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The Thing in the Crypt

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"The Thing in the Crypt" is a short story written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, featuring Conan of Cimmeria, and first published in the collection Conan (Lancer 1967).

Plot SummaryEdit

While avoiding wolves on the border between Hyperborea and Brythunia, Conan finds a cave containing a wonderful sword and a terrifying monster.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • 1. Red Eyes
    Conan, having two days ago escaped the Hyperborean slave pens in which he was imprisoned, is chased by wolves as he runs through the woods. Trapped deep inside Hyperborea, he had chosen to head south, to Zamora, but soon a pack of winter-starved wolves had began to track him. Although he managed to fend off the first attack with the cut chains that were still attached to his wrists and then evaded the pack by crossing a nearly frozen river, the wolves keep coming. As the howls approach, Conan heads towards sloping mountains as the forest thins, thinking to make his stand with his back against the cliffs.
  • 2. The Door in the Rock
    As Conan prepares to make his stand, he notices a small crack in the rock - a cave entrance. He squeezes himself through and scrambles to find a weapon to fight the wolves he is sure are coming, snapping, through the hole, but instead they stand outside in the snow. Conan, puzzled, blindly feels his way along the rock wall deeper into the cavern, his fingers finding strange glyphs carved into the stone. He bumps into objects that are not rocks, including what feels like a chariot. Taking broken pieces of furniture, he returns to the dim light of the main entrance area and cobbles together a makeshift torch, using it to light a fire in the darker, larger chamber. The wolves still prowl outside the cave, refusing to enter. Conan returns to the inner chamber and sees a great, decaying treasure room, and at the end, seated in a large throne, a decomposed, almost skeletal giant staring at Conan with dead eyes.
  • 3. The Thing on the Throne
    Fighting back his supersitious barbarian nature, Conan approaches the dead thing. His gaze is drawn to the sword that sits on the dead body's lap, an ancient, impressive looking weapon. Conan takes the sword gingerly and hefts it, feeling its weight and its power. He lets loose a great bellow, imagining what he could do with such a sword, but then, to his horror, the skeletal thing on the throne begins to move.
  • 4. When Dead Men Walk
    The corpse stands and looks at Conan, its empty jaw opening and shutting as if trying to speak. It shuffles toward the horrified barbarian, reaching out a dessicated hand with which to grasp Conan. In a panic, Conan swings the sword and cuts off the creature's hand, but its only reaction is to reach out with the remaining hand. Conan swings again, breaking several of the creature's ribs and knocking it to the ground, but it simply stands up and begins shuffling toward him again.
  • 5. Duel With the Dead
    Conan deals blow after blow to the monster, cutting off its jaw, shattering more ribs, even partially destroying a leg, but it keeps lurching after the Cimmerian. He begins to tire, and the creature nearly connects with some of its wild lunges. Suddenly, the hand that Conan had chopped off earlier grasps Conan's ankle and trips him, and the creature reaches forward to finish him off, but in desperation Conan kicks at the beast and knocks it into the fire. The ancient mummy is quickly engulfed in flames and is destroyed.
  • 6. The Sword of Conan
    Not willing to spend the night in the cursed cave and filled with newfound confidence, Conan finds some furs to wear and emerges from the cave with his new sword to face the wolves. Fortunately, not only have the wolves left, but the skies begin to clear, giving Conan safe passage south.

CharactersEdit

LocationsEdit

Continuity NotesEdit

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"Legions of the Dead"
"The Thing in the Crypt" Next Story:
"The Tower of the Elephant"
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
"Legions of the Dead"
"The Thing in the Crypt" Next Story:
Conan the Defiant
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
"Legions of the Dead"
"The Thing in the Crypt" Next Story:
Conan the Defiant

AdaptationsEdit

Publication HistoryEdit

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