The four horsemen ride tonight. Acheron on his black horse thundering down the north road. Black hounds and screaming ravens roiling around him. Syphas on the east road moving like lightning with sand and foxes at the heels of his red stallion. None fast enough to match him. Zalia, serpents skirling around the legs of her pale white horse, rides up the south road, in a sweeping fog. And on the west road, laughing as her chestnut mare kicks boulders off the mountain rides Calaphys. At her left hand bees, at her right hand butterflies of brilliant colors. Hurling inward from their cardinal points and all but I remain indoors. Those inside speaking prayers, hiding lights, and whispering empty promises to the absent winds pretend I’m not there. That I have not marred their street with the calling circle. Have not stood in the center of the square for three days with no meat or drink, speaking to none.
As the four approach, I raise my arms to the stars and invoke them each by name. Acheron heels his horse at the north point and swears darkly in the language of ravens. Syphas’s horse rears and he settles the beast while he watches me from between the cloths that cover him. Zalia stands statue like at the south point, and Calaphys swirls her brilliant trains in a wave over me and back as her horse prances a circle at the west point. I cannot see the town around us anymore between the ravens, sand, fog, and butterflies. The world is a kaleidoscope of animals and color crowned by the stars.
They speak in chorus and I tremble all the way into my core, their voices challenge the world to deny them aught. In the hollow echo after their speech, my voice is pathetic, raw and unformed, scrabbling to approach the majesty of theirs. I draw myself even closer together and stand still. To flee in terror would be to invite them to hunt. When they realize what I am asking, the sudden silence is more terrifying than laughter would have been. The silence pulls down like a whirlpool and I feel as if I am drowning in it.
They give me a year. An unstoppable year. The terms are strict but surprisingly fair. As the first ray of dawn breaks over the horizon, the horsemen whirl around me and ride back the ways they came. And in their wake the world is pale and clean and raw.
A year later, I stand again at the compass road of the world. I made no circle. I swore no oaths. A few brave souls watch through cracks in the shutters over the windows. The four horsemen ride their roads. Their companions are similar, the horses still black and red and white and chestnut, but all is new and brilliant and terrifying. My awe is less. My voice is sure. And when they speak I do not tremble. Nor do I flinch when birds, butterflies, foxes, and serpents scrape my skin with talons or tongues, fur or scale. The horsemen scream and thunder. They block out the sky and the earth. They tempt. They taunt. And through it all, I remain constant. Dawn is only the faint shift in the shades of black when the earth falls silent around us.
Calaphys takes one of my hands, Syphas takes the other. Zalia places her hands on my shoulders, but it is Acheron who faces me. Acheron who sends me to the sky. Once again the horsemen whirl around me and when the stop, I am home. The world small below me, the horsemen heading back up their roads. And I shine in the sky among the others they have chosen. The others have traceries and patterns. Dances that please one horseman or another. I instead stay constant, and all those that wander look to me, and I will show them the way home.