The Minotaur History
The minotaurs are one of Krynn's most misunderstood. They are a paradox, blunt and brutal, yet subtle and gentle. They are classified with the armies of Evil, yet some stand out as shining examples of goodness. There is almost nowhere on Krynn that you find creatures so enigmatic, yet so eminently understandable. The reason that there have been so few treatises written on the subject of minotaurs is that the minotaurs do not wish to be understood by scholars, from a vicarious point of view. They feel that if you desire to understand the minotaurs, then you should find out about them for yourself. Their view is:"If you are unwilling to face the danger, perhaps you ought not come at all. Once you get to know us (if you survive that long), you'll understand us, all right."
In the beginning, the Gods created the four principal races: Ogre, Elf, Man, and Animal. The elves, servants of Good, were for the most part placed on the Ansalonian mainland, while the ogres mainly resided on Taladas. Humanity existed on both continents, a balance to both the Good and Evil races. The "accidental races", the gnome-spawn originated on Taladas when Reorx first created the gnomes. At this point, the course of the world was proceeding relatively smoothly; that is, until Hiddukel convinced Reorx to forge the Graygem. When the gnomes released the Graygem, it careened over the entire planet, creating magical havoc. One of the effects of the passage of the Graygem was the creation of the minotaur race.
Originally an ogre clan of farmers and fisherfolks on the north-western coast of the continent of Hosk, they became frightful combinations of man and bull when the Graygem shrieked over their villages one terrifying night. This was called the Night of Cruel Transformation. Understandably, this turn of events horrified them, and they attempted to enlist the aid of other Taladan ogre tribes in removing the curse. The other tribes reacted in a hostile fashion to this new race, often raiding the minotaur villages, and the ogres finally devised a plan to enslave the "impure" breed. As a result, the ogres united to bring the minotaurs under their domination. The minotaurs recognized the superior numbers of the other ogre clans, and, while brave, were not fool-hardy. They realized that resistance would be pointless, and the ogres enslaved them. This lasted for less than five years. During this time, an enterprising minotaur discovered that individual ogres were no match for her in battle. This minotaur, Messeritha by name, was pleased to note that not all the effects of the Graygem were negative, and, for a short while, she embarked on an ogre-killing spree, killing twenty ogres in her blood-lust.
However, she was thoughtful enough to realize that since the number of ogres easily surpassed the number of minotaurs, she and her minotaurish comrades would be forced to devise a plan that did not call for outright war. Under her guidance, the minotaur slaves secretly built sailing vessels in the wooded areas near the coastline. Word of the plan to escape spread to almost all the minotaurs enslaved by the ogres. The minotaurs prepared themselves for their exodus, and finally the last ship was complete. Although none of the ships was as seaworthy as the ones the minotaurs would later develop, none sank immediately. At this point the minotaurs were ready to leave, but not without exacting some form of payment.
Late one night, they rose up and claimed the price of their slavery, ruthlessly slaughtering their sleeping-masters. Entire villages ran red with the blood of ogres. Most of the minotaurs fled Taladas that night after the massacre. However, there were a few who had not been apprised of the escape (being seen as untrustworthy or just weak), and who therefore remained behind. The ogres took their revenge on the minotaurs of this group, dealing extraordinarily harsh punishments. A small group of the minotaurs who had been left behind did manage to escape to safety. Their descendants now inhabit isolated areas of Taladas, still afraid to emerge for fear of the ogre wrath. The minotaurs on the ships sailed westward, where they had heard of an unclaimed land, on which they hoped they could live in isolation from the rest of the world. When they finally reached the eastern shores of Ansalon, most of them settled there. Some, though, claimed that the land was unsuitable, and continued sailing. Nothing further was ever heard or seen of them. The minotaurs set up a small society and began to create a new life for themselves by developing colonies.
