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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. Conan sneaks into the hidden alcove behind the throne room and sees Gorulga approach the disguised Muriela. Gorulga chants and asks Yelaya what to do, and Muriela, playing the role to the hilt, demands the Stygians be driven from Keshan and the armies and the Teeth be given to Conan. Gorulga immediately heeds the will of his prophetess and leaves to retrieve the jewels from their hiding place, taking his priests with him. Gwarunga lingers behind and when the coast is clear grabs Muriela by the throat, demanding to know why she changed the plan. He doesn't see Conan come up behind him and bring his sword down. When Conan moves to finish the job, Muriela stops him and begs Conan to take her away. He drags Gwarunga from the chamber and sends Muriela back to get a gem she had dropped in the scuffle, but Muriela screams and is cut off. Conan rushes back and discovers the body of Yelaya back on the dais and Muriela gone. He spies a secret door with a shred of Muriela's torn dress sticking out and he wedges it open, entering a corridor painted with frescoes of creatures doing the bidding of a bearded white man and building the temple. Conan realized the white man is Bit-Yakin and the creatures that he summoned may still be here. Conan reaches a metal door but springs a trap causing a massive stone to fall and nearly crush him. Conan attempts to return to the throne room but the corridor is plunged into darkness as the marble door at the other end suddenly slams shut. He makes his way to the door and finds a bolt to open it from the inside, and bursts back into the room. The corpse of Yelaya is gone, and more disturbingly, so is the body of Gwarunga.
4. The Teeth of Gwalhur
Conan decides to follow the priestly procession and sets forth to track them. The trail leads to the cliffs that enclose the valley, and a door in the rock that is surrounded with bizarre, carved artwork. He passes through the door, made up to look like a dragon's open mouth, and follows the sound of chanting through the maze of tunnels. He finds the priests kneeling and chanting, then moving forward to another section of the cave and chanting again. Conan grows impatient with the overlong ritual, but when they reach a chamber with a stone staircase, the chanting abruptly stops when the priests see a gold and jewel wearing figure in silk at the top of the stairs. Gorulga believes Yelaya has followed them and asks to know why. The voice of Yelaya claims the sanctuary has been blasphemed and the priests lied to. She demands the Teeth be given to Thutmekri. The priests scramble away to honor her wishes. leaving a furious Conan hidden in the shadows, suspecting Muriela of playing games and determined to find out what's happening. He approaches the figure on the stairs but finds it is the true corpse of Yelaya, tied to a pillar with hidden bonds to make her stand. Suddenly, a black man rushed from the darkness to attack Conan, but is quickly slain, and Conan sees it's one of Thutmekri's men who had retrieved Yelaya's body while Conan was exploring the secret passage earlier. Conan explores deeper into the caves and finds Muriela chained to a hideous statue. She is overjoyed to see Conan and tells him that she was kidnapped by grey-haired humanoids, who Conan recognizes as the servants of Bit-Yakin, who, Conan reveals, according to the scrolls was a Pelishti priest who centuries ago discovered the body of Yelaya and that she was worshiped as a goddess and,, for reasons of his own, created the legend of the oracle and the network of secret passages and doors to play the role. Even though he died some time ago, and he instructed his servants to mummify his body and place it in the cave that Conan had discovered, the nearly mindless servants continued the ruse as habitually as they could. Conan decides to find the priests and steal the jewels from them if possible, and they follow the sounds of chanting through the corridors until they reach a gallery overlooking a large, carved central cavern with an altar. Gorulga reaches into a hole in the altar and retrieves a small chest. But suddenly the servants of Bit-Yakin attack and kill the priests save for one who runs away screaming. The savage creatures give chase, leaving carnage behind them...and the chest, which Conan decides to creep down and take. He grabs the box of jewels and returns to Muriela, and they rush through the tunnels until they gross a stone bridge over a small river and find themselves on the outer side of the cliff walls. Conan prepares for the descent, but notices a grey-skinned, hulking servant is chasing them. Conan meets the creature in battle at the top of the stone bridge and while Conan is able to cut the humanoid badly, the Servant gets by him and grabs Muriela and the box. However, the wound Conan gave it causes it to collapse and both girl and treasure fall to the edge of the cliff overlooking the river. Conan races to the scene, and only has time to grab Muriela and watch the box tumble into the rushing water. Conan and Muriela climb down the cliff walls outside the valley and look up to see the faces of several Servants staring down at them, but they will not leave their home. Conan decides to head to Punt with Muriela.

CharactersEdit

* - dies in this story

LocationsEdit

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.
Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
Red Nails
"The Servants of Bit-Yakin" Next Story:
Beyond the Black River
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
Red Nails
"The Servants of Bit-Yakin" Next Story:
"The Ivory Goddess"
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan and the Gods of the Mountain
"The Servants of Bit-Yakin" Next Story:
"The Ivory Goddess"
Joe Marek Chronology
Previous Story:
Red Nails
"The Servants of Bit-Yakin" Next Story:
Beyond the Black River
Dale Rippke Chronology
Previous Story:
Red Nails
"The Servants of Bit-Yakin" Next Story:
"Wolves Beyond the Border"

Adaptations Edit

Publication historyEdit

GalleryEdit

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