Ollendra Ackenthorpe (known pretty much universally as Olly) grew up in the City of Strangers, Kaer Maga. Her parents, a pair of obsessive collectors of strange objects (her mother preferred statues, while her father had what amounted to a small armory of bizarre daggers, knives, and other small sharp objects), were drawn to the city by the promise of being able to find just about anything there. They ended up settling there, running a small "junk shop" that enabled them to trade for the things they wanted while earning a passable living.
Olly grew up among the stuff, but didn't show a particular knack for merchanting -- or for identifying pottery or knives. Her path was set by two events: the day someone brought a small drum to sell, and her first time hearing a storyteller. She demonstrated a knack for the drum (much to the fatigue of her parents' ears!), and her gnomish obsessiveness latched onto the idea of collecting stories, rather than things. She started asking everyone who came into the store to tell her a story, and she started mimicking them back -- the beginning of an acting talent. She soon was talking herself both into and out of trouble, and her parents figured it was time to get Olly some training to focus her burgeoning talent and obsession. She started learning from the musicians and actors who passed through, and her practice soon led to performances at local taverns, where she'd combine elaborate drum routines with one-woman acting shows regaling the audience with stories from all over Varisia. Her favorite stories usually involved small people getting the better of giants, because she could accompany the battle scenes with the drum! And she soon found that she could ... *do* things with her performances. Magic things.
Occasionally Olly would accompany her parents on collecting trips outside the city, and she picked up the basics of using a shortsword and a crossbow to keep back any bandits, beasts, or other trouble that got in their way. But her bardic training was clearly where her real gifts lay, and soon the tales of the Sandpoint Theater became too tempting to resist. So many stories to learn and to tell! Surely that was where she belonged. Despite not getting a response to her letter of application, she was bound and determined to go, so her parents made sure she had some form of protective gear (some armor and basic weapons) for the journey. She paid for her passage in performances and spells, finally making it to Sandpoint.
The trip was not entirely uneventful, however. She arranged for passage across Lake Syrantula by offering to perform in the ship's lounge, entertaining the other passengers with her stories to distract them from the captain's somewhat uneven ability to keep the ship moving smoothly. Unfortunately, one of her stories about a halfling rogue who gave a haughty noble a proper comeuppance (based loosely on real events from her hometown) did not sit well with one of the other passengers -- who turned out to be a noble who had been publicly embarrassed when a halfling rogue stole his purse, his hat, and even his shoes right out from under him. Thinking Olly was mocking him personally, he stood up in the middle of the performance and swore at her, saying she needed to be taught a lesson. His bodyguard took that as an instruction and went after her with his sword. Thinking quickly, Olly managed to use her bardic skills to fascinate the bodyguard, who stopped dead in his tracks, staring. The other passengers burst out laughing, which only served to enrage the noble further, but realizing that he was only setting himself up for more problems, he stormed off to his quarters on the ship. She stayed clear of the noble the rest of the trip. But as they disembarked in Whistledown, she saw him again, and the look in his eyes was enough to make clear that she'd better not cross his path again.
So far, she hasn't been able to even get an audition for the Sandpoint Theater. Instead, she's become a regular at Cracktooth's. The novelty of a gnome with blue hair doing complicated percussion solos interspersed with acting out stories of the strange characters of Kaer Maga has so far been enough of a draw to keep her in lodging and food, but her dreams are definitely bigger. She still wants to collect as many stories as possible -- and maybe be part of one herself someday.