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Gabriel MacGuinness - Ranger/Mage Minotaur
Minotaurs were generalized in D&D and most fantasy games into primarily solitary monsters that had special abilities with respect to mazes and such, as well as good senses and night vision. They are almost exclusively drawn as armed with a big axe or unarmed. They were further generalized as resulting from a curse or the coupling of a minotaur with a woman. There are no female minotaurs.
D&D minotaurs as player characters are expected to be strong and
venerate strength. They are either "naturally" born minotaurs
or cursed with it. They are not required to be evil. Among
other things, they are allowed to become Fighters, Mages, and Rangers.
I thought it would be cool to have a minotaur that is striving to maintain
his humanity, even moreso, trying to lift his minotaur curse.
Reflecting the struggle in his choice of character class by making him
a Fighter and a Mage seemed pretty cool too. The Fighter aspect
is a natural choice for a minotaur, IMO, and I would actually have a
hard time justifying a minotaur that did not have some Warrior abilities.
The Mage aspect reflects a serious quest for the knowledge and abilities
to lift his curse. I planned on having him grow up in the woodlands,
so Ranger seemed more and more a good idea. The abilities of a
Minotaur mesh well with a Ranger, and since he would be multi-classed,
he would not gain the primary benefit of the Fighter - weapon specialization,
so there was no reason to restrict the choice. The die rolls made
it a hard choice, but at least I got away with meeting the many minimum
attributes for Rangers and still having exceptional Strength.
Heavy rugged boots adorn his feet and disappear under the cuffs of his pants, apparently reaching to just below his knees. The large, sinewy slabs of muscle in his legs writhe and kick beneath light tan, doe-skin pants that seem to barely contain his massive thighs. A heavy dark brown leather belt holds a pair of light brown leather pouches as well as a pair of meter-long black-brown scabbards reinforced with bronze bands. The scabbards hold swords and their well-worn handles speak to thorough use. Nestled beside each scabbard is a large, thick leather sheath containing what appear to be very long and broad daggers, by the size of the handles, although a normal man would probably call them short swords.
A dingy, loose-fitting white cotton shirt covers his torso, its laces loose, leaving his massive, chiseled chest muscles clearly visible. The laces of his shirt tighten and loosen noticeably as his large chest expands and contracts with each breath. His tawny skin is covered with a remarkably average amount of body hair for a human. It is fine, dark brown, and quite normal. His shirt is sleeveless, revealing immense arms that are easily wider than a man's head. As he picks up a large, tan leather satchel, the sinews in his arm snap into action like great ropes pulling taut on a load. Simple, dark red-brown leather bracers cover his broad wrists and most of his forearms. Sturdy, well-used leather gloves cling to his hands, shaped to fit well as if from many days of wear and hard work.
A remarkably thick and heavy bronze torc sits firmly around his neck with various knot designs and nature symbols carved into it. Clasped around his neck, but pulled back over his shoulders, is an immense, hooded traveling cloak made of a dark forest green material that seems oddly free of snags and loose threads considering that he is a woodsman. Something about the cloak's appearance suggests that it has been treated to shed water. A loose, simple, lightweight cord fastens the cloak.
Topping his immense, seven and a half foot frame is his most distinctive feature, his bull head. The skin of Gabriel's head and neck has a short dense, tawny coat of hair, punctuated by an auburn mane that erupts from his crown and continues down his back, trailing off between his shoulder blades. Calm, dark brown eyes survey his environment and occasionally his nostrils flare and his head turns slightly as if tracking the passage of scents in the air. Short stout horns frame his head, giving him a odd, almost regal stature. The symmetry of his horns is broken slightly by the handle of an immense sword jutting over his right shoulder. When he pulls his large cloak over his large frame, the monstrous blade on his back and his bow, if he is carrying it, are his only apparent weapons. [He also has a large dagger tucked into his boot]
His voice has a booming bass sound. He speaks with a Scottish accent in a slow rhythm. Although his speech might be cryptic or laconic at times, he tends to speak frequently and often attempts to be jovial and chummy.
His bearing is one of great physical confidence with a tinge of uncertainty. He stands tall and proud, but will often quickly move aside to let people pass. His temper can suddenly be cut short when his bestial impulses are unleashed. This continues to happen in spite of his best efforts.
