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The Hour of the Dragon

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Hour of the Dragon redirects here. For the Millennium/Gollancz collection, see The Conan Chronicles: Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon
Frazetta conqueror

Cover art by Frank Frazetta used for the Lancer, Sphere, Prestige and 1981-1994 Ace editions of Conan the Conqueror

The Hour of the Dragon is a novel by Robert E. Howard first published in Weird Tales 26 6 & 25 1-4 (December 1935 & January, February, March, April 1936), also published as Conan the Conqueror.

SynopsisEdit

The plot is a loose melange of previous Conan short stories, most notably "The Scarlet Citadel" with which it shares an almost identical storyline. Taking place during Conan's reign as King of Aquilonia, it follows Conan's deposing by court plotters, and eventual attempt to retake his throne through all the lands of Hyboria. An ancient resurrected wizard, Xaltotun, serves as the main enemy to Conan, and much of the book revolves around Conan's quest to retrieve the Heart of Ahriman in order to defeat the wizard.

Chapter 1. O Sleeper, Awake!

In Belverus, capital of Nemedia, four men, Orastes, Tarascus, Valerius, and Amalric, use a gem called the Heart of Ahriman to bring a long-dead sorcerer named Xaltotun back to life to aid them in taking the thrones of Nemedia and Aquilonia.

Chapter 2. A Black Wind Blows

The black plague kills the king of Nemedia and his younger brother Tarascus is made the new king. Almost immediately, Tarascus moves his army west to conquer Aquilonia and put Valerius on the throne. • In Valkia in eastern Aquilonia, King Conan is in his tent. He and his army commander, Pallantides, discuss the imminent battle with the Nemedians. Pallantides leaves for a moment, and Conan is struck down, paralyzed by a “child of darkness.” With Conan unable to move, Pallantides tells one of his captains, Valannus, to put on the king’s armor and ride at the head of the army as if he were Conan.

Chapter 3. The Cliffs Reel

The battle is joined. A squire relates the progress of the fight to Conan, who is slowly recovering. Valannus leads a charge between the Nemedian flank and some high cliffs, but the cliffs suddenly collapse, killing Valannus and thousands of others. Pallantides is down and the Aquilonian army is soon in full retreat. Conan is captured by Tarascus and Xaltotun.

Chapter 4. “From What Hell Have You Crawled?”

Xaltotun takes Conan to Tarascus’ palace in Belverus. Xaltotun proposes to let the Cimmerian hold on to the Aquilonian crown in exchange for his allegiance, but Conan will have none of it, stating that his chief lieutenants, Count Trocero and Prospero, will hold the Aquilonian capital, Tarantia. Xaltotun has Conan locked away in a dungeon cell.

Chapter 5. The Haunter of the Pits

Conan is rescued by Zenobia, a slave girl who fell in love with him years before when he rode through Belverus. She gives him a key to unlock his chains and a dagger, but was not able to steal the key to the main door, so Conan has to find a way out through the dreaded pits. While searching for a way out, he meets and kills a gray ape.

Chapter 6. The Thrust of a Knife

Conan meets up with Zenobia and she starts to lead him out of the palace. On the way, Conan chances upon Tarascus talking to a ruffian. Tarascus tells the man that because he fears Xaltotun’s power he has stolen the Heart of Ahriman and bids him to throw the gem into the sea. After the ruffian departs, Conan attacks Tarascus, wounds him, and Tarascus runs out of the room and raises the alarm. Zenobia leads Conan to an exit, bids him farewell, and he makes good his escape. • Tarascus speaks with Orastes about the dual threats of Conan and Xaltotun. • Outside of Belverus, Conan finds a horse left for him by Zenobia. A Nemedian adventurer then confronts him, and Conan kills him.

Chapter 7. The Rending of the Veil

Conan makes his way over the Aquilonian border. He meets a witch, Zelata, who shows him, by “rending the veil” (conjuring images), that for now the battle is lost, that Valerius already wears the Aquilonian crown and that Count Trocero and Prospero have fled the capital. Conan sleeps and has visions of things he does not understand. He wakes, and Zelata tells Conan that his future lies in finding the heart of his kingdom, but does not elaborate on this. Conan leaves Zelata, traveling west, and within sight of Tarantia stops at the plantation of Servius Galannus.

