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"Moon of Blood" is a short story written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, featuring Conan of Cimmeria, and first published in the collection Conan the Swordsman in 1978.

Plot Summary[]

Conan leads a band of Aquilonians against a serpent-controlling shaman and his Pictish horde. After uncovering a treasonous plot by an Aquilonian general, Conan beheads the shaman, drives off the Picts, and gains favor from the king.

Detailed Synopsis[]

  • 1. The Owl That Cried by Day
    A well-armed and armored Captain Conan of the Aquilonian Frontier Guard surveys a seemingly empty clearing with Lieutenant Flavius. Although the Picts they are prepared to war against seem to have deserted the territory, Conan is suspicious, both of the Picts and of the scouts of General Lucian, who assure him the Picts have fled. Soon, Captain Arno brings a column of Gundermen and Bossonians into view, much to Conan's annoyance, as his silent reconnaisance is ruined now. As Conan prepares the men to move out, he hears an owl hoot, and as it is midday, he takes it as a warning and yells for the men to prepare for an attack. Suddenly, the forest comes alive as a horde of Picts burst through.
  • 2. Death from the Trees
    Conan and Arno's men quickly get into a disciplined formation and meet the Pict charge. Although they outnumber the Aquilonians ten to one, after a brief, fierce fight the Picts break and run back into the cover of the forest. After a short rest and conference with his officers, Conan leads the army into the forest. Soon, deadly snakes begin to drop from the trees, felling many Aquilonians, incluing Arno, and when the Picts burst forth to renew their attack, the vast majority of the Aquilonian army flees in terror back toward Velitrium. Conan heads in the opposite direction, with Flavius close behind, and the Picts follow the army, leaving Conan and Flavius free to continue on their journey.
  • 3. Blood Money
    The two men make their way to The Council Rocks, the Pict's meeting place. They cover their helms with leaves and branches and crouch down in a nearby river to observe the gathering Picts. They see several clans brought together, heralding bad news for Aquilonia if someone has managed to unite the tribes. Soon, the unruly Picts are silenced by the approach of a shaman, Sagayetha, who is accompanied by Edric, the Aqulionian scout in the employ of General Lucian who told Conan that the Picts had deserted the area! In payment for leading the Aquilonian army into an ambush, Sagayetha brings forth a trunk of gold, recently stolen from Fort Tuscelan, to be delivered to Lucian. Flavius is horrified, but Conan is not surprised. When the Picts leave, the two men leave their hiding place and make their way back to Velitrium. Conan explains to Flavius that while Lucian is the military governor of the region, local nobles have petitioned King Numedides to add the area to their lands, which will end Lucian's temporary rule. He is likely simply trying to get rich and stir up some trouble for one of the lords, Baron Thasperas of Schohira.
  • 4. Moonlight on Gold
    Conan and Flavius, safely back in Velitrium, are debriefed by the officers Laodamas and Glyco. Although Laodamas is incredulous that a noble like General Lucian could be a traitor, Glyco takes a more measured response, noting both Conan and Flavius's loyalty and honor. Conan offers proof of Lucian's betrayal - the treasure chest of gold, which should be arriving to Lucian very soon across the Thunder River. The four men lay in wait at a deserted pier, and, close to dawn, they hear a boat rowing to shore. Several men haul the chest out of the boat, and at that moment Conan and the others reveal themselves. While most of the men get back in the boat and quickly row away, one man is caught, and by luck it is Edric, Lucian's scout. He refuses to talk, so he is bound and marched back to the fort while Conan caries the massive chest of gold.
  • 5. The General is Shaved
    Under threat of torture, Edric confesses to Lucian's treason, and reveals that Lucian planned to hand Schohira to the Picts. Conan is furious that good men died under his watch under Lucian's orders and tells Glyco and Laodamas to round up the men they trust; Conan will lead them against Lucian. Laodamas is hesitant, but his superior, Glyco, overrules him. The officers soon lead forth men to Lucian's abode, and demand the general show himself. Lucian casually comes forth and has his servants shave him while he listens. Conan reveals the chest, to Lucian's shock, which confirms to everyone the story is true. Lucian tosses the soapy shaving water at Conan, kicks the chest over causing the money to fly away and distract the soldiers, and leaps on his horse. He escapes, although he is ruined, and Conan is more concerned with the Pictish menace.
  • 6. Massacre Meadow
    Glyco and Laodamas are wary of the Pictish shaman Sagayetha's mystical control of serpents, but Conan dismisses their concerns and plots the likely route of the Pictish invaders. The small band of men wait near South Creek by the Council Rocks. When the first Picts stream into the clearing, the Aquilonian pikemen and archers make swift work of them. The Picts hoped to lure the army into the forest to try the serpent dropping trick again, but Conan is wise to them. They know that the Sagayetha's serpents will instead come streaming out of the forest, and, with darkness approaching, the men know they will be hard pressed to stop them. Conan decides to enter the forest alone looking for Sagayetha.
  • 7. Serpent Magic
    Conan sneaks his way around the Pictish camp, searching for the source of the magical drum beatings. He dispatches a sentry in front of Sagayetha's tent, but when he quietly prepares to bring his axe down on an unsuspecting Sagayetha, he is attacked by a giant viper and bitten. Conan kills the creature, but the poison weakens him considerably. Sagayetha turns to attack Conan, but Conan manages to take the shaman's head. He then does his best to suck the poison of his wound out, which is already discoloring his arm, and, as the sound of the impatient Picts preparing for battle rises outside, leaves with Sagayetha's head.
  • 8. Blood on the Moon
    Conan stumbles into the Aquilonian camp and takes command of the cavalry. He puts Sagayetha's head atop his axe rushes into battle. The Aquilonian army begins chanting, "Sagayetha is dead," which spooks the Picts into retreat, making them easy pickings for the Aquilonians. Conan finally succumbs to his wounds and falls from his horse. He awakens days later to find his has been promoted to General and that King Numedides has personally invited him to court.


  • Conan
  • Flavius (Aquilonian lieutenant)
  • Arno (Aquilonian captain)
  • Sagayetha (Pictish shaman)
  • Edric (Aquilonian scout)
  • Laodamas (Aquilonian officer)
  • Glyco (Aquilonian officer)


  • Aquilonia, at the fortress Velitrium and environs.

Continuity Notes[]

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"Beyond the Black River"
"Moon of Blood" Next Story:
"The Black Stranger"/The Treasure of Tranicos
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
"Beyond the Black River"
"Moon of Blood" Next Story:
"The Black Stranger"/The Treasure of Tranicos
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
"Beyond the Black River"
"Moon of Blood" Next Story:
"The Black Stranger"/The Treasure of Tranicos


Publication History[]