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A party of riders clothed all in black sweep across the Zamorian plain, armed with clubs and nets, searching for a "...thief with eyes the color of the sky" as described in the Scrolls of Skelos.
Conan and an accomplice named Malak are fresh from robbing Amphrates the Merchant. Conan builds a makeshift stone altar while Malak busies himself burying their ill-gotten gains.
Conan is planning to pray to unfamiliar, local gods...for a woman called Valeria. He seeks to,"...ease her fate with them" because he feels he owes her a debt.
As Malak begins to explain the futility of prayer to gods of any kind, hoof-beats herald the approach of riders. Conan turns, hand on his hilt, to await them and Malak hurriedly completes his burial of their loot.
The warriors in black are successful in capturing Malak but not Conan. Princess Taramis of Zamora calls a halt to the attacks and uses sorcery to make Conan reveal his greatest desire: Valeria. Taramis offers to return Valeria to life if Conan agrees to perform a service for her.
Conan negotiates Malak's release and accepts Taramis' terms.
Upon their return to Shadizar, Conan contrives to escape from the black-clad soldiers and makes his way to Manetes' Tavern to meet with Malak. Conan offers Malak his share of Amphrates treasure if the thief will discover the location of Akiro, the hedge wizard, and follow and aid Conan if his commission requires him to leave Taramis' palace.
Presenting himself at Taramis' palace, Conan is announced to the Princess Royal by the captain of her guard, Bombatta, who is incensed about Conan's earlier escape. Taramis' fury is even greater and commands that Conan be washed and brought to her.
Bombatta escorts Conan to the baths and they have their first of many verbal confrontations.
Bathed and perfumed, Conan is taken to Taramis' bedchamber by Jarvaneus, her Chief Steward. Guarded by four black-armoured warriors, Taramis flirts with Conan while telling him of the tasks he must perform in order for Valeria to be resurrected.
The Lady Jehnna, the daughter of Taramis' late brother, bears a special birthmark that is linked to a prophecy in the Scrolls of Skelos. Only Jehnna can touch a mystic key and the treasure that it unlocks. Only Jehnna knows where they can be found. The prophecy is vague about how many people can accompany Jehnna on her journey to recover them, but two men are described in detail...Taramis believes those men to be Conan and Bombatta. The treasure and the key must be returned to the palace before nightfall in seven days in order for Valeria to be returned to life.
Jehnna leads Conan and Bombatta west toward the Karpash Mountains separating Zamora from Corinthia. Soon they are joined by Malak, much to Bombatta's objections; risking more companions could nullify the prophecy. He relents however, when Conan refuses to go on the journey without Malak. As they approach the mountains they detour so Akiro can join their band; a delay that neither Jehnna nor Bombatta approve of. Upon meeting Jehnna Akiro instantly recgnizes her as an innocent, and confirms something for Conan that Taramis has told no one else...innocence is a state of the soul, not of the flesh. That night Akiro gives Conan a potion he has created that will make Conan's memory of Valeria fade, but the Cimmerian refuses to use it.
A short way into the mountains, the companions travel through a town where six Corinthian soldiers torment a female warrior for sport. The woman was captured raiding the village. The mood of the crowd is ugly and, in order to distract the villagers from attacking Conan and his band, he sets the female warrior free. Using the commotion she causes by attacking the soldiers, Conan and his companions ride safely out of the village, further into the mountains towards the key Jehnna seeks.
At the sounds of pursuit, Conan and Bombatta fall back to confront the rider, who turns out to be the woman Conan freed. Zula pledges to ride with Conan and repay the debt she owes him for saving her life. Jehnna falls back to join the discussion, much to the chagrin of Conan and Bombatta. The woman claims that she and a group of mercenaries attacked the village in an attempt to free several women taken from a smaller village to the south. The women were rescued but her battle companion and lover, T'car, was wounded and Zula would not leave him. The villagers executed T'car and then the soldiers arrived and decided to bait Zula for sport.
