Meet Riorik Leafwalker

Shortly after the release of my first book, The Ascension Legacy - Book 1: The Shamed Ranger, I created a blog that provided basic introductions to the three central characters (read it here). With this post, I don’t want to repeat that introduction but rather hope to discuss the different inspirations that helped me to form Riorik as an individual and his personality. Not so much who he is as a character in the book as it relates to its plot but which of my experiences he is based on.

First off, let’s talk about his name, Riorik. Riorik as a name for me first came into existence around the year 2000. I had been playing an MMORPG called EverQuest, a very popular game at the time, and created a new character after my original character turned out to be not ideally created. When prompted to create a name, I chose the name Riorik for my new character. That character turned out to be my favorite character among all the ones I created for that amazing game. Riorik would go on to be my go-to name for characters in other games and my other online profiles. Even after releasing my books that revolve around a character with this name I continue to name my characters and profiles Riorik. By naming the book’s main character Riorik I created a strong emotional bond between the character and myself.

As for Riorik's last name, I should think the inspiration would be obvious. I grew up a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy. Given that Luke was thrust into a less than ideal situation because of his father's actions, I felt the similarity between Luke and Riorik warranted Riorik to have a name inspired by Mark Hamill's iconic character. There is no deeper meaning or sense of foreshadowing implied by the name Leafwalker. It is a sort of homage to Luke Skywalker while incorporating the typical elven focus on nature, specifically trees.

Also, the first Riorik was not an Elf or a Ranger. The first Riorik, the one I created for EverQuest, was a Dwarf Paladin. However, since then any character given the name Riorik has been an Elf Ranger if such a combination existed within that game. Games like World of Warcraft, The Lord of the Rings Online, and Elder Scrolls Online all have had an Elf Ranger/Hunter named Riorik under my control at one point. My use of the name Riorik has been so routine and common that any fans of the series who try to create a character with that name are likely to find it already in use (probably by me).

And while we are on the topic of Riorik’s race, let’s talk about Riorik’s appearance. The book describes him as slightly shorter than the average human male, making him roughly 5’6”, with pale, porcelain-like skin. He is slender in build but still muscular compared to most other elves. He has long blonde, almost golden, hair that gently cascades down to his shoulders. His eyes are a bright, clear blue that shines like the pristine waters found at the best beaches.

So why is Riorik described in such a way? Well, partly because I was once blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Given that this is a part of me, I wanted him to have some traits that were traits of my own. The other features of Riorik’s appearance though were highly influenced by the visuals and models the elven race is typically depicted as, which is to say the stereotypical elven features from classic literature works that those games draw their inspiration. Works by authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and R.A. Salvatore inspire a wide array of games where elves are common characters who share very similar traits regardless of the medium in which they are portrayed. Given that I enjoyed the works of these authors, the movies based on those books, and the games inspired by them, it is only logical that my impression of this race would be equally influenced.

In terms of his personality, I wanted Riorik to represent the unyielding kindness of innocence. When we think of the nicest people we know, those are the people that often deal with great personal tragedies or bouts of severe depression that almost everyone else never knows anything about. Riorik's childhood was overshadowed by his father's accused crime and the discrimination he faced as a result. But despite the shame projected onto him for the alleged acts of his father, Riorik remained unrelentingly optimistic, hopeful, and friendly to those around him. I wanted him to be somewhat naive but still optimistic.

Likewise, Riorik held a sense of pride that most of us feel when it comes to protecting our family or wanting to improve their family's station within a society that emphasizes things like tradition, service, or personal accomplishments. Elves are typically portrayed as very private people who have built a society steeped in a long-standing tradition so it made sense to have Riorik hold some deep-seated desire to restore his family's honor, to continue the tradition of his people, and embody all that it meant to be an elf.

At one point, there was an idea to have Riorik be the secret love child between his mother and a human. That hybrid mix of genes would allow Riorik to be bigger and stronger than his elven contemporaries. The twist of the story would reveal this truth at the plot's climax and also provide some level of the motivation behind his father's actions and/or the shame placed upon his family. Ultimately, that story arc was abandoned and his character was written as a pure elf with pure intentions.

I wanted Riorik to represent the hope that dwells within us all. I wanted Riorik to aspire to be better than those who shunned him for things beyond his control. I wanted Riorik to be someone who was flawed in his fixation that represents everyone's tendencies to put their desires above the desires of those we surround ourselves with, sometimes at the expense of those relationships. I wanted Riorik's unrelenting sense of honor to be both his strength but also his weakness. His honor would compel him to buck tradition to do the honorable thing but at the same time, that same sense of honor would blind him to the danger he put those around him in and less concerned with their opinions compared to his desires.

Character art by Josie Hanna

Riorik Leafwalker from The Ascension Legacy by Gary Richardson. Art by Josie Hanna

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