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Shadows in Zamboula

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"Shadows in Zamboula", originally titled "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula", is a novelette by Robert E. Howard first published in the November, 1935, issue Weird Tales. The story was republished in the collections Conan the Barbarian (Gnome Press, 1954) and Conan the Wanderer (Lancer Books, 1968). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000) as "Shadows in Zamboula" and in Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Three (1935-1936) (Del Rey, 2005) under its original title.

Plot SummaryEdit

Conan helps a dancer save her insane lover from cannibals and evil priests in a desert town.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • 1. A Drum Begins
    As Conan walks through the Sword-Makers' Bazaar in Zamboula, he is accosted by a desert man who warns him from staying at the inn owned by Aram Baksh. According to the man, travelers check in, never to be seen again with their possessions appearing later at the local markets. The nomad also says that pits with charred bones appear on the outskirts of the city. Conan, extremely short of coin, has already checked into the cheap inn (which is on the very edge of the city and has high walls and securely bolted doors; the district is also peculiarly deserted) and that night is shown his room by Aram Baksh himself. Conan locks the bolt, though not before showing Aram that he always sleeps with his steel by his side.
  • 2. Night Stalkers
    Late in the night Conan is waked by the sounds of stealthy opening of a door, and is instantly ready for action. In what ensues he kills with his sword a gigantic black man with a cudgel and filed teeth. He realizes Aram Baksh has been selling warm bodies to cannibalistic Darfari slaves and selling the dead's possessions. Conan finds his way to the street with the intention of returning and settling the score with Aram Baksh and finds three huge blacks similarly attired to the one he killed in his room carrying a struggling woman. Conan intervenes, slaying the three blacks. The woman, who identifies herself as a dancing girl Zabibi, explains that she sought a love potion to give to her lover Alafdahl, a young Turanian soldier, from the high priest of Hanuman, but the priest, Totrasmek gave her a potion that would make her lover insane and try to kill her. Zabibi uses her feminine charms to convince Conan to help her. Totrasmek had said that he has the potion to undo the effects of the one he already gave her. If he could accompany her to Totrasmek, and slay him and appropriate the portion, she would repay him. They find Alafdahl, and Conan knocks him out cold with a blow to the head. Alafdahl is bound until he can be cured of his madness. The two steal into Hanuman's shrine where Zabibi locates a trick panel leading into a secret chamber. As she opens it, a pair of gigantic hands reach out and grab her; the door closes instantly and Conan is unable to smash it down, though her hears the sounds of muffled screaming.
  • 3. Black Hands Gripping
    Conan races through the marble corridors looking for a passage, and soon finds a well lit room where a gigantic man, Baal-Pteor, reclines on a divan. Conan goes to kill the laughing, taunting giant, but he uses illusions to confound Conan, who gets his sword stuck on a huge magnet as a result of fighting these illusions. Baal-Pteor reveals that he performs sacrifices to Hanuman by breaking his victims' necks with his bare hands. The two lock up in a deadly embrace while Baal-Pteor, a Kosalan, explains who he was raised since childhood to sacrifice people to the god Yajur, but he has met his match with Conan, who, muscles straining, prevails, taunting Baal-Pteor before he kills him. Conan recovers his sword and continues on his way, following the screams.
  • 4. Dance, Girl, Dance!
    Meanwhile, Zabibi comes face to face with Totrasmek. Their conversation reaveals that it was not a love potion that she originally sought, but a sleep potion with which she intended to use to steal a stolen ring he possessed and return it to the Queen of Ophir. The ring itself contains the magical Star of Khorala, which could be used to enslave any member of the opposite sex. He offers her the antidote to Alafdahl's madness, but it is merely a ruse to get her in position to drop four clay jars each containing a cobra around her. Magical music plays as the cobras strike at her, and Totrasmek laughingly has her dance the Dance of the Cobras. The cobras' fangs strike closer and closer until the music stops and Totrasmek falls forward, dead, with Conan wiping his blade. Zabibi looks desperately for the ring, but to no avail. She takes the magical antidote and they return to Alafdahl and force the potion down his throat. Zabibi then reveals that Alafdahl is really Jungar Kahn, the satrap of Zamboula and that she is Nafertari, his mistress and that they needed to go incognito because if the citizenry found out that their leader had gone mad, there would be a revolt. She offers to have Conan made Captain of the Guard, and gives him a sack of gold and orders to come to the palace tomorrow to begin a full search of the temple to find the Star of Khorala. Before Conan goes on his way, he has unfinished business to settle with Aram Baksh. He returns to the inn. He finds a group of cannibals lamenting the loss of their brothers and the fact they will go hungry today. Conan tells them that Aram Baksh has a new victim ready. He goes into the inn, man-handles Aram Baksh, cuts off his beard so that he wouldn't be recognized and thrusts him out of doors to the waiting cannibals. Then he quickly takes his leave of the city, fingering the Star of Khorala, which he recognized (along with Jungir Khan and Nafertari the moment he saw them) and stole off Jungir's finger when he tied him up earlier that evening.

CharactersEdit

* dies in this story

LocationsEdit

Continuity NotesEdit

  • Conan duly arrives in Zamboula, where he swiftly dissipates the small fortune he brings with him in a colossal debauch. A week of guzzling, gorging, roistering, whoring, and gambling reduce him once more to destitution. - Conan the Wanderer
Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"Black Tears"
"Shadows in Zamboula" Next Story:
"The Star of Khorala"
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
"Black Tears"
"Shadows in Zamboula" Next Story:
Conan the Raider
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan and the Manhunters
"Shadows in Zamboula" Next Story:
"Black Tears"
Joe Marek Chronology
Previous Story:
"A Witch Shall Be Born"
"Shadows in Zamboula" Next Story:
"The Slithering Shadow"
Dale Rippke Chronology
Previous Story:
"The People of the Black Circle"
"Shadows in Zamboula" Next Story:
"Drums of Tombalku"

AdaptationsEdit

Publication historyEdit

GalleryEdit

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