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Bran Mak Morn: Red Waves of Slaughter review

eBook by Steven L. Shrewsbury

Cover by Gary Gianni (that Raven helmet is pretty fly! Brân means Raven)

Illustrations by Patrick Zircher 

From Titan Books and Heroic Signatures

Spoilers! Spoilers! 

The past... We are witnessing the last great battle of Bran Mak Morn. Picts and Romans are fighting.
Bran Mak Morn, of the blood of Brule the Spear-slayer (the friend of King Kull of Valusia who reigned thousands of years ago before Atlantis sank) kills a Decurion (a Roman cavalry officer). Alaric and Bran's son Gallam are also there.

Old Scottish priest Father Rogan stirs Dr. Elijah Blackthorn from his vision/reading.

Dr. B, a psychometric archaeologist with the Miskatonic Institute of Technology awakens in an ancient Scottish Episcopal church, the Rosslyn Chapel.

Dr. B spots Purple sashes of Advent (violet is the colour of royalty) anticipating the arrival of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

Dr. B has a special talent, artifacts talk to him, he only has to touch them and their secrets are revealed to him. His latest visions of the past are emanating from the recently discovered (within a pillar/column of the chapel) statue of Bran Mak Morn, a vessel in Bran's likeness holding the soul of the great king of Pictdom.

Dr. B will do a deeper psychometric reading of the idol later.

Dr. B is able to pick up the 5 feet tall stone effigy and he's astonished that it is as light as a feather (If the statue doesn't like you it is almost impossible to lift).

Eccentric collector Sir Gilbert swears by Dr. B's powers.

Father Rogan mentions a so-called "Bran cult" from The Children of the Night (1931).

Sister Ava mentions the cult of the Heather.

Did the Knights Templar hide the statue of Bran Mak Morn in the chapel? For what purpose?

Legends say that wizard Gonar transferred the soul of his King in the Dark Man statue and that one day King Bran Mak Morn will return to help his people.

Dr. B mentions that Father Rogan shares a name with a mythic barbarian from Kull's time.
Father Rogan clearly lies and says that he's never heard of this barbarian.

Dr. B touches the Dark Man statue once again.

Back to the past. King Bran frees traitor Haran from under a dead horse by cutting off his leg with a gladius sword.

Haran betrayed his people, he made the romans aware of Bran's ploy to kidnap the illegitimate royal offspring of Emperor Diocletian.

Haran invokes Tancorix, the dead Queen of the Vericones/Mongrels and naturally bleeds to death.

Bran scans the field and trees by the Gask Ridge fortifications (built by the Romans),

Gonar, the Pict wizard tells his King, Bran that the Roman soldiers are trying to rescue their royals. 

Bran's leg is badly injured and infected. The Pict King is dying.

Bran is helped by Gonar to the 5 stone pillars (two sons and one daughter are already bound to 3 of them), a stone bed for Bran and the Dark Man statue (freshly carved by master-hand artisan, Giwdul).

They are missing 2 royals for the magick ceremony/sacrifice to work. Gonar goes to fetch them.

Gonar's bloodline stretches back to Kull's time.

The brats of Emperor Diocletian had crowed about their royal lineage at Eboracum.

Bran mentions to Diocletian's daughter that he gathered the broken lines of the Pictish tribes into a single mighty nation.

The daughter bad-mouths Bran, Bran alludes to the events of Worms of the Earth (1932).

Gonar comes back with the last 2 royals, one tries to kill Bran with a bow but loses an ear trying to loose the arrow and the other one gets clobbered by the wizard.

Gonar ties them to the 2 remaining stone pillars. He loops a metal rope around each of their necks to kill them all at once. 

The scion that is missing an ear dies of a heart attack.

Gonar cannot perform the ritual with only 4 royals, he needs 5 to form a star.

Alaric Mac Allen arrives with a wounded Gallam (King Bran's son). Gallam is also dying.
Gallam agrees to take the dead roman's place on the pillar.

Weaver, the red haired sorceress of the dead queen Tancorix (also a former lover of Gonar) arrives with her retinue.

Gonar kills all 5 royals concomitantly. 

Bran Mak Morn's spirit now lives in cold stone. The body of the chieftain of Pictdom expires on the slab.

Back to present time. Dr. B is reeling from his journey into the past.

Father Rogan thanks Dr. B for authenticating the statue.

Dr. B finally notices that Father Rogan is the spitting image of Gonar the wizard!!

Father Rogan holding his rosary (divided into 5 decades), thanks Dr. B in the name of the Heather.

Sister Ava who resembles Weaver the wizardess hits Dr. B with a figurine of the Virgin Mary.

Father Rogan and Sister Ava plan to resurrect their King (Bran) with a brand new blood sacrifice. Balmoral Castle will be a perfect source for acquiring fresh royals.

Dr. B is stomped into unconsciousness and is wished a "Merry Christmas".

What I did like:

John Milius's Pagan movie: Conan the Barbarian (1982) was inspired by Worms of the Earth. 

Bran is also called the “Wolf of the Heather”.

Diocletian was a real Roman emperor.

Sir Gilbert was a real art collector.

Scottish warrior woman Sgàthach mentioned.

Lammas (Loaf Mass Day) is mentioned.

Miskatonic is a fictional university, a H. P. Lovecraft creation that first appeared in the short story Herbert West: Reanimator (1922).

Steven L. Shrewsbury has his own barbarian named Rogan and you'll find his latest adventure in Killer of Giants. 

Podcaster Joe Rogan is a huge fan of Robert E. Howard's work. He has read the stories of Kull and Conan + Frank Frazetta has always been one of his all time favourite artists.

The Dubnos hell of The Gauls is mentioned.

Bran's tribe of Cruithni is mentioned.

Is the Pict wizard Gonar immortal? It's a possibility. The Lost Race (1927) features a cursed immortal.

What I did not like:

The fights are a little difficult to follow.

In Men of the Shadows (1969) Bran is averse to blood sacrifices. 

No werewolves! Maybe if we get a sequel to Red Waves of Slaughter?

No mention of Bran's wife.

I give it a 9/10. Steven gives us a nice, well researched prequel to Robert E. Howard's short story "The Dark Man" starring Turlogh Dubh O'Brien (It was adapted as a Conan story in Savage Tales (1971) #4). You've always been curious to know how the King of the Picts got his ghost to dwell forever in the stone likeness of his living self? This is the tale you've been waiting for since 1931.

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