The Jewel in the Skull (Runestaff Series #1)

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Overview

Fantasy legend Michael Moorcock won hundreds of thousands of readers with his vast and imaginative multiverse, in which Law and Chaos wage war through endless alternative universes, struggling over the fundamental rules of existence.

Moorcock's heroes of the multiverse have been lauded as some of the most influential characters in fantasy. Among the Eternal Champions, Dorian Hawkmoon is one of the most loved. In the far future, Hawkmoon is pulled unwillingly ...

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The Jewel in the Skull (Runestaff Series #1)

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Overview

Fantasy legend Michael Moorcock won hundreds of thousands of readers with his vast and imaginative multiverse, in which Law and Chaos wage war through endless alternative universes, struggling over the fundamental rules of existence.

Moorcock's heroes of the multiverse have been lauded as some of the most influential characters in fantasy. Among the Eternal Champions, Dorian Hawkmoon is one of the most loved. In the far future, Hawkmoon is pulled unwillingly into a war that will eventually pit him against the ruthless Baron Meliadus and the armies of the Dark Empire. Antique cities, scientific sorcery, and crystalline machines serve as a backdrop to this high adventure.

Dorian Hawkmoon, the last Duke of Koln, swore to destroy the Dark Empire of Granbretan.  But after his defeat and capture at the hands of the vast forces of the Empire.  Hawkmoon becomes a puppet co-opted by his arch nemesis to infiltrate the last stronghold of rebellion against Granbretan, the small but powerful city of Kamarang. He's been implanted with a black jewel, through whose power the Dark Empire can control his every decision. But in the city of Kamarang, Hawkmoon discovers the power inside him to overcome any control, and his vengeance against the Dark Empire is filled with an unrelenting fury.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This classic sword and sorcery novel from 1967 finds a shattered future Europe recovering from the “Tragic Millennium” spent under the control of the overtly evil Dark Empire of Granbretan. The reclusive Count Brass, lord of the former French region Kamarg, enrages the empire when he spurns an offer of alliance. Imperial envoy Baron Meliadus sends defeated rebel Dorian Hawkmoon to kidnap Brass's daughter, Yisselda, but Hawkmoon's inherent morality, his own infatuation with Yisselda, and Brass's kindness lead Hawkmoon to ally with Brass though he knows it spells his own doom. This novel is quite short by modern standards, giving the story a compressed and distilled effect. There is little space for nuanced politics or any depth of characterization, but the action is extremely fast-paced, and Moorcock fits more plot into 224 pages than other authors manage in a dozen volumes. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765324733
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/5/2010
  • Series: Runestaff Series , #1
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 970,374
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL MOORCOCK is a prolific English science fiction and fantasy writer. He is the author of the Eternal Champion books, including the Elric, Corum and Hawkmoon series, as well as the literary novel Mother London. He lives in Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

