The horses pranced as Caspian led them into camp. They flung their manes and flicked their tails, obviously anticipating the day’s ride. Caspian had groomed them extra carefully, brushing chalk through their coats and manes to whiten them further. All of the Horsemen knew the importance of making a grand impression, and there was little grander than the group thundering into a village or camp on a matched set of giant white horses.
Silas heard one of the beasts whinny and looked up from the pot he had been tending over the fire. The hunt had been successful the night before, and the aroma of cooking meat hung heavy in the air. He grinned at his brother. “We will eat soon,” he proclaimed.
“Good,” Caspian replied, rubbing his stomach with one hand, while he held the reins in the other. “There is much to be done today.”
“Eat well and fill your stomachs,” Kronos added. “Methos has just returned with news. This—“ He gestured to the boiling pot, “—may be our last good meal for some time.” Kronos hefted the bundle balanced on his shoulder—the skins of their tents—and carried it to the other side of the encampment where the pack horses waited. These were different animals, thick and sturdy, ones that stayed well in the background, lead and tended by the select handful of camp followers who had been permitted to join the group solely for this purpose. Methos had decreed it, and on matters of showmanship, he was always right. The logistics of making, keeping, and moving camp were best kept out of sight. That the Horsemen seemed to come out of nowhere, belong nowhere, and function without regard to earthly needs, only enhanced the awe and mystique surrounding them.
What no one understood is that they viewed the whole land as their land, crisscrossing it endlessly seeking new adventure, new places to put their talents to work. The question wasn’t if, but where. Recently, the Horsemen had intervened in a small war that had broken out between two formerly peaceful tribes, settling a dispute caused by a chieftain whose ambition had grown too big for his territory or the good of his people. Not long after, word had come to the Horsemen of a plague spreading across the northern plains.
Somewhere on the great expanse of land that would someday become known as Eurasia, there was always a war, a famine, a plague. Most arose suddenly and ended just as quickly, before anyone had time to react. Some, like the plague to the north, latched on and lingered, killing people slowly and persistently despite the best efforts of the holy men and women. That’s where the Horsemen came in. As a group of Immortals, they did not fear those killers of their mortal brethren. And thus their mission was established. They sought danger, and did their best to stop it. What they couldn’t stop, they did their best to ease, to make people’s final days as painless as possible.
“I have finished preparing the medicines,” Cassandra spoke. She indicated the leather bags spread out around her where her potions and salves were stored in between uses. She had been working next to the fire, silent until now only because she was immersed in her own activities. No one understood the magic of plants the way she did, and all the other Horsemen counted themselves lucky that she had consented to join their band.
Caspian handed off the horses’ reins to a young boy who was one of the camp attendants, and pulled aside another. “Summon Methos,” he ordered. “We may have eternity, but they do not.” He indicated the direction they would be traveling, and by implication the people suffering there, with a slight lifting of his chin. The boy nodded and scurried off.
Burden dropped off, Kronos returned to the fire. He accepted the filled bowl that Silas held out to him and squatted down next to the flames to begin eating. The sun was beginning to rise over the horizon, sweeping away the darkness with a pale liquid light that promised clear weather and safe travels.
“It’s a good omen,” Cassandra pointed out, in response to Kronos’ unspoken comment as he eyed the skyline. She accepted her own bowl and let the warmth seep into her hands while she waited impatiently for the food to cool enough to eat. Her horse nickered, just as eager as she to get moving.
“I agree,” Kronos replied. He scooped a large bite of stew into his mouth without regard for its temperature, and grinned in obvious appreciation. Silas was an excellent cook. “A very good omen. As soon as we are finished here, we ride.”
“We ride,” the others echoed, their excitement already palpable. As long as mortals suffered, the Horsemen’s travels would never end. For what other purpose could they put their Immortality?