- "Dying is not so hard for people like you and me, it's living that's hard; when all you ever cared about has been butchered or raped... I must confess, little dove, that my plan was to kill the both of you. But loyalty and honor came as natural to you as it does to me. As of now, I have abandoned my omen beliefs of your kind... I tell you this, here and now, so you know my word of death is true. And that my word of life is then true."
- —Markus to Solene Soulstrider, as he declares his friendship between the Order of Crusaders and the Priests of Rathma.
|Markus the Miraculous|
|Affiliation||Order of Crusaders|
|Alias|| Markus the Crusader
|Family||Lord Stellan Karl-Billar (Father)|
|Born||1225 in Gea Kul, Kehjistan|
Valter Karl-Billar was a man from Gea Kul who gave up his name in service of the Order of Crusaders and became Markus the Miraculous. Having been an apprentice for his former master, Markus took on the identity and role of the Crusader to fight corruption in the East. During and after the demonic invasion in 1264, in which the Prime Evils invaded Sanctuary, he aided in the fight against evil. Markus dedicated his life to purging the lands of Kurast from Mephisto's corruption of the Zakarum. He would eventually join forces with the Knights of Westmarch, such as Sir Ingold Thorne, who were sent to help purge the lands in the East from the remaining demonic forces. Markus became a leader of the group known as the Grey Company after befriending the Soulstrider siblings, in which he and his companions fought against a small legion of demons that had been tracked down to the lost city of Ureh.
He is a subject in The Emergence of Evil, as well as the War of the Shadows, which reflected his life as an opportunist initially motivated by self-righteousness who came to show extraordinary initiative, tenacity, and dedication in order to save the lives of hundreds of people during the demonic invasion. Because of his efforts, Markus is beloved by the small folk throughout Kehjistan, having gained the reputation as a savior and peacekeeper.
Upbringing and the Crusade Edit
Born Valter Karl-Billar in the port city of Gea Kul, Valter grew up in a political household to a noble family. He is the second son of the Lord Stellan Karl-Billar who ruled over a corrupt trading company which made dealings with pirates and smugglers. Witnessing his father's corruption spread through port cities, Valter joined the city guard as a means to fight the corruption. He upheld a clean adherence to the law but would sometimes resort to working outside the law to exact justice, such as punishing criminals on his own accord. One example of this is the time he witnessed a woman stabbed to death for her gold purse. Valter managed to capture the assailers and found out they were henchmen working under his father's trading company; he beat them both nearly to death and threw them, broken and crippled, onto the docks. For several weeks he helped the city guard lower the crime that was spreading like wild fire. He eventually convicted his own father and brought an end to his corrupt trading company. Because of this, Valter's entire family disowned him and he was named Valter "Kinbreaker".
After the conviction of his father and being exiled from his own family, he left the city guard and eventually met and became the protege to Markus the Miraculous, a lone Crusader. The two traveled as vagabonds all through out the Eastern cities to aid citizens. In their experience, Markus and Valter saw corruption as "lying in a bed of weeds, tearing them out one by one before they strangle you in your sleep." Overtime, Valter was taught how to channel energy through the Light, a form of 'magic' that is common among the Zakarum hierarchy. Unlike the Zakarum, however, Markus and Valter never showed hostility towards 'dark' magic wielders, such as Witches and Necromancers, but still viewed them as potentially dangerous. Much like the Priests of Rathma, the Crusaders believe in the Balance; they yearned to see mankind embrace the power within, regardless of fanaticism or mysticism.
Having trained for several years as a squire of the Crusaders, Markus passed his role and identity onto his protege Valter shortly before his death. Valter, now his own master, took on the name of Markus as he traveled through the Eastern lands in hopes of finding a calling to his own crusade. He found himself searching old libraries through out Kehjistan, seeking knowledge about the origins of his order. Valter, now known as Markus, would eventually discover the truth of their origins, which was that the Crusaders were sent to purge the corruption that was spreading through the Zakarum. He also learned of the secrets that lay beneath Travincal and that the seeds of hatred were planted by Mephisto many centuries ago. For nearly a decade, Markus sought what information he could find on Mephisto and the Prime Evils. Individuals who worshiped the three demon lords, such as cultists and Vizjerie, were sought by Markus for their knowledge of the Burning Hells.
