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.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

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

From Hyborean Apocrypha

Part 1, Chapters 1-5

Once again we start our story with an Evil Magician. Amanar the Necromancer is currently plotting away deep within his fastness in the Eastern branch of the Kezankian Mts. He is currently wandering through his labyrinthine halls, followed loyally by his Saurian henchmen. His goal is an especially deep and dark chamber where he may undertake sacrifices to the loathsome demon-gods which he pays homage to in return for his powers. He has need of their protection, as he has betrayed the mysterious "Black Ring" and they are looking for revenge.

In Shadizar, Conan is having a bit of a tiff with his current doxie. While he argues with the tavern trull, the Landlord begins telling him the latest gossip. Another caravan has been attacked it seems, somewhere between Zamora and Turan. Allegedly its the work of a mysterious bandit known as the Red Hawk. This seems a bit too much for the Barbarian to think about, he's short on coin himself and needs a big score.. But an Easy score. After this he interrupts several Iranistanis from accosting a girl in the tavern, but she offers him no thanks for the help.

Girl rescued, and wine cup in hand, Conan goes back to thinking, he decides that if he were to rob the King of Zamora.. it wouldn't actually be theft.. after all wasn't it he, Conan, who freed the King from his belittled station under the Wizard Yara's thumb? Though he's sure the King will not see it this way, after all the King has no idea it was Conan who toppled the secretive Tower of the Elephant. Lost in thought, Conan is approached by a man claiming to be a merchant. This merchant wants to contract Conan to steal some amulets which were recently given to the King of Zamora by Yildiz, King of Turan. Conan at first hesitates, since this could jeopardize his own plans.. but the mysterious man offers him 10,000 gold pieces and that’s to great of an offer to refuse.

Unbeknown to Conan this man is an agent of the Black Ring and needs these amulets in order to gain his revenge against Amanar the Necromancer. Not that it would likely bother the Barbarian over much, as he is now under obligations to get them one way or another. He may be a thief but Conan always follows through on his bargains, so he makes his preparations to break into the King's palace.

Just a few days later, he scales the palace walls, but thinking he would be entering an empty room is discovered nearly immediately by a slave who was in hiding. Conan offers to take this girl with him in exchange for her silence. But during the attempt something goes seriously wrong, Conan is discovered and he has to fight his way past a guard. He disposes of the body but then mysterious things occur and he wakes up back in the Tavern.

Splitting headache from a hangover, the landlord informs him of the theft at the Palace, Conan protests his innocence and the Landlord quips about how Conan was so drunk the night before he couldn't have robbed a blind man let alone the palace. After doing some checking, Conan discovers the slave girl, Amulets and all are on their way east in a caravan. He has two bargains to keep, one to the merchant and another to the slave girl. So off to the east he heads.

Friday, November 19, 2010

the story so far.

Alright, so we have now followed Conan from his captivity in Hyperborea south through Brythunia, Corinthia and into Zamora, and along his many meanderings into the southern reaches of Turan, or Turanian controlled territory.. Before he winds up back in Shadizar. His route is anything but circuitous and it is in many ways repetitive. It was already such with just the Andrew J. Offutt pastiches, it became especially so with the addition of the Tor Pastiches. But here goes, after having read the first dozen Conan stories in the William Galen Grey Continuity. I've come to at least one firm conclusion, Conan the Hunter does not belong this early in his career. It is disruptive, and no explination is made for what happened to Conan's traveling companions from "Defiant" who then re-appear in the very next Steve Perry book. I've got a suspicion of a place for it, where it should work better, but I'm not 100% certain yet. Other than that, if you read perhaps a bit more into the stories, you do see that they more or less can be made to follow a relatively strict coherency. Albeit with several large holes in it where there is mo material available, the most glaring of these holes is how Conan wound up in Arenjun for "Tower of the Elephant" after having arrived in Shadizar at the end of "Formidable"

Robert Jordan's Chronology includes his adaption of "Conan the Destroyer" between "Sword of Skelos" and "Magnificent" but I feel this is preposterous as it's definitely a sequel to "Conan the Barbarian"... Though it might fit fairly decently if he didn't moan about Valeria all the time in it. Since there is no Valeria present in any of the stories we have read so far.. It dosen't make much sense to include it.

So as far as the dis-inclusion of the two movie adaptions, I'm still firmly in favor of that. I've read one continuity at least where they attempted to break "Conan the barbarian' up by chapters and force it to fit around the rest of the books.. but then you run into the problem of a disappearing/re-appearing Subetai. I think that doing something like that is trying too hard.. I don't even like breaking up Queen of the Black Coast in order to fit in Conan the Rebel.

After I've finished up the remainder of the Shadizar centric stories, (Invincible, Halls of the Dead) And Conan is on his way westwards.. I'm going to scoot back to the beginning and read "Conan of Venerium" and "Conan the Bold" and see if I can find any comfortable way to add them to the continuity.

I've also begun to work on a new Hyborian Map. I'm doing this mainly because all the existing ones are lacking in some way or another for my needs. So I'm going to include a small picture of my prototype map. It will eventually be a black and white line map in PNG format, but for now you have to settle for a small .GIF which I've scrawled Conan's journeys up to this point on.

From Hyborean Apocrypha

Thursday, November 18, 2010

13. Tor #5 Conan the Magnificent by Robert Jordan part 5

Chapters 17-20, Epilogue, and Review

With the hunting party decimated and Jondra missing. After attempting to organize the scattered remnants into some sort of order, Conan leaves Tamira in hiding while he goes to look for his erstwhile lover and employer. His plans are to collect Jondra, double back and pick up the rest of the group then high tail it back to the safety of Shadizar.

Jondra is herself in no small measure of trouble, She is completely ill equipped to be on her own in the wilderness. So it's some good fortune on her part that it isn't long before she is found by Eldran, the Brythunian who she had patronized and sent away after his earlier offers of help. He is willing to let bygones be bygones and agrees to help her again. This time she takes his offer. But it isn't long before the would be rescuer is laid flat by Hillmen and Jondra is finally within there grasp.

Finding the unconscious Brythunian sometime later Conan has the events explained to him. So it's now even more important he find Jondra. Soon recovered, Him and Eldran and several other Brythunians set off to find her. This will come none too soon to suit Jondra, as now that she is captive of Basraken Ismalla, and he now has the Eyes of Fire. It is time for the calling forth of the True Gods.

With the Eyes they will obey him, but before he can complete the ritual, Conan and the Brythunians attack the village where she is held captive. During the attack the ritual is completed and the true god comes forth as it was bidden by Basraken. It begins laying waste to the enemies of the hillmen, though rather indiscriminately. Between Eldran and Conan they manage to finally slay the beast with Eldran's magic sword, just as the Zamoran army tops the ridge and comes into view of the village. With the women safe, Basraken and the hillmen scattered and the dragon slain, its time to return to Shadizar. Something which is becoming a trend with the mighty Cimmerian.

Review: Well this was the first of the Robert Jordan penned Conan books I've read. And I must say I'm impressed by it. He is no Robert E. Howard.. but he certainly the best of the Tor Pastiche Writers and certainly better than DeCamp and Carter. It is interesting to see certain aspects of his which show in this volume and also re-appear in his magnum opus "Wheel of Time" series. Over all I went through this in just a few days, as compared to the huge slog I went through with the Perry and Carpenter volumes. Though I could be giving Carpenter a short shrift based on only one book, especially since he seemed to have the action where it was based on trying to bridge the gap between Sword of Skelos and Magnificent. To add a point C between Zamboula and Shadizar, it's just a shame that it was mostly boring.

Locations, Zamoran side of the west branch of the Kezanikan mts.
Towns, Shadizar
Characters: Conan, Jondra, Tamira, Eldran, Basraken Ismalla
Languages Spoken: Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamorian, Kothic, Turanian, Shemitish.

