THE STAG GOD
Real Name: Oranah
Identity/Class: Demon (Class 2?), possibly a degenerate god
Occupation: God of Death and Destruction
Group Membership: None
Affiliations: Stagbringer, the Cult of Oranah
Enemies: Conan, Lady Alophic and her army, Dread the Hound, Rowina, unnamed gods of forces that first destroyed the Stag God (likely the primal gods of the Hyborian Era).
Known Relatives: Unknown
Aliases: the Stag, Ancient One
Base of Operations: Unknown, presumably an extradimensional realm
First Appearance: Savage Sword of Conan#145/1 (February, 1988)
Powers: When Oranah manifested himself
(after the appropriate sacrifices of blood and burnings) it was
accompanied by a violent windstorm, and he formed his body from
the trunk of a lightning-struck tree. It is uncertain if the Stag
God's shaman/high priest must die in order to complete the
Over 25 ft. tall, including his antlers, Oranah likely possesses 60-70 ton level strength, coupled with his sword-like claws, mouthful of spear-sized teeth, and twin anvil-sized hooves to deal grievous mortal damage. With a body composed of solid living wood, Oranah is more resistant to cutting and bludgeoning damage than ordinary flesh and blood monsters, but conversely he is also vulnerable to the fire so often used to destroy crops in sacrifices to him. As Oranah gets closer and closer to manifesting himself upon earth, his image can seem to appear in angry storm clouds above his followers' gatherings. It is unknown if Oranah possesses any other supernatural abilities. If so, he has yet to display them.
History: (Savage Sword of Conan#145/1 (fb))- Long eons ago, before the Age of Man, when the Elder Races roamed the earth, there was a being of darkness and shadow which was feared before all but the mightiest god things.
(Savage Sword of Conan#145/1)- Traveling south from the Graaskal Mountains after assisting Red Sonja in rescuing the children of a Hyrkanian warchief from slave-driving miners, Conan went to seek his fortune. Unbeknownst to him, that night, many leagues to the south, out on the Lema Plains, the Stagbringer conducted yet another ritual with hundreds, possibly thousands, of farmers in attendance in honor of Oranah. The Stagbringer instructed his followers to "call the Stag to our world with blood and fire" and commanded them to set their own field of crops afire.
Toward dawn of the next day, Conan, who had seen smoke in the sky all morning, came upon a burning farmhouse. A child, seeing Conan, ran toward the Cimmerian screaming for help. Conan tried to learn who was threatening her, only to have a deranged man and woman, followers of the Stagbringer, tell him the girl belongs to the Stag. They had burnt their crops and slain all their milk cows, and now they needed the girl to wash the fields in blood so Oranah might come. The couple attacked Conan, who tried to merely subdue them. The man accidentally stabbed his wife instead of Conan. Conan broke the madman's neck with one hand. "There is nothing to fear now, child. Who were those mad dogs, girl?" "M-my m-mother and f-father." Conan and the girl, Rowinda, continued to trek south. Conan tried to learn why her parents went insane, and was told only that they talked of the Stag and then set the barn on fire. When asked by the little girl if he had a mother, Conan replied that she had been dead many years, and that the men who slew her had been dead almost as long. In response to Rowinda's other questions, Conan told her he was going south to sell his sword, and that she would be left at the first home that would have her.
Further down the road, Conan and Rowinda saw yet another home on fire. Rowinda pointed out a dog, trying to defend his master's home from more of the Stagbringer's followers. Tangled in some rope, his master already dead, the giant hound held the cultists at bay with the courage of a warrior born. Cursing himself for a fool, Conan charged in, not able to sit idly by while such a brave animal was butchered. Slicing the ropes with one swordswing, Conan let the dog at his tormentors. The hound proceeded to lay into the madmen around him. Conan lent his sword to the fray, but a cultist snuck up on his blind side, and snatched Rowinda from the saddle. The hound saw this and pursued, leaping upon the fleeing cultist, mauling his arm. Conan, close behind, beheaded the cultist. Rowinda happily asked if they were safe and the fight over, as the giant hound affectionately licked her.
