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The Servants of Bit-Yakin

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Jewels of Gwahlur redirects here. For the Donald M. Grant collection, see Jewels of Gwahlur (DMG)

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"The Servants of Bit-Yakin" is a novelette by Robert E. Howard first published in Weird Tales 25 3 (March 1935) as "Jewels of Gwahlur". It has also been published as "Teeth of Gwahlur".

SynopsisEdit

“ The cliffs rose sheer from the jungle, towering ramparts of stone that glinted jade-blue and dull crimson in the rising sun, and curved away and away to east and west above the waving emerald ocean of fronds and leaves. It looked insurmountable, that giant palisade with its sheer curtains of solid rock in which bits of quartz winked dazzlingly in the sunlight. But the man who was working his tedious way upward was already halfway to the top.

He came from a race of hillmen, accustomed to scaling forbidding crags, and he was a man of unusual strength and agility. His only garment was a pair of short red silk breeks, and his sandals were slung to his back, out of his way, as were his sword and dagger. ”

— Robert E. Howard, "Jewels of Gwahlur"

The story is set in Hyborian Africa. The Teeth of Gwahlur are legendary jewels, kept in the abandoned city of Alkmeenon, in the country of Keshan "which in itself was considered mythical by many northern and western nations".

Conan, following legends of this treasure, has travelled to Keshan and offered his services to train and lead their army against their neighbour, Punt. However, Thutmekri, a Stygian rogue with similar intentions, and his Shemitish partner, Zargheba, also arrive in the country with an offer of a military alliance with another of Punt's neighbours, Zembabwei, with some of the Teeth to seal their pact. The high priest of Keshan, Gorulga, announces that a decision on the matter can only be made after consulting Yelaya, the mummified oracle of Alkmeenon. This is all the treasure hunters require. Thutmekri and partner join Gorulga in his expedition while Conan travels ahead of them.

When in the abandoned city, the initial atmosphere of the supernatural gives way to intrigue over the oracle. Zargheba has brought along a Corinthian slave girl, Muriela, to play the part of the oracle and tell the priests to hand all of the jewels to Thutmekri. Conan is first scared of the living oracle but quickly discovers the ruse. Intrigue and mystery follows as the imposter and the body of the genuine oracle switch and reappear. Gorulga, however, is an innocent in this, genuinely attempting to consult his oracle ("Well, I'm damned!" muttered Conan. "A priest who honestly believes in his oracle, and can not be bribed.").

However, a fourth faction appears. A Pelishti traveller, Bit-Yakin, had visited the valley of the lost city in the past. When the people of Keshan visited the site to worship Yelaya as a goddess, Bit-Yakin was the one providing prohecies from a hiding place. Eventually, he died there and his servants buried him as per his instructions but then disappeared from history. They are revealed to be large, gray-furred ape-like creatures. They kill the survivors of Thutmekri's party when they attempt to claim the jewels. Conan manages to acquire the chest containing the jewels but is forced to abandon them to save Muriela. They escape together and Conan ends the story by outlining a new plan: "I can use an actress like you. There's no use going back to Keshia. There's nothing in Keshan now that I want. We'll go to Punt. The people of Punt worship an ivory woman, and they wash gold out of the rivers in wicker baskets. I'll tell them that Keshan is intriguing with Thutmekri to enslave them — which is true — and that the gods have sent me to protect them — for about a houseful of gold. If I can manage to smuggle you into their temple to exchange places with their ivory goddess, we'll skin them out of their jaw teeth before we get through with them!"

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