Up Next is another from Robert Jordan and also the very first of the Tor volumes, Conan the Invincible.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

13. Tor #5 Conan the Magnificent by Robert Jordan part 4

Chapters 12-16

The following day, Conan is attempting to put the camp back into some sort of order. Tempers are flaring, not least of all from Jondra. Shortly afterwards the camp is visited by a representative of the Zamoran Army, a General Zanthinides, who beyond insisting that the Lady Jondra return to Shadizar he be allowed to escort her. Clearly he feels this will endear him to her. But as with most men she firmly rebukes him, especially after his patronizing attitude towards her hunting abilities.

Later that afternoon, Conan is alerted to a muffled scream. The Scene which unfolds is of Zanthinides struggling to undo his clothing so that he might proceed to rape the Lady Jondra. Conan unceremoniously deposits him on his backside in the middle of the camp. Zanthinides directs all manner of vitriol at the doughty Cimmerian, and boasts of his political power in Shadizar. This is cut short when Jondra reminds the good general what the punishment is for the rape of a noble in Zamora.

After this incident Jondra demands that Conan prepare the camp to move, deeper into the mountains. She still has the aim of bagging her Dragon, and Zanthinides patronizing attitude has only furthered her resolve to do this.

Basraken Ismalla has grown exceedingly angered over the lack of progress on his mission. His various henchmen all having failed to acquire the eyes of fire for him. Afraid of angering the true gods, and angering the other tribes who are allied with him he decides to show his prowess as leader. Picking a fight with a rival chieftain he swiftly slays the other man thus keeping his position of importance. From now on he intends to personally oversee all the efforts of procuring the magic rubies.

After several more days of drudgery in the mountains, Lady Jondras party begin to come across more signs of the dragon. The Huntsmaster and Conan confer and decide it would probably be best not to venture any further into the valley. But not long after Lady Jondra refusing this sensible advice the party is attacked by the Dragon. Very few survive and in the confusion Jondra runs into the hills. Things have definitely gone from bad to worse.

Monday, November 15, 2010

13. Tor #5 Conan the Magnificent by Robert Jordan part 3

Chapters 8-11

On the Brythunian slopes of the Kezankian mountains, a village is slowly recovering from the shock of its own destruction. A man named Eldran is approaching this ruined village, his village. The village of course has been the victim of the Dragon, the True God of the upper tribes. It is explained to him by the village seer that it is his duty to take the magical sword and slay the beast, for no one else can.

Now finding himself in the service of Lady Jondra, Conan and the party are slowly making their way deeper into the mountains. He wonders perhaps what exactly Jondra is hear to hunt? The big horn sheep? It's not long however before both Conan and the Huntsmaster notice the two toed tracks of the Dragon. Answering his own question, Conan realizes this must be the beast she seeks.

Trouble begins to brew between the huntsmaster and Conan, the trouble comes to a head when Conan is challenged to a game of spear casting. the best cast wins. Conan wins. So impressed by his cast, lady Jondra offers herself to him as his prize. His new status elevates him above the rest of the party, and his problems with them largely cease.

It isn't long before the group encounters Eldran, making his own way through the mountains hunting the beast. This meeting is not exactly cordial, Jondra refusing to listen to Eldrans entreaties of how dangerous the beast is, and then rebuking Conan for not pummeling Eldran for his disagreeing with her. This evening, having received word of their coming, the Kezankians attack the party as it sleeps, and were it not for the presence of the wary barbarian would surely have slaughtered them all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

13. Tor #5 Conan the Magnificent by Robert Jordan part 2

Chapters 4-7

Like most large cities, Shadizar has its own collection of nobles. Numbered among them is a Lady Jondra, who having seen Conan about town has some what become taken with him. But she will have no man who can not best her in sport. Hunting, spear casting, archery, and she enjoys showing up the men who try. The more who try and fail, the more she thinks of the brawny youth from the market place.

Tamira is now working another angle, Lady Jondra's maidservant. What purpose she is doing this we don't yet know, but it assuredly can't be anything good. Perhaps Conan will find out? Right now he is back at the tavern entertaining a girl. But his revels are interrupted by a very peeved spice merchant who is still waiting on his emerald cup. The two go to talk in private, and the talk does not go well for the merchant. After this, Conan makes preparations to leave Shadizar for a while. Just as he is walking out the door however his spies bring him word on Tamira's current job. So Conan sets off to follow Lady Jondra.

Earlier, one of Conan's spies had pointed out the suspicious comings and goings of a group of Kezankians, and again he runs into them. They too are apparently seeking Lady Jondra, he has little time to waste. After several days, and several times crossing and recrossing large numbers of tracks belonging to groups of booted men.

After another lengthy of time Conan spies a lone rider, at the mercy of a pack of wolves who have dispatched the riders horse. But luckily for the rider Conan has some experience when it comes to dispatching wolves, and makes short work of them. The Rider of course turns out to be the Lady Jondra, who had purposefully separated from her hunting party and then been beset by the wolves. Conan follows her back to her camp, and quickly begins to come to enjoy a spot at the top of the totem pole.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

13. Tor #5 Conan the Magnificent by Robert Jordan

From Hyborean Apocrypha
After a delay to get over my boredom from the Leonard Carpenter one, I'm back with the first Robert Jordan Conan book that I've ever read. Like a lot of Fantasy fans, I've read his enormous Wheel of Time series. I liked it all right, but there weren't a shortage of moments when I didn't feel an injection of Conan couldn't have helped..

So hope you enjoyed the two reviews for Conan the Adventurer, I plan to finish the series eventually. so there will be more to come.

Prologue and chapters 1-3

Among the high places of the Kezankian mountains running between Zamora and Brythunia, dark rituals are being presided over by Basraken Ismalla. Human sacrifice, and other blood letting is the order of the day, for only the deaths of infidels will please his dark god. The true God. And all he lacks to make the world see its error and repent are the legendary Eyes of Fire.

It's nighttime in Shadizar, not a safe place for the unprepared to wander. But Conan is anything but, after his months long journey through the desert he has at last made it to Shadizar, the City of the Wicked. During the long periods of boring travel, he has gotten himself indebted to a spice merchant after some unlucky runs of dice, and is tasked with stealing an emerald cup as repayment.

Unfortunately for Conan another thief has beat him to the treasure house, she is there to steal a different item. but her interference nearly gets Conan captured by the guards. With a mighty bellow of CROM! he fights his way free and escapes. Without the emerald cup
however he won't get out of debt.. so nursing a grudge, he returns to his dive bar of choice.

No satisfaction from the tavern wenches doesn’t improve his mood, and the Tavern keeper is unable to tell him anything about the female thief who cost him his economic freedom. Conan waits till the morning then visits another source who may know more. He eventually finds the thief, but she doesn’t make it easy for him. After a bit of back and forth she leaves him once more balked.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Conan the Adventurer, Episode 2

From Hyborean Apocrypha

Conan: The Adventurer - Episode 2, The Heart of the Elephant part 2

Episode Two opens with Conan and Otli are sitting beside a river having a theological discussion about the nature of Crom's attitude towards testing as a form of caring. Just as the debate is heating up, a woman attacks and kicks Conan into the river. Her troops then arrive and take Otli and Conan prisoner.. Conan winds up in her bed, but then rebukes her and gets dressed. We learn the woman's name is Carella, Queen of Thieves. She's curious as to where Conan is headed, to which he answers to find the Wizard Yara, Carella too wishes to find Yara, to steal his magic Jewel. This Jewel is the Heart of the Elephant, to which this two parter gets its name. Conan replies that he is not interested in the jewel, only in rescuing Tamira. After calling him foolish for this quest, she offers herself to Conan once more, but he replies he only wants to collect Otli and get going.

Zzeben and Vulkar are still following Conan, They come across some of the survivors from Tamiras Village who are likewise looking for Conan. Hoping he will lead them to fight back against Hissar Zhul, They go with the survivors. The Farmers wish to attack a passing band of Zhul's troops, and Zzeben and Vulkar organize them to do it right. Meanwhile Otli and Conan have made it to Arenjun to find Yara. Before Conan enters the wizard's lair, Otli urges caution and Conan remarks"wizards can die". Shortly after Conan finds Tamira, but is captured by Yara. Yara imprisons Tamira in a mirror and tasks with an errand or he will keep her imprisoned forever. The Task is to retrieve his Jewel, the Heart of the elephant, Stolen by the creature which guards the tower.

