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Conan: Lethal Consignment review

eBook by Shaun Hamill

Cover once again by E. M. Gist 

From Titan Books and Heroic Signatures

Spoilers! Spoilers! 

A prequel to Robert E. Howard's The Tower of the Elephant.

Kordava, the capital city of Zingara.

Barkeep, Mugido is watching a young Conan who is wearing trousers and a shirt.
A bored, cash-strapped Conan is observing the ships floating in the harbour.
Zingaran sailor, first mate, Flavio de Palma the Bold from the Fortune’s Dawn enters the watering hole, he offers the barbarian youth a fresh ale, employment and adventure.

Sailing ships and the sea are still a mystery to Conan.

Flavio is seeking mercenaries to safeguard a valuable cargo that needs to go to Aquilonia (one day Conan will sits upon the throne of Aquilonia).
Apparently, the Shirkri River is squirming with pirates

Flavio and Conan find the Fortune’s Dawn, a carrack with three masts. 
It is Conan's very first time on a ship.

Conan meets the crew:

Lookout: Marco of the wooden leg
Helmsman: Anen of the gold tooth
Sailors: Obares and Theoros
Security: Leonidos, of the gentle voice, a middle aged sellsword

The sparse crew concerns Conan.

The Captain of the ship, Bertoldo is not present, apparently too busy to meet Conan.

Below deck Conan leaves his meagre possessions next to his hammock.

Leonidos is impressed that the Cimmerian is not suffering from seasickness.
Leonidos leads Conan to the armoury. Conan finds the arsenal insufficient.
Conan discovers a brand new sword hidden among the weapons.
Leonidos unveils two large flagons of Argossean Fire aka Greek Fire.
Conan is still concerned about the minuscule crew of only nine men, Leonidos avoids the subject.

A day later, Conan is getting the stink eye from the rest of the crew. Leonidos tells him to stick to his job: being on the lookout for threats.

On the third night Conan hears a scream coming from the aftercastle, he finds helmsman Anen dead, his throat ripped open.
Flavio orders the body to be thrown overboard.
A cautious Leonidos follows Flavio below deck.

Only twelve men remain on the ship now.
The ship picks up a new passenger, Atreus, the new lookout.
Marco is now the new helmsman.
Conan congratulates the mysteriously unforthcoming Marco.
Captain Bertoldo is still MIA.

Leonidos, now in a confiding mood, awakens Conan to tell him all about the cargo.

At the start of the voyage the crew consisted of 30 sailors and 2 sellswords: Leonidos and Lothar.
They sailed to an ancient city and went ashore to pick up a very large black coffin (inscribed with runes and pictograms) from a black pyramid. 

The Stygian sarcophagus was stowed in the Captain's cabin. Lothar disappeared the night after, leaving only his sword, the same sword Conan found in the armoury. Crewmen have been disappearing or dying ever since.
The reason the crew doesn't flee? Leonidos thinks that they all may be under some kind of spell.
Conan wants answers, Leonidos will neither help nor stand in Conan's way.

Conan tries to see the captain. A full-throated, silent voice coming from an unseen war horn assaults his mind, it tells him to leave, Conan fights back the urge to turn around and enters Bertoldo's cabin.

Inside the quarters Conan finds the Captain sleeping next to the ancient coffin... now open and empty!

The source of the silent voice, a beguiled Bertoldo with fading yellow snake pupils, begs Conan to kill him... and the missing sailors, next to him, all unconscious in slimy sacks. Conan beheads Bertoldo and bolts out of this chamber of terror. 

Conan hears Leonidos's battle cry, his comrade is fighting the mind-controlling black serpentine colossus from the casket.

Conan joins the fight, he tries to lop off one of the giant's legs, but it's like trying to cut through steel.  

An entranced yellow-eyed Atreus attacks Conan with a belaying pin, Conan loses his sword. Conan kills Atreus with his bare hands.

Conan asks Leonidos to keep the abominable behemoth of steel busy.

Conan runs to the armoury, snatches up the incendiary weapons and Lothar's blade.
Sailors: Marco, Obares and Theoros, all also under the serpent-man's sway try to stop the youth from Cimmeria.

Conan smashes Marco's head into a wall, Lothar's sword gets stuck in Obares's stomach, Theoros cuts Conan's arm, the barbarian goes berserk and hurls a receptacle of Argossean Fire onto another wall. Fire engulfs the armoury's passageway. 

Conan leaves Theoros to the flames and with the remaining flask of Fire he reaches the ship's uppermost deck where Flavio is waiting.

A remorseful and less taken over Flavio is glad that Conan is doing what he could not. Flavio will neither help nor stand in Conan's way.

Flavio consigned/transferred his lethal troubles over to Conan. To make amends Flavio wants to go down with the ship, to consign his body to the sea. 

Conan sees that Leonidos (now missing his right mitt) is still desperately fighting the reptilian beast.

Leonidos, bleeding to death, gives his blessing and Conan throws the jug of Argossean Fire on the metal monster's back. The creature catches fire.

Leonidos refuses to flee with Conan, the mature mercenary fears that if the serpent-man follows them into the water, it might survive. Leonidos tells Conan to go.

Conan dives off the boat, reaches the shore, starts listening and waits for the creature's shrieks to cease. Silence sets in, a satisfied Conan departs. 

What I did like:

If you dig the gigantic man-serpent from The God in the Bowl, you'll like this story.

Mr. Thulsa Doom, James Earl Jones's first ever movie role was Lt. LOTHAR Zogg in Dr. Strangelove (1964).

Mark Hamill liked to wear a Red Sonja t-shirt in his younger days.

Nippr from Black Colossus mentioned.

Shumir from Queen of the Black Coast mentioned.

Both Leonidas and Leonidos lived long lives.

What I did not like:

It's Shirki not Shirkri.

Who in Aquilonia desires the casket? 

No Yara the priest/sorcerer!

No exact location for the pyramid? That's kinda lazy.

We get to know nothing about the creature. Was it one of Set's children? Why is it cocooning the crew like a Xenomorph?

I give it a 7/10. Conan's irresistible sea legs get an origin story. I'm not pulling your leg, I swear. The princess in the famous Frank Frazetta painting for Conan the Adventurer has been clinging to Conan's thigh since 1966 and she hasn't let go yet.

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