Which reminds me, it's been a while since the last update. Well, no time like the present...
(take a deep breath, lots of text to get through!)
Unknown Lands of the Hyborian Age
While some Hyborian countries, cultures and peoples are charted in great detail, there are a few that are far more mysterious. Some are only known by name, others by their geographic whereabouts. Some are prosperous and wondrous nations, others desolate wilderness populated by savage nomads, or dark jungles inhabited by horrors terrible and indescribable.
What follows is a scholarly overview of some of these nations, including theories on their people, history and culture.
Saa'bah the Accursed
The entrance to the Temple of Yog in Sabatea
"The Black Ring was a fable and a lie to most folk of the western world, but Conan knew of its ghastly reality, and its grim votaries who practise their abominable sorceries amid the black vaults of Stygia and the nighted domes of accursed Sabatea." - The Hour of the Dragon
"Conan, you are of the West, and know not the secrets of this ancient land. But, since the beginning of happenings, the demons of the desert have worshipped Yog, the Lord of the Empty Abodes, with fire - fire that devours human victims." - The Man-Eaters of Zamboula
South of the Eastern Desert and West of Stygia lies a dark and evil land, one so feared that even the redoubtable Shemite traders will shun, and so little known it is believed to be long deserted like dead Kuthchemes. The many-domed city of Sabatea is the capital of Saa'bah, an ancient land long used as the seat of the Black Ring in the time of Old Stygia, and hotly contested by the old empire of Iranistan.
The first human habitation of what would become Sabatea was originally a system of caves built by a mysterious culture of cave-dwellers. Starting as merely hollowed-out tunnels, the artistry and sophistication of these caves developed into spectacular rock-cut temples, palaces and castles as every bit as impressive as the Caves of Jhelai in Vendhya or the subterranean temples in Stygia. Eventually more conventional buildings and constructions were erected around the mountains, and the city of Sabatea became a power in the East.
For many ages Sabatea stood strong, withstanding even the Great Cataclysm with its tremendously durable architecture and fortuitous position in a geologically quite area. However, the might of the people who would become the Stygians overcame the city, and it became part of the old Stygian Empire, where the notorious Black Ring made it the centre of their abominable sorceries.
Then the Hyborians came. When even the behemoth of Kuthchemes staggered under the onslaught of the Hyborian invaders, Sabatea was hard-pressed to defend itself. The Black Ring relocated to Keshatta, the nobility fleeing to Khemi: few soldiers remained in the city to defend itself from the northern plunderers. Fate was kind to Sabatea, as the Hyborians bypassed the hidden city and turned their attention elsewhere. This luck was not to last, however: centuries after Stygia's withdrawal, Sabatea was attacked by the kingdom of Iranistan. But Sabatea had not been complacent: in the years since being abandoned by the Black Ring, a new cadre of sorcerers came into power. Formed of fugitive sorcerers, priests and heretics cast out from their homelands, this polyglot ring of renegades and radicals builded up Sabatea from an abandoned relic into a stronghold of grim magicks. This ring cannily manipulated both Stygia and Iranistan, playing them against each other while they plotted and the Saa'bah people built up their military and infrastructure. In time, perhaps Saa'bah will emerge as a new power in the east.
The Saa'bah are insular and secretive, with a populace composed mostly of the indigenous Sabateans and a considerable Stygian presence. The Stygians naturally worship Set, and temples to the Old Serpent dominate the outer city: however, the old Sabateans worship Yog, the Lord of the Empty Abodes. Sabatea is the home of Yog's cult, being spread as far as Zamboula and Darfar.
At the time of Conan, Sabatea is a minor city, but with many unique buildings and resources that would be a great boon to any aspiring empire. Their greatest resources are the unique spices of the Red River, which are part of a lucrative spice trade among the priesthood and sorcerers of the world, and a primary source of income for Saa'bah. In addition, Sabatean craftsmen make finely-potted painted ceramics, most commonly vessels for incence, powders and elixers by priests and sorcerers, another
Saa'bah military is modest, but sufficient to defend their land. Three regional soldiers are available as mercenaries or regional recruits in Sabatea: Sabatean levies, Sabatean Warriors and Yoggite Fanatics. Sabatean levies are simple peasants and labourers armed with spears and Shemite-styled bows, a few members wearing light armour but most wearing cloth or silk. Sabatean Warriors are a rag-tag elite, formed from old Stygian warriors, Shemite nomads and Sabateans of noteworthy battle experience: they wear an eclectic range of armour, and wield a one-handed weapon and shield with a Stygian-styled longbow. Fanatics of Yog are wild, dangerous men with a fanatical devotion: clad in green robes, they beat their enemies with cudgels and maces - this prevents excessive blood loss, blood being an important part of their rituals.