Rowinda back in the saddle, and the giant hound at their heels, Conan gaves a reluctant smile: "Crom, I came south to find work as a warrior and I find myself mothering a dog and a child. Perhaps we will find you a wife, Conan. Then you can settle down to a life of peace. I would pray to Crom to take me before that." Later in the day, the unlikely trio came upon a large fortress surrounded by a wooden palisade, and prepared for a lengthy siege. Conan told the guards he was a mercenary looking for work, and sought entrance, but was commanded to renounce the Stag before entering. They did so, and the guard directed Conan to Lady Alophic's blood red tent. When Conan reacted with surprise that a woman commanded the army, the guard suggested that he watch his tongue about it.
Conan, Rowinda and the hound entered Alophic's tent as she was finishing up flogging another cultist for information on the Stagbringer's whereabouts. Getting nothing, she commanded her second-in-command Krattic to remove the sickening traitor form her sight. Turning, she received her first look at Conan and company. "And who is this? A barbarian, a waif, and a dog the size of a horse. Is there a carnival in the village?" Conan replied: "I have not thought you had a sense of humor from the way you wield that whip."
A spark immediately seemed to pass between the two and, after some friendly banter, Conan found himself employed, and Rowinda and his hound, fed. After sundown, Conan sat with some of the other soldiers about the fire. He threatened to cut off one of them's nose after enduring jokes about his woman refusing to mind the child while he went off to war. Another soldier diverted him with tales of the rise of the Stagbringer, and the madness that has swept the Lema Plains leaving thousands dead, and the land in ruin. With all the farms and livestock destroyed by the Stagbringer's command, the harvest had been decimated, and thousands would certainly starve unless his cult is brought to heel. Therefore, it had become the mission of Lady Alophic, who had conscripted soldiers form every city state in Brythunia to battle the menace of the Stag Cult. Krattic then appeared, summoning Conan to Lady Alophic's tent. He told Rowinda to stay with the men at the fire, knowing that as long as Dread (Conan's name for the dog) remains with her, she cannot come to any harm. Once at her tent, Alophic dismissed Krattic so that she and Conan might discuss a few matters. Conan casually dismissed Alophic's command to fetch her a goblet of wine as she removed her heavy robe. Snatching the imperious (and half-naked) woman up by her hair, Conan made it clear to the noblewoman that he heard her the first time, but he is not one of her whipped puppies: "No one is Conan's master." This obviously does the trick, as they passionately kissed and "dispense with words for the evening". (Ahhhh, romance in the Hyborian Era! --Greg O.) Krattic, like a jealous pervert, listened outside with eyes narrowed.
The next day a column rodes out to scout the Stagbringer and his cult's location. Conan left Rowinda with the wagon column, and commanded Dread to watch over her. Krattic's jealousy increased as Alophic invited Conan to ride at the head of the column with her, and give the advice of a seasoned campaigner. As the army marched, Alophic and Conan discussed the problems of her campaign; to halt the destruction of the farms, they must destroy the farmers, with the end result being the same: no harvest. Alophic hoped it would not come to that, and told Conan that the Stag Cult had been a minor worship amongst the peasants for generations. It was tolerated as a quaint belief of the simple folk, but now it threatened the very existence of Brythunia, for without fruit, grain and greens, a nation cannot survive. Thus, they marched to end this horror, otherwise the madness of the Stag Cult over the last few months will become the rule, and not the exception.
Meanwhile, the Stagbringer conducted yet another bloody sacrifice, preaching his credo of freedom from servitude and the land, when no one will have to toil in the fields and salt the land with their sweat ever again. "Standing in the destroyed house of our former masters, the ones who claimed to own this land, this land which the bones of our ancestors enrich!" The Stagbringer passed judgement upon two of the willing servants of the fugitive nobles who watched from hiding, and his followers slayed them like fatted hogs (possibly because they were Mitraists and not under his spell).
