Conan the Barbarian: The Stories That Inspired the Movie

BOOK: Conan the Barbarian: The Stories That Inspired the Movie
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Praise for
Robert E. Howard

“I adore these books. Howard had a gritty, vibrant style—broadsword writing that cut its way to the heart, with heroes who are truly larger than life. I heartily recommend them to anyone who loves fantasy.”

—D
AVID
G
EMMELL
,
author of
Legend
and
White Wolf

“The voice of Robert E. Howard still resonates after decades with readers—equal parts ringing steel, thunderous horse hooves, and spattered blood. Far from being a stereotype, his creation of Conan is the high heroic adventurer. His raw muscle and sinews, boiling temper, and lusty laughs are the gauge by which all modern heroes must be measured.”

—E
RIC
N
YLUND
,
author of
Halo: The Fall of Reach
and
Signal to Noise

“That teller of marvelous tales, Robert Howard, did indeed create a giant [Conan] in whose shadow other ‘hero tales’ must stand.”

—J
OHN
J
AKES
,
New York Times
bestselling author
of the North and South trilogy

“For stark, living fear … what other writer is even in the running with Robert E. Howard?”

—H. P. L
OVECRAFT

“Howard … painted in about the broadest strokes imaginable. A mass of glimmering black for the menace, an ice-blue cascade for the hero, between them a swath of crimson for battle, passion, blood.”

—F
RITZ
L
IEBER

“Forget Schwarzenegger and the movies. This is pure pulp fiction from the 1930s, before political corrections and focus groups dictated the direction of our art. Swords spin, entrails spill, and women swoon.”

—Men’s Health

“Howard wrote pulp adventure stories of every kind, for every market he could find, but his real love was for supernatural adventure and he brought a brash, tough element to the epic fantasy which did as much to change the course of the American school away from precious writing and static imagery as Hammett, Chandler, and the
Black Mask
pulp writers were to change the course of American detective fiction.”

—M
ICHAEL
M
OORCOCK
,
award-winning author of the Elric saga

“In this, I think, the art of Robert E. Howard was hard to surpass: vigor, speed, vividness. And always there is that furious, galloping narrative pace.”

—P
OUL
A
NDERSON

“Howard honestly believed the basic truth of the stories he was telling. It’s as if he’d said, ‘This is how life really was lived in those former savage times!’ ”

—D
AVID
D
RAKE
,
author of
Grimmer Than Hell
and
Dogs of War

“For headlong, nonstop adventure and for vivid, even florid, scenery, no one even comes close to Howard.”

—H
ARRY
T
URTLEDOVE

T
HE
F
ULLY
I
LLUSTRATED
R
OBERT
E. H
OWARD
L
IBRARY
from Del Rey Books
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian
The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
The Bloody Crown of Conan
Bran Mak Morn: The Last King
The Conquering Sword of Conan Kull: Exile of Atlantis
The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume 1: Crimson Shadows
The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume 2: Grim Lands
The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
El Borak and Other Desert Adventures
Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures

Conan the Barbarian
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Del Rey Mass Market Original

Copyright © 2011 by Robert E. Howard Properties, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

D
EL
R
EY
is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

© 2011 Conan Properties International LLC (“CPI”). CONAN, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, HYBORIA, and related logos, names and character likenesses thereof are trademarks or registered trademarks of CPI. All rights reserved. ROBERT E. HOWARD is a trademark or registered trademark of Robert E. Howard Properties Inc. Used with permission. All Rights Reserved.

Published by arrangement with Robert E. Howard Properties, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-345-53124-7

www.delreybooks.com

v3.1

Contents
The Phoenix on the Sword

The Phoenix on the Sword

I
“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars – Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”


The Nemedian Chronicles
.

