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The Story - Chapter 6 - The Shoals of the Departed

The Horsemen had little choice but to return the way they came, as most of the ride back down to central was bordered by bodies of water splitting the landmasses. The city was just as dead as they had left it upon arriving, with Conquest's Wild Hunt and Death's undead still patrolling the streets.

The same vast ocean the riders had crossed on their trip East spread to the South, leaving their only mode of travel another massive paved bridge over the waters. It seemed to be of the same make and design as the other two bridges they had crossed, more than likely built as part of a network of travel to spread the humans across the world with ease. Little would they know, it would play a key factor in their eradication.

Briefly after setting off, a large city skyline came into view to the Horsemen, silhouetted by their own glow against a dark night sky. The initially though they were closing in on their next target, but the shapes in the distance didn't seem to move much closer as they rode on. It was nearly morning before they arrived, and realized how they had been deceived; the buildings composing the skyline in question had been absurdly massive. Dozens of skyscrapers reached into the heavens and blocked out the sky as the Horsemen traveled between them, a metropolis beyond comparison to most of the primitive settlements they had cleansed beforehand.

With such sprawling space and infrastructure, the Horsemen initially thought there'd be a population to match, and dispatched their minions to cleanse the city. Only... they found no one. Other than the occasional stray animal, there was not a soul to find within the city. The riders spent days combing the streets to be sure, searching every building, subterranean railway, and port; but no one was to be found. They happened upon a set of monuments in the west of the city, all unrecognizable except for one; to their surprise, Death's current host body. Disappointed in their lack of a hunt, but now gaining a better picture as to why, they continued onwards further South.

The roads of the city lead through an overgrown area of gardens, equally as devoid of life, passed a dense swampland, and finally into a sprawling forest-town where tree and house were indistinguishable. The 'structures' seemed to be centered around two absolutely massive trees in the middle of the city, which height-wise rivaled the manmade structures they had come across in the city previously. There was life here to be sure, but almost completely composed of animals; again not an intelligent being to be found. Branching out from the forest town was a desolated hellscape, with a number of structures spread across it that could vaguely be considered homes. Crowning the area was a massive infernal fortress build into the walls of a series of active volcanoes, fiery enough to impress even War. The riders noticed a large tower sprouting from one, seeming to have been built in the same style as the fortress. This in itself would have been unremarkable after an entire city of such structures, if not for the massive flaming eye atop it; that also seemed to follow them as they approached, the first sign of some intelligence since arriving on this strange landmass.

Investigating this fortress, they found a swarm of pig-like undead creatures patrolling the grounds. The meager force was no match for the superior undead of Conquest and Death, and the halls of the mountains soon fell silent. Lastly, they came upon the master of the tower, a creature they recognized as a fallen God. He initially attempted to battle for his survival, but was swiftly disarmed and humiliated by War, forced onto all fours and bowing for his life. Rather than slaughter the God, Fury decided to cursed him and bent him to her will- to be unable to leave the tower for as long as it stood, and to slaughter any that wandered into it.

Satisfied, the march South continued. The few settlements they found past this point were very clearly already ruins, long overgrown and desolate. Signs of some form of battle still lingered in the area, as husks of massive war engines and odd pumpkin-spider golems littered the area. Another massive forest continued on from that, swallowing the entirety of what looked to be an ancient kingdom beneath the trees. Finding no reason to try and wade through the trees, the Horsemen continued on outward, heading now back onto the oversea bridge.

This segment of the bridge seemed to transverse land as often as sea, with many large islands across the expanse. Death in particular had an idea for this area, suggesting they come back to it once they've accomplished what they needed to in the South of the world.

Finally, they arrived at the end of the bridge, greeted by a desert city on the shore of a large lake. A grand palace adorned the southern portion of the city, while bazaars and homes stood between it and the Horsemen. It seems enough time had passed that word of the Horsemen had reached the city, as chaos immediately ensued once they were sighted. Instead of all the inhabitants running in horror, however, a small military force seemed to gather and advance toward them.

Famine took point on this one, as there were some tricks she was looking to try out. The sky darkened as a storm started to form over the city. Instead of rain, however, something else was falling from the sky, painting the soldiers and pooling in the cracks of the streets. Blood. The blood of all the slain up until this point began falling on the city in a torrential downpour.

Several of the less battle-hardened solider broke rank and ran, but the majority continued a cautious advanced. A spear crashed into War's helmet in retaliation, which shattered without so much a flinch from the red rider.

Next, a hoard of.. frogs emerged from the lake behind the town, driven out of the waters by the pooling blood. This only added to the general chaos in the city, but seemed to go mostly unphased by the line of soldiers. Until that is, hideous warts and boil began popping through the skin of all living things in the town. Now visibly shaken, the line broke- soldiers fleeing in all directions, with some of the more battle hardened veterans coming straight for the Horsemen.

But they never made it to their mark. What little light was left in the sky was blotted out with a massive, black mass- a impossible swarm of locusts descended on the city, feeding on the open wounds of the people as they fled. Slightly irritated by the spear from earlier, War decided to add a bit to the show- blood turned to red hail, and joined fire in falling from the sky. The city now lit only by burning buildings among the storm of frozen blood and insects.

Backhanding War for interfering in her fun, Famine reveled in the scene she had created, art in her eyes. But it was time to move on again, and time to do what they came here to do. As the closing act of the show, she extracted the souls of all still within the city, and crystalized them into shards. Leaving the supernatural storm to rage, the Horsemen about-faced, heading back toward the center of the world.

They discussed among themselves as they road, as their purpose had been fulfilled- bring down the civilization of man and reduce the living back to the caves they had first crawled out from. Famine, Conquest, and War all opted to return to their castles and reign over their individual territories- while Death parted with them early, his sights set on the expanse of islands they had passed.

Launching himself and his stead from the bridge, he continued into the greater area of the sea by traversing the seafloor, until reaching one of the larger islands. The modest community living on the island barely registered to the Horseman as he constructed his castle, a twisted facade compared to the other three. In addition, he used his scythe to rend a hole through the world before it- severing through the dimensions themselves into the very afterlife. A vortex of souls pooled within the well, instantly corrupting the island and warping its inhabitants.

And here Death remained, contemplating how best next to proceed with something that seemed to have escape their notice.

< Chapter 5 - The Heart | Chapter 7 - The Divine Tempest >