Ten years Tristan Reynaldo spent in that labor camp. Ten years breaking rocks down, mining inferior ore for inferior weapons and armor, making enemies, losing friends, and keeping one eye open while he slept. Ten years surviving.
And now as he awakens, groggy, in a small room he’s unfamiliar with, he wonders what kind of new hell this is going to be.
He knows he’s been drugged, that much he’s sure of. At dinner he’d thought he’d detected the slightest hint of an aftertaste in his water, but he’d dismissed it; his constitution was hardened on years of drinking water that vermin had managed to drown in. This was probably just another rat that had eaten something interesting before it died.
But as he returned to his cell, he’d nearly collapsed twice before two other inmates helped him stumble the rest of the way and dropped him onto his cot. As his eyes began to blur, he saw them begin to go through his sparse belongings, thinking he was either out, or would soon be dead. He tried to protest, but his body had stopped listening to his orders, and he passed into a dreamless slumber.
Tristan Reynaldo was the second son of a minor Knight who had managed to do just enough to be able to drink at reduced prices in the local pubs and carouse with the more money strapped whores. As soon as he was able to lift a hammer, his father pulled the only real string he had, and shipped Tristan off to apprentice for one of the greatest Dindavaran blacksmiths in the realm. He had hoped that if his son showed any talent at all at death forging, he’d be able to live off of him for the rest of his days and keep his cups full.
And Tristan did have a knack for blacksmithing, though it would be years before he was able to develop the skills needed to be able to forge even the most rudimentary of blades without ruining them, and more years still before he’d crafted his first true sword of any real value.
It was an otherwise normal day when his master came to him and told him to pack for a journey. Tristan, at this time in his mid-teens, did as he was told. He was also told to bring the falcon that they were raising to forge Tristan’s masterpiece, though he had thought it would be still at least another year before he would be able to have the skills needed to complete the task.
The two of them traveled for days into the woods, seeing no one. His master would tell him nothing about where they were going or what they were going to do when they got there, and drilled Tristan on the techniques that he had learned over the years.
Finally, they entered a clearing, and the master instructed Tristan to build a camp while he meditated. Tristan remembers doing this, and waiting for his master to give him further instructions, but at that point his memories fade away, and the next thing he was able to recall is coming out of the woods, many days later, with the falcon on his shoulder and the clothes on his back. His master was nowhere to be seen. Tristan returned to the master’s home to find it burned to the ground. With nothing left of his current life, save for the falcon (whom he had developed a kinship with, naming it David) and the skills that he had acquired, Tristan decided to join the army of the Ashen Kingdom rather than to return home to an uncaring, drunk father.
While he had a knack for blacksmithing, he was able to quickly rise up the ranks due to a true talent at inspiring and leading men. In seven years, he’d attained the rank of Captain, and commanded a company of men stationed in a port city in the far southwestern corner of the Kingdom.
It was not a difficult assignment. The city had been known for occasional civil disobedience, but it had been quiet for a prolonged period of time. Tristan’s time was spent between keeping his men at the ready, preparing to finally complete his masterpiece sword (though the soul captured would not be David’s. By now, Tristan and David were nearly inseparable, and it would have been akin to slaying himself to use the falcon to finish his sword), and attempting to win the affections of Isolde, the daughter of the city magistrate.
Tristan and Isolde’s relationship was… complicated, and Tristan ended up being spurned, causing a depression that affected the rest of his duties in the city. And while it may not have been his fault, a minor altercation in the trade district between his soldiers and a merchant quickly escalated into a full scale riot, one that caused irreparable damage to priceless city landmarks and a severe backlash against the army in the city.
The path the trail of blame took to go from the patrolling soldiers all the way to Tristan was twisted and hard to follow, but it came down squarely on Tristan’s shoulders. During his court marshal for dereliction of duty, Tristan could see that thing were being manipulated by a force he was previously unaware of. One that wanted him eliminated.
Perhaps it was the questionable evidence presented against him, or perhaps it was the testimony of an overwhelming amount of soldiers that served under him that kept his head from the chopping block, commuting a death sentence to life performing hard labor. Either way, Tristan’s military career was over and he spent the next ten years as a common inmate.
Tristan sat up in bed, and his head swam. It was only a moment or two before the door opened and a man came in along with a servant who was holding a tray. Tristan turned and set his feet down on the floor.
“Who are you?” he said.
The man motioned to a small table, and the servant nodded, setting the tray on it before turning and backing out of the room, closing the door behind him. The man then grabbed a chair from near the door and set it down in the middle of the room, still outside of immediate striking distance should Tristan attempt an attack.
“Who I am isn’t important. You probably won’t ever see me again. The question you want to ask is, “What am I doing here?” That question I will answer.” The man leaned back in the chair. “You have knowledge and skills that would suit my employers very well. We arranged for you to die, and you took ill after eating dinner. You entered a coma that to most people looked like death. It was easy to fool the camp physician, who declared you dead and sent you on to be thrown in the mass grave. We greased a couple of palms and recovered you before the rats got to you, though I’m pretty sure that bird of yours helped out with that some, and brought you here.”
Tristan began to speak, and the man raised a hand, stopping him.
“The Ashen Kingdom doesn’t care about you. They didn’t want you. They used you as a scapegoat and scraped you off their boot like a piece of dog shit. Here, you’re wanted. We need you to be a leader, to be an advisor, and if it comes to it, to train our men.” He motions over to the table with the tray on it. “You are no longer Tristan Reynaldo. He’s dead, and most likely forgotten. You are now Trent Reynolds. These are the documents showing that you are a citizen of the Free Valleys. You are under the employ of the East Bay Company. It pays well enough, but you enjoy it because it allows you to travel.”
Tristan Reynaldo looked over at the documents on the tray before a noise on the other side of the room grabbed his attention. Perched on the high windowsill was David, who was looking around the room. Tristan smiled faintly when he saw the falcon, his oldest and only friend.
He then slowly stood up and walked over to the table and the tray. He flipped through the documents and made a quick scan of each. After a long moment he turned back to the man, who had risen from his chair.
“When do I start?” Trent Reynolds said.