The Black Stone

"The Black Stone"
AuthorRobert E. Howard
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesCthulhu Mythos
Genre(s)Lovecraftian horror
Published inWeird Tales
Publication typePeriodical
Media typePulp magazine
Publication dateNovember 1931

"The Black Stone" is a horror short story by American writer Robert E. Howard, first published in the November 1931 issue of Weird Tales. The story introduces the mad poet Justin Geoffrey and the fictitious Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Friedrich von Junzt. The story is part of the Cthulhu Mythos, and follows the same pattern and has the same features as much of H. P. Lovecraft's classic work.

Synopsis

The story opens with an unnamed narrator being gripped with curiosity by a brief reference to the Black Stone in the book Nameless Cults, aka The Black Book, by Friedrich von Junzt. He researches the artifact but finds little further information. The ancient (though its age is debated) monolith stands near to the village of Stregoicavar ("meaning something like Witch-Town") in the mountains of Hungary. There are many superstitions surrounding it, for instance anyone who sleeps nearby will suffer nightmares for the rest of their life and anyone who visits the stone on Midsummer Night will go insane and die. Though the Monolith is hated and disliked by all in the village, it is said by the Innskeeper that "Any man who lay hammer or maul to it die evilly", so that all of the villagers simply shun the stone.

The narrator decides to travel to Stregoicavar on vacation. Along the way he hears of the local history and sees the site of an old battlefield, where Count Boris Vladinoff fought the invading Suleiman the Magnificent in 1526. Local stories say that Vladinoff took shelter in a ruined castle and was brought a lacquered case that had been found near the body of Selim Bahadur, "the famous Turkish scribe and historian", who had died in a recent battle. The unnamed contents scared the count but at that moment Turkish artillery collapsed the castle and killed the occupants.

Reaching the village, the narrator interviews some of the villagers. The current inhabitants are not the original people of the village - they were all wiped out by the Turkish invasion in 1526. They are said to have been of a different, unknown, race than the Hungarians with a reputation for raiding their villages and kidnapping women and children. A school teacher reveals that according to legend, the original name for the village was Xuthltan and the stone was worshiped by pagans at one time (although they probably did not erect it themselves). The black stone is "octagonal in shape, some sixteen feet in height and about a foot and a half thick."

A week after arriving the narrator realizes that it is Midsummer Night and makes his way to the stone. He falls asleep an hour before midnight but wakes to find the chanting and dancing people around the stone. After much dancing, during which the narrator is unable to move or do anything but observe, a baby is killed in sacrifice. Shortly a giant toad-like monster appears at the top of the stone and a second sacrifice, a young girl, is offered to it. The narrator faints at this point and decides that it was a dream when he wakes again (there is no evidence of any of the night's events).