|Among the rocks, Conan fights a Pict warrior (Del Rey 2005, Gregory Manchess)|
- "The Servants of Bit-Yakin" (1934, published as "Jewels of Gwahlur")
- "Beyond the Black River" (1934)
- "The Black Stranger" (1935)
- "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula" (Mar 1935, published as "Shadows in Zamboula")
- "Red Nails" (June 1935)
The Servants of Bit-Yakin (1934)
1. Paths of Intrigue: Conan arrives in Keshan intending to steal the fabled Teeth of Gwahlur. He soon learns that the jewels lie in the legendary deserted city of Alkmeenon, which also hosts an ageless oracle named Yelaya accessible only to the priests of Keshia. While climbing over the protective cliff wall surrounding Alkmeenon, Conan discovers a mummy holding a piece of parchment. He reads that a traveler named Bit-Yakin had come to Alkmeenon and then had his servants place his corpse inside the cliff face. After entering the city proper and inspecting the oracle in its sacred chamber, the sound of a gong rings out. Conan goes to investigate but ends up falling through the floor into a cold black stream.
2. A Goddess Awakens: Conan climbs out of the underground stream and returns to the oracle. Earlier appearing to be made of stone, it soon comes to life. However, Conan recognizes the oracle of Yelaya to be merely Muriela, a dancing girl he had once seen in Corinthia. The girl is an imposter, ordered by rival thief Zargheba to fool the priests of Keshan into giving the jewels to the Stygian rogue Thutmekri and his partner Zargheba (and then kill Conan). Conan tells her to maintain her false identity, but to instead tell the Keshani priests to kill Zargheba, and then give the treasure to Conan. Conan then departs to look for Zargheba. Outside he is surprised to run across Zargheba’s decapitated head.
3. The Return of the Oracle: Conan comes across the Yeshani priests and follows them as they proceed into the chamber of the oracle. There, Muriela does as Conan has instructed, after which the priests depart to retrieve the jewels. As Conan enters to rejoin Muriela, he is surprised to find the girl in the hands of Gwarunga, a co-conspirator of Zargheba’s, and knocks him out.
|Conan comes to the rescue when Gwarunga tries to throttle Muriela for betraying him (Joseph Doolin).|
4. The Dome of the Teeth of Gwahlur: Blocked from following Muriela’s captors, Conan follows the Yeshani priests as they proceed into a domed cavern set against the inside face of the circular cliff wall surrounding Alkmeenon. The priests eventually reach the cavern’s interior where they are halted by the sudden appearance of the oracle, suspended high above them on a ledge. A booming voice berates them for listening to a “false goddess” and orders the priests to retreive the Teeth of Gwahlur and give them to Thutmekri and his associates. As the priests rush into the next chamber to do the voice’s bidding, Conan investigates and discovers that Gwarunga is behind this new manifestation of the oracle (as well as being the oracle’s voice). After finally killing Gwarunga, Conan finds Muriela bound in another room and learns that she had been abducted by the inhuman servants of Bit-Yakin. After freeing her, they watch the priests retrieve the treasure chest containing the Teeth of Gwahlur from a sacred chamber. However, as soon as the head priest opens the chest, the servants of Bit-Yakin attack and massacre the priests. As they go off to chase down one last priest, Conan rushes into the chamber to grab the treasure chest for himself. As he and Muriela try to escape to a passageway leading to the outer face of the cliff wall, one of the servants of Bit-Yakin appears. Conan eventually defeats the creature but both Muriela and the treasure chest end up teetering on the edge of falling into the river below. When Conan is forced to chose one or the other, he unhesitatingly saves Muriela, and they escape into the forest surrounding the forbidden city of Alkmeenon.
Beyond the Black River (1934)First published in Weird Tales, May - June 1935.
Weird Tales, May 1935
2. The Wizard of Gwawela: When Conan returns to Fort Tuscelan to report to its commander, Captain Valannus realizes that the fort and the settlements it was built to protect will eventually fall to the Gwawela Picts unless something is done about Zogar Sag. He asks Conan to go into the Picts’ territory and assassinate the troublesome wizard. Conan elects to take a dozen men with him, one of them being Balthus.
3. The Crawlers In The Dark: Conan takes his men into Pictish territory on a boat and docks on a riverbank south of Zogar Sag’s camp. He orders Balthus and one other man to stay at the boat, while Conan takes the rest of the men northwards to kill Zogar Sag. Later at the boat, Balthus realizes that his partner has been killed by unseen hands. Balthus himself is soon captured by the Picts.
