There is another tale of love well known in Kaerok and Arnoc, but one much darker than Minaya’s and Khoronar’s adventures. It starts with a bold young nobleman, whose family had lost everything but their title; their lands, their estates, their wealth – all had been seized to repay debts accumulated over generations of careless debauchery. This left Rotos with little to his name except for his pride and his skill with the rapier. Though that barely stopped the young man from spending his youth duelling, drinking, and racking up new debts. It was only when the danger of assassins sent by the usurers became real that he finally realized it was time to disappear, at least for a time.
Although his talents were limited and so were the fields where Rotos could employ them in full, he had chosen a career many would not have considered – that of a pirate. With what little silver was left in his purse and his faithful rapier at his side, Rotos sought out the crew of a pirate ship and made his bid to join.
He spent the next decade sailing the seas and living the life of high adventure, where skill, audacious bravery, and a dash of good fortune were the only things one could rely on. Though he led many brazen raids upon attaining his own captainship and grew rich on plunder, Rotos remained a gentleman of good repute first and foremost. He was never bloodthirsty and never killed without need, nor allowed his crew any excesses. On occasion, he pursued and fought less scrupulous corsairs who ‘gave the profession a bad name’ as Rotos himself claimed.
It was one such encounter that allowed the bold Captain to claim his most prized treasure. But it was neither silver nor gems nor even an enchanted weapon of days long past that captivated Rotos’ heart. It was a woman by the name of Siphi, hailing from faraway southern islands, whom Rotos freed from captivity. She was beautiful and fierce, and while she was not trained as a warrior, Siphi seized the opportunity during the boarding battle and struck down her captors right in front of dumbfounded Rotos. If there was ever love at first sight, he told his crew later, it would have to be the sight of an angry Southerner woman knocking a brute twice her size out with a candleholder.
While some scoundrels may have taken advantage of the situation, Rotos was determined to court and woo his beautiful rescuee the old-fashioned way. Siphi met his advances with cold derision at first, then with amusement, but Rotos’ charms were as true as was his determination. After weeks of back-and-forth, she finally relented and showed interest, and this was but a spark that lit the flames of passion. Over the next several months Siphi and Rotos spent nearly every waking hour together and grew to truly appreciate one another.
She became his confidant, his voice of reason, and Rotos remained the brazen risk-taker with a contagious lust for adventure and dramatic flair that would put High Elves to shame. As their love blossomed, Rotos finally realized that the time to return home was upon him. With the riches he gained in the past decade, he managed to pay off all of his debts, and still own enough to ensure he and Siphi would live in luxury – provided the silver was spent wisely to set his ancestral household up once more.
Unfortunately, Mayhew Pouillac – the wealthiest money-lender in Arnoc at the time – regarded the damage his reputation sustained when Rotos fled to be far greater than any payment could make up for. He pretended otherwise, however, and accepted Rotos and his then-bride like guests of honour. For a hefty interest on top of the original debt and penalties, Pouillac ‘forgave’ Rotos and even offered assistance in rebuilding his family estate.
But on the day of Rotos’ and Siphi’s wedding, the vengeful usurer finally enacted his cruel plan. Hired thugs barged into the church where the ceremony was taking place. They carried bared weapons which ignored all tradition and Lumayan law and slaughtered unarmed guests like cattle. Although Rotos’ frenzied last stand cost more than a dozen mercenaries their lives, he had no chance against so many on his own. Crucified against the wall with spears, he could only watch in desperation as brutish hirelings murdered Siphi moments before his heart stopped beating. The last thing he heard was Siphi cursing the treacherous wretches in her native tongue and promising vengeance from beyond the grave.
With their bloody work done, Pouillac’s mercenaries departed, leaving the bodies of the slain where they had fallen. It was fortunate that the local townsfolk discovered the slaughter and ensured proper burial rites were upheld, but of the murderers, there was no sign. Days passed, the Sheriff charged with overseeing that province found no leads and made little effort to seek justice on behalf of a man who was a known pirate, and, meanwhile, ominous rumours spread through the land. People said that the flowers left on the graves of the newlyweds all withered within a night. All save for two roses, which turned an unnatural and eerie blue – unlike any of the flowers that grew in those parts. Others spoke of loud weeping and wailing, of the sound of nails raking the wood of the coffins coming from below ground. Of strange, mist-like figures appearing in the church. It did not take the locals long to declare the place cursed and abandon it altogether.
But the echoes of this slaughter reached as far as Arnoc itself, and vengeance promised by Siphi came to fruition before her murderers even had a chance to celebrate their success. One by one, the mercenaries involved in the attack died under mysterious circumstances. They always disappeared in the dead of night, only to be found by morning with their faces pale and twisted with fear, their bodies bled dry. No matter what they did, no matter what gods they prayed to, within a fortnight they died to a man.
News of the murders reached Pouillac and sent him scrambling. Had Rotos somehow survived the attack? Did his mercenaries lie? There were no answers to these questions, and the terrified usurer barricaded himself in his estate, doubled the guard, and waited for the storm to pass. None of that availed him…
One night, blood-chilling screams shattered the silence over Pouillac’s estate. So terrifying they were, that the citizens who lived nearby barred their doors and windows, unwilling to risk whatever monsters stalked their streets. It was only in the morning they dared to enter the usurer’s grand manor. What they found inside was shocking – bodies heaped across the floors, all with the same fearful look frozen on their faces. Not a single soul survived, no guard, no servant, they had all perished during the night. And as for Pouillac himself, he was found in his chambers, curled up and gripping himself so tightly it took the coroners considerable effort to move his hands from his face and reveal the look of primal terror that must have stopped the usurer’s heart in his final moments.
No trace of the murderers was ever found, but Old Arnault, a crippled half-mad drunk of some renown in the city, swore on Lumaya’s name that he saw two ghostly figures in the estate’s courtyard that night. One a man in the trappings of a nobleman, one – a woman dressed in strange finery of foreign make. Who or even what they were, he could not say. Only that the strangers left the estate soon after screaming stopped, then faded from sight, never to be seen in Arnoc again.