Otli and Conan begin investigating the problem placed before them by Yara, and run into Carella again. Conan and Carella make a bargain, she gets all of the other stones, but Conan gets to return the Heart of the Elephant to Yara in exchange for Tamira's life. Venturing into the chamber with the Heart alone, Conan discovers it is guarded by a giant spider. Conan fights with it for a while, but quickly subdues it and makes his way deeper into the tower and discovers a large creature sitting on a throne. It relates to him how it taught Yara but he wanted all the power.

The large creature tells Conan that the stone was never Yara's but was his, and that Yara has been attempting to steal it for decades.. It tells Conan to kill it, and squeeze its heart's blood over the gem before taking it to Yara. It also tells Conan to deliver a message, That Yag-Kosha sends one last gift. The Task completed, the Jewel secured, Conan returns to Yara's Keep.

Unbeknown to Conan, General Goroth takes Tamira from yara and stabs her. Conan hands over the gem, and demands to know where Tamira is. Yara explains about Goroth and takes the gem, Conan says the words from Yag-Kosha and Yara is destroyed. He races to where Tamria is, where he has a few moments before she dies. And then the hunt for Goroth is on. Goroth returns to report to Hissar Zhul, that he has slain Tamira and called off the search for Conan. Zhul at first is furious, until Goroth explains that now out of Vengeance, Conan will come to him.

Conan and Otli meet Zzeben and Vulkar on the road to find Hissar Zhul. They relate how they have been gathering villagers and others tired of living under Zhul's rule. Conan speechifies a bit in order to motivate the villagers to follow him against Zhul for Revenge or Freedom. Along the way Conan and the Villagers join forces with Carellas thieves and bandits. And the Makeshift army marches against Hissar Zhul. Upon arrival this army is observed by Goroth, who plans to ambush them.

But Conan has already laid his own ambush and dispatches Goroth's Army ending by drowning Goroth. The Magic skull which Zhul converses with informs him that the battle went badly, and also that Conan is heading towards Zhul's castle soon. The skull suggests also that the better part of valor is discretion and that they should flee before he arrives. As the army arrives, Zhul's castle vanishes. Conan, Otli, Zzeben, and Vulkar set off to find Hissar Zhul and so the arc of the next twenty episodes is established.

Stories "Borrowed from" - "The Tower of the Elephant", Conan The Mercenary, and Conan and the Sorcerer

This episode is not even close to being bad, atleast until after the death of Tamira.. Zzeben and Vulkar, Otli and Carella are all decent enough characters but seeing Conan blubbering about Tamira. It was ridiculous when Milius had Swarzegnegger do it in the movie.. but at least Valeria was something special.. In the context of the film.. Tamira is just a farm girl who Conan only met a few days previously who's father was Mickey Rooney! It seems rather strange he would be so enthralled to her already..

Still the second act of the episode was an improvement over both the first episode and the first half of the second episode. Though its shaping up to be better than some of the Steve Perry novels anyway.. at least in so far.. there are no talking animals.. be thankful for small blessings I suppose.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Conan the Adventurer, Episode 1

From Hyborean Apocrypha

Conan: The Adventurer - (1997)

"After the oceans swallowed Atlantis but before the age of recorded history. Kingdom's spread across the ancient world.. This was the age of Conan. Enslaved as a Boy, Conan grew into a Warrior. He Escaped to encounter Mystery, magic and Myth, while forever encountering the ultimate master of sorcery. Lover, Friend, Hero. His Destiny, was to free the oppressed, And become a King by his own hand, Conan"

This is the third Conan Television series, following 1992's Conan the Adventurer and 1994's Conan and the Young Warriors. However it is the only live action series. It ran for 22 episodes. This show dosen't follow 1982's Conan the Barbarian, 1985's Conan the Destroyer or 1987's Red Sonja.

Conan: The Adventurer - Episode 1, The Heart of the Elephant part 1 (1997)

"Thousands of years ago, long after the oceans drank the gleaming city of Atlantis, There was an age undreamed of, when mythical kingdoms spread across the uncharted world like mantles beneath the stars. The Hyborian age, a time of superstition and myth. When sorcerers cast evil spells and fantastic creatures stalked the earth. A time when many were ruled by few. In this world lived an adventurer destined to be its king. A man in whose veins flowed the ancient blood of Atlantis, He is a Cimmerian, born on the Battlefield, strengthened by time and trial, He.. Is Conan"

So the Narrator informs us at the beginning of this episode, just before a man who is obviously a King wakes up. We are informed via his interrogation of a dodgy special effects skull beast thing that this is a recurring dream of his impending death at the hands of Conan. The man with this recurring dream is the so called King of Cimmeria, Hissar Zhul. He is especially concerned to acquire the Sword which Conan carries. His skull like adviser, recommends sending an army to capture Conan and the sword before he can fulfill his destiny of overthrowing Hissar Zhul. Zhul dispatches his Adviser Yara, his mistreated sidekick Otli and the great General Goroth to capture Conan.

Unbeknown to Conan (Ralph Moeller), who has just finished a hunt, Conan is accosted by a girl, Tamira, who begs off half his kill for her starving Village. While she is distracting him, some other villagers steal the rest of the kill. She then offers to prepare Conan a meal. A guest at his own meal he says. Dinner over, Gobe (Mickey Rooney) the village elder and Conan converse, Hissar Zhul we learn, rules all the lands from Shem to Cimmeria, and was responsible for raiding Conan's Village and kidnapping him as a child.

The army that Hissar Zhul sent, attacks the village but is repulsed by Conan but vow to return. Two day's later they do return and raze the village entirely to the ground. Capturing the girl and Conan, Yara lies to Goroth that the Barbarian they captured is not Conan and proceeds to sell him to a gladiatorial arena. This would make the second time in Conan's life which he is a Gladiator.

While awaiting his first day as a gladiator he comes to know, Zzeben the Mute and Vulkar, two other gladiators, imploring them to rise up against their captors and be free men. The Following day Conan faces Vulkar in the ring and they stage their escape along with Zzeben. In the woods, the three escaped gladiators plan to rescue Tamira, but not knowing where she is aren't sure how to go about it. They are then approached by Otli, who promises to guide Conan to her in exchange for Conan's help in him becoming a free man. Otli and Conan set off alone, but Zzeben silently implores Vulkar to follow them anyway.

Otli and Conan set off, and Conan quickly feels the urge to climb a hill. Otli says there's no reason to, but Conan goes anyway, where he finds a crypt and retrieves the Sword which Hissar Zhul saw in his dreams. The creature which formerly owned the sword objects to Conan's grave robbing and attacks. Conan defeats the creature, Otli says this is exactly why he didn't want to go in the cave.. why he hates caves in fact.. but Conan says he had to, was drawn to the cave by some force, The sword begins to glow, and we encounter Crom (Richard Burton*) who is unlike any other version of Crom.. in that he seems to be a caring and all around nice sort of chap for a disembodied floating head. He explains his grand purpose for Conan, that the sword is a magic sword from Atlantis which its conan's destiny to use to right wrongs in the world.

Next: Episode 2 The Heart of the Elephant part 2

*The image of Crom's face is reused stock footage of Burton, who died nearly 14 years before this program was made, I don't know who provided the voice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

...The Longest Fantasy Series?

After finding a link to a very interesting thread in which a courageous internet delver is attempting to make a list of the longest fantasy series in the world. I noticed that a certain mighty barbarian stood atop the pile... But something didn't quite look right. The number of books seemed much too low.. it was in fact nearly 14 short of the total number of Conan books.. and a further 15 short of having all the "Hyborean Apocrypha" included.

So I set out to rectify this.

According to my count, the 66 Conan titles published by various companies over nearly 40 years which comprise the loosely interconnected "Journeys of Conan" as it seems to be called total up to some 16000+ pages.. putting it well past the second closest, Discworld by nearly 3000 pages.

When one adds in the Hyborian age outriggers, Red Sonja and Age of Conan.. It balloons even further, to nearly 22,000 pages total.

So after researching everything, I present the following list with # of pages according to the editions which I own and/or can reference on Amazon.

