The Conan the Barbarian Stories

The Conan the Barbarian Stories

by Robert E. Howard

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Overview

An action-packed collection of Conan the Barbarian’s wild adventures.
 
In this unparalleled collection from a literary mastermind, swordsman Conan the Barbarian faces powerful sorcerers, deadly creatures, and ruthless armies of thieves.
 
With his character Conan the Barbarian, author Robert E. Howard single-handedly invented the genre that came to be known as sword and sorcery. In this volume are eighteen Conan stories, including a classic of dark fantasy, “The Phoenix and the Sword,” and the classic adventure “The Devil in Iron.”
 
These timeless stories feature Conan the raw and dangerous youth, Conan the daring thief, Conan the swashbuckling pirate, and Conan the commander of armies, and bring to mind the pulp tales that dominated the mid-twentieth century.
 
The Conan the Barbarian Stories includes “The Phoenix on the Sword,” “The Scarlet Citadel,” “The Tower of the Elephant,” “Black Colossus,” “The Slithering Shadow,” “The Pool of the Black One,” “Rogues in the House,” “Gods of the North,” “Shadows in the Moonlight,” “Queen of the Black Coast,” “The Devil in Iron,” “The People of the Black Circle,” “A Witch Shall be Born,” “Jewels of Gwahlur,” “Beyond the Black River,” “Shadows in Zamboula,” “Red Nails,” and “The Hyborian Age.”
 
This ebook has been professionally proofread to ensure accuracy and readability on all devices.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504049139
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 11/21/2017
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 845
Sales rank: 106,306
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Robert E. Howard (1906–1936) was an American author of pulp fiction, who made a name for himself by publishing numerous short stories in pulp magazines. Known as the “Father of Sword and Sorcery,” Howard helped create this subgenre of fiction. He is best known for his character Conan the Barbarian, who has inspired numerous film and television adaptations. Howard committed suicide at the age of thirty.
Robert E. Howard (1906–1936) was an American author of pulp fiction, who made a name for himself by publishing numerous short stories in pulp magazines. Known as the “Father of Sword and Sorcery,” Howard helped create this subgenre of fiction. He is best known for his character Conan the Barbarian, who has inspired numerous film and television adaptations. Howard committed suicide at the age of thirty.
 

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"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 righthand man. That leaves only the king's personal bodyguard in the city beside 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."

"Why does he hate Conan?"

"Poets always hate those in power. To them perfection is always just behind the last corner, or beyond the next. They escape the present in dreams of the past and future. Rinaldo is a flaming torch of idealism, rising, as he thinks, to overthrow a tyrant and liberate the people. As for me — well, a few months ago I had lost all ambition but to raid the caravans for the rest of my life; now old dreams stir. Conan will die; Dion will mount the throne. Then he, too, will die. One by one, all who oppose me will die — by fire, or steel, or those deadly wines you know so well how to brew. Ascalante, king of Aquilonia! How like you the sound of it?"

The Stygian shrugged his broad shoulders.

"There was a time," he said with unconcealed bitterness, "when I, too, had my ambitions, beside which yours seem tawdry and childish. To what a state I have fallen! My old-time peers and rivals would stare indeed could they see Thothamon of the Ring serving as the slave of an outlander, and an outlaw at that; and aiding in the petty ambitions of barons and kings!"

"You laid your trust in magic and mummery," answered Ascalante carelessly. "I trust my wits and my sword."

"Wits and swords are as straws against the wisdom of the Darkness," growled the Stygian, his dark eyes flickering with menacing lights and shadows. "Had I not lost the Ring, our positions might be reversed."

"Nevertheless," answered the outlaw impatiently, "you wear the stripes of my whip on your back, and are likely to continue to wear them."

"Be not so sure!" the fiendish hatred of the Stygian glittered for an instant redly in his eyes. "Some day, somehow, I will find the Ring again, and when I do, by the serpent-fangs of Set, you shall pay —"

The hot-tempered Aquilonian started up and struck him heavily across the mouth. Thoth reeled back, blood starting from his lips.

"You grow over-bold, dog," growled the outlaw. "Have a care; I am still your master who knows your dark secret. Go upon the housetops and shout that Ascalante is in the city plotting against the king — if you dare."

"I dare not," muttered the Stygian, wiping the blood from his lips.

"No, you do not dare," Ascalante grinned bleakly. "For if I die by your stealth or treachery, a hermit priest in the southern desert will know of it, and will break the seal of a manuscript I left in his hands. And having read, a word will be whispered in Stygia, and a wind will creep up from the south by midnight. And where will you hide your head, Thoth-amon?"

The slave shuddered and his dusky face went ashen.

