Guardians of the Ten Courts of Hell. Ox-Head and Horse-Face stand tall as powerful warriors. They have the bodies of men with the head of an Ox and Horse respectively. They often appear dressed in Chinese armour holding tridents. They travel as a pair.
- Contrast these guardians with the Minotaur. The Minotaur was a monstrous hunter whereas these two have more dignity and sense of purpose.
- You could use a statblock for a minotaur as a starting point for homebrewing Ox-Head and Horse-Face
- There are reports of two strange men with animal heads appearing near a dead town where a terrible tragedy occurred.
- A resurrection ritual does not work they way you expected. Something is keeping the soul trapped in the underworld.
- A strange gate has been discovered at an ancient ruin. None can pass through because the way is blocked by two warriors with the animal heads.
Ox-Head & Horse-Face Lore
When a sorcerer named Thomas Rhymes trapped souls to gain power at the Ghost Moon Festival, it drew the attention of two demonic warriors. They appeared physically in our realm – a rare occurrence for this pair. The warriors stood tall, with broad chests and muscled limbs. They were garbed in traditional chinese armour and carried wicked weapons. One had the head of a horse – the other, the head of an ox.
During their quest to free the trapped souls, Ox-Head and Horse-Face became embroiled in combat with Hellboy, another demon. The fact that they stood their own against that legendary fighter is a testament to their strength. Ultimately the two sides realized they shared the same mission to stop Rhymes. Hellboy destroyed the artifact trapping the souls and Ox-Head and Horse-Face returned to their rightful place: standing guard at the gates of Diyu.
Diyu – the realm of the dead
In Chinese mythology, Diyu is the realm of the dead. King Yama rules the realm and divides it into ten "courts". Each court has its own lesser king who presides over a different type of atonement and punishment. When the souls of an ox and horse came to him, Yama raised them as a reward for their hardwork in life. Thus he created guards to stand at the entrance of his domain. When a person dies, their soul will travel to Diyu and encounter Ox-Head and Horse-Face at the gates. It is their job to escort the soul to their appropriate place.
Some stories claim that these guardians of Diyu have travelled to our realm to escort souls who are lost. Their encounter with Hellboy supports that claim. We know for certain that these guardians take their task seriously. They are completely loyal to King Yama and can be depended on to serve. The Ox is steadfast and disciplined. The Horse is courageous and diligent.
Encounters with heroes
Other stories indicate moments where Ox-Head and Horse-Face have failed in their duties. One of the most popular tales from Chinese Mythology, Journey to the West recounts their defeat at the hands of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. In a more unusual case, Horse-Face fell to a hero in green at the Parapa Temple. What brought him to that temple remains a mystery. In both stories they were bested only by a true Hero.
Written by Giles Ravensong.