Jehnna insists Zula join their company despite the objections of Bombatta about the number of people in their group . As they travel, Jehnna asks what Zula means when she talks of "laying with a man." Realizing that Jehnna is a virgin, Zula becomes her protector...even from Bombatta.
The first part of their journey ends in the crater of an ancient volcano. A lake fills the crater. On it's far side, a palace made of crystal reaches toward the sky. As the hour is late, the companions decide to camp on the shore for the night and attempt entrance to the palace the next morning.
Amon-Rama, sorcerer of the crystal tower, watched Jehnna's approach since the company set out from Shadizard. He cannot touch the Heart of Ahriman himself, only The One can, but if he controls The One, his power will grow vast indeed. As the adventurers fall asleep at the far edge of the lake, the sorcerer sends a mist to ensure they stay that way. Transforming himself into an eagle made of smoke, Amon-Rama soars across the lake and snatches Jehnna from where she lies between Zula and Bomabatta without disturbing anyone's slumber.
The group awakens to find Jehnna missing. Akiro divines that a great bird carried her to the crystal palace and the group sets off across the lake in a conveniently located boat, knowing that is a trap.
Arriving at the palace they discover it to be one seamless gemstone from top to bottom. Amon-Rama magically sealed the palace to intruders but did not command the underwater pipe that he uses as a well to seal itself and so Akiro is able to discover a way in...once Conan and Bombatta manage to tear open the iron grating blocking the opening, that is. Climbing the well using the rope normally reserved for hauling up the bucket (which was conveniently lowered and floating in the water), the group enters the palace.
Intrigued that the intruders were able to outwit his attempt to bar them from his palace, Amon-Rama prepares to confront the party when they reach his inner sanctum; the mirror-walled chamber where the Heart of Ahriman rests. In the next room Jehnna still sleeps.
Scouting ahead of the rest, Conan is the first to enter the chamber of mirrors and is trapped as a door slides shut behind him. Outside his companions are trapped in the hallway watching Conan through an unbreakable one-way-mirror that even Akiro's magic is unable to breach or lift.
When Conan fails to show fear at being trapped and confronted by Amon-Rama, the defiant Cimmerian goads the sorcerer into a physical confrontation. Overconfident, he conjures an amalgam of a giant ape with the claws of a tiger and supernatural speed that belies its bulk.
Fighting a losing battle, Conan finally succeeds in wounding the creature and, in its pain and rage, it throws the Cimmerian across the chamber to smash into the mirrored wall.
And that is the mistake that seals its fate.
Rising to find that the beast is wounded far beyond what he just inflicted, Conan sees that the mirror he slammed into is spider-webbed with cracks. Breaking another mirror showing the form of Amon-Rama, the beast's groans of pain redouble and Conan has the work of only a few short minutes to reduce to glittering shards the rest of the mirrors showing the sorcerer's image.
Transfixed by Conan's sword, the mage staggers to the Heart of Ahriman, grasps the gem tenderly and is reduced to a steaming puddle of blood that burns off to nothingness leaving Conan's sword laying unstained on the chamber floor.
Free of the sorcerer's will, Akiro's magic shatters the barrier keeping the other adventurer's out of the room. As they enter the chamber, so to does Jehnna, through the doorway where Amon-Rama's true from had hidden. The girl walks directly to the gem and, before anyone can try to stop her, she takes hold of it just as the sorcerer did.
And the palace begins to come apart.
Escaping the palace and the blast-wave that results from its final evaporation, the party regroups and Jehnna leads them in search of the treasure, the location of which she can sense, now that she holds the key.
Unfortunately, their path takes them back the way they had travelled. About a league from the village where Conan freed Zula, the party is turning to follow a different path toward the treasure when a score of Corinthian cavalry burst upon them.
Fighting his way to Jehnna, he rescues her from a horseman and yells for the others to scatter as he takes the girl to safety so she can complete her task; not stopping to see if his comrades escaped with him.
