Chapter 1:

In Which A Name Is Mis-Remembered

Hell’s Horseman

    The wilds were about as lawless as most folk might've thought. Lawmen patrolled the roads with fear holsters to their side as well as six shooters, good man lined the ditches at the side of every road, and those who skirted the law were more common than grains of dust. Not even the outlaws felt safe for their lives, because there were times when the thing they did in dark places came crawling back out into the light. No man is innocent, some say. Everyone runs form something, some never made it far, and other managed to keep on riding until the day they died. Still, even through the vice and lawlessness, there were some pillars of law and order sprinkled through the lifeless hellscape stretching from rising to falling sun. A town here and there close enough to civilization that the sheriffs didn't need their guns to uphold order or places where the military had stretched out from Washington. Bookmark here

Forts constructed from wood that now stood in the middle of the endless nowhere and attempted to stand as pillars of civilization, but came to be known as the gun America pointed at it's uncooperative other half. Most were filled with gun rotting men who meant well and yet never seemed to do anything about the rampant crime that infested the area they worked in, but a mere handful of them had not bothered to do even that. Bases who probably never had any good man to line them in the first place and had always been used to extort or outright murder whoever got close enough to be seen. Bookmark here

Fort York had been one of these ironic monuments to "justice" and "order" that was stuffed to the bursting point with degenerates, drunks, and trigger happy lawmen wanting to be entertained with violence. It was a rather impressive place given it had been raised in the middle of nowhere, long wooden beams five times as tall as a man, guards towers at every corner, and a massive gate manned by Winchester's and Colts. The entire thing was vicariously balanced atop a gradual cliff and used up as much of the limited flat land as it could with an expansive forest of great oaks surrounding it to the point of absurdity. Bookmark here

Nothing could be seen through the dense woods, especially a night like the one the rider came galloping up the path. One when not even the stars shined and the torches that lined the walls of the fort only cast more shadows across the land. The only thing that could be seen was the small dirt pathway leading up to the front gate and the guards that patrolled the fencing damn well knew it. None of them wandered about or joked with the others to pass the time until their shifts were up and were instead frozen in place as they stared out at the absolute void surrounding them. Bookmark here

The two stationed at the front were especially terrified since unlike the other who just had to stare into the void, they had to see what would come crawling out of it. They were average men for those parts, large, burly, unshaven, disgusting, and either too fat or too skinny. On one side, the guard was anemiated from his years of working in the local mines and on the other, the gourmand was bloated with more meat and cakes than most people in these parts ever saw. Both of them wore filthy, torn clothes that hung from their frames as opposed to sticking to their skin and carried service rifles that had been cycled through the hands of several people in the fort. Bookmark here

Compared to the absolute blackness that arose before them, they weren't much. Neither were brave by any means and were only able to stay staring into the blackness because of what they feared might come tumbling out of it. Bookmark here

They didn't know how long they stood there, unblinking and sweating profusely, but they knew the exact moment when the darkness they were charged with watching produced it's horror. At first they just heard something faint in the distance that could have been anything, but it slowly involved in the definite sound of clopping hooves upon the dirt road. Hooves marching their way right to the door of their fortress. Bookmark here

The skinny one started sweating even more than usual as he imagined a band of marauders coming up to the gate and the fat one breathed a sigh of relief when he realized it wasn't a bobcat or other manner of man-eater. They both tightened their grips around their weapons as the clipping approached and after a series of either heart pounding or merely perplexing moments, something finally stepped into the dim light. Bookmark here

It was a horse, obviously, a rather bulky one to boat with someone saddle to its back, but they could only discern that form the outlines the minimal light granted them. Every characteristic that could have aided them instead evaded them with only the face of the rider even coming close to being seen. It was covered by both the hate that covered his head and some sort of cloth neither of the guard could make out, making the both of them instantly suspicious of who this rider was. Bookmark here

