Conan and the Spider God is a Conan novel by L. Sprague de Camp. It is unique among de Camp's contributions to the saga in that it is the only Conan story he wrote without collaboration from Lin Cater or Bjorn Nyberg. However, de Camp's wife, Catherine Crooke de Camp, is thanked by de Camp for her "editorial asistance." It is speculated that Catherine collaborated on Spider god without credit, just as she did for the the movie adaptation of 1982's Conan the Barbarian film. Catherine did not receive credit in the novel for Barbarian, but her work on it has was acknowledged by de Camp after the fact. There was only 17 months between the first publication of Conan and the Spider God and Conan the Barbarian. Both novels were published by Bantam Books.
Plot Summary[edit | edit source]
Conan has risen to the rank of Captain of the Turanian Royal Guard. But as usual, trouble is his bedfellow. Forced to kill while defending himself, Conan must flee the vengeance of the High Priest of Erlik. Foraging through field and forest, meeting friend and foe, Conan cuts a bloody swath through assassins and bounty hunters all the way to the sinister temple of Zath, where he encounters the huge and hideous Spider God. Facing certain death, Conan becomes both the hunter . . . and the hunted.
Detailed Synopsis[edit | edit source]
- I. Lust and Death
Conan, a captain in the Turanian Royal Guard, stands in a courtyard of the capital city Aghrapur and waits for the moon to disappear behind a cloud so he may race to Narkia, who had placed a candle in her window to signal the absence of her protector and an invitation to Conan. Under cover of darkness, Conan races to her window and hauls himself in. He is eager, but she is cloying, and she stalls long enough for Conan's officer, Orkhan, to burst through the doors as she falls to the bed crying rape. He manages to fend off and kill Orkhan, and leaps out the window to Narkia's curses. Conan returns to the quarters he shares with calvaryman Lyco, who, once he hears the story, assures Conan he will cover his tracks and Conan, after packing, flees. He disguises himself and takes back roads to Sultanapur, but is overtaken by a group of mounted soldiers. He prepares for a confrontation, but instead they ask if he has seen a pack of men in the company of a woman - something more important than Orkhan's slaying is occupying the soldiers of Aghrapur.
- II. The Swamp Cat
Conan heads north, past Akif, and through the Marshes of Mehar, wary of a beast called the "swamp cat." He comes across a small camp of men who warn him of the swamp cat, and suddenly the feline monster, a sort of cross between leopard and hare, appears. Conan scares the creature off with fire, but his horse, Egil, runs away. The grateful leader of the Zamorian "merchants," Harpagus, has his man Dinak assist Conan in finding the horse, and when they do, and return to camp, food is awaiting the starving Cimmerian. Throughout the evening, Conan is intrigued by a woman hidden the tent, one who Harpagus insists on keeping shrouded, though Conan places her accent as Turanian. That night, Harpagus magically hypnotizes Conan with a green gem, causing him to fall asleep and forget about the entire evening, and when Conan awakes, his horse is gone, and he has no idea what happened.
- III. The Blind Seer
Four days later, in the coastal city of Sultanapur, Conan comes to the house of an old companion, the nearly blind seer Kushad, and his daughter Tahmina When Conan explains what happened, and that the memories of the events have slowly returned to him, Kushad suspects hypnotism. Kushad also explains that Jamilah, favored wife of King Yildiz has been kidnapped, and it was likely her in the tent, which explains the meeting on the road with the soldiers. After Conan eats and cleans himself, he sits with a meditating Kushad who reveals a vision of Jamilah being taken to Zamora, likely on orders of the priests and not the king. Conan vows revenge (perhaps saving Jamilah in the process), and Kushad begins to train his mind to resist the hypnosis and illusions of the priests. Meanwhile, Tahmina warns Conan of a dream she had of him being chased through a cave by a large creature with glowing eyes. When his brief training is done, Conan, using the name Nial, races in pursuit of the Zamorans.
- IV. The Golden Dragon
For several days, Conan heads northwest out of Turan, thinking he has finally crossed the border, but is apprehended in his sleep by border guards. He is questioned, but his cover story is convincing, and they do not believe he is the Conan they are searching for. As he leaves, he is spotted by an old aquaintance and is forced to make a break for it. He escapes and makes his way to Shadizar, seeking his old friend Tigranes in a tavern. In a discussion with an out of work mercenary, Azanus, Conan learns that the priests of the spider-god Zath are in conflict with the priests of Urud for the facor of the king, and in an attempt to gain strength have begun to hire foreigners as bodyguards at the expense of local (and possibly untrustworthy) mercenaries. When Tigranes shows up, he tells Conan that emissaries of King Yildiz are seeking him, so that night Conan leaves Shadizar for Yezud. Unfortunately for Tigranes, he waits until morning to inform the authorities of Conan's whereabouts, and vows revenge when he receives a beating when it is revealed Conan already left. Meanwhile, Conan enters the village of Zamindi as a witch is being burned to death. Feeling sympathy for the old woman, he rescues her, and, in their escape, reveals she is in fact a witch when she casts an illusion to hide herself and Conan from pursuers. She tells Conan she has lived peacefully in Zamindi for years casting beneficial spells until a disease swept through the town and she was blamed, though in truth it was a scheme by a local landowner who wanted her property. She insists on assisting Conan and gives him a pouch contaning a dust of forgetfulness. Conan goes to sleep, and when he wakes, finds her dead.
