Gavin Zosimus was a human male from Iskirra. A child of the new nobility, he was considered one of the richest men in the country. By his first wife Melissa, he fathered Laura Stirling, and by his second wife Beatrice, he fathered Balian Zosimus. He is the maternal grandfather of King Richard Stirling and Princess Eleanor Stirling.
An original member of the Cult of Vormund, Gavin moved with his children to Apicarta, where he became a knight. He worked to protect fellow believers, distribute copies of the Mandorlin, and contributed religious writings on the history of Vormundism.
During the War of Succession, he sided with Claudius after the prince promised to end persecution of Vormundists and to seek peace with the Exekians. Aldous took his betrayal personally, and deliberately sought Gavin out during the Battle of Kirk's Bluff, where it is believed he slew Gavin during combat.
Gavin is of average height and build, with wavy brown hair and deep-set dark eyes. He has a "kind" face, generally mild in its expressions and regular of features. He wears his age well.
Because of the baggage inherent in his legendary surname, he has always been very aware of the vultures and parasites who are drawn to his family's wealth and prestige. To counteract this, he endeavors to appear stoic and withdrawn to the general public. This is a defensive measure; he is afraid of being used and deceived by the few people he dares to put his faith in.
Unusually, Gavin has very high empathy. This ability to feel for others has led to him developing a strong sense of morality and a strict adherence to a set of principles. He tries to be a mediator in conflicts, as he is able to easily see both sides of an issue. But his strong sensitivity to pain and suffering will rapidly erode his emotional endurance, eventually leading to a breakdown. He frequently takes on more baggage than he can carry, and bites off more than he can chew.
His strongest motivation is his love for his family, particularly his children, and he will stop at nothing to protect and provide for them. His intense devotion is obvious to his enemies and can be easily exploited.
While he was a self-proclaimed cynic in his youth, his nature is actually idealistic. His desire to remake the world as a better place for his children has only intensified as he matured. Some would call this naive, if not foolish, but Gavin is ready to devote himself to a good cause, provided it is something he truly believes in.
In conversation he is always polite and courteous, but as a result he sometimes comes across as boring and stuffy. He is eloquent and a man of letters, but laments that he frequently has nothing to say.
Born in 140 AYZ, Gavin was the second son of Hugh Zosimus and Sibylla Andronikos. His father was a Zantine from a noble family, and his mother was a member of the so-called "new nobility", a class of wealthy men and women who married into the noble houses of fallen nations such as Zantium. Gavin was preceded by his brother Stephen, who was about two years older. Also living with the family was Hugh's widowed sister, Joan Zosimus, whom the children affectionately called "Auntie Joan".
The Zosimus family was well known for their great wealth, gained from their ownership of a media empire that promoted state propaganda. Gavin was raised in the lap of luxury, living a sheltered life at the family estate, Isidore. With Stephen as the heir to the family fortune, he was not raised to handle the responsibilities of inheriting his father's fortune.
Gavin's relationship with Stephen was friendly, marked by the usual sibling rivalry and mischief. The only time their relationship experienced significant strain was when, in a strange turn of events, Gavin hit his growth spurt unusually early while his brother proved a late bloomer. For a period lasting about a year, observers who didn't know the birth order of the boys often mistakenly believed Gavin was the elder of the two. The disparity in size between the brothers smoothed out eventually, and Stephen grew to be much taller than his brother.
When Gavin was twelve years old, his father committed suicide. Gavin was strongly affected by his death, sinking into a deep depression. When he emerged from this period of intense melancholy, he was a changed person. Gone was the boy who teased his brother and played harmless pranks. In his place was a seemingly cynical young man with nothing but contempt for the world.
As his tempestuous teenage years ticked by, the grown-up Gavin remained a pessimist prone to callous and selfish behavior. He stayed busy to avoid dwelling on the things that bothered him, and in his arrogance he considered most people to be unworthy of his friendship or love.
This all changed when he met Melissa, a beautiful and charming woman who worked in the gardens at Isidore. Initially reluctant to pursue her, she won him over and they made plans to elope.
But in 163, Stephen died suddenly after being struck by lightning. Gavin became his family's sole heir. At that point Melissa was already pregnant with his child. Unwilling to abandon her and unprepared to assume the responsibilities of running the family business, Gavin ran away with Melissa, fleeing to the west.
