Game of Realms
Realm & Rulership
Born of sorcery and bred for combat, the strength of these half-breed Giants is matched only by their brutality. Originally created in the frigid Northlands, the Minotaurs served as shock troops of the Deathless Empire, but have since broken away from their Elvish masters and carved out domains of their own. Driven by their abject hatred of all the World's children, the Minotaurs have fought legendary wars against the Elves that made them, the hardy Northmen, and the Centaurs of the plains. Where once raiding parties of Minotaurs were feared throughout the World, these bitter wars greatly thinned their numbers, and in the days since the Turning the Minotaurs have rarely been seen in the lands of Men. More Beast than Man, the bull-headed Minotaurs are terrible to behold, and their incredible strength and stamina make them even more terrifying in battle.
Of all the Children of the World, none are so fierce and terrible as the Minotaurs of the Northern wastes. Indeed, many Magi and Loremasters refuse to call Minotaurs "Children of the World" at all, for of all the civilized races (save possibly the Aracoix), the Minotaurs were not sired or crafted by any God. However to the learned who wish to classify them, Minotaurs are imposing creatures, dreadful to behold. Standing as tall as Half Giants, a great bull's head sprouts from their shoulders, complete with long, wickedly sharp horns. Minotaurs also possess a bull's hind legs in place of a man's, covered in thick, dank fur and ending in great cloven hooves. Short, vestigial tails grow from the base of their spines, the final testament of the Minotaur's bestial nature. Their crude throats can barely approximate the common speech of Men, and Minotaur voices are guttural and harsh. Few who have heard the hideous bellowing of a Minotaur war party ever forget the terrifying sound.
As terrifying as their appearance may be, a Minotaur's physical nature is, if anything, even more formidable. Bred for combat and heavy labor, Minotaurs are even stronger than most Half Giants, and are the only race known whose stamina and endurance surpasses that of the Dwarves. The Minotaurs pay a price for their physical superiority, however - their massive, unnatural frames are hulking and clumsy, and Minotaurs are the least agile of all the enlightened races of the World. Minotaurs also have the dullest intellects of all the World's races, and the ordeal of their original creation has left the entire race with withered, broken Spirits even weaker than the troubled souls of the Aelfborn and Irekei.
Originally created in the Northlands, Minotaurs are well-suited to life in the frozen wastes. Their thick hides and shaggy fur keep them well insulated from the cold, and groups of Minotaurs have been seen moving through even the direst of ice storms unfazed. Minotaurs are uncomfortable in hotter climes, and, fortunately for many of the World's peoples, have never tried to live in the warm lands of the South. Their large hands are not suited to precise or delicate work, and only a few Minotaur tribes are enlightened enough to fashion their own implements. Fearsome as a Minotaur's face may be to look upon, their bovine heads can be deadly to the unwary. Minotaurs' thick skulls and powerful strength let them smash their foes with the force of a battering ram, and many a foe has died skewered on a Bull Man's wicked blade.
To understand the savage culture of the Minotaurs, one must first discern the secrets of their origins. The first Minotaurs were created early in the Age of Days, when the Deathless Empire was at the height of its power. Wizards of the Dar Khelegur, cruelest of all the Elves, took some of their Human thralls, infused them with the blood and strength of Giants, and then twisted their bodies into bestial mockeries of Men. The unspeakable magics that wrought this dark transformation have, thankfully, been lost in the tide of history. Minotaurs were originally bred for use as laborers and shock troops, and they excelled in both counts. Powerful spells backed up by the threat of torturous punishments kept the Beast Men in line, but eventually the Minotaurs broke free from Elvish control, and have been a scourge to all civilized peoples ever since.
In the beginning, hatred was the driving force behind the rise of Minotaur culture: hatred of the Elves who had created them, hatred of the Men that they could never be again, and hatred of any other race who sought to tell them what to do. While there are still savage bands of Minotaurs who still roam the North, spreading violence and terror in their wake, over time some of the Beast Men mellowed a bit, and began to build societies of their own in crude imitation of the other peoples of the world. These "civilized" Minotaurs (note that many Scholars still hesitate to apply that name to any of the Bull Men) are known as "lesser" Minotaurs, for they tend to be of smaller stature than their savage cousins. Be advised, however, that few who call them Lesser Minotaurs to their face survive the mistake!
