"Before the beginning, there was nothing. After there was nothing, there was a Moose."
Few passages remain of the beginning of the world, when the Moose first walked the earth. What stories remain have been passed down - family to family, father to son, vine to sprout.
With the Moose came being, and where he landed came the world. As the Moose traversed the land, more came to exist as he willed it: the trees, the sea, the sand, the sky. Fire. Ice. Heat. Cold. The Moose traveled far and wide, until at last he stopped, bringing forth his final creations: Life and Death.
The first to gain their own being were the elements that had unraveled beneath the Moose's hooves, those that would be the first gods - Sand, Nature, Fire, Ice, Water, and Air - and aside these first creations was also another, incomplete as the world could not sustain it. So it lay dormant, until its time drew near.
These gods of the beginning cultivated the world the Moose had brought forth, varying their elements, giving them form and function. Combining them with one another to create new, greater phases of being.
As the world expanded, the Moose again began to create. The first gods had shaped the being, and now it needed something to fit the new function the world had gained. With this, the Moose created the first mortal denizens of the world - what we know as the Endermen.
Many of the first gods left with the entrance of these new beings, to toy with their own creations and attempt their own experiments in being. Where they left to, only the Moose knew, as they had returned to whence he came. These new experiments by his creations would result in a breed of lesser gods, petty and absorbed much in their own desires.
Only the gods of Water and Air remained with the Moose, curious of the life he had created. They observed as the creatures evolved to develop tools, language, and eventually, the first civilizations. The gods helped to nurture these early beings, to share their knowledge and lend their power where needed. Such as they came into the world, they also found that after a time, the creatures left - the first evidence of the Moose's last creation, Death.
On learning of their ultimate fate, the beings grew resentful, believing to have been created only to serve as playthings to their overseers. They began building weapons, warring with one another over territory, and spurning the gifts of the Sky and Sea bestowed upon them. The gods tried many ways to placate their irate populations - everything from creating lesser beings to live with them, to creating lands of riches for the creatures to revel in.
The Endermen only defiled these gifts; killing the lesser creatures to feed on, stripping the land of its beauty, and using the resources of the world to create weapons with the aim of bringing down their self proclaimed 'tyrants', abominations of flesh and metals given life through horrid, unknown means.
The first battle between the people and the gods was also the only battle. No sooner than a single shot had been fired did the Moose step in. Unable to bear witness to the corruption of his creations any longer, he changed their form to vacuous, lanky beings. Their language was reduced to shrieks, their aggression drawn to any who would so much as gaze upon them. Their towns were flooded, their cities wiped from the land. In his final act upon the world, the Moose banished all offending creatures to a new realm, and set upon them a guardian to keep them from returning - a world forever thereafter known simply as the End.
With the failure of his first creations, the Moose too departed the world, leaving the gods of Air and Water alone on the broken earth. Before they themselves departed, they realized that new beings had emerged upon the surface of the world; less bright than the first people, yet somehow more imaginative. These new creatures were the race of 'humans'. The gods of Sky and Sea decided to remain, to help prevent a repeat of the tragedies of the Endermen.
As the two lone gods repaired the world to suit the new beings, they found that sentience had begun to emerge in the oddest of things:
Eventually, the humans mimicked the accomplishments of their ancient ancestors, creating language and limited civilization. The god of Air guided a group of them far to the West and South, to start their own colonies away from the origin of the world. The god of Water followed suit, leading a band to the North to focus on art and creativity. Other humans led themselves in a migration to the west, creating forts and keeps to defend themselves against the dark things that roamed the world.
A group of adventurers, lead by a suspiciously unaging Doctor, led an expedition through a portal that unknowningly connected to the end, where they then slew the corrupted guardian of the realm. It regenerated over time, but this tiny breach still allowed a small collective of Endermen to return to the world, albeit in their deformed states.
The times that followed were considered the golden years of the world, resplendent with their fair share of hijinks and tragedy...
The humans happen into the realm of the elder god of fire, and create an arena there in which to fight each other for sport.
They began to develop channels of travel, railways to connect the four distant settlements back to their main place of origin.
A mountain in the west erupts, drowning a nearby settlement in a combination of rock and fire, filling the sky with ash and darkness.
The god of Air attempts to create a replacement for the light lost to the mountain's blanket of smoke, only to accidentally dump an ocean of liquid fire on his supporters below.
