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Conan: The Sword of Skelos

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Conan Sword of Skelos

The Sword of Skelos is a Conan novel by Andrew J. Offutt, the third and final volume in a trilogy beginning with Conan and the Sorcerer and continuing with Conan the Mercenary (which was actually published after The Sword of Skelos, though relating events prior to it). It was first published in paperback in May 1979 by Bantam Books, and reprinted in August 1981. Later editions were issued by Ace Books (September 1987, reprinted May 1991) and Tor (February 2002). The first British edition was published by Sphere Books in 1989.

Plot SummaryEdit

Conan and Isparana are drawn to Zamboula and into a rebellion against the Khan and his sorcerer.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • Prologue: The Sword
    In Zamboula, Akter Khan presides over an unusual execution - the mage Zafra is enchanting a master-crafted sword, and then throws it in the air, whereby he commands the sword to slay two Iranistanian prisoners. The sword flies true and kills the first, and when the second prisoner grabs the sword, it turns on him and kills him too. Impressed, the Khan requests thousands of these magical swords, but Zafra reveals the gift of Skelos may only enchant two, and he offers to grace the Khan's own sword with the enchantment, much to the Khan's delight.
  • 1. Conan of Cimmeria
    In Shadizar the Wicked, Conan takes his leave of a girl whose company he recently enjoyed, but he is ambushed in an alleyway. Quickly dispatching one of the assailants, he forces the other out into the street to interrogate him. By the knife the man, Yavuz, carries, Conan deduces he was sent by an Iranistani of Conan's acquaintance, but by now Yavuz believes Conan is a sorceror. Using that fear, Conan pretends to enchant a turkey bone which he places in Yavuz's boot, claiming it will kill him if he tries to run. A terrified Yavuz takes Conan to an inn called the Red Lion and points out the man. Conan lets him go and enters to confront the Iranistani.
  • 2. Khassek of Iranistan
    Conan approaches the man pointed out to him and brazenly places the knife and gold that was used to hire the assassins on the table. He explains that he once knew an Iranistani named Ajhindar who had a similar knife, and who was ambushed and killed while Conan was unable to help. The man, Khassek, thoughtfully considers Conan (and what had to have happened for Conan to get the knife and gold), and decides to talk. He reveals that Ajhindar, whose death he thought Conan had a hand in, was searching for the Eye of Erlik, a jeweled amulet desired by their khan. He promises Conan a great reward for its deliverance, rather obviously implying that he believes Conan possesses it. Conan does, but is not willing to just hand it over. Before the two can come to terms, the inn is invaded by members of the City Watch, intent on arresting Conan. Khassek spins an elaborate tale of being a purchaser of the queen of Koth's cosmetics until he manages to get behind their captain, Ferhad, and puts a knife to his throat, using him as a hostage to get the soldiers into the cellar.
  • 3. Farewell to Shadizar
    With the relatively unwilling assistance of innkeeper Imraz, Conan and Khassek trap the soldiers in the cellar, placing a heavy keg over the opening, but not before Khassek reveals (falsely), that he and Conan are traveling to Brythunia. Realizing the serving wench has disappeared, likely to fetch the King's Men, Conan and Khassek swiftly leave, taking poor Imraz and a barrel full of weapons with them. When they manage to leave the city, they let Imraz go and head out into the desert where Conan explains he buried the Eye of Erlik, much to Khassek's annoyance as he had entertained thoughts of killing Conan and taking the amulet. Several hours later, an acquaintance of Conan leaves the city with four horses and supplies to deliver to him, and the two men begin their journey to Arenjun.
  • 4. The Monsters
    Zafra nearly completes enchanting Akter's sword, the only requirement remaining is spilled blood. Akter summons a 12-year old tribal girl who was gifted to his harem, but whose screams of terror and protest prevented Akter from...performing. Even Zafra is disturbed by the depths of Akter's evil, but finishes the ritual when the blade plunges into the girl's heart.
  • 5. Tale of Two Wizards
    Conan explains the events that led to his acquisition of the Eye of Erlik. A few weeks ago, in Arenjun, Conan overheard of a plot to rob the wizard Hisarr Zul in two days hence. He decided to rob the wizard himself on the next day but discovered Ajhindar had the same idea. Although they worked together at first, Ajhindar attempted to kill Conan but was ultimately bitten and killed by vipers, the Eye was taken by another, and Conan was captured and had his soul taken by Hisarr Zul. In return for his soul, Zul sent Conan after the Eye, and in the desert, Conan encountered Zul's slain brother, Tosya Zul, now an undead sand-lich, who gives Conan the knowledge to defeat Hisarr Zul. After Conan kills the wizard, Tosya Zul magically flies Conan near and oasis where the thief who stole the Eye, Isparana, is, and secretly exchanges a copy of the Eye for the real thing. Khassek listens in astonishment as he realizes just how dangerous Conan can be...or to know.
  • 6. The Wizard of Zamboula
    Hundreds of miles south, Isparana leaves the company of the soldiers who were escorting her to Zamboula, convincing one of their company to desert with her. Captain Arsil and the soldier Kambur, knowing she seeks revenge on Conan and uninterested in facing him themselves, decided to forget the whole thing. Meanwhile, Zafra's magic has revealed that the Eye of Erlik is on the move, but between Conan and Khassek, he cannot ascertain who holds it. He also cannot tell if the Eye journeys south to Zamboula or will move east to Iranistan. Zafra promises to keep Akter and the suspicious adviser Hafar informed, then goes to secretly rendezvous with Akter's favorite concubine Chia.
