Tag Archives: Character Sketches

Character Sketch: Childerick

Childerick Merovais is the foremost duke in the Imperium. His bloodlines are impeccable, and for many of the Great Houses his claim to the throne is greater than that of the current Imperator Talinissia, whose mother was a foreigner. His own mother was the younger sister of Talinissia’s father, and while relations were always cordial between the siblings, the same could never be said of their children.

He was born roughly a three years before Talinissia, and when it was in doubt whether her father would produce an heir, there was much discussion among the Great Houses whether the aging Imperator would declare that his sister’s son would inherit. Precocious for his age, the young Childerick had picked up on those possibilities, aided and abetted by his mother, who was very ambitious for her son’s future. When, at last, the aging Imperator produced not one but two heirs, it appeared that these ambitions would come to naught.

When Talinissia’s brother rebelled against her (roughly ten years before the begin of the events of the novel), Childerick stayed strategically neutral. It was only when the rebel had come to the very gates of Ainonis itself and had rendered himself vulnerable that he led his forces at a breakneck pace and fell upon his rear. This allowed Talinissia’s forces to ride out from the city and catch the rebellious prince and utterly destroy his army.

Despite Childerick’s pivotal role in the salvation of her throne (or perhaps because of it), Talinissia has never entirely trusted her cousin. She has known him since he was a child, and she knows all too well the dark humours that haunt the recesses of his mind. He once had a servant thrown out of a window in a fit of pique, and in another instance he stabbed a secretary in the eye with a pen for an imagined slight. However, she is also well-aware of his closeness to the throne in terms of inheritance, and so she has deliberately attempted to shut him out of politics.

As a result of all of these dynastic complexities and ambiguities, Childerick has spent his entire life stewing in bitterness. From his point of view, he was passed over twice, once when his uncle gave the throne to his (possibly illegitimate) daughter and again when she refused to acknowledge him her heir after he saved her from utter oblivion at the hands of her brother. Having been denied his rightful place, he holds Talinissia in nothing but contempt, and is in general not shy about making his feelings as public as possible.

From his youth Childerick was groomed for leadership, especially since he was his parents’ only child. Though the noticed his cruel streak, he was also seen as brilliant and was left in no illusions about his abilities. However, it was also recognized that he was incurably lazy, and that it took a great deal to motivate him to do even the barest amount of his school work. His tutors despaired of him, but none were foolish enough to reprimand him, both for fear of his own wrath and the reprisal from his parents, who would hear no ill said of their son, no matter how well-deserved it might be.

As a result of this spoiled upbringing, Childerick has grown into great power but is also prone to self-indulgence and, occasionally, truly terrifying fits of rage. When he slips into one of these fits, even his children know that the wiser course of action is to leave him alone and wait for it to pass.

From his marriage to Zenosia–herself a well-blooded descendent of at least fourteen Imperators–he has three children. His eldest is his heir Cuthbert, followed by Frederika (without a doubt the brains of the family) and Guillame. The latter has already been promised to the Church and is, arguably, the most normal of all of the children. Cuthbert takes after his father in temperament, though his father’s laziness has here been coupled with a cruelty devoid of the leavening influence of a sharp wit and cunning mind. He has just enough wit to serve the father’s purpose, but not enough to be a truly contributing memory of the family. Thus, there is no question that it is Frederika who is the apple of her father’s eye, and he entrusts most of his important affairs to her.

In recent year, Childerick has largely stayed out of the inner circle of Imperial politics, preferring to hole up in his vast estates. He has been aided in this effort by his chief ally and assistant, Count Pepin. Because Childerick is his liege-lord, Pepin has always accepted his subordinate position, and it is his subservience that has allowed him to survive the service of one of the most capricious nobleman in the Imperium. Despite his divorcement from the affairs of the Imperator, Childerick has still managed to quietly suborn many nobles and Prefects to his cause, and it is well-known that the Deacons of his own duchy support his cause and have even taken to deferring to his wishes in all matters.

