eBook by Scott Oden
Cover once again by E. M. Gist
From Titan Books and Heroic Signatures
Oden? The dude who wrote the introduction to "Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures" AND THE IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND CONAN UNCONQUERED Deluxe Edition exclusive 9000-word ebook set during the events of Black Colossus using the Yaralet fragment? Yes, the one and the same.
A sequel to Robert E. Howard's The Devil in Iron.
While awaiting his new city lord from Aghrapur, the reticent new regent of Khawarizm, old Ghaznavi is enjoying expensive wine from Kyros in his study.
Karash Khan, the shapeshifting leader of The Nine (The dude has 8 Sicari "brothers". Get it?) appears.
The former counsellor of Turan desires to avenge his fallen lord, Jehungir Agha (killed by Conan in Devil in Iron on Xapur, an island on the Vilayet Sea).
To get his payback, Ghaznavi promises to turn over The temple of Erlik to the Sicari, a splinter cult of Erlik.
Our Cimmerian commander/hetman of the Zaporoskan kozaks is now a marked man.
A lean Conan wearing trousers and a shirt arrives on the Djerda peninsula with a now conceited Octavia, a tall blond princess from Nemedia (also from Devil in Iron. A former slave of the late Jehungir Agha).
Ivanos, Corinthian pirate of the Red Brotherhood (from Shadows in the Moonlight) wants words with the barbarian at his conclave of pirate captains. Conan wishes to seize the city of Khawarizm from Grand Monarch Yezdigerd by way of a seaborn assault. Dragutin is against it. Conan gets upset and is expelled from the meeting.
Harkhebi's roadside inn: the Den of the two Serpents. 2 snakes coming together? Facing each other? Sounds familiar. Princess Octavia gets possessed by a powder blowing Sicari, she gets half naked, borrows a long two-edged knife and decides to depart into the night.
Ivanos finds Princess Octavia fully naked in his bed, she tells him lies about Conan then stabs him. The pirate captain dies with his dream of seeking vengeance in Pirene unfulfilled.
Octavia wakes up from her trance, terrified.
Conan needs 5 ships and a large group of men to overtake the city of Khawarizm. Harkhebi will ask around.
Conan finds Octavia gone, he sniffs her Khalat and detects rotting orchids.
Illya updates Conan on Octavia's situation.
The revengeful pirates of the Red Brotherhood bring Octavia to Ivanos's ship the Lykania.
Doppelgänger Dragutin and Bartizanius try to hang Octavia.
Conan's spear cuts Octavia loose from her noose AND kills Bartizanius at the same time.
Harkhebi departs with Octavia.
Conan tries to follow but his horse is struck by his own discarded spear.
Conan is knocked out by a kestros dart.
Conan wakes shackled in the belly of the Yilanikadin, Dragutin's galley, next to the real Dragutin, also chained.
The fake Dragutin (Karash Khan, the Master of the Sicari in disguise) appears with his 8 acolytes.
A Sicari slashes a lump of flesh from the ribs of the barbarian.
They make the real Dragutin swallow the Cimmerian's flesh and transmute him into a clone of Conan.
Karash Khan takes over fake Conan too. He's now masquerading as 2 different people at the same time.
They drag the fake Conan to the rower's deck.
Harkhebi's roadside inn is now in smouldering ruins.
The real Conan is now certain that the smell from Octavia's robe comes from the cheeseparer's lament, a mixture of lotus pollens utilized to hypnotize.
The real Conan gets free, kills his guard, the youngest of the Sicari (9 minus 1) and purloins his Yuetshi knife.
Karduniash and loyal friends to Conan, try to stop fake Conan's keelhauling, when the real Conan appears.
The real Conan explains that they are executing the wrong guy.
Fake Dragutin tells his entourage to kill Conan, Conan kills some of Dragutin's pirates and 3 more Sicari assassins (8 minus 3. Only 5 remain now).
Fake Conan reverts back to Dragutin. Conan frees the trussed up Dragutin.
Conan picks up a broadsword from Octavia's Nemedia and entices the crew of the Yilanikadin to kill 4 more Sicari assassins (5 minus 4. Only the Master of the Sicari, Karash Khan remains).
Conan finds Karash Khan now in his true form, tall and muscular waiting in the back of the Yilanikadin.
Conan kills the last of the Sicari.
In his death throes Karash Khan takes over the wooden Lamia sternpost next to him.
Conan upgrades to a boarding axe and attacks the 30 feet long snake woman, then jumps on the beach. With its now living sternpost tearing free, the Yilanikadin sinks into the sea.
Conan is looking for oil and fire when they hear the Lamia next to the Lykania, Ivanos's ship.
Conan upgrades to a sledgehammer! Trust him, he knows what he's doing. Conan takes out the arms of the Lamia and Dragutin flame bombs it dead.
Minutes later Octavia and Conan's dog-brothers of the steppe arrive on the beach.
Old Ghaznavi receives a note to visit the Agha's tower. He runs to the top of the tall structure to discover the solarium unlocked with Octavia inside.
She offers him a box from "The Master", the regent finds inside the severed head of master assassin Karash Khan.
Conan comes out of hiding to gloat that he has taken over the city of Jehungir Agha.
The counsellor stabs Conan but only hits chain mail.
Conan throws the Turanian schemer off the solarium's balcony.
An old man exclaims: Nice throw, son. What's your name? Conan replies: Murphy. End. (Just kidding!)
What I did like:
No loincloth for Conan for this sword & sorcery fantasy story!
John W. Campbell's Who Goes There? homage.
The Thing in the Crypt homage.
God of the Yellow Hand of Death Erlik mentioned.
Previous King of Turan Yildiz mentioned.
Current King of Turan Yezdigerd mentioned.
Sergius of Khrosha old leader of the Brotherhood mentioned.
Torturer Gilzan mentioned.
Olgerd Vladislav from A Witch Shall Be Born mentioned.
Goddess Ishtar mentioned.
Ghazan wine appears.
H. P. Lovecraft's Cats of Ulthar mentioned.
The Lamia in the Penthouse by Thorp McClusky - Ray Harryhausen's Naga snake woman from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) homage.
Goddess Derketo mentioned.
Goddess Morrigan mentioned.
God of thieves Bel mentioned.
What I did not like:
Scott is no dumbbell, he's a world builder, a history buff, you know, the kind of titan who presses atlases at the gym instead of iron plates. Sometimes he concentrates a little too much on actual history than on his own Heroic Historical story... this hurts the flow a little. You'll need to allocate plenty of mental energy to follow him along, but that's ok.
Scott knows his ships! Could he be showboating? Maybe.
The mimicking of Howard’s literary voice. A little creepy, but I dig the dedication.
Killing a character created by Howard. Not cool. If you want to ice someone ice your own creations.
No one bats an eye that 8 Sicari assassins are now hanging with Dragutin.
They capture the real Conan but they try to terminate an impersonator instead.
No returning Khosatral Khel!!!! Boo!
Conan does not fear the supernatural.
I give it a 9/10. Lots and lots of research by Scott. An excessive amount of accuracy and detail. It really feels like historical fiction. Titan Books / Heroic Signatures, please give us a Heroic Legends Series version of CONAN: UNCONQUERED by Scott Oden! IMMEDIATELY!
I cannot wait to read Scott Oden's next Hyborian Age yarn starring master-thief Shevatas from Black Colossus and Nitocris from Savage Sword of Conan #216!