Ulvin Wednesson is a Gilnean explorer, geographer, cartographer, translator, writer, ethnologist, spy, poet, alchemist, and diplomat. He is known for his extensive explorations of Azeroth, his expansive knowledge of non-Gilnean languages and cultures, his many, heavily footnoted books and articles on human behavior, travel, ethnography, and sexual practices, and his open but career-stunting criticism of certain leaders in the Alliance.
Indigestible in Gilneas
Even as a child, Ulvin Wednesson felt himself a stranger in his own land, for he knew there had to be more to being alive than what was offered by the insular and homogeneous society of Gilneas in the years before the worgen invasion.
Part of this was because of his family’s nomadic lifestyle — his father Ulfred was a witch of the wild, and never settled in any part of Gilneas for long. And part came from his spiritual awakening when he learned from his father a charm for taking the shape of a hare:
I shall go into a hare
With sorrow and sighing and mickle care,
And I shall go in the full Moon’s name
Aye, till I be fetchèd hame.
Hare, take heed of a bitch greyhound
Will harry thee all these fells around,
For here come I in the bright Sun’s name
All but for to fetch thee hame.
The witches of Gilneas at that time were not full druids in the elven or tauren sense of the word — minor shapechanges like this were as much as most Gilnean druids were capable of before they merged with the Cenarion Circle — but seeing the world through non-human eyes at all showed Ulvin just how small and parochial Gilneas was, how limited and limiting its notion of what being human was and could be.
But Ulvin’s sense of alienation and restlessness mostly came from his acquaintance with Cally Duane (a.k.a. Kalika Diwan) and her family, to which Ulvin also attributes his fascination with ethnography and all things exotic and forbidden.
The Duanes were one of the few cracks in Gilneas’ otherwise monolithic world. Though they had Gilnean names, they were visibly of foreign extraction, and at home observed their own customs, worshipped their own gods, spoke their own language, and even had their own “real” names. They were also extremely secretive — and with good reason, unknown to Ulvin: The entire Duane clan, under the leadership of its matriarch Carey Duane/Kerani Diwan, constituted a worgen murder cult that habitually slipped over the wall and strangled travelers for the benefit of their blood-demanding Goddess.
But years of Ulvin’s friendship with Cally, the flattery of Ulvin’s enthusiastic interest in the Duanes’ language and customs, and the charming novelty of Ulvin’s often unique perspective on nearly everything ultimately paid off in that Ulvin was gradually granted semi-familiar status.
One day, Cally’s brother Marvin (aka “Mohan”) was attacked by worgen while outside the Wall, and Carey prepared an antidote that would not only cure him of the worgen curse if taken in time, but grant him the collective memory and wisdom of Gilnean druids going back to ancient days — a concoction normally reserved for members of her cult graduating to full “strangler” status. The antidote took a full day to brew, and only the first few drops would be effective; the rest would be poisonous. Ulvin, while not told what the brew was for, was entrusted with stirring it.
Tragically, when the antidote was finally ready, Ulvin accidentally splashed a few drops of the hot concoction on his hand and instinctively drew it to his lips, thereby ingesting the antidote for himself and leaving only the poisonous dregs behind.
Carey fed what she thought were the first drops from the brew to Marvin, who immediately died a retching, twitching death.
It didn’t take long for Carey to deduce how this had happened, and after sending for Ulvin, she warped into worgen form and flew at him in a frenzied, murderous rage.
Ulvin quickly discovered that the antidote he had ingested had also greatly expanded his understanding of shapeshifting, and he straight away transformed himself into a hare and fled. Carey countered by turning into a greyhound and pursuing Ulvin as far as the sea, whereupon Ulvin jumped into the water and turned himself into a trout. Carey turned into an otter, then Ulvin leapt from the water and turned into a hawk. When Carey turned into an even swifter stormcrow, Ulvin had to face the grim fact that he would not be able to outrun her.
So instead of running, Ulvin took the shape of a grain of corn and hid in barn. The ruse didn’t work, however, and Carey, already in the shape of a stormcrow, devoured all the grains and Ulvin along with them.
