Friday 21 October 2011

The Lost Conan Adventures: "Queen of the Black Coast," Part 3

Weaving a Tapestry
Just as any one story can inspire future adventures, sometimes a story can be tied into earlier or later tales in Conan's life. Howard would develop the reference to Conan's adventures as Amra of the Black Corsairs in "The Scarlet Citadel" into an entire story, "Queen of the Black Coast."  "The Phoenix on the Sword" has references to Conan's thieving in Zamora, fighting with the Æsir, and as a mercenary soldier would be expanded into "The Tower of the Elephant," "The Frost-Giant's Daughter," and "Black Colossus."  Other examples are more abstract: Conan's reference to having seen "death strike a king in the midst of thousands" may technically apply to a previous story, or it could be an original adventure.

Weaving a Tapestry

Adventures on the Black Coast

The Sea-Coast Dialect
The black spoke in a sea-coast dialect, and Conan replied; he had learned the jargon while a corsair on the coasts of Kush.
 - "The Scarlet Citadel," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p98
It might seem obvious that Conan would learn the local language, but it's good to have explicit proof all the same.

Breaking the Python's Neck
"Strong beyond the comprehension of civilized man, he had broken the neck of a python in a fiendish battle on the Stygian coast, in his corsair days."
 - "The Scarlet Citadel," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p97
The fact that the creature was killed via broken neck, as well as no references to temples or Set, would indicate this was not the giant snake of "Queen of the Black Coast" or the Son of Set from "The Hour of the Dragon".  This fight could be linked to the Abombi, Khemi or Thutmekri storylines, or be independent.  Perhaps King Ajaga had a pet snake, or the Stygians used a (dream?) snake to assassinate Bêlit and incurred Conan's wrath.  Or maybe there was a lost temple on the Stygian shore that had a guard snake, like Xapur in "The Devil in Iron".

Black Coast Trading
"Why did you grow wealthy so much quicker than your competitors? Was it because you did a big business in ivory and ostrich feathers, copper and skins and pearls and hammered gold ornaments, and other things from the coast of Kush?
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p179
“The Venturer, out of Messantia, with a cargo of mirrors, scarlet silk cloaks, shields, gilded helmets and swords to trade to the Shemites for copper and gold ore.
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p190
"He trafficked in ivory, gold dust and slaves, and would cheat the devil out of his eye-teeth..."
- "Untitled Fragment," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p309"Sometimes they trade ostrich plumes they got from the Stygians, who in turn got them from the black tribes of Kush, which lies south of Stygia."
  - "Beyond the Black River," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p77
... the Kushites were the first black men with whom the Hyborians came in contact - Barachan pirates trafficking with and raiding them.
 - "Letter to P.S. Miller," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p343
This, in conjunction with the Argus' cargo, show that the primary exports of the Black Coast are either resources or exotic items such as ivory, ostrich feathers, copper, copper ore, copra, gold ore, gold ornaments, gold dust, skins, pearls and slaves, while the imports seem to consist of luxuries and weapons: beads, silks (especially scarlet silk), sugar, mirrors, shields, helmets and swords.  It could be that each settlement on the Black Coast specialises in one thing or another: one may be close to savanna, giving it access to animals for their skins, ivory and feathers; another may have rich deposits of gold and copper.

