Heir of Darkness

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Heir of Darkness by Glenn Rahman

I sought out this book about Glenn Rahman’s ancient fantasy hero Rufus Hibernicus after having enjoyed his contribution to The Gardens of Lucullus, co-authored with Richard Tierney and featuring Tierney’s Simon of Gitta. Heir of Darkness, though obscure, was not dear. It is a pretty ugly physical production in mass-market paperback format, published by Gary Gygax’s short-lived New Infinities imprint in Lake Geneva. I’m glad to have it in my library! The story is a delightful sword-and-sorcery-and-sandal romp during the cusp of the imperial reign of Caligula, and set chiefly in Tusculum, Rome, and Capri.

Rufus Hibernicus is sort of a secondary hero for the plot, which has a mechanism somewhat like the Robert E. Howard story “A Witch Shall Be Born,” where Conan, although involved in the events in his indomitable way, is more peripheral to the political scheme featuring Valerius as its protagonist. In Heir of Darkness the German (“Engle”) Osric is in the Valerius position, for a series of events where the stakes are not a throne but a dread magical artifact.

As in his later collaboration with Tierney, Rahman seasons his classical magic here with a bit of yog-sothothery. But the primary magical flavors are those of Germanic “rune singers” and Greek/Egyptian Hermetic sorceries. The pulp-style action story resolves in roughly the manner of an ancient comedy, although it is never exactly clarified who the “heir of darkness” actually is! It could be Osric, Caligula, the witch Frigerd, or one or two other characters. It is clearly not, however, Rufus Hibernicus. [via]