Count brass, p.1
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       Count Brass, p.1

           Michael Moorcock
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Count Brass

  Count Brass

  The Chronicles of Castle Brass

  Book 1

  Michael Moorcock


  Book One Old Friends

  Chapter One The Haunting Of Dorian Hawkmoon

  Chapter Two The Meeting In The Marsh

  Chapter Three A Letter From Queen Flana

  Chapter Four A Company Of The Dead

  Book Two Old Enemies

  Chapter One A Speaking Pyramid

  Chapter Two The Return Of The Pyramid

  Chapter Three The Journey To Soryandum

  Chapter Four A Further Encounter With Another Old Enemy

  Chapter Five Some Other Londra

  Chapter Six Another Victim

  Book Three Old Dreams And New

  Chapter One The World Half-Made

  Chapter Two A Museum Of The Living And The Dead

  Chapter Three Count Brass Chooses To Live

  Chapter Four A Great Wind Blowing

  Chapter Five Something Of A Dream


  Book One

  Old Friends

  Chapter One

  The Haunting Of Dorian Hawkmoon

  It had taken all these five years to restore the land of Kamarg, to repopulate its marshes with the giant scarlet flamingoes, the wild white bulls and the horned great horses which had once teemed here before the coming of the Dark Empire's bestial armies. It had taken all these five years to rebuild the watchtowers of the borders, to put up the towns and to erect tall Castle Brass in all its massive, masculine beauty. And, if anything, in these five years of peace, the walls were built stronger, the watchtowers taller, for, as Dorian Hawkmoon had said once to Queen Flana of Granbretan, the world was still wild and there was still little justice in it.

  Dorian Hawkmoon, the Duke of Koln, and his bride, Yisselda, Countess of Brass, old, dead Count Brass's daughter, were the only two who remained of that group of heroes who had served the Runestaff against the Dark Empire and finally defeated Granbretan in the great Battle of Londra, putting Queen Flana, sad Queen Flana, upon the throne so that she might guide her cruel and decadent nation towards humanity and vitality.

  Count Brass had died slaying three barons (Adaz Promp, Mygel Hoist and Saka Gerden) and in turn was slain by a spearman of the Order of the Goat.

  Oladahn of the Bulgar Mountains, beastman and loyal friend of Hawkmoon, had been hacked to pieces by the war axes of the Order of the Pig.

  Bowgentle, the unwarlike, the philosophical, had been savaged and decapitated by Pigs, Goats and Hounds to the number of twelve.

  Huillam D'Averc, mocker of everything, whose only faith had seemed to be in his own lack of good health, who had loved and been loved by Queen Flana, had died most ironically, riding to his love and being slain by one of her soldiers who thought D'Averc attacked her.

  Four heroes died. Thousands of other heroes, unnamed in the histories, but brave, also died in the service of the Runestaff, in the destruction of the Dark Empire tyranny.

  And a great villain died. Baron Meliadus of Kroiden, most ambitious, most ambivalent, most awful of all the aristocrats of Granbretan, died upon the sword of Hawkmoon, died beneath the edge of the mystical Sword of the Dawn.

  And the ruined world seemed free.

  But that had been five years hence. Much had passed since then. Two children had been born to Hawkmoon and the Countess of Brass. They were called Manfred, who had red hair and his grandfather's voice and health and stood to be his grandfather's size and strength, and Yarmila, who had golden hair and her mother's gentle toughness of will, as well as her beauty. They were Brass stock, there was little in them of the Dukes of Koln, and perhaps that was why Dorian Hawkmoon loved his children so fiercely and so well.

  And beyond the walls of Castle Brass stood four statues to the four dead heroes, to remind the inhabitants of the castle of what they had fought for and at what cost. And Dorian Hawkmoon would often take his children to those statues and tell them of the Dark Empire and its deeds. And they were pleased to listen. And Manfred assured his father that when he grew up his deeds would be as great as those of old Count Brass, whom he so resembled.

  And Hawkmoon would say that he hoped they would have no need of heroes when Manfred was grown.