Chapter 8. Dying Embers

With light from a fireplace illuminating the room, Conan discusses the situation in Aquilonia with Servius. Servius tells him that, although the subjects are being treated poorly, Valerius’ hold over the country is strong. He says that Pallantides survived the battle at Valkia, but was severely wounded. Many other supporters, he states, have been banished or imprisoned, including Countess Albiona, scheduled to be executed that evening. Conan says that he is going to Tarantia to rescue the countess.

Chapter 9. “It Is the King or his Ghost!”

Conan enters Tarantia and enters the Iron Tower, where Countess Albiona is to be executed, by a secret passage. In a corridor, he meets and kills the executioner. Conan reveals himself and rescues the countess, killing many. A loyal subject aids in his escape.

Chapter 10. A Coin From Acheron

Albiona and Conan are led to a secluded temple where they meet Hadrathus, priest of Asura. Conan refuses to believe that Xaltotun has been raised from the dead after three thousand years until he is shown an ancient coin and recognizes the sorcerer’s face. His followers tell him that Xaltotun can be defeated using the Heart of Ahriman. Conan remembers seeing it in Belverus, and vows to find it, realizing that it is the heart of his kingdom Zelata spoke of. • In the palace in Tarantia, Valerius learns about Conan’s rescue of Albiona. He summons four mysterious black-robed Khitans to track down and destroy his foe.

Chapter 11. Swords of the South

Disguised as a slave, carrying Albiona, Conan navigates a boat downriver from Tarantia to the southern province of Poitain, then travel from the river to the castle of Count Trocero. At the castle, Conan learns that the ruffian with the Heart of Ahriman was slain by thieves, who sold it to a merchant named Zorathus, who is heading south through Zingara to Argos. Conan calls for a horse to bear him south.

Chapter 12. The Fang of the Dragon

Conan rides south through the rough lands of Zingara and comes upon the castle of Count Valbroso. Inside the castle, Conan sees Zorathus, being tortured on a rack for information on how to open his iron treasure box. Conan gets the information, but Valbroso grabs the box and opens it, revealing the Heart of Ahriman, but is pricked by the poisonous Fang of the Dragon as he does. Zorathus dies from the torture and Valbroso dies of the poison. One of Valbroso’s men, Beloso, hits Conan over the head with the treasure box, grabs the jewel, and flees the castle. Conan pursues, but just as he catches up with Beloso he is thrown from his horse and knocked unconscious. Conan awakes to find a ghoul standing over him. He kills the creature, then saves his horse from a group of the beasts.

Chapter 13. “A Ghost Out of the Past”

Still pursuing Beloso, Conan crosses the Argossean border and heads for Messantia, a port city. In Messantia, Conan goes to the house of Publio, a merchant made rich by shady dealings with the Cimmerian when he was a corsair. Pubilo is not please to see his old acquaintance, but agrees to try to locate Beloso. Later that night, four black-robed men approach the city from the west.

Chapter 14. The Black Hand of Set

Publio tells Conan that his men have located Beloso at a boarding house near the waterfront. There, after passing a Stygian, Conan finds Beloso, dead, with the black hand of Set imprinted on his chest. From the shore, he sees a Stygian galley sailing off with the Heart of Ahriman, but before he can pursue it he is attacked by men hired by Publio. Conan kills five, but is severely wounded and left for dead. • At his house, Publio is confronted by the four black-robed men. A man enters and tells Publio that Conan is dead, but the four men investigate and tell Publio that Conan is alive and on a ship sailing south. They then demand a ship from Publio.

Chapter 15. The Return of the Corsair

Conan wakes up. He has been Shanghaied and is aboard the Venturer, an Argossean galley propelled by eighty black slaves. He argues with the captain, then weapons fly. Some of the slaves recognize Conan as the legendary Amra, who sailed with them years before, and they join him in taking over the ship in bloody fashion.

Chapter 16. Black-Walled Khemi

The Venturer sails past Khemi, a Stygian port on the river Styx, and anchors in a small bay a few miles south of the city. Conan takes a Stygian fisherman prisoner. The man says that the galley Conan seeks, carrying a priest named Thutothmes, put into Khemi the day before, and that there was a rumor that Thutothemes was planning to overthrow Thoth-Amon, master of all priests of Set. Conan takes the fisherman’s small boat and rows toward Khemi.

