"I've been thrown out two times over by now. I got nothing left, so there's no reason not to go." - The Stones' Earthen Grasp
"I really need a fucken hug." - Terra Incognita
Riaag Bough-Breaker is an orcish man who's a major mover and shaker in the stronghold of Naar Rhoan. While hailed as one of the finest warriors in the stronghold, he's quite content to spend his days singing, cooking, and fixing things. Riaag is very pious and is careful to observe regular prayer to the Hill God, Agritakh, throughout the day.
He's in a committed relationship with Sarouth White-Hair, serving as Sarouth's best friend, bodyguard, and right-hand man.
His name is two syllables long, accent on the second, with the vowels making "ee" and slightly nasal "ah" sounds, respectively.
Riaag Bough-Breaker has appeared in the following stories:
- The Stones' Earthen Grasp (with illustrations)
- Seismic Gap (with illustration)
- Terra Incognita (with illustrations)
- Hymns of Orogenesis (with illustrations)
Riaag is an orc, which in this context means he's approximately person-shaped with green skin, pointy ears, claws, and tusks.
He's absolutely enormous, even for his species, which sets his height at no less than seven feet tall and his weight in the several-hundreds-of-pounds range. Riaag's build is equal parts fat and muscle, both of which he possesses in copious amounts; while most of his actual muscle tone is hidden by a few inches of natural padding, his broad shoulders and thick neck are a lot more obvious. He is fortunate enough to be from very durable stock and does not have any typical size-based woes (such as an enlarged heart or joint problems), and is overall a very healthy young man.
Riaag's hair is long and black with a pronounced wave that encourages it to fluff majestically around his face. His full beard is equally grand thanks to regular trimming and oiling; he's meticulous about his grooming in general thanks to the constant worry of being perceived as dirty or slovenly.
Riaag is a medium-toned green leaning more towards yellow than blue. He has a great deal of body hair that starts on the backs of his hands; it's thinnest around his neck, back, and joints. He wears several scars from a combination of sources; most of these are defensive scars located primarily on his shoulders and forearms. His eyes are orange with red sclera and set beneath heavy brows.
He has a single pair of upwards-facing tusks set in his lower jaw that extend a ways past his lips when his mouth is closed; his upper canine teeth aren't nearly as defined but are still longer and sharper than a human's. There is a broad gap between his two front teeth that's visible whenever he speaks or emotes and has the honor of being one of the few traits people who only knew him when he was younger can use to identify him.
As a warrior in a pre-industrial society Riaag by necessity owns his own arms and armor. This consists of a helmet with a wolf's pelt incorporated into its shape, a full coat of metal scale armor, additional sections of belted plating for his upper arms and thighs, greaves, and enough quilted padding to keep from chafing from the weight of all of the above; overall his armor leands towards the modest and functional side. His preferred weapon is a bearded axe with a tassel tied around the handle, paired with a large potmetal shield so heavy it can serve as a weapon in its own right.
When not in armor, he wears long coats over a tunic and trousers, and prefers steel-toed boots regardless of what task he's performing. He keeps a trio of trophy skulls (all taken from orcish bandits) on his belt. Riaag strongly dislikes going without a pair of gloves or gauntlets in public and will wrap his hands in strips of cloth if his usual clothes are unavailable.
Riaag is a surprisingly shy young man, given his skill with storytelling, leading warrior bands, and generally organizing people, and if given the option would rather spend time alone with his thoughts than in a group. When he is around people, he's fondest of children; he considers any in the stronghold to be at least partially his responsibility, devoting a good chunk of time each week to playing the role of everyone's older brother or uncle.
Riaag's emotions run very close to the surface. While in his old band this earned him a reputation as a crybaby, he's also easily delighted, and though he can usually control his anger he's not very subtle about it when something has pissed him off. He can only hide what he's feeling if he's actively concentrating on it, and the moment his attention falters his face holds no secrets.
He's fiercely protective of Sarouth; this doesn't manifest as jealousy or possessiveness, as he's quite content to stay in the background while Sarouth interacts with others, but the slightest hint of a threat towards Sarouth puts Riaag in high alert.
Though his relationship with the divine was not always crystal-clear, Riaag has been a faithful follower of Agritakh for most of his life, and dutifully says his prayers throughout the day. He's sometimes frightened by what Sarouth goes through in the name of He Who Sleeps, but never doubts that it's for the best, if not always in an obvious way.