The fat one raised his gun first, with the thin one imitating in time, and then shouted down to the midnight rider despite the fact they had already stopped before the gate "Halt!! Who goes there?! Identify yourself!" It was the first time he got to say anything like that and they tumbled out of his mouth like slobber from a toddlers mouth. Still, the rider offered up an answer to his poorly handled question and called up in a young man's voice while not moving a muscle "Evening, gentlemen. You can put those things away. I don't mean you no harm."Bookmark here

The thin one shouted down to the rider in as sniveling voice "He asked who are you, stranger!" The rider continued with the same level of composure as before "Believe me, if I told you two that, you'd shoot me dead and call me a mad man. But y'all can call me Kremly. Judas Kremly." It was a strange name to the fat ones ears, but a satisfying answer nonetheless. "Alright then, Judas Kremly, what business do you have here at this hour!?" He called down to which the rider said "Well, that's where it gets complicated, but I'll do my best to paraphrase. Y'all ever heard of a man named Jebediah Crone?" The guards exchanged a confused look before the stout one replied "Never heard of him!"Bookmark here

With that, the rider continued "Yeah, had a feeling you wouldn't. It's a long story, but to put it shortly, he was a man who stole from some very bad people. The kind who liked to keep what was there in their own hands. So they ran him down, took back what was theirs and maybe a little extra, and then shot poor only Crone through the head. Now, I'm not the one for revenge or anything like that, no. I'm just trying to set things in order in a way." Bookmark here

He stopped as if that was all they needed and forced the fat one to ask "You an undertaker or something?" The rider could be heard chuckling before saying "No. I'm just a close friend who wants to pay his respects to someone real close to him. Now, I don't care about the matter of who deserves what, but would like to take back what was stolen from my friend and I think someone in your little fortress might have what I'm looking for." One of the fat man's eyebrows were raised at that and he shouted down "And what exactly might that be?" The rider replied "Well, it used to be 38 pieces of silver, but now it's about 25, two of which I'm certain are somewhere inside that base right there." The fat one paused for a moment before saying "You tryin' to steal from us, Judas?" The rider replied "Don't know. I'll see how I'm feeling when you let me in." Bookmark here

At that moment, the thin one decided to raise his cowardly voice "You ain't gettin' in here that easily, their!" Not even the fat man thought it had been the right thing to say and the skittish way he was holding that weapon didn't help make it look any better, but it appeared the stranger and him chose to ignore the famine one for now. "He has a point though. You think we're just gonna let you in cause you asked for gold?" The fat one said before the rider replied "Silver and I was hoping you wouldn't. But you've still got a chance, so I'll give you a hint. I might know the name of the guy who has my friends silver. A Laurenso Florence." Bookmark here

The fat man froze up as he heard that because he indeed recognized that name. It belonged to his commander and just the thought of that bastard was enough to send a shudder traveling down his spine. "Hey, isn't that the-" The thin one started saying at far too great of a volume before the fat one said "Shut up, you fool!" However, the rider already had heard what he needed and said "A bit late for that, partner. So I'm assuming that somewhere behind those gates is this Florence fellow I'm lookin' for and I'm also guessing you ain't gonna just let me in. Am I correct?" Bookmark here

Both the fat and thin ones fell silent at the for a moment before a grin crawled across the stout ones robust complexure. A chuckle then escaped his mouth as his grip around the gun loosened and he said "Yeah. That sounds about right. So why don't you just mosey on out of here before we've got to bury you in the ground." It was the riders turn to chuckle, causing his demeanor to finally break it's rigidness and sway from side to side across the back of his stallion. "Something wrong or are you just some loon?" The fat one asked, honestly wondering if this figure was under some form of insanity or curse judging from how manic he was starting to appear. "No. Nothing like that. It's just so strange to hear that come from anyone nowadays." Bookmark here

He straightened himself out on the horse and resumed meteor sitting there. "Now then. How about I just cut to the chase. Are y'all sure there's no way you'll let me in there?" The fat one replied "As sure as the sun's in the sky." After another bout of laughter, the rider said "You know there was a time that would make sense to me, but did you know there's a land that don't got a sun or stars? Hell, not even trees or mountains or anything at all. Just a deep black pit without god or devil or even a sun. Would you like me to send you there?" The fat man sneered at such a vague threat before saying "You think a couple of sorrowful words can scare us?" After another moment of brief movement, the rider replied "Not really." Bookmark here

