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Savage Sword of Conan #184
Savage Sword of Conan Vol 1 184
Date: Apr, 1991
Cover: Lou Harrison
Writer: Larry Yakata
Penciller: Mike Docherty
Inker: Alfredo Alcala
Letterer: Jack Morelli
Title: "Disciple"

Major Characters[]


Minor Characters[]

  • Sennan: Khitai master of the broadsword, a former teacher of Conan's.
  • Eiji: A Khitai warrior from the province of Dewa who seeks out Conan's tutelage. Specializes in dual-wielding swords.
  • Ikuo: A Khitai warrior from the province of Kii who seeks out Conan's tutelage. Specializes in the use of a single Khitai broadsword.
  • Jiro: A Khitai warrior from the province of Hizen who seeks out Conan's tutelage. Specializes in the use of a spear.


  • Coast of the Vilayet Sea
    • Port city of Onarul (First appearance)
  • Vilayet Sea
  • Unnamed forest (First appearance)
  • East
    • Rou-Gen (Mentioned)
    • Uttara Kuru (Mentioned)
    • Umi-No-Mae (Mentioned)
    • Port city of Kusai (First appearance)
      • "Outskirts of a vermin city of Kusai" (First appearance)
    • Province of Dewa (Mentioned)
    • Kii (Mentioned)
    • Hizen (Mentioned)
    • Dead village of Shinu (First appearance)
    • Unnamed tavern (First appearance)
    • Great Wall (Mentioned)
  • Northland (Mentioned)


As an autumn night falls on the port city of Onarul on the coast of the Vilayet Sea, Conan ends his carousing by carrying multiple eager tavern wenches to his room for some carnal debauchery. In the early hours of the next morning, a quiet knock at the hung-over Cimmerian's door sees him come charging through the door, sword in hand, smashing the obstruction to pieces and screaming that he left warning for none to disturb him.

To his confusion, however he finds the hallway empty, save for a bundle of three chrysanthemum blossoms left at his doorstop.

Puzzled, he sets off riding into the woods, but around midday, he stumbles across a glade host to a curious sight; a kneeling Khitai man, surrounded by armed thugs, whilst other ruffians look on. One such ruffian explains that the armed thugs are bandits who tried to rob the kneeling man, but he killed three of their men. Now the survivors want vengeance. He asks if folks will bet on the outcome, and Conan throws down a bag of gold coins, declaring he will wager on the old man and act as his second.

Once the betting is over, the five thugs close on the still-kneeling Khitain, whose complete lack of motion draws mockery and jeers from all of the onlookers. But when his attackers charge him, the Khitain whips out a broadsword and effortlessly cuts them all down without even needing to rise from his kneeling position. A smirking Conan explains to the stunned onlookers that the survivor is Sennan, a master of the broadsword. As he goes to collect his winnings, several of the other gamblers protest violently, but they break and run once Conan has killed two of them.

Conan and Sennan exchange pleasantries, for not only are they old friends, but Conan studied the art of the broadsword under Sennan at some point in his life. The two set off together, traveling until night falls and they stop to eat. As they do so, Sennan asks how Conan would feel about teaching students of his own; the Cimmerian is unsure, but the Khitain tells him that knowledge must be passed on. At daybreak, after an exchange on how Sennan taught Conan to navigate by the stars, they head their separate ways; Sennan to the port city of Umi-no-Mae, east of Rou-Gen'o, where he will wait for Conan after winter's end, whilst Conan heads to Uttara Kuru. Before they separate, Conan asks who his disciple will be, and Sennan tells him that the men who left him the chrysanthemums will find him when they are ready.

Days later, Conan enters the verminous city of Kusai. Some of its local thugs seek to mug him, but by the time Conan has turned around, they've all been knocked down, with three more chrysanthemum blossoms left near the bodies. Leaving the city, he makes his way into the forest, where as night falls he finds a firepit with food and drink placed beside it - as well as three Khitai men, silently kneeling. Conan waits for them to speak, and then impatiently begins to feed, asking if they have nothing better to do than watch him eat. This earns apologies, and he promptly scolds them to stop leaving him flowers or interfering in his battles. He then cuts off their apologies, and goes to sleep.

In the morning, he wakes to find them still kneeling where he left them. He finally asks their names, and is told that they are Eiji of Dewa, Ikuo of Kii, and Jiro of Hizen. They humbly beg he take them on as disciples, and Conan gets up and storms off, telling him that if and when he does deign to do so, they'll find him a cruel master. Saddling his horse, Conan rides off, warning them to leave him alone.

Weeks later, Conan arrives at the haunted ruins of Shinu, where a demon hides caches of gold bartered by evil men willing to accept a hideous unlife rather than go to their graves. The demon will also offer all of this wealth to any lone man who can defeat the village's population of undead villains. Bold and poor, Conan enters the village and calls to the demon, accepting its challenge. But in the battle, he is overwhelmed, his sword struck from his hands... only for it to be thrown back to him. Jiro's spear and a bundle of chrysanthemums swiftly joins it, and as the three Khitains emerge from the gloom, the demon laughs; the rules of the challenge are that a man must fight the battle alone, and the three would-be apprentices interfering have caused Conan to forfeit.

