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Setting Study: Aquilonia, Jewel of the West

John Humphrey Posted:
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“Twelve thousand years ago, after the sinking of Atlantis, there was an age undreamed of when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world. This was an age of magic, wars, and adventure, but above all else this was an age of heroes!”

– Age of Conan Hyborian Adventures, a Soldier’s Quest Trilogy by Richard A. Knaak

Aquilonia is the center of the civilized world in Age of Conan, one of nine Hyborian Kingdoms that Robert E. Howard imagined. When Howard created the Hyborian World in 1932 (long before Tolkien’s Middle-Earth in the late 1930’s), he placed Aquilonia in the area of Southern England and France, before a cataclysm that shifted the continents and sent the Pictish Wilderness under the North Sea. Let this not deceive you though. It is a hotspot of political intrigue, deception, plots, and outright insurrection. Aquilonia faces war on two fronts. On the eastern front, Nemedia was defeated less than a year earlier after trying to replace Conan with his predecessor’s last living heir; friction remains despite the Nemedian Ambassador’s attempts to generate a trade treaty. On the western front, the Westermarck yet feels the strain of repeated invasions by collected hordes of Picts.

These near-aborigines massacre all in their path eating human flesh and collecting the skulls of their fallen enemies. Yet, many of the local Aquilonians are none too eager to have the Barbarian King on their throne, King Conan I. To the south, the sorcerors and demon worshippers of Stygia toy with ancient artifacts of lost Acheron in order to conquer the rest of the uncivilized world and make them their slaves. Though the despot Numedides ruled with an iron hand, many nobles, and those Houses vying for favor and power, would unseat King Conan, if given half a chance, and return to less altruistic ways.

Age of Conan takes place one year after the events covered in Robert E. Howard’s single novel-length tale of King Conan, The Hour of the Dragon. Nemedians have invaded the capitol of Tarantia, and they control several sections. King Conan has invited several leaders of neighboring Kingdoms to discuss a War Council. The Tarantia Commons District is a scene of utter chaos; a mob is holding off the King’s forces threatening total anarchy. The Tarantia Noble’s District is divided between Loyalist and Nemedian controlled zones. The Nemedians are attempting to cross the great bridge to Conan’s Castle being barely held at bay by the Elite Black Dragon soldiers of King Conan. Before you can speak to King Conan himself, you must speak with General Pallantides and complete all of your Destiny Quests. As long as the player possesses the Mark of Set, he will not be granted audience with the King.

Almost synonymous with Aquilonia is its capitol of Tarantia, formerly known as Tamar in days gone by. When you visit the capitol of Tarantia, you quickly discover the scope of the city and the surrounding countryside; it fills a zone in itself that links to many others. On one side you have a border created by cliffs over the Khorotas River which also serves as the entrance to the Port of Tarantia and Docks that lead to their own series of adventures, including Tortage and Stygia. Outside Tarantia, there are wagons to Cimmeria, Poitain and the Wild Lands of Zelata via Tesso. Within Tarantia, we can explore the Outflow Tunnels, Noble District, Commons District, the Abandoned Freshwater System, the Catacombs, Attilius’ Mansion, the Crow’s Nest, and The Iron Tower. Can you uncover the plot and bring peace back to the Capitol of Tarantia?

“Tarantia was the nexus of western civilization, a place where all came to learn, to marvel, to envy. A great, stone wall with battlements surrounded it, and four gateways – set at the compass points – allowed entrance from the surrounding plains. Tall marble structures dominated the interior, many of them the traditional blue and gold towers first built by the city’s founders…. Most of the major buildings had a series of fluted columns marking their exteriors and stone roofs sharply slanted, with masterful carvings over the columned entrances….. Statues decorated buildings of particular purpose and also marked intersections named for famous personages of the past.”

– Age of Conan Hyborian Adventures, The God in the Moon a Soldier’s Quest Trilogy Volume 1 by Richard A. Knaak

From outside the east gate of Tarantia, and down the hill, you can catch a coach to Poitain. In the Conan mythology, Poitain is a land of chivalry and valor where nobles and brigands fight for control of the country estates; in particular, Conan has much support from this region in the bodies of several of his key advisors and loyal government officials. In the previous years, when Nemedia placed the usurper Valerius on Conan’s thrown and attempted to destroy Conan through the Acheronian sorcerer Xaltotun, it was the 10,000 knights and heavy cavalry of Poitain under the Golden Leopard banner that freed Aquilonia from the traitors that seized her. One of Conan’s most trusted advisors is Count Trocero of Poitain who helped Conan free Aquilonia. Conan’s right-hand man is General Prospero of Potain. Poitain is one of the few regions of the Hyborian Age that is of pure non-migrated stock, and they protect their racial identify from all invaders. Poitain shares its borders with Argos, Ophir, and Zingara.

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John Humphrey