In the streets of Kabul, a lone thief dashed the twilight. Slipping through the crowd, she dove through and ducked into a stone alleyway. Hiding in a broken crate, she waited until the sound of shouts and running had passed. Then, she stood up, and with a wary glance, slipped further down the alley. In her hand, she clutched a half-eaten apple.
“Little thief girl, stealing to survive,” a voice purred from long shadows. “Wouldn’t you like to take a rest? Or would you like the power to fly from this place?”
A diminutive woman stepped out of the darkness, cloaked in dusty robes. “I could offer you both, for a price.”
“Don’t try it, Mephist.” Long-fingered, emaciated hands grasped the doorway, the rest of the body ducking through. A ghoulish man stepped out and rose to twice their height. “Besides, I don’t believe she has anything to gain from us.”
“No need to tell me,” the woman muttered. “Still, isn’t it kind of strange? Meeting here so quickly.”
“Quite. Though Conquest is a little late, I’ve no doubt she’ll arrive shortly.”
“Should we just start without her?” The woman folded her arms and tilted her head up.
The man rubbed his chin. “We’ll create a beacon for rendezvous - by beacon, I mean disaster. It’ll be a good chance to scale ourselves against this physical reality.”
“Wonderful,” Mephist said. “Give me time to set up, then we’ll burn them together.”
The little girl guarded her apple, glancing between the two of them. “Who are you?”
The two monsters exchanged looks. “We’re the Four Horsemen of Death,” the man explained. “I would be Derega, Horseman of Famine.” He bowed nonchalantly.
Mephist chuckled darkly. “As for me, I am the indomitable Horseman of War, the destructor of mankind, Mephist the Red.”
She cocked her head, smiling. “How goes you?”
Derega nodded. “Together, we comprise the Four Horsemen, incomplete version.”
“Well, we’re the fun ones; Conquest didn’t even name herself. But enough about us.” Mephist clasped the girl’s hands. “What’s your name?”
The little girl jerked away from her. “You’re both scary,” she stammered, backing out of the alley. “Talking about death and that stuff! I don’t care-”
“No, nobody cares.” The girl’s back hit a solid object, and she looked up to see Derega looming over her.
“After all, if anyone cared,” Derega said, trapping the girl between himself and Mephist, “we would certainly not be here. This world will soon be forgotten at our hands, its contents obliterated to the stars. But you, you have a special role to play.
“Tell me who you are,” Derega coaxed, “and we will tell you who you are meant to be.”
“S-shirin,” the girl whispered, paralyzed by fear. “My name is Shirin.”
She swallowed and looked at them with tears in her eyes. “Who are you?”
“Disaster given form,” Derega replied. “A pleasure to finally meet you. Now, as for who you are, well.” He trailed off, seeming slightly amused.
“You’re the most important part of all this,” Mephist explained. “You’re our leader, Horseman of Death.”
Shirin’s terror came to a peak, and she fell down, bracing herself against the wall. “W-what?”
Derega spread his arms passionlessly to the sky. “You will bring about the destruction of this world, helming our onslaught as Death itself.”
He placed his hands against the sides of the alley. From his fingertips, a black rash spread like a virus, the stones crumbling to ash. Shirin watched as it climbed up the walls and surrounded her with decay.
“Stop it!” she screamed. “Just stop it! Go away!”
Mephist surged forward, gripping Shirin’s wrist. “Our leader shouldn’t be thinking that way. You’ve got a duty, after all, and it’s time you honored it.”
Shirin gasped. Mephist’s robes had fallen open, revealing a swirling red mass where her body should have been. It churned and glowed a deep crimson, shadowing Mephist’s face as she ordered, “Derega, wake her up.”
Derega brushed his fingers along the wall, blackening coldly. “We understand how this may be confusing to you. Death is a natural part of this world. The most inherent, the most innocent. But enough of that, Shirin. It’s time for you to wake up.”
His corrosive hand rushed towards Shirin’s face, until the world screamed into blinding white light.