The Kingdom of Stygia
“As they slid silently past the city whose great black bastions rose on the jutting prongs of land, which locked the harbor, torches gleamed and smoldered luridly, and to their ears came the low thunder of drums. The port was not crowded with ships, as were the harbors of Argos. The Stygians did not base their glory and power upon ships and fleets. Trading-vessels and war-galleys, indeed, they had, but not in proportion to their inland strength. Many of their craft plied up and down the great river, rather than along the sea-coasts.
The Stygians were an ancient race, a dark, inscrutable people, powerful and merciless. Long ago their rule had stretched far north of the Styx, beyond the meadowlands of Shem, and into the fertile uplands now inhabited by the peoples of Koth and Ophir and Argos. Their borders had marched with those of ancient Acheron. But Acheron had fallen, and the barbaric ancestors of the Hyborians had swept southward in wolfskins and homed helmets, driving the ancient rulers of the land before them. The Stygians had not forgotten.” – The Hour of the Dragon
Capital: Luxor (Stygia)
Settlements: Khemi (Styx Delta), Sukhmet (Southern Stygia), Keshatta (West Stygia), Karnath (Stygian Coast)
Current Ruler: King Ctesphon
The Master of the Black Ring: Thoth-Amon
Stygia is an ancient and terrible land, with a long history of sorcery and war that could stain the very sand red. Naturally fortified by the great river Styx, Stygia has been in a steady decline for many years - but the corpse of this ancient empire may yet have some hideous and unnatural life in it, and the traditions of sorcery mean that nations as far as Aquilonia and distant Khitai keep close watch on the dark-bosomed mistress of the south. Once commanding a vast empire that included the lands now known as Shem, Corinthia, Ophir and western Koth, before the first wave of Hyborian adventurers rampaged from the north to set up the first Hyborian kingdoms.
Stygian society is broadly split into two castes: the ruling elite warrior caste, and the downtrodden slave caste. The warrior castes are tall, proud and mightily built Stygians of pure blood, bred for war and the hunt, and are legendary archers. The slave caste is a sorry mongrel class, a mixture of Stygian, Shemite, Hyborian and Black slaves, and they are as poorly-treated as in any decadent realm. The King is little more than an administrative figure, the true power of Stygia being the shadowy Priests of Set, of which the Black Ring are the elite cadre.
Stygia does have an army, but the antiquated chariots and spearmen mean that they’d likely be defeated by the professional Hyborian and Hyrkanian armies, even with superior numbers. The archers of Stygia are known to have great range and killing power: however they are much slower, and are not as versatile as the Bossonians, the Shemites, or the Hyrkanians. In sufficient numbers, these archers can be devastating. The real power of Stygia lies in their priests: they call upon black sorceries and nameless horrors to cause mayhem among their enemies. Their campaign-map priests are the most powerful in the game, the chaos they bring to a foreign religion can bring down entire kingdoms without a sword being unsheathed. Their assassins and spies, assisted by sorcerers, are also extremely effective against all factions, only the assassins and spies of Zamora their superiors. Their diplomats, princesses and traders are met with fear and contempt by most races, but sorcerous aid can make them bewilderingly successful agents.
Stygia is a land abhorred and feared by nearly all other nations: its people’s worship of the ancient serpent Set repulses other nations. Because only the warrior castes are permitted into the military, the Stygians employ a great number of mercenaries and levies from the Black Kingdoms for their garrisons and to form the backbone of their armies. Any sign of activity from the Stygians is bound to be watched by the other nations, so careful planning and foresight is needed. Expanding into the Black Kingdoms would be the safest option, as apart from Kush none of the Black Kingdoms could offer much defense from a concentrated invasion. Expansion north or west will make the Hyborians and Hyrkanian anxious and pre-emptive attacks may be made by the nearest factions. A more ambitious direction would be to exploit Stygia’s mighty navy: although it never fully recovered from Bêlit’s sack more than 20 years ago, it is still the most powerful of the Southern navies, and a number of alternative routes could be made along the Western Sea.
They brought him to the deck of the Venturer-a tall, dark, rangily built man, ashy with fear of his captors, who were ogres of that coast. He was naked except for his silken breeks, for, like the Hyrkanians, even the commoners and slaves of Stygia wore silk; and in his boat was a wide mantle such as these fishermen flung about their shoulders against the chill of the night." - The Hour of the Dragon
Although only members of the noble warrior classes are found in the military, in times of extreme desperation the slaves and peasants of Stygia will rise up in defense of their land and property. Although they are next to useless as individual warriors, their hide shields they wield offer some degree of protection, and can hold an army still for a time until the "real" Stygian army gathers its strength. They are paid a pittance and equipped poorly, but when bodies are needed to block an advancing force, these would-be soldiers might have some uses.
