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Chapter 2: Break for Breakfast

by Tina Drechny 6 months ago in Series
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Fifth Rider of the Apocalpse

“We can’t just give up our vantage point to go eat breakfast.” War argued. A mammoth of a man with broad shoulders and a dark visage, he stood nose to nose with the thin and gaunt looking Famine. Famine didn’t seem to be bothered by his brother’s intimidating build.

“And why not?”

“You never give up the high ground! You’ll be at a disadvantage.” War sputtered. “We need to maintain superiority and the place has every advantage we could ask for.”

“I agree with War.” interjected the Conqueror. “We need to keep our location secure.”

“I don’t see why we all have to stay here.” pouted Famine. “War is perfectly capable of establishing a secure compound without us. He complains when we try to help anyway. While he gets things rolling, we can pop into town and check out the local cuisine.”

“He’s right, War doesn’t need or want our help and I could use a bite to eat. All this talk of food has made me hungry.” Pestilence added.

“They have a point.” Conqueror conceded. “You don’t really like it when we help.”

War waved them all off. “You can do whatever you want, I’m going to get started. We are now looking a laying down a long term siege. There’s a lot of work to be done if we are going to do this right.”

“Then it’s settled.” Conqueror announced. “Can we bring anything back for you?”

“No, I ate earlier.” War pulled a cell phone out of his cloak and began making a phone call. The conqueror turned and took the reins of his horse and indicated that Jacob should join him.

“Do you recommend any place in town?”

Jacob eyed the man warily. The Conqueror seemed to be taking his role a bit too seriously. All of them did. Their costumes looked expensive and their weapons appeared to be authentic.

“There is a diner in the middle of town that is good. It’s the only place open this early besides Starbucks.”

“Starbucks coffee is a little strong for my liking. Besides, they don’t really serve much food.” Famine complained as he led his horse beside Jacob and the Conqueror.

Jacob turned and looked behind him. At the top of the hill he could see War pacing while talking on his cell phone. He seemed to be measuring out the land and periodically stuck something in the ground as he went. “Should we have stayed to help War?” Famine rolled his eyes at Jacob’s question.

“Naw, he doesn’t need our help.” the Conqueror assured him. Not to mention that I want to eat when I get in town, not have a fight.”

“A fight?” The role playing was beginning to be a bit too realistic for Jacob.

“Really, did you take a good look at War? Do you honestly think we could bring him into town without ending up in a brawl? Then who would cook breakfast? You needn’t worry about him going hungry either, some of his kids will be there shortly to help him out and they’ll bring provisions.”

“He has kids?”

“Lots of em!” snorted Famine. “He keeps busy between campaigns.”

“His oldest is Mars.” Pestilence waved vaguely as he led his horse past. “Then there would be Diana, Helen, Alexander, Thor, Cleo, Nero, Guan, Macha, Neit, Woden, Argona...What does he have, 15?”

“Yep, something like that.” responded Famine. “They are mostly all grown now.” He tilted his head toward Jacob. “Except his youngest, Artillery, but they will probably bring him along for the fun.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised if they have a fortress up by the time we finish breakfast.” The Conqueror smiled at the thought. “Or maybe he will start right away with a castle. War is fond of castles, even if they are outdated.”

Jacob played along with the role playing. “Do all of you have families? And kids and stuff?”

“Why wouldn’t we have families?” Famine dropped his horse’s reins. He turned to face Jacob, blocking his descent. Suddenly he looked menacing, despite his emaciated features and flapping robes. His horse continued to pick its way down the hill without him.

“Um, I didn't mean it that way. I mean, I was just surprised.” sputtered Jacob. The gaunt man with glinting eyes had one and on his hilt.

The Conqueror clapped Jacob on the shoulder and steered him around the glowering Famine as he laughed heartily. “Don’t mind him, he can be grouchy when he is hungry."

"He's always hungry.” Pestilence chuckled and the three of them continued down the hillside in silence.

Jacob felt a growing sense of unease. He wasn’t sure that Famine followed and was too afraid to turn around and look, but when they came to town and tied their horses to the bike rack out front the diner, he was with them, taking the reins of his gaunt horse and tethering him beside the rest.

The establishment Jacob recommended was a local hangout, busy with people streaming down from the hills to obtain a more substantial breakfast since it looked as if the anticipated show had been delayed. The owner sat them in a sunny corner booth with a large window, comfortable enough to seat the sizable riders in their medieval garb. Their swords scraped the floor as they took their seats and placed beverage orders with the cheery waitress. None of the other customers seemed too keen on being seated near the newcomers, so the booths immediately adjacent to them remained empty despite the crowd.

