“Akram the Mysterious” is an unfinished story by Robert E. Howard, which tells the tale of Hengibar, a physically formidable and fiercely independent character from an ancient and primitive time. The story is narrated by James Allison, who possesses the unique ability to remember his past lives, including that of Hengibar.
The story, though unfinished, provides a glimpse into Howard’s ability to create rich, immersive worlds that blend fantasy with elements of ancient civilizations.
Lin Carter completed this for Fantastic Sword & Sorcery and Fantasy Stories June 1975.
In the story, Hengibar, of the Bison People, finds himself on a quest for vengeance after discovering the mutilated body of his tribesman, Wulfgar. Wulfgar had been ambushed and beheaded, an act of desecration that inflames Hengibar’s sense of honor and clan loyalty. He tracks the killer’s footprints, which lead him toward the mysterious and forbidding mountains of Akram.
As he ventures into the mountains, Hengibar encounters a series of eerie and unsettling sights, including poles with human skulls that whistle in the wind. He eventually discovers a walled town, which is an astounding sight for someone who has only known primitive dwellings. This town, unlike anything he has seen before, represents advanced architecture and organized society.
Hengibar observes the town’s inhabitants, who are yellow-skinned and physically distinct from his people. He is initially cautious and stealthy but soon gives in to his rage and desire for revenge. This leads to a violent confrontation in which Hengibar kills a man guarding the gate and then another in the town, causing panic and chaos among the townspeople.
The story showcases Hengibar’s brute strength, primal instincts, and the contrast between his primitive culture and the more advanced civilization he encounters. The narrative blends elements of fantasy, history, and anthropology, creating a vivid picture of a bygone era where survival and honor dominate the human experience.
- James Allison: The narrator who recalls his past life as Hengibar.
- Hengibar: A member of the Bison People, characterized by his immense physical strength and primal instincts.
- Wulfgar: A tribesman of Hengibar, whose death ignites Hengibar’s quest for vengeance.
- Wolfang the One-eyed: A member of the Vanir tribe who found Hengibar as a baby.
- People of Akram: Inhabitants of the walled town, characterized by their yellow skin and flat feet.