The plot is converging on the city of Opkothard. Skeer is here with the Source of Light, Conan and his sidekicks have arrived seeking him, the six blind minions of Neg have arrived seeking one of them, and also one of the Suddah Oblates has shown up for reasons unknown. This guy is Malo, the young cane prodigy that Conan trounced when he visited, and he’s carrying a sword, rather than his tradition’s usual cane, planning to kill Conan. He assumes Conan must be responsible for the murder of the two acolytes of the temple, under the reasoning that he doesn’t like Conan, and Conan must therefore be responsible for every crime that happens within a thousand foot radius. But, like, things can’t come to a head here. We’re slightly less than halfway through.
Elashi’s tsundere routine with Conan is rote enough, and well established enough, that I don’t feel the need to type out quotes or even particularly summarize the details. Suffice to say that Elashi tsunderes at Conan in the inn for the night.
The chapter closes on a mysterious spider priest performing mysterious spider divinations and determining that all kinds of named characters have shown up in town tonight, and he’d better do something about it.
Skeer is sharing some stable stalls with some listless drunks, who turn out to be agents of the spider god. How they knew to send not one, but two agents to the worst inn in the town isn’t clear. It wasn’t mentioned in the divinations. They probably have other disguised agents, but they can’t have that many. Are they posting some in every inn?
The Men With No Eyes are sporting enough to split themselves up into groups of two, allowing themselves to be easily picked off by Conan and Elashi on one end and Malo on the other. And then Malo dies like a bitch. Like, seriously, Malo’s supposed to be this super skilled fighter, they set him up for most of the chapter and the last as being a major obstacle, if only because he’ll slow Conan down long enough for Skeer to escape, and then Conan kills him with one blow. Not, like, the first blow that lands finishes the job. Literally the first time he swings his sword, Malo’s done. For all that the Men With No Eyes are supernaturally fast, every time Conan or Elashi swings their sword, they get maimed if not killed. One of them does manage to kick him right before dying, which suggests that they could actually be a significant threat if they bothered to arm themselves. This chapter is a confrontation between foes who’ve been built up for the last chapter or two, and Conan just mulches through them with barely any effort.
Conan and company decide to camp the only gate leading out of the city to wait for Skeer, and is followed by a number of disguised spider agents. These spider agents just happen to be standing around the street when Conan decided to head to the gate. How many of these guys are there? Do they just have a couple of agents on every single street corner?
Skeer disguises himself as a city guardsman and attempts to flee the city, dogged by a curse laid upon him by the spider priests. He tricks the gate guard into opening the gate for him, claiming he’s been given orders to meet someone outside and doing the old “I dunno why my orders are completely irregular and you haven’t been informed of them, it’s just those crazy higher ups” at which point the gate guard is all “that seems totally unsuspicious, go on through.”
Then the book skips seven pages. Yeah, turns out this copy is missing a huge chunk. I should’ve made the trip and gotten a real copy from the library.
So, uh. Let’s see if we can figure out where we are now.
Okay. Conan is interrogating a spy who works for the spider cult. This “Disguise Master” guy has been in a couple of the earlier chapters as the source of the either preternaturally accurate or absurdly saturated spy mooks the spider cult has been employing. Skeer probably got eaten by spiders, but I have no idea how Conan got into the trail of this guy. Seeing as how Skeer was the last one to have the Source of Light and the spiders presumably ate him, they’re probably interrogating this guy to try and track the Source of Light down.
Except, they’re stealing this guy’s loot and plan to leave immediately. Maybe the spiders just solved their problem for them, leaving the Source of Light behind, so they just nicked it and now they’re planning to head towards Neg’s stronghold to kill him? If so, this whole interlude in Opkothard is a huge missed opportunity, all the heroes just threshed through the villains like they’re nothing, deflating all the stakes. I figured, the spider cult would end up with the Source of Light, and Conan would end up in some kind of desperate struggle to retrieve it. Instead of all the enemies piling on top of each other until they end up in a free-for-all, they’ve mostly shown up one at a time. The only ones who showed up simultaneously were the two least threatening: Unnamed mooks working for Neg whose supernatural powers almost compensated for their being completely unarmed, and the guy whose ass Conan had already kicked once and who proved just as easy to trounce in real combat.
There’s a pretty straightforward scene here, where Neg reanimates his slain blind minions (from the safety of his necromantic lair), and the guard at the morgue is spooked by their stirring, which is followed by…uh, Skeer. Skeer running from the city at full gallop, having apparently been spooked by the spider swarm, which may have been illusionary. In which case, this whole detour to spidertown was basically just a waste of time, with our heroes exactly where they were when they started, but at least they didn’t retrieve the Source of Light with trivial ease.
But then actually, the spiders are also pursuing Skeer. Conan and Tuanne see them on the road (Elashi is present, but has terrible night vision). So I guess spidertown wasn’t a total waste, although that was a lot of chapters to spend adding exactly one new threat (who isn’t even primarily after Conan or any of his allies!) to the mix.