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Conan the Liberator is a novel written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, featuring Conan of Cimmeria, and first published by Bantam in 1979.

Plot Summary[]

Conan leads an army against the mad King Numedides of Aquilonia.

Detailed Synopsis[]

  • 1. When Madness Wears the Crown
    Two guards stand watch outside the royal castle of Tarantia, while listening to the screams coming from within. Inside, Numedides, mad king of Aquilonia, bathes in the blood of a twelve year-old girl who is suspended above him, her throat slit. He is observed by his sorcerous advisor, Thulandra Thuu, who arrived from the east only a year ago but has risen high in the king's estimation. Thuu consults spellbooks on immortality, although frustrated by the seeming lack of progress. Numedides doesn't seem to mind and departs to make plans to put down some insurrections, as the sorceror thinks to himself of his plans to destroy Numedides and rule in his place.
  • 2. The Lions Gather
    The war galley Arianus sails into a Messentian port, as Conan and his companions discuss what to do with their recently gained treasure. The group decides to have Conan use his pirate contacts to fence the Treasure of Tranicos in order to pay for a rebellion against the mad king Numedides, and they go ashore. A spy, Quesado, takes note of the ship and tries to get information from a crewman, but is prevented from learning too much by Captain Zeno, who was warned by Conan to keep his men's mouths shut. Quesado sends a message via carrier pigeon to Tarantia, proclaiming Count Trocero of Poitain has arrived on a secret mission. As the months go by, Conan sends word to the men he has served with to come see him in Argos, and soon has an army of over 10,000, including Quesado. While King Milo of Argos complains about the army stationed outside Messentia, Publius, Conan's treasurer, worries about costs, and Quesado receives word from Tarantia to expect an arriving accomplice. Meanwhile, Conan sees off Belesa and Tina, two companions from his adventure with the Treasure of Tranicos, and begins to feel the needs for female companionship, egged on by his friend Prospero. He overhears Quesado talking about a dancing girl at a tavern called the Nine Swords and, that night, Conan decides to pay the tavern a visit.
  • 3. Emerald Eyes
    The next morning, a herald arrives from King Milo requesting that the army be moved further from Messentia, as the rowdy soldiers have been causing a bit too much trouble in the town. Conan, worried about spies, agrees, and leads the army several days' travel away. He does not realize that Alcina, the dancing girl he has taken into his tent, is a spy working with Quesado, and at night she delivers to Quesado information and maps. Quesado immediately heads north with the information, delivering it personally to Vibius Latro, Aqulionia's spymaster. Latro in turn sends it to the king, but it is intercepted by Thulandra Thuu, who, after reading the information, reseals it and sends it to the king. Back at the camp, Conan feels uneasy about something he can't put a finger on, but Trocero manages to quiet his concerns, neither realizing that Thulandra Thuu is currently in mystical communication with Alcina.
  • 4. The Bloody Arrow
    King Milo becomes more and more restless about the huge army training in the northern mountains of his kingdom, as Conan and his advisors decide they will have to move north into Aquilonia soon. The army is unable to move until the rebels of Poitain, southern province of Aquilonia, signals their readiness, but the army must move quickly or lose the support of several northern lords who are afraid to commit fully until the rebels achieve some victories. They decide to attack a portion of the Alimane River as a diversion, and their plans are overheard by Alcina. The next day, a signal from Poitain arrives and the army breaks camp before heading through the Rabirian Mountains to the Alimane River, splitting into three companies to attack separate fords. Prospero's band of 500 men will be the bait, drawing out the Aquilonian armies, and the other two groups will circle and attack from behind. As Conan's command begins to ford the river, they are attacked with arrows, devastating and scattering the men. The Aquilonian armies begin to crash into the rebels. Conan attempts to rally several times, but ultimately he is forced to retreat with Captain Alacricus, Publius, and just 113 men. Conan wonders how the other two armies fared and how Procus had divined their plans. The survivors hide in the woods and send out scouts, ultimately finding and bringing back another hundred men, including a wounded Dexthius. The next morning, Prospero arrives with his forces; the Aquilonians never took the bait. Prospero reports on how Trocero's army was taken by surprise, but is regrouping. The men decide to retreat back to their camp on the Plain of Pallos.
  • 5. The Purple Lotus
    Prospero and Conan's armies merge with Trocero. Only a thousand of the ten thousand who started the campaign remain. As they return to their camp, Quesado has returned to Messentia, as a newly promoted diplomat, to appeal to King Milo on Aquilonia's behalf. Unfortunately, Quesado makes a better spy than a diplomat, and his veiled threats insult the King, who nonetheless knows having a rebel army in his country does him no good. Over the next several days, the army begins to grow again, and Prospero leaves to chase rumors of a missing regiment that escaped the slaughter at the river, but Conan is still frustrated and restless, and takes comfort in the arms of Alcina. Unfortunately, she poisons him and flees. Thulandra mystically observes and sends a message to Numedides that the rebel leader is dead, and the king in turn gives permission to Procus to cross into Argos to harrass the rebels. Not knowing this, Alcina delivers the news of Conan's death to Quesado, who demands an audience with King Milo. When Milo