Part One: A Cry in the Dark
Everything was very different in the Old World. Before the Azure Flames flooded the world and reduced it all to ashes and dust, the monsters that menaced the world were few in number and subtle in their affairs. Men routinely lived in cities so large that millions could be found dwelling there, and they did things so ephemeral because so few were needed to feed, clothe and house them all. It was a time when Man lost touch with Creation itself, lost in the splendor of a wealth so incredible as to be thought mythical to you that came after the Azure Flames. It was also a time when Man took so much of this for granted that they lost sight of their fortune, even the most wretched amongst them. Such perversity is, in part, why the Azure Flames seemed to me to be nothing less than divine retribution for such hubris.
I was a young man then. I loved a woman, a woman who—sadly—chose not to be my wife. Yet she and I remained close and intimate friends, and I swore to her that if she should ever have the need that should call upon me and I would answer. It became clear as we spent our youths and matured into what should have been the prime of our lives that this turned out to be best for both of us, for our lives diverged wildly.
She became a wife, married to a decent and patient man who made his living through fixing the power systems of homes and workshops, and a mother to three girls who promised carry on their mother’s legacy of sultry beauty. She also became crippled after she suffered a freak accident while traveling to a marketplace, making impossible her ability to do for herself. Meanwhile, I struggled to keep any work for longer than a year due to my inability to avoid speaking the truth and not work to the fullest of my capacity; I made others look like the failures of men that they were, and they took petty revenge by conspiring to have me removed- and the rules did not allow a man to defend himself as he should, by either cowing or killing them in an open fight. (So I did it covertly, and this development of cunning would serve me well later.)
I remind you, reader, that a man could not simply build a home and sustain himself in the ailing years of the Old World. Instead, he had to do work for others just to accrue the means to feed, clothe and shelter himself—usually, so did his wife, especially if they had children; my dear friend, as you can see, was in a most vulnerable position after her crippling—and those few that possessed the wealth acted as the petty men they were despite being the slave-masters of the world. The laws forbade that men settle their disputes as men were meant to, enforcing a form of false helplessness that coddled the weak and craven (who, naturally, groveled at and eagerly served the masters out of dependency as well as delusion)- not that I thought in those terms at the time. The Old World was a world gone mad with its own hubris that it could defy Nature and impose itself upon the law that makes the world work as if it were rules written for a game.
That revelation did not come when the Azure Flames flooded the world. It came a few years before. My dear friend’s husband crossed a gang of men known for their disdain for the law of this sick society and their love of self-powered, two-wheeled vehicles known as “motorcycles”. This gang called themselves “The Outlaws” and the people in charge took them quite seriously. These men found where my friend and her family dwelled, and they assaulted my friend and her family one night by surprise. By the time that the local masters responded, this gang slew her husband and children while leaving her in a state wishing that she too had died. The authorities took her to a hospital, and once she regained her wits and could stand to hear what she’d suffered she started to call to her remaining family. Her mother and brothers abandoned her, seeing this as divine punishment for her willful disobedience to her elders and their disapproval of her husband. Her late husband’s family likewise abandoned her, for they saw it as a judgment against him due to his own disdain for tradition.
Late one night, I received her call. I made haste for the hospital and stayed with her for as long as she could before fatigue overtook her. It was in this lengthy conversation that I learned—from her—all that I said immediately above. Yet her troubles had just begun.
She was severely injured, and while the hospitals of the Old World could (and did) perform such miracles that today cannot be believed without resorting to sorcery or other supernatural power it did not come without a price. This price quickly became impossible to bear, for the merchants that she (with her husband) struck a pact with to prepare for just this scenario broke the pact with spurious and false claims that she somehow violated the terms of the pact. She needed the hospital’s care, but was not able to repay the hospital for the care provided; if not for laws in place forbidding the denial of care that must be had, the hospital would have thrown her out to die.
Things would get worse for her. The home she had, after the authorities completed their use of it to find information above and beyond what she could provide, became the victim of another attack- this time by fire. This fire consumed the home, and all of her wealth, leaving her not only without her husband and children but also the home that she made with them and the wealth that they generated. No family, no friends (save me), no wealth and no support from the larger community left her bereft of anything but her hope in the authorities’ system of enforcement.
The authorities did, indeed, capture the Outlaws gang and bring them into this gang before a so-called “judge” and let a pair of smooth-talking advocates argue for and against whether or not the gang actually killed her family and destroyed her home. Due to the cunning and perversity of the advocate that the gang employed (no doubt by their own ill-gotten gains), the Outlaws successfully confused that fool of a judge and had him declare the Outlaws free wrong-doing. After successive appeals to higher levels of authority, this route ended when the penultimate level of judges declined to hear her appeal. With this action ended, all socially-allowed means for getting revenge closed their doors to my friend.
I sat that night in her hospital room, as she cried a deluge of tears in a mixture of frustration, rage and despair that masked her incredible pain of the body. She took me by the hand and looked at me with eyes so blue that the oceans seemed small by comparison. She said nothing—she did not need to—and I answered her with immortal words said by Solomon Kane: “Men will die for this.”