Characters for the Vorkosigan Saga. Beware of copious spoilers!
Isolated from the rest of known space for centuries by an accident that cut off contact with the rest of humanity, Barrayar survived by reverting to a feudal system based on a warrior caste. Unfortunately, their welcome back to the greater galaxy came in the form of an invasion by the Cetagandan empire, which they ultimately defeated through sheer bloody-mindedness (and perhaps being simply too crazy to give up). Barrayar is now struggling to adjust to a galaxy that views its social model as anything from quaintly anachronistic to dangerously primitive. Ruled by the Vor warrior caste, with The Emperor at their head. The homeworld of Miles, who has to deal with Barrayar's nasty prejudice against mutants like him, and the focus (and often the setting) of the Vorkosigan series.
- Battle Butler: Armsmen. Each count is allowed twenty bodyguards, and only twenty bodyguards. Any more counts as a private army and is grounds for execution. Consequently, they tend to pick the cream of the crop.
- The Clan: Every Vor house.
- Deadly Decadent Court: Somewhat tamed by now. Miles' father Aral actually survived being Regent to Gregor until his majority, and since then Gregor has been applying his foster-father's lessons, toning down both the decadence and the deadliness.
- More deadly than decadent. When an assassin appears during a session of the Counts, their first instinct is to charge him, not run away.Miles: Only on Barrayar would pulling a loaded needler start a stampede toward one.
- More deadly than decadent. When an assassin appears during a session of the Counts, their first instinct is to charge him, not run away.
- Fantastic Racism: Against mutants, disabled people and all genetic strangeness. It was only recently that infanticide was banned, and it still goes on in secret in parts of the back country. The prejudice is both understandable (mutations were historically a gigantic problem for the isolated Barrayaran colonists) and spurs much of Miles Vorkosigan's actions (viewed as a "mutie" by Barrayaran society, he struggles to prove himself in the face of unreasoning hatred). A more minor prejudice is between the speakers of various Earth-descended languages, but it can be dangerous as well; it's mentioned that riots along linguistic divisions are political points to take into consideration.
- In the later volumes this feels like somewhat of an Informed Flaw. In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, for instance, Rish doesn't face much prejudice, certainly less than she would have faced in twenty-first century Earth. By that time however prejudice against "muties" was becoming less fashionable among the elites. Byerly suggests that Rish is so far on the other side of the Uncanny Valley that she's beyond what Barrayarans think of as a "mutie". That, and she's an eye witness to one of the most important High Vor's son getting married on a spur of the moment to a princess fleeing a palace coup (to Barrayan eyes) makes her a figure of mystery.
- Had to Be Sharp: Between eugenic infanticide, living on a Deathworld, being isolated from technology for centuries, living in political turmoil, and then surviving the Cetagandans, pretty much yeah.
- Maybe that's Mother Barrayar Makes You Strong?
- I Gave My Word: An important part of the Vor code. Very important. Their whole system of government is based on verbal compacts — if you swear an oath, you better damn well mean it.
- Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: Subverted. The most honored profession is soldiering but scientists do in fact get respect. It seems to have played straighter in earlier generations.
- Some of the most prestigious scientific institutions (notably the Imperial Military Hospital) are themselves attached to the military, making for a bit of a zig-zag. Cordelia, who is in fact a brilliant scientist as all survey captains have to be, is usually remembered either as "Aral's embarrassingly eccentric wife", or "The woman who brought the usurper's head home in a bag."
- Noble Bigot: Add Honor Before Reason to Fantastic Racism and this is roughly what you get. They are getting a bit better about it, though.
- Never Be Hurt Again: The remembrance of the Cetagandan Occupation.
- Proud Warrior Race: the Vor.
- Planet of Hats: To just about everyone else in the Nexus, Barrayarans generally are a Proud Warrior Race. A visitor from Escobar expresses surprise at how "normal" the planet looks. He was expecting it to be all paved over and covered with soldiers marching around in formation. Another from Jackson's Whole "half expected to see gutted buildings with blackened timbers still smoking, bomb craters in the streets, and haunted, emaciated people scurrying like rats among the barricades." But since Barrayar is the primary setting of the stories, we get a more complex view, beyond the militaristic Vor class.
- La Résistance: During the Cetagandan occupation.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized: Inverted. They learned how to make a professional military force by fighting the Cetagandans and the spinoff from that is helping Barrayar evolve into a modern state.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: They were already not civilized when the Cetagandans arrived. They just channeled their barbarity into La Résistance.
- Rising Empire: Just recently conquered Komarr and founded a colony at Sergyar. Does not seem to have any more interest in expansionism at the moment.
- Rock Beats Laser: When invaded by Cetaganda they were at a serious technological disadvantage and rove them off using guerilla tactics.
- Ruritania: In space.
- Screw You Cetaganda: And sometimes kill you.
- Secret Police: ImpSec
- Settling the Frontier: Much of Barrayar's history and culture is about terraforming. The South Continent is still being settled, as is the newly-discovered planet Sergyar.
- We ARE Struggling Together: Until recently, mostly during the latter part of Gregor's reign.
A planet where everyone lives in domed cities, due to the planet's atmosphere not being breathable, whose considerable merchant wealth came through their prime planetary position at the nexus of several strategically important wormhole jumps. Komarr once made the mistake of allowing the Cetagandan Empire passage through their wormholes (for a fee of course) on their way to conquer the backwater world of Barrayar. The Komarrans responsible may not have lived to regret their decision, but their descendants certainly did when Barrayar came back with a conquering fleet to prevent a repeat performance. Once home to a strong La Résistance against the Barrayarans, but this is losing popularity as Komarr and Barrayar become more integrated.
- Les Collaborateurs: Komarrans in Barrayaran service. More sympathetic than most, particularly Duv Galeni. Also, the Komarrans to the Cetagandans during the Barrayaran Occupation, at least in Barrayar's view.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Every city is built under a protective dome and the planets great project is to terraform the whole planet. They are thus very tech-savvy and make splendid engineers.
- Neutral No Longer: The original Komarran shareholders voted to let the Cetagandans through fully aware they weren't off to give Barrayar fruit baskets, but they still viewed themselves as neutral. A generation or two later, the Barrayarans dropped in, with armed ships, to let them know they felt differently and they haven't left since.
- Planet of Hats: Komarr is all about business. The basic "democratic" unit is a shareholder, not a voter. Individuals can gain more shares (and hence votes) by financially contributing to the development of the planet, and these shares are transferable (via inheritance for example).
- Proud Merchant Race: Supposedly patterned on Medieval Venice -- IN SPACE!
- Puppet State: Ruled entirely by Barrayar.
- The Remnant: Ser Galen, Duv Galeni's father certainly was.
- You Will Be Assimilated: Present Barrayaran policy is to do this to Komarr. Since they've chosen to play the long game, this takes the form of things like Barrayarans paying for an expansion of Komarr's artificial solar array (to help with their terraforming) — and also quite a few prominent Barrayarans and Komarrans getting married across planet lines. This includes the Barrayaran Emperor himself to a member of one of Komarr's most prominent oligarchic families.
- Barrayar, however, leaves Komarr to its own planetary governing as before. It's only that there's another layer above it, and it rarely makes any imposition on the government. If anything, Barrayar has made life easier for Komarr, thanks to having very powerful military escorts for their trade fleets. Miles muses that most of Komarr's current mundane problems like traffic laws bogged down by voting deadlocks would do better with a monarchy than a democracy.
SergyarThird planet in the Barrayaran Empire. The planet and nearby wormholes providing a convenient shortcut to Escobar were discovered by Barrayar shortly before Shards of Honor. It was then rediscovered by Captain Cordelia Naismith of the Betan Astronomical Survey, bringing her into conflict with the Barrayaran local commander Aral Vorkosigan and kicking off the whole saga. The population is still rather low, and it's often referred to as Chaos Colony. After Aral's heart attack and subsequent retirement as Prime Minister following the events of Mirror Dance, Gregor appoints Aral and Cordelia Viceroy and Vicereine, a joint co-appointment.
- Chekhov's Volcano: Averting this is at the top of Cordelia's agenda for the last year of her viceroyalty, by shifting the planet's capital city away from a dormant volcano, even though it isn't likely to blow for decades.Cordelia: The future of Kareenburg is a lava flow. If the earthquakes don't get it first.
Home of Cordelia, mother of Miles, before she switched allegiance to Aral (and Barrayar). The most technologically and socially progressive society in known space, or a degenerate planet full of unspeakable perversions, madness, and mutations, depending on where you stand. Beta does produce a lot of Science Heroes...just don't run afoul of their therapists.
- Arms Dealer: A major line of business for them. But if they're selling you the "latest new weapon" you can bet that they're holding the defense against that weapon in their back pockets. Beta Colony sells leading edge weapons, but only after they are confident that those weapons can't be used against them.
- Bold Explorer: Their Astronomical Survey Corp, which also functions as a kind of military, almost like an expy of Starfleet.
- Free-Love Future: Not quite "free" as in lawless. Their only sexual rules are "don't be deceptive with your earrings" (the signals of one's sexual status) and "don't have children without a license". But these are kept fanatically.
- Future Food Is Artificial: As Beta Colony has no naturally occurring biosphere, virtually all their locally-produced consumable organics are done in interior grow houses or are vat-grown cultures.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Strongly encouraged. Even their Astronomical Survey ship captains are expected to have academic qualifications that professional scientists from other colonies consider daunting.
- Intimate Psychotherapy: Licensed Practical Sexuality Therapists are a respected profession. To people from other colonies it looks more like Unproblematic Prostitution.
- Planet of Hats: Most within the Nexus strongly identify Beta Colony with social liberalism and technological innovation.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: Certainly in the view of a lot of terminally old-fashioned Barrayarans. The rest of the galaxy seems to view the Betans as kind of out there but with enough strong points to overlook the sarongs and the scarily-overpowered role of therapy.
- Population Control: Because of limited space in the colony, a license is needed to have children. It is very rare to be authorized to have more than two children.
- Proud Scholar Race: Of the Scientist variety.
- Underground City: Beta Colony was settled before the discovery of wormhole travel, and the planetary surface is actually very inhospitable to human life. Therefore the colony is underground and space is at a premium (hence the strict population control). Large open spaces are few in number, so Betans favor interior design over architecture as an art form.
An empire of interconnected planets ruled by a caste dedicated to raising themselves to transhuman status by genetic manipulation, Cetaganda once invaded and unsuccessfully occupied Barrayar. In many ways, it remains the main opponent of the Vorkosigan series as, unlike Barrayar, Cetaganda generally favours expansion, although by the end of the series it appears that Miles' sustained efforts have bought Barrayar some goodwill with its once and future enemy ...not that it means much, but by Diplomatic Immunity he can actually talk the Cetagandans out of starting another war with Barrayar.
- Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: A haut lady who doesn't make "the cut" may be given to a distinguished ghem as a bride.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: ...and some of them may become sufficiently peeved at that to say "Fuck Cetaganda!" Lady Moira ghem Estifnote certainly was one of these.
- Deadly Decadent Court: The ghem and the haut both have this going on, both individually and to some extent against each other.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Star Crèche sounds like the Bene Gesserit.
- The Empire: Expansionist, with a preference for targeting weak and isolated planets for conquest. Hence Barrayar seemed like an ideal target since the Time of Isolation had left them in Medieval Stasis. That did not end well. Cetaganda is still prone to eyeballing other potential conquests, but is somewhat checked by a number of the more advanced and powerful planets being willing to oppose their expansionism.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Cetagandans are depicted as haughty, sophisticated and with their entire culture suffused with making everything beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, and their society key elements often have a french name ("Haut", "Ba(s)", "Crèche"...).
- Evilutionary Biologist: While plenty of other worlds could also do this given their technology, Cetaganda stands alone in designing their whole society around it.
- Fantastic Caste System: The haut geneticist caste ruling over the ghem warrior caste with the workers below both.
