Real Name: Xaltotun
Identity/Class: Human (Hyborian Era) magic user
Occupation: Sorcerer, would-be World Conqueror; former High Priest of Set
Group Membership: None
Affiliations: Set (god); Ahriman, Baal, Chiron, the
Old Ones (power sources);
Amalric, Orastes, Tarascus, Valerius; various unnamed demon servants;
Thugra Khotan, Ptah Mekri (contemporary sorcerers, relationship unknown)
Enemies: Conan, Hadrathus and the Priests of Asura, King Nimed, the people of Aquilonia and Nemedia; Hyborian barbarians, unnamed priests of Stygia
Known Relatives: Xaltana (The Witch Queen of Acheron, sister, deceased)
Base of Operations: currently unknown;
formerly Python, Acheron; Khemi, Stygia; Nemedia; HYBORIAN ERA
First Appearance: REH's "Hour of the Dragon" from Weird
collected in Conan the Conqueror;
(In the MU) Giant-Size Conan#1 (September, 1974)
Powers/Abilities: Xaltotun was a sorcerer of great
knowledge and power. In the time of Acheron, he was perhaps the most powerful
mystic on the planet. His powers were vastly amplified when he used the
Ahriman, which enabled him to cause sudden floods,
avalanches, deadly plagues, and other forces of mass death and destruction.
He could cast illusions, generate consciousness-robbing mists, paralyze others
on contact, and animate inanimate objects. His own abilities, however, could
be overcome by another learned mystic in possession of the Heart of
Xaltotun also held other magic items, such as the Heart of Tammuz, the Hand of Nergal, a Sleep Crystal, and others.
Weaknesses: One of Xaltotun's weaknesses was the Black Lotus, a narcotic drug which would rob him of his senses when he enjoyed its effects.
History: Xaltotun was the High Priest of Set in the
city of Python, in ancient Acheron, @ 13, 000 BC. In that role, many blood
sacrifices were performed on the altar of their snake god.
(GS Conan#1(fb)-BTS / Savage Sword of Conan#229, 230) - Xaltotun
held the Heart of Ahriman, never invoking it, but instead guarding it, lest
it be used against him.
A few days after the death of his sister, Xaltana, he was engaged in a ritual, involving the blood sacrifice of three virgin youths and the sevenfold symbol. Red Sonja, having been sent back to Acheron (along with Conan) by the mirrors of Tuzun Thune, arrived in a pit below Xaltotun's altar and climbed to the surface in time to see him preparing for one of the sacrifices. Red Sonja failed to stop the slaying of the young woman, but did manage to knock the Heart of Ahriman from his grasp and escape back down into the pit. Xaltotun tried to locate her using the Heart of Tammuz, but the Heart of Ahriman's magic shielded her from detection. He then sent one of his demon familiars after Sonja. It succeeded in catching up with her and had overpowered her when she managed to tap into the power of the Heart of Ahriman and destroy it.
As Sonja fled to the outside of the city, she ran smack into a gathering of various Hyborian tribes, who had assembled to overthrow Acheron. A shaman decked out in a feathered costume recognized the Heart of Ahriman and snatched it from her grasp. Sonja, exhausted from her struggles, chose not to fight for the gem, but rather returned to the city, to relocate Conan. Meanwhile, Conan had stirred up a rivalry between the Acheronian Guards and a few Cimmerian guards, which served only to help the Hyborian army to burst through the gates of Acheron and storm the city. The feathered Shaman, using the Heart, managed to overpower Xaltotun's sorcery.
(GS Conan#1-BTS) - Subsequently, Acheron fell before the attacking barbarians, and Xaltotun fled to Khemi, Stygia, where he was slain in his great house. He was poisoned by "jealous priests," who then mummified him.
(GS Conan#1) - Around 10, 000 BC, Xaltotun's
sarcophagus was located and brought to Belverus, the capital of Nemedia,
by four would-be rulers: Amalric, Orastes, Tarascus, Valerius. Orastes, a
former priest of Mitra, had obtained the legendary Heart of Ahriman, with
which he called upon the Old Ones for the power necessary to revive Xaltotun.
