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Literature / Merkabah Rider

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The stories of a Hasidic Jewish mystic who wanders the Old West battling demonic forces of evil. The Rider's adventures have been published in four volumes, each consisting of a series of linked novellas:

  1. High Planes Drifter
  2. The Mensch with No Name
  3. Have Glyphs, Will Travel
  4. Once Upon a Time in the Weird West.

The Rider, protagonist and perspective character of the stories, is a member of an order of Jewish mystics who have the ability to travel the astral plane. The Order is destroyed when the Rider's one-time mentor turns evil and begins wielding dark sorceries. At the outset of the story, the Rider is wandering the American west in search of his rogue mentor. In each episode, the Rider encounters and battles supernatural creatures representing the dueling forces of Heaven and Hell. However, as the story progresses cryptic hints appear suggesting that a third faction exists which is neither Angel nor Demon.

Merkabah Rider provides examples of:

  • Angels, Devils and Squid: The Mythos represent a third supernatural faction whose coming interferes in the war between Heaven and Hell.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: In "Hell's Hired Gun", the Rider gets caught in a blizzard while heading into the mountains, but is saved by a crazed old religious hermit.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: In "Hell's Hired Gun", Medgar Tooms shoots the Rider's derringer out his hand: shooting off the tip of the Rider's middle finger in the process.
  • Blow You Away: In "The Dust Devils", the Evil Sorcerer summons a minor demon which manifests as a wind that sets up a permanent dust storm around the town. He later sends it to attack the Rider, and it blasts him with cyclonic force winds. The Rider finds the body of one the demon's previous victims who had the flesh stripped from his bones by the sand blasted by the wind.
  • Celibate Hero: The Rider's vows to uphold Jewish religious law mean that he is shomer negiah: prohibited from touching a member of the opposite sex apart from his spouse. As he is not married, and he takes his vows very seriously (his mystical abilities depend upon his adherence to them), the Rider by necessity refrains from sex.
  • A Chat with Satan: Literally.
  • Clothing Combat: Being Crazy-Prepared, the Rider has stitched the 72 names of God in threaded gold into the inner seam of his rekel coat, in case he should ever be stripped of all of his other amulets and talismans. In "The Dust Devils", this actually happens, but he destroys a demon by turning his coat inside out and wrapping it around the demon.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The Rider slays demons with an enchanted Volcanic pistol. In real life, the Volcanic was awkward to use and pathetically underpowered. The two-handed lever action never seems to impede the Rider, though, and even on the material plane the bullets are much more powerful than in real life.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Rider tries to be prepared for any supernatural threat he might encounter. He carries so many protective amulets and talismans that he clinks when he walks. And, in case he should ever be stripped of all of his other protections, he has stitched the 72 names of God in threaded gold into the inner seam of his rekel coat.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: In "The Dust Devils", the Rider is captured by the Bandito gang the Evilsorceror they are partnered with. When he awakes, he finds he has been tied to the vanes of the windmill in the middle of town to be Flayed Alive by the eponymous dust devils.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: On the material plane, the Rider uses blessed salt shells that can destroy demonic hosts. On the astral plane, the Rider's gun shoots bolts of light that can kill spirit creatures.
  • The Drifter: In classic Western tradition.
  • Erotic Dream: In "The Nightjar Women", the Rider's first indication of the true nature of the threat in the town of Tip Top is when he experiences a powerful erotic dream about one of the prostitutes.
  • Eye Spy: In "The Nightjar Women", Lilith is able to remove and send them flying around to spy for her.
  • Eye Scream: In "The Blood Libel", the Rider fires his enchanted derringer in the eye of the demon Moloch at point blank range.
  • Flayed Alive: In "The Dust Devils", the Evil Sorcerer summons a minor demon which manifests as a wind that sets up a permanent dust storm around the town. He later sends it to attack the Rider, and it blasts him with cyclonic force winds. The Rider finds the body of one the demon's previous victims who had the flesh stripped from his bones by the sand blasted by the wind.
  • Full-Boar Action: In "Hell's Hired Gun", the demon-possessed sharpshooter Medgar Tooms is accompanied by a herd of pigs which rip apart the bodies of his victims, as well as serving as alternate vessels for the demons that possess him.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: The Rider's blue spectacles are inscribed with Solomonic sigils which allow him to see spirits, see through illusions, and protect him from magical and demonic Mind Control.
  • Healing Hands: In "Hell's Hired Gun'', the Rider is saved from a blizzard by a Preacher Man turned hermit. In a fit of religious fervour, the hermit is able to draw out the Rider's fever by laying hands on him: something which surprises the hermit as much as it does the Rider.
