By This Axe I Rule!
"By This Axe I Rule!" is a fantasy short story by American writer Robert E. Howard, the last of his Kull stories, set in his fictional Thurian Age. It was first published in the Lancer Books paperback King Kull in 1967.
|"By This Axe I Rule!"|
|Author||Robert E. Howard|
|Genre(s)||Sword and sorcery|
|Published in||King Kull|
This story was rejected by the pulp magazines Argosy and Adventure in 1929, after which Howard rewrote it as the Conan story "The Phoenix on the Sword", substituting a new secondary plot and adding elements of supernatural horror. The main shared elements of the two stories are the conspiracy and the king's defeat of it. The Conan story was published in December 1932.
A cabal of nobles and outlaws plots to assassinate King Kull, having sown dissent among the population and subverted an officer of the King's guard to take away his men and let the assassin get to the King's chamber in the night. Kull is aware of the discontent though not of the specific conspiracy. Meanwhile, the King also laments that the laws of Valusia hamper his rule, and do not allow him to govern as he wants. A young nobleman enters who wants to marry a slave girl, but Kull is advised that this is impossible under unalterable law, engraved on a tablet made by hallowed Lawmakers many centuries ago. The nobleman is sent away with regrets.
Kull later meets with the man's beloved, crying in the woods, and tries in vain to console her. The girl is the slave of one of the conspirators seeking to kill the King, and she later overhears her master talk about it with one of fellow conspirators - whereupon she hastens to tell her lover.
That night, the conspirators - four leaders and sixteen robbers - sneak into the palace and get into Kull's private chambers. However, Kull woke up, suspected something and managed to arm himself. Seizing an old battle ax which had hung on the wall for decades, he fights furiously, one against many, killing a large part the attackers. Still, he is nearly killed by the conspirators' leader when needing to wipe blood from his eyes. In the nick of time, the young noble arrives with his retainers, killing the assassin and saving Kull's life.
Though severely wounded, Kull is determined to reward fittingly the young lovers who saved his life. There and then he smashes with his ax the Tablets of the Law, proclaiming "I am the law!", "I am king, state, and law!" and "By this ax I rule!", and letting the couple happily marry.
The first comic book appearance of King Kull was in "Kull the Conqueror" (1971) published by Marvel Comics. The first issue was in part an adaptation of "By This Axe I Rule!", and issue #11 (1973) was more specifically based on that story and had the same title. The 1997 movie Kull the Conqueror starring Kevin Sorbo was partly based on "By This Axe I Rule!".
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