My roommate has been looking at the same piece of paper for two hours now. I’m beginning to get concerned.
Usually, Til had no problem getting through the mounds of homework the professors gleefully handed out. It would take her three hours tops to finish everything. For every class to the end of the month.
I wanted to dislike her, but it only took one incident the first day of college for us to become the best of friends. Since then we’d been pretty much inseparable. Causing mayhem and righting wrongs across the world.
I was pretty sure that the paper she was still staring at had to do with her job. The other job. As opposed to the barista job she had at the local coffee shop.
Only one way to find out.
“Yo, roomie. You gonna share what’s on that paper or do I have to play twenty?”
‘The heck?’ Two years of being roommates and I can honestly say that this is the first time she hasn’t answered me. Whatever was on that paper was important.
Since she can’t tear herself away from it I would just have go to her. I walk over to her bed and plop down next to her hard enough to make her bounce. Still no reaction. I shake my head and gently take the paper from her. I didn’t think she’d give it up so easily, but she doesn’t protest at all.
I sit back and begin to read.
It doesn’t take me long. The piece of paper does in fact have to do with her other job and within the first sentence I know that it’s a bad one.
It’s a letter from her oldest brother, she has three older brothers, asking for a ‘meeting’ of the four siblings.
The last time they got together the world went to war.
I know she’s worried about what’ll happen this time, unfortunately, her brother wouldn’t ask her to ‘please join the council to decide a course of action’ if it weren’t for a very good reason. Having met the man I can safely say that he is the most obnoxious and rude person in existence. He doesn’t say ‘please’ for any reason unless it involves something world changing. Like a war.
I nudge her shoulder with mine, “I’ll go with you Til. You don’t have to face them alone this time.”
She still doesn’t say anything but she does finally look up at me. Her smile is tremulous and her eyes are so weary that it hurts me to see it.
We pack. While she’s getting the car, I go and talk to the headmaster. He’s a pompous jerk who doesn’t like my mom and so when I tell him we need a pass for the rest of the month he refuses. I’m not surprised. Unfortunately for him I have no problem with calling my mother to fix my problems for me.
She doesn’t always, in fact she rarely does, but when it really counts she seems to know and stands by me. My whole family would come down like Heaven’s Wrath if I needed them to. I really hope this isn’t one of those times.
It isn’t. As soon as I pull my phone out to make the call the doors open and Founder Rexib strolls in. He’s one of the beings who helped create the college and those who did have final say in everything relating to it. Even if that means going against what the headmaster says.
Founder Rexib looks surprised to see me. “Navar. Why are you still here? I was sure you would have left for the meeting by now with your roommate.”
I open my mouth to tell him that the headmaster won’t hand over the passes we need to leave the campus without being suspended for unsanctioned leave, but then snap it closed almost as fast. There’s no way he could have heard the conversation through the thick oak doors which means that he found out another way.
I wasn’t really concerned before about the meeting. I knew that I could keep Til’s temper in check and keep her from jumping into whatever juvenile challenge her brothers thought up. Now though, I can feel the slick slide of apprehension on my spine.
Founder Rexib has ‘Sight’. Specifically, he has ‘End Sight’ which means that he can see when disasters are going to happen. Depending on the severity, he will either step in and try to stop it from happening or he will let it happen. My mama explained it to me when I was little. To be honest I didn’t understand how it worked then or now.
What I do understand is that when an ‘End Seer’ says that you should have been gone by now then you should have been gone by now.
I give him a short bow and race outside, jumping into Til’s car through the open window to save time and we set off to meet with her brothers.
It occurs to me later, as we’re driving up the winding driveway to the castle, that I should still have called my mother and told her what was going on. Just because she was powerful didn’t mean that she was omniscient and if she didn’t know where I was then she couldn’t help if I needed it.
It also occurred to me that I should have packed my rifle anyways, even if I did have to show my license to carry over state-lines and through portals every hour at the security checkpoints.
Yes, we got to their home faster, but I was sans favorite rifle. I didn’t like being weaponless, especially with who I was going to be spending time with soon.
The butler opens the door before we get to it and informs Til that they are still waiting on one of the brothers, Min, so we have time to settle in and eat before the meeting. On the one hand it’ll be nice to eat something and relax. On the other hand I know that Til wants this over with as soon as possible.
It’s late when Min finally arrives. Being the one to call the meeting you’d think that he’d be on time, or even early, but no, he arrives at three in the morning and insists that the meeting happen right then. I argue with Til about it. If it was really that important than he could have been here earlier. He can’t always say ‘jump’ and the others jump for him like puppets.
Til just shakes her head at me. She knows I don’t like her oldest sibling and even knows why. Usually she listens to me when it comes to her family because I can see things in an unbiased way that she obviously can’t. It’s kept her from a few situations she didn’t want to be involved in in any way, shape or form.
This time however, even I know that my argument has more to do with my desire to antagonize and aggravate Min than it does with making sure my friend’s best interests are being looked after.