  Then, seeing disappointment in his son's face, he would laugh and say there were many kinds of heroes and if Manfred had his grandfather's wisdom and diplomacy, his strong sense of justice, that would make him the best kind of hero—a justice-maker. And Manfred would only be somewhat consoled, for there is little that is romantic about a judge and much that is attractive to a four-year-old boy about a warrior.

  And sometimes Hawkmoon and Yisselda would take their children riding through the wild marshlands of the Kamarg, beneath wide skies of pastel colours, of faded reds and yellows, where the reeds were brown and dark green and orange and, in the appropriate season, bent before the mistral. And they would see a herd of white bulls thunder by, or a herd of horned horses. And they might see a flock of huge scarlet flamingoes suddenly take to the air and drift on broad wings over the heads of the invading human beings, not knowing that it was Dorian Hawkmoon's responsibility, as it had been that of Count Brass, to protect the wildlife of the Kamarg and never to kill it, and only sometimes to tame it to provide riding beasts for land and sky. Originally this had been why the great watchtowers had been built and why the men who occupied those watchtowers were called Guardians. But now they guarded the human populace as well as the beasts, guarded them from any threat from beyond the Kamarg's borders (for no native-bred Karmargian would consider harming the animals which were found nowhere else in the world). The only beasts that were hunted (save for food) in the marshes were the baragoon, the marsh gibberers, the things which had once been men themselves before becoming the victims of sorcerous experiments conducted by an evil Lord Guardian who had been done away with by old Count Brass. But there were only one or two baragoons left in the Kamarg lands now for hunters had little difficulty identifying them—they were over eight feet tall, five feet broad, bile-coloured and they slithered on their bellies through the swamps, occasionally rising to rush upon whatever prey they could now find in the marshlands. None the less, on their rides, Yisselda and Dorian Hawkmoon would take care to avoid the places still thought to be inhabited by the baragoon.

  Hawkmoon had come to love the Kamarg more than his own ancestral lands in far-off Germany, had even renounced his title to those lands now ruled well by an elected council as indeed were many of the European lands who had lost their hereditary rulers and chosen, since the defeat of the Dark Empire, to become republics.

  Yet, for all that Hawkmoon was loved and respected by the people of the Kamarg, he was aware that he did not replace old Count Brass in their eyes. He could never do that. They sought Countess Yisselda's advice as often as they sought his and they looked with great favour on young Manfred, seeing him almost as a reincarnation of their old Lord Guardian.

  Another man might have resented all this, but Hawkmoon, who had loved Count Brass as well as had they, accepted it with good grace. He had had enough of command, of heroics. He preferred to live the life of a simple country gentleman and wherever possible let the people have control of their own affairs. His ambitions were simple, too—to love his beautiful wife Yisselda and to ensure the happiness of his children. His days of history-making were over. All that he had left to remind him of his struggles against Granbretan was an oddly shaped scar in the centre of his forehead—where once had reposed the dreadful Black Jewel, the Brain-eater implanted there by Baron Kalan of Vitall when, years before, Hawkmoon had been recruited against his will to serve the Dark Empire against Count Brass. Now the jewel was gone and so was Baron Kalan, who had committed suicide after the B
attle of Londra. A brilliant scientist, but perhaps the most warped of all the barons of Granbretan, Kalan had been unable to conceive of continuing to exist under the new and, in his view, soft order Imposed by Queen Flana, who had succeeded the King Emperor Huon after Baron Meliadus had slain him in a desperate effort to make himself controller of Granbretan's policies.

  Hawkmoon sometimes wondered what would have happened to Baron Kalan, or, for that matter, Taragorm, Master of the Palace of Time, who had perished when one of Kalan's fiendish weapons had exploded during the Battle of Londra, if they had lived on. Could they have been put into the service of Queen Flana and their talents used to rebuild the world they had helped destroy? Probably not, he thought. They were insane. Their characters had been wholly shaped by the perverted and insane philosophies which had led Granbretan to make war upon the world and come close to conquering it all.

