“Night of the Rat!”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: John Buscema and Ernie Chan
In the Khitain city-state of Kathai the emperor is always given two choices in everything. Two cups to drink out of, two plates of food, two doors to use. Only one choice is good and the other will kill him. It is believed that the ruling monarch can only rule effectively if he retains his instinct to choose correctly. Well this guy eventually chooses the wrong snuff box and gets bitten by a deadly viper. Meanwhile Conan is leading a band of bandits raiding caravans. Only it isn’t good picking. A rival female bandit called the Snow Raven has been beating him to robbing them. So they go to the city to have a good drink. While there Conan is lead out by a woman and attacked. Conan naturally defeats them and finds out that the Snow Raven was behind the attack. She wants Conan to help her steal a gem. Conan agrees and the two successfully steal it. Only later the Snow Raven betrays Conan and her men knock him out. Conan is thrown into an old well in an abandoned city. He manages to escape and head back to Kathai.
There a princess arrives to marry the new emperor. Conan notices the jeweled crown she has and decides to steal it. So later in the palace he finds the Snow Raven there already. She uses her bolos to trip up Conan to escape. The guards find Conan and after a chase capture him. While this is going on, some members of the Rat cult manage to kidnap the princess because the guards are distracted. This cult needs a princess to sacrifice every fifty years to their Rat god.
Conan has been sentenced to death by elephant. An elephant will crush him while he is chained to the ground. Yet Conan manages to break his chains and escape. He comes to the new emperor and makes a deal to get the princess back for a bag of gems. This concerns some conspirators who want the marriage to fail so they can seize the throne. Conan tracks the cult to the ruins of a city and is ambushed and knocked out. He wakes in the rat temple tied up being eaten by rats. The princess is with him also being attacked by rats. The rats chew his bonds off so he can escape. He grabs the princess and with his sword they didn’t bother to take from him he escapes.
Later he is attacked by the conspirators but the arrival of the Snow Raven helps Conan defeat the group. The Snow Raven gives Conan drugged wine and takes the princess for the reward. Conan follows and confronts her getting the gems from the emperor. The emperor decides to leave as arguing upsets him. (What a snowflake.) He chooses the wrong door and gets the one with a giant blob creature that kills him. Conan manages to kill it. With the Snow Raven they ride out and go their separate ways. Only at the end the Snow Raven finds that Conan substituted her bag with rocks. Conan gets the last laugh.
“The Hill of Horror”
Writer: Alan Zelenetz
Artists: Ron Wilson and Dave Simmons
A series of full page drawing with a poetic story about Conan rescuing a girl from giant ape-beasts.
This story was a wild one. It went all over the place and generally I found it amusing. One thing you can count on with Fleisher is that the story never takes any breaks. It goes from one situation to the next at breakneck speed. I loved the setting of Khitai and this Rat Cult. I also thought the character of the Snow Raven had a lot of potential. It seemed that she was meant to be brought back as a future recurring character. Can’t remember it they did but I will find out.
Now some of the more improbable stuff is the setup with the emperor. I mean you have to quickly go through a lot of emperors because the odds are not with you in surviving a day much less years. You just have to run out of emperors real quick. I don’t even understand why these conspirators want the job. Otherwise this was a fun story filled with weird cults and monsters and beautiful women.
The backup story well the art was beautiful. Zelenetz is a good writer but a horrible poet. The poetry was just awkward and didn’t flow naturally at all.