4. The Beasts of Zogar-Sag: After waking up in the camp of the Picts, Balthus watches as Zogar Sag calls forth a gigantic sabre-tooth tiger to rend apart one of Conan’s captured assassins. The heads of the other members of Conan’s expedition can be seen piled in a mound. When Zogar Sag summonses a giant snake to next consume Balthus, a spear strikes it from the the darkness, causing it to go berserk amongst the Picts. In the confusion, Conan appears and frees Balthus. They barely make it outside the camp barrier walls.
|Zogar Sag's giant serpent causes havoc amongst the Picts after Conan spears it (Hugh Rankin).|
Weird Tales, June 1935
6. Red Axes of the Border: Realizing that they need to quickly warn Fort Tuscelan of the gathering Pict army, Conan lures a Pict on a canoe by mimicking Pictish and then killing him with an arrowhead. After taking his canoe, Conan and Balthus head down the river towards the fort. However they are too late: the Picts have already begun their attack and Conan realizes that it will soon fall. He decides that the only thing they can do is to try to warn the settlers whom the fort was designed to protect. Heading east, Conan splits off down one path to warn the settlers laboring at a salt lick while Balthus continues east to herd the laborers’ families to safety. As the Picts approach, Balthus and his new dog ally Slasher try to hold off the Picts as long as they can, allowing the women and children time to flee farther east to Velitrium.
7. The Devil In the Fire: Conan has the laborers at the salt lick head east, but soon senses that he is being followed. He is confronted by Zogar Sag’s demon, a fire-wreathed crane-like creature who claims that it has been given permission to kill Conan due to Conan’s “abuse” of the mark of Jhebbal Sag earlier. Conan fights and eventually kills the creature with his sword.
|Conan fights Zogar Sag's fire demon (High Rankin).|
8. Conajohara No More: The Picts eventually break off their march towards Velitrium and begin retreating back to their own territory. A survivor from Fort Tuscelan returns and explains that Zogar Sag had suddenly sustained mysterious injuries and died (wounds apparently suffered when Conan had killed his demon), after which the Picts fell apart. Conan also learns that Balthus and the dog had died valiantly. He and the fort survivor recognize that Aquilonia will have to give up its dreams of taking the western borderlands (Conajohara) from the Picts.
The Black Stranger (1935)
|Hannes Bok, 1953 Re-edited publication of "The Black Stranger"|
1. The Painted Men: Pursued by wild bands of painted Picts, Conan reaches a rocky hill which the Picts are afraid to ascend. Exploring a cleft in the cliff face, he discovers a door. Inside he sees several silent figures sitting before a black table.
2. Men From the Sea: For a year, Zingaran Count Valenso, his niece Belesa, and a personal retinue of warriors have been marrooned on the Pictish coast, constantly in fear of a Pictish attack from the interior. One day, a Baracchan pirate named Strom sails in and accuses Valenso of hoarding treasure hidden in the area. Although Valenso professes ignorance of any treasure, Strom and his men attack the Count’s compound using a battering ram, shielded from Valenso’s arrows by a makeshift shield barrier (mantlet). However, when a Zingaran galley appears in the distance, Strom orders a retreat from the area. His ship sails out of view.
3. The Coming of the Black Man: The Zingaran buccaneer Zarono lands and reveals that he is also in search of Tranicos’ legendary treasure, supposedly hidden near this part of the Pictish coast. He proposes to help Count Valenso escape back to civilization, but in return he demands Valenso’s niece Belesa as his wife. Valenso at first resists, but when a young girl named Tina enters and reports seeing a glowing black man roaming around the area, he becomes strangely panicky and agrees to Zarono’s demands.
4. A Black Drum Droning: That night, Belesa and Tina sight the mysterious black man creeping around Valenso’s grounds. Later, a drumming drone begins coming from the forest, followed shortly by a violent storm. Zarono’s ship is destroyed by the storm when it is dashed into the cliffs.
5. A Man From the Wilderness: Strom returns to Valenso’s shore with his ship intact after the storm, and meets with Valenso and Zarono. He accuses Zarono of having killed one of his crew on another part of the coast, one who had the map to Tranicos’ treasure. Conan suddenly appears from behind a curtain, dressed in pirate gear lifted apparently from Tranicos’ time. He reveals that he was the one who had killed Strom’s crewmember. He also tells the captains that he has discovered the hidden cave of Tranicos, where the bodies of Tranicos and his men still reside. He then notes that he has found a dead Pict in the forest, nailed to a tree with evidence incriminating Valenso. In any case, they make a temporary pact to work together to retrieve the treasure from the interior.