- If I Wanted You Dead...: Miles and Duv's research finds that the Cetagandan invasion was not authorized by either the Emperor or (more importantly) the Star Crèche, who were more interested in studying Barrayaran genes, which to them was akin to Darwin exploring the Galapagos Islands. If the Crèche really wanted to conquer Barrayar, they could have annihilated them with one or two of their bioweapons (which the offending ghem generals had stolen but failed to implement). Miles and company all suffer a bit of Fridge Horror after he relates the story in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.
- Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Specifically bred to be.
- Mad Artist: Even their bioweapons are artistic.
- Master Race: Their society is build around attempting to evolve themselves into an example of this trope. Miles notes at one point that they do not currently consider this process complete. What they will have become by the time they do consider themselves finished, not even they can guess.
- Meaningful Name: While haut (a corruption of haute, or high, in French) is an entirely literal descriptor of the Cetagandan ruling caste, it also carries certain other connotations in English. Haute couture is the far end of fashion - taboo-breakingly innovative, obscenely expensive, exotically beautiful, and (often) completely impractical. The haut, meanwhile, are the same principle applied to human beings rather than clothing.
- Planet of Hats: Everything revolves around eugenic breeding, and genetic fitness defines an individual's role in the society.
- Proud Warrior Race: The Ghem were created that way, and it's hinted that Vorish delegates might actually get along with them because they're Not So Different. However, while this is still the case among soldiers and security like Colonel Benin, out-of-work Court Ghem are a subversion — often so exaggeratedly refined that they make Ivan look as fierce as Bloody Pierre by comparison.
- Scary Dogmatic Humans: Perhaps more Starfishy than Scary Dogmatic. Still...
- Secret War: With Barrayar. Constantly. Though at the current stage it's more of a Space Cold War.
- Shout-Out: Cetagandan Haut Ladies all look like extras from a Leiji Matsumoto anime.
- Space Cold War: With Barrayar, after their failed invasion.
- Space Elves: Sort of. Humans who are deliberately evolving themselves into Space Elves
- Transhuman Aliens: Perhaps not quite, but if the haut breeding program continues on schedule... soon. Arguably the haut are already there.
- You Have Failed Me: The fate of members of the ghem warrior caste who do disappointing things like not outwitting Miles.
Planet ruled by criminal houses where you can get anything for enough money. And that does mean anything.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Even the "good" Jacksonians are charmingly amoral.
- Arms Dealer: Inevitably. A little seedier than Beta, to say the least.
- Better the Devil You Know: Miles once reflects grimly that if Jackson's Whole didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent it. The galaxy can keep all its scum there, away from everyone else but still within convenient reach. And since every imaginable abuse of technology occurs there, nobody else has be the ones to develop them.
- The Clan: Each criminal house.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: What passes for a "respectable" Jacksonian would count as this.
- Deconstruction: Of the Heinleinian notion of a libertarian utopia, showing just how dystopian such a society would likely be in reality. It's named for Jackson Hole (formerly Jackson's Hole) in Wyoming, USA, a valley that since the early 1980s has hosted a "summer camp for bankers." This popularity for the rich has had adverse effects on property values and costs of services, which (to prey upon rich tourists) have grown so high that locals can face a serious economic burden. Not entirely unlike what life must be like for common people on the Whole.
- Do You Want to Haggle?: Someone who can do this well is admired. Ezar's skill in keeping Sergyar after the Escobar war is taught to Jacksonian children. Udine semi-complains that Gregor bargained House Cardonnah to 5% of the spoils of a treasure cache; Tej notes that Udina is actually appreciating Gregor's skills.
- Dystopia: For anyone not connected to a House — and even for some who are.
- Expendable Clone: One of the services provided on the planet is making clone slaves tailored for any purpose; mental, physical, sexual — including clones, perfectly sapient individuals with artificially induced maturity, intended to receive the transplanted brains of wealthy but aging people (the clone's brain is then just medical waste). No other planet allows such things, so if you want that service desperately enough, this is the only place to get it. However, it is an extremely dangerous procedure — the transplant doesn't always take. Assuming, of course, all of your surgeons are totally loyal and didn't "accidentally" misplace the crucial brain...
- I Gave My Word: The only thing considered sacred here is "the Deal". "Deal" seems to be as much a shibboleth on Jackson's as "Oaths" are on Barrayar.
- Exact Words: However, Jacksonians will bend the wording of the deal as far as it can without snapping.
- The Mafia: The whole planet is basically organized crime.
- Noble Demon: The best one can expect from House Barons, such as Fell.
- Planet of Hats: It can be bought. No matter what "it" is.
- Wretched Hive: The only thing anyone respects on Jackson's Whole is money. Thus, those with the money are the law, and can buy and sell far more than just your life. (There are law enforcement officials and prisons, but they're essentially organised bounty hunters and pens for human livestock, respectively.) Those unwilling to compromise their morals don't survive long.
A planet settled by a very gynophobic religious group of men after the invention of the uterine replicator makes a society without women possible. Athos holds itself separate from the Galactic Nexus to prevent "contamination" from baleful (i.e. female) outside influences. They even censor Galactic media so that only men with very high clearances have ever even seen pictures of women.
- Cult Colony: An ultra-radical Christian splinter group, to be exact. Ironically, though the original Founding Fathers were celibate, the long-term result over the course of centuries was to create a society where there are same-sex marriages. Unlike many cases of this trope, the Athosians are not depicted as evil or repressive. Indeed, most of them seem quite content with their way of life and while most inhabitants are religious, they are not fanatically so.
- Has Two Daddies: Most of the inhabitants do, as helping to raise another man's child is one of the quickest ways to earn social credits toward having one's own child, so a lot of men end up in parenting partnerships where they help raise each other's children. Their relationship of the respective parents is not necessarily a romantic or sexual one, but it often is.
- He-Man Woman Hater: The Founders of Athos held a religious belief that women are the root cause of all male sin. This attitude persists even among more secular modern Athosians, who believe that women are inherently dangerous to men and thus must be avoided at all costs.
- Homosexual Reproduction: Not easy, but they make it work. Sort of. With advances in reproductive science now spreading throughout the Nexus, they may be able to achieve this for real before too long.
- Planet of Hats: The population of Athos is 100% male. As of the end of Ethan of Athos, they are on their way to becoming a planet of telepaths as well.
- Population Control: Relatively easily enforced as a single-sex population necessarily relies entirely on artificial means. Reproduction centers are national facilities, and the privilege of having a child conceived there can be bought with "social credits", which any member of the population can earn by volunteering their efforts toward things which benefit the colony directly. One of the quickest ways of earning such credits is to help another man raise one of his children, which also gives the prospective parent experience for when they have their own child.
- Situational Sexuality: Most Athosian men will never even see a woman, nor have their ancestors going back generations. Homosexual relationships are therefore the norm, although some men, implied to be strongly heterosexual, remain celibate instead. Oddly, emigration from Athos is virtually unheard of, possibly because of religious indoctrination about how women can Mind Control men.
The Union of Free Habitats (Quaddiespace)
Home to the setting's largest society of Transhuman Aliens, Quaddiespace is situated in a star system with no habitable planets. The original quaddies (humans genetically engineered for free fall with a second pair of arms in place of legs) chose it because it gives them an advantage over any "downsiders" who come to visit. Graf Station was created out of the remains of the spaceship they stole in their escape from slavery to the corporation that created them. Since they were bred to be laborers, their society is based on the work gang.
- Asteroid Miners: And they are singularly good at it, since they don't have to drag anything into or out of planetary gravity wells.
- Call-Back: They pause in their escape to rescue Madame Minchenko, a music teacher and concert violinist. Two centuries later, the Minchenko ballet is their crowning cultural accomplishment.
- Dancing Is Serious Business: One of the things they are most proud of is their null-grav ballet.
- Fantastic Racism: Averted, since their hero, Leo Graf, was a downsider who had a famous relationship with Silver, a quaddie (on which "The Crossing" is partly based.) They instead have condescension to people who 1) are lazy, or 2) won't respect their traditions.
- The Migration: Across several star systems. "The Crossing" is the subject of a classic ballet. "Keep boosting" indeed.
- Only One Name: Quaddies do not have last names. Originally all living quaddies had unique names derived from their serial numbers, but as the population grew from the initial thousand to millions, they had to allow duplication. If someone wants to use a name that someone else already has, they have to attach a numerical suffix to it. "Leo Ninety-nine" is given as an example. The highest number ever seen attached to any other name is "Sixteen" (attached to the name of another hero of the migration). The quaddies really remember Leo Graf fondly.
- Planet of Hats: Not technically a "planet" per se, but their space-based society is designed for the convenience of people who were genetically engineered for zero gravity and have arms instead of legs. As the descendants of people genetically-engineered to be laborers (And whose greatest cultural hero was an engineer), the quaddies attach great value to doing one's job well. They are impressed by how "task-oriented" Miles is, expecting a downsider ambassador to be more pretentious.
- Their most visible hat is music and dance, since one of their other cultural heroes (a founding mother, as it were) was a music teacher and concert violinist. The first quaddy character introduced is a musician, who takes advantage of null gravity to play a double-sided dulcimer.
- Reluctant Warrior: The last murder before Miles' visit was years ago. Quaddies don't bother to keep a proper forensics team because they have so few murders. And they seem somewhat confused by fairly normal concepts of military discipline like objecting to deserters and AWOLs (though Barrayarans take it farther than most at the best of times, and in Diplomatic Immunity were applying it in a very ham-fisted manner). On the other hand, they do at least have a security force and a militia capable of dealing with harbor brawls with reasonable efficiency.
- Space People: They don't need inhabitable planets, and specifically chose a star system without one to avoid competition.
- Transhuman Aliens: The biggest and most instantly-recognisable faction thereof in the setting.
- Turned Against Their Masters: A non-violent example.
Earth was still the largest, richest, most varied and populous planet in scattered humanity's entire worm-hole nexus of explored space. Its dearth of good exit points in solar local space and governmental disunity left it militarily and strategically minor from the greater galactic point of view. But Earth still reigned, if it did not rule, culturally supreme. More war-scarred than Barrayar, as technically advanced as Beta Colony, the end-point of all pilgrimages both religious and secular — in light of which, major embassies from every world that could afford one were collected here.
- Earth That Used to Be Better: The homeworld of humanity has been through some rough times, including major wars. While it is by no means a shambles, it has definitely been surpassed in terms of interstellar influence by many of its colonies. Thus Earth is a contradiction in that it possesses a powerful sense of historical significance for all of humankind, but its strategic importance is comparatively low.
- Global Warming: Sea levels are much higher on Earth than they used to be, and many major coastal cities are now either protected by elaborate flood barriers or completely submerged.
- Holy City: Miles notes all pilgrimages, both religious and secular, end at Earth, since it still is humanity's cradle.
- Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Earth is in a cul-de-sac of the the Wormhole Nexus, which makes getting there a bit of a hassle. Its out-of-the-way location puts it off all the major trade routes, resulting in it having less galactic influence than, for example, Tau Ceti. And since Subspace Ansible technology is absent in this universe, meaning that messages have to be carried by ship through wormholes, Earth could never function as anything even close to a real-time interstellar government.
- Jack-of-All-Stats: Earth does have highly advanced science, arts and so on, but is just second best to most.
- One World Order: Averted. Earth never has quite managed to politically unify its multitude of nations. Which is another major reason why it does not wield more influence throughout the Nexus despite its huge population and level of technological advancement. Colonies that have a Planetary Nation can often exert greater influence simply by virtue of being able to put forth a single unified economic and political policy.
Imperial Security (ImpSec)
Intelligence, counterintelligence, and paramilitary police for the Barrayaran Imperium. Employer of Miles during the first part of the series.
- Ambadassador: At one time a foreign diplomat they needed to bribe demanded an elephant as his price, even though the nearest elephant was several planets away. ImpSec, of course, provided an elephant]].
