Monday, July 5, 2010

8. Ace Conan #1.2, Conan: The Tower of the Elephant

Alright Folks, after months of cracking open nuts to find only wasp larvae inside.. we finally get to a good one..

This is of course the Edited version of REH's story, the one present in the first volume of the Ace series. I'm not really sure what DeCamp edited from it but that also isn't really important for the purposes of this. Lets get on with the story.

We Find Conan in Arenjun, The So called City of Thieves, in the run down quarter of the city, The Maul. Here people would as soon slip a knife into you as look at you. Conan is in a drinking hall, listening to a bellicose kidnapper relate for an audience just how skilled he is. The kidnapper chances to reference the famed Elephant Tower, it's sorceress master Yara and his prized possession, the so called Heart of the Elephant Gem.

Intrigued, Conan approaches him and asks him some small few questions in regards it. He remark's that he has heard of this tower and would know more of it, especially why with it being so easy looking no one has yet pilfered it's coffers before? His sincere boasting is taken as the trait of an idiot, and the Kidnapper wants no more from him. Before this conversation is finished the kidnapper lays dead and Conan is on his way to make his fortunes by trying his hand at the Elephant Tower.

The climb itself is simple for one raised in the craggy peaks of Cimmeria, he adroitly scales the wall and finds himself in a Garden. He also finds himself in the presence of one whom he has already heard some what of, Tarsus the Nemedian, so called prince of Thieves. Tarsus explains a few finer points of thieving to the young Cimmerian, and the two agree to work together to scale the tower. The two thieves have a run in with a giant spider, one which Tarsus does not survive. Conan opts to continue on without him.

He Makes his way into the tower, eventually entering a large throne room. Seated on this throne is a large being. Conan is at first repulsed, but then the creature speaks, and despite its outward appearance we recognize it's inward humanity, It's name is Yag Kosha, one of a race of interstellar beings who has been enslaved, tortured, blinded and held captive by Yara.

This being, rueful of his circumstances beseeches Conan to end it's life of torments. But in an act of revenge against yara, also explains to Conan what he must do.. He must soak the Gemstone with the blood of the Yog Kosha, and then deliver the gem to Yara telling him that "Yag Kosha gives a last and mighty gift!".. Yara recoils as the magic takes hold of him, Shrinking him, and ultimately absorbing him into the jewel. A terrible rumble begins and Conan makes his way out of Yara's tower just before the whole building collapses around him.

Locations - Zamora
Towns/Cities - Arenjun
Characters - Conan The Cimmerian, Tarsus: Prince of thieves
Languages Spoken - Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamoran

Observations -

Instead of reviewing this tale which I couldn't give justice too, I shall simply make a few observations about this immovable way point along Conan's road. The Pastiches swirl and eddy around the REH tales like water into rocks. They are movable and mailable, REH's tales are not. I firmly believe it is not the place of the Robert E. Howard stories to change to suit the overall continuity, it is the job of the artificially constructed Continuity to find ways to fill gaps, without causing to many headaches for the reader.

So why is Conan now in Arenjun instead of Shadizar?

Regardless that when we last saw Conan he was outside of Shadizar, and he is now In Arenjun, a considerable distance further east. All of the Pastiche-Inclusive continuities agree that TOE follows the Steve Perry books. So we will try and find things that connect them to it.

He has in this story the "Battered scabbard" and "High strapped sandals" which he was given in "Conan the Defiant".. So even if Perry gets his Geography wrong, he manages to keep Conan's costume much the same through all his books in order so that it won't conflict with REH. So thats one thing, a second is that we can conjecture from this tale that, at some point in the recent past Conan has been in some place to have heard of both the Elephant Tower, and Tarsus, prince of Thieves. From which one could infer that he has been to Shadizar and some eventuality has caused him to leave it after having only arrived and continued east, should one be so inclined.

This is the best supposition I can come up with, and I think it is probably best, seeing as the alternative would have been more Steve Perry books.. that those so inclined simply use their imaginations to fill in the gaps which still linger. While the DeCamp helmed the pastiches, he took the view that, he could force REH's tales to conform to his ideas and especially to his new stories. This was revisionist and totally unacceptable, especially because it was done in order to make Him money, and not to promote Robert E. Howard's Creation. However, the Tor guidelines seemed to be more Laissez-faire even than that, Minimum outlay, maximum return.. without even as much effort put into some of them as your average Dragonlance novel would have had at the same time.

Next up is the first part of a Conan Trilogy written by Andrew J. Offutt.

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