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"The Curse of the Monolith" is a short story written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. It was first published in the magazine Worlds of Fantasy in 1968 as "Conan and the Cenotaph".

Plot Summary[]

On a diplomatic mission to Khitai, Conan's thirst for treasure leads him trapped and helpless before a flesh-eating monstrosity.

Detailed Synopsis[]

  • 1.
    Conan, now a Turanian captain, has been sent on a mission to western Khitai and is currently camped with his men in a forested valley. As a result of his competence and bravery saving the King's daughter some months ago, he had been given a series of difficult and important tasks, and is currently returning from delivering an important treaty to King Shu of Kusan. Hsia has appointed the sly fop Duke Feng to return to Turan with Conan as a guide.
  • 2.
    Duke Feng approaches a sleepless Conan in the night, and Conan states he feels uneasy in the area. Feng reveals this is beacuse the ancient tomb of King Hsia is nearby, full of treasure that the locals are too superstitious to take. Feng knows the location, but needs brawn to steal the treasure. Conan agrees to accompany Feng to the tomb.
  • 3.
    Later that night, Conan and Feng walk for a bit through the valley until they reach a tall stone monolith that rises into a fog atop a bush-covered hill. As they approach, a magnetic force pulls the digging tools out of Conan's hand and they slam into the monolith, as is Conan by his metal armor and helmet. When Conan opens his mouth to shout for help, Feng stuffs a silken scarf into it and explains he is part of a faction that opposes King Shudoes not want the court to have dealings with outsiders, and has lead Conan's men into a trap; he anticipates a local headhunting tribe, attracted by the campfires, to attack and kill everyone at dawn. He then begins playing an odd tune on a pipe, which attacts an amorphous blob that begins to slide down the monolith.
  • 4.
    The jelly-like creature begins to ooze down the stone, and Conan frantically struggles to break free. He manages to reach a rusted dagger and with an incredible effort, pulls part of the blade free from the monolith. He begins to cut the leather straps that hold his armor and barely yanks himself out as acidic pseudopods seeking flesh pour over his helmet. Conan races to Feng and throws him at the stone, which, luckily for Feng, knocks him unconscious before the creature begins to devour him.
  • 5.
    Conan lights the creature on fire and hurries back to camp, ordering the men to saddle up. He says Feng was killed by headhunters, and they must leave quickly, after he has a drink.


  • Conan
  • Duke Feng of Kusan
  • Khusro, Turanian soldier
  • Mulai, Turanian soldier


  • Kusan, a minor kingdom in western Khitai

Continuity Notes[]

  • Conan has been a Turanian soldier for just over a year.
Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"The People of the Summit"
"The Curse of the Monolith" Next Story:
Conan and the Spider God
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
"The People of the Summit"
"The Curse of the Monolith" Next Story:
Conan the Valiant
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
"The People of the Summit"
"The Curse of the Monolith" Next Story:
Conan the Valiant


Publication History[]

  • Worlds of Fantasy magazine (Vol. 1, No. 1, 1968, published as "Conan and the Cenotaph")
  • Conan of Cimmeria (Lancer Books, 1969, later reprinted by Ace Books)
  • Warlocks and Warriors anthology (Mayflower, 1971, ed. Douglas Hill)
  • The Conan Chronicles (Sphere Books, 1989)