The humans devise a way to capture the creatures that have long since threatened them, and collect them to fight within their arenas for sport and glory.
A lone human loses itself to madness, summoning forth an army of chickens using unholy magics, all the while ranting about "the eyes in the deep".
An abnormal mushroom grows appendages, taking on the appearance and characteristics of the humans, setting off to travel the world before finally settling far to the east.
A ruin of the old world is discovered, inhabited entirely by the dead.
A human attempted to summon an extradimensional being to the world, but only succeeded in bringing forth its head and neck - the portal stays open to this day, with the creature still partially emerged.
A doorway to other worlds is discovered, and the humans are able to travel to seemingly untouched worlds created almost as mimics of their own, with subtle differences. Many attribute these worlds as having been experiments by the elder gods.
Seven grand wonders of the ancient world are unearthed, and become popular recreational locations for the brave human.
As with all things, they discovered, the time of the gods of Air and Water came to an end. After immeasurable time spent upon the world, their power was used up. Content, weary, and without regret, the two gods passed on.
Unfortunately for the now-expansive people of the world, this was the beginning of the end.
For when the gods passed...so descended The Horsemen.
As the gods faded from the world, the sky was lit aflame. The earth heaved, the seas roared. Stormclouds blotted out the sun. Blood rose from every crack in the earth, pooling upon its surface. The humans panicked, rioted, turning on one another in fear and anguish. The end of times had come, and none had thought it would be in their lifetime.
Witnessed only by a few - and not by any who would survive - four lights descended from the sky. Flitting lifelessly above the origin of the world, they lingered first for days. On the seventh day, amidst the continued chaos, they found purpose, splitting off to each of the four corners of the world.
They had chosen specific targets, latching on to the vessels that would become their own:
These four would forever come to be known as the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Drawn by an unearthly force, the four summoned mounts from a world unknowable, riding off for a destination they did not yet know.
Stories began to circulate amongst the frenzied humans of the horsemen, beings seemingly ethereal and unaffected by the world that rampaged around them.
After seven days and seven nights of endless riding, the four then met within a grand forest, known to the humans that lived there as 'Wildwood'.
Now reunited, the Four began on the mission that had summoned them into the world - to usher in the end of times.
The mushroom, known now as the Rider of Conquest, was the first to test the limits of their new being. Much as they had with their mounts, it summoned from beyond an army of frozen dead, and set them to cleanse the forest of all who made their homes there; scattered huts and small towns containing woodland dwelling humans who, until now, had largely gone unscathed by the upheaving world.
Large spires of ice began sprouting near these human dwellings, bringing with them the hoards of Conquest's new army.
The humans were decimated; their slaughter was quick, precise, and brutal. Only nine had the courage to fight back at their assailants, making their way through the ranks to the horsemen themselves.
One of the two human vessels, now under the title of Rider of Famine, found this amusing. In a test of her own new powers and limits, she extracted the souls of the nine humans, and re-created their bodies as enhanced versions of Conquest's soldiers. Once she was satisifed with her work, she forced the souls back into the corrupted vessels, binding them to her will.
Of the nine, however, one seemed to resist her hold, partially reverting his own body by sheer force of will once his soul was returned to him. This caught the attention of all four riders, to the misfortune of this 'survivor'.
The Pumpkin was the next to test his vessel, possessed by the leader of the riders - the sentient essence of Death itself. The Rider of Death collected all of the souls released by Conquest's legions, and forced them within the body of the unfortunate human. His bloody screams echoed throughout the forest, yet he still did not succumb.
It was decided that while the survivor - known to them as 'Nomad' - could certainly be of interest, he was not more important than their immediate goal. Death ordered the construction of the first of the Horsemen's dwelling places. As Famine - or Fury, as she also went - was the one to create this being, the settlement would be under her management. Using the razed remnants of a town that once belonged to blood-sucking undead, a grand castle was built, as well as a dungeon with which the survivor was contained.
Famine's other eight creations were then locked away in crypts beneath diseased and corrupted trees scattered throughout her forest, imprisoning them for later intrigue. Little did she know, the eight were still completely aware of themselves, yet their bodies and actions remained slave to her instructions. Their tortured souls would wander from their bodies as far as possible, attempting to aid any who would explore their crypts, offering all that they still had in return for the possibility of being able to pass on from their endless hell.
