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‘Since Nightfall’
Hawks Over Egypt by Robert E. Howard
I received an offer to ghostwrite another book yesterday for hire and it set my mind where this book was focused on fire. I have not written 20 chapters in one day for some time. Yet here I sit, the day after that spasm of written revolt, with three days to finish a boxing manual and a half dozen fiction books needing to be done by July. And I recall that Howard was to bookend this stream of thought…
In the historical adventure, set a clean century before the crusades, Howard wove a tale about Deago, an avenger out of Castile, whose kin had been murdered by a Berber ally, coming to Cairo to seek revenge. His time as a captive and slave of the Moors and Berbers had bestowed the ability to pass as a man of Islam. He is searching through the nighted streets when he is confronted by a mameluke—a Turkish war-slave—who has been stalked all night and they fall to arguing. As they are ready to come to blows the real stalkers attack them both, three mute brutes of the dark races working some other person’s will. After disposal of the bodies, the men—seeking refuge in a city under lockdown, in which alcohol had been outlawed and women caught outdoors were beheaded. They come by secret ways in the dim night to the house of a crippled old Turk, who lets them in and chimes, “All the chambers are empty. I am a ruined man. Men fear to touch the cup, since the caliph banned wine. Allah smite him with the gout!”
I know many a merchant such as the Turk who are ruined. But, in our time as in the adventure tale told by the old pulp writer, it remains true that when the authorities step down on the slave classes and the merchants, that fighting men find unparalleled freedom of action. When the hand of authority no longer devotes itself to the sham game of justice and bears down on normal human action, than the man of action is freed from the chains of civilization from ways small to ways great. Deago and the Turk, Al Afdahl, go on to have brutal and bloody adventures in the very shadows of insanity as the caliph falls victim to the demi-urge and elevates himself to Godhood—and no clearer parallel in literature can be found between the storied past and the mania of the Shamdemic governors and medical authorities who rule us far beyond the fields of reason now, plunging into the mania of self-worshipping power.
Furthermore, as posited in the story, men of opposed ideologies and enemy races will find common ground when the system in power begins to openly pursue its own internal logic. Just as Deago the Caphar and Al Afdahl the Turk found themselves “two men beset by rogues,” in a city that existed for the good of neither man’s kind, the postmodern man who awakens next to another over some blatant insanity passed off as government policy, may find standing next to him an ally, a brother of a kind.
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