Had Carey remained a stormcrow long enough to digest the grains, that might well have been the end of Ulvin. But Carey immediately resumed her human shape in order to see to her dead son, and so it was an awkward moment when Carey, asked later by Ulvin’s father if she knew what had become of his own son, denied knowing his whereabouts, then exploded in a mass of blood and fecal matter as Ulvin shapeshifted back into human form from inside her intestines.
Cally convinced Ulvin to flee Gilneas, which he did with little enough prodding, for he had long dreamt of one day finally leaving the confines of the cloistered city. He took the form of a bird and flew over the wall, and stayed in that form for a long time afterward as he explored the continent.
Sadly, Ulvin’s advanced mastery of druidism came at cost — the worgen curse, which Ulvin had contracted from Carey when she devoured him. The antidote he had accidentally taken rendered his condition limited and manageable, so that it manifests only when he’s angered. Alas, in Ulvin’s case, this happens often.
Ulvin’s travels led him far and wide, though he soon discovered that much of the world was too dangerous a place for the inexperienced. Unsure of what he wanted to with his life now that he was unfettered but still unlearned, he found himself heading, inevitably, to Stormwind.
Unpalatable in Stormwind
After his rocky beginnings in Gilneas, Ulvin eventually went on to a rocky life in Stormwind:
- He was expelled from the Stormwind Academy of Language for dueling with a man for making fun of his mustache. As he left, he spitefully trampled through the Academy’s flowerbeds on his horse.
- He enlisted in the army, where he earned the nickname “Ruffian Ulvy” on account of his demonic ferocity as a fighter and for his penchant for rage dueling.
- He was appointed to the Explorers’ League, where he learned to use the measuring equipment that would later be useful in his career as an archaeologist and explorer, but also got into trouble when a report he made for the army on a boy brothel frequented by the soldiers of Menethil Harbor was leaked and people came to believe that he fully participated as a client while undercover. Rumors involving him and his Argent squire continue to haunt him.
- He was sent disguised as King Mrgl-Mrgl into Winterfin Caverns to assassinate a lobster-like creature called Claximus. In the caverns, he unwisely unhooked part of his disguise in order to relieve himself, and was spotted by a Winterfin tadpole who had been left behind from an earlier rescue mission. It is rumored that he murdered the tadpole to preserve his subterfuge.
- He became an associate professor in the Stormwind Archaeological Society, but controversy surrounding his unexpurgated translations of One Thousand and One Quel’Thalassian Nights and other works (some of the fruits of his life-long interest in sexual practices) have kept him from getting a full professorship.
- He has represented Stormwind diplomatically on many occasions, but for all his successes, he generally returned home with more enemies than he started out with.
For all his setbacks, Ulvin nevertheless became a renowned master of the druidical arts in his own right, as well as an explorer, archaeologist, historian, poet, translator, and cartographer.
Ulvin has made his pursuit of these passions well known through his published journals and his popular Wednesson Guide maps. He has famously worked with Stormwind’s Dr. Harrison Jones, a relationship made even more famous by the frequent acrimony between them over who discovered what. More recently, he has become an associate of The Sodality, the informal guild founded by Alexiphosa, where he occasionally works with his long estranged friend and brief love interest Cally from Gilneas.
Superficially, Ulvin Wednesson is driven to risk life and limb in exotic locales by a deep and abiding love of adventure and discovery. He is the quintessential “rugged individualist” and perpetual outsider, living his life by the credo
Do what thy manhood bids thee do,
from none but self expect applause;
He noblest lives and noblest dies
who makes and keeps his self-made laws.
But beneath this compulsion to pioneer is an even greater one to evangelize, to share his discoveries of other ways of being human and show them to be as valid — if not better — than those of mainstream culture back home.
But there’s a reason behind that reason, which is that Ulvin already subscribes to these alternate ways of being, and he wants them accepted so that he can practice these modi vivendi openly and without stigma. Which is to say, ultimately, that he wants acceptance for himself, but acceptance on his own terms — and from a society he must labor to educate before it can be ready for him.
Socially, Ulvin is a riveting conversationalist, for he’s seen much and is bristling with fascinating anecdotes about everything. And if who he’s talking to is foreign to him, he’ll have a flatteringly genuine interest in them. But undermining his charisma is a notoriously quick temper, and a tendency to be outspoken on subjects that get him into trouble and curb any chance he has of rising in his career.