The mummy burst forth from the sarcophagus, slowing regaining its original
form and much of its memories.
The four conspirators explained their plot to Xaltotun--to take over the throne of Nemedia and then conquer Aquilonia, and from there to overtake the whole civilized world. Their greatest obstacle would be Conan, the King of Aquilonia--a descendent of the Hyborians would had defeated the Acheronian years ago. Xaltotun used the Heart to conjure a great plague, which struck down many in Nemedia, including King Nimed himself. As planned, Nimed's younger brother, Tarascus, assumed the crown of Nemedia. Tarascus called for the overthrow of the "god-defying usurper" Conan from their sister kingdom, and his replacement with Valerius, the rightful heir. King Tarascus' good friend, Amalric, supplied the money to armor the many legions of Nemedia and set them against the forces of Aquilonia. In the valley of the Valkia river, the two forces met and prepared for combat. The night before the battle, Xaltotun ambushed King Conan and afflicted him with paralysis. Not wanting his troops to despair without the fighting spirit of Conan, he had a look-alike, Valannus, outfitted with his battle armor and helmet, and pretend to be him. The ruse worked and the men believed Valannus to be their ruler--and followed him into Xaltotun's trap. This resulted in the death of Valannus (which was believed to be the death of Conan) as well as five hundred of Aquilonia's finest warriors, as Xaltotun brought the peaks of the mountains above Valkia crumbling down on top of them.
At this news, Conan forced himself to overcome his paralysis and attacked Tarascus and his soldiers. Xaltotun generated some mists that robbed the Cimmerian of consciousness, but refused to allow Tarascus or any others to finish off the King. Instead, Xaltotun planned to slay him later during a ritual ceremony (will the bad guys ever learn? I guess maybe this plot wasn't as old hat in 10000 BC!!!; see Per Degaton's comment)
(GS Con#2) - Xaltotun demanded that the news of Conan's survival
be kept secret, even going so far as to slay some of Tarascus' soldiers to
prevent them from revealing what they had seen. The wizard then brought Conan
to Belverus, where he offered to return Conan to his throne in exchange for
total obedience. Conan, of course, refused, and Xaltotun taunted him with
images of his troops fleeing from the Nemedians, with defeat imminent. Conan
rushed the wizard, but was stopped by his servants and then the senses-robbing
mists of the Heart of Ahriman. Conan was imprisoned in the crypts below the
city, but escaped with the aid of Zenobia, a woman who he had never met before,
but who had loved him from afar and wished him to survive and defeat the
evil of Xaltotun.
Meanwhile, Tarascus, fearing Xaltotun's power and not trusting his intent, stole the Heart of Ahriman from him while he slept after partaking of the Black Lotus. Tarascus gave the Heart to one of his soldiers, instructing him to cast it into the sea. Tarascus informed Orastes that Conan yet lived and requested his aid in slaying the former monarch before he escaped altogether.
(GS Con#3-BTS) - Without a King, the Aquilonians welcomed the reign of Valerius, rather than face anarchy. Meanwhile, based on the advice of the witch Zelata--"Find your Heart"--Conan returned to Tarantia, the capitol of Aquilonia. There he rescued the countess Albiona from execution and then went on to find allies in the Priests of Asura. From them, he learned that the Heart of which Zelata had referred was the Heart of Ahriman. Conan set out to find the Heart of Ahriman
(GS Con#4-BTS) - Conan revealed himself and rebuilt his armies in Poitain. He then tracked the Heart, following it towards Stygia.
(Savage Sword of Conan#8-BTS) - Conan overtook the ship Venturer, out of Messantia, Argos, by rallying its crew, many of them former members of his Black Corsairs. He led the ship to Khemi, after the Heart.
(SSoC#10) - Conan infiltrated the Temple of Set in Khemi,
where, after much struggle, he claimed the Heart of Ahriman and headed back
towards Aquilonia, where he gathered his forces to confront those of Xaltotun
and the conspirators. Conan gave the Heart to Hadrathus, the Priest of Asura
who had helped him before.
