Conan: The Road of Kings (also called simply The Road of Kings is a Conan novel by Karl Edward Wagner first published by Bantam Books in October, 1979. Later paperback editions were issued by Ace Books (1987) and Tor Books 2001. The first trade paperback edition was published by Warner Books in 1989. The first British edition was published by Sphere Books (1986, reissued 1989). Aside from the Bantam and Tor editions all editions were issued under the title Conan: The Road of Kings.
Mercenary Conan is drawn into a rebellion against the King of Zingara, but due to the machinations of a Stygian sorceror finds himself on the wrong side of his victorious allies.
Conan and Captain Rinnova of the Royal Zingaran Army wage a deadly duel of honor surrounded by both Rinnova's fellow soldiers and Conan's fellow hired mercenaries. Conan gains the upper hands and slays the soldier, but is taken into custody by the army's commander, General Korst, who, while admiring Conan's skill, declares his life forfeit for attacking an officer.
- I. The Dancing Floor
A month later, his wounds healed, Conan and six other men are led to the scaffold in the prison yard, also known as the Dancing Floor. A huge crowd has gathered, and last week's dead are cut from the gallows and cut into pieces to the cheers and laughter of the masses. As the condemned stand in front of the nooses which will slowly rise and strangle them, Conan, the last in line, speaks with the man next to him, the seditionist Santiddio, who is impressed with Conan's killing of Rinnova. One by one the men are lifted into the air, but at the raising of the fourth, a cart filled with flaming straw bursts into the square and a hurled knife embeds deep in the hangman's chest. A gleeful Santiddio tells Conan that the rogue Mordermi has joined the seditionists, and he is responsible for the chaos. The mob of peasants runs frantically as Mordermi's brigands attack the confused guards. Santiddio and Conan break free of their bonds and fight off the guards who remain on the platform, as Mordermi and Santiddio's comrade Sandokazi ride up with extra mounts to take Conan and Santiddio to safety.
- II. The Pit
The four riders make their way deep into the Pit - the crumbling underworld of Kordava built on the remains of the original city and built over by the new one. When the group reaches its destination, Conan is introduced to Mordermi's men as the slayer of Rinnova and is greeted with enthusiasm. Sandokazi gives Conan a quick kiss and reveals she is Santiddio's brother, to the amusement of her lover Mordermi. Conan feels welcome at home.
- III. The White Rose
As Conan and Santiddio scrub the month of prison living and life from their bodies, Mordermi offers to take Conan in as one of this men until the heat dies down. Santiddio explains he is an unofficial leader of the secret revolutionary organization called the White Rose, of which Mordermi is a supporter, if not full member. Mordermi tells Santiddio that his rescue almost didn't take place, as one of Santiddio's colleagues, Avvinti, argued Santiddio should die a martyr for the cause. Santiddio promises to pay Avvinti back as Conan decides to throw in with Mordermi's thieves.
- IV. Steel and Dreamers
After Conan picks through the armory for a suitable large sword, Mordermi challenges him to a friendly duel - thrusting rapier versus slashing broadsword. The battle gets a little too heated, and when Mordermi draws first blood (ironically using a slashing technique), Santiddio and Sandokazi rush in fearing the worst. Both men realize there are holes in their training and talk turns to the White Rose, which Mordermi claims is more a debating society than an organized revolution. He tells Conan that a major reason Santiddio draws followers is that and Sandokazi are rare and blessed triplets, with the third sibling, Destandasi, leaving the city to study sorcery and witchcraft.
- V. Night Visitors
Conan awakens when he hears someone slip into his room. He is about to bring his dagger down on his visitor, he recognizes the scent - the perfume of Sandokazi, who has come to show her appreciation for Conan's role in rescuing her brother. Conan, though tempted, will not betray his friend Mordermi, and when an insulted Sandokazi opens the door to leave, she is surprised by an assassin in the doorway. The assassin, startled at the appearance of a woman rather than the larger Conan, misjudges his knife thrust and hesitates, giving Sandozaki time to avoid the blow. Conan immediately reacts and strikes the assassin dead. The commotion awakens the others, and Sandozaki spins a tale of how she saw the assassin in the hallway. The assassin is revealed to be Velio, a supposedly trusted lieutenant of Mordermi, which leads the group to wonder how many comrades might be bought by Rimanendo.