#1 Lancer/Ace #1 Conan 221 pages
#2 Lancer/Ace #2 Conan of Cimmeria 190 pages
#3 Lancer/Ace #3 Conan the Freebooter 223 pages
#4 Lancer/Ace #4 Conan the Wanderer 222 pages
#5 Lancer/Ace #5 Conan the Adventurer 224 pages
#6 Lancer/Ace #6 Conan the Buccaneer 191 pages
#7 Lancer/Ace #7 Conan the Warrior 222 pages
#8 Lancer/Ace #8 Conan the Usurper 256 pages
#9 Lancer/Ace #9 Conan the Conqueror 296 pages
#10 Lancer/Ace #10 Conan the Avenger 192 pages
#11 Lancer/Ace #11 Conan of Aquilonia 171 pages
#12 Lancer/Ace #12 Conan of the Isles 189 pages

Total # 2597 Pages

#13 Ace Conan and the Sorcerer 186 pages
#14 Ace Conan the Mercenary 187 pages
#15 Ace Conan and the Flame Knife 160 pages
#16 Ace Conan and the Treasure of Tranicos 191 pages

Total # 724 pages

#17 Ace/Bantam/Tor #13/#1/#47 Conan the Swordsman 256 pages
#18 Ace/Bantam/Tor #14/#2/#48 Conan the Liberator 256 pages
#19 Ace/Bantam/Tor #15/#3/#45 The Sword of Skelos 224 pages
#20 Ace/Bantam/Tor #16/#4/#43 Conan The Road of Kings 224 pages
#21 Ace/Bantam/Tor #17/#6/#44 Conan the Rebel 224 pages
#22 Ace/Bantam/Tor #18/#5/#49 Conan and the Spider God 256 pages
#23 Bantam #7 Conan the Barbarian 192 pages

Total # 1632 pages

#24 Tor #1 Conan the Invincible 288 pages
#25 Tor #2 Conan the Defender 288 pages
#26 Tor #3 Conan the Unconquered 288 pages
#27 Tor #4 Conan the Triumphant 320 pages
#28 Tor #5 Conan the Magnificent 288 pages
#29 Tor #6 Conan the Destroyer 288 pages
#30 Tor #7 Conan the Victorious 288 pages
#31 Tor #8 Conan the Valorous 288 pages
#32 Tor #9 Conan the Fearless 288 pages
#33 Tor #10 Conan the Renegade 288 pages
#34 Tor #11 Conan the Raider 288 pages
#35 Tor #12 Conan the Champion 288 pages
#36 Tor #13 Conan the Defiant 256 pages
#37 Tor #14 Conan the Marauder 228 pages
#38 Tor #15 Conan the Warlord 288 pages
#39 Tor #16 Conan the Valiant 288 pages
#40 Tor #17 Conan the Hero 288 pages
#41 Tor #18 Conan the Bold 288 pages
#42 Tor #19 Conan the Great 288 pages
#43 Tor #20 Conan the Indomitable 288 pages
#44 Tor #21 Conan the Freelance 288 pages
#45 Tor #22 Conan the Formidable 288 pages
#46 Tor #23 Conan the Guardian 288 pages
#47 Tor #24 Conan the Outcast 288 pages
#48 Tor #25 Conan the Rogue 320 pages
#49 Tor #26 Conan the Relentless 288 pages
#50 Tor #27 Conan the Savage 320 pages
#51 Tor #28 Conan of the Red Brotherhood 288 pages
#52 Tor #29 the Gods of the Mountain 288 pages
#53 Tor #30 the Treasure of Python 288 pages
#54 Tor #31 Conan the Hunter 256 pages
#55 Tor #32 Scourge of the Bloody Coast 256 pages
#56 Tor #33 Conan and the Manhunters 288 pages
#57 Tor #34 Conan at the Demon's Gate 288 pages
#58 Tor #35 Conan the Gladiator 288 pages
#59 Tor #36 Conan and the Amazon 288 pages
#60 Tor #37 Conan and the Mists of Doom 288 pages
#61 Tor #38 Conan and the Emerald Lotus 288 pages
#62 Tor #39 Conan and the Shaman's Curse 256 pages
#63 Tor #40 Conan, Lord of the Black River 288 pages
#64 Tor #41 Conan and The Grim Grey God 224 pages
#65 Tor #42 the Death Lord of Thanza 272 pages
#66 Tor #46 Conan of Venarium 272 pages

Total # 12196 pages

#67 Ace Red Sonja #1 246 pages
#68 Ace Red Sonja #2 224 pages
#69 Ace Red Sonja #3 183 pages
#70 Ace Red Sonja #4 217 pages
#71 Ace Red Sonja #5 200 pages
#72 Ace Red Sonja #6 199 pages

Total # 1269 Pages

#73 Ace Age of Conan #1 Legends of Kern #1 336 pages
#74 Ace Age of Conan #2 Legends of Kern #2 304 pages
#75 Ace Age of Conan #3 Legends of Kern #3 336 pages
#76 Ace Age of Conan #4 Heretics of Set #1 288 pages
#77 Ace Age of Conan #5 Heretics of Set #2 272 pages
#78 Ace Age of Conan #6 Heretics of Set #3 264 pages
#79 Ace Age of Conan #7 Soldiers Quest #1 304 pages
#80 Ace Age of Conan #8 Soldiers Quest #2 288 pages
#81 Ace Age of Conan #9 Soldiers Quest #3 288 pages
#82 Ace Age of Conan #10 Marauders #1 240 pages
#83 Ace Age of Conan #11 Marauders #2 240 pages
#84 Ace Age of Conan #12 Marauders #3 240 pages

Total # 3400 Pages

Grand Total # 21818 pages

Monday, September 27, 2010

12. Tor #24, Conan the Outcast by leonard Carpenter, part 5

Now in league with Khumannos, and leading the procession of the stone Idol. Conan regains entry to the town of Qjara. Church business is church business, and who are city guards to argue with that sort of reasoning. The great church combination must proceed so the Idol, Khumannos and Conan are allowed into the city.. if not welcomed.

After some time of waiting all the components of the Idol have arrived in Qjara, and Khummanos and his workmen are busy assembling it in its new temple. during this time, Conan has the opportunity to converse with Princess Afriandra about the nature of religion and things of that sort.

Shortly following the completion of the idol, crowds have begun to form. Afriandra and her sister priestess's beseech the people of Qjara to cast out Khummanos and his blasphemous idol, when Khummanos asks for calm and explains the whole situation. That Qjara is to be a sacrifice to his dread god, Votantha, so that Sark may live again. Conan, feeling he has been taken for a fool has to suppress the urge to simply dispatch Khummanos then and there, and after he helped the priest across the desert and everything..

His plan blatantly revealed to the masses the pilgrims and priests of Votantha begin to rampage through the city and the giant, now animate, idol begins to attack and consume all the Qjarans it can lay its testicles on. Conan, finds his knife from the Shanki ineffective so he "acquires" a magic sword.. and magic armor.. which which to hopefully slay the demon.

After the battle, having saved the city for a second time. The King and Queen announce that Conan is no longer an outcast, and Conan quite amicably states that he's never been one to hold a grudge. Friends again, dark priests plans foiled, as soon as a Northern bound caravan is available it will be time for Conan to once more begin his journey north to Shadizar.

The End.

Review, This book was boring, really boring. so boring that it took me nearly a month to read it. And Conan was extremely not Conan in it. despite all my moaning about Steve Perry.. His books were silly, but at least his Conan at least shared a few identifiable features.

Mr. Carpenters Conan however, spends an inordinate amount of time doing well.. helpful.. things. He teaches the local orphans how to fish. He seems to expend a lot of worry over the slaves who are moving Khummanos's Idol through the desert. He also whines about something not being Fair.... if you have ever seen the program Venture Brothers.. I expect Carpenter's Conan to talk rather like the character Shore Leave.

On the plus column, this book adds geographical and political levels to the normally empty "Shem" on the maps. It provides that deep into the deserts of Shem, around water courses, there are a number of small city states. That is rather more interesting than the story itself.