At the same time, the conspirators plotted against Xaltotun, correctly fearing that he planned to enact an immense blood sacrifice in order to restore the empire of Acheron. Xaltotun confronted the group and slew Orastes, knowing he was the only potential threat to his existence. The sorcerer revealed to the remaining three that Conan was still alive, but proclaimed that the power of the Heart made him unconquerable. Xaltotun obviously had not realized that the Heart had been stolen by Tarascus, and Tarascus did not volunteer the information, hoping that the wizard still had sufficient power to defeat Conan and his forces, but would then be vulnerable to he, Amalric, and Valerius.
Xaltotun led the assault against Conan's forces, planning to lead them into a sudden flood. However, the heavy rains summoned by Xaltotun failed to have their full potency, and Conan's forces continued their advance. Valerius and his forces fell prey to a trap of thousands of Aquilonians, cloaked by a dense fog generated by Hadrathus, using the Heart of Ahriman. Xaltotun prepared a virgin sacrifice to Set and his other dark gods, but was interrupted by Hadrathus, who revealed that he possessed the Heart. Enraged, Xaltotun rushed Hadrathus--and was impaled on the sharp sword of Conan, who had accompanied the Priest of Asura. Xaltotun collapsed to the ground and, in death, returned to his previous, decayed form. Conan placed the body of Xaltotun on his former chariot and sent its horses rushing into the battle where the Nemedians were falling before the Aquilonians. Conan himself slew Amalric and defeated Tarascus, forcing him to surrender.
Comments: Created by Robert E. Howard, adapted by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.
I never read "Hour of the Dragon," but an
on-line summary of it postulates that Xaltotun was not an Acheronian, but rather
a member of the Elder Race.
I place the Hyborian era as beginning shortly after the
great Cataclysm (18, 000 BC), although it came to exist as it was usually
seen around 12, 000 BC-10, 000 BC. Conan's adventures take place @ 10, 000
Acheron's empire ruled most of the Earth @ 17, 500 BC, approximately 500 years after the Great Cataclysm. After 2500 years of reign, the empire began to fall before the Hyborian barbarians.
For a truly excellent pre-modern era Chronology of the Marvel Universe, check out Robert Wicks' Unofficial Chronology of the Marvel Universe.
The time traveling adventures of Conan and Red Sonja were
interwoven/ret-conned into Xaltotun's history in SSoC#229+230 (February,
1995). The original history told by Xaltotun in GS Conan#1 was:
Xaltotun held the Heart of Ahriman, never invoking it, but instead guarding it, lest it be used against him. When the Hyborians rose against him, the gem was stolen. A feathered shaman, wielding the Heart, overpowered Xaltotun's mighty sorcery. Subsequently, Acheron fell before the attacking barbarians, and Xaltotun fled to Khemi, Stygia, where he was slain in his great house. He was poisoned by "jealous priests," who then mummified him.
As discussed in Savage Sword of Conan, Xaltotun story had numerous parallels to an earlier REH story, "Black Colossus," which featured the revival of the Acheronian wizard Thugra Khotan. "Black Colossus" took place ten years earlier in Conan's lifetime.
There's a great essay, by Robert Yaple, in Giant-Size Conan#1, which discusses the empire of Acheron in great detail.
Orastes called upon the Gods of the nether regions, who were old when Atlantis sank. This strikes me as being most consistent with the Old Ones (as backed up by another article by Yaple, in Savage Sword of Conan#9), although it could be almost any of the Elder Gods.
Hadrathus stated that Xaltotun never actually regained his original form, but remained in a decayed state, masked by the power of the Heart of Ahriman. Hadrathus never saw him as anything but the undead.
The quote from Xaltotun, after transforming a man's belt into a snake which then killed him: "What a fool you are...or were...to wear a venomous reptile about your middle!"
It was while imprisoned in the pits below Nemedia that Conan first met Zenobia, who would become his wife and Queen, and mother of his children. It was she, who had only seen and loved him from afar, who stole the keys and gave him a dagger, enabling him to escape from his prison.
My guess is the Heart of Ahriman is a power for good/life because it was taken with Ormazd back to his universe of light after defeating Ahriman and cutting it from his chest. Also in some myths man was born from the blood of Ahriman hence the restorative/resurrection powers of the Heart.
