Minotaur Culture and Society

Discussion of Elder Scrolls lore and how it will be used in Province: Cyrodiil
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Minotaur Culture and Society

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Cyrodiilic Minotaurs are an intelligent, if non-verbal, beast race native to Cyrodiil, Valenwood, and parts of Skyrim. Their origin is intimately bound to that of the Imperials themselves, and within the borders of the Imperial Province they are considered an honorable, sometimes even holy people.

Small tribal camps can be found across the province, usually in remote areas, though individual Minotaurs are also encountered roaming the wilderness or trading with Imperials on behalf of their clan. Some Minotaurs even serve in the Legion, in agriculture and construction, or act as oracles in some of the Nibenay's most important holy places.

Though most Minotaurs do not have the ability to speak, they are capable of reason, learning, and can understand the speech of others - though their way of thinking is different from that of the civilized races. When required, Minotaurs make do with non-verbal communication, like grunts or hand gestures. Some minotaurs have developed a rather complex sign language, which they seem to use exclusively in order to deal with their Imperial cousins.

Minotaurs are thought to have an intricate oral history, religion, and culture, though lack of clear communication and an unwillingness to share make this mere speculation.

Imperial tradition claims that the minotaurs were the issue of Queen Alessia and the winged bull-god Morihaus, son of Kynareth. The number of Alessia's children is unknown, though some sources claim they numbered in the dozens, some being more human-like (though none were purely human), and some more bullish. After Alessia's death, Morihaus departed (either dissolving into the winds or going west to help the Colovian conquests), leaving the southern Empire in the hands of their eldest son, Belharza the Man-Bull, often considered the first (and only) Minotaur Emperor.

Initially (so the legend goes) there was no difference between the children of Alessia, but under the reign of Belharza there gradually came to be a division between the more human and the more bullish descendants. Belharza took human consorts, meaning that (barring any future incestuous dynasty-building) the line of Emperors would lose all their bull-like characteristics in but a few generations. Indeed, this was already the case with Belharza's children, who only had some vestigial aspects like horns and tails.

The legends speak of a struggle over the line of succession between the human-like children of Belharza and a faction of Minotaurs, who claimed that the succession should pass to the eldest living child of Alessia. The conflict resulted in the deaths of many and the eventual ascension of Emperor Ami-El, a member of the human faction. Disgraced, the Minotaurs swore fealty to the Emperor and all his successors, whereupon they left the Imperial City and retreated into the wilderness.

It is presumed that the Minotaurs tell a different version of this story, perhaps one in which their champion wins and founds a line of Minotaur Emperors, who presumably still rule in some distant jungle stronghold. This is difficult to ascertain, however, and the fact that many "social" Minotaurs acknowledge the Emperor as their ruler casts doubt on this narrative.

Gradually, the Minotaurs lost their ability to speak and their interest in the affairs of humans, retreating into the jungle. Whereas Ami-El is still said to have hosted large groups in his court, Gorieus and Hestra entertained only a handful Minotaurs at best. Some claim the Marukhati persecuted the Minotaurs, leading to their isolation, but there appears to be very little evidence for this - indeed, it seems that some Minotaurs took part in the further extermination of the Cyrodiilic elves, and many fought in the Alessian Legions even until the days of the War of Righteousness.

Some scholars have questioned the historical weight of this legend, specifically whether a single group of close relatives from a single genetic source could be responsible for the entire Minotaur race as it exists today. It has been suggested that relations between humans and Minotaurs were much more expansive than suggested by myth, and that the early minotaurs interbred prodigiously with Nords and Nedes - suggesting that they were far more bull-like before, and that the modern version is comparatively more human-like. Even today, relations with inotaurs are not unheard of in the Nibenay - often in a religious context. Others have discounted the mythical origin of the race entirely, stating that the Minotaurs were a beast race as any other, likely originating from Skyrim or Valenwood.

Rural Niben folklore claims that new Minotaurs are generated from mudpits during the rain season, when Morihaus (in the shape of a thunderstorm) inseminates Alessia (who has become one with the land in death) with his divine rain. This story was likely inspired by the sight of young calves mud-bathing to get rid of fleas.

