Take Two

A little while ago I posted a snippet from a scene that I had been working on. What I posted was fairly rough, including all of the spelling and grammatical errors one would expect from a rough draft. Despite its flaws I wanted to post the scene to show the dismal number of followers I had at the time what I was working on. So, after many months and a little bit of polishing I thought that I would provide a ‘take two’ entry of the same scene. Please excuse the formatting, it’s gone a little crazy during the conversion across to WordPress. Nevertheless, I hope that you like it…

The spring sun had set over Marseille, France’s second-largest city and its largest commercial port. Though the daytime temperature had been a mild eighteen degrees Celsius, the trade wind known as the Mistral blew through the valleys of the Rhone as the day diminished, unleashing its bitter assault on the city as night had fallen. The harsh, cold wind was an unwelcome change from the warm early spring days the city had experienced over the past week, and many residents had locked themselves indoors for the night. High above the city sat the Notre-Dame de la Garde, a huge basilica positioned on the city’s highest natural point, a limestone outcropping on the south side of the old port. The de la Garde looked grand against the moonlight, the cold winds lashing over its stone surface, leaving a faint smell of limestone in the air. The basilica was a tourist mecca and a local place of worship for Marseille’s religious population, but right now the holy building had been closed down for the night, abandoned save for the four men standing on its limestone balcony, gazing out over the city below. Lights glistened in the windows of houses, and streets cut an intricate maze through the buildings as far as the eye could see. To the south, the moon’s light reflected off the deep blue surface of the Mediterranean Sea, its usual calm broken by small whitecaps rolling silently towards the shoreline.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were brothers by blood, but their appearances were startling different, even when concealed by the heavy robes they now wore, just as their namesakes would have worn. Pestilence, the eldest brother was tall, his features dark and handsome, his hazel eyes endless and deadly. His body was lean, yet surprisingly muscular; his age was indeterminable beneath his priest’s robes and hood. Concealed beneath his robes were two pearl-white handguns, held in pancake holsters against his ribs.

The second brother was huge. Taller and broader than his siblings, he physically dominated the foursome. His shoulders were wide and his chest shaped as though Da Vinci himself has chiselled it from the finest of stone. His hair was dark brown and his eyes a fiery emerald green. He wore a beard, thick and woolly, poking out from within the hood of his robe. In his right hand he held a small flick knife, the blade three inches long and cast from blood-red metal. He spun the knife effortlessly between his fingers as he watched the skyline. Although he was known to his brothers as War, he had once been known in intelligence communities as The Surgeon, such was his abilities to flay open the flesh of his prey. To his left stood the third born son of Chaos—the quiet one, his gaze cast down at the floor.

The quiet one was also the smallest of the foursome, standing at an embarrassing five feet nine inches with thin, sinewy shoulders. Many myths surrounded him; a bastard child with origins unknown. Famine had spent an entire lifetime concealing himself from the world, his face hidden behind a facemask complete with breathing apparatus that could be seen hanging from beneath the hood pulled over his head. Even his brothers had never seen his true face. Some said that he was a prominent military figure who shielded his identity from his kin. Others said that he had no face at all, that he was a ghost capable of moving through walls. His movements had the precision and fluency of a dancer, and he wore full military Special Forces combat attire, all black.

The youngest of the brothers stood apart from his siblings, his face tipped upwards towards the moon. The hood of his robe had been pushed back and draped across his shoulders and neck, revealing a beautifully hideous face to the world. His head was shaved smooth, his features made sharper by the pale green tattoos that covered his face. His entire skeletal system had been tattooed onto his skin. Cheekbones, ribs, phalanges and metatarsals were replicated in soft green ink. He was tall, six feet three inches, and his eyes were a translucent grey. Death incarnate.

The Four Horsemen were the sons of the infamous assassin Chaos; the former United States of America’s “confidential enemy number one”, a man who had been executed eight months ago in Berlin by a unit of MARSOC operatives. Named after their biblical namesakes Pestilence, War, Famine and Death were a closely guarded secret within intelligence circles. There were just a few hundred people across the globe who could accurately say that they had direct knowledge of their movements, only those with the highest security clearances were ever made aware of the vicious reputations the brothers held. Governments had fought tirelessly to keep the atrocities that the brothers had committed out of the public’s eye, just as they had done with Chaos. But the brothers thrived in the secrecy of their actions. Pestilence and War cold move freely. Famine could live another life without his mask, and Death often used makeup to cover his skeleton and move unnoticed throughout the world.

“My brothers; tonight is a momentous night,” Pestilence said, dropping down the hood of his robe. “Tonight marks the eight month anniversary of our father’s death and the last time we will meet.”

“Such sentiment,” War mocked, thrusting the blade in his hand towards Pestilence to mark his point. “I have no time for petty bullshit brother. Tell me why you bought us here. Tell us why you killed the arms manufacturer.”

“I had no use for him. Gerard was a turncoat who was planning on ratting us out.”

“We needed him,” War said, trying to keep his voice to a whisper, belying its true thunderous volume. “Gerard had worked for us for years. He worked for our father. He was invaluable to our cause.”

“And yet he was going to betray us,” Pestilence snapped. “He had seen what I was planning and he was weak. He was going to rat me out so I put him down like a dog.”

War fell silent, offering no response. The four brothers were not close on any physical or emotional level, rarely seeing eye to eye. Their only mutual affiliation had been their now-deceased father. Each man would have been perfectly content to operate independently of his siblings, and for a long time they had done so. But right now they needed one another if they were to fulfil their father’s plans and bring the world to its knees. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were inseparable for the moment, no matter how badly they wished otherwise.

“Tomorrow marks phase one of the Rapture,” Pestilence said, taking a moment to scan the faces of his three brothers, lingering a fraction of a second longer on Famine, the brother without a face. “Our father was slain eight months ago today, and the governments of this God-forsaken world are still yet to feel our wrath for their actions. The soldiers responsible for the attack were neutralised, as were their families; but now we must set forth and fulfil our destiny. We must bring about the Rapture, and bring our enemies to their knees just as our father would have wanted. We will tear down every corner of the earth and reduce it to rubble and we will rebuild the world in his image. Chaos and anarchy will reign.”

“Not all of the soldiers were killed,” War spat, casting a glance at the youngest brother, Death.

“Did I ask for you to open your mouth?” Pestilence hissed silencing the brothers before Death had a chance to respond. “We will do as our father has asked of us and we will divide the world into quarters and conquer them. Europe will fall underneath a cloud of disease that will cripple its people and leave its governments powerless to help. The rich will protect themselves and the great unwashed will rise and destroy what remains of them. Then my brothers, your time to rise will come.”

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

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