War of the Ruby, a story by Brian K. Lowe in Cirsova Vol. 5 about a warrior and his thief lover who carry around a demon-summoning jewel stolen from a dangerous cult, proves to be a decent enough introduction to the world of Eldritch Earth as conceived by fellow author (and social media friend) Misha Burnett. However, I will not merely give my opinion, but instead speak on the story’s main characteristic: rule-breaking. By necessity, there will be spoilers.
We live in a world bound by innumerable rules. Though we grumble about it at times, we accept it as the price of a civilized society where we do not have to put great effort into defending ourselves on a daily basis. Urban life in particular is the most rule-bound, a consequence of so many people having to live together without stepping on each other’s toes.
In Ruby, however, Lannic and Senela — a warrior and a thief respectively — violate the rules as a matter of course. Senela’s rule violations are easy to see, for she explains that she is a thief and an escaped slave, but Lannic’s are more subtle. Note that when the hooded man attacked him and Senela in the bedroom, Lannic did not ask who he is or what he was doing there as a more civilized man would’ve done; instead, he just kicked the intruder. Through this small action, Lannic showed that he was unafraid of any consequences for violence, since he could handle them with ease. A civilized man would fear being imprisoned and thus put into several more violent situations that he isn’t equipped to succeed in.
Even the ending, where the ruby summons demons, shows a form of rule-breaking as strange monsters come through the light created by the ruby — creatures that do not belong. This time, however, order is successfully enforced by a large wormlike creature native to the old city where the encounter took place, a creature that Lannic and Selena notice on occasion as they pass through. As if angry that the new creatures were intruding, the worm eats them. In doing this, however, the story shows one set of rules that cannot be disregarded: the laws of nature. This notion even gets the better of Lannic and Selena, who are expelled from the town for breaking the scepter that held the ruby.
This story underlines the basic appeal of heroic fantasy: a sense of freedom and openness tempered by respect for the just laws of nature as opposed to the arbitrary rules and manners of man. The main characters’ expulsion resulted not in despair, but a chance for renewal and reinvention in a world where the law had not yet swallowed up everything. Simple and straightforward, anyone could get it in minutes — no law degree required.