Count Brass (novel)

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Count Brass is the first novel in the The Chronicles of Castle Brass series by Michael Moorcock and featuring Duke Dorian Hawkmoon. It is a sequel to The Runestaff and is followed by The Champion of Garathorm. It was originally published in the United Kingdom by Mayflower Science Fiction.

The novel picks up five years after the events of The Runestaff. Investigating rumours that the ghost of Count Brass has returned to the Kamarg, Hawkmoon discovers that unregenerate Granbretan loyalists are manipulating Time and Space in an attempt to restore the Dark Empire. In the process he learns about the existence of the Multiverse and the myriad worlds that exist within it, as well as the possibility that changing the Past can have unforeseen consequences in the Present. At the end of the novel a different interpretation of events is suggested that implies Hawkmoon has been insane since the Battle of Londra and the preceding narrative has been a delusion created by his madness.

Publishing History (UK)

  • Mass Market Paperback, Mayflower, 140pp., ISBN: 0-583-12198-5, 22 Mar 1973, Cover by Bob Haberfield[1]
  • Mass Market Paperback, Mayflower, 140pp., ISBN: 0-583-12198-5, 1975, Cover by Bob Haberfield[2]
  • Mass Market Paperback, Granada, 140pp., ISBN: 0-583-12198-5, 1981, Cover by Bob Haberfield - reprinted 1983
  • Mass Market Paperback, Granada, 160pp., ISBN: 0-586-20532-2, 3 Nov 1988, Cover by Paul Damon
  • ebook, SF Gateway, ISBN: 978-0575092495, 19 Dec 2013

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Omnibus Publication

Publishing History (US)

  • Serialised in Fantastic Stories v24 n4, June 1975 & v24 n5, August 1975
  • Mass Market Paperback, Dell, ISBN: 0-440-11541-8, 1976, Cover by Richard Courtney
  • Mass Market Paperback, Dell, ISBN: 0-440-11541-8, 1981, Cover by Ezra Tucker
  • Mass Market Paperback, Berkley, ISBN: 0-425-07514-1, 1 Feb 1985, Cover by Robert Gould
  • Mass Market Paperback, Ace, ISBN: 0-441-11775-9, 1988, Cover by Robert Gould

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Omnibus Publication

Synopsis

* * The following section may contain spoilers * *

Five years have passed since the Battle of Londra, in which Count Brass, the poet-philosopher Bowgentle, the renegade D'Averc and Oladahn fell, which brought about the end of the Dark Empire of Granbretan. Queen Flana now rules in place of the corrupt Huon and strives to introduce parliamentary democracy to her subjects although a few remain loyal to the old order. In the Kamarg, Duke Dorian Hawkmoon lives with his wife Yisselda, Count Brass' daughter, and their children, Manfred and Yarmila. During the annual festive, the veteran soldier, Czarnek alleges that the Count's ghost appeared to him out in the marshes claiming Hawkmoon killed him. Hawkmoon determines to prove the falsehood of these rumours and rides out to find the 'ghost' of his old friend. The 'ghost' tells Hawkmoon that it has been sent to what it believes to be the netherworld by an oracle, who has promised that it will live again if it slays Hawkmoon. Hawkmoon realises that the figure claiming to be Count Brass, while he has the mannerisms and attributes of his friend also lacks much recent knowledge that the real Count Brass would know, before realising that it is a younger version of the man he knew after arriving to Castle Brass. Hawkmoon chases the Count into the marshes but becomes mired in a bog and is only rescued after his horse has already been submerged. Having agreed to meet Count Brass the next night at a ruin in the marshes, Hawkmoon duly returns and discovers not only the Count but also Bowgentle, D'Averc and Oladahn who all claim Hawkmoon betrayed them at a time before Hawkmoon first knew them in his own history. Hawkmoon speculates that some Granbretan survivor is manipulating time and using his friends as revenge for the destruction of the Dark Empire, and persuades them that all is not as it seems. The five agree they should tackle the oracle to learn the truth of their situation.