In the end, even ancient Sabatea was lost as the Hyborian Age came to an end, but its legacy was not wholly forgotten: the great Arabic trade kingdoms of the Sabeans and Nabataeans can claim to be the heirs of nighted Sabatea, and it is rumoured that beneath the rocks of Arabah, the remains of an ancient system of corridors and tombs lurks beyond the stone floors of Petra. Who knows if someone will find an entrance into the lost halls of Sabatea - and the horrors that dwell within.
Cherkessia, the Country of the Knife
The Cherkess Mountains
"His only weapon was a broad curved Cherkess knife in an ivory sheath girdled high on his left hip, kozak fashion. " - A Witch Shall Be Born
The Cherkess are a hardy, dangerous people of the Cherkess Mountains south of the Vilayet. Proving indomitable to the Iranistani, Golden Kingdoms and even the Turanians, Cherkess men are reknowned as vicious warriors, their women famed for their beauty. The Cherkess mountains are rugged peaks, not as formidable as the Himelians, but still difficult to navigate, and extremely difficult to invade.
Part of the progenitor tribe which founded the Golden Kingdoms, the people who would become the Cherkess claimed the highlands and mountain range south of the Vilayet and north of the Great Plains, which became known as Cherkessia. Tribal disunity meant that they did not forge a kingdom of their own, but they managed to resist incursions from Turan, Iranistan and Ghulistan nonetheless: the relative remoteness of Cherkessia to the Hyrkanian and Hyborian worlds have made it largely of little interest to conquerers, in comparison to more attractive targets like the Golden Kingdoms.
Independent from the other Golden kingdoms, Cherkess society is quite different from that of both their southern neighbours and the western Hyborian kingdoms. A warlike people, men are expected to always carry a weapon, and all boys were trained in combat. Familial ties like those of western Hyborians were nearly nonexistant: each child was viewed as a son of the tribal community than that of their own parents, and many parents would foster their children to other adults. Cherkess society is also strongly matriarchal: the women are the heads of community, leaving matters of warfare to the men, although the women would frequently fight alongside the men in times of war. The Cherkess are also fairly egalatarian, with few stata outside community and community leaders, much like the early Hyborian tribes.
Cherkessia's main settlement is the town of Adegya. It has little appeal outside of a source of good soldiers, being little developed and extremely dificult to besiege. Allying or establishing trade would be ideal, and a soujourn into the province with a powerful general will attract many mercenaries. Nonetheless, Cherkessia's human resource is worth attention - and caution. Although the Cherkess are independent, many young men - and women - become mercenaries for other nations: they can be hired as mercenaries or regional recruits as Cherkessian Warriors. They are excellent assault and support infantry, fighting with swords, axes and the famed Cherkess knives, and are particularly adept at ambushing in mountainous terrain. Outside of warriors, Cherkessia is renowned for exceptionally beautiful women, who would be excellent princesses and ambassadors - and for a particularly dominant conquerer, slaves.
After Conan's time, the Cherkess continued to repulse Turanian attempts of acquisition, but by the time of Turan's greatest expansion the might of Turan was simply too great, and the Cherkess were made part of the Turanian Empire. For centuries it endured the indignity of subjucation, the desire to rebel palpable under the facade of tolerance for their new masters. However, when the Picts rose to challenge Turan, the Cherkess rose up, only to be beaten into submission. Time and again the Cherkess would rebel, but Turan was merciless in their reprisal: it was only by the time the Cimmerians came to divide Turan's army that the Cherkess finally threw off the Turanian yoke, and by then it was too late. The ice came, and the Cherkess descended into barbarism. Still, the memory of those strong men and beautiful women would be echoed in their descendents: the Circassians.
Kordafan Ancient Temple of Set
"The monster was a survival of a forgotten age, controlled by a dusky adventurer from Kordafan." - The Snout in the Dark Synopsis
Kordafan is a small but prosperous kingdom lying to the south-east of Kush, and was indeed a province of Kush in its earlier Imperial days. While Kush has expelled the Chaga nobility, Kordafan retains their dusky nobles, augmented by refugees from the Kushite revolution, and more than a few renegade Stygians.
Kordafan was originally part of Kush, when it was almost three times the size of its current incarnation, extending from Darfar to Abombi and encompassing the Southern Desert. When Stygia was attacked by the Hyborians some 3,000 years before Conan's time, Kush saw an oppurtunity to acquire some Stygian territory: though weakened by the Hyborians, Stygia repulsed Kush, and was vicious in its reprisal. Kush's borders started to falter: the eastern desert descended into anarchy, and tribes rebelled. The final straw was the Aphaka invasion, which settled in the city of Tombalku: Kush contracted to its present size, and Kordafan was among the newly independent satellite states.
Being a centre of Set worship and the Stygian priesthood, many of the Chaga of Kush's old territories made their way to Kordafan. When Kush expelled the Chaga from their kingdom, the southernmost fled to Kordafan, where the Chaga were more powerful. Being much smaller than Kush, its army must work harder to defend itself from incursions by the larger kingdom and the surrounding tribes. By the time of Conan, Kordafan is an insular but powerful realm, concentrating its power in a small area: and the bitter tree of the Chaga outcasts' memory may yet bear crimson fruit.