Minotaurs live in great tribes, composed of several clans. The warriors of the tribe, as well as the heads of every clan, swear oaths of loyalty to the Chief, who rules the tribe by virtue of his strength and prowess in battle. All who serve the chief do so voluntarily - Minotaurs hate nothing more than the idea of slavery or servitude, and every Minotaur would sooner die than claim to be any creature's servant. Every Minotaur is free to leave their tribe at any time they wish, and they make it very clear that they do not serve their leaders, but rather merely follow them. Minotaur Chiefs, lacking any institutionalized authority, must walk a fine line, vigorously defending their position through force. Bloody duels over tribal policy are a daily occurrence, and the moment a Chief shows weakness, one or more of his followers invariably engage him in a duel to the death. Where once death settled all arguments, in the days since the Turning the Minotaurs have become even more cruel. When a Warrior challenges the Chief, the loser of the duel is tortured and abjectly humiliated, so that when he is finally allowed to die (after a period of days), nobody would even think of following the humbled loser again. Losers of Tribal duels often leave the tribe to follow a different Chief, and a few even journey to the baffling lands of the "Ten Toes" (the Minotaur term for the other races of the World) to find their fortunes there. Minotaur Warriors can earn even greater wages in a Lord's retinue or a mercenary company than a Half Giant, although employing one can be just as dangerous.
While more and more Minotaurs seems to be setting aside their hatred of the Ten Toes and living their lives among them, most folk still only know of the Beast Men through their savage raids. Like Orcs, most Minotaurs produce nothing, and survive by stealing from anyone weaker than themselves. As brutal as the Centaurs are honorable, Minotaurs stoop to any trick or ruse that will bring them victory, and legends whisper of the atrocities committed by the Bull Men on battle fields both old and new. The Beast Men have little time for tactics or stratagems, relying instead on brute force and their toughness to carry the day. One universally reviled Minotaur custom is their ancient practice of trophy taking - Minotaurs will butcher the bodies of their fallen foes, bearing away heads (usually with the jawbone torn away), ears, hands, feet, and even grislier trophies to adorn the walls of their strongholds. Every Chief's hall is decorated with his tribe's trophies, and Minotaurs are always eager to expand their collections.
"Listen! The Moon is eaten by the dark, and the fires burn high: it is time. Stand! Make a ring about the fire and hear the Tell. Still your axes! There will be time for blood and brawl after. Let the flesh burn on the fire. There will be time for eating after.
Be still! I am Yurko Bloodeyes, son of Yegash. I am Doomsayer, Keeper of the Mask! Mine is the knowing of hidden things. From time out of count I have led the Tell I, taught by my father, he taught by his and so on back to the beginning. Listen then to names and deeds long past. Would you be slaves? Would you serve? Then listen! Hear the Tell, and remember who you are.
I talk now of the Hateful Time when the Pale Ones made us. Dark words come down of those days tales of crystal towers and dank labyrinths. The Ten-Toes were already broken, and the Pale Ones had made them slaves. But cunning were the Ten Toes, and hard to control. The Pale Ones are strong in knowing but weak in flesh they needed warriors to guard their Empire, and workers to build it. Finally, they took some of them as was in chains and made a great talk to them. These slaves they chose was the best of them, the strongest not like the rest, whose souls were all broke with pain. The weaklings lived as animals, without even the knowing to make words. Power the Pale Ones offered, and Strength, and Freedom. The slaves accepted, but they did not know what price the Pale Ones would ask.
So began the Birthing. With magic and blade the Pale Ones shaped us, cut us and twisted us from the flesh of the Ten Toes. No pain of fire or axe or horn can match the torments those slaves knew. When it was done they were ten toes no more: they were Minotaurs, strongest and toughest of all the creatures in the World! Our race was birthed, but birthed in treachery, for the Ten Toes had lied. Strength they gave, and Power, but no Freedom. Fearing the Minotaur, they made the Maalra, the Words of Pain, magic sounds that touched our limbs like fire. The Maalra was their weapon, their whip, and so the first-born of our kind were still slaves, bullied and kept in line with the threat of pain. We resisted, for what fear have we of pain? They were strong, those First Ones, and they meant to crush their masters, but the Pale Ones are full of the knowing of dark magic. They wove the Soulchains, magic to bend mind and break will. And so the Minotaur were slaves, made for bruiting and for working, and for beating them ten-toes as still wore chains and toiled in their first shape. Our fathers were turned against them as had been their kin, made to beat them and slaughter them. And so they began the Great Hate: they come to hate the weak ten-toes, too stupid to resist, but they hated the Pale Ones even more.