Minotaurs live in semi-nomadic clans of five to twenty members, organized in a rough caste system. The leader of the clan, the Astir, is set apart from birth due to his atavistic qualities - vestigial wings denoting kinship to their Divine progenitor. The Astir defends his throne in trials of combat against other Astiri, often his children. However, he only rules over the clan in a limited, some would say ceremonial function -- given the small size of most clans, it appears that important decisions are usually handled through a sort of informal council. Clans can have more than one Astir, though this is often cause of instability unless the others can be granted sub-territories or duties.

Surrounding the Astir are the Trebataurs, a berserker caste who do not have the self-control other minotaurs seem to posses -- a (Shezarrite?) 'spirit of war' had taken possession of them. Trebataurs serve as hunters, warriors, bodyguards and defenders, but they have no say in the affairs of the clan and are not permitted to keep lifemates or raise children. Trebataurs are often set apart by their ritualistic scarring and decorations.

Finally, the common Minotaur is the most frequently encountered specimen. Despite being the least physically impressive of the castes, they are still a formidable creature, powerful, extremely violent when provoked, and more intelligent than they might appear. Male and female Minotaurs seem to perform many of the same functions, though as there is little visual distinction between the genders, this is difficult to ascertain.

Isolated Minotaurs are a common sight in the wilderness. These are usually pariahs, excluded from the clan for various offenses. Berserker Trebataurs who can no longer control their violent impulses are common in the wilderness of the Serican or the Highlands. Others are youths, seeking to prove their worth and earn a higher status in the clan by defeating an impressive opponent - a ritual quest known as the Tredoubt. In most of these cases, a questant youth is liable to attack on sight.

Though the killing of a non-violent Minotaur is legally and culturally considered murder in Imperial culture, it is acceptable and unremarkable when done in self-defense. Occasionally, a single Minotaur or a trade group will seek out human settlements or caravans to trade furs, hides, or river-pearls, though this is usually couched in elaborate ceremony. Merchant minotaurs tend to deck themselves out with robes and colored silks in order to announce their intentions, and often carry their wares on them in rough rawhide bales.

Material Culture
Minotaur camps consist of crude-looking huts and walls, built by piling up vast stones and entire tree trunks. Minotaur hands are generally not suited to intricate crafts, though they make up for it with sheer strength, allowing them to cleave and cut boulders with ease, creating intricately fitted stone walls which do not require mortar. They tend to strip tree trunks and branches of bark, and often paint or carve them.

They excel in curing leather, hide and fur, which they trade for Imperial crafts. Crafting bone and horn is also an art they have mastered. Minotaurs can make pottery, but the results are considerably more crude than delicate human hands can make - however, human pottery tends to break rather quickly in Minotaur hands. Their pots and vessels tend to be much larger than any human can easily use.

Minotaurs are obsessed with Imperial silk, and "wealthy" minotaurs can be seen decorating their homes with scraps and rolls of brightly colored moth-silk. They do not possess the skills or knowledge to produce this material themselves, thought they sometimes harvest raw silk in the wilderness, which they trade with Imperials.

Minotaurs are well-suited to heavy labor, and more than one of their kind has been convinced to work in mines, quarries, or other heavy industry in return for food or baubles. Metalworking is curiously unknown to them - priests of Zenithar have found that they can teach a Minotaur to work at a forge, but that they are uninterested in the results and will not retain the knowledge nor teach it to members of their clan. It is believed that such things are against their nature as children of the sky. Minotaurs are occasionally interested in silver and gold baubles, and will trade for them, but they value them less than silk - some have been observed carelessly discarding expensive jewelry after losing interest in it.

Though most objects of Minotaur make are obviously not suited for human use, some of their weapons can be wielded - though only by the strongest and hardiest of warriors. Horn weapons of Minotaur make are in high demand, both for their quality and their intricate carvings and decorations. Bone harpoons, used in fishing by Minotaurs and as spears by humans, are especially prized.

Minotaur horn is a prized alchemical ingredient. Minotaurs themselves have no compulsion against trading the horns of fallen adversaries to Imperials, explaining the relative abundance of the material.

Most clans live far removed from one another, each claiming a vast territory as their own. Tribal wars over territory are usually decided through prearranged ritual combat between champions. Open warfare is extremely rare, but when it happens it is horrific to see and devastating to people, houses, or even towns caught between the opposing forces.

The clans are plentiful in the far eastern jungles surrounding the semi-legendary Valley of Horns, one of several deep clefts in the Valus Mountains which, according to legend, were carved by the horns of Morihaus in order to create the Niben valley's life-bringing rivers. Few have entered this secluded valley, but folklore claims it is the site of a fabled city, built in a circle in imitation of the Imperial City, and ruled over by a Minotaur Emperor.

