Once, Krutch Leeroy was nobody.
He was born and raised in Elmlocke, a small country in the Western Empire of the Realm, and lived an uneventful life of relative ease. His father, Krutch Sr., was a carpenter by trade and a rugged man who enjoyed the outdoors. His mother, Mari, was a respected teacher, and his older brother, Carson, was a strong and athletic young man, popular among the townsfolk.
Young Krutch, on the other hand, had little to claim to his name. He preferred to keep to himself, favoring the comfort of indoors as opposed to outside. If he did go out, he stayed in town or the nearby city—having no interest in the wilderness. Unlike his father and brother, he was not particularly strong, athletic, or physically active. Although educated thanks to his mother, his wits were not sharp or very quick.
Aside from a talent for drawing, it could be said there was nothing worth noting about the young Krutch Leeroy Jr. He was loved by his family, and no one would say they didn’t like him, but the truth was, Krutch was regarded as an unexceptional and forgettable individual.
That would change on his nineteenth birthday when Carson decided it was past time his brother—inept at wooing the ladies—had a woman. Taken to a seedy village miles from home, Krutch was arranged to meet with a prostitute after a night of heavy drinking. Unfortunately, he would instead find himself sharing a tent with a sorceress who mistook him for a great warrior she had foreseen in a vision.
Infuriated that she’d wasted her time on this drunken fool, the sorceress cursed Krutch in revenge. She decreed he would indeed be known as a great warrior from then on. Tales and rumors would be told throughout the world of amazing deeds and infamous crimes he never actually committed. His name would be known everywhere as that of a legendary pirate and scoundrel.
But there would be no joy or glory in this reputation. He would live his life as a fugitive, hiding from the authorities, chased by bounty hunters, and challenged by rival warriors seeking to make a name for themselves.
No one would believe he was cursed. Anyone he told would assume he was lying or trying to trick them. He would know no peace, forced to flee his home as a notorious criminal.
He found his way to Graylands where he tries to keep his head planted firmly in the sand, doomed to live a life of adventure and peril he never asked for or wanted.
Graylands as a whole began life as individual short stories I wrote featuring Katrina Lamont, Lily Blackthorn, an unnamed serial killer dubbed Scifer (or some variation of the spelling), and some others who might find their way into the books. At the time, I only had a vague notion these characters would exist in the same world and would eventually cross over or overlap into novels.
The initial spark for Krutch was wanting a character to contrast the protagonists I’d already developed. Katrina is a rather grim, dour character. Scifer can go to very dark places. And Lily, although upbeat and optimistic, has heavy demons to contend with.
So I wanted a more lighthearted protagonist that would offer some levity and maybe be a bit more grounded and “normal.”
I figured having an outlaw/pirate character would be a fun addition, and I pictured what would become Krutch as a kind of “anti-Jack Sparrow.” Where Jack acts like a drunken fool, we know he’s really cunning and competent … so I saw Krutch as someone everyone thinks is dangerous and bad-ass, but in reality he’s just a dope who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
That developed into a slacker who doesn’t even want to get caught up in these crazy adventures, but has really bad luck.
I was spit-balling with that concept, and at one point, I thought of him as: “not a bad guy, but cursed with a bad reputation.” And that was when the idea of his being literally cursed to me.
Once I had that, Krutch came to life.
As explained in the Katrina commentary, I prefer to stay loose with character descriptions in the actual novels. But for these commentaries, I’ll offer a little more detail.
Krutch is twenty-four to twenty-five years old when we first meet him in The Ghost Princess. He’s 5’8″ (or 1.73 meters) with a slim build, though as pointed out in the books, while thin, he’s not athletic. He’s not scrawny, but there isn’t much on him, be it muscle or fat. He has brown eyes and a long, unremarkable face—not ugly, but not handsome either.
Krutch is the kind of guy who would easily get lost in a crowd and be forgotten. I suspect that would partially explain why he hasn’t already been killed despite how his curse works. For all the crazy stories “they” say about Krutch Leeroy, no one really knows what he looks like and/or expects him to have a more striking appearance.
He has black hair which is usually pretty shaggy and unkempt, as he rarely has the opportunity for haircuts and doesn’t think to properly groom himself. That aside, Krutch isn’t a hairy person, so he rarely needs to shave. What facial hair he does grow tends to be slight stubble on his chin and strands of hair that sprout randomly along his jaw.
He has no notable scars or marks, although that changes as the story progresses. He generally wears basic clothes—slacks and a shirt of some sort. The only constant is a dark gray jacket he keeps with him that I envision as resembling an army jacket.
As said, with Krutch I wanted to add some levity and humor to my Graylands stories. I thought the nature of his curse and how it affects his life opened the door to some amusing situations. At his core, he is a poor schlub who’s doomed with terrible luck that seems to always work against him.
His curse is essentially the equivalent of someone starting rumors about you, and everyone believes it, spreads it, and treats him accordingly—but no one bothers to ask where the rumors started.
“They say” Krutch Leeroy did this … “They say” he did that … “They say” he fought that guy … “They say” he killed this thing and robbed these people … and everyone believes it, no one questions it.
So bounty hunters know he has a huge price on his head, but no one wonders why or who placed the bounty. The Sentry Elite want to arrest him for various crimes, but no one seems concerned whether the crimes actually happened. Other pirates are always eager to rope Krutch into their schemes and don’t seem to notice or care about his obvious incompetence.
Whenever people meet him, they assume there’s more to him than appears, or that he’s deliberately acting like a weak fool. Anything and everything he says or does is interpreted as having a hidden meaning or secret agenda. If he even tries to explain himself, everyone assumes he’s lying.
As he says to Lily in The Ghost Princess, he could collapse on the ground in the middle of a battle and start crying, and everyone would believe he was faking it to throw his opponents off.
