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Conan & The Living Plague


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#1 emerald

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 06:42 PM

Below please see, and hopefully enjoy, an excerpt from chapter six of Conan and the Living Plague, the unpublished sequel to my Conan and the Emerald Lotus.
The book was completed in 1997 and I haven't looked at it since shortly thereafter. I no longer even had a copy on my computer, but recently the file was supplied to me by an old friend I'd given it to back in the day. Very strange to look at the book today, and I admit my first impulse was to edit it. But I didn't-- it comes roaring your way right out of the same frenzy of REH and Weird Tales worship that made me write Conan and the Emerald Lotus, so many years ago.


Conan ran through the camp and bellowed warnings in a voice that drove even those who slumbered to their feet. He vaulted a dying fire and in an instant was out of the camp, free of the trees and sprinting along the grassy bank of the stream. A blazing spray of brilliant stars stretched across the open night sky. The gibbous moon floated above the tree line like a ghostly lantern.

The creek was full of armored horsemen. They poured out of the forest across the water and splashed through the stream toward the Akkharian camp. The Cimmerian saw that the first of them was driving his mount out of the muddy shallows and onto the raised bank of the shore.

The man wore the full plate armor of a landed knight. He spotted the oncoming barbarian and put spurs to his mount with an eager shout. As the horse struggled up the embankment, its rider braced his ten foot battle lance against his shoulder and lowered it smoothly. The leaf-shaped steel head gleamed like a silver icicle in the moonlight. Hooves dug in and propelled the huge horse and armored horseman toward Conan in an avalanche of flesh and steel. The spearhead shot forward, aligned to transfix the barbarian. It was not to be. Conan slid to a stop beside the limbless trunk of a dead tree. He sidestepped the point with feline grace, and slapped the lance's shaft aside with the flat of his sword. The deflected steel head imbedded itself in the soft wood of the dead tree and the savage impact of its abrupt halt tore the lancer from his saddle. The battle lance splintered with a sharp crack. The Cimmerian heard a ragged cry and caught a brief glimpse of the horseman as he sailed backward, limbs pinwheeling. But the horse came on and Conan had to dodge around the galloping animal. He spun swiftly out of its path.

The lancer was formidable; already he sat up in the weeds and groped for the battle-ax he wore strapped to his armored back. As Conan bore down on him, the man scrambled to his feet and brought his massive weapon to bear. The Cimmerian did not close with his stunned foe, but ran right by him. The point of his broadsword drove through the narrow eyeslit in the visor of the lancer's helm with a rasp and a crunch. The barbarian wrenched his blade free as he passed and did not turn to look as the man toppled.

The next horseman struggled with his mount at the shore's embankment. Conan braced his booted feet in the grass and waited. The horse found solid footing and reared up the slope. Its rider cursed and struck at the barbarian with a moon-gleaming tulwar. The broad slash was deflected with a metallic clang. Conan's unstoppable return stroke sheared through the man's breastplate of boiled leather and dashed him out of the saddle to splash lifeless in the muddy water.

Other defenders joined the Cimmerian. They lined the shore so that the invading horsemen were confined to wallowing in the stream. A determined trio tried to charge the bank and were repelled by Akkharians with ready spears. When arrows began to fall among the attackers they suddenly turned about and retreated to the stream's far shore. They rode up the opposite bank in brisk unison and passed into the obscuring trees.

Pezur stood beside the barbarian, notched a final arrow to string, drew it back to his ear and let fly. The shaft sailed into darkness.

"Mitra save me, wasn't that a fine bit of fighting, Conan? You must have heard the hooves of the leader as he rode into the creek, eh? Mitra be my witness, all Shamtare says about you is-"

The archer fell silent as Conan wheeled and stared back toward the camp, his eyes wide and intent in the starlight. Blood stained his broadsword and shone along his bare arm in a blackly shining spray.

"Too easy," grated Conan. At that moment the clangor of steel and the cries of battling men rose from the camp.

"It's a ruse!" roared the barbarian. "Back to camp, we've been surrounded!"

Pezur opened his mouth and Conan was gone. The archer carefully shouldered his bow, then drew his short sword and followed.