He is constantly worried about being perceived as dirty or lazy, or (even worse) unfit to be Sarouth's guardian-slash-love-interest. Paired with past traumas that have left him with lingering night terrors and a tendency for getting stuck in catastrophic thoughts, he can very easily convince himself he's the least suitable person on the planet for his position; his gratitude to Sarouth for helping him through his regular bouts of anxiety and melancholy is immeasurable.
While he wouldn't know the terms if presented with them, Riaag is definitely bisexual and probably pansexual, though his oathbond places him in an exclusive relationship with Sarouth he has no interest in expanding. He's attracted to confident people, especially if they're nice to him.
Riaag is sexually submissive and generally skews towards the reactive side of the equation, needing gentle encouragement to ask for things he wants. His history limits what he can handle without getting upset; this sometimes means he'll test his own limits in the interest of healing, but mostly it means staying within well-negotiated territory. He loves being praised for his appearance and will happily show off as long as their privacy is guaranteed. He also has a very active fantasy life thanks to his knack for storytelling.
Riaag was born, to use his own words, a "bastard son of oathbreakers;" given the lack of the concept of marriage in Rhoanish society, illegitimacy is viewed more as a child conceived as a breach of social contract as opposed to outside a recognized union. He was shortly thereafter abandoned--there are multiple conflicting stories on the how and why of this, though he was definitely rejected by his family at a young age--and ended up in the care of Heiwog Lost-Gather.
The years between his acquisition and his leaving Lost-Gather's band were unpleasant, and save for the fact that they left both emotional and physical scars do not need to be detailed here. During this time he was forced to keep his hair cut short and his face concealed with thick paint.
One fateful day his band ended up involved in an altercation with another group of scavengers. They ended up on the losing side, and while licking their wounds afterwards the band was accosted by a pale-haired youth dressed as a god-speaker who demanded to share the word of Agritakh with them. Lost-Gather's people had other ideas, but then again so did the god-speaker; Riaag was left behind with the other dead and dying once the fight went so badly. He steeled himself for oblivion as he felt himself bleed out.
What he hadn't planned on was to have his wounds tended and his face cleaned. Awestruck, Riaag followed behind the mysterious young man, and eagerly swore his allegiance when given the chance. He started off dedicating himself to simpler tasks, such as the laundry, but as time went on he became more and more valuable to Sarouth, as well as more of a friend.
Riaag's bond with Sarouth only grew after he witnessed the reluctant Faaroug's divinity, though it remained a strictly platonic relationship. They founded the stronghold of Naar Rhoan together after five years of wandering around in the freezing woods; it was miraculously not a horrible failure and serves as their current base of operations.
The Stones' Earthen Grasp sees Riaag as a lonely but devoted man who is ready to throw himself between Sarouth and any possible source of danger. He spends much of the story reflecting on his history and pining for a man he believes is no less obtainable than the stars themselves, though when a figure from his past returns he finds his most hidden secrets can't remain that way forever. After Sarouth wins a duel in his honor, Riaag finally builds up the courage to ask if Sarouth found him worthy to view as more than just a close friend; the encounter is an emotional one where Riaag must actually sing his case. Sarouth ultimately agrees, and they swear an oath of fidelity.
Later that year, during Seismic Gap, he finds himself in charge of putting together a group of volunteers to go look for a missing search party, itself looking for some hunters who have yet to come home. When an injured member of the search party proper drags himself back to Naar Rhoan the night before Riaag planned to leave, Sarouth is furious, and Riaag accompanies him as he leaves without any other retinue.
They eventually find both the ambush and a member of the people who sprung said ambush, a man of Usoa named Etxeloi. Riaag goes along with Sarouth's desire to offer himself as a hostage in exchange for the chance to plead his case before the village's martial and spiritual leaders; both are taken hostage and get a chance to see the sad state of Usoa's farmland as they're marched to the government square. A bandit attack interrupts Sarouth's attempts at diplomacy, and after a tense moment where Etxeloi unknowingly rekindles bad memories, both Riaag and Sarouth are allowed to join the fight.
They spend the evening in an abandoned palace on an island in the river where an attempt is made on their lives, though in the end the village's warlord intervenes on their behalf. Upon their attacker's death, the River God claims his remains.
In the end the people of Usoa are prepared to give in to nihilism, thanks to bad fishing and worse farming, but Sarouth negotiates a treaty: Naar Rhoan will send them regular shipments of food in exchange for an alliance lasting one year for each Rhoanish slain, after which terms can be negotiated again. While Sarouth busies himself learning names of survivors and how to interact with the Usoan forest-walking spy network, Riaag is simply thankful that they have a home to return to.