Driven by their innate purpose, the Horsemen then headed north. The only one of them to yet test their power, the remaining vessel, the Rider of War, took every opportunity to immolate every living thing in their path; his strange, spectral fire burning all that he desired - yet only what he desired - leading to more than a few gruesome corpses.
After traveling for days, the riders approached a massive city, seemingly on the edge of the world. It seemed that word of their slaughter had already reached the people, as an army awaited them at the gates. A lone old man approached them, who served as both the elder and messenger of the land. He pleaded with the riders to save the beauty of the city, as its construction had been the pride of countless generations.
Death conferred with the man, proposing to him a deal - the safety of the city, for the souls of its inhabitants. The man hastily agreed, wanting to preserve their work beyond all else. Death waved his scythe, and every living being in the city fell lifeless; young and old, human and non-human alike. Only the old man was left alive, and he could only look on in horror at what he had wrought. Their city had been spared, but at what cost?
With the population cleared, and their purpose still needing to be fulfilled, the Horsemen abandoned the north. In their wake, they left only the old man and his lone sanctum of a city, as well as the haunting forest now known to its few survivors as 'Wychwood', named for the avatar of Famine that now called it their home.
Unbeknownst to the Horsemen, there had been another observer to their beginning act - a lone figure hidden in the shadows of the world, cloaked in purple and gaunt to the point of skeletal. Its face was concealed all but for a mocking smile, and it cast its gaze on the eight plague trees marking the barrows of Fury's new wights...
A new path of destruction was carved, as the Horsemen forged onward to their next unknown destination.
From Sanctum, they headed due south east; crossing plains, mountains, oceans, villages, and more; leaving all a smoldering ruin of what was once vibrant and thriving.
After a month and a day of riding and raiding, the Horsemen came upon the first signs of larger civilization since embarking into the wilds- a massive railway spanning the ocean, and two large statues standing over it in an arch. The Horsemen then followed the rails due east, eventually arriving at a series of fungus-covered islands.
Conquest recognised the area as where his host had originated from, the islands having been consumed by his host's extended fungal mass. The Horsemen took their brother at his word, and continued down the rail.
From here on out, the Horsemen began to notice a peculiar pattern- massive structures, towns, and outposts, but not a single sign of life. A floating city with a massive palace without a single soul; several islands devoid of life.
Finally arriving at the end of the railway, the pattern held true; an entire port city, where not a soul could be found. At this point, the Horsemen were more than curious enough to lend some time to investigate the absense of life in the vicinity. They spread out, searching the city for some sort of clues as to what events had transpired before their arrival.
Shortly into their search, War came across an odd church adorned with symbols familiar to him. He summoned the other three Horsemen to the site, and they managed to find a hidden passage beneath the altar, leading into a foreboding dungeon below. The Horsemen silently nodded at each other, sufficient in their answer, and left the city, following sparce signs of civilization further east.
Many of the settlements they found afterwards were as abandoned as the city had been; until they happened upon a lush valley encircled by snowcapped mountains, with a small, populated town in the distance. Three of the riders rejoiced for finally finding something to play with, but something else had caught Conquest's attention. High in the atmosphere above where the Horsemen now found themselves, a large lifeform was entering the airspace at blinding speeds. He could tell it was vastly more powerful than anything they had so far run into, or subsequently created, and may even be an annoyance for the four of them- if just that it'd make it difficult to leave the area once it met the ground.
Without a pause, Conquest aimed his bow high, and charged a massive spectral arrow overflowing with icy energy. The other Riders only watched, as the entity had now approached near enough for the three of them to also detect it. Adjusting his aim, Conquest let loose the bolt, parting the clouds and stopping the wind with the force of his bow.
An earth-shattering squeal then filled the air, and a massive purple shape dropped from the sky, towards the other end of the plains they were overlooking. The earth shook violently once it hit, and the tempeture immediately began to drop. Within minutes, a full-on blizzard had engulfed the area, and the creature was alive no more. The town they had seen was quickly engulfed in snow and ice, and Conquest's own minions began appearing in the now-barren plains, born of the overflow of power from his arrow.
The area now seemingly a perfect setting for it, the riders decided to build the next castle here; this one, naturally, belonging to Conquest. As their minions were completing the construction of both the Castle and a massive icy wall infront of it, to seal in the valley, Death left them for a moment, venturing off into the plains on his own.
