In The Castle’s Shadow (pt 3)

Part one-

Part two-

As the phone started ringing, Connor had a moment of panic. He was sure that the time differences meant he was calling Gregor in the middle of the night. He knew from the picture that his great uncle could not be a young man anymore. He doubted that the man would even be awake. He was so sure that Gregor would be asleep that when a gruff voice said hello, he just sat there in shock for a minute. A second rude hello roused him from his stupor.
“Uncle Gregor? This is Connor, um Alexandre’s son. Did I wake you?” Connor managed to stumble out.


Connor waited for more before continuing.

“I’m so glad I reached you. I have to do a family history project for my psychology class. I’m supposed to contact living family members and gather some stories. I was wondering if I could ask you some questions?” Connor asked.

“I do not usually take phone calls to talk about myself. It is a waste of time,” Gregor’s accent was so thick that Connor had to concentrate to understand him.

Connor needed to get the answers and decided to ask again. It was easier to push for answers when it was over a crackling phone line. 

“I just need to get one story and any medical history you would be willing to share,” Connor spoke quickly, worried that the phone line was going to die.

He listened to the fading connection, praying that Gregor would give him the answers he needed. His hopes began to fade as the silence dragged on. At one point, he even checked his phone to make sure they had not lost their connection.

“Gregor?” he tentatively asked.

“I do not want to give away personal information to someone I have never met. If you want answers, I will send you tickets,” the line clicked before Connor could answer.

Connor sat there in shock. He had never left the state let alone the country. He had always thought of traveling, but Romania never made the list of countries he wanted to visit. He did not even know anything about Romania. The only thing that he knew about the country was that Dracula’s castle was there. The legend of Dracula had always peaked his interest. Without fully realizing what he was doing, he walked to his parents room to let them know that he was going to visit Gregor. He did not know what he was expecting. He knew that they would not be happy about his decision. 

When he was back in his bed for the night, he was a mixture of anxious and excited. To say his parents were less than thrilled would have been an understatement. Connor had nearly changed his mind when his mother started to cry. He had never made her cry before and hoped to never do it again. The anger on his father’s face battled against his apparent fear. He did not say a word as he comforted his distraught wife. He did not even look at his son.

Connor knew that going to Romania was going to disappoint his parents, but loosing his scholarship would disappoint them as well. He was in a no win situation. He hoped that in time, they could accept this trip and forgive him for making it. Despite their reaction, his excitement mounted. He could not wait to learn more about the country his great grandmother had grown up in.

He feel into a restless sleep, his dreams plagued with vampires and monsters stalking him. Everywhere he turned, horrors waited to greet him.



In The Castle’s Shadow (pt 2)

Part One- ​

Connor did not think about his project again until his family was sitting down for dinner. His mother started to cut up the meatloaf. One look from her and he knew what was coming.

“How was your day honey?” she asked.

“It was okay. We started a family history project in my psychology class. I need to interview a couple of living relatives. Dad,” his father looked up from his phone. “Don’t you have an uncle from Romania? My teacher wants me to get in contact with him.”

Connor felt the mood in the dining room shift instantly. The air itself seemed to grow icy. If he had not been watching his father, he would have missed the sharp intake of breath and the furtive glance towards his mother. The tension mounted as the silence waned. Connor regretted asking the question. He felt dread settle around him as his father relaxed his clenched jaw. 

“My uncle Gregor,” was all his father said before turning back to his phone.

Connor waited for more, but nothing came. He stared at his father in shock. Their family had always been open about everything. He never felt like he needed to keep secrets from his parents and they had never kept secrets from him until now. He was not sure what they were hiding from him, but he had to talk to Gregor in order to pass his class. He decided not to press the matter and do some research on his own. 

The meal passed in silence and soon Connor found himself in the den. He was flipping through the old photo albums, making notes about hair color and other defining features. He knew one of the albums would have a picture of Gregor. His patience was rewarded when he found a tattered black and white photo. The photo was that of a much younger version of his great grandmother standing beside a young man. Someone with spidery handwriting had written their names and a date so faded that he could no longer read it on the back of the photo.

