The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ to John the Apostle, at 6:1-8. The chapter tells of a book or scroll in God's right hand that is sealed with seven seals. The Lamb of God opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons four beings that ride out on white, red, black, and pale horses. They are War, Famine, Pestilence and Death respectively. The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the four horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.
The Horsemen of the Moonlit World
The Horsemen are keepers of the balance between Heaven and Hell. Ensuring both sides follow the rules, they are charged by God to not only protect the balance, but also to protect Earth from the invasions of the Elder Gods from the Outside. They are forbidden to walk the earth themselves in the fullness of their power and often act through agents, or in the guise of various forms.
This is why there are many seeming incarnations of Death for example, from the Hooded Reaper man of classic mythology, to a perky goth girl who acts a friend to the fallen, to a great warrior with a bone mask to resemble a skull, or even an old man in a silver Cadillac.
Even in suppressed guises, something of their aura flares and affects the area around them.
She was known as Scarlett. At that time she was selling arms, although it was beginning to lose its savor. She never stuck at one job for very long. Three, four hundred years at the outside. You didn't want to get in a rut.
Her hair was true auburn, neither ginger nor brown, but deep and burnished copper-color, and it fell to her waist in tresses that men would kill for, and indeed often had. Her eyes were a startling orange. She looked twenty-five, and always had.
She had a dusty, brick red truck full of assorted weaponry, and an almost unbelievable skill at getting it across any border in the world. She had been on her way to a small West African country, where a minor civil war was in progress, to make a delivery which would, with any luck, turn it into a major civil war. Unfortunately the truck had broken down, far beyond even her ability to repair it.
And she was very good with machinery these days.
She was in the middle of a city [Nominally a city. It was the size of an English county town, or, translated into American terms, a shopping mall.] at the time. The city in question was the capital of Kumbolaland, an African nation which had been at peace for the last three thousand years. For about thirty years it was Sir Humphrey-Clarksonland, but since the country had absolutely no mineral wealth and the strategic importance of a banana, it was accelerated toward self-government with almost unseemly haste. Kumbolaland was poor, perhaps, and undoubtedly boring, but peaceful. Its various tribes, who got along with one another quite happily, had long since beaten their swords into ploughshares; a fight had broken out in the city square in 1952 between a drunken ox-drover and an equally drunken ox-thief. People were still talking about it.
Scarlett yawned in the heat. She fanned her head with her broadbrimmed hat, left the useless truck in the dusty street, and wandered into a bar.
She bought a can of beer, drained it, then grinned at the barman. “I got a truck needs repairing,” she said. “Anyone around I can talk to?”
The barman grinned white and huge and expansively. He'd been impressed by the way she drank her beer. “Only Nathan, miss. But Nathan has gone back to Kaounda to see his father-in-law's farm.”
Scarlett bought another beer. “So, this Nathan. Any idea when he'll be back?”
“Perhaps next week. Perhaps two weeks' time, dear lady. Ho, that Nathan, he is a scamp, no?”
He leaned forward.
“You travelling alone, miss?” he said.
“Could be dangerous. Some funny people on the roads these days. Bad men. Not local boys,” he added quickly.
Scarlett raised a perfect eyebrow.
Despite the heat, he shivered.
“Thanks for the warning,” Scarlett purred. Her voice sounded like something that lurks in the long grass, visible only by the twitching of its ears, until something young and tender wobbles by.
She tipped her hat to him, and strolled outside.
The hot African sun beat down on her; her truck sat in the street with a cargo of guns and ammunition and land mines. It wasn't going anywhere.
Scarlett stared at the truck.
A vulture was sitting on its roof. It had traveled three hundred miles with Scarlett so far. It was belching quietly.
She looked around the street: a couple of women chatted on a street corner; a bored market vendor sat in front of a heap of colored gourds, fanning the flies; a few children played lazily in the dust.
“What the hell,” she said quietly. “I could do with a holiday anyway.”
That was Wednesday.
By Friday the city was a no-go area.
By the following Tuesday the economy of Kumbolaland was shattered, twenty thousand people were dead (including the barman, shot by the rebels while storming the market barricades), almost a hundred thousand people were injured, all of Scarlett's assorted weapons had fulfilled the function for which they had been created, and the vulture had died of Greasy Degeneration.
Scarlett was already on the last train out of the country. It was time to move on, she felt. She'd been doing arms for too damn long. She wanted a change. Something with openings. She quite fancied herself as a newspaper journalist. A possibility. She fanned herself with her hat, and crossed her long legs in front of her.
Farther down the train a fight broke out. Scarlett grinned. People were always fighting, over her, and around her; it was rather sweet, really.
Sometimes he was called Walter Padick, or Walter o' Dim. Sometimes he was Richard Fry or Robert Franq. In a place he couldn't recall, he was known by Walter Broadcloak, but it was all the same to him. Just one of a hundred other names he took and removed like a new suit of clothes.
And unlike his colleagues, he could never settle down in any one job for very long.
He had had all manner of interesting jobs in lots of interesting places.
He had worked at the Chernobyl Power Station, and at Windscale, and at Three Mile Island, always in minor jobs that weren't very important.
He had been among the Black Death, the Red Pox and when the first native american gasped in sickness, he was right there smiling.
He could turn his hand to anything.
Nobody really noticed him. He was unobtrusive; his presence was cumulative. If you thought about it carefully, you could figure out he had to have been doing something, had to have been somewhere. Maybe he even spoke to you. But he was easy to forget, was the walking man in his boots and his faded jacket.