Gradually they ran out of money and were reduced to poverty and homelessness. Stranded in Hiberia, they slept on a street corner with rags as blankets. One day they overheard Vormund preaching and approached him. Upon learning of their unfortunate circumstances, Vormund agreed at once to take them under his wing.
Gavin and Melissa converted to Vormundism and lived in the caves of Arza Kell with Vormund's other disciples. The young lord befriended the Exekian Kemet, a bond which would prove vital to their survival.
Just Another Believer
Gavin and Melissa traveled with Vormund and his other followers to Bodai, where their preaching drew a great deal of attention. However, the local authorities were unenthusiastic about the cult's presence and ordered their expulsion from the city a month after their arrival. It couldn't have happened at a more inopportune time - Melissa had gone into labor.
The followers of Vormund were thrown out just before nightfall. They stopped at a nearby farmhouse, and after Rhiannon Gorrister bribed the farmer with money, they were allowed to stay the night. Melissa gave birth to a daughter, Laura, but later died that night of hemorrhaging. Gavin was distraught and tormented by the thought that her death could've been prevented if she had been brought to a hospital.
Grieving, Gavin took Melissa's body to Arza Kell for burial. He continued to stay with the cult while he cared for Laura, but was forced to leave in the spring of 164, as he learned his mother had fallen gravely ill. He left Laura with Kemet and Clara Richter and returned to Isidore, hoping to reconcile with his mother and reclaim his birthright. In Isidore, he lied to his dying mother, claiming that both Melissa and the baby had died so that she would return his birthright to him.
The ruse worked and Sibylla changed her will, leaving everything to Gavin. However, once she died the state intervened in the proceedings, claiming they were concerned that Gavin had fallen under the influence of the Zantines. The court ruled to split the inheritance between Gavin and his cousin Lucan. Lucan was pronounced the new master of Isidore, and Gavin was given a monthly allowance, but no control over the family's estate.
His mother's body was not yet buried when Gavin was approached by an agent of the Temple who threatened to prosecute him if he didn't do what they wanted. Gavin obediently went along with their plans, believing he could manipulate the situation to his benefit and protect those he cared about.
Disbanding of the Cult
Before he could return to Arza Kell to collect his daughter, Rhiannon arrived with a blind child, Vincent, in tow. She explained that Vormund and Ethan had been arrested following the murder of Sophie Rolfe. Gavin agreed to take in Vincent as his ward and set about locating the others.
Learning that Vormund was being put on trial for heresy by the Temple, Gavin, Rhiannon, and Gavin's manservant Faulkner observed the court proceedings. The heresy trial was held under the Temple's jurisdiction and led by Adrian Vandiir, an Inquisitor who had infiltrated the cult under the disguise of "Drusus Rolfe". Shortly after the first day of the trial, they heard the news that Vormund had died in his cell.
Fearing for the lives of their friends and family at Arza Kell, Rhiannon, Faulkner, and Gavin rode to the caverns. Prior to the journey, Gavin was approached by Adrian, who demanded that he bring him to the Mandorlin. Gavin convinced him that the Mandorlin was not located at Arza Kell and that they were only going there to retrieve Laura, but Adrian ultimately double-crossed him, taking the identity of Faulkner (whom he killed) and following them to the mountains.
They searched the caverns, but initially found no trace of Kemet, Clara, or Laura. Adrian then revealed his trickery and forced Gavin to give up the Mandorlin manuscript, which he then destroyed. Enraged, Rhiannon attacked Adrian, but Gavin was able to break up the fight. Adrian left them alive, honoring his half of the original cooperation deal Gavin had made.
Kemet, Clara, and Laura were safe, but Gavin was overwhelmed by guilt and terrified of the Temple's power and influence, which he had previously underestimated. He parted ways with the others a broken man, returning home to Isidore with his daughter.
A Knight in Apicarta
Nine years later, Gavin had moved his family to the country of Apicarta, where he became a knight. He used his allowance from his inheritance to help others suffering from persecution flee Iskirra.
