Laura Melissa Stirling (née Zosimus) was the queen consort of King Aldous and mother of King Richard and Princess Eleanor. The child of Lord Gavin Zosimus and his first wife Melissa, she lived a privileged life in Tyr until the War of Succession, which cost her father his life and everything her family held dear. To survive, the teenage Laura wed the king, ensuring her and her half-brother would be spared.
Beloved by her subjects, she was known as the "queen of peace" for her efforts to end the Fifth Exekian War.
Laura was born in 164 AYZ, on the side of the road just outside Bodai. She was the only child of Lord Gavin Zosimus and his first wife Melissa. Her birth was facilitated by Rowan Renard, the son of a local midwife. Rowan had intended to lead them to his mother, but Melissa's condition was too advanced, and they were forced to stop along the way. Present at her birth were all major members of the cult of Vormund, save Kemet. Her mother died of hemorrhaging shortly after her birth.
News of her grandmother's impending death reached them when Laura was just five days old. Gavin decided to leave her at Arza Kell in the care of Kemet and Sophia Richter while he went to Tyr to reconcile with his mother. Laura spent the first five weeks of her life with the couple, bonding to them. Sensing Vormund had been captured, Kemet moved them south, leaving the compromised safety of the cave. The place was subsequently ransacked by the police.
Warned by Rowan about Vormund's arrest, Gavin returned to Arza Kell to retrieve Laura, accompanied by Rowan, and his manservant John Faulkner. They found the cave in disarray and feared the worst, but Kemet sent Gavin a dream the following night informing them of their whereabouts and returned Laura to her father. In gratitude, Gavin gave Kemet and Sophia one of his sigloi, allowing them to escape across the border.
Due to his status, Gavin was largely ignored by the police, but his meddling in the Temple's prosecution of Vormund and his followers made him many enemies. Despite using his wealth and influence to his advantage, he was only able to save Drusus Rolfe, who went on to lead the religious extremist/terrorist organization known as the Eclipse.Council and was known as the wealthiest man in the kingdom due to the vast inheritance he received from his father. He was also a devout Vormundist, practicing the outlawed religion in secret and raising his children in the faith. Due to her noble upbringing, Laura led a relatively luxurious and happy childhood at the family estate, Isidore, although she was not without fear. Persecution of Vormundists gradually increased as she grew older, and her father's enemies were numerous and unscrupulous.She began receiving betrothal requests when she was still very young. Both Prince Aldous and Prince Claudius were considered potential suitors for her, and King Tristan suggested that she be betrothed to one of them. Her father politely declined the offer, claiming he wanted to wait and see what kind of woman she grew into.
As a child Laura was close to Vincent, her father's blind ward. On cold nights she would invite Vincent into her rooms, and he would sing for her or they would talk into the daylight hours.
When Laura was fourteen, the War of Succession broke out following the assassination of King Tristan by the Eclipse. Gavin Zosimus supported Claudius Stirling, who had proclaimed his intentions to end the persecution of the Vormundists in spite of the Eclipse's affiliations with the religious group.Two years later, Gavin was slain at the Battle of Duat. Aldous Stirling, feeling himself betrayed by Gavin, arrived at Isidore with his army not long after. Taking the Zosimuses prisoner, he ordered his soldiers to loot and destroy their home. Laura attempted to escape in the chaos that followed, but Aldous himself chased and caught her.
She was then separated from her mother and brother and placed in the care of the king's sister Helen. Helen informed Laura she was at the mercy of the king and took the girl to Carthmere Castle, where she was expected to placidly await her fate.
Life at Carthmere
After another failed escape attempt, Laura was kept under heavy guard and forbidden to leave the castle walls. She was, for all intents and purposes, a well-treated political prisoner. Lonely and frightened, she reached out to the various servants and ladies-in-waiting she had been given, particularly her handmaiden Hera O'Leary and lady-in-waiting Melanie Liu, and eventually to Aldous' sister Helen, the mistress of the castle. Helen regarded her as an annoyance, but sought to use her to her advantage. She cultivated a tenuous friendship with young Laura, urging her on and manipulating her to suit her own ends.
Three years since the beginning of the civil war, Claudius was finally captured, and after his execution Aldous returned to his castle. By then aged seventeen, Laura was considered of marriageable age, and Aldous' advisers suggested he wed her. Laura agreed to the marriage in order to protect Galahad, whom she learned had been pressed into service as a knight, and Vincent, who had been found begging in the streets.Upon her wedding she was crowned queen of Alucarsia.Once she became queen, the ban preventing Laura from leaving her place of residence was lifted, and she was permitted to venture out so long as she had an escort to protect her. By her own request, she was usually accompanied by her brother.
Only a few months after they were wed, Laura began showing signs of pregnancy. At around the same time Aldous was called to battle against the Exekian raiders under Nechtan. He decided to take his wife with him to war, defying the advice of the royal physician.
War broke out between the humans and the New Exekian Empire when Aldous began to push the southwest border, hoping to gain more land. He fought against Nechtan in various skirmishes, camping near the ruins of Iskirra.
Pregnant and living in the king's camp on the battlefield, it is believed Laura suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. The death of the child was kept hidden from the king, most likely out of fear of how he would react.
According to legend, she found an abandoned Exekian infant lying on the ground underneath a sycamore tree, took the child home with her and nursed him back to health, naming him John. Her husband returned victorious from battle against the Exekians to find his wife nursing an Exekian child. The highly superstitious king allowed John to remain, fearing retaliation upon his house if he harmed the child.
Shortly thereafter, Laura left the tent and gave a rousing speech to Aldous' disgruntled, terrified troops, calling for an end to the needless conflict. Aldous was unable to stop her, and soon his soldiers began deserting by the thousands, leaving him with no choice but to call off the invasion. It was this event that earned Laura the moniker of "queen of peace".
Laura became pregnant again a year later and gave birth to a healthy son, Richard.
Birth of Eleanor
Laura's daughter, Eleanor, was born when she was twenty.
Later Years and Death
The last years of Laura's life passed rather uneventfully. She focused on raising her three children, teaching them courage and compassion. In each of them she instilled a strong belief in peace and coexistence between peoples. Her sons adored her, but Eleanor was often disobedient and appeared to dislike her mother.
Vincent fell ill with a fever, and Laura tended to him herself. By the time his fever broke, Laura had also become ill. She died not long after at the age of twenty seven.
While she was somewhat mousy as a child, as an adult Laura was known for being extremely beautiful. She was small in stature, with long legs and a slender figure. Her fair skin, delicate features, and mane of curly dark hair were considered very attractive. Her daughter Eleanor bears a strong resemblance to her.
In her youth Laura was carefree and mischievous, always wanting to have fun. The loss of her family and her being thrust into the role of wife and queen at a young age took its toll, and she became passive and docile. While she had her own opinions, she kept these to herself.
Upon finding John, however, the spark of courage and rebellion was reignited in her. Disobeying Aldous, whom she had come to fear, marked a turning point in her life.
At court, she was a more controversial figure. While many described her as charming, others found her cold. She was intelligent, with a sharp wit and a biting sense of humor. Her opinions were sometimes radical. A few among the nobility considered her a threat, while others saw her as merely a nuisance.
She loved Vincent for his gentleness and warmth, but also because he was more level-headed than she. He was able to rein her in, and as long as he was there to stop her from doing something crazy, she felt secure.
Richard referred to John and himself as "the sons of the queen of peace". She was beloved by her people, especially the Vormundists, who saw her and her father as their champions against persecution.