The Scarlet Citadel

"The Scarlet Citadel"
AuthorRobert E. Howard
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesConan the Cimmerian
Genre(s)Fantasy
Published inWeird Tales
Publication typePulp magazine
PublisherRural Publishing Corp.
Publication dateJanuary 1933
Preceded by"The Phoenix on the Sword"
Followed by"The Tower of the Elephant"

"The Scarlet Citadel" is one of the original short stories starring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard and first published in the January, 1933 issue of Weird Tales magazine. It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns a middle-aged Conan battling rival kingdoms, being captured through treachery and escaping from an eldritch dungeon via unexpected aid. The story includes Tsotha-lanti who is an evil wizard whose sorcerous arts help ensnare King Conan.

The story was republished in the collections King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan the Usurper (Lancer Books, 1967). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003).

Plot summary

"The Scarlet Citadel" was the second Conan story to be published in Weird Tales magazine and involves an older, wiser Conan as king of Aquilonia. King Conan receives a call for help from Amalrus, the ruler of neighbouring Ophir, who claims that Strabonus, the Emperor of Koth, is threatening his kingdom.

When Conan marches into Ophir, with five thousand Aquilonian knights, his planned campaign is revealed to be a trap as the two monarchs are working together to destroy him with the assistance of a Kothian wizard named Tsotha-lanti. The Aquilonian knights are driven-off by a swarm of giant crabs while Conan, having been captured, is imprisoned within a Korshemish dungeon. This dungeon is used by Tsotha-lanti for nefarious experiments, and Conan discovers some of the bizarre horrors during his escape.

Eventually, Conan frees Pelias, a former rival wizard of Tsotha-lanti, who helps him escape the dungeon and regain his position as king of Aquilonia. This notably makes Pelias a rare case of a sorcerer who is Conan's ally rather than his enemy (the only other being the witch Zelata in The Hour of the Dragon). The story climaxes with a gigantic battle, were Tsotha-lanti meets a grisly fate at the hands of Pelias.

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