The mere second after the stranger spoke those words, the sound of a gunshot cane ringing out through the immediate area, causing the fat one to jump and correct his holding around the weapon. Every hair stood straight up on his skin as his finger tapped on the trigger of his own weapon as the sound of that one shot echoed throughout the area and caused voice to start springing up from all over the base. Bookmark here

His thoughts first turned to the skittish bastard at his side who he thought simply must have lost his nerves and was about to shout over to the skinny son of a bitch when he heard a thump ring out from his side. He glanced over and low and behold, saw that man toppled down onto the scaffolding plastered against the other side of the gate with his gun falling over the edge as his forehead start leaking blood. Or at least it should have been. Bookmark here

In the torchlight, he could see that as the man's head hung over the side of the walkway, his forehead had been pierced with a hole that radiated a small stream of mist or gas. It glowed like moonlight on the clearest night and fluttered up into the air before vanishing altogether. The wound itself didn't have any bone or meat visible inside it and looked more like a hole nailed into stone than a wound inflicted on flesh and blood. Whoever the skinny pussy was, his skin turned to obsidian as it approached the wound and the inside of said wound appeared to be covered in the jagged corners of shattered rock with the mist escaping from somewhere at the bottom of the crevice. Bookmark here

It was an impossible mark that he had never seen before in his life and at first that was more than enough for him to not believe whatever he was seeing. So he turned his wide eyes away from the cadaver in a subconscious effort to prevent himself from confronting the ghastly sight that became of his begrudging comrade. But such denial was dashed when both his eyes landed on the stranger and saw that he had finally moved a muscle. Bookmark here

His left arm was pointing right at where the skinny fool had been standing and what such an extension revealed was far more than enough to make the fat man's pathetic heart freeze. The limb itself was just as impossible and horrific as the wound punched through the forehead of his former "partner". It was glowing with the same azure, celestial light the mist from the wound was and seemed to be transparent in a way like a tinted mirror and would have appeared hollow if not for the bones hovering within them. Bookmark here

In the arms own light, he saw that there were indeed bones hovering in the arm, bones that belonged in the part of the limb it hovered in. The elbow cap floated where the arm bent, the front arm had two long bones running along it and the hand ended with all the fingers assembled in their right place. It was as if a skeleton had been animated and then wrapped into a sleeve of moonlight poorly mimicking human skin. The bones weren't even in good condition, covered in dirt and thin bits of muscles that had been rotted black as if it had been freshly dug up, but that wasn't what caught the fat man's eyes the most. That honor or horror went to the weapon that it had used to murder the other guard. Bookmark here

It was shaped like a normal six shooter, but was constructed from the same sort of spectral light gripping it's arm and looked more like a block of glowing ice into a weapon than anything else, even down to small stream of mist rising up as if it were melting. But all of that should have been impossible. He blinked more times than he could count and tried explaining away the witchcraft he was seeing before, but no matter what it was still standing there before the gate. Bookmark here

For a span of time he had been rendered unable to count, he just stood there atop the wall, rooted to the spot and staring at the rider as it's arm continued to defy his sensibility. "But I'm assuming that'll get the message across." It said in the same voice as usual and then spun it's weapon around on it's finger until the barrel was pointed at the black sky above. Bookmark here

"So, y'all gonna give that silver or am I gonna half to come in there myself? And please tell me it's the latter." The rider asked at which point the fat man's humanities wrestled back control of his mind and promoted his finger to squeeze around the trigger of his own weapon without thought. While the bullet must have still been in mid air, the rest of the men that had the rider in their sight opened fire as well and filled the air with a flurry of bullets that all had one target. Cracks erupted throughout the area, deafening any close enough and lighting up the darkness surrounding the fort just enough for the rider to become slightly visible. Bookmark here