Locations, Eastern Shemitish Desert.
Towns, Sark, Qjara, Yb the cursed.
Characters: Conan, Khumanos, Anaximander, Zaius,
Languages Spoken: Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamorian, Kothic, Turanian, Shemitish.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

12. Tor #24, Conan the Outcast by leonard Carpenter, part 4

The day of the duel has arrived, Conan v. Zaius, winner take the princess. The bulk of the town has turned out to witness this event, understandably so, since if it's as dull as it seems they probably haven't had this much excitement since the last outbreak of Shemitish sand fleas. Zaius blusters and struts, thinking the Barbarian easy prey for his disciplined sword arm. As Monarch and townspeople watch, Zaius raises his sword and then neatly cuts his own head off*.

Conan is astounded and demands what sort of farce this contest is, but he is quickly shushed by the priestess's of Qjara lest he spoil the moment with his blasphemous chatter. Conan is thus defeated, through a technicality, and is shunned by the tiny nation-state of Qjara. He protests, but this avails him nothing. So in leaving Qjara, he reflects on what brought him here in the first place.

After leaving Zamboula, he began to journey northwest. But a series of dry oasis necessitated his veering off course during his journey. His ultimate goal was and still is to return to Shadizar, but since he had been thwarted by nature, he chose to wait in Qjara for a northbound caravan. But that has now been denied him as well, not one to sulk, he sets off on his own.

After some days he finds himself in a deserted city in the middle of the waste. He realizes with horror that this city is the cursed Yb. A demon haunted ruin shunned by everyone. He eventually encounters an unlikely procession, a great wagon bearing a stone idol, headed towards Qjara under the auspices of Khumannos the high priest. With a desire to right the wrongs inflicted on him by the people of Qjara he accepts Khumannos as a traveling companion and they head eastward once more.

*I swear I'm not making this up.

Monday, September 13, 2010

12. Tor #24, Conan the Outcast by leonard Carpenter, part 3

After a vacation to recuperate from a crippling attack of boredom. we will be Picking back up with Conan The Uneventful..err The Outcast.. were we left him.. in exactly the same place he has been for 100 pages..the world knows what he will do now.. but I suspect exactly the same thing he's been doing for 100 pages... nothing.

Conan is teaching the local gutter snipes to fish the ready creek that he has been camped near for days. But soon has to babysit the whole herd of them when the city is attacked. He then proceeds to help out about town fending off the attacking nomads, its an awfully civilized thing for him to do. This gains him some prestige with the populous.. but nothing but a disdainful look from Guardian Zaius. For his gallantry Zaius earns special blessings of church and state, and to Conan too is honour bestowed. He receives as his reward a kiss from the Princess, and as result is forced into a duel with Zaius.

Before this happens however, the King and Queen of Qjara ride out to meet the coming mission of King Anaximander of Sark who has come to discuss matters of kingly import. Philosophical debates ensue, and a proposal to marry the two city-states faiths is batted about, then the two rulers embark on a field trip to the desert. Its while on this trip that Anaximander is alerted to the progress of priest Khumanos in fulfilling his designs.

The Princess and Conan converse for some time, dwelling on her proof of her prophetic powers.. in the end she beseeches Conan not to fight Zaius, for he will surly lose.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

12. Tor #24, Conan the Outcast by leonard Carpenter, part 2

Tulbar and Hekla, indentured thieves to Sheik Fouaz, are tasked with raiding the Sarkian Mine works in the mountains of fire. He is sending them to enrich their masters coffers. Strange things are encountered, sulfurous hot springs with abnormally lush vegetation. And rumors of illness among the workers who mined the strange green mineral. Lesions and Neurological problems. Before the first night is through, Hekla has already succumbed to the effects of the mine.. but something more sinister is in store for Tulbar.

After the debacle at the caravan site, Conan has taken it upon himself to follow the dancing girl who the Guards were so keen to find earlier. His suspicions hold true, she is the missing princess they were seeking. She makes clear the situation that exists between her and Guardsman Zaius. He is to marry her, and become King. But she desires the power of monarch for herself.

The two debate the status of religion in the Hyborian world, a topic which Conan seems quite knowledgeable about. Before anything untoward can happen however they are beset upon by Temple Guardian Zaius and wild accusations. The girl prevents Conan from killing Zaius on the spot, and city law prevents Conan from getting satisfaction from Zaius by way of a Duel, for now their quarrel must be left to simmer, since it can't be brought to a boil.

Meanwhile, High Priest Khummanos, is journeying to the Mines with the strange mineral, taking with him several servants from his own tribe who live beside the shore of the sea of Shartoum. He has also in his employ Tulbar, whom he found upon arrival. The Priest and his slaves cast several statues from the strange mineral, with incantations. But industrial mishaps are not uncommon, and Tulbar, alas, does not survive. No matter, the priests goal is met.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

12. Tor #24, Conan the Outcast by leonard Carpenter, part 1

From Hyborean Apocrypha

King Anaximander of the city state of Sark is bored, bored of his concubines and of the simple things.. he wants to look out upon his people.. Opening a window he does so, is greeted by a bright and dry land, Exactly as he expected. But then less expected he sees a vision of how the land once looked, in times past, before his people were abandoned by their god Votantha. He feels that this vision is a sign, of what his god requires to regain favor, the sacrifice of the neighboring city state of Qraja. And demands of his high priest, Khumanos to see to this, through use of ancient sorcery.

This is unfortunate, not only for poor hapless Qraja but for the large blue eyed troll who is fishing beside the river bank. Well, he isn't really a troll. But the two boys plotting to steal his food think he is. He is Conan, of Cimmeria. Not a troll. The boys however are dubious of this claim. But in an mood of some mirth at them he decides to share what he has with them.. and perhaps educate them in regards to other edibles in the river so they might later feed themselves. They ask why he is there, the great northern troll, and he explains that he is traveling a great distance in order to get back to Shadizar.

Wandering the burning desert, the high priest Khumanos is seeking Solon the wise. The only one who is old enough to remember what he needs to know. Finding the toothless and decrepit hermit and learning that which he set out to know, to better serve Vortantha, The Tree of Mouths.

Conan is in the company of a dancer from one of the Caravans which pass through Qraja, Things are going well until a merchant sets his sight on Conan's doxy. After a while and a few more drinks of Arrak a fight inevitably breaks out, which is going in Conan's favor until the Qjara'n Temple Guard arrive to quell the problems. Fights are bad business for a caravan post. The Guard's Leader Zaius quickly puts an end to the fighting. They however weren't there only to stop the fight, but were on the hunt for the missing Princess Afriandra and have searched in vain.

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.

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.

Monday, August 9, 2010

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

Typically, when a Woman is involved Conan can seldom seem to go a day without her causing him some sort of trouble, Isparana of course already has caused a surplus of trouble but has not quite met her quota yet. The two travelers have not been long on the trail before they are accosted by several men, who wish to borrow Isparana from Conan. She has other plans, and Conan is concurrent with them and the two fight their way out, and are pursued and only saved at last by a timely intervention of several tribesmen, Conan has encountered the Shanki.

Further south, The two travelers are now enjoying the hospitality of the Shanki, who explain that those who accosted them were the Yoggites, enemies of everyone, While the Shanki themselves are enemies of Turan, and it's Satrap in Zamboula. The Shanki chieftain explains over dinner about his daughter whom he sent to Zamboula and has not been heard of since.

The following day, several Shanki escort Conan and Isparana to Zamboula. It seems they were expected, and the Satrap has dispatched several mounted guard to escort them to to the city. The Shanki continue on their own to pursue their horsetrading in the city, while Conan is escorted away to meet with the Khan.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

11. Bantam Conan #3, Conan: The Sword of Skelos, By Andrew J. Offutt, Part 2

Conan and Khassek are plodding towards their terminus, the kingdom of Iranistan. The same place which Ahjhinder, stricken with venom tried to recruit Conan to venture too some time ago. Conan relates the full tale of that fateful night to Khassek, who is aghast at the wake of Conan's tales, truly a bloody path. Truly the Bane of wizards.. Conan wisely omits that after he pursued Isparanna of Zamboula and retrieved the Eye of Erlik.. that he kept it.. Or that he had used it to further his ruse in the court of Queen Ialamus of Khauron.