The pale rider was gone for a few hours, but re-appeared as the castle was finished, not offering any particular reasoning for his detour. The other riders had informed him of a small band of survivors that had made a temporary structure across the plains from their original town, and that Conquest had opted to allow them to live, assuming they made him regular offerings for their lives. They had seemed to all start worshipping various odd gods as well, possibly a form of induced insanity from the changing climate and losing their homes so quickly.
The area sufficiently in ruins and the second castle built, the Horsemen took to their steeds and left the plains, traveling this time directly West. Before they cleared the wall, Death took one look back at a particular spot on the now-frozen river, and smiled under his hood.
Unbeknownst to the Horsemen at the time, the freezing of the plains had an odd side-effect. The river that ran through the northern-end of the area shrank dramatically as it froze over, uncovering the long-forgotten entrance to a temple from the first ages of the earth.
Within the depths beneath the plain, an ancient war had taken place, unknown to those on the surface. In the time before time, the Moose had buried his sword into the temple, transforming it into a prison to hold an ancient evil, the hybrid species Nex, that had been on the loose; posing enough of a threat to force him to step in. His sword had broken from the force of the act, shattering and raining down shards of blade and handle throughout the temple.
Before the entrance had been flooded, Saradomin; the God of Order; had sent his minions into the temple to retrieve the shards for his own end, as they still radiated with immesurable power. He sent one of his commanders into the ruin, followed by an army of his 'devote' followers.
This attracted the attention of his rival and opposite, Zamorak; the God of Chaos. Zamorak sent his own demonic commander into the ruins, followed by a legion of creatures under his command, to disrupt the efforts of Saradomin's forces and collect the shards for himself.
The fighting then attracted the attention of yet another, Bandos; the God of War. Bandos's forces cared less for the power of the shards, their main purpose being battle. His forces laid seige on both Saradomin and Zamorak's forces relentlessly, with no obvious goal to reach other then the glory of the fight.
Armadyl; the God of Justice; was the last to take notice. His own general and forces were dispatched; not with the aim of obtaining the shards for himself, but to keep them away from the forces of the other three gods. Like the god himself, his followers were of a bird-like race, and would bring the shards high into the reaches of the ruin, where none could reach or find them.
The underground war continued on for years, and then centuries, until all four sides seemed to have lost track of the outside world. The entrance to the ruin was eventually flooded, and nothing entered or exited the ruin for millenia. The generals on all four factions devised ways of crafting the shards into makeshift weapons; dubbed the Godswords; which they used against one another frequently.
With the freezing of the river and a breath of fresh air circulating within the ruins for the first time in ages, the fighting began anew. Silent, almost breathless whispers reached the ears of all four generals, telling of an even greater power sleeping deep within the ruins, in an area none would have suspected anything existing previosuly. Invigorated for the first time in centuries, they dispatched their forces with new and vibrant purpose: to access the ancient prison, and gain the power of it's long time prisoner, Nex.
Unknowingly, their efforts to access the prison simaltaneously weakened the seal, and their forces were met by none other than Nex herself. The ancient terror effortlessly slaughtered waves of minions, but the years had seemingly also taken their toll. In her weakened and partially sealed state, however, she was gradually overcome by the endless hoards of all four gods. Battered and spent, she prepared for her final release from her long years of imprisonment, a gloryful death. She was met instead, however, by none other than Death himself.
Invisible to the other occupants of the room, only Nex was able to witness him extending his hand. All were able to hear the single phrase he then uttered: "Come and see."
A blood curdling scream then erupted from Nex, stunning the forces in the room as she tore at her own face. Just as suddenly as she had begun to convult, she was mysteriously gone, leaving the confused minions of the gods to fight one another in the now-empty prison cell.
Death, however, left the ruin- but not before casting a knowing glance at a cloaked figure hurrying out from the temple, visibly aggravated at what was most likely a plan that had failed.
With business concluded in the East and the second castle built, the Horsemen then returned the way they came, taking the long ocean bridge back to the bulk of the land.
This time, they continued to the West, landing in what looked to be the capital city of the humans; Central. More populous then everywhere else they had been combined, the Horsemen scattered, riding down all who crossed their path. Conquest's minions flushed out the buildings, War's flames cleansed all hiding places, and Death's undead scoured the underground for any that had retreated from the surface. Famine tainted the water and the food supply, releasing a plague that would engulf the area for long after they were gone.
