Appearance and Personality
Marcus is tall and powerfully built. He has dark curly hair (now gray with age), dark brown eyes, an aristocratic nose, and a stern mouth. His skin is tanned and leathery after years living under the hot desert sun, and his face is lined with wrinkles which tell the story of a life filled with both joy and hardship. He still dresses in the quaint styles of his youth, paying no heed to changing fashions over time and across continents, and wears his gold wedding ring on his left hand. His battered sword hangs from a sheath at his hip.
While he puts up a formidable front of stoicism and rugged masculinity, beneath the surface Marcus is highly vulnerable and deeply flawed. His decisions are more often than not made by his feelings, and his sense of duty and responsibility is frequently at odds with his love for his family, creating a powerful conflict that rages within him. Yet this is also the secret to his strength and his courage - he has something worthwhile that he is fighting for.
His violent passions often have violent ends, and he is not without a dark streak. Given time and the opportunity, he showed no mercy to those he had come to hate, even seeking to exchange a hated life for a loved one. He considers it a foolish and wrong act now, but at the time he was absolutely convinced of his own righteousness.
He is also a bigot. He despises magic and looks down upon the people who use it with merciless hatred, and he often makes disparaging remarks about other races and peoples. He views the Exekians as beneath contempt. But he is not a racial supremacist; rather, he is a culturalist. His reasoning for his beliefs is always rooted in either personal experiences or ancient animosities - he identifies himself as a "son of the slave kingdoms" as an explanation for his disdain of the Exekians, and points to the brutalities visited upon his people as the source of his biases against certain human ethnicities. His resentment of Apicartans, for instance, is considerably less intense than his hatred of the Iskirrans.
Though a staunch conservative, he is shown to be willing to break with tradition in special cases. His love for his daughter Marena came into conflict with his instincts and beliefs when she wanted to marry a man outside their faith/race, but ultimately his desire to make her happy silenced his reservations. He suspected that she was using magic, yet he allowed himself to continue on in ignorance of the truth. He fears the thought of condemning those he loves, and the plea for peace in his own home often permeates his prayers to his god.
Origins and Childhood
In the last days of Zantium, Marcus Asher Roland was the eldest child born into the wealthy noble house of Roland. His father Decimus was a war hero and his mother, Stella Matuzek, was a princess. He had one sister, Eunice. At the age of ten he was sent 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 Edric Chanticleer himself. In school he befriended Dimiter Yen, who would remain his closest companion into adulthood.
Marriage to Lygia Agravain
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 continued to pursue 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, the police barged in. Lygia's younger sister, Livia, was arrested and later 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.
Flight From Zantium
During the invasion of Zantium by the Iskirrans, he fought in battle until his entire troop was eradicated by the invaders, including his sister Eunice. The defeat forced Marcus and his friend Dimiter to flee for their lives. He rode to his home and the family managed to escape on board a boat leaving Kynaston, accompanied by Dimiter. As they sailed away, the city was burned and consumed before their very eyes.
They wandered through various lands for three years, encountering bigotry and animosity virtually everywhere they went. After one of their companions, Rhys Sioned, was killed during a racially-motivated fight at Neroga, Lygia convinced Marcus to settle in the city of Melekess. There they lived with Livia and her ward, Ardath Dastagir, in a magic shop run by Livia, by then identifying as a witch.
Ten Years In Melekess
Over time, Marcus had developed a deep loathing for magic, which he found abhorrent. The idea of living with a witch drove him crazy, and he found little sympathy from the people around him. Unable to serve openly as a paladin in a society which tolerated witchcraft, Marcus found work as an antique salesman, collecting and selling artifacts salvaged from the ruins of Zantium. Dimiter meanwhile gave up being a paladin in order to become a priest at the Zantine chapel in Melekess.
While living in the magic shop, Marcus and Lygia were in constant conflict with Livia, who flaunted her magic. The family's arrival put an end to Livia's sporadic abuse of Ardath. Marcus felt sorry for the boy, who had grown up without a father figure and a very poor "mother" in Livia, but like his wife, Marcus 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 noticed that Marena grew more and more distant from her family.
