The Children of the Night

"The Children of the Night"
AuthorRobert E. Howard
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesJohn Kirowan
Cthulhu Mythos
Genre(s)Lovecraftian horror
Published inWeird Tales
Media typePulp magazine
Publication dateApril/May 1931[1]

"The Children of the Night" is a 1931 short story by Robert E. Howard, belonging to the Cthulhu Mythos. It was first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in the April/May 1931 issue. Howard earned $60 for this publication.[2]

Plot

The story starts with six people sitting in John Conrad's study: Conrad himself, Clemants, Professor Kirowan, Taverel, Ketrick and the narrator John O'Donnel. O'Donnel describes them all as Anglo-Saxon with the exception of Ketrick. Ketrick, although he possesses a documented pure Anglo-Saxon lineage, appears to have slightly Mongolian-looking eyes and an odd lisp that O'Donnel finds distasteful.

Initially the group discusses anthropology but begin to talk about Conrad's collection of books, which includes a copy of Von Junzt's Nameless Cults. This brings Clemants to discuss the Cult of Bran, mentioned in Nameless Cults and by his former University roommate in his sleep. The cult worships the Dark Man, an ancient king of the Picts called Bran Mak Morn. The others are skeptical but Conrad brings up a flint mallet found recently in the Welsh hills which is "obviously of no ordinary Neolithic make" - it is too small but still heavy, with odd shape and balance. While others handle the mallet, Ketrick accidentally strikes O'Donnel on the head and knocks him unconscious.

O'Donnel finds himself in earlier incarnation, when his name was Aryara and he was a member of the Sword People, one of the Aryan tribes involved in conquering Britain from the Picts. Still around are the "Children of the Night", snake-like people from whom the Picts conquered the land earlier and whom the Aryans consider vermin. O'Donnel/Aryara wakes up at a critical moment, in a forest wearing deer skins and seeing five mutilated bodies lying on the ground - and realizing to his horror that these were his companions in hunting party, whose sleep he was supposed to safeguard - but he fell asleep himself, enabling the "Children of the Night" to sneak up kill his friends in their sleep. Such a stain on his honour could never be removed - Aryara can never return to his people and admit his failure. The only thing left to him is to take revenge on the "Children of the Night", as much as he could. This he proceeds to do - first making a berserk attack on the "Children" who had killed his friends, then follows a trail back to their village where he again attacks and kills many more until being overwhelmed and killed. O'Donnel wakes up again back in Conrad's study but still remembering his life as Aryara. On seeing Ketrick he becomes enraged, believing him to be a descendant of the Children of the Night. The others restrain him and think he has gone mad with exclamations such as "You fools, he is marked with the brand of the beast--the reptile--the vermin we exterminated centuries ago! I must crush him, stamp him out, rid the clean earth of his accursed pollution!"

Ketrick leaves, but O'Donnel swears to hunt him down and kill him while, as is his habit, he is walking the moors alone at night, even if he will be hanged for it.

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