Later, as evening approaches, he finds a place easily defended and out of the wind for he and Jehnna to spend the night. Conan refuses to make a fire that would announce their position so Jehnna insists that Conan sleep next to her to keep her warm. She uses the opportunity to convince Conan to show her what it means for a woman to "lay with a man."
It is two nights before the night that the Horn and the Heart must be returned to Shadizar. At the palace, Taramis and Xanteres, high priest of Dagoth, preside over the "First Anointing" by cutting the throat of one of Taramis' willing bath-attendants and letting it spray over the statue of the Dreaming God.
The next morning finds Conan arguing with Jehnna. The girl insists on continuing the quest, while Conan wants to take her back to Shadizar in one piece...he doubts his ability to keep her alive while facing unknown odds to gain the Horn.
Luckily, Malak and the rest of the party find the pair before they set off home.
Bombatta demands that Akiro tell him if Jehnna is still an innocent (which Taramis has told him for years means "a virgin") and Akiro states that she is (because spiritually her innocence has not changed).
Jehnna directs the party to a maze of narrow fractures in the approaching mountain's face. The way becomes so narrow, it forces the adventurers to abandon their horses and proceed on foot. Marking the canyon walls with his dagger, to help them find their way back to their horses, the Cimmerian eventually comes upon a courtyard and the front of a temple, carved out of the living rock itself. Conan and Bombatta both restrain Jehnna from running straight to the door and into the building, such is her fervour.
Examining some of the runes on the crumbling statues in front of the temple, Akiro remarks that they are from a language that has not been used for thousands of years. Inside the temple, the dust lays thick over everything, disturbed only by spiders and rats. The Cimmerian lifts a torch from its place on a wall and, as he breaks out flint and steel from his pack, Akiro lights the torch for him using magic. Conan berates the wizard for not waiting until he was asked.
The path leads them ever deeper into the ancient ruin and the party comes upon a huge iron door, untouched by rust despite its age. Bombatta and Conan decide to lift it. Once it is open, Akiro finds a mechanism to lock it in place. He then casually comments to Conan that he could have easily lifted it with magic, if someone would have only asked.
At the end of the corridor is a circular room decorated with gold plaques, and carvings embedded with gemstones. The far side of the room is dominated by a huge, horrific head of black stone. As Akiro begins to try and read the language on the plaques, Jehnna steps onto a pentagram carved into the floor directly before the demonic head and sets the Heart of Ahriman down before her in a shallow depression precisely the size of the gemstone. Seemingly in a trance she begins to chant words in an unfamiliar language.
And the monstrous head begins to come to life.
As the girl's chanting continues, the head opens its mouth to reveal an otherwordly conflagration of crimson fire that makes all save Jehnna step back to prevent themselves from being burned by the heat. Jehnna removes her robes and, unable to be restrained by her comrades, steps forward into the flames to obtain the Horn of Dagoth, shining in the heart of the inferno and untouched by its fury.
As promised, the innocent is able to retrieve the Horn unscathed.
Jehnna collapses upon returning to the pentagram with the Horn and a chill wind howls through the room, extinguishing the fire in the demon's mouth but having no affect on their torches' flames. Conan gives the command to leave and refuses to listen to what Akiro is urgently but quietly trying to tell him about the information contained on the plaques.
As the group rushes to leave, they find the chamber outside the huge iron door occupied by a score of black-armoured warriors, all of whom stand over a foot taller than Conan and Bombatta; all of whom wear armour of ancient design. Sleeping for thousands of years, as Dagoth has, they awakened when The One took possession of The Horn.
As their leader explains, the companions are all free to go, except Jehnna who must stay and help them to awaken Dagoth. Bombatta's dagger thuds into the leader's neck and a battle commences.