To keep Vormund's memory alive, Gavin purchased a printing press. He was the first person to pen a biography of Vormund (under the pseudonym "Rowan Renard"), and he also secretly printed and distributed copies of the Mandorlin, which he then circulated underground. He refused to close down this venture even as persecution of Vormundists increased in the later years of King Tristan's reign.
His remaining funds were then turned toward bribing politicians and others in hopes of improving the situations of fellow believers, but despite his best efforts the situation in Iskirra only worsened. Those who followed Vormund or espoused his teachings were deemed "enemies of humanity" and a threat to society. While Gavin's wealth and privileged birth meant he was safe, he witnessed the imprisonment, torture, and "re-education" of fellow Vormundists who were not so lucky.
In 168, Lucan began pressuring the bankrupt Gavin to find himself a wealthy bride and produce the next generation of the Zosimus family. Gavin agreed to marry Beatrice Ormond, whom he had known since childhood. Beatrice was a young widow with a daughter, Melanie, by her previous husband; she and Gavin later had a son together, Balian, who was due to inherit the family fortune.
The persecution of Vormundists gradually decreased but never completely went away; thus, Gavin kept his religion out of the public eye but raised his children within the faith. Over the next few years he slowly gained the favor of King Tristan, who believed Gavin to be incorruptible. But his quiet support of fellow Vormundists made Gavin many enemies.
Assassination of the King and War of Succession
In 178, Tristan arrived at Isidore with his two sons, Aldous and Claudius. He was warmly welcomed by Gavin. The two men had been discussing a possible match between one of the two princes and Gavin's daughter Laura, though Gavin was reluctant to make any betrothals as he believed Laura was too young. The Zosimus family, including Gavin's wife Beatrice and all four of their children, dined with the king and princes that evening in the spacious banquet hall. While conversation was initially lighthearted, some tension developed when Crown Prince Aldous spoke of his hatred for the Exekians and his plans to commit genocide once he became king. Gavin rebuked the young man, annoying Tristan, though the king understood Gavin's desire to keep the peace.
Not long after this exchange, as the feast continued, a shot rang out. Tristan had been wounded by a hidden assailant, who fired down from above. Chaos erupted as Beatrice called for the servants to take the king away. Gavin urged the children to hide underneath the table before he chased after the assassin. Disobeying his orders, Laura followed him upstairs, fearing for her father's life. Gavin came upon the assassin, who was revealed to be a Vormundist whom Gavin had been sheltering at his home. Stunned, Gavin was unable to stop the Vormundist from killing himself to avoid capture; he grabbed Laura and shielded her eyes from the sight.
While Beatrice herself oversaw the care of Tristan, the king would eventually succumb to his wounds the following morning. As he lay dying, he called for Gavin. Giving him his sword, he bid the Lord of Tyr protect his kingdom and serve his heir as loyally as he served him. Then, the king passed away, leaving Aldous the new king.
Despite this touching display of trust, Gavin and his family came under suspicion of involvement in Tristan's assassination. Gavin was forced to prove himself to the new king, Aldous, by traveling alone and under guard to the capital for a hearing.
During the proceedings, Prince Claudius approached Gavin in secret, speaking to him about the issue of challenging Aldous' right to the throne. Claudius and Gavin both agreed that Aldous was dangerous, citing his reputation for aggression and bloodlust and his calls for the total annihilation of the Exekians. While Gavin prayed for peace, he sensed that Claudius' challenge would be met with a declaration of war. In such a scenario, there would be nothing Gavin could do - save choose a side and fight.
In the War of Succession, Gavin backed Claudius Stirling. After bidding goodbye to his family, Gavin joined the rebel army. Before he left, he gave Laura the key to a chest in his study, telling her only to open it if she heard news of his death. The chest contained various documents, including a record of his correspondences with Kemet and other Vormundists, as well as the draft of the anonymous biography of Vormund he had written and secret records of prophecies made by Vormund regarding Laura and Balian.
Gavin was slain during the pivotal Battle at Kirk's Bluff, when he threw himself in the way of Aldous' sword to protect the disarmed Claudius. While his sacrifice enabled Claudius to flee, the prince was eventually captured and executed, ending the war with Aldous victorious.
Gavin was named after Gavin de Granville, a character in the de Granville series by K.M. Grant.
The name Zosimus means "viable" or "most likely to survive".