Conan screams that he did not bring the disciples, but the demon vanishes with a laugh, the undead slinking back into the ruins. Turning to his unwanted saviors, Conan curses that he might have to tutor them before he ends up starving. They try to apologize, but Conan shrugs it off, gruffly admitting that he might have done the same thing.

As spring rises, Conan arrives at the house in Umi-no-Mae, where Sennan is already waiting with liquor prepared. Conan admits he has never figured out how Sennan can always do that, but his teacher asks him how it went. The rest of the story is told mostly in flashback; Conan describes his first test-battle against the trio, learning of their skills, and then leaving them to wait for several days as he figured out what to do with them.

Firstly, he forced them into the icy headwaters of a stream, making them try to hold their ground with the use of crude weights. They begged for mercy, but he reminded them that he had warned them he would be a cruel master, for their enemies will be worse. He offered them the chance to leave him, but they refused to take it.

Next, he made them practice blind-fighting in a rock-strewn field, where he used his superior skills to defeat them again and again.

He admits, in his way, to growing fond of them. The story depicts him discussing their care for his weapons and boots, which they explain as only fitting when he is teaching them such valuable skills. He goes off to be alone, but secretly doubles back to spy on them as they discuss whether or not he likes them, ultimately bantering with each other about nicknaming him. He listens to them jokingly suggest "The Big Ape", "Stone Face" and "Smiley", and then interrupts Jiro suggesting that they give him some soap and call him "Boar Breath" by returning to the circle, laying down, and casually admitting he's been called worse things.

The next training lesson he focuses on was when he made them try practicing with unusual weapons, explaining that they will not always have their preferred weapon to hand. During the sparring, Jiro was dealt a particularly savage blow, and Ikuo abandoned his weapon to go to Jiro's aid. For this, Conan scolded them furiously, warning them that they will not always be together and that if one of them dies, taking a needless risk will do the survivor(s) no good, concluding that feelings have no place in this world. They apologized for disappointing him, but he gruffly told them to forget it and sent them on to prepare for the evening, admitting to himself as they left that perhaps he had disappointed them. As he recollects to Sennan, such close, inseparable companionship was something he had never known.

Several days later, he took them to a nearby village, to give them a break from a hard training with a day of drunken relaxation. The evening of the next day, his disciples asked Conan about how he felt when he killed his first man; Conan simply replied that feelings had nothing to do with it, and there is no room for them; when someone tries to kill you, it's you or him, and the better swordsman with the stronger spirit will live to see the next dawn.

Weeks passed, and Conan's disciples grew stronger and stronger. He recollects that, one day, they asked him how they could capture the same fighter's essence that they saw in Conan, and he told them that such a thing was impossible; a fighter's essence is his own, and the best they could do is borrow his and mold it to fit their own style. After that conversation, he took them back to the village for another day of respite, but they found it had been ravaged by marauders, who had kidnapped the tavern-keeper's daughter. Under Conan's leadership, they tracked the marauders down and rescued the girl, killing the men responsible.

After that, their lessons continued, until Conan deemed that he had nothing left to teach them. He brought them with him to Umi-no-Mae, and they went their separate ways.

Sennan tells him that he has not seen the last of them. The strange creed of their homeland demands a final test, which will come soon; a final, decisive battle between master and disciples. Conan notes that it doesn't feel fair to him, and when Sennan tells him that the warriors of Khitai value an honorable death, he states that he seems to lose either way.

Two months later, on the beach at Umi-no-Mae, Conan faces his disciples. Before the battle begins, Eiji tells Conan that he will always have their gratitude, no matter the outcome.

The fight is brutal... but Conan prevails. Ikuo the swordsman is blinded. Jiro the spear-wielder loses his right leg. And Eiji, who comes closest to victory with his dual swords, has his right hand severed.

That evening, Conan returns to Sennan's house. When Conan finally brings himself to speak, Sennan comforts him, assuring him that the outcome of the battle is no fault of his teachings, but rather, that his disciples held back due to their reverence and love for Conan. If anything, Conan was too good, for such devotion is given only to a great master. He declares that the disciples, if anyone, could be said to have failed, but then proclaims that nobody truly failed in this case. He also tells Conan that the pathway of reverence and love is not a one-way street; why else, then, would Conan have struck to wound rather than to kill? Though it will be arduous, his disciples will learn to overcome their weaknesses, and become stronger for it.

As the story ends, the two set sail in a boat for Khitai, for Sennan has declared it is time that Conan see the land where his students came from. Conan wonders if he will ever meet them again, and Sennan tells him that they might cross paths some day.

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