Played by: Kallie Bain
Name: Wren Duncan
I never thought I’d end up where I am today. When I was a child, I was sure I’d have a home of my own once I reached adulthood. I knew, back then, that I wanted two things out of this life: to be the best sword-fighter in all the land (although of course back then I was thinking of a different land), and to have a family. Well, here I am. I will always have room to improve my sword-work, and I have still not managed to find anything approaching a family. When I was hardly older than 3, my father died while fighting in the Vandregon army. I have no memories of him, but feel I missed a chance that many other people had. A chance to have a loving father who could guide me through my early years and provide support in the later ones. My mother was no more help. She passed not long after my father, having caught a strange disease at a time when we had no money to hire a healer. I was left alone in a world I could hardly understand, but learned enough to survive fairly quickly. Living on the streets, one can’t afford to learn survival skills slowly. I learned that watching and listening were the best ways to discover anything, whether that be information or new techniques for blade work. I learned how to kill with a single jab of a knife by watching another man do so. It took me a few tries to get it right, but eventually I found the precise spot, then expanded my knowledge from there. My true passion became the sword. The stealth required for knife-work has never really appealed to me (mostly because I am incredibly clumsy when care is required), but the longsword…. I knew after my first time climbing the wall of the training yard to watch the soldiers, that was my weapon. I cannot say to this day what about it drew me in, but I couldn’t imagine ever wielding another type of blade quite as well or with as much pleasure.
After the first day, I decided to return every morning to watch the soldiers train, and every afternoon I would find a long, heavy stick to practice with, replicating what I had observed that day as best I could. I practiced my sword fighting in this way for about two months before accidentally receiving professional training. It shouldn’t have happened at all. The only reason Landon Faulken ever found me was through my own single-minded swinging of that stick. It was general practice among the children of the streets to flee the area when a soldier turned up, but on this particular afternoon, I was practicing a challenging feint on a post and didn’t notice the children melting back into the shadows or the man in red and gray striding up the street, hand resting on the hilt of his sword. So intent was I on my exercise that it took me several seconds to register the fact that that same man had come to a halt some ten feet away and was watching my determined attempts to beat the post into submission. I stepped back, glaring at the post, and glanced around, finally noticing the soldier nearby. I froze, ready to bolt if he tried to come any closer, but he raised his hand off his sword-hilt in what I took to be a gesture of peace. I still didn’t relax, of course, but I was now willing to wait and hear this man out, at least until I stopped liking what I heard.
“Child,” the man began, “that is a rather crude weapon.” I glared at him. “However, you wield it well. Of course, there are huge flaws in your stance and technique, but those could be rectified with a bit of proper training.” He was smiling, seeming to invite me to do … something. Was he suggesting what I thought he was suggesting? “Come with me, child,” he said gently. “I’ll get you some food and clean clothes, then perhaps we can see about equipping you with a worthy weapon.”
I regarded him warily, sorely tempted by his offer of food and a weapon, although at this point in my life I could hardly care less about my state of cleanliness (I was so encrusted with dirt from the streets that hardly an inch of skin could be seen). I considered for a long moment, finally deciding I would never get a better chance to learn proper sword fighting. I nodded once and the soldier smiled again, a kind smile, nothing hidden in his gentle, open face. I didn’t trust him. Not yet. This could still be some sort of trap, some strange effort to rid the city of another homeless child. I wanted to believe that this man was really going to teach me, though. I wanted to believe he would feed and clothe and care for me. So I followed him back to his modest home (which looked like a castle to me at that point) and allowed him to guide me inside, hand on my knife the whole way, but only as a precaution, not because I really wanted to use it. His wife drew a large amount of very hot water into a brass tub and scrubbed me down until the water was black and my raw pink skin could be seen beneath the grime of years. It took a total of three baths to get me completely clean (which was just about the least enjoyable experience I had gone through at that point) as well as a very long attack upon my very long hair, which hadn’t seen a comb since my mother had died. Finally, I was clean and dressed in clothes that were quite a bit too big for me, belonging to the son of the baker who lived next door. I was grateful the soldier didn’t try to force me into a dress, as one of us would not have survived that experience. As I soon discovered, that someone would most likely have been me. Landon, it transpired, was a superb sword fighter, at least to my untrained eye and mind, not to mention limbs. By the end of our first training session, I felt as though every muscle in my body was made of rubber. Over time, though, I became used to the motions of the short practice sword he insisted I begin with. My body adjusted to the actions and soon they became almost instinctive. Landon was a mentor to me, always kind when talking to me, demanding on the training field, jubilant when I mastered some particularly challenging move. I respected and trusted him more than any other person before or since.
I don’t think he ever really understood me, but he seemed to be alright with that. After the first week or so, he stopped asking questions, knowing he would get one-word answers at best, or (more often) no answer at all. At first, I kept my secrets to myself, hardly speaking at all lest he learn something about me beyond what he did through having me under his roof. By the end of our time together, I like to think I would have answered any question he asked me, but he was always polite and never pried into my past. How I wish there were more people like Landon Faulken.
