I remember reading this as a young pup, before moving into Frank Herberts “Dune” (age 14) and Asimov’s “Foundation” (age 13). Along with Andre Norton’s “Daybreak 2250” it shaped my early perceptions of SciFi and fantasy, along with comic books. I eventually moved on to meatier things, like LOTR and Gibson, but still look back on these books with fondness. It may be time to revive them.( the series consisting of The Jewel In The Skull, The Mad God’s Amulet, The Sword Of The Dawn, and The Runestaff. )
Count Brass, Lord Guardian of the Kamarg (a territory that had once been a part of a nation called France), inspects his territories. On his return journey to his castle at Aigues-Mortes he is attacked by a ‘baragoon’ – a swamp monster created from transformed slaves by the previous Lord Guardian – and kills it.
Count Brass arrives at Castle Brass in Aigues-Mortes and is welcomed by his daughter Yisselda and philosopher-poet friend Bowgentle. Bowgentle argues that the evil of Granbretan should be fought, but Count Brass believes that a united Europe will ultimately know peace.
Brass, Yisselda, Bowgentle and the Count’s chief lieutenant von Villach attend the opening of the Great Festival, where Count Brass enters the bullring to save the life of the injured bullfighter Mahtan Just. Back at the castle Count Brass receives an emissary from Granbretan – Baron Meliadus – who attempts in vain to persuade him to give up his knowledge of the various courts of Europe.
Baron Meliadus begins to court Yisselda, but she refuses to elope with him knowing that her father would not agree to their marriage. Meliadus attempts to kidnap her, wounding Bowgentle in the attempt, but is defeated by Count Brass and expelled from Kamarg. Meliadus swears an oath on the legendary Runestaff to gain power over Count Brass, gain Yisselda and destroy the Kamarg.