Due to the sheer size of the area it was days before the city was cleansed, but at last it all fell silent; all save one area; an inverted triangular temple that seemed to repel the Horsemen and their minions. For all their power, they could not enter or affect the structure- despite the few survivors that had managed to cling to life within it.
The remainder of the city cleaned and Famine's plague hanging over any hope of future survival, the Horsemen left the city; but not before constructing their own profane temple, hidden in the depths of the underground. They continued their trek west, passing massive abandoned castles and smaller structures.
They next landed in another city- not as large Central, yet decently populated; Sydney. The humans here seemed different than those the Horsemen had previously encountered, speaking in strange accents and lacking a general regard for each other or their properties. Crime ran rampant, pollution choked the ground, and general upheaval seemed to be the norm- the Horsemen were almost unnoticed among the chaos.
Now used to the screams of terror and grandeur at their approach, War took this as an insult- and a challenge. Reaching to the sky, into the depths of the void, he located a large heavenly body made of rock and metal, and dragged it toward his position. The object gained great speed as it neared, and was equally unnoticed until it caught fire in the atmosphere. A light akin to a second sun blazed in the sky as the mass of fiery destruction fell, and at last the Horsemen had the screams they had become accustom to.
With a violent flash, the object collided into the heart of the city, incinerating all inhabitants and liquefying even stone in its fiery wake. The few buildings that survived the explosion were nothing more than smoldering ruins, and a massive smoking crater now occupied much of the area.
Before continuing onward, the Horsemen noticed an odd green glow emitting from the crater. It was not from the fallen object, as it had vaporized on impact- it seemed to be coming from deep within the crater itself. Molten rock swirled in and out of view, making it difficult to observe; but a consensus was reached that they would revisit this shortly.
Further west, the land had started to turn visibly more arid; from sun-scorched grassland to sprawling deserts. The next settlement the Horsemen reached was within such a place, inhabited not by humans, but by a race of golem-like creatures made of living stone and metal; the Tok-Haar.
They pleaded with the Horsemen for their survival, offering gifts of marvelous artifacts and golden wonders. War this time provided the ultimatum, noticing their affinity for crafting and mining the earth- their lives for their servitude. They consented, avoiding the destruction of themselves and their progenitor artifact, which they referred to as the 'Elder Kiln'.
War set the Tok-Haar to work on constructing a castle within the very desert they inhabited, as well as to construct a massive underground mine with which the Horsemen could use to study the odd material they had observed in the ruins of the last town. Tapping into their abilities even further, War had the Tok-Haar construct him his own loyal army, automatons made of molten gold and stone. The desert lit afire with his new army, as the power released from his mines caused his castle to begin to part from the ground. The Tok-Har fashioned great chains to hold these new islands to the ground and linked them together to complete the castle. To commemorate this, War dubbed the area 'The Shattered Sands'.
Leaving some of the army behind, both to ensure the loyalty of their creators and to facilitate the creation of more soldiers, the Horsemen and company continued the march westward.
Shortly after leaving the desert, they came to a massive expanse of red canyons stretching far in all directions. The Horsemen's otherworldly steeds had little trouble crossing the terrain, though they were slightly slowed as War's army crawled across it. Little vegetation or life existed here, and no settlements crossed their path as they traversed the baked ground. Finally reaching the other side, the Horsemen came upon the seashore once more- and just to their luck, another human-built bridge across it.
The Riders at the head of the battalion, they marched down the expanse, raiding a few islands that it crossed over on the way. The bridge ended at another port town, comprised mostly of families and what looked like temporary housing. The town fell quickly, but all signs pointed to a further settlement across a large bay.
Sacrificing about half of the forces they had brought with them, War had his new automatons create a temporary bridge with their bodies, allowing the remainder of their forces to cross. They came to a grand walled city, much more heavily fortified then the previous settlements had been. A small fleet of ships was docked in the bay, and battlements lined the tops of the walls. Oddly enough, almost all of it was unmanned. A few humans scrambled to fire ballista at the host, but an arrow from Conquest was enough to stop them- and remove a significant portion of the wall.
War blasted down the city gates himself and instructed his army to cleanse the city. They found little resistance, as for its size, the city was mostly uninhabited. The few humans that they did rout all seemed to be builders and artisans, at work at building the very city they were dying in. War left the empty city to its slow, empty decay, and the host turned back to march across their makeshift bridge.
