Conan and the Blade of Costa, Part 1

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Synopsis:

A youthful Conan, having just won his freedom from his eastern masters, has traveled to the wild coast port city of Costa. Conan has settled into Costa and is using his skill as a thief and a warrior to survive. The sorcerer/merchant Captain Zula commissioned Conan the thief, to retrieve a pair of spell books from his mother’s (the infamous Sea Witch) island. During the raid Conan and Infidia the ‘Blade of Costa’ fall victim to the Sea Witch’s magic. Now they must use wits and blade if they are to survive and return to Costa!

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Author note: I didn’t create the character Conan and do not I plan to make any money from the use of the character in this story. This was written for public consumption and enjoyment.

Author note 2: This story was inspired by Bill Hart’s great cover on TG caps


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Part 1

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“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars — Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired woman and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.”

- The Nemedian Chronicles
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Conan the Barbarian), by Robert E. Howard, Ballantine Books, New York, 2003


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CHAPTER 1

When I was a thieving-man, the alarms they did sound
Climbing through the lawless dark, opportunity abound
From mist hid hills covered in trees, dour, cold, and poor
To sun drenched beaches of the south, prospects galore

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The creak of the door opening went unheard in the cacophony of the tavern by all except the Cimmerian who sat to one side in the shadows, a frothy mug of ale untouched in front of him. The noise and the stench of the taproom were difficult for the youth raised in the wilds of Cimmeria to tolerate. Conan, a tall, muscular lad with black hair and ice cold blue eyes, sat with the dour expression of one who was raised in the harsh hills where Crom the God of Iron ruled.

The serving wench who’d brought Conan his ale and took his request, for stew and bread, eyed him with a calculating gaze. She was a worn-out looking woman with dirty blonde hair and breasts that sagged within her loose smock. She assumed that the youth would be an easy target in the anarchic merchant city of Costa, but then she’d spotted his broad sword and glanced into Conan’s eyes; it was like looking into a pair of merciless blue glaciers. The wench swallowed and glanced away, wondering what the lad had been through to forge him into a hardened warrior at such an early age.

The people who lived in the soft lands of the south that surrounded the Azure Sea had understood neither the passions, the pain, and the cruelty that ruled the unforgiving frozen north, nor the furnace that had forged the iron of Conan’s spirit into the steel now housed within his breast. Conan lifted his mug filled with nut brown ale to his lips and drank deeply. He was satisfied that the taproom and its patrons offered him no threat. Conan wiped away the froth from the beer with the back of his hand and when he looked up, he spotted an interesting figure. Seated at a table closer to the bar was a woman in black leather pants and a dark cloak with its hood tossed back, revealing her astonishing mane-like red hair. What caught Conan’s eye beyond her beauty was the amount of steel she displayed. A pair of daggers protruded from the top of each knee high boot, a set of curved fighting knives hung from her belt, and a rapier was suspended from her left hip in a duelists rig. Conan felt sure there were other weapons on this curious woman that he had not yet spotted. Suddenly, they locked gazes. Unlike most women, she didn’t look away. Conan also noticed that she had clear green eyes, which were uncommon in this southern coastal city. She stood up smoothly and started to move through the crowed toward him.

The double doors to the inn burst open with a shout and a gust of wind announced the presence of four rough-looking sailors. They wore the loose-fitting well-worn clothes of salty buccaneers who spent more time prowling a ship’s deck than a pier side tavern. What caused Conan to take note of them was the way all four locked onto the red headed woman who’d been making her way toward Conan’s table. The tallest of the four sailors moved forward confidently with an evil grin on his face.

“Infidia, you’re coming with us wench! Captain Derek wants to talk to you,” he said.

“I don’t think so, Bran. My business with Captain Derek was a onetime deal. I filled my end of the bargain. It’s not my fault that he was cheated after I left. Besides, I’m not in the mood to go anywhere with you,” she replied, dropping her left hand to her sword hilt and turning slightly so that the sailor couldn’t see her right hand. As she said this, the sailors spread out around the tables in an attempt to surround her.

Conan stood up; even though this wasn’t his fight he hated seeing a woman abused. He had no intention of letting these four men drag the red head to some meeting against her will.

Suddenly, the tall sailor that seemed to be the leader reached out to grab her. Infidia responded by snapping a kick into the sailor’s thigh, making a meaty sounding thud on contact. This slowed the sailor down and caused him to grab his leg in pain. The distraction gave Infidia the opening she needed to lash out with her right hand. To the Bran’s surprise, she was holding a leather tube that unrolled and extended by nearly a foot as she swung it. The end of the tube was filled with steel pellets and it slapped into the side of Bran’s head with a crack. He immediately dropped to the floor.

Infidia took advantage of the opening to rush toward the door while the patrons cheered. Cursing, the other three sailors raced after her. The smallest and quickest of the sailors dove forward, tackling her just a few paces from the door to the tavern. The woman lashed out with a booted foot, catching the sailor who’d tackled her in the nose before he was able to pin her down. Infidia used this opportunity to get to her feet in time to meet the two remaining sailors with her right hand once again hidden behind her back and a foot long curved dagger in her left hand.

Unobserved by either Infidia or the sailors confronting her, Conan, who started to move forward when the fight began, quietly sat down. He watched, mesmerized by the woman holding her own against four men.

“Boys, this didn’t have to get ugly,” Infidia said sweetly adding, “and it can stop now.”

“Yer coming with us girlie and if ya hurt Bran, the Captain’ll take it out of yer pretty skin!” said the sailor to her left, smacking his open palm with a three foot club as he advanced.

“Tal, have you forgotten who I am?!” Infidia said. “I earned my title as the ‘Blade of Costa’ by besting opponents far more skilled than you!”

Then, before he could get too close, Infidia whipped her right hand out and threw a small object at the ground between the two advancing sailors. When it hit, there was a flash of light and a loud bang. Using the distraction, Infidia snapped a kick into Tal’s groin, causing him to double over. She then slammed the hilt of the long knife she was holding in her left hand against the back of his skull, dropping him to the ground. However, the remaining sailor managed to grab her knife hand and drive a fist into her gut. The blow caused her to briefly bend over, but then she stepped in close, spinning and dropping her hip below her opponent’s center. Infidia grabbed the sailor’s arm that still held her knife hand and with a quick twisting motion, she threw him over her hip and onto the ground.
Before the sailor could recover from the throw, she grabbed the wrist of the hand that had been holding her knife hand and brought his elbow down across her knee. The crack of the sailor’s elbow breaking was followed by a shriek of pain. Infidia stood up and moved away from her downed opponents, looking at the one remaining sailor bleeding from his broken nose.

“Go back to Captain Derek and tell him that his business with the Blade of Costa is done. The next time he sends men after me, I’ll leave them each with two copper bits for their funeral pyres. If he doesn’t like it, he can take it up with my master, the sorcerer Captain Drako Zula,” Infidia said. Not waiting for an answer, Infidia turned and left the tavern.

In a few minutes, the sights and sounds within the tap room had returned to normal and the serving wench, who’d been mesmerized by the sight of a single woman defeating four men, made her way over to the table where the hard eyed Cimmerian had been drinking. She found an empty table and a mug turned upside down. Cursing the youth and resenting the fact that the bartender would slap her for letting him leave without paying, she scooped up the cup and gasped with surprise when she found a pair of copper coins sitting under it hidden from anyone else.

The night was hot and humid and it made Conan miss the cool climate of his native Cimmeria, but it was not enough for him to let his guard down. The alley two blocks south of the Froth & Tide tavern appeared to be empty, but Conan moved forward with his senses alert for danger. As a boy, he’d learned to hunt the woods of Cimmeria where caution and keen senses often determined whether you went to bed hungry or not. This heightened sense of things served him well because he became aware of the person in the shadows toward the back of the alley.

“Show yourself,” Conan said moving forward one hand resting casually on the hilt of his broad sword.

The shadow draped figure moved far enough into the dim light for Conan to see the red haired woman from the tavern. Her hand also rested casually on the hilt of her rapier.

“You followed me."

