Five years ago Marena awoke in Ardath's arms, having no memory of her past. She now works as the shop's cleaning lady.
Marena is a tall, skinny girl with dark curly hair and dark brown eyes. As is common among Zantines, she has dun-colored skin and a square jaw with thick eyebrows and full lips. She typically dresses plainly in comfortable "work clothes" but will endeavor to look nice for a special occasion. Unlike the average young Amarnan, she has a strong sense of modesty and would never be caught dead in a revealing outfit. Her favorite color is periwinkle; she painted the walls of her room this shade.
Due to her amnesia, Marena at one point possessed a childlike innocence, though her experiences in the years since her awakening have put a dent in this. Ardath was able to shelter her for a time, but eventually the cruelties of the world punctured the illusion. Where once she was naively trusting and ignorant, she is now timid and fearful. Her manners and modesty are the result of a newfound sense of caution.
In many ways, she has the emotional maturity of a five year old child - after all, that is as far back as her memory stretches. Her ideas about the world and other people come across as simplistic and a little strange. She is terrified of simply leaving the house alone and relies heavily on Ardath. She longs to find her parents out of a superficial desire for protection, guidance, and security. The role which her mother and father fulfilled in her life is one that Ardath cannot occupy, and due to his upbringing as an orphan, he can't fully understand why she needs her parents in her life.
While she loves Ardath as a true friend, she is not capable of mature, romantic love. Even when she becomes aware of their marriage, she cannot be a wife to him.
She thinks of herself as pathetic and wants to be more independent, but she can't get over the obstacles responsible for her anxieties. Her suspicions and frustration with Ardath over his keeping secrets from her is at odds with her childish need to blindly love and follow him, since he is the closest thing to a parent she has. Her amnesia has left her incomplete as a person, a loss she feels keenly every day.
Despite this, she is intelligent and resourceful, and she isn't totally spineless.
Born in 144 AYZ in Kynaston, the former capital of Zantium, Marena Isolde Roland is the only child of Marcus and Lygia Roland, both members of the Zantine nobility. Marcus was a mage (albeit not a very good one) purportedly descended from King Peredur, and Lygia was the eldest daughter of a lower house. The family was fairly well-off and lived in a white house by the sea. The walls of Marena's childhood bedroom were painted with elaborate and colorful scenes from their culture's mythology.
When Marena was seven years old, her family was forced to flee Zantium as the Iskirrans invaded. They wandered for three years, never staying in one place for very long. Accompanying them was Marcus' paladin, Rhys Sioned, who protected them from harm until he was killed during a fight in Neroga in 154.
Following this incident, Lygia convinced her husband to take them to the city of Amarna, where her sister Livia had settled many years earlier. Marcus was reluctant to go due to the nature of Livia's displacement - she had been banished from Zantium when she was sixteen years old for practicing witchcraft - and because of the liberal, vulgar attitudes common among Amarnans.
Upon their arrival in Amarna, they found Livia operating a magic shop, Something Borrowed. The family's relationship with Livia was immediately strained, but she allowed them to live with her, provided they moved out within a year.
Each of the Rolands took jobs in the city, but they were unable to meet the deadline. Livia still permitted them to stay, although by then she had other motives - namely, she wanted to groom Marena to become her successor and take ownership of the shop. Marena's parents opposed this and Marcus sought to tutor his daughter in the ways of Zantine magic.
As she entered her teen years, Marena befriended Ardath, a street urchin whom Livia had cared for since he was a baby. The two eventually fell in love, but their romance was met with opposition from both Marena's parents and her aunt. Livia scorned Marena's dreams of marriage and family as they would impede her plans for the girl, while Lygia and Marcus believed Ardath was a bad influence on their daughter. The situation sparked an explosive argument in which Livia revealed Ardath's true origins as an unwanted child whom she had tried to kill before he was even born.
In tears, Ardath ran away. Marena followed him, comforted him, and convinced him to come home. When they returned, Marcus gave their union his blessing on the condition that they marry in a traditional Zantine Akhenist ceremony. This required Ardath to sever any ties he had with Livia and find a new family so as to avoid any implications of incest. He convinced his childhood friend, Malachi Dastagir, to adopt him as his "brother", fulfilling the requirements of Zantine law and gaining the surname Dastagir.
In 162, less than a year after their wedding, a plague epidemic struck Amarna. Marena's aunt and mother were among those who succumbed to the sickness. Marcus planned to leave the city and move into the desert. He convinced Ardath and Marena to go with him, but Marena was separated from Ardath during a chaotic quarantine. Trapped behind the barriers, Marena fell ill and died. Her remains were burned and the ashes were dumped in a pile with other plague victims.
Sometime in 163, Marena's restored body washed ashore, awaking in Ardath's arms. Having no memory, she had to be taught to walk, talk, and take care of herself. For the first three years after her resurrection, Ardath kept her within the confines of the first floor of the shop with the curtains drawn and the doors locked.
Eventually, Marena began questioning her origins and the circumstances surrounding her memory loss. Ardath was reluctant to answer, as speaking about her past tended to cause Marena intense headaches. While cleaning the back room of the shop, she discovered a family tree which revealed the names of her parents. This knowledge gave her a headache and she fell unconscious, hitting her head. After this incident, Ardath convinced her to stop looking for answers and hid or destroyed the family tree.
Five years after her awakening, Ardath decided to visit an old friend of his, Malachi, who lived in another city. He left Marena alone at the shop while he was gone, as Malachi had known her before her memory loss and the situation would cause too many complications. He did, however, leave his tarot deck in her keeping.
