Title: The Maker's Races: The Gul
All rights reserved. This story is not to be reprinted, or redistributed without the author's permission.
If you wish to use the stories, or anything copyrighted by the author, please E-mail me, and I'll try and forward your request to the author.
Jan 8, 2003
The gul are the third of the Maker's humanoid races. The first race was the clever Praka raccoon-people, small and voiceless humanoids created more as an experiment than as a serious project. The second race was the lithe Volpa fox-people, slender, handsome and intelligent. With the creation of the Volpa the Maker had accomplished what he set out to do: Make his fox familiar into a humanoid.
Neverthless he elected to create another race. This time he wanted soldiers and guards. He picked among the available species: He preferred predators, and it should be a predator so to be a fierce soldier. For sheer variety it should be different from anything that currently existed. There were already many canine-humanoids and feline humanoids. He elected to use giant wolverines as the base for his new race, and in his usual unimaginative way used the Latin name of the beasts as the basis of their name. Gulo became Gul, just as Procyon became Praka and Vulpes became Volpa.
While not all wolverines are destructive, feral brutes, he elected to use the fiercest and most violent ones he could acquire as transformational material. Since the newly morphic gul retained much of the personality of their prior forms, this decision would have unfortunate consequences for many and would make his own life much more complicated.
Gul are stocky, shaggy-furred humanoids. Fur color varies somewhat (from light to dark brown base) but the typical gul has dark brown body fur and nearly black limbs and face. A lighter stripe -- usually dark gold -- runs down each side, meeting between the shoulderblades and over the tail-root to form a diamond shape. There is a similar golden ruff on each side of the face, like sideburns. The tail is short but long-furred, a shaggy brush no more than eighteen inches long. There are usually two irregular blotches of nearly white fur over the collarbones and in the case of males, a yellow-white stripe along the bellyfur where the hidden penis lies.
Legs are shorter than a human's, but arms are longer. A gul can run on all fours as easily as two. The blunt-muzzled, broad-cheeked head is normally held below the shoulders. Standing fully upright, gul males average six and a half feet tall, females a few inches less. Seven-foot-tall gul are not uncommon. Gul are enormously broad across the shoulders, wide of body and hips, and have thick, powerful limbs. The average gul male weighs over 350 pounds in fighting condition.
Gul have sharp non-retractile white claws on both hands and feet and a mouthful of sharp fangs. They retain the muscular jaws of their ancestors and can deliver crushing bites. Gul have a strong, unpleasant musky odor at the best of times (not a body odor as such but the smell of their naturally produced fur oil) and can be intolerably foul-smelling when cooped up in armor or when they have sprayed someone with their anal stink glands. While gul pant, they also sweat, and this adds to their scent since they rarely bathe.
Gul females have four teats even though they only bear 1-2 cubs. Their breasts are quite small by humans standards even when nursing, and almost unnoticable when they aren't. Males do not have a sheath as such as their penis is held beneath the pelt, emerging through a 'nipple'-like bump when they are sexually excited.. Only this 'nipple' (often hidden in the bellyfur), generally larger build, groin stripe and testicles distinguish a male as a male when he is not sexually excited.
The first generation of gul were not pleasant to be around. They fought constantly and killed many of their servants and co-workers over imagined slights. Fratricide accounted for a fifth of their numbers in the first three years as they found even other gul impossible to get along with.
In the midst of all this trouble the Maker was incapacitated for some months. Left to their own devices the gul began to raid nearby settlements and caravans. They were well on their way to becoming an evil humanoid race in their own right when a band of adventures arrived in search of the Maker and wiped them out to the last cub.
When the Maker created the new generation of gul, he made two changes. First, he selected the least territorial ones he could find (some were acquired from druids and were actually 'pets'), and second, rather than leave their mating season as their only period of sexual interest, he altered them so that their sexual urges extended throughout the year. This idea came from his assistant Candra, and dubious though the Maker found it he followed her advice.
She also suggested, and he put in place, strongly enforced strict rules on the behavior of the new gul. They were not allowed to kill anyone, even another gul, unless the Maker approved. Nor were they allowed to take advantage of weaker races, lest they risk punishment.