- Badass Intelligence Agency: They are one of the best secret services in the nexus and employ some of the scariest people on Barrayar. When Miles sees a Jacksonian crime lord viciously assassinated in Mirror Dance, he muses that it was probably not ImpSec — not because they wouldn't have done that, but because they would have been more efficient about it.
- Big Labyrinthine Building: ImpSec headquarters.
- Bizarrchitecture: The ImpSec building is a Running Gag on Barrayar for being so unconscionably hideous, it's hilarious, a massive block of concrete with no windows, too many steps that are set too highnote , and gargoyles carved into every outer face. The gargoyles are actually made into cartoon characters and it was Simon Illyan's greatest wish to be able to budget for a new building.
- Creepy Good: A bunch of paranoid, conspiracy-obsessed spies with some extremely sinister methods and a disturbing history, but they're kept on a leash by Gregor.
- Enigmatic Empowering Entity: ImpSec is the personality of Simon Illyan writ large.
- Interservice Rivalry/Jurisdiction Friction: Between Operations, Service Security, and Komarran police. With Komarran police, it has a nationalistic tinge, and the Auditors have a rivalry with everyone because that's their job.
- Mad Artist: The building was designed by Yuri's favorite architect. Both men had extremely idiosyncratic taste. It shows.
- Museum of the Strange and Unusual: The bottom floor of the headquarters contains weapons, drugs, poisons, and various and sundry nefarious things catalogued meticulously.
- After it's destroyed in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Mark opens it up to the public for profit.
- Praetorian Guard: They guard the Emperor and various dignitaries. They also train the Vorbarra armsmen. They are decidedly not to be screwed with.
- Recycled In Space: Something like a more benign (if not exactly nice) Okhrana.
- Secret Police: Downplayed version; not nearly as vicious as some incarnations of this trope and well under the control of The Government.
- Silent Partner: Only a few of the Dendarii know who Miles is or who his employer is.
- Torture Cellar: Subverted. The lowest sub-basement was such a cellar, once upon a time. Yuri kept lots of people there, Ezar kept a few, mostly those whom he had a rational reason to fear, and Aral mostly closed down its function as a dungeon. During the early part of Gregor's reign it was converted into a forensic warehouse, and a new, modern detention facility was created in the upper section. During different conspiracy panics, both Simon and Duv end up there (Simon in the old facility, Duv in the new) for a week or two until an investigation is finished. On both occasions it's commented that it does well for the perspective of a spymaster to be on the other end of the process. In Miles' time, it's mostly used to keep seized items from ImpSec missions. Once in a while, a prisoner who is too important to put anywhere else ends up there until they figure out what to do with him.
Merc band formed by Miles' acting ability. Given a standing contract with ImpSec, at first to give a loophole to avoid the law against Vor having private armies and later because they are useful. Led by Admiral Naismaith.
- Catchphrase: Daring Rescues Our Specialty.
Tropes that apply to the whole Vorkosigan clan:
- Badass Family: When you're Vor, it's almost a given, but when even your supposedly-cuddly, pacifist Betan mother has a reputation for bringing home the heads of your enemies in a shopping bag...
- Beware the Nice Ones: Both as a whole and as individuals. As a whole, they appear relatively nice for high Vor, and as individuals, the order in which you should choose a Vorkosigan to pick on is: "The Butcher of Komarr", the deformed runt of an Imperial Auditor, the cuddly pacifist Betan, and the chubby businessman. And yes, that is in descending order of preference. And no, it's not a good idea whichever one you go for, because it will pretty definitely catch the attention of the rest.
- Deadpan Snarker: All of them.
- High Vor Who Actually Do Something
- Up to Eleven: Ivan notes that their motto should be: "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing."Ivan: God, even the clone...
Miles Naismith Vorkosigan
The eldest (originally only) son and heir to the Vorkosigan Countship, victim of a soltoxin attack while still in utero, the antitoxin to which left him with an abnormally stunted stature and frighteningly brittle bones, Miles grew up military-mad in a culture that despised him for a mutie. When he fails his qualifying physical for the Barrayaran military at seventeen, the death of his grandfather and a "breather" trip to Beta Colony with his friend Elena Bothari and her father Sergeant Konstantine Bothari, followed by a chance meeting with a drunk-and-suicidal jump pilot, changes the course of his life, ending in him becoming the admiral of a mercenary fleet at seventeen and launching a career beyond his wildest adolescent imaginings.
- Almighty Janitor: Despite commanding his own mercenary fleet as Admiral Naismith, Miles never manages to rise past the rank of Lieutenant until after he gets himself fired from ImpSec in the Barrayaran service.
- Ambadassador: On several occasions.
- Batman Gambit: His frequent modus operandi. He gets it from both his parents.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Another tool in his tactical repertoire.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Miles is a deeply caring soul and almost compulsively determined to do right by everyone he can, from helping a miserable drunken jump pilot keep his beloved ship from being repossessed to helping ten thousand POWs escape a Cetagandan prison camp when he was only supposed to engineer the breakout of one of them. ("Daring Rescues our specialty!" Granted, if he'd stuck to his original objectives, the mission would have been pointless; the one POW he'd gone in to get was not in a fit state to be helpful.) Cross him, or worse yet, mess with his loved ones, and you will be very, very sorry.
- Big Brother Instinct: Toward Mark.
- Big Damn Heroes: Miles loves doing this, even when it puts his life on the line. It gets him Killed Off for Real for the better part of Mirror Dance.
- Blood Knight: Very mild, but Quinn and Kareen both note that people shooting at him makes him excited.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He may be crazy (even his own mother thinks so), but he's very, very good at what he does.
- Busman's Holiday: Miles can't go anywhere but that something gigantic and political comes down on his head.
- But Not Too Foreign: Since Aral's maternal Grandmother was also a Betan, Miles is actually only 3/8ths Barrayaran. He doesn't tend to call people's attention to the math. In A Civil Campaign, he tells Count Vorbretten he's technically less than half a Barrayan — then winces inwardly because he left himself wide open for a height joke. (To his credit, Vorbretten doesn't take the bait, or ever even considered it.)
- Challenge Seeker: Gets called this by more than one character in various ways, including "adrenaline junkie".
- Chick Magnet: Despite the loss of his first love Elena, Miles doesn't seem to have any trouble attracting strong, capable, badass women (and hermaphrodites; even if Bel Thorne's interest was unrequited, they still worked well together), and has remarkably successful relationships with them, to the point where he still trusted Rowan Durona enough to consider her performing an illicit medical procedure on his brain in Memory, and after A Civil Campaign, Elli sent him a kinky (if snarky) wedding gift and Taura stood as Second to his wife Ekaterin during the marriage ceremony.
- Deadpan Snarker: Miles' snark is weapons-grade.
- Determinator: He takes this to frightening levels. A minor but telling example: when Ekaterin is hanging over the railing about to go into the Serifosa ornamental pond, Miles grabs onto her wrists despite having no support and being considerably smaller than her, realizes this, and gets pulled into the pond with her anyway because he refuses to let go. This late leads both Miles and Ekaterin to an epiphany: Miles to the fact that he couldn't have saved Sergeant Beatrice, frequent star of his nightmares and self-recriminations, from being sucked out of the shuttle during the Dagoola IV rescue because even if he had been just a little faster, he had no purchase and she outweighed him almost twice over, and Ekaterin to the realization that if Miles had managed to grab Beatrice, he would have died with her simply because in spite of the above, he would not have let go. Admiral Naismith has to win. Miles Vorkosigan cannot lose.
- Disabled Snarker
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: A major motivator and source of consternation for Miles, especially at the start of the series. Coming to terms with the classified nature of his work and accepting his public identity as Lord Vorkosigan is a major part of his character arc.
- In Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen it's hinted that enough historical dramas about the events of the Hagan Hub have been made for some people to piece together Miles's mercenary work on their own. Almost twenty years later than he would've liked, but still. Officially he can't comment and has to wait for things to be declassified in due course.
- Epic Fail:
- The dinner party in A Civil Campaign. Not entirely his fault though.
- Falsifying an ImpSec report. Entirely his fault.
- A Father to His Men: A trait he picked up from his father while running the Dendarii Mercenaries, such as making sure a neural disruptor victim got all the medical care he needed, paid for a new face for one of his soldiers (who later became a love interest — and Miles' successor), and so on.
- Fragile Speedster: The speed is mostly spiritual, but for the better part of his life a simple fall could shatter his bones like glass.
- Genius Cripple: He has to use his head to overcome his physical, uh, shortcomings. Fortunately, his mind is his deadliest weapon. That said, he learned plenty of physical moves, as Enrique Burgos found out, and is also an expert marksman and lightflyer pilot.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: Miles for most of his life. "Hi, I'm a hero and I can't tell you why." He patiently waits for his exploits to be declassified, which by Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen are five years away; by that time, plenty of Barrayan officials and even off-worlders have sussed out Miles' involvement. On the other hand, Admiral Naismith's adventures have been very public, once being asked to be a technical expert for the Marilican film based on "Borders of Infinity".
- Guile Hero: He has to be, because of his frail physique. Even after his bones are replaced with more durable synthetics, he's still five foot zilch.
- Happily Married: to Ekaterin Vorsoisson, after a few false starts.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: To a lesser extent than Aral, and only among certain circles. Of course, Miles uses this to his advantage too. Once a disgruntled political opponent implied that Miles' connections allowed him to get away with murder. Miles replied "So if you truly believe that, why are you standing in my way?"
- High Vor Who Actually Do Something
- Insistent Terminology: Miles would like you to know that his physical issues are teratogenic in nature, and the Vor in general are a military caste, not an aristocracy. Also, Mark is his brother, not his clone. Later in his life, Miles is much more flexible on the first issue, taking the more relaxed view that if Barrayar sees him as a mutant, his success might make things easier for actual mutants after him. It may help that he marries Ekaterin around this time, but the attitude shift had at least mostly happened before he met her.
- Insane Admiral: Though Admiral Naismith is just crazy, not evil.
- Internal Affairs: He is an Auditor in later episodes and that is his main job.
- The Judge: In "The Mountains of Mourning".
- Knight Errant: There's a reason one omnibus is titled Miles Errant. He sees himself as one, according to his mother's amateur psychoanalysis. She even asserts his knight errant impulse is so strong a sane government wouldn't allow Miles to possess a pocket knife, let alone a private army.
Peace to you, small lady. You've won a twisted poor modern knight, to wear your favor on his sleeve. But it's a twisted poor world we were both born into, that rejects us without mercy and ejects us without consultation. At least I won't just tilt at windmills for you. I'll send in sappers to mine the twirling suckers, and blast them into the sky
- In "The Mountains Of Mourning" he has a whole Inner Monologue directed to a newborn who was killed for having a harelip where he refers to himself as her knight and swears to prevent future killings.
- Manipulative Bastard: Ivan several times notes that whenever they have a conversation it ends with Miles getting his way.
- Messianic Archetype: At times, particularly during Borders of Infinity when he started out pretending until he somehow wasn't. The madman who came up with the idea even points out that Miles thinks he's faking, but he's not.
- Even more obvious in Mirror Dance, where he is this for Mark. In the same way that, in Christianity, God is the source of our life, but only becomes 'our Father' because we are adopted into God's family because Jesus, God's son, died for us, so Mark is genetically the child of Aral and Cordelia, but only actually meets them and accepts his identity as their son because of the events which led up to Miles' being killed while trying to rescue Mark from the chaos of his own misguided attempts at heroism. And, of course, Miles does come back to life...
- Military Maverick: Despite working within Barrayaran Imperial Security for all intents and purposes, Miles got his rank and position by going totally AWOL, scamming an entire mercenary fleet into following him, and single-handedly ending a major interplanetary war. He also has a habit of driving superiors batty; it isn't until many years later that he realizes Simon Illyan's parting wish for Miles have "subordinates just like himself" was not a compliment but a decisively heartfelt curse.
- Towards the end of The Vor Game Elena notes that Miles has every commanding officer he ever served under locked up in adjacent cells aboard his flagship.
