Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Pen and the Sword: Swords of the Red Brotherhood

"You murdering dog!" roared Harston. "Will you slay my men behind my back while they fight for your filthy hide as well as for mine?"

On all sides men ceased eating and drinking to gape in amazement.

"What do you mean?" sputtered Villiers.

"You've set your men to murdering mine at their posts!" bellowed Harston.

"You lie!" Smoldering hate burst into sudden flame.

With a howl Harston heaved up his cutlass and cut at the Frenchman's head. Villiers caught the blow on his armored left arm and sparks flew as he staggered back, ripping out his own sword.

In an instant the captains were fighting like madmen, their blades flaming and flashing in the firelight. Their crews reacted instantly and blindly. A deep roar went up as Englishmen and Frenchmen drew their swords and fell upon one another. The pirates left on the walls abandoned their posts and leaped down into the stockade, blades in hand. In an instant the compound was swarming with battling groups of men. The soldiers at the gate turned and stared down in amazement, forgetful of the enemy lurking outside. It had all happened so quickly - smoldering passions exploding into sudden battle - that men were fighting all over the compound before Vulmea could reach the maddened captains. Ignoring the swords that flashed about his ears, he tore them apart with such violence that they staggered backward and Villiers tripped and fell headlong.

"You cursed fools, will you throw away all our lives?"

Harston was frothing, and Villiers was bawling for assistance. A buccaneer ran at Vulmea and cut at him from behind. The Irishman half turned and caught his arm, checking the stroke in midair.

"Look, you fools!" he roared, pointing with his sword.

Something in his tone caught the attention of the battle-crazed mob. Men froze in their places, with lifted swords, and twisted their heads to stare. Vulmea was pointing at a soldier on the wall. The man was reeling, clawing the air, choking as he tried to shout. Suddenly he pitched to the ground and all saw the shaft standing up between his shoulders.

A yell of alarm rose from the compound. On the heels of the shout came a clamor of blood-freezing screams, the shattering impact of axes on the gate. Flaming arrows arched over the wall and stuck in logs, and thin wisps of blue smoke curled upward. Then from behind the huts along the south wall dark figures came gliding.

"The Indians are in!" roared Vulmea.

- "Swords of the Red Brotherhood," from the collection Black Vulmea's Vengeance, Robert E. Howard

11 comments:

  1. are they all pirate stories in the book? i have been trying to find good, pulpy pirate stories for some time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All three are pirate tales. "Swords of the Red Brotherhood" and "Black Vulmea's Vengeance" are Black Vulmea stories, and the third is unrelated to the first two except for involving pirates.

      Delete
  2. Just found it cheap on Amazon marketplace along with "Witch of the Indies." Thanks for the heads up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beware, Witch of the Indies is a pretty poor pastiche, but hey, I don't regret reading it, so it couldn't've been too bad, right?

      Delete
    2. As fate would have it, the seller was out and cancelled Witch of the Indies.

      Delete
    3. Can't believe it already arrived. Somehing to read after kids go to sleep.

      Delete
    4. I look forward to hearing what you think.

      Delete
  3. Nothing gets the heart pounding like REH's action scenes. It's as if he were telling these tales around a campfire, wild shadows flickering across his face.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! His Swords & Steppes tales are in my Appendix N. Basically, once you pass through the Jade Gate Pass, you're in Lambland.

      Delete
    2. I have a number of rumors which lead off to 'Lambland' in my campaign as well. Central Asia has represented 'exotic' to me since I was a boy, and I'd love to see the adventurers someday follow in the footsteps of Khlit and Sir Ralph.

      Delete