From an early stage, the Vermilion Empire benefited from its access to pegasi — a rare and precious resource. The Phoenix Prince relied heavily on pegasus riders as scouts and couriers; with their help, Vermilion columns could march separately, then coordinate and converge on their startled foes.
Afterward, what the Vermilion soldiers won, the imperial pegasus riders kept. They carried imperial decrees, generals’ and governors’ reports, and tax records, forming a web that bound the capital to the provinces and, increasingly, the provinces to each other.
The pegasus riders operated via a network of courier stations spread throughout the empire. A message would be handed to a rider or team of riders, who would seek to carry it all the way to its destination. After each day’s journey, the exhausted rider could look forward to a meal and somewhere to sleep at the next courier station, before beginning again the following day.
The riders themselves were chosen from the empire’s most talented youths and trained for years. They became a tightly knit elite, expected to use their eyes and ears to supplement written reports. Many became heroes, and throughout the empire, children dreamed of emulating famous riders such as Kie of the Grey Wing.
Pegasi were an imperial monopoly. At first, this was for strategic reasons: the Vermilions did not want precious beasts falling into foreign or rebel hands. Over time, enterprising monarchs realised they could make the pegasi pay for themselves by allowing private mail onto the service — for a fee. As the fees grew higher and higher, this spurred demand for alternate means of air transport, and hence, encouraged development of Fog-based flying machines.
The pegasus riders were one of the most iconic Vermilion institutions, and one of the most meritocratic. As such, future generations looked back at the riders’ final slide into nepotism as the moment that symbolised the beginning of the end for the Vermilion Empire.