We are next re-acquainted with Captain Arsil and the Samara guard. Who are rightly less than amused by the sudden desertion of one of their own. He has vanished along with Isparanna and headed north, presumably to find the accursed Cimmerian who foisted her off on the soldiers in the first place. At the same time the Satrap of Zhamboula and his sorcerer are scheming. They know that the Eye is once again headed southwards and aim to acquire it themselves.

It is only a short time later, upon emerging from the Canyon of the Former Sand Lich that Conan and Khassek are beset by two robed persons. Khassek is unfortunately slain, and so is one of the bandits, the second is revealed to be none other than Isparanna herself, come hunting Conan.

The two remaining people now set off south, to Zamboula, were even now more foul plots are being hatched by Zafra the Satrap's Wizard and one of the Satrap's Harem. To what purpose we are not yet to know, but it surely cannot be good.

Monday, August 2, 2010

11. Bantam Conan #3, Conan: The Sword of Skelos, By Andrew J. Offutt, Part 1

From Hyborean Apocrypha

This is the last book in Andrew J. Offutt's Loosely Linked Trilogy of Novels.

After leaving the land of the unhappy queens, Conan has returned to Shadizar. His soul returned but that small issue of the Eye of Erlik is still with him. We find him in "The Desert", Shadizar's Equivilant of Arenjun's "The Maul". He is accosted by several men, one aiming to stab him, while another behind clubs him. This of course is a ruse, as Conan soon uncovers he was to be taken hostage and delivered to a certain Iranistani whom he now especially wishes to meet. So off he goes, with the surviving kidnapper to lead him.

At the Red Lion Tavern, Conan is to meet this Iranistani who would talk to him. The man had followed Conan's trail from Arenjun, where he had the fateful run in with Ajhinder the Iranistani Spy sent to steal the Eye from Hissar Zhul's house. The Spy who met his end from a pair of vipers. This other man is seeking still the same jewel, and he thinks Conan knows where to find it. And to prove that he is not playing in his demands, his trump card is played, five members of the city watch of Shadizar with intent to arrest Conan at the behest of the City of Arenjun!

So In the company of Khessak of Iranistan, it is farewell to Shadizar once more. Once more employed against his will and once more embroiled in some manner of shady dealings.

unbeknown to Conan however, vile Sorcery is brewing in Zamboula, a Satrap and his wizard have enchanted a sword to wield itself at the command of it's master. But to Finish the spell he must use it to slay a Girl, and he chooses the one sent as a gift by a tribe of nomads known as the Shanki. This will prove to have dire consequences for the Satrap of Zambhoula.. If only Isparana had succeeded in stealing the Eye of Erlik!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10. Ace Illustrated Conan #2: Conan the Mercenary by Andrew J. Offutt, part 3

Soul Returned, Employed as a bodyguard to an attractive "Older woman" (of about 25) what will Conan do? Why, go and buy some new clothes of course. Two new tunics courtesy of the royal family of Khaurun. While he and Shubal are in the tailors, the seamstress extorts a pledge from Conan not to lay a hand on her teenage daughter.. he had no plans to but goes on to swear by every god he can think of.. showing total disregard for them the whole while. He doesn't get on well with the rest of the staff his first night on the job, but the following day inquires as to the provenance of Sergiadus being at the royal court and Arkhaurus is patient enough to indulge him. The conversation leaves Conan with more questions, and more misgivings than he had before. Since as Conan explains to Arkharus, the man that everyone else saw as Sergiadus.. to Conan appeared as a decrepit older man.. who when he provides a description of what he saw.. it is the spitting image of the Baron Sabinus.

A right mystery to be sure, but a man can't think straight when his baser impulses are hammering away at his brain.. so him and shubal head out to the tavern. They've only been their for a short while before they are lured into going outside by a commotion, and are embroiled in an assassination of a local leather worker. Days later Conan is himself nearly used as a pawn in another attempt on Khashtris, the plot is wearing thin now and Conan has started to unravel it further. He conspires with Kashtris to rid the royal family of its unwanted guest and then goes to plan his future.

Conan and Shubal bring to the attention of some loyal members of the royal household their misgivings and lay all their evidence out plain. And formulate one of their own... A mysterious Illusionist from Far Kandala, by the name of Crispis, is newly arrived in Khauran and has been invited to the palaces festivities for the night. He bears the mighty amulet the Eye of Erlik which allows him to see strange and wondrous things. Crispis proceeds to reveal all the details of the sordid intrigue in the form of prophecy... mumbling and pointing and shouting down to the various players. The ploy revealed, and the conspirators slain, the Kingdom rejoices only briefly before learning that since the Queen had found her favored Sergiadus to be a lie, she had done herself her death. And with that, Conan makes to leave Khauran, but promises one day to return and look in on the new Queen, Queen Taramis of Khauran.

Review -

Here in the first chapter we gain a tiny inkling of information which we could use to fill in the gap between Conan's initial arrival in Shadizar at the end of Conan the Formidable and his Re-Appearance farther south east in the city of Arenjun for "Tower of the Elephant". The Prices in Shadizar too High and too much sorcery for Conan's taste and his youthful optimistic streak had suffered a blow or two in Shadizar as well. One can conjecture then that nothing terribly interesting happened upon Conan's first arrival in Shadizar except things didn't work out quite as well as he had hoped. But having heard of the reputation of Arenjun, decided to try his luck their instead. The Book is also clear on a few other points, that Conan is 17 still, and that Taramis is a girl " Of about six" so that means between this story and " A Witch Shall be Born" about 13 years will pass before Conan returns to Khauran of the unhappy queens.

In the third chapter we are privy to a conversation which is very interesting, and will eventually help us date some future stories in the context of a unified chronology. For any of my readers who have already read all the Robert E. Howard stories, you know that " A witch Shall be Born " features Queen Taramis of Khaurun and the fallout of this fateful choice on the part of her mother. We also find that Conan can write Turanian, and speak Kothic which is the language of Khauran. Which I'm willing to conjecture seeing as Conan has recently spent most of his time in Arenjun which is near the Turanian border of Zamora that they speak Turanian there. Shadizar probably has such a confusing babel of tongues one could give them any.. but more than likely it's a Turanian or Kothic variant itself.. dosen't seem like it would be Corinthian/Brythonic. I'm sure this will help tremendously when it comes time to build a new chronology.

Offutt so far out of the four pasticher's I've read is my favorite by far. And while none of this is backed up in REH's own stories, I'm going to use it since at the moment thats all we have to go on, it will have to suffice.

Next is " Conan: The Sword of Skelos " by Andrew J. Offutt.

Places: Zamora, Koth, Khauran
Towns: Shadizar
People: Conan, Lord Sabininus Baron of Korveka, Khi Zhang, The Lady Khashtris of Khauran, Queen Ialamis, Princess Taramis, Shubal of Shem, City Governer Acralidus, Kraladese son of Acralidus, Sergiadus son of Tor duke of Nemedia, Arkhaurus Adviser to Queen Ialamis
Languages Spoken: Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamorian, Kothic, Turanian.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

10. Ace Illustrated Conan #2: Conan the Mercenary by Andrew J. Offutt, part 2

Making towards Khaurun, Conan is conversing with Khashtris who is explaining the reason which Khaurun is known as the land of the unhappy queens. Ages ago she explains, a Queen Ialamis of Khauron bedded a demon and every so often one of her descendants will bring forth a child bearing the mark of this demon. An event which has just happened, the queen gave birth to twin girls and had the one bearing the mark taken to the desert to die of exposure.. ensuring the throne for the unmarked child, the princess Taramis, who will be informed of the fate of her sister in five or so years. He confers to her the tale of his recent exploits in the "employ" of Hissar Zhul, and that if he is able to get a crowned person to break the mirror then his soul will be returned to him..and she assures him that her cousin Ialamis will do this.