“The message said to meet Captain Zula’s agent at the Froth & Tide to discuss a job. I’ve heard of the ‘Blade of Costa’ but I didn’t know that the ‘blade’ was a woman. Then you left before we could talk. What did Captain Zula want with me?”

“I’m not surprised you didn’t know that the Blade is a woman. The title is earned every summer during a weeklong tournament. I’ve held it for two years now and men of Costa are still afraid to let outsiders know that a woman is the best blade in the city.”

“Your reputation has grown here in Costa, Conan of Cimmeria. Your name has reached the halls of the thirteen merchant Captains who rule the city. Drako Zula would like to meet you and offer you a job. There is an object he’d like to pay you to recover for him. He’ll pay you well.”

Conan grunted at this, “Zula is a Sorcerer I hate magic and don’t trust those that use it! I came to the meeting to hear what he wanted, but I’ve no desire to work for a Sorcerer.” With that he turned to go. As he did Infidia took a step forward.

“This will be a mission that only the most daring thief and skilled warrior could hope to accomplish. It will make you a legend among thieves!”

Conan stopped in his tracks. Gold, steal, and battle were important to Conan he’d learned the meaning of these things during his time as a slave and then as a gladiator and finally a free man. But more than anything the youthful Cimmerian craved acclaim.

“What is it your master would have me steal?”

“Come with me and he’ll tell you himself.” Infidia replied.

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Conan’s boots echoed on the polished stone of the dimly lit hall. Conan and Infidia walked down the center of the rectangular shaped hall with tall columns to either side. The dim flicker of torch light caused the shadows to dance as they approached the dais where a tall figure sat. When they got close enough Conan saw that the man had the dusky skin of a Stygian and had shaved either side of his head leaving a long strip of hair down the center. When his eyes locked onto Conan’s Zula grinned his white teeth gleaming in the dark.

“Welcome to my hall Conan of Cimmeria,” Zula said.

“I hear you have a job for me, Conjuror.”

At this Drako Zula glanced at Infidia and then back at Conan, “yes. My mother, the Sea Witch, Anguis Zula has for many years has lived on a remote island to the south and east of us along the wild coast. She died, the Gods be praised, about a year ago. I need an agent to travel to her island and retrieve a pair of spell books.”

“What makes you think this island and tower haven’t already been looted by pirates from the wild coast?”

“My mother was a skilled witch, Conan, both the island and tower are warded. Also her reputation is such that few from the pirate towns of the wild coast would dare to approach her island.” The sorcerer replied.

“I’m a warrior and I’m skilled at getting into places others cannot, but I know nothing of magic. To rob a witch you’d need another witch or a sorcerer to slip past her traps. Find another thief.” Conan said starting to turn away.

“Not someone else, someone in addition to you. You’ll need the help of one who understands magic and battle.” Zula said standing up to his full six and a half feet and looking down at Conan.

“If such a man existed then, yes, I could do this thing.”

“Ha! I am such a man. But I’ve duties here that I cannot afford to leave to others. Plus I have enemies among the pirates of the wild coast.”

“Then we’ll wait until you can put down your duties here or locate another who can handle the magic your mother left behind.”

“There is another, she is standing next to you. Infidia is known as the Blade of Costa, but what most don’t know is that for the past year I’ve been teaching her magic! I will give her magical tools to help her in this task. The two of you, I believe, can accomplish this feat.”

“Bah, you intend to send a woman on a voyage to the wild coast and then out to an enchanted island full of magic and danger?” Conan scoffed. “She knows something of the way of the blade, I saw her fight tonight, but against real warriors in armor on the field of battle that little toy she carries would be useless.”

From Conan’s right Infidia made an indignant sound but was silenced at a glance from Drako.

“Fortunate then, that you are not sailing to battle Conan, but instead to raid my mother’s tower. Infidia has many talents between her skills and your strong right arm I am sure you’ll succeed.”

“What will you give me if I do this for you,” Conan asked?

At this Drako Zula sat down resting his chin on a closed fist as he looked at Conan. “There are plenty of treasures within the tower take what you will, saving only the matched grimoires in the highest room of the tower; those are mine. When you return to Costa I’ll give you 5,000 Hyrkanian gold crowns.”

Conan considered for a moment. “10,000 and whatever I take from the tower besides the books.”

“Agreed,” Zula said! “Meet Infidia down at my pier at dawn the day after tomorrow. You’ll set sail aboard the Ocean’s Bounty.”

As Conan left the hall of Captain Zula a cold breeze cut through the hot moist air sending a shiver down his spine. Conan looked around trying to spot the source of this omen and he suddenly felt as though his fate had somehow been sealed by this bargain with the Sorcerer Zula. “Crom,” Conan muttered and hunched his shoulders as he headed for the nearest inn.


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CHAPTER 2

When I was a sailing-man, the sea was seductive
The gleam of a cutlass, held in rage so destructive
Sailing to new lands and wonders, found by the sea
To a green island, filled with danger my destiny

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The creak of the ropes and the snap of canvas overhead caused Conan to shift his weight from one knee to the other as he crouched, along with half a dozen sailors, playing dice. They were two weeks out from Costa and running before a quartering wind that negated the need for rowing. Conan had spent most of his time learning everything he could about seamanship from the crew. Sailing was foreign concept for land locked Cimmeria, and it held a fascination for Conan. Conan took the wineskin from the sailor next to him and after a long pull passed it on. The easy movement of the deck made Conan think this was a much better way to travel than his own two feet.

“Will ya look at that?!” One of the sailors grunted.

Conan glanced up and on the foredeck he spotted Infidia standing red hair loose and blowing in the wind. Infidia was the only female aboard the Ocean’s Bounty and she drew stares whenever she appeared on deck. Now she stood on one leg, ignoring the crew, with a curved fighting knife in each hand. Slowly and with a deliberate grace she moved forward slashing and twisting in a series of moves that tested both her balance and agility. This was an afternoon ritual she’d begun the second day out of Costa and was the principle reason for the time and location of the dice game. Conan found himself riveted by the sight of Infidia’s lithe form and wondered what it would feel like to have her squirming under him begging him to take her.

Later that night Conan stood at the ship’s port rail looking out over the sea. It was impossible to see the shore but Sarl, the ship’s captain, had told Conan that the closest lad was to the north. The creak of the deck plank alerted Conan and he turned his head in time to see Infidia move toward him.

“What do you see when you look out upon the water, Conan,” Infidia asked?

“Freedom, opportunity, and fame,” Conan replied.

“What of unknown dangers, misery, and loneliness,” Infidia asked moving to Conan’s side?

“The weak fear the unknown, shivering at the thought of what the strong will do. I fear no man.”

Infidia reached out and ran a hand lightly along the bicep of Conan’s arm. “Ah, to be so strong so sure of yourself; it is a gift granted only to a few. Because you are one of the strong, fear doesn’t touch you as it does others. Have you ever considered what it feels like to be weak?”

“I was not always strong.” Conan said turning and looking down into Infidia’s green eyes. “My village was raided when I was a boy and I was taken as a slave. For years I served my master until one day in the fighting pits I won my freedom. Fear and I are old friends.”

Infidia moved in closer to Conan and ran her hand over his muscular chest. “I too have known fear and weakness and have learned what is necessary to live life on my terms. You interest me Conan; come to my cabin and I’ll show you some of things I’ve learned.”

Conan grinned and followed the bold red head as she walked with an exaggerated hip movement toward the hatch leading below decks.

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The stench from the harbor made Conan think of a midden heap even though Infidia apparently didn’t notice. This made Conan wonder if growing up in a coastal city had warped her sense of smell. It had taken three weeks of sailing to arrive at Scompiglio an infamous nest of pirates. They’d sailed in boldly and were met by the Scompiglio harbor master. After Captain Sarl paid a port fee, and then even more for supplies, his sailors set to work loading fresh water, dried beef, hard biscuits, beans, rice, and fruit aboard the Ocean’s Bounty. Captain Sarl had advised both Conan and Infidia against going ashore but the Cimmerian was tired of being stuck aboard such a small vessel and wanted to see the city. Infidia had been only slightly less eager to go exploring now however, Conan was now questioning this decision. The city was a jumble of falling down buildings and muddy streets with sewage flowing freely in shallow ditches toward the harbor. Scrawny dogs chased ragged children in the streets while beggars and whores called out for attention.