Like Stygia in miniature, Kordafan broods quietly to the south, content to explore its dark religion and ways: the treasures and prizes in the temples of Kharatu would be reward for daring to rouse the lions of the small state. Kordafan is an important region of the international slave trade, being one of the crossroads between the Black Kingdoms and Kush, and thus the Hyborian Kingdoms and Stygia: people of all shapes and sizes are trafficked through the caravan route of Kordafan. Kordafan shares a few regional units with the southern Stygian and outer Kush provinces: Chaga Warriors, Chaga Guards and Chaga Nobles, which are an infusion of Stygian and Kushite styles. Chaga Warriors echo both the mighty Stygian warrior-nobles and the chosen warriors of Kush, wielding Stygian-style bows and Kushite-style swords: they are unarmoured, but carry a shield with the unique Chaga art design. Chaga Guards are the chosen warriors of the Chaga elite, with uniquely-shaped spears and shields, and wearing a type of leather scale armour with leopardskins and a multitude of plumes. Chaga nobles are mounted on Stygian horses, rare so far south: they are armed with excellent quality Stygian axes, long lances and shields, and wear lavish gilt scale armour. In addition, elephants can be herded here, which the Kordafans sometimes raise for their armies.
After Conan's time, Kordafan was absorbed into the great Black Empire which threatened Stygia, rising up against their old foes and taking great swathes of territory. The Vanir conquerers of Stygia managed to turn back the hordes, which again fell to infighting and collapsed back into savagery. Some remnant of Kordafan's old kingdom remains, by a large army which settled just south of Stygia's successor Egypt, where it influenced the kingdoms Nubian kingdoms, especially the Kordofan region of Sudan.
Negari, The Land of Skulls
A Skull Temple of Negari
"I've roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush..." - Beyond the Black River
"Then the sea rose and shook himself. He thundered from his abyss and the thrones of the world fell before him! New lands rose from the deep and Atlantis and Mu were swallowed up by the gulf. The green sea roared through the fanes and the castles, and the sea-weed encrusted the golden spires and the topaz towers. The empire of Atlantis vanished and was forgotten, passing into the everlasting gulf of time and oblivion. Likewise the colony cities in barbaric lands, cut off from their mother kingdom, perished. The savage barbarians rose and burned and destroyed until in all the world only the colony city of Negari remained as a symbol of the lost empire." - The Moon of Skulls
Atlantis has long been a fixture of mythology and history in various forms, but even in the Nemedian Chronicles, the true history of the island nation and its people is complicated and unusual, and it is likely that the truth will never be truly revealed.
The original inhabitants of Atlantis were a race of black-haired, blue-eyed barbarians, of whom King Kull of Valusia was a descendent. The Atlanteans were settled in various colonies about Valusia, including a large area of land which became known as Commoria. The post-Kull history of Atlantis is unclear, but the startling evidence is that after the barbarian Atlanteans migrated to Commoria, a new ethnic group appeared on the land: a tall, dusky, strong-featured race, one that worshipped many gods, which built great gold spires and topaz towers and extended their maritime empire far and wide with their purple-sailed galleys. This race bears a remarkable similarity to the people of Bal-Sagoth, Khemuri, and the Stygians, arguing that these people are linked to each other.
Thus, Atlantis after the time of Kull was split between barbaric tribelands and a vast maritime empire, building their cities all across the world. The aboriginal Atlanteans war incessantly with these newcomers, and despite great sorceries and powers, the wizards could not fully subjucate the black-haired savages. Then the Great Cataclysm rocked the world: the savage Atlanteans left in great fleets of small boats, while the Atlantean Empire crumbled and sank: only some scattered outposts remain. The Atlantean territory in the eastern half of the Thurian Continent was largely unharmed, and the fleeing Lemurians were enslaved. A few islands and outposts in the new, nameless continent in the west survived: Bal-Sagoth and Khemuri. And far to the south of the Black Kingdoms, the last of the Atlantean successors built an empire stretching from the west to eastern coast - Negari.
Negari was initially the master of the Black Continent, subjucating the primitive tribes, and forging an impressive empire. However, by the time the Hyborian Age truly started, things went wrong. The old Stygian Empire under the Giant-Kings had started to encroach on its territory: its vassal Kush, far larger and more powerful than by Conan's time, was attacking Negari's northern provinces. The two titans struggled for dominion of the continent, with Negari's protectorates becoming increasingly embittered at their treatment and perceived abuse in the war effort. Eventually, after a particularly disastrous rout, the protectorates rebelled, and Negari was split apart: Alkmeenon, Punt, and Amazon broke away, leaving Negari vulnerable. Just at Negari's weakest moment, the Stygians retracted abruptly from the war: a new menace had appeared in the east, one that threatened to completely destroy them. This foe was the Eastern successors of the dusky Atlanteans: they eventually overcame the Giant-Kings, and became the ancestors of the modern Stygians.
