Even though he is the gun’s original owner, Jaren Ward is really just a minor character in the story of The Last Word. He came to the town of Palamon nestled in the snowy, tree covered mountains one day like a heroic gunslinger out of an old western. He walks in from the south and everyone stares but no one talks. That is, until someone we recognize, Shin Malphur, the child of light, now a growing boy, breaks free of his adopted father and races out into the street to greet the newcomer.

Jaren is described as a Hunter that wears a racing helmet with thick tinted visor. So, shift your mind from straight western, to something with a little more sci-fi. He silently greets this kid that ran out to him, but also knows there’s something special about him. Shin, for his part, looks Jaren over in awe, but his gaze is soon fixed upon Jaren’s golden hand cannon. Jaren notices this and instead of chastising the boy or driving him away, he leans down and holds out his gun for this kid to inspect and hold. This is the first time Shin Malphur ever gets to hold The Last Word.

No one really moves after that. You have this sorta high tech western gunslinger with a Ghost floating over his shoulder standing in the street. You have towns people all crowded around waiting for something to happen. You have a young boy in awe, holding a very special gun for the first time. But they’re all waiting on someone. On Magistrate Loken. Loken is someone who started like all the other people who founded Palamon. He started out as the town’s overseer. He was someone who helped enforce the rules they’d all agreed on. But, over time, Loken became stricter. He began to enforce his will over everyone instead of just maintaining order. We’re told he lost people, but unlike most others, unlike Shin who barely remembers his parents and a small spark of Light that he tries not to dwell on, Loken’s losses eventually broke him.

As Loken grew more and more dictatorial people left. Palamon shrank. Soon, its people lived under one man’s rule… Loken’s rule… until Jaren Ward shows up. I don’t think we see Jaren and Loken’s first meeting, but we do catch up with Jaren Ward after he has done something to set Loken off. I’d like to think Jaren Ward took a few days to understand the situation in Palamon then decided to change it. In response, Loken sends nine men to surround Jaren in a courtyard and then he comes to confront the Hunter himself.

Loken does the classic villain thing. He struts and taunts and threatens Jaren all while Jaren just stands there calmly with his hands on his belt. The exchange ends like this (as recounted by Shin):

“This is our town! My town!” Loken was shouting now. He was going to make a show of Jaren – teach the people of Palamon a lesson in obedience.

Jaren spoke: clear, calm. “Not anymore.”

Loken laughed dismissively. He had nine guns on his side. “Those gonna be your last words then, boy?”

The movement was a flash: quick as chain lightning. Jaren Ward spoke as he moved. “Yours. Not mine.”

With those words and Jaren’s quick movements, Loken falls dead in an instant, and his men back down almost as quickly. From then on, Palamon is a free town. Jaren stays and helps. We don’t know a lot about his activities after freeing the town, but we do know two things:

  1. He becomes a new father figure to Shin Malphur, watching over him and teaching him for several years.
  2. He would sometimes lead hunting parties to track down and kill Fallen who got to close to town.

It’s while Jaren Ward is away on one of these hunts, several years later, than a second stranger with his own very special gun strides into Palamon. If Jaren Ward was the embodiment of the Light, this new man is his opposite, someone smothered in Darkness. And nothing good will come of it when these two meet.

Next time, we’ll work our way through the long history of the man best known as Dredgen Yor.