So I figured, at the very least, Krutch could be an amusing diversion from the heavier stuff revolving around Katrina, Lily and others as the only sane man surrounded by people convinced he’s something he’s not.
The Dude from the Coen brothers’ film, The Big Lebowski (1998), wound up being a big influence on Krutch’s development. Not so much in the sense he smokes weed all day, but in that he’s a dull-witted slacker who gets caught up in insane situations and everyone he interacts with assume he’s playing all sides against one another.
As I continued developing him, I thought it would also be fun to use him to subvert and screw around with typical “heroic fiction” tropes.
Everyone believes him a great pirate / warrior / swashbuckler / whatever, but these are all vague, nebulous labels which means—to put it in meta terms—Krutch is doomed to be the star of any and every fantasy adventure story he encounters no matter how ill-equipped and unprepared he is.
In one situation he’s believed to be the pirate lord out for power and glory. In another, he’s expected to be the diabolical mastermind enacting an elaborate conspiracy. To some, he’s a rebellious renegade out to tear down the system. To others—even people he’s never met—he’s the evil criminal who ruined their lives.
But he’s Krutch, so these grand tales are instantly derailed or deflated because he’s none of these things.
It was that line of thinking that led to the origin of Krutch’s curse.
Although I had created him before I even started writing The Ghost Princess, I didn’t think of an origin for the curse until The Jinxed Pirate. I always figured I’d come up with something sooner or later, but until such time, I left it with his explaining he “ran afoul a sorceress.”
Inspiration came one day while watching the movie Conan the Barbarian (1982). There’s a scene where Conan happens across a mysterious woman who offers him shelter in her tent. She provides information about the bad guys and they have sex. It turns out she’s some kind of demonic creature and Conan has to fight her off.
This was allegedly based on one of the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard, but the scenario is (or was, back in the day) something of a staple of, if not Conan, his various imitators.
The big beefy hero is bopping around the countryside and crosses paths with a woman—an amazon, a damsel, a witch, whatever—and they bang, just ’cause. Sometimes the woman character has some sinister agenda, but it’s usually indulgent power fantasy stuff—big strong hero has lots of sex because he’s awesome and the ladies can’t resist.
I thought it would make for a fun bit if I did something similar with Krutch where he happens upon a femme fatale who, because of his reputation, assumes him to be a great warrior only for him to make a fool of himself.
It then occurred to me this could be the basis for how and why he got cursed in the first place. The mysterious sorceress was expecting Conan the Barbarian … what she got was a dumb kid who thought he was meeting a prostitute and promptly cursed him in revenge.
I suppose Krutch is as close to an “everyman” as my stories are going to get (maybe Lock to an extent). And with Krutch, I realized I had a chance to address a trope I really don’t like: the everyman who is special or important because … reasons.
A lot of “chosen one” narratives fall into this because many creators want their protagonist to be the down-to-earth “everyman,” but need to justify why he (or on occasion, she) is the hero of the story as opposed to the more competent or experienced characters. Some do better jobs than others, but often it gets hand-waved with some nonsense about “destiny.”
“The bland nobody is the hero of the story and the only one who can do the thing because he is ‘the chosen one’ and destiny said so.”
I hate that, and as I was writing, it occurred to me I could use Krutch to screw around with that trope. Because he is a nobody who has no business getting involved in these adventures, but finds himself the center of attention regardless. I imagine in a more typical adventure story, his arc would be about unlocking his inner bad-ass, destroying evil, and/or discovering he has some special destiny in store for him.
But he doesn’t. It’s a literal curse that brings him no glory or fulfillment.
I do think Krutch has a journey to make, but it won’t be the kind of heroic quest typical for the kind of character he is. He might try to live up to his reputation—whether as a hero or villain—but I don’t believe that is the goal he should be striving for.
Unlike the other ” chosen everyman” heroes he might be similar to in concept, Krutch is not here to save the world or fulfill any heroic prophecies.
As for where his journey is going … well, we’ll just have to see.
*Krutch’s full name is Krutchington Barnabas Leeroy Jr.
*The name “Krutch Leeroy” was originally meant for one of Lily Blackthorn’s victims. No real meaning to it—it just seemed appropriate for a disposable thug.
But when it came to time to develop the character who would become Krutch, the name kept coming back to me, and I decided to keep it. Lily’s victim would eventually be renamed Arch Maddox.
*Krutch’s pistol is essentially a Magnum .45 revolver. It was given to him by Vicar Frost and is one of the few working guns in the entire world—though how or where Frost got it is a mystery. Although guns exist in the world of Graylands, they are extremely rare and it’s even rarer to find guns that function properly, partially because the wizards and mages of the world are trying to suppress the production of them.
My reasoning for giving Krutch a gun ties back into the “chosen everyman” stuff I explained. Often these designated protagonists possess some unique talent or are granted a special weapon that no one else can use to further signify they are indeed The Special. So I decided the weapon that only Krutch has access to would be a gun.
I liked the idea of having this one blatantly anachronistic thing amidst a relatively medieval setting, and of course, it provides tension with what he will do if/when he runs out of ammunition. But more importantly, I felt it was appropriate, given Krutch’s unexceptional nature, his “magic” weapon be what is, for us, mundane.
There’s also something to be said that the only thing that makes him formidable in any way, shape or form is a blunt and destructive instrument.
*Krutch is fond of elephants and turtles.
*Krutch’s repeated cry of, “I’m not even supposed to be here” is a reference to the film Clerks.
If you’re interested in following the misadventures of Krutch Leeroy and the world he lives in, check out the first volume of the Graylands saga, The Ghost Princess, and its sequel, The Jinxed Pirate.
Both are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
Krutch Leeroy & Graylands ©2017 by M. Walsh