The Castle of Terror
|"The Castle of Terror"|
|Author||L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter|
|Series||Conan the Barbarian|
|Genre(s)||Fantasy short story|
|Published in||Conan of Cimmeria|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
"The Castle of Terror" is a fantasy short story by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter featuring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian created by Robert E. Howard. It was first published by Lancer Books in the paperback collection Conan of Cimmeria (1969), which was reprinted several times, first by Lancer and later by Ace Books through 1993. It has also been published by Sphere Books in the omnibus paperback collection The Conan Chronicles (1989).
Conan, having been made scapegoat after a drought struck his Bamulatribe and killing the high priest who blamed him, treks through the savannas of Kush. He instinctually feels something following him but sees nothing. However, he is being tracked by hungry lions. An hour later, an exhausted Conan has fought off three lion attacks and is out of arrows. He runs through the darkness, lionesses lapping at his heel, when the moon peeks out from behind the clouds and Conan realizes that the lion pack stopped suddenly as the grassy plains mysteriously ends and Conan stands in the center of a giant circle of dead vegetation, the lions waiting at the edge.
Not knowing how long the lions will be kept at bay by whatever force stopped them at the grass's edge, Conan hurries deeper into the dead area, soon finding a ruined castle. Storm clouds above begin to rumble, and Conan realizes his only shelter is the crumbled and misshapen edifice ahead. Conan makes his way into the ruined building, noting the black onyx stone the bizarre architecture is carved from. In fact, the halls and stairs seemed built for a creature larger than human sized and strange carvings and patterns fill the walls. He wonders if perhaps this was an ancient citadel of the long extinct serpent-men race he has heard of in legends.
Conan sleeps restlessly as the storm passes overhead, frequently jerking awake with his sword at the ready, seeming to hear whispering voices. He becomes convinced that the shadows are ghosts unsuccessfully trying to devour him. He is unaware that in one corner of the castle, the shadows are converging into a mass that is planning to do just that.
Meanwhile, a pack of Stygian slave traders searches fruitlessly in the plains for tribes to capture. Caught in the storm, they spy the castle in the distance and make their way to shelter. They burst in and distract the shadowy black mass that was slowly approaching Conan. Conan, awake and contemplating the horror that he had finally noticed, hides in the shadows and waits as the Stygians eat, drink, and finally fall asleep, one standing watch. As the sentinel stands, back to his sleeping companions, a hideous shape made of the spirit of a thousand dead souls appears in the center of their camp. The monstrosity, made of a hundred heads and a dozen feet and arms throws itself on a sleeping slaver and rips him to shreds.
The Stygians rise and attack the beast to no avail, as it methodically kills slaver after slaver. Conan, still hiding, decides to leave the scene while the monster is distracted, and climbs out a window. He finds the slavers' horses and begins to climb on one when a lone Stygian, driven mad by the experience, bursts out of the castle. Conan is forced to kill the man when he attacks, and then Conan hears the shuffling of movement towards the door. He does not wait to see what comes out, swiftly taking the Stygian's armor and helmet and spurring his horse into a gallop far away from the cursed castle.
"The Vale of Lost Women"
|Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
"The Snout in the Dark"