The Phoenix on the Sword

". The original short story was written by Robert E. Howard and first appeared in the December 1932 issue of "Weird Tales" magazine.] Infobox short story
name = The Phoenix on the Sword
title_orig = The Phoenix on the Sword
translator =
author = Robert E. Howard
country = USA
language = English
series = Conan the Cimmerian
genre = Fantasy
published_in = USA
publication_type = Pulp magazine
publisher = Weird Tales
media_type =
pub_date = 1932
english_pub_date =
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Phoenix on the Sword" is one of the original short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard and first published in "Weird Tales" magazine December 1932. The tale was a rewrite of the unpublished Kull story, "By This Axe I Rule," with long passages being identical word for word. The Conan version of the story was republished in the collections "King Conan" (Gnome Press, 1953) and "Conan the Usurper" (Lancer Books, 1967). It has most recently been republished in the collections "The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon" (Gollancz, 2001) and "" (Del Rey, 2003). It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan foiling a nefarious plot to unseat him as king of Aquilonia.

Plot summary

cquote2|"Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet..."
Robert E. Howard|"The Phoenix on the Sword"

"The Phoenix on the Sword" begins with a middle-aged Conan of Cimmeria attempting to govern the turbulent kingdom of Aquilonia.

Conan has recently seized the bloody crown of Aquilonia from King Numedides whom he strangled upon his throne; however, things have not gone well, as Conan is more suited to swinging a broadsword than to signing official documents with a stylus. The people of Aquilonia, who originally welcomed Conan as their liberator from Numedides' tyranny, have gradually turned against him due to his foreign Cimmerian blood. They have built a statue to Numedides' memory in the temple of Mitra, and people burn incense before it, hailing it as the holy effigy of a saintly monarch who was done to death by a red-handed barbarian.

Desiring to give the Aquilonian crown to someone of royal blood, a daring band known as the Rebel Four is formed consisting of Volmana, the dwarfish count of Karaban; Gromel, the giant commander of the Black Legion; Dion, the fat baron of Attalus; Rinaldo, the hare-brained minstrel. The Rebel Four recruit the services of a southern outlaw named Ascalante. But, in secret, Ascalante is merely using the rebels to gain the crown of Aquilonia for himself.

At the same time, Ascalante has a unique slave named Thoth-Amon, formerly a powerful Stygian wizard, who has fallen on hard times since he lost a magic ring which was the source of his power. A thief had stolen the ring from Thoth-Amon and, thus, broken his power in Stygia. The other magicians rose up to slay him, and he fled. Disguised as a camel-driver, he travelled in a cavaran in the land of Koth, where Ascalante's reavers fell upon them. All in the caravan were slain except for Thoth-Amon who saved his life by revealing his identity to Ascalante and swearing to serve him.

Overall, the story centers around the plot of the Rebel Four to assassinate King Conan when he is unprepared and defenseless. However, two unforeseen events occur: Conan is forewarned of the impending coup d'etat by Epemitreus the Sage who marks Conan's sword with a mythical phoenix representing Mitra, a Hyborian god. Asynchronously, Thoth-Amon recovers his lost ring of power and unleashes a fanged, ape-like demon that unintentionally foils the assassination attempt on Conan's life by the Rebel Four then slays Ascalante. Conan then uses his enchanted sword to slay the demon.


The story was adapted by Roy Thomas in "Conan Annual" #2.

External links

* [ Conan wiki • The Phoenix on the Sword] • Synopsis, characters, locations, and publishing history
* [ Conan the Barbarian at]
* [ The Official Website]

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