Over shadowy spires and gleaming towers lay the ghostly darkness and silence that runs before dawn. Into a dim alley, one of a veritable labyrinth of mysterious winding ways, four masked figures came hurriedly from a door which a dusky hand furtively opened. They spoke not but went swiftly into the gloom, cloaks wrapped closely about them; as silently as the ghosts of murdered men they disappeared in the darkness. Behind them a sardonic countenance was framed in the partly opened door; a pair of evil eyes glittered malevolently in the gloom.

“Go into the night, creatures of the night,” a voice mocked. “Oh, fools, your doom hounds your heels like a blind dog, and you know it not.”

The speaker closed the door and bolted it, then turned and went up the corridor, candle in hand. He was a somber giant, whose dusky skin revealed his Stygian blood. He came into an
inner chamber, where a tall, lean man in worn velvet lounged like a great lazy cat on a silken couch, sipping wine from a huge golden goblet.

“Well, Ascalante,” said the Stygian, setting down the candle, “your dupes have slunk into the streets like rats from their burrows. You work with strange tools.”

“Tools?” replied Ascalante. “Why, they consider
me
that. For months now, ever since the Rebel Four summoned me from the southern desert, I have been living in the very heart of my enemies, hiding by day in this obscure house, skulking through dark alleys and darker corridors at night. And I have accomplished what those rebellious nobles could not. Working through them, and through other agents, many of whom have never seen my face, I have honeycombed the empire with sedition and unrest. In short I, working in the shadows, have paved the downfall of the king who sits throned in the sun. By Mitra, I was a statesman before I was an outlaw.”

“And these dupes who deem themselves your masters?”

“They will continue to think that I serve them, until our present task is completed. Who are they to match wits with Ascalante? Volmana, the dwarfish count of Karaban; Gromel, the giant commander of the Black Legion; Dion, the fat baron of Attalus; Rinaldo, the hare-brained minstrel. I am the force which has welded together the steel in each, and by the clay in each, I will crush them when the time comes. But that lies in the future; tonight the king dies.”

“Days ago I saw the imperial squadrons ride from the city,” said the Stygian.

“They rode to the frontier which the heathen Picts assail – thanks to the strong liquor which I’ve smuggled over the borders to madden them. Dion’s great wealth made
that
possible. And Volmana made it possible to dispose of the rest of the imperial troops which remained in the city. Through his princely kin in Nemedia, it was easy to persuade King Numa to request the presence of Count Trocero of Poitain, seneschal of Aquilonia; and of course, to do him honor, he’ll be accompanied by an imperial escort, as well as his own troops, and Prospero, King Conan’s right-hand man. That leaves only the king’s personal bodyguard in the city—besides the Black Legion. Through
Gromel I’ve corrupted a spendthrift officer of that guard, and bribed him to lead his men away from the king’s door at midnight.

“Then, with sixteen desperate rogues of mine, we enter the palace by a secret tunnel. After the deed is done, even if the people do not rise to welcome us, Gromel’s Black Legion will be sufficient to hold the city and the crown.”

“And Dion thinks that crown will be given to him?”

“Yes. The fat fool claims it by reason of a trace of royal blood. Conan makes a bad mistake in letting men live who still boast descent from the old dynasty, from which he tore the crown of Aquilonia.

“Volmana wishes to be reinstated in royal favor as he was under the old regime, so that he may lift his poverty-ridden estates to their former grandeur. Gromel hates Pallantides, commander of the Black Dragons, and desires the command of the whole army, with all the stubbornness of the Bossonian. Alone of us all, Rinaldo has no personal ambition. He sees in Conan a red-handed, rough-footed barbarian who came out of the north to plunder a civilized land. He idealizes the king whom Conan killed to get the crown, remembering only that he occasionally patronized the arts, and forgetting the evils of his reign, and he is making the people forget. Already they openly sing
The Lament for the King
in which Rinaldo lauds the sainted villain and denounces Conan as ‘that black-hearted savage from the abyss.’ Conan laughs, but the people snarl.”

BOOK: Conan the Barbarian: The Stories That Inspired the Movie
11.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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