Conan, now in his late thirties and captain of the Wastrel, becomes embroiled in the politics of the kingdom of Zingara when he seeks the rumored treasure on the Nameless Isle. The fugitive Princess Chabela, the privateer Zarono, and the Stygian sorcerer are among those mixed up in the treasure quest.
Prologue: Dream of Blood
Princess Chabela of Zingara awakens from a nightmare in which she is surrounded by thick blood. She turns to her god Mitra in prayer and recalls how her father, King Ferdrugo, had been wasting away in recent weeks, issuing questionable decrees and acting very much out of character. She tosses her divining sticks, which form the word "TOVARRO". She gathers some items and rushes out.
1. An Old Zingaran Custom
Late during an overcast night in Kordova, two black cloaked figures sneak into a trap door in a stable and make their way through tunnels to an ornately decorated vault under the castle of Villagro, duke of the city. Villagro himserf sits studying documents under the watchful eye of his bodyguard Gomani, when a clock strikes two and a passage opens revealing the two black cloaked men. Villagro welcomes them as they bow before him. Villagro chastises one of them, Zarano, for being late, and the rogue sheepishly explains he got caught up in a tavern brawl with a haughty Cimmerian named Conan. Zarono then introduces the priest Menkara, who has been attempting to subjugate King Ferdrugo's mind to force him to marry off the princess to Villagro. When Menkara reveals he attempted to enter the Princess's mind, Villagro erupts in rage, as he tells the startled men that Chabela has fled the town. Menkara uses his magics to locate the princess, and manages to divine she is heading for Asgulun. Villagro realizes she seeks her uncle, the ambassador Tavarro. Menkara suggests they recruit another sorcerer, and recommends Thoth-Amon. Villagro agrees, and sends Zarono after Chabela while Menkara seeks Thoth-Amon.
2. A Knife in the Dark
As Zarono and Menkara head off on their respective missions, the priest Ninus scurries through the streets towards a meeting with Conan in order to sell the Cimmerian a treasure map. Unfortunately, he bumps into and recognizes Menkara, and as he tries to raise the alarm that a Stygian sorcerer is in the city, he is savagely stabbed by Zarono, and Menkara takes the map to create the illusion of a simple robbery. Soon, Conan, tired of waiting, sets out in search of Ninus, and finds his barely living body. Realizing the map is missing, he suspects that was the reason for his friend's injuries and vows revenge. Conan carries Ninus to the Nine Drawn Swords tavern where the innkeepr Sabral brings the doctor Cratos to treat him. Responding to the medical care, Ninus is able to tell Conan he was attacked by Menkara of Set and his companion Zarono. Conan, recognizing the name of the privateer, and assuming the whole issue is about the treasure, storms off to set things right. He boards his ship, the Wastrel. and commands Zeltran, his first mate, to ready for sail and battle with Zarono's Petrel. Zeltran slyly suggests it might be wiser to let Zarono lead them to the treasure, then attack, and Conan roars his appreciation of his first mate's cunning.
3. Death of the Sea Queen
On the third day aboard the Sea Queen, the royal yacht of Zingara, Chabela notes an oncoming ship. The Captain Kapellez recognizes Zarono's Petrel and tells Chabela not to worry, though she is wary. Suddenly, entangling green mists appear around the royal ship and begin to surround the sailors and freeze them in magical suspension. On the Petrel, Menkara completes his spell to Zarono's discomfort - this level of evil and villainy disturbs even a privateer. Nonetheless, he orders his men to board and take Chabela, and then scuttles the Sea Queen, an action observed by a distant Conan, who realizes this is more than a simple treasure hunt, and mentally adds another tally to his upcoming reckoning with Zarono.
4. The Nameless Isle
Menkara spends the day studying the map and realizes it contains directions to the legendary Nameless Isles, home of incalculable treasure and a copy of one of the rarest of magical tomes - the Book of Skelos. He brings this information to a drunk and discomfited Zarono, who quickly shakes off his doubts when he senses the opportunity for gold and decides to take a few days' detour. Conan sees the course change and moves his ship to follow.
5. At the World's Edge
Several days later, the Wastrel anchors near an uncharted island, and Zarono takes a group ashore to hack through the dense jungle forest in search of the treasure. Zarono grows frustrated and asks Menkara what is so special about this island, and Menkara points out the absolute silence. For the first time, he notices there are no animals, birds, reptiles, or even insects on the island. They finally break through into a barren patch of sand where the forest abruptly stops, with a black temple at the center. Menkara casts a counter spell to temporarily block the powerful protection spells woven on the temple, and the small band rushes inside. They come across a black altar that holds a book on top, with two bags of gems at its base. The men grab the treasure, and make haste back to their ship.
