Chapters 19 - 24
Despite all the differences, this strange new city reminds Conan more and more of Sultanpoor. The same smells, the same filth, the same poverty. The same ease of access to places off limits. He has a score to settle. After making sure his companions are safely hidden away he sets out into the Vhendyhan night. He climbs a smooth jointed wall, no hard feat for the man who scaled the Elephant Tower, and before long has found that which he seeks.
A scuffle breaks out in this elevated chamber, between Guards alerted through sorcery and the mighty Barbarian. Deciding he dosen't want to stick around to fight all these men, Conan opts for escape. During this Naipal's magic mirror is broken, and one of his magic daggers stolen, Leaving the sorcerer to wonder if that was the true reason for Conan's visit. He seems to still be under the misapprehension that Conan is out for him specifically, rather than simply tangentially connected through happenstance. The powerful are often paranoid this way.
After his escape from the governor's tower, Conan returns to his friends. They set off the next day to the forest looking for a hidden city. This is where Conan has been told he will find the antidote for the poison coursing through his body. After hours of riding they come upon the city. Conan works his way inside, leaving his companions outside hidden in the forest. After some time he comes across an unexpected site. The Herbalist from his group, but younger. He sneaks up behind the man, and acquires the knowledge from him that he was in fact cured of the poison in Sultanapoor and the herbalist had lied to him to get his help. This dosen't endear the barbarian to the other man.
What follows next the Barbarian is some what at a loss to explain. In an extremely short period of time after finding the now younger herbalist, that man and Naipal are both dead. Killed by the demon they had both sought to control. The Demon itself slain by incantations laid on it by the sorcerers previously. Leaving Conan the only one standing in the ruins. Not poisoned, still alive, he decides its best to take the rest of his companions and head home with the next westward caravan.
Some months later, on the road west Conan is approached by a Turanian. He's a special investigator of sorts. Sent to Vhendya to see if the assassination in Turan had been connected to that far land. His findings that they were connected clear the Barbarian of any wrong doing, and he tells Conan that he should visit the house of Perfumed Doves when he arrives back in Sultanpoor, the headquarters of the Turanian military and present them with a parchment he is about to be given. Conan isn't sure whether he will or not, but the man insists he read the parchment before making up his mind. And with that the story ends.
Well that was certainly the best of the three Robert Jordan Conan's I've read so far. While it did begin to drag after they left Sultanpoor, and didn't really pick up again until they got to Vendhya, it wasn't completely pointless like the others. It had a real reason for Conan to travel that far. It referenced several preceding stories, and also sets up a few that are to come after.
It was very interesting to see things like the Harbour Chains of Sultanapoor. Since those and other items throughout the book are things which Jordan would re-use later in his Wheel of Time series. Though once again the long travel sequence in which very little happens is also something that got carried over into the wheel of time books. Jordan's strength seems to be in doing scenes, but moving between the scenes is his weakness.
This book is a bit shorter than normal, and it's page count is filled up with the L. Sprague DeCamp essay "Conan the indestructible" which is where he tried to explain away the continuity problems presented by the two movie novelizations. Effectively writing them off as being "Alternate tellings of the myth, as recorded on some badly preserved clay tablets in the British Museum". Effectively making them Apocrypha, of the Apocrypha. I think thats the best way to look at them, and will continue to do such.
Up next, Conan the Unconquered by Robert Jordan.