Her face bears a long scar, one that almost splits the cheek and runs laterally across her jaw and almost to her ear. Among the Taurs she is known as Scars-Flown-Proudly, and is one of the militant followers of Scars-of-Glory. It is an honor and perhaps a novelty to this grim yet noble race that they allow me to come among them and learn of them. She has told me the stories of her scars, and of her pride, her one and only son who has since gone to the High Pastures with Horn-of-Plenty and the other traditionalists. I asked her to tell me of the old tales, and thankfully she obliged me.
In the days of the Old World the minotaurs were among the leaders of Falhath. The Prelate of the Satrap, assistant to the Dynast Regents was always one of the Horned Ones. They stood for what as seen as the heart of Falhath, strength, honor, tradition, and courage. During this time the minotaurs, or the taurics as they were more commonly known not only embraced civilization, but we among its brightest. It is now forgotten that many of the scrolls of philosophy and contemplation were penned by the heavy hands of the Taurs. It was only in the realm of sorcery that the Taurs were unable to compete with humans. The arcane powers of sorcery simply seemed to be incompatible with their physiology and even today most Taurs retain a degree of magic resistance.
Yet when the end came crashing down, the minotaurs were among those who suffered the worse, perhaps only the Grae’ae suffered worse, each having been destroyed by their own power. When the horrors of the Nightmare War came knocking they found the vanguard of the Taurs ready, and much of Falhath’s preservation from the devastation is directly linked to the heroic acts of the Taurs. According to records the deity Izkander, consort to Ixia, the Silver Forge was actually a minotaur warrior god and was among those powers that were snuffed out by the Nightmare War.
The Great Khuugrad
Not an individual, but a ceremony sacred to the Taurs, the survivors build a massive bonfire, mostly out of the ruins that surrounded their former homes. As the rosewood and lacquered bamboo was consumed by the fires, the gathered lords and horned nobles discussed what their plans and options were. Their long time allies, the sorcerous and serpentine Grae’ae were no more, and it seemed that all of the ills that had occurred could be laid at the feet of an ignorant and ambitious humanity. Disgusted with what had happened those gathered elders, under the dying light of a bonfire of vanity decided to forever forsake the path of civilization.
The Minotaurs that survived the Fall, as they came to call it, retreated to the hinterlands, the impenetrable pine barrens, hidden alpine meadows, and most of all the intimidating mountains of Thorondrim. They eschewed the societies of men, bitter and betrayed, and chose to live in solitude above the sodden and long since destroyed home of their ancestral and long since extinct Centaurum rivals.
The Waning Years
The Minotaurs grew more proud and haughty than ever despite their situation. They looked inward and to past glories in order to give their race the semblance of greatness which they all still feel in their hearts and souls. Now several generations later, they have grown much less fecund and much more morose, a dying race holding out valiantly but hopelessly, against the forces of the inevitable. Birth rates have begun to drop and no reason has been discovered for this drop off in fertility. Some expect the Horned Ones to birth the final generation within the next decade or so.
As years went by, their relative solitude and new natural environment has greatly influenced their ways and their culture has changed in many bizarre ways. The society of Minotaurs is really two groups in one now. The first group lives in the stony meadows and alpine valleys at the foothills of the Thorondrim. They dwell in huge tent-like pavilions, hunting the forests, and even growing certain crops. They are the slightly less grim and somber of the two tribes. They are known as the Low Ones by the other clan, but in every basic way are the same as the High Ones.
This second group, much smaller in size, dwells high in the Thorondrims proper, perched in stony structures carved into the very rock of the mountains. This group truly loathes the lands and ways of men, and have retreated even further from civilization than their cousins, who dwell below the gray peaks. They include the Shaman-Prelate, Horn-Of-Plenty, spiritual leader of both tribes, a title that combines the old nomenclature from Falhath with the culture of The New Way. Ironically the New Way is really the Old Way, as the Minotaurs have rekindled the traditions of their ancient ancestral brethren. Here as well dwells the War-Caller, Scars-of-Glory, a nearly berserk female Minotaur who somewhat predictably preaches the hopeless Last War, a final assault on humankind, and the rekindled might of her race.
Lifestyle of the Grim and the Noble
The Minotaurs subsist mainly by gathering the grasses and grains native to the hinterlands. The Lowland septs supplement their diets with tubers, and fruits, while the highland minotaurs tend towards more Spartan fare enriched by the blubber of pog-choy worms. The pace of life is slow, with much time given to deep thought and reflection. During the spring, the males engage in trials of manhood to determine who has the right to breed with the cows. Despite the increasing competition, fewer and fewer minotaurs are being born to the females. While the cause is unknown to the Taurs, it is a factor of their environment. The fescue grain that they harvest has a fertility suppressing agent in it that is related the bitter grass that prostitutes brew into contraceptive maidenhead tea.
Another common contest of manhood is now held in early spring when the snows and ice melt and fill the mountain streams. Young minotaurs will emerge themselves neck deep in these freezing streams and simply stand. They try to stand in the water longer than the other contestants. Their hearty constitution prevents them from dying of hyperthermia, but it is still a good indication of which young bull can stand the freezing water longer.
