|Common Nicknames||Waterhorse, Aquestrian|
The Vannhestia is a wondrous creature to behold and one viewed as unobtainable by the Altalar for centuries, until their Ailor slaves did so in the wake of the collapse of the Allorn Empire. A creature that initially appears as a strange, pastel horse on land, the Vannhestia can transform into possessing an aquatic tail when entering the water, allowing it to glide over the waves yet also gallop on the land. A creature of beauty for the Daendroque, Bragacao, Etosian, Dressolini, and Azzizzari Ailor of Aloria, the Vannhestia has many mysteries likely impossible to crack.
For untold centuries, the Vannhestia has been a mystery to the Races of Aloria. Appearing in the wall art of the Seraph, and the later Meraic, the first definitive statement on their origins came from the Altalar of the newly rising Allorn Empire. They tied the animal to Tal’Sieth, the Avatar of the oceans, stating it was her creation, but this is doubtful today. Some rumor that the Asha had known of the creature well before the Allorn had risen, and this is supported by some architecture in the Ashal Isles showing the Vannhestia in water-themed scenery. Regardless of its origins, the Vannhestia was rapidly abandoned by the Altalar as a creature of significance, though why is not certain. Some believe that Altalar efforts to tame the animal only scarred the species, or they were already skittish around the Altalar, and the effort to tame them drove them further away. Regardless, the Vannhestia quickly became abandoned as a symbol of Tal’Sieth and sunk to a mythical, unobtainable and disconnected aspect of the world. Yet for the Ailor slaves of the Altalar, these myths proved untrue and in fact, were directly challenged by their myths. Slaves working by the eastern coast of Daendroc and on the tropical islands of what are now the Solacian Isles told tales of the Vannhestia as a creature of freedom and justice, how it would approach the slaves at night and return to the water as the sun rose, sometimes carrying slaves to freedom on their backs as semi-tamed mounts.
The most famous tale of this is the escaped slave Tyran and his steed, Meli. The myth claims that in the final centuries of the Allorn Empire, Tyran found and cared for an injured Vannhestia foal which later returned to him when he had been beaten to near death. Dragged onto her back, Meli carried Tyran to the coasts, before entering the water, her magical transformation into a water creature as well as her love for the man who had saved her all those years ago healing his injuries. He then rode her from Daendroc to the Regalian Archipelago, to freedom, and Meli’s later offspring returned to the same shores to shepherd others to safety. The truth of this tale is somewhat doubted, but a city called Tyrannis in the south of the Regalian Archipelago claims it to be gospel truth, and that their founder was the man Tyran of myth. What is certain is that when the Allorn Empire fully collapsed, the variety of Ailor groups who emerged from the former slaves of the ruined state rapidly took to the Vannhestia as their unique gift from the Gods (or Spirit, as some would later retroactively claim). This has remained until today, the Vannhestia spared much of the destruction to grip Daendroc given its high versatility, capable of escaping into the water, while also their reverence by so many regional Cultures.
The Vannhestia stands at five and a half to six and a half feet tall, with a weight said to be so low that it is “baffling.” Their head has a slender snout, with a small pair of nostrils at the top, and a similarly small mouth below that. Their pair of eyes are large, existing in shades of pink, yellow, green, and blue, often in a swirl or blend, while their “ears” at the top of the head are stiff protrusions with a pointed shape to them. They have a long neck that connects their head to the body, which is a mimicry of a horse’s. Their form when on land in convention, a well-built smooth-skinned body one four legs with gleaming dark blue hooves, and a thick tail of thick “hair” strands to cap it off. However, when in water, the Vannhestia transforms, their back half magically uncoiling into a short aquatic scaled tail with a dorsal ridge, and a horizontal biconcave tail fin. Similarly, their front legs will also transform, the hooves meld into webbed, broad-fingered “feet.” The colorations of a Vannhestia are often fantastical, with their body often being a shade of purple or blue, with their “mane” of “hair” and “tail” possessing colors as vibrant as shades of red, green, or purple. These colors on the animal’s “hair” transfer into their fins when they transform.
Vannhestia are highly diverse, with a myriad of colorations to their bodies, but they lack sexual dimorphism. Males and females can be big and small in equal measure, while their gender ratio is also equal.
Life Span and Development
Vannhestia are born in one or two thin-shelled eggs little more than a foot tall laid in the water. These eggs, which have a thin cyan or pink coloration to them based on gender (pink for male, cyan for female) hatch within just a few days after being expelled. Small, soft-skinned, and entirely aquatic, these “foals” rapidly mature through the consumption of surrounding aquatic plants. After a month, they make their first tentative efforts to walk on land, and for the following month, remain largely on land with their mother, while their father stands guard. At the age of three, Vannhestia begin their adolescence, which lasts until they are seven. During this time, they rapidly gain their adult physical form, but take a longer time to develop their adult maturity. At the end of this period, they are considered adults, and leave their parents' side to join the wider school. Vannhestia, regardless of wild or domesticated surroundings, can live for up to 100 years.
Vannhestia are caring, gentle animals with one another, and those that ride them. Mating for life, males and females will both watch over their foals together, and also help keep an eye on the foals of others in the school. Additionally, the Vannhestia is notable for having male to male, and female to female pairings that last for the animal’s entire lifetime and to occur with decent regularity, at a ratio of about one in every eight couples. Vannhestia are playful, using their ability to morph onto the land or into the water to chase one another in friendly and fascinating displays up and down rivers or coastal bays. However, despite all of this gentleness, Vannhestia possess outright hostility toward Nelfin and Magic, disliking it and often fleeing from Altalar Mages who use their powers in a Vannhestia’s presence. Some will be bold enough to rear and try and kick at the individual making use of the power. They are more understanding with Ailor and other Races using Magic, and in domesticated variants, this hateful fear for Nelfin is reduced to obvious discomfort.
Territory and Groupings
Vannhestia schools are located across Aloria in many regions of Daen and tropical or humid Corontium. Largely tied to saltwater, some “lake schools” have been seen in areas like Ithania and certain parts of Daendroc. Some migrate over their lifetime, a gradual drift between locations, but the animal is largely sedentary. These wild schools can number anywhere from ten to thirty members, while domesticated Vannhestia can have herds as large as sixty members.
- The presence of a school of Vannhestia in the ruins of the outer wall of Sassrakkand is seen by most Slizzar as a symbol of Regalian dominance as these Vannhestia went feral when the Chrysant War was won, resulting in their presence in a region none have been known to live.
- Some believe wild Vannhestia schools sit above and near Seraph ruins on purpose.
- Vannhestia are common architectural features of many Warmland Cultures and Pompland Cultures water features and coastal architecture.