Vassily Rudevic Nabokov
the White Shadow of Ustalav
Killer: Vas has been killing since a young age. It’s as natural to him as drinking water or sleeping. In fact, it’s generally a bad idea to get into an argument about the morality behind it, because he’ll just laugh. Or worse.
History of Heresy: Vas’ life experiences have led him to believe that while there most assuredly are gods out there, they’ve never been worthy of any of the fawning that gets foisted on them. As far as he’s concerned they’ve never done anything to help him and they’ve never helped any of the people that begged them when he had those people cornered, either. He has a rather disdainful view of those who put faith in idols over their own abilities.
Arcane Temper: Vas would be quick to anger and quick to fight even without the cursed blood in his veins. His own brutal world views are compounded by an arcane malevolence that permeates every thought he’s ever had.
Pride: Vas is convinced of the idea that everyone always has the power to make their own decisions, and everything that happens to them is a direct consequence of their own choices. He tends to get annoyed very quickly with people, especially if they are insulting him. Once he feels he’s been insulted (which is very easy to do), his first recourse is almost always to injure or kill the party in question just for inconveniencing him. He may get more lenient with someone who recognizes their mistake, but even that is doubtful.
Vassily Rudevic Nabokov. that’s what they named him. from a rural town in Ustalav, his mother died welping him. his father was always afraid of him. said the boy had a weird look about him. said the mother’s blood was cursed. and the townsfolk knew it too. most of the other children instinctually avoided the weird, pallid lad with hair and eyes as black as pitch. one day, the local count’s son was found dead in a stream, drowned. his grieving father took him home, and was dead in a fortnight, along with his wife. a few days prior Vas had been seen playing with the boy, the last time anyone ever saw him alive. but Vas couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it, could he?
his father wasn’t taking any chances. the boy was already over-large and looked on him with menace. swore he could hear voices and they kept him up all night. so, he sold him to a traveling merchant from distant Katapesh and washed his hands of it. he was dead within a fortnight, his body found twisted into tangles. but Vas was already on a ship, destined for the pleasure houses. it couldn’t be him.
the slave keepers had no interest in the large, ghostly boy whose eyes unnerved them so. at 12 he as already almost as big as a man, and was of no use. one particular master did take interest in the boy though; a lanista named Tareq. Tareq took the boy and trained him to fight in the fighting pits. the boy became a large, scary man who would dispassionately butcher criminals in the arena, I expression never changing. some say they could see a ghostly white fire burn in the black pits he called eyes when fighting, but that could just be an illusion to sell tickets.
Vas made Tareq a vast sum of money, but Tareq was utterly terrified of the “White Shadow of Ustalav” as he’d begun to be called. he complained of headaches, and of seeing his dead family’s faces in the dark at night. no other gladiator would face Vas in the arena, either. Tareq gave Vas a sizable sum of money, some weapons and sent him on his way.
two days later he fell into a kennel and was torn apart by his fighting dogs.
for the first time since childhood, Vas was free, he’d learned the way of the world in the pits. he became a rightly feared mercenary whose career took him all over the inner sea. after a dispute over the nature of god with a cleric in Razmiran turned bloody, he took the dead man’s mask and boarded a ship for Irrisen. since then he’s fought on both sides of the wars between the Linnorm Kings and the spoor of Baba Yaga. both sides made him very rich, but his lack of loyalty landed him in a Kalsgard jail, with only his defaced mask for company. he sits there, never moving, staring into space. other prisoners are starting to complain about nightmares.
The road from Katapesh to Irrisen is a long one. Being a wanderer, Vas put his formidable skills to use in many other places before taking jobs for Yuri. The most relevant ones are as follows, listed chronologically;
- After Tareq’s “mysterious death” Vas took the first ship he could out of Katapesh City. It docked in Absalom. It was here that he took his first job. He had little money and needed to lay low in case any of Tareq’s friends in the city recognized him. He took up work as a bodyguard for a crime lord named Vossler in Absalom’s Precipice District, a wretched hive of thieves and whores. He relished his job as Vossler’s hatchet-man, and it was in these times he was gifted with an axe that called to human blood. he named it Cassie, for reasons that are obscure to everyone but him. The job paid well, but the good times would not last.
