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‘Breathed into Tortured Stone Such Foul Life’
The Temple of Abomination by Robert E. Howard

‘Breathed into Tortured Stone Such Foul Life’

The Temple of Abomination by Robert E. Howard

Unpublished in Howard’s life time. First appearing in Tigers of the Sea, 1974, reading from Cormac MacArt, 1995, Baen, pages 193-204

The “sinister, scarred face,” of Cormac MacArt, darkened as he recalled the nightmare creature within the temple he had just cleaved, reporting to the chief known as the Skull-cleaver at the head of the band of proto-Vikings that this dark Irish hero scouted and advised for. There is no question but that the men would go forth and kill the devils and demons within this vile temple.

The two then digress about the recent rise of King Arthur Pendragon, with Cormac stating that this moment in hellish time was 80 years after Alaric’s sack of Rome, placing the story in A.D. 490.

The Skull-cleaver and Cormac then trade hateful words about an object of their mutual disdain, Christians:

“These Christians be all madmen, Cormac. If you recognize one of that breed, point him out and I will try his faith… For look you…that [submission] is an insidious and dangerous teaching which may spread like rust on the wheat and undermine the manhood of men if it be not stamped out like a young serpent under heel.”

What follows is a brief, direct, Dungeons & Dragons-inspiring adventure that is too tight for me to reveal more. The story is listed as incomplete, but it completed will enough for this reader, with a haunting ending both heroically definitive and yawning with menace.

Far more important than the plot and characters, is that Howard seems to have predicted in The Temple of Abomination, that one day men of his race, faced with evil, would look upon the submissive aspects of Christianity as the “unmanning” rot that permitted their imminent downfall. Howard, as the invisible narrator, does not permit confirmation bias to maintain his heroes’ prejudice that all Christians are cowards according to their creed, and illustrates in grinding action, that if the men of a people split between two beliefs and fail to cooperate across that divide they will go the way of the Celts, the Gaels, the Picts and the Vikings, “swept into eternity.”


A Well of Heroes: Two:

Literary Impressions of the Prose and Verse of Robert E. Howard

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