For the character sheet, see Russ's Character Sheet
Russ towers over most of the people around him, standing 6'8" (not counting the dorsal spines that run from the top of his head to the tip of his tail). His scales shine an emerald green in color, with a lighter strip on his ventral side, and two smaller, dark stripes to either side of the ridge of his back. The ridge itself is composed of bright blue spines, contrasting sharply with the rest. Like most lizardfolk, this patterning is unique to his family group and can be used to instantly identify him at range to other lizardfolk. Slitted pupils demarcate the halves of large, bright yellow eyes, his dominate facial feature. Clawed hands and large, serrated teeth complete an appearance that is shockingly bestial to most Mainlanders, even Servitors.
To hide his nature, he takes the form of a very large half-orc, with rough features seemingly hewn from raw jade. Loose-fitting Petaran garb covers as much of his body as he can manage, but his tail he cannot hide, so he keeps mum, or, if pressed, explains it away as an experiment gone awry. He takes great pains to hide his voice, and this effort is visible in his halting speech patterns and odd word choice, avoiding sibilants whenever possible. When he relaxes his guard, his speech carries in a low-toned hiss and nearly native fluency, although the physiological challenges maintain the difficulty of some words.
He arrived some years ago to the Prycedown area seeking work, and found it convenient to base himself there, given its unique position in Mainland trade. He could be usually found contracting as a bodyguard, sailor, or hunter, specializing in wilderness knowledge and the healing arts. To those he worked with, he rarely spoke; where he came from, he did not say. Though he jobbed with many groups over the years, on voyages to both extremes of the mundane and hair-raising, and carried himself admirably within his expertise, he nearly always turned down repeat work, and no person in Prycedown could really consider him as anything more than a vague professional acquaintance. In all the many taverns and gambling halls on the coast of the Heretic Sea, where Russ's seedy ilk create and maintain their best and longest-lasting relationships, Russ was always practically a stranger--he slept outdoors, in gutters, alleys, sewers and abandoned buildings whenever he could, shunning conviviality. Even when he needed to establish a laboratory for a longer-running experiment, or to create some of his tools, he typically did it with no thought paid to property rights. This, combined with a largely itinerant lifestyle, caused him to spend much of his income reestablishing his facilities as needed, largely outstripping any long-running gains he might otherwise have accumulated. He never expressed frustration with this never-ending cycle of gain and loss; on the contrary, he was very comfortable with his limited means.
As a swimmer, he has no equal, making him a particularly useful asset in water. When he relaxes, it is by swimming, or letting the sun soak itself into his skin. Before joining his current group, he often found himself attracted to crewing ships, even when the close quarters would otherwise put him ill at ease.
In social interactions, his default has always been to act with guarded hostility. He tends to strike quickly when he feels danger might be imminent to try to catch his foes off-guard, and leave the hard questions for after the dust clears. Reacting with violence comes easily to him, and he usually punctuates the many melees he finds himself in with loud assertions of his deadly ferocity; doing so gave him quite a reputation with the locals. As Edi has put it, he is "intense", in the world where that passes for "common sense". Despite appearing impulsive and barbaric, Russ has found that with prudent exertions of bombast and violence, he can save effort that would otherwise be spent fighting to maintain a position in the violently shifting hierarchy of society's dregs. Mad Gokar seems to have largely arrived at the same strategy in his own, which helps to explain the otherwise perplexing rapport between two explosive personalities.
Young Life, and Early Adulthood
Ressalssithalifthel'Keear spawned deep in the saltwater marshes in the Western part of Celestia. He grew there with his family group, learning to defend it vigorously from intruders and thinking little about the outside world. With his brothers and sisters, he played, hunted, and fought. He lived for the feel of the sun and water on his scales, and he always felt free.
He was chosen to apprentice to Yressitulifthel'Keear, the clan's healer. She was oldest of the family group, a massive lizardfolk, and yet infirm from some long-contracted disease that left her scales pale and withered, and her eyes dull. However, Yressitulifthel'Keear's appearance belied a keen intellect and a vigorous talent, and there was not another being in the swamp who knew all she knew about its flora and fauna. Ressalssithalifthel'Keear studied at the matron's claw, learning to knit the many wounds suffered in the course of family group's day. Rather than master the hunting talent so prized within his community, he instead gained other valuable skills, proving himself a valuable companion on the family group's weeks-long outings.
His life was this way for some twenty years. Sometimes he would hunger, but he never starved. Sometimes he would hurt, but he always healed. In all ways, it was an ideal existence for a young lizardfolk, and he was content.
The years passed, and other groups began to assert themselves. More and more, the clan's hunting expeditions would bring them to land "reclaimed" into farmland by Alexandrians. It started small enough to keep the lizardfolk from being perturbed, and they even found it a small boon to occasionally pick off farm animals, or the occasional careless human or gnome. But the encroachment grew by the year, and clashes with the farmers happened more and more frequently as the lizardfolk found themselves defending their traditional territory. Ressalssithalifthel'Keear watched as, little by little, his family group dwindled: skirmishes might have been rare, but lizardfolk replace themselves slowly, and a war of attrition favored the faster-breeding warmbloods.
It came to a head one day, as he returned from a long hunt with three of his spawn group. Pickings had been slim, but they had managed a sizable alligator, and spirits were high. Singing their sibilant songs, they made it almost home before they could notice the smell of burning peat. Fearing the worst, the four dropped their prize and ran directly home, just in time to witness the last of their clan die to human crossbows and blades.