6. The Plunder of the Dead: The next day, Conan, Strom and Zarono head into the forest with some of the pirates and buccaneers to retrieve the treasure. After they depart, Valenso tells Belesa that the “black man” is a demon he had once bargained with in order to assassinate a political rival, but who now is coming for Valenso’s life. The demon had killed the Pict which Conan had found in order to turn the other Picts against him. Meanwhile at the treasure cave, Conan tries push the Strom and Zarono into the cave so that they will be killed by poison gas. However, the trick fails and a stand-off ensues. Soon Picts attack, forcing the seamen to again put aside their differences and flee back towards the shore to find refuge in Valenso’s stockade. As they arrive at the shore, Strom’s panicking pirate crew decide to desert their captain and his ship sails off.
7. Men of the Woods: The Picts attack Valenso’s stockade, and for several hours Conan and the other pirates fend them off as best they can. During a break in the siege, a fight breaks amongst the rival pirate crews. The Picts take this opportunity to climb over an unguarded barrier wall and swarm the interior. Zarono and Strom as well as their crewmen are all eventually slaughtered. Conan runs into the manor to try and save Belesa and Tina, but finds them threatened by Valenso’s demonic “black man” (who has already killed Valenso). Using a silver bench, Conan drives the demon into the fireplace. He and the two girls narrowly escape into the forest as the Picts enter.
|Del Rey 2005, Gregory Manchess|
The Man-Eaters of Zamboula (Mar 1935)First published in Weird Tales, Nov 1935 as “Shadows in Zamboula”.
|Zabibi is forced to dance in order to avoid the poisonous fangs of Totrasmek's cobras (Margaret Brundage).|
2. The Night Skulkers: When a strangely-garbed black man sneaks into his room, Conan instantly awakes and kills him. He recognizes the intruder as one of the cannibals from Darfar which are allowed to roam the streets of Zamboula at night, and prey on travelers. He surmises that Aram Baksh allows the cannibals to prey on his tenants for a profit. Heading outside to look for Aram Baksh, he turns his attention to the rescue of a dancing girl named Zabibi. After killing her Darfar cannibal attackers, she uses her feminine wiles to induce Conan to help her kill a wizard named Totrasmek. Totrasmek had caused her lover to go mad and run amok in the streets. Following Zabibi’s wishes, Conan finds and knocks out her lover, and after putting him to bedrest they head to the temple of Hanuman to kill Totrasmek. However, once inside Zabibi is abducted and taken behind a secret door.
3. Black Hands Gripping: Conan soon encounters Baal-pteor, a Kosalan servant of Totrasmek trained since youth in the art of mesmerism and bare-handed strangulation. He distracts Conan with various hypnotic visions, until he grabs Conan by the neck. With his sword out of reach (stuck in a magnetic block), Conan counters by strangling Baal-pteor in return. Baal-pteor eventually falls to superior Cimmerian strength, and Conan breaks his neck.
|As Totrasmek taunts Zabibi (top right), Conan endures the crystalline visions of Baal-pteor (Vincent Napoli).|
4. A Sword-Thrust Through the Curtain: Behind a curtain, Conan sees Totrasmek force Zabibi to dance wildly in order to avoid the bites of phantom cobras. He impales Totrasmek with a sword thrust from behind the curtain. After Zabibi obtains the cure to her lover’s madness from Totrasmek’s robes, she then searches Totrasmek’s room for the stolen Star of Khorala, a valuable gem once belonging to Nefertari, mistress of Zamboula’s ruler Jungir Khan. Although she cannot find the gem, they return to Zabibi’s lover and restore him to sanity using the elixir from Totrasmek’s robes. She then tells Conan that her earlier flirting had been a sham, and that she is actually Nefertari and her lover Jungir Shan, and therefore can never reward Conan as she had originally implied. Instead, Conan is given a bag of gold and ordered to search for the Star in the morning. Apparently unbothered by this turn of events, Conan returns to Aram Baksh’s dwelling. There he captures the treacherous inn-keeper and gives him to the Darfar cannibals still roaming the streets. He then rides off with Nefertari’s bag of gold and the Star of Khorala, which he had swiped off of Jungir Khan when he had recognized him (and Nefertari) for who they really were when he had first met them.
Red Nails (June 1935)First published in Weird Tales, July, Aug/Sept, Oct 1936.