With the Stygian menace no longer an immediate concern, Negari focused its fury on its old protectorates, using the levies and aboriginals to do the bloody work. The blacks grew disillusioned, with thousands of their people sent off to die, and eventually a full uprising exploded. The eastern half of Negari, being the regions with highest number of black Negari, took up arms against the predominantly dusky Atlantean Negari. The southern islanders too broke away, and preyed on the two nemeses impartially like pirates. Both sides were devastated by the conflict. By the time of the second Hyborian migrations, Kush had asserted its independence from Stygia, and the eastern Negari became a new, black nation: Atlaia.
By the time of Conan, Negari is still a powerful kingdom. It may have lost its coastal provinces, but it rules the inland lakes and rivers which lead to the sea. The Negari use this shipping route to trade and communicate with the other Atlantean diaspora in Bal-Sagoth and Khemuri, though the Black Corsairs - the descendants of the Island Kingdomers - are always keeping watch. Their old enemies Atlaia brood to the east, but they also have Zembabwei, Punt and Keshan to be concerned with, and so aggressive expansion into Negari is not likely at the moment. With no real foes to the immediate west, south and north, it could be time for the Negari to expand.
In Conan: Total War, Negari is far south of the map's southern frontier, though as with far places like Khitai, some buildings relating to the empire can be found. Stygia and Kush can build "Negari Trade Outposts": these are extremely exculsive and lucrative buildings that are tied to the vast Negari trade network, which bring the exotic goods from Khemuri and Bal-Sagoth to the Thurian continent.
Like Khitai & Stygia, Negari would survive the end of the Hyborian Age largely intact, though as shadows of their former glory. They survived and prospered in Africa well into the late 1500's, until Solomon Kane brought the ancient kingdom to an end.
The Golden Kingdoms
"As the girl's mind cleared, her first sensations were furious rage and shame. She was appalled. The rulers of the golden kingdoms south of the Himelians were considered little short of divine; and she was the Devi of Vendhya!" - The People of the Black Circle
The origin of the Golden Kingdoms is something of a mystery to Hyborian scholars It is believed that the kingdoms of Vendhya, Ghulistan, Iranistan and the Golden kingdoms have a common origin: this progenitor tribe is tentatively named the Ghuli. There are two theories for their origin, which I will add in more detail at a later date:
The Eastern Empires Hypothesis - descendants of the easternmost Thurian nations became the founders of the Golden Kingdoms.
The Hyborian Hypothesis - the Hyborian tribes which stormed over Kuthchemes 3,000 years before Conan's time continued southeast, and settled on the eastern coast & Vendhyan subcontinent.
For the purposes of the mod, I'm going to try and leave it as ambiguous as possible: although I overwhelmingly favour one theory over the other, I want to leave it unstated for now until one theory proves its dominance in wider Hyborian scholarship.
While the three major Golden Kingdoms are well explored in both the Nemedian Chronicles and the apocryphal legends, there may be others that are little known or investigated.
Bakhara, Realm of Knowledge
Bakhaurus, Capital of Bakhara
"The broad Bakhariot girdle that supported his knife in its ornamented scabbard would have matched the robes of a prince" - The People of the Black Circle
Its very name meaning "Full of Knowledge", The kingdom of Bakhara is a centre of eastern civilization, with its art, architecture and history being a veritable pillar of Golden Kingdom history, and is one of the most advanced kingdoms of the region. Its capital Bakhaurus is a great city of blue domes, with the great citadel at its centre an unassailable stronghold.
As well as the exquisite clothing items like the famed Bakhariot girdles and belts, Bakhaurus is renowned as a city of learning and science. Many learned and prominent scholars have studied at Bakhaurus: physicians, historians, poets, scientists, and polymaths of all fields and nationalities have graced the madrasahs and libraries of the city. Even now, many easterners - and even some Nemedians - consider the Great Library of Bakhaurus to be unequaled throughout the world.
The origin of Bakhara is rendered in the epic poetry of the region, particularly "The Book of Kings", which was later transcribed into the Iranian Shahnameh. Siavash, an Iranistani king of the Peshtahk Dynasty, had been driven from Iranistan by a conspiracy of rival Viziers, who were jealous of his skill, intelligence and popularity. Arriving in Turanian-controlled Secunderam, which was originally a Turanian city before the Ghulistan tribes conquered it, he married the Lord of Secunderam's daughter. King Afrasiab granted him a vassalage, and gave him territory on the Bukhara Oasis. Here he built the city of Bakhaurus.