Connor smiled as he studied the picture. He had not known his great grandmother very long, but he only had good memories with her. The man standing next to her was wearing a soldier’s uniform and a grim face. He seemed tall with dark hair and haunted eyes. Somehow, Connor could tell that those eyes belong to someone who had already served their time in the military. Someone who had lost loved ones and returned home without them. 

He quickly flipped through the remainder of the photo albums, hoping to get more information but finding nothing. He was going to have to talk to his father about reaching out to his uncle. He was not looking forward to pressing his father, but he was not willing to loose his scholarship over an awkward conversation. 

        Connor found his father in his study. His father’s law firm often overloaded him with cases, so most nights he worked from his study. He knocked on the open door before walking in. He felt like he was in the principal’s office at school. 

“Dad, I can’t find any information on Gregor. I need to do good on this project,” Connor watched the same dark cloud cover his father’s face.

Connor found himself debating if it was worth it. The carpet mills provided a steady income and had a good benefits plan. He did not want to cause his father any strife, he just wanted to pass his class. He felt his determination grow as he waited for his father to answer. He did not want to get stuck in this town like all of the other athletes who peaked in high school. 

“I do not know much about my uncle. As far as I know, he has never left Romania. Even when your  great grandmother died, he refused to leave. I do not think he even has an email. You can try calling him, but you might want to consider getting creative,”  his father slid a slip of paper across the desk towards him. 

Connor took the slip of paper, careful to avoid his father’s eyes. His father who had just implied that he should cheat on a school project. He could remember being forced to return a stolen candy when he was younger. He could not believe this change. He could not imagine what would posses his father to encourage such dishonesty. A foreboding feeling filled his room as he looked at his phone. He was not sure he wanted to call Gregor if his father was so against it. He could easily make up dates and information and his professor would never be the wiser. Just the thought of cheating did not sit well with him. Reluctantly, he punched in the numbers.

The Widowmaker (pt 3)

Part One-

Part Two-

I walked towards the castle, apprehension filling my every step. I kept waiting for the three men to appear and start chasing me again, but the only sound was that of birds chirping in the trees. The castle walls loomed ahead, the red sandstone reflecting the sun. I noticed men scurrying along the tops of the walls as I got closer. I could hear them shouting, but they were too far away to make out what they were saying.

I looked back, unsure if the shouts were a warning. Mary stood just inside the small grove of trees watching me. She frantically motioned for me to keep going before sinking further into the shadows. I wanted to slap myself for not asking her more questions before she shoved me towards the castle. I just wanted to know where I was. I put my hand in my pocket to reassure myself that the Widowmaker was still there. When I felt the jewel encrusted spider, I started walking towards the castle again. 

The heavy wooden doors creaked open in front of me. My heart thumped painfully in my chest as I waited for the doors. Inside the courtyard, a small battalion of soldiers stood ready. Their hands rested on their sword hilts with a deceiving ease. I had no doubt that they were all efficient with their weapons. I froze, unable to approach the imposing group. A scream almost escaped my lips when a set of hands grabbed my arm and began to haul my forward.

“Where are we going?” I finally choked out.

The stoic man stared straight ahead, his jaw clinched in silence. He led me through a torch lit hallway. The air inside of the castle was dank and cold. I could fill a chill seeping into my body as we walked. I was sure the man was taking me to a cell, but to my shock, we entered a bright room. The floor was lined with rugs and animal skins. In the center of the room a throne seemed to grow out of a huge tree. It was not carved, the tree formed the throne.

The man sitting in the throne was a large man with a thick red beard. A thin, twisting crown rested on his unruly mane of red curls. His face was set in a permanent scowl. With a crook of his finger, the guard shoved me forward. I stumbled, awkwardly falling to my knees. 

“Where have you come from and why are you here?” the man’s voice boomed through the room.

“I’m not sure how I got here. I fell into a lake,” my voice cracked. “M-mary sent me here.”

“You have found the Widowmaker?” the man’s voice filled with rage. “We have spent centuries protecting the world from that cursed spider. That lake was our last line of defense, you’ve doomed us all.”

