On the first day of the month of Fallow, the town of Benklur celebrates the transition from Winter to Spring. Every year the gnome population decorate their tree-top houses with flowers and spring leaves, in a festival that both welcomes the spring and banishes the last of the winter rain.
This particular year, two of the townspeople weren’t joining in the festivities: Eldon and Gael were otherwise-occupied. The morning of the fourth of Fallow, a heavily pregnant Gael had been in labour for three days – their first (and as it would turn out, only) child was proving to be difficult to manage from the outset.
When he was eventually born later that day, they named their boy Wrenn, after the bird – he was small even by gnome standards.
An eighteen year old Wrenn stood solemnly by his mother’s side, comforting her as they stood at the base of their tree. Friends and family were gathered around them, but Wrenn barely noticed the company; he was focused on the small deep grave that had been dug between the roots of their home.
His father, Eldon, had died suddenly. A misplaced foot and a bad fall was all it took, and Wrenn was now struggling with an increased sense of his own mortality as well as the loss of a loved one.
As was tradition in Benklur, his father’s body was lowered into the grave standing up. Members of each family were buried like this, their body feeding the tree that housed them when they were living.
Gnomes take many names over their years, and Wrenn had thus far abstained from the practice. Often their second name will be comical, designed to make people laugh. Wrenn had waited later than most of his peers, and now knew what his second name would be – the name of his father. He became Wrenn Eldon.
Throughout his twenties, Wrenn became more and more solitary. Rarely taking part in community events (unheard of from a young gnome) and showing no interest in courting or even taking up carpentry – the occupation of both his parents.
Instead, Wrenn preferred to read, closeting himself away and absorbing tome after tome – the aquisition of knowledge became an addiction for him, particularly history and the study of magic.
In Gnome culture this behaviour is considered abnormal, especially when combined with Wrenn’s lack of enthusiasm for festivals and celebrations. It didn’t take long for other villagers to start referring to Wrenn as “Uptree”. Widely considered an insult, “Uptree” hints at isolationism and lack of community spirit.
In a characteristic act of defiance, Wrenn began to wear the name as a badge of honour, and became Wrenn Eldon Uptree.
It was in his early thirties that Wrenn left his home village and travelled to the city of Engrel in search of work. He’d tired of village life and exhausted the small number of books that he could get his hands on.
It wasn’t long before he interviewed at the city library and was taken on as a researcher. This was a dream come true for Wrenn, now surrounded by more books than he could ever read in his lifetime. It was also in the Engrel City Library that Wrenn began to realise he could be a social creature; now that he was part of a group of like-minded individuals his gnomish sense of humour started to develop. Pranks became a favourite pass-time.
One of the older librarians, Mellik, was a frequent target for pranking among the younger staff. Wrenn had been regaled with stories of previous escapades, and was keen to join in. One such story involved a simple prank – filling Mellik’s desk drawer with frogspawn, it had delighted the young researchers to see him fuming and desperately scooping out handfulls of slime.
Wrenn took this prank further, re-filling the desk and then hiding himself away to watch with his co-consiprators. When Mellik cried out, hands full of frogspawn, Wrenn began phase two: using his gnomish ability to create illusions, he made a large frog appear on a pile of books near the confused librarian. As soon as Mellik rushed over to catch the frog, it disappeared. Wrenn repeated this over and over again, the hidden group of researchers stifling laughter as Mellik sped back and forth across his office.
Continued use of illusory frogs over the years, mostly as an in-joke, earned Wrenn a fond nickname among his peers. He became Wrenn Eldon Uptree Frogbother.
Engrel city library was in financial trouble. Earlier in Wrenn’s fourty first year, a fire had destroyed one of the library’s wings and massively depleted the store of books. There was now less of a need for desk-based researchers and Wrenn’s role took a sideways step into field research.
Wrenn took surprisingly quickly to his new life on the road, and the procurement of rare manuscripts led him down some dubious paths. He found less-than-lawful ways to approach his job, and found that his natural morality could be somewhat suppressed when he focused on the task at hand. Helping his library became a “greater good” in his mind, which he decided gave him license to commit small wrongs along the way.
In his mid-forties, Wrenn fell in with a group of criminals back in Engrel, who had become known for their elaborate heists. He used his ill-gotten gains and new criminal contacts to purchase and steal dozens of rare books and scrolls for his library. His codename during this time was Prickleback, owing to his keeping a pet hedgehog.
After he left the group (on good terms) he decided to adopt his codename, becoming Wrenn Eldon Uptree Frogbother Prickleback.