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Koth is a country of the Hyborian Age.

It has been said that Koth might rival Aquilonia, if it could keep itself unified. Plagued by internecine warfare, the king must constantly put down rebellions from varying city-states. Even then, Koth is a power to be reckoned with, and the king strives to acquire and sustain control so that he might indeed challenge Aquilonia’s position as the most powerful of the Hyborian Nations.

For now, that is not to be, and thus Koth is a constant source of employment for varying mercenary companies. Whether one fights for the king or an upstart, ambition and coin are plentiful for a reputable sell-sword.

Kothians are tan folk of some height. Men often wear ringleted beards, and women braid their hair. Kothic people are known for their sharp, hawkish noses. The people of Koth are physically a mixture of Hyborian and eastern bloodlines, showing a bit of Stygian, Zamorian, and even Shemitish influence. They range widely in appearance and physique, with slightly darker skin than their northern neighbors, and generally darker hair. Eyes are usually hazel or brown, occasionally darker.


Koth is an extensive kingdom of rich uplands, mountains, and rivers. To the north it faces Ophir, a frequent ally, alongside Corinthia and Zamora. To its south are Shem, Argos, and the small states of Khoraja and Khauran.


The cities of Koth are known for their fractious nature. There is not a lord or baron who does not think of occasional rebellion. It is only through the ruthlessness of King Strabonus, and the sorcerous power of Tsotha-lanti, that this kingdom remains united.

That is a blessing for the purer Hyborians to the North, for while Koth puts down internecine threats, her might must look inward. One day, this will cease to be the case.


Acheron once extended over much of what is now called civilization, a mighty empire ruled by cruel sorcery and lost rites. Remnants of that vanished world, as well as ruins of those who came after — still thousands of years ago — dot the land. Seen against a starry night, these vestiges of the past evoke history and wonder. Seen up close, they invite danger and edge against the Outer Dark.

The Bones of Acheron[]

There is a saying in Koth when a person is put to a challenge, “Our blood washed clean the bones of Acheron!” That may or may not be technically true, but the rise of the Hyborians did occur alongside the fall of Acheron, and those barbarians did swarm the decaying empire in places. Proper scholars feel it goes too far to ascribe the ultimate end of Acheron to the barbarians. History may write a different story.

This saying, though, has some spark of truth in these ruins located atop an unnamed hill in western Koth. There, something which is not quite a ruin, and not quite a skeleton, is fused in times no living man can now remember. Whatever the creature was, if indeed it was a living being and not a wondrous monstrosity of engineering and craftsmanship, it was enormous. The “bones” form spires taller than those in most contemporary cities. Rib-like curvatures of petrified calcium rise over the city itself like a stone stockade ready to repel invaders, but who in any age would have been brave enough to assault such a place?

Oral history maintains that the city’s name was not forgotten but purposely erased from history — to utter it was to invite the Outer Dark down from the void. Scholars, too, have recorded appearances of this city in ancient documents, but in every case the name has been scrubbed out as if the beginning of a palimpsest.

There is another legend which locals also know and speak of when warmed by hearth and wine — the city and its environs are the remains of a dead god. What sort of god would have a hulking, misshapen skull some twenty feet high and bat-like wings spread out like ancient roads? They do not say, or they do not know. Perhaps there was a time when gods walked the earth. Perhaps they still do. Perhaps this was not anything man could, or should, try to comprehend... even in death.

Ishtar's Dial[]

In the rocky badlands that abut the deserts of the east, a large, flat plane suddenly appears. Upon it rises a series of what appear to be stairs at haphazard, apparently randomly placed angles. In the center of these is a wheel carved from the bare rock. In fact, upon close inspection, the plane itself is the top of an enormous, underground rock. Where the wheel’s spokes radiate to their maximum extension, glyphs appear. They are old; older than humanity. The stairways also have glyphs on the top and side of each step, only they are too narrow to easily climb. Instead, the entire affair is an apparatus not unlike an astrolabe, though it’s locally known as a sundial.

During the day, the sun casts shadows which march along the wheel. Over the course of a year, these shadows stretch to each of the “stairs” in turn. So, too, do the shadows “climb” these stairs on certain days, like a serpent’s body skittering through the sand.

The wheel itself is broken, cracked by a one-foot wide chasm in the center. Foul, acrid fumes are evident from the crevasse at night. It is the night for which this monument exists. Built by serpent people in a time when Atlantis was young, this device marks when the stars are right to summon an aspect of Yig from the Outer Dark. Perhaps the giant crack is the result of such a summoning. Perhaps men will come who can read the language of the serpent-men and attempt to draw down Yig once again.

