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Queen of the Black Coast

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"Queen of the Black Coast" is a novelette by Robert E. Howard first published in Weird Tales 23 5 (May 1934).

Plot SummaryEdit

Conan joins the pirate crew of Bêlit, Queen of the Black Coast, until the exploration of an ancient city and an encounter with the primordial creature that dwells within wreck havoc on the crew.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • 1. Conan Joins the Pirates
    A horse-riding Conan leaps aboard a small galley pulling out of the Argos harbor. He is being chased by soldiers, and demands the captain and oarsmen put to see quickly. As the captain, Tito, wisely agrees, the frustrated Argosean soldiers watch from the shore, much to Conan's amusement. The danger having passed, Conan introduces himself to Tito, explaining that his killing of a guardsmen who harrassed some of his friends, and the subsequent killing of the judge who sentenced him, caused Conan to run from the authorities. A nonplussed Tito assures Conan that he and his ship, the Argus, is a safe haven for him, and Conan settles in for the journey to Kush. Unfortunately, the villages Tito usually trades at seem to have been sacked by pirates, and he suspects the Tigress, under the command of Bêlit, the Shemite queen of the Black Coast. Soon the Argus encounters the Tigress itself, and, despite Conan's personally dispatching several of the black, feathered, and painted pirates with both bow and sword, the Argosean sailors are quickly overrun and killed. Just as Conan is about to be killed himself, Bêlit stops her men, intrigued by the barbarian. His northern Cimmerian heritage is exotic to Bêlit and her men, and she offers Conan the chance to be her king. He agrees,and one of the pirates, N'Yaga tends to his wounds as the cargo of the Argus is pillaged and the ship scuttled. After Bêlit performs a dance for Conan, they consummate their relationship.
  • 2. The Black Lotus
    Some time later, after much pillaging up and down the shore, and the growth of the legend of Bêlit and her mate, Bêlit tells Conan she has heard of a city up the river Zarkheba, and with a crew that has dwindled down to about eighty, they set forth upriver. The riversides are mysteriously devoid of animal life until moonrise, when a clamor arises from the jungle that startles the crew. Conan and Bêlit discuss Gods and faith, with Conan trusting the world that he knows, and Bêlit believing passionately in the gods and spirits, going so far as to say she would come back after death to help her lover. Their talk is interrupted by the scream of a crewman who has been attacked by a giant serpent that slithered over the side and pulled its prey into the murky water. Conan takes over the watch himself and soon the ship sails by a ruined city and the crew spies a winged ape. Bêlit orders her pirates into the city where they find an ancient temple where sacrifices took place, and as some of the crew attempt to pry open the altar, a trap collapses and kills them. When the stone and bodies are cleared, the pirates discover a cache of treasure. The crew begins to gather the gold and precious stones, but they notice the flying ape near the Tigress, and when Conan returns to the ship to investigate, he discovers the creature has destroyed the fresh water supply. While Conan takes a group of men to search for a water source, Bêlit and the others begin to stow the loot. When he hears a noise, he sends sub chief N'Gora ahead and checks out the sound, only to accidentally run into an outcropping of deadly black lotus, which renders him helpless and he collapses.
  • 3. The Horror in the Jungle
    Conan has visions of an ancient, angelic, winged race who inhabited the city long before the rise of man. An earthquake and flood triggered the city's destruction and poisoned the water, mutating the race into demonic, twisted humanoids, of which only one remains, and Conan sees through its eyes as it stalks N'Gora and his men. Groggily awakening fully, Conan stumbles to find N'Gora, but sees only frantic tracks and thrown spears. Eventually, at a cliffside, he sees a savage, mindless N'Gora, driven insane, and Conan is forced to kill him. Looking down the cliff, he sees the mangled bodies of the rest of the scouts, and with blinding speed he races back to the Tigress, but encounters only death, and finally, the body of Bêlit.
  • 4. The Attack from the Air
    Conan places Bêlit on a pyre, covered with the jewels of her plunder, and returns to the city to ponder why the creature kept him alive. He believes it is just playing with him and will return to kill him, and sure enough, at dusk, he sees the shapes of apelike creatures approach him from the jungle. He takes his bow and kills one, and almost a score more immediately rush and attack. He fells several with his bow, and when they crash into him he kills the rest with his sword. Suddenly, he hears the flapping of wings, and the creatures' master, the winged monstrosity, attempts to collapse the structure Conan fights atop. He leaps away, but ends up pinned beneath some fallen debris, his sword just out of reach. As the ancient creature slowly approaches, the ghostly, fiery figure of Bêlit appears and distracts the creature long enough for Conan to wrench himself free, grab his sword, and run the surprised creature through. Conan slowly returns to the Tigress and sets sail, eyeing the shrouded, jewel-strewn body of Bêlit.
  • 5. The Funeral Pyre
    At dawn, Conan sails to the shore, lights the pyre, and disembarks. He pushes the ship back into the current, and watches as it floats away, the flames reaching higher and higher, until the red glow disappears on the horizon.

CharactersEdit

  • Conan
  • Tito, Argosean captain of the Argus
  • Bêlit- Shemite pirate, queen of the black coast, leader of the pirates on the ship Tigress
  • N'Yaga- old shaman
  • N'Gora- sub-chief
  • necromancer- winged horror, last survivor of the demonic humanoids
  • were-beasts- around 50 of them, hyena-like, once human

LocationsEdit

  • Argos
  • The river Zarkheba

Continuity NotesEdit

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Triumphant
"Queen of the Black Coast" Next Story:
Conan the Rebel (after Part 1) / "The Vale of Lost Women" (after Part 5)
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Triumphant
"Queen of the Black Coast" Next Story:
Conan the Rebel (after Part 1) / "The Vale of Lost Women" (after Part 5)
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Guardian
"Queen of the Black Coast" Next Story:
Conan the Rebel (after Part 1) / Conan at the Demon's Gate (after Part 5)
Joe Marek Chronology
Previous Story:
"Black Colossus"
"Queen of the Black Coast" Next Story:
"The Snout in the Dark"
Dale Rippke Chronology
Previous Story:
"Black Colossus"
"Queen of the Black Coast" Next Story:
"The Snout in the Dark"

AdaptationsEdit

Publication historyEdit

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