Conan the Defender

Conan the Defender
Conan the Defender  
Conan the Defender by Robert Jordan, Tor Books, 1982
Author(s) Robert Jordan
Country United States
Language English
Series Conan the Barbarian
Genre(s) Sword and sorcery Fantasy novel
Publisher Tor Books
Publication date 1982
Media type Print Paperback

Conan the Defender is a fantasy novel written by Robert Jordan featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in paperback by Tor Books in 1982. It was later gathered together with Conan the Invincible and Conan the Unconquered into the omnibus collection The Conan Chronicles (Tor Books, 1995).

Plot summary

The book opens during midmorning in the mansion of and with Albanus the wizard, Vegentius the Commander of the Golden Leopards (the bodyguard regiment of Nemedia's Kings), Demetrio Amarianus a landowner, Constanto Melius a noble, and Sephana Galerianus a rejected mistress of King Garian.

They are gathered to plot the usurping of the Dragon Throne of the kingdom of Nemedia. During the meeting, Albanus demonstrates some magic to placate and wow his guests by summoning a fire elemental to destroy one of his servants. The conspirators are impressed by this and desire to have some magical devices of their own "As a token that [they] are all equals." Melius chooses a sword imbued with the skills of six master swordsmen. The sword grants the wielder sword mastery.

Moving the focus of the novel to Conan, it describes how the city of Belverus in Nemedia is unsafe, the tariffs exorbitantly high, starvation rampant, sedition brewing, and that King Garian seems ineffective as a ruler. In reality, Albanus is busy funding and controlling all the unrest in Nemedia as a means of focusing hatred on King Garian. Conan is attacked in Belverus by Melius, who it later turns out was driven insane and "possessed" in a fashion by the tortured spirits in the magical sword he was given by Albanus. Albanus did not know that the blade could cause such madness.

Conan is rescued by the town guard who find, to their horror, that they have just slain a noble.

Conan picks up the blade and wraps it with the hopes of selling it for a few pieces of silver. Shortly thereafter, Conan meets up with Hordo, a friend of his from several previous and mostly unsuccessful quests who is now a smuggler. Hordo tries to get Conan a job as a smuggler as well, but is harangued by his boss for not being cautious enough (exposing a smuggler fetches a high bounty). Hordo decides to quit his job and join Conan in his mercenary venture.

Hordo is often used as a foil to Conan, contrasting the intelligence of Conan to Hordo's less sophisticated thought process and abilities of perception.

The pair go to a tavern where Conan's fortune is divinated by an old man. The same fortune appears on the first page of the first mass market printing. The first part of the prophecy comes true as Conan thwarts an attempt by a lady patron of the tavern from pick pocketing him.

Leaving the tavern, Conan and Hordo noticed they are being followed by what turns out to Ariane, a poet and patron the inn the Sign of Thestis. The three are then attacked by footpads. All the footpads are slain. Hordo and Conan then spend the night at the Sign of Thestis, telling stories of their adventures.

Conan learns that the Thestians (Including Ariane and Sephano, a sculptor) are plotting an uprising against the king along with Taras and the mercenaries which he is hiring to aid in the uprising.

Conan and Hordo then are attacked by more armed murderers. Conan figures someone is out to kill him, though he knows not who. It turns out later to be Albanus trying to recover the magic sword and cover up all traces of it. Upon returning to the Thestis, Conan sells the magic sword of Melius to Demetrio, an agent of Albanus, for fifty gold marks.

Conan uses the money from the sword to found his own free-company of mercenaries and teaches them horse archer techniques unknown to the Nemedian forces.

The next time Conan returns to the Thestis, Conan receives a message that he should meet Hordo at the Sign of the Full Moon. The Thestians are worried that they may be betrayed, but Conan allays these fears by vowing to never betray them.

At the Sign of the Full Moon, Conan is ambushed and attacked by assassins. He is also pursued by the Belverus town guard who have also been paid off by Albanus. The message was fake.

The next day, Ariane sets up a meeting for Conan with Taras to see if Conan can be hired for the uprising. It turns out Taras is not hiring mercenaries and intends to kill Conan as per Albanus's request. The attempt is thwarted and the ambushers are all killed by Conan. Ariane, having followed Conan, sees the butchery and believes that Conan has betrayed them.

The horse archer skills get Conan's company a job in the Nemedian military and Conan a room within the palace, much to the dismay of Vegentius the conspirator. Conan winds up practicing his sword skills with King Garian and besting Garian each time.

Meanwhile, Albanus has captured Stephano the sculptor and forced him to create a likeness of King Garian. Conan is asked by the king to deliver a letter to Albanus. While at the palace, Conan sees Stephano and later tells Ariane where Stephano has gone. Ariane goes to find Stephano at Albanus's mansion but is captured and hypnotized by Albanus.

Vegentius ambushes Conan in the halls of the palace and frames him as a traitor. King Garian decides that the "Ancient Punishment" would be the best in the case of a turncoat.

Meanwhile, Albanus uses magic on the clay sculpture of Garian and animates it so as to be a simalcrum of Garian. Albanus kills Stephano. The plan is: The simalcrum takes over the place of the real Garian, Albanus sends the signal for the unknowing Thestians to rise up and rebel, and the simalcrum hands over power to Albanus to appease the rebels.

Conan learns that King Garian has been replaced when Albanus and the simalcrum come to gloat over Conan in the dungeons of the palace. Conan learns this because the simalcrum does not have the bruises that Conan gave the real Garian while they were sparring.

As Conan is imprisoned, the people rise up at the behest of the hypnotized Ariane. Conan is sent to the arena of Belverus to be devoured by the wolves as the ancient punishment dictates. Conan thwarts the wolves by rushing into them as they are released and smashing through them and out the still-open gate through which the wolves were released. Conan fights his way through and is rescued by Hordo, Karela (The Red Hawk, friend of Hordo who knows the secret passages of the palace), and the rest of Conan's free-company.

Conan and friends ride through the uprising streets of Belverus, creep over the Albanus's walls, and into Albanus's mansion; they promptly rescue King Garian from the dungeons of Albanus. Reasoning that most of the Golden Leopards are still loyal to King Garian, the whole group rides up to the gates of the palace and Garian instructs the guards that Albanus and Vegentius are traitors and to spread the message that all who do not shout "Death to Albanus and Vegentius!" are traitors and are to be killed. Conan's company and Garian split at this point. Conan and his company fight their way through the palace. Eventually, Conan leaves his company and kills Vegentius in one of the palace courtyards.

Conan finally confronts Albanus in one of the giant auditoriums of the palace. Conan impales Albnus, but as he dies he is chanting and summoning a great demon. Luckily, the demon fades. The chant was either incomplete or the demon just left.

The story ends with Conan, Hordo, and Karela split. Conan leaves for Ophir, listening to the prophecy of the old man. "Beware the gratitude of kings."

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