Merv has always been known as a fairly stoic person, even as a child. This led him to have few friends in his youth, and none of them particularly close. Around the age of 10, he became a spirit-talker, believing it would be easier to make friends with spirits than his fellow humans. A few years later, he decided to pursue a career in The Order, and started studying under his local vice-bishop. However, by the age of 16 he'd found that many of the people who worked in the church weren't as serious as he'd like. He decided to throw himself more fully into academic studies, with the thought of perhaps becoming a historian, librarian, or some such occupation. Maybe even a scientist. The only place at that time to receive any kind of organized education was Sorret Magic Academy, and while he had little interest in magic, he did know that some of his spirit friends spent some of their time at the academy, helping master-adepts train apprentice Sorreters. More importantly, he knew that the academy taught various traditional subjects as a prerequisite to magical studies, plus it had the village's most expansive library. Thus, Merv became an apprentice himself, in 879. Over the years, he eventually found that he had a certain aptitude for magic, and so he chose to continue his education as a Sorreter to a greater degree than he originally intended.
While many of his fellow apprentices were just as frivolous as the people he'd found anywhere else, there were some who seemed to take life a bit more seriously than most. None of them, perhaps, were quite as serious as Merv himself, but at least those few had a better sense of the proper time and place for merriment. It should be noted that Merv himself was not above having fun now and then, but he found it inappropriate in most settings, particularly school or work. As far back as his early childhood, he'd enjoyed playing various games at times which were specifically set aside for such things, and he continued to enjoy recreation when he grew to adulthood. Still, his idea of fun was usually not as noisy as that of most people he met.
Aside from his spirit friends (who were all what might be called adults), most of the few people he'd ever felt much respect for had always been older than he, and perhaps his best friend after joining the academy was Durell. Durell had become an adept the year before Merv started his apprenticeship, so they didn't share any classes. Nor was Durell yet a master-adept, so he couldn't teach any of the classes Merv took. However, that also meant that Durell continued his studies at the academy, on a higher level, until becoming a master-adept in 882. Durell had even fewer friends than Merv, though he'd never quite thought of it as being because he was particularly stoic. Nevertheless, as the two of them got to know each other, gradually, they came to realize they had more in common with each other than they did with most people. When Merv graduated to adept status in Spring of 892, Durell and his wife Virtiana invited him to their home for a celebratory dinner. Later that year, Durell invited Merv to join him during the annual Pilgrimage to Monab, which was something that had interested Merv (at least in a vague way) since his younger days working in his local church. As with virtually everyone in Sorret, he found most Pilgrims to behave in too lax a manner, but he also found that they were at least capable of being serious and respectful at certain times. This was essentially the reverse of his idea that frivolity should be reserved for specific times, but he felt it was markedly better than nothing. As such, he found Monab to be at least a somewhat refreshing change of pace, and he joined Durell on each year's Pilgrimage thereafter. (Virtiana only occasionally accompanied Durell, having more pressing duties in Sorret.)
In 898, Merv became a master-adept. At that same year's Pilgrimage, Bishop Kizin revealed the existence of The Plan to spirit-talkers from other villages. He was particularly interested in obtaining the help of Sorreters. Upon their return to Sorret, both Durell and Cirna began recruiting followers, and Merv became one of the first to join Durell. In 899, when The Order began secretly encouraging the local street gangs of various villages to expand their operations and even look into the possibility of forming inter-village alliances, Drag (the Grand Sorreter) began working to ensure there would be no gangs in Sorret. This annoyed some Sorreters, who believed it would be fun to join a gang (or perhaps they had more serious reasons). Merv came up with the idea of assigning Sorreters who wished to join gangs, to do so in other villages. Not only would this be to their own benefit, it would greatly enhance the ability of gangs to stay in touch between villages, by providing them with t-mail, as well as other magical services. (This was always part of the Order's plan, but Merv came up with it indpendently, before they shared this aspect of the Plan with anyone.) Merv told his idea to Durell, who began sending out some of his followers (including Merv himself) to travel to other villages and see how things were developing, as well as providing further encouragement to the gangs to do what local non-magic users were already encouraging them to do.
Merv met various gangsters in various villages during this time, including Seth of Plist, who asked Merv to introduce him to Durell, for his own reasons. Soon after that, Merv went to Kimrin, along with one of Durell's apprentices, Zeke. They soon met Capp, who was organizing an inter-village gang that he called LandOrder. Capp's disposition was closer to Merv's own than that of anyone he'd ever met, including Durell. The two of them soon became friends, and Merv became chief of the sorretry department of the Kimrin branch of LandOrder. When the gang was more thoroughly organized, he also took on the title of "First Sorreter," to whom the chief Sorreters of every village's branch of the gang would report. While many Sorreters in other villages enjoyed a more relaxed attitude than he'd like, the other chiefs quickly learned to act in a professional manner when meeting with him, whether in person or via t-mail. And certainly those who worked directly under him in Kimrin behaved so as a matter of course. (In fact it should be said that Kimrinians in general tended to be more serious than the people of The Land's southern villages, anyway.) So, Merv had finally found a place in the world that he felt truly comfortable.
In 904, when the surname law was passed, Merv chose the name "Newline," as a reference to the fact that it had been his idea for Sorreters to get into a new line of work. This referred not only to joining gangs, but also to providing magical services to people in every village in a more legitimate fashion, such as selling and recharging spell devices. (In fact this was begun in 901, though as with the idea of Sorreters joining gangs, the Plan had always called for this. Again, Merv's idea came before the Planners shared that aspect, and so it seems justifiable that he should think of it as his idea.)