As they picked their way deeper into the warren of streets Conan’s sharp ears caught the sound of a woman crying for help. Without waiting to see if Infidia would follow Conan rushed down an ally in-time to spot three men assaulting a woman. From his angle Conan couldn’t really tell what the woman looked like with two of the men holding her down and the third blocking Conan’s view as he removed his breeches.

Conan glanced back at Infidia who’d just caught up with him. “In Cimmeria we put down men who rape woman as the dogs they are, yet in the ‘civilized’ lands they look the other way. Whose land is more barbaric?”

Then without another word Conan moved forward and after a moment’s pause Infidia followed. As she did she pulled out the black jack she’d used in Costa allowing it to drop to its full length as she moved forward. Just before Conan reached the man who’d successfully kicked off his trousers one of the men holding the woman down looked up.

“Look out!” Was all the rapist could get out before Conan was on them. Conan launched a double booted kick into the back of the half-naked man sending him flying into a pile of refuse further down the alley. The two men holding the woman let her go surging to their feet. They were to slow for the enraged barbarian and he caught the first man with an upper cut to the chin that stretched him out. The third man pulled out a foot long knife and backed away from Conan.

“I da na know who ya are stranger but ye just made a big mistake!” The would-be rapist said revealing a mouth full of rotting teeth.

“What mistake is that?” Conan asked, stepping forward and cracking the knuckles of his right hand with his left hand.

“We’re part o’Captain Burgun’s crew! The girl’s pa owes him money, we was told to take it out o’her as a lesson to her pa. This is business so ye’d best leave while ya can!”

“Duck!” Shouted Infidia.

Conan reacted instinctively crouching low as Infidia’s throwing knife passed over his head. Conan glanced over his shoulder and saw that the pirate he’d kicked had gotten up and retrieved a knife. He’d been attempting to sneak up on Conan when Infidia’s blade had taken him in the throat slightly off center. The pirate’s eyes bulged and he reached up with both hands to clutch at his throat. For a second he stared his eyes bulging and then he slowly sank to his knees blood spurting between his fingers in time with his rapidly beating heart.

When Conan turned back to the pirate he’d been confronting he saw that the man had made good use of the distraction to race away down the refuse cluttered alley. For a second Conan thought about chasing him but decided to let him go. The man just wasn’t worth the effort. By this time Infidia had come up and they looked down at the girl. She had dark hair and had pulled her ripped dress around her as she scooted up to huddle against the wall of the building behind her. When Conan realized that the girl couldn’t have been more than thirteen he felt a surge of anger and thought about chasing down the last pirate.

“Come on lass, we’ll not harm you.” Conan said, but the girl only whimpered in reply.

“Conan, why don’t you guard the alley and give me a second with the girl,” Infidia asked?

With a shake of his head Conan turned his back on them to give them some privacy. In a few minutes Infidia and the girl walked out of the alley with Conan stalking along behind glaring at anyone who looked twice at them. It was only a couple of blocks to the girl’s father’s home as soon as they entered there was a screech and her mother swooped her up in her arms. Her father turned out to be a small bald man who made candles in his shop with the families quarters directly above. He claimed that he didn’t owe Captain Burgun any money. He told Conan that the Captain expected him to pay a tax every week and when he refused Burgun’s men had roughed him up. He had no idea that they would attack his daughter next. With a shake of his head Conan left the small shop with Infidia following.
Shortly after leaving the candle-maker’s workshop Conan spotted a rundown looking building with a sign depicting a mug of ale above the door and headed toward it.

“Fighting is thirsty work! Let’s have a mug before we return to the Bounty!” Conan said glancing at Infidia.

Infidia was a bit reluctant to agree based more on the rundown looking condition of the pub than the idea of delaying their return. But seeing that Conan was already halfway there swallowed her protest and followed him. The tavern was lit dimly with a dirt floor covered in saw dust Conan looked around and saw an empty table in the corner of the room and headed over to it. After a minute Conan spotted a serving wench shouted for ale.

“Conan you’ve got a way with words.” Infidia said with a laugh hooking a stool with one booted foot and dragging it around so she could sit with her back to the wall.

Conan looked at Infidia curiously, “Men with the strength take what they desire. It is the way of the world.” Conan said misunderstanding Infidia’s comment. “The problem the candle maker has is that he’s not strong enough to protect his own. Bah, I need a drink!”

The thud of a pair of leather drinking cups striking the table could barely be heard over the buzz of conversation in the crowded room.

“Two copper bits for the beer lov, and if ye be looking for some ta eat we’ve got stew made of what ol’ Aba could find out back with bread. There’s a bird Aba’s been roasting if ye want that and I might be able to find ye some wrinkled apples but that’ll be extra.” The woman said.

Infidia looked over at her noting that she was wearing a smock that hid most of her curves and had bangs that obscured her face making it next to impossible to tell how old she was.

“Roast bird, apples, and bread for both of us,” Conan said. The woman bobbed her head and darted away.

“Perhaps I wanted stew,” Infidia said to Conan both irritated and amused that he’d ordered for her. They’d slept together every night for the past week and Infidia had loved the feel of Conan’s large muscular body, eight inch cock, and barbarian stamina, but she could do without the feeling that Conan thought she was now his possession. Infidia enjoyed a good tumble and with the enchanted necklace she wore she was assured that a pregnancy wouldn’t follow, but that didn’t mean she wanted to tie herself to a man.

Conan looked at her for a second, “do you want the stew?”

“No, of course not,” Infidia said with a grin.

Conan lifted his cup and muttered “women” before taking a drink of the nearly rancid beer.

By the time they’d finished eating Infidia had enough of the tavern and was ready to return to the ship. This town was a necessary stop for food and water before the next stage of the voyage but it was dirty, smelly, and had nothing of interest for Infidia. Conan had just returned from the midden and immediately shouted for ale and sat down.

“Aren’t you ready to return to the ship,” Infidia asked?

“Bah, we won’t be sailing until dawn; I heard that they have fighting pits and the Pirate Captains who run this town have captured slaves fighting most nights. Let’s go and see what passes for fighters here in the soft belly of the world.”

Infidia shook her head, “go to the fighting pits if you will, but I’m headed back down to the ship.”

Just then the door to the tavern opened and a crowd of rough looking men entered. At the front was the fellow Conan had last seen running down an alley fleeing for his life.

“There he is Imbalayo; he’s the one I told you about.”

Imbalayo stepped toward Conan his head nearly touching the low ceiling of the taproom.

“You must be new to Scompiglio if you think you can interfere with Captain Burgun’s men! Sometime in the fighting pits will be good for you I think!” Imbalayo said moving forward and drawing a long knife. “Surrender now and you might live.”

Conan threw back his head and laughed. “There are less than a dozen of you. Go back for a few more lads, I’ll wait.”

The pirates muttered darkly at this and additional knives were drawn while others adjusted their grip on the clubs they carried. This wasn’t the reaction they’d been expecting. While this was going on the patrons of the tavern moved out of the way to make room.

Imbalayo had reached Conan’s table. “On your feet barbarian,” he snarled.

Unexpectedly Conan lashed out with a booted foot hitting the edge of the table and flipping it into Imbalayo as he surged to his feet. Conan picked up the stool he’d been sitting on and leapt forward using it like a club hitting the closest pirate in the side of the head and then with a mighty back swing smashed a second pirate breaking the stool in the process. In an instant Conan was in the middle of the crowd of pirates where their numbers worked against them. Conan had ripped a club from the unconscious fingers of the first man he’d hit and with that in one hand and the shattered remains of the stool in his other hand he was like a lion among sheep.

Meanwhile Infidia moved along the edge of the brawl spinning her black jack in one hand and snapping it from time to time against the head of any pirate foolish enough to get close to her. In the space of a few seconds three buccaneers found themselves on the floor unconscious.