The Lion and the Tigress
... a corsair in a dragon-prowed galley that trailed a crimson wake of blood and pillage along southern coasts...
 - "The Scarlet Citadel," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p91
He had also sailed with the Zingaran buccaneers, and even with those wild black corsairs that swept up from the far south to harry the northern coasts, and this put him beyond the pale of any law.
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p177
In that moment he was not king of Aquilonia; he was again lord of the black corsairs, who had hacked his way to lordship through flame and blood... King of Aquilonia he might no longer be; king of the blue ocean he was still.
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p192
Conan's fame had preceded him, even into distant Keshan; his exploits as a chief of the black corsairs, those wolves of the southern coasts, had made his name known, admired and feared throughout the black kingdoms.
 - "The Servants of Bit-Yakin," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p15
Something worth mentioning is that even though Howard created the name Amra before "Queen of the Black Coast," Conan is never referred to by that name in the story itself.  The closest one comes to it is when Conan's wrath is compared to that of "a wounded lion." Why would Howard not call Conan Amra through the entirety of the only story starring him as a leader of the black corsairs?  Similarly, none of the references to Amra mention Bêlit, and refer to Conan as chief or leader of the corsairs: why was Bêlit never brought up? Conan is said to become chief of the black corsairs "through flame and blood": how can this square when Conan was essentially appointed to be Bêlit's mate? Conan is said to have commanded "a dragon-prowed galley": why not mention the Tigress by name, and if the Tigress had such a dragon-shaped prow, why isn't that mentioned in "Queen"?  Combined with several other clues, this could be considered evidence that Conan has had at least two periods among the black corsairs, once with Bêlit, and another, later one under the name Amra.

Whether an adapter chooses to think all Conan's adventures with the Black Corsairs take place over a single period, or two, it's worth considering that Conan made multiple visits to different parts of the world. As such, any of the following stories could be considered separate from Conan's time with Bêlit as a later adventure on the Black Coast, or Conan's Amra period is one and the same with his time on the Tigress, with any inconsistencies waved away as simply being anomalies. Conan not being called Amra may just be an oversight; Bêlit's lack of mention in later stories could be because she took a more strategic role, whereas Conan took a more active and prominent role in their adventures; Conan being referred to as "chief of the black corsairs" may just mean he was the leader of the fighting crew, not the captain or overall leader; attaining lordship "through flame and blood" may refer to the bloody first meeting with Bêlit; the "dragon-prow" may be a later addition, or simply not mentioned in "Queen."

My personal belief is that there were indeed two corsair periods: in the first, Conan is merely known as "the mysterious white warrior" who served under Bêlit on the Tigress. In the second, Conan himself has become the terror of the Black Coast, taking the name Amra as a new identity, commanding a dragon-prowed galley, trading with Publio, and terrorising the Stygians.  Every instance of Conan's corsair period which explicitly mentions Amra is of that second period; every instance that doesn't use the name could be from either.  That said, I will happily accept an adaptation that reconciles the Amra references with "Queen of the Black Coast" to form one grand saga.

The Legend of Amra
“Long have I wished to meet you, Amra,” the black gave Conan the name – Amra, the Lion – by which the Cimmerian had been known to the Kushites in his piratical days.
"I demand of you a blood-price, Amra!"
"I will have your head, Amra!"
- Chief of Abombi, "The Scarlet Citadel," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p98
"We have heard tales of you, whom men call Amra the Lion."
- Tananda, "Untitled Draft," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p382
"Many who won’t know me as king of Aquilonia will remember me as Conan of the Barachan pirates, or Amra of the black corsairs."
- Conan, "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p165
"Mitra! Conan! Amra!"
"Let Argos forget Amra, and let my dealings with him be lost in the dust of the past."
- Publio, "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p183
"Amra! It is Amra! The Lion has returned!"
 - A black corsair, "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p191
The blacks were frothing crazy now, shaking and tearing at their chains and shrieking the name of Amra like an invocation.
"Amra! Amra!" chanted the delirious blacks, those who were left to chant. "The Lion has returned!"
- Black corsairs, "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p192
"You rowed in chains for the Argossean dogs: will you row as free men for Amra?"
- Conan, "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p193
They would slay him merely for being a stranger; if he were recognized as Amra, the corsair chief who had swept their coasts with steel and flame...
- "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p198
The negro stared at Conan, and greeted him by the name of Amra, the Lion.
-Sakumbe, "Untitled Synopsis," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p288
"At this the black king roused and sat up and stared at me, and then he rose and shouted: "Amra!" and I knew him – Sakumbe, a Suba from the Black Coast, a fat adventurer I had known well in the days when I was a corsair along that coast."
"Then he announced that I was Amra, the Lion, his friend, and that no harm should come to me."
- Conan, "Untitled Draft," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p309