History and politics[]

Koth's history begins with violence. In ancient times, during the golden age of Stygia, most of the lands which would one day become Koth were slowly being integrated into Stygia by their leader, a mighty sorcerer known as Thugra Khotan. However, a migration of Hyborian tribesmen from the frozen north was also occurring at this time. The barbaric Hyborians came for the rich uplands and fought a bloody war against the Stygians. They overran their enemies and conquered the uplands. Afterwards, they continued south and destroyed the northern Stygian kingdom of Kuthchemes. In this way the kingdom of Koth was born, perhaps the second kingdom right after Hyperborea.

The Kothian tribes were then unified by King Khossus V, their founder, and he built the city of Khorshemish, Koth's capital. He abandoned the city, after a number of disturbing occurrences, and founded a new city within the eastern corner of his kingdom. King Akkutho I latter revived Khorshemish and, throughout the centuries, it has grown in wealth and glory, adorned with many slim shining towers and mighty walls. It is considered The Queen of the South.

The Last of The Sons of Bori[]

The Sons of Bori, in their rise from barbarism, founded Koth further to the south than other nations. Here, the Hyborian peoples ceased expansion into the pastoral lands of Shem. Yet Shemitish and Stygian blood both run through the Kothians, making them distinct from their northern cousins. Koth is as far south as the Hybori conquered, though they continued with raids into what is now Shem. Hitting the mountains separating the two lands, the Bori halted and settled.

"A week’s ride northward the desert ran into a tangle of barren hills, beyond which lay the fertile uplands of Koth, the southernmost realm of the Hyborian races."
Black Colossus

They did not settle comfortably.

Almost as soon as Koth gained its independence from the Acheronian Empire, the Kothians began to war among themselves. Many centuries passed before a now forgotten warlord hammered and welded Koth into the kingdom known today. Some even say it was a woman, though King Strabonus holds hard punishments for any who speak such lies.

Whoever did beat the Kothic people into a proper culture, upon their death the fighting continued, albeit much more tentatively. Koth found itself a powerful nation of warrior-folk, and the various lords of the demesnes were loath to simply throw that away. In part, that same sentiment keeps Koth united today — it is better to rule as a nation than fall as squabbling factions.

Koth had in its control the western cities of Shem. During the rise of Aquilonia, Koth was forced to pay tribute and lend aid with wars. It entered a secret alliance with Nemedia against Aquilonia. Although this alliance was broken by the Hyrkanian invasion, Koth secretly aided Nemedia in future wars. Under the rule of Strabonus, Koth secretly allied with Amalrus of Ophir, who had tricked Conan into giving his aid. The two kings turned on Conan and, under the direction of the de-facto ruler of Koth, Tsotha-lanti, sent their prisoner to the wizard's Scarlet Citadel in Khorshemish. The Aquilonian king succeeded in escaping and rescuing the sorcerer Pelias, who, almost overnight, retook the kingdom while Conan killed Strabonus.

During the fall of Aquilonia, the city-states of Shem found an opportunity to conquer their old master, Koth, contributing to the fall of the Hyborian civilization. But soon the western part of Koth was part of the Pictish empire while the most part was conquered by the Hyrkanians. Koth remained the battleground between the two new kingdoms, its cities once conquered by the former, once by the latter.

During the Nordic drift, Nordic-Nemedians fled before their wild cousins to Koth, and expelled both Picts and Hyrkanians.

In later times, western Koth, along with the western lands of Shem, were deluged and formed the Mediterranean. The Stygians, Hyrkanians, and Picts who mixed in Koth became the ancient Etruscans.[1]

Population and culture[]

Ambition and Penury[]

Of course, Koth is renowned throughout the Hyborian Nations as the most irascible of kingdoms. King Strabonus’ hold on the throne is perpetually threatened by the ambitions of his rivals. The Kothian spirit suffers not the yoke idly and, coupled with the penurious ways of Strabonus and his tax collectors, rebellion is not uncommon. None have yet succeeded in toppling the king from his throne in Khorshemish, but that is little promise they won’t continue to try.

While Strabonus continues to put down the rebellions of various city-states and provinces, Tsotha-lanti the sorcerer works behind the scenes. Some claim he is the real power behind the throne, though this carries no water with the common people. They would rather imagine themselves led by a power-hungry tyrant than one who dances with the Outer Dark.

