The Four Horsemen
Word count: 1663
Thank you, Jo, for a read
through and pronouncing it fit for consumption.
Summary: The title says it all.
Written for the annual challenge
at Writer’s Toybox.
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
“The way my luck has been
running, I’m not surprised,” Angel said by way of agreement.
He and Buffy were crouched in a
defensive stance, their weapons held at the ready, staring at the creatures
that held the fate of the world in their hands. Buffy stared harder. Yes,
she could see that they did, indeed, have hands. Fingers encased in
leather, some in rags, fingers that held loosely the reins of their steeds.
As for the bodies attached to those fingers? Definitely not human.
“What do you think?” Buffy asked
Angel. “The usual slice and dice? Or shall we offer them coffee and
doughnuts? The one on the end looks like he needs a bite to eat.”
The one on the end was rail
thin, emaciated. A walking corpse, if corpses could walk. Buffy knew that
corpses walked. She eyed Angel out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t
like to think of him as an ambulatory corpse.
“His name’s Famine, right?” She
added, trying to dispel the fear that was clutching at her insides.
“Death,” Angel corrected. “He’ll
fill out once…”
“Once people start dying,” Buffy
finished for him. “People die every day. Why isn’t he fat? Oh… you mean
when billions…” Buffy shuddered. “The Grim Reaper, eh? Not so Grim Reapery
to me.” She hefted her weapon and shifted her feet, resolute.
Angel appreciated Buffy’s
attempt at humour. She was terrified. It was how she dealt. He was kind of
rattled himself. They were up against the Big Four. The Horsemen of The
Apocalypse. How did one fight something like that? He didn’t think it was
Death sat on his pale horse.
Both horse and its rider were motionless. All eyes were on the slayer and
Buffy broke the silence.
“Where’s his scythe then? I have a scythe.” She shook it at the Horsemen
sitting atop their mounts.
“What? My scythe against
whatever he carries.” Buffy made sure her voice rang out. She wanted a
reaction, any reaction to her words.
There were none. The Horsemen
“Which one is Famine then?” she
said, a little disappointed at the lack of response.
“The one on the black horse.”
Buffy furrowed her brow and
squinted at the being on the black horse. “He doesn’t look so scary. What’s
with the thingamajig? What’s that he’s got in his hand?”
“A set of scales.”
“To weigh up the lack of food?
Angel inclined his head towards
the red horse. “This is…”
“Let me guess. War. The sword
and the redness kinda gave it away.” Buffy glanced at her weapon, its sleek
and deadly form a familiar and welcome weight in her hands. “That leaves
only Pestilence.” She eyed up the creature on the white horse. “So why
can’t I see worms and rotting flesh?”
Angel couldn’t help but grin at
her. There was nowhere he’d rather be than to be at Buffy’s side when doing
“Pestilence was a name given to
the First Horseman. But it’s incorrect. Conquest is its name.”
Buffy eyed up the Horseman’s
bow, and the crown it wore on its head. “Already victorious, I see.” Angel
knew the oddest things. “How do you know this stuff?”
“It’s in the Bible.”
“Oh. I guess I haven’t got to
that bit yet.”
“It is at the end of the Book.”
“If you say so.” Buffy huffed,
and straightened up. She felt her knees creak with the effort. “Did you
just hear my knees creak? I’m sure they creaked.”
“You need to warm up,” he said
with a grin.
“I think so too.” Buffy
stretched out a leg and then the other. When she was done, she put a hand
on her hip and called out to the silent Horsemen.
“Oi! You lot! What are you
waiting for? Come and get us.”
The one on the white horse,
Conquest, Angel had said, parted his otherworldly lips and spoke. “You cannot
hope to win against us. We’re the Four Horsemen. Nothing can stand in our
way. We’re here to do the Lord’s will.”
Buffy blinked. “The Lord’s will?
I don’t think so. I don’t believe in a God that would condemn babies and
children to suffering and death.”
“Buffy,” Angel whispered to her.
“The Lord has condemned babies and children to the blade on many
“According to the Bible. See,
this is why that Book is such hard going. All those thous and begetting,
it’s enough to drive a woman to sleep.”
“Step aside and we will be on
Angel moved so that he was
standing a little forward of Buffy. “I’m sorry but we can’t do that. You
see, it’s Buffy. When she gets a bee in her bonnet, nothing will persuade
her to let it go. And where she goes, so do I.”
