Air force one
bronz horus is a large, reptilian, avian species. They are renowned for being amenable to training and can be taught to carry a human passenger. This resource has proven to be invaluable in peacetime (for travel and aerial reconnaissance) and in wartime (as the vehicle of the famed Lightriders, and of numerous military units that followed in their tradition).
Ecology and Habitats
ronz horuses prefer to live in the trees - but close enough to the shore that they can still range over water. This allows them to exploit two different biomes for food. They do not build permanent shelters but they do nest during mating season. During the rest of the year, they will congregate in large groups and stake out every branch of an entire canopeia tree - or similar perches.
Dietary Needs and Habits
ronz horuses are adaptable and opportunistic hunters. They are unique amongst Islegantuan's avian species in that they will hunt both land-based and ocean-based prey. Their dagger-like beaks are used to spear prey during epic diving maneuvers. Although this works well with fish, it's even more impressive to see them deploy these tactics over land. To the untrained observer, it seems inevitable that the massive bird will crash head-first into the ground. But they always pull up at the absolute-last second - and when they do, they often have some writhing critter impaled on their beaks. The curved nature of those beaks makes it impractical to keep their prey in this condition for long, but that's of no concern to them. As soon as they commence the return assent, they flip the victim off their beak and gulp it down in mid-flight.
Range & Refueling
Those that have been trained for flight must eat at a prodigious rate during missions. Flight always burns through energy stores, but this is greatly exacerbated when they're towing a human below them. Although bronz horuses can be, and are, deployed for occasional long-distance treks, this can only be reasonably accomplished if the rider has carefully planned to have bountiful feeding stops every 50-75 kilometers along the way. And even then, the beast will tire from the strain and require rest after 4-6 hours of such a regime.
omestication has granted the bronz horus a permanent place in casterway civilization. On a planet that has no engines, and no powered flight (nor the technological understanding of how to achieve it), the bronz horus represents a tactical capability that other primitive worlds have only dreamed of.
Bronz horuses can only be domesticated when taken as hatchlings. Once a horus has left the nest, it's practically impossible to train them - or even, to capture them alive. And once they reach maturity, those already slim odds are nil. An adult bronz horus will not accept any form of domestication. If captured, it will violently rebel every chance it gets. And getting a mature specimen to accept a rider is simply out of the question.
For those hatchlings that are taken for training, the process is long and arduous. The first three years of the juvenile's life involve continual care and maintenance, typically from a specialized trainer who works with a large school of chicks en masse. This period also entails weeding out unsuitable candidates - because there are a great many minute details that can make a particular specimen unfit to advance to full training. Some of these factors are physical - stunted growth, poorly-hooked talons, etc. But juveniles can also be eliminated based on psychological factors - how well they take direction, how willing they are to protect their rider at the expense of their own safety, overall temperament, etc.
Unsuitable candidates are destroyed. Although there are many who protest this treatment as cruel, anyone who has studied the animals knows that, if they are released into the wild, they will be attacked and killed by their feral cousins. And most societies do not have the facilities that would be needed to "warehouse" these failed candidates for the rest of their days.
After group training, the successful birds graduate to pair bonding. In this phase, the proposed rider must be committed to work constantly with their young charge. This second phase, also lasting three years, is critical for the in-flight symbiosis that is necessary between a horus and its rider.
Ideally, a fully-trained horus will serve its rider for the rest of its life. A conscientious rider knows to exercise this relationship on a regular basis, even if there is no immediate need to take to the skies. Careless riders who leave their mounts caged up for months - or even years - with little-or-no flight practice are at risk of suffering a gruesome death once they finally feel the need to call on the creature's services again. Of course, there are times when a lifelong commitment simply is not possible. If the rider dies, or is somehow disqualified from performing more flights, every attempt is made to keep the bird in comfort for the rest of its days. In rare cases, when the beast is quite young, and the rider had only been using it for a handful of years, a retraining can be attempted with a new rider. Those kinds of reassignments are touch-and-go and no one is shocked if the project must be abandoned. For older birds, it is pointless to even attempt the assignment of a new rider.
Not Riding - Hanging
Those who commandeer a bronz horus are typically referred to as riders and the reptilian bird itself is typically spoken of as a mount, but these terms can be misleading with regard to the actual tactics of paired flight. It would be more accurate to explain the process as the bronz horus towing its so-called "rider". Horuses have strong, curling talons below them. Riders wear a special harness that supports their torso and gives the bird something to latch onto - without sinking their dagger-like claws into the human's flesh. Riders accomplish steering through subtle shifts in their weight, signaling to the bronz horus that a change in speed or direction is desired. Despite the confusing terminology of "riders" and "mounts", there is no way for a human to ride on top of a bronz horus. Its wingspan takes up the majority of its back (wings that constantly flap up-and-down and provide no stable basis for a mount) and their necks are not sturdy enough to support a human in the midst of aerial operations.
