Gates of Empire” by Robert E. Howard is a rousing tale that weaves together the themes of betrayal, war, and redemption against the backdrop of the Crusades. Set in a time when the balance of power constantly shifted between the Christian and Muslim worlds, Howard introduces us to a motley crew of characters, from a drunken Englishman to the lords of the Crusader states, who are all caught in the whirlwind of historical events.

Supposed to have been published in The Magic Carpet Magazine Volume 4 Number 2. In the last magazine, it says “on sale Feb. 1”. Unfortunately Magic Carpet folded, and it was first published in GOLDEN FLEECE volume 2, number 1 in January 1939, almost 5 years after. Set during the Crusades. It is a unique story as it is the only comic historical he wrote. 

The story

The story begins in the castle of Godfrey de Courtenay, where a group of revelers, led by the rapscallion Giles Hobson, partakes in unauthorized merriment. Their drunken escapades lead them to mistakenly confront Sir Guiscard de Chastillon, Godfrey’s brother-in-law, resulting in a chaotic and humorous misunderstanding. This event sets the tone for Giles’ adventure, as his knack for finding trouble pulls him into the larger conflicts of the era.

Giles, through a series of misadventures, ends up stowing away on a ship headed for the Holy Land, where he is captured by Saracens. His fate takes a turn when he falsely claims royal blood, hoping for ransom but instead finding himself embroiled in the political machinations between the Muslim emir Shirkuh and the Christian forces.

As Shirkuh’s forces and the Crusaders, led by King Amalric of Jerusalem, maneuver around each other, Giles’ falsehood about a supposed bridge of boats becomes a pivotal piece of misinformation, leading to a climactic battle near El Kahira (Cairo). Despite his initial cowardice and deception, Giles plays a heroic role in the battle, contributing to the safety of King Amalric and receiving begrudging respect from his enemies.

In the end, Giles’ journey is one of redemption. From a bawdy liar and drunkard, he emerges as a figure of unexpected courage, demonstrating that heroism can arise in the most unlikely of individuals.


  • Giles Hobson: The central character, a drunken Englishman who inadvertently becomes entangled in the Crusades and the politics of the Middle East. Despite his flaws, Giles displays unexpected bravery and loyalty.
  • Godfrey de Courtenay: Lord of the castle where the story begins, his absence sets the stage for the initial revelry.
  • Sir Guiscard de Chastillon: A formidable knight and brother-in-law to Godfrey de Courtenay. His initial encounter with Giles sets off a chain of events that intertwines their fates.
  • Shirkuh: A Muslim emir, ambitious and cunning, seeking to extend his influence over Egypt. His actions drive much of the political intrigue in the story.
  • King Amalric of Jerusalem: The Christian king leading the Crusader forces. His strategic decisions impact the course of the battle and the fate of the characters.
  • Salah ed din (Saladin): Though not a central character in this tale, his presence looms over the events, signaling the rise of a formidable leader in the Muslim world.

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