At this time he was working as deckhand on an oil tanker, heading toward Tokyo.
The captain was drunk in his cabin. The first mate was in the head. The second mate was in the galley. That was pretty much it for the crew: the ship was almost completely automated. There wasn't much a person could do.
However, if a person just happened to press the EMERGENCY CARGO RELEASE switch on the bridge, the automatic systems would take care of releasing huge quantities of black sludge into the sea, millions of tons of crude oil, with devastating effect on the birds, fish, vegetation, animals, and humans of the region. Of course, there were dozens of failsafe interlocks and foolproof safety backups but, what the hell, there always were.
Afterwards, there was a huge amount of argument as to exactly whose fault it was. In the end it was left unresolved: the blame was apportioned equally. Neither the captain, the first mate, nor the second mate ever worked again.
For some reason nobody gave much of a thought to Richtor Foran, who was already halfway to Indonesia on a tramp steamer piled high with rusting metal barrels of a particularly toxic weedkiller as he played Solitaire in his cabin and grinned.
Sable was a twisted man in a wheelchair and an expensive suit. At all times, he was surrounded by his people. Humorless, men in expensive armani outfits with knowledge to rival the best hospitals in the event he succumbed. He thought that was hillarious.
Currently, he was doing drinks with his accountant.
“How we doing, Frannie?” he asked her.
“Twelve million copies sold so far. Can you believe that?”
They were doing drinks in a restaurant called Top of the Sixes, on the top of 666 Fifth Avenue, New York. This was something that amused Sable ever so slightly. From the restaurant windows you could see the whole of New York; at night, the rest of New York could see the huge red 666s that adorned all four sides of the building. Of course, it was just another street number. If you started counting, you'd be bound to get to it eventually. But you had to smile.
Sable and his accountant had just come from a small, expensive, and particularly exclusive restaurant in Greenwich Village, where the cuisine was entirely nouvelle: a string bean, a pea, and a sliver of chicken breast, aesthetically arranged on a square china plate.
Sable had invented it the last time he'd been in Paris.
His accountant had polished her meat and two veg off in under fifty seconds, and had spent the rest of the meal staring at the plate, the cutlery, and from time to time at her fellow diners, in a manner that suggested that she was wondering what they'd taste like, which was in fact the case. It had amused Sable enormously.
He toyed with his Perrier.
“Twelve million, huh? That's pretty good.”
“That's great. ”
“So we're going corporate. It's time to blow the big one, am I right? California, I think. I want factories, restaurants, the whole schmear. We'll keep the publishing arm, but it's time to diversify. Yeah?”
Frannie nodded. “Sounds good, Sable. We'll need.. ”
She was interrupted by a skeleton. A skeleton in a Dior dress, with tanned skin stretched almost to snapping point over the delicate bones of the skull. The skeleton had long blond hair and perfectly made.. up lips: she looked like the person mothers around the world would point to, muttering, “That's what'll happen to you if you don't eat your greens”; she looked like a famine relief poster with style.
She was New York's top fashion model, and she was holding a book. She said, “Uh, excuse me, Mr. Sable, I hope you don't mind me intruding, but, your book, it changed my life, I was wondering, would you mind signing it for me?” She stared imploringly at him with eyes deep sunk in gloriously eye-shadowed sockets.
Sable nodded graciously, and took the book from her.
It was not surprising that she had recognized him, for his dark gray eyes stared out from his photo on the foil.. embossed cover. Foodless Dieting: Slim Yourself Beautiful, the book was called; The Diet Book of the Century!
“How do you spell your name?” he asked.
“Sherryl. Two Rs, one Y, one L.”
“You remind me of an old, old friend,” he told her, as he wrote swiftly and carefully on the title page. “There you go. Glad you liked it. Always good to meet a fan.”
What he'd written was this:
Sherryl, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny, and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine Rev. 6:6.
Dr. Raven Sable.
“It's from the Bible,” he told her.
She closed the book reverently and backed away from the table, thanking Sable, he didn't know how much this meant to her, he had changed her life, truly he had ... .
He had never actually earned the medical degree he claimed, since there hadn't been any universities in those days, but Sable could see she was starving to death. He gave her a couple of months at the outside. Handle your weight problem, terminally.
Frannie was stabbing at her laptop computer hungrily, planning the next phase in Sable's transformation of the eating habits of the Western World. Sable had bought her the machine as a personal present. It was very, very expensive, very powerful, and ultra-slim. He liked slim things.
“There's a European outfit we can buy into for the initial toehold—Holdings (Holdings) Incorporated. That'll give us the Liechtenstein tax base. Now, if we channel funds out through the Caymans, into Luxembourg, and from there to Switzerland, we could pay for the factories in ...”
But Sable was no longer listening. He was remembering the exclusive little restaurant. It had occurred to him that he had never seen so many rich people so hungry.
Sable grinned, the honest, open grin that goes with job satisfaction, perfect and pure. He was just killing time until the main event, but he was killing it in such exquisite ways. Time, and sometimes people.
And there was Another. She was in the square in Kumbolaland. And she was in the restaurants. And she was in the fish, and in the air, and in the barrels of weedkiller. She was on the roads, and in houses, and in palaces, and in hovels.
There was nowhere that she was a stranger, and there was no getting away from her. She was doing what she did best, and what she was doing was what she was.
She was not waiting. She was working.