Returning to that part of the marshes where the oracle appears to them - in the form of a glass pyramid - Count Brass tells the oracle he has slain Hawkmoon, but when the oracle demands to see Hawkmoon's corpse, Hawkmoon attacks the pyramid with a flame-lance. The jets of ruby flame reveal the form of Baron Kalan of Vitall within, long believed killed during the Battle of Londra, though no body was ever found. The Baron flees before his pyramid is destroyed, releasing Count Brass, Bowgentle, D'Averc and Oladahn from the time trap that keeps them within the night-time of the marshes. Hawkmoon suggests that they should try to contact the Wraith-folk of Soryandum, whose city he and Oladahn visited in Syriana. The five make their way to the port of Marshais where disguised as pilgrims they buy passage aboard The Romanian Queen to Behruk. During the voyage the boat is becalmed and Kalan's glass pyramid reappears, the Granbretan scientist commanding the sailors to kill their passengers. Oladahn attacks the pyramid and is thrown back to the time he was plucked from. When the pyramid vanishes again, the wind picks up and the boat speeds into port. The party travels by camel into the desert to seek Soryandum, but the pyramid appears a third time and this time D’Averc deliberately attacks it so he too will return to his rightful place in Time. Hawkmoon locates the site where Soryandum once existed before the Wraith-folk took the city to another dimension. Reaching the cave where the Wraith-folk stored some of their technology, they find the machine-beast that Hawkmoon and Oladahn fought still lives, and though now blind still immune to their weapons. They retreat back to Soryandum but the machine-beast follows them and is about to kill the Count when it suddenly keels over. Soryandum materialises around them and then the Wraith-man Rinal appears who tells Hawkmoon that the Wraith-folk were only able to deactivate their mechanical creature once it was inside the environs of the city. Hawkmoon explains their predicament and Rinal suggests the Wraith-folk may have the technology to track Kalan's pyramid as it moves through the Multiverse. Eventually the scanner detects the pyramid and the party is able to see Kalan arrive in some other Londra, which resembles crudely the one from their own world. Moreover, Bowgentle realises that the four 'dead' heroes were not only plucked from a different times but they come from a different world to Hawkmoon. Rinal proposes that the Wraith-folk construct a sphere for them capable of following Kalan’s pyramid to his new Londra. Hawkmoon sleeps and when he awakes Rinal tells him the sphere is ready. He goes to find his comrades but discovers Bowgentle debating with Baron Kalan (in his pyramid) while Count Brass stands by transfixed. Bowgentle surmises that Kalan didn't return the Count to his own time when he attacked the pyramid because he is unable to attack Hawkmoon directly due to some paradox. Kalan claims that Bowgentle knows too much and returns the poet-philosopher to his own world before vanishing himself. With Count Brass freed from Kalan's control, Rinal urges Hawkmoon to enter the sphere and follow the pyramid.

After travelling through the multiverse after the pyramid, the sphere appears inside Kalan’s laboratory before disappearing as soon as Hawkmoon and Count Brass disembark. Noting the crudity of the decorations – as if someone had attempted to copy something they had only seen once briefly – Hawkmoon and the Count begin exploring this new world. They encounter two guards in an almost dream-like state, who they easily overcome and strip for their uniforms and masks. The corpses vanish just as Oladahn, D’Averc and Bowgentle vanished and Hawkmoon guesses they were not from this world or time. Thanks to the trance-like state of the guards and their new-found disguises, Hawkmoon and Count Brass are able to gain access to a locked room, within which they discovered alternative version of Baron Meliadus, King Huon, Countess Flana, Count Shenegar Trott, Elvereza Tozer, Adaz Promp and other assorted Granbretan nobles all – like the guards – in trances, although Flana is more lucid than the others. Hearing noises outside, Hawkmoon and the Count hid before Kalan enters and in a paranoid rant begins accusing the somnambulistic nobles of plotting against him. Hawkmoon apprehends Kalan and learns something more of Kalan’s schemes to restore the Dark Empire, but when Taragorm arrives with two fully awake guards, the heroes of the Kamarg are taken prisoner. Kalan transports them all in his pyramid to a ziggurat where the Granbretan scientists display their prisoners to some thousand masked soldiers. Taragorm tortures the Count for not killing Hawkmoon, and eventually Hawkmoon agrees to kill himself if the scientist will spare the Count. Just as Hawkmoon is about to fall on his sword, Count Brass declares he will, after all, slay Hawkmoon. Once armed with his great brazen sword, the Count makes to execute Hawkmoon but at the last second attacks Taragorm instead, smashing his mask before decapitating him. Hawkmoon tackles the guards, while Kalan warns of the coming of the Time Winds, which prevent Hawkmoon from reaching his friend. The winds pick Hawkmoon up and carry him away from the Ziggurat. He finds himself back at the Battle of Londra and is able to save Count Brass from the Dark Empire spearman who previously killed him. The Time Winds the transport him back to the moment when Hawkmoon was mired in the marshlands. Again he is rescued but this time by Count Brass rather than Yisselda. Taken back to Castle Brass, the Count explains that Hawkmoon has been insane for five years since the fall of the Dark Empire and has only now come out of his madness. Hawkmoon asks where Yisselda and the children are, and the Count tells him that his daughter died in the Battle of Londra, although during his madness Hawkmoon believed her alive. Hawkmoon is left with the despair that his family were either part of a timeline that has been changed by his actions or merely the delusion of a madman.

Mike Says

  • "I must admit that Hawkmoon was never my favourite character but there are still a lot of people who like him best. I thought Count Brass was one of my weakest books, for instance, and yet it picked up rave reviews with people saying how glad they were that I was back on form (presumably after The Condition of Muzak...)."[4]

Notes

  1. This edition was incorrectly subtitled 'The Chronicles of Count Brass'
  2. This edition was correctly subtitled 'The Chronicles of Castle Brass'
  3. No trade paperback edition was published by White Wolf for financial reasons.
  4. http://www.multiverse.org/fora/showpost.php?p=19619&postcount=9

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