We walk down endless hallways and sweeping staircases, eventually making it to the grand ballroom where a single table with four chairs is set up. I recognize the table, though it was smaller the last time I’d seen it, and I wonder how they got it away from its keeper.
‘Most likely they stole it’, I think while rolling my eyes at the most likely explanation for the table being so far from where it was supposed to be being kept safe.
I stand back by the doors while Til makes her way to the table. I wasn’t officially invited and even though I’m her best friend that doesn’t mean that I can intrude on this kind of business without an invite from Min.
Whatever the meeting’s about I know it’s not going to end well for someone because Ath and War both stand and give Til a hug before pulling her chair out and offering her something to drink and eat.
Don’t get me wrong, Til’s brothers love her just like she loves them, but they aren’t the touchy-feely kind of family unless emotions so intense they’ve been known to rip worlds apart are involved. For them to initiate is one thing. For them to soothe and comfort before any conversation takes place is a very bad sign.
This is definitely not a situation where she needs help with her siblings. This is bad stuff. The kind that keeps creatures of absolute destruction and misery in line and serious. One goal will be in their minds after they talk and nothing will stop them from achieving it. I quietly back out of the ballroom and down the hall, turning at the first left to make my way outside when I run into a statue face first and bounce back a step.
I hold my aching nose as I look up, and up, into vibrant green eyes.
Min, in turn, looks down at me from his towering six foot eight height. It surprises people how quietly he walks but to be honest I’ve gotten used to it and can usually stop myself before I get hurt by running into his muscled, no-give, frame. ‘Usually’ being when my mind wasn’t consumed with trying to decide whether or not my family needed to know about this meeting or not.
We stare at each other for what feels like forever to me. I’m aware of him in the way smaller predators are aware of bigger ones. I know that I can put up a fight but in the end I don’t know if I have what it takes to beat him.
He’s so much bigger than my small five foot six inch, gangly self. His armor and fierce demeanor make him look bigger than he ever has and his battle scythe doesn’t help the situation either. He’s ready for the world to end.
While I’m wearing nothing but pink shorts with unicorns on them and a tank top that says ‘Bite Me’. My typical sleep wear was perhaps not the best choice for wandering around the castle in, if only because of this situation being a possibility.
I’m about to break the silence when he offers his arm to me. I stare at it, struck dumb by the move, and begin to pray that God sends extra angels to help the world out because whatever the problem is, the solution may end up being another world war.
I take his offered arm and let him lead me back to the ballroom and the table, where a fifth chair has been placed between himself and Til. He pulls my chair out for me and doesn’t sit until I’m settled. I realize that the others are all in their armor now and have their weapons too, making me feel even more conspicuous than before.
The feeling doesn’t last long though because Min begins to speak and what he has to say makes my blood run cold and my temper hot.
Five days later news outlets across the world make their reports. They throw words and phrases around like ‘monstrous’, ‘inhumane’, ‘a vision straight from Revelations’. You get the picture. They ‘report’ on the slaughter of an entire region in India and how the villages and cities were razed to the ground, bodies left to rot in the streets. They talk and blame and ask why the many powerful beings in the world didn’t step in and stop the tragedy from happening or at least punish the ones responsible.
The world grows angry and the news keeps stoking the fire for two weeks after.
I don’t watch it though. The only reason I know what’s going on is because other students won’t stop talking about it. Thankfully, most students understand what really happened, or had to have happened, and they don’t blame Til, her brothers and I for the massacre.
Some students, new ones, try to start fights with us. A few even ‘protest’ our being allowed to stay at school and free, claiming that we should be held accountable for what we’ve done. Those people go away quickly though, the others tell them the truth which is definitely not what the media has done.
Eventually, my mother calls to make sure I’m doing alright. I tell her I’m fine, but she isn’t fooled and sends a few of my siblings to drop off cookies and brownies to help.
There’s so much that Til and I end up putting a table together and setting things out for people to enjoy.
Since it’s finals week our gesture is very much appreciated.
The Founders visit personally and let us know that we are exempt from finals this semester. They know the truth about what happened and tell us that if we need anything to let them know. We appreciate their offer but still take our finals just like everyone else.
We take them in separate rooms though and all of our finals in one day instead of spread out. Our teachers’ give us small smiles and hugs before we leave.
Even though our semester is over we aren’t heading home. There are only two semesters every year at our school, Spring and Fall, and you don’t have the option to take classes in the summer. The Founders’ reasoning is that students need time to relax between semesters and visit family or recover financially from tuition and get settled again.
Most students stay on campus and teach the younger generations during the summer and winter months’ classes are out. Til and I have been doing that since the start. It’s a good cause and the kids like interacting with college students. Apparently, we are ‘rapidly cool’ and teach them far more than school ever has. It lets us be normal for a change and that’s just what we needed.