"Enough!" Ascalante changed his tone peremptorily. "I have work for you. I do not trust Dion. I bade him ride to his country estate and remain there until the work tonight is done. The fat fool could never conceal his nervousness before the king today. Ride after him, and if you do not overtake him on the road, proceed to his estate and remain with him until we send for him. Don't let him out of your sight. He is mazed with fear, and might bolt — might even rush to Conan in a panic, and reveal the whole plot, hoping thus to save his own hide. Go!"

The slave bowed, hiding the hate in his eyes, and did as he was bidden. Ascalante turned again to his wine. Over the jeweled spires was rising a dawn crimson as blood.

CHAPTER 2

When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
— The Road of Kings

The room was large and ornate, with rich tapestries on the polished-panelled walls, deep rugs on the ivory floor, and with the lofty ceiling adorned with intricate carvings and silver scrollwork. Behind an ivory, gold-inlaid writing-table sat a man whose broad shoulders and sun-browned skin seemed out of place among those luxuriant surroundings. He seemed more a part of the sun and winds and high places of the outlands. His slightest movement spoke of steel-spring muscles knit to a keen brain with the co-ordination of a born fighting-man. There was nothing deliberate or measured about his actions. Either he was perfectly at rest — still as a bronze statue — or else he was in motion, not with the jerky quickness of over-tense nerves, but with a cat-like speed that blurred the sight which tried to follow him.

His garments were of rich fabric, but simply made. He wore no ring or ornaments, and his square-cut black mane was confined merely by a cloth-of-silver band about his head.

Now he laid down the golden stylus with which he had been laboriously scrawling on waxed papyrus, rested his chin on his fist, and fixed his smoldering blue eyes enviously on the man who stood before him. This person was occupied in his own affairs at the moment, for he was taking up the laces of his gold-chased armor, and abstractedly whistling — a rather unconventional performance, considering that he was in the presence of a king.

"Prospero," said the man at the table, "these matters of statecraft weary me as all the fighting I have done never did."

"All part of the game, Conan," answered the dark-eyed Poitainian. "You are king — you must play the part."

"I wish I might ride with you to Nemedia," said Conan enviously. "It seems ages since I had a horse between my knees — but Publius says that affairs in the city require my presence. Curse him!

"When I overthrew the old dynasty," he continued, speaking with the easy familiarity which existed only between the Poitainian and himself, "it was easy enough, though it seemed bitter hard at the time. Looking back now over the wild path I followed, all those days of toil, intrigue, slaughter and tribulation seem like a dream.

"I did not dream far enough, Prospero. When King Numedides lay dead at my feet and I tore the crown from his gory head and set it on my own, I had reached the ultimate border of my dreams. I had prepared myself to take the crown, not to hold it. In the old free days all I wanted was a sharp sword and a straight path to my enemies. Now no paths are straight and my sword is useless.

"When I overthrew Numedides, then I was the Liberator — now they spit at my shadow. They have put a statue of that swine in the temple of Mitra, and people go and wail before it, hailing it as the holy effigy of a saintly monarch who was done to death by a red-handed barbarian. When I led her armies to victory as a mercenary, Aquilonia overlooked the fact that I was a foreigner, but now she can not forgive me.

"Now in Mitra's temple there come to burn incense to Numedides' memory, men whom his hangmen maimed and blinded, men whose sons died in his dungeons, whose wives and daughters were dragged into his seraglio. The fickle fools!"

"Rinaldo is largely responsible," answered Prospero, drawing up his sword-belt another notch. "He sings songs that make men mad. Hang him in his jester's garb to the highest tower in the city. Let him make rimes for the vultures."

Conan shook his lion head. "No, Prospero, he's beyond my reach. A great poet is greater than any king. His songs are mightier than my scepter; for he has near ripped the heart from my breast when he chose to sing for me. I shall die and be forgotten, but Rinaldo's songs will live for ever.

"No, Prospero," the king continued, a somber look of doubt shadowing his eyes, "there is something hidden, some undercurrent of which we are not aware. I sense it as in my youth I sensed the tiger hidden in the tall grass. There is a nameless unrest throughout the kingdom. I am like a hunter who crouches by his small fire amid the forest, and hears stealthy feet padding in the darkness, and almost sees the glimmer of burning eyes. If I could but come to grips with something tangible, that I could cleave with my sword! I tell you, it's not by chance that the Picts have of late so fiercely assailed the frontiers, so that the Bossonians have called for aid to beat them back. I should have ridden with the troops."

"Publius feared a plot to trap and slay you beyond the frontier," replied Prospero, smoothing his silken surcoat over his shining mail, and admiring his tall lithe figure in a silver mirror. "That's why he urged you to remain in the city. These doubts are born of your barbarian instincts. Let the people snarl! The mercenaries are ours, and the Black Dragons, and every rogue in Poitain swears by you. Your only danger is assassination, and that's impossible, with men of the imperial troops guarding you day and night. What are you working at there?"

