El Borak and Other Desert Adventures

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  • Edition: Original
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-02-09
  • Publisher: Del Rey
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Robert E. Howard is famous for creating such immortal heroes as Conan the Cimmerian, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn. Less well-known but equally extraordinary are his non-fantasy adventure stories set in the Middle East and featuring such two-fisted heroes as Francis Xavier Gordon known as El Borako Kirby O'Donnell, and Steve Clarney. This trio of hard-fighting Americans, civilized men with more than a touch of the primordial in their veins, marked a new direction for Howard's writing, and new territory for his genius to conquer. The wily Texan El Borak, a hardened fighter who stalks the sandscapes of Afghanistan like a vengeful wolf, is rivaled among Howard's creations only by Conan himself. In such classic tales as The Daughter of Erlik Khan,o Three-Bladed Doom,o and Sons of the Hawk,o Howard proves himself once again a master of action, and with plenty of eerie atmosphere his plotting becomes tighter and twistier than ever, resulting in stories worthy of comparison to Jack London and Rudyard Kipling. Every fan of Robert E. Howard and aficionados of great adventure writing will want to own this collection of the best of Howard's desert tales, lavishly illustrated by award-winning artists Tim Bradstreet and Jim and Ruth Keegan.

Author Biography

Robert E. Howard was born January 22, 1906, southwest of Fort Worth. His father, a country physician, moved the family around Texas before settling in the small town of Cross Plains in 1919. While in high school, Howard began submitting stories to magazines, and Weird Tales magazine accepted Spear and Fang. Solomon Kane was the first of his continuing characters to see print; others included King Kull and Bran Mak Morn. Howard tried detective fiction, horror, and Paul Bunyanesque tales, then in 1933, Weird Tales introduced Conan the Cimmerian. In 1935 his mother was admitted to the King's Daughters Hospital. Told she would never recover, he committed suicide in 1936.


Swords of the Hills

Chapter One

It was the stealthy clink of steel on stone that wakened Gordon. In the dim starlight a shadowy bulk loomed over him and something glinted in the lifted hand. Gordon went into action like a steel spring uncoiling. His left hand checked the descending wrist with its curved knife, and simultaneously he heaved upward and locked his right hand savagely on a hairy throat.

A gurgling gasp was strangled in that throat and Gordon, resisting the other’s terrific plunges, hooked a leg about his knee and heaved him over and underneath. There was no sound except the rasp and thud of straining bodies. Gordon fought, as always, in grim silence, and no sound came from the straining lips of the man beneath. His right hand writhed in Gordon’s grip; his left tore futilely at the wrist whose iron fingers drove deeper and deeper into the throat they grasped. That wrist felt like a mass of woven steel wires to the weakening fingers that clawed at it. Grimly Gordon maintained his position, driving all the power of his compact shoulders and corded arms into his throttling fingers. He knew it was his life or that of the man who had crept up to stab him in the dark. In that unmapped corner of the Afghan mountains all fights were to the death. The tearing fingers relaxed. A convulsive shudder ran through the great body straining beneath the American; then it went limp.

Gordon slid off the corpse, in the deeper shadow of the great rocks among which he had been sleeping. Instinctively he felt under his arm to see if the precious package for which he had staked his life was still safe. Yes, it was there, that flat bundle of papers wrapped in oiled silk, that meant life or death to thousands. He listened. No sound broke the stillness. About him the slopes with their ledges and boulders rose gaunt and black in the starlight. It was the darkness before the dawn.

But he knew that men moved about him, out there among the rocks. His ears, whetted by years in wild places, caught stealthy sounds – the soft rasp of cloth over stones, the faint shuffle of sandalled feet. He could not see them, and he knew they could not see him, among the clustered boulders he had chosen for his sleeping site.

His left hand groped for his rifle, and he drew his revolver with his right. That short, deadly fight had made no more noise than the silent knifing of a sleeping man might have made. Doubtless his stalkers out yonder were awaiting some signal from the man they had sent in to murder their victim.

Gordon knew who these men were. He knew their leader was the man who had dogged him for hundreds of miles, determined he should not reach India with that silk-wrapped packet. Francis Xavier Gordon was known by repute from Stamboul to the China Sea; the Muhammadans called him El Borak, the Swift, and they feared and respected him. But in Gustav Hunyadi, renegade and international adventurer, Gordon had met his match. And he knew that now Hunyadi, out there in the night, was lurking with his Turkish killers. They had ferreted him out, at last.

Gordon glided out from among the boulders as silently as a great cat. No hillman, born and bred among those crags, could have avoided loose stones more skillfully or picked his way more carefully. He headed southward, because that was the direction in which lay his ultimate goal. Doubtless he was completely surrounded.

His soft native sandals made no noise, and in his dark hillman’s garb he was all but invisible. In the pitch-black shadow of an overhanging cliff, he suddenly sensed a human presence ahead of him. A voice hissed, a European tongue framing the Turki words: “Ali! Is that you? Is the dog dead? Why did you not call me?”

Gordon struck savagely in the direction of the voice. His pistol barrel crunched glancingly against a human skull, and a man groaned and crumpled. All about rose a sudden c

Excerpted from El Borak and Other Desert Adventures by Robert E. Howard
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