In the great capitol city of the great country Rhialla, may it rule forever , there was a small girl. She is no more than an urchin, begging on the street corners for bits of food or currency. No one payed her any mind as they hurried along the roads. The most anyone even looked at her was to toss a coin or a piece of bread into the clean, but greyed and stained, square of cloth spread out on the ground before her.

No one noticed the bright, intelligent eyes that hid under the scraggly mess of hair. No one noticed that she was not sitting down, but was crouched, ready to run at the first sign of gang members in the crowd.

No one noticed that her slim, deft fingers snatched the bigger coins before they even hit the ground.

No one ever noticed her at all.

And she liked it that way.

Wren was a highly intelligent little urchin. She had taught herself to read on archaic magykal texts, and as a result, her way of talking had taken a turn for the odd until she had gotten a hold of a few lady's novels. She hadn't liked them very much, and preferred the archaic books, but the novels had taught her how to modulate her speech in reaction to who she was with.
She was fully capable of spouting pleasantries like the most well-bred lady, speaking the most confusing thieves' cant, and conversing with some of the Lower Barrow's best scholars. The last was a direct result of her voracious appetite for magyckal texts.
She spent only the smallest amount necessary on food and other "trivial things" as she thought them. The bulk of her beggings and her earnings from the various odd jobs she performed went towards more books.
She had quite a little collection of literature in the small abandoned house she called home. It covered an entire wall of the one-room little shack. She really was quite lucky. Most of the urchins her age didn't have anywhere to sleep, much less a place with a roof and four walls. She only had this house because it had belonged to an old woman that she had often visited to talk about herbology. When the crone had sickened, she taught Wren how to maintain the barriers around the little hovel so that no one could enter without her permission.
The old herbmother had been the first person to show kindness to Wren since she could remember. Her death would have sent any other child into hysterics. But Wren wasn't a normal child.
And she had discovered a new way to earn money for books.
Using the knowledge of herbs the old woman had taught her and the more arcane skills that had accompanied that knowledge, she discovered that she could see what houses were guarded by spells and which where not. This made her very valuable to the local Thieves' Guild.
Once they discovered her ability, they had tried to send a few boys to force her to cooperate free of charge, but the spells guarding her little shack had sent them scurrying with burns and ugly poxes.
After the rumors of the boy's fate had spread, she had been able to charge more and more for her services. Now she earned a full three pence for every house she pointed out.
That was less than she made on a good day's begging, but those good days were few and far between, so Wren was quite pleased with the amount.

Most days she could be found in her little shack, reading her books, and cooking up new potions to sell for extra money.

Her addition to the Thieves' Guild caused their success rate to shoot up, a fact alarming to the upper class. Within a few months, they were known as one of the most difficult-to-deal with Guilds in the city due to their mysterious ability to avoid all traps.

Of course, their success did not last long before they gained the notice of the aristocracy. Their carefree days came to an end when they accidentally robbed a nobleman, sending him into fits of rage. This particular noble may have been the worst man they could have chosen to... liberate of his posessions. He was known, even in the notoriously greedy Upper Barrow, for his miserly ways and his vicious attachment to the last shilling of his money.

Attempting to bribe the members of the Lower Barrow, the noble offered a reward for the head of the Guild's "tactician" as he phrased it. Most of the people of the Lower Barrow ignored this, but a few greedy ne'er-do-wells decided to try and catch Wren and turn her in for the reward.

Wren, of course, knew all about the traitors and avoided them easily. But after evading all her would-be-pursuers easily for weeks, she began to let her guard down again.

It was a mistake.


Wren sighed. She was exhausted. The old woman had never told her that it took this much energy to do magyck. The first few attempts she had made left her trembling on the floor, devoid of enough energy even to move a finger. Thankfully, she had been more careful the next time.
Over time, she had been able to practice stretching her "magyck strength" as she thought of it. It had been hard, and a lot of times she had passed out from the pain of overusing her magyck. But it was worth it. Now she could easily perform scans on the houses with little to no tiredness. Tonight, however, she had pushed a little to far again. She could barely keep her eyes open as she walked carefully down the crowded market road. Usually she would at least try to not be seen, but she simply didn't have the energy to worry about that today.
She was so engrossed in the process of putting one foot in front of another that she didn't even notice the group of three men that grew quiet when she walked by. So when one of them grabbed her from behind and threw her over his shoulder, she simply acted without thinking.