Ahriman was also invoked by rogue sorcerers in SSOC#188. Perhaps Ahriman was evil, but the Heart of Ahriman became holy because Asura touched it.
Will U. adds: Mythologically, Ahriman is another name for the Hindu Ravanna, but he could have usurped it from the Hyborian demon.
In Marvel Two-In-One#49, we encounter Ennis Tremellyn, "a mystic in the service of the dread god Ahriman," also referred to as the High Priest of Ahriman, who used a gem known as the Eye of Ahriman to empower and control his servant, Kemo. The Eye was a red, faceted gem, as opposed to the smooth, sphere of the Heart of Ahriman. However, there's no reason the gem couldn't have changed form. I'm still waiting to see the Spleen of Ahriman used as a weapon, personally.
Actually, at least in the novel, they explained that Xaltotun put off Conan's death to leave himself open the option of making a deal with Conan against the conspirators (Amalric, Orastes, Tarascus, Valerius) who had revived him. Xaltotun, if he decided that the conspirators' goals did not stand as consistent with his goals, wanted to have Conan around to help him take them out and to serve as a client or puppet king.
Not to be confused with:
Amalric of Aquilonia, should be distinguished from:
The Heart of Ahriman has no KNOWN connection to:
The Heart of Ahriman
The origins of this magical gem are unknown, although it was presumably fashioned using the power of the magical being Ahriman. It was held by Xaltotun in Acheronian, @ 13000 BC, and was also known to another Priest of Set, Ptah Mekri, although it is not known if Mekri ever possessed the Heart. It was stolen from Xaltotun and used to drive him out and to bring about the fall of the ancient Empire. After this, the Heart of Ahriman vanished.
thousand years later, it was located by Orastes beneath the Temple of Mitra
in the capital of Aquilonia. Orastes discovered its location "by devious
means" after locating Xaltotun's remains in the subterranean lairs of
Stygia. Orastes used the Heart, and the power of the Old Ones, to resurrect
Xaltotun. Xaltotun used its power to generate a plague in Nemedia,
to paralyze King Conan, and to create an avalanche to crush the troops of
Aquilonia--all in order to place Orastes and his three allies in charge of
Aquilonia and Nemedia.
However, Tarascus, fearing Xaltotun's power and not trusting his intent, stole the Heart of Ahriman from him while he slept. Tarascus gave the Heart to one of his soldiers, instructing him to cast it into the sea. The soldier, however, was slain by thieves, and the Heart stolen and sold to Zorathus, who took it towards Argos. Conan followed Zorathus and ended up finding him as a prisoner of Count Valbroso. Zorathus had been tortured to a point near death but had refused to tell them how to open the strongbox in which he kept it. When Conan promised Zorathus a quick death (as opposed to continued torture), Zorathus told Valbroso how to open the strongbox, knowing that he would be fatally poisoned in the process. Conan claimed the Heart, but, dumbstruck by its power, stared too long at it and was brained from behind by another, Beloso, who made off with the Heart. Beloso escaped the pursuit of Conan, and he took the Heart towards Khemi, to sell it to the priests of Stygia. Conan followed Beloso to Stygia.
The Stygian sorcerer Thutothemes obtained the Heart of Ahriman in Khemi from the men who brought it from Argos. Thutothemes sought to use the power of the Heart to revive the mummified Ptah Mekri, whom Thutothemes intended to train him in its use. However, Thutothemes was slain by four Khitain mystics, sent by Valerius to kill Conan, who hoped to take the magic item for themselves. Conan slew the last of mystics, the sole survivor of the battle against Thutothemes, but was then confronted by the partially revived, still mummified form of Ptah Mekri, who clutched the Heart. The semi-living from of Mekri proved susceptible to outside commands, which Conan correctly surmised. Conan forced Mekri to lead him out of the temple and then sent him back inside while he escaped.
Conan gave the Heart of Ahriman to Hadrathus, a Priest of Asura, who used its power to counter the spells of Xaltotun, preventing him from interfering with the battle. Hadrathus confronted Xaltotun with the Heart, as Conan finished off the astounded wizard. From there, Hadrathus planned to replace the Heart in the cavern below the Temple of Mitra, "to burn as a symbol of the power of Aquilonia for a thousand years!"