The Emergence of Evil Edit
In 1264 A.K. Markus stationed himself in Travincal after feeling the presence of Mephisto, the Lord of Hatred, growing stronger. All throughout the realm, citizens of Kurast began to turn on each other; violence and madness soon spilled into the streets. Not long after the chaos started, The High Council of Zakarum began displaying belligerent and despicable behavior. Markus kept much resistant against Mephisto's influence but found he was too late to aid the Zakarum Church. The Order of Paladins fell swiftly into chaos and branded Markus a blasphemer of the Light when he attempted to warn them of the Prime Evils. With no hope left to save the city, nor the Zakarum faith, Markus rallied as many citizens he could that were untouched by madness and they fled into the jungles of Kurast.
After the fall of Kurast, demonic forces trailed Markus and his followers into the jungle for several weeks. He found himself desperate, refusing to lay down arms and fight against the demons, but their numbers and resources continued to dwindle and left the band of survivors with little hope of survival. Eventually, a coven of Zann Esu caught trail and intercepted the demonic forces, saving the group from certain death. Markus swore his allegiance to the sorceresses for preventing his demise. The Zann Esu leader, Lyola the Sorceress, returned back to their encampment with the Kurast surviviors.
Markus and Lyola held council together for several days and debated their next course of action. He told her the reports of the Prime Evils, such Mephisto underneath Travincal and the Dark Wanderer who passed through. It was eventually decided that the Kurast survivors march far west for safe haven in Gea Kul. Lyola chose a selection of sorceresses as an escort for the long march. Markus, meanwhile, assembled a large militia from the Kurast survivors who wished to help in the fight against the demonic invasion.
Fall of the Zakarum Edit
Several months after the Invasion of Kurast, word began to spread about an anonymous individual, known only as the Dark Wanderer, who had traveled to the city and entered the Temple of Light. In the weeks that passed, Markus and Lyola established a plan to fight the demonic forces in Kurast, and news reached their encampment that a group of heroes had entered the city and wiped out the hostile inhabitants; what became of the heroes and what transpired between Mephisto and the Dark Wanderer remained a mystery. Despite whatever rumors of Mephisto and the corruption that had spread in Kurast, Markus and Lyola were determined to slay the creatures that still lurked within the city.For their plan to retake Kurast, much became clear to Lyola regarding the intentions of Markus: eliminate and purge the corrupt zealots that had fallen to Mephisto's hatred. In his own mind, however, the Crusader was motivated to save the fallen Zakarum, for he hoped the corruption that loomed like a dark cloud over Kurast would eventually clear and reveal the dawn. As for Lyola, she beceame eager to unleash the elemental magic onto the city and wipe out the demonic host. Markus persuaded her against this, convincing her that it may also wipe out any surviving citizens or Zakarum who may yet be saved. He inspired hope into the Zann Esu that the city may be reclaimed by combatant force and that a battle was imminent.
Markus recruited many different groups and individuals who traveled to Kurast's outskirts - holy warriors, treasure seekers, adapt mages, assassins, religious fanatics, and witch doctors - and they all found themselves surveying the once great city. Before long, Lyola and her sorceresses gathered as one and held an open forum for many days. During the discussions, Markus, along with many travelers, unanimously agreed to reclaim the city by force. After the forum ended a militia was formed with Markus and Lyola as the helm of the assembled army. The militia comprised of many warriors across the realms of Sanctuary and were united to vanquish the invaders; this act would inherently spark a working relation with the Eternal Companions, with Ikeda Cao and several key members contributing to the retribution of Kurast.
By the time the militia marched upon the city they found it mostly desolate and inhabited. It soon became apparent after further investigation that a majority of demons that had invaded Kurast were slain and their corpses scattered across the city; the group of heroes who had entered the Temple of Light left no trace of there current whereabouts. However, the few demons and unholy zealots that remained gathered in force and sought combat against Markus and the militia. Thus commenced the Battle of Kurast, lasting several days and resulted in the humans successfully retaking the city. Having hoped to save the zealots from Mephisto's corruption but ultimately failed, Markus found himself in utter despair after slaying those who had fallen into Mephisto's hatred.
