Sunday, August 15, 2010

11. Bantam Conan #3, Conan: The Sword of Skelos, By Andrew J. Offutt, Part 5

Hunted by the authorities, in the alien city-state of Zamboula, Conan dons a disguise to remain unseen. He returns to the Royal Turan tavern where he had been drinking at the time Akter Khan sent his soliders to arrest him. He has gone to reclaim his things, having a run in with several more soldiers. Now he must rescue Isparanna, who wasn't lucky enough to escape. And bring Hajjiman and the Shanki in against the Khan as well.

Conan and Balad bring next meet with Hajjiman and explain to him the situation, and the part they wish him to play.. it sticks in his throat to be used as a diversion.. but he sees the reason of it eventually and agrees. So three forces are now aligned to topple the Satrap of Zhamboula, Akter Khan. Balad of Zamboula, Conan of Cimmeria, and the Shanki of the Eastern Desert. Several nights pass, and Conan makes his attempt to rescue Isparnna.. and then all turns to darkness.

Beaten, Tortured and again fallen prey to some sorcerers trick, Conan awakens in captivity. All courtesy of Zafra, Akter Khan's Sorcerer. Who explains in due course his plot to the captive Cimmerian audience. He wishes to dispose of Akter, and eventually rule all of Turan. A lofty goal indeed. But Conan isn't particularly interested in his plans for the future, only in escape. Zafra summons the magic sword, but without a steady hand guiding it, it's just metal and sorcery.. It can be out witted.. and Conan is not without wit himself. Before long the sword is embedded in the very chest of the one who sought to control it.

Conan wastes little time between the end of Zafra and the rescue of Isparanna. Though more guards fall to his blade before he finds her at the mercy of the torturer. And the two head to Akter Khan's throne room to finish the nights work. They find him sitting, expecting them, and with a proposition. He will explain all to Conan, but only alone. Conan allows himself to be disarmed, and the Guards lead Isaparanna out side and close the doors. Akter starts his designs, on lulling the Barbarian into showing how lowly he is. And then using the magic sword to slay him. But unknown to Akter Khan, Conan has already killed the only one who the magic blade would obey.

The Khan isn't killed, at least not by Conan. In his shock at the treachery unleashed upon him by Zafra the Khan sinks into his throne, while the forces of Balad are butchering the guards of the fortress. Balad slays Akter in cold blood, and is then slay by the last gasp of Zafra's magic. A new Khan in Zamboula, and Isparanna mad at him for "lieing" about his age. Conan sets off into the sunset for further adventures.

Review -
This volume is interesting in that, instead of the standard map which nearly every pastiche dating back to the Lancers had in the front, it has it's very own locaiton specific map. Which illustrates some what the route which Conan and Khassek and later Conan and Isparana take to arrive in Zamboula. Since Conan revisits the gorge of the sand lich, now lich-less, thanks to his actions in the first book of this trilogy, and then heads further south. The route would take him past Arenjun, a town which had sent a warrent for his arrest to Shadizar and was the reason he would be wishing to leave Zamora in the first place. The closer we are to danger, the further we are from harm.. it's the last thing they'd expect... It seems likely to me anyway that that is exactly what Conan did. Followed the Road of Kings right past Arenjun, skirted Khauran and its new queen Taramis and then headed south towards the gorge. This however would not work if you are using the new " Official " map which is present on Conan.Com. Because that map locates Zamboula on the road of Kings between Arenjun and Agraphur. It also presents the road of kings as not going through tiny Khauran. I'm of the mind of a combination of the two maps, that the road by passes Khauran, and that Zamboula is much farther south, at least in the Conan universe in which the Pastiche material inhabits.

We learn that the three Offutt books all take place in a period of about three months and that Conan is specifically cited as speaking Turanian, While he obviously has spoken for some time, it's not entirely certain where he picked it up from.. but judging by the location of Zamora, he probably has picked it up easily enough during his time in Arenjun, Shadizar, and his eastern desert wanderings. Since Khauran having formerly been part of Koth, presumably spoke Kothic, or some derivative of it but it's never made clear, for all we know they could speak Turanian there as well.

In this stories original place in the DeCamp Chronology, it would normally be followed by Lin Carter's "Completion" of an REH Tale "The Hand of Nergal" where Conan is fighting in the armies of the Empire of Turan. But in the larger William Galen Grey Chronology It is followed by Conan the Outcast by Leonard Carpenter.

Places: Zamora, Turanian claimed territory.
Towns: Shadizar, Zamboula
People: Conan, Khassek of Iranistan, Isparanna of Zamboula, Shanki Tribesmen, Arsil of Turan, Akter Khan, Satrap of Zhamboula for the Emperor of Turan.
Languages Spoken: Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamorian, Kothic, Turanian.

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