(circa "Beyond the Black River")
18th level Druid
Half Fiend/Half Human
Hit Points: 120
Speed: 30 ft.
AC: 15 (+4 Dex, +1 Natural)
Attacks: Spear +17/12/7 melee or Claw +17/12/7 melee
Damage: Spear 1d8+2 or Claw 1d4+2
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Darkness 3/day, Desecrate, Unholy Blight, Poison 3/day, Contagion, Blasphemy, Unholy Aura 3/day, unhallow, Horrid Wilting, Summon Monster IX (fiends only)
Special Qualities: Wild Shape; Nature Sense, Animal Companion, Woodland Stride, Trackless Step, Resist Nature's Lure, Venom Immunity, A Thousand Faces, Timeless Body, Darkvision 60 ft, immunities, acid, cold, electricity, and fire resistance 20
Saves: Fort +15, Ref +11, Will +21
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 18, Con 15, Int 16, Wis 19, Cha 14
Skills: Spellcraft +22, Concentration +22, Knowledge (Nature) +22, Animal Empathy +20, Wilderness Lore +28
Feats: Track, Dodge, Combat Casting, Still Spell, Spell Focus (Summoning), Maximize Spell, Spell Penetration
Challenge Rating: 18
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Advancement: By Character Class.
|"A child of
Jhebbal Sag who still visits his sacred groves at times. A woman of
Gwawela slept in a grove holy to Jhebbal Sag. Her babe was Zogar
"A lean figure of middle height, almost hidden in ostrich plumes set on a harness of leather and copper. From amidst the plumes peered a hideous and malevolent face. The plumes fluttered and rustled evilly as the shaman leaped and cavorted.
"With fantastic bounds and prancings he entered the ring and whirled before his bound and silent captives. With another man it would have seemed ridiculous- a foolish savage prancing meaninglessly in a whirl of feathers. But that ferocious face glaring out from the billowing mass gave the scene a grim significance. No man with a face like that could seem ridiculous or like anything except the devil he was."
The Swamp Devil
|~Robert E. Howard, "Beyond the Black River"|
|Zogar Sag, a wizard
among picts, gathered at least sixteen tribes to attack Conajohara, an
Aquilonian frontierland. He remembered Jhebbal Sag, and could speak to other animals
that likewise remembered. Jhebbal Sag was an ancient deity back in
the time when men and animals spoke the same language. Zogar is a
son of Jhebbal.
He likes to collect the heads of his enemies, sending his Swamp Devil most often to do the chore for him. He places the heads in his hut. Often he has a creature guarding his hut. If one who remembers Jhebbal Sag is not available to serve as a guardian, he will chain up a regular brute to do the chore.
Zogar Sag generally summons animals out of the black swamps of Pictland to aid him. These include dire Sabretooth Tigers, dire giant poisonous constrictor snakes (yes, poisonous AND constricting…), dire leopards, and other animals. He also has, via enchantments and sorceries unknown, linked himself with one of his brothers, a Swamp Devil. The exact reason why he linked himself with his half-brother is unknown, but if either one takes any damage, the other one also takes the damage. They can communicate via telepathy.
Darkness 3/day (Sp): As per the spell at 18th level of use.
Desecrate (SP): Usable 1/day to imbue an area with negative energy. As per the spell of the same name.
Unholy Blight (sp): 1/day, Zogar Sag can call up unholy power to smite his enemies, dealing 5d8 damage to good creatures and sickening them for 1d4 rounds. As per the spell of the same name.
Poison 3/day (sp) Calling upon the venomous powers of natural predators, Zogar Sag can inflict upon his victims a horrible poison by making a touch attack. As per the spell description of the same name.
Contagion (sp): 1 time per day, Zogar Sag can make his victims contract a terrible swamp disease. As per the spell description of the spell of the same name.
Blasphemy (Sp): 1 time per day, Zogar Sag can utter cosmic blasphemies so evil that it can daze, weaken, paralyze, or even kill non-evil victims. As per the spell description in PHB.
Unholy Aura 3/day (sp): Zogar Sag can surround his subjects with a malevolent darkness that protects them from attacks by good critters. As per the spell of the same name.
Uhallow (sp): Usable 1/day, Zogar Sag can make a particular site an unholy site as per the spell description of the spell of the same name. He usually protects his hut with this spell.
Horrid Wilting (Sp): Once per day, Zogar Sag can evaporate moisture from the bodies of living creatures, as per the spell description in PHB.
Summon Monster IX (fiends only): Usable 1/day.
|Robert E. Howard's story, "Beyond the Black
River," was first published in Weird Tales as a two part serial, beginning
in May of 1935 and ending in June 1935. The story can also be found
in the Ace/Lancer paperback "Conan the Warrior"; and the Gnome Press
collection "King Conan". It is also available in the Burkley/Putnam
edition, "Red Nails".
This was the second of Conan's four serial length appearances in Weird Tales. For a change, the Robert E. Howard story did not make the cover (probably because there wasn't a scantily clad female in distress). Instead, the magazine featured "A weird Craig Kennedy murder-mystery" by Arthur B. Reeve.
Of this story, Howard said this, "My latest sales have been... a two-part Conan serial to Weird Tales; no sex in the latter. I wanted to see if I could write an interesting Conan yarn without sex interest. I've attempted a new style and setting entirely - abandoned the exotic settings of lost cities, decaying civilizations, golden domes, marble palaces, silk-clad dancing girls,
|etc., and thrown my story against a background of
forests and rivers, log cabins, frontier outposts, buckskin clad settlers,
and painted tribesmen. Some day I am going to try my hand at a
longer yarn of the same style, a serial of four or five parts."
(This probably refers to "The Black Stranger", which he was unable to sell
to Weird Tales.)
A lot of people don't care for "Beyond the Black River" because it is such a departure in style, but I think it is an excellent Conan story. For the first time, Howard was writing a Conan story in a framework which he knew from his own experience, which, in my opinion, gives the story a sense of reality and power that few of the other Conan stories can match.
Conan has, by this time, become such a super hero that it takes a secondary character so that the reader can relate to the story. In many ways, Balthus is a reflection of Howard himself, and it can be said that this story is a sort of 'what if Howard had met Conan' tale. This story seems to generate the most controversy amongst Howard fans. They either love the story, or they hate it.
|Marvel Comics adapted the story in issues 26 and
27 of Savage Sword of Conan. I have presented here the cover to
issue 26, as well as (above) original interior artwork from
(the picture of Zogar Sag is from the Savage Sword presentation. The
snake is the Weird Tales picture drawn by Hugh Rankin).
Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) has called "Beyond the Black River" the truest and most satisfying of the Conan stories. Robert Weinberg considers this tale "one of those stories that elevates Howard's sword and sorcery fiction well above any that has ever been written. Karl Edward Wagner agrees.
This story also has one of Howard's best lines- "Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must ultimately triumph."
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