I will not talk long of that time, and of how the Pale Ones used us. They painted the glaciers with our blood in wars with the Giants of the mountains, and when their own dark kin turned on them, it was the Minotaur who burned in the furnaces of the deserts. Still the Pale Ones gloat of their victories in the War of Ice and the War of Fire. Hah! It was our bones that shattered in those wars, or blood as flowed in rivers, our flesh as was torn from us! Never forget it! The Pale Ones are cowards and deceivers! Hate them! Let your hate burn as this bonfire; let it be so until the ending of the world!
Nobody, not even the Masked God, knows how many of our kind died in those wars. Our numbers dwindled, but still we fought, dying at the pale Ones' orders. But a change was coming! The time of Reckoning had come. The ten-toes, spurred to courage by the sight of us, stole back the knowing of words, and broke their chains. The Minotaur were all away, fighting and dying on distant battlefields, and the Pale Ones learned too late the price of cowardice. And all that sound of war and carnage roused the Maimed God, master of war. The Maimed God looked out from his cavern, and he, mightiest of warriors, looked on us with pride. He saw as we'd been wronged, and he was angered. The Masked God knew the ways of the Pale Ones he had hated them and their wicked Gods since the Before Time, when Day and Night were yet unborn. The War God reached out with his power, and with his mighty axe he broke the Soulchains. At last our people were free! We turned on our masters and broke them. They lashed us with the Maalra, but still we cleaved them. They turned all their magic upon us, but still we crushed them, and drank the marrow from their bones. One Minotaur, mightier than all the rest, led our people out of the Pale Ones' cities and away from the hellish deserts. His name was Kordo Skullcrusher. Every clan of Minotaur still chants his praise.
The Pale Ones' doom was at hand their slaves turned on them, their kin burned them, and then the great Black Gate opened, and all the Chaos spawn came through to destroy them. Oh how they wailed! How they lamented the loss of their strength, for without us they had no warriors at all! The Pale Ones called to us with their magic and begged us to return, but we did not listen. Kordo led our people to the north to the land of eternal ice, and here we made our home, far from the ten-toes and the Pale Ones. The lands were harsh, but what beast is stronger than we? The wolf and the bear learned fear when we walked the snows. In the fullness of time Kordo grew old, and he died as any great chief should; in a blood challenge, axe to axe. After many duels the Minotaur divided, and the Clans were born.
The Clans went their own ways, each with a long and glorious litany. Many are the names of our chieftains, our hunters, our warriors. We will sing their names later. We found new enemies to fight, for the Icelands were far from empty. Soon the Minotaur met the Giants and the Red-Hairs, those Human ten-toes that the Pale Ones never enslaved. They sought to drive us from our new home, but we were too strong. Many feuds did we fight with the Red-Hairs, and even the Giants learned to fear our strength. Food we took from them, and women, and lands, and we made feasts of their very flesh. Some of our kind, bred to shatter stones in the mines of the Pale Ones, dug deep into the mountains for ore. There we met the Stone Men, the Dwarves, and we crushed them. For a thousand years we knew the Time of Clans. It was a glorious time for our people, for we grew mighty in our freedom, and all who lived in the North lived in fear of us.
Listen! I speak now of Gurrok Gravenhorn, Gurrok the Grim. Know that name, and fear it! Some say Gurrok was born of Giant's blood, and that no Minotaur who had ever lived had known his strength. Alone he went into the lair of Vragallak the Ice Drake, and slew it after a mighty battle. Gurrok bore a mighty axe, stolen from the Stone Folk, an axe named Doom. Never shall Doom's match be known for it is the King's Axe, mightier than every axe but one. Gurrok went from clan to clan, and with Doom in his hands he bested every chief in combat. And so all the clans were united, and Gurrok became a king. Strong he was, and mighty. Yet wise too, for he had the knowing of a King, and those as followed him followed out of glory, not fear. No Minotaur served Gurrok, for we do not serve! Never has a mightier host marched to war their hooves shook the earth and their battle howls tore the very sky! The Hordewar had begun.
