“Men of the Shadows”
First published in Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969
written circa 1925-1926
The first of Howard’s tales of the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, “Men of the Shadows” was rejected by Weird Tales in 1926. Upon reading it, it’s easy to see why.
The story starts out strong. Narrated by a Norseman in the Roman army, he and his companions are nearly cut down in a battle with the Picts. Five of the Roman soldiers survive, but as they make their way back to Roman territory, they are one by one cut down until only the Norseman is left.
He’s taken captive by a group of Picts and taken before their chieftan, Bran Mak Morn. (Bran is merely a chieftan in this story, not a king.) None of the soldiers knew what their mission was except the commander, and he took that secret with him to his grave. Bran introduces the soldier to his sister and tells him that a reward had been posted for whoever captured the girl and brought to a Roman merchant. Continue reading →
I read this story for the first time recently in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy collection The Spawn of Cthulhu. (The subject of my next BAF post for Black Gate.) Just from the title, I could have sworn I’d read it before, but I think I would have remembered this one.
“The Children of the Night” was first published in Weird Tales in the April-May issue of 1931. It’s an interesting little story in that it ties two of Howard’s series characters in with H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Continue reading →