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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.

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Merkabah Rider provides examples of:

  • A Chat with Satan: Literally.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • The Drifter: In classic Western tradition.
  • Eye Scream: In "The Blood Libel", the Rider fires his enchanted derringer in the eye of the demon Moloch at point blank range.
  • 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.
  • Horny Devils: They run an Old West whorehouse.
  • Human Sacrifice: In "The Blood Libel", the Rider clashes with a Cult that is kidnapping children and sacrificing to the demon Moloch.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • See-Thru Specs: The Rider's spectacles allow him to see invisible spirits, or spirits who have taken human form.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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