Conan and Belit land safely on the Pictish coast, near Korvela Bay. Conan's "spirits are lifted" being in northern lands. Conan and Belit travel through the "green lands" of the Pictish Wilderness for several weeks. Then they hit Black River - which means that cosy little inn there in the centre panel is smack in the middle of Eagle, Toucan or Sea-Falcon tribelands, the most savage of the Pictish tribes.
Say, didn't Howard write about Conan travelling through the Pictish Wilderness once, but in the other direction, from Thunder River to the coast? In "The Black Stranger?" What was that like?
With a gasping, incoherent imprecation he turned and fled westward. He did not pick his way now, but ran with all the speed of his long legs, calling on the deep and all but inexhaustible reservoirs of endurance which are Nature's compensation for a barbaric existence. Behind him for a space the woods were silent, then a demoniacal howling burst out at the spot he had recently left, and he knew his pursuers had found the bodies of his victims. He had no breath for cursing the blood drops that kept spilling to the ground from his freshly opened wound, leaving a trail a child could follow. He had thought that perhaps these three Picts were all that still pursued him of the war-party which had followed him for over a hundred miles. But he might have known these human wolves never quit a blood-trail.
The woods were silent again, and that meant they were racing after him, marking his path by the betraying blood-drops he could not check. A wind out of the west blew against his face, laden with a salty dampness he recognized. Dully he was amazed. If he was that close to the sea the long chase had been even longer than he had realized. But it was nearly over. Even his wolfish vitality was ebbing under the terrible strain. He gasped for breath and there was a sharp pain in his side. His legs trembled with weariness and the lame one ached like the cut of a knife in the tendons each time he set the foot to earth. He had followed the instincts of the wilderness which bred him, straining every nerve and sinew, exhausting every subtlety and artifice to survive. Now in his extremity he was obeying another instinct, looking for a place to turn at bay and sell his life at a bloody price...
... The Cimmerian knew that for a thousand miles this western coast ran bare and uninhabited except by the villages of the ferocious sea-land tribes, who were even less civilized than their forest-dwelling brothers. The nearest outposts of civilization were the frontier settlements along Thunder River, hundreds of miles to the east. The Cimmerian knew he was the only white man ever to cross the wilderness that lay between that river and the coast...
"...You have been living with the Picts?" Valenso asked coldly.This entire story arc is impossible as it is, but the idea that Conan, a Cimmerian, and Belit, a southern woman completely inexperienced in such a climate, could just trek across the Pictish Wilderness with a pack-horse while receiving aid packages from friendly farmers is just... you can't say anything other than it's wrong. Because it is wrong. It's as wrong as Thulsa Doom and Khalar Zym just marching into Cimmeria with little to no resistance for exactly the same reasons. It's as wrong as depicting Cimmeria as a land of cheerful peasants who host pre-Greek Olympic games and battle Dil Pickle dragons. It's as wrong as Conan the Adventurer. There is no way you could spin this as being remotely faithful to the Hyborian Age as Howard wrote it when it directly contradicts practically the entirety of not only "The Black Stranger," but every other story that describes the Pictish Wilderness as a wild savage expanse - like "Beyond the Black River," commonly cited as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Conan story of them all. This single page invalidates "Beyond the Black River."
A momentary anger flickered bluely in the giant's eyes.
"Even a Zingaran ought to know there's never been peace between Picts and Cimmerians, and never will be," he retorted with an oath. "Our feud with them is older than the world. If you'd said that to one of my wilder brothers, you'd have found yourself with a split head. But I've lived among you civilized men long enough to understand your ignorance and lack of common courtesy - the churlishness that demands his business of a man who appears at your door out of a thousand-mile wilderness..."
..."You're lying," said Zarono without conviction. "You've told us one lie already. You said you came from the woods, yet you say you haven't been living with the Picts. All men know this country is a wilderness, inhabited only by savages. The nearest outposts of civilization are the Aquilonian settlements on Thunder River, hundreds of miles to eastward."
"That's where I came from," replied Conan imperturbably. "I believe I'm the first white man to cross the Pictish Wilderness. I crossed Thunder River to follow a raiding party that had been harrying the frontier. I followed them deep into the wilderness, and killed their chief, but was knocked senseless by a stone from a sling during the melee, and the dogs captured me alive. They were Wolfmen, but they traded me to the Eagle clan in return for a chief of theirs the Eagles had captured. The Eagles carried me nearly a hundred miles westward to burn me in their chief village, but I killed their war-chief and three or four others one night, and broke away.
"I couldn't turn back. They were behind me, and kept herding me westward."
I'm done, guys. Anything that comes after this page can't possibly top it, and anything I could say would be redundant. Wood, Cloonan. Lolos, Harren, et al, best of luck in your edgy, rebooted, re-imagined Conan, made for a new generation. Call it Ultimates Conan. Call it New 52 Conan. All-Star Conan, Conan Forever, Conan Begins, Brian Wood Presents Conan, Conan: The Quickening, Conan the Barbarian: Friendship is Magic. Call it whatever you like. Just don't call it faithful to the source material.