Conan the Barbarian Warchief
Yasmina, the Devi of Vendhya
The Master of Yimsha
The Lords of the Black Circle
The Black Seers of Mount Yimsha
Conan builds his combined Kozak and pirate raiders
into so formidable a threat that King Yezdigerd calls off his march of
Empire to crush them. In one massive assault the Turanians succeed
in breaking up Conan's host. With a sizable band, Conan retreats
southward to take service as light cavalry in the army of Kobad Shah, king
of Iranistan. After "The Flame Knife", Conan rides into the
foothills of the Himelian Mountains on the frontier of Vendhya. As
the warchief of the savage Afghuli tribesmen, he battles "The People of
the Black Circle" (my favorite Conan story of all time).
Conan is a ruthless leader at this point, not above kidnapping the Devi of Vendhya to help his goals. He still maintains a rude chivalry toward women, and eventually his captive warms to him. Conan's charisma is very evident by this time. He constantly is finding warriors willing to fight for him, as well as women to warm up to him.
Conan's fighting style has gained his well known deadliness at this period of time. His combat reflexes give him quite the advantage in mass battles, with up to four attacks of opportunity as soldiers pass through his threat zone. His Great Cleave skill allows him to further wade through lesser warriors, crushing them left and right. He is amongst barbaric folk at this time and increases his level in Barbarian.
Rage: Twice per day, Conan can go into a rage and increase his Strength and Constitution by +4, and gains a +2 morale bonus to Will saves. He suffers a -2 penalty to AC.
Fast movement: Conan's speed is increased by +10 feet when wearing no armor, light armor, and shields.
Sneak Attack: Conan strikes a vital spot for extra damage whenever he catches an opponent flat footed or when he flanks an opponent.
Evasion: If exposed to an effect that allows a Reflex save for half damage Conan takes no damage if that save is successful.
Uncanny Dodge: Conan retains his dexterity bonus to his AC even when caught flatfooted or surprised. He can sense danger before it even becomes apparent. Conan at this point cannot be flanked.
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Robert E. Howard's story, "The People of the Black
Circle," was first published in Weird Tales as a three part serial in the
September, October, and November issues of 1934. The story can also
be found in the Ace/Lancer paperback "Conan the Adventurer"; the
Berkley/Putnam hardbound collection, "The People of the Black Circle," the
Donald M. Grant Limited Edition "The People of the Black Circle", and the
Gnome Press collection "The Sword of Conan". Marvel Comics
adapted the story into comic form in "The Savage Sword of Conan" issues
16-19. All of these are out of print, but are usually available on
Currently in print is the British volume "The Conan Chronicles Volume I : The People of the Black Circle" which is part of Millennium's "Fantasy Masterworks" series. ISBN: 1-85798-996-1. It is available off of Amazon.com
Also in print is Sci Fi Book Club's "The Essential Conan". It reprints the three Berkley/Putnam collections in one hardcover book. It contains "The People of the Black Circle."
This story is the first Conan story I ever read, and is one of the best. It is certainly my favorite. Fritz Lieber characterized the story as the best story of the entire Conan saga. If you are just starting to read Howard's Conan, this is a good story to start with.
This is a painting by Ken Kelly (who did most of
the Tor Books Conan covers) for the Berkley/Putnam edition of "The People
of the Black Circle". It features a scene from that story and is one
of the best non-Frazetta pieces of Conan art I have ever seen. It is
one of Ken Kelly's favorite Conan paintings.
I will never understand why they didn't use this cover for the Sci Fi Bookclub omnibus "The Essential Conan" instead of the inferior dust jacket art they used (also by Ken Kelly).
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