One thing leaps out when comparing each instance: Conan is referred to as "Amra" frequently, but "Amra, the Lion" less frequently. The only people to refer to Conan as "Amra, the Lion" are the Kushites, Tananda, and Sakumbe - all black people. Conan never refers to himself as "Amra, the Lion," nor does Publio. The narrative voice seems to switch between the two depending on who is referring to Conan. In The Hour of the Dragon, Conan fears that the Stygians will recognize him as Amra, as opposed to "Amra, the Lion." Curiously, the Chief of Abombi from "The Scarlet Citadel" does not refer to Conan as "Amra, the Lion," but the narrative voice does, in reference to the Kushites' name for him.

So overall, one can make the case that it is blacks who call Conan "Amra, the Lion," while other nations such as the Argosseans, Stygians and Conan himself merely go by "Amra." Because it is the name Conan is known by to the Kushites and Black Corsairs, combined with the phrasing “Amra, the Lion” being interpreted to mean “Amra, or, the Lion,” Amra is commonly believed to be a Kushite word meaning “lion.” However, there are several issues with this theory. For one, it is not similar to any known African words for “lion.” For another, Howard uses the name in non-African or Kushite contexts, such as the Atlantean Am-Ra and Akbitanan Amra of “Gods of the North.” In addition, Conan is fully known as “Amra the Lion,” as stated by Tananda, and “Amra, the Lion” by Shukeli and others: this would translate as, effectively, “Lion the Lion,” a clumsy tautology, and would necessitate the Kushites switch from their native tongue to whichever foreign one is predominantly used in the stories.  That would be akin to an Afghan referring to Francis X. Gordon as "El Borak, the Swift," or an Irishman referring to Turlogh as "Turlogh Dubh, the Black." So if Amra isn't Kushite, what language is it?  And if Amra doesn't mean lion, what does it mean?

Looking for Amra in various historical sources, none seem to be satisfactory: there's a settlement in Kathavar with the name Amra, western India; the Arabic El-Amra, a town which gave its name to the Amratian period of Ancient Egypt; the Arabic 'umara or 'amara, meaning "princess"; Amara, the Abyssinian name for paradise; the name given for a type of elegy for certain Irish saints, typically panegyric in nature, the most famous being the Amra of Coluimb Cille – St. Columba. The first one seems like it can be discarded. The second makes some sense given the Stygian connection, but it's inconclusive. The third is vaguely concordant with Conan's occupation as chief of the black corsairs, but the Arabic derivation renders it inappropriate. The fourth is intriguing, but doesn't make much sense in context. The fifth is most interesting to me. Howard's love of Irish history has impacted tremendously on the formation of the Hyborian Age, be it through the Nemedian Chronicles, the Aquilonian capital of Tamar, and other references to Irish legend in the lands beyond Cimmeria.

I would like to put forth a new theory on the meaning of Amra: it is not Kushite in origin, but Cimmerian. If one assumes that Amra has a similar context in Cimmerian language that it has in Irish Gaelic, then it could roughly translate to something akin to “legend” or “honour.” It could be a Cimmerian proper name, or perhaps Conan deliberately took a legendary nickname. That said, it's far from conclusive: however, I'm of the opinion that it's no less justifiable than the common "lion" translation.  The point is, whatever choice an adapter wishes to make in regards to the meaning and origin of Amra - a name of Conan's own invention, one taken from the Kushites, a title, a pseudonym - it needn't be the same choice that's been made in the past.

