Thursday, March 31, 2011

18. Tor Conan #15, Conan the Warlord by Leonard Carpenter, part 4

Chapters 12-15

Awaking from the previous nights revels, the Baron stumbles from his bed. Conan is unused to such quantities or types of liquor and now has a rather bad headache as a result. He chafes at his incarceration and wishes to flee, but at the moment his coerced partnership in this endeavor is rankling. Not wishing to have to fight an entire army, he rightly assumes is the more prudent track to follow. But is allowing himself a few too many nights of excess out of sheer boredom.

However this is not to last, days of politicking and nights of drinking. Something is amiss in the Varikiel Marshes, a request of aid from Baron Ulf, and also the places they sent Ludya the serving girl back too. Conan wishes to check up on her and so he opts to go with the army. It isn't long before Conan gets his wish, as soon the destruction is apparent on the landscape around them. Some vast force is roving across the landscape burning and pillaging and leaving none alive.

Before long Conan realizes he must give battle to this force, apparently some sort of Set worshiping cult, and so has his "vassal" give a lengthy oratory to his troops and to that of another allied Baron explaining what they might be facing. For the following day he aims to fight and if he can, win against this pervasive force acting against the Nemedians.

The next day as the army marches eastward they come across a party of raving madmen, one is the former Baron Ulf whom they had initially come to find. He's been mutated and mutilated and is raving mad with the corruption of the Serpent Plague. He manages to regain just enough strength to warn them of an ambush and tell them where to find the priest of set responsible. In the ensuing chaos following this a number of soldiers are killed, including the girl that Conan had rescued twice earlier on. It's beginning to look a bit bleak for Conan's prospects at the moment. But he will fight on, and get what vengeance he can buy

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

18. Tor Conan #15, Conan the Warlord by Leonard Carpenter, part 3

Chapters 8-11

Conan is once again learning the role of his job, today is chariot practice while en-route to Castle Edram. Things are going decently until his charioteer is struck by an arrow during an ambush. His chariot pitches wildly about as Conan knows nothing of "Horsefollowing". Luckilly for him, the true prince is with the troupe disguised as an ordinary retainer and he manages to get the chariot under control. He and Conan then route the ambushers, one of which proves to have been a woman, and continue on to Edram hoping to learn more about their attackers.

They learn of a rebellion, one that must be put down, rumours of a cult of Set abound as well. The next day two files of horsemen set out to quash the rebellious populi, and are soon engaged in a horrid slaughter. Conan is no butcher of innocents however and after preventing the rape of a village woman, quickly finds the true reason for the raid. A wooden boat. Which is 'competing' with the King's toll bridge. He voices his displeasure at having been made party to this, but the King's steward remains emotionless to his entreaties.

Following their "Victory" the hosts of Einharson enjoy themselves in a lavish party thrown at the Castle. There has been a wedding this day also, and the Prince is allowed the 'right' of First Night. Again this brings the bile up into the back of Conan's throat, another disgusting practice of 'civilization'. The girl however, is a sham. She is using the princes 'right' to get close enough to him to kill him, and kill him she does. She makes her escape but is seen by Conan, he realizes she is none other than one of the ambushers from earlier, and also the woman in the village.

Conan is soon blamed for the murder of Favian, and later for the murder of the Baron himself. He needs to make his way out of the castle and quickly. But upon reaching a balcony from which he can escape a strange sight catches his eye. A new supernatural threat has emerged, as ghostly riders wearing decrepit armour have begun assaulting the manse. What form of deviltry this is, Conan knows not, only that they are a threat to him. They are soon driven off by the timely intervention of a rebel army lead by the barons cousin.

Having been accused of murder, Conan sees little choice but to side with the rebels. The two factions come upon mutual terms, Conan will remain in his position and continue to impersonate the late prince Favian, become the new Baron and be a puppet ruler answering to a new council. This sits not well at all with the Barbarian, but for the moment its better than being hung as a murderer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

18. Tor Conan #15, Conan the Warlord by Leonard Carpenter, part 2

Chapters 5-7

As we return to the story, Conan is being lectured on the proper etiquette of society in Nemedia. Instructed as to the function of the hierarchy and the station and role of each member of society. It is a very regimented society. Same way it appeared in "The God in the Bowl", Some members of the society are Hard Cases.. but the tutor assigned to Conan does seem to want to help the surly Barbarian to thrive in his new job. So it is regimented, but not without compassion.

