THE BLOODY CROWN OF CONAN BY ROBERT E. HOWARD

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Copyright 2003. Stories written between 1934-1936.

THE PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CIRCLE

The king of Vendya is dying from magic. The Black Seers of Mount Yimsha are responsible and his sister Yasmina must kill him to save his soul. She seeks revenge and goes to the border province where seven Afghuli headmen are held captive. She wants to negotiate with their chieftain Conan for their release. In exchange for the headmen he must kill the Black Seers. Only Conan has come to the border town and seized the opportunity to kidnap Yasmina. At this time a servant of the Seers is convinced by Yasmina’s handmaiden to rebel and uses his powers to form his own empire. So the first thing he does is kill the seven headman so they can’t be used to ransom Yasmina. Then he kills the chief of a tribe who is a friend of Conan and giving him shelter. His plan is to use Yasmina for his own purposes.

Unfortunately for this ambitious servant the Black Seers kill him and his lover. They take Yasmina and Conan must join forces with Kerim Shah a spy for the Turanians. With his forces they assault Mount Yimsha and destroy the Black Seers. At the end Conan wants to run away with Yasmina but comes on his Afghuli hillmen being destroyed by an invading army of Turanians. At this time forces loyal to Yasmina are arriving and she directs them to help the hillmen. The Afghulis are saved and the two lovers must part ways because of their respective duties to their people.

THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON

Four conspirators use dark sorcery to revive the ancient Acheron wizard Xaltotun. They use him to first install one of their number on the throne of Nemedia. A plague kills the king and his heirs. Then using magic Xaltotun paralysis King Conan before a battle and a magical induced rockslide shatters this army. With his people leaderless another conspirator is placed on the throne of Aquilonia. Conan did not die and is taken prisoner by Xaltotun for possible use by him. Zenobia a harem girl of the king of Nemedia has fallen in love with Conan and helps him escape. Conan arrives back in Aquilonia and finds his country now firmly under the control of the conspiracy. A witch woman tells him the only way to regain his country is find the Heart of Ahriman. A power gem that once defeated Xaltotun. Only the king of Nemedia had it stolen and sent someone to toss it into the ocean.

Conan thus starts a journey to Argos. He gets captured and sold as a galley slave. His fellow slaves are old Black Corsairs from his pirate days. He leads a revolt and continues on to Khemi in Stygia. A wizard there now has the gem. He sneaks into the temple and fights an ancient vampire. Also mysterious wizards serving the Aquilonian pretender king have tracked him there. A three way fight between the Stygian, the wizards and Conan results in Conan getting the Heart of Ahriman. He manages to raise an army of rebellion and with the Heart defeats Xaltotun and his confederates. At the end he promises to go get the harem girl Zenobia and make her his queen.

A WITCH SHALL BE BORN

Queen Taramis of the small state of Khauran is confronted in the night by a woman that looks just like her. It is her twin which was though dead. Born with the mark of the witch the young baby was left in the desert to die. She was found by a traveling Khitain magician and trained in the black arts. When the magician decided the young girl named Salome was nothing special he cast her out. Now Salome has decided to take over Khauran. With a mercenary named Constantius they put Taramis in the dungeon and Salome takes her place.

Next day she assembles the army and disbands it for her new husband Constantius and his mercenaries will now protect Khauran. Conan who is captain of the guard can see that this is not the real queen. He rebels but most of the Khaurani soldiers have been disarmed and it is a slaughter. Conan is taken outside to the desert and nailed to a cross. Olgerd Vladislov the chief of the desert bandits known as Zuagir frees him. The Kharani are soon living under the tyrannical rule of Salome who introduces the worship of a dark god. Conan manages to gain control of the Zuagirs and use them to defeat Constantius’s mercenaries. The true queen is rescued and dies along with a giant frog like creature named Thaug. Conan gets his revenge by nailing Constantius on the same cross.

UNTITLED DRAFT AND SYNOPSIS

Amalric a survivor of a mercenary army destroyed in Stygia is now in the desert with some shady brigands. One day they bring back a beautiful girl named Lissa and Amalric has to kill his companions to save he. She tells of coming from a city not far away. A place called Gazal was founded by Hyborians but now has become decadent and fallen into disrepair. Also the city is haunted by a demon from a red tower. The two go there and Amalric has to kill the demon using a spell he learned from a shaman. Almaric and Lissa are chased by seven demon horsemen but are rescued by Conan another survivor of the mercenary army. Conan tells how he was captured by Tombalku a with with two kings. One that represents the Stygian people and another the black people. The black king is an old comrade of Conan and makes him a general in the army. Eventually fighting breaks out between the two factions and Conan, Almaric and Lissa must flee.

HYBORIAN GENESIS PART II by Patrice Louinet

An article on the origins of these story and possible influences.

The second in the series has three stories and one fragment. The first was a novella and dealt with the Indian part of the Hyborian world known as Vendya. It has a lot of mysticism and hypnosis. Interesting Howard was probably influenced by his doctor father who was known to use hypnotism. A notable part of this story was the introduction of a strong female character. Not the helpless clingy ones that usually populate his stories. In fact this is Conan’s second true love. He really wanted to run off with Yasmina and was going to. But the pull of duty for both to their respective people drives them apart. An enjoyable story.

The next one is his only actual novel. Howard was trying to sell a collection of his stories to an English agent. They were rejected but the agent showed interest in a novel along the line of his stories. Eventually he wrote The Hour of the Dragon. It cannibalized elements from his other stories. I can see elements from The Phoenix on the Sword, Black Colossus, and the Scarlet Citadel. It does make it any less enjoyable as this is very exciting story. It highlights most of this fictional world Howard created. It has wizards and demons. Great epic battles and high sea adventure. It showed he could write a full novel and sadly one wonders if he lived longer if he could have wrote many more.

The third is a fairly average story. In fact Conan isn’t even in half of it. It is famous though for the crucifixion scene. Where he actually kills a vulture with his teeth. This is truly a badass scene. One that Milius decided to use in his movie.

Finally we get one of his first attempts at writing a novel. Reading it you can see why he abandoned it as being unworkable. Roy Thomas did actually adopt it to the comic magazine Savage Sword of Conan. I have to say he did a really good job.

2 thoughts on “THE BLOODY CROWN OF CONAN BY ROBERT E. HOWARD

  1. Yeah, some of the writing in People of the Black Circle, some of the imagery and wordcraft… such a shame REH is so dismissed as a ‘pulp writer’; he was, obviously, but some of his prose was so rich, so colourful and evocative. His best writing really deserves higher praise.

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