Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10. Ace Illustrated Conan #2: Conan the Mercenary by Andrew J. Offutt, part 3

Soul Returned, Employed as a bodyguard to an attractive "Older woman" (of about 25) what will Conan do? Why, go and buy some new clothes of course. Two new tunics courtesy of the royal family of Khaurun. While he and Shubal are in the tailors, the seamstress extorts a pledge from Conan not to lay a hand on her teenage daughter.. he had no plans to but goes on to swear by every god he can think of.. showing total disregard for them the whole while. He doesn't get on well with the rest of the staff his first night on the job, but the following day inquires as to the provenance of Sergiadus being at the royal court and Arkhaurus is patient enough to indulge him. The conversation leaves Conan with more questions, and more misgivings than he had before. Since as Conan explains to Arkharus, the man that everyone else saw as Sergiadus.. to Conan appeared as a decrepit older man.. who when he provides a description of what he saw.. it is the spitting image of the Baron Sabinus.

A right mystery to be sure, but a man can't think straight when his baser impulses are hammering away at his brain.. so him and shubal head out to the tavern. They've only been their for a short while before they are lured into going outside by a commotion, and are embroiled in an assassination of a local leather worker. Days later Conan is himself nearly used as a pawn in another attempt on Khashtris, the plot is wearing thin now and Conan has started to unravel it further. He conspires with Kashtris to rid the royal family of its unwanted guest and then goes to plan his future.

Conan and Shubal bring to the attention of some loyal members of the royal household their misgivings and lay all their evidence out plain. And formulate one of their own... A mysterious Illusionist from Far Kandala, by the name of Crispis, is newly arrived in Khauran and has been invited to the palaces festivities for the night. He bears the mighty amulet the Eye of Erlik which allows him to see strange and wondrous things. Crispis proceeds to reveal all the details of the sordid intrigue in the form of prophecy... mumbling and pointing and shouting down to the various players. The ploy revealed, and the conspirators slain, the Kingdom rejoices only briefly before learning that since the Queen had found her favored Sergiadus to be a lie, she had done herself her death. And with that, Conan makes to leave Khauran, but promises one day to return and look in on the new Queen, Queen Taramis of Khauran.

Review -

Here in the first chapter we gain a tiny inkling of information which we could use to fill in the gap between Conan's initial arrival in Shadizar at the end of Conan the Formidable and his Re-Appearance farther south east in the city of Arenjun for "Tower of the Elephant". The Prices in Shadizar too High and too much sorcery for Conan's taste and his youthful optimistic streak had suffered a blow or two in Shadizar as well. One can conjecture then that nothing terribly interesting happened upon Conan's first arrival in Shadizar except things didn't work out quite as well as he had hoped. But having heard of the reputation of Arenjun, decided to try his luck their instead. The Book is also clear on a few other points, that Conan is 17 still, and that Taramis is a girl " Of about six" so that means between this story and " A Witch Shall be Born" about 13 years will pass before Conan returns to Khauran of the unhappy queens.

In the third chapter we are privy to a conversation which is very interesting, and will eventually help us date some future stories in the context of a unified chronology. For any of my readers who have already read all the Robert E. Howard stories, you know that " A witch Shall be Born " features Queen Taramis of Khaurun and the fallout of this fateful choice on the part of her mother. We also find that Conan can write Turanian, and speak Kothic which is the language of Khauran. Which I'm willing to conjecture seeing as Conan has recently spent most of his time in Arenjun which is near the Turanian border of Zamora that they speak Turanian there. Shadizar probably has such a confusing babel of tongues one could give them any.. but more than likely it's a Turanian or Kothic variant itself.. dosen't seem like it would be Corinthian/Brythonic. I'm sure this will help tremendously when it comes time to build a new chronology.

Offutt so far out of the four pasticher's I've read is my favorite by far. And while none of this is backed up in REH's own stories, I'm going to use it since at the moment thats all we have to go on, it will have to suffice.

Next is " Conan: The Sword of Skelos " by Andrew J. Offutt.

Places: Zamora, Koth, Khauran
Towns: Shadizar
People: Conan, Lord Sabininus Baron of Korveka, Khi Zhang, The Lady Khashtris of Khauran, Queen Ialamis, Princess Taramis, Shubal of Shem, City Governer Acralidus, Kraladese son of Acralidus, Sergiadus son of Tor duke of Nemedia, Arkhaurus Adviser to Queen Ialamis
Languages Spoken: Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamorian, Kothic, Turanian.

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