Buffy slid up against Angel and
nudged him with her hip. “I’m not the weak blonde in a movie.”
Angel flashed Buffy a smile and
stepped back. “Sorry. You take the lead.”
Buffy snagged his arm and pulled
him to her. “We do this together or not at all.”
Worried that this was to be
their last few moments together, he said, “Not at all sounds good?”
Turning to him, Buffy squeezed
his arm. “I know you don’t mean that.” With an aching heart, Buffy leaned
up and kissed him on the mouth. “We’ve beaten the odds before,” she
whispered against his lips, “we can do so again.”
“Into the breach, beloved?” he
whispered back, kissing her hard.
“You’re sounding like Giles,”
she countered when she got her breath back, and she kissed him again.
“Are you two quite finished?” a
voice said. Death had spoken, its voice an empty place, a void that
threatened to overwhelm and devour. Buffy’s flesh crawled, and she resisted
the urge to shudder. She refused to let the enemy see how intimidated she
“In a minute,” she called with
false bravado. She stared up at Angel. He was looking at her, the tiniest
smile tugging at his lips. She loved him so much. It wasn’t fair. She
wanted more. She wasn’t ready to die again.
“I love you,” she said with a
lump in her throat.
“I love you,” he said, and
She blinked. What? Buffy’s
confusion lasted a mere moment. If Angel had something in mind then she
would go along with it. He had obviously noticed something she hadn’t. Her
slayer instincts were good, but his preternatural senses were better.
Stepping back and raising her scythe again, Buffy readied herself for the
fight to come.
“Here’s the thing,” Angel said
quite conversationally. He had been hanging around her too long, Buffy
thought. “The trumpets of heaven haven’t sounded. An angel was supposed to
herald in the apocalypse: the world isn’t trembling, and portents haven’t
been seen.” Angel cocked his head, lifted his eyes as if gazing into
memory. “I’ve had the sky raining fire, the sun going out, and the world
remains intact.” His eyes shifted back to the beings sitting on their
steeds. “So what I’m thinking is that you’re not the real deal. You’re not
here to do the Lord’s bidding…” Buffy looked skywards to see if a bolt of
lightning was coming down to smite them because of his words… “You’re
Buffy knew Angel was preparing
to launch an attack. She was keenly aware of his body language. The grip on
his sword was firm. The look in his eyes was fierce. When he leapt forward
she was right there beside him.
What seemed like an eternity
later, Buffy let the scythe fall to the ground. She was sitting on
blood-soaked dirt, caked with gore, and she didn’t care a jot about what
she looked like, or that her clothes were ruined. She was beyond tired, she
was exhausted. She closed her eyes. Blessed silence.
Angel stood, surveying the
carnage. Some of the blood on the ground was his. A little was Buffy’s.
Angel’s jaw was clenched. Buffy’s bleeding had stopped, her wounds were
healing beneath make-shift bandages, but the smell of her blood was a
tantalizing reason to let his demon loose. He resisted, as he always did.
And as he always did, he worried that one day his resistance would crumble
and the beast would out.
Under his boot, the ground
squelched wet and bloody with the remains of what had tried to pass as the
Four Horsemen. The demons lay scattered about, limbs severed from torsos,
heads separated from necks. Also severed was the charm, the glamour that
had hidden their true form. What had been horses were shown to be the lower
appendages of the demons. Angel grimaced. He liked horses and hadn’t wanted
to harm any. His wish had been granted. He kicked at demon flesh.
“Where did they come from? Why
the elaborate ruse?” Buffy asked suddenly.
Angel stared out into the night.
The lights of the city twinkled a long way off. It was a reminder that they
lived in modern times and not in a fairy tale.
“Your guess is as good as mine,
Buffy. Were they sent after us, specifically? If so, who is behind it?”
“And why now? Maybe we’re a
threat to whoever it is? What sort of cases have you been working on
lately? Perhaps you’ve stirred something up that wants to remain hidden.”
Buffy got her feet under her,
and with a huge effort, managed to stand. She stepped around body parts to
come up beside him. Catching hold of his arm, she wound it round her and
she snuggled against his side. She felt him shrug.
“So what’s new? We’re always in
danger. It’s what we do. Trouble finds us…”
“And we kick its ass,” she
finished for him.
He pulled her in tight and
planted a kiss on her head. “We kick its ass.”
Author note: An interesting
Wikipedia article on the Four Horsemen.
Note that the pale horse is the
colour of a pale green.
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