Nikolai Ruuska
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"Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich-man, poor-man, beggar-man, thief." Perhaps not quite each of these things, by the age of just thirty, Nikolai Ruuska has, through a strange series of events, been a nomadic herdsman in Norway, a deckhand on a merchant vessel, a thief, and an assassin, traveling throughout Europe.

The brother of Eilin Tyrsson, Nikolai has risked much to break away from the blackmailer who has employed his services for the past decade. He now comes to Dornie in search of his sister, his hopes of reunion based on the cryptic words of a soothsayer.


Info

Full Name: Nikolai Ruuska
Age: 30
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Bluish Green

Status: Alive
Occupation: Thief and Assassin
Origin: Norway
Allegiance: Independent

First Seen: A Chilly Welcome
Last Seen:

Description:

There is something wiry, sinewy, about this man that suggests an innate agility and speed rather than brute strength. His six feet of height carry on them lean, finely-honed muscles that don't add so much bulk as they do definition. It is a body used to hard work and rugged terrain, a fit body that has survived hardships. Dusky skin seems to come from both heritage and many days spent in the sun.

Dark hair falls in shaggy strands around an oval face that has a hint of boyish charm mixed with a more worldly soul. Solemn green-blue eyes under thick brows are the most striking feature of his face; a long, straight nose makes his face look longer than it is.

He wears layers in mostly dark colors; a linen shirt, a vest, pants, and boots; in the winter, a cloak, and at all times, a red scarf of a thin fabric that's usually loosely looped around his neck. A couple of necklaces on leather throngs lie beneath it; a leather cuff encircles one wrist.

Family:

  • Eilin Tyrsson - sister
  • Sohvi Ruuska - mother
  • Hannele Ruuska - grandmother
  • Leif Ruuska - grandfather
  • Oona Ruuska † - great-grandmother

Portrayed by: Jake Gyllenhaal


History

His life began simply enough. Nikolai Ruuska was born to a nomadic clan of travellers that roamed the lands of Norway with their reindeer herd. There was little reason to believe his life would be any different than the lives of his grandparents or even their grandparents. In such a place, very little changes from one generation to the next. The boy was quick and sharp, often preferring the company of those a few years older than himself so he could learn their skills and eavesdrop on their discussions, earning him the nickname in their tongue of “Little Hare.” Stories of far-off places intrigued him the most. Norway’s mountains, fjords and grasslands, vast as they were, too small for Nikolai’s wanderlust.

Of all people, it was his little sister who would set into action the strange events that would determine the next several years of his life. He was not often a witness to the abuses his mother inflicted on Eilin, spending most of his time with friends or trying to learn from the elders in the clan. Perhaps it was his mind full of dreams of faraway lands that made him blind to the signs, but he was surprised to find she’d run away. Several hours after his sister’s departure, he pursued her, getting misinformation from a dock worker and stowing away on a merchant vessel that took him in a different direction than Eilin entirely.

For a few days, he was able to keep hidden, sneaking bits of food and water before he was caught. The captain whipped him publicly, but allowed him to earn his keep as a deckhand until the ship made port. He had earned the respect of the crew and was allowed to stay on; the work was hard but satisfied that innate wanderlust that had been brewing in him his entire life. It wasn’t until he reached the South of France, where a storm forced the ship to dock, that he closed that chapter of his life by accident rather than intent. In the arms of a brothel girl, drunk on cheap wine, the sixteen-year-old boy had simply overslept and the crew left him behind.

Most of his worldly possessions, scarce as they were, were on the ship, and Nikolai found himself without anything of worth but his quick hands and inquisitive mind. Slight for his age, he found he could move through the crowd at the market quickly and without notice, and that he had a knack for lifting odds and ends from merchant tables without being caught. There, coins were still in use, and he became a pickpocket and cutpurse. He picked up the language quickly as he moved from village to village, never staying in one place too long. It was his fifth village and at the age of 17 that Nikolai found the object that would change his life forever.

Realizing he could gain more as a burglar than a mere pickpocket, Niko had taken to slipping into inn rooms when he knew the patrons were elsewhere. One night, he came across a suitcase; old and worn, it was nothing most people would look twice at, but Niko had come to realize that people often try to hide what is most dear to them in shabby disguises. Emptying it out, he found a secret compartment in the lining, and inside was a long red scarf. It seemed ordinary enough, mundane as any of his own garments, but he took it with him just the same. Perhaps it was fate, for the scarf would save his life that very night.

