The Arrival of the Red Rider

There is an old Slavic legend of three riders; one white, one red, one black. The white rider is the harbinger. He secretly enters a town at dawn and uses his lance to mark targets for his brother. The red rider is wrath and combat anthropomorphized into one terrifying warrior on a fiery mount. His path is set ablaze moments before he arrives and, in the midst of the conflagration, he cuts down those chosen by the harbinger. The black rider comes with nightfall, once the fires have died to ash and the blood has congealed. He calls the souls of the fallen back to their mangled bodies and, if they choose to return, the dark army follows him into the wilderness.

As a historian and collector of artifacts from WWII, I had heard tales that a trio of Romanian generals serving under Antonescu had taken up the mantle of the Three Riders and had a major role in the massacres at Babi Yar and Transnistria. Some Soviet soldiers reported that the Three Riders had swelled their ranks with the raised dead of both sides, though more reputable witnesses claimed that Soviet POWs were coerced into turning coat through gold or torture.

When the silver lance emblazoned with the morning sun and the Romanian coat of arms came into my shop, I had to buy it. When I touched the hilt, I saw a strange white flash. Around noon, a fire broke out in the shop across the way. As I prepared to exit my office to help, a large man in red armor burst through my door and drew his sword.

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