Richard Stirling was a king of Apicarta.
The second son born to King Aldous and Queen Laura Stirling, he was preceded by a male child that was exchanged for an Exekian changeling as part of the peace treaty that brought an end to the Fifth Exekian War. His father thus altered the line of succession to leave the throne to Richard.
As king, his primary concern was in maintaining balance and peace with the Exekians. However, troubles at home boiled over into conflict abroad, particularly over the line of succession.
Richard was born in 182 AYZ at the royal palace in Carthmere. His arrival was received with great relief by his father, who could rest easy knowing he had another son to replace the one which had been stolen from him.
Two years prior to Richard's birth, King Aldous had launched a military campaign that would later become known as the Fifth Exekian War. His goal was to wipe out the Exekians once and for all, but his plans of genocide were foiled by his young wife, who willingly gave herself and their son Tristan up to the Exekians as a hostage. Aldous' true heir was thus left behind enemy lines in the fortress of Heliobas, and the king would never set eyes upon his eldest child again. Instead, Laura was sent back with an Exekian infant, a male she named John. If anything were to happen to John, Aldous' son would suffer the same fate.
Aldous was forced to call off the invasion and returned home to Carthmere with his treacherous wife and her changeling. While the relationship between the royal couple was irreversible damaged, his advisers pleaded with him to father another son, someone who could be his successor. Richard was the result, a healthy son who became his father's pride and joy.
While Aldous tried to curb Richard's interactions with both Laura and John, the boy nonetheless adored his mother and grew close to his "big brother" despite John's alien nature. The two were inseparable and developed a strong fraternal bond.
A sister, Eleanor, was born two years after Richard. Unlike his relationship with John, the siblings became rivals, teasing and provoking each other. Once, Richard dared her to walk across a frozen lake; she fell through the ice and nearly drowned, but was saved by John. Richard was so stricken with guilt he eventually confessed to their mother what he had done. She punished him by making him work as a servant for a week, and told him it was his duty to look after his sister.
Laura died when Richard was ten. As Aldous began plotting to get rid of John, Richard feared for his brother's life and tried to convince him to run away, but John refused. Aldous eventually decided to imprison John at Castle Vallon, a fortress deep in the northern wilderness. Distraught, Richard promised John he would set him free when he became king.
While Richard was confused and deeply hurt by what his father had done to John, it wasn't until he reached adolescence that their troubles really began. All throughout John's imprisonment, Richard kept up a secret correspondence with John, sending him gifts and writing him letters whenever possible. This act of rebellion was discovered by Aldous, who sharply reprimanded his son and reminded him that John had "usurped" his real brother, who was no doubt being forced to work like a slave for the Exekians. After this event, Richard gradually stopped writing letters.
While still a youth, he began a relationship with Karen Liu, a commoner. Aldous forbade them from marrying, as Richard stood to gain neither wealth nor political leverage from the union. Karen became Richard's mistress, a fact which troubled Richard greatly as he believed she deserved better from him.
In his late teens, Richard started to feel aches and pains in his limbs. He dismissed it as the result of too much strenuous exercise. But soon other unusual symptoms appeared. He experienced significant weight loss accompanied by a ravenous appetite, his skin darkened and became leathery, his gums receded giving him the appearance of sharp bestial teeth, and bizarre growths began to develop on his body. A doctor's examination confirmed his worst fear - he had inherited a rare condition, Rheims disease, which one of his ancestors had suffered from.
In a fit of rage, Aldous arrested and hanged the physician who made the diagnosis, thus silencing any immediate news of Richard's illness. But something had to be done. Richard was not fit to marry and produce children, so Aldous quickly arranged the marriage of Eleanor to Logan Brynner, an Iskirran sorcerer, despite the protests of many. Their union produced no children. Moreover, Richard was suspicious of Logan's ambitions, and suspected the Iskirran was working in the interests of his own people.
Out of desperation Aldous began to consider legitimizing one of his bastard sons so that there would be an heir to the throne once Richard eventually succumbed to the myriad health issues associated with the disease. But it was not to be, for Aldous died unexpectedly after he was fatally wounded during a hunting trip.
At the age of twenty, Richard ascended the throne, already seriously ill and unable to be seen in public. His first act as king was to release John and his aunt Helen from prison, even arranging for a special escort to take them safely to Carthmere. Once there, Richard summoned John to meet him in private, in a darkened room, where he revealed his illness and told him of his plans to save the kingdom from civil war.