1 COUNT BRASS
Count Brass, Lord Guardian of Kamarg, rode out on a horned horse one morning to inspect his territories. He rode until he came to a little hill, on the top of which stood a ruin of immense age. It was the ruin of a Gothic church whose walls of thick stone were smooth with the passing of winds and rains. Ivy clad much of it, and the ivy was of the .owering sort so that at this season purple and amber blossoms .lled the dark windows, in place of the stained glass that had once decorated them.
His rides always brought Count Brass to the ruin. He felt a kind of fellowship with it, for, like him, it was old; like him, it had survived much turmoil, and, like him, it seemed to have been strengthened rather than weakened by the ravages of time. The hill on which the ruin stood was a waving sea of tall, tough grass, moved by the wind. The hill was surrounded by the rich, seemingly in.nite marshlands of Kamarg—a lonely landscape populated by wild white bulls, horned horses, and giant scarlet .amingoes so large they could easily lift a grown man.
The sky was a light grey, carrying rain, and from it shone sun­light of watery gold, touching the count’s armour of burnished brass and making it .ame. The count wore a huge broadsword at his hip, and a plain helmet, also of brass, was on his head. His whole body was sheathed in heavy brass, and even his gloves and boots were of brass links sewn upon leather. The count’s body was broad, sturdy and tall, and he had a great, strong head whose tanned face might also have been moulded of brass. From this head stared two steady eyes of golden brown. His hair was red as his heavy moustache. In Kamarg and beyond, it was not unusual to hear the legend that the count was not a true man at all but a living statue in brass, a Titan, invincible, indestructible, immortal.
But those who knew Count Brass knew well enough that he was a man in every sense—a loyal friend, a terrible foe, given much to laughter yet capable of ferocious anger, a drinker of enormous ca­pacity, a trencherman of not indiscriminate tastes, a swordsman and a horse man without peer, a sage in the ways of men and history, a lover at once tender and savage. Count Brass, with his rolling, warm voice and his rich vitality, could not help but be a leg­end, for if the man was exceptional, then so were his deeds.
Count Brass stroked the head of his horse, rubbing his gauntlet between the animal’s sharp, spiral horns and looking to the south, where the sea and sky met far away. The horse grunted with pleas­ure, and Count Brass smiled, leaned back in his saddle, and .icked the reins to make the horse descend the hill and head along the se­cret marsh path toward the northern towers beyond the horizon.
The sky was darkening when he reached the .rst tower and saw its guardian, an armoured silhouette against the skyline, keeping his vigil. Though no attack had been made on Kamarg since Count Brass had come to replace the former, corrupt Lord Guardian, there was now some slight danger that roaming armies (those whom the Dark Empire of the west had defeated) might wander into the domain looking for towns and villages to loot. The guardian, like all his fellows, was equipped with a .ame-lance of baroque design, a sword four feet long, a tamed riding .amingo tethered to one side of the battlements, and a helio­graph device to signal information to nearby towers. There were other weapons in the towers, weapons the count himself had had built and installed, but the guardians knew only their method of operation; they had never seen them in action. Count Brass had said that they were more powerful than any weapons possessed even by the Dark Empire of Granbretan, and his men believed him and were a little wary of the strange machines.
The guardian turned as Count Brass approached the tower. The man’s face was almost hidden by his black iron helmet, which curved around his cheeks and over his nose. His body was swathed in a heavy leather cloak. He saluted, raising his arm high.
Count Brass raised his own arm. “Is all well, guardian?”
“All well, my lord.” The guardian shifted his grip on his .ame-lance and turned up the cowl of his cloak as the .rst drops of rain began to fall. “Save for the weather.”
Count Brass laughed. “Wait for the mistral and then complain.” He guided his horse away from the tower, making for the next.
The mistral was the cold, .erce wind that whipped across Kamarg for months on end, its wild keening a continuous sound until spring. Count Brass loved to ride through it when it was at its height, the force of it lashing at his face and turning his bronze tan to a glowing red.
Now the rain splashed down on his armour, and he reached behind his saddle for his cloak, tugging it about his shoulders and raising the hood. Everywhere through the darkening day reeds bent in the breeze- borne rain, and there was a patter of water on water as the heavy drops splashed into the lagoons, sending out ceaseless ripples. Above, the clouds banked blacker, threatening to release a considerable weight, and Count Brass decided he would forego the rest of his inspection until the next day and instead re­turn to his castle at Aigues- Mortes, a good four hours’ ride through the twisting marsh paths.
He urged the horse back the way they had come, knowing that the beast would .nd the paths by instinct. As he rode, the rain fell faster, making his cloak sodden. The night closed in rapidly until all that could be seen was a solid wall of blackness broken only by the silver traceries of rain. The horse moved more slowly but did not pause. Count Brass could smell its wet hide and promised it special treatment by the grooms when they reached Aigues- Mortes. He brushed water from its mane with his gloved hand and tried to peer ahead, but could see only the reeds imme­diately around him, hear only the occasional maniacal cackle of a mallard, .apping across a lagoon pursued by a water- fox or an otter. Sometimes he thought he saw a dark shape overhead and felt the swish of a swooping .amingo making for its communal nest or recognized the squawk of a moorhen battling for its life with an owl. Once, he caught a .ash of white in the darkness and listened to the blundering passage of a nearby herd of white bulls as they made for .rmer land to sleep; and he noticed the sound, a little later, of a marsh-bear stalking the herd, his breath whif.ing, his feet making only the slightest noise as he carefully padded across the quaking surface of the mud. All these sounds were familiar to Count Brass and did not alarm him.
Even when he heard the high- pitched whinny of frightened horses and heard their hoofbeats in the distance he was not un­duly perturbed until his own horse stopped dead and moved un­certainly. The horses were coming directly toward him, charging down the narrow causeway in panic. Now Count Brass could see the leading stallion, its eyes rolling in fear, its nostrils .aring and snorting.
Count Brass yelled and waved his arms, hoping to divert the stallion, but it was too panic- stricken to heed him. There was nothing else to do. Count Brass yanked at the reins of his mount and sent it into the marsh, hoping desperately that the ground would be .rm enough to hold them at least until the herd had passed. The horse stumbled into the reeds, its hoofs seeking pur­chase in the soft mud; then it had plunged into water and Count Brass saw spray .y and felt a wave hit his face, and the horse was swimming as best it could through the cold lagoon, bravely car­rying its armoured burden.
The herd had soon thundered past. Count Brass puzzled over what had panicked them so, for the wild horned horses of Kamarg were not easily disturbed. Then, as he guided his horse back toward the path, there came a sound that immediately ex­plained the commotion and sent his hand to the hilt of his sword.
It was a slithering sound, a slobbering sound; the sound of a baragoon—the marsh gibberer. Few of the monsters were left now. They had been the creations of the former Guardian, who had used them to terrorize the people of Kamarg before Count Brass came. Count Brass and his men had all but destroyed the race, but those which remained had learned to hunt by night and avoid large numbers of men at all costs.
The baragoon had once been men themselves, before they had been taken as slaves to the former Guardian’s sorcerous laborato­ries and there transformed. Now they were monsters eight feet high and enormously broad, bile- coloured and slithering on their bellies through the marshlands; they rose only to leap upon and rend their prey with their steel- hard talons. When they did, on oc­casion, have the good fortune to .nd a man alone they would take slow vengeance, delighting in eating a man’s limbs before his eyes.
As his horse regained the marsh path, Count Brass saw the baragoon ahead, smelled its stench, and coughed on the odour. His huge broadsword was now in his hand.
The baragoon had heard him and paused.
Count Brass dismounted and stood between his horse and the monster. He gripped his broadsword in both hands and walked, stiff- legged in his armour of brass, toward the baragoon.
Instantly it began to gibber in a shrill, repulsive voice, raising itself up and .ailing with its talons in an effort to terrify the count. To Count Brass the apparition was not unduly horri.c; he had seen much worse in his time. But he knew that his chances against the beast were slim, since the baragoon could see in the dark and the marsh was its natural environment. Count Brass would have to use cunning.
“You ill- smelling foulness!” (He spoke in an almost jocular tone.) “I am Count Brass, the enemy of your race. It was I who destroyed your evil kin and it is thanks to me that you have so few brothers and sisters these days. Do you miss them? Would you join them?”
The baragoon’s gibbering shout of rage was loud but not with­out a hint of uncertainty. It shuf.ed its bulk but did not move toward the count.
Count Brass laughed. “Well, cowardly creation of sorcery— what’s your answer?”
The monster opened its mouth and tried to frame a few words with its misshapen lips, but little emerged that could be recog­nized as human speech. Its eyes now did not meet Count Brass’s.
Casually, Count Brass dug his great sword into the ground and rested his gauntleted hands upon the cross- piece. “I see you are ashamed of terrorizing the horses I protect, and I am in good humour, so I will pity you. Go now and I’ll let you live a few more days. Stay, and you die this hour.”
He spoke with such assurance that the beast dropped back to the ground, though it did not retreat. The count lifted up his sword and walked impatiently forward. He wrinkled his nose against the stench of the monster, paused, and waved the thing away from him. “Into the swamp, into the slime where you belong! I am in a merciful mood tonight.”
The baragoon’s wet mouth snarled, but still he hesitated.
Count Brass frowned a little, judging his moment, for he had known the baragoon would not retreat so easily. He lifted his sword. “Will this be your fate?”
The baragoon began to rise on its hind legs, but Count Brass’s

