the Gray God

  • Real Name: Borri
  • Identity: Hyborian Age deity
  • Occupation: God of War, possible progenitor of the Norse gods
  • Group Membership: Asgardian Gods
  • Affiliations: the Choosers of the Slain (i.e. Valkyries; Skalla, Hylda, and ten other unnamed spectral maidens mounted on winged steeds), worshipped by the people of Hyperborea, especially King Tomar
  • Enemies: Ymir, King Brian of Brythunia, Dunlang, Eevin (all possibly his pawns in destroying Tomar)
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Aliases: The Grim Grey God, The Grey Man, possibly Bor, or Buri/Tiwaz
  • Base of Operations: Unknown, possibly an extradimensional netherworld or afterlife in the form of a "somber sky cave"
  • Powers/Abilities: Borri has powers greater than those typical to most gods (at least of the Hyborian Age); enchanced strenght, in the 90-100 ton range, immunity to disease and conventional injury, master of wind, rain and storm. Also, Borri possesses some form of omniscience, knowing the names and recent history of those he encountered (such as Conan), movement of troops leagues from his presence, and the knowledge of impending death (be it gods or men). Borri carried into battle a bright gleaming yet battered broadsword, which was likely mystical in nature (possibly forged from Uru or Rhinegold). Weird lights and strange planetoids hovering in the heavens were often seen playing about Borri's form, perhaps signifying either cosmic power or his coming passing into whatever afterlife awaits the gods.
  • History: See below

Borri's origins are uncertain.

On his way home from battling the ape-like beastmen, Conan was captured by Hyperboran slavers and put under the lash of a cruel, blond haired overseer. One night, a careless guard gave Conan his opportunity to escape and the Cimmerian made for the closest border, which was with Brythunia. Conan pauses from trying to smash apart his chains with a rock on hearing a strange voice in the darkness. Conan approaches a tall silent figure standing amongst the weathered stones on a rocky hill. The stranger knows Conan's name and that he has recently escaped from the Hyperborean's slave pens. Conan at first takes him for a slave-catcher, but is soon disabused of that notion. "Fool! Do you take me for a mere hunter of runaway captives? There are wilder matters abroad. Can't you smell it, Conan? The scent of blood is on the wind - - the musk of slaughter - - and the shouts of slaying! There is war long the borders, stripling. The spears of Hyperborea are rising against the swords of Brythunia! The death-fires soon shall light the land like the mid-day sun!"

When Conan demands to know who the stranger is and how he can know such things, a threat enters his voice and Borri becomes enraged, weird lights playing about him. "What?? You would threaten me!? Lift your eyes, boy - - and learn to whom you speak!" Conan looks up to see swooping down out of the clouds the Choosers of the Slain, twelve inhumanly beautiful women riding winged steeds, their eyes fixed on some goal beyond human thought. Borri turns to Conan once more, "Now comes the reaping of kings - - the garnering of chiefs like a harvest. To each being, there is an appointed time - - and even the gods must die!! You comprehend but little of what you have seen and heard, Conan. Yet, soon you shall witness the passing of kings - - aye, and of more than kings. Now, begone with you - - for gigantic shadows stalk red-handed across the world - - and night is falling on Hyperborea."

Conan quite sensibly flees as a storm begins to fall all around him. One backward glance shows him the dark stranger has grown to a gigantic height and has become grey as with great age. After the summer gale has blown itself out, Conan comes across a lone Brythunian on horseback. Ignoring the horseman's query as to his identity, Conan asks if Brythunia has gone to war with Hyperborea. The Brythunian realizes Conan has escaped from the Hyperborean slave pens and answers that, yes, Brythunia has gone to war. Conan tells the horseman, Dunlang, that he's going with him for he has many Hyperboreans to kill.

As they approach the Brythunian camp, Conan tells Dunlang of how he came to be so far from his home. Dunlang accounts the well told tale and agrees that Conan has a score to settle with the blond overseer. Just as they approach the camp, both travelers are halted by a voice crying out for Dunlang. Eevin, Dunlang's beloved, calls out for him to abandon the battle as she sees death looming in the future of her often prophetic dreams. Dunlang refuses, his sense of duty is too strong, even when certain doom is his portion. "Then, Dunlang, by the Veil which my dreams do pierce - - you are as good as dead!" Eevin, whose race was old when the land was young, provides Dunlang a suit of enchanted golden mail to protect him if he refuses in heeding her advice. As Conan and Dunlang depart, Eevin cries out once more. With the spectral head of Borri floating above her, Eevin states: "Dunlang, be not ever in the forefront of tomorrow's clash! For, our foes are mad with the lust for conquest - - and I feel the presence of Grey Death hovering near me."