They stopped briefly at War's castle on the return trip, and left the remaining automatons with the bulk of the army, to guard the castle and work the mines. They returned the way they came, heading back in the direction of Central, where they would then turn to their final destination; the South.
At the surface, the path of destruction left in the wake of the Horsemen only seemed to deprive areas of intelligent life. It's unknown if the riders themselves were aware of it at the time, but it was having a deeper impact on the world then most could understand.
The gods, though they had not been seen in the world for hundreds of years, derived their power from the life force of the planet- and subsequently, those that lived on it. As the count of it's inhabitants dropped, so did the power of the gods slowly began to diminish.
Off in their separate plane of existence, the drain was first unnoticeable. A nagging feeling, or an itch they couldn't exactly reach.
It wasn't until the weakest of the gods began dying off that they began to pay attention.
In their weakened state, the Horsemen were now beyond their power. In a mad scramble for survival, the gods began to cast their eyes and their minions across the world to anything that could supplement their power and stave off an inevitable death.
Most of their attempts were fruitless, or the found sources expended so quickly that they bought only hours or minutes at a time. Several of the gods aimed their focus at a re-discovered ruin unearthed in the East, a previous Horsemen destination known as the Temple of Ancients.
The remainder, however, turned their sights to a burst of energy much more promising. The energy released from War's mine not only caused his castle to rise into the air but acted as a beacon for the power-starved gods.
The High Gods Seren and Zaros were the first to send their forces, followed by the god Zamorak, who switched his gaze from the East to the West. The schemer Sliske was next to arrive, not a god himself but equal in power and ability. The four factions converged on the mine, battling through the endless waves of War's Golden Army to reach the opening in the earth.
While the gods themselves had the same intention for invading, the generals they had sent had their own:
The demonic Twin Furies Nymora and Avaryss; generals to Zamorak, as well as the Shapeshifter Helwyr; general to Seren, had a score to settle with Slike's general Gregorovich, the Faceless One. In past wars, he had consumed the sister of the Twin Furies, as well as tortured many of those under Helwyr's command, earning the ire of all three.
The Dragon Rider Vindicta, as well as her mount Gorvek; Zaros's generals, held a vendetta against the Furies and their forces, as they had massacred Vindicta's people while she was young. Herself, her mount, and a few drakes were all that survived. The Furies in kind were keen on completing their genocide, apparently not amused at the survivor.
Gregorovich held no specific enmity to any one group but had a general disregard for life. An early experiment of Sliske's, he was eventually replaced by Famine's stolen Barrow Wights as his primary servants. Gregorovich had been cursed with eternal life and unending hunger, which had led him to consume the Furie's third sister in one of their encounters. In another encounter with Helwyr's forces, he had dissected some of his elven troops in hopes of discovering the secret of their immortality, or a cure for his endless affliction.
The factions left a portion of their forces to prevent the Golden Army from approaching and re-taking the mine, and all four descended. Battling each other and wiping out the mining forces, the factions managed to create camps in the far corners of the mine; defendable positions they could use to focus on the task entrusted to them by their patron gods.
The source of the outpouring of power that drew them all there turned out to be the crystalized lifeforce of the planet itself; a substance that would be named 'Anima Mundi'. Dwarven miners that had been captured were forced into the task of refining this material, as well as crafting powerful armor enhanced by the substance. The generals were even able to use Anima to restore ancient artifacts of their gods to life, powerful weapons once used by the gods themselves.
Driven by their own greed, their directives from the gods, and a loss of their own senses deriving from the Anima itself, the four factions eventually stopped fighting each other all together, and instead vigorously attacked any and all veins of Anima they could find.
Little did they know, much as a body fights off infectious diseases, so too did the planet have it's own defenses. In their lust for the planet's life force, a great tree miraculously sprouted in the center of the mine. Within it, an avatar of the very substance itself rose- Telos, the Warden. The living golem massacred the forces of the 4 factions, until the generals each were able to use their god's ancient weapons to holding the avatar within the tree, both expending their power and losing them to Telos.
Despite everything, the four generals eventually succumbed to the madness induced by proximity to the earth's life force- and not a drop of Anima managed to leave the mine.
Again, left without results and running low on time, the gods again shifted their gaze out across the world- this time, to twelve items of legendary power even they came to fear.
