MICHAEL’S HONOR PROLOGUE
At the top of a small hill just outside the damp gray walls of the castle keep, the rider yanked hard on his mount, forcing the beast to swing around. The horse was enormous, easily twice that of its Earthly relations. A beast of this size was required to carry the shadowy figure looming on its back, his heavy frame much bigger than that of a human man. Facing the cluttered, uneven sprawl of pathetic little dwellings, where the poorest of the poor lay their heads at night, Death sat and awaited for the agreed upon time. Impatient and craving action, the pale horse shifted beneath his thighs. It shook its mighty head, eager to storm the village and stomp its hooves on the skulls of the sleeping inhabitants.
The wind shifted to blow from the North and Death’s cruel lips unfurled into a hideous grin.
It is time.
Death looked down upon the third finger of his left hand, where he wore a ring forged from a metal known only to those from the Underworld. The thick band began to glow, a smoky, shimmery gray light which radiated from within its dark, cold metal. Where once there was nothing, a scythe emerged, etched upon a flat surface of the ring. Death lifted his cloaked face to the sky and released his mount’s reins to spread his heavily muscled arms to either side, palms facing up. When midnight struck, he spoke the familiar words. Words older than the Earthly plane and everything on it. Words that called upon Death’s powers so that he could open the seal.
Death’s gruesome smile flourished as icy dark energy gathered and grew, drawing life from the force coiled within Death’s Earthly form. A gray fog collected in the sky above the rider and his pale mount, forming a literal cloud of death which hung low in the air, waiting upon his command. Such a faithful soldier, ready to strike at any moment whilst Death prepared for the upcoming storm.
“Praeparare ad mortem.”
The cloud pulsed and expanded outward, doubling in size. The mass flowed at Death’s bidding and slithered down the crest of the hill to rest above the quiet village.
With the final words spoken aloud, the seal opened. Heavy black smoke billowed outward, the area it blanketed so vast, when the mist lowered to the ground, it swallowed up the entire settlement—the dilapidated homes, the crumbling stables, the encampments and smoldering remains of cooking fires, along with every single creature caught within the boundaries of the escalating power.
Lightning streaked across the sky, the accompanying crack deafening to those who were of the Earthly plane.
Death frowned at the thought of the irritating pests… those humans. Pests which overran the land like swarms of locusts.
Rumbling thunder rolled through the valley, shaking the very ground beneath the pale horse’s ever shifting hooves. Death inhaled and braced himself as a great surge of power pushed its way inside his dull, blackened core and he shuddered in ecstasy.
Invisible to those of Earthly origin, a shadowy figure darted past Death’s shoulder and entered the dense mist. Death raised his fist and shouted encouragement as the shadow descended upon the village. To Death’s utter delight, the narrow dirt paths began to fill with curious mortals, woken from their slumber by the lightning, lightning from the Underworld, the sign a seal had opened.
Grinning, Death closed his eyes and sighed in delight when the first of the screams pierced the air.
The great ashen beast threw back its head and Death yanked up on the reins. He kicked the horse’s flanks and with his Earthly form tingling with energy, he charged directly into the township. Wails of the dying permeated the stagnant stench of waste and disease. Frightened humans spilled from their shacks, crude dwellings of sticks and thatch pasted together with mud and filth, panicked as they sought the source of confusion only to meet their own demise.
Death reveled in the sounds, the cacophony of those meeting their end, whilst welcoming the power that surged into his empty soul. One by one, the mortal vermin gurgled their final breath, giving Death what it was he required. The specter of death brought forth by the ring cut down all who crossed the path of its wicked, curved scythe, which it held in a pale, gnarled hand. With one final swipe, it returned to Death’s side. Death rejoiced in the aftermath of the massacre, his black core buzzing with the transfer of energy from mortal souls to his swirling center.
Alas, all things must come to an end. Exhilarated and riding a wave of euphoria, he tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and spoke the final words to bring an end to the ritual.
“Et factum es ita.”
The dark fog vanished along with the shadowed specter, leaving Death and his mount alone in the night. He nudged the horse, which took advantage of the slack in the reins and gleefully stomped over bone and flesh and blood until its pale coat was splattered with gore. Knowing that elsewhere on this damnable, forsaken plane, Death’s three brothers were taking pleasure in their own devastation, made his icy insides marginally warmer.
Once they destroyed everything on this wretched plane, the Four Horsemen would have enough power to not only take over Underworld, but invade and defeat the Hereafter as well, leaving the home of the angelen and sancten in ruins.