->''"Barbarism is the natural state of mankind," the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. "Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph."''
"[[http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Beyond_the_Black_River Beyond the Black River]]" is a Franchise/ConanTheBarbarian story by Creator/RobertEHoward. Published in 2 parts, from May to June, 1935.
Balthus is an young man, recently sent to help defend the border lands of western Aquilonia; lands which encroach upon the territory of the savage [[TheSavageIndian Picts]]. He meets and befriends Conan, a Cimmerian, who has been serving at the nearby fort as a tracker and soldier for several months. There have been a recent rash of murders, perpetrated by demonic minions of Zothar Sag, a Pictish chieftain. Conan suggests breaking the shaky peace with the Picts in order to put a permanent end to the problem. He assembles a small team, including Balthus, who along with himself, will sneak into Zothar Sag's camp and kill him. However, this will require them to cross [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast the Black River]] and into Pictish territory, a [[DeathWorld savage land]] for a savage people, populated by all manner of beasts, and [[TheseAreThingsManWasNotMeantToKnow some things out of their nightmares]].
Often considered one of Creator/RobertEHoward's greatest works, it features many of the recurring themes present in his other works, such as the man's inmate barbarism and the impermanence of civilization, yet given far more focus here.
* ABoyAndHisX: Balthus and Slasher.
* AloneInACrowd: Balthus feels alone in Conan's presence.
* AuthorAvatar: Balthus, according to Howard himself.
* BringNewsBack: What Conan and Balthus try to do.
* DeusExitMachina: Conan and Balthus separate near the end of the story, mainly so Conan can have a fight with a forest demon while Balthus defends the escaping settlers [[spoiler: in a HeroicSacrifice]].
* DistressedDude: Balthus, one of the few male examples in a Conan story. He changes pretty quick.
* FriendOrFoe: Conan deludes a Pict.
* HalfHumanHybrid: [[spoiler: Zothar Sag is half swamp demon.]]
* HeroicSacrifice: [[spoiler: Balthus and the dog.]]
* HumanSacrifice: Part of the RitualMagic.
* JungleDrums: The Picts use them.
* LibationForTheDead: Conan at the end.
* TheLostWoods: The Pictish wilderness definitely counts, as does the border lands the settlers call home, to a lesser extent.
* TheNativesAreRestless: Picts.
* PantheraAwesome: A saber-toothed tiger! Even Conan is shocked that one is still alive. Later an actual jaguar tracks the heroes through the forest.
* PowerGlows: The forest demon, who glows green.
* RitualMagic: The Picts practice it.
* ScarilyCompetentTracker: The Picts, to the point where despite traveling tens of miles through the forest, Conan tells Balthus it's only a matter of time until the Picts find them.
* ToAbsentFriends: Conan and some woodsmen discuss the settlers and the people who died at the fort over drinks at the end of the story.
* WouldNotShootACivilian: Dead civilians enrage Balthus.