Thursday, December 30, 2010

15. Ace Conan #1.3 , "The Halls of the Dead"

From Hyborean Apocrypha

This is the third short story presented in the old Ace Conan books, its the first of the "DeCamp Completions" and in my opinion is one of the better ones. It would originally have been the very first appearance of Shadizar, but in this it will be closer to the 4th or so... But still has little happening in the city.. Conan has gotten tired of not doing much and has decided to head slightly south west of the city to where a ruin of a city exists, Larsha. And having made a nuisance of himself to the nobles of Zamora over the last several months he's also being pursued by an old acquaintance, the Gunderman guardsmen Captain who we last saw many moons ago in Arenjun.

Conan is far more canny than the captain knows, and his men walk rather blindly into a tripwire deadfall the Barbarian has set for them. The captain, named Nestor, and Conan engage in a duel but things go poorly for the Gunderman when the Cimmerian strikes him and knocks him out. Conan then goes about his way finding a way into the city. Conan runs afoul of a very large and very angry acid spitting slug which gives him some chase until he manages to scale a wall and drop something very heavy on it. Coming down to make sure it is dead he turns to find Nestor again, this time not so intent on murder as coming to a mutual understanding to search the city for its treasure and split the take.

The Two men then begin to make their way deeper into the city, after making their way into the vaults they find the treasure, they load up their satchels but fall afoul a necromantic boobietrap. Triggering several mummies to attack them, these are nearly impervious to blows so the two adventurers decide that discretion is the better part of valour and lead the mummies for a chase through the city. Upon exiting the cities walls the curse is broken and the mummies crumble to dust. But it also causes an earthquake which finishes off the ruins of the city. Worse still Conan's partner is no where to be seen, assuming Nestor has been killed Conan returns to Shadizar.

That night in the tavern which Conan has chosen for his reveries the City guard bursts in intent on his arrest. The Magistrate leading them explains they had captured Nestor but he escaped and the jewels which he had had turned to dust. They confiscate Conan's treasure which was a jade statue of a serpent. When the magistrate reaches into the sack he finds its no longer just a statue and quickly dies from envenomation.. Conan uses this opportunity to escape and hits the road heading westward towards Corinthia.

Review - This is one of the better Posthumous collaborations, and one of the less irksome. I really dunno what else to say about it as I've read it several times and consider it a good enough tale. It's interesting as it's one of the 3 possible stories featuring the Gunderman Nestor. The others being Tower of the Elephant and Hand of Nergal.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

14. Tor #1, Conan the Invincible by Robert Jordan. part 5

As Karela exhorts her men on in preparation for the coming fight against the army of Zamora, Conan has his own battles to wage. The spectre Imhep-Aton, the sorcerer who first hired the barbarian all that time ago in Shadizar and then who became convinced of his betrayal has decided to take his revenge in hand. Taunting the cimmerian to distract him, three of Amanars reptoids attack. Conan is wounded in the battle, and then taken captive by Amanar. Karela seems to be in league with the sorcerer now.

In the dungeon Conan finds himself with another man who has already suffered at the hands of Ort the jailer. The man inquires as to Conan's nature, and so Conan relates his tale. How he sat the council before 15, and was in the horde who smashed Venarium. How he has traveled far and seen kingdoms fall. While he is relating all of this, several other men are brought into the dungeons. One of Karela's bandits, and the captain of the Zamoran army, Conan now is able to put a plan in motion on how to escape.

Karela is enjoying the luxurious hospitality of Amanar, but it's not to last as Conan and his escaped band are causing havoc in the castle. Still looking for the girl, who's amulet Conan is convinced can slay Amanar, he stumbles upon the room of sacrifice. During this, he also becomes witness to the death of Imhep Aton at the tentacles of one of Amanars summoned beasts. This turns out to be Amanars undoing, as the beast he summoned is beyond his ability to control. It begins to destroy the keep, pulling it down over it's own head. Conan uses this confusion to find the slave girl, and the two make their escape leaving Amanar to his grizzly fate.

Some time later on the road back to Shadizar, Conan and the girl encounter a wandering Karela.. but Conan dosen't offer to help her a third time, despite her entreaties of how wealthy she could make him. He instead rides on, what need does he have of Karela's riches? After all, there is always the abandoned city of Larsha to plunder.

Review -

This was a bit of a slow book. It has lots of information in it, but it does seem to contradict the map a bit. The amount of time spent traveling "in the mountains" doesn’t work how small they appear on basically every map of the Hyborian world. However it is also packed with references to other books. Conan is reminded of Yara's tower, and of how dangerous amulets may be because of the Eye of Erlik, He recounts his origins in Cimmeria and the destruction of Venarium. But for all of that, it is a slow book. By the time you get to it in the chronology, you are going to likely be very tired of traveling in mountains and slaying sorcerers. This makes close to a dozen magic wielding malcontents which Conan has dispatched or taken part in the dispatch of since I started, Highly monotonous. Adding to this monotony is the nature of these previous stories. They all seem to start in Shadizar, or Arenjun, and then take Conan on these vast treks into the wilderness surrounding them. He slays a monster or a wizard and then goes back to the tavern. In other words none of these books really upsets the status quo, none of them become integral to the story, and unlike the previous volumes from Perry, Carpenter, Offut, et all, don't move the story forward. But then Robert Jordan went on to become something of a master of the sideways divergence in order to avoid moving the story forward. So these Conan tales can be seen as sort of the prototype of many of the divergences in the Wheel of Time books. Except in Conan's case he has no Waygates to travel through to cut out the walking.

