“Who are you?” he whispered.
“Conan, a Cimmerian,” answered the other. “I came seeking a way to steal Yara’s jewel, that men call the Elephant’s Heart.”
Conan sensed the man’s great belly shaking in laughter, but it was not derisive. “By Bel, god of thieves!” hissed Taurus. “I had thought only myself had courage to attempt that poaching. These Zamorians call themselves thieves — bah! Conan, I like your grit. I never shared an adventure with anyone, but by Bel, we’ll attempt this together if you’re willing.”
Occasionally, I discover stories much later than I ought to have. When, for instance, I missed Brian Jacques in secondary school and became a Redwall fanatic just as I was getting ready to get married. Or when I idly picked up a Discworld novel in the library.
Or today, when I met a silent stranger in a dodgy tavern.
He saw a tall, strongly made youth standing beside him. This person was as much out of place in that den as a gray wolf among mangy rats of the gutters. His cheap tunic could not conceal the hard, rangy lines of his powerful frame, the broad heavy shoulders, the massive chest, lean waist, and heavy arms. His skin was brown from outland suns, his eyes blue and smoldering; a shock of tousled black hair crowned his broad forehead. From his girdle hung a sword in a worn leather scabbard.
I write and study fantasy and fairy tale, so the meeting was inevitable, really. When I began to read “The Tower of the Elephant,” however, I was instantly gripped in Howard’s storytelling. Here was a fire that kindled many others, a relentless, restless energy that could not be contained in a single story. Here was the stuff of legend. Here was Conan.
Read the story with me, and let’s talk about it–one of the undisputed masterpieces of sword and sorcery. You can find it here, or here if you prefer it on a single page.
[DISCLAIMER: There are no spoilers in the following article. Really! I’ll assume you read the story, but I won’t spoil it for anybody. It’s just to exquisite to anybody ruin the first reading for you. Just go read it. I’ll wait.]