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The Hand of Nergal

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"The Hand of Nergal" is a novelette written by Lin Carter based on a fragment by Robert E. Howard and first published in the paperback collection Conan (Lancer, 1967).

Plot SummaryEdit

Conan, the only survivor of a battle outside the city of Yaralet, comes to the aid of the city when a magical talisman he found is the only hope of destroying the evil influence that has taken over.

Howard FragmentEdit

Conan, seemingly the only survivor of a great battle, limps through the corpses and finds a pale girl, barely alive. He takes pity on her and carries her away. Meanwhile, in Yaralet, the scholar Atalis speaks with Prince Than.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • 1. Black Shadows
    Conan, now a mounted cavalryman in the service of King Yildiz of Turan, fights for his life on the outskirts of a great battle against the forces of the rebel satrap Munthassem Khan. Having been unseated aerly on by an arrow, Conan is far enough from the center of the battle to observe hundreds of dark shadows flit from above and attack Yildiz's forces. The Turanian general, Bakra of Akif, is taken into the air by one of the demonic creature and dropped to his death, utterly breaking his army. The flight of the Turanian army is checked by Conan, and he almost convinces them to turn around and fight until he himself is attacked by a creature. His sword goes right through the creature, and when he reaches for a dagger his fingers brush against an amulet he had found the day before. Suddenly the creature flies away madly and the entire shadow horde turns on the forces of the Khan while Conan collapses in confused exhaustion.
  • 2. Field of Blood
    The next morning, as the hyenas and vultures pick through the battlefield, Conan alone searches through the bodies, but looters have already been through the area. He ponders the walled city of Yaralet in the distance, but is startled by the approach of a black mare, the only other survivor of the battle. He mounts the horse and intends to head to the Zamoran border.
  • 3. Hildico
    Conan hears a quite moan and spies a pale skinned, dark-haired girl, barely alive, amid the carnage. His first thought is to put her out of her obvious misery, but he takes pity on her instead. He nurses her to consciousness, and she reveals that she, Hildico, has been sent by her master, Atalis the Far-Seeing of Yaralet, to find Conan. She arrived as the battle started and managed to hide from the demon-bats. She informs Conan that Atalis wants to hire Conan, and as he has no better options, he agrees to accompany her back to Yaralet.
  • 4. The House of Atalis
    In Yaralet the crippled scholar Atalis is deep in discussion with Prince Than, hoping Conan arrives soon to help them overthrow Munthassem Khan. When Conan shows up, Atalis binds his wounds and explains he has been cursed with physical pain and twisted limbs by Khan, who slew all the wizards in the city with his dark magic. Than, being the next in line for the throne, has been afflicted with a curse that slowly robs his sight and intelligence. Conan is their only hope.
  • 5. The Hand of Nergal
    Atalis explains that until recently, Yaralet was a happy, bustling city, but now, after its benevolent satrap, Munthassem Khan, turned to evil and black magic, the people are terrified, and the city is a ghost town at night, as people fear the streets after dusk. Rumor states that Khan came into possession of a Stygian artifact that turned him to the darkness - the Hand of Nergal, an ivory-carved claw covered in glyphs attached to a rod. Atalis explains the item is thousands of years old, and always brings death with it. However, Conan possesses the only thing that can destroy it, the mysterious amulet he had found, which Atalis identifies as the Heart of Tammuz. The three men leave to assassinate Khan, who, having summoned the Shadows of Nergal earlier that day, regains his strength in a mystical slumber.
  • 6. The Heart of Tammuz
    Conan, Atalis, and Than move through a secret pasasge to Khan's chambers, and Atalis explains that when the Hand of Nergal was awakened, the Heart of Tammuz awoke as well, and caused itself to be found by Conan. They come across the sleeping Khan, who clutches the Hand. Unfortunately, Khan is not asleep, and immediately fells Atalis and Than. Conan lunges for the wizard, but his strength is drained after his first step and he begins to slip into unconsciousness.
  • 7. Heart and Hand
    A woman's scream distracts Khan for a moment, and Hildico leaps from the shadows to grab the Heart from Conan and hurl it at Khan. It strikes him in the head and he immediately falls unconsious. The spells that keep Atalis and Than down vanish, and as the men rise and back away, aspects of Tammuz and Nergal appear from the talismans and clash in an epic war of gods. Finally, the figure of light representing Tammuz defeats the all of shadowy darkness that is Nergal and both they and the artifacts vanish, leaving behind a pile of ash, the remains of Munthassem Khan. A week later, the new satrap of Yaralet, Than, offers Conan a chest of gold for his assistance, but Conan, already bored with a week of inactivity, only takes a small portion of gold to get by, and heads off to fight in King Yildiz's new war, Hildico at his side.

CharactersEdit

  • Conan
  • Bakra of Akif, Turanian general
  • Hildico, Brythunian slave-girl
  • Atalis the Far-Seeing, Turanian scholar and philosopher
  • Prince Than of Yaralet
  • Munthassem Khan

LocationsEdit

ContinuityEdit

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Unconquered
"The Hand of Nergal" Next Story:
"The City of Skulls"
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Unconquered
"The Hand of Nergal" Next Story:
"The City of Skulls"
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Unconquered
"The Hand of Nergal" Next Story:
"The City of Skulls"
Joe Marek Chronology
Previous Story:
"The God in the Bowl"
"The Hand of Nergal" Next Story:
"Black Colossus"
Dale Rippke Chronology
Previous Story:
"Rogues in the House"
"The Hand of Nergal" Next Story:
"Shadows in the Moonlight"

Publication HistoryEdit

AdaptationsEdit

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