|Common Nicknames||Self-Armored Steed, Fearless Walker|
A large, strong, and robust black horse that shrugs in the face of intimidation, the origins of the Heerstepper may be a mystery but its impact on Aloria has not been. Used for centuries by Ailor as a mount in combat, the fact that it cannot be frightened or hurt by arrows turned it into a critical shock unit on many early battlefields. Since that time, the Regalian Empire now faces more complex foes, but the Heerstepper remains in the back pocket of the Crownland Cultures and those closest to them for use as needed.
The origin of the Heerstepper is a mystery to many, with three popular theories standing above the rest as most likely. The first is that the animal was wholly created by the Wirtemcaller Kingdom as a warhorse that would not require expensive and time-consuming armor. Over time, their breeding would produce the Heerstepper, and they were thus able to forgo much of the drag of other military complexes. Another theory is that the Heerstepper was originally bred by the Anglians for the Regalian Kingdom, but when the Kingdom became an Empire the emerging lands at the heart of the Empire took the Heerstepper as their own, as they took a prominent role in the military conflicts to come. Thus the animal became synonymous with warfare. The final suggestion is the simplest, and that the Heerstepper has always existed as it does today, a dense-skinned, fearless equine that populated central and eastern regions of the Regalian Archipelago. How or when Ailor tamed them varied across the regions and populations, and its natural gifts led to its use in warfare. Ultimately, whichever origin point the animal possesses does not change the reality that by 100 AC, the Heerstepper was incorporated as a tool of conflict among the Regalian Military. As the Regalian Empire expanded, the Heerstepper went with it, helping to form special armored cavalry units capable of weathering arrow fire with little damage. They have retained this role for decades, and while the enemies of the Regalian Empire have largely changed their arrows for bolts of Magic, the Heerstepper still finds value on many battlefields, and when used within the Regalian Archipelago for transportation.
Heersteppers are powerful horses, standing between six and six and a half feet tall with a weight of some 400 to 500 pounds. Heersteppers have a broad muzzle with a large mouth, large eyes with shades of grey or brown possible, and short but sharp eyes at the top of their head. Their neck is short, with a similarly short-haired mane, and connects the head to a bulky, powerful body. The most unique aspect of a Heerstepper is their flesh, as unlike other equines, they have layered skin, with a sort of organic mesh or fibrous strands just beneath the top layer of skin. This underskin allows for the animal to so easily resist arrow damage, as the arrowhead gets stuck in the mesh, unable to push through, and thus can be easily removed. This mesh perhaps requires or gives the Heerstepper its bulky, muscled build, which extends to its four supporting legs for the torso, each tipped by a dark grey or black hoof, and ending on a long-haired tail. Heerstepper coats are black without exception, with the same color extending to their manes and tails.
Heersteppers are horses with limited diversity, their sizes not tied to sexual dimorphism, which the species lacks. However, gender ratios of Heerstepper populations have skewed noticeably towards males over time, with as many as one female for every three males.
Life Span and Development
Heersteppers are liveborn as single, and very rarely dual, foals which are rapidly up and about on their feet within minutes after being born. During this early time, they lack the underskin the species is known for, and are fairly thin and weak. Their coat is also noticeably paler, often being close to a dark grey than true black. Over the next six months, they will gradually mature. But after half a year, their bodies stall out for a few short months before they rapidly gain muscle mass and engage in increased, sometimes insane levels of activity. This is also the period where their organic mesh comes in, and their previously thin bodies bulk up dramatically. By the age of two, they will have reached their adult size, but their mentality lags behind by two years, resulting in their full maturity at age four. Heersteppers are wholly domesticated and live for up to forty-five years.
Heerstepper horses are brave, noble, and courageous creatures, shrugging off fear and are fully capable of charging through a hail of arrows unimpeded. However, this lack of fear, coupled with maturing physically young, has led to a rampant “youth culture” among their numbers. Instead of competing for mates in traditional ways, males will race one another, perform dangerous acts, or outright escape from their paddocks, while the females watch on seemingly barely amused, and younger males take it all in. This immature mentality can be a real problem for horse breeders who want to create advantageous matches, as males insist upon proving themselves to their possible mate in some show of ability. This often falls flat outside of Heerstepper stock, and leads to the male actively ignoring the female they have been paired with. However, the same cannot be said of females with male outsiders. Heerstepper antics can also seriously injure them, as while they are resilient, they are not immune, and upon escaping their paddocks, they can encounter hostile wildlife as well as urban or rural experiences they are not prepared for as youths or young members of the society. However, male Heersteppers are broken out of this mentality by the age of six through training, whilst females rarely have it to begin with.
Territory and Groupings
Heerstepper horses are wholly domesticated, and exist in paddocks and fields across the territories occupied by Regal, Heartland Ceardian, Wirtem, Calderliga, and Genevaud Cultures. These herds can number between ten to forty, and their lives are governed by their tenders.
- The only possible way to injure a Heerstepper is through extremely precise shots aimed at their heads. However, their bulky heads are similarly meshed as their bodies, so such shots need to be practically magical in their precision to strike one of these swift steeds down.
- The most absurd showing off by a young male Heerstepper was by a three year old juvenile named Cristis in the Heartlander city of Northmarch. He broke out of his paddock, ran throughout the entire city causing chaos, and returned to his filly of choice, Damsella, with a mouth full of different flowers. She was ultimately impressed by this, and he would go on to become a stud of the species.