Friday, August 13, 2010

11. Bantam Conan #3, Conan: The Sword of Skelos, By Andrew J. Offutt, Part 4

In the halls of Akter Khan, Satrap of Zamboula. Conan is taking note of his surroundings, He never walks into a place he didn't know how to walk out of. He is intensely interested in the sword which is hung on the wall over the Khan's Throne, perhaps some sort of cerimonial item he wonders. But cermonial or no, since the Khan's men have disarmed him it will suffice should he need it. Isparanna explains to the Khan that Conan has the coveted Eye of Erlik. The ecstatic Satrap calls forth Conan of Cimmeria far to the North to bring him the bauble. Conan reflects that it has been a trying three months, full of adventures and harships, to bring this bauble to its end.

The Khan is curious as to exactly what part Conan played in the drama, and as the Cimmerian explains the khan's wizard Zafra shows more and more disgust. Disgust at the loss of Hissar Zhul's knowledge mostly, but also disgust at the Cimmerian himself. The Khan is however pleased with Conan's tale, and with the fate of Zhul. And promises to reward the Cimmerian handsomely for his efforts.

Conan, now adorned in white Khitain silk as befits a royal guest ventures to the stable to check on his mount. He happens across the son of the Shanki Cheiftan, Hajiman who inquires as to the Satraps story on his missing sister. Is he in mourning for her? Did he mention her at all? No. Is the only answer which Conan can give. But he is quickly reminded by Isparana of a Black band which the Satrap wore about his arm, clearly in Mourning. Though Conan realizes that Isparana is inventing this attitude to assuage the Shanki, he plays along with it. The three people go to a local tavern, where Hajiman explains the Shanki's suspicions to Isparanna and Conan. That his sister died of no fever, but was instead slain, He takes issue with Conan cozening up to the Khan and leaves after paying for his drink.

Akter Khan and Zafra are in conferance, with Zafra taking a rather dim view of the Cimmerian and extolling all the Barbarians adventures which his spy's could reveal. Perhaps it would be wise of the Khan to do away with such a meddlesome and ambitious young man who is a wanted man in Zamora and has been embroiled in a royal scandal in Khauraun. Perhaps it would be in the Satrap's best interest not to have one such as Conan around in the coming days. And just as soon as Conan is in the Khan's graces he is now a Fugitive, such is life for a wandering Cimmerian. Several men are sent to collect Conan and convey him to the Satrap's Dungeons. But he never arrives, he is instead rescued by forces which are hostile to the current Satrap and wish to employ his sword arm.

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