The Highborn fleet carried with them a great herd of horses. These fabulous beasts embodied Loyalty and the noble virtues of strength and dignity. Mounted on their mighty warhorses, the Highborn were unbeaten in battle while swift messengers allowed distant settlements to remain in contact with one another and fostered a sense of community and unity. They were the emblem of the fiery spirit of adventure and strength that made the Highborn unconquerable – companions but never servants, allies but never subjects.
Such a great asset, however, commanded a tremendous price, and eventually the sacred bond of person and horse was corrupted by economics. A single gelded male when traded could sell for more than its weight in gold and gems, a market that was hard for the corrupted Patrician Council to refuse. Several patrician families grew rich and powerful through trading horses, and through careful business practice and astute management of market forces created a near-monopoly on horse-trading within the kingdom.
Short-sighted self interest, and poor husbandry brought tragedy. Through over-selling and over-gelding, the population of Highborn steeds dwindled and their vigour and fiery spirit diminished through in-breeding. The orcs, perhaps sensing that their much feared enemies were mortal after all, embarked on a vicious raiding campaign to murder as many horses as possible, which exacerbated an already growing problem.
All of this might have been overcome, however, but the horses themselves were wasting away. Once comrades-in-arms and brother warriors, their status had been reduced to that of military assets and livestock, too much for their proud spirits to bear. Even after the power of the patricians was broken the damage was done and all attempts to restore them were in vain. The last horses perished in the early years of the Empire, the last few broken relics and curiosities of a once magnificent species. History tells that they died of grief, their spirits destroyed by the exploitation of greedy men and women who should have protected them as a sacred charge.
The loss of the horses during the early years of the Empire was a huge loss to Highguard, and one from which the Highborn took many years to recover. To this day the phrase “horse-trading” remains a powerful insult. In honour of their lost steeds, and as reminder of the lesson learned, they preserve the image of the horse as a powerful symbol of nobility and pride, and a sobering reminder of the perils of taking blessings for granted.
A common image in heraldry, and in fanciful tales, is that of the winged horse. Indeed, there are still suits of horse barding in Highguard with decorative wings attached that protected the legs of the rider from attackers on the ground. The winged horse itself, however, is a creation of legend and mythology - while horses were swift, they did not fly and it is unlikely one would ever be able to fly in the manner the pegasus is depicted. Rather, the pegasus is a heraldic symbol of speed, grace, and pride - even beyond the characteristics associated with horses normally.