NamPaen is a Fifth Generation kandra. His "parent" was YaRoon, one of the more open-minded of the Seconds. NamPaen loved the Homeland and his kindred kandra. Unlike many other Fifths, however, he was not content with mere sentry duty, or tending the bio-luminescent fungus, or the other tasks his Generation usually handled that let them stay in the Homeland. NamPaen's sense of duty and love for the kandra led him to volunteer to serve his people by going out on Contracts. He quickly learned to distance himself emotionally while out on assignment, due to the atrocities he often encountered-- and only slightly less often experienced personally at the hands of cruel masters-- in the human world. Despite this, NamPaen felt pride that he was helping to serve and protect the kandra in a way that few others could.
NamPaen generally has low expectations regarding human morality, and has himself indirectly caused the deaths of relatively innocent people by selecting them as targets for his mimicry. ("Imitating this person will give me the best chance of a successful infiltration." "Alright, I'll have them assassinated and then you can do your thing.")
The lives or deaths of humans meant little to him, until
NamPaen had several back-to-back Contracts-- 32 years in all-- with Lady Shellaneau Ivander. They actually became close friends.
Lady Shellaneau Ivander.
Shella was the "crazy aunt" and spymaster of the Great House Ivander (formerly "Great", that is). She had a passion for books on history and philosophy (particularly anything banned by the Steel Ministry). Never married. Skilled researcher with a great mind + memory. Eccentric and reclusive, even as a child. She would read and think quietly instead of do "normal" kid stuff. When she did
interact with people, the things she'd say or do were completely out of context to everyone but herself, so no one really knew how to act around her. Her older brother Strowick was the only family she got along with. Her parents began using her as a spy at a young age. Her talents brought a lot of power and wealth to House Ivander, and a lot of grief to their rivals.
One of these rival houses, the Great House Buvidas, had just barely hired NamPaen for a 5-year Contract. Thanks to Shella's spying, House Ivander blackmailed Buviads and they were forced to hand over NamPaen's Contract (along with plenty of their other assets). Naturally, her parents had Shella and NamPaen work together. Shella was 17 when NamPaen first met her. Unlike everyone else NamPaen had ever served, his being a kandra didn't disturb Shella. In fact, she was fascinated by his nature and asked him many questions about himself and the kandra in general. At first he told her the bare minimum, but eventually her sincere curiosity and complete lack of enmity or fear won him over. In bits and pieces, over a long span of time, he ended up telling her just about everything about the kandra except for those things that would have constituted a betrayal of his species.
Shella wanted to be the sole owner of NamPaen's Contract so she could ask him confidentially about Orulae (something she'd come across in one of her banned texts). When the Contract was up she personally renewed it using atium obtained from her savings, loans, and other less-legal means.
Right after this was when Shella first asked NamPaen about Orulae, and she never quite
believed him when he said he knew nothing about it. She never really explained what Orulae was, either. Shella eventually gave up on asking NamPaen, though she would occasionally bring it up out of the blue, trying to sneak an answer out of him. Over the years, it became something of an inside joke between them.
Shella quickly became House Ivander's de facto spymaster. NamPaen did most of the actual spying and Shella focused on researching the paper trail of rival houses. If she needed NamPaen to imitate a specific person, or if she couldn't defeat rivals socially, she hired assassins.
Her parents died when Shella was about (23-30?) and her older brother Strowick inherited leadership of House Ivander. Strowick wasn't particularly ambitious, so there wasn't as much espionage going on. Shella and NamPaen were both perfectly fine with this, as it meant they didn't have to interact with other people as much; neither of them were social animals. During this relatively peaceful time NamPaen became more of a steward than a spy. Shella shared many of her books with NamPaen, and they spent a lot of time just reading or thinking quietly in each other's company, occasionally discussing this author's philosophy or that historical narrative. By this point, Shella and NamPaen had become close friends, and the renewal of NamPaen's Contract every 2 years was mostly due to that friendship. NamPaen even called in a favor or two from some friends in the Homeland to try to lower the price a bit.
