Realms of Mythrais
Minotaurs of Aerk
The phrase “Strong as a mule” is not an exaggeration for the average Minotaur; but more common words or phrases used for their race would be: “A good slave stock,” beastly, animal, or even monster. Few places or people treat a Minotaur even as an equal to a slave in Aerk. Any place outside the only Minotaur nation in the world that is. Sogar’s Hold is the only place in the world where the Minotaurs rule.
While other races in Aerk are considered plentiful, rare, or nearly extinct; the sad truth about the Minotaurs is that they are rarely even considered at all. Many who own a Minotaur as a slave would not even consider him as even above the livestock. In fact, there are several nations such as the Karnite Empire, Theocracy of Hesh, Sorcere and Rhakash that have declared Minotaur slaves to not be slaves at all, and thus they can’t be freed since they are livestock.
The origins of the Minotaur race are lost in ancient history. Many believe they were created from cursed humans by the Aerkay for use as servants and workers when humans became uncontrollable. Because so many Minotaurs are found inside the nation of Rhakash, others say they are the result of experimentation by the ancient Rhakshasa that once ruled that area of the world. Whatever their true origin; the fact of their race is that most Minotaurs are slaves at best. They live out their life as long lived and docile workers mainly, with only a few ever having been mentioned even briefly in history books. This all changed in the Imperial Capital of Karn however.
The Karnite Emperor began to favor watching his gladiators do battle against the strength of the Minotaurs which were plentiful among the slaves owned within the city. For years lone Minotaurs, armed only with their horns, would be forced to battle against well armed and armored adversaries in the arena. Such was their strength that they would even sometimes manage a victory, only to be slain by arrows for daring to kill a citizen. Eventually the reigning Emperor, Baslan “Black Crown” Karn, decided to trim the population of Minotaurs and have a grand scene for all to enjoy. He placed 1,000 Minotaurs in the Grand Arena of Karn to face a Legion of 3,300 soldiers in a pitched battle. History shows the Legion lost.
Every Legionnaire that fell armed a Minotaur; and as the battle raged, many realized the Minotaurs were going to win as they brutally slaughtered their opponents and took up their weapons because the Legion had no room to maneuver against the mad crushing weight of the Minotaurs. By the time there were 500 standing Minotaurs and only 500 or so soldiers, Emperor Baslan ordered his archers to begin slaying the Minotaurs. Unfortunately, so confident that his soldiers would kill the Minotaurs easily, the Emperor stationed only 100 archers on the arena wall. Many fell quickly to hurled javelins as half of the Minotaurs finished off the soldiers in the arena while the rest assaulted the arena walls.
Many events conspired against the Emperor at that time. Minotaurs that had been standing humbly beside their masters in the audience took this as their only moment. Seemingly as one, many scores of them rose up at once and began to attack those around them in revenge for lifetimes of crimes against their race. As the first horns were blown in the arena sounding slave revolt, the first armed Minotaurs were leaving the structure and launching brutal attacks down the streets as more Minotaurs joined them. Never before had these “animals” rebelled, only human slaves had ever dared. Unfortunately for the citizens of Karn, every slave in their city rose up that day. More damning was the sudden appearance of a massive fleet of Wolf Raiders, Rhakash Reavers and Corsairs from Rhem off the coast.
After two days of street to street fighting, the slaves and invaders were victorious. Minotaurs were free in great numbers for the first time in history. In agreement with the invaders, the Minotaurs were given those ships left empty by casualties of the invaders for their share of the city’s spoils. The Minotaurs left under the command of the Great Sogar, the Minotaur warrior-wizard thought to have somehow gathered the invaders together. It is said all citizens of Karn either died fighting, were slaughtered, or were sold as slaves in the markets of Rhakash and Rhem if not taken as thralls far to the south in Vannulvheim.
The Minotaurs sailed south with the Wolf Raiders for an island off the coast of the Kur Tribes. The orcs there were slaughtered or fled the island on small boats. When the Karnite Empire sent armies to try and again enslave the Minotaurs of Sogar’s Hold, they failed; often failing miserably. The Minotaurs quickly gained a fierce reputation and were known to be able to defeat any army three times their number. The now known secret to their success was their use of the first true Pike formations. Their long Pikes could reach beyond the War Spear formations of their enemies and slay entire front lines before their foes could even close to fight with them, especially if the Minotaurs were charging; and some have said a Minotaur wielded Pike could pierce through two men!
After decades of nearly continuous war against Karnite Imperials and Orcs, the Minotaurs finally launched their first naval attack against an enemy. The teachings of Sogar, who had long been at sea before his enslavement by Aerkay of Sorcere, taught the Minotaurs the ways of the sea. They spent vast sums of hard earned silver and gold earned in mercenary work on the finest instructors to teach them how to build fast and powerful galleys. The fleet that sailed from Sogar’s Hold was built entirely by Minotaurs for Minotaur warriors, the sails were spun by Minotaurs, the rams forged by Minotaur smiths, and the weapons and armor worn by the soldiers made for them by Minotaurs. Since that fleet sailed, no fleet has ever approached Sogar’s Hold.