During this night their camp is beset upon by the brigands who followed them from Shadizar, Shubal and Conan soundly defeat them saving Khashtris any further problems. With bloody swords the three troupe into Khaurun, and into the presence of the queen and her court. Her Daughter Taramis, court adviser Arkhaus, City governor Acralides and his son Kraladese, Sergiadus son of the duke of Tor in Nemedia. Khashtris regales the court with her adventures, and explains Conan's mission to reclaim his soul. Acralides expresses concern that it could be a trick, but the queen has faith in her cousin and shatters the mirror, Returning Conan's soul to his body with a shock like lightning.

After this, Conan and Shubal are dismissed to do their worst upon the city of Khauran and they head straight for a tavern of ill repute to do it in. During their repast of fiery sausages and alfalfa beer Conan continues to gather small bits of information, he and Shubal felt intently uneasy about the Nemedian duke's son in the royal court and wishes to know more about him. Not much is gathered except to confirm Conan's suspicions that he isn't all he makes himself out to be. On their way out of the Tavarn Shubal stops to converse with a girlfriend of sorts and one thing and another eventually leads to a minor revelation, something to do with a place known as Korveka, a breakaway barony of Khauran who's ruler wears a talisman exactly the same as the one which the noble Sergiadus is sporting in the royal court. But time enough for that another day they decide and off to find their beds for the night.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

10. Ace Illustrated Conan #2: Conan the Mercenary by Andrew J. Offutt, part 1

The Lord Baron of Korveka is an aged man with failing sight, but he is a man of unfulfilled ambition. It is perhaps fortuitous that a visitor from far Khitai should have sought him out and made him an offer, an offer to return an appearance of youth to him so that he might fulfill his desires. The desire to become king of Koth, and the annexation the micro state of Khauran which lay to Koth's eastern border. The reasons for this man of Khitai, this Khi Zhang having made the many thousand mile journey to an upland farm-lord in northern Koth are less opaque. He had no interest in gold, but he does have interest in favors, favors dealing with the future of Khauran. While the politics of this are less straight forward, the actual return requires but a single sacrifice of course, a slave girl will do and such a small price to pay. The ritual is over quickly, the slave girl forgotten with the return of a youthful appearance. The baron opts to assume the role of his own " Nephew" for his coming tasks and sets out to put them in motion.

Much farther north, Conan has just arrived in Shadizar. Though his soul is back in his possession, it is still trapped in Hissar Zhul's mirror, He hopes to locate some one who can put it back where it belongs. He turns down the advances of many a lady of the night in pursuit of his main goal. He reflects on the two months he wasted in Arenjun to little profit and on the location of Shadizar, Along the Road of Kings, and that the prices are high and perhaps too much emphasis is placed on Esoterica, little did he know that Arenjun was no better or perhaps less straightforward in its sorceries and vices. Conan, now matured a bit after his dealings with the undercurrent of Arenjun.. has grown to appreciate Shadizar's honesty.

He hasn't been in town long however before he observes and then intercedes in an attempted robbery of a lady of some apparent wealth. This after having only just made up his mind not to further involve himself in anyone else's problems.. so much for that. The robbery is quickly halted, and the sword laid to the would be thieves. Conan then discovers the lady for whom he has again gotten himself involved. The lady Khashtris of Khauran, traveling under the escort of her main bodyguard Shubal. After this, Lady Khashtris contracts Conan to hire some extra guards and to accompany her to her home in Khauran, thus having once again only just arrived in Shadizar he is again departing for points elsewhere. They leave the next afternoon, unbeknown to them however they do not leave unnoticed or unaccompanied.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

9. Ace illustrated Conan #1: Conan and the Sorcerer, part 3

Reaching the second Oasis on his trip ahead of his schedule due to the shortcut through the sand lich's canyon. Conan is invited to share food with a peasant and his son who are watering their camels. The Man also informs Conan that a routine slave caravan is setting out from Turan on it's way to trade in Zamora and Khauran and that he should be wary as they are none too particular about where their wares come from. Having been a slave once already, he thanks the man for his knowledge, and gives the son a dagger in payment.

It's not long before the weary Isparana appears at the oasis, Conan has been laying in wait for her. He patiently hides himself until she is settled, a fine bit of lechery follows as he watches her bath away the dirt of the road. Once refreshed she lays down for a bit of sleep, and this is when he makes his move. First by cutting away the bells of the harnesses on the camels, and then every so slowly sneaking up on her and substituting the Eye of Erlik for another pendant. Only once this is done and he is nearly safely away do her camels stir and wake her. Kicking his mount off into the night leaving Isparana with nothing but the reverberating echoes of her cries of Thief!

She cries that he means to leave her there with no supplies to die, and his conscience gets the better of him and by the end of a scuffle both are without mounts or camels. A fine mess they are in now, but it will only get worse. The next day after both parties are refreshed enough to begin the previous nights arguments again, they notice in the distance a dust cloud. A cloud which soon materializes into a caravan, a slavers caravan, the very one which the man warned Conan to avoid. Conan and Isparana attempt to bluff the slavers, but to no avail, they are captured and enslaved but not without dire loss to the slavers guards. However they are soon observed by the same soldiers of Turan whom Conan encountered earlier before entering the sand lich canyon.

Their freedom restored at the point of Arsil of Turan's sword, Conan begins his preparations to return north to Arenjun. He arranges for Isparanna to be escorted safely to Zamboula by Arsil and re-affirms that he will not forget the offer of employment in Turan. He returns to Arenjun and takes the eye to Hissar Zhul, who dithers in his promise to return Conan's soul to him. Conan then expresses his regret that he has none of the means which the sand lich had told him to dispatch the sorcerer. This puts Hissar zhul on edge, though he does return to Conan his soul, and the mirror which it was trapped within. He continues to talk, offering Conan a parchment which will clear him of his crimes in Arenjun, inviting the Cimmerian to lean close to read it he attempts to double cross Conan by using a tube filled with the dread yellow lotus. However Conan is far more resourceful than Zhul gave him credit and instead blows down the other end of the tube filling Zhul's lungs with the deadly powder.

Conan rummages through Zhul's considerable stockpile and picks a new sword to replace his broken one, along with several other good blades. Carefully wrapping his mirror in many layers of cloth he sets off West, away from Arenjun and his potential legal problems, off West to Shadizar.
Review -

Places: Zamora, Khauran, Turanian Marches,
Towns: Arenjun,
People: Conan, Karamek, Isparana of Zamboula, Kobad Shah of Iranistan, Hissar Zhul, Arsil the Turanian, The Sand Lich
Languages Spoken: Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamoran

A few interesting tidbits are that Conan still has his Sandals and Sword from the previous stories, and that he is now about 17. Meaning that the Period of his being a slave in Hyperborea and his journey south has taken him nearly two years... The story itself follows on just a few weeks after Tower of the Elephant, as it is referenced. The story also sets up nicely Conan's future as a mercenary in Turan. However, if one takes the book for what it was, when it was written and it's place in the original LSdC Chronology, then it's a very good Pastiche and fits well. It's certainly the most "Howard like" of the Pastiches I've read so far. But after having half a dozen different magic users already in the first 10 stories.. It's just gotten to be monotonous. It is more proof of how little the pastiche writers really got, despite Andrew Offutt's best intentions I'm sure.. he would have been better served not to have had a sorcerer as the villain in a story which was to follow an REH story with a sorceress villain. I didn't include Turanian in the list of Conan's languages spoken as it makes more sense that due to the trading nature of Zamora that he communicated with Arsil in Zamoran.

This story also marks the end of Conan's blade which he found in the tomb in " The thing in the Crypt ", it will not be the first sword he loses but I'm glad that Offutt dealt that one it's death. As Mr. Perry had obviously put more than a passing interest in it as some sort of potentially magical sword ala Excalibur. A trait which it was given in the live action TV series, Conan the Adventurer. Which coincidentally is heavily based on both "The Tower of the Elephant" and " Conan and the Sorcerer" Though Hissar Zhul is presented as an aged and bitter King, and Yara as his priestly servant. That's a review for a different day, as I simply haven't the strength for it right now.

Next is, "Conan the Mercenary" by Andrew J. Offutt.