Weeks after the Battle of Kurast, corpses and rivers of blood were scattered across the city. Faith in the Zakarum Church was shattered once its former demonic influence was revealed. Word soon reached the survivors of Kurast that Emperor Hakan I had moved Kehjistan's capital from Travincal to Caldeum as a political move. The humans who survived cleansed away the devastation the best they could, while others abandoned the ruined city to hunt down the demons that fled before the battle had ended. Markus found himself burdened by the loss of life and would often wander the halls in the Temple of Light, slowing falling into madness. However, Lyola pulled him away from his dark path and eventually they both developed an infatuation with each other.
Eastern Equilibrium Edit
Much became clear months after Kurast was reclaimed from the demonic invasion: Mephisto had been captured and buried beneath the Temple of Light centuries ago, only for his corruption to spread through out the High Council of Travincal over time. Markus and Lyola also learned that the Dark Wanderer who entered the city on the eve of the invasion was in fact the culprit who released the Lord of Hatred from imprisonment. Word swiftly spread throughout all Kehjistan that Mephisto had perished by the efforts of a small group of heroes who entered the blackened temple to fight the demon lord.
The citizens and militia who survived began rebuilding and salvaging what little they could from the city; the Zakarum religion forever remained crippled and many lost faith in its religious potency. Kurast received little assistance from neighboring nations, but in 1266 reinforcements from Westmarch reached the city and provided food, resources and aid to the survivors of Kurast. The Westmarch commander, Sir Randyl Bennen, and his second-in-command, Sir Ingold Thorne, proved vigorous in restoring the Zakarum faith to its citizens, thus giving them hope. The westerners also used their manpower to guard the city from creatures, demons or undead that still lurked in the outskirts of the jungles. Markus was lauded by Sir Randyl and Sir Ingold in his efforts for leading the militia to victory in the fight to reclaim the city, but Markus was reluctant to receive their compliments due to the late arrival of the Western reinforcements.
After the Westmarch army claimed the city and began helping the denizens restore order, Sir Randyl and Sir Ingold summoned all the leaders and representatives in the Kurast region to hold a council, and thus the Great Forum of Kurast began. Among the participants in this open forum were several key aldermen:
- Natalya, the Viz-Jaq'taar leader who fought in the Battle of Kurast and spied on Ormus.
- The Eternal Eight, a band of warriors who fought in the Battle of Kurast.
- Markus the Miraculous, a Crusader who lead the militia into the Battle of Kurast.
- Sir Randyl, a Westmarch Paladin who is commander of the Western reinforcements.
- Sir Ingold, a Westmarch Knight who is second-in-command to Randyl.
- Lyola, a Zenn Esu Sorceress who is the leader of her coven and fought in the Battle of Kurast.
- Ormus, a Taan Mage who was essential in providing safety and wisdom to the Kurast Docks.
- Asheara, a mercenary leader of the Iron Wolves and protector of the Kurast Docks.
- Sir Hale, a Kehjistani Paladin who fought in the Battle of Kurast.
- Hyuga, an Umbaru Witch Doctor sent by his tribe for information regarding the events that transpired.
- Dearak, an Ivgorodi Monk who provided healing for citizens and soldiers and fought in the Battle of Kurast.
- Zayl, a Priest of Rathma sent by his order for information regarding the events that transpired.
- Chieftain Grey, a Scosglen Druid sent by his tribe for information regarding the events that transpired.
The city of Kurast became secured with the combined efforts of the Western Zakarum under Sir Randyl and the Eastern Zakarum under Sir Markus. By early 1265, Markus had successfully gathered multiple Crusaders from his order to the ruins of Kurast. Among these Crusaders was Mullins the Mighty who was a veteran Cursader; Ikeda Cao, who had befriended Markus during the Battle of Kurast, would later recruit Mullins into his organization. Other organizations contributed to the restoration of Kurast, such as the Eternal Companions under Ikeda, the Iron Wolves under Ashera, a portion of the Zenn Esu clan under Lyola and a portion of the Taan clan under Ormus. Hesitant to trust Sir Randyl the Paladin, due to his lack of war experience, Markus instead turned to Ingold to share his wisdom and understanding of the eastern realm. Overtime, Ingold proved to be a loyal friend to Markus.
