John Barron Grey: runaway Unseelie prince and heir to The Throne, which he really doesn’t want.
From this point on, you are entering serious spoiler territory.
The Throne and the Scepter rule the lives of the Seelie and Unseelie Fey, respectively. While both are somewhat sentient, only the Throne is truly awake and aware of its surroundings.
Really, I should say her surroundings. After all, that’s Grey’s great-grandmother in there. Mab is a subject for a whole other story, however, so for now, we’re focusing on Grey.
Born to Owen (mother unknown), who was the son of Leith, who was the son of Mab, John Baron Grey was kind of doomed right from the start. The Fey were largely isolationists when he was born, and this combined with the insane pressure of being one of the few Fey allowed enough power (nebulous though that term is) soured him toward any kind of friendships early on. The Fey’s magic is choked off from them; they never have enough. As a member of the royal family, Grey did, and he learned pretty early on that the people who clamored to be around him didn’t really want to be his friend. They were desperate to share his allowance.
Grey’s father was rarely home, very distant, and difficult to speak to when he was available. (Owen has his reasons, I promise you.) Mab is… well, a chair, and while she communicates just fine in words and other means, she’s properly insane, Grey has been frightened of her his entire life.
When he was eight years old, he got the idea of running away. Being clever, however, he knew that wasn’t the time to do it. He waited until he’d crossed into puberty (in his twenties, since Fey age more slowly than the Ever-Dying do) to take off.
No, he did not tell anyone where he was going. No, he did not particularly care what his family and his people were going to do now that their heir was gone. Fey, like most of the Mythos, reproduce slowly, so he had no siblings.
To be honest, Grey was and is fairly selfish at times. He’s afraid that since his father is gone most of the time, he’s going to be the one tied down, essentially trapped on the throne. He’s afraid he’ll go mad like his grandmother, and his grandfather, and for all he knows, his father. He’s just afraid, and he has good reason to be.
Leaving home meant Mab tried to bring him back by the most efficient use possible: she cut off his magical allowance. Grey had to scrounge for magic the way ordinary Fey do, using his music to encourage love from those around him. (Fey feed on the emotions of others.)
The Fey are prime prey for most of those among the Mythos. Their flesh is sweet (so I’m told), and their souls are sweeter; it’s such common practice to kidnap a lone Fey and keep one as a pet that it’s barely reported, and generally assumed that if this lone Fey had no friends or family to fight for them, then they’re probably some kind of crazy Fey criminal on the run.
Naturally, Grey got caught about a month after he left home.
But luck was with him; the member of the Darkness who snatched him off the street didn’t eat him right away, and also happened to be hosting a guest: Notte of the Blood.
I won’t go into the full story here, lest I spoil the future tale, but suffice it to say that Grey and Notte spoke; Notte decided he liked Grey and trusted him (yes, Grey was just as surprised as you); and finally, Notte purchased Grey from his captor and took him away.
Notte kept watch over Grey for a couple of years, paying his way, providing him with connections and knowledge, and playing a sort of surrogate father. Grey couldn’t believe his luck. When he finally stepped out on his own again, he was much safer… and Notte considered him a friend.
Notte feels (and I agree) that Grey has more potential than Grey has any idea. Notte knows there’s a good person in there; he fully believes Grey is capable of stepping up to his responsibilities, and more than that, possibly helping his people in the trials to come.
Grey, of course, disagrees on this wholeheartedly. Why? Because it’s incredibly convenient to be a flibbertigibbet.
If he’s selfish, no one expects him to be selfless. If he’s a coward, no one expects him to be brave. So goes his reasoning. It’s just a pity Notte keeps insisting on seeing something more.
Until Grey ran into Katie in The Christmas Dragon, he really had no plans of ever changing his life of vagabond-musician. He knew eventually his people would catch him and force him to go home, but until that day came, he thought he was happy alone and wild and free.
Then Katie happened, and Suvi, and after that, the events of Strings. Now that he knows something terrible is coming, and now that he knows even Notte is worried, Grey has a heavy choice in front of him: go home like a good boy, try to continue to vagabond his way around the world until it ends, or… find somewhere else to go.
He hasn’t forgotten Merlin’s offer. It’s just not that easy to swallow his pride and take it.