In his hugely influential and tempestuous career, Robert E. Howard created the genre that came to be known as sword and sorcery-and brought to life one of fantasy's boldest and most enduring figures: Conan the Cimmerian-reaver, slayer, barbarian, king.
The Bloody Crown of Conan, illustrated by Gary Gianni, gathers Robert E. Howard's only Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon, plus two short stories and rare Howard miscellany. Scholar Rusty Burke explains Conan's enduring appeal in his introduction. Agent, Judith Hansen. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 22, 2004
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Excerpt from The Bloody Crown of Conan by Robert E. Howard
The People of the Black Circle I
Death Strikes a King
The king of Vendhya was dying. Through the hot, stifling night the temple gongs boomed and the conchs roared. Their clamor was a faint echo in the gold-domed chamber where Bunda Chand struggled on the velvet-cushioned dais. Beads of sweat glistened on his dark skin; his fingers twisted the gold-worked fabric beneath him. He was young; no spear had touched him, no poison lurked in his wine. But his veins stood out like blue cords on his temples, and his eyes dilated with the nearness of death. Trembling slave-girls knelt at the foot of the dais, and leaning down to him, watching him with passionate intensity, was his sister, the Devi Yasmina. With her was the wazam, a noble grown old in the royal court.
She threw up her head in a gusty gesture of wrath and despair as the thunder of the distant drums reached her ears.
"The priests and their clamor!" she exclaimed. "They are no wiser than the leeches who are helpless! Nay, he dies and none can say why. He is dying now - and I stand here helpless, who would burn the whole city and spill the blood of thousands to save him."
"Not a man of Ayodhya but would die in his place, if it might be, Devi," answered the wazam. "This poison - "
"I tell you it is not poison!" she cried. "Since his birth he has been guarded so closely that the cleverest poisoners of the East could not reach him. Five skulls bleaching on the Tower of the Kites can testify to attempts which were made - and which failed. As you well know, there are ten men and ten women whose sole duty is to taste his food and wine, and fifty armed warriors guard his chamber as they guard it now. No, it is not poison; it is sorcery - black, ghastly magic - "
She ceased as the king spoke; his livid lips did not move, and there was no recognition in his glassy eyes. But his voice rose in an eery call, indistinct and far away, as if he called to her from beyond vast, wind-blown gulfs.
"Yasmina! Yasmina! My sister, where are you? I can not find you. All is darkness, and the roaring of great winds!"
"Brother!" cried Yasmina, catching his limp hand in a convulsive grasp. "I am here! Do you not know me - "
Her voice died at the utter vacancy of his face. A low confused moaning waned from his mouth. The slave-girls at the foot of the dais whimpered with fear, and Yasmina beat her breast in her anguish.