- V. The City on the Crag
Conan rides for a time through a canyon with cattle herders and then the canyon splits open revealing the small hamlet of Khesron overlooked by the walled city of Yezud with its citadel dedicated to Zath. His mount, Ymir, becomes restless and is relunctant to approach the city. Conan tries to enter the city in the guise of Nial, but is told there is no more mercenary hiring today, and only priests may be in the city at night. He is directed to an inn in Khesron, and the next morning meets first with Captrain Catigern of a Brythunian mercenary company, and then to an audience with the Vicar to see about hiring. Conan wonders about the faint smell of carrion and asks about the herd of cattle that wasbrought to the city, but is silenced when he sees the vicar is in fact Harpagus, who hypnotized him on the road, but the man does not recognize an undisguised Conan. Harpagus hires Conan as a blacksmith. He also informs Conan of the many laws against drinking and fornication in the city. Morcant, to Conan's amusement, reveals that the men just head to Khesron for both. Conan is led to the forge where he meets his young apprentice, Lar, who tells Conan the the cattle is fed to the giant statue of Zath, who comes to life every night. Lar also leads Conan to a horse that refuses to be broken, which turns out to be Egil, stolen by Harpagus. Not willing to raise Harpagus's suspicions further, Conan leaves Egil where he is and gets to work.
- VI. The Temple of the Spider
Out of convenience, Conan dines at Lar's house and perks up when he hears about Lar's sister who is in service at the temple. He has Lar take him to the temple the following day, ostensibly for worship. At the assemblage, Conan stands in the great hall with other worshipers on a floor decorated with interlocking spiderwebs and facing a gigantic statue of the Spider God Zath, whose multiple eyes are made of a glowing bluish stone. Lar points out his sister, one of a group of girls dancing in honor of Zath, but then Conan must sit through sermons, hymns, and chants led by High Priest Feridun. After the service, Lar explains that criminals sentenced to die are thrown into the tunnels under the temple, where Zath takes mortal form and devours them. That night, Conan visits Keshron so he might drink, and is propositioned by the tavern owner's daughter Mandana, which inadvertantly leads to a fight with a drunken Captain Catigern. While the tavernkeeper, Bartakes, desperately tries to move the fight outside, an assassin sneaks up and tries to kill Catigern. Conan's warning saves the soldier, who manages to slay the would-be assassin, and Conan and Catigern make peace. They examine the body of the assassin, finding a scroll written in Old Zamorian. Luckily, a tavern patron, Psamitek, can translate, and it's a 10,000 gold piece bounty for the head of Conan placed by Tughril, the high priest of Erlik, though why the assassin targeted Catigern is anyone's guess. Psamitek takes the scroll and Conan and Catigern spend the rest of the night getting blind drunk.
- VII. Wine of Kyros
Some days later, Conan meets Lar's sister, Rubadeh, when he comes to Lar's home for dinner. She tells him about life in as a temple servant, and Conan convinces her to visit Bartake's Inn, even though it is forbidden for her to step foot outside of Yezud. At the Inn, Conan continues to grill a disguised Rubadeh about temple happenings. She indicates that a newly arrived Turaninan party contains Lord Parvez, a diplomat, who has met with Feridun regarding a veiled woman. Conan realizes the woman must be Jamilah, but, as the insanely wealthy priests of Zath have no need for a ransom, Conan cannot figure out what they might be bargaining for. Rubadeh then tells Conan of how one of her duties is to keep the butane flow for the sacred flame on course, through a pipe that delivers the higly flammable liquid. Suddenly, the girls starts in horror as she recognizes a priest, Darius, entering the tavern, to meet with Psamitek, but Conan calms her down. Unfortunately, attention is drawn when one of the drunken Turanians, Chagor, shows an interest in Rubadeh, thinking she's a prostitute. Darius swiftly leaves the inn as a fight breaks out, which is stopped by Parvez, who then greets Conan by name, though Conan corrects him. An amused Parvez agrees to keep Conan's secret, thinking they can, in fact, help each other. They two men compare notes on Jamilah. Parvez has arrived to try to bargain for her return, but it seems that Feridun is holding her to prevent King Yildiz from getting involved in a planned coup in Zamora. He also says that Conan is the target of hired assassins due to his affairs in Aghrapur, which likely led to the misplaced assassination attempt against Catigern earlier. He tells Conan where to find Jamilah in the temple, and gives him a magical lock-picking arrow. Conan takes his leave, and returns Rubadeh to her home.
