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Literature / The Brothers Cabal

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The Brothers Cabal ride again.

The fourth novel in the Johannes Cabal series, The Brothers Cabal deals with Horst and Johannes, together again. Horst has risen from the dead (again) by the efforts of an occult conspiracy that wants him to be their "Lord of The Dead" and lead an army of supernatural beasts to create a homeland for monsters. Horst, naturally, wants no part of it and soon joins another secret conspiracy to fight against them-but he realizes he needs something very dangerous on his side, more dangerous than him, a superhumanly strong vampire.

He needs his brother, Johannes Cabal, necromancer.

Much of the novel is framed as a story being told to Johannes by Horst, who had chronologically met his brother at the end of the last novel, making Horst's adventures occur at the same time as some of Johannes in the Dreamlands. Johannes mostly for his own reasons but also because his brother asked (surprising Horst) decides to help stop the Ministerium Tenebrae, and uncover there is more to the conspiracy than they first thought.

The Brothers Cabal has examples of:

  • Action Girl: Alisha, the ex-Prussian spy working for the Dee Society who fights the undead and shapeshifters alongside the group's other members.
  • Amazon Brigade: Miss Virginia Montgomery's Flying Circus - later renamed to Miss Virginia's Warbirds - is an all-female group of entomopter stunt pilots (a job that's already insanely dangerous) who become extremely efficient once they strap some weapons on their birds.
  • Another Dimension: What makes the Ministerium's Master of Powers so dangerous. That person can open portals to other dimensions and bait them into ours. These included flying acid blobs with only one vital organ, Big Creepy-Crawlies, metallic beings and the Medusae.
  • Anti-Human Alliance: The monsters are fed up with human persecution and wish to fight back by creating the Ministerium Tenebrae. It's somewhat downplayed in that the Ministerium only wishes to cause enough casualties to force humanity to an armistice and creation of a monster homeland. Additionally some wealthy backers of the organization are humans looking to profit from investing after the initial conquest.
  • Back from the Dead: Horst is resurrected at the start of the book.
  • Badass Boast: When asked what gives him the right to go against nature and resurrect people, Cabal replies "I'm a necromancer. I claim the right".
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Orfilia Ninuka, shows up again after being absent for book 3.
    • Dennis, Denzel, Rathuh Slabuth, Rufus Maleficarus and, of course, Horst return from first book.
  • Call-Back: A number; this is the point in the series where the installment began to grow more connected.
    • The Ministerum Tenebrae finds the old train that pulled the Cabal Bros. Carnival from the first book.
    • Horst notes that he sent his brother to his death the last he saw him, a reference to his actions near the end of The Necromancer.
    • Apparently, the story of Cabal saving the world from the warlock Umtak Ktharl (described in the postscript to Detective) spread out far enough that he's actually somewhat famous rather than infamous in the supernatural community. It also helps Horst's opinion of his brother.
    • The castle Ministerum Tenebrae has set up in is revealed to be Harslaus, the same one Cabal was held in at the start of The Detective.
    • The sorry state Mirkavia's in is an indirect result of Cabal's actions back in book 2.
    • When Cabal mentions ghouls, Horst notes that he seems oddly fond of them - which is, of course, because he spent a few months as one of them in book 3.
  • Catapult Nightmare: One of Horst's daytime dreams ends with him waking up like this, screaming his brother's name.
  • Crazy-Prepared: After Horst brings Johannes on, the necromancer fetches a lot of equipment including one of his .577 revolver, a .38 automatic pistol, an elephant gun, miscellaneous useful items from his lab including a bonesaw and a number of notebooks.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization: Investigating the Ministerum Tenebrae, was the Dee Society - a monster-hunting/occult investigation organization mostly connected with the U.K. gov't. Even with some military hardware like mortar field pieces, the Dee Society are outmatched so they call the aid of other monster-hunting secret societies even though many are at odds with the Dees. These are the Templars, the Yellow Inquisitors, the witch group Daughters of Hecate and their more militant offshoot, the Sisters of Medea.
  • Curbstomp Battle: The various monster hunter organizations completely dominate the first two waves of attack thanks to Johannes's plans and Miss Virginia's crew of now heavily armed entomopters. The zombies got scorched with holy water and the shape-changers got blasted with an improptu incendiary, thermobaric attack. Even the 3rd wave, the Eldritch Abomination "Medusae" didn't do too much damage before they were slain. At the end of the battle, morale was sky-high due to taking only a handful of unlucky casualties.