Sack of Abombi
"Do you not remember the sack of Abombi, when your sea-wolves swarmed in? Before the palace of King Ajaga you slew a chief and a chief fled from you. It was my brother who died; it was I who fled. I demand of you a blood-price, Amra!"
 - "The Scarlet Citadel," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p99
Abombi could well be one of the many place Conan and Bêlit raze: it would seem to be quite a prominent city.  The tale of the man, his brother and King Ajaga and the events which led to its demise could be just the tale of a pirate raid, or something more complex. Since this is one of the few concrete examples of Amra's piratical exploits, it seems thematically appropriate that it would be the core for a larger adventure rather than a minor one.

The negro stared at Conan, and greeted him by the name of Amra, the Lion. The black man’s name was Sakumbe, and he was an adventurer from the West Coast who had been connected with Conan when the latter was a corsair devastating the coast... Sakumbe, once a man of remarkable courage, vitality and statescraft, had degenerated into a mountainous mass of fat, caring for nothing except women and wine. Conan played dice with him, got drunk with him...
 - "Untitled Synopsis," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p288
Sakumbe is a very interesting character, as he shows a sort of mirror to Conan himself: he too is a gregarious, outgoing adventurer, immensely courageous, a master of statescraft, and full of vitality, who later becomes a king himself. He could be considered, effectively, a "black Conan."  Unlike Conan, however, he allows the luxuries and excesses of civilization to consume him, his love of wine and women getting the better of him, causing him to grow fat and decadent from years of lolling contentedly on his throne.  These strengths and weaknesses would be evident in Sakumbe's early years, and it's clear he and Conan got on famously all the same.

Trade with Publio
“’We had too many dealings in the old days. Am I such a fool that I’m not aware that this fine mansion was built on my sweat and blood? How many cargoes from my galleys passed through your shop?’
‘All merchants of Messantia have dealt with the sea-rovers at one time or another,’ mumbled Publio nervously.
‘But not with the black corsairs,’ answered Conan grimly.’
For Mitra’s sake, be silent!’ ejaculated Publio, sweat starting out on his brow. His fingers jerked at the gilt worked edge of his robe.
‘Well, I only wished to recall it to your mind,’ answered Conan. ‘Don’t be so fearful. You took plenty of risks in the past, when you were struggling for life and wealth in that lousy little shop down by the wharves, and were hand-and-glove with every buccaneer and smuggler and pirate from here to the Barachan Isles. Prosperity must have softened you.’
‘I am respectable,’ began Publio.
‘Meaning you’re rich as hell,’ snorted Conan. ‘Why? Why did you grow wealthy so much quicker than your competitors? Was it because you did a big business in ivory and ostrich feathers, copper and skins and pearls and hammered gold ornaments, and other things from the coast of Kush? And where did you get them so cheaply, while other merchants were paying their weight in silver to the Stygians for them? I’ll tell you, in case you’ve forgotten: you bought them from me, at considerably less than their value, and I took them from the tribes of the Black Coast, and from the ships of the Stygians – I , and the black corsairs.’
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p179
Conan and Publio seem to go way back, and while they may not have much love for each other, it's clear they both benefitted: Publio started off in a meagre shop in the wharves, but quickly flourished by illicit trade with Conan and the black corsairs.  How did the two manage to pull this scam given the notoriety of the Black Corsairs?  What was their system?  How did the two meet?

The House of Servio
“He sleeps in the house of Servio.’ ‘I know that dive of old,’ grunted Conan.
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p182
It seems logical that the house of Servio may have been visited by Conan when he was trading with Publio, though this isn't strictly necessary: he may have been there on his first visit to the city with his soldier friend.

Ajonga, Yasunga and Laranga
""Who am I?" he yelled. "Look, you dogs! Look, Ajonga, Yasunga, Laranga! Who am I?"
And from the waist rose a shout that swelled to a mighty roar:
"Amra! It is Amra! The Lion has returned!""
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p191
These three men know Conan, and Conan knows them, in "Hour of the Dragon": it's undoubted that Conan sailed with them at one time.  For Conan to instantly pick them out from a sea of black galley slaves within moments strongly suggests that Conan knows these men very well, enough to identify them from other galley-slaves who were, for all intents and purposes, identical (all black with shaven heads and naked).  While Conan has a brilliant mind, it isn't photographic, and he sometimes has to think a minute to remember something obscure or minor: Ajonga, Yasunga & Laranga made enough of an impression on him for him to more or less instantly recall them and their names.