- VI. At the King's Masque
Weeks later, a disguised Conan walks through King Rimanendo's birthday masque via a forged invitation. In fact, a number of Mordermi's people are attending as guests or servants, including Zandokazi, whose elaborate falcon costume is put on full display when she begins to dance for the king. So entrancing is her dance that the nobles do not notice Mordermi's people assembling at exits and drawing their concealed weapons. As the dance ends, Santiddio announces their intentions to relieve the party-goers of their gold and jewels. Any resistance is immediately bludgeoned into submission while Conan confronts the king's bodyguards, who think better of confronting the hulking Cimmerian's giant axe in an enclosed space. The king shrieks for the outside guards, but they are busy fending off a mob of White Rose distractors outside. The thieves flee the party, heading for hidden boats on the cliff-shore rather than the castle walls. By the time the soldiers realize where the thieves are, most have descended the cliff to the boats while Conan and Modermi have stayed behind to slow pursuers. The battle goes well for the two comrades until Mordermi takes an arrow to the shoulder and, after hurling his axe and killing the archer, Conan grabs Mordermi and begins to descend the rope. Halfway down the cliff, the rope is hacked free from above, and Conan is forced to grab the cliffside and make his way down via hand. The thieves make their escape.
- VII. Golden Light, Blue Light
The next morning Mordermi begins to divide the spoils amongst the participants, grateful to Conan for the rescue, Sandokazi for her dancing distraction, and Santiddio for arranging the White Rose mob. Noble Avvinti and uncouth Carico, rivals to Santiddio as White Rose leaders, arrive to discuss future plans when they are interrupted by a newcomer who penetrated the deepest security of Mordermi's lair. The mysterious stranger, the Stygian exiled sorceror Callidios, claims he has bewitched the guards into slumber and has come to help the White Rose overthrow Rimanendo. He proposes they use the stolen treasure to purchase arms and mercenaries, for Rimanendo intends to give Korst the power to clear out the Pit.
- VIII. A Morning Swim
Callidios takes his allies out to sea, beyond the sunken remnants of the old city, to the ancient tomb of Kalenius, an pre-Cataclysm king of Thuria, buried beneath the ocean a league from town. Callidios, Sandokazi, and Conan dive into the water but find the recently-unearthed fissure leading to the tomb protected by living onyx statues, the thousand-strong Final Guard, one of which almost drags Sandokazi to her death. As they contemplate their next move, they notice smoke coming from the shore - Korst has begun his assault on the Pit!
- IX. No Road Back
King Rimanendo had given Korst three days to capture Mordermi, or else the general's own life would be forfeit. His attack on the Pit was born of desperation, but could possibly succeed. Conan, Sandokazi, and Callidios make it to the docks and manage to sneak through the cordons in the street into a tunnel into the Pit. The residents of the Pit, friends of Mordermi or no, fight back savagely to protect their home from what they assume is the long-promised cleansing of the den of inequity, and all Korst's soldiers can do is secure the perimeter and make very little headway into raiding below. Conan and his allies make it to Mordermi's stronghold where it is revealed that the White Rose's ranks have swelled with the attack. Conan is sent to fortify Eel Street while Callidios takes the opportunity to bend Mordermi's ear...
- X. White Heat
Conan meets with Carico at the assault on Eel Street, the focus of Korst's spearhead into the Pit. There is a moment's respite when a collapsed building creates a makeshift barricade and Conan takes the opportunity to set up archers and defenders. Conan and Korst's men stab at each other blindly through gaps in the barricade. When Korst's men begin to gain the upper hand, Conan orders his troops back to a second barricade where the archers wait. He sends Mordermi's lieutenant Sifino back for reinforcements and lights the first barricade on fire. Carico tells Conan that Santiddio has gone to rally the citizens of Kordova while Avvinti has taken a portion of the treasure to bribe lords to their cause; the plan is to simply slow Korst down until they have the support of the city. At that moment, Sifino returns with news that Mordermi is deep in conference with Callidios and will not be disturbed. A frustrated Conan leaves to find Mordermi himself, but discovers that Korst has pulled away all his attacks to concentrate on Eel Street. He quickly returnswith any reinforcements he can find manning other barricades and rejoins the battle as the overwhelmed denizens of the Pit move back to the third barricade.
