Runequest Thursday # 68 - Horses and Horse Markets in the River of Cradles

Clint Staples

Of the many disparate peoples who live in, travel through, or hope to conquer, the River of Cradles region, most have some use for mounts of some variety or other. Nomads of Prax are famed for their disdain for horses [except, occasionally, as dinner] and ride beasts given to them by Waha, their god and the originator of the Praxian way of life.

Some in the area have made adjustments to their way of life in order to avert the ire of generations of Praxian raiders. The Yelmalians of the Sun Dome Temple are known to have forgone the use of the horse in the River of Cradles, giving up their famed light cavalry in hopes of avoiding punitive or spiteful raids by horse-hating barbarians.

How well this stratagem has worked is open to debate. Whatever its efficacy, few other peoples in the region have adopted the use of non-equines for riding or war. Horses remain the most popular form of riding and draft beast up and down the Zola Fel. And although the Lunar occupation has changed many other aspects of life in the region, it has not affected the Sartarite love of horses. Indeed, the Lunars make as much or more use of equines in battle, and have brought a few new breeds southward with them.

[A note on the Stat Modifications: There are a lot of standard and war-horse statblocks in various iterations of Runequest. You can apply these ones to whatever you normally use to arrive at the breeds here.]

 

Horses Indigenous to the Region

There are no horses native to the River of Cradles. If there ever had been wild herds, the Praxians have hunted them to extinction.

But there are a number of breeds kept, or imported, by locals. Sartarites exiled from their home by the Lunar conquest, or immigrants more distant in time, carried their loved ones and possessions on horses, or wagons drawn by them. The tribe is known for a number of breeds, since nearly every clan had their own.

 

 The Whitewall Draft:

The Whitewall Draft is not terribly tall, but is very heavy and extremely strong. Generally they are bays, but one or two lines sometimes produce sorrels and even lighter colored duns. They are solid and reliable, easy to train and ride, and seem happy to work. In the River of Cradles they may be found on farms east and north of Pavis, primarily on Garhound land. The Mount Market in Pavis sometimes has them for sale.

Whitewall Draft: +2d4+2 STR, +1d6 CON, +2d4 SIZ, -1 INT, roll 2d6 for POW.

  • Whitewall drafts could be given cavalry training, but even their stallions are not considered fierce enough for war training.

 

The Lismelder Surefoot

The Lismelder Surefoot is descended from the marsh ponies ridden by hard-bitten Humakti and other Lismelders patrolling the border of Delecti’s Marsh. Though not large or handsome, the Surefoot is rugged, spirited and as surefooted as its name suggests.

Lismelder Surefoot: -1d6 STR and SIZ, +1d4+1 DEX, +1d3 POW.

  • Surefoots may be trained for cavalry or as war-horses.

 

The Hendreiki Hunter

From the Heortland Hendreiki originally, and bred to face the phalanxes and chariots of the Holy Country armies, the Hendreiki Hunter is the most common breed of cavalry horse in the River of Cradles. Brought east out of the Heortlands by Curtali, Volsaxi, and Bacofi, as well as their more northerly Sartarite neighbors who also favored the breed for war and travel, the Hunter is probably what most folk in along the Zola Fel think of when the imagine a horse. There are many colors, but all are typified by good lines and speed, a high-stepping gait and considerable size.

Hendreiki Hunter: +1d3 STR and SIZ, +1 DEX, +1d3 Move.

  • Hunters respond well to cavalry training and take only 50% of the normal time to be so trained. They may be war-trained as well, in the usual amount of time.

 

Torkani Trollhoof

Although the Torkani are not able to keep large herds in the face of continual raiding by trolls and Telmori, they do maintain a small stud and herd in order to respond to these attacks. The Trollhoof originated from captured Pol Joni stock, but a few generations of breeding [and according to local legend, selective feeding of looted giant bee royal jelly] have resulted in a powerful horse easily 2 hands taller and more robust than the largest Pol Joni pony. Named trollhoof for the shaggy fetlocks and slightly outsized hooves of the breed, they are hardy, strong, fierce in a fight, and faster than they appear. The breed may be dappled grey or dun in color, with darker manes, tails and fetlocks.

Torkani Trollhoof: +1d6 STR, +1d4 SIZ, +1d6 CON, -2 DEX, +1d3 POW.

  • Hoof damage is one die type higher than usual.

 

There are many other breeds native to Sartar, now to be found in and around Pavis. Most are distinguishable primarily by their breeders, and comprise the standard horse statblock. They are often trained for cavalry use, and exceptional stallions can be war-trained as well. The best known are the Aldachurian Cavalry Horse, The Sambari Breed, distinguished by its dappled forequarters, and the Swenstown Halfblood which lineage contains some not insignificant contribution of Zebra blood.

Looking beyond the corrals of Sartarite emigres to the Zola Fel, there are a number of other breeds to be found.