  • 7. Isparana of Zamboula
    As the days pass, Conan eventually tells the Iranistani that he actually has had the Eye all along; he just didn't trust Khassek. They discuss what may have happened to Isparana, who Conan assumes is looking for him in revenge. After they pass through a ravine, to everyone's surprise, they run directly into Isparana and her accompanying soldier Sarid. The melee is sudden and brief; Khassek and Sarid lie dead and Conan and Isparana roll around on the ground, struggling at first, but soon doing something more...
  • 8. Strange Relationships
    Conan and Isparana, having somewhat reconciled, continue together to Zamboula. Meanwhile, Chia scoffs to Zafra about Aktar's reluctance to move against the challenger Balad. She discusses some political intrigue regarding double agents and spies, but Zafra is more focused on his scrying. He discovers that Conan and Isparana are returning to Zamboula and goes to deliver the information to Zafra.
  • 9. Death Amid the Dunes
    Conan and Isparana comes across six green-robed desert dwellers who demand Isparana. Conan swiftly attacks and blinds their leader, and the two flee on their horses across the desert. Being lighter, Isparana pulls ahead of Conan and their pursuers, and Conan, after galloping behind a sandy slope and out of sight of the riders, turns and charges in hopes of surprising them and evening the odds. He manages to take down two more but the remaining three, rather than realizing the effort isn't worth it, attack. Conan is disheartened to see seven more riders join their green-robed comrades, and even more frustrated to see Isparana, atop a nearby crest, reining in her horse instead of continuing to flee. Suddenly, however, Conan sees why Isparana stops as a small army of white-robed camel riders plunge over the hill and plow into the shocked desert raiders. After the kill their green-robed enemies and take their ears as trophies, they turn their attention to Conan and Isparana...
  • 10. Tents of the Shanki
    Akter Khan sends forth a group of horsemen to find Conan and Zamboula, and their progress is monitored magically by Zafra; meanwhile, the rebel Balad continues to plot against Akter. Conan and Isparana are ultimately welcomed by their saviors, a tribe called the Shanki, and their Khan Akhimen, wife Aqbi, son Hajimen, and daughter Zulfi. Conan's slaying of the Shanki's enemy the Yoggites has brought him some measure of respect, and he grows that respect by offering Akhimen the horses he stole or claimed through battle. Akhimen introduced Conan to his family, and a complex bargaining of honor and supplication occurs that Conan can barely keep up with. However, Conan does learn that a second daughter was sent to the Khan of Zamboula as a gift, but apparently died in childbirth. With much to think about, Conan goes to his tent to find a cleaned and made-up Isparana waiting for him.
  • 11. Spies of Zamboula
    Mitriala, servant girl of Chia is tortured by agents of Akter Khan and she reveals she was spying for Balad with the assistance of a palace guard named Khoja. Akter Khan commands his sword to slay her and then allows his torturer, Baltaj, to question Khoja in his own gruesome manner. He also reveals to Zafra that he is aware of the mage's relationship with Chia, and actually gives his blessing. Later, Zafra tells Chia that his spells worked - the innocent Mitriala truly believed she was a spy and now Chia herself is free to pass information to Balad.
  • 12. Escort for Two Thieves
    Hajimen nobly insists on escorting Conan and Isparana to Zamboula, along with a dozen of his fellow Akhimen. Conan thanks the prince and goes to fetch Isparana, who has asked for some weapons to protect her in case things go wrong. Conan acquiesces and fetches a bejeweled dagger he had stolen. Isparana interprets this gesture has a heartfelt gift (which perhaps it was) and they go to meet their escorts.
  • 13. Zamboula
    Conan and the Shanki soon come across a small group of Zamboulan horsemen, led by the prefect Jhabiz, who were sent by Akter to escort Conan and Isparana. Although Conan is curious as to how exactly Akter knew where he and the girl would be, they allow Jhabiz and his men to travel with them, as Hajimen politely declines Jhabiz's invitation to take over escorting. When they approach the city, Jhabez grows visibly uncomfortable, and explains there are laws against not only camels on the road, but more than twenty riders at once. Conan encourages Jhabiz to break the rules this once. Conan rides with his motley procession through the city, arranges a meeting place with Hajimen for later, and, holding the amulet, dismounts in preparation for a meeting with the khan.
  • 14. The Eye of Erlik
    Conan and Isparana are granted an audience with Akter Khan, who waits with the wizard Zafra by his side. Akter requests that Conan disarm himself and Conan, thinking acquiescence and truthfulness the best option, does so. He then gives the Eye of Erlik, which he had baked into the ugly clay amulet he had worn all along, to Isparana to hand deliver to her Khan. Most pleased, Khan elects to hear Conan's full story, and the Cimmerian dutifully explains how he was in the thrall of and ultimately destroyed Hisarr Zul, and of his adventures with Isparana and the amulet. Akter Khan reacts positively to Conan's truthfulness (he had some knowledge of events already, thanks to Zafra's magic), and invites the two travelers to dine with him.
  • 15. Conan Hero