  • Deal with the Devil: Johannes Cabal mentions that pretty much all necromancers have to sell their souls to the Devil to gain the ability to raise the dead. Ninuka almost did the same, but the demon she was making the deal with turned out to be Rathuh Slabuth, and when Cabal's name came up, he agreed to give her powers for free.
  • Doppelgänger: Unfortunately for the wealthy investors behind the Ministerum and Dee Society agent Alisha, Devlin Alsager's unit of shapechangers include 3 Doppelgangers who can steal other people's forms after eating them, as well as reshape their fingers into impaling Combat Tentacles.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: The Major is trying to help Horst escape monsters and so willingly gives him a pint of his own blood. Shortly thereafter the Major is mortally wounded and Horst is still at less than max strength. Without even hesitating, the Major tells Horst to take all of his remaining blood, since he's going to die anyway.
  • Dwindling Party: By the end of book, of the Dee Society members involved only Professor Stone survived. Even Horst's crush Alisha gets killed. Adding to the list of dead heroes, Miss Virginia Montgomery's Flying Circus loses Daisy against a giant alien Harvestman and its webbing.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Ministerum Tenebrae's Master of Powers is an ancient immaterial entity, the Ereshkigal Working. This entity secretly possessed the body of Rufus Maleficarus after Johannes had killed him in the first novel. The Ereshkigal Working at this time also summons its deadliest beings, the "Medusae" which appear as mind-numbing "not quite right" jellyfish that can manipulate light and incinerate with a touch of its Combat Tentacles.
  • Enemy Mine: A group of various societies dedicated to killing vampires and warlocks teams up with Horst and Cabal to take down the Red Queen.
  • Everyone Is Armed: When Horst and his Dee Society companions had to run from the acid-dripping alien blobs, they jumped on to a train. Luckily the train was the American traveling show, Miss Virginia Montgomery's Flying Circus and they had more firepower than the Dee Society members, with the pilot ladies pulling out an assortment pistols, plus a shotgun and a Tommy gun. The blobs couldn't handle the storm of lead [[Five Rounds Rapid coming their way.
  • Eye Scream: A sergeant of the guard at Harslaus had his eyes filled with agonizing Hellfire by the Sister of Medea, Atropos Straka. Later a Templar similarly gets his set of burning eyes when touched by a "Medusa".
  • Gratuitous German: A justified example, as usual with the series. The German-born Cabal brothers sometimes slip into their native language in high-stress situations. At one point, a disoriented Horst asks a stranger Vati?, despite knowing somewhere that his dad is long-dead.
  • Immune to Bullets: The lycanthropes were sought after by Lady Misericorde because they and a number of shifter species are immune to normal bullets. Problem is, that's all they are immune to. Along with silver bullets, these creatures are vulnerable to anything that's not standard bullets. This would include vampire punches, getting stepped on by a werebull or blown up with an impromptu fuel-air bomb. Such a limited form of damage resistance is why Lady Misericorde wanted vampires to be the elite warriors in her army.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Because Lady Misericorde's undead are made with diablerie, her zombies become a bonfire when hit with holy water.
  • Loot: With the victory over the Ministerum, everyone involved in the fight took to grabbing everything that ain't nailed down, after they saw Horst giving Miss Virginia a box of Lady Misericorde's jewellery as compensation for her crashed entomopter.
  • Precautionary Corpse Disposal: The Dee Society incinerates its dead on the battlefield with fast-acting Magic Fire, not least because their enemies include Necromancers and human-eaters.
  • The Reveal: Who The Red Queen really is revealed in the late-middle section of the book, she's Lady Ninuka, from Johannes Cabal the Detective, now in control of Mirkavia. There's a second reveal that she is also the Lady Misericorde, quite insane, and planned the whole thing to end more or less the way it did.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Johannes traps the Ereshkigal Working inside the decapitated head of Rufus Maleficarus and adds to his growing collection.
  • Spanner in the Works: This is double subverted with Horst and the Ministerium-they're all quite surprised at his attitude, finding him to be rather a poor example of a vampire and a bad choice for their "Lord of The Dead". So he of course mucks up their plans. But this was planned.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Johannes is overjoyed at finding the book Being the One True Account of Presbyter Johannes by His Own Hand. That's because this book may contain the secrets to true resurrection as well as the cure to Horst's vampirism.
  • Twin Telepathy: While they're not twins, at one point Horst begins to have vivid dreams of Johanness' misadventures in the Dreamlands. It takes him a while to figure out they're real, and they seem to stop after Johannes returns to the real world.
  • Visual Pun: Horst notes that his colleague, Alisha is at one point slightly on fire after a battle, trying to snuff out the flames on her jacket. He then unthinkingly says "Smoking jacket" referring to the kind of jacket. Nobody finds this funny.