- XI. The Final Guard Marches
As the fire in the Pit begins to spread aboveground to the city, the activated Final Guard emerges from the shore and begins to march inward and into the inferno on Eel Street, attacking and destroying Korst's army from behind. The stone creatures obliterate anything in their path.
- XII. To Follow the Road of Kings
The battle at the third barricade is going poorly for Conan and the newly arrived Mordermi, but Mordermi is confident that Callidios will come through, and soon the Final Guard, controlled by the sorceror, make their appearance. Conan is horrified as the Guard kills even those who surrender and beg for mercy, but Mordermi gleefully allows the massacre to continue before he leads his new army and thousands of citizens to the castle of King Rimanendo. The Guard easily destroys the walls and defenders, including General Korst himself, and when the seditionists reach the king's room, they find the king already assassinated by servants eager to curry favor with the new regime.
- XIII. A New Order and a Coronation
Mordermi, despite his initial objectives, is named the new king, Santiddio, Carico, and Avvinti are elected to the revolutionary committee, Callidios is made Prime Minister, and Conan general of the armies. Conan speaks privately to Mordermi about his distrust of Callidios, but the new king believes he needs the sorceror's help. Conan begins to wonder if a mistake has been made.
- XIV. Conan Takes the Field
Over the next several weeks, Conan begins to chafe at the non-fighting duties of a general as he struggles to rebuild the army. While other lords and even nearby countries eye Mordermi's crown, the Final Guard is enough threat to keep Zingara safe while Conan struggles to turn his haphazard conscripts into soldiers. He and Mordermi agree to an amnesty for former soldiers and begin the process of hiring mercenaries to bolster the ranks, even accepting soldiers from Avvinti's and Carico's ranks. The looting of the tomb of Kalenius has enriched the coffers of the city, and while the Guard protected Kordova, a large army was needed to spread to the rest of Zingara and the borders, beginning with an excursion by Argos into Zingaran territory. Conan, finally happy with the size and ability of his troops, takes his army to quell the small uprising.
- XV. The Scythe
After a season of pacifying Zingaria, Conan returns to Kordava, having dealt with rebelling barons and invading Picts. On his approach into town he is startled to see Carico's head on a pike along with others he had considered friends and allies and the Final Guard standing around the city watching. When he reaches Mordermi, the king tells him disagreements among the White Rose as to how the country should be run led to Avvinti's assassination by poison. Mordermi, believing Carico ordered the assassination, executed him and arrested Santiddio. As Conan becomes more and more agitated, he realizes that Mordermi has drugged his wine, and he falls unconscious.
- XVI. The Reaper
Conan awakens in a dungeon cell with Santiddio, who fills Conan in on what happened since the barbarian left Kordava. Mordermi has managed to descredit the White Rose and rid the city of all rivals. Santiddio believes he will soon march on other countries with the Final Guard. Santiddio is only alive due to the pleas of his sister, and he believes Mordermi still has some use for Conan. Sandokazi comes to rescue them and claims that Callidios is to blame, not Mordermi, and makes the two promise not to harm her lover. They leave, and Santiddio plans to find his sister Destandasi to combat Callidios. Sandokazi attempts to return to her chambers, but is discovered by Callidios.
- XVII. Destandasi
Conan and Santiddio paddle up the Black River in a stolen canoe, surviving only via the barbarian's skills, which impresses the suddenly-feeling-inadequate Santiddio. They make their way to the trading post of Inzio, who had delivered letters from Destandasi. The half-Pictish Inzio reveals the letters come to him via owl, and Santiddio writes his sister a letter to meet them there. A great owl comes through the forest and takes the letter and soon a wolf with a parchment tied around his neck approaches. The letter is from Destandasi, who writes that the wolf will lead them to her sacred grove, deep in the forest. After a mile of thicker and thicker growth, they reach the home of Destandasi, and are invited in.
- XVIII. A Sending From Kordava
As Santiddio and Conan dine with Destandasi and explain the situation in Kordava, she is unsure, as a priestess of the life-goddess Jhebbal Sag, how she can be of assistance in defeating a sorceror as she is bound by vow to her grove. She broadly hints at a solution to defeating the Final Guard - one of awakening ancestral memories - but the dinner is interrupted by a shriek outside the groe. Sandokazi, hanged and undead, rails at the border of the sacred grove. She has been killed, reanimated, and sent after Santiddio and Conan. Callidios's true nature as a necromancer has been revealed, and as a devastated Santiddio is dragged away by Conan, Destandasi prepares to end her sister's torment.