The circumstances of how Conan came to know and remember them are a mystery, as well as why they left Conan's crew and ended up on the Venturer, but plenty of possibilities arise.  The obvious is that they were recruits from the Island Kingdoms who left for home or were captured, though they could also have been friendly Black Coast chieftains, allied/rival Corsair captains, kings of Black Kingdom nations, freed slaves, mercenaries-turned-pirates, or anything.  They could've been instrumental in any of Conan's other adventures, or fulfilled a role similar to Juma in the pastiches.  In any case, if the three were part of the Tigress' crew, they would have to leave Bêlit's employ before the voyage up the Zarkheba: considering the ship was severely undermanned through raid and battle, it seems possible that they could have been captured and enslaved: either that, or they left on their own accord sometime earlier.

Swords Against Stygia
Conan shows much knowledge of Stygia in The Hour of the Dragon and other stories, and we know he's had dealings with them as a black corsair.  The many pieces of knowledge Conan displays could have been learned during his time with Bêlit.

Khemi Ablaze
"In my galley manned by black corsairs I crept to the very bastions of the sea-washed castles of black-walled Khemi by night, and burned the galleys anchored there."
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p181
The most audacious of Conan's escapades, the black corsairs set the Stygian fleet alight, crippling their trade and navy.  Such a daring raid would surely make a tense and thrilling story, though this would necessitate an explanation for why Conan would engage in such a dangerous adventure.  Was this an act of retribution against the Stygians, the aftermath of a raid, a diversion for a heist, covering up another crime by destroying the evidence, a way to keep the Stygians off their backs, or simply done on a whim?  Was it at the request of the Argosseans, to prevent the Stygians from threatening their maritime domination?  Was there a reason at all, or just Bêlit's chaotic lust for destruction?

The Black Hand of Set
His shirt was torn open, and on his brown, muscular breast was the print of a black hand, thumb and four fingers plainly distinct. Conan glared in silence, feeling the short hairs bristle at the back of his neck.
“Crom!” he muttered. “The black hand of Set!”
He had seen that mark of old, the death-mark of the black priests of Set, the grim cult that ruled in dark Stygia.
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p184
Where had Conan seen the black hand of Set before? Given that he battled the Stygians frequently as a corsair, it seems logical that he may have encountered it then.  Perhaps, in one ill-fated adventure, he raided a city or castle that housed a priest of the Black Ring, and discovered that terrible mark.

Hideout on the Styx
“The Venturer, showing no lights, stole past the port in the night, and before dawn discovered her, anchored in a small bay a few miles south of the city. It was surrounded by marsh, a green tangle of mangroves, palms and lianas, swarming with crocodiles and serpents. Discover was extremely unlikely. Conan knew the place of old; he had hidden there before, in his corsair days.”
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p195
A pirate always has hideouts, but finding one so close to Khemi must've been a coup for the black corsairs. How did Conan find this small bay?  Was it one of Bêlit's haunts, or did he find it himself?

Black Hand, Black Ring
If he were discovered his fate would be ghastly. They would slay him merely for being a stranger; if he were recognized as Amra, the corsair chief who had swept their coasts with steel and flame – an involuntary shudder twitched Conan’s broad shoulders. Human foes he did not fear, nor any death by steel or fire. But this was a black land of sorcery and nameless horror. Set the Old Serpent, men said, banished long ago from the Hyborian races, yet lurked in the shadows of the cryptic temples, and awful and mysterious were the deeds done in the nighted shrines...
“That the man he had seen there had been the priest he was certain. Only occultists high in the mazes of the hideous Black Ring possessed the power of the black hand that dealt death by its tough; and only such a man would dare defy Thoth-Amon, whom the western world knew only as a figure of terror and myth.” – The Hour of the Dragon
  - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p197-198
Conan's knowledge of the Black Ring, the Black Hand, and Set worship may go hand in hand with his predation of the Stygians as a corsair. Bêlit may have told him much of that dark land and its denizens - or he may have firsthand knowledge.

