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Conan the Rebel

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Conan the Rebel is a 1980 novel written by Poul Anderson. It was first published in paperback by Bantam Books in July 1980. It was reprinted once by Bantam (1981) and twice by Ace Books (1988, 1991). The first hardcover edition was published by Tor Books in 2001; a trade paperback followed from the same publisher in 2003. The first British edition was published by Sphere Books in 1988.

Plot SummaryEdit

In Stygia, Conan becomes the target of evil sorcerors when he becomes embroiled in prophecy and rebellion as he hunts for Bêlit's lost brother.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • 1. The Vision of the Ax
    The Stygian magician Tothapis is disturbed in his slumber by the appearance of the god Set, who warns the sorceror of Conan and Bêlit. He grants Tothapis a vision of Bêlit's and Conan's meeting, and the flirtation between the two, before Set retreats from the coming of his nemesis, Mitra. Tothapis collapses, unsure of what it all meant, but sure that he must find a way to destroy Conan and Bêlit.
  • 2. A Gathering of Sorcerers
    A day later, Tothapis summons some fellow Stygians to discuss the vision. One, a miltary man named Ramwas, recognizes an ax from Tothapis's description as the Ax of Varanghi, a relic of Mitra. Tothapis reveals how his necromancy had given him the names of Ramwas and Nehekba, a priestess, to assist in this matter concerning Conan and Belit. It turns out that Bêlit is a former slave of Ramwas, and he still holds Bêlit's brother, Jehanan. Nehekba is to use her considerable skills to seduce Jehanan and Ramwas is to sail to Luxur to meet allies there.
  • 3. The Woman Avenger
    Bêlit tells Conan of how she was raised among the Suba tribe at a trading post by her Shemite father Hoiakim. After marrying Aliel and bearing a son, Kedron, the Suba were raided by Stygian slavers. Her father and Aliel were killed, while her mother committed suicide rather than be enslaved. Bêlit herself killed her son to save him, but was captured and given to the financier of the raid, Ramwas. Ramwas had a witch make Bêlit barren, but when he tried to take her she responded savagely. She managed to escape when Ramwas brought her to the seaport Khemi. She stole a boat and returned to the Suba, acquiring a warship, the Tigress, and swore revenge.
  • 4. A Daughter of the Free Folk
    In the province of Taia in northeast Stygia, militia commander Shuat works hard at putting down a rebellion of Taians who are protesting the doubling of taxes by governor Wenamon. The Taian chieftan Ausar and his daughter Daris prepare to ambush the militia, but once the battle starts, they realize with horror that the camp was a trap, and that the Taians are the victims of an ambush. Most Taians manage to escape but Daris is captured. Ausar commiserates with the priest Parasan about his failures, and he and Parasan motivate his makeshift army with tales of the Prophecy of the Ax, when a champion will find the long lost Ax of Varanghi and liberate the people. Meanwhile, Daris is identified as the daughter of Ausar, and while the other Taians are sent into slavery, Shuat brings her to Governor Wenamon and the priest Hakketh in the city of Seyan. Hakketh decides to take her to Khemi and they set sail on a magical flying wingboat to the city.
  • 5. The Work of the Witch
    In Khemi, a surprised Jehenan is seduced by Nehekba, who gently grills him on information about Bêlit. When she learns all she can, though, she cruelly reveals the truth, crushing his sprit. She returns to Tothapis, who is discussing his plans with the servant Amnun. Amnun is to join the freighter Meniti, which will sail in the direction of the Tigress. Amnun, who has been given all the memories and information that Nehekba has taken from Jehenen, will be captured, starting the next phase of the plan. Nehekba asks for permission to continue to work on an Ophirite spy, Falco, but Tothapis needs her help to divine the part the captive Daris, who is arriving from Taia, plays in the unfolding events.
  • 6. Pirate, Barbarian, Rescuer
    The Tigress closes on its next conquest, a Stygian merchant ship. The ships meet and Bêlit's crew lay planks and swarm across, but are held at bay by the Stygian pikemen, who hold the hgigh ground at the aft of the ship and block all entrances to the cargo holds. Conan scampers up the ship's sails and down behind the pikemen, slaying them and allowing the Suba to climb the now undefended ladders. Searching the ship, they find a Taian slave, Otanis, who, when he hears Bêlit's name, remarks that he knows her brother, Jehenan. He claims Ramwas sold Jehenan to Otanis's master, Bahotep, in Khemi. Otanis agrees to assist Bêlit and lead her to Bahotep's mansion to rescue her brother. However, Conan insists he be the one to go, as Bêlit is needed to ready the ship for escape and he would blend in the city better. Bêlit grudgingly agrees to ankhor the ship off the nearby uninhabited island Akhbet and await Conan and Otanis's return.
  • 7. Traitors' Tavern
    Conan and Otanis take a small boat to a cove south of Khemi. They steal through the farmlands to the city and Conan notes that Otanis doesn't sound like any Taian that he's heard. They manage to sneak into the city and make their way to a hostel that would ask no questions. Conan is to lay low at the hostel, owned by Uminankh, while Otanis makes contact with Jehenan. Conan retires for the evening, but is soon roused by the arrival of Stygian soldiers, brought by Otanis who tells Conan his name is actually Amnun, and he serves Tothapis. He urges Conan to surrender, but the barbarian refuses, killing a couple soldiers before he's finally swarmed and beaten into unconsciousness.
  • 8. Captives of the Black Ring
