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The Black Stranger

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The Black Stranger is a novella by Robert E. Howard first published in Echoes of Valor, ed. Karl Edward Wagner (Tor 1987).

This was originally written as a Conan story, but was not accepted for publication. REH rewrote it as a Black Vulmea story ("Swords of the Red Brotherhood"), which was also not accepted.

L. Sprague de Camp found "The Black Stranger" and rewrote it into a different Conan story, The Treasure of Tranicos. With four paragraphs at the opening added by editor Lester del Rey, this was published in Fantasy Magazine (March 1953) under Howard's original title.

For the collection Conan the Usurper (Lancer 1967), de Camp restored condensed portions and excised del Rey's additions.


The story finds Conan in the Pictish Wilderness, fleeing native warriors who are hunting him. To escape his pursuers, Conan scales a crag of rock, whereupon he sees the Picts inexplicably abandon the chase and turn back. He realizes the spot must be a taboo place to the Picts. The hill turns out to hold a treasure cave, along with the preserved bodies of the pirate Tranicos and his men. Conan's attempt to remove the treasure proves futile; a demon of mist forms, and attempts to strangle him. He barely escapes with his life, leaving the treasure undisturbed.

Coinciding with Conan's attempt at looting the treasure is the main plot of a character named Count Valenso Korzetta, a former noble of Zingara, who fled his homeland to escape a demon, whom he double crossed, to end up on the Western shores of Pictish territory. With his entourage came his niece, the Lady Belesa, and her handmaiden, Tina, among other soldiers and retainers. The Count is stunned when he learns that the pirate Black Zarona has landed on his shore, followed by the bucaneer, Strombanni. Both pirates believe that the Count set out for this deserted place in search of the legendary Treasure of Tranicos. The buccaneers are bitter enemies, and bring their feud to the Count's stronghold. During a meeting one night between the Count, Black Zarona and Strombanni, Conan surprisingly emerges from behind a drapery. All eyes are on Conan, as he dominates the room. The fellows learn from Conan that he himself has found the Treasure of Tranicos, and would be willing to share the loot with the others if they help him retrieve it. They reluctantly make a thieves pact, and agree to join Conan, knowing full well that they will kill him once the treasure is in their possession. Conan, on the other hand, had something else in mind for his companions, chiefly trapping them in the treasure room to have them killed by the demon, taking the treasure with the crews of both ships, and sailing away. Conan's scheme fails though, and the sailors find themselves trapped by Picts, who are surrounding the rocky cleft. The pirates once again declare a truce to combat a common foe. Once the pirates escape the cleft, it's a race to the Count's stronghold, with the Picts in hot pursuit. The story ends with the defeat of the Picts, the death of the Count, Strombanni and Black Zarona.


  • Conan
  • Count Valenso
  • Lady Belesa
  • Tina
  • Strom
  • Zarono


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Publication historyEdit

The Treasure of TranicosEdit

Differences from The Black Stranger

De Camp made many egregious changes to better fit the story within his imagined chronology. Howard's version of the story pointed toward a new piratical career for Conan; one of de Camp's major changes was to make it lead instead into the revolution that would bring the Cimmerian to the throne of Aquilonia. The Counts of Poitain arrrive on the isolated shores, looking for Conan to lead them against the despotic King of Aquilonia, Numedides.

Publication history

De Camp-del Rey version

De Camp's revised versionEdit

References Edit

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