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And There Lay Saint Martin of Tours

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And there lay Saint Martin of Tours. In my lap; in my arms. He made no sound as he cried his last breath. Among the bodies I sat, looking down from the aftermath. The blood and the death and the murk steamed around me as I sobbed, holding the last glimpses of the carcass. From far I noticed footsteps, and I cried only harder to avoid the truth of the wound. But the pounding only greatened as the shadow dismounted from his steed of blood and flame.

Silent was he, but proud; oh so very proud. He stepped forward in his proud saunter, noting all of what he created, yet ignoring it for he had seen this creation for eternities. Yet, he stopped, and only then did I tear mine weeping eyes from their loss and instead bring them to meet his ghastly figure. Tall and strong was he. Capable of battle and much worse, I knew immediately only who he could be. Only one being could glow in such a shining and hellish stance. The sunlight could glint off of his breastplate only in one such bright and blinding effect. For it was I who then sat and stared into the face of War. A cruel and frozen face peered upon the grounds of his turmoil, bound in his cloak of blood and iron, hands casually held against his sides as though he held no fear. The worst of it was the look of his eyes. Twisted and glad at the sight of his chaotic picture, flickering with a fire of violence they viciously scanned the area as a starved man looks at a roasted bird. When he looked at me, I changed. I became filled with anger and energy and fear, but he did not cast his attention to me. Instead he gazed at the body I held with a reproachable glee; he looked as though he were on the verge of laughing, and it drove me to madness. I could no longer stand his presence, for my body was shaking with a twister of emotion and impulse, and when I felt I had lost my own will to the effects of him, he turned and left, leaving me. His steed shone in the sun with its matt of red and orange hair, but when I viewed upon it from a distance, the once jagged motions of its gallop flickered as if it no longer bore hair, yet instead it wore tendrils of flames.

Once again I was alone, and Saint Martin of Tours’s body began to stink. His and the body of every other deceased member that littered the warmed and crusted ground. And the stench of his death grew, but I once again heard the canter of another beast. I noticed the power of the putrid stench came not from the plethora of bodies accompanying me, but from the stranger masked in cloak and wrapped in bandage. Not only did the smells of the deceased reek from him, but those of every malicious and unbearable scent emerged from him and his horse. His steed was much less proud and strong as that of War. Instead, I saw a horse that carried not only its rider but possibly several maledictions and diseases. Its trot was not as strong as the charge of the red horse, but it was closer to the hobble of an old man. As it neared, it looked sickly and a small tint of a pale green. Its rider seemed in no better condition as he struggled off of his steed, coughing. Sniffles from his shaking and sporadic breath told me his identity, but my fear grew to greater heights in his presence than even that of the impersonation of War. The sky itself had seemed to dim and dwindle as if the Sun itself had been infected with some virus. The bandaged one, in his pale cloak and sickly demeanor, crept forward to the bodies, bringing with him swarms of flies and maggots. The bodies seemed to decay and wither before my eyes, and in a hope for the sake of innocence and purity I looked to Saint Martin of Tours to find him pale and tired. Around us, the traveler’s touch had violated the bodies of those around me, each now lying in a decrepit state of rot and of agony. It grew cold on his arrival, but now I had found that the heat of decay had smothered me. It finally dawned on me that the mark of Pestilence himself had forced itself onto all that was near. Along with this admittance came the realization that I, too, must have been touched with his disgusting reach, and so I looked close into my hands. I was never a sickly man, but as I gazed farther into my hands I noticed with the greatest fear I had know that before my very eyes my health had deteriorated to that of a leper. My hands bled and my flesh began to tear away slowly, and I knew that Pestilence had infected me. On looking upon the landscape on which his filth thrived, he may have laughed, but if he did I would never have known due to the overpowering sound of his cough choking into his breath. He limped back to his dying horse and departed. I had never seen the face of him because of the dirty and bloodied bandages, but I could see the emptiness in his eyes and the pleasure that came with ruin.