6. Flaming Eyes
Tied up by Zarono, the resourceful Chabela manages to cut through her bonds with a small dagger she had concealed in her girdle. She crawls out a porthole and drops into the ocean and begins to swim for the shore as the Petral sails into the distance. She makes it and hangs out her clothes to dry while she rests a bit, then begins to explore the island. Unfortunately, a dark figure has found her first. Out to sea, Conan debates a course of action with Zeltran, who advises caution when Conan wants to immediately attack the Wastrel. Finally giving in to Zeltran's wiser counsel, he orders his ship to the northern side of the island to drop anchor and investigate. Conan's landing party finds the abandoned temple and they find the signs of the treasure - prints in the ground and a few scattered gems. When Conan reaches for the gems, the statue guarding the treasure comes to life...
7. The Toad-Thing
Luckily, the statue moves slowly, and Conan commands his men to return to the ship. He himself draws its attention in another direction and runs into the forest as a distraction. At the same moment, Chabela discovers the figure who approaches her is a red-haired, surprisingly friendly northman named Sigurd. Before she can tell her story, Conan bursts into the area, and yells at the two to flee and they join him. Conan has the northerner lead them to a cliff. At the top, Chabela runs one way along the cliff side and the northerner runs the opposite, leaving Conan to taunt the now-confused toad-thing statue with rocks. The angered creature hurls itself towards Conan, who turns and dives out into the water. The stone creature, however, stumbles and falls directly down the cliff side. Conan scrambles back up the cliff to his companions and realizes the girl is Chabela. Sigurd reveals he is first mate of a ship that beached on the south side of the island and the remaining men have set up camp, to which he invites Conan and Chabela.
8. The Cobra Crown
That night, a furious Zarono has Menkara scry for Chabela. The priest's vision reveals The Wastrel, which Zarono recognizes. Conan has taken Sigurd's men on board his ship, and although Menkara knows Chabela is there, he can't say where the ship is or where it is headed. He convinces Zarono to seek the help of Thoth-Amon. They anchor off the Stygian coast and embark on a three day journey overland to the Oasis of Khajar to Thoth-Amon's abode. Upon meeting the great and terrible sorcerer, Menkara gives him the Book of Skelos, which moderately impresses Thoth-Amon, until he learns this copy was taken from the altar on the Nameless Island. It seems beneath the altar lies the true treasure, the Cobra Crown.
9. Wind in the Rigging
Conan curses the calm waters and winds that strand his ship near the Nameless Isle. He does not know where Zarono's warship has gone, and the merging of his and Sigurd's crew has not come without brawls. He ponders his future, wondering perhaps if he should pursue the hand of Chabela, as he is not getting younger. He is brought out of his reverie by the remembrance of what occurred after he and his companions had destroyed the toad-god, and having returned to the temple saw a hole under where the statue had squatted. Reaching in, Conan pulled out a jeweled crown - unknown to his enemies, Conan had retrieved the Cobra Crown. Soon, strong winds appear and blow the ship for over two days southeastern, when they finally anchor off an unrecognized shore, though Sigurd suspects it to be Kush. A party goes ashore to resupply.
10. The Black Coast
In the back of Conan's mind, a nagging familiarity with this harbor and jungle bites at him, and all of the sudden a swarm of naked black men burst from the trees and attack. Almost as quickly, the leader of the blacks, Juma, swats down a warrior poised to strike at Conan and calls off the attack as he recognizes the Cimmerian, who he served with in King Yildez's army. After leaving Turan, Juma returned to his homeland and rejoined his tribe, eventually uniting many tribes and becoming king. He invites Conan and his men to a feast in his village of Kulalo. That night, a drunken Conan stumbles to his hut, keeping the jewel encrusted crown close by, and doesn't notice the offended Bwatu, the man struck by Juma on the beach, steal towards the hut, dagger in hand. Meanwhile, Thoth-Amon's magics have revealed that the crown has been spirited away from the Nameless Isle and he turns his attentions to those who may have taken it.
11. Web of Doom
Conan awakens to see a slit cut through the wall of his hut and the crown missing. He emerges in a rage, and a quick headcount reveals that Bwatu is missing. When Juma speculates Bwatu might flee for the Matamba tribe, Conan prepares to chase after him., despite Sigurd's attempts to have him wait until a full party can be raised. Conan ignores Sigurd, who reluctantly follows so Conan won't be alone. Unbeknownst to all, Chabela sneaks off to follow Conan as well. Conan and Sigurd quickly outdistance Chabela and travel through the night. Exhausted, she lies down to rest as dawn comes, but she is attacked and taken by a local tribe of turbaned men. Meanwhile, Conan stumbles across the empty-handed body of Bwatu, killed by steel-forged swords rather than local jungle weapons. As he is examining the body, a weighted net falls from the trees and traps him as he, too, is surrounded by a handful of turbaned black figures.