Still wishing to fight with each other, or somehow to compete with each other, they began to compete for the attentions of females. They worked to improve their fighting skills to impress those same females. What's more, non-gul females (and males, to certain male gul and many gul females) were now sexually attractive. Not allowed to simply impose their will on the 'lesser' races, they had to socialize with them instead. They had to seduce, not coerce.
The unanticipated (at least, to the Maker himself) result of this was that the gul became progressively more social and less violent. There were still bullies and chieftains, but even the weaker gul could find a ladyfriend if he could impress one sufficiently. Gul became less interested in who could smash whose head in and more interested in which female they could entice to their bed. In other words, they became, bit by bit, much more like humans than they had before.
That most of the gul in existence are quite young means their sexual urges are very strong, and this does cause problems. Rape is not unknown when a powerful gul warrior mistakes a Volpa-femme's (or a human woman's) actions as indicating interest. Others don't bother with permission at all, and are punished for it. Gradually the lesson is sinking in.
They are big, strong, fast, tough as hell, arrogant, dominant, smelly, crass, and generally unpleasant. But they also follow order wells and work surprisingly well in groups (vital in any military unit).
They are prone to take liberties with other peoples that they would never tolerate in return. But they are a vast improvement over the previous generation, and they are still improving their social skills. They are in fact easy to get along with, at long as you don't insult them or fear them. That latter is the tough part, of course.
Gul are on the average slightly less intelligent than humans, and are not a sophisticated people. They have simple tastes and interests almost wholly confined (at present) to fighting, eating, and sex. Most would say they are very good at all three.
The youngest of the Maker's three races, the gul are still feeling their way toward a 'philosophy' of sex. Some follow the 'old school' gul approach that mating is only to be done within the species. Some are positively prudish and won't couple at all outside breeding season. After all, there's plenty of fighting and training to keep their minds off sex.
Another (and currently larger) group leans toward the the praka approach, which is that sex is just a 'fun' thing and is to be indulged in whenever possible. This includes out-species affairs. Naturally the little praka have been all too willing to help the needy gul out, as has lady Candra, who is really to blame for this new crop of often-horny 350-pound anthro-wolverines. Volpa also find the burly gul interesting (if smelly) and many a volpa-femme or volpa male has shared a bed with a gul male three times their size. Gul naturally couple in a completely bestial manner, with the female on all fours and the male mounting from behind. They are cosmopolitan enough now to use other approaches, though.
Certain design decisions made by the Maker led to male gul being well-endowed by human standards. The average gul is in fact very well endowed by human standards. This causes occasional fit problems and has led some sages to speculate that the Maker has homosexual leanings. After all, gul are only about twice as massive as the giant wolverines from which they were created and yet are considerably more than twice as 'hung'. The Maker denies this allegation. Vehemently.
Contrary to popular belief, not all gul are crazed bundles of hormones just waiting for the opportunity to mount someone. But people don't pass on bar-tales about the quiet, reasonably inoffensive caravan-guard gul. They pass on rumors about the ones who hump at the drop of a hat.
Gul are fairly strict carnivores. Their short digestive tract is not equipped to usably process starches. They can and do eat vegetables and fruits, but the majority of their diet is meat. A gul male consumes 6-10 pounds of meat a day, more if in fighting trim. They will eat raw or cooked meat and have an iron stomach that handles even partly decayed meat or fairly large bone fragments. Their carnassial teeth can crush even large bones into portions small enough to swallow.
Swallowing whole: Again contrary to popular belief, not all gul can (or would want to) swallow large prey whole. The average gul could comfortably swallow prey up to a large rabbit. Usually they tear up their meat so to get more of a taste of it.
But there are a small number of gul altered by the Maker so that they can swallow large meals. These gul are fully capable of swallowing a man-sized creature in one gulp, and fully capable of digesting it, bones and all. No one is really sure why the Maker made these changes to the gul in question. The gul were the first of his created species to receive this change. A few volpa and even a few praka have since requested and received it. As with the other species, the 'gulper' trait does not breed true, and only gul modified by The Maker can do this.