Terra Incognita is set during harvest time, which has Riaag very busy organizing a stronghold festival; it only partially distracts him from the stress of a recent traumatic flashback that's had him unable to accept physical affection or even be around Sarouth for very long. He comes to terms with his own flaws in time to cautiously seek out comfort again, and while it isn't a perfect solution, they're able to find something that works for the time being.
News of ghost hunters on the way makes Riaag nervous once more, though, since the untouchable are said to attract them and even rise as ghosts themselves when they die. They welcome their guests, one of whom is a familiar face, and invite them to the festival meal, though this has to be interrupted when Riaag remembers an unpleasant detail that ends up leading them to the ghost where it hides. After a long night and a bleary morning, Riaag is able to make a small amount of peace with himself and inch back towards the road to recovery.
Hymns of Orogenesis has Riaag keeping the stronghold humming along despite the bitter cold while guests of three different kinds converge at the same time. He deals with some personal revelations and a reexamination of his own limits during these tense few days, and as year's end approaches he finds he can greet the dawn with new eyes.
Riaag is first and foremost Sarouth's herald, which means it's his duty to witness, chronicle, and share Sarouth's assorted deeds. He's observant and thoughtful with a good head for names. He's also quite bright and is quick to solve puzzles or figure out his next move in a game. Unfortunately, Riaag constantly underestimates his own intelligence, so convincing him of any of the above is an uphill battle.
He loves to sing and tell stories of all sorts; his fascination with words bleeds into his day-to-day speech, in which his intentionally "low" dialect is peppered with exotic diction and metaphors, and he code-switches (consciously or otherwise) whenever he tells a story, recites the Chant, or otherwise needs to distinguish from his usual speaking voice. He has a broad vocal range that defaults to a growling baritone.
As one might expect from a man who wears trophy skulls everywhere, Riaag is no stranger to a fight, and is most comfortable using a paired axe and shield. He's as fit as he is fat (which is to say, very) with plentiful stamina; while not the swiftest runner, Riaag is remarkably agile for a man of his size, his preferred tactic involving serving as a sort of living wall between Sarouth and anything else. His strength is on the gruesome side, enabling him to potentially maim an opponent even if unarmed. He is also modestly accurate with a sling.
Riaag loves to cook and has gotten quite good at it over the years. He's both happy with, and efficient at, taking care of household chores like mending and cleaning, and makes most of his own clothing; he's quite proud of his domestic skills and is quick to ask other hearth-minded people for advice if he takes a shine to their technique.
Much like anyone else in the area who does a lot of travel or trading, Riaag speaks multiple languages, most of which don't maintain his distinctive drawl.
Riaag is not good at riding a horse. He can barely go above a canter and generally hates every minute of it.
I (Iron Eater) was driven to create the story of an orcish bodyguard with a crush on his boss thanks to playing a bit too much Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup; one of the class options in the version I was playing at the time was a hill orc priest, with the ability to sometimes convert orc-type enemies you come across on sight, and if not then, after beating the snot out of them for a bit. This can result in your character being surrounded by a swarm of orcs, some of which gain classes and even names over time, with little heart icons over their heads.
The math involved to get from there to here is not particularly involved.
Riaag was first conceived as something of a generic bodyguard type who was wholly devoted to the character he was looking over; it wasn't until I worked with the story more that I figured out he was a submissive guy who was but hobbled by memories of his ignoble birth and what happened to him as a child. His accent has slid around a bit but has probably finalized itself in the style used in Terra Incognita: at the behest of my editors it is not precisely transcribed, so it's safe to assume it's thicker than what's written.
I made him a physically imposing man with a heavy feminine streak and a desire to serve a smaller partner because this is, at least for me, The Juice; it's also not a dynamic I've seen much in the stories I've read, so be the smutty fanfic you want to see in the world and all that.
- While he doesn't know his actual age, he's a few months older than Sarouth.
- His favorite color is pink.
- He has many favorite foods but is partial to horse chops.
- His favorite animals are birds.
- His horse does not have a name; when pressed, he refers to it as "Stupid Horse."
- He can identify almost every set of clan colors from the surrounding area on sight.
- He's sensitive to people (other than Sarouth) handling his food and easily becomes upset if he thinks someone is trying to take a dish away before he's finished with it.
- He can roll his tongue into a four-lobed clover-leaf shape, which looks mildly distressing but is a useful party trick.
- He loves small animals, dogs and cats being favorites.
- Despite being publicly cleansed, he still feels uncomfortable without a pair of gloves.