With a roar Imbalayo charged Conan from behind wrapping his arms around Conan in a great bear hug. The pirate in front of Conan tried to strike Conan in the stomach but Conan lifted his legs off the ground and drove the heels of both booted feet into the rogue. The force of the blow sent the pirate reeling backward into two of his fellows and all three tumbled to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs. The energy from the kick also caused Imbalayo to stumble a step or two back yet somehow he kept his grip on Conan and continued to squeeze Conan in a monstrous bear hug.

Seeing her opportunity Infidia slid around behind Imbalayo and hit him in the back of the head with her black jack as hard as she could. Imbalayo grunted but hung onto Conan, amazed, Infidia gripped the black jack with both hands and this time stepped into her swing putting hips and back into it. Infidia smashed the black jack into the side of Imbalayo’s head and for a second she feared that it had no effect then Imbalayo slowly released Conan and slid to the floor. Conan didn’t waste any time, he charged the remaining pirates and in seconds they joined their shipmates on the floor.

Breathing deeply, drenched in sweat, muscles bulging with barbaric power, and blood running from a cut over one eye Conan was the image of the conquering warrior. His steely gaze swept the room looking for more threats. None of the pirate scum would meet Conan’s eye so he wiped the blood clear with one hand and looked at Infidia.

“An entertaining evening lass, but we’d best be going.”

“Lead the way, noble sir.” Infidia said with a slightly mocking laugh, her cheeks red and bosom heaving from the excitement.

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The sun was rising in a grey predawn as the Ocean’s Bounty raced along. It had been a week since they’d restocked at the port of Scompiglio and Conan remembered the fight and the night that followed fondly. He and Infidia had returned to the ship and to Conan’s cabin and had spent the rest of the night in the unique duel that men and women have been practicing since the dawn of time. The fight had added passion to their love making and Conan had relished every sensation as he drove his hard cock into Infidia’s soft warm pussy.

For the last two days Conan had dedicated even more time to learning as much seamanship as he could focusing now on navigating and steering the ship. Conan discovered that there were always things to do aboard the ship and he was happy to pitch-in it made the hours at sea go by faster. His enthusiasm quickly won the approval of the crew and they became eager to share their knowledge with him. They’d been sailing directly south and into the depth of the sea for the past three days and as sun came up Conan surveyed the horizon. There still wasn’t any sign of this island that they were supposed to raid for Captain Zula.

Conan glanced over to the foredeck where Infidia practiced with her weapons just as she did every morning and afternoon. She moved with the grace of a hunting tiger and in her tight fighting leathers her body was on full display. Conan felt a stirring in his loins and wondered how Infidia felt about mid-day coupling.

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Around noon on the next day the lookout in the crow’s nest atop the main mast had spotted the island of the Sea Witch Anguis Zula. It had taken several hours to get close enough to the island to drop anchor so there wasn’t much sunlight left.

“Captain Sarl, put down a boat. I plan to go ashore as soon as possible.” Conan said.

“Conan, I’ve got six volunteers to row you ashore and help you get to the witch’s tower. But I’d suggest waiting until morning. This island has an evil reputation. I know Captain Zula has given you the mission but night is the time of witches’ day is the time of warriors’.”

While the Captain and Conan had been talking Infidia joined them. She was wearing her fighting leathers and a black cloak. She also had a small bag slung from her belt opposite her rapier. She’d braided her long red hair and tied it back with a strip of leather.

“The night may be a time for witches’ but it’s also a time for thieves’. Are you ready Conan?” Infidia asked with a challenge in her tone.

Conan scowled at the Captain impatient to get started. “Put down the boat Captain.” Conan growled and stalked to his cabin to collect his gear.

The sun was just a finger’s width above the horizon by the time they were pulling the longboat up onto the beach. One of the sailors, named Lar, pulled a line from the bow of the boat and ran it up to a tree near the water’s edge where he secured the boat.

Lar turned to Conan and said, “Scar and Alic will stay here with the boat. The rest of us will come with you if yer willing to have us?”

Conan slapped Lar on the shoulder looking at the three other sailors all armed with cutlasses, long knives, and clubs. “I’m glad to have you and your bullyboys with us but once we reach the tower it’ll be just Infidia and me.”

Infidia looked at Conan again irritated that he just assumed that she was okay with the sailors accompanying them. She was sure that they knew nothing of stealth and that there were dangers on this island they could avoid by being unheard and unseen.

Infidia felt a tingle run through her as she set foot on the island’s rocky shore. She didn’t say anything but Infidia knew that they had just crossed a ward. For a second she scanned the tree line looking for some indication that the ward had activated some hostile magic. When nothing happened she breathed a sigh of relief.

Her relief was short lived when Lar pulled out his cutlass and started chopping his way into the jungle headed toward the tower. This lasted for about two minutes before Conan ordered the sailor to put his cutlass away. It was more difficult to push through the underbrush but it was much quieter. They headed inland with two sailors in front and two bringing up the rear. Infidia learned that the other sailor with Lar in front was called Balik, and the two bringing up the rear were Saul and Trev. Within minutes they were in the gloomy undergrowth which only got darker as the sun continued to set.

They managed to walk for almost twenty minutes before Conan called a halt. It was now to dark to see properly. However Lar proved resourceful and had a solution he reached into a pack he’d brought and pulled out a pair of lanterns. With a few sharp strokes of his flint against the edge of his poniard the wick caught flame. With one lantern held by the second sailor in line and one held by the second to last sailor they resumed their trek.
Abruptly Conan held up a hand, “quite” he hissed.

Infidia now cursing the lanterns, since the light spoiled her night vision, closed her eyes and focused on listening. With her left hand she reached into a pouch that held a small device that looked like a pebble which she thought of as a flash-bang. With her other hand she gripped the hilt of a throwing knife.

With a loud inhuman howl first from the left then the right several bodies crashed through the jungle. Infidia spun to her left and opened her eyes spotting three large creatures; the first had the great hairy body of an Ape, the second had the body of a bear, and the third the body of a large wolf standing on two legs. Each of the monsters had the head of man, a man whose face was twisted with fury and insanity!

Infidia threw the flash-bang with a flick of her left hand and closed her eyes. It hit the ape-man in chest filling the night with an explosion of noise and light. Infidia opened her eyes and knew that for a second that the attackers would be blinded so she used the time to throw her knife with all the strength she could generate by stepping into the throw and using perfect form. The knife struck the forehead of the wolf-man sinking up to its hilt with a meaty thunk. The two sailors, Saul and Trev, who’d brought up the rear, moved forward drawing their weapons and dropping the lantern in the process. Trev swung his cutlass with all of his strength into the side of the ape-man. The beast howled and grabbed Trev’s head with both of its hands and with a sharp twisting movement broke his neck.

The Saul brought his cutlass down on the arm of the ape-man and cut cleanly though it causing the beast to throw back its head and howl in agony. Meanwhile Infidia drew her rapier with her right hand and another throwing knife with her left hand. The bear-man ignored her and leapt toward Conan who was armed with a broad sword and a shield but was facing another ape-man who’d attacked their band from the opposite side. Infidia took a long step and then lunged with full extension. Her sword shot forward with all of her weight behind the point. Her blade took the bear-man in the side and sank in nearly eight inches before Infidia jumped back.

The bear-man turned to face her with a roar of pain and Infidia threw her second knife. But this time it bounced off the hide of the monster since it had been moving when she threw. Wary of getting too close Infidia lunged again only this time aiming for one of the monsters legs and then again jumping back out of range of its claws. There was a roar behind her and Infidia risked a quick glance over her shoulder. The sailor, Saul, who’d been fighting the ape-man had managed to cut one of the monsters legs out from under it. Unable to keep its balance it fell onto its side with a scream which Saul silenced it by hacking deeply into its throat.

The momentary distraction had been a mistake and Infidia felt her side explode in pain as she rolled with the force of the blow. She came to her feet feeling bruised as the bear-man moved toward her. Suddenly Conan was behind it and with a mighty swing of his sword took its head cleanly from its shoulders.

Looking around Infidia saw four of the great monsters on the ground to the right of their group. Three of them showed the signs of Conan’s great sword hacking limbs from bodies and heads from necks. The fourth had Lar’s cutlass buried in its skull. Unfortunately the sailor who’d been carrying the lantern was on his back his chest caved in and as Infidia watched he coughed up a lung full of blood and then went still.