This reality has made for some harrowing situations when the beasts are called into combat. For the "riders" themselves are actually hanging below their transportation. On many occasions, foolhardy riders, facing well-trained opponents on the ground, have found themselves to be easy targets for the spears and arrows of those who wish them dead. With this in mind, successful military riders are widely hailed for their sheer bravery in combat.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
ince most casterways have absolutely no technology that provides liftoff, the use of bronz horuses, in paired flights with their riders, has been a game-changer in Excilior's history. Their first use was in combat and the effect of being attacked, for the first time, from the air, was instrumental in swinging many ancient battles. But the creatures have been used for far more than warfare. Their natural ability to ferry riders over treacherous passes, or to provide them with key aerial information, has made them an invaluable asset in many cultures, and directly aided in the rise of the first civilization - Auld Cervia.
Given that owning and training a bronz horus is incredibly expensive. And given that the resulting pairing of human-to-bird is a lifelong commitment. The status of being a "horus rider" is one that long ago took on far more significance than simply "owning an animal" or "having a particular skill". Going back to Auld Cervia, and continuing in all the nations that currently call Islemanoton their home, the horus riders have evolved to be their own order. An elite and private club. Some would even say, a cult. This has caused particular problems for monarchs and other world leaders when they actually need to depend on the horus riders to deliver on tactical objectives - because many of the comfy socialites, during extended periods of peace, have come to use their prized birds as nothing more than living, breathing, status symbols. And when they are actually asked to sacrifice their lives of wealth and leisure so they can steer their fancy creatures into a war zone, the response from the privileged has not always been enthusiastic.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
ronz horuses are found primarily in the temperate rain forests across the coasts of southern Islegantuan. They also range into similar biomes in southeastern Islemanoton, but their population on that continent is not nearly as prevalent. Although they can range inland as far as 200-300 kilometers, they prefer to nest in the grand arbyrs that are closest to coast. This gives them access to a full range of hunting options both on land and at sea.
lthough the creatures are not "intelligent" in any sapient sense, they are prized for their ability to take training and, in more extended engagements, to form close bonds with their owners. A bronz horus, when properly paired with a rider over years, can intuit a great many things about its masters intentions without needing to receive specific guidance. This can include proactively dodging enemy missiles, swooping to areas of the rider's interest, or immediately responding to any distress experienced by its master. In the wild, a bronz horus is a wily hunter. They have been observed baiting patches of ocean to entice larger prey to the surface. During land-based hunts, its been proven that some horuses will roll in local patches of mud in an effort to grant them a crude camouflage that makes it more difficult for their prey to spot them while they're perching in tree branches far above.
Civilization and Culture
s much as any other species on the planet, the bronz horus enjoys a unique position in casterway history. The first person to learn the process of taming a bronz horus was none other than Cervia Polonosa. During her self-imposed exile on present-day Blepi, she somehow managed to realize that the birds could be domesticated, established the first process for doing so, taught others these skills upon her return to Islemanoton, and actually rode them into battle during her first skirmishes against the vicious warlords who dominated primitive life in-and-around present-day Setrinano. This stunning accomplishment didn't just give her forces a critical tactical advantage (although it did certainly do just that), but it also inspired fear, wonder, and awe in her opponents. For they had never anything like this in the primitive wilds of Excilior.
Given the short timeline that encompassed her returning to Islemanoton, training additional bronz horuses for her colleagues, and then deploying them in battle, Cervia's training regime must have been significantly abbreviated from the modern process. It's not known whether these early attempts yielded horuses that were of lesser value as mounts. But if that was the case, they still bestowed enough of an advantage that they were a critical factor in her successful campaign to drive out her adversaries.
Exactly how she managed to acquire this knowledge - seemingly, from nowhere - is still a subject of cognoscenti debate. Her logs make repeated references to the Watchers and she implies that the Watchers played at least some indirect role in her realization of the bronz horuses' potential. But to this day, no one quite knows who (or what) the Watchers actually were. All that is known is that, when she fled to Islegantuan, she had extremely limited knowledge of Excilior's flora and fauna. And when she returned, she didn't just understand the potential benefit of taming bronz horuses. She was actually flying with one - and quickly sharing these skills with her allies.
Wingspan of 8 meters