The Gem in the Tower

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"The Gem in the Tower"
Savage Sword of Conan 45.jpg
Author L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter
Country United States
Language English
Series Conan the Barbarian
Genre(s) Fantasy
Published in Conan the Swordsman
Publication type Collection
Publisher Bantam Books
Media type Print (Paperback)
Publication date 1978

"The Gem in the Tower" is a short story by American writers L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, featuring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian created by Robert E. Howard.[1] It is a rewritten version of "Black Moonlight", an earlier story by Carter alone featuring his own sword and sorcery character Thongor[2] (for which see below). The Conan version was first published by Bantam Books in the paperback collection Conan the Swordsman in August 1978, and was reprinted in the anthology The Year's Best Fantasy Stories: 5 (DAW Books, 1980)[1][3] and later editions of Conan the Swordsman (Ace Books, 1987 and 1991, Tor Books (first hardcover edition), 2002).[3] The collection was later gathered together with Conan the Liberator and Conan and the Spider God into the omnibus collection Sagas of Conan (Tor Books, 2004).[3] The story has also been translated into Italian[1][3] and French.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

Conan, as second mate of Gonzago's freebooters, participates in a shore party to a nameless island off the kingdom of Stygia to steal a magic gem of the Stygian sorcerer Siptah. The expedition immediately goes wrong, with its own magician Mena and Gonzago himself both killed. Conan is left in command to battle Siptah's winged demon and learn the secret of the sorcerer's tower.


The story was adapted by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga in Savage Sword of Conan #45, October 1979.[1]

Thongor version[edit]

The Thongor version, written by Lin Carter alone, originally appeared as "Black Moonlight", and was first published in the magazine Fantastic in the issue for November 1976,[2][4] It was reprinted in the anthology The Year's Best Fantasy Stories: 3 (DAW Books, 1977). This version of the story has also been translated into German and Italian.[4]


Thongor takes his pirates to a haunted jungle island of Zosk to find the blood pearls of a lost civilization. His scout ends up dead. Thongor finds him, searching by himself. The dying man writes a warning about black moonlight in the sand. Thongor presses on to find a pool with the legendary pearls. He is attacked and captured by beastmen, the last survivors of the lost race. He is tied up over an altar and an old priest of the beastmen casts an evil spell using a magic wand. The spell reverses the sky so that stars are black and the sky white. A tall pillar of stone changes in the magical light, becoming a humanoid giant of stone. The statue is about to crush Thongor when his pirates show up and free him. The pirates begin killing the beastmen. The wizard sends the gigantic statue to crush the pirates. Thongor knocks him off his perch and steals his wand, which he throws at the giant. the stone in the wand smashes, ending the spell and the giant's life. The statue crumbles to boulders on top of the wizard. The pirates leave, sad to have found no treasure. Thongor cheers them up, taking three handfuls of pearls from his boot where he hid them.


  1. ^ a b c d Laughlin, Charlotte; Daniel J. H. Levack (1983). De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography. San Francisco: Underwood/Miller. p. 164. 
  2. ^ a b Holmes, Morgan. "The de Camp Controversy: Part 12", 4 October 2008. Accessed 9 June 2009
  3. ^ a b c d e The Gem in the Tower title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  4. ^ a b Black Moonlight title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
Preceded by
"Drums of Tombalku"
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
Conan and the Grim Grey God