In the last days of Zantium, Marcus Asher was born into the wealthy noble house of Roland. He was sent away to school to learn how to become a paladin, as was the long-standing tradition in a family which could trace its lineage back to Peredur himself. In school he made two friends, Rhys Sioned and Dimiter Yen, and the three grew into paladins together.
Eventually he met Lygia Agravain, the eldest daughter of the disgraced Agravain family. He was immediately smitten with her, but his parents urged him not to marry her as her family clearly had an agenda. Despite his parents' reluctance and her family's blatant greed, he pursued her without conditions or reservations.
During their courtship, the young couple attended a festival held at the Agravains' estate. In the midst of the celebration, while they were dancing, the police barged in. Lygia's younger sister, Livia, was arrested and banished from Zantium for practicing witchcraft. Her family was publicly humiliated by the scandal and began pressuring Marcus and Lygia to marry as soon as possible in an effort to restore their standing. They were wed the following autumn, settled in the capital city of Kynaston, and had one child, Marena.
Marcus developed a deep hatred of magic, which he found abhorrent. During the invasion of Zantium by the Iskirrans, he fought in battle until his entire troop was eradicated by the invaders, forcing Marcus to flee for his life. He rode to his home and the family managed to escape on board a boat leaving Kynaston, accompanied by Rhys. As they sailed away, the city was burned and consumed before their very eyes. Marcus assumed Dimiter was dead.
They wandered through various lands for three years, encountering bigotry and animosity virtually everywhere they went. After Rhys was killed during a racially-motivated fight at Neroga, Lygia convinced Marcus to settle in the city of Amarna. There, they lived uncomfortably with Livia and her ward, Ardath Dastagir, in a magic shop run by Livia.
Unable to work as a paladin in a society which tolerated witchcraft, Marcus found work as an antique salesman, collecting and selling artifacts salvaged from Zantium. Through this job he was reunited with Dimiter, who had given up being a paladin to become a priest at the Zantine chapel in Amarna.
While living in the magic shop, Marcus and Lygia were in constant conflict with Livia, whose private activities and practices they found repugnant. Like his wife, he initially opposed Marena's marriage to Ardath, believing the boy was a bad influence on her. He reluctantly gave them his blessing after learning the truth about the young protege's origins, but after the wedding took place, Marcus became estranged from Marena.
Both Livia and Lygia died during a plague epidemic that hit the city. Marcus managed to leave before things got worse, and he sent a letter to Marena and Ardath urging them to do the same. However, Marena became trapped behind a quarantine wall during their escape, and was presumed dead. Marcus subsequently lost contact with Ardath.
For the next several years Marcus lived in a house he built due north of Oasis. He developed a reputation as a "witchhunter" and most people feared and loathed him. After encountering Rowan Renard, Marcus agreed to train him as a paladin, assisted by Dimiter.