It Figures: the Garruk

Because in the end you need to show, not tell


Created with Nokia RefocusThe Garruk are a created race of Despair, perhaps Mauglor’s answer to the birth of Dwarves and Halflings by the Hopelords in the Age of Balance. Roughly humanoid in shape, Garruk have dark, swarthy skin and pronounced musculature, jutting underjaws and lethal tusks. Garruk males are so warlike that they cannot remain long with females or young, and they even attack other males unless driven by a strong leader or powerful magic to cooperate for a time. Their combat prowess is fearsome, and if they did not weed out so many of their own number waiting for battle they might have proved a truer weapon in the hands of Despair’s Lieges. Since the Battle of the Razor the peace of Hope brought order and stability to most kingdoms, wiping out the garruk nearly everywhere. But in the Percentalion and in other remote unsettled corners, this race can still be encountered.


It’s an important distinction of epic fantasy– I would argue essential– that there are beings whose complete evil is evident on first sight. Sometimes you can judge the book Created with Nokia Refocusby its cover, and creatures like the garruk (and the undead) mean that restraint is no longer required. Certainly every effort is usually needed to defeat even a small band of roving garruk: Treaman’s party encounters them in the upcoming Tale of Hope Reunion of Souls:

“Light of stars,” Mhoral breathed, “so many.”
The party had heard of the evil garruk in the taverns of Trainertown, and Haltar spent several evenings with the veterans, getting stories for liquid cheer. Mhoral claimed to know much from his Elven heritage, and Linya had consulted the town sage–scribe, really–for a look at the kingdom chronicle. There were no garruk in Novar, Treaman knew, nor would any other Hopeful kingdom suffer the presence of the ranks of Despair. Only in the midst of chaos could their tribes exist on this side of the Swords of Stone; where they had hidden for the first ten centuries after the Battle of the Razor, no one could say. Pitted against the land the same as the kingdom’s true inhabitants, they seemed somehow better used to the flux cursing the badlands between those pockets of calm like Maladon that still survived… On their first foray, the party had encountered a small band of five warriors, and defeated their reckless charge by Haltar’s prowess and Linya’s bolts. In more ancient times, stories claimed war-bands as large as sixscore or more, but recent tales only told of roving, disorganized packs between four and ten.
But now, seventeen stocky, gnarled humanoids marched into view, led by an example of masculine horror taller than Treaman and moving, like his warriors, to the wounding hammer-beat of the Thralltap.

-Judgement’s Tale Part 3, Reunion of Souls

The fabled Thralltap is one of the only ways a band of garruk males can be controlled, and the powers of these sorcerous drums, as shown in that battle scene, are truly incredible.

Over the centuries, it would appear that the original Garruk race split off into two or perhaps three factions. Most creatures seen by the Children of Hope are nearly human-sized and act as described. But according to legend the first garruk ever created were enormous, more upright and powerful, still warlike but able to direct themselves as well as an evil Man or Elf. These Garruk-thann, whose existence is doubted by sages, but whom the Tributarians met in The Plane of Dreams, would immediately obtain obedience from any number of garruk they encountered.

Created with Nokia RefocusOn the other side of the ledger, it would appear that the bloodlines of the garruk race degenerated in places, leading to the creation of a smaller and decidedly-less dangerous offshoot known as Grinaki. Though weak and far less brave than their larger cousins, grinaki are incredibly fecund and able to live together in tribes for greater safety. Treaman’s party sees sign of grinaki in the pine barrens around Oncario, in the upcoming Tale, The Eye of Kog. Grinaki rely on numbers, traps, surprise and almost absurd rituals of morale-boosting whenever possible before facing Children of Hope: in combat they are of course dangerous, but not able to withstand much poor fortune, and often flee after the first pass, or in the face of any open display of magic. This can mislead adventurers into believing that their larger cousins will also rout, but garruk seldom do.


I pulled the display table next to the back door and tried natural sunlight, which Created with Nokia Refocusseemed to work a little better (maybe next time I’ll go for full sunlight, but I have a feeling it will be too much). The figures used here are fairly good representations, despite the curious habit that Ral Partha and other figurine sculptors had, of labeling them “orcs”. I fault myself for the skin-tone choices on the Garruk-thann; as I mentioned in an earlier column I wanted the musculature to show, but in fact his skin would be near to ebony. These archetypes of war often bear heavy armor (without the usual encumbrance due to their tremendous strength). I show each of the sub-races together for scale; if that were an actual shot the Grinaki would most likely be prone in worship. I tend to stay away from “action-shots” as that strays too close to the bounds of the writing itself. But I wanted to show heroes in contrast to the grinaki, again for scale, and went back to the normal Nokia lens as the Refocus is no good outside of six-inches distance! This shows the grinaki in their usual tactic- they believe outnumbering their foes by more than two to one and attacking from behind will be enough to carry the day. Most likely they are headed for deep disappointment, as usual.

I hope this column will serve to amuse and inspire authors and readers alike, and I encourage sharing and feedback. Let the internet know it’s not always bright and beautiful in the Lands of Hope!