The story opens with the description of a bloody battlefield on a beach The story plays out so vividly and descript you would think REH wrote this himself. Enter CONAN staring down a score of enemy warriors ready to do him in. CONAN dispatches them with fair enough ease as we read on limbs and heads and entrails fly about the thick ichor and blood filled beach. One last warrior stands facing CONAN...but in the throng of battle CONAN already wounded this man in the leg. He is bleeding out fast. It turns out he is a SHAMAN and casts a curse upon CONAN. The SHAMAN dies succumbing to the loss of blood from his severed femoral artery ( Apparently ) . Just having red dust blown into his face CONAN collapses only to wake up hours later from a fitful nightmare where he was running naked through a jungle tackling an antelope and rending it with his teeth and bare hands.
CONAN then begins gathering his fallen comrades into a large pile and lighting a funeral pyre. An arduous task that takes him all day. The least he could do right? But he see's dozens of enemy horsemen heading his way he tries to hide but they see him and give chase. His only escape is to swim out to the boat that he spots in the distance. Several enemy riders dismount and try to catch him by swimming after while others try to pick him off by bow from the beach. But he makes it to the boat thus escaping. As he climbs aboard the boat he attempts to buy his way with some gold he had tucked in his belt. He is given a position as an oarsman and sets to task rowing among the others.
Well that don't work out too well for the big ol' Cimmerian because it turns out the Captain of the ship is an old enemy from CONAN'S days as a pirate with Belit and the Black Corsairs. He has his men grab CONAN in another battle where CONAN kills two or three more men before they can bring him down and tie him up in the hold so tight he can't move his fingers.
Well he stays tied up for about three day's in that hold UNTIL...apparently CONAN transforms into a giagantic white haired , man eating Were ape creature!!!! He escapes his bonds and immediately detroys the crew ripping them apart and eating them...the Captain and a few others hide in the Captains quarter's until dawn. In the morning CONAN wakes up naked and full of blood. It's caked to him like he bathed in it...but it's not his. Just as he's gaining his wit's.....a giant sea monster rears it's head and begins to beat on the ship breaking the mast. The exhaustion has now completely left CONAN and he seems renewed with strength and vigor.
He picks up part of the fallen mast and spikes the gigantic monstrocity right in the eye piercing it's brain and killing it. At that point the Captain and his crew show themselves and set themselves upon CONAN with flashing and flailing blades. The Captain nicks CONAN with a dagger...but CONAN being a seasoned fighter and no stranger to close quarter combat with blades kills his assailants handily. He jumps into the life boat and escapes the sinking ship with naught but some rope and a sword. So far...this is only a third of the way through the book.
As he rows away from the sinking ship he feels a weird sensation and looks down at his arm where he was nicked and can tell right away that the dagger was poisoned. UGH!!!
He makes a couple of slashes around the wound and sucks out the poison. Feeling nauseas and sick he ties himself to the lifeboat and spikes his sword into the side of the boat so that it does not fall off into the sea. He passes out from the poison. Sure enough...he wakes on another beach and his boat was smashed while he was in his drugged slumber but parts of it have washed ashore with him including the piece of wood he drove his sword into. He wakes up regains his senses and searches for food. He finds coconuts and has a small satisfying feast and replenishes his weary drugged and battle torn body.
Just then he notices some canoes moving in with what ( By description can only be the Hyborian age counter parts to Samoan warriors ) looks like 30 large warriors bigger than himself. He takes cover in the trees....as large Carnivorous Vulture like bird creatures with fanged beaks swoop down upon them and another bloody descript battle ensues. CONAN can not help himself and he joins the fray in order to help. These warriors are using oars as weapons and faring well against the Vulture monsters but...CONAN has his sword and he takes out twice as many Bird things as any other warrior in half the time.
When the battle is done. CONAN makes eye contact with the eldest of the warriors ( They are called the Ganak's ) But before he can speak or try to communicate...he once again succumbs to exhaustion and pretty much faints. ( This CONAN falling asleep stuff begins to form a pattern eh? Just about every case results in a fitful nightmare for CONAN ) Too much exertion and not enough recouperation time. There are 7 warriors left out of the 30 that rowed ashore and the eldest says that CONAN is the chosen one sent by their savior in time of need in order to help them against their ancient enemies.
One warrior scoff's at the old warrior and picks up CONAN'S sword and they leave CONAN on the island and row back out toward their own island a short distance away. But not before the older warrior draws a crude map in the sand as a clue for CONAN to follow. ( By now this is just about almost halfway through the book. ) CONAN wakes up...and see's the clue in the sand and follows it and gets in a canoe and heads toward the nearby island. He follows clues left by the old man to a trail in the jungle. Noticing strange fruit hanging from the trees CONAN plucks a couple of apple sized fruits and bites into them sucking out the fruity juicy meat and discarding the rough outer skin or shell whatever it is. He discovers that it is bitter but tastes faintly like Coconuts. But he needs nourishment and eats it despite the bitter taste. As he walks along he notices as one of the fruit pieces falls from a branch and cracks on the ground and thousands of tiny spiders spew forth from it and he wretches and gags...he just ate two of those...BLECHH!!!!
He notices a gigantic spider just before it shoots it's sticky webbing at him and he has no time to react or draw his sword before it is on him and has it's monstorous pincer mandibles around his waist as venom from the pincers secretes from it's jaws and bathes CONAN from the waste down in icky nasty spider venon. With no weapon no clothes and only his bare hands CONAN grabs the pincers and struggles for long moments pitting his strength against the spider's jaws until...he rips it's head open and it relinqueshes it's grasp on him.
Not far away the GANAK warriors are having a council and it was decided among the elders that CONAN is indeed the chosen one and they have been ordered to give him back his sword and find him.
Now.....in case you have not noticed that is an awful lot of action all crammed into the first half of the book. This book is a damned good read and I thoroughly enjoyed it....Action...Monsters....nightmares...gory battles....Were apes.....fantastic exploits and encounters. One nasty hairy situation after the next. I know for sure that after you read this book you'll have a new appreciation for a hero you already love. This is CONAN at his best....and it don't stop there!