Eventually, Afrasiab too became jealous of Siavash's power, and had him assassinated: in retaliation Siavash's father Shah Kai led his army and devastated Secunderam, killing Afrasiab and leaving the southern Turanian cities vulnerable to attack by the savage Ghuli hillmen. Shah Kai then took control of Bakhaurus, and declared it independent of both Turan and Iranistan, to forge its own destiny in the east.
Bakhara is a strong kingdom, which can be allied with or conquered as the player desires. There are three unique mercenaries and regional recruitment units available: Bakhariot Hillmen, Bakhariot Guardsmen and Bakhariot Lancers. Bakhariot Hillmen are light skirmishers native to the low hills of Bakhara, and are armed with javelins, axes and light bucklers. Bakhariot Guardsmen are a new corps of professional guards formed from recent Hyborian emmigrants: they wear the fabulous clothing their realm is famed for, as well as shining gold-chased scale armour, wielding spears and shields in both defensive and offensive formations. Bakhariot Lancers are famed throughout the Golden Kingdoms, a fusion of western and eastern Hyborian cavalry: they are armed with an unusual two-handed lance and a great axe, mounted on great Khorosun bullhead with scale barding. Textiles are the major resource of the region, along with some scholarly-related ones.
After the Ice Age, the memory of Bakhara would be echoed in the city of Bukhara in Bactria: a shining heir to its glorious predecessor of the Hyborian Age.
Khorala, The Forest Kingdom
Khora, Capital of Khorala
"So you could steal from him the only thing he would never give you - the ring with the jewel men call the Star of Khorala - the star stolen from the queen of Ophir, who would pay a roomful of gold for its return." - The Man-Eaters of Zamboula
West of Vendhya is Khorala, famed for its magnificent gems and exquisite jewelry. Like Bakhaurus, the origins of Khorala are remembered in modern times as myth and legend. The founder of Khorala was Parasurama, a warrior-wizard like the unnamed Hyborian figure who conquered Acheron with the Heart of Ahriman. Parasurama's people were great foes of the Kshatriya, the ruling caste of Vendhya: they said to have filled five lakes with the blood of fallen Kshatriya in their devastating wars. However, the guilt of his murderous rage weighed heavily on Parasurama's mind, and he sought penance with the priests of Asura. They decided that the lands he hand conquered from the Kshatriya should be given to the priesthood: he did so, and in return was blessed by the gods. Taking his axe, he came to the Golden Coast, and hurled his axe into the air. The spot where it landed would be the centre of his new city, Khorala.
Khorala remained independent from Vendhya and Iranistan for centuries: now on good terms with their old foe Vendhya, the geography of the region being easily defended by the redoubtable warriors of Khorala from Ghulistan and Turanian attacks. Their neighbour Bakhara is more interested in conquering the field of knowledge and wisdom than land and wealth, and is in any case too concerned with the threat of the Zuagir, Iranistan and Turan to seek imperial goals in Khorala. However, the jungle empire of Ghanara, the constant predations of the Red Brotherhood and the possibility of a seaborn invasion from Iranistan or Zembabwei means peace is not a forgone conclusion for Khorala.
Khorala's military is very different from Vendhya's: instead of highly trained nobles born and bred to warfare in lavish armour and shining weapons, the Khoralans are warriors from many backgrounds, and different levels of traning & battle experience. They have a greater range of light and heavy troops, and without Vendhya's reliance on the small population of Kshatriya soldiers they can field a much larger army in comparison to their civilian population. However, while their style of warfare is ideal to their forest haunts where they can ambush and whittle down a much stronger force, in open terrain their strategies may not be sufficient to defeat a powerful and disciplined foe.
Khorala would be a jewel in any emperor's parade of vassals, with riches and glories aplenty to enrich an empire. Khorala has many unique buildings and bountiful resources to exploit - precious metal veins, gemstone mines, peppers, spices and more - and with the highly developed and populated city of Khorala itself it makes a good centre of trade and a strong gateway to Vendhya and Iranistan. Khorala has three unique regional units: Khorala Hunters, Khorala Warriors and Khorala War Elephants. Khorala Hunters are skirmisher spearmen, wearing no armour and carrying light shields, spears and javelins. Khorala Warriors are expert heavy infantry and archers, wearing scale corselets and carrying round shields: they wield their longbows and great two-handed Khorala Axes with equal efficiency and deadliness. Khorala Elephants are not as large as their Vendhyan cousins, but more suited for their forest home: they are unarmoured, adorned with warpaint, with Khorala Warriors with longbows mounted on their backs.
After Conan's time, Khorala remained largely independent, occassionally falling under the rule of Ghulistan, Vendhya and Bactria when those powers experienced a territorial surge, eventually falling under the banner of Turan during the latter's greatest imperial sphere. After the Cimmerians destroyed Turan's empire, Khorala became independent, only to descend into barbarism and savagery. In the age of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, though, the early Indians would settle in the old lands of Khorala, and some memetic continuation of the ancient kingdom would arise, in the mythology and people of Kerala.