That gul are commonly regarded as being able to (and to want to) gulp down protesting humans or other meal-sized humanoids is a bit of fiction generated by the actions of a few gul. As with any people, personalities vary.
Little mentioned in this essay up to now because they are not seen as much as the males. The limited number of gul in total has led the Maker to secrete the females in a well-defended creche, at least until the numbers are higher. They are not prisoners, and not slaves. They simply do not come out much. A few have become warriors and fought beside the males, and a few live in the castle proper, but most find the luxury of the creche (and the gifts the males constantly bring them) sufficient to ward off boredom.
Some females have non-gul lovers (usually volpa, but occasionally praka) and while they dominate their smaller lovers, they aren't usually as violent in their affections as male gul. Some of them indeed pretend to be dominated by their little lovers, whom they could break like a thing of straw if the mood were upon them.
Female gul tend to stand about 6'2" when fully upright and weigh 250-300 pounds. While they don't usually train the way the males do, friendly wrestling and similar pursuits plus their innate, feral strength ensure that they are still very strong indeed by human standards.
Strength: Gul are inhumanly strong in the same sense that an orangutan is. Humans retain certain childlike attributes throughout their lives, and one of those is incomplete muscular development. Gul are much closer to their feral ancestors than humans and are, pound for pound, at least twice as strong as a man. It's also perfectly natural for a gul male to be six and a half feet tall and 350+ pounds of solid muscle and sinew. They don't have to work to be that way. But they do anyway, and they only get stronger with training. With their great mass as an anchor they can heave around enormous weights: A gul can easily pick up a 200-pound human with one hand and throw him through a wall, and a 350-pound, muscular human (if you could find one) would be tossed around like a rag doll in a wrestling match with a gul.
Flexibility: Gul retain much of the flexibility of their weaselly ancestors and are not in the least musclebound. Their long spines and natural flexibilty let even a heavily muscled gul warrior bend like a human contortionist.
Speed: Startlingly fast. Elves are faster, but not by much. And elves can't bash down a door with a slap.
Claws: Most gul males trim their fingerclaws quite short, for otherwise they can't make a tight fist. They retain a fearsome set of fangs and un-trimmed footclaws that can disembowel an opponent with one swipe.
Longevity: Gul live about 45 years if not killed in battle. They are sexually mature at age 7 or 8 and fully adult at 10.
Like human males, gul sublimate their sexual urges into an intense competition with other males. They also cooperate among themselves surprisingly well, though there's a strong element of one-upmanship to their 'teamwork'. Nearly all male gul are in outstanding physical condition thanks to this constant competition.
Unarmed combat (bloodless): Rough play among themselves led the gul to learn the rudiments of boxing and wresting, and experienced unarmed brawlers of other species were brought in to further their training. The average gul, while not an expert, is certainly practiced in a couple of forms of unarmed combat. These skills are useful when they need to capture someone alive, or when they are playing amongst themselves.
Weapon styles: One form of gul armed combat relies on their instinctively known and heavily trained claw-and-bite routine. Others rely on the natural speed and flexibility of the gul warrior to fling a greatsword or greataxe around with blurring speed and crushing force. A third form gives the gul the protection of a shield and the offense of a heavy one-handed sword or axe.
Gul are known for their simple, practical weapons. As a very young race they at first took to the weapons of other races, experimenting with everything from narrow-bladed swords to polearms to maces. Given their build (tall by human standards, but extremely broad in an almost dwarfish way) and great strength, they soon abandoned most fancy weapons for heavy yet easily wielded ones. That is not to say that they have no finesse. In fact, gul warriors are known for being tricky fighters. That on top of their strength, speed, and durability makes them rightly feared.
Gul weapons are heavy -- usually twice or more the weight of human equivalents. They could handle far more, but experience showed the best mix of weapon mass and impact. Gul weapons simply weigh much more than the human equivalents, while moving just as fast. Naturally, they hit harder.
In a group of 100 gul (assuming it's not a purpose-built, consistently armed unit):
Nearly all will have war claws, though for most they are backup weapons.
