1275 B.C. – Egypt
He knew the river Nile.
From the cycle of her floods to the cities built around her, the pattern of her fields to the people who walked her shores, he knew. Some twenty-three thousand years ago he had begun to settle here. Egypt was a developing land, a grand kingdom rising out of wind-swept sands. With only this one great river to rely upon, the people unwittingly offered themselves up to him and he was more than happy to accept such a gift. In 3500 B.C., his existence was permanently recorded for the first time since the world began as the Egyptians watched their people die with stomachs empty.
So, aside from the occasional journey into surrounding lands (Sumer and Canaan, and he did once go so far as China), he had remained here, playing with the people of the Pharaohs. He watched them worship their many gods, begging for relief or at least knowledge of what they had done to deserve such a punishment as he stole the bread from their tables and withered the crops in their fields. They were persistent; he was endless. And it was while he watched that the Israelites came.
He knew not what they would bring to the future and, to be fully honest, he had no reason to care. For all they could have brought into the land, all he saw was extra mouths to feed and, in turn, extra mouths to deny that food. What did their slavery matter? Looking back now, however, he could see that they had been more important than that. Their arrival had been the beginning. And so he came full circle to this very moment, standing on the banks of the Nile and watching her waters turn red as blood.
“You look so serious when you’re thinking.”
Famine blinked in surprise at the interruption to his thoughts, glancing down at the tousled and faded mop of white-blonde hair suddenly brushing his shoulder. It took him only a moment to recognize the pale eyes and charmingly crooked smile. Not that the choice of clothing wasn’t a dead give-away as to who his unexpected companion must be.
“You look as if you should be buried in a tomb somewhere.”
Pestilence laughed. “Oh, I’m buried in every tomb, building and growing, simply waiting for the day that some unsuspecting fool comes to release me.”
“And yet the tombs are the least of your homes.” With a smirk, Famine looked up again and continued to survey the river’s transformation. “You should change before the Egyptians mistake you for their ancestor.”
“Oh what? You don’t think I’m sexy in these bandages?”
Famine snorted. “About as sexy as a walking corpse can be.”
He didn’t have to look to know that Pestilence was grinning. It was perfectly evident in the white Horseman’s voice as he shrugged the comment off and continued talking. The words were a string of endless comments, compliments and memories, things Famine had heard repeated for centuries now only placed into a contemporary context. Every time the two met anymore, it was like this. And so it was impossible to pay attention to what was being said when there were more interesting things available to see – things such as a river of blood.
A thick wave of red was still creeping its way across the current as the people watched in horror. The sight alone was spectacular. The thrill that surrounded it all, however, was utterly breathtaking. He could feel the panic sweeping over them all, one man infecting the next and the next until they all felt it. It was a psychological wild-fire, spreading faster than any disease known to man.
“You know,” Pestilence was saying, “I never really intended to check up on my work here. Or at least I didn’t intend to for another thousand years or so. I set a few things loose and just let them go. You know me. I like to stay on the move.”
Famine let his eyes race over the river as his companion continued rambling. Absently following the spread back from its edge to its source, he never expected to actually find the starting point. Since the bleeding had begun, he’d been watching it. He had examined every inch of the shore from which it appeared to stem. There had been nothing, nothing save for blood springing from nowhere to taint the life-center of Egypt.
It was the vague form of a young man that caught him off-guard – a tall, thin frame, pale and standing in drastic contrast to the men, women and children rushing about in their state of mad panic. No one seemed to notice him there, performing the reverse of their daily chore, pouring a steady stream of death into the river. Not a soul passed his place any the wiser to the source of their destruction. And yet, to Famine, he stood out plainly. The mortals might not see it but there was no hope for him to miss that single slope of white hair amongst the throngs of black. And then there were those eyes…
“Are you even listening to me, Famine? Famine!”
He’d never been so startled by his own name before.
But when he looked back to the river, there was nothing left to distract him save the blood.