Ghanara, the Jungle Empire
Thunjuvar, Capital of Ghanara
"Conan pulled his eyes back from following a bold-eyed, red-lipped Ghanara whose short skirt bared her brown thigh at each insolent step..." - The Man-Eaters of Zamboula
"Tolkemec said they came from the east, long ago, from Old Kosala, when the ancestors of those who now dwell in Kosala came up from the south and drove forth the original inhabitants of the land." - Red Nails
Deep in the jungles, south of Ayodhya, the Ghanara Empire broods. While descended from the Ghuli like the other Golden Kingdoms, the Ghanara are an exceptionally dark-skinned people, possibly a result of admixture with the mysterious aboriginals of the region, or simply from the burning climate. They are a warlike and fiercely proud people, and of all the Golden Kingdoms the one which could become the greatest.
The farthest-reaching of the Ghuli culture that founded the other Golden Kingdoms, the tribes descended into savagery and infighting, becoming more like the Picts or Black Kingdomers than their advancing neighbours. After a millennia or so of constant tribal warfare, one tribe came under the rule of a chieftain who claimed to be descended from the Lemurian warlords of lost Kumari Kandam, one of the most powerful Lemurian realms. Uniting the tribes and destroying any rival confederacies, the kingdom of Ghanara came into being, ruling the southernmost tip of the continent. Even now, all the tribes south of Vendhya are called "Ghanara" tribes by outsides, even if they are not related to that particular group: a great horde of these tribesmen conquered the old kingdom of Kosala.
Being on the tip of the Vendhyan sub-continent, Ghanara was an integral point on the sea trade routes from the Golden Coast to Kosala, Khitai and Hyrkania: thus the ports of Ghanara became extremely prosperous. Ghanara also became a haven for pirates and miscreants, much like Messantia in the west, though the savagery of Ghandara's natives and officials prevent the black market from dominating the open trade. Ghanara boasted heights of excellence in its people's art, religion and literature: cyclopean architecture, gargantuan bronze and stone sculptures of mythic & legendary figures, and epic poetry famed throughout the Golden Kingdoms.
Ghanara's military is composed mostly of extremes: unarmoured jungle ambushers, supplemented with strong chieftains & religious fanatics as vanguards and assault infantry, mighty elephants serving as the hammer of the army. Each military unit is specialised for their role on the battlefield, with little training or ability to function outside their element, outside of a few mercenary units and the elites. They are thus a dangerous army, but one that can be thwarted with some cunning - and a good army to carry it out.
Ghanara's lands are mysterious and dangerous, but in the unexplored jungles there may lie untold treasures and resources, which would make braving the deadly tribelands worthwhile. Even if the jungles prove to be free from rewards, Ghanara itself is no small prize, the great city sharing the empire's name being a unique citadel with architecture unlike any in the world. As Ghanara is off the map in Conan: Total War, Ghanara cannot be conquered: however, Ghanaran mercenaries can eventually be hired through mercenary outpost buildings in the Golden Kingdom settlements. There is only one mercenary unit available from Ghanara: Ghanara Warriors, which are heavily armoured swordsmen with shields and bright colours, though their dark skin and eyes betrays their Ghanara heritage.
After Conan, Ghanara was locked in eternal battle with their northern foes Vendhya, taking huge tracts of territory, but they could never fully conquer the Kshatriyas. They eventually looked overseas to increase their empire, conquering southern regions of Kosala, Khitai and the Swamps of the Dead, forming a great maritime empire. Warring on three fronts meant that they could not extend their empire further, and by the time the Ice went the empire collapsed under its own power. Ghanara's great empire and glorious architecture was washed away when the modern outline of the world took shape, though flickers of that ancient kingdom can be found in the kingdoms and empires of the Punjab and Tamil people.
Yamal, the End of the World
A small Yamali community
"I was much interested in your remarks concerning findings on the Yamal Peninsula, the first time I had heard anything about that. Doubtless Conan had first-hand acquaintance with the people who evolved the culture described, or their ancestors, at least." - Letter from Robert E. Howard to P. s. Miller
In the great wilderness to the north of Hyrkania, a mysterious people roam the tundra. The Yamal are a far-flung offshoot of the short aboriginals of the land now ruled by the Hyrkanians, though few men venture as far north as their homeland. These people living on the veritable edge of the world are nomadic savages, adapted to the cold and very hardy. They are a spiritual people, and although not predisposed to warfare they are nonetheless dangerous fighters.
For the past few thousand years, the Yamal have remained savages: travelling by sled and reindeer, sleeping in animal-hide tents, living off the land, and worshipping ancient animalistic gods. There are two distinct groups of Yamal: the "Forest People", who were absorbed into the Lemurian stock to become the Hyrkanian tribes; the other is the "Tundra People", the group which lived in the icy northern regions. Their religion is based on shamanism and an animistic belief system, the clans looking to their Shaman for guidance on where to travel with the seasons and game.
