Of all the Children of the World, none are so fierce and terrible as the Minotaurs of the Northern wastes. Indeed, many refuse to call Minotaurs “Children of the World” at all, for of all the civilized races 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. 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.
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. 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 by wizards ofthe cruelest of all the Elves who 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 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.
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.