    Tothapis and Nehekba discuss what to do with Conan and other captives, but decide they have to discover Mitra's interest in the barbarian. To his surprise, Conan is placed in a well appointed apartment instead of a cell, and taken to a lavish meal with three other prisoners, Falco, Daris, and a beaten and scarred Jehenan. When Conan realized who Jehenan is, he roars savagely, and promises vengeance on those who harmed his beloved brother. Falco discusses his capture - he was part of an envoy from Ophir tasked to discover if Stygia had designs on his country. He was caught after breaking into government offices in Luxur, although he did discover Stygia had made agreements with Shem to invade northward. He was sent to Khemi. Daris, Jehenan and Conan tell their stories as well, and Conan is left to wonder why they are being treated so specially. Falco and Jehenan almost come to blows when Falco discusses how a beautiful woman has secretly come to him promising to help, but Jehenan thinks it's Nehekba in disguise, tricking Falco as he was tricked by Nehekba in the guise of Heterka. Daris calms the men down, and they spent the evening trading stories. The whole encounter is observed by Tothapis and Nehekba, who notice how Conan occasionally leers at Daris.
  • 9. A Warrior's Welcome
    That evening, Conan tries to relax by exercising in his room, but he is visited by Nehekba, who, after magically granting Conan the ability to speak and understand Stygian, brings forth wine and begins to talk to Conan. When Conan warily notes that Falco had a similar visitor, Nehekba says a wealthy widow named Senufer came to his door. Nehekba then reveals that Tothapis is worried that Conan will cause too much chaos as a pirate, and, though he is content to simply capture Conan, Nehekba believes she can persuade Tothapis to accept Conan as an ally instead of an enemy in the anticipated war with Ophir. She then attempts to seduce the barbarian, and while Conan at first seems willing, he then grips her and pulls her magical necklace from her throat while choking her into silence. He didn't believe her story at all, suspecting her to be both Senufer and Heterka. He forces her to call in the guard, wo he swiftly kills, then he binds and gags Nehekba and, after taking arms, armor, and keys, makes his escape.
  • 10. A Night in Khemi
    Conan Conan swiftly frees and arms Falco, Jehenan, and Daris. They encounter a group of sentries near the exit and a battle breaks out. Many sentries die, and the group escapes into the city, but the chase is on, and the Stygians blow coded messages on horns about the fleeing prisoners. They make their way to the warehouse district towards the harbor, where Jehenan is confident he knows of a path to a safe hiding spot in the tombs under the Grand Pyramid. Despite Conan's fears the tombs are haunted, they agree and head in the direction of the quarries surrounding the pyramid. Jehenan skillfully leads the party through the rough terrain at an excavation site and to a tomb entrance. They huddle in the darkness until the pursuants run by. They resolve to spend the night, then meet with Bêlit tomorrow.
  • 11. The Vessel of the Serpent
    Leaving their hiding place the next morning, the band is shocked to see a fleet of warships setting sail from the harbor to blockade the city, preventing them from reaching the Tigress. Daris remembers the magical wingboat that brought her to Khemi, the workings of which both Daris and Falco are familiar with, and they head to the lightly guarded canal to steal it. They kill a python and some guards and sail off, avoiding the sea and the flaming rocks and catapults of the ships, and head on the river Styx to Luxur to warn the Ophiran ambassador of Khemi's plots. Tothapis, upon learning of the escape, realizes the prisoners headed to Taia and will most likely stop in Luxur, and, while Nehekba changes into a bird to fly there, Tothapis sends a magical missive to Ramwas.
  • 12. The City of Kings
    Three days later the boat reaches the outskirts of Luxur, and the easily-recognized Falco stays behind while the others sneak into the city. They are soon accosted by beggars and sellers in the open marketplaces, much to Conan's frustration. They reach the royal plaza, but are recognized and are beset by soldiers. The party stands back to back, weapons in hand, ready to engage.
  • 13. Death and Honor
    At first the battle goes well for the comrades, but numbers begin to wear them down, even as they are in sight of the Ophirian embassy and its ambassador Zarus. When things begin to look their bleakest, Jehenan recognizes and savagely attacks Ramwas, killing him, though his own wounds seem fatal. He demands Conan and Daris make their escape through the hole he cleaved through the Stygians on his way to Ramwas. Conan is reluctant, but finally leaves as Jehenan begins to pray to Ishtar and prepare to protect their flight. Conan and Darus flee for the rank and snake-infested crypts under the temple of Set. They pass through a garden in which they find a fountain to cleanse themselves and slake their thirst, and make their way to the temple, hiding in a well-tended ritual room. Darus declares her love to Conan, but he, wary of betraying Bêlit, gently rebukes her, and they sleep. The next morning, Conan kills an acolyte of Set, and donning his robes, walks Darus out of the temple gates and back to the boat. Their plan having failed, the group sets sail for Taia, not noticing an eagle shadowing them.
  • 14. Wayfarers in Taia
    When the Styx pours into the Helu River, the boat abruptly stops, as its enchantment seemingly prevents it from sailing off its home river. They are forced to find a hiding spot along the cliff walls of the Styx and make their way on foot to Thuran. After two days of walking, they come across a small party of blacks who immediately act aggresive toward the party. Conan's group is hopelessly outnumbered, but they fight well until COnan yells out a warcry Bêlit had taught him, which stops the blacks in their tracks. They reveal themselves to be Suba and their leader, Sakumbe, knew Bêlit and her father of old! They head to the Suban camp, and Sakumbe explains how he and his party decided not to follow Bêlit to the sea, and have become traders over the hills. They have come looking to barter in Stygia, but Conan warns them of the dangers. Still, they decided to travel further into Stygia with Conan. Two days later the whole party enters Thuran, and Daris is reuinted with her father.
  • 15. The Ax and the Eagle