After ordering, food came quickly. The group tucked into their meals. Jacob slowly chewed his breakfast burrito, watching in awe as Famine worked his way through pancakes, sausage, toast, hash browns, eggs and grits with a side of oatmeal and a bagel with cream cheese. There appeared to be no end to what Famine could consume as he perused a menu while he ate, always nodding when the waitress came to refill their coffee. Beside him, the Conqueror ate absently while busy on his mobile. Jacob wasn’t sure, but he thought the great warrior was checking Facebook. Pestilence watched people entering the diner with keen interest. Politely Jacob turned to look out the window and tried not to stare at Famine as he ate.

He was finishing his breakfast burrito when he realized that Pestilence was watching him thoughtfully over his coffee. He blushed and tried to busy himself with cream and sugar as the waitress refilled their cups and took yet another meal order from Famine.

“Warm enough now?” asked Pestilence quietly. Flies buzzed lazily about the table.

“Ah, yes, thanks. I should be giving this back.” he said as he shouldered off the cape. Without looking up from his phone, Conqueror waved him off.

“Don’t worry, he has plenty.” replied Pestilence offhandedly. “Besides, it looks like it will be pretty chilly today, so you will probably need it. At least for now.” Jacob tried not to blanch as Pestilence scratched a raw spot on his chin and skin flaked off to reveal a sore.

Her order pad in her hand, the waitress stopped to talk to the proprietor who looked at them anxiously. Pestilence cleared his throat and Conqueror looked up, a slight frown creasing his impressive features. Pestilence looked pointedly at the table littered with plates then back at the pair beside the register. Taking his meaning, the Conqueror nodded and got up crossing the room with long confident strides. He spoke quietly to the owner and after a discrete transaction, left the man beaming at the counter while he made his own way to the restroom.

“So what’s the plan?” asked Jacob, hoping to break the heavy mood that seemed to settle when the Conqueror had left. He imagined that they made an unusual spectacle, he in his rumbled tee shirt and jeans seated next to the three imposing riders. Even Famine with his sunken eyes and gaunt frame dwarfed Jacob.

Pestilence frowned. “So now you're one of us?” Jacob squirmed uncomfortably, his earlier unease growing exponentially stronger by the moment. Famine continued eating and shrugged. His anger seemed gone, but he did not make any overtures of friendship or offer Jacob any assurances.

“Just what do you think we are going to do?” Pestilence queried. His unremitting stare unnerved Jacob.

“We wait.” responded the Conqueror returning to the table, shifting his sword to sit comfortably. Jacob moved to make more room for his companion.

Pestilence glanced at his phone. “Still no response from PC. But War wants to know if we have appraised the town defenses yet.”

“Minimal.” answered the Conqueror taking a draw on his coffee.

“Defenses?” Jacob choked on his coffee. Famine offered him a napkin from across the table. “Are you planning on attacking the town?”

"Duh." Pestilence rolled his eyes, dislodging a scab above his eyebrow.

“There are no barracks indicating any ground troops in the area, no naval ships at port, and intelligence notes the nearest air base about 200 miles, which puts them at a 20 minutes response time, at best.” The Conqueror ticked off his answers on his fingers. He seemed oblivious to Jacob’s evident discomfort.

Pestilence nodded with a smile on his face. "Sounds like an easy roll. Any hospitals in the region?"

"One, but doubtful they have the capacity to handle heavy traffic." The Conqueror replied. “But we don’t start anything without Paper Cut.”

"Of course not." Pestilence returned smoothly. "But maybe just a warm up... this town should be an easy warm up for mass destruction. PC can join us after we warm up. Not like he needs one."

“I am sure he is going by a different moniker now.” Famine spoke with his mouth full. “Something like Product Callous, or Postal Cuts… or something.”

“You are going to attack the town?” Jacob repeated, still trying to wrap his head around developing events. “Like a military attack?”

“Well, not much of a military attack.” admitted the Conqueror. “After all, the town is not exactly defended.”

“Why?” asked Jacob, immediately wishing he could retract the question.

“I supposed because a tourist town with a small fishing industry and minor university doesn’t feel it requires military defense.” answered Famine.

“No, I didn’t mean why this town. I meant why attack?”

Pestilence rolled his eyes again, this time causing one to become bloodshot. “It’s what we do.”

Jacob looked blankly at Pestilence.

“Good heavens, what did you think we were going to do? Have a parade and hand out candy?” Pestilence's voice dripped with annoyance. The bloodshot eye leaked puss.

“I told you no one reads anything anymore.” said Famine as he wiped his mouth and waved over the waitress. She took his order for five eggs, hash browns, potato pancakes and orange juice. “Someone should have made a documentary.” he continued when she left to put in his order. “They're always more interesting than books or scrolls.”

“You just like TV because they invented TV trays.” countered Pestilence.

