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I had a chance encounter with the king of Aquilonia during the month. Okay, so it wasn’t a chance encounter; I decided to ride my buckskin horse all the way to his doorstep, but what amazed me about this guy, Conan, is that he lets anyone who pleases come and see him, even if there’s no point in the visit; he’s happy just to make general chit-chat with you. What a guy! But fancy that: a guy like me, a humble servant of Aquilonia; a grunt, just being allowed to walk in to his throne room with the approval of his Black Dragon guards, and I’m spoken to by this Cimmerian-born monarch like we’re old college roomies or something. He is, however, wary of me at the start, I mean, can you blame him? Security is so loose in that castle you could walk in there like Altair, with more daggers and blades strapped to your body than an overzealous butcher, and no one would so much as double-take at you.

I made certain I cleared the air with King Conan first: “Oh yeah, did I mention that I was – involuntarily – involved in a plot against you set in motion by your arch nemesis, Thoth-Amon?” He understood. Actually, he said, “That’s okay; it’s not every day a son or daughter of Aquilonia, Cimmeria, or Stygia is possessed by an ancient demon and forced against their own will to serve a tyrant” Obviously King Conan has never worked in retail!

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So I get to talking to King Conan, and I tell him about what I have seen in the last couple of months as a new inhabitant of his kingdom and surrounding lands. I begin by telling him about those who would seek to do his will and protect the innocent within Hyboria from the clutches of the dark Thoth-Amon. I tell Conan that for no reason apart from simply being able to, even fellow countrymen are slaughtering each other in the battlefields and in places which would normally be deemed safe and secure. “Even the resurrection tablets?” Conan asked me. “Yes, even those” I replied. The look on Conan’s face would have made surprised look surprised. He went on to tell me that even in open combat, there is a certain etiquette: “Give an opponent a chance to catch his breath. Yes, if you’re confident in your blade, removing the head from his shoulders should not be a problem for you, even the second or third time over”. “Okay, fair enough” I responded, “But what if I am beset upon by multitude of opponents. What should I do then?” I didn’t see it coming, but King Conan gave me a back-hander so hard across my face that I came very close to spitting out the last of my good teeth. “You pox-ridden son of a whore!” He began “Is the answer not already clear?” I could see the servant ladies giggle into their hands as they looked upon me. “You take your blade in one hand and your balls in the other, by Crom, and you cut them down, one by one, and if Crom wills it you will have their heads on a pike like a Stygian shish!” What Conan was really trying to say to me (I think), was just to deal with the situation. Okay, I was now beginning to understand how this guy became king!

The impression was made on me: Conan was a guy that meant business, and it was at this point that I asked him if there was anything I could do for him. He mentioned this beast, named “Vistrix”. He described Vistrix to me: winged, scaly skin, hot breath, horns, fierce, man-eating, and so forth. I looked back at Conan quite puzzled and I was wondering why he couldn’t just say “Dragon”, but fearing another back-hand to the face I restrained myself and allowed his majesty to outline the task he wished me to carry-out. Okay, get a bunch of my friends together, journey through icy plains of Cimmeria until you come into King Atzel’s realm, look for a guy called Kurtz along the way, and he’ll tell me where Vistrix likes to chew the fat. Sounds easy enough, and Conan even promised me some special booty (not the fleshy type… unfortunately, I mean, those concubines! Hubba-hubba!) as a prize for slaying the dragon, oh, I mean “the winged, scaly-sknned, hot-breathed, horned, fierce, man-eating beast”.

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After travelling to the Lacheish Plains, where my brethren call “home”, we set-out to King Atzel’s realm, following Conan’s directions to the letter, speaking to Kurtz, and finally discovering the location of Vistrix’s lair. Much to our surprise, however, was the difficulty in gaining access to the entrance of this beast’s domain. It required a bit of climbing-work, and fortunately I was skilled enough to get down to a sensible gradation, but for my friends, to their misfortune they did not have the skill to attempt such an obstacle. What solution did us on the ground have to offer our friends aloft? Well, you know that song “It’s raining men”? Yeah, you don’t need to be an alchemist to figure out what my brethren did. To our advantage, we had a number of priestly figures learned in the ways of Set, Mitra and other shamanistic incantations, so it wasn’t long before they were turning puddles of fleshy goo into something that resembled a Hyborian again.

Our fearless raid leader set down the ground rules; he had to speak slowly and clearly as we had a blend of cultures with us, and not to mention those Barbarians are about as bright as a torch in a pond. Clearing out the wyrms was a simple task: let the heavier-clad soldiers go and get their attention and bring them back, one by one if possible, to the rest of the group where we would begin redefine what the word “pain” meant to these horrid creatures (the Barbarians simply drooled and smashed away). To cut a long story short: we eventually made our way to Vistrix’s lair, were given another run-down on tackling this beast, and finally prepared ourselves to spend the next few hours nudging and tweaking our strategy to see if we could down this dragon (Yes, Conan’s not around to back-hand me anymore).

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The plan was simple: our most heavy-set Soldier would maintain Vistrix’s attention by repeatedly whacking the beast on the nose with his weapon, another Soldier would do the same but only at his rear end, and each Soldier would be accompanied by one or two Priests with strong healing abilities. As for the rest of us, well, without giving too much away, when the call was made, we’d rush in and bleed that overgrown iguana as much as we could before it got all angry and decide to stun us and breath all over us with its fire-hot breath. Several deaths (en masse) ensued when the beast’s underlings decided to make their presence known to us and avenge the deaths of their slithery kin a bit earlier. And so after re-grouping, we’d assemble ourselves to fight the dragon again.

Vistrix must have been getting sick of us that evening, because I could have sworn that on the fifth attempt I could see a look on the dragon’s face as if it were saying, “You again? Haven’t I killed you all enough?!?”

As we approached the waning hours of the evening, we, as a group, conceded that we were not going to best this beast on this day. Fortunately, we had learned much about this beast called “Vistrix” and we would relish the opportunity to face it again with a renewed energy, enthusiasm and ire for victory. The only regret I had was knowing that I would have to go back to King Conan and tell him of our failure… or not! I wonder if King Atzel is looking for a new court jester?

Until next time, this is Stephen “weezer” Spiteri,

Out.

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© Stephen Spiteri, July 2008

Review: Don King’s Prizefighter

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