Conan The Barbarian #12: "The Blood Of The Dragon!"

Conan The Barbarian #12
 "The Blood Of The Dragon!"
 December, 1971

 Roy Thomas: Writer
 Gil Kane: Artist
 Diverse Hands: Embellishment
 Artie Simek: Letterer

 Roy Thomas finds those Conan stories a blast to write -- but figures there must have been much more going on during Robert E. Howard's mythical Hyborian Age of 12,000 years ago. The writer finds it a shame that someone hasn't written and drawn one of those adventures. Gil Kane says they will and tells the writer to imagine himself on a cloudy day in Aquilonia -- Poitain's province -- the clash and clangor of a tourney between two knights -- and then a shout above the timult--!

 With Valannus down, the day belongs to Kalligor!

 It is a time of chivalry -- many millennia before there will be a French language -- and a France--! Valannus yields to his friend, the noble knight named Kalligor... He tells Valannus to rise and that he will collect his laurels tomorrow. Now he is heading for the castle... and fine dining with the baron himself. No hero is Kalligor to his squire -- who scolds him for the lack of fresh linen and clean vestments upon his return. When the hapless squire claims to have been immersed in the tourney, Kalligor tells him to make haste to retain his vows, and his ears, too. Only Kalligor knows he loosened Valannus' cinch-straps and that he is eyeing the baron's daughter -- and the son, who will never reach thirty years of age! There are names for those such as Kalligor in time to come -- and none of them are pleasant ones --

 This evening, there is talk at the castle of more serious matters--! The baron learns from one who has come from the Bossonian Marches that the Hydragon has appeared once more -- and has taken the lives of everyone in a nearby village! Although the frontier is far away, the baron owes King Numedides defense of Aquilonia borders. It is said that the Hydragon may be slain by a lone warrior, and indeed one did leave the village... never to be seen again. As others volunteer to be sent to slay the Hydragon, the baron asks Kalligor if he would care to be sent on this important mission. Kalligor prefers to keep his sword ready for battles closer to home. The baron's own son volunteers and since he is a knight who has been promised any boon he craves, this quest shall be that boon. As the others warn the baron's son about the Hydragon's cursed blood, Kalligor reasons that he may fight the dragon himself -- in his own time, and in his own manner.

 The time comes when news from the marches make mention of the baron's son's disappearance. This is the moment Kalligor has been waiting for -- the moment when he makes his own fortune. When he informs the baron that he will ride against the Hydragon today, the baron offers his daughter's hand in marriage and half his barony while he lives, and all of it when he dies! For himself, Kalligor claims to avenge a fallen friend.

 Days later, Kalligor and his horse have reached the Bridge of the Accursed, the marker of the westernmost border of Aquilonia -- If any were present to hear, one would almost imagine the sound of mirthless laughter. Now ahead of him -- coming out of the swirling mists -- RRRRRR THE HYDRAGON! Although this be a formidable slayer of men, the Hydragon has conquered those who came at it armed with spear -- sabre -- and with scimitar. They never thought to use, what Kalligor is about to use now --

 RRRRR Kalligor hurls a poisoned blade at the Hydragon! The creature has fallen but still lives! Kalligor urges his horse onward before they are crushed. The Hydragon has breathed its last and the barony now belongs to Kalligor! His triumph is suddenly interrupted when Kalligor notices the Hydragon's corpse beginning to shrink --! It changes shape before his very eyes --

 It is now the body of the baron's own son and Kalligor's plans are now undone! He can bring no proof to the baron that he has slain the Hydragon whose blood now permeates his own armor -- without revealing that he slew his lord's heir. If he were to do that, his own life would be forfeit! Even death is to be denied him as the blood which touched his brow -- causes him to suddenly change -- into the HYDRAGONNNNNNNN Now Kalligor knows the truth about the Hyrdragon's cursed blood -- he knows that each lone warrior slew the Hydragon, and became the dragon in return--! Roy Thomas finds this to be a real gory story -- right from the old Weird Tales! As the Rascally One wonders if Conan ever ran into the Hydragon when he went to the Bossonian Marches, Gil Kane can't say, but he knows if he ever were to come across a bleeding dragon -- he would call the Red Cross first!

 I first read this story when it was reprinted in Giant-Size Conan #5.

 This was the first and last installment of Tales Of The Hyborian Age!

 Roy Thomas once told me he first met Gil Kane when they collaborated on Captain Mar-Vell and became lifelong friends.

 The diverse hands embellishing this Tale Of The Hyborian Age belong to Gil Kane, Tom Palmer and Berni Wrightson.

 Gil Kane inked page 1, Tom Palmer inked pages 2,3,6, and 7, and Berni Wrightson inked pages 4 and 5.

 Kalligor resembles a young Doctor Strange and shares the same personality as Stephen Strange before he lost the use of his hands to perform surgery, and met the Ancient One.

 Tom Palmer's inks flesh out Gil Kane's pencils, enabling the reader to pay closer attention to the characters' individual facial expressions and body language.

 Berni Wrightson's inks over Gil Kane's pencils follows every line faithfully and the reader pays closer attention to the angles used in each panel.

 The Hydragon is a snake-like dinosaur with a crown of snakes atop its head.

 Kalligor sought to send the Hydragon a poisoned pen letter, but the creature answered his letter in blood.

 Kalligor had sought an inheritance and gained one... only not the one he had originally sought.

 Steve Chung
 "The Review Of The Dragon!"