"I was thinking that I could use a skald in my travels. Someone to spread stories of His purpose and the deeds of His faithful, yes? You might be a good fit for it, if you wanted to try." - The Stones' Earthen Grasp
"I swear on my oath and on the divine within me that I won't say your sexy jerkoff story is boring." - Terra Incognita
Sarouth White-Hair is an orcish man who serves as a god-speaker and political leader of the stronghold of Naar Rhoan. He's sometimes heralded as the Faaroug (analogous to the messiah in his culture) but rarely uses the title to refer to himself. Sarouth is a devoted servant of the Hill God, Agritakh, and has an intense interest in agriculture that borders on worrying.
He's in a committed relationship with Riaag Bough-Breaker, his best friend and bodyguard.
His name is pronounced similarly to "vermouth."
Sarouth White-Hair 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)
- Brittle Limit (with illustrations)
- Aventurescence (with illustrations)
Sarouth is an orc, which in this context means he's approximately person-shaped with green skin, pointy ears, claws, and tusks.
As suggested by his name, Sarouth's hair is bright white; while this most obviously applies to the hair on his head, it also applies to his eyebrows, lashes, and what little other body hair he has. A flashback in Terra Incognita establishes that his coloration doesn't have any sort of mystical significance and is "just one of those things." In technical terms it's a localized form of leucism.
His hair is long and reaches somewhere past his shoulders, usually kept tied back in a low ponytail. He conceals the left side of his face with it, though despite his asymmetrical style it's the same length on both sides; he keeps the hair on his right side tucked behind his ear.
Sarouth is dark green with unnaturally bold red tattoos on his arms, shoulders, neck, and upper back. These depict abstract patterns that he uses as a map of the Labyrinth, a sacred place he visits in his dreams, and while he doesn't talk about them very often he takes no pains to hide them, either. His eyes are yellow with red sclera; the left one has part of a holy symbol painted around it which he reapplies regularly.
He has a trim build that is lean and well-muscled, partially thanks to regular swimming, though thanks to how he dresses and the company he keeps he gives the impression of being smaller than he actually is. Sarouth's height is never specified in the stories he appears in, save that the top of his head is even with Riaag's eyes.
Both his tusks and his claws are described as being "small" or "dainty" for his species. Unlike most orcs his tusks face downwards and look more like fangs. Aside from being naturally undersized, Sarouth keeps his claws filed down for cosmetic reasons.
He usually wears layered robes and sandals.
Sarouth is charismatic and friendly, with a fondness for terrible dad jokes. He hates the idea of being seen as unapproachable, which leads to him going out of his way to hear minor concerns from others in the stronghold; he takes it personally when he something has gone wrong that he feels he had any ability to affect. His cheerful nature helps overcome the innate aura of creepiness all god-speakers exude, and while children tend to be afraid of him, more adults than not aren't. The safety and comfort of the Rhoanish people is his primary concern and he will invest near-inexhaustible reserves of energy into preserving that stability.
While he has an extremely long fuse, Sarouth is prone to acting rashly in the event he actually does lose his temper. He's particularly sensitive to being manipulated into what he views as making promises he can't keep.
Sarouth is quite protective of Riaag and quick to act if Riaag has an episode, usually by moving him somewhere quiet and speaking with soft, encouraging words. He can be vicious if he thinks someone has been intentionally rude to Riaag; while Sarouth will usually let Riaag solve his own problems if it's simply minor disagreements, he has no tolerance for people insulting his oathbound's intelligence or character, and is willing to fight honor duels in Riaag's name.
Unsurprisingly for a holy man he's quite pious, his faith less in the presence of Agritakh (a thing which can be empirically proven to some degree, even if His motives are less clear) and more that Agritakh will aid and protect His people through His servants. This has not prevented him from having screaming matches with said deity before, though since he's yet to be cut off from his divine source it's presumably worked out for the best.
He is only sexually interested in other men and, as of his oathbond, is in an exclusive relationship with Riaag; being queer carries no stigma in Rhoanish culture, so this barely registers to others save for anyone who tries to flirt with one of them. Sarouth prefers taller, heavier partners.
