Minotaurs stand over 7’ feet tall and have massive, bull-like heads and horns. They are fierce creatures, always eager for battle, and possessed of an ingrained stubborn nature.
The few remaining tribes live around the Valley of the Ancients. Until recently they survived by raiding caravans for livestock and weapons, and then retreating back into the sands before help could be summoned. With trade along the Northern Trade Road dying off, the beasts will soon have to look further afield.
Origin of the Minotaurs
The origins of the minotaurs are a great mystery. One popular theory points the finger of blame at the jinn, claiming the elemental beings used fell magic to merge men and beasts to form a strong slave race. But these claims ignore historical evidence.
Records found on Hekatan monuments speak of the early pharaohs’ armies crushing and sacking minotaur cities. Today, these are widely regarded as political exaggerations intended to show the pharaohs overcoming a great foe, not as accurate records of battles.
Later texts written by the Anari who settled in what is now the Free Emirate States indicate they launched many crusades against the “bull-headed beastmen” that lived in the deep desert and raided trade caravans in a “cruel and barbarous” way.
Amid the shifting sands of the Great Northern Desert are many half-buried ruins decorated with images of bulls and bull-headed humans, and of a size quite obviously designed for creatures taller than humans. Yet those few scholars who have visited these remote sites dismiss any claim the barbarous, primitive minotaurs raised them and lived here, instead inventing human cultures who honored bull deities. Even gold coins bearing bull heads and giving the names of kings are dismissed, the finder typically accused of forgery.
Despite these constant dismissals, the minotaurs did once rule from cities. They stood proud in the ancient days when “beastmen” were the supreme powers and men little more than savages. Bordered by the ophidae and scorpionmen, against whom they frequently warred, the minotaurs developed civilization, crafted works of art, instituted laws (albeit ones based on physical might), and worked the land, building irrigation channels, growing crops, and raising livestock.
By the time the early denizens of Hekata raised their first pyramid the minotaurs’ civilization was millennia old. Seriously weakened by their constant struggle against the other “beastmen,” decadent, and sliding steadily into decay, their once magnificent cities were prime targets for the expansionistic Hekatic Empire. One by one the cities fell to the advancing armies, the treasures stolen to line the tombs of the pharaohs for eternity, the survivors driven into the deep desert. Hekata’s continued growth westward coupled with the rise of the Kingdoms of the Sphinxes in the east prevented the minotaurs from ever regrouping and rebuilding. By the time the jinn appeared, the minotaurs were largely confined to the Valley of the Ancients, their ancestral heartland, and the dunes eastward.
Some minotaurs were enslaved by the jinn, but most managed to retain their liberty, though at great loss of life, for the jinn were as merciless as the minotaurs were stubborn. Had the Anari not landed in –232, the minotaurs could perhaps have pushed eastward beyond the mountains and founded a new kingdom. Instead, they found another enemy out for their blood. When the jinn finally fell and slaves departed, the minotaurs were too few in number and too set in their new way of life to take advantage and fill the void.
Five centuries on the minotaurs remain a broken race, confined geographically by their desire to be near their ancestors, continually harassed by Bedu and companies from the Free Emirates, forced to raid for essential supplies, shattered into tribes ruled by rival chieftains, and largely ignorant of their former heritage as a major race.
To most citizens of Al-Shirkuh, the title of “beastmen” is one well deserved.