    At and after dinner, Conan is impressed with Akter Khan, who seems to genuinely enjoy Conan's company and capacity for drinking. The next day, Conan and Isparana meet with Hajimen while Akter contemplates awarding Conan a captaincy. A horrified Zafra, utilizing a mixture of wine, words, and possible magic, convinces Akter that Conan is a danger and needs to be dealt with appropriately.
  • 16. Conan Fugitive
    When Conan and Isparana meet with Hajimen at a local tavern, the Shanki is disturbed by rumors that his sister died of less than natural causes. Apparently, his sister refused to be bedded by Akter Khan, a dishonorable act on her part even to Hajimen, and was slain a virgin in retaliation. Hajimen has decided to remain in Zamboula to learn the truth. A cloaked man comes to the table asking Conan to come with him, but refuses to give any information. Isparana begs Conan not to go, but Conan, curious, has the man disarm himself and then walks with him, holding the man as a hostage with his own dagger, through the streets to a small house. Inside, Conan is introduced to a bearded man named Jelal, who talks to Conan about Balad, the challenger to Akter's rule. Jelal tells Conan about how Hajimen's sister was escorted to a meeting with Akter and Zafra, and was murdered there. Balad and Jelal want Conan's help, as Conan, being favored of Akter, can get close. Conan is hesitant, until the guide bursts in with news that Isparana was taken by twenty soldiers who are also looking for Conan. Angered, the Cimmerian asks to meet with Balad.
  • 17. Conan Thief
    A third man, Turth, arrives to help disguise and guide Conan to Balad. They go through the rolling hills of the countryside to a large estate, where Conan discovers to his shock that the guide is Jelal and the man he had thought was Jelal is Balad himself. Before Conan agrees to help, he insists on returning to his room at the inn, even though he knows it's being watched. He sneaks back and climbs the wall into his room, collecting his more valuable possessions. Unfortunately, he makes enough noise that he is discovers and has to fight his way out the window to freedom, but he does escape and, bag in hand, returns to Balad.
  • 18. The Key to Zamboula
    Armed, supplied, and supported, Balad is ready to take down Akter Khan, but he knows he will be thwarted by Akter's elite Chosen guard (called the Thorn) without some sort of Key, as he calls it, to occupy them while he takes the palace. Conan, who is now taking this personal, believes he has the Key - Hajimen and the Shanki. Conan convinces Hajimen to attack the city, draw soldiers away, and keep the garrison occupied while Balad attacks the palace. Then, in the second part of his plan, Conan sneaks into the palace and is captured by Zafra.
  • 19."Slay Him!"
    Conan is tortured and brought before Zafra. The mage gloats for a bit, and then commands his magical sword, which once so ordered will not cease until it has killed, to slay Conan. The sword flies towards Conan, who blocks it with a lampstand and runs toward the door, throwing the heavy wooden door shut as Zafra realized in horror what will happen next as the sword turns to the only other living creature in the room. Conan hears Zafra's screams as he dies, and runs back into the room when a guards come for him. Conan dispatches the Thorn soldier and takes his uniform, searching for Isparana. He finds her, under guard by two Thorns, who Conan also kills. He then turns to the torturer, Baltaj, who is currently working on Isparana, and splits his skull. As Isparana and Conan make their escape, they find Akter Khan's bodyguard Farouz, and Conan attempts to use the sword's magic to slay him, to no avail. Isparana takes matters into her own hands and knives Farouz in the groin. Conan tells Isparana he plans to capture Akter Khan and use him as a hostage to get out of the palace, but when they enter the throne room, they find Akter is waiting for him - with 12 of his finest Thorns.
  • 20. The Sword on the Wall
    Before Captain Hamer can order his men to attack Khan tells him to stand down because he wants to talk to Conan first. He asks Conan and despite the protestations of Isparana and his own suspicions, he does so. Hamer reluctantly shuts himself out of the room with his men, and Conan and Akter speak. Conan tells him that Zafra was slain, and Akter reveals he's aware of the Shanki ruse. Conan wonders what Akter's game is, when the Khan tells him that Safra enchanted two swords, and Conan realize that what he thought was a ceremonial sword is another magical killing machine, and Akter triumphantly commands it to slay Conan. But the sword does nothing, and both Conan and Akter realize that Zafra alone commanded the swords. Isparana bars the doors and Akter realizes his hubris as Conan advances...
  • 21. The Throne of Zamboula
    A pounding on the door gives way to Balad's voice - he and his men have taken the castle. Conan tells Akter to unbar the door himself and allows him the dignity to return to his throne as the doors are thrust open. The body of Chia is tossed in first, followed by Balad who immediately shoots two arrows into Akter. Conan is horrified by this lack of respect given to a surrendered, unarmed foe. The tension ramps up when a bloodied Zafra, magically clinging to life, crawls into the throne room and commands the Sword of Skelos to slay. This time, Balad is the unlucky target, standing too close to the sword. Conan quickly cuts off Zafra's head before he can speak again and tells the revolutionaries to burn it. Soon, Akter's son Jungir is made Khan. Jungir is not terribly upset with his father's death, and pardons the plotters (who conveniently scapegoated Balad as a mind-controlling sorcerer anyway), and Conan leaves Zamboula vowing never to admit even hearing of the place.