Desperation set in as his words hit me. Despite all the warnings, my pride had forced me to search for the artifact. I knew I was the best and finding the Widowmaker would prove that. My pride would lead to the downfall of humanity. My breath came in shallow gasps as the panic set in. The world seemed to rock beneath me. I did not even notice the soldier entering the room until he spoke.

“My Liege, the Guild is here. We must get ready to defend the fortress,” he looked at me, anger clear on his face.

The guard grabbed me again, this time leading me deep into the fortress. I felt numb as I listened to the footsteps thundering overhead. I had brought death to this place. I still was not sure where I was or who the Guild was, but I knew I was in trouble. The cell door clicked shut behind me. They had not even bothered to search me for weapons. The spider still rested in my pocket as I listened to the soldiers preparing for battle. Their blood was on my hands.

(Remember that likes equal a fourth part)


The Widowmaker (pt 2)

(Don’t forget likes=another part of the story 😀)

I had long since lost my way in the never ending tunnels. Every time I thought I had lost them, their footsteps would reach me. My feet ached and my throat was raw. I knew I could not let them get the Widowmaker, but I was not sure how much longer I could run. I was forced to feel along the walls as I ran, leaving my fingers bloodied. My flashlight was hanging on my belt, unused, to help hide my location. 

I pulled up short as the dark tunnel began to slope downwards. I could see a faint light in the distance. Every fiber of my being screamed that I should run away, but the pounding feet behind me urged me forward. The light grew more focused as I ran towards it. The tunnel began to open up, becoming big enough to drive a car through. My mind raced, trying to identify the source of the light as I entered a large cavern. 

I tried to quiet my breathing as I walked around the edge of the cavern. In the center of the cavern was a large lake. The light seemed to be coming from somewhere below the surface. The water was absolutely still and crystal clear. My curiosity got the better of me and I crept forward. I peered into the water, but the source of the light was still hidden. The water seemed to go on forever. 

The click of a gun drew my glaze away from the seemingly bottomless lake. In the mouth of the cavern stood four men. They seemed to be from all different ethnicities. The only thing they had in common was a serpent tattoo that twisted it’s way around their necks. 

“So, you have found the Widowmaker? Give it to us and you can leave this cave,” the man pointed his revolver at my chest.

I clutched the spider, knowing they would never let me leave alive. For a split second I considered throwing the artifact in the lake, but the history buff in me couldn’t do it. I took a step back, trying to figure out what to do. That step back change my life.

The deep rumble was accompanied by the sound of ripples across the lake. I watched in horror as the men’s faces turned to shock. They ran towards me, but I was falling away. I must have stepped on a thin overhang that broke under my weight. I knew that I was going to die. Icy water swallowed me as I sank. I tried to reach the surface but the rocks falling forced me down.

I was running out of air. My head started to swim and my ears popped as I continued to sink. The light in the lake shined brighter. I closed my eyes, but the light came through. The pain intensified as the crushing pressure of the water grew. Just when I thought I was dead, a hand plunged into the water and grabbed me. I thought sure the men had rescued me, but the face I saw was new.

A girl stared down at me. Her clothing looked like something you would find in a textbook about the middle ages. The world around me was no longer that of stones and caves. I was sitting on grass surrounded by trees. In the distance, I could make out what looked like the spires on a castle. I looked at the girl, unable to comprehend what had happened.

“You must go to the castle, tell them Mary sent you,” the girl helped me to my feet and pushed me in the castles direction. 

I had so many questions, but I felt like I could not form words. My mouth just opened and shut without a sound.


The Widowmaker (pt 1)

(I’m going to mix it up. This story ends in a cliffhanger. If it gets enough likes/comments I will add another part)
My hands quivered with anticipation as I reached into the stone hole. My heart thudded so hard in my chest that it felt like my ribs might break. The thick spider webs did nothing to curb my enthusiasm as I plunged my arm in deeper. I had spent years researching and studying. I followed every hint of a lead that reached me. Everything I’d sacrificed had led to this moment.

My outstretched fingers brushed against something cool. I felt like my palms were so sweaty that it would slip away, but my grip was sure. I had lost my job and my marriage in pursuit of the artifact I now clutched in my hand. 