Their shot must have made contact since the stranger body thrashed about like a puppet in the hands of an amateur master, but the unholiness they tried to put in the ground refused to relent even under fire. Every bullet that struck it caused a jolt, but that was all the damage they did. There was never a scream or anything beyond the initial contact. Even the horse kept alarmingly still throughout the whole ordeal despite being hit itself several times. It didn't even look like blood was falling from the figure, just bits of cloth and the occasions spurt of mystery liquid that exploded from his mount. Bookmark here

In seconds all of the men's weapons clicked empty, but the rider remained right where he was. The fat man's finger continued pressing down on the trigger like a mad man no matter how many times he heard the weapon let out an empty click. His eyes remained wide and transfixed on the rider as his heart swelled with fear and preserving denial, but that proved itself to be another mistake. Even while the gourmand was still trying to reject the impossibilities before him, the rider took to making whatever was happening worse. Bookmark here

The arm he kept raised at his side bent down in front of him until it hooked the rest of a cloak underneath itself. Then, it tossed itself back up and parted the fabric covering the rider as they finally turned their head up to face the fat man. Their other arm was identical to the first, sapphire light radiating off a phantasmal limb stuffed with a skeletal limb. The combined glow illuminated the buttoned shirt covering his chest, bullet holes blown through them leaking more of the ghastly rays. Bookmark here

Atop all this was a head containing a grinning skull covered by more rot and filth and the blanket of light that gripped it constructed an intricate head. Strands of messy hair could be seen sprouting from its head, similar to that of a wild child like the fat man had seen roaming the woods. The face carried two blank eyes over the empty sockets beneath it and a mouth in the process of grinning. Fear surged through the fat man once again, but not because of anything demonic thought that was was certainly in abundance. What frightened him the most was just how human that head appeared to be. Bookmark here

It was smiling with a cockiness he had often seen on people looking about as young as it did and that going in it's eyes made it appeared just like that. A youngster to confident he could win. Sure, it was arrogant, but it was also far too human for his liking. He was hoping to see horns or something to create a little division, but all he saw was his fellow man acting like whatever happened to him was completely normal. Bookmark here

And worst of all, it hasn't noticed his bullets. "Now we're cookin'! I'll give y'all to the count of five! In the meantime, I suggest you pray to your uncaring god 'cause it's the devil you'll be facing tonight!" It cried out with such naive excitement and unholy glee that the fat man just decided to quit then and there. Bullets just seemed to make it happier and now it sounded like it was more than eager to kill, so that was more than enough reason for him to start running. Bookmark here

His gun fell from his hands and then bolted for the edge of the platform before jumping down to the ground below. Pain shot up his feet as they hit the ground, enough to make him let out a yelp of pain and make his shins feel like they were going to snap, but it wasn't enough to dash his persistence. Especially after the consecutive shots that rang out through the area. Bookmark here

The rest of the fort was alit with activity as people came rushing out of the many tents and even cabins that filled the area in the fort, with nearly everyone of them grabbing for guns. For a moment, the fat man considered yelling at them to run and hide, but the adrenaline running through him was more than enough for him to forget about whichever degenerates had arrived with him. All he cared about was getting away from the thing on the other side of the gate and with his legs still hobbling across the ground, causing him to run in the opposite direction of the crowd that rushed forth. Bookmark here

Gunshots could still be heard over the walls and shortly after, the wood constructing the gate came exploding out from the frame with splinters raining down around him and several wood boulders landing on a few unfortunate souls. Screams started erupting up all around with gunfire following shortly after, though he doubted it was from the rider outside the gate judging from how many of the men fell dead around him. They were dropping faster than he could count with streaks of mist stabbing into them before they collapsed. The sound of clopping erupted from somewhere behind him along with someone yelling like a savage and crying out "Yee-ha" like an insane toddler, all of which was getting closer and closer with every second. Bodies piled up all around him, blanketing the ground and leaving him all alone by the time his lizard brain stopped it's hollering. Bookmark here

