From the beginning, perhaps, it was his skills of observation that sealed his fate.
He's an unwanted thing, with hair the color of straw and eyes like the sea in winter. At night, he watches the old man he serves mix up the medicines that are his trade. The boy knows he will never be taught these things, never apprenticed. That is not his right. His job is to run errands, chop wood, do whatever is asked of him without complaint, and he has learned the art of silence well. He has eyes to see and ears to listen, and he wastes precious sleep each night, watching from his corner, absorbing all the knowledge he can.
Things turn bad, eventually. There is fighting, villages are burned. They travel long distances despite the danger because war is good for business. Eventually they are separated. Perhaps the old man has died. Perhaps he's simply abandoned a burdensome child he has little use of. It makes little difference to the boy, in the end. He's cold and hungry and a cough shakes his thin frame. A shame, he thinks, that all the knowledge he has gained will not save his life.
It's a cold afternoon when he stumbles upon the field. The dead lay scattered like autumn leaves and the air is thick with the tang of blood. He intends only to scavenge a little, take what he can find and rest awhile before walking on, but something catches his eye. It is gold and bronze and shivering on the wind as though it were no more substantial than the smoke that blows from the devastated village near by. It has the shape of a man, and it beckons to him.
Curiously, he feels no fear. If this is death, he is ready for it. He steps forward.
It speaks, and all these many years later, he cannot remember that voice. It has his voice now, though he realizes it must not have been so then. He remembers the promises it made. The strength and the knowledge it promised to share.
He thinks of these things in the split second between, as the markings drain from his face and he can feel himself giving way to the other, relinquishing himself to that primal power that remains otherwise caged within. It is the only time he can ever seem to recall that there was a 'before' at all.