Conan gazed over the billowing waves of spears and wondered what new horror the sorcerer would invoke...
Most Stygians train in the art of the bow, but a few prefer to learn the more intimate, brutal forms of combat, and become infantry. These are often composed of brash, aggressive young nobles and scribes who are eager for battle and excitement but lack the skill or patience for archery, as well as older nobles who have lost the dexterity necessary. These soldiers are generally unprotected save from a large oval shield, and wield their spear with great effect.
Royal Stygian Spearmen
“…Men died like flies in the valley and along the slopes – and with a roar and an irresistible upward surge the Stygians crashed against the mercenaries.
In a hurricane of thundering steel, the lines twisted and swayed. It was war-bred noble against professional soldier. Shields crashed against shields, and between them spears drove in and blood spurted.” – Black Colossus
Many brave Stygians have fought among the spearmen: the bravest of these, or at least those that survive their battles, can sometimes be chosen to join the ranks of the King's personal army. The Royal Spearmen are given magnificent gold-plated armour, splendid and impressive defenders of their lord.
“Conan saw the mighty form of prince Kutamun across the sea of swords, but the press held him hard, breast to breast with dark shapes that gasped and slashed.” – Black Colossus
The elite infantry of the royal army, the Luxor Guard are veteran warriors who are charged with the protection of the Royal Palace of Luxor, and Stygia's last line of defence. They are paid and equipped with the finest and most elaborately decorated armour, and are the most reliable and steadfast infantry available to a Stygian king.
"I was a swordsman in Prince Almuric's army that invaded Stygia, and of his thirty thousand, fifteen thousand perished by Stygian arrows, and the rest by the black plague that rolled on us like a wind out of the south. I was the only man who lived." - The Hour of the Dragon
While the Bossonians, Shemites and Hyrkanians are famed for their archery prowess, none elicit a dread quite like the Stygian archers. Although they lack range and rate of fire, the great black arrows are utterly devastating, and seem just as effective at wiping out an army as the terrible Black Plague. The warriors who wield these bows are also well-trained in close combat, and though their lack of armour and shield mean they are vulnerable to other missiles, their fierceness and skill give them a fighting chance in melee.
“Heavy bows were in their hands. No common archers these, but nobles of the South, bred to war and the hunt, who were accustomed to bringing down lions with their arrows.” – Black Colossus
The Stygian warrior caste is tall, strongly-built, and fiercely determined, making them formidable soldiers, especially the nobles. Wearing the lavish headdresses and robes of the nobility, they have had the luxury of better equipment, training and experience than other warriors by virtue of some blood link to the King. Unlike the nobles of the Hyborian lands, the nobles of Stygia constantly hone and refine their technique and abilities in preparation for battle. They gain experience not through neutered jousts or tournaments, but by real and deadly combat, where the prize for victory is survival. They fight Kushite savages in gladiatorial battle, they go on week-long treks into the hostile wilderness to slaughter mighty predators, and settle disputes to the death. They may not have the inate survival or killing talents of the barbarians, but centuries of institutionalized war-breeding has made them perhaps the most dangerous warriors of the southern lands.
Stygian Horse Archers
“For days they had fled into the desert, pursued so far by Stygian horsemen that when they shook off the pursuit, they dared not turn back.” – Xuthal of the Dusk
Stygian warriors are just as at home on a horse as on foot, and many can be found riding the wild, virtually untamed Stygian horses to battle. These horses seem to have some sort of sorcery of their own, for while they are thin and unsubstantial, they fight with an uncanny rage, as if they were filled with battle-lust themselves. The strong warriors of Stygia have to work hard to control these horses, although sometimes unprepared warriors and their mounts are pressed into action to utilize the berserk fury of the horse to their advantage. Mostly, however, the almost tireless Stygian horses bear archers, harassing enemies and riding away with an impressive lack of effort.
Stygian Royal Guard
Priests of the Black Ring
“Only occultists high in the mazes of the hideous Black Ring possessed the power of the black hand that dealt death by its touch; and only such a man would dare defy Thoth-Amon, whom the western world knew only as a figure of terror and myth…
…He caught only glimpses of that brief, fiendish fight – saw men swaying, locked in battle and streaming blood… Thutothmes smote him on the breast with his open empty hand, and he dropped dead, though naked steel had not been enough to destroy his uncanny vitality.” – The Hour of the Dragon
Now, the Stygians will need a LOT of model-work done, but I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out so far. And of course, I hope KnightErrant succeeds in finding a way to get chariots working!