Elsewhere, midway between the Brythunian and Hyperborean camps a secret assignation takes place between Malachi, Commander of the Brythunian Cavalry, and Kormlada, consort of King Tomar of Hyperborea. Enchanted by Kormlada's wiles, Malachi plays into King Tomar's hands and agrees to hold back the Brythunian Cavalry at the decisive moment thus giving the day to Tomar. On returning to the Hyperborean camp, Kormlada's arm is almost broken by hot-blooded Tomar as he forces out of her whether or not Malachi will hold off the charge of the cavalry. Flung down amongst the cushions as Tomar departs, Kormlada hisses to herself that when the battle is done and the Brythunians are scattered, she'll plunge a dagger into Tomar's heart and set Malachi up as her puppet king.


The Gray God

Conan briefly meets King Brian of Brythunia, after learning from Dunlang that King Tomar and King Brian have been enemies for more years than the Cimmerian has been alive. King Brian asks why Conan is in chains if he's not a prisoner, for which Conan replies he has sworn not to remove his chains until he has slain the blond savage that put them on his wrists and many more besides. Brian assures Conan he will get his chance. Malachi comes and cuts the chains on Conan's manacles, before providing him with a weapon at King Brian's command. Once Malachi has cut the chain so that one long piece of it dangles from the right hand, Conan says he has all the weapon he needs.

The next day, Conan asks where is King Brian who should be leading his men into battle. Dunlang tells Conan that King Brian awaits the outcome of the battle in his tent. Eevin bids Dunlang farewell and the warrior tells her to hush, as they will laugh of all this when night comes again. King Tomar, however, does lead his men into battle, all the while howling a name that sounds strangely familiar to Conan. "For Borri! Borri!" Conan asks whose name it is the dark-maned one shouts and learns that Borri is the Hyperboreans' war-god whose sacrifices are the souls of men slain in battle, and that the dark-maned one is Tomar, who has sent more men to Borri than mortal man can count. Then the battle is joined and, for awhile, all are in chaos as forty thousand men meet in battle.

In the middle of the blood and slaughter, Conan spies a bold blond Hyperborean and remembers a lash that bit like an angry adder. Conan realizes the Hyperborean savage doesn't remember him, but reminds him before splitting his skull with the length of rusted chain in his hand. Dunlang sends Conan to find not why Malachi doesn't charge in his reinforcements, only to be told by the traitor he will move "when the time comes." Sensing the seeds of treachery sprouting, Conan returns with this dread news and Dunlang goes mad, ripping off his enchanted mail, and attempting to rally his men, only to be taken down by a Hyperborean knife in the back. Conan strikes down the attacker, but it's too late for his friend. Dunlang dies trying to get Conan to tell Eevin he loves her. Conan goes berserk, rallying the Brythunians by his savage example.

Tomar realizes the battle is lost, but not all is lost if only King Brian dies by his hand. Tomar slips through the enemy lines past a grieving Eevin, intent on a mission of revenge. Kormlada laughs at Eevin's grief until she discovers Malachi dead, a victim of Conan's bloody vengeance, and all her plans brought to naught. Brian and Tomar clash in Brian's tent while Brian's careless guards carouse and toast their "victory." King Tomar and King Brian trade words, even as they trade swordblows.

"You'll not add Brian's lifeblood to your war-god's goblet."

"Borri is a hungry god - - a thirsting god. He must have battles to feed on or he perishes."

"Then he has supped his last - - when you die!"

The Brythunian king speaks more truly than even he knows for, as the two warlords clash amid the tents in the gloomy twilight skies above, a gigantic grey figure watches and waits with grim, implacable patience. Then suddenly both Brian and Tomar die, each by the other's hand. Conan discovers the two bodies and wonders why so many men had to die just so two king's could murder each other. And above the camp the Grey Man stretches out a giant hand to stir the clouds and summon both storm and the Choosers of the Slain. At last, Conan understands, the Grey Man is the Hyperborean god Borri and he has summoned his wild women to gather the lost souls of the slain one last time. "For even the gods must die - - when their altars crumble - - and their worshippers all are fallen."

Flying above the battlefield, A choosing of the worthy ones begins - - "amidst the cries of long-dead heroes whistling in the void and the shouts of forgotten gods." - - and with their slain warriors chosen for the last time the Choosers spur their white-winged steeds upward, flying off into the mist forever. Conan looks up one last time and sees the gigantic shadowy form of Borri striding off into the mist and recalls the grim god's last vow...

"Soon you shall witness the passing of kings - - aye, and of more than kings."

Moments later, Conan, after getting caught in a landslide while climbing a mountain, encounters Skalla, who he recognizes as one of the Choosers of the Slain. She states that Borri, after the battle, turned his back on mankind, as in its aftermath, many of his worshippers died in battle. Borri retreated to his frozen domain, and most of the Choosers of the Slain joined him. Skalla refused, as she felt enamored of life. She seeks to become Conan's companion.

However, Hylda, another Chooser of the Slain, appears before them. She notes that Borri has ordered Skalla to return to him at once. When she refuses, Hylda summons the ghosts of Malachi, Dunlang, and others who participated in the battle. Eventually, Skalla decides to depart with Hylda, and Conan sees Borri's face in the clouds above. He soon looses his memory of his encounter.
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