The Minotaurs still to this day make war upon any nation that keeps Minotaurs as slaves. Minotaur galleys only go in force north of the Kingdom of Mahn or Rhulgaard; both of which no longer keep slaves of any sort. They battle hard against the Kur Tribes to keep sharp; but their true campaigns are meant for Karnite and Heshan war galleys and even land raids against lands as far away as Rhakash and Herik. If the Karnite Empire were to focus upon Sogar’s Hold it could easily crush it now, but with quick diplomacy and much cunning, the Minotaurs have made allies of the White King, various Jarls of the Vannulvir, and the other Sea Holds within the Sea of Vhal. Many hundreds of Minotaurs from Sogar’s Hold also serve as elite mercenary soldiers in Rhulgaard to help that land stay free of the Karnite Empire; and negotiations are under way for formal alliance. It is unknown what the final tale of this emerging race will be; but for the time being, they are somewhat safe and flourishing within Aerk.
Personality: Minotaurs are rumored to be the fiercest race in the entire world; the truth is actually at the other extreme. Only by necessity have the Minotaurs become so warlike and aggressive, because in truth they are one of the most docile and friendly races that live today. Most who meet a Minotaur for the first time will be amazed at how gentle and kind they can be. People who have made friends of Minotaurs use words like “peaceful” or “generous” to describe them. A Minotaur is ever cautious however, they carefully watch all around them to make sure they are not being used or insulted. Once brought to anger however, there are few sights more terrifying than a charging Minotaur with froth foaming from his mouth and his heavily armored and inhumanly strong body delivering blow after blow to an enemy.
Physical Description: Male Minotaurs average 7’2" in height, while females average two inches shorter. The average weight of a Minotaur shows just how massive they are; males average 450 pounds while females average about 400 pounds. Minotaurs have powerful bovine heads with little to no neck connecting it to massive shoulders. Their bodies are completely human from the shoulders down, with skin color a deep tanned bronze. Males are set apart from females by long manes which drop to either side past thick horns that curve slightly outward and then down past the Minotaur’s muzzle. Minotaur hair color is nearly a universal brown, with only the rarest being black headed; their hair slowly becomes “peppered” as they age, but never truly grays. Minotaurs dress in only functional and very spartan clothing made from cloth. No Minotaur will wear the flesh of another living being. Because of this, many go barefooted or wear a unique shoe made of wood and cloth. Their armors are universally metal armor fitted together with cloth, silk, or such. Living in the cold south has forced the Minotaurs to develop thickly insulated clothes that look like padded armor as well. Minotaur soldiers of Sogar’s Hold will be equipped with the heaviest armor and weapons the state can afford: mail shirt and scale hauberk with steel cap and large shield; and armed with pike or arbalest, battle axe, heavy mace and poniard.
Relations: Few individuals treat Minotaurs with respect. Most tend to believe them somewhat unintelligent at best or barely above animals at worst. Dwur are an exception to this, and many Dwur craftsmen remained in Sogar’s Hold when they had finished instructing the Minotaurs in various crafts. Port cities which have allowed Minotaurs to dock there will often show greater respect toward them; but will also usually restrict them within their cities. Earning him the title of “Friend of all Minotaurs” by the ruling Council of Sogar’s Hold, King Alisander of the Kingdom of Mahn signed a treaty of trade and alliance with the Council in which he bought the freedom of every bonded Minotaur within his Kingdom and gave them a choice to travel to Sogar’s Hold or remain as peasants of his kingdom. Of all human lands, Minotaurs find most acceptance within the Kingdom of Mahn, Kos Principalities (as mercenaries against the Khrun) or Rhulgaard (where they currently work as mercenaries of the Iron Tyrant); but even then it is a limited acceptance still fraught with often extreme prejudice.
Alignment: Most Minotaurs tend toward Neutral alignment because they nearly always follow the rules as long as they are fair. Many also tend toward good alignments because they truly only wish to live peaceful lives among their own kind and don’t wish conflict as long as they are free. For this reason, the race as a whole tends toward a Neutral Good alignment; but it is not uncommon to find Lawful Good or Chaotic Good members as well. Much rarer are actually evil individuals, but they are not unknown.
Minotaur Lands: The Minotaur race only claims one small region of land as its own: the Seahold of Sogar’s Hold. It is, however, one of the most powerful city-states in all the nations of Aerk. Every citizen is skilled in the use of their national weapon: the Pike. Since their pikes are easy only for them to use because of their strength and training, the Pike of Sogar is feared by enemies. Buildings in Sogar’s Hold are very spartan and without decoration; but its massive walls and the structures within are all very well made and clean. The Minotaurs do not keep slaves, although the few residents of their nation that are not Minotaurs have no say in the government, military, or other major institutions. Most Minotaurs spend their days partaking of intensive labor of one kind or another because they are so used to such work. Their farms are very ordered and their flocks of goats (used for milk and cheese) and sheep (used for wool) are strong and healthy. New to Sogar’s Hold are the many Mammoths imported from the Kos Principalities for aid in labor and to be used in war. Another favorite pastime of the Minotaurs has become chariot races where a lone Minotaur will be pulled upon a chariot by a team of no less than six strong horses.
