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Conan the Warlord is a pastiche Conan novel by Leonard Carpenter first published by TOR books in 1988 as a mass-market paperback with a cover by Ken Kelly. It was Carpenter's third Conan TOR novel, following Conan the Renegade and Conan the Raider.

Synopsis[]

In the ancient land of Nemedia, Conan of Cimmeria agrees to impersonate Baron Einharson's son and heir in order to escape a foul prison cell -- at least until he can escape completely, with a pouch full of gold. Calissa, the Baron's sensuous daughter, has other plans for Conan, as does Evadne, the voluptuous rebel maiden. Palace intrigues swirl -- poison in the cup and the assassin's dagger in the dark -- and Conan must lead the army of Dinander against the Cult of the Snake, the demon which burns and slays all whom it does not convert to half-serpent slaves of an ancient evil. In mouldering tombs the dead Lords of Einharson stir, and rise to strike down any who would threaten their line.

Chapter Headings[]

  • Prologue: The Skeleton Troop
  • 1. The Dance of the Cubs
  • 2. The Manse
  • 3. The Schooling
  • 4. The Shrine in the Crypt
  • Interlude: The Plain of Smokes
  • 5. Sword and Lash
  • 6. Nectar and Poison
  • 7. Favian's Ride
  • 8. River of Blood
  • 9. Death's Eager Bride
  • 10. Succession by Steel
  • 11. The Warlords
  • 12. Milord Barbarian
  • 13. The March into Hell
  • 14. Dawn of Blood
  • 15. The Thousand-Tongued Serpent
  • 16. The Head of the Serpent
  • 17. Homecoming
  • 18. The Sword of Einhar
  • Epilogue: The Chariot

Plot Summary[]

Again running afoul of a local constabulary, Conan finds himself in the dungeon of Dinander City in the northeastern province of Dinander, Nemedia. As in the preceding Howard story, "Rogues in the House", an upper-class member of society comes to the jail to free Conan in order to use him to their own ends, because only he can help them. This time it is a Chief Marshal, working for a Baron, instead of an aristocrat.

Conan is freed from prison to pose as the bodyguard for the son of the Baron of Dinander and also to play the body-double for him on an upcoming tour of the province, thereby keeping the Baron's successor safe from assassination by a tenacious rebellion.

It seems that the Baron participated in military raids into Cimmeria a generation ago and returned with a captive Cimmerian woman who he later married. After bearing him two children, she was recently poisoned by an unknown assassin. Their son bears more than a passing resemblance to Conan allowing for the charade to be attempted.

Courtly intrigue ensues but the rebels succeed in taking control of the Barony. The Baron and his son both die and Conan is installed as the new Baron (still playing his role as the Baron's son) by a Council of rebels and Baronial military leaders who use him as a figurehead to forestall invasion by other Barons or the King of Nemedia.  

Before long however, the growing threat of the Snake-cult in the swamps on the eastern border between Nemedia and Brythunia prompts two neighboring Barons to arrive in Dinander, demanding that the young Baron commit his own forces to their campaign to obliterate the threat.  

Conan not only does so, but joins the campaign and leads it to a successful conclusion.  Returning to Dinander the conquering hero, he proceeds through the celebrating city to the Baron's home but there he is arrested by the Council who have, in Conan's absence, thrown their support behind the Baron's previously mad daughter.       

Later that night, Conan escapes from his chains and, at the novel's end, is headed towards, "...the jeweled cities of the south," to resume his career as a thief.       

Characters[]

