Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Excerpt from The Black Colossus Chapter III

I've been re-reading some of the original Conan stories to get ideas for my Royal Armies of the Hyborian Age game.

Here's a quote from Chapeter III of The Black Colossus describing the army of Khoraja:

"In the early haze of dawn the streets of Khoraja were thronged by crowds of people who watched the hosts riding from the southern gate. The army was on the move at last. There were the knights, gleaming in richly wrought plate-armor, colored plumes waving above their burnished sallets. Their steeds, caparisoned with silk. lacquered leather and gold buckles, and curvetted as their riders put them through their paces. The early light struck glints from lancepoints that rose like a forest above the array, their pennons flowing in the breeze. Each knight wore a lady's token, a glove, scarf or rose, bound to his helmet or fastened to his sword belt. They were the chivalry of Khoraja, five hundred strong, led by Count Thespides, who, men said, aspired to the hand of Yasmela herself.

They were followed by the light cavalry on rangy steeds. The riders were typical hillmen, lean and hawk-faced; peaked steel caps were on their heads and chain-mail glinted under their flowing kaftans. Their main weapon was the terrible Shemitish bow, which could send a shaft five hundred paces. There were five thousand of these, and Shupras Rode at their head, his lean face moody beneath his spired helmet.

Close on their heels marched the Khoraja spearmen, always comparatively few in any Hyborian state, where men thought cavalry the only honorable branch of service. These, like the knights, were of ancient Kothic blood - sons of ruined families, broken men, penniless youths, who could not afford horses and plate armor; five hundred of them.
The mercenaries brought up the rear, a thousand horsemen, two thousand spearmen. The tall horses of the cavalry seemed hard and savage as their riders; they made no curvets or gabades. There was a grimly business- like aspect to these professional killers, veterans of bloody campaigns. Clad from head to foot in chainmail, they wore their vizorless head pieces over linked coifs. Their shields were unadorned, thier long lances without guidons. At their saddle-bows hung battle-axes or steel maces, and each man wore at his hip a long broadsword. The spearmen were armed in much the same manner, though they bore pikes instead of cavalry lances.

They were men of many races and many crimes. There were tall Hyperboreans, gaunt, big-boned, of slow speech and violent natures; tawny-haired Gundermen from the hills of the northwest; swaggering Corinthian renegades; swarthy Zingarians, with bristling black mustaches and fiery tempers; Aquilonians from the distant west. But all, except the Zingarians, were Hyborians.

Behind all came a camel in rich housings, led by a knight on a great war-horse, and surrounded by a clump of picked fighters from the royal house-troops. It's rider, under the silken canopy of the seat, was a slim, silk-clad figure, at thesight of which the populace, always mindful of royalty, threw up it's leather cap and cheered wildly.

Conan the Cimmerian, restless in his plate-armor, stared at the bedecked camel with no great approval, and spoke to Amalric, who rode beside him, resplendent in chain-mail threaded with gold, golden breastplate and helmet with a flowing horsehair crest."

I thought it would be good to hear it straight from REH himself.


  1. The knights sound very Morte d'Arthur - in fact the Aquilonian and Poitavan knights are described in similar terms in one of the later stories.

    The light cavalry sound vaguely Byzantine or Crusader-period Arab.

    On the whole, a late-period (after 1300) Byzantine army might be just the business to represent the Khorajans, and the core of most Hyborian armies, perhaps with Low Country, Italian or Scots Pike for the Gunderlanders?

  2. I thought of Eastern European or Frankish cavalry when I read about hte lighter cavalry. This is a much more medieval description than I would have expected. I must admit I've never read any of the Conan books.

  3. Yes, it does sound more medieval. I wonder if cataphracts can be used as knights? It says plate mail, but I don't know if they consider cataphract armor as plate.