In the bedroom Sarouth is very sexually aggressive and consciously dials down his behavior as much as he can out of respect for Riaag's limits. He's also quite dominant, which he has an easier time expressing, and while his libido tends to run strong and fierce at odd intervals the lion's share of his energy goes into making sure Riaag is happy.
He has a bad habit of trying to sneak bites of food while it's still being prepared and must be actively kept away from a soup pot at all times.
Sarouth first became aware he was a god-speaker (more formally, an Agritakh-ruhd) around the age of seven--in Terra Incognita he refers to this as when he "started turning"--and over the next ten years worked both alone and with other god-speakers to figure out his duties and what his deity expected of him. Through various mystical means he determined his purpose in life and set out alone, ineffectually seeking to change the world as he'd been commanded.
At the age of seventeen he encountered a band of scavengers who'd already been roughed up from a past conflict and tried to share the word of Agritakh with them; they disagreed, so he took the initiative to try and beat some sense into them. This was received about as well as could be expected. After the fighting Sarouth did what he could to dress the wounds of those who hadn't run off, but most of them succumbed to their injuries.
Most, that is, save for one: a young man named Riaag Bough-Breaker. Sarouth gave him water and purified him of his presumed taint by washing away the face paint he wore. Being more or less the first acts of genuine kindness Riaag had ever received from another person, Sarouth made quite the impression.
Having accidentally secured the eternal loyalty of a weedy, underfed youth, Sarouth was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with him but was grateful for the company; over the next few days Riaag volunteered himself as drudge, cook, barber, skald, and (eventually) bodyguard, and the two quickly became friends, as well. Riaag soon insisted that Sarouth was the Faaroug--the favored child of Agritakh, bringer of great and bloody change--and while it took a lot of convincing and a lot more tears the title halfway stuck. This didn't stop them from wandering around in the freezing woods most of the time.
Over time Sarouth's influence grew and so did his bond with Riaag, though it remained a strictly platonic relationship. They founded the stronghold of Naar Rhoan together after five years of the aforementioned wandering around in the freezing woods; it was miraculously not a horrible failure and serves as their current base of operations.
During The Stones' Earthen Grasp, Sarouth is a distant figure who respects Riaag's needs for privacy and aversion to physical contact. His most notable action is to defy a painful figure from Riaag's past, challenging the cultural concept of untouchable sin in a very public way, then duelling (and killing) said figure. It's only after this that Riaag approaches him about changing the nature of their relationship and after an emotional display by Riaag they agree to become physically involved. Sarouth swears an oath on his fidelity that Riaag is eager to accept.
Some time later that same year, during Seismic Gap, he grows frustrated with mixed signals about a group of missing hunters and the search party sent to look for them, and when one of said party returns horribly injured Sarouth flies into a rage at the visions he had of peace and prosperity. He leaves Naar Rhoan, Riaag in tow, and refuses to eat or sleep as he searches for the source of the trouble himself.
They eventually find the site of an ambush and encounter Etxeloi of the Usoan river people; after a tense back-and-forth Sarouth agrees to be taken hostage in exchange for bargaining for the release of his surviving people, which he learns are being kept in Usoa proper. He and Riaag are taken before the spiritual and martial leaders of the village to plead their case; on the way there they see the sad state of Usoa's failing crops. Sarouth's attempts at diplomacy are interrupted by a bandit attack, and once he's able to convince Etxeloi he had nothing to do with it he's allowed to join the fray to great success.
Sarouth and Riaag 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 he expects this to alliance to mostly be in political and military terms, Sarouth is delighted to later find that he's secured the aid of Usoa's forest-walking spy network in the process, and he and Etxeloi have a cautious rapport built up by the time he returns home.
When harvest time rolls around in Terra Incognita, Sarouth is kept busy making sure the festivities are running smoothly and walking on eggshells around Riaag, who is established as having had a traumatic flashback some time before the start of the story and has been refusing any sort of comfort or affection. Sarouth must carefully help Riaag negotiate his own mental minefield.
