Martina Renth was born in the village of Brey to the farmers Almas and Jenune Renth. She was the fifth and youngest of their children; only her brother Alric, seven years her senior, was still living at home when she was born. Martina and Alric have three older sisters who had all married and left the Renth household by the time Martina was born: Ellevira (Elly), Darine, and Linnette. While Elly still lives in Brey with her husband Gerrance Prunth and their small children, Darine and Linnette both live outside Brey and because of their age and distance, Martina does not know them as well as she would like to. Martina was an unexpected baby, but greatly loved by her family, who spoiled her about as much as poor farmers could afford to. Martina and her brother Alric were especially close, despite their own age difference. While the Renths have little in the way of money or social standing, they have always had a reputation for being honest and kind.
Brey is a small village of a few hundred people, located on the Aged Peninsula about four days' ride from Sormere. It is so small that the giants scarcely take notice of it, and the population is almost all human. As is usual on the Aged Peninsula, Brey is very hierarchical and traditional, tending towards the patriarchal, and at times stifling. It is traditionally ruled by the nobles of the Restat family. At the time of Martina's birth the lord was Dunric Restat, who had a reputation for being stern but fair. His kindness to the impoverished was a poorly-kept secret; the fact that he had been an adventurer in his youth was somewhat less well-known.
One day when he was a young teen, Alric came to the aid of a younger boy who was being attacked by bullies. The boy was Lord Dunric's only son, Carrick, and he and Alric became fast friends. Lord Dunric did not object to his heir having a commoner as a playmate, and Carrick became practically a member of the Renth family. Alric and Carrick originally didn't want to include Martina in their games, as is the tradition of older brothers everywhere, but after she beat them at a game of Three's Your Uncle, they gave in, and the three happily grew up together, dreaming of the world outside Brey and being adventurers like Carrick's father.
Martina's idyllic childhood was shattered when she was fourteen by a series of unfortunate events. Carrick, who was now eighteen, made plans to try his hand at adventuring through the Diamond Throne and invited Alric to come with him. While Lord Dunric was less than thrilled with his son's plan, he could hardly object, having done the same thing himself. Almas Renth, however, felt differently. In a horrible fight, Almas accused Alric of getting ideas above his station and Alric told his father he didn't know how to dream. In anger, the two vowed never to speak again, and Alric left with Carrick, though not before Carrick gave Martina his signet ring and a kiss.
Martina and Jenune worked together to delay the disavowal ceremony that Almas was determined to have, convinced that eventually their tempers would cool. This probably would have happened if a horrible plague had not come to Brey only a couple of months later. Almas and Jenune were both stricken and died in each other's arms. As the epidemic raged on, Lord Dunric bravely rode for Sormere to find some sort of help... and disappeared without a trace. In the absence of Carrick, Dunric's younger brother Regric seized control of Brey. Regric had a reputation for being dissolute and greedy, and some of the braver sorts in Brey wondered if he had had something to do with Dunric's disappearance.
With the deaths of Almas and Jenune, Elly and Gerrance became Martina's guardians. However, Gerrance suddenly showed new colors. He told Martina that the family had no place for her, but that he had arranged for her to work as a maid at the Restat estate, and she would do it and be grateful. Martina knew from Carrick the reason that Lord Dunric had been especially cautious with the hired help: Regric was a notorious lecher, especially where young girls were concerned. Martina suspected Gerrance had sold her to Regric. Terrified, and not wishing to involve Elly, who was having a difficult pregnancy, Martina fled Brey in the dead of night.
Being alone on the road could have easily been even more dangerous for Martina than staying in Brey, but she had a remarkable stroke of luck. One night she hid in a circus tent and was discovered the next morning. Luckily, the owners of the circus, a young couple named Thegan and Narine Tirance, were kind and generous people who offered to take Martina in and give her a job in the circus. For a sheltered girl from the Aged Peninsula, the Tirance Circus and the freedom it offered was a new and exciting experience. For the first time Martina met members of other races; the circus performers included a number of faen, a couple of giants, and even a litorian lion tamer named Callaran. She took quickly to the freewheeling southern customs of her companions as they traveled through the Diamond Throne. Thegan and Narine became Martina's surrogate parents, even arranging for the naming ceremony that Martina had been unable to have because of the plague. Martina's agility and skills with throwing knives, honed by years of playing with Alric and Carrick, caught the attention of the retired Unfettered adventurer Jolus Dere, who was performing sword demonstrations with the circus. He took Martina on as an apprentice. Martina found herself with horrible stage fright, always fearing that Gerrance or Regric were somewhere in the audience, but with time she conquered it and became a competent performer. Her faen friends nicknamed her Bladedancer for her skill with the rapier.
But when Martina turned twenty-two, she realized that as much as she loved her friends in the circus, performing was not her dream; adventuring was. With the blessings of Thegan, Narine, and Jolus, Martina set out to follow in her brother's footsteps. She traveled through the south adventuring with a party Jolus had introduced her to and honing her skills until she was captured in a tavern by slavers. In captivity she met Malize and Talamir and decided to join them in their adventures.