- Mother Barrayar Makes Me Strong: Even more than most Barrayarans. As a mut— uh, teratogenic — on Barrayar, the more old-fashioned find it disturbing that he should be allowed even to live and he is driven to have a successful military career just to prove the value of his existence to himself. The author herself said that she came up with him pondering the most sadistic thing she could possibly do to a character.
- Motor Mouth: When excited — this is the reason he's become the Phrase Catcher of "Unpack, Miles". Under fast penta, he goes Up to Eleven.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Miles really really regretted allowing Bothari to torture a pilot for information, who later died from complications directly caused by it. The fact he saw an extremely disturbing side of Honorary Uncle Bothari also frightened him.
- In the same book, another disaster occurs which results in Bothari being killed by one of his Escobaran victims in front of his daughter, that is to say, THEIR daughter, and Miles' very eyes, when Miles introduces the unknown complication of Elena Visconti without knowing her history with Barrayar in general and his armsman in particular...
- The Napoleon: A very sympathetic example, but he's still pretty insecure about his height.
- Nepotism: He's sensitive about it and does everything he can to earn rank and respect on his own merits... but isn't above throwing his weight around as a Vor scion if it helps cut through obnoxious Barrayaran red tape or, more frequently, help somebody else out. In Memory, Illyan is Genre Savvy enough to have discussed cashiering Miles from ImpSec with Gregor, cutting off the only person Miles could have possibly have appealed to to save him.note
- He also uses it as his ImpSec cover to explain why he's the only agent to have a direct line to Illyan and Gregor. He smoothly notes that because he can't be conditioned to resist fast penta, all he's good for is to be Gregor's personal mailman. Voreedi doesn't buy a word of it.
- Phrase Catcher: "Unpack, Miles."
- Secret Identity Identity: The conflict between Admiral Miles Naismith and Lord Miles Vorkosigan fuels a lot of the character development in the later books, and is one of the central themes of Memory.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Miles does not escape his military career scot-free, if his constant nightmares are any indication.
- Technically a Smile: Miles is good at this. In A Civil Campaign, Miles "manufactures" a smile for Richars. Shortly after:The smile transmuted to pure snarl. He stormed around the room three times looking for something that wasn't an antique too valuable to break...
- Too Clever by Half: Miles goes a little too far with his "cleverness" in Memory when faking a report. He calls it "downright artistic", and wrestles with sending it or the real, undoctored report. He goes with the former and pays the price.
- Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: As of Cryoburn, Miles' full title stands as Imperial Auditor Captain Count Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, Count Vorkosigan, a mouthful if ever there was one. No telling yet if he will continue to add to that.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: To Elena.
- Warrior Therapist: Learnt it from his mother.
- Well Done Grandson Guy: To Piotr, at first. He gets over it. Is a tiny bit this towards Aral, but unlike most examples of this trope, Aral is never stingy with his love and affection for Miles, nor does he make a secret of it. Miles still feels driven to make his own life "...a golden sacrifice, fit to lay at my father's feet."
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Though sometimes, especially early on in his career, Miles's tendency to go off half-cocked can lead to a Gambit Pileup all by himself.
Cordelia Naismith (Countess Vorkosigan)
Cordelia: That's weird. I don't feel full of honor, or anything else, except maybe confusion.
Aral: Naturally not. Fountains keep nothing for themselves.
"The Admiral's Captain": Former Betan Astronomical Survey Captain, retired Science Hero, certified badass, wife of Aral and mother of Miles and later Mark. And Aurelia. And maybe more....
- Accidental Hero: Cordelia reluctantly takes public credit for killing Admiral Vorrutyer during the Escobar War. She takes the blame to protect her rescuer from charges of mutiny, but is quick to point out the real hero when it comes time to assign the credit.
- Action Girl: Through most of Shards of Honor, changing to Action Mom during Barrayar.
- Bold Explorer: When first seen in Cordelia's Honor.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: A lot of Barrayarans seem to perceive her as such for her attitudes to sex and gender...not that they'd ever say that to the face of the woman who reportedly took down Ges Vorrutyer and Vidal Vordarian. The feeling's a bit mutual, and she's spent thirty years gently and quietly starting to turn the tables.
- Compelling Voice: Her "Ship's Captain" voice turn Kou and Drou to jelly in just seconds, to the amazement of Kareen.
- Cool Old Lady: By Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, she's 76 years old, and Kareen admits she'd be more comfortable talking to Cordelia about her sex life than to her own mother. Oh, and her part in the War of Vordarian's Pretendership has elevated her to Memetic Badass status. Though, since Betans live longer than most people, she's more like a Cool Middle-Aged Lady by the standards of her own planet.
- Due to the Dead: Cordelia gives Princess Kareen what she believes is a fitting burnt offering to her death: setting half the Imperial Palace ablaze.
- Fish out of Water: Initially, Cordelia on Barrayar. After thirty plus years, it's slowly starting to swing the other way.
- Free-Love Future: Cordelia has at best amused tolerance of Barrayer's extremely old-fashioned sexual mores as contrasted to her native Beta Colony. However, this does not stop her from being fully-involved in what was essentially a polyamorous marriage which included Aral's male partner. She muses about how Simon Illyan was truly terrified that she would be outraged when she returned from a trip to Beta Colony and found that her husband had taken up with another man. To his astonishment she treated it as a non-issue and in fact started sleeping with both of them herself.
- Fridge Horror: A case of it hits her in-universe when she finally realizes the horror her soft-heartedness must have unintentionally inflicted on the unfortunate Lt. Dubauer.
- Going Native: Averted; she remains stubbornly unassimilated. When Miles is in danger though, she can bring home the villain's head in a basket, thus proving that in this way she has lived up to Barrayaran standards Up to Eleven.
- Good Parents: With Aral. They complement each other as she is the nurturer while Aral is the teacher and role-model.
- Happily Married: to Aral, of course.
- I Can Change My Beloved: More I Can Change My Beloved's Planet. But Aral lives on the planet, so...
- Informed Attractiveness: Averted. Cordelia is described more than once as physically appealing, but not as a real beauty. It's her personality that really makes her attractive.
- Mama Bear:
- After what she goes through in Barrayar to rescue Miles' uterine replicator, don't you dare doubt it.
- In Mirror Dance, she hints that if domestic circumstances hadn't intervened, she would have personally invaded Jackson's Whole to rescue Miles.
- It extends to Mark as well. She has a Heroic BSoD when Mark outright tells her that he has to risk his life, if only to prove he's not responsible for Aral's death. She gets better when she realizes that Mark needs to prove himself more than she needs him to be safe.
- So much so that at the end of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen her over protective behavior drives her daughter's nanny to tears more than once. Jole assures the young lady that it's just a relic of her experience with Miles and she'll eventually ease up as she realizes her new daughter isn't made of glass.
- Medicate the Medium: She couldn't reveal the details of how she escaped captivity and participated in a Barrayaran political assassination during the Escobaran war, so her story about being in love with Aral was dismissed as obvious brainwashing.
- Memetic Badass: In-universe, becomes this among the High Vor after the events of Barrayar, although even before the 'shopping trip' various Vor wags were remarking that she supposedly ate battle cruisers for breakfast. Her public image is much lower profile: historian Duv Galeni later refers to her as "the most invisible of political wives" — Miles responds that she's invisible like oxygen: you don't notice it's there, until it's not.
- Miles later jokes when someone asks him to come shopping with them that "There's an offer seldom made of my mother's son."
- When Count Vorhalas, Aral Vorkosigan's implacable political adversary, threatens to continue to press charges that Miles raised a private army (traditional penalty: death by starvation), Miles simply points out that if Vorhalas presses the issue, he'll have to face Cordelia over it. Count Vorhalas quickly backs down. It's not just fear, though Miles can't know that. Count Vorhalas was a friend before politics drove them apart. One of his sons was also responsible for the attack that left Miles as physically damaged as he is.
- When Mark was being trained to replace Miles, Cordelia's low international profile led him to contemptuously dismiss her as a non-factor in Barrayaran politics; on his entry into Barrayaran society, he notes that her influence is evident in Gregor's governance, and when she goes into Determinator mode, the only people who seem willing to challenge her are Simon Illyan and Emperor Gregor himself — and when Simon refuses to get out of her way, she simply plows him under...
- When Cordelia says she'll talk to Kou and Drou on Mark's behalf, Mark expressed doubt. When he asks Miles how she'll handle them, Miles bemusedly replies, "Butter, meet laser beam. Laser beam, meet butter — oops!"
- Messianic Archetype: Even moreso than her eldest son.
- Noble Bigot: Literally, even! She's not called on it explicitly, but endures a lot of suffering trying to strong-arm her way through Vor customs and traditions, and sometimes concedes she's still on Barrayar, so its lunacy must be contagious.
- Not So Above It All: When Kly tells her gum weed (a chewable tobacco-like substance with caffeine in it to boost) isn't for a high class Vor lady, Cordelia retorts that she's none of the above and needs the pick-me-up.
- Not What It Looks Like: Inverted. It's exactly what it looks like, but no one around her is willing to believe that she could possibly have genuinely fallen in love with Aral and assumes that it's Stockholm Syndrome or Barrayaran brainwashing.
- Obnoxious In-Laws: In a way. She seems to think of Barrayar as her obnoxious planet in-law and her favorite curse word is, "Barrayarans!"
- Parental Substitute: To Gregor. When told she would be essentially Gregor's governess during his formative years, she was astonished, since that gave her the most power in the entire Barrayaran Empire. Aral says the Counts think it's harmless, but he knows better and that's the reason he suggested it. Later, in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Jole tells her she'll always have ImpSec's protection and survelliance, because even if she's no longer Vicerine, she's still Gregor's foster mother, which would make her an attractive target. (Cordelia snorts Gregor knows that she'd never want him to comprimise his ethics if she were kidnapped. Jole replies it would be unfair to Gregor to make him have to sacrifice her.)
- Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?:Adm. Jole: Whats in the box? Not a severed headagainI trust?
Cordelia: Now, now, Oliver. Bring home one dismembered body part, once, mind you, once, and people get twitchy about checking your luggage ever after.
- Sanity Slippage: Admits she's not entirely sane after she burns half the Imperial Palace with an arc thrower in Princess Kareen's honor in Barrayar.
- Shipper on Deck: All during Barrayar, she's frustrated at Kou and Drou's Cannot Spit It Out flirting, and when she's given a chance to make them get together, she does.
- Skunk Stripe: Wears one later in life. She makes it accentuate her looks.
- The Social Expert:
- Probably the best example in a whole family full of examples. To be fair, she clung to Alys for a very long time, and it's apparent she became a good student under her.
- Interestingly though, in Cordelia's Honor she implied that she thought herself socially inept because at one time she had been exploited by a selfish lover.
- In Mirror Dance, she tells Mark that she and other Barrayaran women have been changing the planet while the men play war with their toys. She states the real battle is between the older women who had body births and the younger women who now have the option of the uterine replicator. She states that Vor society is going to change in the next decade, and the men won't see it coming til it's far too late.Mark: You consider the Vor system an illusion?
Cordelia: I used to. Now I would call it a creation, which, like any living thing, must be continually re-created. Ive seen the Barrayaran system be awkward, beautiful, corrupt, stupid, honorable, frustrating, insane and breathtaking. Its gets most of the work of government done most of the time, which is about average for any system.
- Team Mom: To everyone. And given that she was Gregor's foster mother, she's arguably one to the entire Empire.
- A Threesome Is Hot: The more so since Guy-on-Guy Is Hot as far as Betan Cordelia is concerned. She had no problem with sharing her and Aral's marital bed with the extremely handsome Oliver Jole for about 20 years. Nor does she seem at all worried that this might repeat itself now that Aral is dead and she has continued on with the bisexual Oliver herself. She even dares Jole to kiss the hot blond boy at the kissing booth at a Sergyar fair.