But instead of staying to fight, Bombatta grabs Jehnna and flees back under the iron door and removes the lock so that it begins to close. The adventurers all manage to get inside before it snaps closed and Akiro casts a spell to hold it closed as Conan runs back toward the circular chamber in pursuit of Jehnna. Tracks in the dust and through a doorway to one side lead Conan down a corridor to a large square column-filled chamber. As he moves towards the doorway on the far side of the room, Bombatta topples two of the columns near that doorway and the roof collapses as Conan dives back the way he came.
Escaping with Jehnna, Bombatta claims he saw the others get cut down by the black-armoured warriors and had to collapse the chamber to stop them. He then explains that he intends to take her to Agraphur with him, instead of back to Shadizar. Jehnna makes it plain that she will not go anywhere with Bombatta except back to Shadizar. She also insists he leave the extra horses in case any of the other adventurers manage to escape. She makes it plain that she is unwilling to leave without Conan.
Realizing that she has no feelings for him, Bombatta resolves to return her to Shadizar where he knows she will be sacrificed to Dagoth, thereby preventing Conan from having her, since Bombatta cannot.
Back in the catacombs, Conan awakens to the company of Zula, Malak and Akiro in the half-collapsed chamber. Conan has taken a head-wound from falling debris. As the wizard minds the wards he left behind to slow the black-armoured warriors, the other three begin to dig themselves towards the passage that Bombatta and Jehnna used to escape. As they work, Akiro tells them what he learned from the golden plaques. Soon Malak and Zula are exhausted but Conan works on, unwilling to abandon the possibility that Valeria can be restored or Jehnna to Bombatta's unwholesome intentions.
As the sun begins to rise, the Cimmerian clears enough rubble for the companions to escape and Akiro tells Conan that Jehnna is to be sacrificed to Dagoth that very night. Conan vows that will not happen and races toward the rising sun, and Shadizar, to prevent it.
It is afternoon in Shadizar. Jehnna and Bombatta have returned and the Heart and the Horn have been placed safely in a magically prepared chest to await the ceremony that evening. Jehnna is being bathed and prepared for the ceremony. Taramis is furious when Bombatta admits that Conan is not dead by his hand, but instead was trapped underground. Screaming at him for not following the prophecy which demanded Conan's death once Jehnna had the Horn, she orders him to triple the guard until the ceremony is complete.
As the sun sets on Shadizar, Conan and the other three companions are stealing into the castle using an exit discovered by one of Malak's cousins...the only one of the three who did not die in Taramis' dungeons. Gaining access to the inside of an unoccupied, unlocked cell in the dungeon, Zula walks into the guard-station naked from the waist up and then makes short work of the lone jailer with her staff.
Rushing through the corridors of the palace, the group is confronted by Bombatta. He taunts them that no mortal man will have Jehnna and brags that, as he speaks, she is being sacrificed to Dagoth in the great central court of the palace. Conan attacks and soon each of them disarms the other but Conan succeeds in snapping Bombatta's neck before the guard can strangle him.
In the great court, Jehnna places the Horn in the forehead of Dagoth and the massive alabaster statue of male perfection begins to come to life. Bending Jehnna forward over the statue with one hand, Xanteres raises the sacrificial dagger with the other, intent on showering her blood over the awakening god for the final annointing.
Rushing into the great court, Conan kills an unsuspecting guard and casts the guard's spear at Xanteres, narrowly preventing Jehnna's sacrifice. As Taramis scrambles to find the scrificial knife, Zula dashes to the dais to protect Jehnna while Conan and Malak keep the guards at bay.
Deprived of the the blood of The One at the necessary moment, the giant statue of human perfection sits upright, staggers to its feet, and howls a scream of "...such agony as had never been known on the face of the earth." Its skin begins to ripple as, bulging and writhing, the statue grows and transforms.
In a thunderous voice, the god-thing calls Taramis to him and she responds willingly. Enveloped in an obscuring embrace by the trunk-like arms and leathery wings, she is consumed, utterly. Spreading its wings, the creature casts away only an empty, un-torn silk robe.
