Hans Dencler was born a peasant just before the Unlocke Revolution. He was taught to read and write by Lord Yiler’s daughter, who was cast out of her family upon learning of their forbidden love affair.
Hans escaped with the lord’s daughter (Sophia Yiler). They managed to smuggle into neighboring kingdom and found work for a powerful lord, who took a liking to Hans. Also took a liking to Hans determination to make Sophia’s father pay for taking away their firstborn.
At the same time, Red Vein severely weakened the kingdoms. A disease that was difficult to stop. Key-makers had precious little resources and the rich (kings and lords and warriors) were given priority. There was the promise more healing keys would be made for the masses, but they didn’t work fast enough.
Sophia and her unborn child contracted Red Vein. They were denied a key that might have helped save them—were told to wait—but there was no time. Hans took Sophia back to her father and begged him to help her, help the child. But Lord said he could only afford so many keys, and that she had chosen her path, and the consequences that came with it.
When Sophia and their unborn child die, Hans grieves deeply. He is angry at her father and the system. They were born into their position—how was that fair they didn’t even get the chance to earn their way into privilege?
Hans goes back to Key Forger that works on Black Market, and giving up his precious little possessions, he pays for private tuition (on the black market) on how to become a master of keys.
He shows an aptitude for key forging, and he gets more and more powerful at it. Eventually he creates a key that makes him a warrior. Dangerous—he’s not sure he’ll survive the chaste changing keys, but Hans had nothing to lose. He survives the keying and becomes a warrior.
In his new status, he can travel between kingdoms freely, and he gathers peasants and unsatisfied warriors who want change and tries to rebel.
He is respected among many peasants because he forces key-makers to treat the sick poor. Forces them to use precious keys for his followers.
It’s through this he learns about the otherworld. About how warriors leave their kingdom to travel into the unknown and collect minerals for the keys.