(Savage Sword of Conan#169/2 - BTS)
(King Conan#2) - Decades later, Conan retrieved the Heart of Ahriman to assist the druid Diviatrix against the combined power of Thoth-Amon and the Black Ring. The power of the Heart proved sufficient to overcome the entire coven of sorcerers, defeating and even destroying many of them. Thoth-Amon fled to the south.
(King Conan#29) In light of recent threats to Conan's kingdom, Hadrathus brought out the Heart of Ahriman, offering to use it to protect and defend Aquilonia. Conan turned down his offer.
(King Conan#31) Crassus (a Set-worshipper posing as a Mitran priest) killed a Mitran priest named Dexitheus and blamed Hadrathus. Hadrathus stated that he was innocent of the crime to Queen Zenobia, and gave her the heart of Ahriman as collateral if he was lying. Hadrathus was exonerated.
(King Conan#34) Speaking with Trocero and Publius, Hadrathus (by this time a known confidant of King Conan of Aquilonia) showed them the Heart of Ahriman. He noted that it protected the kingdom from Crassus, a vile, Set allied adept. Trocero, Publius, and Hadrathus watched safely from a castle as a battle raged.
Later, Hadrathus used the Heart of Ahriman to divine the location of the Prince and Princess Radegund and Taurus. Hadrathus discovered that Crassus rode to Argos with Radegund as a hostage but had slain Taurus. Zelata, the blind prophetess, admonished Hadrathus, pointing out that the boy whom Crassus slew was a changeling of the real Taurus.
(King Conan#35) Hadrathus used the Heart of Ahriman to observe Conn as the prince set out to slay Crassus.
(King Conan#42) Hadrathus stowed away with the Heart of Ahriman as Conan set sail on a journey to confront Crassus. Hadrathus, once his presence on the ship was revealed, persuaded Conan that the Heart of Ahriman would be needed to defend themselves from Crassus.
The Heart had the ability to greatly amplify existing magical powers.
--Hour of the Dragon; Conan the Conqueror; GS Conan#1 (2-4, SSoC#8, 10, King Conan#2, 29, 31, 34, 35, 42
The Baron of Tor, a province of Nemedia, befriended Orastes and funded the armies of Nemedia after Tarascus took over. He fought in the final battle against the forces of Conan, and was slain by Conan himself.
--Hour of the Dragon; Conan the Conqueror; GS Conan#1
( GS Conan#1, , 3, , SSoC#10)
He was formerly a Priest of Mitra, until he was cast down
for practicing Black Magic. He was befriended and defended by Amalric. It
was Orastes who both located the mummified remains of Xaltotun in Stygia
as well as finding the Heart of Ahriman below the Temple of Mitra in Aquilonia.
Orastes performed the ceremony and called on the Old Ones and the power of
the Heart of Ahriman to resurrect Xaltotun.
Later, Orastes had magical visions of Xaltotun performing an immense blood sacrifice, wiping out current existence, and restoring ancient Acheron to its former glory, with demons running rampant across the Earth again. Orastes plotted with the other conspirators to steal Xaltotun's power source, the Heart of Ahriman (not knowing Tarascus had already dispensed with it). Xaltotun, however, sensed this plot and slew Orastes, using a magical powder that generated a snake-like vapor tendril, which choked the life out of him
--Hour of the Dragon; Conan the Conqueror; GS Conan#1 (,
3, , SSoC#10
(Conan: Witch Queen of Acheron) Tarscus joined Conan on the quest
to find the tomb of Xaltana, the Witch Queen of Acheron.
(Conan the Barbarian I#257) Tarascu was with his brother Nimed on a trip from Belverus to Numalia. (It was noted that his older brother had three sons.) Then a mesmerized (by Kulan Gath) Conan attacked them. Both Tarascus and Conan survived, with Tarscus later speaking with the torturer Ermonn to oversee Conan's suffering. However, Kulan Gath freed Conan (to recruit him against Vammatar), who escaped Nemedia.