During a night at the pub, Vas got in an argument with a man in a white mask. The man claimed to be a priest of Razmir, some god Vas had never heard of. Vas had been boasting loudly about his recent actions in desposing of a rival gang lord, and made comments about no god being his equal. The priest in the white mask took exception and got in his face. Vas made a drunken comment about how Razmir probably wasn’t even real, because he never heard of him. The foolish priest took this to mean that Vas knew the truth about Razmir and ran at him with a knife. Vas grabbed the man and bashed his face in repeatedly against the bar. the man’s head was crushed and his mask cracked. Vas laughed about it and took the mask for his own.
Vossler warned him that the priest had friends and it would be best for them to part ways; Vossler booked him passage to Egorian. He’s never been back to Absalom, but if he has any memories that could be classified as “happy” it was those days in the largest city in the world.
-Vas didn’t stay in Egorian for very long. He found Cheliax’’s open policy of servitude to Devils to be weak, foolish, and massively inconvenient for those who weren’t inclined to such things. He did hear that there was good money to be made in Molthune for those who didn’t mind breaking heads, though.
He headed for Molthune and signed on with a mercenary company, the Honorborn. The Honorborn, and especially their leader, a cantankerous old dwarf named Gurlock Brandicorr, were so named for their policy of honoring the letter of every agreement so long as they were paid to do it. However, while the group always kept to this policy, they were almost never referred to by their official name. Most people in Molthune (probably correctly) were mistrustful of the Honorborn, and frequently referred to them by another name, “The Brotherhood of Butchery”. Gurlock and his men had a reputation for taking on jobs that most mercenary companies found distasteful, and for a company-wide reputation for sadism and cruelty. It goes without saying that every member had a long criminal record. Vas fit right in.
The Brotherhood of Butchery were kept as Irregulars by a colonel on the frontier with Nirmathas named Cyroil Viggus. A penny-counting desk-jockey, Viggus used the Brotherhood to commit atrocities and steal supplies for Molthune from bordering Nirmathas. Since they were mercenaries and he kept no paper trail, their actions could be denied as the work of bandits with no connection to Viggus or Molthune as a whole. Typical days consisted of raiding and pillaging border settlements and discreetly transferring a portion of the spoils to Viggus.
On one particular occasion, Vas took a solo job for Viggus that involved stalking a rival of Viggus and his group of friends to a camp where they planned on spending the weekend drinking, merry-making and debauchery. He spent the better part of the weekend stalking and killing them one by one until the one remaining survivor, a young woman, managed to land a lucky blow with a hammer and apparently kill him. He woke up in the house a few days later. Because someone escaped, word of Viggus’ failed plot got out. Viggus was recalled to Canorate, and his replacement ordered the Brotherhood out of Molthune territory.
-The brotherhood had no choice but to go north. Being public enemies in Nirmathas, they were forced to split into smaller groups and head north to Lastwall, where Gurlock had gotten them a new job, aiding at the border with Belzken. Vas was unsure of this new arrangement, but continued on with his group.
While in a whore house in Tamran, Vas and his group were approached by a visiting member of the Jadwiga who promised them gold if they came with him to Irrisen instead. It was further away than Lastwall, but after the last job went pear-shaped, Vas decided that guaranteed gold was better than promised gold; He went off with the funny blonde man to Red Tooth. A few others went with him, but they were all killed in various sorties into the Land of the Linnorm Kings, and the ones that weren’t were killed by Irriseni forces whenever Vas felt the Ulfen would pay him better. This continued until only Vas was left, and Yuri decided he was of no more value.