After this, Conan follows the baron into a tomb. Not knowing what the man is up too, he dosen't make his presence known. He clearly dosen't trust the man, but assumes his actions are simply some sort of ancestor worship and leaves it at that. He goes back to his rooms afterwords and rests up. Probably a good thing as well, since his tutor promised a thorough examination after he had been caught napping in class.

The following day, Conan is outfitted with armour and goes about his other new duties, he visits the serving girl who he has befriended during his meal, and then goes for a bout of drinking with the man he is to impersonate. This goes fairly well and ends on a friendly note. Though this won't last as later that evening Conan interrupts Favian whipping the serving girl. He of course intervenes and only through his actions and those of the Baron's daughter is the life of Ludya the wench spared. She's to be sent home instead, back to her people in the Vareikial marshes.

That settled, however unfairly, Conan accepts its outcome. The girl is alive, and he adds to the grudge he is beginning to build against the bratty lordling. He goes back to the blacksmith and picks up his new chain mail armor and new helmet. Newly bedecked he goes to mingle and is approached by several of Favian's cronies. They assume he is Favian but his surly demeanor leads them to suspect he's been drinking a bit too much. Conan also begins to suspect there is foul play afoot in the castle and has these suspicions confirmed when that night at supper some one is poisoned. The plot grows thicker.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

18. Tor Conan #15. Conan the Warrior by leonard Carpenter, Part 1

Prologue and Chapters 1-4

In the prologue we are treated to a description of a sprawling expanse of the Varikiel marshes in northern Nemedia. Lar is a young farm boy who is playing where he ought not, sometimes the boogieman will come and get you. This is one of those occasions as poor Lar falls afoul of something which gives him a bite like acid.

While this is happening, Conan is participating in an escape from a Nemedian Prison. Things are going well at first, but the guards prove to be more powerful than the prisoners thought. Before long the escape attempt is quelled and Conan is brought before a mysterious man in a black cape, who orders him remanded to baronial custody. He's shunted off to solitary to await transportation, all the while wondering what new trouble is in store.

Soon however he is wheeling his way with the man in the black cape towards a luxurious mansion. He is instructed to sit by by a man named Durwald. Eventually he comes to find out he's there to be offered a job. Apparently the man has seen something he likes in the youthful barbarian. An uncanny resemblance to some one of great import is hinted at, but Durwald makes no effort to explain yet.

Eventually the other shoe drops and Conan is made aware of his presence. He is to pretend to be Durwald's son, Favian. A body double, in case anything should befall him. The two youths immediately get off on the wrong foot when Favian throws a technically poor punch at the Cimmerian who tosses him with little effort. Certainly an interesting job.

Conan spends the next few days growing accustomed to his new station, learning the ways of the nobility of Nemedia and even being taught a rough version of their formal fencing techniques. It's less than practical though, and their swords are less than worthless. Conan would prefer a good broadsword any day. He also learns that his new boss had married a Cimmerian bride, and that is why Favian bears such a striking similarity. The plot thickens.

Monday, March 14, 2011

17. Ace Conan #1.4 "The God in the Bowl" by Robert E. Howard

From Hyborean Apocrypha

Continuing on westward on the Corinthian road after having dealt with Sovartus, Conan has made his way to Nemedia. He tries to replicate his life of thievery that he thrived on in Zamora. Thing's don't work out too well as he breaks into a museum, is caught and is framed for murder. Conan protests his innocence, and states he was hungry and looking for food. The inspector is smarter than that and deduces that the brawny barbarian was payed to break in. His employer throws him under the wheel and Conan incensed with such disloyalty turns on him and the charge of murder is now earned. While this is going on a creature of some horrible lineage escapes from the stonewear vessel it was kept in and goes on a killing spree. It transpires that this vessel was intend as a gift to the priest of Mitra, but that it had been left for safe keeping in the Museum. The owner of said museum, overwhelmed by greed had broken the bronze bands securing the lid and let loss the creature. Conan eventually escapes to continue his adventures in Nemedia, while earning the ire of the high priest of Set in the process. This is the first time that Conan's path has crossed with Thoth Amon, but it won't be the last.

