Out of the Conan stories I’ve read so far, this is easily my least favourite. It was painful to read it. The plot read like a draft version of “The Scarlet Citadel” and the descriptions of people and places are endless and quite distracting. Robert E. Howard has undeniable skill when it comes to the use of descriptive language to set the mood and create atmosphere. It just so happens that sometimes he misses the mark and ends up describing things needless for pages on end. Since I started this project I’ve always been slightly worried that some of these stories would be duds. I didn’t expect to encounter one so soon. “Black Colossus” is a bore with a few nice moments tucked into the story. Sadly, those nice moments just aren’t numerous enough or good enough to make this story worthwhile.
The story opens with a thief who breaks into the tomb of a long dead wizard named Thugra Khotan. Soon after entering the treasure room, the thief encounters the awakened wizard and dies at his hands. Miles away and what surely must be weeks later (though it’s never clarified in the story), Yasmela, princess of Khoraja, is having a nightmare. Natohk, the Veiled One, is threatening to destroy her kingdom and capture her for himself. He and his armies are near Khoraja and it won’t be long until he can act out his threats. In the hopes that he will aid her, Yasmela pleads to her god who tells her to go out in the city and request the aid of the first man she encounters. The first man she meets is Conan. He is already a member of Khoraja’s army and she asked him to take command of the kingdom’s forces. Conan agrees. He will fight for Yasmela and Khoraja as long as they continue to oppose Natohk and his hordes. Conan sets out to meet Natohk’s force and the story ends in a large scale battle.