The emptiness in his eyes haunted me as I continued to sit with Saint Martin of Tours. It seemed as though for hours all I saw were his eyes, and when I thought of Pestilence I could feel the cold stillness in the air return. But my fears and trauma surrounding disease itself could no longer continue. As my leprosy grew, the sound of the third stranger’s horse grew louder. There was not much wildlife that was visible, but what I could distinguish as trees and shrubs began to wither and dry and brown. I could see the brittleness of their branches. More pressing, however, was that the closer the next horse drew to me, the more I could feel the emptiness of the eyes of Pestilence fill me, and I needed to fill the emptiness. Desire held me in its grasp as the next horseman dismounted and crept. The horse itself was the most pitiful of the three. It was bare and starved. Its weakness manifested itself in its rib cage almost protruding from its skin and the gaunt hollowness to its face. Then, around me all of the remaining flies quickened their pace, each becoming more ravenous than the last as they tore through human flesh and blood. Maggots began to dig deeper and faster, driven by an almighty motivation, and I became once again petrified at the thought of what this power would do to me. The vibrancy that had returned to the sky seemed starved as well like it hungered for more. I myself felt the overwhelming power consume me. Personal and human wants alike began to dictate my mind. No longer could I focus on the previous two strangers because the entirety of my attention became fixed to the want of meat and of sex and of riches. The appetite for these became so palpable that more than once the thought of satisfying my hunger by means of human decay seemed inexplicably and frighteningly reasonable and necessary. Against every scrap of conscious will that was left inside of me I began to tear desperately at the nearest corpse within my reach, but with some feat of willpower or chance my hands miraculously had passed over the body of Saint Martin of Tours. Yet, so distracted in my actions was I that I nearly didn’t notice the emaciated god pass by. He was no sight to behold; rather, he held a sad doom to his silhouette. His embodiment was that of a humble man, poor and hungry. Clad in ragged robes of what looked like burlap, he crept his way to the bodies. In doing so, he made everything else only hungrier to satisfy their needs. My nails tore even deeper into the fresh corpse beside me. With his hollow features he stared at the picture of need overwhelming conscience and humanity. Every being quickened its pace, and it seemed to me that even the bodies were decaying quicker as if the earth’s hunger for them had increased as well. Then, he looked at me, and my world had ended. My will had completely abandon me, and it was replaced with something much darker, obsessive, and evil. I lost control. No torture any human could produce could rival that of the knowledge of broken spirit. With that, the short, poor man turned and with each agonizing moment I felt his grasp on my will slowly weaken. Driven by my starving impulses, I successfully ripped the meat from the corpse’s cold limb. I heard the hungry idol clamber onto his pitiful horse and drive away. When Famine had passed, my mouth, filled with raw, half-chewed, bloody muscle, realized its actions and spat away every ounce of the disgusting mush. Doubled over, I remained in a constant shudder of horror at what had passed. After several minutes had passed and the uncontrollable shaking had ended, I looked upwards towards the sky, pleading for hope. The sky had not recovered from the empty hollow that the horseman had placed over it, yet instead it strugglingly became bleaker and greyer and darker. Worst of all was the sound of hooves beating against the ground.

I looked immediately to the face of Saint Martin of Tours. Blood was spilled over his face, and I realized what was to come. The stride of galloping was matched with no other sound. No birds whistled, nor crickets chirped. No breeze flew as the rider approached. The stallion wore a coat of unblemished white. A great mane emerged from its neck and body. The sight perturbed me as I observed the mare. It was not scarce nor sickly like the horses of Pestilence or Famine, nor was it proud and strong like that of War’s. This was an elegant creature, yet eerily repelling. Yet what was more stunning was the equestrian himself. The closer he ventured, the more I wanted to run. A torn cloak of darkness shrouded every feature of his body if indeed there was one to fill the looming hood. It was tall, steady, and the most horrific sight I could have beheld. Yet, I stayed frozen in place as the eidolon descended from the supernatural colt. The air had grown cold. The sun had gone out, but night had not yet risen. The shrubbery around me withered as it had with the presence of Famine, but now it began to crumple to the dirt. I began shaking again, quivering with cold and fear and tears. I noticed myself sobbing thrashingly while backing away, but my withered flesh from the mark of Pestilence left me weakened to the point at which it was all I could do to crawl. Even this eluded me for I saw that under the hood of this stranger was the face of terror and all that is terrible. Slowly and deliberately he tread. I wanted to believe he admired his work, but I noticed a terrible apathy in his stance. He wandered to the bodies littering the ground, closing the eyes of the nearby dead soldiers. And, against my last hopes, he crept closer to my woeful, wretched state. I recoiled my body in a lame effort to escape his touch, but it was no use. The specter reached for me, and I felt the hand of Death -- cold, unyielding, and grim -- wrap around my arm and gently tug. I groaned and sobbed in a defeated expression of hopelessness, and he pulled me upwards. The cacophony of silence broke me down, and, with every ounce of strength I could muster, I futilely attempted to release myself of Death’s grasp. My arm had gone numb along with my torso, and I felt tired; so very tired. Nonetheless, I pushed on, hoping that by some off chance I might escape, but my energy was failing me, and I knew why. Death’s touch crept through my body, and I soon became cold. Struck with fright, I abandon my strategy of flailing and crying, and instead I looked back towards Saint Martin of Tours, lying frozen, dead. I could draw no sadness within for my deceased friend- only jealousy- for he had escaped easily and unmockingly. With that I looked to the battlefield and took note of this abhorred cruelty, and as darkness settled around me, my world fell to pieces while apocalypse bitterly laughed from on high.

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