- Tomboy: A bit old for the designation, but very much so by Barrayaran standards. Aral calls her "my dear Captain" for a reason. Miles observes that she wears a Barrayaran matron's skirts like a child playing dressup.
- Traumatic Haircut: Cordelia cropped her hair short after Aral passed away. Theee years later, during Gentlemen Joel and the Red Queen, it's still cut short.The night shed cut all her waist-length hair, which Aral had always loved, nearly to the roots to lay in the burning brazier. Because the usual sacrificial lock had seemed absurdly inadequate. Not one of her fellow mourners had said a word in protest, nor asked one in question. Shed never worn it longer than its current finger-length, thereafter.
- Verbal Tic: For a while in Shards of Honor, her own allies' determined efforts to undo what they assume must be brainwashing and psychological trauma inflicted on her by the Barrayarans, compounded by the sensitive political secrets she has to keep regarding what really happened, puts Cordelia under so much stress that she develops a stutter. It disappears entirely when she resolves to escape.
- Warrior Therapist: Effectively appointed herself warrior therapist to an entire planet by vowing to make Barrayar a safe place for Miles, Gregor and Elena to grow up. And she taught it to her son.
- Woman Scorned: Barrayar drove her half-crazy and teratogenically damaged her only son during Vordarian's coup attempt. According to her in Mirror Dance, her revenge is nothing less than changing the fundamental basis of Barrayaran society (using the uterine replicator tech). Anything worth doing...
- Yaoi Fangirl: And she's not even subtle about it. Her first reaction to finding out Aral and Jole were having an affair was to encourage it. Decades later, when dating Jole himself, she dares him to kiss an attractive, young blond man at a kissing booth — in public. He demures, but not without giving the guy a Double Take.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: A non-dichotomous example: after Cordelia takes out Vidal Vordarian, she earns the respect of the High Vor, but it enrages her for a time that Princess Kareen (Gregor's mother, who died defying Vordarian in the end after a powerless life spent trying, as Cordelia puts it, to just survive people like Serg and Ezar and Vordarian himself while protecting her son) is ignored and overlooked for her quiet courage while Cordelia's messy beheading is lauded.
Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan
Miles' father. A brilliant man of subtle contradictions, Count Aral is the lion of modern Barrayaran history. Engineer of the brilliant conquest of Komarr, Hero of the heroic retreat from Escobar, victor in the war of Vordarian's pretendership, regent through Gregor's minority and prime minister afterwards, Aral is possibly more influential on Barrayar than even Emperor Ezar. In short, a hard act to follow.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: When Vorhalas is threatening to have Miles executed, he says he wants to see Aral beg for Miles' life. He does so in a nanosecond, causing Vorhalas to tell him to cut it out.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Aral is reasonable, kind, intelligent, level-headed, and a good father and husband. He also strangled a subordinate to death with his bare hands for murdering civilians and slaughtered two people in duels. He ordered a base commander publicly shot for allowing his soldiers to rape prisoners — and uses the footage to bring soldiers into line later. When your son's assassin-clone's Superpowered Evil Side remarks on feeling a certain kinship with you...
- Bi the Way: Aral has had at least one male lover in the past. To the confusion of the Barrayarans, Cordelia really doesn't mind. She even openly muses at one point that Aral tends to lean more towards men than women, then clarifies that Aral mostly loves soldiers, so finding a tomboyish woman in uniform must have fulfilled all of his fantasies.Vordarian: He's bisexual, you know.Cordelia: (almost absent-minded) Was bisexual. Now he's monogamous.note
- Blue Blood: The bluest, as he's arguably first in line for the throne.
- The Butcher Of Komarr: One of his officers ordered the massacre of a group of unarmed Komarrans during the course of a planetary conquest that Aral had worked hard to make as bloodless as possible; Aral killed the man personally in a fit of rage, then got stuck with the blame for his actions.
- Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Komarrans assumed Aral killed the political officer to cover up the fact Aral gave the order.
- Broken Ace: After both Komarr and Escobar. A new job from Emperor Ezar fixes him both times, though Ezar leaves all of the real heavy lifting to Cordelia the second time around.
- Child Soldier: His military career began at eleven when Mad Emperor Yuri's death squad killed the rest of his family.
- Cincinnatus: Despite his wife's efforts, Barrayar and the High Vor just won't let him have a peaceful retirement. He seals the comparison by relinquishing the regency at Gregor's majority, just as he said he would.
- Cuckold: With his first wife. Oddly enough, he regarded one of his rivals as a Worthy Opponent. That did not stop him from reacting in proper vorish fashion.
- Depraved Bisexual: Subverted. Aral is perceived as this by some of his enemies, but is in fact a thoroughly honourable man and a devoted husband and father. (Aral is bisexual, just not depraved. He'd never cheat on Cordelia, though if he admitted that he was attracted to another man, knowing how Betan Cordelia is, she'd probably try and get them together). She did.
- Determinator: Miles gets it from both his parents: just witness the hell Aral puts himself through during his first appearance, trekking across hostile Sergyar with a couple of Betan POWs, one of whom was the victim of a nerve disruptor attack to the head and is thus a drooling vegetable.Aral: One step at a time I can walk around the world. Watch me.
- Face of a Thug: Even Miles admits that his "sharp, penetrating eyes" are the only things outwardly differentiating him from the stock image of a stereotypical military dictator.
- Feudal Overlord: Of the Dendarii mountains.
- The Good Chancellor: After he surrenders the regency he gets the prime ministership as a consolation prize.
- Good Parents: With Cordelia
- Happily Married: To Cordelia
- High Vor Who Actually Do Something
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Though it's largely his own fault, due to his tumultuous youth. When Cordelia's mother calls him a killer, her only defense is to point out that he'd only murdered three of them, the rest were all legitimate military casualties. Ironically, the actual incident that earned him his bad reputation off-planet was not his fault, but he already had such a scandalous reputation on Barrayar he must have looked ideal for the frame.
- Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: How Aral deals with two assassins: one a mutineer from Shards of Honor, then Mark in Mirror Dance, though far subtly.
- Medal of Dishonor: Aral secretly considers his reputation as the "Hero of Escobar" even more disgraceful than the "Butcher of Komarr" considering what he had to do to achieve it; on a wider level he appears to see all decorations unpleasant reminders of horrible things, because you hardly ever get an opportunity to even be brave unless things have gone to hell around you.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: The fate of two of his first wife's lovers, after Aral challenged them to duels. The first fought bravely. The second was so pathetic Aral considers it murder.
- My God, What Have I Done?: After Ezar's plot.
- Old Soldier: He's older by Barrayaran standards when he marries for the second time, and thirty years later is still serving Barrayar.
- Papa Wolf: Not as obvious as Cordelia but it's there.
- He is also something of a Papa Wolf To His Men. Of all the things that angered him at General Metzov — including bullying Miles — what angered him most was Metzov's attempt to use trainees as a death squad.
- Polyamory: It turns out that Aral had a roughly two decade relationship with his aide Oliver Jole. Not only was this not a secret from Cordelia, but in fact she encouraged it and they had threesomes often enough that Jole was sexually comfortable with Cordelia even after Aral was dead.
- Proud Vorrior Guy
- Reluctant Ruler: Invoked by Emperor Ezar when selected to become Regent for Gregor and hold absolute power in the boy's name until adulthood. Not only does Aral take his word of honor very seriously, but he is the one man Ezar is absolutely certain does not want the Imperium.
- Shrouded in Myth even during his lifetime, When asked "what's he like?" Miles is forced to admit that his father is beyond comparison and the emperor himself insisted in serving as a pallbearer at his funeral.
- So Proud of You: Unlike his own father, doesn't withhold or hide his love from his son.
- Team Dad: To the whole of Barrayar.
- Tranquil Fury:
- At one point Cordelia thinks that she doesn't have to worry about others overhearing his part of their argument: when he gets angry, he starts whispering.
- Both Miles and Ivan acknowledge this. In Cetaganda, when Vorreedi lets his volume drop, asking Miles if he thinks of himself as a genius, Miles gets chilled because it reminded him of his father about to spring a verbal trap. When Admiral Desplains calls Ivan "Captain" while letting his voice go dead level in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, it reminds him of Aral in a mood.
- What You Are in the Dark: Aral invokes it when defining honor and reputation: reputation is what others think of you, while honor is what you think of yourself. He comments that it's not too difficult to deal with a bad reputation if you still have honor — it's when you have a shining reputation while you feel no honor that is soul devouring.
- When He Smiles: Another shared trait with his son; he's not unattractive, but Cordelia only starts to become attracted to him the first time he really smiles with pleasure.
General Count Piotr Vorkosigan
Aral's father, the previous Count Vorkosigan, a hard man and a veteran of the Cetagandan occupation of Barrayar.
- Cavalry Officer: However, he was canny enough to know the limitations in a hi-tech world. He still absolutely loves horses. In fact, he first starts to defrost when little Miles met his horses and immediately adored them.
- Combat Pragmatist: Even during a heated argument with Aral, when Vordarian begins his coup, he and Aral become frighteningly efficient. "No wasted words," thinks Cordelia.
- Defrosting Ice Count: He mellows out to his grandson eventually, mostly due to a truckload of effort on Miles' part.
- Fair for Its Day : Most of the jerkass aspects of his personality are due to the Values Dissonance between him and the "new generation", but Miles himself argues in-universe that considering his background, he's pretty progressive and make a lecture about how he wasn't "one of the last ancient" but "one of the first modern".
- Jerkass: He's nice enough to his daughter-in-law, right up until it turns out she still wants to preserve her son in the aftermath of the soltoxin attack; then Piotr proceeds to treat Cordelia like garbage, belittle her, and use every advantage accorded him by blood and Barrayaran law to "dump" the still-in-utero Miles. When Aral blocks him, he picks a fight with his son and the resulting estrangement lasts for five years.
- La Résistance: He was once a great commander of this.
- Overranked Soldier: Made full General in his early twenties. It was during the Cetagandan Occupation, and the Emperor wasn't able to provide him with more substantial rewards for his services like supplies or reinforcements. He proved to be a Four-Star Badass anyway.
- That Thing Is Not My Grandchild: At first. He gets all the way over it. Miles remembers his grandfather 'standing behind him' in countless stressful social situations, pushing rather than protecting, and he deeply appreciates it. Often Miles' mediating internal monologue sounds as though it might have Piotr's voice (though this is never stated). Interestingly, it's 'Granda' he remembers (though only in pieces) in his cryo-amnesia. It probably helps Piotr realizes Miles' deficiences are not genetic, and his offspring will be normal.
- I Want Grandkids: When Cordelia is pregnant, it elevates her to near-deity status in Piotr's eyes.
- You Should Have Died Instead: He almost says this to Aral in a moment of anger, but even the beginning of the sentiment ("If your brother had lived...") is enough to freeze his relations with his only living son solid then and there.
Mark Pierre Vorkosigan
Miles's clone-brother and the results of a plot by a psychotic Komarran, Mark was conditioned to be Miles, right down to imitating his physical tics and having his height and skeleton surgically (and painfully) altered to replicate the effects of the soltoxin attack. Then he meets his original, who manages to change his mind in more ways than one. Needless to say, Mark is a hugely screwed-up individual.
- Abusive Parents: Ser Galen.
- Annoying Adopted Sibling
- Berserk Button: The Jacksonian clone-body industry. It's Extremely Personal for Mark.
- Big Eater: Thanks to modern medical technology, comfort-eating is one of the less harmful ways for him to cope with his extensive psychological issues. That, and the massive weight gain also helps him look less like his brother.
- Changeling Fantasy: Invoked and defied, in which Miles tells Mark that most orphans dream of the changeling fantasy about having royal parents (which Cordelia and Aral technically are). Mark bitterly rejects this, saying he "always knew the score".
- Cloning Blues: And how. Much of his development in later books is finding non-self-destructive ways to assert his non-Milesness.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: What Ser Galen and later Baron Ryoval put him through. Ryoval, being the expert, was expecting that Mark would develop a split personality to help himself survive the torture; what he wasn't expecting was how quickly and efficiently Mark managed to do it, and also the presence of Killer, which proved to be his undoing.
