Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Aquilonian Army: Described in "The Scarlet Citadel"

Robert E. Howard's story "The Scarlet Citadel" describes the defeat of King Conan's army at the hands of Kothian King Strabonus and King Amalrus of Ophir.

"The roar of battle had died away; the shout of victory mingled with the cries of the dying. Like gray-hued leaves after a autumn storm, the fallen littered the plain; the sinking sun shimmered on burnished helmets, gilt-worked mail, silver breastplates, broken swords, and the heavy regal folds of silken standards, overthrown in pools of curdling crimson. In silent heaps lay war-horses and their steel-clad riders, flowing manes and blowing plumes stained alike in the red tide. About them and among them, like the drift of a storm, were strewn slashed and trampled bodies in steel caps and leather jerkins--archers and pikemen.

The oliphants sounded a fanfare of triumph all over the plain, and the hoofs of the victors crunched in the breasts of the vanquished as all the straggling, shining lines converged inward like the spokes of a glittering wheel, to the spot where the last survivor still waged unequal strife.

That day Conan, king of Aquilonia, had seen the pick of his chivalry cut to pieces, smashed and hammered to bits and swept into eternity. With five thousand knights he had crossed the south estern border of Aquilonia and ridden into the grassy meadowlands of Ophir, to find his former ally, King Amalrus of Ophir, drawn up against him with the hosts of Strabonus, king of Koth. Too lake he had seen the trap. All that a man might do he had done with his five thousand cavalrymen against the thirty thousand knights, archers and spearmen of the conspirators.

Without bowmen or infantry, he had hurled his armored horsemen against the oncoming host, had seen the knights of his foes in their shining mail go down before his lances, had torn the opposing center to bits, driving the riven ranks headlong before him, only to find himself caught in a vise as the untouched wings closed in. Strabonus' Shemitish bowmen had wrought havoc among his knights, feathering them with shafts that found every crevice in their armor, shooting dowh the horses, the Kothian pikemen rushing in to spear the fallen riders. The mailed lancers of the routed center had reformed, reinforced by the riders from the wings, and had charged again and again, sweeping the field by sheer weight of numbers.

The Aquilonians had not fled; they had died on the field and of the five thousand knights who had followed Conan southward, not one left the plain of Shamu alive. And now the king himself stood at bay among the slashed bodies of his house-troops, his back against a heap of dead horses and men. Ophirean knights in gilded mail leaped their horses over mounds of corpses to slash at the solitary figure, squat Shemites with blue-black beards, and dark-faced Kothian knights ringed him on foot. The clangor of steel rose deafeningly; the black mailed figure of the western king loomed among his swarming foes, dealing blows like a butcher wielding a great cleaver. Riderless horses raced down the field; about his iron-clad feet grew a ring of mangled corpses. His attackers drew back from his desperate savagery, panting and livid."

Here's a description of Conan from the same chapter.

"Now he grinned bleakly as the kings reined back a safe distance from the grim iron-clad figure looming among the dead. Before the savage blue eyes blazing murderously from beneath the crested, dented helmet, the boldest shrank. Conan's darke scarred face was darker yet with passion; his black armor was hacked to tatters and splashed with blood; his great sword red to the crosspieces. In this stress all the veneer of civilization had faded; it was a barbarian who faced his conquerors.'

This clearly sounds like a medieval army an will give me some more information to keep in mind when choosing an Aquilonian army.

1 comment:

  1. Only Aquilonian knights appear in the initial battle; the Aquilonian infantry is depicted in the last one, with implicitely some precision about its armor. Koth fields Shemite archers (for me I see them quite similar to the Imperial Roman 'oriental archers' in conical helmet, mail or scale corselet and long skirt as depicted on the Trajan Column & elsewhere -but bearded, of course): anyway, quoted as wearing a 'mail corselet': in old WRG parlance, 'heavy infantry'. The Bossonian longbowmen are 'better armored' -extra heavy infantry': either clad in more extensive mail (like Prince John's soldiery in *old* 'Robin Hood' / 'Ivanohe' movies), or with mail reinforced with bits of plate (there is a reference to 'jaseran').

    As a possible illustration of the Middle-Ages in 'popular vision' between WW1 and WW2, Hal Foster's Prince Valiant may deserve to be perused: I suspect Foster and Howard shared common 'popular sources'. No 'jaseran' in PV, thus Foster's knights would fir better for the non-Aquilonian, lighter types (in 'Hour of the Dragon', a reference to 'pure mail' as typically 'Nemedian)...