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Rogue Blades Author: An Unexpected Gift

Rogue Blades Author: An Unexpected Gift

Howard changed my lifeThe following is an excerpt from Barbara Ingram Baum’s essay for Robert E. Howard Changed My Life, an upcoming book from the Rogue Blades Foundation.

May 25, 1995, marked a profound change in my life. Alla Ray Morris, or ‘Pat’ as we called her, passed away unexpectedly. When my husband, Jack, met with her attorneys after her funeral, he was shocked to learn she had bequeathed her rights in Robert E. Howard’s works to him, to his sister Terry, and to their mother, Zora Mae Baum Bryant, whom she had named as executrix of her estate. I could never have imagined the impact this gift would have on my life.

Jack’s father had passed away in 1971, and several years later his mother married Elliott Bryant, a kind, loving widower who embraced his new family as Zora Mae had two adult children, a daughter-in-law, and three young grandchildren. Elliott’s parents and younger brother were deceased, but he maintained a close relationship with his aunt, Alla Ray Kuykendall (‘Auntie K’) and her daughter, Alla Ray Morris (‘Pat’), who lived in the nearby town of Ranger, Texas. Whenever we gathered at the house in Cross Plains for holidays, Auntie K and Pat were always included, and over the years they became family to all of us as well. So even after Elliott died suddenly in 1982, the relationship continued, and every week Jack’s mother drove to Ranger to play bridge with the Kuykendalls and their friends. I believe she and Pat became even closer after Auntie K passed away. Nevertheless, we were stunned when Pat suddenly died and we learned she had included us in her will — it was totally unexpected.

We knew nothing about Robert E. Howard or his works. However, we recalled Zora Mae, Elliott, Auntie K, and Pat had attended the showing of the film Conan the Barbarian, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the Paramount Theatre in Abilene, but Jack and I had never seen the film or read any of Howard’s works or talked about Howard or discussed the Kuykendalls’ ownership at family gatherings. I faintly remembered comments about Howard Days, but we had never discussed those events, nor had we attended. Interestingly, though, Jack’s mother kept a Conan calendar on her kitchen wall — which I know now was a Ken Kelly scene from “People of the Black Circle.” (You would have to know Jack’s mother to appreciate how completely out of character it was for her to have a heroic fantasy calendar on her wall. Zora Mae was very much a traditionalist and was very particular about her home and its accessories.)

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Rogue Blades presents: “Deep in the Land of Ice and Snow”

Rogue Blades presents: “Deep in the Land of Ice and Snow”

Return of the Sword-smallMy short story “Deep in the Land of Ice and Snow” originally appeared in the collection The Return of the Sword: An Anthology of Heroic Adventure by Rogue Blades Entertainment. Enjoy.

The wolves were too many. Belgad knew that as he soon as he spotted the beasts. There were nearly a score of them, and if that were not bad enough, the creatures were huge, each nearly the size of a riding pony. What was worse, the wolves were quiet and had managed to surround him without his spying them sooner.

No, this was no ordinary pack. They had appeared from nowhere, and they had no qualms about scaling the side of a mountain for their human prey.

Belgad forced himself to climb higher, the bitter cold winds whipping at his long yellow hair. His fingers, the tips protruding from rags he had used to swaddle them, gripped the edge of another boulder and lifted him with the help of solid placement from his fur-lined boots.

On top of the boulder, Belgad found a flat spot and sat there, letting the cold air fill his tired lungs. His body needed rest after days of hiking dense forests and climbing steep hills, but he would not close his eyes; the wolves were drawing nearer, below and above. It would only be a matter of time before they would pounce.

After what felt like hours to the big man wrapped in furs, one of the wolves, the largest, began to creep its way along a narrow path toward him.

Belgad watched the animal with anticipation, knowing soon he would be in battle.

Eventually the wolf was below Belgad, just out of reach of the man’s legs hanging off the side of his stone seat.

“Will you eat me today, wolf?” the large man said to the animal.

The wolf’s only reply was uplifted ears and a tilted head.

“I think not,” Belgad said, drawing in his legs and pushing off them so he was standing on the boulder.

The wolf blinked, and that was when Belgad took notice of its eyes. The animal had eyes the shade of morning blue ice.

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