It only takes a month for the truth to become mainstream after the razing. Even the media can’t keep lying after the footage gets out. I shouldn’t say lying, as far as they knew they were telling the truth. The problem is that they were out to get views and didn’t stop to ask why the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and a daughter of the Axanra would murder thousands of ‘innocent’ people.
To their credit, many do publicly apologize to us. Not only on live broadcasts but they also personally come and apologize to Til and I, without cameras in tow. I know they would have done the same if they’d been able to find Til’s brothers, but they had disappeared into their mundane lives again after the razing.
They look so different from their Horsemen selves that no one knows who they are when they aren’t fully armored and fighting. Til’s the exception, but that’s only because she’s my roommate and my mother is such a big deal. Also, her hair is neon green and literally glows with her power. A holdover from a few years back when there was an Ebola outbreak.
She hadn’t meant for that to happen, but in her defense she was under a lot of stress at the time. A lot of different cultures and belief systems were trying to jump start the end times and if that doesn’t make people stressed than I don’t know what does. She was worried the whole time that I would get sick and die. The worst thing I got was a cold and despite telling her a thousand times that she can’t kill me, she still quarantined herself for a good month.
I finally had to call my mother to come and talk to Til. My mom slapped her up alongside her fool head and told her that if there had been even a little chance that I could get sick from having Pestilence as a roommate than she never would have allowed it. That did the trick.
After the truth came out and things died down, Til’s brothers came to visit and see how we were doing. To say it was an interesting day would be an understatement. Having Death, War and Famine on campus with Pestilence caused a small riot, but then no family get together is without its problems right?
We spend the day together, playing games and going out to eat. We catch a late movie after dinner and decide to walk back to campus. It’s several miles, but the night is beautiful and warm and I know that Til could use a few more hours with her family. Especially when they’re on their best behavior.
Min, Famine for those who aren’t friends of Til’s, walks beside me while the others fool around ahead. He doesn’t say anything, which is weird because he’s usually all about trying to get me to lose my temper. I’m known for being like my mother in that my temper is a near non-existent thing that is very hard to rouse. Once it is though…well, we don’t talk about those times.
“You know, I’ve actually found puddles deeper than you.” He looks at me with a brow raised and I continue, now that I know I have his attention, “It’s true.” I stall, unable suddenly to find the right words.
I sigh and stop walking. “You are such an obnoxious ass Famine. You make it too easy to forget how old you are and I keep taking you at face value when I know better. This last instance is a perfect example.”
Looking up I meet his gaze and see endless time in them. I’ve seen the same thing a few times, outside of the Horsemen, and it never fails to make me feel insignificant and small.
And very, very happy that I’ve only lived twenty-three years.
“I am what the world needs me to be.” His deep voice is lyrical and soft enough to not carry on the night wind. He says the words factually, without rancor or sarcasm and I make a mental note to at least try to remember what he is.
“No, you’re you and I think that that’s what the world needs. Not the other way around.” I shrug, “If you were what the world needed I don’t think you’d have as much compassion as you do. The world would have destroyed that a long time ago”
We walk in silence again for a while until I can’t stop myself from asking the question that’s been front and center in my mind since the meeting in the ballroom. “You kept the letter, didn’t you?”
Knowing that there is no ‘of course’ about it I nudge his arm with mine before calling a truce of sorts and, taking his hand in mine, pull him forward to his family. The five of us get ice cream and talk through the night about nothing important and watch TV when we can’t think of anything else to say. Til’s brother leave the next day, no doubt donning their non-Horsemen personas as soon as they’re out of sight, and Til and I get back to teaching kids how to balance checkbooks and make budgets.
Somewhere deep in the earth is a sprawling library that holds countless letters, scrolls and boxes full of small pieces of paper, bark and whatever else you can write on. The library grows as it needs to and there is always a place for every new addition.
In a dimly lit corner there is a dark purple wood chest. Made of an extremely rare tree only found in Shangri-la under certain extreme circumstances, the chest holds a handful of requests. Unlike the other requests throughout the library, these ones have special meaning to the Horsemen.
On the very top of the pile is an envelope and inside the envelope is a letter and the equivalent of twenty-three dollars and forty-two cents in small change. The letter was written by a nine-year old girl and sent to one of the world’s best contract killers. Famine.
The letter tells a horrific story of a group of powerful people taking control of outlying villages and towns and enslaving the people. The plan was to create an army that would be strong enough to take all of India and make it a separate kingdom under their rule. The people revolted and hid as many as they could, but it was no use. In the end, the group hired powerful necromancers to re-animate the adults and sent them to retrieve those hidden.
The little girl who wrote the letter had done so from a cell where she had watched as her friends and family were killed, only to be reanimated moments later and walk out the doors to serve as mindless drones. She had given her last breath as payment to have the letter delivered to Famine.
She, along with all those whose souls had been forced back into dead bodies, had been released from their living hell. They were at peace in whatever Heaven or Paradise they believed in.
The ones responsible for the atrocity were burning in Hell where they belonged having been personally delivered by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Navar, daughter of the Axanra.
©2016, Illeana Nexry.