 

The Pol Joni

The Pol Joni pony is well known for its ability to keep moving on little food or water. Not truly a pony, it is small by horse standards, invariably lean, and often not terribly handsome – with a prominent bump in the withers and a tendency to keep its head low. Yet it is loyal, willing and capable of significant feats of agility. Typically the pony is dun colored, with a dark nose, mane, tail and strip along the spine.

Pol Joni Pony: -1d6 STR and SIZ, +1d4 CON, +1 INT, +1d4 DEX. 

  • The pony may be trained as a cavalry horse or war-horse.

There are many who do not know that the Pol Joni breed a heavier horse of war, descended from the pony, as evidenced by its color, but larger and sturdier. And if it is less eager to please its rider, it is still eager to fight. Most Pol Joni Khans maintain a herd of ponies for travel and raiding, but usually have a heavy or two for war. It should also be noted that Pol Joni Heavies have begun to be found in local Lunar cavalry units, products of successful Lunar raids, or perhaps trade.

Pol Joni Heavy: +1d2 STR and SIZ, +1d2 CON, +1d2 DEX.

  • The Heavy is generally only used, at least by the Pol Joni, as a cavalry or war-horse.

 

Tarshian Bloods

Originally bred in the First-Blood territory of southern Tarsh, Bloods have been exported and are now bred as far north as the Lunar capital. Smart and quick-footed, yet strong and heavy enough for a fully armored warrior, Bloods are quickly becoming the mount of choice for Lunar nobles and heavy cavalry. The Blood was developed over generations of intermingled trade and skirmish with the Grazelanders, and occasionally with the Black Horse Company, other Tarshites, Lunars [before the conquest of Tarsh]or even forays of chaots out of Snakepipe Hollow. Interbreeding with captured Grazelander stock is certain, but there are also rumors of at least one lineage being the result of breeding mares to one of the demon mounts of the Black Horse Company. It is possible this is simply good advertising.

Now fueling the elite of the Lunar war machine, some Bloods still find their way to other markets via risky, but highly illegal, horse smuggling. Tarshian Bloods can be found in nearly every colour, but those available outside the Empire generally are darker in order to better escape detection by Lunar authorities while being smuggled across borders.

Tarshian Blood: +2d3 STR and SIZ, +2 DEX, +2 CON, +2 DEX.

  • Tarshian Bloods are nearly always trained as war-horses.
  • If the interbreeding of demon horses from the Black Horse Troop is to be believed, such a creature might have one or more supernatural abilities.

 

Other Breeds

We may refer to other breeds still, found in numbers so small as to be meaningless around the River of Cradles. The Grazelander, a fine light horse with good speed and quick wits, is seen very occasionally, as is the Morragonne Tiger-heart, a large powerful destrier originating in Esrolia. Only a handful have been seen locally, all in the possession of a Caladran Humakti Runesword who has taken up residence on the eastern rim of the valley, south of the Condor Crags.

 

Horse Markets

The Plains of Prax are entirely devoid of horse markets. Sadly, it is not uncommon to find the barbarians gathered around a cook fire cheerfully eating horse. There are  occasional clan gatherings of the Pol Joni, generally in later Earth Season, but not in Prax proper. Generally these are held on or beyond its far western edge, near Jaldon’s Point, or sometimes north near Adari, especially now that Adari’s Horse Market has begun to grow [see below].

Horn Gate, on rare occasions, has horses for sale. Usually these are battered and ill-used animals, unwanted by the nomads who killed their owners. Very rarely, a beast of the better sort is to be found, and may be had at a bargain price for lack of customers.

Adari has in the past few years begun a Horse market, hoping to capitalize on Alda Chur no longer being open to Issaries Horse Traders. It is slow going, as the Adari have no respected breeds of their own, but has grown modestly each year. Pol Joni ponies, and the occasional heavy, may be found here, as well as the Swestown Halfblood. Fullblood zebras sold by Pavis Irregulars, and the varied nomad mounts are also bought and sold here, aurochses especially.

Pavis had no horse market until the coming of the Red Moon. Many would say that it still does not. The Lunar Market does offer horses, and carefully watches who comes to buy. No animals of worth are offered unless they are bait to unwary rebels hoping to use them to further the hopes of a free Sartar.

The Pavis Irregulars sell extra zebras in Old Pavis, or just outside the Hippogriff Gate. A large wyrm priest of Sun-Dragon has been known to buy them on occasion.  

Corflu, the wretched little Lunar port in the Zola Fel delta, lost they few horses it had to the plague that ravaged the village recently. Swine, goats and horses died by the score, but no people. The Etyries merchants claim that this shows the power of the Lunar faith, evenas they grow thinner eating hard tack that has suddenly become very expensive.

Another recent market, The Waterday Market of Brightwater, has thusfar held off the trade of horses, but trades in the riding beasts of Prax. Since much of their custom comes from the nomads who ride them, it is perhaps wise to refrain from selling horses.