Thursday, March 22, 2012

Talisman Of The Inner Chamber

He realized he still gripped something in his left hand, and lifted it to the flickering light of a nearby fire.  It was a length of gold chain, one of its massy links twisted and broken.  From it depended a curious plaque of beaten gold, somewhat larger than a silver dollar, but oval rather than round.  There was no ornament, only a boldly carven inscription which O'Donnell, with all his easterly lore, could not decipher.

"Your pardon, Lord! She clasped her hands. "I did not know that you carried the token!"

"You babble as bees hum!" He scowled, dangling the pendant before her eyes.  "You know not the meaning of this thing."

"Nay, but I do!" she protested. "It is the symbol of the Guardian of the Treasure!"

-- Robert E. Howard, The Swords Of Shahrazar

The bold, even reckless pursuit of treasure is a regular feature of swords and sorcery tales.  That is no less true of those stories contained in Robert E. Howard's Swords Of Shahrazar collection.  Kirby O'Donnell, the false Kurd, and hero of these tales, invades the Shining Palace of forbidden Shahrazar, intent upon looting the fabled treasure of Khuwarezm.

How O'Donnell comes into the possession of a talisman of the Inner Chamber, and his resulting suberfuge in eluding the guardians of the treasure, is best revealed through your own reading of this tale.

The inspiration derived from these old sword and sorcery tales can take you in all sorts of directions.  For example, 13 Talismans of the Inner Chamber exist, one hidden on each dungeon level beneath the Shining Palace.  The players may mistakenly sell the first couple of talismans, considering them to be mere jewelry to be cashed in, until they discover the secret of the talismans: they permit access to the fabled treasure-room of Khuwarezm, and safe passage past the guardians of the treasure.  How the talismans accomplish that, and who or what the guardians are, is up to you.

I leave you with a brief glimpse of the treasure of Khuwarezm.

O'Donnell pulled open the door -- a wide block of marble revolving on a pivot -- and halted short, a low cry escaping his lips.  He had come upon the treasure of Khuwarezm, and the sight stunned him!

Upon a round slab of pure jade gleamed tokens of wealth beyond the dreams of madness.  Blocks of virgin gold, and rising in a pinnacle of blazing splendor, ingots of silver, ornaments of golden enamel, wedges of jade, pearls of incredible perfection, inlaid ivory, diamonds that dazzled the sight, rubies like clotted blood, emeralds like drops of green fire, pulsing sapphires -- O'Donnell's senses refused to accept the wonder of what he saw.


Mark K said...

This is work I've not heard of before, so many thanks in bringing it to our attention. I have the complete Conan stories by Howard, and his descriptive narrative really sets the tone so amazingly well, without getting too heavy.

Why did the man commit suicide though?

Trey said...

Even Howard's lesser stories are great for inspiration.