  After one of their marshland rides, the family would return to Aigues-Mortes, the walled and ancient town which was the principal city of the Kamarg, and to Castle Brass which stood on a hill in the very centre. Built of the same white stone as the majority of the town's houses, Castle Brass was a mixture of architectural styles which, somehow, did not seem to clash with each other. Over the centuries there had been additions and renovations; at the whim of different owners parts had been torn down and other parts built. Most of the windows were of intricately detailed stained glass, though the window frames themselves were as often round as they were square and as square as they were oblong or oval. Turrets and towers sprang up from the main mass of stone in all kinds of surprising places; there were even one or two minarets in the manner of Arabian palaces. And Dorian Hawkmoon, following the fashion of his own German folk, had had many flagstaffs erected and upon these staffs floated beautiful coloured banners, including those of the Counts of Brass and the Dukes of Koln. Gargoyles festooned the gutters of the castle and many a gable was carved in stone in the likeness of a Kamargian beast—the bull, the flamingo, the horned horse and the marsh bear.

  There was about Castle Brass, as there had been in the days of Count Brass himself, something at once impressive and comfortable. The castle had not been built to impress anyone with either the taste or the power of its inhabitants. It had hardly been built for strength (though it had already proven its strength) and aesthetic considerations, too, had not been made when rebuilding it. It had been built for comfort and this was a rare thing in a castle. It could be that it was the only castle in the world that had been built with such considerations in mind! Even the terraced gardens outside the castle walls had a homely appearance, growing vegetables and flowers of every sort, supplying not only the castle but much of the town with its basic requirements.

  When they returned from their rides the family would sit down to a good, plain meal which would be shared with many of its retainers, then the children would be taken to bed by Yisselda and she would tell them a story. Sometimes the story would be an ancient one, from the time before the Tragic Millennium, sometimes it would be one she would make up herself and sometimes, at the insistence of Manfred and Yarmila, Dorian Hawkmoon would be called for and he would tell them of some of his adventures in distant lands when he served the Runestaff. He would tell them of how he had met little Oladahn, whose body and face had been covered in fine, reddish hair, and who had claimed to be the kin of Mountain Giants. He would tell them of Amarehk beyond the great sea to the north and the the magical city of Dnark where he had first seen the Runestaff itself. Admittedly, Hawkmoon had to modify these tales, for the truth was darker and more terrible than most adult minds could conceive. He spoke most often of his dead friends and their noblest deeds, keeping alive the memories of Count Brass, Bowgentle, D'Averc and Oladahn. Already these deeds were legendary throughout Europe.

  And when the stories were done, Yisselda and Dorian Hawkmoon would sit in deep armchairs on either side of the great fireplace over which hung Count Brass's armour of brass and his broadsword, and they would talk or they would read.

  From time to time they would receive letters from Londra, from Queen Flana telling how her policies progressed. Londra, that insane roofed city, had been almost entirely dismantled and fine, open buildings put up instead on both sides of the River Tayme, which no longer ran blood red. The wearing of masks had been abolished and most of the people of Granbretan had, after a while, become used to revealing their naked faces, though some die-hards had had to receive mild punishment for their insistence on clinging to the old, mad ways of the Dark Empire. The Orders of the Beasts had also been outlawed and people had been encouraged to leave the darkness of their cities and return to the all but deserted and overgrown countryside of Granbretan, where vast forests of oak, elm or pine stretched for miles. For centuries Granbretan had lived on plunder and now she had to feed herself. Therefore the soldiers who had belonged to the beast orders were put to farming, to clearing the forests, to raising herds and planting crops. Local councils were set up to represent the interests of the people. Queen Flana had called a parliament and this parliament now advised her and helped her rule justly. It was strange how swiftly a warlike nation, a nation of military castes, had been encouraged to become a nation of farmers and foresters. The majority of the people of Granbretan had taken to their new lives with relief once it dawned on them that they were now free of the madness that had once infected the whole land—and sought, indeed, to infect the world.

  And so the quiet days passed at Castle Brass.