I quickly brushed away the spider webs and opened my hand. Nestled in my palm was a delicate golden spider encrusted with rubies and emeralds. The spider was three inches wide and deceptively heavy. 

 The fabled Widowmaker.

The Widowmaker was the oldest recorded artifact known to man. There were even crude cave drawings that many historians agreed were the spider. Stories of death and disease always accompanied the spider. I stared at it in disbelief. The stories could not be true. There was no way this spider could be responsible for the ancient plagues. The spider was also rumored to be the cause of droughts and the ice ages.

I was ripped back to reality by the sound of stones shifting in the distance. I froze and listened, silently praying that I would not hear it again. Panic flashed through me as I heard it again, closer this time. I had been warned against searching for the Widowmaker. Threatening letters and emails were sent before I even announced my plans on recovering it. I had foolishly pushed the threats aside, trying to convince myself that they were just from a rival archaeologist.

I heard the unmistakable click of a gun safety being switched off. Without hesitation, I shoved the spider in my pocket and ran. My steps echoed off the cave walls, but secrecy was no longer an option. Every story that involved the spider mentioned a guild. The guild was shrouded in mystery, but I knew that was who had sent the threats. I did not know what they wanted the spider for, I just knew I could not let them get it.


P.s. Let me know if you want to hear more! 

Eulogy For a Lost Father 

In other news today, after a drawn out battle, The Scarlett Fever has finally defeated the Phantom Knight. The Phantom Knight has spent years terrorizing the city. After a long crime spree, we are finally free to walk the streets in peace thanks again to the Scarlett Fever.

The young woman clicked of the news broadcast, unable to listen to another word. She finished buttoning up her black dress and adjusted her veil. She could not take the lies and double talk any longer. She had a eulogy to deliver. Her mother was waiting in the kitchen. Together, they began the long drive to the funeral home. 

♢ ♢ ♢ ♢

“I never had the typical childhood. There was no Saturday morning cartoons or tee ball games. My family did not play catch in the yard or go to the beach for vacation. I always knew I was loved, but my life was far from normal. 

My earliest memory is from my third birthday. Instead of going to the zoo or having friends over, my dad brought the zoo to our house. I spent hours roaming around the yard, enjoying my personal zoo. When the police and animal control showed up to take the animals, I was devastated. My mother held me as I watched them take my dad away. 

That was the day I found out the truth. My dad was the Phantom Knight. He spent his time prowling the streets for easy targets or robbing shops. He always brought me and my mom home the most amazing souvenirs. Despite being labeled a criminal, he was an amazing father. 

Today, the papers are celebrating the death of the Phantom Knight. While those who knew him best are here, mourning the loss of a beloved father and friend. When we resourced the news that he had passed, we were stunned. The world has lost a truly amazing man.”

The young woman left the podium, pausing on her way down to kiss her father one last time on the forehead. She sat next to her weeping mother, her face a calm mask. The mask hid her true emotions. Emotions that were brewing and growing like a tidal wave. Her anger threatened to explode out of her. She was going to make them pay. The papers who were dragging his name through the mud and the so called hero who had killed him. They were going to regret this day.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this little flash fiction segment. 


Journey to Styxaz 

Captain’s Log: Day 145

Nothing can describe the feeling of falling asleep in the Earth’s shadow and waking up to find the red surface of Mars glaring at you. It looks like an angry ball, just daring us to trespass on its surface. The sight of the planet leaves you with an overwhelming sense of dread and apprehension. I’m trying to stay strong for the rest of the crew, but I can’t help feeling like we might never see Earth again.

We woke from hypersleep a day before we reach the planet’s surface, just as planned. All systems seem to be working as expected. Thanks to the improvements, we did not experience much muscle loss. We are just dealing with minor soreness due to inactivity. We should reach the surface without any complications.

The broadcast has grown stronger, but we are no closer to translating it or identifying the source. The constant beeps and clicks are not helping with moral. Smith has taken to wandering what little space we have. I fear he will break before too much longer. I have to express my concerns once again. It was foolish for us to come out here without knowing what the broadcast meant. We do not know if it is a warning or a plea for help. We could be flying into some kind of trap.