At the start of The Heretic’s War, he has once again moved back to his palace in Aionis, for he senses that there is a great deal of unrest in the Imperium of which he can take advantage. His ultimate hope is to unseat his cousin and rival Talinissia and claim the throne for his own. Beside him, Pepin encourages him in these machinations, for the wily count sees in his liege an opportunity to both further his own political ambitions and, just as if not more importantly, fortify his alliance with Holy Church. Between the two of them, they pose the gravest threat to Talinissia’s throne since her brother sought to overthrow her.

It remains to be seen what new alliances will be brokered between the Duke, the Count, and the many starving nobles and clerics all seeking advancement in the Imperium.

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Character Sketch (4): Arshakh Nirhan

Born into the disgraced family of former Haransharin rulers known as the House of Nirhan, Arshakh is the current vizier to the Shah. As such, he is privy to the great councils of war, though he does sometimes wonder whether the Shah actually plans to keep him as involved as it appears at first glance. Relations between the two men have never been what one would call warm, given that the current Shah is a man not known for his human warmth but instead for a certain coldness toward almost everyone around him (with the notable exception of his favoured eunuch and lover Vagoash and his sister).

Arshakh is also the master of spies for the ruler, and he has a vast network of informants scattered throughout Haranshar, Korray, and the Imperium. As a result, he wields tremendous power, though not as much as previous viziers. His predecessor two times removed was one Nussahr, and it was upon his advice that the Shah Hivand III had gone to war against the Imperium, with a certain prince at the forefront of his warriors (this would be the brother of Talinissia, the current Imperator). This disastrous war led to the toppling of both the vizier and his master (and his master’s dynasty) and this fact, combined with Arhsakh’s dubious family history, has made his master reluctant to grant him the power that should rightfully be his.

Unfortunately for Arshakh, the Nirhan clan has a very dark place in the history of Haranshar. They were one of the most infamous dynasties to have sat the Sun Throne. They were cruel, rapacious, and brutal in their suppression of any who sought to challenge their might. However, they also ruled over the most splendid period of territorial advancement that the Haransharin had known since the Imperium split away. Large segments of Korray had fallen into the power of Haranshar, and there were even signs that the eastern provinces of the Imperium would fall. Through several generations, the Nirhan were able to solidify their place as one of the great dynasties of Haranshar.

Or so they thought.

The last Shah of that dynasty, Mivrash IV, was a complete and utter disaster. Weak-willed but vicious, he was unable to put down the revolts of the leading nobles, who toppled him. In the resultant chaos, the Korrayin broke away, the Imperium reasserted itself, and the Nirhan family fled to their much-reduced familial dominions.

Since that day over a century ago, the members of House Nirhan have lived in a period of disgrace, frequently derided at court and mocked by those who see in them a warning for all who would try to climb to high and who would ignore the needs and wants of the aristocracy and the nobility.

Despite his family’s shamed status, Arshakh has remained loyal to the royal house. His greatest loyalty, however, is to the Ormazdhian priests, who took him in when his own father, dismayed at the sad state into which the family had fallen, took his own life by throwing himself into the holy flames, and his mother took their other children and leapt from the tall tower of their ancestral home. Indeed, it was the kindly priest Nishua who took the young Arshakh in and inducted him into as many of the fire mysteries as one who was not actually of the priesthood could obtain. From that day to this, he has been their strongest advocate, and he has been a frequent mediator between the throne and the priesthood when conflicts have arisen (which they inevitably have).

When the chaos from the most recent botched war between Haranshar and the Imperium finally settled down and the young Rahzad IV (the current Shah) assumed the Sun Throne, the Arshakh (who was only slightly younger than the new ruler), was plucked from seeming obscurity because of some prophecy that Rahzad had heard that said he needed a member of one of the old families to ensure the strength and longevity of his own reign. While he did not entirely trust his new vizier, and often mocked him in private, the Shah nevertheless treated him with at least a modicum of respect, and Arshakh has carefully and delicately built upon a trusting relationship with his ruler.