Review -

This is another Robert E. Howard Original story. A Very short one at that, even by Howard's Standards, at a scant 24 pages, but it packs A LOT of punch into those pages. It's no doubt been tampered with by DeCamp but I'm not enough of an REH scholar to identify the alterations. It's also an odd one chronologically, The common assumption these days is that this is a very very early Conan story, he's naive of civilization and trusting of people he shouldn't be. In the bulk of new chronologies it's set as either the first or second Conan story. However in the process of adding in the Pastiches that placement becomes difficult. It's simply not possible to work in a side trip from his wanderings in Brythunia and Corinthia and have him make it to Numalia and then back to Zamora for "Tower of the Elephant" and still include the other novels.. It could be done, but It just dosen't work really well.

The easiest way to make the nearly feral attitude of Conan into the over all chronology at this point, Is that, he's shown repeatedly lying to the authorities. So its easy to simply assume that he's just lying about more than the reader is lead to believe. It dosen't require us to do anything but read a slightly different motivation from Howard's words. This approach may not work with the unaltered text, but it does work with this version. The Character of Nemedia is also clearly very very different from that of the places where Conan has been so far, and if he's really new in town, he may simply not be aware of how all the peices fall any more than he was of Zamora way back in "Tower of the Elephant". Numalia seems to be a very regimented society, with little corruption and an insatiable appetite for "Justice". I can easily imagine Dionus, Posthumo and Demetrio dressed in S.S. Uniforms and spitting "Ve Huf Veys uf meking joo Tulk" fulling intending to do it, Conan seems to be in a bit over his head, and it's no wonder he dosen't intend to stick around. Zamora may be corrupt and dangerous, but its safer for a man like him.

Up next, Conan the Warlord by Leonard Carpenter (I can feel the bile rising in my throat as I type this)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

16. Tor Conan #9, Conan the Fearless by Steve Perry, part 5

Chapters 19-23

Conan laboriously makes his way to the dread castle Slott, it sits upon a craggy outcropping. No doubt this would balk the biggest of armies, but the builders had never encountered a Cimmerian. No mere wall of stone will stall Conan for long, and time is short. So climb he does, quickly, silently, without complaint. His mighty arms pulling him ever higher, and within sight is a cave mouth, so it's what he makes for. Perhaps he can find a way into the castle through the cave.

Inside Sovartus the dark lord is making arrangements to finish his spell casting now that he has the last ingredient. Eldia the fire child. Nothing is standing in his way now. Nothing except the girls sister. It dosen't take long for Sovartus to deal with Kinna, he has some of his minions take her away and drop her in a cave. The very same one that Conan is currently wandering through.

Before to long, Conan comes across Kinna and her captors, though they wear hoods and robes its soon made obvious they are more of the Reptoids which he's dealt with in the mountains on his journeys south and again in the mountains of Zamora. Having fought them on occasions before, Conan knows how to make short work of them. But they succeed at least in delaying him and Kinna from reaching the castle. Long enough anyway for Sovartus to summon a new and more powerful darkness. A Darkness which he commands.

Making their way through throng after throng of Sovartus's lizard henchmen the two adventurers laboriously ascend Castle Slott. They arrive after many swordstrokes and much bloodshed to Sovartus's Tower. While Kinna deals with the rest of the lizardmen, Conan lunges for the dark lord. He's blasted backwards by the darkness like a child's doll. Another tactic will be needed. Instead he goes after the chains holding the four children captive. Without them to fuel the darkness it should dissipate, hopefully?

Sovartus is so engorged on his own power that he pays the barbarian no attention while this happens. unfortunately for him, Conan's hunch was right, remove the fuel and the fire dies. The darkness begins to implode, pulling Sovartus into its sucking maelstrom first, and then beggining to pull the entire castle in as well. Conan and Kinna gather up the four dazed children and make a run for it, hopeing they can gain an exit before they too are pulled in, or the castle around them.

After some time of running, and a fair distance away, Conan calls a halt. Sitting in there way is Vitarius, he had managed to hold off Djuvala long enough and survived. Conan decides against returning with the group to Mornstantadinos, and instead turns westward to continue his journey to Nemedia, maybe to the town of Numalia.