Ressalssithalifthel'Keear's group wasted no time charging the invaders. They put up a fight, but two were cut down within moments; Ressalssithalifthel'Keear and his remaining companion were separated, and he fled shortly after. The marauders made chase, but lost interest quickly as Ressalssithalifthel'Keear went deep into the swamp.
Days passed before Ressalssithalifthel'Keear could come back to inspect the damage. Raging, he saw that the invaders, barbarians that they were, had not even eaten his family members, leaving the corpses to rot in the sun. He picked through, identifying one clan member after another, mourning their loss and cursing the gods in a sibilant paean. Even the carefully guarded clutches of eggs had been found and smashed, leaving tiny spawn laying in pools of their own yolk and blood. Out of all his family group, the only two bodies missing were his own, and that of his remaining hunting companion: of her, he saw no evidence.
Some time passed, and Ressalssithalifthel'Keear's slowly turned his mind to the future. With his family group gone, he would not survive in the swamp; he even if he had no trouble hunting for his food and protecting himself from the swamp's many dangers, the imminent threat of invaders would only get worse, especially as more followed to drain the swamp and claim more farmland. He resolved, then, to leave his home and head into the world, to find a place where lizardfolk were unknown, and eke out his existence.
He attempted to sell his services to any who would take him. He talked rarely, and answered to Russ, the most of his name that the unsophisticated tongues that the creatures around him could manage. Even then, though, his outlandish appearance was a liability, and despite great pains with bulky clothing to hide himself, he found himself just as likely to be driven away as offered any work, until he encountered Vaya.
Russ met Vaya after a particularly close shave, following the unsuccessful conclusion of an attempt to collect payment from a completed job. He ran, eventually finding himself in a small hut at the edge of a big, the sounds of hunters closing in. This hut had a sole inhabitant--a blind witch, covered in warts. Surprisingly, she wasn't bothered by his pursuit and subsequent intrusion, and immediately greeted him in as much Ssel'it as she could manage. Without prompting, she went on to say that she had long ago come to an accord with the lizardfolk. "Living here, I've run into my share of your type", she cackled. "Less and less, these days. The Crown would call it progress." Another cackle, but with something behind it other than mirth, happening just as the last of the mobs' din faded into the distance to leave an awkward pause hanging in its place. This pause did not persist for long, though, as it turned out the witch had much more to day.
Russ found the woman strange, but not dangerous. She offered to let him hide out for a while, and seemed to welcome the company. "Nobody much to talk to these days, anyway", she'd say.
A day or so passed while Russ let the mob blow out its steam. He never opened to the witch, but he would say a few words to respond to her questions, and even ventured a question or two of his own about her work. Her complete lack of fear disarmed him totally, and while he was as much puzzled as anything, he didn't mind the respite.
When he thought it finally safe, he gathered his things to go. "Leaving so soon?", Vaya asked, cackling. She didn't wait for a response, but said a few words and gestured onto a piece of cloth and leather she had been working on since Russ arrived. A glow left her hands and incorporated itself into the leather, then disappeared, leaving a faint design.
"A muzzle band, but not a mundane one. With this, you can occupy human lands. I'm sure you can figure out how to use it."
Russ stared at the lady, her kindness completely incomprehensible. Without a word, he turned, and left.
Armed with the muzzle band of disguise, Russ wanders human lands. In his Half-Orc form, he lends his expertise to whoever will pay. Even avoiding contact as he does, he's garnered a reputation as a formidable swimmer and deckhand, a reputation that has made finding work much easier than it would otherwise. Among the lowliest of Alexandria's citizens, few dare to question his strange appearance, and he found that he could keep some breathing room as long as he stayed careful to maintain his secret. More recently, he has been able to relax his guard somewhat; thanks to the Azure Geese's ties with the An'ssel'rr family group in the Wydmoor Swamp, he is not particularly strange there, and isn't in any special danger of being run off. In partnership with Mad Gokar, he has even begun establishing a permanent workshop at the Wydmoor Swamp Temple, allowing more advanced research and fabrication than he had been able to commit to previously. The constant stream of work from the Geese and a steady group to work with have been a nice change of pace, and given Russ leeway to consider goals beyond survival.
He continues his alchemical research, and his travels have given him access to a wide range of new substances to test, despite his self-imposed difficulties. Before Wydmoor, he had interacted with few of his kind, except as corpses strung up as a warning to other "monsters". Of his sole surviving kinslizard, he has not seen a single scale, and as far as Russ knows, she is long dead.
Though he doesn't care much for civilization, and considers it to be a rotten plague, he has learned to read the languages of the Alexandrians. He has found a perverse pleasure in perusing the tomes that come his way, amusing himself at trying to piece together the authors' alien motives. He keeps his own notes and formulae on small vellum pages bound in Yressitulifthel'Keear's skin--the constant presence of his mentor is a comfort, and reminds Russ of the home he lost.
After much reflection on the state of his people, both in Celestia and near Wydmoor, Russ has come of the opinion that the An'ssel'rr need to change to survive. As he experiments with himself, he finds the limits of his form and abilities, and he shares the information he collects with the Wydmoor swamp family group on his periodic visits. He seeks to find power for his people, and recognizes that power takes many shapes and forms, only some of which are purely physical. He sees that in the essence of nature lies adaptation, and also that to be wedded solely to one form and purpose is to become moribund and decay into ancient memory.
He further knows that, while the Azure Geese will likely honor their agreements in the short term, the word of a human society cannot be trusted beyond the length of a generation, especially in the current, turbulent era. He wishes to find a way for his own group to find the upper hand before they or whoever else turn their eyes once again to claiming new territory from the homes of the An'ssel'rr.