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Conn the Thrall
The Teaser to Marchers of Valhalla, from The Grey God Passes
Howard must have been particularly keen on this Gaelic war story, which he also wrote as Spears of Clontarf. Like most of his dark age fiction neither sold in his lifetime and both display the ferocity of his literary vision. The editor of Marchers of Valhalla chose well this teaser, featuring Howard's most unapologetic common man, no noble, not even a chief, but an escaped Viking slave.
He Wore the Collar of a Slave and the Sword of a King
"That is a noble sword you wear, kern," said Murrogh.
"Aye," said Conn the Thrall, "Murketagh of the Leather Cloaks wielded this blade until Blacair the Dane slew him at Ardee. It passed to Wolfgar Snorri's son, my former master, until I traded it from him—for a length of firewood which I buried in his skull."
"It is not fitting that a kern should wear the sword of a king," said Murrogh brusquely, turning to King Brain and the assembled chiefs, "Let one of the chiefs take it and give him an ax instead.'
Conn's fingers locked around the hilt. "He that would take the sword from me had best give me the ax first," he said grimly. "And that suddenly."
The Grey God Passes will be reviewed in full for this volume. Howard wrote his common man stories with more passion than the stories featuring kings, and generally had less luck with the sale then he did with a king's tale. This was also true of the Conan tales, with all of the kingship stories sold but a number of his soldier of fortune tales unsold or unfinished.
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