It was the Age of Fire and Steel, after the Pale Men had wiped out the Ancients. The poor men and women of Jackson struggled against life and death. Nature was a wild, untamed force, and those few huddled together had but one gift against the might of the river and the decay of the swamp: GALGERAN.
GALGERAN! Even today, his name has power. In these Enlightened Days, the young do not learn of GALGERAN in school, even those who can walk to his tomb on any sunny afternoon.
But is it a tomb? There is no date, no name save GALGERAN, no indication that he was ever alive, or dead, and truth be told, there are those who claim that GALGERAN did not die that day, that he lives still, waiting until he's needed to help the people of Jackson. To once again use his talents for God's glory and the good of man.
"It's just a legend." John P. Oldham was President of the Select Men, first amongst those who ruled over Jackson, Mississippi. The Council of Select Men sat under their seal, the seal of the eye and the compass, the instruments through which they had surveyed the land and found the bluffs that offered some mote of protection from the mighty Pearl.
GALGERAN unfurled the scroll across their oil-lit study. The smell of whale-oil in the air was thick, the walls darkened by the constant illumination.
"We both know that there are still a few legends left, Oldham. After all, without the legends, we could not have created this machine, this City on a Bluff. But our machine needs power to work."
"Ox carts? What about windmills? Or wheels on the creeks? Is that not enough?" The Select Men shouted.
"Our cohort Watt, in England, has a new engine, that I believe should..." Oldham stammered to a halt as GALGERAN looked each of them in their eyes in turn, and saw that they did not believe themselves.
"Do you mean the new fuel? The black oil? The liquid coal?" James Boyd asked. Boyd was new to the Select Men, his ideas were dangerous to their ways, but GALGERAN defended him.
"No. The fuel underneath these bluffs cannot be reached with any variation on Newcomen's atmospheric engine. It cannot be reached with anything we possess. It is for future generations." Oldham said. It was known.
"Those who will live through a nightmare of oil and smoke." GALGERAN spoke quietly, returning the attention to himself.
"This is not the power of horses or steel. This is a different sort of power. I need two men, hale and hearty, to accompany me to the spots indicated on these scrolls. We will harness the power this infernal machine requires. Jackson will rise."
"Take Daniel and David with you. They are unique men, capable of what your... journey requires." Boyd said.
There was a solemn moment. Where GALGERAN would go, few could follow, and fewer still could return.
"If I do not return," GALGERAN began, and his words were like a shock to the Select Men. They had seen GALGERAN through the banishing of the Poking Men, through the Racoon Wars, through the Burning Days and the Swamp Ape Horde. Each and every time, he had triumphed over impossibility.
"If I do not return, then erect a marker in Greenville Cemetery, facing the rising sun. It will form the top of a great pyramid. Two more markers must be placed to the East, and inside that protective geometry, the machine will be powered, and my return may be foretold."
"You ask us to build a grave?" Oldham asked, astonished.
"No. Something else. Engrave my sigil, the O and the G." GALGERAN said. "And as always, I use my talents for God's glory..."
"...and the good of man." The Select Men responded, finishing their solemn intonation, the one passed down by the Perpetual Curate of Repton.
There was a great and powerful quiet as Daniel and David came from the wings to stand by GALGERAN.
[Three Years Later]
Since that day in the Select Men's Chambers, Boyd had known that the Age of Fire and Steel was coming to an end. The world was hurtling toward the Nightmare of Oil and Smoke that GALGERAN had foretold. So when the servant came running to him in the dead of night with two long-haired men in buckskins and oiled leathers waiting in the doorway, he knew their time would soon be over.
"David! Daniel! Where is GALGERAN?!" He shouted, leaping out of bed in his nightgown, fumbling for the lantern.
In the light, the two men were haggard, grey. They had been young, full of vigor, when they had left the chamber that day. Deep creases and frayed beards framed haunted eyes. They seemed as if they had come from far away - and as though they still were far away, distant.
"Fetch some whiskey for Misters Crockett and Boone!" Boyd shouted, leading the two men to his study. There, they sat drinking while Boyd began to ask them questions.
"GALGERAN?" Was his first, but all the two could do was shake their heads.
"No. Not dead. But gone. Lost." David said. Daniel pursed his lips, revealing missing teeth from a once-perfect smile.
"You were only gone three years, but yet..." Boyd hated to bring up their condition.
"We were gone for far longer than that!" Daniel shouted, a frightened look in his eyes. David shook his head slowly as the haggard man continued.
"But we were gone no time at all, it seemed. As though it were yesterday."
"If time is a river, then it must meander." Boyd said quietly. It was a saying of the Select Men.
The three were drinking heavily. Boyd brought out another bottle of whiskey.
"How far?" Boyd asked, sliding them a map of the United States.
Daniel pushed it away. "We made it to the river. To the swamp."
"The Amazon? The Mississippi?" Boyd asked, incredulous as the two exchanged crazed looks.
"It's not two miles away!" Boyd shouted. "What manner of joke is this?"
"We crossed over into the swamp to get on a steamboat, and then we were... lost. The woods were far deeper than we had ever known, the city of Jackson was gone, gone forever, and then it would be back... but strange, something we couldn't touch, intangible, and other days madmen would wander the woods as though they could hear us and see us, but when we tried to talk they ran screaming."
Boyd drank. The two were broken. Legends and histories would have to be concocted. They had come undone.
"Did you get it?" He asked, finally.
"Yes." David said, looking down into the glass. "It was supposed to be so far away."
"That swamp was many places, Crockett. That swamp was many times. I told you, I told you. It was just an afternoon, but look at us! Think about how many days had passed!"
"Take it. Take it." Daniel shouted, throwing the object at Boyd's feet. It was heavy, metallic, wrapped in a tattered oiled cloth. "GALGERAN said to guard it. That your home was the second point in his equilateral machine."
"You know you've been compromised. Infected by the Flow. The Select Men will not let you spread your madness." Boyd said, closing his eyes as the hammers of the rifles behind the bookcase were clicked into place.
Everything was smoke and light for an instant, then the two were dead on the floor. Boyd hung his head. Daniel Boone was whispering to him, blood flecked on his lips.
"...sanctification. He used his talents in the glory of God and for the good of man..."