Roland is a half-elf knight, fathered by a human noble and an elven ranger who served on a campaign together. After a very brief fling, his father returned home to fulfill his arranged marriage and his mother returned to the forest. She told no one of her encounter with the human, none except her grandfather. He took her from their village under the guise of a pilgrimage, when in fact they moved to a remote area of the forest for her to birth her bastard. Early in the pregnancy the old elf noticed things were not well with the unborn. The mother had horrible nightmares, her health suffered. He pleaded with his granddaughter to let him take the baby and end this demon’s work. But she persisted, insisting that her child would come into the world as nature intended. Roland did come, but he came early and he took his time coming. The mother labored for days, the old elf worried she might not survive. But she was equal to the task, and finally Roland emerged. The grandfather did his best to tend to the mother, but it was to no avail, she perished 3 days after the baby was born. Before she passed, she told him of the boy’s father and asked that when the time was right, he make the boy known to him. The old elf agreed and set about the business of raising Roland. This was no easy thing, as it seemed misfortune hounded his every turn. Spring floods ruined his crops, droughts chased the animals from his normal hunting grounds, pests infested his grain stores, his home was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. But he trudged through it all, raising the boy up as best he could. Roland was a friendly boy who smiled a lot. Not the brightest student, but a hard worker who was easily contented to be with others and share a tale or two. Despite living a rather isolated life, whenever the two would make supply runs to the local villages Roland always found a new best friend or two. He loved meeting new people and they seemed to take to him right away. Life continued on this way for some time. Then, as he approached his 12th birthday, his great grandfather took ill. Despite being an apt pupil, Roland was not capable of tending the old elf’s needs. The grandfather, not wanting to leave a half-breed bastard alone in the world, sent word to the father. Not sure what to expect, he left very specific instructions for the boy should no word arrive before he passed. But, Roland’s father did not send a messenger. He came himself. He arrived in time to speak with the old elf, hear the tale of Roland’s life and to assure him he would be taken in and treated fairly. He offered to take them both to his estate, but the old elf refused. He knew his time would come before the trip would end. He did not want that to be the last memory for Roland to have of him. He hugged him tight, told him to mind his father and always honor his heritage, both sides. And with that, Roland ended his time in the elven world, reclusive as it had been. To his surprise, he learned his father was also named Roland. “Roland the Eld now, I suppose.” He also learned that he had a brother of around the same age and that there was a whole estate full of people eager to meet him, including his stepmother. Apparently it was she that demanded Roland be picked up in person and brought home immediately upon learning of his situation. Roland the Eld lived up to his promises, bringing the boy home, making him a place in his family. He was thrust into the world of human nobles, and despite loathing the countless hours with his tutors trying to force him to learn, he loved the busy estate. His father insisted he learn the way of the sword, insisting that he be able to defend himself and others. “Your worth as a noble is in your ability to protect your people and your lands. If either is not safe, then neither will serve you.” This resonated with Roland deeply and he decided then that he would be a knight. He threw himself into that pursuit, and despite being undersized by human standards, he soon excelled at it. Within a year, he was routinely besting the other boys in the training ring. This included his brother Raff. In spite of the fact that he was junior to Roland by 8 months, Raff stood a head taller and outweighed the half-elf by 2 stones. Raff was never bested in a test of strength or endurance, but in the ring he could never quite catch Roland and always found himself looking up at the diminutive boy. Time passed and with each year, this life became Roland’s norm. He was well liked throughout his father’s lands and was growing into quite the young man. He had ascended to the position of knight-initiate, waiting only for combat in the service of the king or time abroad to complete his training. His father had announced that, regardless of traditions, he held Roland to be a legitimate heir. As such, Roland now stood as his successor as he was the oldest son. This decision enraged his wife and turned Raff against Roland. The two conspired to be rid of him and soon set that plan into motion. Roland was dispatched, along with Raff and 3 others, to provide assistance to his step-mother’s family estate. There was a long standing dispute between her family and a pack of gnolls as to territorial boundaries and it was heating up again. The young men rode out, Roland believing that this might well earn him his knighthood, Raff believing it would return him to his rightful place at his father’s side. Raff had devised a plan in which their group would be ambushed, the others would be killed and he would be wounded. The sole survivor, he would paint Roland as a traitor that had turned on them and then ran. But the mercenaries decided to take them all and their money and sell them into slavery. More money from live slaves than dead knights, they reasoned. The mercenaries made sure to tell Roland who had ordered his death. They also made sure to sell them to different slavers. But knights are not sold to quarry masters, they are sold to lanistas. It might take a life of noble studies to become a knight, but 6 months in a ludus would be enough to make them gladiators. Roland found himself halfway around the world, the property of a wealthy merchant family. He was also under the boot heel of a sadistic dwarf whose job it was to teach him to be a gladiator. Apparently, everything he had ever been taught in his life about anything was wrong. On the odd day when he could understand what was being yelled at him, it was always the same thing. “You aren’t going to make it here, boy-o” But eventually, he did. And not only did he survive, he thrived. He was loved by the crowds. He did not fight with his arm, but with his head and his heart and they worshipped him for it. Even the old dwarf had taken a shine to him. How could he not? Roland was his star pupil, and he painted the sands red every time they demanded it. He served them loyally and made them riches they had not imagined possible. He was their champion, his name echoed throughout the arena for over 5 years. Never bested, he was legend throughout this part of the world. But always, his heart and his mind were home. Finally, Roland was summoned to his lanista’s chambers. There the old man and the Dwarf he called Doctore stripped him of his sword and replaced it with another, a simple wooden sword. “Am I to train others?” Roland asked. “No boy-o, that’s your freedom. You are no longer a gladiator, you are now a rudiarius. You belong to no one, and that rudis is your proof.” They awarded him not only his freedom, but a percentage of the money he had brought them. It was hardly enough to reimburse him his time, but it was enough to get home.
Upon returning, his father told him that the news of Raff’s passing had broken his wife’s heart. She went mad with grief and took her own life. Roland decided not to tell his father that he had no way of knowing what became of Raff. Instead, he let him believe the young man dead. He thought that better than the disappointment of knowing Raff’s true nature. After hearing his son’s tale, Roland the Eld offered Roland the office of high protector and the rank of knight marshal. Roland thought this over for some time. After all, it was exactly what he had wanted as a young man. But, ultimately, he knew it was not where he belonged. He decided instead, to accept the title of knight-errant. He swore to always be at his father’s service when called or to return when his father’s time was ending. But in the interim, he would find his own way in the world.