Rodion "Raskel" Raskol'nikov
Rodion, or “Raskel”, as he likes to be known, is a man of many names. He is in his forties, though still with fiery red hair, streaked with gray. He is of slightly above average height and weight – in human form. Being a fox skinshifter, he can also change into a humanoid with a fox head, a body and limbs, covered in red fur, and prehensile hands (and shoe-ready feet). He was born human, of skinshifter parents, and as such parents are unable or unwilling to raise human children, he was placed in a basket outside a priestly household in the city of Krinets – a trading metropolis, and for most Noriki, the largest city in the world. He was raised in the household as a family dependent (not an adopted son). Spending his childhood among the servants, he did have some attention lavished on him in childhood by Yaroslava, the priest’s daughter, though little by Zinovii Raskolnikov himself. Raskel has never sought to discover his birth parents, and has no interest in doing so. His ability to change shape became manifest in early adolescence. At this time, Yaroslava took pity on him, and began to teach him skills he would need to survive in human society, which treated him with suspicion. From her Raskel learned letters, as well as magical formulas for changing appearance and creating illusory images (though she was in training for the priesthood herself, she picked up a smattering of lore from foreign Kabbalists). Soon, Raskel would fall in with other swindlers and scam-artists, and began to engage in various schemes involving the sale of supposedly magic beans, smuggling, and impersonating officials, especially ones of an ecclesiastical variety. Pretending to be a priest or holy man became his go-to con, though it also proved to be his downfall. He tried to get a man to part with his money by having the voice of God order him to do so. Unfortunately, this man turned out to be the future Hegumen Yaakov, who had just arrived in town to enter the seminary. After Yaakov reported Raskel to the Archibishop, Raskel fled, and Yaroslava helped smuggle him out of town in a box. He has lived on the road ever since, though he is curious about how his benefactor has fared since his forced departure. Subsequently, Raskel-Rodion teamed up with other traveling mountebanks to smuggle goods traded along riverine routes, using his magical talents to make containers appear empty to avoid paying duties. Sometimes, he also impersonated tax or church officials to avoid paying, or to get out of sticky situations. And he continued to use his fairly considerable knowledge of religion to get people to part with their money and possessions in the name of outfitting new churches or launching crusades. At one point long ago, he partnered with Taras Trofimov, and even stayed with him before his village changed its ownership, and its name. Raskel thought of the village as a safe space, and at one point came to town looking for a place to lay low in after an unsuccessful venture, and before the start of the winter trading season. Here, however, he received an unpleasant surprise after finding out that Yaakov is Lazarevo’s de facto ruler. While staying at the waystation, he has avoided running into the hegumen, though he has come to learn that the village has had a very unsuccessful harvest, and that Yaakov is stockpiling grain, which he plans to use as leverage to get people to become the monastery’s peons. He has also learned that a mysterious and ill-aspected stranger – the blacksmith Zhitko, has arrived in Lazarevo, and is staying in the household of the local smith. It was at this point that Raskel became entangled with Chonkorchuk, Plamen, Katarina, and Baba Yaga. After receiving the unexpected invitation as a potential suitor to Katarina Borisovna, the smith's daughter, Raskel met Plamen and Chonkorchuk - other suitors, and joined forces with them as seekers after the Alatyr Stone, an artifact sought by Katarina's family "friend", Zhitko. The path seemed to lie through the portal to the Otherwold, and here, Raskel and his new associates met his old patron, Baba Yaga, who offered to let them enter the Otherworld in exchange for three services - returning treasure that was stolen from her, returning a servitor who had fled from her, and bringing her a bride who is to serve her. Raskel joined the team, but he was clear about the fact that he was only in it for the money (he was similarly uninterested in marrying Katarina, thinking himself to be too old, though he was flattered by the offer). Soon, the group met another fox shapechanger - Lionia the Red - a local smuggler - who became Raskel's intimate. Lionia and Raskel were the most practical and calculating members of the team - trying to ensure that as few people learned of their enterprise as possible. Raskel also supported Lionia's decision to kill Plamen's polevik mother Plamenka - both because he wanted her treasure, and because he thought her role in killing villagers for their money and turning them into her skeleton guardians was monstrous. After taking the money, Raskel hid out near Lionia's house, though the latter fled the area with his ill-gotten loot. After wintering there, he was found by Baba Yaga and thrust into the Otherworld, to seek out his erstwhile companions. There, Raskel was captured by the Knights of Ritterheim, who then forced him to mastermind a way to help them to cross the River of Fire. After figuring out a way of following them across the fiery chasm, he and his companions found their way to Baba Yaga's compound. Raskel is worldly and has a wide network of contacts. He is light on his feet, and would rather hit the road than to have to sort out his problems. As an experienced swindler, he knows how to find the right mark, how to disguise his true appearance, and how to say the right thing to win people’s confidence. He is, however, a bit of a gambler, and sometimes bites off more than he can chew. His overconfidence translates into a belief that no one can fool him the way he fools them – a belief that has nearly led to his downfall on several occasions. Though he is baptized, and even knows enough to pass as a priest in front of a layperson, he is in fact a freethinker, and does not tie himself up with religious dogma or feelings of guilt. Raskel has a companion spirit in the form of a crow, which he calls Kutkh. He originally summoned it atop Crows' Meadow Warren, and it has been his eyes and ears (but mostly eyes) ever since.