The Weird Tales of Conan, Vol. 7
The Hour of the Dragon – A stirring and exciting weird story about a barbarian adventurer who made himself a king, and the strange talismanic jewel, known as the Heart of Ahriman which brings a long dead necromancer back to life.
The Hour of the Dragon (1935) – A stirring and exciting weird story about a barbarian adventurer who made himself a king, and the strange talismanic jewel, known as the Heart of Ahriman which brings a long dead necromancer back to life.
The Hour of the Dragon
- O Sleeper, Awake!
- A Black Wind Blows
- The Cliffs Reel
- “From What Hell Have You Crawled?”
- The Haunter of the Pits
- The Thrust of a Knife
- The Rending of the Veil
- Dying Embers
- “It Is the King or His Ghost!”
- A Coin From Acheron
- Swords of the South
- The Fang of the Dragon
- “A Ghost Out of the Past”
- The Black Hand of Set
- The Return of the Corsair
- Black-Walled Khemi
- “He Has Slain the Sacred Son of Set!”
- “I Am the Woman Who Never Died”
- In the Hall of the Dead
- Out of the Dust Shall Acheron Arise
- Drums of Peril
- The Road to Acheron
Born and raised in Texas, Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936) dreamed of becoming a fiction writer from the age of nine. Howard is best known for his Conan the Barbarian stories. These were the culmination of the “Swords and Sorcery” genre of adventure he was instrumental in developing. The first Conan story, The Phoenix on the Sword was actually a Kull story that had been rejected and that he reworked.
The Hour of the Dragon contains 6 illustrations.
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Excerpt: The Hour of the Dragon
1. O Sleeper, Awake!
THE long tapers flickered, sending the black shadows wavering along the walls, and the velvet tapestries rippled. Yet there was no wind in the chamber. Four men stood about the ebony table on which lay the green sarcophagus that gleamed like carven jade. In the upraised right hand of each man a curious black candle burned with a weird greenish light. Outside was night and a lost wind moaning among the black trees.
Inside the chamber was tense silence, and the wavering of the shadows, while four pairs of eyes, burning with intensity, were fixed on the long green case across which cryptic hieroglyphics writhed, as if lent life and movement by the unsteady light. The man at the foot of the sarcophagus leaned over it and moved his candle as if he were writing with a pen, inscribing a mystic symbol in the air. Then he set down the candle in its black gold stick at the foot of the case, and mumbling some formula unintelligible to his companions, he thrust a broad white hand into his fur-trimmed robe. When he brought it forth again it was as if he cupped in his palm a ball of living fire.
The other three drew in their breath sharply, and the dark, powerful man who stood at the head of the sarcophagus whispered: “The Heart of Ahriman!” The other lifted a quick hand for silence. Somewhere a dog began howling dolefully, and a stealthy step padded outside the barred and bolted door. But none looked aside from the mummy-case over which the man in the ermine-trimmed robe was now moving the great flaming jewel while he muttered an incantation that was old when Atlantis sank. The glare of the gem dazzled their eyes, so that they could not be sure of what they saw; but with a splintering crash, the carven lid of the sarcophagus burst outward as if from some irresistible pressure applied from within, and the four men, bending eagerly forward, saw the occupant—a huddled, withered, wizened shape, with dried brown limbs like dead wood showing through moldering bandages.
“Bring that thing back?” muttered the small dark man who stood on the right, with a short, sardonic laugh. “It is ready to crumble at a touch. We are fools-“
“Shhh!” It was an urgent hiss of command from the large man who held the jewel. Perspiration stood upon his broad white forehead and his eyes were dilated. He leaned forward, and, without touching the thing with his hand, laid on the breast of the mummy the blazing jewel. Then he drew back and watched with fierce intensity, his lips moving in soundless invocation.
It was as if a globe of living fire flickered and burned on the dead, withered bosom. And breath sucked in, hissing, through the clenched teeth of the watchers. For as they watched, an awful transmutation became apparent. The withered shape in the sarcophagus was expanding, was growing, lengthening. The bandages burst and fell into brown dust. The shriveled limbs swelled, straightened. Their dusky hue began to fade.
“By Mitra!” whispered the tall, yellow-haired man on the left “He was not a Stygian. That part at least was true.”
Again a trembling finger warned for silence. The hound outside was no longer howling. He whimpered, as with an evil dream, and then that sound, too, died away in silence, in which the yellow-haired man plainly heard the straining of the heavy door, as if something outside pushed powerfully upon it. He half turned, his hand at his sword, but the man in the ermine robe hissed an urgent warning: “Stay! Do not break the chain! And on your life do not go to the door!”
THE yellow-haired man shrugged and turned back, and then he stopped short, staring. In the jade sarcophagus lay a living man: a tall, lusty man, naked, white of skin, and dark of hair and beard. He by motionless, his eyes wide open, and blank and unknowing as a newborn babe’s. On his breast the great jewel smoldered and sparkled.
The man in ermine reeled as if from some let-down of extreme tension.
“Ishtar!” he gasped. “It is Xaltotun! —and he lives! Valerius! Tarascus! Amalric! Do you see? Do you see? You doubted me—but I have not failed! We have been close to the open gates of hell this night, and the shapes of darkness have gathered close about us—aye, they followed him to the very door—but we have brought the great magician back to life.”
“And damned our souls to purgatories everlasting, I doubt not,” muttered the small, dark man, Tarascus.
The yellow-haired man, Valerius, laughed harshly.
“What purgatory can be worse than life itself? So we are all damned together from birth. Besides, who would not sell his miserable soul for a throne?”
“There is no intelligence in his stare, Orastes,” said the large man.
“He has long been dead,” answered Orastes. “He is as one newly awakened. His mind is empty after the long sleep-nay, he was dead, not sleeping. We brought his spirit back over the voids and gulfs of night and oblivion. I will speak to him.”
He bent over the foot of the sarcophagus, and fixing his gaze on the wide dark eyes of the man within, he said, slowly: “Awake, Xaltotun!”
The lips of the man moved mechanically. “Xaltotun!” he repeated in a groping whisper.
“You are Xaltotun!” exclaimed Orastes, like a hypnotist driving home his suggestions. “You are Xaltotun of Python, in Acheron.”
A dim flame flickered in the dark eyes.”
“I was Xaltotun,” he whispered. “I am dead.”
“You are Xaltotun!” cried Orastes. “You are not dead! You live!”
“I am Xaltotun,” came the eery whisper. “But I am dead. In my house in Khemi, in Stygia, there I died.”
“And the priests who poisoned you mummified your body with their dark arts, keeping all your organs intact!” exclaimed Orastes. “But now you live again! The Heart of Ahriman has restored your life, drawn your spirit back from space and eternity.”
“The Heart of Ahriman!” The flame of remembrance grew stronger. “The barbarians stole it from me!”
“He remembers,” muttered Orastes. “Lift him from the case.”
The others obeyed hesitantly, as if reluctant to touch the man they had recreated, and they seemed not easier in their minds when they felt firm muscular flesh, vibrant with blood and life, beneath their fingers. But they lifted him upon the table, and Orastes clothed him in a curious dark velvet robe, splashed with gold stars and crescent moons, and fastened a cloth-of-gold fillet about his temples, confining the black wavy locks that fell to his shoulders. He let them do as they would, saying nothing, not even when they set him in a carven throne-like chair with a high ebony back and wide silver arms, and feet like golden claws. He sat there motionless, and slowly intelligence grew in his dark eyes and made them deep and strange and luminous. It was as if long-sunken witchlights floated slowly up through midnight pools of darkness.
Excerpt From: Robert E. Howard. “The Hour of the Dragon.”
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