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!