“I knew this island was cursed” Saul said and spat to one side.

“By Crom, I’d wager that these beasts were once men. The Sea Witch’s magic must have warped their bodies and twisted their minds. We have done them a favor by ending them.”

“Aye, Conan that we have; but what now? Do we continue to the tower or return to the boat and wait for light?” Lar asked wrenching his sword from the cloven head of the beast he’d killed.

“On lads tonight is an ill night and the sooner this ill task is done the better.”

“Aren’t we forgetting something,” Infidia asked?

When Conan looked at her she pointed to the fallen sailors. “We should move them away from the slain and at least lay them out respectfully and cover them with what we can.”

Reluctantly Conan agreed and they quickly separated the bodies of the two sailors from their fallen foes and laid them out. They didn’t have the tools to dig a proper grave but used the cutlass’s from the fallen sailors. The hole was shallow and they were only able to cover Trev and Balik with a thin layer of dirt but given the situation it was the best they could do. By the time they were moving again the moon was high in the sky providing enough light to see without having to use the lanterns. The ground started to climb and they soon came to the top of a small hill where the trees had thinned enough for them to see the tower of the Sea Witch. It stood tall and dark and around the base of the tower was a circular wall standing nearly thirty feet in height. From the hill top Conan could see into the walled area and noticed that there were at least a dozen buildings in addition to the tower. Obviously the Sea Witch at some point had had some loyal servants who’d lived with her. Conan wondered if these servants were the creatures they’d just fought or if they’d been captives twisted by the witch’s magic.

Eager to finish the task at hand they left the hill and traveled as rapidly as they could through the jungle to the walled compound. Picking a direction at random they started walking around the wall and in a few minutes they found a gate. Instead of being locked it had been left open which made Conan uneasy. Wary of a trap Conan moved in first followed ten heart beats later by Infidia, then Lar, and lastly by Saul.

Between the buildings Conan could see the base of the tower but some instinct caused him to hold back. He crouched next to one of the buildings with his three companions in a silent line behind him. Conan felt a weird fluttering in the air and the hair on his arms stood up. Something odd was going on here only he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what.

Bang — the sound of the gate slamming shut behind him caused Conan two whirl around.

“Crom! It’s a trap!”

No sooner had he spoke than a moan came from the shadows. Moving into the light a man shuffled. His body was pale and even from this distance Conan could smell the stench of corruption. As he watched other shadows shuffled forward the stench and the sight of decay was unmistakable.

“By Crom, their already dead! Quick back to the gate!” Conan shouted drawing his great broad sword and tightening the straps of his shield on his arm.

“Conan they’re behind us as well!” Lar said looking wildly around for an avenue to escape.

“I’ve got something that will take care of these creatures just keep them off me for a few minutes.” Infidia said.
With that she pulled out a large chunk of chalk and started drawing symbols on the cobble stones around her. At the same time she started chanting. The three men spread out forming a semi-circle around her using the wall of the building behind them to protect one side.

With a shout Conan jumped forward and smashed the edge of his shield into the first zombie and before it could stumble back he cut its legs out from under it. Using his own momentum Conan cut to his right slashing across another zombie’s guts, disemboweling it with no noticeable effect. Conan ducked behind his shield as the undead creature smashed a fist down with inhuman force. The wooden shield edged and banded with iron and covered in iron rivets cracked under the force of the zombies strike. Conan stumbled back dropping to a knee but with a fierce cry he slashed his blade a foot above and parallel to the ground. His arm shivered as the sharp steel cut through both of the zombies legs causing it to topple. Conan surged to his feet and with a great swing took the creature’s head off.

Conan with a moments respite looked back in time to see two zombies drag Saul down ripping his throat open in a fountain of blood. Lar stood on Conan’s other side ducking and slashing but without a shield he was at a disadvantage when it came to defending himself from the zombies.

“Woman, whatever you’re doing, by Crom’s left ball, do it quickly!”

Then Conan smashed a Zombie threatening Lar with his shield causing it to stumble back and fall over. With a shout and a mighty overhand blow Conan split another zombie cutting it vertically from shoulder to crotch spilling its puss and worm filled innards to the street. Conan’s eyes blazed as he fought with the fury of his Cimmerian ancestors and the street echoed with his battle cries. Soon the zombies were nearly exclusively focused on dragging down this lion in human form.

Abruptly there was a clap of thunder and a white light blazed as bright as the sun. The zombies shrank back from the light and their moans turned to cries of pain as their flesh started to melt from their bones. Conan standing in the midst of a ring of fallen zombies, covered in ichor, chest heaving, watched in amazement as his foes melted under the light. Conan looked down at his arm, layered with the puss of fallen zombies, and saw that the puss turned to vapor even as he watched. In seconds all that remained of several dozen zombies where the piles of rotting clothes they’d been wearing.

Conan glanced back at Infidia and saw her standing with both arms above her head and between her outstretched hands a ball of glowing white energy burned. Conan had to look away it was so bright and then without any warning the ball vanished and the world around Conan returned to its normal inky darkness. As it did Infidia slumped to the ground in exhaustion. Conan moved quickly to her side.

“What kind of magic have you wrought, woman?” Conan asked standing over her. Infidia looked up at Conan and then pulled herself to her feet with a hand from Conan.

“Drako Zula knew that his mother practiced necromancy. He gave me a glass sphere and the spell needed to activate it. Under the light of the sphere no zombie can survive. I just hadn’t realized that it would take so long to activate the spell. How are the others?”

Conan looked around Saul was lying in a pool of his own blood his head had been wrenched from his shoulders at some point during the zombies attack. Lar was also down and not moving. Conan got up and went to check on Lar but before he got to within a step of him Conan saw that Lar’s chest had been ripped open and his heart pulled out. Conan turned back to Infidia and shook his head.

“They’re both dead. We need to move to a place where we can rest before we attempt the tower.”

Infidia pointed to the doorway of the building they’d been using to protect their backs during the zombie attack.
“This building seems as good as any.”

Conan nodded and moved on silent feet to the door which was made of wood. He leaned back and kicked the door in with one mighty stomp. The wood, already somewhat decayed, shattered and Conan moved into the building. Infidia followed silently her rapier out and all of her senses alert. The building turned out to be some kind of barracks and was empty. Infidia found Conan looking around in the main room for possible threats.

“Let’s see if we can find a way onto the roof. I’d like to look at the tower without having a zombie pawing at me.”

It took them some time but at last they found a ladder leading to a trapdoor that opened onto the flat roof of the barracks. From here Infidia could see that the tower was only a few hundred yards from the building where they’d taken shelter. She also realized that it was much taller than she’d thought when they viewed it from the hillside.

“The prize is in sight.” Conan growled handing Infidia a water bottle. Infidia nodded her thanks and drank.

“That tower is bound to be filled with traps. Both magical and mundane, Zula gave me a spell that will allow me to magically reconnoiter the tower before we attempt it in person.”

“More magic,” Conan growled.

“Conan the best way to defeat magic is with magic of our own. Besides this spell will make me invisible to eye, I’ll travel to the tower in spirit and spy out the traps. Then when we attempt it we’ll know what we’re facing.”

“You may know magic and magical traps but do you have a thief’s skill? Can you spot a trip wire, a loose step, or a pressure plate?”

Infidia shrugged, “how difficult can it be? Besides unless you’d like to accompany me this is the best we can do.”

Conan turned away and went to the trap door. He drew out his dagger and wedged it into the door jamming it so that it wouldn’t open. He then returned to glare at Infidia.

“Use your spell woman, we will both go and spy out the secrets of the tower.”


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CHAPTER 3

When I was a Fighting-man, for battle I did lust
Upon the Sea-Witch’s Island, my fate I did trust
The wind of magic swept me up, my soul cast adrift
Mine to another’s fate is graft, body now bereft

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“Conan you’re sure? Magic is not something for the unwary, I could use your help spotting traps but this requires courage of a different kind.”

“My mind is made up so get on with it lass.” Conan said folding his muscular arms across his chest.

With that Infidia sat down cross legged and pulled another crystal out of the pouch she’d kept at her side. She placed it on the ground in front of her and then looked up at Conan.