After years of studying life in harsh climates, I am not sure life can survive here. There is no water visible on the surface. The surface appears to be made entirely of rock. When we land, we will use the tools we brought with us to attempt drilling. We will proceed with our experiments despite my reluctance to step foot on the surface.

End transmission.

Captain Keith sat back, rubbing his temples. He knew the entry sound like death was a sure thing, but he was told to be honest. He could not shake the feeling that they were in trouble. If Smith lost it, he would be alone. Something needed to change. He winced as the beeping and clicking started up again. That was not the change he had in mind.

Building the World of Styxaz 

Last week, I posted a beginner’s guide to world building. I decide to practice what I preach. I have had this story idea rolling around my brain for a while, so I went with that. I started building the world of Styxaz!

The red planet. That’s what the humans call it. To the inhabitants that live there, it is simply known as home. The planet is covered in red dirt. Most of the day is spent seeking shelter from the sweltering heat and the flesh stripping wind. It is a harsh planet, the only thing more harsh than the climate where the inhabitants. 

Most of the inhabitants live in the main settlement of Styxaz. It is a sprawling city filled with life, despite the harsh desert climate. The city is full of towering buildings, none taller than the shielding towers. The shielding towers protect the city from being discovered by the human’s and their constant prying.

The city was founded before humans had even started walking the Earth. The inhabitants elected a ruler who was charged with protecting the city. The Ruler came from the Zealots sect. She started leading the inhabitants down the path towards conquering Earth. It is a matriarchal system and the Zealots did not want to give up their status as Ruler. They clung to the role harder then they clung to the belief that the Chosen One was coming.
The inhabitants of the city were an odd race. Their skin was a mottled mix of blues and greens. They looked humanoid other than their elongated limbs. Each arm ended in six long fingers. They were completely hairless with large black eyes.
The inhabitants of Styxaz divide themselves into two separate sects. The larger sect goes by the name of Zealots. They are a radical group that believes a Chosen One will be born. The Chosen One will lead them into battle against the humans.they believe that humans are primitive savages who do not deserve such a lush planet.
The other sect goes by the name Squatters. They believe in peace. They do not wish to conquer, merely to expand and form relationships with other planets. The Squatters set themselves apart from the Zealots but their black headbands or handashi.
The inhabitants spend most of their time preparing for the upcoming invasion. When they are not preparing, they are cultivating the desert ground. They have no monetary system. If they grow anything in excess it is donated to the Ruler who distributes it among those in need. They lived in perfect harmony. The only thing they disagreed on was how to deal with the humans.

(Art by Ian McQue)

The Horsemen (part 4)

The next morning, Famine and the rest of the group prepared to leave. War and Death gathered the people they trusted the most and explained to them that they would be gone for a while. The people were of course nervous, but after a lengthy talk, they agreed to run the city. Famine watched in amazement as the two brothers addressed the city. The people there truly loved them. He could not imagine such a civilized place existed in this day and age.

Pestilence was back to her stony silence. She sat back and observed. Due to the brothers’ rule of the city, there was little sickness and no one crying for death. It was a place she would love to come back to. Her heart sank as she remembered that they would be leaving. She knew that their mission to bring balance was important, but she was not looking forward to helping end so many lives. Her eyes met with Death and she knew he would miss this city as well.

War, on the other hand, was anxious to get moving. The night that his brother had found him in that alley, he had sought out the thugs. He had no desire to join them, they were scum. He wanted to make them pay for destroying the city he loved. He wanted to bring the thugs to justice. He did not understand how people could just toss aside their morals overnight.

Once they rule of the city was set up, they began the long walk back to the park where Famine had encountered the Indians. They wanted to make good progress before they were forced to stop for the night.

“It would not be wise to camp to close to our city. There are usually bandits hanging around and looking for ways to sneak into the city. I can sometimes sense when they are close, but not if they are hiding their intentions,” Death explained as they marched.

They agreed to walk as far as they could before stopping. Famine needed to talk to the Indians anyways. Questions buzzed through his mind like bees swarming flowers. He needed answers before he started trying to restore balance.