- VIII. The Eight Eyes of Zath
For several days, Conan has no opportunity to investigate further, but soon finds himself in the temple speaking with Harpagus. He accompanies the vicar, who is directing sheep into a massive door in the side of the temple, one in which the shepherd dogs are afraid to approach. Harpagus leads Conan to his chambers and attempts to hypnotize the barbarian, but the lessons of Kushad allow Conan to resist and lie to Harpagus's questions about his intentions. Later, he finds Rubadeh and asks her about the priest's plans, which he thinks involves a plague. He then meets Pavrez at the tavern and outlines a possible plan for rescuing Jamilah (and retrieving the eight jeweled eyes of the Zath statue for himself) before attempting to get drunk again with Catigern, all the while pondering a possible life with Rubadeh.
- IX. The Powder of Forgetfulness
Some days later, Conan, returning to Yezud from a supply run to a nearby village, is sniped by an archer, who, while failing to kill Conan, kills his horse. Conan, unable to find trace of the attacker, suspects magical cloaking. Back at Yezud, Rubadeh tells Conan her trip to Kehsron has been discovered and Harpagus intends to denounce her to Feridun, a sure path to sacrifice to Zath. She refuses to live Conan's life, and he does not want to settle down, so he retreives the powder of forgetfulness and gives it to her. That night, Rubadeh throws the entire pouch in Hapagus's face, wiping his mind clean. In return, Rubadeh tells Conan where Jamilah is kept, guarded by a fierce tiger. That night, Conan goes to scout the tower where Jamilah is held prisoner.
- X. The Tiger's Fang
The next day, Conan and Parvez discuss how best to get past the tiger, ultimately deciding to put it to sleep with drugged meat. That night, Conan throws the meat to the tiger, waits for it to fall asleep, then sneaks through the garden and throws a grappling hook through the window. Once inside, he gives Jamilah a signet ring Parvez had lent him to prove his identity. The two hastily climb down the rope again, but as they prepare to scale the garden wall, the tiger awakens. Still groggy, it leaps at Conan who manages to put his scimitar through the beast's skull. They then climb the wall and, disguised, make their way through the city streets. At one point, over a temple wall, Conan overhears a conversation between Feridun and another priest, Mirzes, discussing how they will overwhelm King Mithridates with the Children of Zath, but just as quickly, they are outside the city walls. They get back to Parvez at the inn, who, while thankful Jamilah is safe, notes that his servant Chagor has gone missing. The next day, while working the forge, Conan is visisted by Mirzes, who all but accuses Conan of slaying the tiger and kidnapping Jamilah, while revealing that Parvez has fled the city. Conan scoffs at the priest, and Lar worries Conan has gone to far in insulting the priests.
- XI. The Stench of Carrion
Several days later, Rubadeh tells Conan that the priests truly do suspect him of releasing Jamilah, and only Feridun's insistence on hard evidence has kept Conan from being arrested. She also believes that Feridun is advancing his plans for revolution. As he sits in the inn contemplating his next move, which includes liberating the opals from the temple, Psamitek comes to inform him that a lady waits for him in the garden. Intrigued and confused, Conan goes outside to find a ready and willing Rubadeh finally give herself to him. She leads him away, then the image vanishes, and Chagor stands revealed, bow at hand. But as he fires his arrow, something from behind Conan flies at Chagor and interrupts his aim. Ignoring the surprising sounds of struggle behind him, Conan lunges towards Chagor before the traitorous servant can draw his bow again and kills him. Having finished Chagor, Conan whips around to see Catigern struggling with Psamitek. The two friends easily capture the Stygian, and Catigern says he was suspicious when he saw Psamitek follow Conan outside and investigated. Psamitek says Chagor had heard Parvez call Conan by his true name, and decided more money was to be had claiming Conan's bounty. Unfortunately, the Stygian's powers of illusion allow him to escape, and Catigern and Conan return to the city. Three days later, as the Festival of All Gods approaches, the temple and city fill with visiting priests. One night, taking advantage of heavy rainfall, Conan uses the magical arrow given to him by Parvez to unlock the doors to the temple and the Eyes of Zath. As he busies himself removing the opals, he is surprised by the coming of Rubadeh, who, despite her feelings for Conan, is shocked at his act of sacrilege. Even worse, priests from Arenjun who missed the festivities were being given a tour by Feridun, and they are on their way here. To Rubadeh's horror, Conan leaps into a trapdoor behind the statue which leads into a cavern under the temple. As he works his way through the tunnels, he comes across the picked-clean bones of animals, and hears a faint clicking noise. Conan starts to feel a bit nervouse as becomes lost in the maze of tunnels, and the clicking sound gets louder, until suddenly he is face to face with a giant spider. A terrified Conan turns and runs and finds a door - likely the door through which the beast is fed. He tries his magical arrow once more, but it glows red hot and melts, the door too strong for its magic. Conan pounds on the door with the hammer he was using to break out the opals, but to no avail, and the spider is upon him. Conan swings with the hammer desperately, but the creature traps him with its spindly, hairy legs. Before its dripping fangs can bite Conan, it is distracted by Rabadeh, who had followed Conan. The spider turns and bites the girl, killing her, before skittering off for reasons unknown. Conan takes Rabadeh's body, determined to bury her, but, as the priests are still in the chamber, he has no choice but to continue searching the tunnels.