When news comes from Etxeloi that other god-speakers are on their way after exorcising a ghost, Sarouth goes on high alert. He welcomes their guests--who, while initially suspicious, are won over by his fervor in leading a harvest rite and the overall prosperity of the stronghold--and later helps them destroy the ghost bent on sowing terror in Naar Rhoan. Everyone eats well and he's able to coax Riaag back on the long road to recovery again.
Hymns of Orogenesis shows Sarouth in his natural element as a diplomat, and later on as both a war leader and a mirror of Agritakh, the Hill God. He continues being both encouragement and inspiration to Riaag; while new light is shed on some of his nature, he nonetheless shoulders every responsibility with Naar Rhoan's best interests at heart.
During the summer shown in Brittle Limit Sarouth is actively trying to broker peaceful trade with foreign parties at Concordance, a massive meeting of nations of varying size hosted in orc-hostile territory, and making strong first impressions left and right. His duties to his people persist even as he is increasingly drawn to the Labyrinth, and he has to evaluate how well he's handling his duties as a partner, as well.
Aventurescence opens with Sarouth called upon to help exorcise a mine in a neighboring stronghold, opting to pair it with a spot of badly-needed personal time with Riaag. The trip (and the time leading up to it) brings up a lot of old wounds that aren't as healed over as he'd like, which risks boiling over in a confrontation with his estranged family upon successfully reaching the bedeviled trading post. He ultimately has to confront his own shortcomings as a person, though in doing so he's also better able to recognize how he's grown, and how he and Riaag both encourage one another to be better.
As a god-speaker of Agritakh Sarouth has access to several supernatural abilities. Most of them are focused around granting blessings, warding off bad fortune or evil spirits, or divining the future through a dizzying number of methods; his flashier talents all require him to invoke Agritakh directly in order to shape earth or fling spires of rock. He has a "tell" when he's invoked his god in the form of dust and pebbles orbiting his feet. He can pray for the healing of himself or others, though this requires some show of bravery on the behalf of whomever is being healed.
His less-flashy divine duties involve leading group rituals, discussing the Chant, and performing the appropriate blessings on the newly born and newly dead. He enjoys debating matters of faith with others; being something of a radical cleric, this would be something he'd end up doing a lot whether he liked it or not.
In more everyday terms he knows a good deal about cultivation and agriculture. He's got enough of a head for logistics to keep the stronghold running at a food-and-trade-goods profit and is rather good at haggling; when it comes to actually making things to trade he can spin thread, weave on a loom, and construct charms. Sarouth invests a great amount of effort in keeping Naar Rhoan's trade options open, which involves both plentiful dealings with merchants and plentiful hunts for bandits who might prey upon said merchants.
He is a terrible cook and a worse singer. The latter is a regular source of embarrassment for him as Rhoanish culture is strongly based in song; whenever possible he has Riaag do any singing in his stead.
Sarouth speaks several languages with varying levels of fluency, as is typical of anyone in his home region who does a lot of trading with outsiders. He can also read the bead code used by raven-masters to send messages by air.
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.
Sarouth was originally an older character with a name picked at random, but as the story evolved it became more satisfying for him to be still figuring things out himself, and I liked the relationship between him and Riaag resembling two kids looking out for each other. His approximate age wasn't decided until I began work on Seismic Gap.
The significance of his anime hair wasn't a thing until Seismic Gap, as well, and some of the earliest sketches of him have his hair worn long, loose, and away from his face. I think the change was for the better.
Really, I wasn't expecting these characters to be recurring ones at all, which is why they don't really come into their own (and stop speaking in horribly stilted dialogue) until the second story.
His tattoos are an enormous pain in the ass to draw.
- While his age isn't given in the text, he's twenty-five.
- He cannot move his eyebrows independently.
- He hates pants and refuses to wear them, opting for skirts when robes won't do.
- His favorite color is orange.
- His favorite food is anything Riaag cooks, though he has a fondness for eyeballs.
- He has freckles on his dick and inner thighs. They're a darker green than the rest of him.
- His horse's name is Karsta.
- He embroiders the pattern of colors used to write his name in bead code on most of his clothing, particularly his underwear.
- He is so prone to making awful noises in his sleep Riaag uses them as a barometer of his overall wellness.
- He's developing a taste for Usoan fish sauce.