Lygia died during a plague epidemic that hit the city. Grieving and enraged, Marcus used the dagger on Livia, intending to trade her life for Lygia's. But the exchange was refused by a higher power, and for his crime Marcus was arrested. At trial, he was sentenced to the galleys. The night before he was taken away, Ardath visited his cell and told him Marena had died.
The Last Paladin
After spending five years as an enslaved sailor, Marcus was released after he saved the life of an Melekessn commander. Returning to Melekess, he was discovered outside the Nykara Chapel by Octavia Yen, Dimiter's wife. He learned from Dimiter that he was the last known paladin.
While staying with the Yens, Marcus made plans to build a house in the desert, away from civilization. He intended to develop a reputation as a feared and loathed "witchhunter" who could be called upon by the locals to deal with magical disturbances.
Before he could initiate his plans, he was approached by Leonard Gorrister, who wanted to become a paladin. Marcus immediately agreed to take him on as an apprentice, despite the concerns of his friends. He treated the boy roughly in hopes of preparing him for the difficulties of life as a paladin, only showing pity and care after a particularly brutal mission which left Leonard scarred and traumatized. In the end, Leonard was repelled by Marcus' methods and the two were briefly estranged. Their reconciliation only came about after Leonard had forged his own path and Marcus had realized the error of his ways.
Reunion With Marena
With Leonard having completed his training, Marcus moved into the house in the desert he had built. Within a few months, he had a chance encounter with Ardath and an amnesiac but very much alive Marena. After separating her from Ardath, he gave Marena a protective belt and explained as much as he could to her about her past and the dangers of magic. While he allowed her to leave with Ardath, he returned to Melekess for the first time since the death of his wife, determined to keep tabs on their whereabouts and activities.
As the situation became more complex, Leonard came to Marcus with a dire report: Marena had been injured by the ghost of King Luther, and Ardath was being charged with the king's murder. Marcus and Leonard forced their way into the palace. While Marcus took Marena to the arena in order to attend Ardath's trial, Leonard stayed behind to investigate the supernatural energy hanging over the palace.
The two did not meet again until after the trial had concluded, as Marcus convinced Dimiter to hide the real Ardath in Nykara Chapel while Adrian Vandiir, disguised as Ardath, faked his execution. Leonard reported his findings to the others, revealing that a ritual had taken place years ago in the king's private dining room. The participants had each made bargains with an evil spirit, and these bargains resulted in the death of the king, along with who knew what else. Marcus was emphatic that the palace needed to be exorcised and the ritual undone, but this was impossible until they knew the identity of the spirit.
Unbeknownst to him, Marena had already learned this information from Ardath. While she relayed the identity of the spirit (the Magician) to Dimiter, she initially refused to tell Marcus the truth about the bargains made, not knowing how he would react.
While Dimiter went ahead with the exorcism at the palace during the masquerade, Marcus was unaware of what would happen. The expulsion of evil sparked a chain reaction with far-reaching consequences, among them the death of Dimiter at the hands of an enraged Adrian. When Marena's body disappeared and Luther was resurrected, Marcus initially blamed Ardath. Upon learning the truth, he became determined to save Marena at any cost, even if it meant traveling to the Arcane Realm.
Death in the Arcane Realm
Accompanied by Ardath, Marcus astral-projected into the Arcane Realm. There they found Marena's spirit entrapped by the Magician. With her memory restored, she was properly reunited with her father and husband.
However, the Magician refused to give her up. Marcus angrily deflected his attempts at bargaining with them and urged Ardath not to fall for the same trap twice. He and Ardath both fought the Magician, but the ties binding Marena to the Realm could not be broken. Marcus couldn't bear the thought of Marena being trapped there, unable to live the life he had sought to give her. Therefore, he chose to sacrifice himself for her - not by accepting one of the Magician's deals, but by using the mystical dagger to give his life for hers.
As a result, Marcus' spirit was free and unchained to any realm. He chose to remain and continue to do battle with the Magician. Fleeing back to the real world, Marena and Ardath last saw Marcus chasing after the Major Arcana while astride a white stag.