Open main menu

"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 Scarlet Citadel"
AuthorRobert E. Howard
CountryUnited States
SeriesConan the Cimmerian
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 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 summaryEdit

"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 to the aid of Amalrus with five thousand Aquilonian knights, the planned campaign is revealed to be a trap as Amalrus and Strabonus are working together to destroy Conan with the assistance of a Kothian wizard named Tsotha-lanti. The Aquilonian knights are cut to pieces and, having been taken prisoner, Conan is imprisoned in a Korshemish dungeon. This dungeon is used by the imperial wizard Tsotha-lanti for nefarious experiments, and Conan sees its varied horrors as he tries to escape.

In the dungeon, Conan frees Pelias, a former rival wizard of Tsotha-lanti, who helps Conan to escape imprisonment and regain the throne 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 in a gigantic battle, with Tsotha-lanti meeting a grisly fate at the talons of Pelias.


The story is very similar to The Hour of the Dragon, which shares the points of Conan's capture and later escape from a dungeon, even though it tones down the supernatural element.


Robert Weinberg described "The Scarlet Citadel" as "Howard at his best", and praised the character of Pelias.[1]


The story was adapted by Roy Thomas and Frank Brunner in Savage Sword of Conan #30 in 1978, then by Tim Truman and Tomas Giorello in 2011 in King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel.


  1. ^ Robert Weinberg, The Weird Tales Story. FAX Collector’s Editions. ISBN 0913960160 (p. 36).

External linksEdit

Preceded by
"The Phoenix on the Sword"
Original Howard Canon
(publication order)
Succeeded by
"The Tower of the Elephant"
Preceded by
"The Phoenix on the Sword"
Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
Succeeded by
The Hour of the Dragon
Preceded by
"The Phoenix on the Sword"
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
The Hour of the Dragon