Language: There is no known language of the Minotaurs. Most of them speak the Karnite language of Common because it is the only language they have ever known. Because they despise the Karnites so much, the Council of Sogar’s Hold has actually decided to create a new language for their race. The runic alphabet of the Dwur has already been passed to them from the Vannulvir and resident Dwur for use in writing; but the spoken language will most likely not be accomplished for some while so that a Minotaur language is created. Minotaurs “native” to other lands will speak the language most common in that land.
Names: Every Minotaur of Sogar’s Hold renounced his given Karnite name and took instead a created name or one borrowed from another culture; especially the Vannulvir culture since it is so close. Because of this, Minotaur names vary so wildly that no common names can be given here. Most male names do tend to sound very strong however, and female names tend to sound very important.
Religion: Having never known an independent deity, the Minotaur race has very few ideas of where to place their amassed religious need. They do have strong ties to the earth and sea, so some have begun to follow the teachings of the Druids from the Kingdom of Mahn. This would be their primary faith were it not for the very small numbers who actually follow these teachings. The only other religion found in any great number among them would be a crude form of ancestor worship. Although crude, it must have some basis, because the “Sons of Sogar” have several Minotaurs who can call upon godlike powers to turn undead and heal the sick. Some believe Sogar has gone on to become a Demi-Power, but does not want to force himself on his former people and so he grants power to those who ask. Despite their wars, they do not have warlike clergy of any kind.
The Minotaurs within the White Kingdom
(As told by the Lore-Master of the White King)
Minotaurs make up the smallest number of sentient people within the Kingdom of Mahn, unless the unknown number of Fhraen is smaller; most having left the land for Sogar’s Hold when King Alisander bought their freedom many years ago. Those that remain have done so usually because they had found true friends before being freed or were already free; though the latter was a rare exception.
Minotaur citizens are mostly still held upon the lands they live because they were only freed, not lifted to Freeman status; perhaps confusing to some, but now they may not be sold or separated from their families. These Minotaur peasants usually have banded together and farm upon lands where more kindly nobles once owned them. Their farms produce prodigious crops which are always a boon to the fortunate noble who has them in his service. Most of these Minotaur families number at least a few Freemen among them however; their hard work is to save coin enough to buy their total freedom. Freeman Minotaurs that leave behind their kin are very rare. These individuals work just as hard to free even more of their family. In some places there are whole thorps containing only Minotaurs who work hard for the noble on whose land they live.
Unfortunately, prejudice against Minotaurs is still commonplace in nearly all lands belonging to the White King; but more a prejudice of ignorance than of true hatred. Minotaurs who work hard and contribute heavily to their lord and those around them are found to have more and more human friends in their communities. Despite their growing reputation as a good and worthy race, there have never been Minotaurs which were lifted to the nobility of the Kingdom. While many eventually are willing to befriend them, very few humans feel comfortable following a Minotaur. For this same reason, only in units comprised only of Minotaurs will a member of this race be found as an officer; even in mercenary units. Ironically, the much less trusted races of Fhraen and Daerkur will often have humans which follow them.
I believe, given perhaps a few more decades, Minotaurs will find much more acceptance within the Kingdom; with some perhaps even becoming Knights at least. My reason for believing this is the simple fact that the White King himself has already decided to take on an entire Freeman Minotaur family as special guardians of the gates of Caer Vhaelin’s outermost gate within the City of Vhaelin. These imposing soldiers stand vigilant watch on the gate at all hours of the day. Even before the White King hired the Faelkands into his service, they were known as some of the fiercest mercenaries in the Kingdom when needed to be. Their plate armored swordsmen (wielding massive greatswords) never hired on as attackers in any conflict however; only as castle guards or, in lean times, guards of caravans. They have never lost one of their twelve man unit in the nine years since they were first known, but have tallied over two hundred enemy deaths.
In truth, the White King has graced me with the ever watchful protection of the eldest Faelkand to be my bodyguard when I travel. Brakaen’s strength and skill at arms are both impressive beyond few things I have ever witnessed in those two fields. While traveling back from the Giant’s Belt Mountains we were fiercely attacked by a trio of the twisted Fhomorian giants. Brakaen took no fewer than five boulders in his chest, one of which smashed straight through his greatsword; and still brought the battle to the behemoths. Were it not for my own paltry magic, I am sure he would have perished; but there was a moment when he held one of them at bay with his bare hands, locked in a contest of strength, hand to hand. The giant died after Brakaen gored him numerous times in the face and chest. The Minotaurs are mighty indeed and should never be underestimated.
The racial abilities of Minotaurs are: