"The Snout in the Dark" is a story fragment by Robert E. Howard written in the 1930s but not finished or published during his lifetime. It was completed by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter and published for the first time in the collection Conan of Cimmeria. The original fragment was finally published in the 2000 collection The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle.

Plot Summary[edit | edit source]

Conan becomes captain of the guard in a Kushite city at the same time a lord uses a legendary demon to begin his plans to take over.

Howard Fragment[edit | edit source]

Howard's untitled story synopsis takes place in the walled city of Shumballa in the land of Kush, inhabited by warlike blacks called Gallahs, though the lighter-skinned aristocratic rulers are called Chagas. A Gallah commander is slain by a pig-like monster sent by the noble Tuthmes who intends to throw suspicion on Tanada, sister of the king. Part of his plan is to present the king with a white slave, Diana, who he has recently captured. When Tanada rides through the city outside the walls, known as Punt, she is attacked by a mob and rescued by Conan, who is made captain. Conan then puts down an uprising and gains the approval of the king. Meanwhile, Tanada kidnaps Diana, who has attracted Conan's eye, and the witch-finder Agara discovers Tuthmes is behind the murder of the commander. Tuthmes has Agara killed, or so he believes, and Diana, unable to reveal Tuthmes's plans to Tanada, is taken by Conan to his home, where Tuthmes has sent the monster to kill them both. Conan battles the creature into the streets where a sorceror is being executed, and a still alive Agara appears to accuse Tuthmes. The crowd wildly attacks Tuthmes, the royals, and the city itself as Conan and Diana escape.

Detailed Synopsis[edit | edit source]