All 100 can bite.
All 100 have at least their natural footclaws, and some have war claws on their feet.
All 100 will have 2-4 throwing axes.
All 100 can spray.
10 will be war claw specialists with war claws on both hands and feet.
15 will have a two-handed axe.
15 will be armed with axe-and-shield.
40 will be equipped with a gul greatsword.
10 will be armed with sword and shield.
5 will have a gul spear.
5 will have double gul flails.
War claws. One of the most common gul weapons.
Handclaws: A single thick, sharp, pointed blade is riveted to the back of the gul's gauntlet, with the edge perpendicular to the knuckles. This blade protrudes past the knuckles for anywhere from six inches to a foot. In rare cases there are two or even three blades, but one blade is by far the most typical. These blades are usually straight or nearly so, and usually edged only on the lower (palm) side. The cross-section is triangular and the blade resembles the spike sometimes found atop polearms more than it does a knife. They are used for stabbing attacks more than they are to cut.
Footclaws: These foot-blades are more strongly curved, resemble a small scythe, and are used in the manner of a gutting hook. It should be noted that most even a gul without a Footclaw may make a clawing attack with his natural claws if they are not covered by armor.
War claws are close-quarters weapons most often used as backups, much as a human will carry a dagger for emergencies. Gul who actually prefer these small weapons to larger ones tend to wear reenforced forearm/hand armor along with claws on all four paws. Parrying with their forearm 'shields', they draw in close to attack with the claws and their bite.
Bite: As transformed giant wolverines, gul have brutally powerful jaw muscles and long, sharp canines. They can crush an unarmored human skull in one bite or rip off a limb with the sheer strength of their thick necks. Gul helmets are usually open-faced so they can bite freely.
Those gul who have been changed by their Maker to be able to swallow large prey whole sometimes accidentally disjoint their jaws while applying a bite. This removes almost all force from the bite. When faced with this embarrassing event, gul occasionally carry on and swallow their opponent: 'I meant to do that!' This practice is frowned upon since it removes the gul in question from the fighting for a minute or so and slows him down for the rest of the battle. Nevertheless more than one gul has had to regurgitate the acid-stained armor of a digested foe on the day after a battle.
Spray: All gul have skunk-like anal glands and can spray a stinking musk for a considerable distance. This vile-smelling stuff will permanent taint clothing or fur, damage delicate materials and virtually incapacitate any creature unfortunate enough to be hit by it. Temporary blindness and difficulty breathing are two of the effects, both lasting several minutes. Gul are not too proud to spray a strong opponent and then attack while it's impaired.
Shields: Gul who use shields tend to use one of two types.
Blade Shield: A (usually) round shield about 18" across with several blades along its forward edge. Sometimes shaped like fanged skulls (the closest thing to a 'fashion' gul allow into their equipment), these metal shields are heavy enough to be used as axes when the gul draws close, and either have a thrusting point or 'fangs' that will stab an opponent the shield is thrust at.
Round shield: A large (~36" wide), round, convex shield. Gul are adept at sweeping these over their bodies to both protect themselves and conceal the movements of their weapon hand. Made from strips of wood wetted and deformed in a press, then reenforced with riveted steel plates, these shields are often sharpened along the front edge and/or polished to serve as a mirror.
Axes: 'Gul just love axes', their Maker once said. Throwing axes, hand axes, battle axes, two-handed axes. Some short, very heavy cleaver-like gul weapons also fall into this category, swordlike though they seem. Gul axes are simple and heavy, with limited decoration. Hooks and spikes are rarely seen, for the brutes swing their weapons so hard that such adornments often cause the axe to become lodged in the body of their opponent. Even gul swords are somewhat axelike, as will be seen. Axe-equipped gul are almost as common as greatswordsmen.
Swords: Some gul use heavy, slightly curved one-handed swords similar to falchions. These machete-like weapons are light enough for a gul to swing quickly and heavy enough to piece armor. Less sturdy blades were found to often snap on impact, leading to compromises like the gul 'greatsword' (see below.) Gul who use these falchions usually use one and a shield, rather than two.
