Rated PG. Contains violence, and monsters.
The Phoenix on the Sword, featuring Conan the Barbarian
by Robert E. Howard
The room was large and ornate, with rich tapestries on the polished-panelled walls, deep rugs on the ivory floor, and with the lofty ceiling adorned with intricate carvings and silver scrollwork. Behind an ivory, gold-inlaid writing-table sat a man whose broad shoulders and sun-browned skin seemed out of place among those luxuriant surroundings. He seemed more a part of the sun and winds and high places of the outlands. His slightest movement spoke of steel-spring muscles knit to a keen brain with the co-ordination of a born fighting-man. There was nothing deliberate or measured about his actions. Either he was perfectly at rest—still as a bronze statue—or else he was in motion, not with the jerky quickness of over-tense nerves, but with a cat-like speed that blurred the sight which tried to follow him.
His garments were of rich fabric, but simply made. He wore no ring or ornaments, and his square-cut black mane was confined merely by a cloth-of-silver band about his head.
Now he laid down the golden stylus with which he had been laboriously scrawling on waxed papyrus, rested his chin on his fist, and fixed his smoldering blue eyes enviously on the man who stood before him. This person was occupied in his own affairs at the moment, for he was taking up the laces of his gold-chased armor, and abstractedly whistling—a rather unconventional performance, considering that he was in the presence of a king.
“Prospero,” said the man at the table, “these matters of statecraft weary me as all the fighting I have done never did.”
“All part of the game, Conan,” answered the dark-eyed Poitainian. “You are king—you must play the part.”
About the Author
Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) was most famous for inventing the modern sword & sorcery tale with his Conan stories, and while he often introduced horror elements as a threat in his short fiction the evocation of supernatural dread is only incidental in most of his tales; the chronicling of titanic adventure is the primary purpose. When Howard later switched from fantasy to westerns, he made the transition with the story The Horror From the Mound.
Howard’s major horror genre reputation rests with three stories (sadly, all of which are a bit too long for the podcast): “Black Canaan” (Weird Tales, 1936) was praised by Lovecraft for its “genuine, regional background and its compelling picture of the horror that stalks through the moss-hung, shadow-cursed, serpent-ridden swamps of the American far south”; “Pigeons from Hell” (Weird Tales, 1938) was praised by Stephen King as “one of the finest horror stories of our century” and “Worms of the Earth” (Weird Tales, 1932) is thought by many Howard fans to be his best story. The Del Rey series of Howard’s collected fiction includes Horror, Historical Adventures and Desert Adventures, in addition to his better known Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane tales. Please see this site.
About the Narrator
Graeme Dunlop is a Software Solution Architect. Despite his somewhat mixed accent, he was born in Australia. He loves the spoken word and believes it has the ability to lift the printed word above and beyond cold words on a page. He and Barry J. Northern founded Cast of Wonders in 2011 and can be found narrating or hosting the occasional episode, or working on projects behind the scenes. He is a former co-editor and co-host of PodCastle and has read stories for all of Escape Artists podcasts.
Graeme lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife Amanda, and crazy boy dog, Jake.