To their dismay, they ran afoul of the dwarven Kal-Thax Empire. The dwarves, recognizing the minotaurs as some variety of ogre, demanded unconditional surrender. The minotaurs, again overwhelmed by sheer numbers, were enslaved. This state of affairs was intolerable to the minotaurs, who, reasonably enough, were unwilling to have escaped the ogres only have the dwarves capture them. They began to unite behind their hero Ambeoutin, who promised to lead them to freedom from the hated dwarves. He gathered together a band of minotaurs and began attacking small towns, murdering all inhabitants. Naturally, the minotaurs were careful to cover their traces. In fact, Ambeoutin's band was so skillful at misdirection that the dwarves could not discern what or who might have been responsible for these atrocities. Thus, to deal with the situation, they sealed their borders, letting no creatures in or out.
A human Wizard of the Black Robes, attempting to magnify the trouble in the Empire, determined by occult means that the minotaurs were responsible, and he threw in his lot with the minotaurs, vastly increasing their power and maneuverability. Although wildly successful after several attacks on larger villages, the mage, Skythus, determined that Ambeoutin and his band needed the aid of a powerful magical item, the Axe of the Emperors in order to succeed. Ambeoutin immediately set out to find this Axe, leaving Skythus in charge of the dwarven murder operation. The minotaur chief is said to have journeyed alone through great peril to gain the Axe, finally defeating a green dragon in single combat. Despite the lack of true details of the search, it is known that Ambeoutin, much the worse for wear, returned in triumph with a glowing two-handed axe. The minotaurs who had not yet fled their dwarven masters immediately threw off their shackles, and rushed to join the Army of Ambeoutin.
The dwarves quickly mustered their army and marched on the minotaurs. The minotaurs, a vastly smaller army, were nonetheless as capable as any dwarven army five times their size. This was fitting because the dwarves had mustered an army almost exactly five times the size of the minotaur army. The deciding factor of the war was the minotaurish hatred of the dwarves. They fought as berserkers, each eliminating ten of the enemy before being felled. The battlefield turned into a slaughterhouse. The minotaurs butchered nearly every ablebodied male dwarf then in the Empire. The minotaurs commandeered the empty cities, sacking and burning. Thus it was that the Kal-Thax empire fell.
When they had destroyed the seat of the dwarven empire, the minotaurs began to move to the eastern portion of Ansalon, hoping to reestablish themselves as a free people. When the minotaurs reached the coast, they realized that if they were to be a power in the world, they would have to establish a kingdom, and, following the example of their former masters, they decided to prey upon other races.
They confirmed Ambeoutin as the first minotaur king, for he possessed more fighting skill and experience than any other minotaurs. He took a wife, and sired twin children, whom he called Mithas and Kothas. Their father trained these two children in the fighting arts, teaching them (almost) every trick he knew. Thus, their fighting skills made each of them a match for any other minotaur, even at a very young age. Due to the nature of minotaur society, the twins knew that only one of them could survive to become King after their father passed away.
On the day they passed the Rite of Initiation, Ambeoutin disappeared, taking his Axe and the mage Skythus with him. Legend holds that he sailed into the rising sun, from which he hoped to force the secret of light. The twins were taken to the Arena to decide the kingship. They proved themselves to be exact equals in the Arena, and so they split the kingdom into two separate provinces. The two countries existed peacefully (for minotaurs) for about 1500 years, their inhabitants sailing the coasts and tilling the earth, with only occasional acts of piracy.
At that point, the Istar Empire came into being. Once again, the Minotaurs were overwhelmed, though at a severe cost to the Istarians, and the minotaurs were stripped from power in their kingdoms. This disastrous state of affairs continued for several hundred years, for not only were the minotaurs outnumbered, the Istarians had the powerful Solamnic Knights on their side. Finally, the Cataclysm descended upon Krynn, which effectively ended Istar's stranglehold on the minotaurs. The minotaurs took this as a sign of favor from the Gods, and sailed across the Blood Sea to their old land, where they reestablished their empire. Certain individuals, whose families had worked the sea throughout the domination of Istar, knew that lands existed to the east, ready to be exploited. They parlayed this information to their brethren, who enthusiastically set sail for this new land.