  And so they would have passed for always (until Manfred and Yarmila grew up and Hawkmoon and Yisselda became middle-aged and, eventually, old in their contentment, dying peacefully and cheerfully, knowing that the Kamarg was secure and that the days of the Dark Empire could never return) but for something strange that began to happen towards the close of the sixth summer since the Battle of Londra when, to his astonishment, Dorian Hawkmoon found that the people of Aigues-Mortes were beginning to offer him peculiar looks when he hailed them in the streets—some refusing to acknowledge him at all and others scowling and muttering and turning aside as he approached.

  It was Dorian Hawkmoon's habit, as it had been Count Brass's, to attend the great celebrations marking the end of the summer's work. Then Aigues-Mortes would be decorated with flowers and banners and the citizens would put on their most elaborate finery, young white bulls would be allowed to charge at will through the streets and the guardians of the watchtowers would ride about in their polished armour and silk surcoats, their flame-lances on their hips. And there would be bull contests in the immeasurably ancient amphitheatre on the outskirts of the town. Here was where Count Brass had once saved the life of the great toreador Mahtan Just when he was being gored to death by a gigantic bull. Count Brass had leaped into the ring and wrestled the bull with his bare hands, bringing the beast to its knees and winning the acclaim of the crowd, for Count Brass had then been well into middle age.

  But nowadays the festival was not a purely local affair. Ambassadors from all over Europe would come to honour the surviving hero and heroine of Londra and Queen Flana herself had visited Castle Brass on two previous occasions. This year, however, Queen Flana had been kept at home by affairs of state and one of her nobles attended in her name. Hawkmoon was pleased to note that Count Brass's dream of a unified Europe was beginning to become reality. The wars with Granbretan had helped break down the old boundaries and had brought the survivors together in a common cause. Europe still consisted of about a thousand small provinces, each independent of any other, but they worked in concert on many projects concerning the general good.

  The ambassadors came from Scandia, from Muscovy, from Arabia, from the lands of the Greeks and the Bulgars, from Ukrainia, from Nurnberg and Catalania. They came in carriages, on horseback or in ornithopters whose design was borrowed from Granbretan. And they brought gifts and they brought speeches (some long and some short) and they spoke of Dorian Hawkmoon as if he were a demigod.

  In past years their praise had found
enthusiastic response in the people of the Kamarg. But for some reason this year their speeches did not get quite the same quality of applause as they once had. Few, however, noticed. Only Hawkmoon and Yisselda noticed and, without being resentful, they were deeply puzzled.

  The most fulsome of all the speeches made in the ancient bullring of Aigues-Mortes came from Lonson, Prince of Shkarlan, cousin to Queen Flana, ambassador from Granbretan. Lonson was young and an enthusiastic supporter of the queen's policies. He had been barely seventeen when the Battle of Londra had robbed his nation of its evil power and thus he bore no great resentment of Dorian Hawkmoon von Koln—indeed, he saw Hawkmoon as a saviour, who had brought peace and sanity to his island kingdom. Prince Lonson's speech was rich with admiration for the new Lord Protector of the Kamarg. He recalled great deeds of battle, great achievements of will and self-discipline, great cunning in the arts of strategy and diplomacy by which, he said, future generations would remember Dorian Hawkmoon. Not only had Hawkmoon saved continental Europe—he had saved the Dark Empire from itself.

  Seated in his traditional box with all his foreign guests about him, Dorian Hawkmoon listened to the speech with embarrassment and hoped it would soon end. He was dressed in ceremonial armour which was as ornate as it was uncomfortable and the back of his neck itched horribly. While Prince Lonson spoke it would not be polite to remove the helmet and scratch. He looked at the crowd seated on the granite benches of the amphi-theatre and seated on the ground of the ring itself. Whereas most of the people were listening with approval to Prince Lonson's speech, others were muttering to each other, scowling. One old man, whom Hawkmoon recognised as an ex-guardian who had fought beside Count Brass in many of his battles, even spat into thedust of the arena when Prince Lonson spoke of Dorian Hawkmoon's unswerving loyalty to his comrades.

  Yisselda also noticed this and she frowned, glancing at Hawkmoon to see if he had noticed. Their eyes met. Dorian Hawkmoon shrugged and gave her a little smile. She smiled back, but the frown did not altogether leave her brow.

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