“Sit down and take my hands,” Infidia said holding her hands out.

Conan sat cross legged with their knees almost touching and grasped her hands. For a moment his blue eyes locked onto her green eyes and then she closed them and started chanting. After a few seconds the crystal started to glow with a soft blue-white light and as it did Conan found himself getting sleepy. Unable to keep his eyes open he relaxed allowing them to close. Almost at once he felt a strange pulling, like a strong breeze pushing at him, as he did he realized that Infidia wasn’t chanting any more.

“Ha, your spell didn’t work!” Conan said standing up.

“Are you sure?”

Conan looked down and felt shocked to see his body sitting as still as a statue holding Infidia’s hands. The dark world around then had changed to one lit with a dim source-less grey light.

“Crom! What have you done?” Conan swore looking at Infidia. For the first time he realized that when he looked at her she glowed with a soft silvery white light and he could see through her.

“I’ve done just what I said I’d do. We’re now in our spirit forms we can cross to the tower and discover its secrets without risking our bodies. Before we go I need to warn you, we can only be apart from our bodies for a limited time or they will die. Also I’ve only got the one crystal so this is our only chance to do this.”

“Now you give me the warning,” Conan muttered.

Infidia flew up and over the side of the building and dove toward the base of the tower. With another oath to Crom Conan followed catching her as she paused to examine the tower’s door.

“Well lass what are you waiting for we’re ghosts! Getting through this door should be simple.”

“Not so simple when the door is warded.” Infidia said pointing to a faintly glowing symbol above the door. “It is designed to keep spirits out, so we won’t be able to pass through the door or the wall. I fear we’ll have to go back and face this challenge in the flesh. I only need to mar a line of the ward to ruin it.” Infidia mused. “But that won’t help because I must be in my physical body to do it.”

At this Conan grunted and looked around. “Are you sure this is the only way in?”

“Of course not, let’s circle the tower and see if there is another door!”

In a few seconds they’d flown all the way around the tower but hadn’t found another door. However Conan spotted a window high up just below the top of the tower.

“What about that window?” He asked pointing up.

Infidia looked up, “it’s no use, the blocks are rough enough to offer places to grip but that’s over two hundred feet straight up. I’m an average climber at best, but even if I was a great climber I’m not strong enough to make it that far!”

“You won’t have to make the climb. Together we’ll search out the magical traps and then I’ll return in my body. There are cliffs in Cimmeria twice as high this will hardly be a challenge. I’ll avoid both the magical and physical traps grab the spell books and be out before you know it.”

With that he flew straight up heading for the window. With a curse Infidia flew up after him catching up to him as Conan hovered outside the window. The glass was covered in dust and dirt preventing them from seeing into the room beyond.

“Do you see any traps?”

“Listen to me, Conan, this is a bad idea. Even if you can make the climb you’ll need me to break any spells or wards. We’ll be better off returning in our bodies and taking this slowly and carefully.”

“Fortune favors the bold,” Conan said and dove through the window.

As soon as he did Infidia saw a dim flash of light through the grime on the window and she moved back ducking away from the spell. After a second, when nothing else happened, she slowly moved up to the window. There were no wards or glyphs in sight so very slowly she eased into the window cautiously pushing her face through it just far enough to see into the chamber. As soon as she did her breath (if she’d had any) caught. There was a ward wrought into the floor, in a great circle, covering perhaps eighty percent of the room. Conan and flown in through the window spied the stand in the center of the room where a pair of books bound in leather rested. He’d obviously flown toward the spell books and when he’d crossed the ward it had activated trapping him. Infidia slide the rest of the way into the room careful not to get too close to the ward.

Conan flew toward the edge of the ward and it flared with a blue-white light and Conan bounced back.

“What manner of trap is this?” He demanded spotting Infidia.

“A clever one, Cimmerian,” Infidia said. “The entire tower is warded to prevent a spirit from entering except at the window. Then when a spirit enters the window the ward traps it.” She said pausing to consider the ward. “Spirits are a form of energy to necromancers. I’d wager that the Sea Witch took the spirits trapped in this room and used them as a source of power for her magic.”

“Well break the spell! Once I’m free there is nothing stopping me from scaling the wall and snatching the books.”

“That’s what makes the trap so clever. I can’t break it in spirit form I need my body to break the spell. But I’m not strong enough to climb the tower and you’ve only got a limited amount of time before your body dies. You’ve got perhaps half of a day, or less, and then you won’t have a body to return too. You’ll be a ghost in truth. You were a fool to blindly rush in without waiting for me to check for traps.”

At this Conan was silent for several seconds. “By Crom you’re right, I should have let you look first. What’s done is done, is there nothing you can think of to solve this puzzle? Can you return to your body and then go to the Ocean’s Bounty and bring back more sailors? There are several strong climbers among the crew.” Conan said in a much subdued voice.

“I could try, but I doubt I’d make it to the ship and back before your time is up. And there are still beasts in the jungle and perhaps other traps here. If I’m ambushed alone on my way back to the ship you will surely die,” Infidia said.

“There is another option but neither of us will like it.”

“If there’s a way out of this trap, likes or dislikes be damned. Get to it woman!” Conan growled prowling the edge of the ward.

“Just remember you brought this on both of us.” Infidia said gliding out the window and then down toward the rooftop where their bodies lay.

The flight across several hundred yards of open space flashed by and then Infidia was hovering above the place where both their physical forms sat frozen within the spell. Feeling nervous about what she planned Infidia moved to hoover above and slightly behind Conan’s body. She felt slightly repulsed at the thought of what she was about to attempt. Very reluctantly she moved forward pushing her spirit into Conan’s coarse flesh. Despite being annoyed at times by Conan’s masculine attitude he was a good man and she had no desire to take, even for a short time, control of his body. It was large, crude, and smelled like a man. With an astral sigh Infidia focused on the task she’d set herself. There were spells designed for possession and others designed for astral projection what Infidia intended to do was use the one to enable the other. Normally this wouldn’t be possible because Conan’s spirit within his own flesh would easily force her out. But at the moment his body sat empty with no spirit to guide or protect it. Slowly and carefully she descended into Conan’s body.

She was surrounded by his flesh but something was wrong, she wasn’t merging with it. Instead it was ill fitting and wrong, Infidia knew that she could easily pull her spirit up and out of Conan’s skin. She needed to bond to it if she were to succeed. Slowly Infidia forced Conan’s eyes to open. Looking out with his physical eyes and her astral ones at the same time gave her a strange layered vista.

Conan’s body was still tightly gripping her body’s hands and through her astral sight Infida saw that the power from the crystal was flowing up and into her body and then through her hands into Conan. Unsure what would happen if she forced Conan’s body to let go Infidia decided it was their only chance. She felt a surge of excitement. If she could force Conan to release her hands, she suddenly felt sure, it would break the spell and if she was right it would allow her spirit to bond with Conan’s body. Then she could climb the tower free Conan’s spirit, steal the spell books, and return to the tower. If the spell was still working in theory all she’d have to do was sit down and grip her body’s hands and she would be able to abandon Conan’s body and return to her own.

Settling on this plan Infidia concentrated with every fiber of her being. Infidia forced her astral hand down through Conan’s physical arm and into his hand pretending that it was just an extra-long pair of gloves she was trying on. Then she focused on her other hand repeating the process until she could feel Conan’s fingers as they clutched her body’s fingers. Next Infida forced one astral leg and then the other down Conan’s body and into his legs, as though they were the legs to a particularly tight pair of trousers, until she could feel Conan’s toes which she wiggled experimentally. Lastly, she forced her head more fully into Conan’s until she could hear the chirp of a cricket through Conan’s ears and taste the dried beef remaining on Conan’s tongue from their hurriedly consumed meal. With one last surge of concentration Infidia forced Conan’s fingers to release her body’s fingers.

