Perverse Osmosis

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People of the Black Circle

July 26th, 2015

Lots going on in this Conan piece; it reads like Howard has figured out how to maintain a plot thread that doesn’t have Conan in it, and I can imagine that is a great leap forward for members of the writing craft.

My craft: finding body counts in Conan stories but only the ones Conan slices and dices. I can’t go counting every Viscount and 3rd-level magician who manages to hit a guard with magic missile.

She glimpsed the flicker of steel, heard the lightning crack of stroke, parry and counterstroke, and the crunch of bone as Conan’s long knife split the other’s skull.

He split the man’s skull–ducked another swinging knife and gutted the wielder–felled a man with his left fist and stabbed another in the belly–and heaved back mightily against the closed door with his shoulders.

Four headless golden serpents still coiled about the altar, but no alien life now animated the dully gleaming metal.

As he hit, he yelled like a wolf, caught a gold-worked rein, and dodging the sweep of a scimitar, drove his long knife upward through the rider’s vitals.

As he hacked and smote like a man possessed, Conan had time for some chilling doubts – would Yasmina keep her word

As it dropped, its black wings thrashing the air, it took on the semblance, not of a bird, but of a black-robed human body that fell, arms in wide black sleeves thrown abroad.


Total carnage:
2 hillmen [2*14XP= 28XP]
4 8th-level magic users [4*650 XP=2600XP]
1 2nd-level fighter [32 XP]
Undetermined hacked and smote [300 XP]
1 12th-level magic user [1700 XP]

Queen of the Black Coast

July 5th, 2015

I am a little out of order here, but there are not many better ways to declare a George Lippard weekend than “Queen.” Excellent female character, great Conan philosophy, sexy dancing, lotus drugging: what more could a pulp audience want?

“So then, seeing they were all mad, I drew my sword and cleft the judge’s skull; then I cut my way out of the court, and seeing the high constable’s stallion tied near by, I rode for the wharfs, where I thought to find a ship bound for foreign parts.”

Conan drew the shaft to his ear—then some whim or qualm stayed his hand and sent the arrow through the body of a tall plumed spearman beside her.

On the deck of the pirate lay half a dozen bodies, an earnest of Conan’s archery.

A tall corsair, bounding over the rail, was met in midair by the Cimmerian’s great sword, which sheared him cleanly through the torso, so that his body fell one way and his legs another. Then, with a burst of fury that left a heap of mangled corpses along the gunwales, Conan was over the rail and on the deck of the Tigress.

The fighting- madness of his race was upon him, and with a red mist of unreasoning fury wavering before his blazing eyes, he cleft skulls, smashed breasts, severed limbs, ripped out entrails, and littered the deck like a shambles with a ghastly harvest of brains and blood.

With his skin crawling with the horror that madness always instils in the sane, Conan passed his sword through the black man’s body; then, avoiding the hooked hands that clawed at him as N’Gora sank down, he strode to the edge of the cliff.

In his berserk fury he did not miss; the air was filled with feathered destruction. The havoc wrought among the onrushing pack was breathtaking. Less than half of them reached the foot of the pyramid.

His fiercely driven sword shore the first asunder; then the desperate impact of the others bore him down. He crushed a narrow skull with the pommel of his hilt, feeling the bone splinter and blood and brains gush over his hand;

One, blood gushing from its torn jugular, lunged at him in a last spasm of ferocity, and fastened its fangs on his throat—to fall back dead, even as Conan felt the tearing agony of its grip.

An instant he reeled off balance, its fetid breath hot on his nostrils; its jaws snapping at his neck; then he hurled it from him, to crash with bone-splintering force down the marble steps.

The thews started out like cords on his forearms as he swung his great sword, pivoting on his heel with the force of the sweeping arc. Just above the hips it caught the hurtling shape, and the knotted legs fell one way, the torso another as the blade sheared clear through its hairy body.