    Conan meets with the priest Parasan, who realizes Conan is a pawn in a game run by gods, that he is destined to wield the Ax of Varanghi. Conan wants to return to the boat and make his way towards the sea, but is convinced to help. Parasan tells him the Ax is hidden in the accursed city of Pteion, seat of the evil magicians of Stygia before even greater evil drove them to Khemi. Conan has just enough time to retrieve the Ax and return to slow the march of General Shuat. Meanwhile, in eagle form, Nehekba observes the situation, and flies to Luxur and seeks audience with King Mentuphera and his son Ctesphon. Although the king doesn't believe the legends of the Ax, or that Conan could be the man to wield it, Ctesphon is more cautious and convinces his father to strike quickly. Nehekba retreats to mystically contact Tothapis and bring him up to speed.
  • 16. Journey to the Damned
    On the journey to Pteion, Falco and Daris connect, causing Conan a bit of surprising anger. Led by the guide Tyris, they make camp near a gorge so they may enter the city early the following day. Conan confronts Daris with her attentions towards Falco, but Daris says she is only comforting him as a friend, as Falco is distraught over losing Senufer, but Conan violently disagrees. Daris suspects that Conan is under a spell to make him act so oddly, and she leaves him to his thoughts. The next day, they enter the valley of the half-buried city and step through the remains of stone buildings. The desert haze burns their vision and wind screams through the gorge, and too late the group realizes the screeching sound is something else entirely...
  • 17. Quest of the Ax
    A horde of dessicated corpses lurches from the dust to the sound of a braying horn. Conan, Daris, and Falco charge and thin the corpses a bit, but the overwhelming numbers crash into the Taian army. Conan realizes that Tothapis is behind the skeletal army, and he and Falco, now behind the undead lines, decide to press forward to find the Ax while Daris rallies the Taians. They make their way to the building indicated by Parasan but their progress is halted by long armed, jackal-like ghouls roaming the streets. Realizing they have nowhere else to go, the men attack and scatter the creatures. Finally, with the temple in sight, they are beset by a hyena the size of a bull and a reptillian humanoid. The horses panic, and the hyena creature tackles Falco's steed to the ground, nearly crushing Falco underneath it. Conan turns to help his companion, and his horse is caught by the saurian, who rolls along the ground with the steed while Conan leaps free. As the hyena tears at Falco's horse, Conan tries to distract it as Falco struggles to get free. Conan stabs his sword deep into the beast where it catches, but it does not die. Falco, now free, stabs it from behind, and though they begin to wear the monster down, the saurian returns after devouring Conan's horse. Conan finally manages to pierce a vein with his dagger, and the hyena dies as the saurian draws near. Luckily, it is more interested in the easy feast of the dead hyena, and the two men limp away. They reach the temple entrance, but one by one the monoliths above topple into the street and Conan races up and down to trigger the traps, as Falco's twisted ankle would surely get him killed. Leaving Flaco at the entrance to the temple, where its magicks are too strong for Tothapis to penetrate, Conan enters and finds a crystal slab etched with an ankh. Beneath the crystal lay the Ax carved with the symbol of the sun. He barely has time to admire the magnificent weapon when he hears noises from outside and finds Falco under attack from a winged dragon-like creature ridden by Tothapis himself! The sorceror hurls a fireball at Conan, and the barbarian instinctively holds the Ax in front of him. The fireball rebounds and blasts the Stygian, instantly turning him itno a charred corpse.
  • 18. A Snare in Pteion
    As Conan and Falco stumble away from the temple, they encounter Daris, who brings them news of the battle - The Taians have won, but at great cost. Conan rudely directs Daris to take Falco to have his wounds tended, and as he stands alone, he is startled by movement coming from one of the doors - Nehekba. Knowing she is powerless against the Ax, she offers herself to Conan. As if under a spell, Conan lets her tend his wounds, then she quickly leaves, surprising Conan, who senses he has been made a fool of, but cannot understand how. He returns to the Taians, where he apologizes to Daris for his recent manner towards her.
  • 19. The Battle of Rasht
    Conan, Daris and Ausar observe the Stygian army marching from the massacred and torched village of Rasht. Since returning with the Ax, Taians from all corners of the province, such as Ruma of the Clan Farazi, have come to join his cause, and now, allied with the Suba, thousands of rebels lay in ambush in the Taian hills. As Ausar positions men at the rear of the Stygians to flank, Conan leads the bulk of his army in a frontal assault into the valley where the Stygians are pigeonholed, blocked on a highway by treacherous slopes on either side. The Taians seem to win the day, but the Stygians regroup and Conan collapses in pain, realizing that he had been poisoned by Nehekba. The priestess herelf appears, and calls to Falco in the guise of Senufer, who lovingly approaches her as Conan struggles to whisper a warning. Suddenly, Falco stabs and kills Nehekba, and retrieves the magical doll affecting Conan, giving it to the witch doctor Gonga. A short spell later, and Conan ergains his strength and clarity, and leads the final charge, Ax held high, as both Mentuphera and Shuat are killed.
  • 20. Vengeance for Bêlit
    Conan prepares to deaprt on the wingboat, giving the Ax to Ausar, who hopes that the assistance of nearby Stygian enemies will help keep Luxur at bay and Taia independent. He says his goodbyes to Daris, and he and Falco leave. Soon, the flyboat emerges into the ocean, the blockade having ended some time ago when news had come that Conan had originally traveled west along the Styx, and Conan is reunited with Bêlit, but with the sad news of Jehenan's passing. In a final act of revenge, the Tigress captures a Stygian vessel, then sends it, burning, directly into the Khemi harbor, wrecking untold havok. A delighted Falco pledges Ophir's protection and support to Conan, and they all laughingly watch the inferno.

