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'As of Ghostly Piping'
The Black City [Story Fragment] by Robert E. Howard
Reading from pages 147-9 of Kull: Exile of Atlantis
The facing illustration by Justin Sweet is a picture of elemental barbarism in the stony halls of a cyclopean city, as Brule the Spear-slayer, primordial ancestor of Bran Mak Morn [Howard's mentally strongest character] stands before the flapping curtains which represent to cast aside whimsy of Civilization—its supposed good intentions—in stark contrast to the uncaring walls and the unfathomable evil [the Deep State] that brushes aside the curtains like a veil from a gorgon's pitted face. Brule stands elementally against everything that frames him: the uncaring walls, flighty whims and vile plots that comprise civilization, an excellent work on Sweet's part in conveying Howard's message.
Unseen in the illustration, but well wrought in Howard's words, sits King Kull—very throne, no less this one, apparently fated to offer him no repose—regarding his barbaric ally under dream-sodden lids:
"Kull's thoughts drifted away and back along the lazy, dreamy days that had passed since his coming to this mountain city, the metropolis of pleasure, whose marble and lapis-lazuli palaces were built, tier upon golden tier, about the dome shaped hill that formed the city's center."
Kull, a paragon of his barbaric kind and Brule, "typical of his [savage] race," both stand in stark contrast to their surroundings, a habitat made to soften and erode such men, to make them the prey of dainty fingers and devilish whispers. In the setup of a story he did not finish executing—having apparently judged the editorial winds as having turned against Kull—Howard shows the greatest gift of the fantasist, the ability to take a real corrosive social situation and frame it in mythic trappings, replacing the yawn-worthy degradation of man, due to generations of soft living with the yawning horror of a pleasure palace which literally eats its visitors...
A Well of Heroes: Two:
Literary Impressions of the Prose and Verse of Robert E. Howard
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