“Less interruption to eating.” Famine returned.

“Ugh, documentaries these days never get the facts right! Too much sensationalism, not enough facts. Look at that one documentary on Revelations...what was it called? Doomsday? Bible Prophecy? They didn’t even mention the scrolls on the architectural plans detailed out for castles to be built, nor even take into account the scientific notes on pending climate change due to global warming. All of that plays such a big part!” Pestilence waved his teaspoon in the air.

“Global warming is so yesterday. Don’t you ever watch the news?” countered Famine.

“The news is nothing but lies and sensationalism.”

“What scrolls?” asked Jacob confused.

“See, no one reads anymore.” repeated Famine with satisfaction. “The scrolls that went along with Revelations. I mean it is not like it wasn’t recorded. You would know what I was talking about if someone had made a documentary.”

“Scrolls would be more accurate.” Pestilence persisted.

The Conqueror sighed. “Those documents are gone. Remember when War got carried away and the whole library of Alexandria was destroyed? His grandson was so pissed.”

“I forgot.” said Pestilence, cooling down. He shook his head sadly “That’s a shame. All that information lost. I don’t imagine there is much information still around about the Atlantis civilization or Brittia or Shangri-La either. Don’t suppose you know anything about them?” He focused his good eye on Jacob.

“But that stuff is just legend.” said Jacob. His heart was pounding and his head was starting to swim. He desperately wished he could wake up in his bed and find that he was late for work.

The Conqueror shrugged. “In every legend there is an element of truth.”

“You mean like the documents I uncovered.”

“Documents?” Famine looked at him doubtfully.

“The whole reason people are gathered today is to witness the events spelled out in the documents I uncovered in an old Justinian manuscript.” Jacob said exasperated.

“It’s good to know everything's not lost.” The Conqueror held his coffee mug up for a refill as the waitress passed.

“You guys are taking this way too seriously.”

“How should we take it?” Pestilence asked.

“The document was meant to stir up social consciousness. I figured what was true then, was still true today." Jacob broke off lamely. All eyes now on him, he struggled to resume. "Look, I get it, you want to stay in character for the roles the university hired you to play. But since the events are obviously not unfolding as expected, you don’t have to hold up the pretense.”

“What are you talking about?” Famine’s eyes narrowed.

“You are just actors, right?” Jacob looked around hopefully at his companions.

“Uh, no.” replied Pestilence waving flies away from his coffee. Jacob shook his head trying to assimilate the information about his new acquaintances who apparently weren’t actors after all.

“I’m sorry, I thought you said you read the documents.” The Conqueror frowned. “What did you think we were, metaphors?”

“Buddy, this is the end of the world.” said Famine between bites. “We are the riders of the apocalypse… well most of the riders anyway.”

“You guys are kidding.” Jacob laughed nervously.

“This guy is getting on my nerves. Maybe you should start with him Pesty.” Famine smiled at Jacob. The effect eerily resembled a skull. “You know, just a small virus.”

Jacob paled as Pestilence nodded in agreement.

“Enough. Nothing starts without PC.” stated the Conqueror, changing the subject. He turned and smiled reassuringly at Jacob. “I am going to get a haircut.” How about I swing by later for the cloak?”

“Oh, sure. Thanks for the loan. It’s really warm.” squeaked Jacob.

“Are you going to report back defenses back to War before your haircut?” Pestilence inquired as he finished his coffee.

“Naah, after. No rush.”

“If it looks like it will be awhile then, I think I might check out and see if there is good fishing down by the waterfront. Maybe catch some lunch.” Famine said, wiping his mouth.

“Think I saw a bait shop when we came into town that could fix you up.” replied the Conqueror.

“Okay then, see ya later.” Pestilence shook several gold coins out from the pouch at his waist. “This enough for a tip?”

“Oh yea, plenty. Waitress should be really pleased.” The Conqueror stood stretching his long legs.

“It’s the end of the world and you’re going to leave a tip?” Jacob shook his head.

Pestilence scowled. "We're not cheapskates."

The Conqueror spoke as if he hadn't heard Jacob. “I saw a farm on the other side of town, would you mind taking the horses and picking up some feed and such. Maybe get them groomed?”

Reluctantly Pestilence peeled his eyes away from Jacob. “No problem.”

“See you later.” The Conqueror nodded to Jacob. “This was a great diner. Really good food. Thanks for the recommendation.” Jacob nodded dumbly and watched as the three riders strode out of the door. Pestilence glanced back at him before untying the horses and leading them down the street.

“Nice friends you have there.” smiled the owner as he began to pick up plates and wipe the table.

Series

About the author

Tina Drechny

Sweet, charming, innocent, delightful, harmless and kind to small animals

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