  • Heaven Seeker: Literally. The Rider's astral form is capable of traveling to Heaven, but he was denied an audience with God. In one episode, the Rider recalls that it was common for astral travelers to give up on the material world because they knew, objectively, that they were going to Heaven.
  • The Heretic: The Rider's evil mentor, who turns on his order and then pursues Mythos sorcery.
  • Historical Domain Character: More than one real-life personality from the 1880's shows up as a character.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: The first non-Hasidic sorcerer we meet is a voodoo shaman.
  • Human Sacrifice: In "The Blood Libel", the Rider clashes with a Cult that is kidnapping children and sacrificing to the demon Moloch.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In "Hell's Hired Gun", Medgar Tooms nails a farmer to the side of wagon with a pitchfork.
  • Kill It with Fire: After battling the ghul for some time in "The Shomer Express", the Rider finally remembers that the only way to destroy is with fire. After a gruelling battle, he manages to batter it into the firebox of the locomotive with a shovel.
  • Knight Errant: On a quest to destroy his evil master.
  • The Legions of Hell
  • Light Is Not Good: The Angels who appear in the story make it clear they exist to punish humanity.
  • Magical Negro: Literally magical.
  • Magic Mirror: In "The Nightjar Women", the corridors of Lilith's brothel are lined with floor to ceiling mirrors. When the Rider is attempting to escape, he discovers that these mirrors are enchanted to act as portal: allowing to Lilith to bring in a large number of her bodyguard demons almost instantly.
  • Mother of a Thousand Young: Twice. The first example is Lilith and her whore-demons, who birth swarms of demons literally every time they have intercourse. The second example is the Trope Namer Shub-Niggurath her/his/itself.
  • No Name Given: The first three episodes do not provide the Rider's name. He deliberately conceals it because his anonymity prevents demons from gaining power over him. Later in the story his name is revealed and he loses his supernatural protection.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: In "The Shomer Express", The Rider takes on a Arabian demonic ghul that has smuggled itself aboard a passenger train. The ghul possesses an intelligence slightly above animalistic, and can can take on the form of the last corpse it ate (until it finishes digesting the flesh). However, its feet remain cloven hooves, betraying it as a demon.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Great Old Ones are this to the Rider, with the Cthulhu Mythos being unknown to and having no place in traditional Abrahamic cosmology, while simultaneously having the power to radically interfere in the eternal struggle between Heaven and Hell.
  • Pistol-Whipping: In "The Nightjar Women'', Sadie knocks Johnny Behan out by slamming a rifle butt against his head when she breaks the Rider out of jail.
  • Powerful Pick: In "The Dust Devils", The Rider is attacked in a mine by a Bandito leader with a sabre. He grabs a mattock to defend himself and eventually wins the fight: killing the bandito by driving the mattock through his head.
  • The Powers That Be: Both Heaven and Hell manipulate the Rider.
  • Prehensile Hair: Lilith is revealed to have this power in "The Nightjar Women". After she is attacked and shot, her hair spontaneously grows in length and reaches out and chokes the man who shot her.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The four collections each have a title that is a play upon a the title of a popular Western. The books are:
  • Religion is Magic: The Rider wields sorceries based on Hasidic Jewish mysticism.
  • Religious Horror: Demons drawn from Abrahamic cosmology represent the main villains. Then again, the Angels aren't that nice, either.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: In "The Nightjar Women", Lilith states that she can see through the eyes of any of her children, whose numbers are legion. The Rider has no reason to doubt her claim.
  • See-Thru Specs: The Rider's spectacles allow him to see invisible spirits, or spirits who have taken human form.
  • Shovel Strike: In "The Shomer Express", the Rider uses the fireman's shovel to batter the ghul into the firebox of the locomotive: the only way to destroy it being to Kill It with Fire.
  • Succubi and Incubi: They run an Old West whorehouse.
  • Taking Over the Town: In "The Dust Devils", a Bandito gang and an evil voodoo sorcerer take over a border town. The sorcerer uses demons to set up a permanent dust storm around the town to keep outsiders out, and turns the townsfolk into living zombies; sending them to toil in the goldmine without eating or sleeping till they drop dead.
  • Thriller on the Express: "The Shomer Express". On a midnight train crossing the desert, a corpse turns up desecrated. Something stalking the passenger cars has assumed its shape, and only the Rider can stop it.
  • Unorthodox Holstering: In addition to the enchanted Volcanic pistol holstered on his hip, the Rider has a derringer with similar enchantments hidden in a spring loaded holster up his sleeve.
  • Walking the Earth: Literally walking. The Rider's religious vows forbid him from riding his companion donkey. The "Rider" refers to the Merkabah throne-chariot of God.
  • Weapon Title: "The Infernal Napoleon" actually refers to a demonic cannonnote .
  • Weapon Tombstone: In "Hell's Hired Gun", after burying Medgar Tooms, the Rider marks Tooms' grave by stabbing his Whitworth rifle into the ground by its bayonet.
  • Wretched Hive: God sends a posse of gunslinger-angels to obliterate a town full of lapsed Jews.
  • World's Strongest Man: The Rider meets a strongman whose powers derive from his ascetic Nazarene vows, much like the Biblical Samson.