Amazing that it's been almost a year! Looking back, my initial character background write-up was pretty slim so I decided to flesh it out a bit - put what's been in my brain into words (this is only up until the beginning though):
Ranar's life began like that of most dwarves, underground in Zarak. Third son of a successful stone carver, he was expected to finish basic schooling, spend a bit of time in the guard, and then follow on in the family tradition. As a child, he was picked on for his stuttering and curiosity. Although the mild bullying didn't last long, as he got tough quick, he became shy and remained a bit of an outcast, tolerated but never popular. He began to prefer the company of animals - they didn't care about his stutter, wouldn't make fun of the questions he pondered or the stories he told. They didn't have plans and wouldn't get upset if he just decided to do something.
Although mostly a loner, Ranar did make a few friends, most notably Callyra Orilin. While he was quiet, she was the 'class clown', silly and lighthearted (for a dwarf). They were as close as brother and sister for many years. Eventually, as they grew up, they would spend less time together and have less in common, but the friendship remained solid.
Joining the guard was a rite of passage for him, and in training he applied himself much more than he ever had in basic schooling, both to the combat training and his specialty, which was caring for the draught animals. Although he was deployed in a mission to deal with an incursion by a large band of bandits, the only real action he saw was tending to some ponies who had become injured on the rough terrain.
After the guard, he tried his hand at stonecarving, but much to the disappointment of his family, he just wasn't good at it. The disappointment of his family and failure at his life's purpose drove him farther into solitude and depression. One day, while seeking out a quiet spot outside in the wilderness to be alone, he found someone else who was obviously upset and was doing the same. A former classmate, now a smithy and armorer apprentice, the other dwarf was failing as well, but was actually fairly good at stonecarving. Ranar had a knack for the armory work and, despite their families' objections, they traded apprenticeships.
The days wore on and although he was good enough at his job, it was tedious, repetitive, and boring. When not working, he would slip outside and roam the nearby wilderness, watching the wildlife. The birds, rabbits, and squirrels were his companions.
In the meantime, Callyra had become a merchant, and was mostly away with the caravan. Whenever the caravan would return home they would catch up as old friends, but things felt a little different, since she had traveled and seen the world, and he had not. The traveller's stories were surely exaggerated, but they made it clear that there was a lot out there that he had never seen. He began to feel that there should be more to life than just tending the dogs and working in the smithy. But he didn't quite know what.
After the last time that Callyra's caravan left, he went outside and spent a long time just sitting, talking to a frog, a bumblebee, a chipmunk, then a fox. But of course, they didn't have much to say. Ranar found himself following the fox over first one hillside then another. He lost sight of the fox, but he'd never seen this area before and in his curiosity just kept going. Somewhere out there was... something. Something that needed him or something that he needed, maybe both.
In time, having gone south/southeast, he found himself in distant lands and low on funds. Although he didn't need much, ferries cost money as did supplies and sometimes secure places to sleep. With a vague idea that whatever he was looking for might be somewhere to the east, and that he'd need to pay for passage on a ship to get there, he sought out a job in Tredroy. He wasn't having much luck as a veterinarian, but heard that there was a call for mercenaries. After his time in the guard, he felt qualified enough, so he registered with the guild and requested the first available assignment. From there, he was directed to the Valley Inn.
He still didn't know what his purpose in life was, only that he had never found it back home. In any case, he wanted to go as far as possible and see as much as possible so that when he does get back home, maybe he can wow Callyra with his stories instead of the other way around. And maybe they'll have more in common again.
(Ranar has already traveled way farther away from home than Callyra has ever been. Most of the stories that the merchants tell are either second-hand, third-hand, or made up. That's how they pass the time while traveling - making up stories to tell the people back home. But he doesn't know that.)