The upcoming issue of TGR will feature a four plate portfolio based on the Solomon Kane classic “The Hills of the Dead” by Michael L. Peters. The first plate appears at the left and depicts N’Longa giving Kane a powerful ju-ju staff.
N’Longa and Kane have to go down in the annals of fiction as one of the oddest pairings ever. A dour Puritan Englishmen and an African ju-ju man certainly make for an interesting contrast. While polar opposites in terms of belief systems, they do find common ground to seek out and fight evil. With Kane’s rapier, dagger, pistols and musket, and N’Longa’s powerful ju-ju magic, they make a formidable team.
As for the staff, it plays an integral part in “Hills” and several other Kane stories. In one of those stories, “The Footfalls Within,” Howard reveals to us the amazing history of this mythical cat-headed staff:
“And what of it?” growled the sheikh. “I see naught but a staff–sharp-pointed and with the head of a cat on the other end–a staff with strange infidel carvings upon it.”
The older man shook it at him in excitement: “This staff is older than the world! It holds mighty magic! I have read of it in the old iron- bound books and Mohammed–on whom peace!–himself hath spoken of it by allegory and parable! See the cat-head upon it? It is the head of a goddess of ancient Egypt! Ages ago, before Mohammed taught, before Jerusalem was, the priests of Bast bore this rod before the bowing, chanting worshippers! With it Musa did wonders before Pharaoh and when the Yahudi fled from Egypt they bore it with them. And for centuries it was the sceptre of Israel and Judah and with it Sulieman ben Daoud drove forth the conjurers and magicians and prisoned the efreets and the evil genii! Look! Again in the hands of a Sulieman we find the ancient rod!”
Old Yussef had worked himself into a pitch of almost fanatic fervor but Hassim merely shrugged his shoulders.
“It did not save the Jews from bondage nor this Sulieman from our captivity,” said he. “I value it not as much as I esteem the long thin blade with which he loosed the souls of three of my best swordsmen.”
Yussef shook his head. “Your mockery will bring you to no good end, Hassim. Some day you will meet a power that will not divide before your sword or fall to your bullets. I will keep the staff, and I warn you–abuse not the Frank. He has borne the holy and terrible staff of Sulieman and Musa and the Pharaohs, and who knows what magic he has drawn there from? For it is older than the world and has known the terrible hands of strange pre-Adamite priests in the silent cities beneath the seas, and has drawn from an Elder World mystery and magic unguessed by humankind. There were strange kings and stranger priests when the dawns were young, and evil was, even in their day. And with this staff they fought the evil which was ancient when their strange world was young, so many millions of years ago that a man would shudder to count them.” Hassim answered impatiently and strode away with old Yussef following him persistently and chattering away in a querulous tone. Kane shrugged his mighty shoulders. With what he knew of the strange powers of that strange staff, he was not one to question the old man’s assertions, fantastic as they seemed.
This much he knew–that it was made of a wood that existed nowhere on earth today. It needed but the proof of sight and touch to realize that its material had grown in some world apart. The exquisite workmanship of the head, of a pre-pyramidal age, and the hieroglyphics, symbols of a language that was forgotten when Rome was young–these, Kane sensed, were additions as modern to the antiquity of the staff itself as would be English words carved on the stone monoliths of Stonehenge.
As for the cat-head–looking at it sometimes Kane had a peculiar feeling of alteration; a faint sensing that once the pommel of the staff was carved with a different design. The dust-ancient Egyptian who had carved the head of Bast had merely altered the original figure, and what that figure had been, Kane had never tried to guess.
A close scrutiny of the staff always aroused a disquieting and almost dizzy suggestion of abysses of eons, unprovocative to further speculation.
Indeed the staff is a talisman, unimaginably powerful and older than the Earth. It was once in the possession of Moses and Solomon, King of Israel. Many thousands of years before their times, it was used by the priests of Atlantis to fight evil.
This eldritch, mythical staff could not be in any better hands than those of Solomon Kane, who has made it his life’s mission to seek out and destroy wickedness and villainy wherever he may find it.