His Companion and Steed, RockThis massive Clydesdale horse has a well kept saddle which looks as if it has seen exceptional care or little use. The beast is a deep chestnut brown with four white socks to the knees and hocks, and a well-defined blaze upon its face. It stands about 17 hands high and easily weighs about a ton. It looks healthy and well groomed. The beast looks calm around Gabriel, but you have heard that it had been known to bite people at times. Camping gear, rope, and a rugged wood axe hang from the horse, clearly not being any test of its endurance. A sturdy long bow crafted from various colors of wood hangs from the horse. The bow's condition suggests the owner takes good care of it.
Gabriel adopts a light, happy fairy tale voice and begins, "There once was a little fief known as Barlan ruled by a lord named Roderick. Roderick was a goodly fief lord. His fief was small, but it thrived under his leadership. His people never went hungry and they were safer than most in the rugged wilderness they lived in. He met a beautiful ambassador named Helen from a far away foreign land. They fell madly in love and were married in such a short time that the gossip had not even reached outlying villages before the bride's bouquet was caught. It seemed a fortunate time for Roderick, as shortly after his wedding, news reached him from his lord that his lands had been tripled and his rank in the court elevated. The news had been delayed by unfortunate accidents that claimed the lives of the first two messengers.
"Roderick's apparent good fortune seemed to come to an abrupt end. Within a few months, he and his friends from the temple of Tyr at his castle were stricken with a strange illness that seemed to spread rampantly among them but afflict no others. Skilled healers of great renown were summoned, but good Lord Roderick was dead before they arrived along with all of the priests of the temple of Tyr. It was a confusing time and the people were quite saddened and grief-stricken by the loss of a remarkably good lord. A bereaved Helen humbly and sorrowfully accepted the mantle of rulership after Roderick's reputedly complex and labyrinthine will was sorted out.
"Roderick's ill fate seemed to afflict the land. Hunger reared its ugly head in Barlan for the first time since Roderick had become lord. Taxes were collected more frequently as the poor Lady Helen struggled to buy overpriced grain from greedy neighboring lords. Some people let their worst sides come out and took to crime and treason, forcing Helen to divert much-needed funds from food to bolster her military forces to keep the peace. She couldn't very well feed the people with bandits roaming about and taking as they saw fit. Fearful for Roderick's son George, Helen sent him off to another land far away to a monastery where he could be raised in safety and groomed to rule as his father did. Sad times indeed, or so the members of Helen's court would say."
Gabriel snorts derisively, "In a pig's eye. Helen was a scheming witch that lived quietly off the court of a foreign land, like a tick that drinks just enough blood from a great beast of a dog to survive until something better comes along. She heard from her spies that Roderick was due for a large increase in land and power. She also had heard that Roderick was without wife, having been made a widower when his wife became terminally ill. She made plans move on to Roderick's fief, hoping to be able to drink her fill of a new, more easily controlled dog. Besides she was wearing out her welcome and she did not want to be around when the great beast that was the capital city's court decided to scratch and rid itself of her.
Gabriel's voice drops slightly into a rough, conspiratorial whisper, "She retained some hardened and dastardly men to watch the roads and kill off the messengers that would soon arrive to inform Roderick of his good fortune." Gabriel returns to his normal volume and continues, "She glided into Roderick's court as an ambassadorial entourage, done up in her best clothes and perfumes. Her wicked heart was hidden well beneath a comely face and a shapely frame, no doubt about that. Poor Roderick was no match for her charms. Having brought tranquility and peace to his lands, he had begun to miss the presence of a wife and he did not want to raise his son alone. It wasn't hard for her to seduce him and arrange a whirlwind wedding."
Gabriel empties his tankard and quickly gets another fragrant serving of glögg. He holds up a finger as if to ask for a pause while he drinks down heavy gulps of the warm, heady brew. "All right, where was I? Right, the wedding. Well, within a matter of weeks, the news arrives about Roderick's fief increase and his promotion. Almost immediately, the strange sickness strikes them. There was nothing strange about it lad. It was slow poison. She had her minions deliver it to the priests of Tyr for two reasons. One, she didn't want them healing Roderick up. Two, she didn't want them interfering with her taking over afterwards. They held great sway with the people of the land. The poison was powerful; it clouded the mind, prevented decent sleep, and made it impossible to keep food down. Of course, the food contained the poison, every last drop and crumb of it, so the priests were not long for the world. Within days they were all dead. She had acted quickly to prevent healers from nearby coming to the rescue as it were.