"A map," Conan answered with pride. "The maps of the court show well the countries of south, east and west, but in the north they are vague and faulty. I am adding the northern lands myself. Here is Cimmeria, where I was born. And —"

"Asgard and Vanaheim," Prospero scanned the map. "By Mitra, I had almost believed those countries to have been fabulous."

Conan grinned savagely, involuntarily touching the scars on his dark face. "You had known otherwise, had you spent your youth on the northern frontiers of Cimmeria! Asgard lies to the north, and Vanaheim to the northwest of Cimmeria, and there is continual war along the borders."

"What manner of men are these northern folk?" asked Prospero.

"Tall and fair and blue-eyed. Their god is Ymir, the frost-giant, and each tribe has its own king. They are wayward and fierce. They fight all day and drink ale and roar their wild songs all night."

"Then I think you are like them," laughed Prospero. "You laugh greatly, drink deep and bellow good songs; though I never saw another Cimmerian who drank aught but water, or who ever laughed, or ever sang save to chant dismal dirges."

"Perhaps it's the land they live in," answered the king. "A gloomier land never was — all of hills, darkly wooded, under skies nearly always gray, with winds moaning drearily down the valleys."

"Little wonder men grow moody there," quoth Prospero with a shrug of his shoulders, thinking of the smiling sun-washed plains and blue lazy rivers of Poitain, Aquilonia's southernmost province.

"They have no hope here or hereafter," answered Conan. "Their gods are Crom and his dark race, who rule over a sunless place of everlasting mist, which is the world of the dead. Mitra! The ways of the Æsir were more to my liking."

"Well," grinned Prospero, "the dark hills of Cimmeria are far behind you. And now I go. I'll quaff a goblet of white Nemedian wine for you at Numa's court."

"Good," grunted the king, "but kiss Numa's dancing-girls for yourself only, lest you involve the states!"

His gusty laughter followed Prospero out of the chamber.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Conan the Barbarian Stories"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

  • The Conan The Barbarian Stories
  • The Phoenix on the Sword
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
    • Chapter IV
    • Chapter V
  • The Scarlet Citadel
    • I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
    • Chapter IV
    • Chapter V
  • The Tower of the Elephant
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
  • Black Colossus
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
    • Chapter IV
  • The Slithering Shadow
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
    • Chapter IV
  • The Pool of the Black One
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
  • Rogues in the House
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
  • Gods of the North
    • Chapter I
  • Shadows in the Moonlight
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
    • Chapter IV
  • Queen of the Black Coast
    • Chapter I: Conan Joins the Pirates
    • Chapter II: The Black Lotus
    • Chapter III: The Horror in the Jungle
    • Chapter IV: The Attack From the Air
    • Chapter V: The Funeral Pyre
  • The Devil in Iron
    • Chapter I
    • Chapter II
    • Chapter III
    • Chapter IV
    • Chapter V
    • Chapter VI
  • The People of the Black Circle
    • Chapter I: Death Strikes a King
    • Chapter II: A Barbarian from the Hills
    • Chapter III: Khemsa Uses Magic
    • Chapter IV: An Encounter in the Pass
    • Chapter V: The Black Stallion
    • Chapter VI: The Mountain of the Black Seers
    • Chapter VII: On to Yimsha
    • Chapter VIII: Yasmina Knows Stark Terror
    • Chapter IX: The Castle of the Wizard
    • Chapter X: Yasmina and Conan
  • A Witch Shall Be Born
    • Chapter I: The Blood-Red Crescent
    • Chapter II: The Tree of Death
    • Chapter III: A Letter to Nemedia
    • Chapter IV: Wolves of the Desert
    • Chapter V: The Voice from the Crystal
    • Chapter VI: The Vulture’s Wings
  • Jewels of Gwahlur
    • Chapter I: Paths of Intrigue
    • Chapter II: A Goddess Awakens
    • Chapter III: The Return of the Oracle
    • Chapter IV: The Teeth of Gwahlur
  • Beyond the Black River
    • Chapter I: Conan Loses His Axe
    • Chapter II: The Wizard of Gwawela
    • Chapter III: The Crawlers in the Dark
    • Chapter IV: The Beasts of Zogar Sag
    • Chapter V: The Children of Jhebbal Sag
    • Chapter VI: Red Axes of the Border
    • Chapter VII: The Devil in the Fire
    • Chapter VIII: Conajohara No More
  • Shadows in Zamboula
    • Chapter I: A Drum Begins
    • Chapter II: The Night Skulkers
    • Chapter III: Black Hands Gripping
    • Chapter IV: Dance, Girl, Dance!
  • Red Nails
    • Chapter I: The Skull on the Crag
    • Chapter II: By the Blaze of the Fire Jewels
    • Chapter III: The People of the Feud
    • Chapter IV: Scent of Black Lotus
    • Chapter V: Twenty Red Nails
    • Chapter VI: The Eyes of Tascela
    • Chapter VII: He Comes from the Dark
  • The Hyborian Age
  • Copyright

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