Whatever the truth, King Strabonus is the face of Koth, and his name is never spoken of without fear or derision in the courts of the Hyborian Kingdoms. The king’s designs on other nations are well known, and all rulers near his borders eye him warily. Only mighty Aquilonia stands fully ready to take on Koth should it come to war in the north. Corinthia, Nemedia, Ophir, and others tread carefully around Strabonus, though they would never admit such a thing.

Rumor holds that at least some of the attempts to overthrow Strabonus, or break free of his grip, are funded by rival kingdoms. What better way to keep his covetous eye off their lands than to keep it focused on his own?

Kothic Intrigue and Mercenaries[]

Upstart leaders, would-be tyrants, and scheming nobles constantly maneuver and conspire for better position, eyes locked on the throne as the ultimate prize. The more cautious among them work behind the scenes, while the bold foment open rebellion. For the mercenary, work in Koth rarely dries up. Whether it be Strabonus trying to quell revolt, or the king of a city-state attempting to launch one, mercenaries fill out the ranks of local armies.

It can be hard to trust one’s own troops at times — whose side might they really be on? More than once in Koth’s bloody history, troops seemingly committed to one side turned to the other. Better to buy loyalty then, for the mercenary at least stays bought (or so the theory goes, at least). A sack full of Kothic silver is often a better guarantor than the word of a “high born” man.

So, too, does Koth’s intrigue demand smaller groups of intrepid adventures who are willing to assassinate, spy, serve as agent provocateurs, kidnappers, and more. While the armies must, of necessity, take large groups, the cloak-and-dagger work demands fewer soldiers with sharper skills. Many years before Strabonus’ birth, the princess of Khorshemish, his sister, was spirited away by mercenaries. As selfish and greedy as his son would one day become, Strabonus’ father denied the ransom and put the bounty instead on the heads of the mercenaries. The girl was never seen again.

One of the most famed, feared, and sought-after companies, the Free Companions, oft times settle in Koth when winter sets in, the wars grind to a slow, icy halt, and they choose not to pursue other campaigns in the warmer climes of the South. They are not the only company to do so, for all Kothic rulers of any worth see the wisdom in keeping such men well-fed and ready for battle.

Hyrkanian Mercenaries[]

A curious situation arises in Koth: the appearance of the Hyrkanian mercenaries in the west. Traditionally, the horse clans are bound to no central purpose, yet some choose to serve their cousins in Turan in return for coin. However, the steppe calls again, and they return to the nomadic life to which they were born.

A small contingent, perhaps 15,000 men, has settled on the eastern fringe of Koth. They still live in the yurts of their home and forsake the soft ways of civilized city folk, but they do not return to the steppe. They do not go home. Why? No one can say for sure. They hire themselves out to any in Koth, or elsewhere, that pays. They are all cavalry and much feared in the area — for who has not heard of the ferocity of the mounted Hyrkanian hurling arrows with pinpoint accuracy from his curved bow?

Strabonus has employed these nomads in the past, but he is not fool enough to take them as a gift. Every summer, more join their ranks, and the king begins to suspect that they are spying for either Turan or themselves. He has also begun to suspect they are a slowly forming horde.

Slavery in Koth[]

There are no kingdoms under the sun in which slaves do not toil, for the price of empire is ever on the backs of the lowly and the lowest. Koth, however, turns slavery into an economic engine unparalleled in the west. Long before Strabonus, Koth’s rapid development depended on slave labor, mostly in the form of conquered foes. But the rise of civilization brings also the rise of slavery as a lucrative trade, and the coffers of Khorshemish spill with the gold from that cruelest form of human commodification.

Ironically, while the Kothic people do not suffer under whips readily, they are more than willing to enslave their fellow men. Sometimes, this includes fellow Kothians, though there are laws governing when and how a Kothian can be entered into slavery. Thievery, murder, conspiracy, treason, and debt are all valid reasons and conform to law. However, proving one is Kothic is not always so simple.

In practice, Koth’s slave traders pay the king’s overseers to look the other way from time to time. One cannot press this largess too far, though, for the crown comes down hard on any man who holds too many of its charges in shackles.

Foreign slaves have neither rights nor laws to protect them. Anyone of blood borne beyond the borders of Koth is bought and sold at will. Laws govern disputes between slave traders and customers, but the slave is never considered in any of these.

Koth’s reputation for its slave trade is somewhat unfair. While it is true they have the busiest slave markets in the western lands, all other nations likewise have stables full of sweaty, human flesh ready to be sold upon the block. In those rare moments when a person feels guilt over their own role in such business, they point to Koth as the worse example, thus expiating some measure of responsibility, if only in their own minds.

