Published in the April 1939 issue of Weird Tales, “Hellsgarde” is in many ways the last of the Jirel stories, at least her solo adventures. She will meet up with Northwest Smith in “Quest of the Starstone”. That’s another post for another day. “Starstone” was actually published first, in 1937, but all collections I’ve seen place it last in the book.
I found this story to have a bit more depth than “The Dark Land”, which we looked at yesterday. YMMV. There will be spoilers in this post. You have been warned.
It opens with Jirel riding to the castle of Hellsgarde,which sits in a vast swamp of quicksand and only appears at sunset. Two hundred years ago, Andred, master of Hellsgarde had found a great treasure which he kept in a small box. No one knew the exact nature of the treasure, but many coveted it. Andred died defending his treasure, but his killers never found it. Since then many have died trying to find it, and Hellsgarde has gained an evil reputation.
Now Guy of Garlot has taken some of Jirel’s men prisoner. He’s told Jirel that he will kill them unless she brings him Andred’s box from Hellsgarde. Guy’s fortress sits atop an unassailable cliff. Jirel has no choice but to go for the treasure. Guy is too cowardly to attempt finding it himself. Although it’s never stated, I suspect Guy hopes to take control of Jirel’s lands if she fails. Continue reading