To understand Talinissia, it is important to understand her complicated family history. Her father Kleophanes IV was a tremendously successful Imperator, bringing order and stability to a realm that had been faced with a number of internal and external challenges during the reign of the previous Imperators. The Imperium had suffered a number of military setbacks against the Korrayin, and under the reign of Ioannes had seen the final one of the border forts abandoned. Meanwhile, the kings of the northern realms grew dangerously close to seceding from the Imperium altogether.
As a result of his history of shrewd diplomacy and effective war-making, it came as a surprise (and an unpleasant one) to many when Kleophanes proposed to marry the daughter of the Kidakaia of Eshkum, a rebellious kingdom in the southeast of Haranshar. The move was a shrewd one on his part, as it sowed the seeds of discord in the Imperium.
As a result of her mother’s ancestry, Talinissia has been known behind her back as Talinissia the Black, a sly dig on the part of the nobles of the Imperium to distance themselves from her rule. Indeed, her skin color sets her apart from many in her realms, and while her father never treated her differently, she couldn’t help but be aware of her difference from the majority of her subjects.
Kleophanes and his wife had 15 happy years, but she was stricken down by an outbreak of the plague that occurred. Kleophanes, seeing the need for another heir, took as his wife Gertrude of the duchy of Dūrken, who gave birth to his son, Gaius. Gertrude, as a member of the ducal house, also had Imperial Blood, and so there were many who saw in Gaius a purer heir than Talinissia.
Indeed, it was the restive nature of her nobility that allowed her younger brother Gaius to begin plotting against her. When she called for a full meeting of the Senate to officially grant her the offices and styles that were, according to tradition, her due as the heir to her father, there was no small amount of discontent and even a few nobles who outright refused to do so. This gave her brother the excuse he needed, and he led a revolt that soon involved both many tribes of the Korrayin but also Haranshar itself.
The war was a relatively short one as such things go, but it was bloody for all of that. Once the revolt collapsed and Gaius was taken into custody, Talinissia was forced to execute her brother. She was then granted the honors and titles she had been denied. Despite her victory, memories of that rebellion continue to haunt her even now, a decade after her brother’s death. She is regularly visited by visions of him, both alive and dead. And she struggles to fill the shoes of her larger-than-life father, as well as Dominika, the formidable Imperator of the past, known as The Deathless by subsequent historians.
Talinissia has formed a number of important alliances, but her most important and influential adviser is the Prefect Eulicia. The two share many characteristics, and each of them sees in the other an avenue to power. For Talinissia, the Prefect is one of the few people in the entire Imperium whom she can trust. In all of the ornate ritual that governs the court–the eunuchs, the ladies-in-waiting–Talinissia often feels as if she is losing part of herself, but Eulicia is always there.
However, there are others who are circling the throne, waiting for her to show the slightest sign of weakness. The people are still restive, especially since the freedoms they had earned as a result of the Plague have begun to be chipped away. Furthermore, many of the Great Houses are angling to take the throne for themselves, chief among them Duke Childerick, who still feels the bite of being passed over after the death of Gaius. Subsequent events will show that he is willing to do anything to gain the throne he believes is his.
However, Talinissia has also begun to be tormented by visions of a bleak future, one in which the armies of Haranshar once again bring all that they have against the Imperium. As the events of the novel will show, she does not want to go to war with the vast empire to the east, but she does want to make sure that the Imperium remains safe. She takes her duty as the Imperator very seriously, and she will do whatever it takes to make sure that it does not fall.
No matter what it takes.