One should note that the Hyborian Age suffers little in the way of such sentiment. Slavery is an accepted practice from the Western Ocean to the Vilayet and beyond. Such savagery found in civilization is oft times more barbaric than anything the so-called primitive kingdoms of the frozen far-north and the sweltering south would ever condone.

A Mix of Peoples and Traditions[]

Though Koth is a thoroughly Hyborian state with a Hyborian populace, its proximity to both Shem and Turan have influenced the culture of the land. In the east, Turanian architecture often dominates cities and towns, while in Koth it stands side-by-side work more evidently northern. Shemitish craftsman wandered into Koth long ago and stayed, injecting the art with a quality and style uniquely their own.

Kothic Art[]

Frescoes and mosaics of unparalleled creativity adorn the squares, public buildings, and wealthy homes of Kothians. The typical subject matter involves the gods, most particularly Mitra and Ishtar (see below). Second to the gods are the Kings of Koth, as well as the princesses, who are immortalized in chalcedony, lapis-lazuli, and other semi-precious stones.

Pottery is a blend of Shem, Turan, and the Hyborian lands, being decorative even in the most modest homes. Beautiful urns oft times sit in altars to household gods in peoples’ homes. One can, at a glance, see the entire lineage of a family upon such altars.

Koth would like to match the ostentatious displays of gold which Ophir is famous for, but there simply is not as much of the precious metal to be found in the mountains of Koth. Instead, the wealthy buy up heaps of gold from the traders moving between the south and the north. To display gold, in Koth, is also a sign of divinity. Gold, after all, is the metal of the gods.

Kothic Culture[]

As previously noted, Kothians are a rebellious lot. It is little wonder they fall only under the sway of a strong man like Strabonus, or a sorcerer like Tsotha-lanti. Even so, they are malcontent and proud, quick to anger, and slow to forgive. Kothic identity is based on a principle of supremacy by blood. They claim to be the direct heirs to Old Acheron and their rightful place in this age. It is, they assert, their destiny to rule the lessers.

Koth’s calendar is a riot of festivals and holidays drawn from varying cultures. They celebrate the birth of the world on the Day of Anu, but also reserve a week each for Mitra and Ishtar. Koth has more holidays where the lower classes do not work than any other kingdom, largely because the slaves never cease working on those days.

Where Ophir has slipped into decadence, and Aquilonia is at the apex of its power, Koth believes its time is ripe. Only Turan, the fastest growing empire in the world, gives Koth a run when it comes to raw ambition. Perhaps, in time, Kothians will wield such power as Turan or Aquilonia, but they will need to learn how to temper that with caution.

Kothic Religion[]

Like most of Kothic civilization, theology and religion are a mix of Shemitish, Turanian, and Hyborian influence. Certain theologians scoff that Koth “is the home of all gods under the sun, for the Kothians hedge their bets”. It’s more accurate to say that Koth’s geographical position make it a unique blend of competing religions which have syncretized over time.

Mitra dominates in Northern Koth, though Ishtar has gained favor in the south. Anu and Bel are both worshiped along with other household gods. Altars to these household deities are found in nearly every home, though larger altars to Mitra or Ishtar often shadow them.

Clerics wield some influence over local populations, but the very profusion of different gods keeps that influence in check. Indeed, the kings of Koth may well have encouraged the worship of multiple deities, lest one temple become too powerful.

Tsotha-lanti forges pacts with demons, but he is not alone in revering them. In cities and large towns, in backwoods and burgs, some still worship the gods who ruled the Earth before humanity. They worship Yig and Tsathoggua. They give fealty to Azathoth and Great Cthulhu, names which drive mortal minds to madness. These folk are a minority. Do not all plagues start that way?

Stories set in Koth[]

  • Black Colossus- Much of Koth's history is discussed in this short story although most of the action is set in Khoraja. A land conquered by Koth from the Shemites but now independent.
  • The Scarlet Citadel- Conan and his knights are defeated by a Kothian and Ophirean coalition and is imprisoned in Khorshemish. Koth's magnificent capital.

Characters from Koth[]

  • Akkutho I- A king of Koth.
  • Arbanus- Kothian general.
  • Khossus V- A King of Koth and founder of Khorshemish.
  • Pelias - A sorcerer.
  • Strabonus - A king of Koth.
  • Tsotha-lanti - A powerful sorcerer of Set. Notorious throughout the Hyborian world.


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