The apocalypse—whether brought about by a world serpent, the arrival of the lord of Hell, or magical powers gone astray—rarely happens without some warning or foreshadowing of the destruction to come. Among the various signs of the end times there are none better known than the Four Harbingers, each an aspect of conflict and cataclysm that together bring about the end of the world.
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The first of the Four Harbingers is Strife. While it is more than capable of murder and violence, this creature’s sole intent is to spread conflict and animosity so that when its kin arrive the groundwork for the mayhem to come is already in place. Across the globe this harbinger turns people against themselves, convincing allies to turn against one another and breaking long-held allegiances that make massive death all too certain to follow.
Whatever lives are taken by Strife and its machinations are practically nothing compared to the oceans of blood unleashed by War.
Soldier that have taken up arms to defend their homelands sometimes see this harbinger take up the sword alongside them, but this is only ever a temporary alliance—War often fights on behalf of all sides, battling for whichever outcome will end with the greatest loss of life.
It is the fate for all civilizations to reach an end and few look alike—so too are the Four Harbingers of the Apocalypse a varied bunch.
To some Strife appears in the guise similar to a cultural hero or esteemed ruler of days past, War is often a reflection of the technology used to mete out violence, Famine might be as thin as a rail or positively corpulent. Only Death deigns not to assume different forms, always showing mortals exactly what it is so that its victims know precisely what is coming them.
Whenever swords are made from plowshares the fields go untilled, and when the time for harvest comes it is starvation that inevitably follows—this is the domain of the third harbinger. The suffering spread by Famine is far reaching and widely felt by nearly all save for the wealthiest nobles, though it is only ever a matter of time before the pain of those without drives them to take up violence against their rulers. Everywhere the masses are deprived of sustenance deprivation follows as economies collapse and governments falter, forcing survivors to take desperate action to feed themselves and their families.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this harbinger is that there is no quick or simple solution to be had to stop Famine, no succor or reprieve until the seasons have passed once again and seeds are planted anew.
Worst of all is that this is not the last of its kind and another soon follows after it, a specter of mortality that is even less merciful and more demanding.
The final harbinger is the most feared for there is no delay or dallying to its task—Death arrives and cuts down the living, shuffling off mortal coils without compunction. Countless people die by its will, either cut down with a scythe or murdered by undead servants, and the killing does not stop until it is sated or destroyed. There’s no bargaining to be had with Death nor is there any way to curb its appetite for murder—people will perish by the thousands or even millions before it feels as if its task is done.
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Those few heroes that have managed to slay Death only achieve a temporary victory for in time it comes for them as well.
The horsemen are…