The two nobles (Rhastur and Hilar) escaped, with Rhastur vowing to return and seek vengeance. After a night's walking, the couple was taken prisoner by Alophic's army. Conan halted one of the soldiers from whipping them back into line, saying only a fool would think they were farmers. Bringing them before Alophic, Rhastur told them of how the Stagbringer himself brought the farmers to his door, slaughtering his family and servants, only he and his wife escaping. Alophic told him that her army left in the morning, and that Lord Rhastur would lead the way. They rode through miles of scorched, blackened earth, and the numberless carcasses of bled and gutted animals; the stench was overwhelming. Hearing the sounds of the cult chanting, Alophic and Conan planned to attack the cult while they were in mid-rapture. Conan outlined a plan which Alophic thought had merit, but which Krattic scorned. Conan yanked Krattic out of his saddle, and told him to save his pretty marching and trotting for the ladies.
Conan and the Stagbringer each gave the expected pre-battle speech to their respective sides, and then the two armies charged at one another to lock in combat. Conan's horse was cut from under him, and he continued the battle on foot. The farmers fought like animals, all fury and no discipline. Conan and Dread plowed through the dirtrakers easily, battling their way to the foot of the Stagbringer's altar, and Conan impaled the mad prophet upon a spear.
The Stagbringer's death seemed to be the final catalyst in the summoning of Oranah to earth. Lightning struck down the tree above the altar, and the charred remains were in the shape of a stag's head that grew up from the ground into the physical form of the Stag God! The ground shuddered with more than just the crack of thunder as the earth split, and a visage out of mankind's darkest nightmare emerged from the blasted soil! It was a being that walked the earth when men who were not yet men huddled in caves, and prayed to nameless gods that this thing might pass them by. It is Oranah! It is the Stag God! It will the set the world afire and spill rivers of blood! The cultists rejoiced as the Stag took Conan into its clawed hand and began to crush him. Alophic asked Krattic if there was nothing they could do, to which her second replied, somewhat predictably: "Nothing, my lady." The sight of their god driving them into a frenzy, the cultists fought with renewed fervor. As he fell back before the onslaught, Rhastur stepped upon an oil-filled bladder which the cultists used to fire their crops. Rhastur commanded the attack to be broken off in order to gather these bladders. Conan managed to break free from Oranah's grip as the soldiers doused the monster with oil. One of the soldiers yelled for Conan to run when they ignite the oil, but Krattic had other plans, aiming a crossbow at the barbarian's back! Dread noticed, and leapt upon Krattic, tearing out his throat. Oranah cracked Conan against the ground like a whip, as the fire encircled them both. Wracked with pain, Conan struggled to die upon his feet. Oranah leant in for the kill, until faithful Dread leapt through the flames to attack the demon god, buying Conan the seconds he needed to escape. Alophic yelled for Conan to run. Conan tossed the hound one last look, and then leapt to safety. "Farewell, loyal hound. I expect to meet you again, lying content before Crom's fire". Alophic warned Conan to stand back, lest he be consumed with Oranah and the hound.
To Alophic's pleasure, just as Conan surmised, the farmers came to their senses with the death of the Stagbringer and his cursed idol, but Conan did not hear. Instead, he gave Dread one last final salute: "Hail to a warrior the equal of any man. May he find his reward and plenty of fat hares in the mountains of Crom" The next day, Conan left Rowinda in the care of Lord Rhastur and Lady Hilar, telling her that Dread died bravely, a hero to the end. The nobles assured Conan they would care for Rowinda as if she were their own. Conan rode from the Lema Plains, west to the civilized lands of Nemedia, where he would seek to sell his sword.
Comments: Created by Chuck Dixon and Gary Kwapisz.