A subset of violent, xenophobic clans inhabit the plateau surrounding the sacred city of Sancre Tor. These clans are known to occupy the barrow-cities and roam the Remanite necropolis which surround the city. Legend claims that old and powerful chieftains, garbed in ceremonial armor and jewelry, guards the invisible gates to Sancre Tor, striking down unworthy pilgrims without remorse. In general, the western clans are more violent and less disposed to reason, possibly a quality imparted by their surroundings. Some are known to ambush and plunder caravans, or attack lone wanderers in times of need.

Mention should be made of the minotaurs sometimes encountered in Falkreath and Valenwood. it is believed that these specimens hail from migrant clans of the First Era, or, alternatively, that they were the original Minotaurs from which the Cyrodiilic genus originated. These minotaurs are in no way comparable to the clans of Cyrodiil: they are solitary, dumb, and oafish, prone to fight whomever they encounter. In cases where these offshoots encounter native Cyrodiilic minotaurs, the Cyrodiilics as a rule attempt to exterminate their lesser cousins, regarding them perhaps a little like a human might see a goblin.

Named Minotaurs will use an edited version of the Arena "monster names" random name elements (check with Violet for update).

One other possibility for important Minotaurs is to take names from the extended family of the IRL Minotaur of Knossos, the royal family of Crete.

The Clans
As minotaurs themselves cannot speak the common tongue, the origin of their clan names is unsure - they may have been attributed to them by nearby Imperial settlements. Clan names originate from different oral and linguistic traditions, and many of them are hundreds, if not thousands of years old. It is a matter of debate whether these clans are truly that ancient, or if the local Imperials merely gave a name known to them from their folklore to various clans that came and went throughout the centuries.

Ceton: one of the western clans, the Ceton inhabit a pass in the Colovian Highlands south of Mhorlagrad. For a western clan, they are relatively friendly and passive, although they tend to cross into the Imperial Reserve and Hammerfell to hunt and pillage. The Ceton have an infrequent rivalry with the Memmose, and often partake in ritual combat with them.

Memmose: a rather unruly western clan situated north of Mhorlagrad, on the pilgrim path to the Rorhern, a hill and temple complex dedicated to Morihaus. As per an ancient truce between the Memmose and the temple, this clan seems to consider the temple and its road part of their responsibility -- they have been known to escort pilgrims to the temple in return for food and other gifts. However, this courtesy does not extend to the nearby Black Road, along which they often create ambushes for lone trade caravans, much to the frustration of the Legion garrison in Mhorlagrad. Sensitivities regarding the Minotaurs make it difficult to put a permanent stop to this banditry, and there has been a call for mediators from the temple of Stendarr in Chorrol to try their hand at stopping the violence. Others, more practically minded, have though of hiring the Black Brotherhood to assasinate the Memmose Astir. As noted above, the Memmose have a longstanding territory dispute with the Ceton.

Trema: A dangerous clan occupying a stronghold in the inhospitable Barrowlands, north of Sancre Tor. Like the Memmose, the Trema consider the holy city and its itinerant population of pilgrims and hermits to be within their territory and under their protection. In return, they receive frequent tribute in food, silk, and other gifts, making them an affluent clan despite their harsh and barren surroundings. The Trema take their task serious, but interpret it in their own way: richly adorned Astiri champions guard the secret doors, tombs and holy squares of the inner city, destroying those they deem unworthy. Others wander the vast necropolis in packs, hunting both the undead and lost pilgrims as sport. Recently, some event within the inner city has caused the Trema to double their efforts and occupy large parts of the inner and outer complex, much to the dismay of the pilgrim community.

Plentarath: a dangerous Barrowlands clan, the mad and cannibalistic Plentarath have made their home in one of the enormous barrow-cities, turning it into a fortified redoubt. It is said that the Plentarath once had a part in guarding Sancre Tor, until they were ousted - either by a coup organized by the Trema, or by some ritual crime or failure which made them unworthy (the instigating event seems to have happened sometime during Tiber Septim's occupation and defense of the city). Defeated and humiliated, the Plentarath wander the inhospitable landscape of the Barrowlands, driven by hunger to consume even their own flesh. They are hostile to anyone who approaches them. Plentarath war-packs wander the Barrowlands looking for prey, sometimes even leaving their territory to plunder traffic on the Orange Road and the roads to Skyrim.