12. City of Warrior Women
Thoth-Amon searches the astral plain for clues to the whereabouts of the crown and discovers Conan's location on the Black Coast. He summons Zarono and Menkara and immediately sends them to Kulalo while he makes his own preparations for travel. Conan awakens to find himself and many others captured by slavers, and is more surprised to see Chabela captured as well. When a slaver gets too close to Conan, he springs into action, actually managing to get hold of the slaver's dagger and killing him before he is beaten down by a half dozen men. This mildly impresses the slaver's leader, Mbonani, who thinks he can get some coin for Conan from the Amazons. They begin to march and Conan spies the Crown in the possession of one of the slavers, Zuru. Soon they arrive at the stone city of Gamburu and Conan notes that the women seem to be taller, stronger, and more dominant than the men, who, shabbily dressed and frail, do the city's menial tasks. They march past what seems to be an arena that is littered with bones, and Conan wonders what beast is let loose inside the shallow walls.
13. The Queen of the Amazons
Conan and the other captured men and women are displayed in the bazaar. Chabela is sold almost immediately, and when Conan is pulled onto the auction block, he attacks Zuru, to the amusement of Mbonani who commands the slaver not to damage the merchandise. A booming voice bids on Conan, as Nzinga, queen of the Amazons, reveals herself. As the days pass, Chabela is worked to the bone as a slave, while Conan seems to enjoy his status as the queen's kept man, much to Chabela's chagrin. She doesn't realize that Conan has been protecting her from the queen's jealous wrath as Nzinga assumes Conan and Chabela had been lovers. When Nzinga begins to ask questions, Conan manages to silence her in his special way...
14. Under the Lash
Nzinga has Chabela perform menial and degrading tasks in front of Conan, who manages to mask his annoyance at Nzinga's obvious jealousy. She finally arranges to have Chabela be tripped and spill wine on the general Tuta, who angrily pulls a dagger on the helpless princess. Conan finally intercedes, forcing Tuta to drop the dagger, but he does so jokingly, hoping to convince Nzinga the situation isn't worth blood being spilled, but he knows that Nzinga will interpret the events as he being in love with Chabela. As she leaves the chamber, Chabela is grabbed and blindfolded and soon finds herself in the presence of Nzinga, who whips Chebla in a frenzy. Chabela notices the Cobra Crown, which had been sold to Nzinga, on a table behind the queen. To her surprise, a green wispy form starts to coalesce in front of the Crown, and soon Thoth-Amon appears. Nzinga moves to attack but a casual flick of the wizard's hand sends her into unconsciousness. Not even deigning to notice Chabela, Thoth-Amon takes the crown and vanishes. Chabela awakens and manages to slip free of her bonds, and, after considering and rejecting slaying the unconscious Nzinga, steals away into the darkness instead.
15. The Black Labyrinth
Chabela stumbles through darkened corridors and finds herself in the dungeons and to her shock, Conan's unconscious form, drugged by Nzinga, in one of the cages. She grabs a water bucket and pours it on Conan's face and he awakens sputtering. He grasps and pulls at the weak copper bars of the prison and pulls it out, freeing himself as Chabela explains about the sorcerer. Their escape is unfortunately short lived, as they quickly encounter a revived Nzinga and a small squad of soldiers. Although Conan gains the upper hand on the soldiers, Nzinga grabs and holds a dagger to Chabela's throat forcing Conan's surrender. She ominously condemns Conan and Chabela to the kulamtu trees...
16. The Devouring Tree
Conan and Chabela are taken to an arena with a large cluster of trees in the center and thrown, bound, into the sand. Chabela screams as the man-sized leaves of the tree begin to reach for and encircle the two. The leaves wrap Chabela entirely and slowly move her towards an orifice at the top of the trees, but Conan realizes that the leaves digestive acids are weaken his bonds. He breaks free tears the leaves from his body, leaving itchy red marks, and grabs Chebals to free her. The outraged Amazon soldiers leap into the arena, but give the trees a wide berth out of either respect or fear. Conan runs to the ten foot tall tree that had tried to ensnare him and was now seemingly writhing in pain from its torn leaves, and rams into it, uprooting its small whitish tendrils. He lifts the trunk and throws it at the woman who panic and scatter. The two race into the stands and into the streets just in time to see Juma's army flow into the city with Sigurd. Conan and Chabela rush to the safety of their comrades and the army leaves the city, with Conan determined to get to the bottom of the whole affair with the crown, sorcerers, and the plot in Zingara.
