The Ballad of Both Barrels
The Ballad of Both Barrels is a series of Elovisian folk songs which, when sung together, tell the tale of a mysterious stranger who once wandered the deserts of Medial C before the time of the New Voxelian diaspora which would become the founding impetus of the various Coalition nations (Craterhold, the Commonwealth of C, and the Free Faces League).
The mysterious stranger sung about in the Ballad of Both Barrels was a dark frontiersman from parts unknown, with whispers among the desert peoples that he was a spirit of vengeance from the then-unvisited realm beyond the sun. He called himself the Deputy, though no one had ever seen a badge like his. The Deputy would blow into town on the whistling summer winds, a black tonfa at his side and a silvery double-barreled shotgun in the crook of his arm, to ask people for the wereabouts of some no-gooder who'd never yet been caught - or, even, never discovered to be a no-gooder in the first place.
At the end of the Ballad, the Deputy rolls into a town only to find that the nations of Medial C are expanding under the power of the steamtech revolution. Ageless and ever-preceptive, the stranger remarks that the time for people like him is coming to an end; the people of the Manifold Sky will have to take care of themselves with outside assistance, though he and his children will always be watching to 'set things to right' if they go astray once more. With that, the Deputry leaves, with the ballad suggesting that he transcends the flesh to serve the spirits who came before the House of the Unexpected.
The townsfolk, terrified of the stern demeanor of this mysterious stranger, would tell him in a daze of what they knew. And, just like that, the Deputy would walk off into the blowing dust, unerring and inevitable, to hunt his designated prey. Subsequent choruses of the Ballad of Both Barrels go on to speak of the various villains the Deputy would face down in the desert, from highwaymen and killers to corrupt mayors and even, much later, some unspeakable giant comprised of shadowy fire. For some of these marks, the Deputy never speaks of what their purported crimes were, leaving this matter up to speculation.
Thought the steamtech age was an era of aggressive expansion for the peoples of The Human Arc, many regions of the Medial C Cube still remained poorly explored and sparsely populated during that time. This was because certain terrain features (such as the steep cliff faces of Triple Mesa) made circumnavigation into certain regions more difficult than others, with Elovisian and New Voxelian settlements being more often built on patches of high ground near the region's few rivers.
The old bonds between the expeditionary colonies had long-since begun to fray, with many New Voxelian residents identifying more with their Elovisian hosts; the former group felt disenfranchised with their distant tax-masters, and the later group was comprised of ancient exiles from the fertile lands of Medial A at the hands of Old Voxelian tyrants. It was a lawless time of slow-simmering revolution, where settlements which failed to join in the cause (or simply failed to express sufficient enthusiasm) faced commerce raiding from their more zealous neighbors. This was the social climate that led to a tradition of itinerant lawmen who, while working for the nascent nations seeking to secceed from Voxelia, would further that cause by bringing the people together under a more even-handed rule of law. Better to show the people what they could accomplish together as free people, these lawmen reasoned, then to let them suffer at the hands of roving bandits.
The Ballad of Both Barrels is regarded by many modern scholars to be an extended allegory for the Coalition peoples' search for their own meaning in the uncertain times in which the story is set. The danger of the half-explored desert, the fear and anger at reprisals from distant lords who didn't know the land, and the promise of unseen wonders beyond the known world all manifest in the smaller stories spread throughout the Ballad. The Deputy is an avatar of fortitude, justice, equanimity, and individual responsibility, while the villains he fight represent the sins of divisiveness, wrath, and short-sightedness that were infecting every facet of society at that time. Leaguesmen, especially, regard the Deputy as a foundational member of their modern civic pantheon, while Holdsmen and Commonwealth Kin acknowledge the influence of the Ballad in their own cultures to a lesser degree.
Adaptations of The Ballad of Both Barrels have been circulated as radio adventure serials, films, and even (with the advent of early televisions) screen plays, though these adaptations generally fail to wow audiences in Voxelia and the Manifold Conservation Society. Curiously, Rostran film afficionados are always a solid market for Ballad screenplays for the Deputy's symbolic resonance with the Knapper of Spirits of Knappist lore.
Date of Setting
~ 9600 AX