Total carnage:

1 judge: 130 XP

3 assorted bailiffs: 90 XP

1 spearman: 8 XP

12 pirates: 130 XP

1 friendly sub-commander: 13 XP

20 hyenas: 900 XP

1 type 3 demon: 3100 XP

The Vale of Lost Women

June 29th, 2015

Now here is gutter Conan; this story wasn’t published in any form until 1967 and for good reason. About the only positives for Conan in “Vale” are he does drink a fairly heroic amount and “saves” Livia. Otherwise, Conan [and Howard] don’t come off looking too good in this one. Onto the violence:

Conan rose, still smiling, as if to reach into a near-by cooking pot—then quick as a cat he struck Aja a terrible blow with the heavy bone.

She saw his sword flash, and men went down around him. Now a struggling knot swept around a fire, and she glimpsed a fat squat shape writhing in its midst. Conan ploughed through and was hidden from view by the twisting black figures. From the midst a thin squealing rose unbearably. The press split for an instant, and she had one awful glimpse of a reeling desperate squat figure, streaming blood.

And then the girl, watching that devilish battle as in a nightmare, saw the black-winged thing waver and stagger in mid-air; there was a threshing beat of crippled wings, and the monster had torn clear and was soaring upward to mingle and vanish among the stars.

Total carnage:

1 war chief: 90 XP

1 tribal chief: 115 XP

1 type 3 demon [defeated, not killed: 1640 XP]

Iron Shadows in the Moon

June 28th, 2015

“Iron Shadows” isn’t the best Conan yarn going, but Olivia is a capable sidekick [and daughter of the King of Ophir], there is a gigantic ape, and we do get to hear about Conan eating raw musk-rats: standard week in the life of our sullen hero.

This was no longer battle, but butchery, frantic, bloody, impelled by an hysteria of fury and hate, in which culminated the sufferings of battle, massacre, torture, and fear-ridden, thirst-maddened, hunger-haunted flight.

A louder clash of steel, a sliding rasp, a choking cry from the pirate horde a fierce yell split the morning as Conan’s sword plunged through their captain’s massive body.

But as Conan tugged vainly at his sword, wedged deep in the hairy body, the frothing jaws snapped spasmodically shut, an inch from the Cimmerian’s face, and he was hurled to the sward by the dying convulsions of the monster.

Fairly low carnage count:

1 Shah of Akif [7th-level fighter: 600 XP]

1 pirate captain [4th-level fighter: 310 XP]

1 grey ape [300 XP]

Rogues in the House

June 25th, 2015

Conan’s fight with Thak is the Frazetta drawing that festooned a thousand dorm rooms and sold ten thousand Lancer paperbacks. A modified version of it also happens in Conan the Destroyer.

But the Cimmerian fled, and learning in devious ways of the priest’s treachery, he entered the temple of Anu by night and cut off the priest’s head.

The jailer was so upset that he made the mistake of entering the cell alone, without calling guards from the other parts of the prison. It was his first mistake in the line of duty, and his last. Conan brained him with the beef bone, took his poniard and his keys, and made a leisurely departure.

A beastlike snarl was the last thing he heard in life, as the monster lurched against him and a keen blade ripped through his belly. He gave one gasping cry and slumped down limply on the stairway.

The chair glanced from Thak’s slanted black skull; but the stunned monster momentarily relaxed his rending grasp, and in that instant Conan, gasping and streaming blood, plunged forward and sank his poniard to the hilt in the ape-man’s heart.

Too quickly for the sight to follow, Conan caught up a stool and hurled it. Nabonidus instinctively threw up his arm with a cry, but not in time. The missile crunched against his head, and the Red Priest swayed and fell facedown in a slowly widening pool of dark crimson.

Total carnage:

1 priest of Anu [unknown level: 210 XP]

1 high-level priest [590 XP]

1 jailer [note to self: don’t be a jailer: 23 XP]

1 thug in the wrong place with the wrong woman [13 XP]

1 Zamoran ape [with an assist from Murilo: 260 XP]