“The Hall of the Dead” is a fantasy short story by American Robert E. Howard, one of his tales featuring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian. A fragment consisting of 640 words was begun in the 1930s but was not finished or published in Howard’s lifetime. L. Sprague de Camp wrote an entire story based on this untitled synopsis.

Howard's Unfinished version:

Nestor, a mercenary from Gunderland, is leading a squad of Zamorian soldiers in pursuit of the thief Conan. In a mountain gorge, Nestor trips over a rawhide tripwire set in the high grass of a grove by Conan. The trap activates an avalanche which kills all of Nestor’s men, but only lightly injures Nestor himself. Enraged, Nestor pursues Conan into the ruins of an ancient city and a battle between the two ensues. A hit from the barbarian’s sword renders Nestor temporary senseless and Conan, thinking Nestor is dead, continues deeper into the ruins. As Nestor is recovering, Conan stumbles upon some unspecified monstrosity that he defeats by first hurling rocks upon it from an elevation and then finishing it off with his sword. Nestor eventually catches up with Conan outside a great palace in the middle of the city. Conan convinces Nestor to abandon his mission in favor of joining him in raiding the palace for treasure. Descending into the palace, the duo eventually reaches a treasure vault adorned with the bodies of long-dead warriors. After gathering up some loot of coins and jewels, the two throw dice for a jade serpent idol. Conan eventually wins but, as he lifts up the idol, the dead warriors awaken. The two fight their way out of the palace and are eventually followed by only a single large warrior. As the three of them emerge to the sunlight outside, the undead creature crumbles to dust. The two make for their escape, but an earthquake hits the ruins and separates Conan from Nestor.

Later, Conan is in a tavern with a young woman he rescued. Conan empties his bag of jewels onto their table, but to his amazement they too, like the undead warrior, had turned to dust. The girl lifts up the leather sack with the snake idol in it for Conan to examine, but soon drops it with a scream as she feels something moving inside it. At this very moment, a magistrate enters the tavern with a group of soldiers and has Conan driven up against a wall. It turns out that Nestor, having gotten drunk on the money of his which never turned to dust, had told of his exploits with Conan in their presence and just barely escaped arrest. The magistrate decides to confiscate Conan’s leather bag. However, as he places his hand into it, he immediately retracts it with a shriek revealing a live serpent biting fast onto his finger. The resulting turmoil allows Conan and the girl to escape.

Howard's synopsis was published in:

de Camp's story was published in:

Sources and links:

Wikipedia, Conan Fandom, Howard Works.