CharactersEdit

  • Conan
  • Yavuz, Zamoran mercenary
  • Zafra, Zamboulan mage *
  • Akter, Khan of Zamboula *
  • Khassek, Iranistani mercenary*
  • Ferhad, Zamoran soldier
  • Imraz, Zamoran inn proprietor
  • Arsil, Samaran captain
  • Kambur, Iranistani soldier of Samara
  • Hafar, Zamboulan advisor
  • Chia, Zamboulan concubine; Akter's favorite, also called Tigress *
  • Isparana
  • Sarid, Samaran soldier *
  • Akhimen, Khan of the Shanki people
  • Hajimen, son of Akhimen
  • Zulfim daughter of Akhimen
  • Aqbi, wife of Akhimen
  • Mitriala, Zamboulan servant girl *
  • Baltaj, Zamboulan torturer *
  • Jhabiz, Prefect of Zamboula
  • Jelal, Zamboulan revolutionary
  • Turth, Zamboulan revolutionary
  • Balad, Zamboulan revolutionary leader *
  • Farouz, Zamboulan bodyguard

* - dies in this story

LocationsEdit

Continuity NotesEdit

This story takes place about four months after "The Tower of the Elephant". Conan is 17 years old (chapter 20).

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Mercenary
The Sword of Skelos Next Story:
Conan the Victorious
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Mercenary
The Sword of Skelos Next Story:
Conan the Destroyer
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Mercenary
The Sword of Skelos Next Story:
Conan the Outcast

AdaptationsEdit

Publication historyEdit

ReferencesEdit

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