An unsettling quiet settled within the fort as the man came crashing into the back wall, dashing whatever hope he had of escape. He felt something in his nose snap as he collided with the wall at full speed with his head feeling like it had been cracked right open. The fat man fell onto his back after he struck the wall, the moan following and the clicks of horse steps being the only thing that broke the otherwise perfect silence. There weren't even people to groan in pain anymore, but the rider still didn't sound satisfied. "Now that is a proper massacre!!" It gleefully cried out, another series of shots ringing out that hit nothing but air as the fat man wallowed and rolled on the ground. He slowly pushed himself back onto his feet, a hand always on the wall he had run into, before looking back at the carnage with his mind too groggy to try and find a way to escape anymore. Bookmark here

It was about what any man would have expected, twenty to thirty men all laying dead across the empty space filling the inside of the fort. Some of them were still in the doorways of the tents and cabins that had been sprinkled against the forts walls and others on the walkways above, but all of them leaked the spectral mist no matter where they lay. What little empty space there was between the bodies had been filled by the guns, but that didn't stop the riders steed from trotting into the fort. Every step caused a disgusting crunch to echo between the walls as weapons and bones alike were ground to dust under the stallions hooves, but that wasn't what captivated York's soul survivors. Bookmark here

The steed itself was more than enough to hold his horrified attention. It was a large animal, though not due to muscle, but swelling like that of a corpse. Every inch of its bloated skin seemed ill fitting and sagged from the body where there was even skin to hang. Horrified wounds had been cleaved across it's person, revealing muscle and bones that were covered in black rot and sprinkled with flecks of yellow pus. It's entire rib cage was visible with its lungs being seen expanding and shriveling with every wheezy breath it sucked in. The back legs didn't even have flesh, just bones wrapped in skin that flowed like the flag from a pole in a non existent wind. It's back was covered in holes eaten away by disease that flies could be seen circling and even digging their way inside. Muscles and pulsates veins were the only things covering its neck and made it look ready to fall off at any time. The entire left side of its face was just a skull that didn't even have an eye and the other was criss-crossed with scratch makes that cut a disturbing smile up it's face.Bookmark here

All in all, the creature looked like it had been dug up and forced back to life, but the fat man wouldn't have put it past the rider. "And it looks like we got a lone survivor." The phantasmal creature said with a childish smile on its face and jubilant glint in it's eyes as it stared down at the remaining gunman. It's steed continued to slowly trudge towards him with that empty look in its eyes and it's rider still holding the ghostly weapon. "Great. That'll really get the drunks spooked." It muttered before passing its eyes over him, sizing him up like a steak presented for consumption. Bookmark here

"Now quit your shivering. I ain't gonna kill you.........Maybe. Tell me, which do you think is better. A ghost story with only one survivor to horrifically recount the tale or none with only the gruesome remains to be stumbled upon by an unsuspecting traveler?" Even in his delirious and concussed state, the fat man still found himself simply raising an eyebrow in confusion. He expected cackling or hexing or whatever something such a hellish figure partook in, but not such a juvenile line of questioning. For a moment, he questioned if this creature was tricking him in some way or not, but he was just happy it wasn't killing him just yet and so decided to play along. Bookmark here

"Survivor?" He asked in more of a whimper than anything else and the rider glanced up as if it though for a moment before saying "Yeah. I can see that working. But you've gotta promise me that when you leave this place, you're gonna tell every single soul you come across what happened here. Or else I'm gonna......I'll....." Bookmark here

It's voice trailed off as if it didn't know with the fat man's eyes immediately going to the weapon it still had pointed at him, inferring it as the threat. However, when the rider did make up its mind, it instead said "Haunt you! Yeah, I'll haunt you until the day you're as dead as me. I can do that. Probably." Again the fat man found himself more confused than horrified because it now it sounded like even the rider didn't know what it was talking about. Granted, it looked like something that could haunt him the rest of its life, but the ragged tone of voice it used reminded him more of a school boy trying to show up a thug than a ghastly horsemen spat out by Hades. He wasn't even sure it knew what it was doing and that didn't really help make him scared. Though the bodies surrounded it partially made up for that. Bookmark here

