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Laura Melissa Stirling (née Zosimus) was the queen consort of King Aldous and mother of King Richard and Princess Eleanor.

The daughter 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 and bore his heirs.

Beloved by her subjects, she was known as the "queen of peace" for her efforts to end the Fifth Exekian War. This was the fulfillment of a prophecy given to Dagda Vormund.

Biography

Birth

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.

Her father took her with him to Arza Kell, where he stayed with the rest of Vormund's followers. News of her grandmother's impending death was publicly announced when Laura was just five days old. Gavin decided to leave her in the care of Kemet and Clara Richter while he went to Tyr to reconcile with his mother. While Vormund and his other followers traveled to Hiberia, Kemet and Clara stayed behind with the infant Laura.

Approximately a month went by. Kemet sensed intruders approaching the caves, and they made a hasty getaway. Unable to reach Gavin, who was being followed by Temple agents, Laura remained in the care of Kemet and Clara as they headed south.

Childhood

Laura was raised by Kemet and Clara until she was seven years of age, at which point Gavin deemed it safe to claim her. The old friends regained contact with each other and were reunited in the southern fringe town of Telovet, where Laura was finally returned to her father.

With seven years having passed, much had changed. Gavin had taken in Vincent Apothik as his ward and remarried to Naomi, having two children with her, Melanie and Balian. He remained a devout Vormundist, practicing the outlawed religion in secret and raising his children in the faith.

Laura had a luxurious and happy life at Isidore, the family estate, although she was not without fear. Persecution of Vormundists fluctuated as she grew older, and her father's enemies were numerous and unscrupulous.
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Laura as a child.

Due to her family's fortune, 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.

Vincent, her father's blind ward, was like an older brother to her. The two were very close, with Laura finding him easy to talk to. Her half-sister Melanie was her best friend, and while she didn't always get along with Balian, she loved him deeply.

Torn Asunder

When Laura was fourteen, King Tristan and his family paid Isidore a visit. Laura was told she would be presented formally to the princes, one of whom she would likely marry. However, the festivities were cut short as Tristan was assassinated in the dining room by a sniper from the second floor. The killer was later revealed to be none other than Drusus Rolfe, whom Gavin had helped free from prison many years earlier.

With Tristan dead, the crown passed to his eldest son Aldous. Gavin refused to swear fealty to Aldous, finding him unfit to be king. The War of Succession broke out when Gavin Zosimus supported Aldous' brother Claudius Stirling, who had proclaimed his intentions to end the persecution of Vormundists.

Over the next two years, while the war raged on, Laura threw herself into studying warfare, geography, and history. She unlocked the safe her father had kept hidden for years, learning the extent of her father's history with Vormund, the prophecy that she would one day marry a king, and her father's correspondence with Kemet and Clara, who were still alive.
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The captured Laura is held by Aldous' soldiers.

Everything came crashing down when Aldous Stirling arrived at Isidore with his army. He revealed Gavin had been slain in battle to the shocked and horrified household. Taking everyone prisoner, he ordered his soldiers to loot and destroy their home. The children attempted to escape in the chaos that followed, but only Vincent was successful. Aldous himself chased and caught Laura, who was then thrown into a cart with all underage girls found on the premises.

Separated from her family, she and Melanie were picked out of the group of girls by an agent of the king, who then took them to Carthmere Castle, where they were expected to placidly await their fate.

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Laura is taken by boat across the river to Carthmere.

Life at Carthmere

After another failed escape attempt, Laura was kept under heavy guard and forbidden to leave the castle walls. She was placed under the care of Princess Helen, Aldous' sister, who "supervised" all aspects of the girl's life. Helen employed a vast network of spies to ensure her every move was watched. As a well-treated political prisoner, Laura had a legion of servants waiting on her, including her own handmaiden, Hera O'Leary. Her treatment, which was more lenient and luxurious than Melanie's, indicated that Aldous intended to marry her at the end of the war - a prospect she found unbearable, even though it meant a fulfillment of the prophecy.
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Laura viewing the castle for the first time.

Lonely and frightened, she reached out to the physician Eugene Verne, who was one of the few people who seemed genuinely kind at court. While she tried to suppress her feelings, she fell in love with him. With her impending marriage to Aldous looming, the two agreed not to pursue a love affair and limited their contact with one another.

Marriage

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. Laura agreed to the marriage as a matter of survival.
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Laura at age 18.

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. She immediately began searching for Vincent, eventually discovering him begging in the streets of Tyr.

Aldous had difficulties readjusting to life after the war, and began entertaining his old notions of eradicating the Exekians. In preparation for the invasion of the south, Laura knighted several men. One of them she recognized as Balian, who had been taken captive and pressed into service. 

With his campaign planning complete, Aldous prepared for war. He decided to take the pregnant Laura with him, defying the advice of the court physician. 

Fifth Exekian War

War broke out between the humans and the New Exekian Empire when Aldous began raiding on the southern border. He fought against Nechtan in various skirmishes, camping near the ruins of Fort Heliobas.

Heavily pregnant and living in a bivouac, Laura learned that Kemet was in command of the fortress. Motivated by a desire to reunite with him and Clara, she fled the camp, arriving at Heliobas alone. The vigorous ride triggered her labor.

Under the protection of Kemet, she was placed in one of the fortress' towers, where Clara tended to her. As her labor stretched on into a third day, a desperate Clara traveled to the camp and convinced Eugene to come with her. Under the physician's care, Laura gave birth to a stillborn girl.

In the meantime, Kemet's superiors ordered him to demand a ransom for Laura's return. Aldous was under the impression that the Exekians had used magic to abduct his wife and was becoming desperate to have her back. Negotiations were made to stop the fighting in exchange for Laura's safe return.

Along the way back, she and Eugene encountered a newborn Exekian abandoned at the roots of a sycamore tree. Despite Gene's warnings that it might endanger the agreement, she took the child as her own, naming him John.

As it turned out, Aldous had already betrayed the Exekians. He and his army stormed the fortress, killing many. Fortunately, the Exekians had anticipated a possible double-crossing and evacuated most of their people beforehand.

Aldous returned victorious from battle to find his wife nursing an Exekian child. Believing this was a curse placed on his child by the Exekians for his betrayal, the highly superstitious king did not harm John.

Word spread through the camp about this supposed "curse", and Aldous' disgruntled, terrified troops began deserting by the thousands. A member of the king's guard was sent to Laura to see John for himself, and the conversation he had with Laura, in which she pleaded with him to stop the war, caused the entire king's guard to abandoned their posts. Aldous was left with no choice but to call off the invasion. It was this event that earned Laura the moniker of "queen of peace".

Birth of Richard and Eleanor

The family returned to Carthmere, where Laura gave birth to a son, Richard, a little over a year later. A daughter, Eleanor, was born when Laura was twenty one. It is commonly believed that Eleanor is in fact Gene's daughter, not Aldous'.

Later Years and Death

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Laura's dream of 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.

During a plague outbreak, Laura fell ill. She died not long after at the age of twenty eight.

Description

While she was somewhat mousy as a child, as an adult Laura was known for being extremely beautiful. She was small in stature with 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.

Personality

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Laura's famous wit.

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.

Legacy

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.

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