  • Lar - farm-boy living on the edge of the Varakiel Marsh. Corrupted by the Trove of Set into the leader of the Serpent Cult.
  • Lar's father - [un-named] a brief appearance.
  • Lar's mother - [un-named] a brief appearance.
  • Stopla - prisoner in Dinander's city dungeon
  • Rudo - prisoner in Dinanders's city dungeon (along with Conan)
  • Falmar - prisoner in Dinanders's city dungeon.
  • Fletta - interrogator in Dinander's city dungeon; taller than average and moon-faced.
  • Iron Guardsmen - soldiers in Dinander's elite army.  They wear black-metal caps and cuirasses and wield long curved sabres.
  • Durwald - Grand Marshall (commander) of the Baron of Dinander's forces. Lean and distinguished looking. Sports trim black mustachios. Calm and taciturn when surveying a battle in the city dungeon.  Whispers a word to a lesser officer who quickly executes it.
  • Swinn-  The chief charioteer of the Baron.
  • Vastian Farmers - mentioned by name only.  Eastern Nemedians who, along with Border Kingdom settlers, tried to establish a colony in south-eastern Cimmeria.
  • Bladomer Einharson - Baron of Dinander. "His face seemed the very sculpture of serene leadership, his gray mustache and side-whiskers softening the severity of his strong-arched nose and firm chin. But as his head finished turning to fix both eyes on the new arrivals, Conan saw with unease that its noble symmetry was hideously broken. A livid, crookedly healed scar ran from one eye down to the corner of the man's mouth; in consequence his lip seemed to be raised perpetually at one side in an imperious smirk. The eye above it looked to be functional, if somewhat watery compared to its twin; now both eyes regarded Conan keenly with frequent, birdlike blinks." The Baron is obsessively focused on protecting his son's life after being injured years earlier in the groin (and face) during the last Brythunian border war. House gossip is that he can no longer sire more children.
  • Svoretta - The Baron's espionage master. "[he] had an air of intense ordinariness. He wore his humble wool jerkin belted so tightly that bulges of soft fat projected above and below his waist. Close-shaven and spottily complected, he carried himself with something of a strut." Steadily grown his political power at court since the Baron was injured. Leads the most powerful faction at court at the time of the novel.
  • King Laslo - King of Nemedia (mentioned by name only). Not held in high regard locally in Dinander...characterized as Fopish.
  • Favian Einharson - Son of Baldomer.  Close in age to Conan as well as in physical looks, if not as muscular.  Despite Baldomer's obsession with keeping him alive, the Baron is never satisfied with anything Favian does...perhaps because he's failing at all the traditional masculine stuff the Baron throws at him and he likes to get drunk and have sex...like most 18 year old boys.
  • Eubold - fencing-master of Baron Baldomer.
  • Ludya - Kitchen worker/serving girl. "a curly haired young woman, a Nemedian farm girl of medium height and comely appearance. The lushness of her shape was shown off by a girdle of bright yarns laced around her narrow waist, joining her flimsy white blouse and knee-length skirt. She glanced at Conan appraisingly-with eyes that had been artfully shadowed, probably by means of chimney soot." She has traveled to the Dinander city from her home in the Varakiel marshes in order to see if she can improve her fortunes.
  • Lady Heldra - a now deceased Cimmerian woman, mother of Favian and Clarissa.  For some unexplained reason Baldomer brought her back from the northern campaigns and then married her. People remember her as beautiful and kind. Those campaigns would have taken place in South-eastern Cimmeria, so presumably she is from a clan in that region. She was poisoned using a meat-pie. Supposedly it was meant for her husband. Heldra had the ability to draw the Baron out of his darkest glooms (probably a walk in the park compared to her training by Cimmerian women on how to draw Cimmerian men out of their racially traditional black moods).
  • Lothian - senior counselor and minister of protocol to the Baron.  Aged and grey-haired with a carefully curled beard.
  • Arga - the Baron's farrier.
  • Velda - chief cook of the Barons house; fat and bawdy
  • Glin - scullery boy in the kitchens; tow headed and sly
  • Lokey - kitchen hand; half-witted from a childhood mule-kick
  • Horde of Set - plain farmers and working folk who are converted by the venom carried in the fangs of the infected.
  • Chariot driver of Lar - (un-named) originally a smith of some kind, converted by the Infection of Set
  • Bodyguard of Lar - (un-named) originally a swamp-dwelling trapper, converted by the Infection of Set
  • Hedge wizard - member of a warlock's guild. A scrawny, elderly man with a wild look in his eyes; grey and bushy hair; yellowed decayed teeth; white puckered lips.  Wears a necklace of bone and tooth beads around its neck.  Has a grimy medicine bag suspended from the necklace. Has watery flashing eyes. Shows no sign of any vast or preternatural power.
  • Dru - Armorer of the Baron.
  • Arnulf - [mentioned by name only] Lieutenant in the Einharson forces. Beaten by Favian and his cronies for not being able to pay his gambling debts at dice.
  • Calissa - Daughter of Baldomir and Heldra, sister to Favian. A political moderate (compared to the baron) who believes that reducing taxes will stimulate the economy and foster peace.  But as a woman her opinion is not valued.  Hopes that her close relationship with Favian will allow her to have more influence on public policy.
  • Ralfic - Son of a minor noble who once caroused with Favian at a rural peasant wedding
  • Iron Guardsmen - Baronial troops, house guards to the Baron.
  • Squire Ulf - Lord of Edram Castle. Master of the crossing of the Urlaub River. Willing to name as "rebels" anyone evading the high tolls for crossing his river-bridge.
  • Evadne - one of the temple school rebels. Also a rebel glimpsed by Conan at various times to this point. Uses prima nocte rights of Favian to kill him. Widowed on her wedding night by the battle for the Manse.
  • Sigmark - Baron of a neighboring Barony...marched troops into Dinander to force Dinander's aid against the snakecult. "...a short, slender man with cruelly handsome features; and aquiline nose and cynical dark eyes," and a sharp chin.
  • Ottislav - Baron of a neighboring Barony...marched troops into Dinander to force Dinander's aid against the Cult of Set. "A bald, mustached warlord decked in gold chains and bristling with furs...his sole, invariable reply was the word "Haw!" -spoken sharply, with a twitch of his greasy whiskers and an unpleasant leer."
  • Eggar Einharsson -Cousin to Baldomer...next male heir in line for the succession. Already an old man.