"She was no fool about healing magics either. To be safe, she set all of the bodies on a boat of kindling and set it ablaze, letting the floating pyre sail away on its own. She claimed it was the last wish of Roderick and no one could justifiably argue otherwise. She sent off George to a monastery and arranged for his unfortunate death en route. Unbeknownst to her, George's personal guard was able to protect him and deliver him safely to a temple of Tyr in Falcon Glen for his training. Before the poor people knew it, they were taxed into poverty and experiencing starvation for the first time in their lives. Some turned to banditry, trying to intercept goods bound for Helen's court to feed themselves and sometimes others. Helen's court was a pit of decadence. Powdered and perfumed courtiers played idle games and engaged in gluttony, sating their slightest whim. She began to hatch all manner of evil plots through her minions. One in particular is of interest.
"Helen knew of a local minotaur named Krog. He was only as dangerous as people let him be. He was evil, don't doubt it, but he knew better than to raid a settlement on his own. The communities were full of hardy men ready to take up a sword against him if he threatened their homes. However, any poor soul that wandered into the woods near his lair was as good as dead. Many rumors of great treasures hidden in the winding tunnels he called home lured many fools and would-be heroes to their doom. Helen decided that she wanted some minotaurs of her own. The kind of idea that only a truly twisted and decadent mind could craft.
"During the harvest festival of my village, Briargrove, one of Helen's darker henchmen, William the Red, or as we called him, Smashface arrived. This was one *ugly* bugger, I'm telling ya. His face was mostly one big scar. It looked like the midwife had dropped him and gnawed on his face to boot. Anyway, he came to our peaceful little village with a wicked mission. He lurked about until later in the evening then drugged a number of young couples, including Angus MacGuinness and his lovely wife Heather. After they had slipped into a deep slumber, Smashface and his thugs dragged the men to their homes and spirited away the wives to Krog's lair.
"Smashface managed to talk to Krog and convince him to go along with his plan. It wasn't hard, since Smashface's plan consisted of letting Krog eat the thugs and impregnate the women. Within a few hours, the wives were sleeping soundly in their homes, Smashface and Krog were on good terms and all of the witnesses to his inhuman crimes were dead. Things went awry for Smashface from then on.
"The village elder was visited by a scout that delivered a prophetic message that all children delivered in a certain week would be beast men. The elder mostly dismissed it, but more attention was paid to any expecting women. This escalated as four such women showed signs of pregnancies that roughly correlated with conception during the festival, a common tradition in the village. However, the pregnancies advanced a little more quickly than normal and on the first day of the prophesied week, one of the wives delivered prematurely and a baby with a misshapen head and tiny horns came into the world. It was not our village's custom to kill unwanted babies, but this one did not survive birth and was dead within hours. Two more women also gave birth later in the week. One of the mothers died during birth along with the baby, which was never delivered, and the other delivered her child normally but it died within hours as the other had. Heather was the only one that had conceived at the festival and had not delivered during the fated week. Smashface showed up in town by the time she gave birth. I was the result of that birth, a squealing little minotaur that would not let go of life as easily as his brothers before him." Gabriel smiles grimly and gives a short chuckle.
Gabriel takes another sip of his drink and continues, "Well, the wicked little bastard stole me away from Heather and Angus, giving me over to Helen. She was just giddy at her feral little pet. I spent my first years of life as the main attraction in her court. Everyone wanted to see the 'Court Minotaur'. Fortunately for me, one person found me too irresistible. I was just barely able to walk when a visitor to Helen's court kidnapped me. The fop had taken me as some trophy for his own decadent lord's court. I had apparently become quite the fashionable addition to the court of the truly wicked. Helen sent minions to reclaim me on the road out of town, but they botched the job, and I was able to escape into the woods. I don't remember much of it, but I am told that an Elf scout found me. I was dressed in fine clothes and he had heard of the rumor of a minotaur raised in captivity. He took me back to his lands and their elders decided to return me to Heather and Angus."
"Heather and Angus were surprised, to say the least, but they had heard what had happened to me and took me in. They soon realized the danger of another visit from Smashface. It's hard to raise a Minotaur without being noticed, after all. The village elder sought the council of one of the Elf scouts he had come to know and they arranged for me to be raised amongst a group of wilderness warriors, Rangers as some call them. Angus and Heather visited me regularly, but I rarely saw the village. Yet I learned to love it through their eyes and their stories. When I was eight, I was introduced to my new sister, Bonnie. As I approached adult age, I began to learn the secrets of the woods. I had always had a certain sense with animals, but now I was learning about all sorts of creatures, even ones that lived in far away lands. I still haven't seen all the amazing creatures I have learned about then. Did you know there is a bird that can learn to speak like a human?" Gabriel looks at you with wonder amusement.