Well, this was not all that bad of a book. It's easily Perry's best out of his 5. And it provides a rather logical explanation for some of the weirdness present in his other books. It's obvious that he basically re-used this books plot for all of his others. All have Conan journeying from one place, to another place, and meeting up with a series of evil wizards, bandits, what have you and being aided by a scrappy girl and a good wizard or priest of some sort. It works here, but would have probably been better not used quite so many times.

I can't really say too much else about it, apart from those few chapters where Conan inexplicably wasted time back in his hotel room rather than riding out to rescue the children seemed as if they were simply added to pad the story out. They more or less didn't fulfill any purpose except that. And even with them the book was short enough they decided to include the L. Sprague DeCamp Essay 'Conan the Indestructible" So it's possible that those chapters were added at the behest of the editor.. who I assume at the time was either Robert or Harriet Jordan. One of whom pads his own stories out till they are bulging like Santa Claus, and the other who edited them and saw no fault in that.

The re-apparent of the reptoids, in yet another Conan Pastiche, indicates that in the realm of the Tor series they definitely exist in substantial numbers. That's not an impossible thing, though improbable. I don't remember them ever cropping up in any of Howard's Conan stories, but their were a reptillian race in the Kull stories. It's not impossible then that these reptoids are some how related to them.. merely fallen into the depths of barbarity and in some cases are just feral.

Up Next is a Robert E. Howard story, The God in the Bowl.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

16. Tor Conan #9, Conan the Fearless by Steve Perry, part 4

Chapters 14-18

Finally on their way to defeat the dark magician and his demon cohort, Conan, Vitarius, Eldia and her sister Kinna have ridden some way from the Corinthian city of Mornstantadinos. On their wanderings, Conan recounts his recent journeys to the young girl Eldia to entertain her.* Interupting his tall tale telling, Kinna mentions they will have to leave the road soon and make their way through the mysterious Bloddolk Forrest.

They make camp for the night. Conan wonders if the Witch will pursue him this far from the city, and decides the likelihood is good. They begin to traverse the forest in the morning, and are espied by the woodsmen who make it their home. They make fairly good time, all the while learning of the flora which is native to the forest but seldom found elsewhere. After a hard day of trail blazing they reach a clearing and decide to camp.

That night, Conan awakes to muffled screams, the Demon he had behanded earlier and who's sister was the Witch who attempted to murder him in Mornstandinos had caught up to them. Two nights of camping was obviously too much. The Demon disarms Conan, and plans to play with his prey before the kill, but Vitarius the mage throws Conan a new weapon. The Mummified and preserved hand of the Demon. Conan uses it too great effect, and sends the creature back to whence it was summoned. Somewhere, Djuvala the Witch wakes in a cold sweat, her brother is no more. She will have to deal with the troublesome barbarian herself, once and for all.

After the previous nights escapades, the party packs early and begins once more their journey through the forest. After some hours have passed they stop for a bite and Conan learns somewhat of the nature of Vitarius magic. The old man continues talking while they pack up and leave the clearing behind them. Theres still a good bit of daylight left, and unbeknown to them the more miles they cover, the more they have between them and the pursuing Djuvala.

As they continue on, they come to the edge of Sovartus' Holdings in the Dodlinga plains. In the center of this vast land stands the Castle Slott, Sovartus' keep. And it is there that he has the other three Children of the Elements held captive. They accidentally trigger a ward, laid by Sovartus around his domains alerting him to their presence. He comes and makes off with Elidia, the last elemental child he needs and her sister takes off after her. To make matters worse, their head start proves to be insufficient as Djuvala falls on Conan and Vitarius in the night, Vitarius is slain buying Conan time to escape, but he manages to do severe damage to the witch and hold her off so Conan can make his way to Castle Slott. The time of reckoning is near, and Conan feels that no man worth his salt lets a debt slide without repaying it.

