Darkness fell across the Kothian Hills, and the army of Khoraja stretched like a rough beast upon the nape of the earth. Fires by the hundreds sprang up, ruddy stars in a constellation of war; to them were drawn the fierce men of the hill-clans – sun-blackened rogues with bristling beards and hooked noses, their once-white khalats yellow with the dust of the road. They carried grave news from the deserts bordering Khoraja.
“Bring us to your chief of chiefs,” these hillmen said in earnest.
And the sentries obliged. But if these men expected to find themselves in some nobleman’s pavilion, reclining on velvet cushions and drinking wine from silver goblets, they were sorely disappointed. Instead, the sentries led them to a fire no different from the scores of others, situated among the tents of the mercenaries. Here, they beheld a giant of a man clad in steel plate, a scarlet cloak draped carelessly about his broad shoulders. One scarred hand rested lightly on the long hilt of a sheathed broadsword as, from beneath a square-cut black mane, smoldering blue eyes appraised the hillmen as a lion appraises its prey. For all that he wore the trappings of civilization, here was no city-bred dog; nor was he like them, a jackal who prowled the fringes of the civilized lands, who recognized no master save strength. No, here was a creature of elemental fury, raw and untamed; a barbarian in truth.
“I am Conan,” he rumbled. “Speak.”