- XII. The Children of Zath
Eventually, Conan finds his way into a cavern with a pool of water and an exposed roof. Unfortunately, the cavern is also full of hundreds of giant spiders, who turn and glare at Conan as he approaches. He turns and runs, burdened by the body, but manages to outpace the creatures until he returns to the trap door, and, pushing through, finds Mirzes on the other side. Conan knocks the priest out and rushes to secure the door against the swarming spiders. Unfortunately, Conan's torch lights up oil that Mirzes spilled when Conan surprised hinm, and the room bursts into flames. Conan desperately tries to pry the opals from their sockets but has to flee when Zath himself bursts through the flaming trap door. Conan, under cover of smoke, blends into the guards and priests when they enter the chamber to see what the commotion is, then swiftly run when they spot Zath. Feridun tries to control the spider, but a coughing fit gives Zath the opportunity to slay the high priest. Working together, Catigern and Conan, with the judicious use of polearms, manage to kill the creature. As the citizens work to put out the fire, Conan assists briefly and then takes his leave, reclaiming the horse that Harpagus had taken from him some time ago. On his way out of town, he speaks with Catigern, who tells him that Harpagus has lost his mind and Mirzes died in the fire. Conan finally hits the open road, but is attacked by Psamitek, whose magic nearly defeats Conan, until a desperately croaked order from Conan to his horse causes the well-trained steed to brain the shocked Stygian. Conan takes Psamitek's money, and burns the bounty scroll, leaving the Stygian for the hyenas.
Characters[edit | edit source]
- Narkia, Turanian seductress
- Orkhan, Turanian captain *
- Lyco, Khorshemish cavalryman
- Harpagus, Zamorian vicar of Zath
- Dinak, Zamorian merchant
- Jamilah, Turanian wife of King Yildiz
- Kushad, Turanian seer
- Tahmina, Kushad's daughter
- Arslan, Aidin, Khusro, Turanian border guards
- Azanus, Zamoran mercenary
- Tigranes, Zamoran tavern owner
- Nyssa, Komathi witch *
- Captain Catigern, Brythunian mercenary
- Morcant, Brythunian mercenary
- Lar, Zamorian blacksmith apprentice
- Amytis, Lar's mother
- Feridun, High Priest of Zath *
- Bartakes, Zamorian tavern owner
- Mandana, Zamorian tavern wench
- Psamitek, Stygian scholar *
- Rubadeh, Lar's sister; temple servant
- Darius, Zamoran priest of Zath
- Chagor, Turanian swordsman; servant of Parvez
- Parvez, Turanian diplomat
- Mirzes, minor priest of Zath *
* - dies in this story
Locations[edit | edit source]
- The Marshes of Mehar (bordering the Vilayet Sea)
Continuity Notes[edit | edit source]
"The Curse of the Monolith"
|Conan and the Spider God||Next Story:|
"The Blood-Stained God"
|Robert Jordan Chronology|
"The Lair of the Ice Worm"
|Conan and the Spider God||Next Story:|
Conan the Defender
|William Galen Gray Chronology|
Conan the Valiant
|Conan and the Spider God||Next Story:|
"The Blood-Stained God"
Adaptions[edit | edit source]
Publication History[edit | edit source]
- Bantam (paperback) December 1980
- Robert Hale (hardcover) 1984
- Ace (paperback) April 1989, reprinted August 1991
- TOR (hardcover) in 2002, (paperback) June 2003, collected with Conan the Swordsman and Conan the Liberator into Sagas of Conan (trade paperback) 2004.