17. The Wreck of the Wastrel
Several days of trekking later, the group returns to where the Wastrel was moored, but find it half sunk in the river. The survivors, led by Zeltran, emerge from the forest to reveal they had been attacked by Zarono and the Petrel during a thick, magically created fog. Zarono and Menkara tortured Zeltran for information, then left the ship aflame to return to Thoth-Amon, Zeltran managed to stop the flames but the ship was heavily damaged. Conan turns his attention to repairing the Wastrel. After many days and the help of Juma's tribe, the ship is sea worthy again and the crew says their goodbyes to their newfound jungle companions.
18. A Kingdom in the Balance
The Wastrel slips into Kordova at sundown, but, as Conan doesn't know the current political situation and they spot the Petrel in the harbor, he decides to sneak into the city and regroup at the Nine Drawn Swords tavern. The streets are uncharacteristically empty, and when Conan and his men reach the tavern, discover it is closed by decree from the castle. The owner, Sabral, recognizes Conan and lets them in. It seems that over the past several weeks, men loyal to the addled King Ferdrugo have been transferred to the borders or imprisoned as Villagro puts loyal lackeys in important positions. It seems a coup is imminent as Villagro has announced an important ceremony take place that evening, likely to showcase an abdication. A bell tolls through the city announcing the beginning of the ceremony.
19. King Thoth-Amon
In the throne room, where soldiers and guardsmen loyal to the king are outnumbered by those who wear the livery of Villagro, a haggard looking King Ferdrugo sits on the throne and reads from a prepared scroll. Standing in front of him are Villagro and Thoth-Amon, who is wearing the Cobra Crown and concentrating on some sorcery. The weakened and confused king renounces the throne to his daughter, who he declares married to Thoth-Amon, much to Villagro's shock. Thoth-Amon removes the Cobra Crown and approaches Ferdrugo, who removes his own ancient crown and places it on the sorcerer's head. Villagro realizes how he has been duped and lunges for the Cobra Crown while Thoth-Amon is distracted. Menkara rushes forth, dagger in hand, but Villagro manages to place the Cobra Crown on his head and uses its power to push Menkara back. Thoth-Amon turns to attack Villagro, but the power of the Crown manages to keep even the mighty sorcerer at bay, but Villagro's inexperience prevents him from overpowering Thoth-Amon and he begins to weaken as Menkara regains his senses to prepare an attack from behind. A burst of noise craws everyone's attention to the balcony, where Conan and his men have burst into the room. Conan shouts out how Thoth-Amon has ensnared the king, who, due to Thoth-Amon's distraction, regains a modicum of wits to confirm what Conan has said. Villagro takes the opportunity to attack the sorcerer, who staggers, but regains focus and with the help of Menkara begins to mentally bear down on Villagro. In the balcony, Chabela appears and urges the citizens and soldiers to follow Conan's lead, and the word of the beloved princess is enough to send the audience after Thoth-Amon, who, realizing his lost position, sends a beam of light at the Cobra Crown which causes its magics to explode, burning Villagro's head to a crisp.
20. Red Blood and Cold Steel
The men in the hall split themselves into two factions; the larger behind Zarono and the rest behind Conan. A weakened Thoth-Amon magically hides from the battle, and Menkara is slain, but Conan's loyalist forces begin to fall to the overwhelming numbers as he and Zarono face off in a mighty, and almost evenly matched, duel. Thoth-Amon invisibly makes his way to the Cobra Crown, but finds it burnt out and useless. Suddenly, Conan's crew bursts into the chamber as reinforcements and the tide of battle turns. Thoth-Amon uses a magical serpent ring to animate a tapestry and entangle Conan, and the sorcerer and Zarono escape in the chaos, causing Zarono's rebellious men to surrender. Some days later, after Conan is profusely thanked and even offered the hand of Chabela, he boards the Wastrel and sets sail for new adventures.
- Princess Chabela of Zingara
- Villagro, duke of Kordova
- Gomani, Kushite bodyguard to the duke.
- Zarono, Zingaran privateer
- Menkara, Stygian priest *
- Ninus, Messentian priest of Mitra
- Sabral, innkeeper
- Cratos, doctor
- Zeltran, Zingaran sailor
- Sigurd, northern privateer
- Thoth-Amon, Stygian sorcerer
- Juma, Kushite mercenary
- Bwatu, Kushite warrior *
- Mbonani, Ghanatan slaver leader
- Zuru, Ghanatan slaver
- Nzinga, Amazon queen
- Sabral, Kordovan tavern owner
- Ferdrugo III, king of Zingara
* dies in this story
- Kordova, capital of Zingara
- Nameless Isle
- Khajar oasis, Stygia
- Kulalo, Kushite town; capital of Juma's kingdom
- Gamburu, Amazonia
- Conan is over 35 years old.
"The Pool of the Black One"
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- Savage Sword of Conan #40-43
- Reprinted in Conan Saga #42-45
- Reprinted in Savage Sword of Conan Volume 4