Some time after Ardath set sail, Marena received an unexpected and mysterious visit from Princess Philomena, who asked to have her fortune read. Marena tried to refuse, but the princess insisted.
While reading the cards, Marena heard a voice telling her what to say. The princess was intrigued by the results of the reading and asked Marena to have dinner with her the following evening at the palace. Marena refused to come until after Ardath returned from his journey, and Philomena left.
But within a few days, Marena was forcibly taken to the palace by Philomena's guards. There she met Princess Naomi, Philomena's nervous sister, who tried to warn her about Philomena's instability.
Philomena then joined them for the meal. She told them about the murder of her husband, Prince Alastair, five years ago. His presumed killer, Selca Ducani, had escaped justice, but rumor had it he had recently returned to the city. Philomena wanted him dead and was prepared to pay Marena for her help in that endeavor. Marena protested that she could be of no use to her, but Philomena was adamant. According to her, the ghost had mentioned Marena by name. As the discussion grew heated, Naomi intervened, ending the argument.
Marena was taken to the guest hall, where she encountered Gavin Zosimus, Naomi's betrothed, who was also being held captive by Philomena. Gavin advised her to play along and agree to help in the manhunt even if she wasn't who Philomena thought she was.
In the morning, Marena was taken to the palace gardens, where Naomi was waiting. Naomi agreed to help Marena in any way she could.
A noticeably tired and irritable Philomena then arrived and asked if she had made her decision. Fearing she’d be held hostage until she agreed to the princess’ scheme, Marena reluctantly accepted. The princess suggested she begin her investigation with Selca Ducani’s old quarters, which had been kept sealed and intact since the night of the prince’s death.
Marena went to Selca’s room, where she found numerous items of great interest, including books on the occult, handwritten notes, and enchanted objects similar to the ones they sold at the shop. As she went further in, the door shut behind her, locking her inside.
She beat on the door and screamed for help, but no one seemed to hear her. After hearing something moving around among the shelves, she discovered a ferret holding a trinket between its teeth. She tried to get the trinket from it, but it evaded her, escaping through a secret passage. She followed it out to the gardens, where she encountered none other than Selca himself, disguised as a servant.
In the ensuing conversation, Selca claimed he used his powers to enter the employ of the princess as a palace servant, with the intention of eavesdropping and finding out what she’s up to. He overheard their conversation at dinner while posing as a waiter, and was particularly annoyed by the presence of Gavin. He protested his innocence, but there was one problem—he had no memory of the murder. In fact, neither did the others who were present that night. Philomena only wanted to prosecute and hang Selca out of a desire to put the ghost to rest.
Marena was afraid of Selca, but she convinced him to help her contact Ardath using magic. He then left, taking on a new disguise and disappearing into the city streets.
It took several days for Ardath to reach Amarna. In that time, Marena busied herself with "investigating" Selca. Philomena continued to send for more magicians and other individuals she believed would be able to help find the warlock. Among those who answered her summons was none other than Marena's father, accompanied by his new paladin-in-training Rowan Renard. Marena recognized his name and in her eagerness to meet the mage, she rushed outside, looked right at him, and promptly fell unconscious from the resulting headache.
When she awoke, Marcus and Rowan had barred the doors to their quarters with her inside. Marcus demanded to know what had happened to her, but Marena was unable to give a satisfying answer. Confused, frustrated, and grief-stricken, her father used his powers to share some of his memories with Marena. In the process, Marena learned that she and Ardath were married, and that she had been separated from her family during a chaotic plague epidemic that hit the city several years ago. Marcus had not seen her since and thought she was dead.
Concerned that Ardath was deliberately withholding important information from her, Marcus gave Marena a magical belt to protect her from harm. He then sent her back out with a warning about the dangers of the tarot.
Ardath arrived not long after and attempted to smuggle her out of the city, but failed. The two were recaptured and brought back to the palace. Marena no longer knew who to believe. She returned Ardath's tarot deck to him, wanting nothing more to do with it. As soon as he took it from her, the cards "called" to him, requesting that he enter the Arcane Realm. He convinced Marena to go with him.
From their guest rooms Ardath and Marena astral-projected into the Arcane Realm, where they were met by the Magician. Unwilling to answer their questions directly, the Magician implied Selca and Alastair had unwittingly caused the plague epidemic by tampering with alchemy. Also hinted at was a ritual Alastair participated in on the night of his murder, which may have caused his death. Marena, who didn't trust the Magician from the beginning, grew increasingly alarmed as they began to toy with her, including shapeshifting into Ardath and asking her if she could really tell the difference between them. Finally fed up with the fox's antics, she used her belt to transport her and Ardath back to the real world.
Ardath angrily confronted Marena about her distrust of him and the Arcana. Marena pleaded with him to let her make her own decisions and judgments, admitted she knew they were married, and claimed she no longer suffered from headaches - they could finally be honest with each other. But Ardath asked her to let him keep his secrets in exchange for her independence, a statement which devastated her.
With a rift growing between them, the two met with Philomena. She revealed her plans to them. Ardath offered to "bless" Alastair's quarters; he, Philomena, and Marena were left alone in the prince's old bedroom, where they successfully drew the attention of the ghost. To Marena's horror, Alastair's shade accused Ardath of killing him and attacked the magician. She used her belt to protect Ardath, causing the ghost to turn on her, injuring her badly.
Ardath tended to her until he was arrested by Philomena for Alastair's murder. Weak as she was, Marena begged the princess to reconsider, but since the accusation came from Alastair himself, there was no questioning it. She used the magic belt to contact her father, who arrived the next morning to help.