The Horsemen had little choice but to return the way they came, as most of the ride back down to central was bordered by bodies of water splitting the landmasses. The city was just as dead as they had left it upon arriving, with Conquest's Wild Hunt and Death's undead still patrolling the streets.
The same vast ocean the riders had crossed on their trip East spread to the South, leaving their only mode of travel another massive paved bridge over the waters. It seemed to be of the same make and design as the other two bridges they had crossed, more than likely built as part of a network of travel to spread the humans across the world with ease. Little would they know, it would play a key factor in their eradication.
Briefly after setting off, a large city skyline came into view to the Horsemen, silhouetted by their own glow against a dark night sky. The initially though they were closing in on their next target, but the shapes in the distance didn't seem to move much closer as they rode on. It was nearly morning before they arrived, and realized how they had been deceived; the buildings composing the skyline in question had been absurdly massive. Dozens of skyscrapers reached into the heavens and blocked out the sky as the Horsemen traveled between them, a metropolis beyond comparison to most of the primitive settlements they had cleansed beforehand.
With such sprawling space and infrastructure, the Horsemen initially thought there'd be a population to match, and dispatched their minions to cleanse the city. Only... they found no one. Other than the occasional stray animal, there was not a soul to find within the city. The riders spent days combing the streets to be sure, searching every building, subterranean railway, and port; but no one was to be found. They happened upon a set of monuments in the west of the city, all unrecognizable except for one; to their surprise, Death's current host body. Disappointed in their lack of a hunt, but now gaining a better picture as to why, they continued onwards further South.
The roads of the city lead through an overgrown area of gardens, equally as devoid of life, passed a dense swampland, and finally into a sprawling forest-town where tree and house were indistinguishable. The 'structures' seemed to be centered around two absolutely massive trees in the middle of the city, which height-wise rivaled the manmade structures they had come across in the city previously. There was life here to be sure, but almost completely composed of animals; again not an intelligent being to be found. Branching out from the forest town was a desolated hellscape, with a number of structures spread across it that could vaguely be considered homes. Crowning the area was a massive infernal fortress build into the walls of a series of active volcanoes, fiery enough to impress even War. The riders noticed a large tower sprouting from one, seeming to have been built in the same style as the fortress. This in itself would have been unremarkable after an entire city of such structures, if not for the massive flaming eye atop it; that also seemed to follow them as they approached, the first sign of some intelligence since arriving on this strange landmass.
Investigating this fortress, they found a swarm of pig-like undead creatures patrolling the grounds. The meager force was no match for the superior undead of Conquest and Death, and the halls of the mountains soon fell silent. Lastly, they came upon the master of the tower, a creature they recognized as a fallen God. He initially attempted to battle for his survival, but was swiftly disarmed and humiliated by War, forced onto all fours and bowing for his life. Rather than slaughter the God, Fury decided to cursed him and bent him to her will- to be unable to leave the tower for as long as it stood, and to slaughter any that wandered into it.
Satisfied, the march South continued. The few settlements they found past this point were very clearly already ruins, long overgrown and desolate. Signs of some form of battle still lingered in the area, as husks of massive war engines and odd pumpkin-spider golems littered the area. Another massive forest continued on from that, swallowing the entirety of what looked to be an ancient kingdom beneath the trees. Finding no reason to try and wade through the trees, the Horsemen continued on outward, heading now back onto the oversea bridge.
This segment of the bridge seemed to transverse land as often as sea, with many large islands across the expanse. Death in particular had an idea for this area, suggesting they come back to it once they've accomplished what they needed to in the South of the world.
Finally, they arrived at the end of the bridge, greeted by a desert city on the shore of a large lake. A grand palace adorned the southern portion of the city, while bazaars and homes stood between it and the Horsemen. It seems enough time had passed that word of the Horsemen had reached the city, as chaos immediately ensued once they were sighted. Instead of all the inhabitants running in horror, however, a small military force seemed to gather and advance toward them.
Famine took point on this one, as there were some tricks she was looking to try out. The sky darkened as a storm started to form over the city. Instead of rain, however, something else was falling from the sky, painting the soldiers and pooling in the cracks of the streets. Blood. The blood of all the slain up until this point began falling on the city in a torrential downpour.