Chapter 17. “He Has Slain the Sacred Son of Set!”

In a street in Khemi, Conan is attacked by and kills a giant snake. Citizens cry out at the slaying of the sacred creature, and chase Conan down an alley. Conan enters a door and finds himself inside a temple, where he kills a masked priest, takes his garment and headgear, and joins a group of similarly attired clerics. The group exits the temple, and Conan stays with them after he hears the name Thutothemes.

Chapter 18. “I Am the Woman Who Never Died”

Conan and the priests travel to a great pyramid, where Conan breaks from the group, kills a guard, and ventures into the passages. He meets a naked girl, who says she will lead him to Thutothemes but takes him to her own chamber instead. There, she reveals herself as Akivasha, an evil princess over ten thousand years old. She attacks Conan, the lights go out, and he flees, pursued by an unknown beast.

Chapter 19. In the Hall of the Dead

Conan travels down several passages, and sights four black-robed men before ending up in a huge room lined with sarcophagi. Ten priests and Thutothemes face an altar containing a mummy and the Heart of Ahriman. Thutothemes is outlining his plans for empire when the four black-robed Khitans enter the room and demand the Heart. In the ensuing fight, all ten priests and Thutothemes, as well as three of the four Khitans, are killed, then the last black-robed man is struck down by Conan. On the altar, the Heart has revived a long-dead priest of Set, Thothmerki, who gives Conan the jewel and leads him out of the pyramid. Conan races to the Venturer and tells his crew to prepare to sail to Zingara.

Chapter 20. Out of the Dust Shall Acheron Arise

Valerius has ruled Aquilonia with an iron fist, and the people are not happy. Uprisings from several quarters have alarmed the king, and he appeals to Nemedia for help. Tarascus responds by bringing an army. • In Tarantia, Valerius, Tarascus, Almeric, and Orastes meet. Orastes states that their greatest threat is not the rebels of Aquilonia, but Xaltotun, who plans to restore the long-lost empire of Acheron using sorcery. Xaltotun appears and smites Orastes dead, then delves into the problem of stopping Conan.

Chapter 21. Drums of Peril

Conan moves to reclaim Aquilonia, advancing with eighteen thousand men from the south while a strong force of Gundermen marches from the north. Almaric, Tarascus, and Valerius move to meet the threat with armies with a strength of fifty-six thousand. Xaltotun comes up with a plan to flood the Tanasul River to keep Conan’s forces from joining and defeat them in detail. Xaltotun’s sorcery fails to cause the river to rise more than a foot, however, and Conan’s forces combine. • Battle is imminent. While Xaltotun works on defeating Conan by sorcery, an Aquilonian man, Tiberias, convinces Valerius to take five thousand men and attack Conan from the rear using a little-known trail. • Tiberias leads Valerius into a narrow canyon. Valerius finds himself trapped by hundreds of men he harmed during his brutal reign, and the slaughter begins.

Chapter 22. The Road to Acheron

The armies of Conan and Almaric form battle lines. Xaltotun watches the battle from a hill called the King’s Altar. As the fight continues, the Nemedians have a hard time against the Aquilonian lines. Xaltotun is about to employ his magic to win the battle by sacrificing a girl when Hadrathus and Zelata appear with the Heart of Ahriman. Xaltotun shrivels to a dry, unrecognizable carcass, going down the long road to Archeron, which is beyond the ken of men. Almaric is killed by Pallantides and the Aquilonians sweep the field. Conan defeats and captures Tarascus, who surrenders all his Aquilonian holdings. Pallantides, Trocero, Prospero, Servius Galannus, and the rest of the army hail Conan. Conan vows to make Zenobia his queen.

CharactersEdit

LocationsEdit

Publishing historyEdit

Conan the Conqueror (Gnome)

Cover of Conan the Conqueror (Gnome Press); art by John Forte

References Edit


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at The Hour of the Dragon. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Conan Wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Cover art by Frank Frazetta used for the Lancer Books Conan, Sphere, Prestige and 1981-1994 Ace editions of Conan the Conqueror

Cover art by Frank Frazetta used for the Lancer Books Conan, Sphere, Prestige and 1981-1994 Ace editions of Conan the Conqueror

Conan the Conqueror (Estatue)

Conan the Conqueror (Estatue)In the painting process: by Marian Jaen

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