Arshakh is still very uncertain on his feet, however, for he knows that there are many in the other great houses of the realm who would like nothing more than to see him and his line utterly destroyed. He has not yet taken a wife, though he has found himself dangerously attracted to the Shah’s sister Isriah, an attraction that could cause him significant trouble…but which could also lead to a very different set of political fortunes if he can put the pieces of his personal gameboard aright. He has sensed some signs that she might also be interested in him,

Now that the world has again begun to totter and the established order to crack under its own weight, Arshakh sees an opportunity to bring about a redemption of his family’s stained honour. Though he had not yet begun to aspire to the position of the Shah, there is still a very small part of him that knows that it would theoretically be possible. Thus, his attraction to Isriah is not just a romantic one, but also a political gambit that may pay off.

It is precisely these little bits of himself that renders him vulnerable to those who have bigger plans for the world than even he can encompass. There are many, many noble houses in Haranshar, both great and small, and all have ambitions, and sacrificing the scion of a disgraced house is a small price to pay for these nobles who only want to see one of their own sitting in the Sun Throne.

All of these are dangers that the vizier must traverse if he hopes to attain his own ambitions, and time will tell whether he will be rewarded or if he will be merely another withered branch on the family tree.

Character Sketch (3): Eulicia Khamytzes

We come now to Eulicia, one of the most enigmatic of my viewpoint characters, even to me. I’m still exploring her character quirks, her desires and motivations, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

Born into the powerful and influential House Khamytzes, she has known from an early age that she was fated for great things. While her elder brothers pursued the cursus honorum that would lead to their political futures, she decided that she would pursue her power through the auspices of the Church. It had been several generations since a member of her family had done so and thus, in consultation with her father and mother and the other leading magnates of her House, she saw the Church as a viable pathway to power.

Unlike some of her fellow Prefects and others in the Church, she is not primarily interested in the intricacies of theology or language, philosophy or the sciences. Instead, she is interested in politics and, above all, ensuring that the Imperium and the Church remain wedded in their mutual partnership. Naturally, this has also meant ensuring that heretics are expunged, but she does this not out of any doctrinal loyalty, but out of a desire to ensure that the world that she cherishes remains stable. For her, the costs incurred in this mission are never too large, for stability means that everyone, of high or low estate, is able to rest at night knowing that their lives are secure. (Of course, being born to wealth, she really has no idea that this doesn’t always work out so well in practice).

Given her upbringing and her birth, she moved quickly through the ranks of the Academy, and while she did not attain the highest marks, she was a competent student and teacher, able to impress those who encountered her with her erudition and the precision of her thought.

When one of the key places on the Council of Prefects fell vacant as the result of the death of Prefect Plakidia, Eulicia was in the perfect position to fill it. Her noble birth and her rank within the Church ensured that her election would not be too acrimonious, though there were a few ruffled feathers among the other noble families who also had their own members primed for the accession. The Duke Childerick, for one, had hoped that his own daughter would assume that position, and his resentment, and that of his son, will come to have significant consequences for the present actions unspooling.

Eulicia, like most of her fellow Prefects, has actively sought out a political role for herself. Unlike most of them, however, she has fostered particularly strong and close ties with the current Imperator Talinissia, with whom she has been close friends since they were both students at the Academy. Indeed, she has been by her side since it first became clear that her father, despite the wishes of many in his innermost counsels, was going to make sure that she acceded to the throne. Thus, it was Eulicia who was given the sacred task of investing Talinissia with the regalia upon her accession.

From the beginning of the reign of the Imperator Talinissia, she has thrown in her lot with the unlikely heir and done everything in her power to make sure that she has the support she needs from within the Church. This, despite the fact that a significant number of the Great Houses–and a large number of the Lesser ones as well–conspired and sided with Talinissia’s brother in his ill-considered bid for the throne. Though it would have been easier for Eulicia to abandon her friend, she did not and has not done so, strong-arming the more ambitious and rebellious members of her own family into supporting this particular member of the imperial family.

It should be clear, then, that Eulicia is more than a little ruthless. She does not necessarily see herself that way, however. Instead, she firmly believe that what she is doing is for the best of the Imperium, the Church, and the fundamental order that they represent on the temporal plane. She has made many enemies, but there are also many that respect her as a woman of integrity, ironclad as it may seem.