Commanding Zula and Jehnna to run, Conan turns to confront the monster so they have time to escape, certain that it will mean his death.
Suddenly a fireball explodes on Dagoth's chest! Then another, and another!
But they bounce from the god like grains of sand from a granite wall and, with a snap of mighty wings, Akiro is hurled away like a doll.
Focusing its wroth on Conan for thinking to deprive it of The One, the god-thing casts the cosmic horror of its being at the Cimmerian. But unlike a civilized man, instead of being incapacitated by fear, the primal, animalistic nature of Conan's ancestors comes forth and he attacks Dagoth with barbaric savagery.
Hacking mindlessly at the creature, it seizes him easily and lifts him towards its gaping fangs.
Through his blood-red killing rage, Conan realizes that Akiro is screaming at him that Dagoth is only vulnerable though the jewelled Horn.
Dropping his sword, Conan seizes the Horn and tears it from the god-thing's forehead with all his might. Continuing his exertion, in one fluid motion, his arms sweep round and bury the horn in one of the monster's eyes.
And for a second time in his young life, Conan sees a god die.
As his companions recover and some celebrate their unexpected victory, Conan realizes that Valeria will not be resurrected.
Two sunrises later, Jehnna is the new Princess Royal of Zamora (being the senior surviving family member to the king) and has been granted all of Taramis' estates (most of which had belonged to Jehnna's father prior to his death). Conan is summoned from his chambers in the palace to attend an audience with the Princess.
Jehnna names Malak her jester, Akiro her counsellor and Zula the Captian of her royal guard. At Zula's refusal, Conan tells her that he will not accept her life as payment for his saving of her, because "...some debts cannot be repaid directly to the one owed." So Zula agrees to protect Jehnna with her life, in order to repay her debt.
Then Jehnna asks Conan to stay but he refuses.
Straight away he leaves the palace and rides out into the Zamorian wastes, back to the valley where he constructed the altar at the beginning of the novel. Saying farewell to Valeria, Conan drinks the vial Akiro gave him and a strange heat courses through his body and mind.
Of a sudden, Conan awakes to find a broken stone vial in his hand and no memory of how he came to be kneeling before a crude stone altar in the middle of the Zamorian desert. Mounting his horse he rides for Shadizar to steal some gold and find a willing wench to warm his knee. "Never once was he tempted to look back."
- Bombatta - giant warrior and captain of Princess Taramis' Royal Guard. Described by Taramis' bath attendants as the same height as Conan, "But Bombatta is bigger. Not that I doubt your strength, my lord.”
- Malak - Zamorian thief with a habit of taking the names of several different gods in vain
- Amphrates [mentioned by name only] - rich merchant and recent victim of Conan and Malak.
- Taramis - Princess Royal of Zamora, sister to King Tiridates. Priestess to Dagoth, the Dreaming God.
- Manetes - Tavern-owner in the Desert, Shadizar's thieves' quarter
- Togra [mentioned by name only] - Commander of the Gate of Princess Taramis' palace
- Aniya - bath attendant in Princess Taramis' palace, sealed to the Dreaming God
- Taphis - bath attendant in Princess Taramis' palace, sealed to the Dreaming God
- Anouk - bath attendant in Princess Taramis' palace, sealed to the Dreaming God
- Lyella - bath attendant in Princess Taramis' palace, sealed to the Dreaming God
- Jarvaneus - Chief Steward to the Princess Taramis
- Jehnna - Niece to Taramis. Her father was Taramis' older brother and next in line to the throne, prior to his death
- Amon-Rama - Stygian sorcerer, once a member of the Black Ring or Black Circle of Stygia. Expelled for possessing the Heart of Ahriman
- Elfaine [mentioned by name only] - Princess Royal when Taramis was only a child. Taramis' aunt. The sorceress who began teaching Taramis the arcane arts.