- XIX. Dreams Are Born to Die
Sandokazi is buried at dawn and Destandasi decides to abandon her vow and grove to avenge her sister. She believes she knows the secret of the Final Guard - Callidios has somehow animated their former king Kalenius, whom the Final Guard is bound to obey. She believes she can exorcise Kalenius and remove Callidios's control. They believe Kalenius's body is squirreled away in Callidios tower in Mordermi's stronghold, connected to the sea by passages through which the body was brought. They leave the grove, Destandasi knowing she can never return.
- XX. The Road of Kings
As the weeks go on, Mordermi's vices become more apparent and Conan publically stirs unrest, causing many to join his civil rebellion. When he finally draws Mordermi's attention, Conan ambushes and routs the Zingarian expedition, then the larger army (at least those who did not defect) in the eastern mountains.Soon the rebels control most of the provinces and begin to eye Kordava. Veteran Vindicarmi will attack with a diversionary force, hoping to draw the Final Guard out of the city while Conan sneaks Destandasi into Kordava. The two of them make their way into the Pit and unite with the remnants of the White Rose that Mordermi hadn't purged. They agree to start a riot, and during the chaos, Conan and Destandasi climb into Callidios's tower. They are attacked by a Final Guard, but after Destandasi distracts it with magically summoned bats, Conan manages to push it over the edge of the parapet. They make their way to Callidios's chambers, which are full of necromantic artifacts and various skeletons and pieces of flesh. Meanwhile, Callidios returns to his room and finds the door locked. He calls threats to those in the room, but they do not respond as they search for the remains of Kalenius. Outside, Callidios commands Kalenius to rise, and a mummy surges to life. Callidios commands the mummy to summon two Final Guards to break down the doors, and Conan hears stomping on the stairs. Destandasi struggles to dispell Callidios's sorcery, but struggles as the door begins to break. Just as a black fist bursts through, Destandasi falls unconscious and Kalenius's remains disintegrate. Immediately, the Final Guard begins to decay and crumble as well, and the rebels run rampant. In the tower, Callidios eyes Conan through the hole in the door and attacks the barbarian with a sword that extends into a whipping serpent. Conan manages to entrap the blade in the folds of a cloak, and yanking the necromancer to him, stabs him to death. Conan and Destandasi find Mordermi, who is hurriedly stuffing jewels and money into a bag, and Mordermi triggers a trap that kills the sorceress. An enraged Conan attacks and defeats Mordermi, and, remembering his promise to Sandokazi doesn't kill him; rather he tosses him to the frenzied crowd at the base of the castle, who tear Mordermi to pieces. Santiddio offers Conan the crown, but he refuses, seeing firsthand what a taste of power can do. He takes Destandasi's body back to her grove as Santiddio reluctantly accepts the crown.
- Captain Rinnova *
- General Korst *
- Santiddio, noble Zingarian seditionist leader
- Mordermi, Zingarian brigand *
- Sandokazi, Zingarian seditionist *
- Velio, Zingarian brigand *
- Rimanendo, Zingarian king *
- Avvinti, noble Zingarian seditionist *
- Carico, Zingarian commoner seditionist *
- Callidios, Stygian sorceror *
- Sifino, Zingarian seditionist lieutenant
- Inzio, Half-Pictish trader
- Destandasi, Zingarian sorceress *
- Vindicarmi, mercenary captain
* dies in this story
"Hawks Over Shem"
|Conan: The Road of Kings||Next Story:|
|Robert Jordan Chronology|
Conan the Defender
|Conan: The Road of Kings||Next Story:|
Conan the Triumphant
|William Galen Gray Chronology|
"Shadows in the Dark"
|Conan: The Road of Kings||Next Story:|
Conan the Renegade
- The Road of Kings • Karl Edward Wagner • Bantam October 1979
- Conan: The Road of Kings • Sphere 1980
- The Road of Kings • Ace October 1987
- The Road of Kings • Tor 2001