rebuffs him, Quesado sends a carrier pigeon to Numedides, who, angered at the treatment of his ambassador, commands Procus to invade Argos immediately and crush the rebel army. Conan, however, is merely in a deep coma, not dead. His companions realize Alcina was the culprit, and Dexthius, learning of Alcina's green eyes, recalls a dream he had of a demon with emerald eyes. Trocero takes command of the armies and get word of Procus' army approaching. Trocero and a few hundred cavalry plan to dash madly into the army in an attempt to kill Procus, as the Aquilonian army outnumber the rebels three to one, but word of the excursion has reached Milo's ears, and the furious king sends his army to bolster the rebels. Procus delays his attack, not wanting to provoke the Argosseans into full war, and Prince Cassio and Captain Arcadio of Argos meet with the rebels. Luckily, Conan is just coming out of his coma, and even more luckily, Prospero has arrived with the missing regiment, over 1500 strong, and Procus realizes he is outnumbered and retreats. Meanwhile, Thulandra commands Alcina to keep an eye on Procus' army, much to her annoyance, and after fending off the advances of Fadius, another spy, prepares to travel.
  • 6. The Chamber of Sphinxes
    The next morning, Conan wants to chase Procus's army, but Cassio insists he will only fight a defensive battle, as he and his father don't want to provoke a war. After Conan explains his plan, however, Cassio lends the rebels 500 horses. Conan gathers his archers and sends them out in groups to pick off as many Aquilonians as possible, then flee as the heavily armored soldiers come. For days this strategy works; it kills few men overall but the annoyance drains the Aquilonian morale. When the royalist army reaches the Saxula Pass, an avalanche causes more damage. When they reach the river, Procus can't decide whether to cross, exposing his men to the same trap he had caught Conan in, or camp on the side, losing more men to sudden arrow attacks. Finally, Procus has his officer, Gromel, order the crossing, and as expected the army is ambushed by bowmen. Procus himself suffers a leg injury, much to Alcina's amusement, who watches from the safety of the forest. Thulandra Thuu is also happy to hear of his rival's injury, and arranges a meeting with Count Ascalante, who he intends to place in command of the Aquilonian armies after Procus suffers an "accident".
  • 7. Death in the Dark
    The armies sit in a stalemate on either side of the Alimane. In hopes of gaining an advantage, Conan secretly sends a runner across the river with a message for the rebelling lords of Poitain. On the other side of the river, Procus waits out the storm and is visited by Alcina, who bears a message from Thulandra Thuu - a poisoned dagger to the chest. She escapes, but her magical talisman with which she communicates with her master is left behind. Conan observes commotion from his side of the river, along with the approach of another group of soldiers, and calls the scouts Melias and Dexthius to see if they can find out what is going on. The priest identifies the coat of arms as the Count of Thune, and soon the rebel camp hears news of Procus' death and Ascalante's promotion to general. While they are suspicious of the circumstances, they wonder if the new general's inexperience will be a boon to their cause, and the messenger sent to Poitain returns with a message.
  • 8. Swords Across the Alimane
    Months of stirring insurrection in Poitain has finally played off, and the peasants stealthily wipe out the royalist soldiers in the city of Culario. The rebels from Poitain sneak into Ascalante's camp and begin to assassinate the sleeping soldiers. Ascalante awakens to a massive battle and quickly finds and begins to fight beside Gromel as Conan takes the opportunity to cross the river with his army. Ascalante flees to the lands in the east while Gromel switches sides, bringing with him some 700 royalist soldiers. Conan is slightly suspicous of Gromel, but the prospect of such a number of seasoned soldiers is too much to pass up. As he inspects his new troops, he recognizes an obsidian amulet that was worn by Alcinam, which he takes from the soldier who found it in Procus' tent. The army heads north through Poitain to Culario. Meanwhile, Thulandra Thuu has been trying for days to make contact with Alcina, and is surprised when she shows up at his home. She reveals that Procus is dead, that Conan lives, and she lost her communication talisman. Thuu goes into a rage, but calms down long enough to receive news that the revel army has destroyed and assimilated the royal army and is marching north. He takes his anger out on Alcina, terrifying her by taking the form of a giant serpent. Soon, however, he is deciding on a new strategy to stop Conan: command the weather to slow the rebel army down until Prince Numitor can take his garrison to defend the Imirian Enscarpment in Poitain, the only pass into the Imirian Plains.
  • 9. The Iron Stallion
    As a violent storm stalls Conan in Culario, Thuu and Hsiao head to the Imirian Enscarpment with a magical stallion and chariot to assist in the expected battle, leaving Alcina behind to run things while Thuu is away. In Culario, Conan is joined by the northern barons and their troops, led by Baron Roaldo, and they decide to return to their homelands as soon as possible to slow down the march of Ulric's Army of the Noeth, whose troops normally guard the Cimmerian border. After several days if tireless riding, Thuu and Hsiao meet with Numitor's six regiments, and they move quickly to the Imirian Enscarpment. Finally, the rains over Culario cease, and the northern barons take their leave to harras Ulric as Conan's Army of Liberation moves towards the Imirian Enscarpment, its ranks swelling with every village it passes. They soon reach the Giant's Notch the gorge that marks the Enscarpment, and Conan sends Trocero and forty horsemen to make sure Numitor didn't reach the easily defended area first. As they work their way through the forested area alongside the road, they spot a small group of Aquilonian soldiers holding some captive satyrs. The Aquilonians break and run, releasing their captives, and one soldier is killed by Trocero's men while the other four get awa, chased by Gremio and some rebels. One satyr, Gola, lies tied and stunned, and Trocero takes him to meet Conan. Conan cuts the bonds of the satyr and offers him wine. The grateful Gola reveals there are two regiments just above the gorge waiting to rush to battle, and they have been continually sweeping the forest and kidnapping satyrs so their magical blood can be used by a sorcerer. Conan asks the satyr for help in defeating the Aquilonians, and Gola gives him a small whistle to blow when Conan needs him. Gola returns to the forest and the Liberators discuss their options, deciding the scale the gorge tomorrow.