“Aghh, . . …”

The sound escaped Conan’s lips as Infidia felt a surge of power like lighting arc through her when she forced Conan’s fingers free. For a second agony blazed along her nerves and then she toppled over backward, Infidia lay looking up at the stars blinking for several seconds and slowly became aware that the stars were much clearer and brighter than they normally were. She slowly sat up and then reached up to touch her throbbing forehead and froze at the sight of the hand at the end of her arm. The hand was massive easily twice the size her hand was supposed to be. With a feeling of unreality Infidia reached down to touch her chest feeling the well-defined shape of Conan’s powerful pectoral muscles instead of the soft fleshy mounds of her breasts. Next still with a sense of disbelief Infidia reached between her legs and felt the mighty cod-piece that housed Conan’s cock. When her penis twitched in response to her fumbling Infidia threw back her head and laughed with Conan’s hearty roar. She’d done it!

As disgusting as this mountain of flesh was, Infidia could only imagine what Conan would say when he learned that she’d borrowed it. Slowly and carefully Infidia stood up swaying for a second as she allowed her new body to find its natural balance. She glanced back at her body and was suddenly alarmed. It now lay flat on its back with the crystal cracked and dark at its feet. Infidia moved forward stumbling at the difference in stride and the awkward feeling of the unfamiliar organ between her legs.

“Gods! How does Conan walk with this thing constantly getting in the way,” she muttered.

Infidia knelt next to her body and was relieved see her chest rise and fall with a steady rhythmic breathing. Next Infidia glanced down at the crystal alarmed at its dark and cracked condition. Well this would be a complication. Without it she wasn’t sure how she would separate her astral self from Conan’s husk. After a few seconds she decided it was a problem to consider later. At the moment she had a tower to scale, a ward to break, and a pair of books to steal.

Infidia spent the next thirty minutes bending, stretching, and jumping she even drew Conan’s broad sword and went through a series of cuts, slashes, and lunges attempting to force herself to become comfortable in her new skin. She was amazed at how small everything around the roof seemed including her former body. She was also surprised by how light Conan’s sword and shield felt as she practiced with them and at the amount of power she could generate with her arms and shoulders. However much she moved she remained startled by how often the ungainly piece of meat between her legs got in her way. It simply wouldn’t allow Infidia to move in certain ways and through simple discomfort forced her to adjust her stance and stride. Although Conan’s chest was much larger than hers it was solid muscle and Infidia found herself missing the natural sway and movement of her breasts as she practiced a lunge or twisted into a parry. Well it was certainly educational to understand the limitations of the male form, Infidia thought. At last feeling like she would be able to defend herself if she had too and like she wouldn’t fall off the side of the tower due to residual clumsiness, Infidia put Conan’s weapons away.

Infidia went to the trap door and pulled Conan’s dagger out with an easy jerk. In a matter of seconds she’d descended the ladder and crossed the distance to the base of the tower. Infidia had learned many skills over the last few years, fighting and spell casting were only two of them. She knew how to climb and also knew her limits; however the limits of Conan’s body were unknown to Infidia. Still he’d seemed confident in his ability to do this. Infidia started to climb, taking it slowly because she was still getting used to the length of Conan’s arms and legs. Hand grips that would have been beyond her reach were now accessible and when a brick crumbled under her booted foot Infidia found herself dangling by one hand. Instead of being scared she was thrilled at how easily her arm was able to support her full weight! Using the power of her arm alone Infidia pulled herself up reaching for the next hold. Infidia was shocked to discover that she was strong enough to climb the tower without using her legs at all! She continued to climb this way for a few more feet before her logical mind prevailed over the thrill that being this strong gave her. So after a brief pause Infidia continued up the tower slowly and carefully, and was astonished when she realized how high she’d climbed and that she wasn’t feeling the effects of fatigue. Conan hadn’t been exaggerating when he’d said that this was a climb he could easily do, soon she was next to the window. Infidia felt like she was capable of climbing to this height and much farther if she’d had the need. It was an exhilarating moment.

For a second Infidia thought about crashing through the window in an instant of glass and violence but then shook her head. Where had such an idea come from? She drew Conan’s dagger and worked the tip into the place where the left and right panes of glass joined in the center. When Infidia had been inside the room she’d noted that there was a latch holding them together. By levering the latch up she was able to pry first one and then the other side of the window open. Once the window was open Infidia moved cautiously into the room.

There was a soft glow from the ward and she could make out the indistinct distortion in the air. Obviously the distortion was the spirit trapped within the ward. When she was fully in the room the spirit became agitated and crashed into the side of the ward several times causing it to flare. Infidia decided to wait and seated herself on the window ledge resting her chin on her closed fist. After several minutes when the ward showed no sign of weakening the spirit slowed and then stopped moving. Instead it hovered in front of Infidia on the other side of the ward.

“Conan, remember I told you that I couldn’t make the climb in my body? I also told you that there was only one way that I could think of to get you out of there? I said you wouldn’t like it and you said that it didn’t matter? Well this is the only way I could think of. I needed a body that was strong enough to make the climb and yours was the only one around. When I break the ward holding you, you need to return to the rooftop where my body is laying helpless and undefended. I’ll get the books and meet you there as soon as possible. We’ll use the crystal to put our spirits back into our rightful bodies and pretend this whole thing never happened.”

When Infidia finished her speech she waited for Conan to move. Instead he floated there watching her. With a sigh Infidia moved to the edge of the ward and then slowly chanting the words that Zula had taught her Infidia took Conan’s knife and scraped it across the ward defacing it. There was a crackly of energy and Infidia jerked her hand back surprised at the sudden pain. She looked down at Conan’s large callused hand and didn’t see any damage but it was tingling like it had gone to sleep and now the blood was flowing into it again. By the time she looked up she saw Conan’s spirit descending into her body. She felt a chill as the spirit passed through but that was all. Infidia slowly stood up only to find Conan had circled back around and passed through her again. After his third attempt Infidia folded her mighty arms and glared at Conan’s spirit.

“Stop that, it won’t work and it tickles.” Infidia growled in Conan's masculine voice.

Conan’s spirit slowed and then came to a stop floating in front of her. With a glare Infidia waved her hand at the spirit.

“Listen to me Conan! You can stay here and die or you can go back to the rooftop and wait for me. Go on, do what I told you too, you’re just wasting time attempting to take this body back without the help of magic.” When Conan’s spirit didn’t move Infidia shrugged.

“Suit yourself — die if you want too!”

At that the spirit slowly and reluctantly moved away and then darted out through the window. Alone at last Infidia shook her head, “stupid barbarian.” She moved carefully through the room looking for physical or magical traps. Infidia spotted another magical trap before she was half way across the room and then at the last moment a trip wire cleverly hidden. Infidia lifted the books and put them into the sack that Conan had carried for this purpose. As she retraced her steps Infidia spotted a small chest along one wall. With a sudden inspiration she moved over to it and when she opened it discovered that it was filled with coins and gems. Infidia pulled out the rope that Conan had looped several times around his waist, before he’d left the ship, and ran one end through a set of handles on the chest. She then tied it off and carried the chest to the window. The chest was heavy easily fifty or sixty pounds but in Conan’s body it felt ridiculously light. Infidia leaned out and carefully using the rope lowered the chest to the ground below. Once the chest was on the ground Infidia tossed the rope out and then climbed carefully out the window.

Even though going down was easier and faster she knew that the danger here was the temptation to rush. So Infidia concentrated on keeping her balance and finding good hand and foot holds as she moved carefully to the ground. Once on the ground Infidia lifted the chest to her shoulder and headed back to the rooftop where Conan would be angrily waiting. The thought of Conan’s annoyance made Infidia smile as she made her way to the roof.

Infidia poked her head through the trapdoor and then set the chest to one side. She’d just climbed to her feet when there was a rush in the darkness and something hit the side of her head. Infidia tried to roll with the blow, as she’d been trained to do, but her body didn’t respond as smoothly as it should have and instead she stumbled to one side. As the shadow closed in on Infidia again she was able to get an arm up blocking the blow from the black jack and grabbed the wrist of the girl swinging it. Then with a twist of her hips Infidia threw the girl to the ground and straddled her pinning her hands above her head.

“You witch you did this on purpose!” Conan spat with Infidia’s voice.

