In the mythology of Rancho Nuevo much is said about The First Great Angel War. In a world where immortality is a given, with some key exceptions, memory is a different type of beast when compared to a world dominated by mortals. While the people never truly forget, over time memory changes, facts are blurred, and history is written by those who have won not only the literal wars but also the wars fought within.
The First Great Angel War was won in convincing fashion by the seraphim who believe unflinchingly in maintaining order and the laws which existed since the first angels came to Rancho Nuevo. This was their nature and their design, from a time long before the founding of Rancho Nuevo, but after the war many would label them as evil oppressors who had no sympathy for those who offered dissent or differing opinions on how life should be in Rancho Nuevo.
When the white-winged angels rose up against the oppression that was a by-product of the seraphim's obsession with order the war began. The people of Rancho Nuevo, those who were human rather than angelic, were at the heart of the war. The treatment they received for being human, for being imperfect, under the rule of the seraphim was often brutal. After the white-wings were routed in The First Great Angel War, the repression and brutality reached new heights. For the seraphim it was about making certain another war did not happen. War was in conflict with order as was rebellion.
The increased repression of ideas and actions by the seraphim led to an increased desire for an uprising amongst the people. While the white-wings sympathized with the oppressed masses, they knew another war would only lead to another defeat. Seraphim are designed to go into battle. White-wings are designed to support and encourage the idea of goodness in others.
The seraphim began to be known as red riders. The people refused to acknowledge them as angels because they associated angels with kindness, love and grace. As the red riders came into their towns and villages rooting out dissent and "poisonous ideas," they came on horseback with their three sets of wings flying behind them and their red armor shining in the sunlight. People were taken away and never seen again, often for the mere crime of thinking thoughts that were not compatible with the established order.
There have always been three groups of angels in Rancho Nuevo. Along with the seraphim and the white-wings there are the thrones. The thrones embrace neutrality and an acceptance of all. In The First Great Angel War, even as they were labeled cowards and traitors by the people, they would appear at times when individuals faced insurmountable trouble and take them to safety. This, as they say, is the nature of the thrones. They observe and document history from the epic stories that paint all of Rancho Nuevo down to the individual histories of each human and angel who resides there. In times of great despair they will come to the aid of individuals, but only for the sake of the individual and never to endorse that individual's beliefs or ideology.
The Second Great Angel War is, by many accounts, inaccurately named. It has its beginnings in a rising temperament amongst the people of Rancho Nuevo to stand unified in a refusal to submit to the established order. The red riders would threaten worldwide action against the people. They would destroy and humble the leaders of the resistance movement in the hopes their followers would fall in line. The people remained resolute, and when the red riders threatened to destroy them all and to cleanse Rancho Nuevo of humans, the white-wings joined with the people.
"If you destroy all in your crusade to maintain order, then there will no longer be any order to maintain," one of the white-wings was said to have told them. "A seraphim with no order to maintain has no option but to die."
In the wastelands of the most desolate corner of Rancho Nuevo there stands a small, broken town. At the center of the town is a place known as the Blackjack Saloon. It is named for its proprietor, Black Jack, who is a member of The Order of Jacks. Some refer to the Jacks as a sort of monk while others have less favorable names for them. They are humans protected by the thrones, in part because it is their function to observe, mediate and lend aid to individuals without endorsing their beliefs or philosophies. There are four Jacks in Rancho Nuevo. Black Jack is one of the four.
In the heat of The Second Great Angel War, the Jack of Hearts came to the Blackjack Saloon. It was a place he rarely visited, as the nature of the place and its inhabitants weighed heavily on his soul and his gift of empathy. It was a kind of purgatory for those who had committed crimes against others and against themselves in lives they lived before they came to Rancho Nuevo. At the saloon, and in the broken town that surrounded it, they were faced with the temptations they had so often given into in their previous lives. They were granted free will in how to handle these temptations, but they were not allowed to leave the town.
"It is coming, you know," the Jack of Hearts told Black Jack as he sat down at the bar.
"That, as well as the other thing. Can I get a glass of water?"
Black Jack poured the water and slid it to the Jack of Hearts, who drank it quickly before placing the glass down on the bar and covering the top of it with his hand.
"How many times have you given the sermon?" asked the Jack of Hearts.
"There is more to a glass of water than the water and the glass."
"Heh. You know that's my old standby."
"Well, it is the entire foundation of who we are, as well as the thing we most often forget."
There was a rumbling off in the distance that was slowly getting louder. It was the sound of many horses riding hard across the wasteland.
"The other thing?" suggested Black Jack.
"Let me have a beer. I think it's going to be a long time before I have another one."
The liberation of the town surrounding the Blackjack Saloon was one of the objectives of the movement to break the order imposed by the seraphim. It was seen as a place that maintained the suffering of people and giving freedom to those people, as well as any people who had suffered under the law of the seraphim, was important to the revolution.
The people who had risen up and stood together to break the stranglehold of the red riders referred to themselves as The Great Revolution. Correcting and destroying the fabric of their oppression was important to them. They became crusaders who sought to right all the wrongs of Rancho Nuevo with the spearhead of their revolution.
The people who inhabited the Blackjack Saloon and the surrounding town were freed. They were referred to as political prisoners of the seraphim regime. The saloon was burned to the ground and Black Jack and the Jack of Hearts were taken into custody, considered to be enemies of the revolution for their role in perpetuating the existing order.
"Perpetuating the existing order?" asked the Jack of Hearts. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means," explained Black Jack, "that we did nothing to aid or support the revolution."
The people swept over the landscape, destroying anything that reminded them of the oppression they faced under the seraphim. They swarmed over any red riders they saw, overpowering them through the force of sheer numbers and then nailing them to crosses so they would be forced to watch the people completely destroy the order they had worked so hard to maintain.
All dissent, from the most outspoken and virulent, to mere semantics, was treated with reprisals. Either you were with the revolution or you were against it. Any claims that the seraphim were not evil, hateful beings were quickly attacked and if the speakers of such heresy did not recant, they were swiftly punished. Anyone who questioned the direction or intent of the revolution was also punished and labeled a friend of seraphim oppression.
New monuments were erected to celebrate the victory of the revolution. New flags were flown above the cities and towns of Rancho Nuevo. Celebrations of freedom and the end of tyranny were embraced. A new language was taught to the people. It rejected much of the old language and the words and phrases that people associated with oppression. In their place were new words said to be "of the people and of the revolution." Use of the old words and terms were no longer tolerated. Dissent was no longer tolerated. Those who did not embrace the trappings of the revolution and the new order were humbled, humiliated and punished.
In time, the dissent became more than the leaders of the new order could contain. They turned to the seraphim to help them maintain order and the red riders rode once again.
From their cell deep below the shining city that called itself a beacon of hope against oppression, Black Jack and the Jack of Hearts played cards with an incomplete deck. They did not look up when they heard footsteps approach.
"The red riders have seen fit to release you both," said the jailor.
"Do we get any parting gifts?"
The jailor shrugged and opened the door to the cell. "They said to tell you that there is more to a glass of water than the water and the glass."