Disclaimer: I do not own the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and I'm happy for that. This may be a unique take on them, though.
Summary: My entry for a writing competition in a Medieval Re-enactment War with a 'Four Horsemen' Theme.
THE FOUR HORSEPEOPLE OF THE APOCALYPSE
On a ridge above what would soon be a battlefield, three silent riders waited.
Finally, a rider on a black horse sighed. "Do I even need to be here yet? It's hard to inflict Famine when the armies just got here and still have all of their supplies. I have other things to be keeping an eye on."
He did, too. In a world of widespread media and charities that had representatives on every corner, it was getting harder and harder to completely block all of Charitable Relief's efforts to give aid to afflicted areas. Pestilence had been complaining about it, too, especially when the Médecins Sans Frontières organization started up. A few decades ago, all it took was diverting a few phone calls and waylaying a few messages to make sure that relief didn't get there in time.
Now, it seemed like everyone carried a phone, several people were involved in every aspect of the programs, and there were back-ups to stop information being lost every time a computer crashed.
That branch of the Anthromorphic Manifestation family, the triplets Charity, Compassion and Goodwill, were being insufferably smug about the whole thing.
Famine was nudged almost playfully by the rider next to him, mounted on a red horse. "Well, they are fighting over who has a better claim to several acres of much-needed farming land. You can deal with being a token presence for a month or so, can't you? By the way, do either of you know where our White Rider is?"
The Black rider, in no mood for jokes, nudged back, significantly harder. The red horse shied away, nearly crashing into the third, a pale horse.
The third rider had been examining the large box she held, filled with tiny hourglasses. She grabbed for it hastily, steadying the box as the glasses within rattled, corresponding with several members of the armies below suddenly collapsing. Each hourglass represented a mortal life, and even a crack in one could have disastrous consequences. Watching closely until the afflicted mortals got back up; the Lady on the Grey glared at her companions. "Be careful!"
She might be counted amongst the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, enough literature and artwork personifying Death as a lady on a pale horse that it was luck of the draw whether Death was male or female on any given day, but no-one appreciated just how much work it took to keep a metaphorical eye on the rest of the world, where there was always someone dying, as well as making sure that the right people died at the right time during a war. Technically, Death could be everywhere at once, but it was still busy work.
War shrugged. "Sorry. Do you know where the White Rider is, though? Or who will be riding with us today?"
Again, due to humans being unable to make up their minds, the Horseman on the White Steed alternated between the twins Conquest and Pestilence. Like Famine, Pestilence usually didn't show up until a prolonged period with limited water supplies resulted in people getting sick, but she was better known as a Horseman than Conquest was, so, like Death, it tended to be anyone's guess.
Death frowned. "Conquest will be here soon. He was briefly held up."
Famine pouted from his seat on the black horse. War looked ready to make a jibe about anthropomorphic manifestations acting like children, but stopped. If a near-all-powerful Manifested Concept wanted to pout, they would do so
...no matter how childish it made them look.
Famine got along better with Pestilence than he did with Conquest, sharing several fond memories of blighting crops and herds, setting up the way for the local populace to sicken from hunger. Philanthropy and Bounty had been waging a quiet background war with Drought and Pollution lately, but that was hardly unusual.
At least those four were the family members who settled for sniping at each other over the dinner table at special family occasions, while everyone else tried to ignore them.
It was certainly better than when the family didn't manage to keep Corruption and Justice away from each other. That was the kind of encounter that had the unfortunate host frantically shouting for them to take it outside while standing between them and any sharp or easily breakable objects. Those fights could be triggered by something as simple as Superman, whose motto of 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way' never failed to make Corruption burst out laughing, annoying Justice and Truth to no end.
George Bush and Mitt Romney were difficult examples to counter, after all.
In contrast, War preferred the company of Conquest, as a thirst for conquest tended to lead to situations that only needed a small nudge from War to explode. A small holiday in the Middle East and parts of Africa had turned out very nicely in recent times, though nothing would top when they brought their second cousins thrice removed – Racism, Genocide and Religiously-Sanctioned Murder – along for a vacation. That had two very spectacular successes in the Crusades and World War II, though Genocide had been called away at the last minute, leaving the task half-finished.
War and Conquest only had to worry when the cousins that they tried to pretend weren't related (every family has at least one, no matter what they tell friends and neighbours) showed up.
Peace, Mercy and Diplomatic Negotiations seemed to like nothing more than to interfere in War and Conquest's fun, and had become annoyingly good at it lately.
Death didn't care which of the twins she had to put up with that time, as long as they were quiet. In situations where people were dying in large numbers every day, Death tended to have a very short tolerance for distractions.
War finally broke the silence, his red steed fidgeting in anticipation. "Well, I hope they get here soon. It's bloody annoying when two armies just get up and walk away before they even start because Conquest's influence faded.
The sound of pounding hooves, unheard by all but the three riders, interrupted War's complaining.
A pure white horse appeared, ridden by a tall woman wearing a golden crown and carrying a bow. "Sorry, War. Are you ready?"
War sent Conquest a bloodthirsty grin and raised his sword in salute.
Famine sighed, not really able to participate until one side began to run out of food. He hefted the golden scales that he carried, "Get someone to hit the supply wagons with something destructive, would you? Just to speed things along."
Death checked a list, selected several hourglasses, and secured the box to her saddle. She lifted her own sword, which glowed with a faint, pale light.
Conquest drew her bow and sighted, firing the first arrow that would start the war, both armies thinking the other one responsible.
Together, the Four Horsepeople of the Apocalypse charged forward, heralding the end of a world.
A/N: In case anyone was wondering, the banner is my artistic entry. I still have three quarters of the smoke to finish stem-stitching, but it still won!
Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed reading, and I look forward to hearing comments, even if it's just to tell me that I'm being stupid.