Despite the added company, most of the day passed in silence. Famine tried to get conversations started with the twins, but War was not much of a talker and Death did not feel much like talking either. Eventually, Famine gave up all pretense of small talk and focused on maintaining their neck breaking pace. He worried about how Pestilence would hold up, but she seemed stronger than ever.

They walked until the light faded to the point that they were stumbling over rocks. The twins gathered wood and built a small fire. Pestilence once again fell asleep as soon as she laid down. The twins cooked some meat, the spices burning Famine’s nose. He expected his stomach to growl in protest, but every since his change, he had yet to be hungry.

“The Indians live in the central park. The local gang is a band of cannibals who have turned to hunting humans for food. They use dogs and they are very organized for being thugs. We will have to move through the city without being detected,” Famine explained.

“Why do we need to be careful. Between the four of us, those thugs will not stand a chance,” War grunted.

“I do not want to kill people unless we have to. Just because we are supposed to restore balance, that does not mean we are supposed to kill everyone we do not agree with,” Famine answered, shocked at his willingness to kill.

War grunted, but whether in agreement or not was unclear. Famine opened his mouth to raise some of his concerns when Death laid a hand on his arm. The look in the huge man’s eyes silenced him. War sprang to his feet and walked towards the sleeping girl. Before Famine could ask what was going on, he heard it. The sound of gravel crunching under foot. He unsheathed his dagger and rose to his feet.

An arrow whistled into their camp and buried itself in the dirt where War had been sitting seconds earlier. Famine turned and snatched a second arrow out of the air. The thugs had found their camp. It was too dark to see how many were out there, but Famine felt like it was safe to assume they were outnumbered. He turned as he heard a sharp intake of breath to his left. A crooked arrow was lodged deep in Death’s shoulder.

Death hissed at the inconvenience and yanked the arrow out. He looked at Famine with a lopsided smile as the wound closed.

“Did I forget to mention that,” he laughed at the confused look on Famine’s face.

Famine did not have time to question his companion as a thug hurtled into the fire light. They grappled around the fire for a few seconds, Famine trying not to use his blade. He meant it when he said he did not want to kill. The thug however, was not holding back. If it were not for his enhanced reflexes, the thug would have easily overpowered him. Famine tried to reason with the man before nicking him on the forearm. He watched with sadness as the man withered and died. He felt his muscles felt rejuvenated as he received the dead man’s strength.

War was no longer by the fire. He had moved further into the darkness, baited by the thugs calls. His fists flew, connecting with anything that got too close. The muscles on his arms bulged, growing stronger the longer he fought. He did not even need to see, he just relied on his sense of hearing. Soon enough, he knew they were all down. Some of them were gone, the rest would wake up and slink away during the night. He panted slightly as he walked back to the fire.

“They won’t be back,” he grunted before settling in for sleep.

“My brother relishes the fight. It makes him stronger, but once it passes, he must sleep,” Death sat down next to his brother’s sleeping form.

“Do you always heal that fast,” Famine asked.

“Yes,” Death hesitated. “I do not think I can be hurt at all. That is my curse.”

“Your curse,” Famine screwed up his face incredulously.

“I think since I cannot be hurt, I will not die. What could kill me? That means that someday, my brother will be gone and I will have to go on alone. I will be around long after balance is restored and everyone I know has moved on.”

Death stared at his brother, the secret he had kept for so long finally out in the open.

“Maybe the Indians will have answers for you too. I just hope we can make it to them without anymore fighting.”

Death stayed awake through the night, every crunch of gravel ringing in his ears. When the sun started to peek over the horizon, he woke the others and they started their grueling march again. Famine was grateful when the city he had left a few short days ago came into view. Soon enough, his hopes of making it to the park without a fight were dashed. The deep barking of dogs and the screams of their victims echoed off the crumbling buildings.

Pestilence looked around in horror as the realization hit her. She was going to have to use her powers on people who were not sick. She had never used it to kill, just to help. Tears threatened to spill down her cheeks as a pack of thugs turned their attention to the crowd of four.