- Akiro - hedge wizard trusted by Conan to aid him against other wizards
- Malthaneus of Ophir [mentioned by name only] - Rumoured to have raised the dead. The greatest white wizard since the Circle of the Right-Hand Path was broken in the days before Acheron
- Ahmad Al-Rashid, in Samara [mentioned by name only] - Rumoured to have raised the dead. Is said to have been thrice-blessed by Mitra himself
- Zula - female mercenary from a tribe living south of Keshan
- T'car [mentioned by name only] - battle companion and lover to Zula. Deceased
- Xanteres - High Priest of Dagoth
- Zamorian wastes near Shadizar
- Abuletes' Tavern [mentioned by name only]
- Inn of the Three Crowns [mentioned by name only]
- Shadizar - a.k.a. ...the Wicked, a.k.a. The City of Ten Thousand Sins
- The tavern of Manetes
- The palace of Taramis
- un-named village inside the Karpash Mountains
- Amon-Rama's crystal palace
- Temple of the Sleeping God
Mystic Items Edit
- The Scrolls of Skelos
- The Heart of Ahriman
- The Palace of Amon-Rama
- The Horn Of Dagoth
Continuity Notes Edit
A number of gods and goddesses names are used blasphemously by Malak in the novel...swearing is one of his favourite habits. The deities so-insulted are too numerous to mention individually here. All appear in the stories by Howard and/or those of the pastiche authors, over the years.
Dagoth a.k.a. "The Sleeping God" is near in form to Dagon, an ancient biblical non-jewish god/demon linked to (among other things) storms. When Dagoth transforms there is a storm, complete with lightning, thunder, wind, etc. The novel further plays on that imagery when the god speaks and laughs. The word Dagon is used by Howard as a city in "The Devil In Iron" and as a God in the "Jewels of Gwahlur" and the time-travelling quasi-Conan story "People of the Dark" and in the Bran Mak Morn story "Worms Of The Earth". Dagon as a deity was popular among the Lovecraft Circle, of which Howard was considered a member. Lovecraft's Dagon was often related to R'lyeh and sometimes synonymous with the Cthulhu entity, occasionally referred to as The Dreaming God.
The Scrolls of Skelos are presumably related in some fashion to the extremely rare Book of Skelos that appears in the Howard story "Pool of the Black One" and the novel Hour of the Dragon. The Book is also used by deCamp and Carter in Conan the Buccaneer and Conan of the Isles, as well as by Andrew Offutt in the Sword of Skelos
Differences From The Movie: While there is always the chance for an author to add more detail and flavour to his story than what can be included in a movie, there are a number of significant differences between the events portrayed in this novel and those same elements in the movie.
The book is generally more bloody, salacious, and horrific than the movie, holding closer in these areas to the rated-R Barbarian rather than homogenizing itself as the movie did for a PG-rating.
Bombatta (Bombaata in the movie credits and subtitles) is referred to in the novel as a Zamorian on numerous occasions; the color of his skin is never mentioned. While Zamorians, according to Howard's Hyborian Age essay, generally have darker skin, hair and eyes than the the Hyborian tribes, they are not ebon-skinned like the tribes residing south of Stygia, so it is a good bet that Bombatta is not of pre-african stock in the novel, as he appears in the movie.
Jehnna has the Zamorian-look in the novel, somewhat like a younger, shorter version of Taramis, with black hair and dark eyes...rather than bucking the racial trend in the movie with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Conan is far shorter in the movie than in the novel. The novel states Conan is over a head taller than Taramis and the same height as Bombatta. In the movie Conan is far shorter than Bombatta and the same height as Taramis.
Conan is far older in the movie than in the novel. The novel states that Conan is the same age as Jehnna. In the movie Conan looks old enough to be Jehnna's father.
Conan has black hair in the novel (like all Conan stories), but for some reason his hair is brown in the movie.
Taramis is not a queen in the novel as she is in the movie. Taramis is the younger sister of Tiridates, current king of Zamora.