Weird Tales, July 1936
|Valeria is held down on an altar as Tascela moves to slay her for her life-force (Margaret Brundage).|
1. The Skull On the Crag: The swordswoman Valeria of the Red Brotherhood (an Aquilonian pirate), enters a forest near Darfar in order to escape the pursuit of angry Stygians she had evaded back in Sukhmet. An infatuated Conan follows her, and when he catches up to her he tries to proposition her (after slaying one of her pursuers). Their conflict is interrupted when a giant reptilian dragon chases them up onto a rocky ledge. Conan assembles a makeshift spear and dips its point in the poisonous juices of a nearby hanging melon. He then spears the dragon in its mouth, driving it into a frenzy. When the monster goes off to quench its thirst, Conan and Valeria descend from the ledge and try to make a dash towards a shadowy city sighted earlier beyond the forest. The dragon senses their flight and pursues them, but its wild charge (and the poison) causes it to crash into a tree, killing it instantly.
|Conan fights the dragon in the forest (Harold S. De Lay).|
2. By the Blaze of the Fire Jewels: Conan and Valeria enter the seemingly-deserted city and discover that it is comprised of a series of halls and galleries arranged like a labyrinth. After they split up, Valeria sees a wiry local native being threatened by flaming skull. Valeria attacks the skull and kills the man underneath a skull-topped costume.
Weird Tales, Aug/Sept 1936
|Conan and Valeria defy Olmec and Tascela in the Tecuhltli throne room (Harold S. De Lay).|
4. Scent of Black Lotus: Valeria wakes when she realizes that Tascela’s servant woman Yasala is trying to drug her with the scent of the black lotus flower. Valeria whips the girl but she refuses to explain her actions. Yasala later manages to escape into the underground catacombs. Valeria considers following her but then hears strange tittering, followed by Yasala’s death scream. Valeria decides that she and Conan should just leave this strange city while they still can.
Weird Tales, Oct 1936
|J. Allen St. John|
5. Twenty Red Nails: Using a strange flute, the Xotalancas drive the Tecuhltli gate guards insane and penetrate Olmec’s domain. However, they are outnumbered by the Techuhltli (who are still aided by Conan and Valeria) and eventually are all killed. Conan then volunteers to visit the Xotalanca’s halls in order to determine if there are any remaining enemy warriors. When Conan gets there, one of Olmec’s warriors tries to kill him. On the way back to Tecuhltli, Conan runs into a dying Techotl who tells Conan that Olmec has captured Valeria for himself (explaining why Olmec had wanted Conan assassinated). However, as Conan approaches a hall leading towards the Tecuhltli gate, he discovers a room where Olmec is himself stretched on a torture rack.
6. The Eyes of Tascela: With Conan away on his mission to look for Xotalanca survivors, Olmec overpowers Valeria and carries her to a lower level chamber. However, Tascela appears and reprimands her former lover Olmec for taking prey which she has already claimed for herself. Using her mesmeric powers she forces Olmec to drink a paralyzing potion and then puts him on a torture rack. Tascela then bears Valeria away as her own prisoner and bolts the gate leading back into Tecuhltli.
7. He Comes From the Dark: When Olmec sees Conan enter his torture chamber, he offers to show Conan the secret path back into Tecuhltli so that they can rescue Valeria from Tascela. Conan frees Olmec, after which they ascend a tower and then descend towards the throne room. When Olmec treacherously tries to kill Conan from behind, Conan spoils his aim and they both tumble down the stairs. After breaking Olmec’s neck at the bottom of the stairs, Conan enters the throne room to see Tascela and the remaining Tecuhltli holding Valeria down on an altar. When Conan tries to stop them his leg is caught in a vise hidden in the floor. Tascela then explains that she will drink in Valeria’s lifeforce as she stabs her with a dagger. However, the scene is interrupted when a strangely dehumanized Tolkemec, ragged and scaly, appears from the catacombs holding a strange wand. The wand begins emitting flame bolts which arc between its red-globed tip and the metal doors surrounding the hall (as well as the altar in the center). When all of Tascela’s followers have been incinerated by Tolkemec’s flame arcs, Tascela frees Conan’s leg from the floor trap and asks him to save her. Conan skillfully dodges the wand’s beams and kills Tolkemec with a thrown knife. When Tascela tries to reach for the fallen wand, Valeria intervenes and impales her with a dagger. Now the only living beings in the entire city, Conan and Valeria depart the accursed place and decide become partners in plunder.
|While dodging bolts from Tolkemec's strange wand, Conan hurls a knife at him (Harold S. De Lay).|
EpilogueRobert E. Howard's death was announced in the Aug/Sept 1936 issue of Weird Tales:
The following issue (Oct 1936) included tributes from H.P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffman Price:
|Del Rey 2005, Gregory Manchess|