War cracked his knuckles and rolled his shoulders. As soon as the thugs were within reach, he started swinging. He fought with no regard for what his companions were doing. Famine jumped to his aid, dispatching the rabid dogs with his dagger. The small girl stood back, hesitant to join the fray. She shrieked as a woman grabbed her from behind. Her hands found the woman’s face and immediately began draining her of her life. Death walked through the battle, only killing when necessary. The battle was over before the thugs even had a chance to retreat. Dogs and humans littered the sidewalk.

Word of the battle spread quickly. They could feel eyes watching them, but no one else approached them. The park came into view around lunch. Famine could hardly contain his excitement as the walked into the park.

(Do not forget to go back and read the other parts if you have missed them)



The Horsemen (part 3)

Famine followed the small girl back to her tiny apartment. The halls leading to her room were lined with sick and dying people. Along the way, she stopped to help some of the worst cases of disease. Taking their sickness into her body and ending their pain. He watched in terrified fascination as she worked. Other then soft groans, she did not make a sound.

After she had helped as many of the sick as she could, she stumbled weakly into her room. Famine looked around her sparse room, curious about her past but unsure how to bring it up. Eventually, she stood up and gathered a few possessions in a tattered backpack. She threw what little food she had in the bag too, before looking at Famine for guidance.

“The Indians said that I would be guided to each of the four. That is how I found you. I think there is someone to the east of here. It should not be too far, the tugging feels stronger then it did with you,” he answered the unspoken question.

When he was sure that she was ready and able to travel, he headed back out of her room. The bodies of the dead had been removed, only to be replaced by more disease and plague victims. Tears ran down the girl’s silent cheeks as she walked past them. She wanted to help them, but she knew that she would need her strength for the upcoming journey. She stared ahead, desperate to avoid the pleading eyes.

Famine could sense her distress and started to walk faster. He wanted to get out of the hallway anyways. He could practically feel the plague climbing across his flesh. Before the end had come, he had been a nurse. He knew from experience just how quickly germs could spread. That life seemed like an a faint dream now. He could barely recall his life as Ben.

* * *

They set up camp for the night in a small grove of trees. Famine would have liked to walk further, but the child was slowing him down. Her breathing had become labored and she started stumbling. He knew she needed to rest. He was not sure how taking away people’s illnesses affected her, but he could tell it wore her down.

Pestilence collapsed into a heap as soon as they stopped walking. She could not feel the tugging that Famine claimed to feel, but she trusted him. She had always been really good at reading people’s true intentions. She tried to stand up and help gather firewood, her muscles protesting every movement.

“You rest, I can handle this,” Famine noticed her trying to rise. “You should eat something while I make a fire. I am not sure how much further we have to walk tomorrow, hopefully not too far.”

He stared off into the darkness, his eyes following the tugging sensation. After the end, huge cities had been abandoned or demolished. Cities that had been around for years disappeared over night. He had no idea where they were heading. If he had a normal map, he would guess they were heading towards Maryland. For all he knew though, Maryland could have sunk into the ocean.

Famine glanced over at the girl, surprised to see her asleep already. Traveling in silence all day had made the day seem longer, he hoped the next horseman would be more talkative. He was tired of working through his thoughts on his own. One thing he had decided today was that he needed to talk to the Indians. He needed to get answers to his questions and help figuring out his mission.

He built up the fire and laid down next to the wood pile. Building a fire was a necessary risk. The night chill was too much to handle, but the flickering light could attract bandits. He slept with his dagger clutched in his hand. The only way that they would be in danger is if they were taken by surprise.

* * *

The girl woke as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon. Famine was still asleep next to the smoldering ashes of their fire. She walked over and gently touched his shoulder. She stared at him indifferently as he jumped up, dagger in hand. This was the longest she had gone without helping anyone along and she felt stronger then ever.

Famine looked down at the girl, shaking his head in disbelief. She had not even flinched when he jumped up. He knew that he had no room to judge, but the girl was strange. He kicked dirt over the embers and they started walking again. The tugging was much stronger than before, making it easy to follow. Before they had walked too long, a city came into view. This was the city where they would find the next horseman.