“Oh, yes you’ve found me out, I planned the whole thing. First I invited you to come along on my astral reconnaissance, and then I tricked you into flying through that window so that I could cleverly rescue you by forcing my spirit into your body! You may have my body Conan but when I was in it I wasn’t a fool, you shouldn’t be one either!”

At this Conan in Infidia’s body slumped. Seeing that the fight had gone out of Conan for now Infidia released her hands and sat back still not getting off the girl.

“What happened? I told you to come back here and wait for me.”

“That’s what I did! Or what I tried to do, …” Conan shook his head in frustration.

“I flew back to the roof and saw your body lying here with the crystal cold and dark at your feet. As I got closer I started to feel a pulling sensation. It was like standing in a stream with the current pushing against your body trying to pull you downstream. The closer I got the stronger the current became. I tried to fight it but by that time it was impossible. I was dragged into your body and then everything just sort of faded out. There was a sudden shock and then I sat up and opened my eyes. That’s when I found myself in your body by Crom!! The body of a woman!” Conan said and rocked his hips trying to throw Infidia off.

For a moment Infida considered staying where she was and showing Conan what it was like to be the smaller weaker person. Instead she decided not to antagonize Conan, as satisfying as it might be, they needed to work together. Infidia climbed to her feet and offered a hand to pull Conan up however Conan batted it away and got clumsily to his feet. He’d clearly not gotten used to her body yet.

Infidia noticed that the sun was now just above the horizon and the darkness had turned to a grey predawn. She walked over to where the crystal lay, cracked and dark, the stone beneath it burned by the power of the spell. She reached down with one hand and felt the crystal crumble to powder in her unfamiliar grip.

“How will we change back?” Conan asked in her high sweet voice.

“By completing the mission; Drako Zula gave me that crystal he’s sure to have another. We’ll use a fresh one to change back.”

“Are you saying that we’ll have to travel all the way back to Costa like this?” Conan gestured down at his body with one hand.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.” Infidia growled. “I don’t know the magic necessary to undo this, but I’m sure Zula will have an answer.”

“The crew will never believe that we have exchanged bodies and if they do it will be even worse.” Conan said thinking out loud and Infidia nodded in agreement.

“They might believe us and see this as an opportunity to take the books and the treasure and dump us in the ocean. If they talk and others hear of this my enemies will be lining up to attack us. They’ll see this as an opportunity for vengeance.” Conan said. “And even if we somehow survive if word of my being trapped in the body of a woman gets out I’ll never be taken seriously as a warrior again. Any deeds of renown I do will be overshadowed by the story that I was once a woman.” Conan exclaimed the horror of the situation dawning on him.

“Promise me you won’t tell anyone! Or by Crom I’ll rip out your tongue!” Conan said unbeknownst to him as his tirade continued it had gotten higher and higher pitched until it ended in a shrill shriek that set Infidia’s teeth on edge.

“Calm down Conan, you’re letting your woman’s passion run away with you. I agree it would be for the best if we pretend to be each other. You’re known as a mighty warrior no one challenges you because of your fearsome reputation. I also agree that if your enemies find out that I, a mere woman, occupy your body and you are now in the body of a woman; well let’s just say our chances for survival aren’t good.” Infidia said. At this Conan scowled but agreed.

“Enough talking the sooner we’re off this cursed island the better!” Conan said.

******************************************************************************

Conan trudged through the jungle glancing up in irritation from time to time at Infidia walking in front of her. She felt humiliated at being forced to follow instead of leading and she’d never appreciated how easy it was for her in her natural body to glide through the jungle. Conan had insisted on helping carry something from the tower and had taken the large leather bound spell books and slung the bag they were in over one shoulder. After two hours of trudging through the jungle Conan wanted nothing more than to hand the bag with the books back to Infidia. But his Cimmerian pride wouldn’t let him. Struggling to keep up with sweat running down his back, and disconcertingly between his breasts, made Conan realize, again, just how much weaker she now was.

It appeared that this would be a lesson she’d have to learn several times. When they’d arrived at the gate and found it closed and magically locked Infidia had suggested they take a set of stairs to the top of the wall and from there climb down using the rope Conan had brought. Conan had agreed and had suggested that Infidia go down first and then she’d lower the treasure chest and follow. Infidia had laughed and said that lowering the treasure chest was a man’s job and Conan needed to get her pretty little ass down the rope. When Conan angrily protested Infidia had simply handed Conan the treasure chest. Conan held it for a few seconds and realized that Infidia was right the thing was just too damn heavy, by Crom! Feeling embarrassed Conan had slid down the rope having to use her legs more than her arms to control her descent.

Now with Infidia in the lead carrying the chest on one shoulder while cutting a path through the jungle, and Conan struggling to keep up, Conan had to admit that she was far weaker than she’d been only a few hours ago. Shortly before the sun reached its zenith they broke through the tree line to find the beach in front of them and the ship off to the left. The longboat was waiting where they’d left it. Infidia had brought them out of the jungle only a few hundred yards to the right of the boat, a pretty good feat of navigation in the dense jungle, Conan reluctantly admitted to herself. In seconds the two remaining sailors spotted Conan and Infidia and raced toward them.

“Remember from now on you’re Infidia the warrior-witch, and I’m Conan the warrior-thief!” Infidia hissed at Conan.

Conan watched as the sailors, Scar and Alic, laughed and slapped Infidia on the back. Scar asked if he could take the chest while Alic asked what had happened to the others. Infidia explained that Lar, Saul, Balik, and Trev had all died valiantly fighting monsters and hordes of undead. Conan cringed inside as she explained with words that would never have come out of his lips how masterfully they’d fought.

“Conan, I think we can tell this tale once we are aboard the Bounty.” Conan said cursing the need to pretend to be Infidia and having to call Infidia Conan.

“Of course” Infidia answered too sweetly in Conan’s manly tones.

When they reached the longboat Conan sat at one of the rowing benches knowing that this boat normally used four oarsmen. When she looked up Conan saw Infidia staring at her with a crooked grin.

“I know you’d like to help lass, but a ten year old boy could pull better than you. Why don’t you have a seat in the bow and enjoy the view while the lads and I see to the oars.” Infidia said clearly enjoying the chance to tease Conan.

The sailors chuckled at Conan’s remark and rather than appear any more foolish Conan moved forward dropping the bag with the spell books to the floor of the boat with a sigh of relief. The two sailors and Infidia took their places at the oars and the longboat made its way swiftly to the Ocean’s Bounty where Captain Sarl ordered a cargo net thrown over the side for them to use to climb aboard. As the sailors dropped the net another set of lines came down and Scar and Alic tied them to the bow and stern of the boat.

“Ladies first” Infidia said holding the cargo net so Conan could reach it.

Both boats were rocking in the somewhat rough sea and as Conan reached out to grab the net she miss-judged the timing and her reach. Slipping at first and then flailing for a hand hold Conan teetered precariously for a long second and then tumbled into the ocean. Conan had learned how to swim in the cold lakes and streams of Cimmeria so the warm salty waters of the Azure Sea didn’t bother her. She came up sputtering and before she could say anything a strong hand with a grip like iron fastened onto her wrist. Like a mother lifting its babe from the cradle Infidia lifted Conan from the sea and dropped her back into the longboat.

“I think you need to find your sea legs lass. Do you need me to have Captin Sarl lower another line so the side-boys can lay-to and haul you aboard?”

“No” Conan tried to growl but it came out sounding shrill.

With that she stood up and jumped from the longboat to the netting. This time luck was on her side had she found a hand and foot hold before dropping back into the ocean. Even with luck Conan found that the only way for her to climb the netting was to use her legs to push her up the net. Conan’s new upper body just lacked the strength to pull her up without using her legs. To Conan’s embarrassment Infidia and both sailors swarmed up the netting before she reached the top and she’d started the climb first!

Standing there dripping wet her leathers stuck tightly to her body Conan watched as the side-boys hauled away on the lines with more strength than she now possessed. After a minute she stalked across the deck intending to go to her cabin. Infidia caught her just before she opened the hatch.

“Infidia, your cabin is over there.” Infidia said pointing one door down.

Realizing her mistake Conan stomped to Infidia’s cabin and slammed the door shut behind her to drown out the roar of Infidia’s manly laughter.

End Part 1


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