Greatsword: Another of the very common gul weapons. A gul greatsword is a 5 foot long steel pole with a small hand guard separating equal lengths of cord-wrapped haft and blade. The blade is thick and weighted, almost axelike, and has a thrusting point. At the end of the handle is a counterweight often shaped like a skull or fist. Gul use these weapons in the manner of a staff, attacking with either end and parrying with both blade and handle.
These weapons weigh 20-30 pounds but are perfectly balanced and swung with terrifying speed. Using the handle to parry, gul warriors will whip the blade into opponents, often lopping off armored limbs in a single stroke. The sheer mass of these weapons, added to the strength and weight of the Gul swinging them, make even quick swipes hit lethally hard.
The counterweight can be (and is) used as a mace as the gul flips his 'staff' around. When faced with an especially tough opponent a gul will bring both hands to the bottom of the handle (instead of holding them about 2 feet apart) and use the thing in the manner of a conventional two-handed sword. Blows delivered in this manner can cleave right through a shield.
A typical fight between a gul armed with one of these and a human warrior goes: gul parries sword stroke with greatsword handle, smashes 'mace' into human's shield so hard the man is thrust backward. The instant follow-up with the blade either removes the dazed man's legs or smashes him to the ground. If the former, the gul leaves him to bleed to death. If the latter, the gul steps on the shield and smashes the man's face in with the mace. Like most gul fighting techniques this one is simple, practical and unpleasantly effective.
Flails: While they find maces not to their liking (axes do just as good a job of penetrating armor and are more fun), a small number of gul fight with flails similar to Flind weapons. These weapons are shaped in the manner of a grain flail, with two approximately eighteen-inch iron bars connected by one link of chain. Parrying with the 'handle' of one flail, a gul will follow with with a rapid series of powerful flail-strokes, aiming the 'hinge' of the weapons at the edge of the opponent's shield in order to wrap around it and strike him with the other half. Alternately they may simply beat an un-shielded opponent to a pulp with the heavy iron rods. Almost every gul who prefers these weapons uses two.
Spears: Some gul prefer short, heavy-handled spears. These were something of a precursor to the greatsword but a few of the older gul still like them. They are about gul-length weapons, ankle thick and metal-banded along their entire length with a heavy metal cap at one end and a broad-bladed point at the other. Usually they are used two-handed.
Missile Weapons: Almost all gul carry a few hand axes (similar to Frankish throwing axes) that they hurl with terrific force. In defense of the Maker's keep they use crank-wound crossbows (with a reloading crew of praka or volpa to speed up the fire rate) or massive bows built expressly for the freakishly strong wolverine-men. As there aren't enough gul to populate a proper army, their lack of field missile troops hasn't proven a problem so far.
Notable gul characters
While many gul have been seen 'in the background' of stories and bar tales, their names aren't well-known. One who is well-known is Lord Vrassry , a very large gul who leads his people both in peace and battle. He's one of the ones who only mates during the mating season and only with gul females*. He spends his every waking hour learning to be a better fighter and a better general, when he's not being the Maker's personal bodyguard. He's one of the ones the Maker changed to be able to swallow large prey whole, and he's so large (over 7 feet and 450 pounds) that he can swallow very large prey indeed.
The one female gul whose name has become known is Kurula. She is a warrior femme and often stands guard with the males. Shirak and Shural are two male gul whose names have been bandied about. Other than these few, no names are commonly known. Gul all live in or near an isolated castle and are rarely in contact with outsiders.
* What does he do on the off-season, as it were? Masturbate? Rely on wet dreams? No one seems to have the nerve to ask.
Synopsis (2nd edition AD&D):
Ability scores: Str +2, Int -1, Wis -1, Dex -, Con +2, Cha -4 (smelly, bad-tempered and scary)*
* This is for purposes of social contact. For purposes of command, the gul's charisma is not penalized.
Languages: Common. 50% chance of speaking volpa.
Natural Abilities: Claw/claw/bite: 1-6/1-6/2-8 + strength bonuses.
Movement Rate: 12" on two feet, running 15" on all fours.
Free abilities: Swimming, climbing trees (90%).