Famine was shocked upon entering the city. It seemed almost normal. People walked the streets and talked to each other cheerfully in passing. Stores were open and selling everything from food to luxury items like soap. No one seemed tempted to loot anything. It was the most normal city he had seen since the end. He could not wrap his head around it.

“Excuse me,” he stopped a passing woman. “What is going on here?”

“We are under the protection of the Tookie Brothers. Under their rule, there is no need to revert to such savage ways as other cities,” she answered politely.

“Where can I find these Tookie Brothers?”

“They live in the blue house on main street.”

Famine watched the woman walk away, still dumbfounded.

“I think we need to talk to these Tookie Brothers. One of them might be who we are looking for or they might know of someone in the city who fits what we are looking for,” Famine turned to the girl.

Once again, she nodded in silent agreement. He did not think she would ever talk. They walked towards main street. Everyone they encountered greeted them with polite smiles and even some handshakes. It was very unnerving. Famine was grateful when the blue house came into view. He expected the house to be guarded or at least fortified, but it appeared to be a normal house. It had a large porch that circled the entire house. The yard was in pristine condition. They walked up the stone walkway and knocked on the solid wood door.

A large dark skinned man answered the door. His meaty arms were covered in tribal tattoos and his dark hair hung to his shoulders. He greeted them with a warm smile.

“To what do we owe the pleasure,” the man asked in a thick Tongan accent.

“We are looking for the Tookie Brothers,” Famine answered hesitantly.

“Well, I am Anga. My brother is called Malohi. Please come in,” Anga swung the door open wider, motioning for them to enter.

Famine followed behind the huge Tongan, careful to keep the girl close behind him just in case things got crazy. They walked into a fancy living room. A second man identical to Anga was lounging on a couch.

“Brother, these two wish to talk to us,” Agna turned and frowned at them. “I do not think I got your names.”

“I am known now as Famine. You can call the girl Pestilence, but do not expect her to answer, she does not talk. We came to your city seeking the two remaining horsemen, war and death. I am not sure who-”

He stopped talking as Malohi stood. This brother gave off a distinctly more hostile vibe then his counterpart. He was not someone to be messed with.

“I am war and my brother is death,” he growled simply.

“Um, how do you know? Have you done things,” Famine asked awkwardly.

“Who are you to question who we are? We do not even know who you are,” Malohi advanced angrily.

“What my brother means to say is,” Agna stepped in between them, “We have known who we are for a few years now. War and death go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other, so it makes sense that it would be twins.”

“But how did you find out you were different,” Famine questioned.

“We grew up in this house. When the end came, everything went crazy. People who we knew were running and looting everything. I had no idea people could act that way. One night a few years ago, I woke up to find Malohi gone. He has always been more driven by his emotions,” Agna smiled at his brother. “I left the house to find him. When I did find him, he was in an alley fighting numerous looters. I watched in amazement as he took them all on single handed. One thug somehow got behind him. I ran to protect him, but before I could reach him, the thug fell to the ground dead. I knew I was the cause.”

“If you had not reacted, it would have been me,” Malohi sounded like they had had this discussion a hundred times. “It was that night that I found out just how strong I am and just how quick my reflexes are. As the years progressed, I have become able to sense people who do not have good intentions. It has helped us run this city. I can pick out who will cause trouble and if they refuse to leave, my brother can end them with a glance.”

“As I said war and death go hand in hand,” Agna finished sadly.

Famine stared at the twins, still unsure if they were telling the truth. He had been sure about the girl the second he saw her, but he never expected twins who readily accepted their fate.

“They are telling the truth,” the girl spoke for the first time.

All three of the men turned to look at her, but she did not elaborate. She just resumed her stony silence.

“OK,” Famine finally said. “I think before we do anything we need to get some answers from the Indians. It’s a two day walk back to the park where they live. We need them to give us some guidance on how to restore balance.”

The remaining horsemen nodded in agreement. He was a little overwhelmed with their total acceptance of him as the leader. He expected Malohi at least to put up a fight about it, but he did not even open his mouth to protest. They settled in for the night, resting up for the long journey ahead.

Icymi here’s part two