  • 1. The Thing in the Dark
    The imprisoned and chained Amboola awakens in a cell, hazily remembering being thrown there by Queen Tanada, who wrongly suspected him of conspiring with her cousin Aahmes to overthrow her. He realizes that he is not alone in the cell, a shape condensing out of the foggy air. The first thing he sees is a pig-like snout forming, then a bulky, humanoid baboon-like creature with a piggish, tusked head. The creature leaps at and devours Amboola, then fades away.
  • 2. The Invisible Terror
    The nobleman Tuthmes greets the minister Afari, who has brought news of Amboola's death. While Afari believes it is the work of a demon, Tuthmes leans towards Tanada having had Amboola murdered. Tuthmes tells Afari to have the Black Spears slay the guards outside Amboola's cell and to spread word that Amboola's death was ordered by Tanada to other nobles and to the witch-smeller Ageera. When Afari leaves, Tuthmes summons Mulu, an exiled wizard of Kordafa who had summoned the demon on Tuthmes's orders to drive a wedge between Tanada and the nobles. Tuthmes also reveals that Afari was behind the false information about Amboola's treachery, and he decides to keep a close on on the minister. He dismisses Mulu and contemplates the city of Meroe, divided into an Inner City of richer, half-white Stygian descendants, and the Outer City populated by native black Kushites, and then finds his servant Shubba and tells him to find her a suitable white Shemite woman.
  • 3. Tanada Rides
    The next morning, Queen Tanada and her bodyguards ride through the city on the way to her regular hunt, but word has spread about her possible part in Amboola's death, and the city's throngs start to press in on her. She notices a white rider on the side steet observing, but as the royal entourage pushes its way through the crowd, they are set upon by old Ageera, who bluntly accuses her of Amboola's murder, and the crowd turns bloodthirsty, tearing Tanada from her horse and her clothes and dragging her through the streets to the temple of Jullah before anyone can react. The white stranger, Conan, leaps from his horse and cuts a path to Tanada with his broadsword, and pulls her to safety as the crowd scatters. When the captain of the guard finally reaches her side, Tanada signals for him to be summarily executed for his failure. Conan is appreciative of the woman's leadership and lack of clothing, and Tanada immediately offers to make him captain of the guard, which the penniless Conan readily accepts.
  • 4. The Golden Slave
    Several days later Shubba returns with a Nemedian slave girl, Diana, who Tuthmes claims ia aceptable for his purposes. Tuthmes tells Diana that she will be given as a gift to Tanada, but she truly answers to him. As a demonstration of his power, he has the snouted creature appear, and then begins his preparations.
  • 5. The Lash of Tanada
    The next day Diana is presented to Tanada, knowing full well she was caught between a power-mad noble and a cruel queen. The suspicious Tanada's cruelty is immediately demonstrated when she has Diana stripped and lashed in order to find out why Tuthmes gifted her. Conan, now intimate with Tanada, arrives in the midst of the interrogation and claims it is unwise to allow the Outer City blacks into the Inner City to witness the execution of Aahmes. Tanada is determined to send a message, though, and refuses to change her plans. Conan, seeing that Diana is not going to talk, even if she knew anything, unties her and tells Tanada he will question her his way, leaving an enraged Tanada, who despite her anger at Conan knows she is doomed without him, behind. Shubba notes that he takes the girl to his quarters.
  • 6. Dark Counsel
    Shubba reports back to Tuthmes with the events of the evening, and Tuthmes realizes Tanada's suspicions have ruined his plans and tells Mulu to send his demon to kill Diana before she can reveal his treachery. The three men decide that Conan needs to die, too, and as soon as Tuthmes has finished allying the nobles against Tanada, she will become victim to the demon.
  • 7. The Fate of a Kingdom
    As the execution of Aahmes approaches, Conan and his guardsmen scan the town square for signs of insurrection. Conan thinks of Diana, who he has become slightly attached to, mostly because she offers less drama than Tanada, even in the scant time he has known her. He wouldn't put it past Tanada to have the girl murdered, so after satisfying himself with the situation at the execution, heads home. He arrives just in time to see a terrified Diana watching the coalescing form of the demon take shape in the middle of the room. Conan swiftly attacks, but the creature is swifter and launches itself at Conan, who barely dodges. The creature grabs Conan in an unbreakable grip, and Conan struggles, and fails, to break free. Diana grabs Conan's sword and thrusts it into his hand, and Conan manages to stab the monster repeatedly and finally wrench himself out of its grasp and half severs the creature's head with his sword. That doesn't kill the creature, but it does retreat, its head hanging from its neck. Conan follows, and the creature staggers through the streets and falls at the feet of Mulu. The crowd, recognizing the demon of legends, falls upon Mulu, but Ageera appears to also throw suspicion on Tuthmes, and the riot grows to include the entire ruling class. Conan can only watch as Tanada is brought down by a spear and the ministers and lords are torn to pieces by the crowd. Conan gets on his horse, rides back to pick up Diana and supplies, and, tired of the southern countries, gallops off.

Characters[edit | edit source]

  • Conan
  • Amboola, Kushite commander of the Black Spearmen
  • Afari, Kushite minister
  • Tuthmes, Kushite nobleman
  • Mulu, Kordafan wizard
  • Shubba, Kushite servant
  • Ageera, Kushite witch-smeller
  • Diana, Nemedian slave girl
  • Aahmes, Kushite prince
  • Tanada, Kushite queen

Locations[edit | edit source]

  • Meroe, Kush

Continuity Notes[edit | edit source]

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"The Castle of Terror"
"The Snout in the Dark" Next Story:
"Hawks Over Shem"
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
"The Castle of Terror"
"The Snout in the Dark" Next Story:
"Hawks Over Shem"
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
"The Castle of Terror"
"The Snout in the Dark" Next Story:
Conan the Gladiator
Joe Marek Chronology
Previous Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast"
"The Snout in the Dark" Next Story:
"Shadows in the Moonlight"
Dale Rippke Chronology
Previous Story:
"Queen of the Black Coast"
"The Snout in the Dark" Next Story:
"The Slithering Shadow"

Adaptations[edit | edit source]

Publication history[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.