Part 43: Regarding the BeastkinRegarding the Beastkin
The beastkin are the remnants of three or four kindreds, that did in ancient days have their own kingdoms and lived not as one people but rather as sometime enemies and sometime allies- the goatkin, the centaurs, the minotaurs, and, it could be argued, the bestial manticores, who are only in the loosest sense a civilised people. Even their smallest and most numerous kindred, the shaggy goatkin, overtop any other race of Myrror by half a head or more, and the other kindreds are larger and stronger yet. The centaurs have a body much like a dwarf's or man's rising from the neck of a horse's frame, the hulking minotaurs are huge shaggy-headed with the head and lower legs of a cow or bull and a body again like that of a dwarf or man of massive frame, and the manticores may be recognized as great bat-winged lions with faces like men and tails like scorpions. All save the manticores, despite their bestial appearance, have the wits and reason of other civilised races, while the manticores are foolish beings that can barely master speech. Their kingdoms were largely subdued by the Dark Elven Empire in its coming, and they were enthralled and relocated to outlying districts in its day. They then came under High Elven rule in the days of the Confederation, released from bondage but still pressed under the heavy yoke of the Confederation.
Today, the beastkin are known to survive as a single people bound by ties of history and culture in their kingdom of Bantanu. The goatkin, by far the most fertile and most numerous of the beastkin- indeed, the goatkin breed at a rate unseen amongst dwarf, elf, or dragonkin- perform most of their labors, while the centaurs hunt their forests and roam their fields, the manticores lurk in little dens at the outskirts of their land, and the few minotaurs hold power as nobles and leaders in the town of Bantanu itself- indeed, their King Arbax is a minotaur of a hereditary ruling line. The centaurs and manticores live at the fringes of their society, which is more ordered and settled as a whole than their roaming lifestyles might suggest. Their fields are worked by a serf class of the goatkin, which could be said to be like unto thralls granted some greater privileges than seen in the abject thralldom of the dark elves, while the goatkin of the town itself are free citizens of the kingdom. In the trades and crafts they show some skill, if not the excellence of the dwarves, and their trade and commerce remains shackled by widespread use of barter. Some priests and savants amongst them preserve knowledge of the arts of magic, at which the goatkin seem to have a fine aptitude. Their fixed settlements are largely of timber and thatching fitted by metal nails, in many ways like the newer and poorer homesteads of outlying dwarven districts. Though Bantanu lies on the sea, the beastkin turn their eyes from it, appearing to fear and hate the world beyond their known borders and seeking the dubious safety of isolation.
The beastkin were in their day fierce and warlike, and their religion yet reflects this. All revere the Mighty-Thewed One, a god whom they depict as a great minotaur clad in mail and helmet and bearing a massive axe, who exhorts his followers to courage and unstinting strength against whomsoever proves themselves their enemy- I believe that this in fact is the Stalwart Warrior as they understand him. They revere also a number of Dark Gods, the four chiefest of which are taken as the patrons of their people. The Black Reveller governs appetite and abandon; he is viewed as patron of the goatkin and his depiction is obscene. The Bloody Destroyer is a grim and terrible god of war and wrath; he is patron of minotaurs and shown as one of their kin of most terrible aspect. The Huntress is a goddess of the kill; the rites to honor her require that some being (although it may be a witless beast) lose its life, which the centaurs attend to with devotion. And the Great Venomous One is, frankly, as witless as her chief followers, the manticores- they believe her excellence in stinging things makes her the finest of all gods.
The beastkin are a fierce people who now have little reason whatsoever to trust any outsiders. Should dwarves encroach upon their kingdom, I can only expect that they will respond with the same resistance they would show to any other people, and I expect no friendship to come willingly from their quarter.