The minotaurs also have a strange barely controllable predilection for concentric circle labyrinths. This strange habit of circle-walking stems from their ancient history of eons ago. Horn-Of-Plenty sometimes walks these circles in meditation while ‘high’ inside the Great Smoke Hall. This like the Khuugrads itself allows him to ‘see things’. He has been known to walk these circles in a daze for several days at a time, chanting and murmuring! Every minotaur has a small (10 foot radius) concentric walk-way in their home, for personal use. It is important to note that a maze and a labyrinth are not the same thing. There is only one path through a labyrinth and though it is circuitous and long, the center is always reached and there are no dead ends or wrong paths.
Yodeling or more properly Lowing, is another weird tradition among the mountain clans. Scaling the highest peaks and ‘singing songs of race and glory’, the minotaurs try to outdo one another with their baritone voices. It is worth noting that only the bulls of the Taurs will engage in this yodeling, leaving the cows behind to listen in on the competition. To the human ear, these sound more like echoing, thunderous, throaty bellows, and create many legends of the eerie Thorondrims.
The Mountain clan often hunts Pog-Chuy Worms. These are thick, revolting cave-moray like remnants of some past true wyrms approximately 7-10 feet long. While aggressive, they also tend to be languid, and are therefore are no match for the minotaurs and their axes and long spears. The thick grotesque rubbery undersides of these worms, are filled with whale like blubber, which allows the worms to survive on fat deposits, in between rare occasional meals of mountain goats and occasional climbers. The minotaurs use this blubber to create giant candles for use in the Khuugrad. This substance while burning, gives off a sickly smell, but also aids the hallucinations with its strange chemical properties
The Mountain tribes hold the Khuugrad with every New Moon. All the minotaurs attend, the Low Ones ascending the Thorondrims to join their cousins. A combination of mountain plants, herbs, moss, and Lowland peat, along with other bizarre ingredients are used by the Shaman-Prelate Horn-of-Plenty and his assistants to stoke huge bonfires. The fires burn with thick, greenish, hallucinogenic smoke which is then funneled into the Great Smoke Hall, filling the huge pavilion entirely. Horn-of-Plenty then begins his chants, while throwing more strange ingredients into the flames, and lighting giant candles, as the minotaurs take their place in a great circle. It is due to the strange plants used, and the sing-song hypnotic chanting that allows the Minotaurs to see the past and sometimes future. While most of these windows are actually LSD-like induced phantasms, the minotaurs believe these to be actual past and future visions.
The truth behind the vision quests is blurry. Many times the quests are simple drug induced states of euphoria, but as of late there has been a new vitality following Scars-of-Glory and her profound experience at a Khuugrad. She saw the future of the race was bound to an outward expansion, to leave the high meadows and bring war against the humans who have been steadily growing in number and regaining their lost sorcerous might and glory. Scars-of-Glory is opposed by Horn-of-Plenty, the wily and old orator of the tribe who holds to the old path and preaches isolationism and meditation. They both have sizeable followings and the outcome of the power struggle is far from clear.
Freelance - Some younger Taurs have tired of the tribal existence and wander into human lands and sell their services as bodyguards. Having an eight foot horned warrior at your side tends to deter many assailants. The PCs could encounter one of these Bull-Errants as either a guard for a rival or enemy, or even gain one in their employ. Some are simply seeking a new life while others could be advance scouts for Scars-of-Glory plans of expansion.
The New Settlement - As humans drive further and further into the mountains they coming into closer contact with the Taurs on their home turf. Tensions mount and hostilities erupt between the war-hawks of the Taurs and the colonist militia. Can the PCs defuse the situation? Can they find and reason with the Taurs or due they earn the spite of the tribe by launching a new war against the Taurs?
Houses of the Holy - Driven by a vision, a prophet/oracle/seer decides that they must attend the next Khuugrad. It is up to the PCs to escort the frail/elderly/naive seer to the mountains and gain for them access to the Great Smoke Hall.
The Unmentionable One
One way to earn the hostility of the minotaurs is to mention the “Unmentionable One”. Years ago a minotaur named Korokai Maaz went “crazy” from all his hallucinations. Suffering through a deranged and failed vision quest, he was convinced that the glory of the race could be salvaged by breeding with the wild bovine and human-tamed cows of the alpine valleys. It is said he rushed down to these herds, alone, in a mad rage and began to mate with them all. His vision quest and excessive exposure to the hallucinogenic compounds left him to believe that not only would this restore the fecundity of the race, but it would create a new strain of superior minotaur.
Some humans had seen this lunatic behavior and comedic, raunchy tales, awful to the ears of the minotaurs, began to circulate among the people of the area. The minotaurs slew this disgrace Korokai and dubbed him the Unmentionable One. If by any chance he is mentioned whilst another minotaur is nearby the speaker would be censured and ostracized on the spot! Do not speak of Korokai Maaz!
Another post brought to you courtesy of MuroMax