A Cormac Fitzgeoffrey story, first published in Oriental Stories.
cy over these wolves?" asked Cormac bluntly.
Skol laughed and drank once more.
"I have something each wishes. They hate each other; I play them against one another. I hold the key to the plot. They do not trust each other enough to move against me. I am Skol Abdhur! Men are puppets to dance on my strings. And women"--a vagrant and curious glint stole into his eyes--"women are food for the gods," he said strangely.
"Many men serve me," said Skol Abdhur, "emirs and generals and chiefs, as you saw. How came they here to Bab-el-Shaitan where the world ends? Ambition--intrigues--women--jealousy--hatred--now they serve the Butcher. And what brought you here, my brother? That you are an outlaw I know--that your life is forfeit to your people because you slew a certain emir of the Franks, one Count Conrad von Gonler. But only when hope is dead do men ride to Bab-el-Shaitan. There are cycles within cycles, outlaws beyond the pale of outlawry, and Bab-el-Shaitan is the end of the world."
Cormac FitzGeoffrey is an Irish knight wandering the Near East after the Crusades. He arrives at a desert castle with a bad reputation as a thieves' stronghold, and meets a veritable United Nations of scoundrels.
Although evil monsters are hinted at, they never arrive, and the story is a gore-fest of ruthless characters all chasing a fabled ruby.
More "realistic" than Howard's Conan, King Kull, and Soloman Kane stories, because there is no magic involved.
Most people are only aware of Robert E. Howard's (1906-1936) literary invention of Conan the Barbarian, but he had a number of bigger-than-life characters in his stable of pulp tales.
Cormac Fitzgeoffrey only appears in two of these tales: Hawks of Outremer and The Blood of Belshazzar, both written in 1931.
In the latter, Cormac seeks for help in rescuing his leader from barbarians from barbarians even more fierce and evil than those that hold his friend captive. There is lots of blood and body counts and is well worth the time if you like your pulp fiction well seasoned with action and adventure.
C. Alan Loewen