“The Last Ballad of Laza-Lanti”
Writer: Roy Thomas with songs by Robert E. Howard
Artist: John Buscema
Conan is in a tavern in Shadizar the Wicked. He is melancholy after the way Red Sonja left him. A bard singing lightens his mood. So much that he intervenes when a bully is accosting the bard. Naturally Conan kicks his ass and his friends too. Only him and the bard get thrown into the dungeon by the city guard. The bard who is Laza-Lanti has a knife in his lyre and manages to threaten the jailer to release them.
Later the two ride to Laza’s home of Dark Valley. They come on a sacrifice of cattle by the locals for the dark lord. So they decide to wait and see who comes for the cattle. It is a beautiful woman who leads the cattle to a cave. Inside is the dark lord who is a giant blob that starts shoving the cattle down it’s throat. Laza thinks the woman is in danger and both him and Conan attack. Laza manages to cut off the thing’s antenna which kills it. Only the young woman is not happy. She tells the story of being a dancing girl who was traveling with a carnival troupe. When the group stopped near the cave the creature captured her. They had twin sons which Laza-Lanti was one. The woman turns old and kills herself to be with her lover. Laza-Lanti goes insane and orders Conan to leave. As Conan leaves he hears the sound of Laza-Lanti killing himself.
So this was a very dark and offbeat issue. Based on a poem by Howard it captures the mood. I feel that this could be a story written by Howard. Conan is a spectator in this story which was an effective way to tell this story. It starts off as a very light action adventure and Laza seems to be a well adjusted young man. It does go a complete 180 and into a very dark place. You can feel Laza-Lanti go insane as he tries to come to terms of his parentage. It also hints at the end that Conan is destined to meet his twin brother some time in the future. An excellent story.