* This is a brilliant thing, Though a throw away line no doubt, It's going to allow us to put all of the bizarre adventures Conan has had in the previous 4 Steve Perry books and even maybe the re-animated king from 'The Thing in the Crypt' into a rough new framing sequence. He's making them up to amuse a child, every bit as much as Cimmerians would no doubt have done on dark nights to amuse themselves. Suddenly it all makes sense. Especially when one takes into account that, Conan having fought demons and their like before.. this story is not particularly out of place. It's certainly not got selkies and talking bats in it.. but childrens stories would have those things.. This of course is probably not the authors intent, but when one is dealing with material that is, at its hear, effectively nothing more than published and authorized fan-fiction.. I feel that a great deal more latitude can be taken when confronting it than when one is dealing with the original authors words. But I don't know, is this a track that should be followed or ignored when it comes time for me to craft my new chronology at the end of this project?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

16. Tor Conan #9, Conan the Fearless by Steve Perry, part 3

chapters 9-13

Even though when we last left off, they were all for setting off to fight the dark lord.. for some reason in the next chapter we find Conan still in the city of Mornstadinos, still in his room at the inn, with neither the girl or her sister, or the mage to be seen.

Instead we get a new sub-story, A witch, Djuvala, the sister of the demon which Conan behanded previously is set on revenge, and aims to seduce the brawny youth herself. This is going well until some cutpurses burst into his room at the inn. He dispatches them but by the time he is finished the witch has gone.

Lovemaking denied, Conan sets out to make a bit of profit instead. He sets his sights perhaps too high and aims to loot the palace of a Corinthian senator. This however soon turns out to be too much for the Barbarian and he is captured and knocked out. He awakens once to find Djuvala standing next to the Senator, what sort of treachery is this?

It dosen't take long for Conan to realize he's been set up, and he begins to formulate an escape. This goes as well as can be expected and he gets his chance to make a break for it. None too soon either as Djuvala has gone to informed her brother that she has captured his quarry and he may do as he wishes.

Running naked through Mornstadinos Conan happens on Vitarius and the two girls, he recommends they leave as soon as he gets some new clothes and a new sword and make all haste towards their destination.

Friday, March 4, 2011

16. Tor Conan #9, Conan the Fearless by Steve Perry, part 2

Chapters 5-8

Squaring off in the middle of the market, Conan faces the Demon over the fate of the child. The game could go either way at several times, Conan keeps over thinking his actions and it costs him precious time. But with a sudden lunge of the demon Conan hews down with all his strength and severs the Demon's hand from it's body. The Demon instantly dissipates back to where it came, and Conan then sets off to find the girls family. Finding her old sister, he is related a tale of kidnapping, but when he trys to find out more he feels a sudden feeling upon his heel, looking he sees it is a Salamander working some magic upon him. Then he sees the source, Vitarus the Wizard, but before Conan can skewer him the girl stops him, She will tell her tale.. but not here.

Instead the troupe head to the Inn, Where in Conan finds the full breadth of the tale. The parts which the girls cannot fill in, Vitarus does. Vitaruus explains to Conan about his master Hogistrum: Grey Square, and of his abilities with both white and black magic. He tells how Hogistrum created 4 children who each possesed the power of an element, and how thanks to Conan who had saved Elida, the Fire Child The dark plans of Sovartes could not continue. Elida begs Conan to save her siblings, but he brushes off her entreaties saying that he is pressed for time and must make haste to Nemedia. Vitarus pays for his drinks, and Conan stumps off to his room to sleep off the days cares.

His sleep however is troubled, cursed with the feeling of a dread approaching. Causing the hair on his neck to stand on end like a thunderstorm, he finally grows tired of this situation and heads back down to the common room. There he finds Elidas sister, herself weery from lack of sleep. She claims something had rattled her window and tryed to get into her room.. and it seems the dread feelings Conan felt were shared by her. He offers to have a look at her window, But she castes a cynical eye at him and says for him not to trouble himself, since he has such a pressing engagement in Nemedia to attend.

Vitarus rejoins them, and explains that the dread feeling was dark magic, and very nearly this time is when the Inn is attacked by another Demon. This then was the cause of the wind and the dread. It is battled off, but the group makes a run for it. Vitarus's knowledge of demons runs deep, but is it deep enough to counter the machinations of his enemy? Perhaps it would be made easier with a sturdy sword arm to back him up, and since the Demons have attacked him twice now, Conan feels some pay back is in order. So they set off, Wizards and Warriors, to fight the dark mage in his keep.