Cyptherra: a northern clan within the Jerall Mountains, east of Pale Pass.

Morcenathri: the martial Morcenathri are a relatively new phenomenon, and are by some believed to be an offshoot of the southern Plotherra tribe. Their clan has a fortified outpost in the utter northeastern corner of Cyrodiil, deep within the Valus Mountain passes. This is an area which is not traditionally considered Minotaur territory. Observers believe that the Morcenathri have designs on the lawless Malakh hill-orc domains which of old lies between Cyrodiil, Morrowind and Skyrim. Minotaur war-packs have been observed moving into the mountains.

Plotherra: the Plotherra clan reside in the Valus mountain, east of Leyawiin. A small tribe, often spotted using the canopy tunnels of the Blue Road, and relatively active in relation to the local towns and communities.

Sarrath: an affluent clan within the southern Serican jungle. The Sarrath maintain camps near the Corbolo river, and distinguish themselves by subsiding mostly off of fishing. Sarrath bone harpoons are prized weapons, although few have the strength to use them. The Sarrath are considered friendly and approachable, and maintain good contacts with both the Deepwoods tribes nearby, and with the various Nibenese communities in the Valley of Altars. Sarrath traders are not an unusual sight in the Niben bay. Priests and warrior-monks of the Valley of Altars sometimes try and study martial mystic arts taught by these minotaurs.

Cyrothrace: the noble (some would say delusional) denizens of the Valley of Horns, a massive ravine in the southern Valus Mountains which houses a vast cyclopic city. By all accounts the largest clan in Cyrodiil, though some believe it to be a alliance between several lesser clans -- a form of social organization not observed anywhere else in Minotaur society. The ruling Astir is sometimes described as the Emperor of Bulls, ruler of all Minotaurs. According to the nearby Deepwoods tribes, who trade extensively with the Valley of Horns, the Bull-Emperor believes that he is the true Emperor of Tamriel, and that the human Emperor must answer to him. Communication with minotaurs being what it is, it is impossible to verify this claim, though the Bull-Emperor keeps an extravagant court within the valley, where Minotaurs have been observed to imitate human customs. The Cyrothrace are also the origin of the famous bull-prophet of the Morihaus temple in Vengheto, a priest who is said to have mastered the common tongue.

Austerath: an isolated clan known to inhabit the southern Riverlands, between the Dimirius and Breha rivers. The clan is a scant fifty years old, and seems to originate from a castoff or schism from a larger clan. Naturally, the Eusterath do not recognize the border with Elsweyr, which has caused some consternation with local Khajiit who protest these beastman hunting and gathering in their lands. The fact that the nearby Legion garrison does nothing to impede the minotaurs, and even pays them to work as heavy labor, is sometimes used as propaganda by the Renrijra Krin. The Austerath are otherwise a rather sedate clan.

Quest Drafts
Possible quests:
The Chorrol Fighters Guild has been contracted with the killing of a (non-hostile) Minotaur -- apparently the beast killed someone's nephew during its Tredoubt, and this someone (an influential merchant-baron) is willing to pay a large sum for revenge. The killing of a Minotaur is somewhat controversial, and there are internal questions whether this does not count as assassination. As such the matter is handled very discreetly.
Potential endings:
  • Player manages to discreetly kill the Minotaur without aggravating the rest of the clan
  • Player kills the Minotaur, but not discreet enough: clan comes after them.
  • Player manages to make the situation clear to the Minotaur, who gives them a bloodied trophy (ear?) and makes himself scarce.
The Dark Brotherhood has been contracted to kill an important Minotaur in the Valley of Horns. However, their limited info does not make clear which Minotaur it is exactly. Identifying the target requires investigation and the interpretation of clues.

A Minotaur clan requires a champion for ritual combat against an enemy clan, but their prime fighters are all ill. They elect to send the player.

A delegation of Minotaur merchants has shown up near the gates of Sarchal. Nobody understands what they want, but they can't force them to leave.

Imperial Legion: the player is sent to the Ceton clan in order to explain to them that the Imperial Reserve is the Emperor's private property and that they, as subjects of the Emperor, are not allowed to hunt there.

An enterprising Khajiit fellow in Bravil has hatched a plan to get the Austerath minotaurs hooked on moon sugar, and requires but a bit of assistance to do so.

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