- Deadpan Snarker: By A Civil Campaign, he's almost as acerbic as his clone-brother (and new favourite target).
- Determinator: Despite days of torture, he manages to turn the tables and kill Baron Ryoval — despite being naked and handcuffed at the time.
- Defusing the Tyke Bomb: Miles starts it in Brothers In Arms not long after discovering Mark's existence, then the whole Vorkosigan family gets in on the act. Later on, Kareen and even Ekaterin lend their support to the effort. There are signs that the whole Koudelka clan may be warming up to him: for Mark, who never had a family, the prospect of having two is an enchanting one.
- The Hedonist: One of the legacies of his... unique history. The reasons are extremely complicated.
- Non-Idle Rich: What he winds up doing later, with an eye to using his spoils to outmaneuver the Jacksonian clone-body industry and render it obsolete.
- Power of Trust: Mirror Dance. When asking each other what the most important trait of the opposite gender are, Kareen says, "Wit". Mark says "Trust", without thinking.
- Rape as Backstory: Mark's early life was truly appalling. And then Ryoval gets his hands on him.
- Self-Made Man: Mark takes the same approach to earning money that Miles does to advancing Barrayaran security.
- Sibling Rivalry: Big time, due to his very odd upbringing. He gets better later, but teasing Miles remains one of his favorite pastimes,
- Split Personality: Developed not one but four to deal with Ryoval's torture: Grunt represents Mark's sexuality, Gorge his appetite, Howl his masochism, and Killer, well...you get the idea. He's dubbed them the Black Gang (after coal-handlers who were covered with coal dust making their skin blackened, and, by extension, other people who do the unpleasant out-of-sight jobs, rather than black = evil/bad) and by A Civil Campaign has them (mostly) under control.
- Split-Personality Team: The Black Gang.
- That Thing Is Not My Child!: Averted by Cordelia, who accepts a bewildered, wary Mark as her son as per her Betan upbringing, by Miles who thinks of him as a brother and refers to him as such, and by Aral.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Except for the wife part, Mark tends to feel this way about himself and Kareen, repeatedly comparing himself to a squat toad. Kareen feels otherwise, but most of her relatives (and puzzled bystanders) tend to side with Mark's assessment. Part of this may be in contrast to Miles, who, while just as short, has been noted to have a face that's both handsome and intensely, conspicuously animated when he's not having a seizure.
- Underestimating Badassery: Invoked.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Drifts into this territory several times.
Servants & Retainers
A former subordinate of Aral's who had an extremely troubled history and career, he becomes a Vorkosigan Armsman after his discharge from the Imperial Service. Bothari eventually comes into Cordelia's orbit and responded to her belief in him with fierce, unquestioning devotion to her. Despite his transition from a normal soldier to a Vorkosigan armsman, his status as the family's resident and willing shooter of dogs remains unchanged.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: When you're a teenager on your first tour of the galaxy, what's more embarrassing than your dad trying to smuggle weaponry through spaceports? The fact that it's evidently a standing joke with the customs officials that he does this every single time.
- The Atoner: His last words , after being shot by one of his victims, are "Rest now..."
- Ax-Crazy: Barrayarans consider him Ax-Crazy.
- Battle Butler: To the Vorkosigans, and particularly the young Miles, right up until his death.
- Berserk Button: Call him anything you like, just don't call him a bastard.
- Blood Knight: Manages to be simultaneously this and Shell-Shocked Veteran - he's someone who will enthusiastically chop off an enemy's head, and the next minute be doubled up in agony, tormented by horrific flashbacks. Which is problematic if he and his companions are still in danger.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: He's an expert. Just ask a certain jump pilot.
- Dark and Troubled Past: His mother was a Barrayaran prostitute who used to sell him to her customers. And that was before Ges Vorrutyer got his hands on him.
- Deceptive Legacy: Told his daughter that he had been married to her mother but she had died when she was a baby, because he didn't want his daughter to suffer the same Bastard Angst that he did.
- Just Following Orders: Played with. He is so messed up that actually refusing to rape Cordelia is the bravest thing he ever does. Usually he becomes whatever his boss wants him to be; Vorrutyer wanted him to be a monster, Aral a good soldier, and Cordelia wanted him as The Champion. Later Cordelia muses that the reason he clings to the Vorkosigans is that he knows he can't trust himself, and so he follows the orders of someone he believes he can trust.
- Killed Off for Real: By his daughter Elena's biological mother.
- Older Sidekick: To Cordelia in Barrayar (okay, he's only about eight years older than her, but both much more experienced in combat and much more used to the way Barrayar works than Naïve Newcomer Cordelia), and to Miles in The Warrior's Apprentice.
- Overprotective Dad: And when his daughter finds out his past behavior, she's totally disgusted with him. In fairness, he probably wasn't just displaying Parental Hypocrisy, but motivated by his own experience of having been sexually abused as a child, and determined to make sure that his child will never have to suffer what he did.
- Psycho Sidekick: Unusual example in that he wants to be a good person, therefore is drawn to people he can trust to be a Morality Chain for him.
- Rape by Proxy: He served as the proxy.
- Redemption Equals Affliction: Finds redemption in the first book with a HeelFace Turn involving killing his commanding officer. He is spared being put to death for mutiny only on condition that he is tortured into developing Laser-Guided Amnesia - which wipes out his memory of the whole of the war leading up to this incident, which ultimately leads to his death anyway. He has enough memories that one of his deepest fears was that he raped Cordelia; he's supremely relieved to find out despite the snatches of images in his head, no, he didn't.
- Rules Lawyer: Lord Aral Vorkosigan told him to honor his wife's commands as if they were his own. Aral probably meant that as Lord Vorkosigan. Bothari interpreted that as being from Lord Regent Vorkosigan, giving Cordelia the authority of the Emperor as far as Bothari is concerned. The order is never rescinded.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Made worse by the fact that he can't even remember what the traumatic experiences that he's having flashbacks to are, but having the flashback triggered at all causes him agonising migraines.
- Shoot the Dog: In the service of Cordelia (and later Miles), Bothari often employs methods far more ruthless than either of them are comfortable with, but he gets results. He also views himself as Cordelia's dog making his death a bizarre turnabout.
- Sociopathic Hero: Despite being a damaged killer with a violent, traumatic history, Bothari does his best to redeem himself through his loyalty to Cordelia and his Herculean efforts to be a good Da to his little daughter by the female prisoner of war he raped while in a drug-and-Ges-induced fugue during the Escobar War, Elena. He probably isn't actually a psychopath, given that, while he isn't always clear about whether something is right or wrong, he understands that there is a difference, and cares about it - which is why he depends on Cordelia to be his Morality Chain. If he actually were a psychopath, he'd probably be even more violent and dangerous, but happier.
- Son of a Whore: And it screwed him up hugely.
- Suicide by Cop: Miles, having witnessed his last moments and knowing how fast he could have bought the weapons in reach to bear, concludes that Elena Visconti only managed to shoot him with his cooperation.
Imagine Jeeves as a former SAS commando. Notable for his ability to keep a straight face in the midst of of Miles' antics and for his hilariously dry and deadpan recountings of them afterwards. Pym's utility, competence, and discretion are legendary among those smart enough to pay attention to such things.
- Beleaguered Assistant: At first; later he offloads the job onto Roic.
- Deadpan Snarker: Though Pym is rarely snarky as such, his deadpan exterior hides an acute eye for detail and a very droll sense of humor, making him a master of the hilarious understatement.
- Old Retainer: By the time of A Civil Campaign, but he starts out as The New Guy in "The Mountains Of Mourning".
Quiet, good with horses.
- Flat Character: That's his entire characterization, though his children are mentioned as extras in later books.
Tall, imposing, athletic and intelligent, Roic isn't former military like the other armsmen; he's a former police officer, taken into Count Aral's service after showing extreme heroism in a crisis. Rapidly becomes Miles right-hand man after Miles becomes Imperial Auditor since Miles finds his police experience useful. Also, between the aforementioned heroism and him and Sergeant Taura derailing a plot to assassinate Ekaterin on the day of her wedding to Miles — a thing that would surely have broken Miles beyond the ability of even Betan therapy to fix — there's no doubting Roic's bravery or loyalty.
- Beleaguered Assistant: He is generally the armsman of choice to accompany the little git... er... Lord Vorkosigan on his off planet missions.
- The Big Guy: Steps up to the plate as this in the later novels.
- Mr. Fanservice: In-universe. When the Vorkosigan household's duties require a particularly decorative armsman, he's the one who inevitably gets dragooned into the job. When he responded to an emergency call mostly undressed — it'd been his scheduled sleep time — Martya and Kareen Koudelka are both briefly Distracted by the Sexy.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: His brief romance with Taura, one of the few people in the universe who could render him the 'tiny guy'.
- Which leads to an epiphany: "This must be what women looked like to [Miles] all the time."
Miles' cook. He hires her after he discovers that the boxed lunches his ImpSec gate guard is getting from his mother are a lot better than the premade meals Miles has been buying and heating up for himself.
- Supreme Chef: Miles is advised to double her salary, as soon as some of his Vor friends find out just how good a cook she is. His aunt Lady Alys Vorpatril, the paragon of style among Vorbarr Sultana's High Vor, has shown calculating looks regarding Ma Kosti's cooking. Cordelia contemplates getting her son transferred to Sergyar so she could steal that culinary mastery for herself. And in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, even Emperor Gregor hints that he might draft her services, though in Cordelia and Gregor's case it's implied they're teasing.
- Later on in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance Ivan discovers that Lady Alys actually does avail herself of Ma Kosti's services for sufficiently important dinner parties, probably through the devious expedient of asking nicely. She also won't pass up a chance to cook for Gregor, and other characters note she's inspired by him.
Zap The Cat
A cat that was adopted by the ImpSec security detail around Vorkosigan House. She has been a fixture at Vorkosigan House ever since.
Ivan Xav Vorpatril
Miles' second cousin and agemate, a handsome and clever but rather lazy young officer who is exceptionally popular with the ladies. Often answers to "Ivan, you idiot!", and is forever getting dragged into Miles' wild schemes, or so he claims.
- Badass Bureaucrat: One of the best human paper shredders in the Emperor's Service.
- Birthday Hater: Not surprising, given how it was usually celebrated. Since he was born an hour or so after his father died, his mother made the central event of his birthday celebration be a memorial service to the father he never knew. This was done every year that Ivan was in Vorbarr Sultana during his birthday until he was thirty five.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Actually described as having a "sharp but lazy intellect" in Brothers in Arms. It's implied he deliberately downplays it; being pretty high up in line for the throne, it saves him from being targeted. By both Imp Sec and enemies.
- Butt-Monkey: Is often called an idiot by his friends and relatives and tends to be the victim of humorously embarrassing circumstances.
- Catchphrase: "It's not my fault."
- Characterization Marches On / Early Installment Weirdness : In Ivan's first appearance, he comes across as much more of a genuine idiot and a jerk (especially his behavior towards Elena) than his eventual personality.
- Chivalrous Pervert: As Miles once mused, when Ivan says charming things to a lady, he's absolutely sincere. Just like he will be with the next lady, and the one after her, and the one after her...
- The Charmer: Has shades of this.
- A Day in the Limelight: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. Miles only appears in two scenes: first to inform Ivan that Gregor wants to meet Tej and Rish, and second to be present at that meeting. He miraculously plays no part in the story's resolution.
- Deadpan Snarker: Living with his cousin has turned him into one — it's a survival/coping strategy from Miles' manipulation.
- Drives Like CrazyGregor: So, Lord Mark, what do you think of Vorbarr Sultana so far?Mark: It went by pretty fast.Gregor: Dear God, don't tell me you let Ivan drive.