The camp was embroiled in a frenzied melee. Soldiers on foot had struck at the camp while most of its defenders had gone to repel the horsemen at the streamside. The space around the fires was packed with swearing, hewing men. Conan noted that the invaders seemed to outnumber his force by half, and sternly resolved to even the odds.

Prince Eoreck fought back to back with his massive asshuri bodyguard. The pair were the eye of a hurricane of flashing steel. The prince's slender rapier darted into the mob of encircling foes with as much drunken bravado as skill, but thus far he had managed to escape any serious injury. The asshuri whirled a weighty bastard sword about his head. Trusting his heavy armor to forestall any blow, he sporadically picked out a foeman, stepped full into the ranks of the enemy, and cut him down. He bled from a gash along his jutting, exposed chin, and from a deep dig in the calf beside his greaves.

"To your prince," bayed the asshuri in a deep voice. "Save your prince!"

Eoreck blocked a hard-swung scimitar and staggered under the impact. His left foot tangled in a fallen branch and he went to one knee. He swatted aside the deviously probing tip of a spear. The warrior with the scimitar lunged in and took another strong cut at the prince, who clumsily interposed the hilt of his rapier at the last possible moment. The blow rang on the rapier's quillions with numbing force and the sword sprang from the prince's grip. Eoreck yelped in pain, clutched his injured hand, and looked up to see the scimitar-wielder bearing down upon him with an evil, gap-toothed grin. The prince tried to heave himself onto his feet, but a great hand fell on his shoulder and shoved him back down to sit in the dirt.

Conan leaned over Eoreck's prone body in a long thrust that drove his blade through the torso of the charging scimitar-wielder with such force that it burst out a foot beyond his spine. The man collapsed and his dead weight almost wrenched the hilt from Conan's fist. The barbarian stumbled over Eoreck as the prince tried to stand. The shining head of a spear thrust for Conan's eyes. He snatched at it with one hand and tore his blade out of the scimitar-wielder's corpse with the other. His fingers caught the spear just below the point, then jerked it forward with all the strength of his massive shoulders. The spearman was yanked headlong to meet a whistling chop of the Cimmerian's freed broadsword.

Savage shouts mingled with the clash of steel as the Akkharians who defended the stream returned to camp in force. The men that encircled Conan and Eoreck pressed in with desperate intensity to finish them.

"The prince!" bellowed the bodyguard. "Save the prince!"

Eoreck stood, seemed to realize that he was unarmed, and bent to retrieve his fallen rapier. Conan's broadsword deflected a shortsword that stabbed for the prince's throat, then split the wielder's skull. The barbarian stepped between Eoreck and his foes with a roar of berserk fury. Reclaiming his rapier, the prince looked up to see the constricting ring of foes break and run before the Cimmerian's murderous onslaught. His blade harvested men as a scythe harvests wheat, and brave warriors fled before it.

The two-pronged attack, having failed on its first front, was now faltering on its second. The men of Mamluke's Legion rallied as their swift response to the attack surprised and dismayed their enemies. The invaders were driven back into the forest, away from the camp, and there they broke when the Cimmerian led an impulsive charge into their ranks. They ran pell-mell among the dark trees in a full rout. The mercenaries who started off to pursue them were called back by Conan.

Fresh logs were tossed onto campfires as the victors returned. The barbarian loped back through camp toward the stream, briefly disappeared into the darkness there, then rejoined his comrades at Prince Eoreck's side. Voices rose as the men examined wounds, counted the dead, and congratulated one another.

"There he is! There's the man who saved my life!" The prince extended both hands, open palmed, toward the barbarian. "Let it never be said that I was an ungrateful lord. I hereby promote you to the rank of Captain. Now, of all those on this expedition, you are second in rank only to myself. Bravo, Captain Conan! You, Shullar," Eoreck elbowed his hulking asshuri bodyguard. "You could learn much from this man."

Shullar wiped at the blood clotting along his shovel-jaw and glared at the barbarian. He said nothing.