Throwing out an immobility charm, she quickly squirmed her way out of the man's grip. Once on the ground, she cast two more charms at her other pursuers. One hit straight-on, freezing the man in mid-stride and he fell to the ground with a thump. The last charm however, was batted aside like a fly. The third man started to move his hands to sketch shapes in the air, chanting words that Wren recognized from the old herbwoman's stories.
It was blood magyck.

First, he went over to the immobile man on the ground. Drawing his knife while still chanting, he calmly slit the man's throat as Wren watched in horror. Her charm was not meant to hold for long, and it wore off as the man's throat was slit. Wren watched as the man looked at her accusingly as the blood spurted from his throat and mouth. The spell-caster, still chanting, soaked his hands in blood. He stood, then faced Wren, who was frozen in shock.
He pushed a hand towards her, slowly closing it in a fist.

Wren jerked to a halt, her body not obeying her order to run. Like a little marionette, she walked stiffly, legs straight, back to the man. Her eyes welled up with tears as she realized that she was well and truly caught now. And there was little doubt that he would kill her. Blood magyck was addictive. Users of it started to desire bloodshed and pain like a drug. He would kill and keep killing until someone ended his life. The normally apathetic girl felt her heart twist in an unusual emotion.
She had to stop him. But she couldn't do that while frozen in place. Unless he was somehow distracted from his casting somehow...

Looking around the marketplace quickly, she spotted Speck, a boy from the Guild.

He was watching her with wide eyes and a pale face. Wren widened her eyes at him in a request for help.
The boy hesitated for a few moments, then seemed to decide. Sneaking around to stand behind Wren's attacker, he readied himself, then flew like he was shot from a cannon straight into the back of the man's knees. The man's legs buckled involuntarily, and he swore. He reached out to catch Speck as well, but the tiny boy was long gone. Taking advantage of the man's distraction, Wren started to chant herself.

There was one spell that the old woman had taught her to use only as a last resort. Only if she was in the gravest danger. Because this spell could very well kill her, along with whomever she cast it upon. It had been passed down through her family, she had said with a wistful smile as she rocked in her chair by the fire. And as she had no children to pass it on to, she would pass it on to Wren.
It was the only gift Wren had ever been given, and she treasured it like it was a tangible thing.
Wren continued chanting as tears ran down her cheeks.

The man seemed to freeze into place, his interrupted spell reverberating back onto him. His eyes grew wide as he heard what Wren was chanting. He jerked slightly, like a man having a seizure, as he tried to fight the spell and get away.
But his own spell held him fast despite all of his efforts.

Wren could feel her energy draining from her as she chanted. But she continued chanting nonetheless. Even if this spell ended up killing her, it would be worth it. This man was far to dangerous. He could hurt people if he went around slinging spells everywhere. And Wren may not have much affection for people as individuals, but she was fiercely loyal to the Lower Barrow as a community.

There was Bertha, the cook at the Mantellier Manse, who would only use Wren's muscle rubs, and would often slip her a meal with her payment. There was Speck, and his little brother Mite- abandoned as babies. They would have died had the Guild leader not taken pity on them. There was Dusty, the large dog at the butcher's place, who would only allow her to pet him. There was Maria, the washerwoman; there was Mal, the hostler at Servell Place; there was Maddy and Billy, the young couple that had just gotten married and were expecting their first child already; there were Thomas, Stephen, and Jenny, the Brownson's brats.
All of them were people she had known and lived with all her life.

None of them deserved to have this man hunt them down and kill them.
None of them should have to live with that fear always in their hearts.
Wren continued chanting as she felt her last reserves of strength go. Struggling to keep the blackness from taking over her vision, she planted her feet firmly on the earth.
As the last vestiges of energy left her, Wren searched frantically for some energy, any energy. Slowly, tentatively, she felt a tendril of strength reach out to her. Looking around in surprise, she flinched when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Looking up, she saw that the owner of the hand was a tall man with black hair and piercing grey eyes. The thread of strength grew stronger, and Wren desperately grabbed it, absorbing it into her small body. The tall man nodded in an approving way.

"You are doing quite well child. Just hold him a little longer. No need to complete the spell. Just hold him immobile for me."

The man's voice was mellow and cultured, with the drawling vowels of nobility, but an odd accent tinted his words. He patted her shoulder reassuringly.

"You've done well."

Wren nodded slightly, not wasting any energy to say an affirmative. The man seemed to think for a moment, then lifted the hand not touching Wren to point at the frozen blood-practitioner.

He spoke one word in a language Wren did not recognize, and a glowing silver strand flew from his finger to wrap around the spell-caster.

"That's enough child. You can let go of the spell now. I've got him."

Wren nodded at the man's statement, and as soon as he removed his hand from her shoulder, darkness engulfed her.