come, and none had thought it would be in their lifetime.
Witnessed only by a few - and not by any who would survive - four lights descended from the sky. Flitting lifelessly above the origin of the world, they lingered first for days. On the seventh day, amidst the continued chaos, they found purpose, splitting off to each of the four corners of the world.
They had chosen specific targets, latching on to the vessels that would become their own:
- An ancient, cognizant mushroom that had wandered the world since the elder days, claiming lands by entwining itself into the ground.
- Two humans; one steeped in constant sickness, the other in an endless lust for battle.
- The final entity housed itself within another oddity from the elder days, the originator of a family of sentient pumpkins with a penchant for the senseless slaughter of all things.
These four would forever come to be known as the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Drawn by an unearthly force, the four summoned mounts from a world unknowable, riding off for a destination they did not yet know.
Stories began to circulate amongst the frenzied humans of the horsemen, beings seemingly ethereal and unaffected by the world that rampaged around them.
After seven days and seven nights of endless riding, the four then met within a grand forest, known to the humans that lived there as 'Wildwood'.
Now reunited, the Four began on the mission that had summoned them into the world - to usher in the end of times.
The mushroom, known now as the Rider of Conquest, was the first to test the limits of their new being. Much as they had with their mounts, it summoned from beyond an army of frozen dead, and set them to cleanse the forest of all who made their homes there; scattered huts and small towns containing woodland dwelling humans who, until now, had largely gone unscathed by the upheaving world.
Large spires of ice began sprouting near these human dwellings, bringing with them the hoards of Conquest's new army.
The humans were decimated; their slaughter was quick, precise, and brutal. Only nine had the courage to fight back at their assailants, making their way through the ranks to the horsemen themselves.
One of the two human vessels, now under the title of Rider of Famine, found this amusing. In a test of her own new powers and limits, she extracted the souls of the nine humans, and re-created their bodies as enhanced versions of Conquest's soldiers. Once she was satisifed with her work, she forced the souls back into the corrupted vessels, binding them to her will.
Of the nine, however, one seemed to resist her hold, partially reverting his own body by sheer force of will once his soul was returned to him. This caught the attention of all four riders, to the misfortune of this 'survivor'.
The Pumpkin was the next to test his vessel, possessed by the leader of the riders - the sentient essence of Death itself. The Rider of Death collected all of the souls released by Conquest's legions, and forced them within the body of the unfortunate human. His bloody screams echoed throughout the forest, yet he still did not succumb.
It was decided that while the survivor - known to them as 'Nomad' - could certainly be of interest, he was not more important than their immediate goal. Death ordered the construction of the first of the Horsemen's dwelling places. As Famine - or Fury, as she also went - was the one to create this being, the settlement would be under her management. Using the razed remnants of a town that once belonged to blood-sucking undead, a grand castle was built, as well as a dungeon with which the survivor was contained.
Famine's other eight creations were then locked away in crypts beneath diseased and corrupted trees scattered throughout her forest, imprisoning them for later intrigue. Little did she know, the eight were still completely aware of themselves, yet their bodies and actions remained slave to her instructions. Their tortured souls would wander from their bodies as far as possible, attempting to aid any who would explore their crypts, offering all that they still had in return for the possibility of being able to pass on from their endless hell.
Driven by their innate purpose, the Horsemen then headed north. The only one of them to yet test their power, the remaining vessel, the Rider of War, took every opportunity to immolate every living thing in their path; his strange, spectral fire burning all that he desired - yet only what he desired - leading to more than a few gruesome corpses.
After traveling for days, the riders approached a massive city, seemingly on the edge of the world. It seemed that word of their slaughter had already reached the people, as an army awaited them at the gates. A lone old man approached them, who served as both the elder and messenger of the land. He pleaded with the riders to save the beauty of the city, as its construction had been the pride of countless generations.
Death conferred with the man, proposing to him a deal - the safety of the city, for the souls of its inhabitants. The man hastily agreed, wanting to preserve their work beyond all else. Death waved his scythe, and every living being in the city fell lifeless; young and old, human and non-human alike. Only the old man was left alive, and he could only look on in horror at what he had wrought. Their city had been spared, but at what cost?
With the population cleared, and their purpose still needing to be fulfilled, the Horsemen abandoned the north. In their wake, they left only the old man and his lone sanctum of a city, as well as the haunting forest now known to its few survivors as 'Wychwood', named for the avatar of Famine that now called it their home.
Unbeknownst to the Horsemen, there had been another observer to their beginning act - a lone figure hidden in the shadows of the world, cloaked in purple and gaunt to the point of skeletal. Its face was concealed all but for a mocking smile, and it cast its gaze on the eight plague trees marking the barrows of Fury's new wights...