Toth Amon is not the sorcerer who possesses the Heart Of Ahriman, unlike the movie.
The One must be "an innocent" in the novel, which is not the same thing as virginal. In the movie Jehnna must be a virgin when she is sacrificed.
Taramis is far more jaded in the book. It is implied that she has bedded Bombatta. She beds Conan. She cavorts with the statue of Dagoth after the departure of the companions.
There is much blood-letting by the cult of Dagoth in the novel that does not make it into the movie.
Dagoth transformed is far more intimidating and horrific (and larger) in the novel than the mindless, unspeaking monster he is portrayed as in the movie.
The Temple of Dagoth sequence differs in a number of ways from the movie. For example, Akiro says nothing of lifting the iron door in the movie. Akiro locks the iron door in the upright position in the novel, not Malak. The Sleeping Warriors that guard the Temple of Dagoth are eons old in the novel, in the movie they seem like average humans. The Leader of the Sleeping Warriors is not the group's wizard in the novel; he is in the movie. Akiro does not mind-fry the sorcerer of the Sleeping Warriors, as he does in the movie. The secret exit from the room where the Horn lies is not inside the mouth of the demon head, as it is in the movie.
Bombatta is portrayed as far more in love with Jehnna in the novel than in the movie...none of the "Let's run off to Agraphur" scene appears in the movie.
In the book, no squad of Royal Guard follows the companions in order to kill Conan after Jehnna has the Horn, so there is also no premature attack by them.
The forget-me vial from Akiro that will make Valeria's memory fade is a huge difference from the movie and completely changes the ending.
Internal Errata: When Conan offers Malak his share of their recent score to assist him with Taramis' commission he calls the treasure "Abulates' gems"...Abuletes is a upscale tavern owner...Amphrates is the merchant that Malak and Conan recently robbed of a large number of gems.
The Sleeping Warriors who guard Dagoth's Temple have slept for thousands of years...yet the Leader speaks fluently with Conan. Even if the language of the Zhemri (the ancestors of the current Zamorians) was similar enough to still be understood by those fluent in present day Zamorian, there is no mention of the Leader speaking Zamorian with an archaic accent. That only leaves the explanation that the wizard (or the god) arranged, off-camera, for the Leader to speak and understand present day Cimmerian or Zamorian...an oversight that could have been easily remedied if it was caught prior to publication.
Continuity Errata: Although the novel "feels" like a Conan novel, many find it difficult to "fit" this novel into a chronology of Conan's life, burdened as it is with the baggage left over from the continuity nightmare of the first Schwarzenegger Conan movie. Setting aside Valeria and the forget-me potion plot elements for a moment, there are still a number of names, items and plot elements in Destroyer that are cannibalized from later in the written continuity. Some of these (listed earlier) add to the story, but others are either contrary to written continuity or cause confusion with it.
The movie (corrected in the novel):
- uses Toth Amon completely out of context
- lifts the ethnicity and spelling of Bombaata from "Hawks Over Shem", an adventure story by Howard that was re-written by deCamp as a Conan story in the '60s.
The Novel and the movie both:
- use Howard's Heart of Ahriman from Hour of the Dragon completely out of context
- use a royal Taramis. Queen Taramis also appears in Howard's "A Witch Shall Be Born" The queen's twin, who assumes her identity, is a sorceress
- use a birthmark of destiny. Lady Jehnna has a special mark, another plot element used in "A Witch Shall Be Born". The birthmark in Destroyer is a different shape
- use a female warrior names Valeria. Valeria of the Red Brotherhood from Howard's "Red Nails" is the obvious parallel, except that she is a mercenary not a thief when Conan adventures with her.
...The Valeria Conundrum
About 1/2 way through, this movie adaptation stops being a movie adaptation. The "forget-Valeria potion" story-line reveals it as a wanna-be stand-alone pastiche novel desperately trying to be part of the Conan pastiche universe. The real question is, how effectively does it do so.