- Foil: To his cousin Miles. Ivan is tall, healthy, handsome, and has girls falling all over him without his even trying. He's also preternaturally lazy and uninterested in any kind of responsibility (including marriage, until later on when the shortage of Vor women his age becomes pressing).
- Genre Savvy: Ivan knows Miles entirely too well and can press his emotional buttons easily, rarely making a mistake (except one occasion that earns him a Death Glare that actually frightens him.)
- Handsome Lech: Tej's immediate impression of Ivan. Her smitten-but-married co-worker at the shop asks her why not take him up on his implied offer anyway?
- Hero of Another Story: While not involved in Miles' exploits Ivan has had a fairly successful military career, usually getting promotions ahead of Miles (whose achievements are all highly classified and can't be publicly acknowledged without blowing his cover; he's also lost years of seniority in active service due to infirmary/hospital time, wounded (and occasionally killed) in the line of duty). (In addition, Ivan reminds Miles that Ivan tends to follow orders.) In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance we find out that Ivan is in fact a brilliant staff officer, largely because he insists on organizing everything to the point where it maximizes his comfort and minimize his effort.
- Hyper-Competent Sidekick: The brief glimpses the reader sees of Ivan as an aide-de-camp to Galeni and Admiral Desplains show him as this. However, this is in part to his bring Brilliant, but Lazy; he does all of his tasks quickly and efficiently, giving himself more free time (see Reassigned To Riviera below.) Naturally, Miles sees this in him, as does Aunt Alys, much to his annoyance, since they constantly recruit him against his will.
- Idle Rich: Subversion. But goodness knows he wants few things more than to be idle.
- Innocently Insensitive: Yes, he can be thoughtless, inappropriate, and about as sensitive as a brick, but he does care for his family (including his height-challenged terror of a cousin) and will go to the wall to help them. Snarking all the way, of course. When Miles is missing, presumed dead, Ivan gets so totally wrecked Lord Mark has to carry him home.Miles: Ivan, one of these days somebody is going to pull out a weapon and plug you, and you're going to die in bewilderment, crying, 'What did I say? What did I say?'Ivan: What did I say?
- Laborious Laziness: Inverted: He does his work extremely well...because he worked out a long time ago that doing his work efficiently was less work in the long run.
- Ladykiller in Love: In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.
- Likes Older Women: Ivan has a preference for older women, such as 40-something Lady Donna. He says with body mods, Tej could be anywhere between 10 and 60 — and Ivan states he wouldn't mind being with a 60 year old woman at all.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Happens to him, to his abject horror, in Cetaganda as a result of a drink spiked with an "anti-aphrodisiac". He is in a threesome with two Cetagandan ghem-ladies when the effects take hold, but manages to avoid embarrassment thanks to some almost Miles-worthy bluffing about Barrayaran sexual customs and a couple of handy bedroom tricks taught to him by an old flame. Amusingly, in spite of his fears, once word of his performance gets around Ivan finds himself deluged with invitations by very interested ghem-ladies — both his original partners and their friends... Let's just say Ivan is apparently a cunning linguist.
- Manly Tears: Ivan is sobbing in a gazebo when he thinks Miles is dead for good.
- Maternity Crisis: He was born in the poorest and dingiest part of a besieged city, tended by a half-sane (at best) soldier instead of a doctornote , and with a rebel Vor desperately looking for him and his mother to take them as hostages. The forces of said rebel Vor had gunned down his father in front of his mother's eyes just previously. One might say it was somewhat difficult circumstances.
- Nice Guy: And Miles takes advantage of this more then a bit.
- On one occasion, he tells Miles that he won't be involved in whatever scheme he's cooking up. Miles, who has nothing on his plate, tells him that's okay. Ivan promptly gets offended at the idea that Miles doesn't need him.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: That time on Cetaganda when he thought he was freeing a kitten from a carnivorous plant, not realizing it was part of the plant.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Although Obfuscating Normality is probably more accurate. He's no less intelligent than any of his relatives, but he consciously chooses to appear less exceptional than they (not that this is terribly hard, considering who his closest relatives are). It's a matter of self-preservation, when you're third in line for the Imperium and really don't want the job. (With Gregor siring an heir, it's a moot concern.)
- Phrase Catcher: "Ivan, you idiot!" One time, Miles is about to say it, but Ivan cuts him off, savoring having information Miles doesn't have, an extremely rare pleasure for him. Tej calls him an idiot when he's bound to a chair in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance and is confused as to why that makes him smile wider.
- Reassigned to Riviera: At the end of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance The Emperor (who wasn't really mad at him but wanted him off-world until the Arquas' doings were forgotten) assigned him to a consulate on an obscure planet. Since the work only takes him three mornings a week and can be done over the comconsole (computer/phone hybrid), Ivan moves the consulate from the rainy capitol to a tropical island and converts his posting into an extended working vacation.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Subverted. He actually does have a day job. He just acts like this to avoid getting caught up in intrigue, and likes court life as a recreation.
- Sarcastic Devotee: To Miles. This led to an amusing scene in Memory, when he says he'll not be roped into whatever Miles is up to. Miles (who isn't actually up to anything) says that's okay. Ivan assumes he's being given the brush-off and leaves, mildly offended.
- Spare to the Throne: Ivan was this before Gregor had heirs, as the Vorkosigan clan would have backed him if anything happened to Gregor. He really, really doesn't want the job.
- He is thrilled when it's pointed out to him that having 1/4 Cetagandan children with Tej will permanently remove him and his family as serious contenders for the imperial camp stool in the event of a Succession Crisis. (He's then somewhat irritated when he realizes that the person who pointed this out to him did so solely so he could judge Ivan's reaction—sure it seems like Ivan has no interest in the throne, but you can never be too careful, y'know.)
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Invoked by Tej when viewing him for the first time in Lord Vorpatril's Alliance. In previous books, Miles was fairly jealous of his cousin's physical gifts. He's gotten over it, especially after starting a family of his own.
- Technically a Smile: Growing up with Miles has made him an expert at this, whether smiling without a hint of mirth at his cousin, or Deadpan Snarking with the sweetest voice he can muster.
Lady Alys Vorpatril
Imperial Social Secretary, Miles' aunt (really a first cousin by marriage, once removed), Ivan's long-suffering mother, and a grand dame of the High Vor. Possibly more deadly than the male. (Emperor Gregor calls her "General Alys" and defies anyone to upset her plans, if they dare.)
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Once she hooks up with Illyan, Ivan certainly feels this way.
- The Caretaker: To Simon in Memory.
- The Consigliere: Even officially she is the Emperor's most trusted organizer of ceremonies and his Baba (that is, matchmaker). Taking her unofficial powers into account (After spending thirty years as Gregor's social secretary, she knows everybody in the government and has a way to directly or indirectly influence most of them), she is probably almost equivalent to a cabinet member or higher.
- On at least two occasions (in Memory and in A Civil Campaign) an intriguer underestimates her by taking into account only her official powers. It does not end well for either of them.Miles: Richars Vorrutyer sat right there and informed me that Lady Alys held no vote in Council. The fact that she has spent more years in the Vorbarr Sultana political scene than all of us here put together seemed to escape him.
- On at least two occasions (in Memory and in A Civil Campaign) an intriguer underestimates her by taking into account only her official powers. It does not end well for either of them.
- Cool Old Lady: In A Civil Campaign, it's hinted that she's working with ImpSec as By's handler. She's also implied to be the ringleader of all of the Cool Old Ladies among the high Vor.
- Costume Porn: She once told Sgt. Taura that "Dresses are weapons." And by the time she's done, Taura believes it. (Her official tailor says to Tej and Rish that clothes are a language, and it is important their clothes not say something they don't mean.)
- Dances and Balls/Fancy Dinner: She's the one who runs all of Gregor's parties. As this is both his public relations and his way of networking with movers and shakers, it's a far more important job than it sounds. Whenever something important is happening, she is in on it.
- In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, she establishes herself as badass by stating that not even master manipulator Miles dare crash one of her parties uninvited.
- Grand Dame: Eventually becomes the Grand Dame of Barrayar.
- I Want Grand Kids: Regarding My Beloved Smother below, Cordelia notes that if Ivan really wanted Alys off his back, he should just have a grandkid or two and that would permanently distract Alys from him.Ivan: I shouldnt think you would be in such a tearing hurry to become the Dowager Lady Vorpatril.
Alys: My dear and only child, how did you come by that misapprehension?
- More Than Meets the Eye: Surprisingly for such a patriarchal culture, she is one of the most politically powerful people on Barrayar.
- My Beloved Smother: Ivan thinks so, but she just wants grandkids, and backs off once Simon Illyan is in the picture and she no longer feels compelled to live through Ivan. The tearjerking reason she's protective is that he's an only child — and her husband died a nasty death during his birth.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Illyan is injured in Memory, it's a mark of her irritation at not being told about it that she complains that none of "you three louts" saw fit to keep her in the loop. A bemused Miles is shocked when he realizes that the three louts are himself, Ivan and... Emperor Gregor.
- Politically Active Vor Lady: Especially in A Civil Campaign.
- Serious Business: Do not fuck up one of her parties. She treats them even more seriously than clothes.note
- Silk Hiding Steel: Alys is very much The Stoic, but she'd been through a Succesion Crisis and survived being hunted by the usurper. She may be the epitome of upper class taste and manners, but she's not averse to getting down and dirty.
- The Social Expert: She's Cordelia's guide during her early years of Barrayar. Luckily, she's related to Aral, so she was more than happy to escort Cordelia through the land mines that pepper High Vor society.
- The Spymaster: She's the handler for ImpSec agents who keep tabs on High Vor, like Byerly.
- Technician and Performer: She and Simon have a symbiosis at court events, with her being the performer providing the splendor, and Simon as the technician providing the security.
Count Falco Vorpatril
Kinsman and Liege of Ivan who in judges and refuses Ivan's petition to be released from a Citizenship Marriage after having established that the ceremony was proper — if hurried — and that neither party is guilty of concealed mutation, adultery, neglect, physical abuse, denial of contact with kinfolk, denial of children, and certainly not denial of marital rights.
- Badass Beard: A big white one. Ivan even compares Falco to "Father Frost".
- Cool Old Guy: Comes off as one during Ivan and Tej's divorce suit.
- Good Old Ways: Most definitely. And to him they are the good old ways. In a succession suit he changed his vote in favor of a would-be count who had had a sex change to make him a viable candidate — simply because his opponent had used dishonorable means in his campaign.
- Nepotism: Averted. Possibly even inverted. It is speculated that Ivan might have gotten a more sympathetic hearing from someone unfamiliar with his weaknesses.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Galactics might not think so, but he judges Barrayaran law fairly from the local point of view and has no favoritism for kinfolk. He's described as a "progressive Conservative or conservative Progressive" in A Civil Campaign.
- Vor Who Actually Do Something: Judging local disputes.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gives an epic one to Richars Vorrutyer.Falco: There is an unwritten rule among us, Richars; if you attempt any ploy on the far side of ethical, you'd damned well better be good enough at your game not to get caught. You're not good enough.
- You Gave Your Word: Well, he's a Barrayaran.
Miles' boss, the seemingly omniscient and implacable head of ImpSec. His mere name is enough to invoke dread in most people. Has a memory chip implanted in his head that lets him remember everything.
- Berserk Button: Don't you dare falsify reports to cover your own wrongdoing!
- Brought Down to Normal: Even Jacksonians heard of "the Barrayaran with the cyborg brain". Haroche's sabotage of the eidetic chip removed Illyan's instant recall — but not his cunning.
- Bullying the Dragon: It's Illyan's job to take on powerful Vor and military bigwigs. When an ImpSec agent tangles with Admiral Desplains — Chief of Ops for the entirety of Barrayar's military — Simon approves, stating it was nice to see a Galactic Affairs agent take on someone so high ranking without fearing reprisal.
- In Memory, Miles castigates himself knowing that Illyan would have an agent in the Dendarii Mercenaries he didn't know of, which is how Simon discovered Miles falsified his report.
