“The Secret of Ashtoreth!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “The Marchers of Valhalla” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
Conan, Belit and the Black Corsairs are in the dungeons of Kelkan awaiting their turn to be sacrificed. Only M’Gora finds a hidden passage that leads out of the city. They get out and Conan decides he wants revenge on Akkheba the fat priest of Ashtoreth. So Conan and Belit sneak back into the city. They make their way to the temple and find one of the gruesome sacrifices. Akkheba manages to escape them. While chasing him they come on a beautiful woman locked in a cell. She is the goddess Ashtoreth. She tells her story. That long ago she is from a land and was the daughter of it’s king. She was sent off on a boat to be the bride of a sea god. The god gave her immortality. She survived the cataclysm that destroyed her homeland and washed up on the shores of Kelkan. Because of her immortality the people thought she was the goddess Ashtoreth. The priest kept her prisoner to control their power.
So they free her and at this time the Barachan pirates return. During the fight Belit manages to impale Akkheba with a spear. The girl free of his magic then summons help from the sea god. This god sends a giant tidal wave to wipe out the island. Conan and Belit make it back to The Tigress.
The conclusion to this non-Conan Howard story was quite satisfactory. Conan and Belit manage to take their revenge on the fat priest. They free the captive goddess who calls down the power of her god and destroys the evil island. We see that Belit is somewhat neurotic in her jealousy. Kawaku the coward had sided with the Barachans but Conan still rescued him. Obviously this guy is going to cause trouble in the future. I love Howard’s work and this showcases another of his brilliant stories.