Tim Powers begins his story in “The drawing of the Dark” presenting the lead character, the Irishman Brian Duffy, who is attacked on the streets of Venice. After his assailants give in and retreat, he meets the old sorcerer Aurelianus, who offers him a job as a bouncer in the Zimmerman Inn – the brewery of the Herzwesten beer in Vienna. Duffy, a former mercenary who used to live in Austria and fought against the Turkish Army in Mohacs, accepts the offer and starts on his journey. Upon his arrival at Trieste he finds an odd tavern, where he orders a cup of wine. After a while, under the influence of the drinks he was served, he starts having visions for the first time – he sees a goat-footed man, and later he sees himself as an old dying king.
He is attacked several times on his way to Vienna, by unknown assailants who were trying to murder him for no obvious reason. He starts realizing that there is something he does not know. When he reaches the Predil Pass, he discovers he is being accompanied by a group of many fantastic creatures – such as basilisks and gargoyles – which guide him and help him avoid dangerous tracks on his journey to Vienna, treating him as if he was their king. He also meets Bluto, a hunchback who was also hired by Aurelianus to organize Vienna’s artillery in view of the upcoming attack of the Turks.
After he finally arrives in Vienna, Brian Duffy meets a girl from his past – Epiphany Vogel – who is a widow now and also works at the Zimmerman Inn, and discovers he is still in love with her. Her old father is a famous painter, who is working for years on a painting he calls "The Death of St. Michael the Archangel" and never seems able to complete it. Duffy also notices that the inn attracts some odd men, “the Dark Birds”, who arrived from different parts of the world. A group of Vikings also reaches Vienna, and after they took Brian Duffy for their long-gone king, Aurelianus decides to accommodate them in the Inn. After someone makes an attempt to blow up the Inn, and the Irishman was attacked in Vienna, this time by two flying supernatural creatures, he demands answers from the sorcerer. The old man reveals parts of the mystery, explaining that Sultan Suleiman was not the real threat to Vienna, but his Grand Vizir Ibrahim, who is also a powerful magician. He also maintains that the legendary Finn Mac Cool was buried under the brewery, which is why the Herzwesten Inn was of major importance in the upcoming war. The sorcerer also confides the existence of secret king of the West – the Fisher King. The Irishman is not fully convinced by the story, but later Aurelianus leads him to a secret tunnel beneath the Inn, where Duffy helps him summon some mystical creatures of their own. The mercenary then realizes he can speak ancient languages, and that there is more information that the sorcerer was withholding from him.
One day the Irishman goes to the brewery, only to see a stranger there who seemed to disappear without leaving a trace. There Duffy discovers a large vat containing the beer and realizes that there is a third type of Herzwesten – the Dark – a sort that he had never heard of. Aurelianus explains that Duffy had seen the spirit of Fin Mac Cool, whose grave was precisely under that vat, which rendered potent magical powers to the Dark. The beer was drawn only once every 700 years, and as this moment was approaching, the Dark Birds have gathered in Vienna to demand a portion of the meager supply.
After the Hungarian leader Zapolya appears at the Zimmerman Inn and makes an attempt to kill Duffy and blow the inn, the Irishman decides to try the Dark beer. This causes him to have visions of him being an old dying king again. Aurelianus then asks Duffy and the Vikings to help him bring the Fisher King, who was sick, within the walls of Vienna. Before they embark on the journey, the sorcerer reveals the whole truth about the Irishman’s visions, his true nature and his role in the upcoming attack by the East. It becomes known that the spirit of King Arthur was reincarnated in the body of Brian Duffy and that this way the Irishman was entrusted with the mission to protect the West from the eastern threat. The memories of King Arthur’s life start clearing in the mercenary’s mind, and he recognizes the famous Merlin in the old sorcerer’s face.
On their way back to Vienna, after taking the Fisher King with them, the group is attacked by some mysterious creatures and a group of men led by John Zapolya. This is the first time that Arthur fully takes over the mind and body of Brian Duffy and fights the attackers with the famous Calad Bolg sword. After this accident the Irishman, having come back to his senses, decides to stay away from the sorcerer and the Inn and joins the landsknechten in the upcoming battle with the Turkish forces that besieged Vienna.
Months later he is drawn by one of the mercenaries to attend a meeting at the Herzwesten Inn. Duffy unwillingly joins, only to find himself once again led by the sorcerer’s plans. They go to the house of Epiphany’s father in order to see the painting he was still working on, expecting to find answers about the outcome of the battle in it. They find Gustav Vogel dead, and when Epiphany approaches the sorcerer aggressively blaming him for her misfortunes, King Arthur returns to the Irishman’s body and kills her in an attempt to protect Merlin. Aurelianus then explains that they need to protect the city up until the Dark beer is drawn, as this would help the Fisher King recover, and the West regain its power as a result. The sorcerer cannot use his powers because the approach of Ibrahim causes a deadlock in their magic powers. The book providing instructions on one of the two manners to overcome this deadlock was hidden, but it turns out that under the instructions of Ibrahim, Zapolya had been disguised as a poet who was spying on the Zimmerman Inn the whole time. With the help of the inn-keeper, the Hungarian had managed to steal another book that contained a spell to destroy the potent Dark beer. This posed an imminent threat as without it the West was doomed. This is why Aurelianus decides to use the alternative way to break the deadlock – to risk bringing the Fisher King on the battlefield and to join their forces against Ibrahim. In the final battle, the Irishman and the Vikings help Merlin and the King of the West defeat the eastern sorcerer and thus save the Herzwesten Dark. Brian Duffy is almost killed, but the sorcerer manages to bring him back to life, after which King Arthur finally leaves the body of the Irishman.
"The Drawing of the Dark." The works of Tim Powers. N.p.. Web. 13 Feb 2014.
Powers, Tim. The Drawing of the Dark. New York: Del Rey, 1979. Print.