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The Cimmerian

Known for their strength and ferocity throughout the Western world, the Cimmerians were barbarian tribesmen to whom war was the only known way of life. Few Cimmerians left their homeland, but those who ventured into the great world to the south soon learned that the other civilized races did not follow their own codes of honor or loyalty. Cimmeria was an unremittingly somber land, “all of hills, darkly wooded, under skies nearly always gray, with winds moaning drearily down the valleys” and its inhabitants were wont to be moody, taking on the cast of their gray skies. The Cimmerian people were the direct descendants of the vanished Atlanteans who had settled Thuria after the Cataclysm. They were tall and powerful, with dark hair and blue or gray eyes. They lived in small, isolated tribes made up of extended family units which herded cattle, grew oats and raided one another for cattle or wives.

A hard region of tundra, mountains and wooded fields seated beneath a cold, gray sky were the lands of Cimmeria. It was surrounded by those who would aim to either kill or conquer the native barbarian clans that had thrived there since the time of the Atlanteans. The hard terrain was often softened with the blood-churned mud of Pictish invaders, Vanir raiders, Hyperborean Gurnakhi, or foolish would-be conquerors from the Border Kingdoms. But no one man could possibly claim these unconquerable people—or the lands in which they struggled daily to survive. Cimmeria was a harsh place of clan wars and tightly-knit families, where strength and cunning were the keys to survival.

Cimmeria was a land filled with dangerous people and predators, where much of the life that can be found in its frozen hills only sought to take life from another. Wolves, mountain cats and fierce bears hunted the frozen ranges and thick woods, more than capable of killing entire hunting parties unprepared for their savagery. Stories of monstrous beasts and dark legends waiting in the icy wastes for foolish travelers were told around crackling campfires, many of which had been proven true time and time again. In Cimmeria, if the weather and the terrain did not claim you, something else likely would.

Only the strong carved out a living there, often quite literally. The terrain was difficult, but many came to see for themselves. The Eiglophian Mountains tempted adventurers into their frozen heights to test their mettle against bloodthirsty cannibals and fabled creatures of legend. These towering peaks marked the northern border of Cimmeria. Beyond their steep cliffs to the northwest were the lands of the  Vanir invaders; to the northeast were the folk of the Aesir, who were infrequent allies or foes of the Cimmerians. There were few passes through the mountains, so most hostilities were limited to raids and pillaging—or so many believed, before the Vanir marched an army of warriors into Cimmeria.

Passage through the mountains was difficult and dangerous, even for seasoned travelers. Apart from trappers and scouts, few men dwelt in these mountains. To survive in the Eiglophians, one had to be possessed of incredible willpower, physical strength, and great courage. The howling winds and biting cold gnawed at both body and soul; the leopards and ice worms weeded out the weak, and treacherous paths and sheer cliffs killed the unwary. What human life did cling to existence here was divided between scattered Cimmerian clans and the savages of the flesh-eating tribes that had bedeviled hunters and trappers for decades now. These murderous cannibals raided nearby Cimmerian villages, not for conquest, but to capture people who were fated to be eaten in the deep, dark caves that the flesh-eaters claimed as their territory. The range itself was a holy place to the Cimmerians. In the eastern spur of the Eiglophians, there stood Ben Morgh, known to outlanders as Mount Crom. Here, it is said, Crom dwelled, sending out death and doom to those who had failed him. His anger shook the peaks in the form of thunderstorm and avalanches—and Crom was wrathful of late, as invaders from Hyperborea, Vanaheim, and the Border Kingdom trespassed ever deeper into Cimmeria.

Among the other notable locations in frozen Cimmeria was the “Field of Chiefs” and its Standing Stone, where the Cimmerian clans came to speak of peaceful alliances, fearless of treachery, was a living piece of history. There was little question as to why foreigners who believed themselves strong of arm and swift of blade came to Cimmeria.

Cimmeria, the land of the god Crom, was not peaceful, pleasant, or easily survived, but it made a tough people even tougher and sent forth the foolish to an early grave. It was a difficult place that laid low the weak and heralded the strong. There was a saying among the Cimmerian clans of the southern border, “Make peace with your gods before you come to Cimmeria, as it will not be found here.”  

A shroud hung over the people of Cimmeria. While one might assume it was the pall of the dark  weather overhead, eternally threatening grim days and violent storms, the truth was that the Cimmerians lived under a shroud of impending doom. As the Hyborian Age entered its final centuries, few people felt it as acutely as the northern barbarian clans. It was a subconscious sensation—more a subtle, ever-present melancholy than any true emotion. But it was there, in the blood and bones of every Cimmerian. They all felt it. They each sensed, deep within, the end was coming.

Names:  Cimmerian names are based on old Irish or Scottish Celtic names, such as Conan. Here are some examples of names Howard intended to use for Cimmerians in stories he never completed. These names are presumably male: Eithriall, Eanbotha, Rotheachta, Giallchadh, Cruaidh, Eamhua, Cumal. Suggestions: (male) Amergin, Agh, Aodh, Brian, Cael, Cailt, Cathal, Conor, Cuchullin, Cul, Comala, Daol, Dima, Doon, Duncan, Fingal, Finn, Fionn, Hydallan, Moghcorb, Morne, Murdoch, Oscur, Ossian, Rayne, Sláine and Usnach. The following names are female: Credhe, Deirdre, Dersagrena, Maev, Melilcoma and Ros-Crana.