(Hour of the Dragon) - He was the younger brother of Nimed, who was King of Nemedia. Tarascus joined the alliance (and succeeded) to become King of Tarascus after his brother was killed. He then rallied the forces of Nemedia against Aquilonia. It was also Tarascus who stole the Heart of Ahriman from Xaltotun, correcting fearing his power and Xaltotun himself. Tarascus was the sole survivor of the conspirators, and Conan allowed him to live, holding him hostage until he was reseated as King of Aquilonia, and the harem girl, Zenobia, was sent to be Conan's bride.
(Conan the Barbarian Annual#4) After his defeat by Conan and the
end of Xaltotun, Tarascus traveled with Conan to Nemedia to give him Zenobia as
promised. However, Tarascus managed to gain his freedom. He unleashed a man
turned into a bull on Conan. Conan defeated the humanoid bull, but Tarascus
Dialogue in the Conan the King series indicates that Tarascus made have ruled in Nemedia for some years afterward.
--Hour of the Dragon; Conan the Conqueror; GS Conan#1 (2, 3, , SSoC#10
He was the "rightful" heir to the crown of Aquilonia, who had lost his chance at succession when Conan slew Numedides and usurped the crown for himself. After the apparent death of Conan in Valkia, the people of Aquilonia feared anarchy, and so they gladly seated Valerius in their throne. Valerius was a tyrannical ruler, and had many of the nobles and their families beaten and starved. He sought the countess Albiona for his consort, and when she refused, he had her sentenced to death. He learned that Conan still lived after he rescued Albiona. He then set four mystics of Khitai to find and slay the deposed King, so that he could not return to retake his throne. The mystics failed, and Conan returned to begin rallying a rebellion. Valerius, however, fell plot to a trap. He believed he was following a man willing to betray Conan's secret plots and lead them to ambush Conan. The man led his troops into an ambush, where the former nobles of Aquilonia and their allies crushed them from above with rocks pushed from the mountain tops. The Priests of Asura had generated a thick fog that had obscured everything, preventing them from recognizing the trap until it was too late. Valerius killed the man for duping him, but was killed seconds later by the vengeful Aquilonian nobles.
--Hour of the Dragon; Conan the Conqueror; GS Conan#1 (, 3, , SSoC#10
Giant-Size Conan#1 (September, 1974) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Gil Kane (pencils), Tom Sutton (inks)
Giant-Size Conan#2 (December, 1974) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Gil Kane (pencils), Tom Sutton (inks)
Giant-Size Conan#3 (April, 1975) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Gil Kane (pencils), Tom Sutton (inks)
Giant-Size Conan#4 (June, 1975) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Gil Kane (pencils), Frank Springer (inks)
Savage Sword of Conan#8 (October, 1975) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Gil Kane (pencils), Yong Montano (inks)
Savage Sword of Conan#10 (February, 1976) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), John Buscema (pencils), The Tribe (inks)
King Conan#2 (June, 1980) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), John Buscema (pencils), Ernie Chan (inks)
King Conan#29 (July, 1985) - Don Kraar (writer), Marc Silvestri (pencils), Art Nichols (inks)
King Conan#31 (November, 1985) - Don Kraar (writer), Mike Docherty (pencils), Geof Isherwood (inks), Larry Hama (editor)
King Conan#34-35 (May-July, 1986) - Don Kraar (writer), Mike Docherty (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Larry Hama (editor)
King Conan#42 (September, 1987) - Don Kraar (writer), Mike Docherty (pencils), Fraja Bator (inks), Larry Hama (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#169 (January, 1990) - Peter B. Gillis (writer), Steve Carr (pencils), Armando Gil (inks), Craig Anderson (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#229-230 (January-February, 1995) - Roy Thomas (writer), Mike Docherty & E.R. Cruz (#230) (pencils), E.R. Cruz (inks), Richard Ashford (editor)
Last updated: 08/23/07
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
All other characters mentioned or pictured are ™ and © 1941-2099 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved. If you like this stuff, you should check out the real thing!
Please visit The Marvel Official Site at: http://www.marvel.com
Back to Characters