Several of the less battle-hardened solider broke rank and ran, but the majority continued a cautious advanced. A spear crashed into War's helmet in retaliation, which shattered without so much a flinch from the red rider.
Next, a hoard of.. frogs emerged from the lake behind the town, driven out of the waters by the pooling blood. This only added to the general chaos in the city, but seemed to go mostly unphased by the line of soldiers. Until that is, hideous warts and boil began popping through the skin of all living things in the town. Now visibly shaken, the line broke- soldiers fleeing in all directions, with some of the more battle hardened veterans coming straight for the Horsemen.
But they never made it to their mark. What little light was left in the sky was blotted out with a massive, black mass- a impossible swarm of locusts descended on the city, feeding on the open wounds of the people as they fled. Slightly irritated by the spear from earlier, War decided to add a bit to the show- blood turned to red hail, and joined fire in falling from the sky. The city now lit only by burning buildings among the storm of frozen blood and insects.
Backhanding War for interfering in her fun, Famine reveled in the scene she had created, art in her eyes. But it was time to move on again, and time to do what they came here to do. As the closing act of the show, she extracted the souls of all still within the city, and crystalized them into shards. Leaving the supernatural storm to rage, the Horsemen about-faced, heading back toward the center of the world.
They discussed among themselves as they road, as their purpose had been fulfilled- bring down the civilization of man and reduce the living back to the caves they had first crawled out from. Famine, Conquest, and War all opted to return to their castles and reign over their individual territories- while Death parted with them early, his sights set on the expanse of islands they had passed.
Launching himself and his stead from the bridge, he continued into the greater area of the sea by traversing the seafloor, until reaching one of the larger islands. The modest community living on the island barely registered to the Horseman as he constructed his castle, a twisted facade compared to the other three. In addition, he used his scythe to rend a hole through the world before it- severing through the dimensions themselves into the very afterlife. A vortex of souls pooled within the well, instantly corrupting the island and warping its inhabitants.
And here Death remained, contemplating how best next to proceed with something that seemed to have escape their notice.
The effects of the emergence of the Well of Souls on the island of Sleepy Hollow did more than twist just the island- the entire ocean around it warped and distorted with the spread of the unnatural waters. Large monsters began to form in the depths, and all manor of creatures began to converge on the strange power source. The sea itself rose with its onset, flooding over many of the smaller islands of the area.
Elsewhere across the waters, an oddity of the world- an ancient, floating city-island -drifted into the airspace above the sea, almost as if it was drawn to it. It settled above one of the few remaining islands and began hovering there, fixed in place by some form of will.
Realizing his new neighbors would likely never stop coming, Death erected wards around his island, to prevent any for casually approaching the well. Along with this, he summoned four massive skeletal giants fashioned each after one of the Horsemen, to stand guard over 4 points of the waters where... anomalies seemed to be forming.
The largest so far of these anomalies formed within the dead center of the sea, and quickly turned into a massive, swirling vortex of clouds and unearthly power.
The Well of Souls had reached the notice of the dying, power hungry Gods of the world, and they converged on the spot akin to starving rats to a fresh corpse. Death’s protections seemed to halt their immediate raid of the island, and many of them clustered in one spot- causing the storm of godly power.
Gods of the sea, gods of the sky, gods of the earth, and beyond, all gathered in this spot with whatever means they had found to cling to life- many of them clinging to ancient relics known as Elder Artifacts, siphoning their power to prolong their life.
Unknown to them, however, they were now trapped. The energy they had expended to descend left them exponentially more drained then ever before, and Death’s wards prevented their current lifeboat from moving from its stationary position in the middle of the ocean. They had, unknowingly, created their own final resting place.
Minions spent and artifacts draining, they resorted to minor fights between themselves, some new grievances and some old rivalries, to occupy their last moments. A few of the older gods simply retreated into solitary areas of the storm to await their oblivion. One after another, the corpses of deities fell to the sea from their eternally swirling prison.
Elsewhere, the aforementioned floating city seemed to react to the formation of the storm. Several electrically charged prongs erupted from the bottom of a black sphere forming the city’s base, charged for a moment, and then fired some form of energy weapon at the storm.
The storm itself seemed mostly unaffected, but the city began to change- almost as if it had suddenly awakened. Movement sprouted across the island, and something akin to a bridge seemed to form between it and the tempest.
A lone roar echoed from the overgrown halls of the city’s depths, challenging any who would approach…