Heart of Fire Edit
Circa 1267, the regional warriors and denizens of Kehjistan formulated ways to rebuild Kurast. Having been stationed for nearly a year, the Western Zakarumites under Sir Randyl's leadership played a large role in the development of the once proud city. Whilst the city was under construction, Markus became contempt at tracking down the countless demons that still plagued the Kehjistan jungles. Sir Ingold took heed of the Crusader's motivation to continue fighting, thus prompting his command to take action; hoping to gain a political advantage over Kurast, Sir Randyl initially denied Ingold's request to aid Markus in sending out a garrison to hunt down the demons that still lingered outside the city. Lyola meanwhile created a Zenn Esu outpost within the city and held council for days with Markus at what actions should be taken to travel the regions of Kehjistan.
Markus and his Crusaders prepared a campaign to enter the jungle and wipe out the demons. When Randyl initially learned of the Order of Crusaders, he challenged their religious beliefs by claiming they represented falsehood in the Zakarum faith, and in doing so sparked a religious debate among the Western and Eastern philosophies. Markus, in the end, indoctrinated Randyl that the Order of Crusaders were set upon the path of the Light, and thus invoked Randyl to prove his worth.
In the days following the philosophical differences between western and eastern Zakarum, Randyl's thirst for glory became apparent when he took Markus' initial offer at hunting down the remaining demons in the Kehjistani jungles. Markus formed a garrison of regional warrios who wished to travel with him, whilst Randyl was accompanied by Ingold and the remaining western soldiers. Markus, who had grown fond of Lyola's company, promised to return to Kurast after he accomplished his task. Lyola said her goodbyes to Markus with a passionate kiss. Mullins was left in charge of the defense of Kurast, and thus eventually established Kurast as a temporary headquarters for the Eternal Companions to conduct operations and recruit new members.
By the time Randyl and Markus left Kurast and entered the jungles with their own garrisons, a powerful Fallen Overseer named Gorganog had mustered a horde of surviving fallen that had retreated from the Battle of Kurast. Gorganog had also enslaved many of the corrupt Zealots and assimilated them into his army. Markus and Randyl both heard the rumors of the demon's unstoppable rampage through the jungle, and while Markus sought to work closely with Randyl on the matter, the Paladin of Westmarch acted alone by challenging Gorganog as a means to show his worth. Despite his thirst for glory and dogma, Randyl began to change into a much more cautious and seasoned commander, yet madness in the end began to taint his mind.
After tracking Gorganog for nearly a month within the jungle, Randyl began to lose much of his sanity, alas the darkening and corruption of Kehjistan began taking its tole on the young Paladin. Markus kept his distance from Randyl's garrison, but upon learning that the young Paladin was executing his own soldiers for wrongful accounts of treason and heresy, Markus began to to reveal his concerns by intervening during Randyl's outbursts. On one such occasion, Randyl abruptly challenged Markus to a duel, but Ingold held his commander back. Ingold began to work closely with Markus after he realized his Lord Commander was losing himself into madness. It was a curious thing to Markus, how Sir Ingold somehow was placed 2nd in Command to an inexperienced and weak minded individual like Randyl.
With the united friendship of Markus and Ingold, both garrisons began working closer together, and though Randyl's madness and paranoia grew everyday, he managed to contain his outbursts. As they neared Ureh, Markus and his comrades eventually engaged in the Battle of Red Valley, a brutal fight between the combined forces of Markus and Randyl against Gorganog and his demonic horde. During the fight, which lasted day and night, Randyl turned hostile on Ingold by challenging him to duel. Markus, who unable to intervene in the duel, managed to lend his holy magic to Ingold so that it may give him an edge over Randyl. In the end, Ingold slew Randyl Bennen when the latter revealed the full extent of his madness. Markus defeated Gorganog with the aid of Oberith Marth and Robert Connington.