Stygian Life
Conan knew that most of the people lay on the flat roofs, among the palms of artificial gardens under the stars.
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p198 
This subtle remark is revealing: evidently Conan knew not just of Stygian religion and the priesthood, but the daily lives of the people. Conan may have learned this from Bêlit or another source, or he could have discovered it as he steals through the rooftops of a Stygian city...

Legends of Set
The Cimmerian recoiled, remembering tales he had heard – serpents were sacred to Set, god of Stygia, who men said was himself a serpent. Monsters such as this were kept in the temples of Set, and when they hungered, were allowed to crawl forth into the streets to take what prey they wished.
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p199
This is explicitly a tale Conan heard, rather than personal experience. From whence did Conan hear these tales? Bêlit displays much knowledge of Shemite religion and an acquaintance with the myths of the Old Ones, but she may know more.

He was staring at the mummy-case, on which the countenance of the occupant was carved in ivory with the startling vividness of a forgotten art. There was a disquieting familiarity about that carven mask, and with something of a shock he realized what it was; there was a startling resemblance between it and the face of the girl lolling on the ebon couch. She might have been the model from which it was carved, but he knew the portrait was at least centuries old. Archaic hieroglyphics were scrawled across the lacquered lid, and, seeking back into his mind for tag-ends of learning, picked up here and there as incidentals of an adventurous life, he spelled them out, and said aloud: ‘Akivasha!’
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p206
A knowledge of Stygian hieroglyphics would be most helpful when raiding and attacking Stygian ships, but why would Conan know archaic hieroglyphics? Perhaps much of Bêlit's plunder was ancient Stygian treasure; knowledge of archaic languages may be useful when poring over old texts and maps, or deciphering the contents of Stygian vessels and containers. There are some examples of exiled or rebellious Stygians who have moved outside Stygia: Tothmekri, Kutamun and Thoth-Amon are the most famous, but there may be more.

Thutmekri the Stygian
"Thutmekri was a Stygian, an adventurer and a rogue whose wits had recommended him to the twin kings of the great hybrid trading kingdom which lay many days' march to the east. He and the Cimmerian knew each other of old, and without love."
 - "The Servants of Bit-Yakin," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p15
As with Sergius and Olgerd, there is no definite placement for where or when Conan met Thutmekri, nor the reason for their cold relationship.  Since they knew each other "of old", it would have to be many years before "The Servants of Bit-Yakin".  One could even place the meeting as part of the "Khemi Ablaze" storyline: Thutmekri was a notorious mercenary general hired by the Stygian government to stop the Tigress.  Hounded by Thutmekri and thwarted by his machinations, eventually Conan and Bêlit set Khemi ablaze.  Thutmekri would then cause problems for Conan, but not so great so as he has the opportunity to survive until "Servants."