Excerpted from Hawkmoon by Michael Moorcock.
Published in January 2010 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction
is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or
medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Granbretan must fall! Moorcock is great, but for some reason th

    Granbretan must fall!

    Moorcock is great, but for some reason the only books I read of his were the Elric books which I discovered about twenty years ago. The Hawkmoon series is just as good, even though they're less well known (The Jewel In The Skull is Book One).

    This story is short (about 200 pages) and good enough that I blew through it in two days. It would have been one, but I have a job to go to. If you ask me they should have gathered all these books together and published an Omnibus, but no matter, this is still a great edition (Reader Bonus: sweet illustrations in here!).

    Sometimes, in order to decide which book I want to read next, I'll read the first sentence of the book to see if it grabs me:

    "Count Brass, Lord Guardian of Kamarg, rode out on a horned horse one morning to inspect his territories."

    That's ALL I needed. I think I just love the name of "Count Brass". Anyway, I dove in and was delighted by everything I found in this story. Fantasy fans should read more Michael Moorcock, they don't throw around the title of "legendary" for no reason.

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is a fast-paced, action-packed reprint of a 1960s sword and sorcery thriller

    The Dark Empire of Granbretan has devastated their opponents who have tried to overthrow their harsh subjection. One such loser the Duke of Koln Dorian Hawkmoon attempted unsuccessfully to destroy the empire, but instead failed and became their pawn.

    When Count Brass the lord of the city Kamarang rejects an offer of an alliance with Granbretan, imperial Baron Meliadus sends former rebel Hawkmoon to kidnap Brass' daughter, Yisselda. However, Hawkmoon has problems with carrying out the abduction order that goes against his values; besides his attraction to Yisselda, her father treats him with respect and kindness; reminding him of his original vow to destroy the evil Empire and his deep humiliation of bowing down to Meliadus.

    This is a fast-paced, action-packed reprint of a 1960s sword and sorcery thriller that holds up nicely though contains little insight into life under the Black Jewel sorcery rule as the plot is linear. The hero makes the story line work as he believes his ultimate abjection is a betrayal of his own soul and when he meets the last holdout, Hawkmoon knows how far he has fallen in disgrace. Fans will enjoy Dorian's efforts to regain what he lost when the Empire defeated his army; his impetus is the father and daughter who shower him with adulation and respect while he feels he deserves contempt. Future Europe has rarely looked as dark as the continent that Hawkmoon traverses.

    Harriet Klausner

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