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“Then I Was the Liberator – Now –”
A room strangely barren in contrast to the rich tapestries on the walls and the deep carpets on the floor. A small writing table, behind which sat a man. This man would have stood out in a crowd of a million. It was not so much because of his unusual size, his height and great shoulders, though these features lent to the general effect. But his face, dark and immobile, held the gaze and his narrow grey eyes beat down the wills of the onlookers by their icy magnetism. Each movement he made, no matter how slight, betokened steel spring muscles and brain knit to those muscles with perfect coordination. There was nothing deliberate or measured about his motions – either he was perfectly at rest – still as a bronze statue, or else he was in motion, with that cat-like quickness which blurred the sight that tried to follow his movements. Now this man rested his chin on his fists, his elbows on the writing table, and gloomily eyed the man who stood before him. This man was occupied in his own affairs at the moment, for he was tightening the laces of his breast- plate. Moreover he was abstractedly whistling – a strange and unconventional performance, considering that he was in the presence of a king.
“Brule,” said the king, “this matter of statecraft wearies me as all the fighting I have done never did.”
“A part of the game, Kull,” answered Brule. “You are king – you must play the part.”
“I wish that I might ride with you to Grondar,” said Kull enviously. “It seems ages since I had a horse between my knees – but Tu says that affairs at home require my presence. Curse him!
“Months and months ago,” he continued with increasing gloom, getting no answer and speaking with freedom, “I overthrew the old dynasty and seized the throne of Valusia – of which I had dreamed ever since I was a boy in the land of my tribesmen. That was easy. Looking back now, over the long hard path I followed, all those days of toil, slaughter and tribulation seem like so many dreams. From a wild tribesman in Atlantis, I rose, passing through the galleys of Lemuria – a slave for two years at the oars – then an outlaw in the hills of Valusia – then a captive in her dungeons – a gladiator in her arenas – a soldier in her armies – a commander – a king!
“The trouble with me, Brule, I did not dream far enough. I always visualized merely the seizing of the throne – I did not look beyond. When king Borna lay dead beneath my feet, and I tore the crown from his gory head, I had reached the ultimate border of my dreams. From there, it has been a maze of illusions and mistakes. I prepared myself to seize the throne – not to hold it.
“When I overthrew Borna, then people hailed me wildly – then I was the Liberator – now they mutter and stare blackly behind my back – they spit at my shadow when they think I am not looking. They have put a statue of Borna, that dead swine, in the Temple of the Serpent and people go and wail before him, hailing him as a saintly monarch who was done to death by a red handed barbarian. When I led her armies to victory as a soldier, Valusia overlooked the fact that I was a foreigner – now she cannot forgive me.
“And now, in the Temple of the Serpent, there come to burn incense to Borna’s memory, men whom his executioners blinded and maimed, fathers whose sons died in his dungeons, husbands whose wives were dragged into his seraglio – Bah! Men are all fools.”
“Ridondo is largely responsible,” answered the Pict, drawing his sword belt up another notch. “He sings songs that make men mad. Hang him in his jester’s garb to the highest tower in the city. Let him make rhymes for the vultures.”
Kull shook his lion head. “No, Brule, he is beyond my reach. A great poet is greater than any king. He hates me, yet I would have his friendship. His songs are mightier than my sceptre, for time and again he has near torn the heart from my breast when he chose to sing for me. I will die and be forgotten, his songs will live forever.”
The Pict shrugged his shoulders. “As you like; you are still king, and the people cannot dislodge you. The Red Slayers are yours to a man, and you have all Pictland behind you. We are barbarians, together, even if we have spent most of our lives in this land. I go, now. You have naught to fear save an attempt at assassination, which is no fear at all, considering the fact that you are guarded night and day by a squad of the Red Slayers.”
Kull lifted his hand in a gesture of farewell and the Pict clanked out the room.
Now another man wished his attention, reminding Kull that a king’s time was never his own.
This man was a young noble of the city, one Seno val Dor. This famous young swordsman and reprobate presented himself before the king with the plain evidence of much mental perturbation. His velvet cap was rumpled and as he dropped it to the floor when he kneeled, the plume drooped miserably. His gaudy clothing showed stains as if in his mental agony he had neglected his personal appearance for some time.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Posted November 21, 2008
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Robert E. Howard was an extra-ordindary creative writer who in my opinion was the best! His vision, talent, creative writing, and action packed stories can and will never be replicated! Highly recommend Blood & Thunder, The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard by Mark Finn, Best of Robert E. Howard #1. Book 2 is excellent two because three of REHs best stories are here which are Red Nails, Beyond The Black River, and scariest story EVER Pigeons From Hell! Be sure to read it at night with plenty of light. Scholars agree that these are his absolute best, so if you've never read REH you're in for a real treat! ENJOY! I sure did! Dark Horse comics has outstanding comics on Conan, Solomon Kane, and now Kull! You'll really like Two-Gun Bob true adventures of REH at the back of each Dark Horse REH character in comics.
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Posted January 6, 2008
Robert E. Howard was an extra-ordindary creative writer who in my opinion was the best! His vision, talent, creative writing, and action packed stories can and will never be replicated! To learn more about this unique man read Blood & Thunder, The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard by Mark Finn. Also, read the Best of Robert E. Howard #1. Book 2 is my favorite because three of REHs best stories are here which are Red Nails, Beyond The Black River, and scariest story EVER Pigeons From Hell! Be sure to read it at night with plenty of light. Scholars agree that these are his absolute best, so if you've never read about REH you're in for a real treat! ENJOY! I sure did!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.