Locations[]

  • Verakiel marsh - vast region separating central/north-central Nemedia from Brythunia.  Contains a raised plain, unsettled by men, nearer to the Nemedian side of the border, where a whole ancient army is impaled on spikes. The Trove of Set is found by Lar among this dead army.
  • Barony of Dinander - North-eastern Nemedia
  • Dinander City - capital of the province of Dinander.  Has various locations such as the city dungeons, Baron's estate, the Catacombs underneath the estate, the Temple School, the Guild-hall, etc.
  • Ducal manse - the estate of the Baron of Dinander.  The estate is surrounded by outer walls.  The square, stone house itself was created by closing the gap between 4 round defensive towers.  The main entrance is a set of great double doors opening onto a broad stone porch.  
  • Fort Ulau - Border Kingdom fort (mentioned by name only).
  • Copper mines - punishment for criminals was a lifetime of forced labour.
  • Belverus - capital of Nemedia (mentioned by name only)
  • Edram Castle -  Castle of Squire Ulf, guards the only crossing of the Urlaub river for miles in either direction. Lies on the far side of "the haunted fells" and a region of hills, to the east of Dinander City.  Five round towers with conical roofs enclosing a central courtyard.  Overlooks the triple-arched stone bridge spanning the river.
  • Un-named hamlet - Squire Ulf identifies the hamlet as a hotbed of rebel activity.  The Baron's and Squire's men destroy the village, which turns out to be the site of an unauthorized river-ferry used by farmers to circumvent the Squire's bridge tolls.  
  • Baronial Crypt - Accessed through the back of a large store-room in a mundane part of the estate.
  • Hut of a rural-wizard - defeated by the snake cult, a warlocks's guild member. Manages to send birds with messages to warn other members of his guild. 
  • The Temple School - one of the buildings on the main raid through Dinander City..."marble porticoes lined with young male and female acolytes." 
  • Municipal Barracks - gray, battlemented stronghold where the town's dungeons are located. 
  • The Guild-hall - A spired, broadly-arched building on Dinander's central cobbled plaza. 
  • Sharken Hills - hills between Sigmark's Barony and Barony Dinander. 
  • Ruthalia -  a province that is not traditionally ruled by Sigmarck that was occupied by his troops in the past until King Laslo ordered him to desist. 
  • Kletsk - village in Ottislav's Barony; it and the surrounding farms were destroyed by the snakecult. 

Noteworthy Items[]

  • The Trove of Set - Shaped like the head of a golden serpent, this jewel-case has green gems for eyes and clear jeweled fangs, with hinges at the back of the head.  The inside of the head is polished white gold, the bottom of the case is covered with blood-red gems with a golden tongue extending up through them.  On the forked tongue rests a jeweled garland. The fangs carry the Infection of Set.
  • Mindworm of Set - small and black and gleaming, the object seems to wiggle like a thin, sinuous tadpole.  administered orally to worm out information from an unwilling uncooperative subject.  
  • The Creeping Palsy - >a malady that exists in Dinander's dungeon (perhaps Dinander in general). Transferred by touching a body/corpse infected with it.
  • Sacred Sword of Einhar - Enchanted/cursed sword with a crossed guard.  A 6-pointed amulet worn by the senior heir of the House of Einharson strongly resembles the crossed guard, handle and blade of the old sword. The sword is capable of animating the dead ancestors (and their retainers) from the Einharson crypt if the amulet is ever removed from the neck of an Einharson heir, a.k.a.Einhar's curse. Conan removes the handle of the old sword from the manse, when he escapes at the end of the novel, and throws it in an unnamed lake.

Publication history[]

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