It seemed he’d stayed in that particular village too long; too often he’d been seen coming and going from the inn though no one remembered him drinking in the tavern. Too many people had put together the pieces of the stories of missing trinkets, weapons, or coins. A pair of men waited for him in the shadows. They were bigger and had the element of surprise on their side, but Niko was quick; he managed to get away but not before he was injured. A knife slash at his face saw blood pouring into his eyes, while a more serious wound to his ribs would keep him from being able to run too far or too fast.

Grabbing the scarf, he wrapped it quickly around his head to keep the blood from blinding him or giving away his hiding place — if he could make it to one. Down an alley he darted, but the blood loss from his side meant he was running out of time — there was no hiding space to be found by the time his pursuers caught up to him. They ran into the alley, and he turned to face them…and they ran right past him. From their words, he could tell they couldn’t see him. The scarf was indeed a magical item, and one he intended to keep safe at that.

The scarf, he realized with more practice with it, would render him invisible if worn on his head, thought not if wrapped around his neck or a wrist. He left town by stowing away on another ship, and began his life as a thief in earnest, now stealing larger and more valuable items. He played it smart, stealing from one village or town but selling in another. Still a nomad but of a different sort, Niko didn’t try to stockpile his wealth but instead spent it on gambling, brothels, drink, or travel when he didn’t feel like stowing away like cargo. There was no need to save when he knew he could always steal what he needed later.

Eventually, he chose the wrong mark: a powerful man in the northwestern edge of Germany with a house full of treasures. Niko stole just a few key pieces — nothing the man should miss immediately. But the next day, he found himself being watched, then followed. He ducked around a corner, and into his scarf, but the man who followed him went to the spot he was hiding and told him he knew he was there. Unfortunately for Niko, it wasn’t all he knew. The man, Wilhelm, a secret mage, told Niko he had sent his many assistants to gather his family, including his long-lost sister.. No harm would come to them if Nikolai served him as a thief and an assassin, Wilhelm vowed. The information he had was convincing; he knew details that no one outside of those closest to Niko’s famliy could possibly know. Despite having left his family so long ago, Nikolai agreed, unable to stand the thought of them dying when he could keep them safe. He was nineteen.

The next ten years of his life saw Nikolai moving around from town to town to steal an object, deliver a threat, or fulfill the death sentence of men and women that Wilhelm considered his rivals. Most were close, on the German coast, though some had long ago fled Wilhelm to farflung places; his grudges were longer than those distances, and no slight was forgiven. Niko hardened himself to this work for the sake of his family; it helped that Wilhelm’s rivals were people also abusing their power and oppressing others. The servitude came to an abrupt stop one day. At a market, an old blind woman grabbed his wrist. Speaking in the gypsy tongue, she told him, “What the little hare seeks is on the shoulders of the the tallest of many brothers of the glen with their heads in the clouds.”

Niko questioned her but she would give no more answer; but the thing he sought most, he knew, was his family, his sister, and he’d encountered enough strange magic at this point in his life not to question her vision. After so many years in service to Wilhem, there was no reason to believe the mage would free his family. Niko disregarded his current assignment and sought an answer to the riddle, once more becoming an independent or a thief for hire to pay his way, finally arriving in Scotland.

What Nikolai doesn’t know is that the same magic that allowed Wilhelm to see his past allows the man to watch him from afar; Wilhelm’s magic allows him to know of Niko’s whereabouts and actions up to the present moment, and Wilhelm knows that his assassin has severed his ties at last.


Personality

An inquisitive mind makes Nikolai an apt pupil when it comes to learning new skills — or at least those he feels will benefit him in some way. He is a touch impetuous and finds it difficult to stay indoors or in one place for too long, so book study has never appealed to him. While he is intelligent, he is prone to react too quickly when emotions come into play, making him sometimes volatile, a loose cannon. For this reason, he works best in stealth and alone. That is not to say he's antisocial; he cares about people, but has, in his adult life, had to keep his relationships at a casual level. Like a sailor, he had a "dock in every port," so to speak; he has quite a few sweethearts in the sisterhood of tavern wenches in Germany and France.

Meeting him casually, one would probably find it hard to believe he is an assassin; he doesn't seem to have a cold nature; he did what he had to do. He feels no guilt for killing those Wilhelm ordered to, seeing it merely as a job and a duty. Any remorse is, if not totally erased, shoved aside by the thought that he is doing what he needs to for those he feels responsible for. There is an anger beneath the surface for Wilhelm that will bubble up now and then, sometimes without any apparent provocation; the guilt or remorse for taking lives is turned instead into resentment for being put into the position by the German mage. He does have limits that Wilhelm has never asked him to cross — if asked to kill a child or an innocent, he would balk at the task, but for the most part, he believes that those he has killed are as corrupt as Wilhelm, which helps him justify his actions.


Miscellany

Character Notes for Nikolai
Logs for Nikolai