Saturday, April 1, 2023

Conan - Lair of the Ice Worm

“The Lair of the Ice Worm” was authored by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. It was first published in Conan of Cimmeria, a 1969 omnibus published by Lancer Books, then later by Ace. The story was also published in the Sphere Books collection The Conan Chronicles and adapted into comic book form in Savage Sword of Conan #34

The story picks up after the events of "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" as a twenty-something Conan is trudging through the snowfall in Aesir. A short distance away, Conan sees a young woman being attacked by savage men resembling Neanderthals. Soon, Conan is slicing his way to the woman's rescue, but his horse is killed in the battle. In an eerie premonition, the girl warns Conan of something ominous called a Yakhmar, but Conan (and readers) isn't sure what that is.

Finding shelter in a cave, Conan makes love to the girl by the firelight. He awakens to discover the girl is no longer in the cave. With the icy conditions outside, Conan fears something may have happened to her. Outside, he follows a trail that leads to two skeletons, one of the girl and another of his horse. Both have been picked clean of all flesh and oddly enveloped in ice. Conan begins to think that this Yakhmar thing is actually a Remora, a giant vampire-like worm. Feeling responsible for the girl's death, Conan tracks the worm's trail to an icy cave. Will he escape this fiendish assault of Remora?

An eerie atmosphere and ambiance prevails throughout this short fantasy story. There's the obvious elements of horror, complete with a worm-like creature squirming under the icy tundra. It was this sort of vibe that made me think of Lovecraft in a broader horror sense. The early battle with the savages was written well and contained the sweeping adventure that REH's Conan stories frequently possessed. As an aside, the brawny hero had no resistance in bedding down the beauty of the story, another obvious trope of Conan storytelling.

Overall, this was another great short story told by de Camp and Carter. It certainly fits into the Conan of Cimmeria collection alongside "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" and "Queen of the Black Coast" in terms of extreme locations. There's nothing about the story to really dislike. Recommended.

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