#2 Mikey_C

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 06:55 PM

Stirring stuff! Thanks for sharing. :D Is it too much to hope the whole thing may get published one day?
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#3 Marqs

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 07:22 PM

Thanks for sharing! :) I'd like to read one day the whole story... a dream :)

#4 terryallenuk

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 07:33 PM

Cheers John , like to echo the other comments in seeing it all one day.

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#5 Almuric

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 05:25 PM

I too add my voice to those calling for the whole thing.
"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


--- The Dark Man, by Robert E. Howard

#6 Crom

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 08:02 PM

What a great read, John. Makes me want to revisit Emerald Lotus. As you know, I'd love to see this in print, too. Any chance you will supply us with another excerpt?

#7 deuce

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 09:10 PM

What a great read, John. Makes me want to revisit Emerald Lotus. As you know, I'd love to see this in print, too. Any chance you will supply us with another excerpt?


Another great example of the rip-roaring action Mr. Hocking is so good at. B)

Edited by deuce, 26 October 2010 - 09:10 PM.

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#8 Tex

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 09:58 PM

Count me in as wanting this in book form as well.

Tex
(a two-in-one hardcover, paired with Conan and the Emerald Lotus, would be, as the kids say, "Teh awesome!")

#9 docpod

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 10:58 PM

You should hear John C. channel "John Peter Drummond," who wrote the Ki-Gor novels for JUNGLE STORIES. We once ate pizza at Pulp-Con discussing Ki-Gor when John did a good impression of The Tick.

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#10 Axerules

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 12:28 PM

Thank you very much for sharing, John. B)
I hope that the whole book will finally be printed one day.
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#11 Buxom Sorceress

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 10:46 PM

Great stuff ! B)
Thankyou so much for sharing this exciting sample, John.

Hope we get to read more eventually? [ I would buy it tomorrow, if I could ]

Best wishes and flying kisses from me *** :)
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You have over 10 months to organise it. Plenty of time. :)

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#12 emerald

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 07:16 PM

Many thanks for all the kind remarks.

Morgan, I remember the pizza but not the Tick impression.
"As long as a few feeble embers glow in the Barbecue of Justice, we can still grill a Mighty Steak of Victory!"
Are you sure it wasn't you that did the Tick impression?

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 07:42 AM

Many thanks for all the kind remarks.

Morgan, I remember the pizza but not the Tick impression.
"As long as a few feeble embers glow in the Barbecue of Justice, we can still grill a Mighty Steak of Victory!"
Are you sure it wasn't you that did the Tick impression?

man I really loved Emerald Lotus...I also enjoyed very much those tales
you posted online about the kid who threw knives and worked in a library
they were pretty rad too!

PS, your avatar reminded me of an old movie I watched the other day called Brand Of Hate
It was a Bob Steele movie and Hayes played a bad guy and really evil bad guy. This was
a great western movie and I loved those old westerns before they started making that
singing cowbody crud with Roy Rogers and those other idiots

Edited by TheMIrrorThief, 04 November 2010 - 07:45 AM.


#14 emerald

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 10:48 PM

man I really loved Emerald Lotus...I also enjoyed very much those tales
you posted online about the kid who threw knives and worked in a library
they were pretty rad too!


Hey MirrorThief, I'm glad you liked LOTUS but really appreciate your recalling my stories about the Archivist, which appeared in the old Flashing Swords e-zine maybe five years ago.
The character, and his friend Lucella, will be back in the next issue of Black Gate. It will be their first appearance on a printed page.

#15 deuce

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 10:51 PM


man I really loved Emerald Lotus...I also enjoyed very much those tales
you posted online about the kid who threw knives and worked in a library
they were pretty rad too!


Hey MirrorThief, I'm glad you liked LOTUS but really appreciate your recalling my stories about the Archivist, which appeared in the old Flashing Swords e-zine maybe five years ago.
The character, and his friend Lucella, will be back in the next issue of Black Gate. It will be their first appearance on a printed page.



John's too modest to mention it, but here's the link to his thread on this fine forum:

http://www.conan.com...h=1

B)

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#16 Guest_TheMIrrorThief_*

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 03:56 PM

bump