Monday, July 12, 2010

9. Ace illustrated Conan #1: Conan and the Sorcerer, part 2

Racing the clock, the prize his very soul, Conan sets forth south on the trail of the Eye of Erlik. An unwilling errand if ever there was, but one of the greatest import. Two days south of Arenjun, he reaches an oasis. These two days have given him time to think, that perhaps thievery is rather too perilous a past time for one such as he. During the evening at this Oasis Conan is beset upon by several northward bound persons of Zamboulan persuasion. He fends them off, all the while ruing his entrapment which cost him not only his immortal soul but also the stabbing point of his sword which he broke in Hissar Zhul's house. This attempt at brigandage nets the Zamboulans a dire toll, their lives.

The next morning, Conan, broken sword and all set off south again. Now however he has the spoils gained from the nights encounter. Among the spoils are several obstinate camels, which he vows to reclaim on his return north. Encountering a patrol of Turanian soldiers he describes his battle at the oasis, They are sympathetic towards his plight with the camels and also have recently encountered Conan's quarry. They lastly offer him a job as a soldier in Turan, this is something Conan will need to ponder however.

Unfortunate customs duties require the soldiers to waylay Conan some what, they offer him the route of a shortcut to make up for the delay, but this way is fraught with peril. Conan not being a cowardly sort, opts to take his chances anyway. Not long on this road however Conan encounters the source of the Turanians hesitance. A Sand-Lich who we learn is the cursed brother of Hissar Zul. This being explains the history of what brought him to his sorry state.. but Conan quickly realizes he is no innocent. He agrees to slay Hissar Zhul(as if he weren't going to all ready) and the Lich lets him pass through.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

9. Ace illustrated Conan #1: Conan and the Sorcerer, part 1

From Hyborean Apocrypha

Still in Arenjun we find Conan, experiencing further successes as a Thief. He has bedecked himself in some new raiment, dispatching the remnants of clothing he has had through all his previous ventures.. all but the Sword he found.. And also rather ostentatiously buying himself a fancy Dagger.. He has decided to use some of his ill gotten gain to have a night out, out of the Maul and it's stinking cesspits that is.

He begins his festivities with a woman named Kiliya, He chats politely and tries not to let slip how accurate her guesses are about his real age (now 17) or when she infers he might have had something to do with the Collapse of the Elephant Tower. This conversation dosen't get to last long though as Kiliya's Boyfriend shows up.. who happens to be a captain of the City Watch.

This understandably causes a fracas, He's aided by a leather trouser'd easterner, makes good his escape and while it ruins his new tunic some good does come from it. For Conan overhears a pair of thieves discussing their plans to rob a sorcerer, one Hissar Zul. Their goal is the legendary Eye of Erlik, which they plan to return to their master in Zamboula.

Conan rightly assumes that this master will pay handsomely for the return of this gem.. all that he has to do is cut out the two errand runners and claim the reward for himself. He still has a few valuable tools left to him from his short collaboration with Tarsus too.. most important, more caution.

He slips into the compound of Hissar Zhul, quietly finding entrance into the building itself. He has only been inside for a short while before he encounters a pair of guards.. who shamble as if asleep... or are Zombies. They are pursuing a 3rd thief, the same one who had assisted him in the bar the night before. Conan feeling an obligation to return the favor opts to help him. Ajhindar of Iranistan, who is here to retrieve the Eye for his own King.

The two scrap a bit over who is going to acquire the Eye, but Ajhindar trips a boobytrap and is dispatched by an Asp, but tells Conan who to take the gem too, Kobad Shah. Conan free to claim his prize, or so he thinks, continues his search. He encounters the two thieves from earlier Isparana and Karamek. Conan dispatches Karamek and then falls prey to a second trap, while Isparana makes good her escape with the eye. Hissar Zhul later finds Conan still trapped, and making him a deal he cannot refuse.. the return of his Soul in exchange for returning the Eye of Erlik to him.. Conan sets off southwards on the trail of Isparana

Monday, July 5, 2010

8. Ace Conan #1.2, Conan: The Tower of the Elephant

Alright Folks, after months of cracking open nuts to find only wasp larvae inside.. we finally get to a good one..

This is of course the Edited version of REH's story, the one present in the first volume of the Ace series. I'm not really sure what DeCamp edited from it but that also isn't really important for the purposes of this. Lets get on with the story.

We Find Conan in Arenjun, The So called City of Thieves, in the run down quarter of the city, The Maul. Here people would as soon slip a knife into you as look at you. Conan is in a drinking hall, listening to a bellicose kidnapper relate for an audience just how skilled he is. The kidnapper chances to reference the famed Elephant Tower, it's sorceress master Yara and his prized possession, the so called Heart of the Elephant Gem.

Intrigued, Conan approaches him and asks him some small few questions in regards it. He remark's that he has heard of this tower and would know more of it, especially why with it being so easy looking no one has yet pilfered it's coffers before? His sincere boasting is taken as the trait of an idiot, and the Kidnapper wants no more from him. Before this conversation is finished the kidnapper lays dead and Conan is on his way to make his fortunes by trying his hand at the Elephant Tower.

The climb itself is simple for one raised in the craggy peaks of Cimmeria, he adroitly scales the wall and finds himself in a Garden. He also finds himself in the presence of one whom he has already heard some what of, Tarsus the Nemedian, so called prince of Thieves. Tarsus explains a few finer points of thieving to the young Cimmerian, and the two agree to work together to scale the tower. The two thieves have a run in with a giant spider, one which Tarsus does not survive. Conan opts to continue on without him.

He Makes his way into the tower, eventually entering a large throne room. Seated on this throne is a large being. Conan is at first repulsed, but then the creature speaks, and despite its outward appearance we recognize it's inward humanity, It's name is Yag Kosha, one of a race of interstellar beings who has been enslaved, tortured, blinded and held captive by Yara.

This being, rueful of his circumstances beseeches Conan to end it's life of torments. But in an act of revenge against yara, also explains to Conan what he must do.. He must soak the Gemstone with the blood of the Yog Kosha, and then deliver the gem to Yara telling him that "Yag Kosha gives a last and mighty gift!".. Yara recoils as the magic takes hold of him, Shrinking him, and ultimately absorbing him into the jewel. A terrible rumble begins and Conan makes his way out of Yara's tower just before the whole building collapses around him.

Locations - Zamora
Towns/Cities - Arenjun
Characters - Conan The Cimmerian, Tarsus: Prince of thieves
Languages Spoken - Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamoran

Observations -

Instead of reviewing this tale which I couldn't give justice too, I shall simply make a few observations about this immovable way point along Conan's road. The Pastiches swirl and eddy around the REH tales like water into rocks. They are movable and mailable, REH's tales are not. I firmly believe it is not the place of the Robert E. Howard stories to change to suit the overall continuity, it is the job of the artificially constructed Continuity to find ways to fill gaps, without causing to many headaches for the reader.

So why is Conan now in Arenjun instead of Shadizar?

Regardless that when we last saw Conan he was outside of Shadizar, and he is now In Arenjun, a considerable distance further east. All of the Pastiche-Inclusive continuities agree that TOE follows the Steve Perry books. So we will try and find things that connect them to it.

He has in this story the "Battered scabbard" and "High strapped sandals" which he was given in "Conan the Defiant".. So even if Perry gets his Geography wrong, he manages to keep Conan's costume much the same through all his books in order so that it won't conflict with REH. So thats one thing, a second is that we can conjecture from this tale that, at some point in the recent past Conan has been in some place to have heard of both the Elephant Tower, and Tarsus, prince of Thieves. From which one could infer that he has been to Shadizar and some eventuality has caused him to leave it after having only arrived and continued east, should one be so inclined.

This is the best supposition I can come up with, and I think it is probably best, seeing as the alternative would have been more Steve Perry books.. that those so inclined simply use their imaginations to fill in the gaps which still linger. While the DeCamp helmed the pastiches, he took the view that, he could force REH's tales to conform to his ideas and especially to his new stories. This was revisionist and totally unacceptable, especially because it was done in order to make Him money, and not to promote Robert E. Howard's Creation. However, the Tor guidelines seemed to be more Laissez-faire even than that, Minimum outlay, maximum return.. without even as much effort put into some of them as your average Dragonlance novel would have had at the same time.

Next up is the first part of a Conan Trilogy written by Andrew J. Offutt.