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‘The Kisses of the Queens of Hell!’
Yasmina Knows Stark Terror: Chapter VIII, The People of the Black Circle by Robert E. Howard
From page 53-57 Howard immerses the reader in the most horrific profile of evil in fiction—an evil clingingly human and yet unthinkably elder, calm and reposed in a frantic world yet energetically malicious—as Yasmina is psychologically tormented via the chemistry of the evil lotus plant and the sorcery of a transmogrified man come to master demons, cults and kings like worms beneath the sandals of a bald Fate.
Interestingly—where story lines are often imparted through supernaturally assisted dream to a character in other tales, such as Queen of the Black Coast and Iron Shadows in the Moon—Yasmina is treated to the plight of womankind, as she relives the lives of her previous incarnations down through the ages, making for some of Howard’s best introspection on class and gender. The sense of feminine peril in inhuman hands is so great in this diabolic chapter that the artist could not wait to sketch Yasmina in the clutches of the Master of Yimsha, with her terrorized form in the hands of the undead fiend offset against her fearfully beautiful form reclining on the altar of her otherworldly sacrifice.
In Yasmina Knows Stark Terror, Howard treats the reader to a complex hierarchy of weird puppet masters and conjurers, evoking at once the Lovecraftian ideal of evil interceding cruelly in the lives of Mankind from across limitless gulfs, an Oriental sense of the thin thread of a tiny ego having travelled down through the ages, as well as a straight forward invocation of demons from an overtly Christian concept of Hell, improved somewhat by declaring that evil queens dwell in the hellish underworld as they did in ancient Sumer and Norse myth.
At the core of The People of the Black Circle is a work of comparative mythology that would have made Joseph Campbell wince among the stacks and Carl Jung fear the sleep of night.
A Well of Heroes
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