- Richard is somewhat short for a man and has a thin, slightly muscular build. He has bronze skin, tousled dark hair and amber eyes. He bears a strong resemblance to his father, King Aldous, and is considered handsome.
- Richard is, first and foremost, an idealist. At the beginning of his rule he stubbornly bent and broke his forefather's laws as he saw fit, driven by a belief that they were outdated and should be changed anyway. His actions angered the council, particularly Logan Brynner, who believes Richard is unfit to rule. Since others put so little faith in him, Richard has developed a lack of confidence in himself, becoming unsure and indecisive.
- While not as brooding as John, he is sentimental and absent-minded, often becoming lost in his thoughts and feelings. Ironically, he has shown a staggering tactlessness when it comes to sensitive subjects. He loves Karen and Kai dearly, but his growing distrust of others in light of his ascension to the throne has driven a wedge between them. He is unsure if Karen will betray him if it suits her, and his duties as king have caused him to neglect his daughter.
- As a boy, Richard was a mischievous troublemaker. While he is no longer as immature as he was then, he has retained a more playful side. He seems to have inherited his mother's famous wit, and often jokes or makes sarcastic remarks to lighten otherwise bleak situations.
- Richard is a lover, not a fighter. He has never mastered any form of combat, but took a liking to hunting with his crossbow as a hobby. As a boy he aspired to be like the knights, whom he still admires greatly. He is fascinated by water and the ocean; he has said that if he could choose not to be king, he would rather be a sailor.
- In contrast to his aggressive, war-mongering father, Richard dislikes violence and hates war. He doesn't particularly enjoy being king, either, since he chafes when given great responsibilities. Richard prefers to live life somewhat recklessly, and the constraints and worries of being ruler have taken their toll on him.
- Failure as a king and father
- Betrayal by those close to him
- Being blamed for situations that were out of his control
- Losing those close to him/the people he relies upon
- Lacking in self confidence
Laura - Richard was very close to his mother. His memory of her is romanticized; he cannot recall her as having any flaws. In his eyes, she could do no wrong. He refers to her as the "queen of peace", and focuses on her achievements. He will come up with excuses for all her failures, usually blaming his father. But Laura will soon prove to be no angel. She was manipulative in her way, and no one played more into her hands than her own children.
Aldous - Richard's relationship with his father is marked by confused love and intense resentment. He hates Aldous for his meddling and controlling, especially his exiling John and forbidding Richard from marrying the love of his life. Part of him wished him dead when he was alive and bid him good riddance after he died, but another part is filled with regret and longing for what could have been.
John - Richard's best friend since boyhood, his adoptive brother is a rock he leans on for support. He deliberately kept up a correspondence with John even during his ten years of captivity. In the smuggled letters, he shared many secrets with his adopted brother. However, the absence of John in his life did eventually take its toll. Now that he is king, he has fulfilled his promise to free John from the tower, but the two have changed so much they hardly know each other anymore. They must rebuild their bond almost from the ground up.
Eleanor - Richard's baby sister. When they were young they bickered often, and Richard enjoyed teasing her. His antics once nearly got her killed. This incident proved a changing point in their relationship, and after John was banished, he took on the role of protector to "Ellie". Now that she may become an obstacle in his way, he wonders what will become of his dear sister.
Karen - The love of Richard's life. The two began their affair when they were thirteen with a kiss in the castle gardens. They are now virtually inseparable, spending only one night apart since. Aldous' forbidding did not prevent them from consummating their love, yet there is perhaps nothing in the world Richard wants most than to have Karen as his wife. She deserves more than what little Aldous would allow her. But even with the power of a king that he now possesses, there is no point to it. His days are numbered, and they can't have children. Nothing can come of their union except to ease his passing and allow her to continue to enjoy the luxuries of being a royal mistress. He can give her nothing else except heartbreak.
Kai - Richard is fond of his niece, but definitely can't make her his heir. He would certainly die before she came of age, and Logan would assume the role of regent, something he cannot allow. Still, he laments that he has so little time to spend with her, and worries that she is being denied a happy, carefree childhood on account of the instability of her environment and her parents' lack of affection. He encourages John's unlikely bond with her, hoping his brother can succeed where his sister and her husband have failed the poor girl.