“Nekht Semerkeht” is an unfinished story by Robert E. Howard, supposedly the last one he ever worked on. Set during the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, it follows the journey of Hernando de Guzman, a Spanish soldier, as he encounters mysterious and supernatural forces in the New World.

Originally there was a complete first draft, though the later portions of it were in synopsis form and a second draft which was started but didn’t go very far. Glenn Lord gave Offutt the second draft beginning with the remaining portion of the first draft, and Offutt worked from that. 

The story “Nekht Semerkeht” blends historical elements with supernatural horror, illustrating the relentless quest for survival and power amidst the mysterious and hostile New World.

From the letters:

In a letter (#349) to August Derleth on May 9, Howard writes:

I haven’t written a weird story for nearly a year, though I’ve been contemplating one dealing with Coronado’s expedition on the Staked Plains in 1541. A good theme if I can develop it.


The story opens with Hernando de Guzman, a Spanish soldier, being ambushed by an Apache warrior. After a tense confrontation, de Guzman kills the Apache with a pistol shot and finds himself lost in the vast plains of the New World. With his horse dead and the camp lost, de Guzman marches aimlessly, driven by the instinct to survive despite the hopelessness of his situation.

As de Guzman continues his journey, he reflects on the futility of the Spanish quest for gold in these desolate lands. His thoughts are interrupted by the sound of a drum, which he decides to follow. The sound leads him to a walled city, unlike any he has seen before, with adobe buildings sheathed in a glazed enamel and intricate designs. The architecture is a blend of Aztec and an unknown, exotic style.

Upon closer inspection, de Guzman witnesses an Apache attack on the city, which is repelled by a strange mist that kills the attackers. He is amazed and horrified by this display of necromancy. As he lies hidden, a girl named Nezahualca discovers him. She reveals herself to be a princess and a slave, degraded from her royal status by Nekht Semerkeht, the city’s ruler. She tells de Guzman of her plan to overthrow Nekht Semerkeht and asks for his help, promising to bring him food.

At night, Nezahualca leads de Guzman into the city through a secret gate. They meet an overseer who is in love with Nezahualca and willing to help. However, they are betrayed, and de Guzman finds himself in a chamber where ten men lie dead. He is led by a creature with a woman’s hands and a man’s hairy arm until he realizes the deception and kills the creature.

De Guzman then finds himself in a throne room where Nezahualca and the young overseer are being tortured. He confronts Nekht Semerkeht, who claims to be an ancient Egyptian magician. De Guzman kills a dragon-like creature about to attack Nezahualca and shoots Nekht Semerkeht, who retreats but continues to live.

Following a fierce sword fight, de Guzman finally defeats Nekht Semerkeht, who falls into a trap door. However, the curse of the magician brings ruin upon the city. Nezahualca tries to resist de Guzman’s claim to power, but he overpowers her. In his sleep, he dreams of Nekht Semerkeht warning him of an impending Comanche attack. The Comanches invade, and the city is destroyed. De Guzman dies fighting fiercely.


  • Hernando de Guzman: A Spanish Conquistador lost in the New World. He is driven by a fierce will to survive and becomes embroiled in the supernatural mysteries of the city of Tlasceltec.
  • Nezahualca: A princess and former royal of the city, degraded to a slave. She seeks de Guzman’s help to overthrow Nekht Semerkeht.
  • Nekht Semerkeht: An ancient Egyptian magician who rules the city with dark powers. He is a master of necromancy and seeks to maintain his rule through fear and supernatural means.
  • Young Overseer: A man in love with Nezahualca who helps her and de Guzman in their plot against Nekht Semerkeht.
  • Aztec Priest: A minor character who invokes Nekht Semerkeht during a battle.

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