CONAN THE ROGUE
John Maddox Roberts
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be, the only piece of wizardly paraphernalia in sight was the scrying glass. Usually the quarters of wizards were replete with astrolabes, ancient books, vials of strange liquids and powders, and bubbling retorts. This one was travelling, he reflected, and was by his own admission not much of a wizard. At last Casperus sat back and released a mighty belch. The table was devoid of all but scraps of food. Daintily he wiped his lips with a silken napkin and dipped his fingers into a bowl of scented
has a sensible wariness of magical things. In short, sir, I would like to employ you.' 'Now we come to the truly important part of all this,' Conan said. 'How much?' 'I am prepared to offer fifty thousand golden marks of Aquilonia upon delivery of the image into my hands.' It was a princely sum, but Conan affected to be unimpressed. 'That is paltry if the thing is worth what you say.' 'Only to me, sir, only to me. Were you to seek to sell it to the likes of Thoth-amon, he would have it from
Piris drew a deep breath, as if about to impart something both vital and secret. 'It has the likeness of a scorpion with the head of a beautiful woman, carven from a stone like obsidian.' Somehow, Conan was not surprised. He was glad of the flickering, deceptive light cast by the lone candle, for Piris would not be able to read the many expressions he knew to be crossing his countenance in rapid succession, consternation and amusement predominating. 'And what is it that makes this stone insect
just keeping out of each other's way, but that would not last much longer. Conan manoeuvred the shorter man between himself and the taller, then lowered his guard, inviting a high cut. The man seized the opening, making a swipe at the exposed neck. The Cimmerian ducked and felt the other's sword tick slightly on the top of his steel cap. As he ducked, he straightened his sword arm, running the man through his barrel chest. Drawing his blade free, Conan simultaneously placed a foot against the
confident,' Conan cautioned. 'I do not know how many of Ermak's men are in there.' 'They will die like the rest,' Bellas said. 'They may take more killing, though,' said Conan. 'Do not try to fight them single-handed. If one shows himself, let two or three of you together attack him. Move fast, attack from more directions than he can defend, and do not get in each other way.' They nodded at the advice. He hoped that they would remember it in the excitement of battle. 'I go now,' he told them.