All of this probably makes her sound like someone who is merely hungry for power and is jealous of her class status. I suppose to some extent that’s true, but there is something else going on with her, as well. Eulicia is a woman who is utterly convinced that she is in the right, and it takes a great deal to convince her to change her mind. As the events of the novel unfold, however, it remains to be seen whether she will be able to weather the storm that is about to overcome her world and all that she knows.

Character Sketch (2): Theadra

Theadra is, in many ways, the centerpiece of the story I’m telling. Or, at any rate, she is centerpiece, since I see this project as more of an ensemble than a solo. It will be her actions that will transform the world that she lives in, her discovery that sets off a chain of events that will radically reconfigure everything around her.

First, though, a few words about her upbringing.

Like her mentor Antonius, she grew up as a member of the lower-class. Her father was a butcher in the capital, while her mother was a seamstress and maid for a wealthy merchant. Indeed, it was this merchant (one Justin by name) who first saw in her the spark of true academic brilliance and brought her to the attention of Antonius.

Theadra was plucked out of her life of obscurity and enrolled in the Academy with all of her expenses paid. Like her nameless benefactor–it would be some time before she learned that it was Antonius–she leaned toward the human sciences and philosophy. And, like him, she was also the subject of torment by those who saw her as an interloper in the rightful terrain of the nobility. However, she persevered, determined to prove herself worthy and to make sure that she made her benefactor’s investment in her worth the expense.

Theadra possesses a truly remarkable adeptness with languages, and she has mastered at least 5 at the time the story begins, including several of the archaic languages that have already fallen out of the knowledge of the average citizen of the Imperium. From the beginning of her time in the Academy, and later when she took up the positions of the ascending Church hierarchy, she has been tasked with translating the numerous old scripts that can be found in the archives. Though the Church has remained remarkably consistent in its teachings since its origins, it has also managed to lose track of many of its foundational texts as well. Translators and commentators are thus much in demand, and so Theadra has found herself similarly called upon to serve the Church.

At the time of the novel, she has already risen to the rank of Deacon, a middling position within the Church but understood to be one of the key planks in the cursus sanctorum, the ladder that ascends to the ultimate position of Prefect. As such, she has a not inconsiderable amount of power within the Church, though because of her introverted nature she has yet to accrue the sort of clientele that she will need if she wishes to ascend into the higher ranks of the clergy. This has frequently been a bone of contention between her and her mentor Antonius, for he has learned (often the hard way) that it is necessary to have allies of particular power and influence if one is to make advancements.

While she is steadfast in her adherence to the Church, Theadra has begun to feel the pinch of doubt. She desperately wants to believe with all of her heart, but there have been many things that she has read that have challenged her belief in the unassailability of the Church. What’s more, she has begun to take to hear the dissatisfaction of the common people, who see in the Church the worst sort of hypocrisy. While the commoners have begun a downward spiral into financial penury, facing all manner of tribulations throughout the Imperium, those in the upper echelons of power continue to thrive. Despite their claims to the denial of the material world, they still cling to the very things that they deny. To Theadra’s eyes, used as they are to the privations that most people face, this is very troubling. Indeed, it will come to shape much of what happens to her, and much of what actions she takes, as the novel progresses.

At the time of the novel, she is around 25 years of age. She entered the Academy when she was 15, and so she has had 10 years to learn what she has and to gain some allies. Her closest friend is, without a doubt, Antonius, though there is always the tension that exists between a superior and a subordinate (or a teacher and a disciple). Despite this, there is a genuine warmth there, though as the events of the novel will show, there is a limit even to such things. And as events will likewise show, Theadra is, despite her own wishes or knowledge, caught up in forces that she can neither name nor control.

I’m really looking forward to fully developing this character. To my mind, it’s high time that we have a female epic hero who fits into the mold of the likes of Rand al’Thor, the Ohmsford family, and the like. Hopefully, Theadra will serve as that character.