The Treasure of Tranicos
"Did you ever hear of Bloody Tranicos, the greatest of the Barachan pirates?" asked Zarono.
"Who has not? It was he who stormed the island castle of the exiled prince Tothmekri of Stygia, put the people to the sword and bore off the treasure the prince had brought with him when he fled from Khemi."
"Aye! And the tale of that treasure brought the men of the Red Brotherhood swarming like vultures after a carrion - pirates, buccaneers, even the black corsairs from the South. Fearing betrayal by his captains, he fled northward with one ship, and vanished from the knowledge of men. That was nearly a hundred years ago.
"But the tale persists that one man survived that last voyage, and returned to the Barachans, only to be captured by a Zingaran war-ship. Before he was hanged he told his story and drew a map in his own blood, on parchment, which he smuggled somehow out of his captor's reach.
This was the tale he told: Tranicos had sailed far beyond the paths of shipping, until he came to a bay on a lonely coast, and there he anchored. He went ashore, taking his treasure and eleven of his most trusted captains who had accompanied him on his ship. Following his orders, the ship sailed away, to return in a week's time, and pick up their admiral and his captains. In the meantime Tranicos meant to hide the treasure somewhere in the vicinity of the bay. The ship returned at the appointed time, but there was no trace of Tranicos and his eleven captains, except the rude dwelling they had built on the beach.
"This had been demolished, and there were tracks of naked feet about it, but no sign to show there had been any fighting. Nor was there any trace of the treasure, or any sign to show where it was hidden. The pirates plunged into the forest to search for their chief and his captains, but were attacked by wild Picts and driven back to their ship. In despair they heaved anchor and sailed away, but before they raised the Barachans, a terrific storm wrecked the ship and only that one man survived.
"That is the tale of the Treasure of Tranicos, which men have sought in vain for nearly a century. That the map exists is known, but its whereabouts have remained a mystery.
- "The Black Stranger," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p116
While the truth about Tranicos and his treasure would not be revealed until "The Black Stranger," the legend has been persistent for a century. Pirates from all corners of the world have heard the tale, and many have sought the treasure over the last hundred years - why shouldn't Bêlit be one of them? Bêlit could tell Conan the tale, and they may endeavour to search for Tranicos' lost treasure - unsuccessfully, of course, but that needn't mean an adventure be lackluster. Perhaps in the search for the treasure, they manage to set in motion the events which would culminate in Zingelito's flight from Zingara: so close, yet so far.  Or perhaps they travel to a place they believe to be the treasure's resting place, which turns out to be an unpleasant surprise: island of monsters, castle of sorcerers, city of crabs, what have you.

Ends of the Earth

South of the Black Kingdoms
"I've roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush..." -
 - "Beyond the Black River," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p77
The nature of these unknown lands is a mystery, but the fact they are not counted among the black kingdoms hints that they could be of a different ethnicity: perhaps Lemurian or Proto-Stygian.  It could even be the Atlantean colony which would become Negari in "The Moon of Skulls."  They may be connected with the "fires of the ultimate south," or not. Exactly when he does is unknown, but it could be around either his time among the Corsairs.

South of Khitai, North of Hyrkania
"He travelled to Khitai and Hyrkania, and to the even less known regions north of the latter and south of the former..."
- "Letter from Robert E. Howard to P.S. Miller," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p344
From context, it may be that Howard meant Conan travelled to Khitai, Hyrkania, and the lands beyond during his reign, but it might be worth consideration all the same. While it may be difficult to imagine the Tigress going north of Hyrkania, south of Khitai - perhaps modern-day Indonesia - is not outside the realms of possibility.  Exactly what Conan and Bêlit might find there is, of course, a mystery: the remnants of the Lemurian's slavemaster's civilization, a pre-Cataclysmic colony, or something stranger entirely?

The Nameless Continent 
He even visited a nameless continent in the western hemisphere, and roamed among the islands adjacent to it.
- "Letter from Robert E. Howard to P.S. Miller," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p344
As with the above, Conan may only have visited the Nameless Continent in his kingship, but it's worth considering all the same. The Nameless Continent has been explored in "Marchers of Valhalla," albeit during a time long after the age of Conan: nonetheless, the geography and general milieu may well be similar even before Asgrimm's Horde leaves Asgard. As such, Conan visiting this land should expect to see ancient Khemuri, the Painted Ones, and perhaps other, more ancient lands.

1 comment:

  1. I myself have felt that Conan had two periods with the Black Corsairs, one with Belit (which could have lasted only a couple of months for all we know), and then another one as Amra. I wonder where to place this second period.

    A member at the forums, "Amra the Lion", has recently put forward a chronology of the Conan stories, but he regards those Amra references as part of Conan's time with Belit. Of course this is the easier way, as a possible second period could have occurred anytime during Conan's career. Perhaps even after Red Nails...