Mat oth-Kithka, a descendant of Ambeoutin, led an expedition of over thirty ships to Taladas. They came ashore in Thenol, and overwhelmed several villages. They filled their ships with booty and began the trek back to Ansalon. They never made it. The stories hold that the remains of this treasure fleet is sunk in the coastal waters near Armach. Several adventuring parties have gone searching for these ships, only to return emptyhanded, with heavy losses in life and investment. Other adventuring minotaurs landed near Kristophan in Southern Hosk, where they found easy pickings.
The humans obviously never expected an attack by sea, for all their fortifications had been built facing landward. The minotaurs, led by Eragas the Brutish, quickly subjugated all the people of Kristophan. Eragas proclaimed himself Emperor, and he established minotaur law throughout New Styrllia. All those who opposed Eragas met him in the Arena to contest his claim. All of them lost, and paid the price for their loss' death. Eragas then moved to dominate the area surrounding New Styrllia. This ambitious maneuver, while not completed during his lifetime, earned him the respect of all his people, and to honor his memory (he fell in battle against a small battalion of humans), the minotaurs placed his young son on the throne without any of the formal arena battles usually surrounding such an event.
His son, named in honor of the hero Ambeoutin, worked to complete his father's work, and swiftly and brutally crushed the resistance put forth by the last few human encampments in the areas, which included Eragala (which formerly had been named Crinos), Okami, and Highvale. He went even further to push into the realm of the hulderfolk, but was never completely successful, due to the misdirections of the hulder, and Ambeoutin's army kept dwindling the longer he was there. However, he ensured that the minotaurs kept pushing for more land to their Empire.
The Conquered Lands are a recent addition. This, then, is the history of the minotaurs. The minotaurs have taken every opportunity to ensure that their power increases at every step. They are strong, intelligent, and devious. And above all else, one thing is certain about the minotaurs: they will never again allow themselves to be taken into slavery, even if it means death. They have come into their own, and will let no one deny them their place. "Honor. Family. Strength. Without these, we would be useless. Honor informs our lives and gives structure to our society. It enables us to resist chaos and enslavement. Family teaches us the virtues, the ideals that make us minotaurs. It sharpens the horns or it cracks them. Finally, strength is that by which we triumph. It is the raw power of life. Individually, each of these ideals is valuable, but not strong enough. We forge them together . . . and when this is done, we are well-nigh unbeatable."
A minotaur will put his family above all else, even the good of the state. They learned that, to trust one another, they must first be trustworthy. Thus, the minotaur's word is his bond. Being descended from ogres, they naturally knew the benefit of strength from the very beginning of their existence, and despise creatures who lack it. While minotaurs outwardly take after cattle, the animal they most resemble mentally is the wolf. They see it as an honorable, societal creature, one devoted only to its own kind, although it repays favors to those owed.
The wolf is a fierce creature, relying more on the power of the muscle than on any pacifistic tendencies. Furthermore, it takes care of its own, yet can work with other creatures as well. Besides its raw power, it has guile and cunning. With qualities like these, how could a minotaur not like the wolf? Minotaurs stand roughly 7' tall, although they can be as much as 1,5' taller. They weigh over 350 pounds on average. Their fur, which covers their entire body, is generally fairly short, although there have been some exceptions in the more brutish minotaurs. Taladan fur coloring ranges from whitish blond to black. It is, in short, exactly over his entire body. It is, in short, exactly the kind of fur one would encounter on a cow (although one would have to be either drunk or stupid or both to mention this to a minotaur).
As well, many minotaurs decorate their horns with beaten gold or brass, some counting their various victories on rings placed on the horn. These rings usually are engraved with some sort of pictograms that describe the win.
The Minotaur Honor
To the minotaurs, there is nothing of more paramount importance than honor. They adhere rigidly and fanatically to their moral code, for if they do not, it could mean their destruction. They have carefully worked out this code over hundreds of years, although to the casual observer, it might appear that it had been conceived overnight. With deeper examination, however, one can see that it extends beyond just superficial levels. The honor priority for a minotaur is first the land's honor, then his family's honor, and finally his own honor. A minotaur is considered the sum total of all three of these. The reasoning goes like this: if his nation is dishonored, then his family has not been playing its part in upholding the state. Therefore, he himself has not been exemplary in his behavior, for he has allowed the honor of his family to slacken. Thus, each minotaur carries a heavy burden, for not only does he have to worry about his own honor, he also must carry the responsibility for his family, and from his family, the responsibility for the honor of the nation. Most minotaurs are very protective of their honor, and will harshly dissuade other races attempting to tarnish it. There is the occasional minotaur who only feigns honor, who will manipulate all who come across his path. Woe to the character who commits himself to a deal with one of these, for the dishonest minotaur will hold the character to the word of the deal, while completely disregarding his obligations in the matter.