"Though, you're still gonna have to help me with something first." It continued, the new found control in its voice causing a newfound fear to rise up in the fat man's gut. His groggy mind was partially banished and caused his heart to start racing again, though not enough for him to stand on his own two feet. "Don't worry. I'm really not gonna kill you. But I might if you don't point me in the direction of your commander." It said, again causing the fat man to be more perplexed than alarmed. He glanced around at the plane of corpses the riders mount stood on and tried searching around the visible faces to find his commanding officer. Bookmark here

Though it didn't take very long for him to find the scummy bastard in the crowd of cadavers. Five months having to listen to the assholes screaming had given him a pretty clear image of what the piece of shit looked like. He extended a trembling finger over towards a face poking through the crowd just in front of the rider. Bookmark here

It smiled as it glanced down, but then seemed to freeze up as it spotted the body with it's smiling onto persisting from a few more seconds after. The stranger tilted his head in confusion and squinted at the head as if it couldn't see the body before saying "You sure that's him, friend?" He was already nodding his head before it could finish the question and after staring in puzzlement for another moment longer, the rider said "Jesus, the years have not been kind to you, Loren....." Bookmark here

It froze up again before suddenly tossing its head up into the air and let out a long "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh" for a moment while the fat man remained just as perplexed as usual. "Florentine Lorenzo! That was the name!" The rider cried out as the arm holding it's weapon swung down to it's side. "God above, damn it all!! Have I been following the wrong son of a gun this entire time?!" It cried up to the sky which allowed the fat man start to putting some of the pieces together. Bookmark here

However, he only ended up more confused and even amazed on some level because this unholy hellspawn clad in moonlight who had just killed some court plus men in about a minute had somehow managed to get a simple name wrong. The most human, no, moronic thing the fat man could hear a mass murderer do besides stab himself. It was honestly such a strange thought that for a moment, he thought he was dreaming and his thick skull had come up with something this stupid. The fear once coursing through him had stopped in its tracks and was now starting to birth more baffled shock than anything else. Bookmark here

All these men dead, without even a drop of blood, because this thing got a goddamn name wrong?! Was that even possible for demons!!? What even was this thing!?! Weren't demons supposed to be smart and shut!!? This thing was starting to look like it had the intelligence of a child!!! Bookmark here

A strange numbness passed through him as that realization started to settle him and his racing heart slowed to a disappointed drumming. The rider itself took one more look around at the pointless carnage around it before saying "Well, shit." It then looked back up at the fat man before saying "You're not gonna tell people about this part, right?" The fat man quickly shook his head, taking a small step to his side as he sensed his chance to escape and thought about trying to make his way around the edge of the fort. There was indeed just a hole where the gate had once been with jagged wooden edges stick out in every direction, but nothing too burdensome to an escape. Bookmark here

However, his train of thought froze up when the creature spoke again "Ah well. Best play it safe. Besides, a good old fashioned 'what horrible fate befell them' is always a safe bet. Folks love a good mystery." It then swiftly raised it's weapon, aiming it right at the line survivors forehead and causing the fat man to cry out "No, no, no!! I won't tell them anything!! I swear to god!!" The rider retorted "And that's better how! What kind of lone survivor doesn't recount his horrific tale?!" Bookmark here

Fumbling with his own words and with the alarm starting to settle in, the fat man raised his hand in front of him, as if he honestly expected them to stop the bulletproof, saying "No! Wait!! I'll tell them all! Just please don't-" The rider cut him off "Do you really want those to be your last words? Ooo! That's good. I should write that down. But in the meantime-" He didn't even hear the shot. Not crack, explosion, or anything of the sort. The next thing he knew was the feeling of something poking him in the eye and then, there was just a deep, black darkness. He floated, fell, felt the greatest agony, and then, nothing at all.Bookmark here

..........Bookmark here

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