The Yamal do not have a dedicated army, rather all men of "fighting age" rise to the occassion. On foot, they fight as light infantry with spears and javelins, being accustomed to bringing down mighty Cave Bears with their weapons. Having no horses so far north, they instead ride mounted on a large species of reindeer, the ancestors of the modern species: unlike the later Sami and Nenets, the Yamal have managed to tame the reindeer to act as war-mounts.
Yamal cannot be conquered: indeed, the only reference made to the area in Hyborian maps is Conan's mischievous "Here Be Dragons!" annotation north of Hyrkania. Nonetheless, some Yamal mercenaries can be recruited for anyone willing to venture so far north: Yamal Hunters, Yamal Warriors and Yamal Chieftains. Yamal Hunters are clad in heavy furs, wielding vicious barbed throwing spears and knives of curious design. Yamal Warriors are mounted on reindeer, using barbed spears in melee and at range. Yamal Chieftains ride war-sleighs pulled by four reindeer, with two warriors with throwing spears.
After Conan, the Yamal continued living their simple life in the far north of the world, but when Khamatar Khan came from the eastern shores of Hyrkania to forge an empire that would impress Ghenghis Khan himself, he recruited Yamal warriors to attack northern regions. Yamal warriors were instrumental in the campaigns against Hyperborea, and even though their savagery and ruggedness was not enough to conquer the Cimmerians, they did not shame themselves in battle with the black-haired ghouls of the dark land. Eventually the Hyrkanian Empire would fall, and the Yamal would be back to its old ways - where it would remain, until they branched off into the modern peoples of the northernmost edge of the world: the Uralic peoples. The Nenets are pure-blood Yamal descendents, the Sami and Finns of mixed Nordic-Yamal heritage, and the Ugrics from the descendents of Yamals settled by the Hyrkanians in Zamora and Brythunia. The name itself is remembered among the Nenets: "End of the World", and is given to one of their homelands.
Malayu, Beyond the Swamps of the Dead
Barobodar, a city of Malayu
"He travelled to Khitai and Hyrkania, and to the even less known regions north of the latter and south of the former..." - Letter from Robert E. Howard to P. s. Miller
"Many Lemurians escaped to the eastern coast of the Thurian Continent, which was comparatively untouched. There they were enslaved by the ancient race which already dwelt there, and their history, for thousands of years, is a history of brutal servitude...
...In the distant east, cut off from the rest of the world by the heaving up of gigantic mountains and the forming of a chain of vast lakes, the Lemurians are toiling as slaves of their ancient masters...
...Far to the east, the Lemurians, levelled almost to a bestial plane themselves by the brutishness of their slavery, have risen and destroyed their masters. They are savages stalking among the ruins of a strange civilization..." - The Hyborian Age
South of Khitai lies the forbidden land known as the Swamps of the Dead, and the little-known kingdoms of Lemurian descent. The old race conquered by the Lemurians may be gone, but their cities and citadels are occupied by their usurpers. The most powerful of these isolated states is Malayu, a kingdom of sorcerers arcane and dangerous enough to rival Khitai.
The mysterious people who enslaved the Lemurians is all but unknown: whoever they are, they were undoubtedly mighty, for the heirs of that terrible civilization are the powerful realms of Bal-Sagoth, Khemu, and Stygia. After the cataclysm, the civilization was scattered throughout the world. One remnant of the civilization was situated on the great landmass beyond the Swamps of the Dead, a cursed place where the superstitious Lemurians feared to venture. Without Atlantis as a capital, the civilization founded a new kingdom: Malayu. The sorcerers of Malayu were mighty indeed: in the early centuries after the foundation of the Lemurian kingdom of Khitai, Malayu set their sights on the usurpers of their imperial allies. Were it not for the wisdom of Yag-Kosha, who taught the Khitans old and mighty magic to combat Malayu's sorceries, Khitai could have been blotted out. Old Kosala also proved too powerful to subdue, with its unique technology-based sorcery making them unassailable: with Khitai and Kosala emerging as powerful sorcerous nations in their own right, Malayu had to turn from the offensive to the defensive, until Old Kosala and Khitai united to humble Malayu, turning it from the great power of the east into a footnote.