With the Gorganog defeated and his horde scattered, the remaining Western forces assumed Ingold as their commander. Jakob Hodgeson, a scout under Ingold's command, learned that the remaining forces of Gorganog had retreated to Ureh as a safe haven. With only thirteen men left, Markus and Ingold took shelter for the night. Both commanders decided they would travel to Ureh and eradicate the retreating Fallen with the remaining men they had left. The next morning, all of the men slain in combat were buried with the exception of Randyl, who was cremated on a pyre. Ingold kept Randyl's hierloom sword, The Dawn, for safe keeping so that he may return the blade to Duke Byron Bennen. During the funerals, two necromancers appeared from the jungle and crossed paths with Markus and his comrades.
The Grey Company Edit
Character and Appearance Edit
Like all Crusaders of his Order, Markus is known to carry his shield and heavy armor at all times. Though he seldom removes his helmet, many consider him to be ruggedly handsome, yet when in combat his face has a tightness to it like cured leather and with hollow cheeks. He bares several scars on his face and body from the years spent in combat. Though zealous and weathered, Markus' eyes show kindness and wisdom.
Possessing a rich, commanding voice and great physical strength, Markus is also capable of gentleness and compassion, though he does not suffer fools. He is extremely lawful with an inflexible sense of duty and justice, though he can often be described as obsequious and without scruple. His demeanor is soft spoken and obedient but can often displays grunt and aggressive behavior even in the slightest hostilities, as he once broke a man's jaw for shouting blasphemes about the Zakarum faith, for example. However, he regrets that violence is the only way to solve some problems.
Markus is at his peak against demons and undead, and brings his full array of spells and abilities to bear against these creatures — smites, banishing strikes, power turning, searing light from his shield, hooks of binding and dispel evil. He prefers leading others into battle, but fights alone if the situation warrants. Markus endangers himself to help others if he must, and is willing to sacrifice himself for others — but he does not do so foolishly, as he knows how valuable he is to Sanctuary.
- "I used to be a city guard a long time ago. And I would get called out on domestic disputes all the time. Hundreds, probably, over the years. But there was this one guy — this one piece of shit — that I will never forget: Gordy the Grunt. He looked like a wendingo, the kind you hear about in children's stories. Anyway, he was a big guy. But his wife … or whatever she was, his lady … was real small. Like a bird, about your height. Wrists like branches. Anyway, my partner and I got called out there once a week, and one of us would pull her aside and say 'M'lady, tonight’s the night we throw Gordy in the dungeon.’ But she would not confess, and this wasn’t one of those deep-down he-loves-me set-ups — we get a lot of those — but not this. This girl was scared. She wasn’t going to cross him, no way, no how. Nothing we could do but pass her off to the cleric, escort Gordy to the barracks, and throw him in the drunk tank. He sleeps it off, next morning out he goes. Back home. But one night, my partner’s out sick, and it’s just me. And the report comes in and it’s the usual crap: the lady 'broke her nose by falling down some stairs' kind of thing. So I threw Gordy in shackles, escorted him downtown and away we go... Only that night, we’re walking into town, and Gordy the Grunt is humming a song as proud and happy as he can be. And it just rubbed me wrong. So instead of left, I go right, out into nowhere through the dark forest. And I kneel him down, and I put my dagger in his mouth, and I told him, ‘This is it. This is how it ends.’ And he’s crying, pissing all over himself, swearing to whatever gods are listening that he’s going to leave her alone. He was screaming … as much as you can with a blade in your mouth. And I told him to be quiet. I needed to think about what I was going to do here. And of course he got quiet. Goes still. And real quiet. Like a dog waiting for dinner scraps. And we just stood there for a while, me acting like I’m thinking things over, and Prince Charming kneeling in the dirt with shit in his pants. And after a few minutes I took the blade out of his mouth, and I say, 'So help me if you touch her again I will such-and-such and such-and-such and blah blah blah blah blah.'... But in the end, I let him live and released him... Just trying to do the right thing. But two weeks later he killed his lady... of course. Caved her head in with the steel mace. We got there, there was so much blood you could taste the metal... The moral of the story is: I chose a half measure, when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again."
- —Markus to Solene, telling a story about his past before he became a Crusader.