|The Magic Knife of the Ancient Yuetshi Priest|
|On his bare,
muscular chest lay a curious dagger with a jeweled pommel, shagreen-bound
hilt, and a broad crescent blade. It was much like the knife the
fisherman wore at his hip, but it lacked the serrated edge, and was made
with infinitely greater skill.
[Khosatral Khel's] sorcery kept [the Yuetshi] in bonds. Then their priest, a strange guant man of unknown race, plunged into the wilderness, and when he returned he bore a knife that was of no earthly substance. It was forged of a meteor which flashed through the sky like a flaming arrow and fell in a far valley. Against that unearthly knife the magic of Khosatral was impotent..
~The Devil in Iron, Robert E. Howard
This masterwork dagger of meteoric steel has a weapon bonus of +3. It is a Keen weapon (doubles its threat range), as well as a Bane to Evil Outsiders (+5 weapon bonus to evil outsiders and deals +2d6 damage to evil outsiders as well.)
The Yuetshi priest left Khosatral Khel alive, using the dagger in a spell to hold the fiend in suspended animation. When the dagger was moved, the Devil in Iron came to life again. Conan found the dagger and, as usual when Conan finds a weapon, put it to good use.
Robert E. Howard is not clear whether Conan left the dagger plunged in Xapur's god's heart (meaning it probably is still in the ruins of Xapur) or if he kept it for a while afterwards (meaning it could be anywhere by now). I guess that is the DM's call.
Market Price: 72,000 gp
Caster Level: 10th
|below is the original cover of Weird Tales, August 1934, featuring Conan fighting a snake in Xapur. Art is by Margaret Brundage.|
|Robert E. Howard's story, "The Devil in Iron" was
first published in Weird Tales in August of 1934. The story can also
be found in the Ace/Lancer paperback "Conan the Wanderer"; the Donald M.
Grant Limited Edition "The Devil in Iron", and the Gnome Press collection
"Conan the Barbarian". It can also be found in the
Berkley/Putnam collection "The People of the Black Circle".
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. "The Devil in Iron" can also be found in the Sci Fi
Book Club "The Essential Conan."
One weakness of this story is the incredible coincidence upon which it hangs. Jehungir Agha was lying when he told Conan Octavia had run away to Xapur. She had been handed into the loathsome clutches of Jelal Khan Escaping, she somehow finds her way to Xapur, a supposed tiny island with unscalable cliffs; the likelihood of her finding her way there purely by chance seems a little difficult to accept. Then again, ERB wrote dozens of Tarzan novels that depended on even more unlikely coincidences.
There isn't a lot in the way of characterization. Conan spends more time running than thinking. I suspect this may be partly because Howard wasn't sure how Conan should react to something so clearly inexplicable as a city appearing magically overnight. To REH the Conan stories were inherently realistic, he favoured gorillas and snakes, and the magic is often explained either as a sort of super-science, or as hypnosis. In this case, there can be no such realist explanation, and so Howard himself may have found it a little hard to accept.
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