Damn, what a great issue! I don't know what it is, but this was one of the most solidly-written Conan tales I have ever read. It captures both Conan's noble and savage sides perfectly. One of the most telling looks into life in the Hyborian Age I think. The Stagbringer, like many of the cult leaders in Conan during this time period, owes something to the pedagogical televangelists of the 80's. He also had something of the revloutionary leader about him, with promises of freedom from nobles, servitude, and manual labor. The Stagbringer's devastating prophecies revolving around the destruction of crops and livestock in order to gain peace and prosperity has an actual historical parallel. In Africa, 1856, a young girl named Nongqauzen claimed to see visions which prompted her to tell her people, the Lambas of Northern Rhodesia, to kill all of their livestock and empty their grain bins. This sacriffice would herald the return of the long-dead tribal chiefs' leading herds of splendid beasts, causing the white men to leave their land forever. Instead of prosperity this cattle killing prophecy led to widespread famine and disease which destroyed her people, some 25,000 people dying and literally wiping them off the map.
Tip of the hat to Lee Napier, who assisted me in locating the appropriate names, dates, and locations for this event.
Dread was the real hero of this issue. Don't get me wrong, Conan was a badass as always, but Dread embodies everything about why dog's have been man's constant companions since the Stone Age.
I keep thinking it would be cool as hell for someone to revive a bunch of these old Conan foes like Oranah in a mag such as Thor or Doctor Strange, but I guess I should just keep wishing Marvel will give me a job so I can do it myself, it's the more likely of the two things to happen. Heck, the events in Northern Rhodesia could even serve as a springboard for Oranah's return-- the Lambas mistook him for the Antelope.
by Greg O'Driscoll
Oranah, the Stag God should not be confused with:
Dread, the dog, has no known connections to:
The Cult of Oranah were simple farmers,
mesmerized by the power of the Stagbringer to worship Oranah, and
sacrifice their crops and themselves in order to bring Oranah to
earth. Such destruction of Brythunia's crops would have plunged
the country into ruin and starvation, leading to the formation of
Lady Alophic's army, to put them down. With the death of the
Stagbringer, and subsequent destruction of Oranah's body, the
cult members returned to normal, ensuring that the crops could
still be saved. -Savage Sword of Conan#145/1
Rowina was a child whose parents were
member of the Cult of Oranah. Her parents went mad, and tried to
slay her for the Stag God's sacrifice, but she was saved by
Conan, who killed her parents. Conan and Dread looked out for her
as they travelled, until he gave her to Lord Rhastur and Lady
Hilar, who promised to care for her as though she were their own.
-Savage Sword of Conan#145/1
Lady Alophic was an imperious and fiery
Brythunian noblewoman with a meanstreak, and a sharp tongue,
leader of the conscript army formed to put down the Stagbringer's
rebellion. She admitted Conan into her army, and took delight in
his tongue, mind, and...other such attributes...making him her
most trusted advisor in battle against the Cult of Oranah. -Savage
Sword of Conan#145/1
Stagbringer, the mad prophet of the Lema
Plains, shaman of the Cult of the Stag God. At his command,
thousands were slaughtered, and thousands more were threatened
with starvation due to his cult's ravaging of Brythunia's
breadbasket. He led the Cult into battle against the forces of
Conan and Alophic, and was slain by Conan. His death sealed the
summoning of the Stag God, who appeared immediately afterwards. -Savage
Sword of Conan#145/1
Dread, a giant hound found by Conan
defending his master's house even after his master's death. Conan
kept the faithful hound with him and Rowina, naming it
"Dread" himself. Dread followed Conan to the scene of
the battle against the Cult of the Stag God, and saved him from a
treacherous blow from Krattic. Dread nobly sacrificed his life to
save Conan from Oranah. Batman had the Bathound for one issue,
and Conan had Dread. Almost the size of a pony, Dread looked
to be of the Hyborian Equivalent of the Great Dane breed. Akin to
the hound "Slasher" from the Robert E. Howard story "Beyond
the Black River", Conan saluted Dread after his death as
the equal of any man in battle. -Savage Sword of Conan#145/1
Savage Sword of Conan#145 (February, 1988) - Chuck Dixon (writer), Gary Kwapisz (pencils), Geof Isherwood (inks), Michael Higgins (editor)
Last updated: 08/01/02
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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