It is fortunate that minotaurs such as these are usually spotted speedily and forcibly relieved of their lives.
The Minotaur Code
Might makes right. To be weak is to be wrong. Anything that serves the state is right. Honor is everything in life. To be without honor is to be without life. Family and nation before self. The individual means nothing next to these two. It is dishonorable to kill another minotaur except in fair combat. A minotaur's word is his bond. Once given, never broken. Any who do so are to be publicly dishonored. Stamp out anyone other than minotaurs using minotaurs as slaves. Do not rest until they are destroyed. Accept all responsibility for your actions.
Minotaurs have no respect for any race other than their own, with the single exception of the dragons. Whether chromatic or metallic, good, evil, or neutral, dragons are one of the few sights on Krynn that can fill a minotaur with awe. All others must prove their worth to the minotaurs on an individual basis. After all, each race, in general, is simply a collection of scum to the minotaurs' eyes, and each patch of scum must distinguish itself from the others. Elves are effete dandies with no honor (due to their guerilla tactics), and are usually not to be trusted. The fact that they mainly use a distance weapon suggests that the elves do not care that they slay their enemies dishonorably, and, therefore, the elves do not need to be treated honorably themselves. Kender are vermin to be exterminated. They have no regard for the property and honor of another, and thus their own property and honor is to be ignored. Under almost every conceivable circumstance, kender are untrustworthy rodents to be avoided, or, if possible, incarcerated and executed. Minotaurs will use any excuse at their disposal to rid themselves of kender.
Since thieves have no place in minotaur society, a race of thieves (despite the kender claim that they are simply "Handlers") has no place in the minotaurs' grand scheme of things. Because kender do not even make good slaves (they keep slipping their chains and escaping from the overseers), the only fate for them can be death. Of all the humanoid races on Krynn, the one that minotaurs most respect (which is not saying much) is that of the dwarves. They see the dwarves as hardy little individuals, who have a devotion to making sure their system works, placing it over themselves. However, the fact that the minotaurs were enslaved by dwarves so long ago still rankles the minotaurish pride, and they still hate the dwarves for that indignity. Despite this hatred, though, the minotaurs respect the dwarves for the fact that dwarves are such able fighters, and perhaps one of these days some enterprising character will be able to mend the rift between the dwarves and the minotaurs. Then again, perhaps the minotaurs' hatred is too strong. One never knows until it is tried.
The minotaurs recognize that each race has something valuable to contribute to the world of Krynn. This is why, instead of exterminating them all outright, they try to enslave these others (not including the kender and the goblins). The minotaurs see no value in peaceful co-existence, unless they can be convinced that it is detrimental to them to do otherwise. They will do all in their power to see that honorable members of these other races are given favored treatment and good lives.
Minotaurs hold death in no special regard. They neither fear it nor sanctify it. When it comes for them, as, indeed, it must come for everyone, they desire only to greet it in a way that will honor them. They have no respect for those who whine and bleat when they sense the approach of their demise. On the other hand, someone who goes to certain death calmly and with fortitude deserves a great measure of respect, even though he might be an enemy, and he will be honored after death. This is not to say that minotaurs actively seek out death. To the contrary, they love life very much, and try to live each day to its fullest. Their view of death is that it is a capstone to a life. When they face unavoidable death, they want to make sure that their lives end on a good note, one of honor and glory.
Ideally, their deaths should prove to others the correctness of the minotaur way of life, and how inevitable the minotaur destiny is. Some of the more despicable cultists even commit suicide merely to prove a point. The majority of minotaurs regards these cultists as deviants and decadents to be eradicated, as there is no honor in the taking of innocent life.