Shadows in Zamboula
|"Shadows in Zamboula"|
|Author||Robert E. Howard|
|Original title||"The Man-Eaters of Zamboula"|
|Series||Conan the Cimmerian|
|Publication type||Pulp magazine|
The story takes place over a night in Zamboula, with political intrigue amidst streets filled with roaming cannibals. It features the character Baal-pteor, one of the few humans in the Conan stories to be a physical challenge for the main Cimmerian character himself.
Despite a warning received in the Suq by an elderly desert nomad, Conan stays the night in a cheap tavern in Zamboula, run by Aram Baksh. As night falls, a black Darfarian cannibal enters to drag him away to be eaten. All of the Darfar slaves in the city are cannibals who roam the streets at night. As they only prey on travellers, the people of the city tolerate this and stay locked securely in their homes, while nomads and beggars make sure to spend the night at a comfortable distance from its walls. This night, however, Conan finds a naked woman chasing through the streets after her deranged lover; Conan rescues them from an attack by the cannibals. She tells him that she tried to secure her lover's unending affection via a love potion which instead made a raving lunatic of him. Promising Conan "a reward" in return for his assistance, they attempt to kill the high priest responsible for the man's madness.
The woman is captured in the attempt, and forced via hypnotism to dance before the High priest until she dies. Conan, defeating the strangler Baal-pteor, rescues her and kills the priest. At the point of claiming his payment, however, she reveals that she is really Nafertari, mistress to the satrap of the city, Jungir Khan (the mad man). Taking an antidote to Jungir, she promises Conan position and wealth.
Conan, however, leaves the city and reveals to the reader that he had recognised them almost immediately. He takes his revenge on the tavern owner Aram Baksh by leaving him bound for the hungry cannibals to devour and leaves the city with gold and the magic ring that started the night's intrigues (and which Conan had stolen from the mad Jungir on their first encounter), with the intent to sell it to another interested party.
The story was republished in the collections Conan the Barbarian (Gnome Press, 1954) and Conan the Wanderer (Lancer Books, 1968). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000) as "Shadows in Zamboula" and in Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Three (1935-1936) (Del Rey, 2005) under its original title, "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula."
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