Wednesday, July 14, 2010

9. Ace illustrated Conan #1: Conan and the Sorcerer, part 3

Reaching the second Oasis on his trip ahead of his schedule due to the shortcut through the sand lich's canyon. Conan is invited to share food with a peasant and his son who are watering their camels. The Man also informs Conan that a routine slave caravan is setting out from Turan on it's way to trade in Zamora and Khauran and that he should be wary as they are none too particular about where their wares come from. Having been a slave once already, he thanks the man for his knowledge, and gives the son a dagger in payment.

It's not long before the weary Isparana appears at the oasis, Conan has been laying in wait for her. He patiently hides himself until she is settled, a fine bit of lechery follows as he watches her bath away the dirt of the road. Once refreshed she lays down for a bit of sleep, and this is when he makes his move. First by cutting away the bells of the harnesses on the camels, and then every so slowly sneaking up on her and substituting the Eye of Erlik for another pendant. Only once this is done and he is nearly safely away do her camels stir and wake her. Kicking his mount off into the night leaving Isparana with nothing but the reverberating echoes of her cries of Thief!

She cries that he means to leave her there with no supplies to die, and his conscience gets the better of him and by the end of a scuffle both are without mounts or camels. A fine mess they are in now, but it will only get worse. The next day after both parties are refreshed enough to begin the previous nights arguments again, they notice in the distance a dust cloud. A cloud which soon materializes into a caravan, a slavers caravan, the very one which the man warned Conan to avoid. Conan and Isparana attempt to bluff the slavers, but to no avail, they are captured and enslaved but not without dire loss to the slavers guards. However they are soon observed by the same soldiers of Turan whom Conan encountered earlier before entering the sand lich canyon.

Their freedom restored at the point of Arsil of Turan's sword, Conan begins his preparations to return north to Arenjun. He arranges for Isparanna to be escorted safely to Zamboula by Arsil and re-affirms that he will not forget the offer of employment in Turan. He returns to Arenjun and takes the eye to Hissar Zhul, who dithers in his promise to return Conan's soul to him. Conan then expresses his regret that he has none of the means which the sand lich had told him to dispatch the sorcerer. This puts Hissar zhul on edge, though he does return to Conan his soul, and the mirror which it was trapped within. He continues to talk, offering Conan a parchment which will clear him of his crimes in Arenjun, inviting the Cimmerian to lean close to read it he attempts to double cross Conan by using a tube filled with the dread yellow lotus. However Conan is far more resourceful than Zhul gave him credit and instead blows down the other end of the tube filling Zhul's lungs with the deadly powder.

Conan rummages through Zhul's considerable stockpile and picks a new sword to replace his broken one, along with several other good blades. Carefully wrapping his mirror in many layers of cloth he sets off West, away from Arenjun and his potential legal problems, off West to Shadizar.
Review -

Places: Zamora, Khauran, Turanian Marches,
Towns: Arenjun,
People: Conan, Karamek, Isparana of Zamboula, Kobad Shah of Iranistan, Hissar Zhul, Arsil the Turanian, The Sand Lich
Languages Spoken: Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamoran

A few interesting tidbits are that Conan still has his Sandals and Sword from the previous stories, and that he is now about 17. Meaning that the Period of his being a slave in Hyperborea and his journey south has taken him nearly two years... The story itself follows on just a few weeks after Tower of the Elephant, as it is referenced. The story also sets up nicely Conan's future as a mercenary in Turan. However, if one takes the book for what it was, when it was written and it's place in the original LSdC Chronology, then it's a very good Pastiche and fits well. It's certainly the most "Howard like" of the Pastiches I've read so far. But after having half a dozen different magic users already in the first 10 stories.. It's just gotten to be monotonous. It is more proof of how little the pastiche writers really got, despite Andrew Offutt's best intentions I'm sure.. he would have been better served not to have had a sorcerer as the villain in a story which was to follow an REH story with a sorceress villain. I didn't include Turanian in the list of Conan's languages spoken as it makes more sense that due to the trading nature of Zamora that he communicated with Arsil in Zamoran.

This story also marks the end of Conan's blade which he found in the tomb in " The thing in the Crypt ", it will not be the first sword he loses but I'm glad that Offutt dealt that one it's death. As Mr. Perry had obviously put more than a passing interest in it as some sort of potentially magical sword ala Excalibur. A trait which it was given in the live action TV series, Conan the Adventurer. Which coincidentally is heavily based on both "The Tower of the Elephant" and " Conan and the Sorcerer" Though Hissar Zhul is presented as an aged and bitter King, and Yara as his priestly servant. That's a review for a different day, as I simply haven't the strength for it right now.

Next is, "Conan the Mercenary" by Andrew J. Offutt.

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