(circa "The Black Stranger")
10th level Aristocrat
Hit Dice: 10d8 + 10 (55 hit points)
Speed: 30 ft.
AC: 15 (+5 Masterwork Breastplate)
Attacks: Masterwork longsword +8/+3
Damage: Masterwork longsword 1d8+1
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./10 ft.
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +8
Abilities: Str 13, Dex 10, Con 11, Int 12, Wis 11, Cha 13
Skills: Bluff +14, Diplomacy +14, Gather Information +14, Intimidate +14, Innuendo +14, Ride +13
Feats: Dodge, Expertise, Mounted Combat, Leadership (x2)
Climate/Terrain: Zingara, Pictish Wilderness
Challenge Rating: 9
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Advancement: by Character class
The Black Stranger
Strom the Barachan
Black Zarono the Buccaneer
Galbro the Senschenal (Valenso's Cohort)
|"The Count was a lean, wiry man of medium height and late middle age. He was dark, somber of expression. Trunk hose and doublet were of black silk, the only color about his costume the jewels that twinkled on his sword hilt, and the wine-colored cloak thrown carelessly over his shoulder. He twisted his thin black moustache nervously."|
|~Robert E. Howard, "The Black Stranger"|
|Valenso was a
Zingaran Count who fled into exile for reasons he kept to himself.
Once his word is given, he is trustworthy. He was a harsh man,
without affection, grasping and avid. But he was also fair, and
fearless… except in regards to his exile.
In his youth, he had an enemy at court, a powerful man who stood between him and his ambition. In his lust for wealth and power, he sought aid from the people of the black arts – a black magician, who, at his desire, raised up a fiend from the outer gulfs of existence and clothed it in the form of a man. It crushed and slew his enemy; he grew great and wealthy and none could stand before him. But he thought to cheat the fiend of the price a mortal must pay who calls the black folk to do his bidding. He had a sorcerer bind the fiend in hell.
But a year ago, word came to Valenso that the magician who bound the fiend had been slain. And Valenso knew the demon had escaped from hell. And so Valenso fled.
Valenso had been followed into exile by a hundred men. Some were soldiers, others were vassals and serfs. Forty were men-at-arms, wearing helmets and suits of mail, armed with swords, axes and crossbows. The other sixty were toilers, without armor but shirts of toughened leather, but were still skilled in the use of hunting bows, woodsmen's axes, and boar-spears.
|Valenso fights with a sword.|
|Robert E. Howard completed twenty-one Conan
stories during the four years that he wrote them. Of these,
seventeen were published in Weird Tales. The other four,
rejected by Farnsworth Wright, the editor of Weird
remained unpublished until many years after Howard's suicide. "The
Black Stranger" is one of these four completed stories.
After it was rejected, Howard made an unsuccessful attempt to salvage the story as a pirate yarn, substituting his pirate hero, Black Vulmea, for Conan, and calling it "Swords of the Red Brotherhood."
L. Sprague de Camp later found the original draft of the Conan version of the story and severly edited it so that the story would fit better into his personal idea of Conan's chronology. This rewrite was titled "The Treasure of Tranicos." De Camp changed the ending of the story: In the original, Conan decides to take up piracy again. In De Camp's alteration, some Aquilonian nobles divine Conan's location and go there to pick him up so he can lead a revolt against the King of Aquilonia. De Camp also changed the identity of the Black Stranger, changing it unnecessarily from a demon from the outer dark to Thoth Amon. He further changed the names of some characters. Strom became Strombanni in De Camp's recension.
Howard's original tale, unedited, was first published in paperback in 1987 in Karl Edward Wagner's "Echoes of Valor". It has since been published in Millenium Press' "Conan Chronicles Volume 2", which was recently released and is still in print.
|The artwork above for "Echoes of Valor" is by Ken Kelly and features Conan, Belesa, and Tina against the picts. This has got to be one of the worst examples of Mr. Kelly's art I have ever seen. The main trio seem static and posed and do not look threatened or scared or worried or... well, they don't really display any emotion at all. Really a shame, since I know Mr. Kelly can do better than this. His covers for the three Berkley/Putnam Conans were incredible, as were his artwork for the El Borak series by Howard. His Frazetta-like art works a lot better than his Boris imitations.|
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