It also introduced a rather obnoxious character in the form of Karela the Red Hawk. Which is almost as if Jordan wanted to use Red Sonja and was told he couldn't. I understand this character shows up again in another of his books.. but I'm not looking forward to it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

14. Tor #1, Conan the Invincible by Robert Jordan. part 4

While Amanar's minions are attacking the humans above ground. He is luxuriating over dinner and his slave girls, Things are going well for Amanar today. Things however have a way of not always staying the way you want them, and it isn't long before one of Amanar's servants comes bearing bad news. That Conan and the Red Hawk have fended off his serpent men and are coming looking for the pendants and the girl.

The Zamoran army is still plodding along, stepping over hillmen and reptoids of all shapes and sized, and is far more confused than they perhaps is healthy in the Hyborian world.

After several more days, Conan and Karela's bandit company approach Amanar's dark keep. He taunts them psychically, but Conan has no time for such mummery and brushes it off. He feels they are being followed, Karela instructs her men and has them camp around the foot of the fortress. Then Thief and Bandit venture into the keep, and are welcomed by Amanar. What manner of Trick this is, they don't know, but Conan trusts it not.

Over drinks, which Conan dosen't touch, Amanar lays bare the whole plot. He claims it was not him who stole the girl, not him who took the pendants, It was the hillmen he says. Questioned about the tooling on the boots used in the castle, since they are the same as are worn by his reptoids he brushes this off as simply thieving hillmen again. He then offers them each the ability of hiring on, doing jobs for him on commission, and he of course wouldn't dream of interfering with their 'professions'. After their drink, he has them shown out of the keep.

Karela seems rather taken with the idea, but Conan has a loathing for sorcerers, and for good reason at this point. So when the night descends fully Conan scales the walls of the keep, and after several hours of searching finds the girl he came looking for. His attempted rescue however dosen't go well, as she is enchanted and cannot be removed from the keep. He has no choice but to leave and try again later.

The following day, the storm that is gathering prepares to lash out with its full fury, The Zamoran army is near enough to be seen now from the Bandit Camp, and will be at grips with them soon. All they can do is prepare, and Karela begins to exhort her men to great feats by fostering their greedy impulses.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

14. Tor #1, Conan the Invincible by Robert Jordan. part 3

part 3

The Bandits make their way into the mountains, after some days of travel Conan has managed to make himself useful and is now no longer treated as Cargo. They are following the same group of "Pilgrims" now too, Conan explained the nature of their cargo and the value of the items.. But the Zamoran Army isn't far behind. And there is an angry wizard on the loose as well.

The conversation between Karela and Conan is kept brief, business only, But she claims to have no knowledge of any missing caravans. This nearly turns into an argument but Conan's mouth can get him out of trouble with women as readily as into it. This leads to a period of indisposition to leaving Karela's tent. And it is during this time that Amanar receives what he has been waiting for.

His reptillian henchmen have finally returned from Shadizar, we learn that it was them all along who stole the items which Conan had been paid to acquire. And it was them who stole the slave girl, and it is them who has been raiding the caravans. Amanar taunts the girl a bit, and remarks on her cliche of the brave barbarian coming to save her.

Though before he can do this, Conan must extricate himself and Karela's bandits from other troubles. While camped in the mountains they come under attack from Hillmen, And then the Zamoran army. Discretion being the better part of valor, Conan and Karela opt to leave and let the hillmen and soldiers fight each other. During this retreat, one of Karelas men mentions having seen strange footprints. And that night while they are camped, Amanar's Reptoids attack.

part 4

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

14. Tor #1, Conan the Invincible by Robert Jordan. part 2

Racing eastward towards the opposite branch of the Kezankians from where he went on the dragon hunt, Conan is not privy to the knowledge that others have discovered the Caravan east. The Merchant assumes the Barbarian has double crossed him, and he sets out at once to reclaim his property and the Barbarians hide. The king's men also come to learn of the Caravan, and piece together that it was possibly an inside job which robbed him. The Zamoran army dispatches its most loyal Calvary after the robbers.

Some days to the east of Shadizar is the Well of Kings, an oasis in the desert land of Zamora. Conan stops to water his horse, and sees that several men have a captive girl in their midst. It is a girl which Conan rescued some time ago in the Tavern. Once more he rescues her from her would be captors and once more she spurns him. So deciding to put their differences aside for the moment the two then head eastwards again.

A fair amount of time passes while they ride ever eastward, the pair eventually comes upon the Caravan but while Conan urges the girl to stay back she rushes forward into the the light of the campfires and declares herself Karela the Red Hawk! Things now go from bad to worse for the Barbarian, as her men knock him out and truss him like an animal. While they are debating what to do with him, a new person appears in camp, the merchant from before. He is bargaining with them for the Barbarian.

Things don't work out to the magicians advantage, and due to the timely arrival of the Zamoran army the Bandits have to make off further into the hills with their Barbarian captive.