But all good things, as they say, must come to an end. With the Undead hordes ever growing, Landon was called out to fight for Vandregon. He went away for long periods of time, only coming home for brief visits perhaps once a year for the next three or four years. Eventually, the army of the Undead was at the gates and pressing forward. Landon told me to go with the other women and children, to flee in the ships headed to the new continent, but in my 10-year-old stubbornness I insisted upon staying with him for the battle. I remember telling him, “I can fight! What was all the training for if not to battle opposing armies?” He was still unhappy about it, but for his own reasons allowed me to stay. Perhaps he could already sense the weakness inside of me. Perhaps he already knew I would run. Perhaps he saw that I would give in to the fear inside of me, let it control me, allow it to take over my limbs, my brain, my very soul, and cause me to flee. Perhaps he knew, even then, that I was horribly, despicably weak.
After that day, I swore never to run from a fight again, not without trying first. I never found out what happened to Landon, but I have a guess, and I might have been able to prevent it. If I had just stayed beside him…. There’s a part of me, a logical little voice, that says “If you had stayed, you would be dead too. Or worse, undead.” But I still feel somehow responsible. This mental argument has tormented me for years, ever since I came back to my senses on that boat to Mardrun and my new home.
Our ship landed in Daven’s Reach after what seemed like years at sea, although it was probably only a few months. I was seasick the whole time, having to run up on deck to vomit over the side every few minutes. Since then, I’ve avoided sea travel as much as possible, only having to set foot on two ships in the last ten years, and then only briefly. I lived in Daven’s Reach for several years, working as a blacksmith and learning everything I could about the new society the colonists were building here on Mardrun. I left after the city was overrun with bandits, though, not wanting to live with those people on my doorstep. Since then, I’ve been acting as a mercenary of sorts (although I like to think I have more honour than most mercenaries), protecting caravans and nobles. When I can’t find work, I steal, but only out of necessity. It seems dishonourable, but it keeps me alive, so I suppose it’s worth that shame.
Wren is not a trusting person. She’ll be very unwilling to say even a few words until she’s watched you interact with others for a while. She doesn’t really know how to handle new people if she doesn’t feel she knows enough about how they talk and act. To find this out, she takes to sitting on the edges of rooms or camps and staring at each person present for several minutes, watching their actions, listening to their speech patterns, learning as much as she can about them before they even notice she exists. When people do notice her staring, many are unnerved and look away quickly, while others will try to hold her gaze in an attempt to make her move on to someone else. Wren will continue to stare whether the other picks the first or second option, refusing to look away.
Whenever she feels as though things are getting too lighthearted or frivolous, she will turn and leave, not looking back or telling anyone where she intends to go. This last is generally because she has no particular destination in mind. She leaves because she despises immaturity and excessive displays of cheer. She will wander for a while, perhaps practice with her sword a bit, then return when things have calmed down. It doesn’t make her angry, it’s just a mild irritation when people start being very loud. Wren likes to use all of her senses, and is perhaps a little paranoid. She always expects an attack, and uses more than just her eyes to locate any possible dangers. Therefore, loud noises/people put her on edge, because there is always a chance their noise is concealing an approaching bandit. She also dislikes the tradition of building a campfire every evening, believing it to be a hindrance to her ability to see in the dark. In the winter, her desire for night vision is often outweighed by her need for warmth and comfort, but in the summer, she will remain on the edges of the firelight, staring out into the surrounding terrain.
Wren usually shows very little emotion, preferring to hide what she feels behind a tough mask of blankness. She very rarely laughs (this could become something of a game when in the company of certain people; that is, attempting to make her laugh) and tends to take sarcasm literally, becoming disgruntled when she finds out it was “just a joke again”. It generally takes quite a lot to provoke her because she has had so much practice controlling her emotions, but when someone does manage to anger her, she goes very quiet and still, glaring at her provoker. Her hand will clench around the hilt of her sword, prepared to draw it if she is given a reason, no matter how slight. If you do make her angry enough, she is likely to attack you, more with the intent of frightening you into silence than maiming or killing. If you do get injured, though, she won’t feel too guilty about it. The best way to anger her is by insulting her pride. Of all her emotions, that is the one she feels most strongly, overridden occasionally by fear (of which she is ashamed).
Her policy of never running from a fight puts her life in danger fairly often. There is a constant battle of pride and self-preservation going on inside her when she is engaged with an enemy. A war between fighting and dying honourably, or fleeing and living another day. So far, she has always chosen the right moment to flee, although every time she does so, she is effectively useless for the next few days because she is mentally berating herself.
She is very secretive about her past in particular, although that may stem from the conviction that any information about her can be used against her in some way. She will open up to someone only after she’s had several incidences that cause her to trust that person, often over several months, or even years. It takes a lot to make Wren trust. It isn’t a state that comes easily to her. She doesn’t get along well with most people, especially bubbly and open people. She thinks they’re a bit foolish for the most part, divulging information often without realizing it to people whom they hardly know. She occasionally makes friends with other silent people, although this can only be called friendship if one stretches the term to breaking point. Seeing as two silent people will rarely talk to each other, it is difficult to call them friends.
She is generally uninterested in political affairs, unless of course they directly affect her. She will take notice of politics only if it is absolutely necessary, and doesn’t think much of noblemen or kings, believing them (rightly) to be dishonest.