He shakes off the expression, adopting a more sober visage and continues, "Anyway, I had many tutors, mostly the forest itself taught me what I needed to know. I picked up weapon skills from the Rangers, adopting their traditional style of wearing light armor and using two weapons. Actually, I preferred not to wear armor, it was too confining. "I was also taught how to track by sight and by observing clues of passage. I had always used my nose," Gabriel taps his snout, "but with that knowledge, I could track just about anything. I learned to respect the forest and see the balance of life and death.
"I worked hard to be the best I could, harder than most. I had to prove myself at every turn, fighting racial bigotry aimed at me. I started to look for my own lessons and I took a more scholarly turn, spending some time at a small outpost near the border of Elf lands called White Oak. Simply put, 'twas a hamlet that sprung up around a trading post built next to a white oak." Gabriel again adopts a conspiratorial look but with a glint of humor in his eyes. "Legend has it that the oak was home to a dryad that died of fright."
He winks at you, cracks a walnut between his thumb and forefinger, and tosses the meat of the nut in his mouth, quickly chewing it up before continuing. "I learned to read and write the common tongue as well as that of the Elves. I was not quite so good at speaking the language, but then I had little chance to practice. The population of the town was transient and the few Elves that would talk to me were not around for very long, although they seemed quite amused by the experience. I learned a lot about temperance there. I became obsessed with learning more about the curse of the Minotaur and that exposed me to knowledge I had never dreamed of learning. I found a kindly, if eccentric, elven warrior magician named Carwynne that delighted in 'odd pupils.' He was tickled to be able to brag that he taught a Minotaur how to cast spells. One of the other odd pupils, Caoilin (KY-lin) Browne, was a mischievous little minx. She'd probably be in chains if she weren't so cute. She had a knack for shall we say . . . subtlety, and I think her dad was some high muckety muck Elf."
"Anyway, I began to learn about magic and I took to it like a frog to water. Carwynne was surprised at how quickly I picked things up, but I was accustomed to that by now. Most people expect me to trudge around stuporously, grunting and saying things like 'Me smash' or some such shite." Gabriel chuckles, winking as he takes another drink.
"So then I knew magic, making my arsenal replete. A few trips to some other 'hedge wizards' at Carwynne's insistence helped me learn other perspectives on magic and I picked up a couple of good spells too. In my travels, I gathered a lot of information on Helen and her power base; I heard rumors about myself as well as George and his exile to Falcon Glen; and I also picked up my trusty friend Rock. He's one of the few horses I have met that can comfortably carry me and doesn't complain about it. He's a great friend.
"I finally tracked down my sire, Krog. He was quite the beast. He almost caught me off guard, but he was getting long in the tooth and I was able detect his approach and keep my distance. He respected my weapons. The scars on his body suggested that he had learned that respect the hard way. He knew very little of the common tongue, but through a mish mash of common tongue and the guttural speech of Minotaurs, we began to communicate. He was cunning. He was proud. He was remorseless.
"Over many weeks I learned his ways. I would give him a freshly killed deer before trying to talk with him; it made him easier to deal with. He barely remembered siring me. Having gotten to know him, I knew it was no insult. He was dying from old age. Soon he would get clumsy and forget his own territory. He'd probably wander into some armed camp filled with bloodlust and be struck down in the heat of battle, roaring with rage. It was his way, like any other beast. At least he left me a birthright of sorts, our language. It is not that complex; it's quite elegant really, but human mouths are not that good at making the sounds properly.
"Anyway, I returned to the Rangers and we compared notes. I learned of Helen's evil workings and the will that reputedly empowered her to legally rule Barlan. If anyone could find a way to legitimately remove her, it was a Priest of Tyr, and who better than the rightful heir himself, George. I would find him and help reclaim his rightful throne. I also promised myself that I'd do my best to make sure that things went smoothly if legitimate means didn't work. With that in mind, I found Caoilin and informed her of my upcoming adventure to Falcon Glen. She was eager to come along. I suspect to this day that one of her primary motivations was that the trip would upset her father." Gabriel chuckles briefly.
