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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)

"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".

Plot SummaryEdit

Detailed SynopsisEdit

1. Paths of Intrigue
In the southern nation of Keshan, Conan climbs a cliff rising from the jungle, making his way to a small cave just under the summit. A mummified corpse, tied with rotted rope, lies in front of the cave, clutching a parchment in a literal death grip. Conan takes the parchment, then takes a moment to observe his surroundings, noting the enclosed jungle surrounded by the cliff walls, and finally spying what he was looking for from this vantage point - the hidden but gleaming marble palace of Alkmeenon. Conan had come to Keshan seeking the fabled Jewels of Gwahlur (also called the Teeth of Gwahlur), said to reside in Akmeenon, and had gained a place of prestige in the Keshan army (his fame having preceded him) in its war with neighboring Punt (but mostly to gain easy access to the lands in order to secretly search). Unfortunately, rivals in the form of Thutmekri and Zargheba had arrived offering an alliance with Zembabwei and threatening Conan's place in the hierarchy. High priest Gorulga declares that the oracle of Alkmeenon must be consulted. The oracle, alleged to be the preserved body of Princess Yelaya, the last ruler of Alkmeenon, had once imparted wisdom to the priests of Keshan, but since a greedy priest had attempted to steal the Teeth of Gwahlur from the city and perished, no others had visited. Conan, finally ascertaining the location of the hidden city from whispered conversations in the excitement following the announcement, had left immediately to steal the jewels for himself. He had reached the cliffs surrounding the valley, but did not bother trying to find the hidden entrance known only to the priests; he scaled the sheer edge to gain entrance to the hidden city and silently skulked through its marbled streets overgrown with the jungle life. He makes his way to the marble palace and pushes through its doors of gold. Ahead of him, the golden throne of Alkmeenon sits empty, though the square chamber behind contains the pristine and beautiful body of Yelaya laying on a dais. Suspecting the jewels are hidden in the oracle's chamber, Conan searches for hidden compartments, and does discover a panel hiding a compartment containing holes through which someone could speak through, pretending to be an oracle. Desperate, he remembers the parchment he had taken from the corpse earlier, and looks through it for clues. Although written in an ancient language, Conan has enough linguistic ability to ascertain the writer (and likely corpse) was named Bit-Yakin and had dwelt in the valley. He is interrupted by a sharp ringing gong from just outside in the courtyard. Conan rushes outside to see a statue holding a golden gong in its outstretched arm and a brass mallet on the ground. Conan cautiously investigates, but finds no trace of anything save a faint fetid smell. Suddenly, the ground crumbles and Conan tumbles into darkness.
2. A Goddess Awakens
Conan falls into an underground river and is taken by the current into pitch blackness. Suddenly, he sees light ahead from another portion of crumbled celing, but more importantly spies a brass ladder that he lunges for. He manages to hold on and make his way up the ladder and through the hole into another chamber. Carefully exploring, he finds the way back to the throne room, but decides to hide and wait for the priests rather than risk another disaster. He goes into the oracle's chamber but jumps when he notices Yelaya is now alive! The goddess addresses Conan but the suspicious Cimmerian realizes that she has a Corinthian accent and is in fact Zargheba's dancing girl servant Muriela - she and Zargheba had just arrived and she replaced the oracle under Zargheba's command. She was to demand that the jewels be given to Thutmekri and that Conan be skinned alive. Conan agrees to protect her from Zargheba, but he tells her to command Gorulga and the priests to make Conan general of the armies. Conan then leaves to find Zargheba, silently moving out of the palace and into the jungle, when he is startled by Zargheba peering from the trees directly at him. Unsure if he was actually seen, Conan freezes in the shadows, and long moments pass while both men stare unmoving at each other. Conan realizes that Zargheba seems to be taller than he remembered, and then he notices that he can only see the head, and no trace of Zargheba's body in the brush. He moves closer to discover Zargheba's severed head tied to a tree branch by his hair.
3. The Return of the Oracle
Realizing there are others in the valley, perhaps the servants of Bit-Yakin, Conan swiftly returns to the palace, but stops when he sees Gorulga and the priests entering the marble halls, among them Gwarunga, who had sold the secrets of the entrance to Zargheba. He sneaks into the hidden alcove behind the throne room and sees Gorulga approach the disguised Muriela.

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!"


* - dies in this story


Continuity NotesEdit

  • Conan's amour with Valeria does not last long; perhaps the fact that each of them being the boss has something to do with that fact. At any rate, they part; Valeria to return to the sea, Conan to try his luck in the black kingdoms. Hearing of the priceless "Teeth of Gwahlur," a fortune in ancient jewels hidden somewhere in Keshan, he sells his services to the irascible king of Keshan to train his armies for war against the neighboring kingdom of Punt.

Adaptations Edit

Publication historyEdit


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