The Ten-toes and the Giants were as weeds before our axes. Gurrok's horde scattered our enemies, and the north was ours. But in the very moment of our triumph, the glory of the Minotaur was stolen so mighty was our horde, the Red-Hairs and the Giants met in council, and buried their ancient feuds to strike as one. A great hero of the Northmen came, protected by the strange magic of the Giants. I will not say that hero's name: Bloodbraid is his only name to us. Bloodbraid and his host attacked, even as the Giants called forth blizzards and shook the snows of the mountains down upon us. Remember! Never trust the Ten-toes, especially the Vorri of the North! Never trust a Giant, for they are cowards who fight by magic!
When the fight was done, Gurrok was slain, his axe lost. Many exiles from the clans have gone to seek it, as have many chiefs. Some day Gurrok's axe will be found, and the Horde will rise again. But not now. After the Hordewar, the Minotaur returned to their old ways. Generations passed in the snowy north, and the Ten-toes and Giants stayed clear of our lands, for they feared our vengeance. In the Warmlands the hordes of Chaos ravaged everything, and the Ten-Toes and the Pale Ones fought them to the death, but what did we care?
I talk now of the time of my grandfather's grandfather, the time when the Warrior came into our lands. Fearsome he was, and all of the clans roused themselves at the news of his coming. Dozens of chieftains came and challenged him, and every one of them died on the Maimed God's axe. And then Morloch the Destroyer removed his mask, and spoke to us. He told us of the sufferings he had endured at the hands of the Human's God, how his true face had been ruined, his wife destroyed, and his legacy taken from him in shame. The Deceiver God Pandarrion had lured Morloch to destroy him, but his plans had failed. Morloch lived, and hungered for vengeance. The Maimed God had no children, he said, but he had seen us warring in the Hateful Time and he realized that we Minotaurs were his true children. Who else but we, maimed by Pandarrion's children as he himself had been maimed by Pandarrion's folly? We were the only warriors worthy of his legacy. Morloch told of how he had shattered the Soulchains and freed us from our slavery. And then Morloch showed us his power: at his command, all the slain chieftains rose from death and were whole again. They had found the knowing of terrible things, and some of Morloch's magic was in them. They were the first Doomsayers, and their children's children's children still heed the Maimed God's will and keep the clans within the sight of his mask.
Morloch told us of Shadowbane, the Black Blade, stolen from him by the Pale Ones and the Stone Folk. He led us south, and we joined the hosts of Orcs and Trolls. For the first time since the Birthing, we raised arms against the Pale Ones, and grim indeed was our vengeance! But Morloch's other followers were too weak. His armies broke, and three Gods working as one to drive Morloch from the field. The Minotaur withdrew to the north again. The ten-toes think that Morloch is dead, but they know nothing! Our great war drew the eyes of the world, so that Morloch could continue his search for the Black Blade out of the sight of Men and Gods.
Many chieftains reviled Morloch's name. They called him a deceiver, and slaughtered their Doomsayers before returning to their ancient lands. Many feuds and wars were fought, and the mightiest clans stayed true to our adopted father. Those who threw aside the Masked Gods' gifts met the cruelest fate of all in the time of my grandfather's father, the Pale Ones re-forged the Soulchains. Only the magic of the Doomsayers could break the mighty spells - those clans true to the Mask endured, while the rest went south to be slaughtered in another war for the Pale Ones.
That war broke the world, and plunged all the lands into chaos. What do we care? Has not suffering and hardship always been our way? Our world changed little we live as we have always lived, by strength and raid and blood. The Pale Ones and the Ten Toes and all the rest have lost their precious empires. Good! I say they taste the fruits of their own wickedness! The very Gods, some say, are dead. Good! I say let them die. The Warmlands are weak, and our axes are sharp. This is a Time of Blood, when the world will come to know our strength again, and fear it. The empires that sought to break us and enslave us are no more. In time Morloch will return to us, and lead us in the Last Battle. On that day the Sun will die, and all those who have wronged us will know our vengeance. We will be ready!
The Tell is told. Remember it! Now, let us eat"