"I said my good byes to my family. Angus and Heather were happy to see me and Bonnie had grown up a little and was talking now. I snuck off on my own and shared one last meal with Krog. His memory had become so blurred that he barely recognized me. He understood that I was leaving and that he would soon die. I think I saw regret in his eyes, but it's quite possible I only wanted to see that."
"Caoilin and I headed to Falcon Glen with bold notions in our heads. The trip was quite smooth. A few snags slowed us down when travelers saw me without my hood pulled up, but Caoilin helped avoid conflict. We soon reached Falcon Glen and made contact with George. We had brought a copy of the will and a layout of Helen's castle. I swore to help him regain his rightful power and we began to make our plans."
"A few days later, a Priest of Chauntea, named Alan, showed up out of nowhere claiming his goddess had given him a vision that he should adventure with me or some such. Visions," he snorts, "I'm glad I'm not a priest."
"Anyway, George vouched for the truth of Alan's words, and he joined in the plotting. The temple in Falcon Glen could not spare many people; only one other than George was able to accompany us, a woman Priest of Tyr named Serena. She pledged herself to the cause, eager to exact justice and right a whole host of horrible wrongs. As our plans developed, we determined that we needed more muscle to back us up. We hit the taverns in the surrounding area and found only two people that were skilled, hungry, and goodly enough to help us out, a stout dwarven warrior named Krieg Warstone and a fair-sized human woman named Hilda. He wielded a vicious axe and she could make sword-fighting look like a casual, if deadly, dance. We set out for Helen's castle, bolstered by righteousness.
"We were ready for a long hard fight, but it never came. George had an ace up his sleeve, as Krieg would say. The temple of Tyr had been imbued with mighty magics and possessed a secret portal commissioned from a powerful wizard in the clergy that allowed free passage of large groups of soldiers. If we could get George into the temple, Helen's defeat would be almost assured. Well, that's where my knowledge of the castle came in handy. Minotaur children can wander safely through many foul, dank passageways and it was just such a passageway that we wandered through this time. With the help of Krieg and Hilda I was able to pry off the grating over the passage and we moved in. Thankfully, Caoilin spotted a ballista rigged to fire down the tunnel before we blundered into it and she tripped it safely. Some fool guards tried to sneak up on our position to investigate the noise we had made, but I smelled them before they could ambush us and we turned the tables on them, dispatching them with relative stealth before they could raise an alarm. Some nasty critters had made the tunnel their home and they were deaf to my words, but Alan was able to send them away.
"We had to enter the temple through its sewer pipe, which thankfully had not been in use since the temple was closed down. George and Serena quietly and quickly re-awakened the spirit of Tyr in the temple and activated the portal. Within hours, a glittering stream of heavy infantry strode into the temple. They formed up and seized Helen and her minions. Smashface escaped, but my newfound companions, minus George, followed me as I tracked him. He was crafty, but he was not crafty enough to evade a Ranger, and definitely not a Minotaur Ranger.
Gabriel slugs down the last of his tankard then shoves it aside standing up, his voice a little more excited now. Some of the nearby patrons grab their mugs, prepared to flee. "So we cornered the little bastard in a forest clearing, I drew ma blades," Gabriel mimes the motions with his arms, a serious look on his face, " and I said to him 'Well William ma lad, can ya feel the steely cold hand of justice clenching 'round your throat?' The bugger kept his cool and didn't bother trying to draw his weapons. He may have doubted my ability to take him, but he had no doubts that Krieg and Hilda would happily gut him in the blink of an eye. He says to me 'Well, kill me you bastard freak, make your father Krog proud.' I looked him in the eye, advanced on him, and plunged my swords into the ground." Gabriel again mimes the motion, "His cool exterior started to crumble. Then I said to him, 'Oh no, Smashface, you'll get no such gift from me this day,' and I ensorcelled him with a magical slumber. We delivered him to Briargrove and left him to the tender mercies of the constable, my family, and the many families Smashface had wronged over the years. It was harsh justice, but he still got off easy. No one dies slowly enough to atone for the things he had done." Gabriel finishes the last sentence with a cold stare.
"With Serena's help, George was able to establish his legal claim to the throne and Serena prosecuted Helen with ease, sending her to a very nasty prison where pretty women were welcome playthings until they were used up. Helen would find justice in the tender mercies of her fellow criminals, provided she lasted long enough.
"Well, with everything settled, and Barlan back on its way to prosperity,
we decided we made a fair bunch and headed back to Falcon Glen to see our
friend Serena safely home and make plans from there. The rest you