  • 10. Satyr's Blood
    That evening, Thuu begins to cast a summoning ritual and one by one slits the throats of the imprisoned satyrs and catches their blood in a cauldron. He begins to finish his spell as dawn begins to break and the rebel army begins marching up the trail at the base of the cliffs. A scout reports a dozen satyr bodies have been dumped from the top of the wall. Conan orders Captain Morenus to begin to move the cavalry up the trail, but then he feels an unease and orders the men to come back. Seeing his trap failing, Thuu completes his spell and one side of the gorge begins to collapse as if an earthquake struck. Conan's warning saved all but a dozen men, and Gromel identifies a figure at the top of the cliff as Thuu. Numitor is furious Thuu sprung his trap early, but Thuu explains he had no choice; his trap had somehow been discovered. At the base of the hill, Conan ponders the now impassable cliff and orders his men to camp, hoping to find some other way up the mountains. That evening, as Conan absent-mindedly fingers the obsidian amulet of Alcina, he realizes that he can somehow overhear and see a conversation between Alcina and Thuu. From this he learns that Thuu plans to return to Tarantia tomorrow and Ulric and his armies will not be arriving for three more days. Conan realizes he has the perfect opportunity to rout Numitor's armmy. He steps outside his tent into the forest and blows the satyr's whistle, summoning Zudik, the satyr chief. Zudik tells Conan there is a smaller path up the enscarpment that the royalist army doesn't know about, and Conan quickly prepares his men to march. The next morning, Conan asks the satyrs for help, and Zudik tells Conan to stuff his men's ears with beeswax. As they sneak up on Numitor's men, the satyrs begin playing their pipes, which cause the royalist army to drop their weapons and run in terror, giving Conan an easy victory and the Army of Liberation sets their sites on Tarantia.
  • 11. The Key to the City
    Conan's army begins to lose an alarming number of soldiers through desertion and plague, and an antsy Conan accompanies Captain Gyrto and his troops to scout the outer border of Poitain. They enter the small village of Elymia. The village seems to be deserted, but as Conan's men ride through, the doors burst open and a mass of royalist soldiers attack; Ulric's men have made it through the northern baron's armies. Conan's men are at a surprised disadvantage in the winding streets, but Conan, Gyrto, and Sardus manage to break through the soldiers, and they rush to a hilltop to see if there is an encampment nearby. To their horror and surprise, they see a camp of twenty thousand men, including the standard of Numedides's royal guard. The three men reunite with the other survivors of the ambush and head back to the main camp, where they quickly begin fortifying the camp and preparing for a possible night attack. They are incredulous that Numedides sent his personal guard to the front, but Conan insists it was the standard of the Black Dragon that he saw. As the leaders ponder whether to attack or sneak away, Captain Silvanus of the Black Dragons comes to the camp with fifty of his fellow royal guard; they wish to join the rebellion, as they recognize the king's madness. Silvanus has a personal stake in that his daughter was taken and slain attempting to fulfill Numedides's quest for immortality. Silvanus reveals that Numitor has committed suicide, but Ulric's army is nearly 25,000 strong. Conan, realizing that with the royal guard on the field, Tarantia lies defenseless. He decides to take a column of men, including Silvanus and Dexitheus, and attack the city.
  • 12. Darkness in the Moonlight
    In Tarantia, the king's madness has driven nearly everyone away from the castle save for Alcina. When the king attempts to rape her, a furious Thulandra Thuu bursts in and puts the insane king in his place. He tells Numedides in no uncertain terms that he is in charge, but as he is not Aquilonian he cannot be king, so the two men need each other. Thuu says his divinations have shown some present danger, but he does not believe it to be the rebels, as he is convinced Ulric has blocked them at Elymia. Their conversation is interrupted by a page who tells the men that Conan, dressed as a Black Dragon, has taken the palace. Thuu immediately casts a cloaking spell but soon after, Conan, Silvanus, and Dexitheus burst into the room. Thuu casts spells at Conan, but they are blocked by Dexitheus. Silvanus, enraged, rushes at Thuu to avenge his daughter's murder, but he is swiftly cut down by a sorcerous bolt. Realizing he cannot win, Thuu teleports away and Conan turns to the helpless king, who begs for his life. However, when Numedides tries to stab Conan with a poisoned dagger, Conan grasps the king by the throat and squeezes the life out of him as the remaining soldiers enter the room. Dexitheus proclaims Conan king, a chant echoed by the soldiers, page, and even Alcina, who is promptly banished by Conan. Soon, Conan sits on the throne, and begins the sometimes tedious task of ruling a mighty kingdom.