The movie's ending seems to suggest that Conan continues through life miserable and alone and eventually "...wears his crown on a troubled brow..." because he is still mooning over Valeria the whole time. By comparison, the novel succeeds in completely erasing Valeria from Conan's consciousness.
Unfortunately the other continuity shocks from the Conan the Barbarian movie (and novel) are so hopelessly unforgivable that there is no way to suspend disbelief that a potion, even one brewed by a god, let alone Akiro, would be powerful enough to completely erase every experience from Conan's past after the age of 7 or 8 and replace it with the one that Howard initially wrote.
A completely different, as yet unwritten, story would have to take place, just prior to Destroyer, that completely throws out everything from the first film, but still involves a character named Valeria (and likely Akiro and Malak). That is the only way any reasonable person could reconcile this novel with the rest of Conan pastiche continuity.
So, for the sake of argument, let's say that happened...Destroyer would have to fall after Jordan's Magnificent and Invincible (contrary to Jordan's own placement before his other novels)...how else would Conan not already be famous in Shadizar after cavorting across the countryside with the Princess Royal for a week? How else would Akiro and Malak (or Valeria) or the Princess not appear in the other two novels...the potion may have made Conan forget them, as well, but it cannot possibly have made anyone forget him...if he was still adventuring in Shadizar, is it reasonable to expect that none of them would have sought him out...ever? Certainly Conan is thinking of Larsha at the end of Invincible, but he expresses it as an option, not an intention...and barbarian's are unpredictable by their very nature...why couldn't he fall into some other adventure, and then Destroyer, before "The Hall of the Dead" takes place? In that story, Tiridates sends soldiers to bring Conan in, dead or alive...when one's immediate heir (Jehnna) is in love with an outland barbarian, the "dead" option seems like a pretty normal request. The Nestor fragment of Howard says "nearest Zamorian city (that is near some mountains)"...so it could easily be Shadizar.
That being said, there are still the other issues to deal with. The confusingly similar names in his future can all be chalked up to the potion making Conan not remember them, either, so the future Valaria, Taramis, Bombaata and the birthmark of destiny are all new to him because Destroyer's events, as well as the unwritten story, were all erased from his mind. That only leaves the Heart of Ahriman...
...the Heart of the paradox
Even if Conan forgets his experience with the Heart or Ahriman during Destroyer, we don't. How exactly does the Heart have totally different properties in Hour of the Dragon, 25 years later (Orastes can touch it...Xaltotun could, as well, when he possessed it in the time of Acheron)? How is it that the Book of Skelos, according to Orastes and Xaltotun does not tell how to loose the full powers of the Heart of Ahriman, but the Scrolls of Skelos from Destroyer do? How did the gem get into the cavern below the temple of Mitra in Tarantia (Aquilonia) where Orastes found it, particularly since Orastes says that it had lain there "...in demon-guarded darkness since the fall of Acheron, three thousand years ago." The Heart of Ahriman in HotD is certainly the genuine article, for not only was it able to restore Xaltotun to life, as prescribed in The Book of Skelos, but Xaltotun used it of old and does not call it a fake.
So how many Hearts of Arihman are there? The answer must be that there can be only one...and that one is Howard's.
This begs the obvious question: after changing Thoth Amon to Amon-Rama and going through the trouble to make all the other, smaller continuity corrections that are found in the book, why in the name of Crom would you not change the name of the gem in order to complete the job? Call it the Heart of Steve for Crom's sake! Thomas and Conroy, in the graphic novel adaptation of their original story treatment for Conan the Destroyer, titled The Horn of Azoth, substitute the Eye of Ibis for the Heart or Ahriman, for example.
As a result, because of a single uncorrected plot element lifted thoughtlessly from elsewhere in the Conan canon, Conan the Destroyer fails its saving thrown versus continuity-shock, thereby relegating itself to the status of a really good, but ultimately failed, attempt to write a non-apocryphal Conan pastiche out of the plot of the movie by the same name.