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The Star of Khorala

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"The Star of Khorala" is a short story written by L. Sprague de Camp and Björn Nyberg, featuring Conan of Cimmeria, and first published in the collection Conan the Swordsman in 1978.

Plot SummaryEdit

Conan is trying to return the Star of Khorala, a legendary magical ring, to its owner Queen Marala in Ophir. Upon discovering the queen is wrongfully imprisoned in disgrace, he assists the queen's captain Garus in a successful rescue. When the soldiers of Rigello, the instigator of Marala's misfortune, catches up at Marala's ancestral castle, the magic of the ring brings forth the spirits of those betrayed two hundred years prior to help defeat the pursuers, though the ring is lost again.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • 1. The Road to Ianthe
    Conan rides through Ophir on the way to the capital city of Ianthe intending to return (for a large reward, of course) a valuable golden and jewelled ring, the Star of Khorala, to Queen Marala. The people he greets on the road seem unfriendly, and Conan asks about that attitude at a roadside inn. The tavern owner informs him that the king, Moranthes II, has seemingly gone mad, imprisoning Queen Marala for committing adulterous actions that nobody believes she had done. The king's formally exiled cousin Rigello seems to run the kingdom now, and the people, from barons to commoners, worry for their safety in such uncertain times. At that moment, a large soldier enters the tavern, and the owner identifies him as Captain Garus, late of the Queen's royal guard. Conan, still wanting to get rid of the Star of Khorala, goes to speak to him, but their conversation is interrupted by soldiers who enter to arrest Garus, who they call traitor. Conan assists the former captain in fighting the soldiers off, and they quickly ride away towards Ianthe.
  • 2. "Fetch Me the Dragon's Feet"
    Conan and Garus sit disguised in a tavern in Ianthe. The two learn from a loyal slave girl, Rima, that Queen Marala is held by Count Rigello's men in the West Tower of the palace where she is only visited by her physician, Doctor Khafrates. The girl takes them to the tower and points to the window to the Queen's chambers, and Conan notes that not even he could easily scale the walls. They go to visit the sympathetic doctor, who takes them to the thief Torgrio, who agrees to help Conan and Garus. He shows Conan climbing tools called dragon's teeth, with which Conan will use to scale the West Tower.
  • 3. The Wall No Fly Could Climb
    Sometime later, Rima enters Marala's guarded chambers with news that Khafrates has arrived. Happy to see a friendly face, Marala bids him enter and, as Khafrates attempts to tell her about the rescue plan currently taking place, Marala, in a reverie, tells the doctor about the magical powers of the Star of Khorala. It was a gift to her ancestor, Count Alarkar, who treated a disguised wizard well. The ring was enchanted so that a good man could rally other good man to his cause, and with the ring, Alarkar attempted to unite and bring peace to what would become Ophir, but he was betrayed. The ring passed through generations but was stolen. At that moment, Conan bursts through the windows, explains the situation, and, in order to give Khafrates an alibi, punches and ties up the doctor. Conan climbs down the window with Marala on his back.
  • 4. A Fire on the Mountain
    Conan and Marala meet up with Garus and they swiftly, but quietly, leave the city. They make camp that night in a hidden spot off the road and Marala reveals more of the history of the Star of Khorala. As her ancestor Alarkar was uniting nobles at his castle, he was betrayed by the ancestor of Count Rigolo, one Count Mecanta. Mecanta and a few comrades placed archers in a nearby forest, and as Alarkar met with his loyal nobles in the valley outside his castle, the traitors filled the air with arrows and bolts. Alarkar tried his best to rally his men, but they were set upon by an army and slaughtered. The Star was taken by Alarkar's widow and handed down through the generations until it was stolen by Marala. At this, Conan tosses her the ring, saying all he wants in return is a general's commission when Marala becomes ruler. Garus vouches for Conan's worth, and Marala agrees.
  • 5. "Fetch My Horse; We Ride at Once"
    The manipulative Count Rigello discusses Marala's escape with the weak and spineless King Moranthes. Rigello, intending to follow the only possible direction Marala would flee - southwest to her ancestral home of Theringo, nonetheless makes a show of allowing the king to think it's his idea to give chase. Rigello gathers his men, fully intending to draw her to his side in a revolt against Moranthes, during which he plans to marry Marala himself.
  • 6. "This is Theringo Castle"
    Conan, Garus, and Marala silently scout a ruined castle on a hill. Across the plain, and the river, lies the border to Aquilonia, and safety. Suddenly, Conan hears the muffled sound of hoofbeats - a small cavalry has found them! They leap on their horses but realize they will soon be overtaken, as the faster and fresher soldiers have a wide line that is starting to circle around them. The party makes for the possible protection of the castle and Conan defends the narrow doorway as the first soldiers leap forth to attack. Marala realizes that this keep is in fact her ancestral home Theringo and a strange calm comes over her. She and Garus take the crossbows of the defeated soldiers and make their way up to a window, while Conan readies himself at the door for the primary attack.
  • 7. A Host on Horseback
    With Marala firing on attacking troops and Conan and Garus holding the narrow doorway, nearly forty soldiers are dispatched. A furious and incredulous Rigello orders a fresh attack, but the soldiers are stunned by a small cavalry in old-fashioned armor racing from the castle toward the soldiers. Rigello's men break and run and while Rigello screams for them to return to their formation, a crossbow bolt drills into his head.
  • 8. "Our Paths Might Cross Someday"
    As Conan celebrates Marala's shot, she explains that the good men who died on the fields two centuries ago returned to save their kingdom, and now have gone to their final rest. Suddenly, she realizes that the ring that saved them has slipped off her finger and disappeared. After a fruitless search, Marala decides to continue to Aquilonia and stay with her noble relatives there. Conan decides to move on to Cimmeria.

CharactersEdit

  • Conan
  • Garus (Ophirian Captain)
  • Rima (Ophirian Slavegirl)
  • Khafrates (Ophirian Doctor)
  • Torgrio (Ophirian Thief)
  • Queen Marala
  • Count Rigello
  • King Moranthes II

LocationsEdit

  • Ianthe, Ophir
  • Castle Theringo, Ophir

Continuity NotesEdit

  • Conan is about thirty-one.
Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"Shadows in Zamboula"
"The Star of Khorala" Next Story:
"The Devil in Iron"
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Raider
"The Star of Khorala" Next Story:
"The Devil in Iron"
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Raider
"The Star of Khorala" Next Story:
Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza

AdaptationsEdit

Publication HistoryEdit

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