  • Conan
  • Aquilonians
    • Numedides, King of Aquilonia
    • Thulandra Thuu, Lemurian wizard
    • Hsiao, Khitan servant to Thulandra Thuu
    • Vibius Latro, Chancellor and spymaster
    • Amulius Procus, Aquilonian general
    • Gromel the Bossonian, Aquilonian officer
    • Quesado, Zingaran spy working for Aquilonia
    • Alcina, Dancing girl and Aquilonian spy
    • Fadius, Aquilonian spy in Argos
    • Ascalante, Count of Thune
    • Sir Conradin, governor of Culario
    • Captain Armandius, commandant of Culario garrison
    • Prince Numitor, cousin to Numedides
    • Ulric, Count of Raman
    • Captain Silvanus of the Royal Guard
  • Crew and passengers of the Arianus
    • Captain Zeno, Argossean sailor
    • Belesa of Korzetta, Zingaran noblewoman
    • Tina, Ophirean former slave
  • Rebel Army
    • Dexitheus, priest of Mitra
    • Trocero, Count of Poitain
    • Prospero, former general of Aquilonian army
    • Publius, former royal treasurer of Aquilonia
    • Captain Alaricus
    • Captain Dio
    • Melias, a scout
    • Pallantides
    • Baron Roaldo of Imirus
    • Baron Ammian of Ronda
    • Baron Justin of Armavir
    • Gremio, a soldier
    • Captain Morenus
    • Captain Gyrto
    • Sardus, a cavalryman
  • Argosseans
    • King Milo
    • Prince Cassio
    • Arcadio, senior captain of the royal guard
  • Gola, a satyr
  • Zudik, satyr chief


  • Tarantia in Aquilonia
  • Messentia in Argos
  • The Plain of Pallos in Argos
  • The Alimane River
  • Culario in Poitain
  • The Imirian Enscarpment
  • The village Elymia, just outside of Poitain

Continuity Notes[]

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"Wolves Beyond the Border"
Conan the Liberator Next Story:
"The Phoenix on the Sword"
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
"Wolves Beyond the Border"
Conan the Liberator Next Story:
"The Phoenix on the Sword"
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
"Wolves Beyond the Border"
Conan the Liberator Next Story:
"The Phoenix on the Sword"


Publication history[]