The Contract finally ended, and NamPaen said goodbye to Shella, someone he'd seen grow from a teenager of 17 to a mature woman of 49. He felt almost like a parent or an older sibling to her.
Shella had spent practically all of her wealth on renewing NamPaen's Contract so many times, and had dragged House Ivander into sizable debt, drawing the attention of the Steel Ministry's Canton of Finance (and possibly fueling her desire to find Orulae...).
About a year after NamPaen returned to the Homeland he was assigned to an obligator, Prelan Davrin of the Canton of Finance. For reasons that NamPaen still doesn't know, Davrin had a grudge against House Ivander. Davrin had Lady Shella assassinated, and then ordered NamPaen to eat and imitate her and spy on Ivander. NamPaen obeyed, leaking sensitive information to Davrin and performing subtle acts of sabotage that hurt House Ivander greatly. He hated every second of it, and he hated deceiving members of Shella's family, especially her brother Strowick, the only family she'd truly been fond of. NamPaen's doubts about the rightness of kandra Contracts and his anguished guilt steadily grew until he couldn't take it anymore.
He got in contact with Merlock Tomes, and with his help NamPaen faked his own death in such a way as to leave the kandra pretty sure that he's dead, and to leave everyone else sure that Lady Shellaneau Ivander is definitely dead:
- got "trapped" in a burning building after he fell off a balcony and through the building's roof,
- quickly switched into a dog's body (nothing like the threat of death by fire to motivate a quick shape-shift ),
- left the bones, clothing, and personal effects of Lady Shellaneau Ivander behind as evidence
- also left two small pieces of iron behind so any kandra who investigated would think they'd found his Blessing but be unable to test the melted spikes and know that they're fakes (so I'm thinking the building would be a blacksmith's shop or a metalworking factory or something, since a normal house fire probably wouldn't get hot enough to melt iron)
- sneaked out through a secret passage that he collapsed behind him.
Merlock was able to arrange things so that Prelan Davrin hired him to investigate NamPaen's death. Merlock reported that NamPaen had undoubtedly died in the fire. Davrin believed him and let the matter drop.
House Ivander had already been struggling to deal with Lady Shella's debts and Prelan Davrin's sabotage/espionage, so "Shella's" death was the spark that lit the fire for Ivander's inevitable fall. The other Great Houses and the Steel Ministry smelled blood in the air and swooped in. Soon House Ivander was no longer a Great House; it was a puppet in all but name, its strings fought over by a couple of its bitterer rivals (Buvidas being one of them) and the Canton of Finance. As bad as this was, it would have gone a lot worse for House Ivander if NamPaen hadn't run away when he did, cutting short Prelan Davrin's schemes.
After faking his death, NamPaen lived and worked with Merlock for a few months(?), laying low and helping the detective with his investigations. Soon enough, though, House Ivander's worsening plight and NamPaen's feelings of sympathy and responsibility towards them pushed him to action. He met with Strowick and introduced himself as a friend of Lady Shella's kandra NamPaen, there to repay a debt that NamPaen owed to Shella. (This approach also led Strowick to believe that NamPaen was dead, too.) Strowick was desperate enough at that point that he accepted the help without asking too many questions. NamPaen then got in touch with Cale (and/or Tone and/or other Cairender nobles) and convinced them to buy his nonexistent contract from House Ivander, providing Ivander with some much-needed funds. Since then, NamPaen has been working for Cale, Tone, and the interests of House Cairender.
When he's not imitating a specific person, NamPaen poses as the minor nobleman "Penn". The body he uses as Penn was obtained about 15 years ago, when Lady Shella had NamPaen track a rival house's shipment along the canals. The bones originally belonged to an unsociable skaa named Pally who pulled barges for a minor Southern Dominance house, Tilsteni. Except for a few mannerisms/habits, NamPaen knows nothing else about Pally or his background.
Aside from running away, NamPaen still obeys the First Contract, most notably the part about not killing humans.