With Malayu seemingly reduced to a powerless state, Old Kosala and Khitai were locked in a Sorcerous Cold War, neither nation wanting to make the first move. This was hardly a bloodless conflict though: the satellite nations of both powers were manipulated into proxy wars to disrupt trade, economy and growth. All this time, Malayu bided its time: it worked in secret with Kosala and Khitai, playing each nation against each other, involving other powers like Vendhya, Ghanara and the Hyrkanian tribes in the intrigue. Through a masterpiece of subtle machination, the Malayu set in place the destruction of Old Kosala, by assisting the tribes of Ghanara to invade and usurp the old kingdom, driving the old people into the west, with plans to install the tribal conquerers as vassals. However, the tribal chieftains had their own plans, and were secretly working with Kosalan conspirators and Khitan outcasts to learn Old Kosalan magic and sorcery. Thus instead of a puppet kingdom, the Malayu had inadvertently just replaced their old foe with a new one, with the sorcerous influence of eastern masters infused with the vitality of barbarian genetics. Luckily for Malayu, Kosala's new masters were greedy, waging war on the entire east - they were thwarted by a coalition of Golden Kingdom states, leaving them wounded, but still a major power.
New Kosala thus is locked in a sorcerous Cold War with Khitai, neither side willing to make the first move, and wary to shift their imperial ambitions elsehere. This is not a bloodless affair though, as a series of proxy wars among the tribes of Ghanara, Hyrkania, Ghulistan and the Himelian Mountains fought for Kosalan and Khitan interests plagued the east, and to this day skirmishes and conflicts redden the land. Even far nations like the Black Kingdoms are affected by the two power's actions. Ever the oppurtunist, Malayu has become involved in international affairs again: this time more cautious. Thus far Malayu still seems to be of no interest or no threat to the eastern nations: a facade the Malayuri want to uphold until the time is right.
Malayu is a secretive and very difficult to find nation: only a few learned individuals know its current whereabouts, and the average person seems content to consider it extinct or even mythical. Indeed, most expeditions who venture into the Swamps of the Dead never return. Nonetheless, the evidence for some sort of presence south of Khitai is compelling: black-sailed galleys of uncanny design can be seen along the coasts of the Eastern Ocean, with unknown cargo in the hold, steered by unseen hands, which never dock at any ports save the shunned harbours of the Swamps of the Dead.
Malayu does not appear in Conan: Total War, being far off the map, but its presence can be felt in a few trade buildings. "Grey Lotus Supplier", a trader who can supply a nation with the insanity-enducing Grey Lotus, can have a trade building built by Stygia & Zamora to enhance their magical units, ancillaries and traders. "Upas Supplier", a trader who can supply clients with derivatives of the deadly Upas Tree, can be built by any nation to do the same: however, different nations have different applications for the tree's ingredients. The name Malayu is a portmanteau of Malay and Melayu, the Khmer name for Srivijaya. I'm still looking through Howard's stories to see if there's a more fitting name.
The main reason I wanted to explore these nations is because, for whatever reason, the pastiches didn't: they invented their own nations for their own purposes. I have no problems with that - I'll probably be doing that myself - but I don't see why so many cues from Howard should be ignored, and in a number of ways I think some of these nations could easily take the place of pastiche inventions.
Why invent Uttara Kuru when one could appropriate Ghanara as a rival for Vendhya?
Why make Khorala a ruined place when it could be a living, prosperous nation?
Why make up Venjipur when Bakhara could serve as a Golden Kingdom, instead of being wasted as a Hyrkanian city?
Why not tie in the mysterious lands north of Hyrkania and south of Khitai to other hints Howard left behind (the Yamal culture north of Hyrkania, the proto-Stygians that ruled Asia) instead of making up Pathenia & Kambuja out of whole cloth?
Why completely ignore the Cherkess, when their inspiration the Circassians were such a fascinating people, one that Howard and one of his heroes Harold Lamb are known to have admired?
Why not continue to tie Solomon Kane to Conan by making the Negari, which are probably of the same stock as the proto-Stygians, the "unknown countries" south of the Black Kingdoms?
Now, again, I have no problem with Uttara Kuru, Meru, Kushan etc, they're really cool and well thought out kingdoms. I just think that, for the purposes of the mod, I thought it would be more appropriate to try and enhance the Hyborian Age taking cues directly from Howard. I was surprised to see that it would be possible to take single words from the Conan tales and others, and make entire countries out of them: Sabatea, Cherkess, Kordafan, Negari, Bakhariot, Khorala, Ghanara, “north of Hyrkania” and “South of Khitai” - NINE new countries! I could add even more using names Howard only used once - Kyros, Ghaza, Yaralet, Akbitana - and make them their own nations, but because the west seems more concretely formed in Howard's map I'm content making them cities (in Ophir, Iranistan, Corinthia and the Eastern Desert respectively). Even then, the cities' history is a bit more complicated: Akbitana is more than just a "Shemite" city - like Zamboula it has quite a storied life.
The info here MAY be changed too, as more information comes to light, but this is the general outline. I may make a modification of Vincent Darlages' fantastic maps to show my personal interpretation of these nations. A few colour/flavour pictures could also turn up.
Of course, some ideas are likely to be very controversial, particularly the Negari, but trust me when I say a LOT of research has gone into these theories, and I'm fairly confident with them, and think it puts a fresh spin on the Hyborian Age.