CharactersEdit

  • Conan
  • Bêlit
  • Tothapis, Stygian sorcerer *
  • Set, Stygian god
  • Ramwas, Stygian officer
  • Nehekba, Stygian high priestess of Derketa *
  • Jehenan, Shemite brother of Bêlit *
  • Shuat, Stygian militia commander *
  • Ausar, Taian chief of Clan Varanghi
  • Daris, daughter of Ausar
  • Parasan, Taian priest of Mitra
  • Wenamon, Governor of Taia
  • Hakketh, Stygian priest
  • Amnun, Stygian servant, alias Otanis
  • Uminankh, Stygian hostel owner
  • Falco, Ophirian spy
  • Zarus, Ophirian ambassador
  • Sakumbe, Suba warrior
  • Mentuphera, Stygian king *
  • Ctesphon, Stygian prince and heir apparent
  • Tyrus, Taian guide
  • Gonga, Suba witch doctor
  • Ruma, Taian leader of Clan Farazi
  • N'Gora, Suba first mate of the Tigress

* dies in this story

LocationsEdit

  • Khemi, city of Stygia
  • Taia, province of Stygia
    • Seyan, city at the confluence of the Helu and Styx
    • Thuran, capital of ancient Taia
  • Luxur, City of Kings, capital of Stygia
  • Pteion, cursed city near Taia

Continuity NotesEdit

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast" (part 1)
Conan the Rebel Next Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast" (part 2)
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast" (part 1)
Conan the Rebel Next Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast" (part 2)
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast" (part 1)
Conan the Rebel Next Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast" (part 2)

AdaptationsEdit

Publication HistoryEdit

GalleryEdit

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