Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Black Colossus

Go To

"Whence came Natohk?" rose the Shemite's vibrant whisper. "Out of the desert on a night when the world was blind and wild with mad clouds driven in frenzied flight across the shuddering stars, and the howling of the wind was mingled with the shrieking of the spirits of the wastes. Vampires were abroad that night, witches rode naked on the wind, and werewolves howled across the wilderness. On a black camel he came, riding like the wind, and an unholy fire played about him; the cloven tracks of the camel glowed in the darkness. When Natohk dismounted before Set's shrine by the oasis of Aphaka, the beast swept into the night and vanished. And I have talked with tribesmen who swore that it suddenly spread gigantic wings and rushed upwards into the clouds, leaving a trail of fire behind it. No man has seen that camel since that night, but a black brutish manlike shape shambles to Natohk's tent and gibbers to him in the blackness before dawn."

"Black Colossus" is a Conan the Barbarian story by Robert E. Howard. First published in June, 1933.

Princess Yasmela has been having terrible nightmares about a large black shadowy figure, who claims he is coming for her. To make matters worse, out in the desert, a dark figure has been uniting the scattered tribes and ravaging the countryside, and soon they will be at the city gates! Action must be taken, and, after receiving advice from her patron god, she goes looking for someone to lead her forces to victory against the evil hordes. And who should happen to be there but Conan?

Trope Colossus:

  • Above the Influence: when Yasmela, terrified by Natohk's nightmares, comes to Conan for comfort, he merely gives her a Comforting Comforter and stands watch over her throughout the night.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Conan, now in command of an army and with more than his own life to consider, does not adhere to this philosophy. Count Thespides, leader of the Khorajan knights, does. No points for guessing how well that works out for him.
  • Bad Vibrations: Conan puts his ear to the ground and realises that thousands of enemy cavalry are charging towards them, concealed by the fog.
  • Bad with the Bone: Conan smites a would-be deserter with a beef-bone he'd been gnawing on. Then draws his sword and states anyone else who doesn't hold rank gets Off with His Head!.
  • The Berserker: Natohk's horde are berserkers, charging an army in a defended position in massive human wave attacks.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Shevatas the thief, in the prologue, carries a bejewelled blade that he's poisoned.
  • The Chains of Commanding: When Conan shows caution in the battle at the pass and refuses to be drawn into a trap, Amalric notes that he'd be the first to charge if he was still a simple mercenary. Conan notes that's because he would be responsible only for his own life in that case, but now he has an army and country to defend.
  • The Chase: After Yasmela is abducted by Natohk in his chariot, Conan gives chase on horseback.
  • Cool Mask: The villain is even called the Veiled One.
  • Damsel in Distress: Yasmela, at the end.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • Shortly after meeting Conan, Princess Yasmela is surprised to find herself feeling twinges of lust and desire towards the barbarian.
    • Natohk is himself the victim of this, as he is more focused on having Yasmela than on his plans for conquest. This is further emphasised in the Dark Horse comic adaptation, where, during a critical moment in the battle, his demon servant points out that with Conan and the Khorajan army occupied, Natohk can simply take the remainder of his horde around the plateau and through the pass, with Khoraja and the lands beyond ripe for the taking. He promptly ignores this advice, to fatal results.
    • At the end Conan himself—as commander he thinks that he really ought to get back to finishing off the enemy, but Yasmela has other things in mind.
  • Divine Intervention: Yasmela, on the urging of one of her handmaidens, goes to a shrine of Mitra to seek advice. Not being a follower of that god particularly, Yasmela is unclear how to proceed with a prayer, but Mitra speaks before she can puzzle it out. He tells her to go into the city, and entrust the fate of her kingdom to the first man she meets. Of course, the first man she meets is Conan. Yasmela is very perturbed (at least initially) by Mitra's idea of "intervention."
  • Evil Sorcerer: Natohk, a.k.a. Thugra Khotan.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: A funny moment where Yasmela unveils the new commander of her forces to her counsellors, right at the moment when Conan is sprawled in a chair and tearing into a meat-bone with his teeth. The counsellors change their tune once they see Conan in his new officer's armour, though.
  • Fog of Doom: The Evil Sorcerer uses it to block line-of-sight as his army approaches Conan's.
  • Foreshadowing: When Conan's Amalric notes that he's seen actual kings wear fine armour less nobly than Conan, it's noted that Conan would remember he said that in years to come, after he gained his own throne. Not foreshadowing at the time, since the first Conan story was a "Conan the King" -era story, but is nowadays since most collections arrange the stories chronologically.
  • Genius Bruiser: Amalric claims that Conan has never commanded more than a company of cutthroats, but he handles being an army commander well enough, earning his former commander's approval with the way he forms up his men and refuses to be Lured into a Trap.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Yasmela insists, at the end.
  • The Horde: Consisting of thirty tribes.
  • Intro-Only Point of View: The thief Shevatas opens the story with his heist of a long-dead wizard's tomb. It does not end well for him.
  • The Lady's Favour: The knights in Conan's army are all mentioned as carrying them.
  • Magic Wand: Natohk uses the classic "also turns into a snake" version.
  • Mars Needs Women: The Eldritch Abomination wants Yasmela.
  • Perpetual-Motion Monster: The snake that guards Thugra Khotan's three thousand year old tomb.
  • Playing with Fire: Natohk summons wall of fire, using it on the rashly charging knights.
  • Powder Trail: Natohk lays a trail of glittering powder across the path of the charging cavalry, and when their steel shod hooves strike it, the powder erupts in a wall of flame, causing a huge pile-up. Whether it's actually gunpowder or a magical version is not revealed.
  • Rescue Sex: Yasmela throws herself at Conan on being rescued.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Shevatas's adventure gets a good deal of focus at the beginning, until he dies.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Did it come as a surprise to anyone that Natohk is actually Thugra Khotan?
  • Seen It All: Even though Amalric admits he’d hang Conan if he wasn’t such a good swordsman, he takes Conan being promoted over him in stride, because he’s used to the changes of fortune inherent in a mercenary’s life.
  • Sex Slave: Natohk intends this for Yasmela. Sure, he says she'll be his Queen, but immediately states he'll teach her "the ancient forgotten ways of pleasure" before going off on a description so horrible we only see Yasmela's reaction to it.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Done with Conan, entertainingly enough. When Yasmela presents him to her generals, they balk at the idea of taking orders from this barbarian mercenary eating meat right off a bone. She has him taken aside and fitted with a proper set of new full plate armor, and when he comes back, the generals are surprised at how much he at least looks the part of a leader of men. The general in charge of coordinating the mercenaries, who knows Conan best, says that he's seen kings who didn't look as regal in full gear as Conan does.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Thugra Khotan, an Acheronian/Stygian king-sorcerer three thousand years ago.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Yasmela takes no shit from her courtiers. When one states it's insulting to be asked to serve under Conan's command:
    Yasmela: Count Thespides, you have my glove under your baldric. Please give it to me, then go.
    Thespides: Go? Go where?
    Yasmela: To Koth or to Hades! If you will not serve me as I wish, you shall not serve me at all.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Thugra Khotan, towards Yasmela.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Part of the warning of the army's approach. At first they think it's a storm, before they realise it's an eldritch fog.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Conan finishes Khotan by throwing his sword through him, mid-sentence. The comic adaptation is the page picture for this trope.
  • Treasure Room: Khotan's tomb.
  • Victory Sex: Princess Yasmela throws herself at Conan after he's routed the invading army and killed Evil Sorcerer Stalker with a Crush Natohk, who planned to make Yasmela his Queen (read: wanton Sex Slave). It's equal parts this trope, Rescue Sex, and Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex.
  • Was Once a Man: the Eldritch Abomination.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Yasmela's captive brother is the chief subject matter of the opening discussion — and dropped right after.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: After capturing Yasmela, Natohk boasts that his lust for her weakened his sorcery, but by consuming her soul he'll be all-powerful. Whether he still intended for her to be his Sex Slave afterwards is best left uncontemplated.