- In the same book, he also confers with Gregor about cashiering Miles from ImpSec, cutting off any nepotism Miles might attempt.
- The Dreaded: Aside from leading what was originally the Secret Police, the eidetic chip made him very intimidating. Miles insists that it wasn't just the chip that made Simon unnerving, however.
- Expy: Word of God states that Illyan's name, appearance and profession are somewhat inspired by Illya Kuryakin of The Man From Uncle.
- A Father to His Men: In a rather grim fashion, but yeah. He does know how to take care of his agents.
- Honor Before Reason: He believes the opposite. He notes that the ImpSec agents who stayed at their post when HQ was sinking should be commended. The ones who fled, he recommends those are the ones to promote.
- Honorary Uncle: Before joining ImpSec, Miles called him "Uncle Simon".
- Love Redeems: Or at least, it helps you live a normal life after decades of being a kind of living computer.
- Manipulative Bastard: Although he seems quiet and respectable, various characters have noted that to be in charge of "weasels" like Miles he'd have to be a bit sneaky himself. And so it proves in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, where his boredom with his retirement leads him to arrange a scam of a bet with Ivan's new in-laws.
- Neural Implanting: At least until the chip is sabotaged.
- The Nondescript: A useful thing for a junior ImpSec officer, which is how he began his career. Miles and Ivan note that his blankness make him even scarier these days.
- Note to Self: With his eidetic chip, Simon could repeat anything anyone said to the letter decades ago. After the chip was removed, he basically was given a planner he could make quick notes into.
- Papa Wolf: Do not hurt an ImpSec agent. Don't even do so by accident. Especially if you then try to lie about it. He will hunt you to the end of the galaxy.
- Photographic Memory: Again, thanks to a recording chip that made nine of 10 implantees go into schizophrenic madness, since basically it gave the user two sets of realities to deal with.
- The Spymaster: A given, as chief of ImpSec.
- The Stoic: See The Nondescript. Except...
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Simon actually breaks down and shows some real emotion when he has to boot Miles from ImpSec. Aside from being the son of one of his closest friends, he was fast-tracking Miles to be head of Imperial Security. Disappointment is far too mild a word for Simon's venting.
Emperor Gregor Vorbarra
Emperor of Barrayar, Komarr, and Sergyar, a soft-spoken, highly intelligent man and just the sort of person you'd want running your militarized feudal space empire.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Gregor does his homework. God help you if you don't.
- Beware the Nice Ones: "Both of my parents died in political intrigue before I was six years old, a fact you might have researched. Did you think you were dealing with an amateur?"
- Catchphrase: "Let's see what happens."
- Character Development: Over the course of the series, goes from being used by various Barrayaran counts and politicians to out-playing them all and securing his own happiness, without losing his essential humanity or compromising his honour.
- The Chessmaster: Eventually becomes this.
- Child by Rape: Almost certainly, considering who his father was.
- The Emperor: Is the absolute monarch of three planets (one of which he is also the legal owner of).
- The Good King: Exemplifies this trope. Gregor is rigidly self-controlled, conscientious, favors quiet dignity over grandeur and sees his position as a duty to be performed to meet the incredibly high standards he sets for himself. Most people respect him because even though he expects a great deal from others, it is only because he expects even more from himself.
- Guile Hero: Particularly in The Vor Game.
- Happily Adopted: By the Vorkosigans, after being orphaned during Vordarian's Pretendership.
- Happily Married: To a nice, smart, wealthy, sane Komarran BBW. By the latest book, they've sprogged a brood of brainy kids.
- Heroic BSoD: During the events of The Vor Game, he finds out his father, the supposed war hero Prince Serg, was actually a brutal, judgmentally impaired sadist whose death was possibly the best thing to happen to the Barrayaran Empire in a long time. Gregor becomes temporarily suicidal, then goes AWOL as a King Incognito, and only starts to snap out of it when he gets tangled up in a deadly plot involving dueling mercenary fleets and a potential Cetagandan invasion.
- In the Blood: Given his ancestral history, he's terrified of this happening to himself or his offspring, and vetoes a lot of potential Vor brides on the basis that inbreeding would bring out the crazy. As Miles puts it, "Gregor has a well-founded paranoia about, well, paranoia."Miles: I probably carry almost as many of Mad Yuri's genes as you do, through one line of descent or another.Gregor: Is that supposed to be reassuring?
- The Judge: One of his main jobs is presiding over high profile cases.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Gregor just loves dispensing this. He even hired Miles to focus the beam.
- Pen-Pushing President: Or Emperor. As Ivan notes, many have coveted the emperor's throne, but none have coveted his desk.
- The Quiet One: According to Miles, "He'd be shy if he could, but he's not allowed."
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Wants results that provide the greatest benefit to his people, and is willing to help make sure that he gets them.
- Royal "We": Or, rather, Imperial. Gregor uses it very, very rarely, when he wants it extremely clear that he's speaking officially. He does say "Our" on occasion, and the "O" is capitalized.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Has very little free time, since he actually runs his empire and makes a point to keep abreast of everything that is going on. The Imperial Auditors exist mostly to address the fact that he cannot be everywhere at once and needs proxies who are directly accountable to him making sure that his authority is applied when and where it is needed. Early in his career, he insisted he lead the Barrayaran force dispatched to prevent a Cetagandan invasion of the Hegen Hub. Aral was both horrified and proud of Gregor's initiative.
- Sarcasm Mode: Rarely gets to be a Deadpan Snarker, but Illyan gets exposed to it in a big way at the end of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. He surmises Gregor was enjoying finally being able to unleash some snark, especially considering who he was snarking at.
- Sheltered Aristocrat: Appears as this toward the beginning of The Vor Game. Turns out to be smarter than he appears though.
- Tranquil Fury: The quieter he gets, the angrier he generally is. Miles notes that Gregor goes grey, rather than red, when furious.
- Warrior Prince: He graduated from the Imperial Service Academy and ordered himself aboard Aral's flagship for the battle of Hegen's Hub using the argument that a reputation for leading from the front would reap both military and diplomatic benefits for Barrayar. Aral is forced to admit that after being opposed the idea, Gregor's analysis appears to be paying off.
- Warrior Therapist: Learned it at Cordelia's knee. He's even better at it than Miles, eventually a match for Cordelia herself.
- When He Smiles: Tej notes that he has one of those "face-transforming smiles" in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.
- The Wise Prince: In private life, Gregor is a kind, complex man, but his public persona makes him come across as The Stoic.
Emperor Ezar Vorbarra
Gregor's grandfather, Serg's father, a highly subtle and dangerous old bastard.
- The Chessmaster: the one man Aral acknowleges as his master in politics and war, which on Barrayar are often the same thing.
- The Extremist Was Right: Or else he was really lucky. In any case, his plan did work as he wanted it to.
- Four-Star Badass: Before becoming emperor.
- Karma Houdini: But only to outside observers. "The emperor spares himself nothing."
- Lesser of Two Evils: See below. In this case even the "lesser" was pretty extravagantly evil.
- Murder In A Stack Of Deaths: See below.
- Offing the Offspring: Considering what a psycho his son Serg was, it's hard to blame him...until one considers he got thousands of Escobarans, Betans, and his own Barrayarans killed to cover the act. He was convinced it wasn't enough to kill Serg, he had to eliminate his entire political party.
- Papa Wolf In-Law: When Prince Serg was becoming dangerous he protected Serg's wife from him.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Ezar will do anything as long as it is expedient, but only as long as it is expedient.
- Shoot the Dog: This and a Kick the Dog, all rolled up in one: see above.
- Thanatos Gambit: Sets Aral up for the Regency of Barrayar with one of these. Aral gripes that Ezar will somehow continue to rule even after his death. Ezar promises to haunt him for the entirety of his Regency.
- The Wrongful Heir to the Throne: He was a general from a cadet branch of the imperial family who removed Yuri when he became more than even Barrayar could tolerate. It's implied that as a direct great-grandson of Dorca (if through a female line), Aral technically had a better dynastic claim on a throne than Ezar, though being eleven at the time he wasn't considered the most fittting.
Princess Kareen Vorbarra
Mother of Gregor and wife of Serg. Is killed during the War of Vordarian's Pretendership when Gregor is only five years old.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: Known for being very reserved, even in stressful situations. She reaches her breaking point when she learns what really happened to her son, and tries to kill Vordarian with a stolen nerve disruptor.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Invoked when Cordeli questions her about her relationship with Vordarian, she replies he doesn't abuse his courtesans.
- Domestic Abuse: Her relationship with her husband, at least until Ezar started protecting her from Serg after she became pregnant with Gregor.
- Questionable Consent: Vidal Vordarian stages a coup against Kareen's young son, holds her hostage, and tells her that Gregor is dead. She quietly goes along with his plans after that, including his public announcement of their betrothal. Later, when Cordelia, Drou, and Bothari break into the palace and find Kareen and Vordarian asleep in bed together, Drou is horrified and Cordelia reminds her of this trope.Cordelia: If you'll explain to me what power-base you imagine she has to resist the man right now, I'd be interested to hear it.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Vordarian thought she was compliant: turns out she was just biding her time.
- Woman Scorned: Cordelia states that if necessary, Kareen's revenge will be to outlive everyone and spit on their graves.
- The Woobie: Let's see: she's first married to The Caligula, she thinks her toddler son has been killed in a palace coup, then sleeps with the man who engineered the coup as a part of political pragmatism — and whose only saving grace to Kareen is that he doesn't torment the women he sleeps with — and when she finds out her son is alive, she's killed by a neural weapon to the head.
Clement "Kou" Koudelka
Aral's subordinate and later personal secretary; wounded during the Escobar War, he uses a swordstick to get around. Happily married to Drou, he is the proud if slightly apprehensive father of four daughters. Eventually rises to the rank of Commodore.
- Driven to Suicide: Cordelia's gift of a Sword Cane nearly backfires tragically as Kou contemplates suicide with it. Cordelia's interruption probably saved his life.
- Handicapped Badass though this is downplayed in later volumes, apparently due to improving medical technology.
- Overprotective Dad: Morphs into one of these when Kareen and Mark are outed as a couple. He gets over it; helps that one of his other daughters hooks up with Count Dono Vorrutyer, who is Transgender during the same time period.
- Sword Cane: Cordelia gives him one in Barrayar to try and help alleviate his feelings of being "crippled" and "useless" (after a disruptor shot completely screws his nervous system and leaves him with trouble getting around and excruciating pain). It gets borrowed back and re-purposed later.
Ludmilla "Drou" Droushnakovi
Former bodyguard to Princess Kareen and then-heir to the throne Prince Gregor, Drou accompanied Cordelia on her shopping trip to the Capital. Now married to Clement Koudelka and the proud mother of four daughters.
- Action Girl: She was a planetary martial arts champion and Emperor Gregor's childhood bodyguard. Captain Negri recognized the need for Princess Kareen to have a female bodyguard and made sure she was given the same training as any male bodyguard. She was even a finalist in a combat competition with Aral's own soldiers, and even scored a round against Bothari.
- Embarrassing First Name: She keeps Drou as a nickname after her marriage. Even her husband calls her Drou. Hell, even the Emperor calls her Drou. Of course he does. He's known "Droushie" since he was two years old.Drou: My brothers used to call me Lud. Rhymes with mud. Also thud, blood, crud, dud, and cud.
Kou: Youll always be Drou to me.
- Happily Married: To Kou, though that doesn't mean she doesn't want her daughters to have happier, saner courtships than she did.
- Ninja Maid: To Princess Kareen. Her public title is "Servant of the Inner Chamber," but she's also on ImpSec's payroll, and was hired specifically for her fighting skills because Kareen wanted a female bodyguard.
The Koudelka Girls (AKA "Team Koudelka" AKA "Commodore Koudelka's All-Blonde Commando Team")
Kou and Drou's four daughters, Delia Galeni, Countess Olivia Vorrutyer, Martya Borgos and Kareen who becomes Lady Kareen Vorkosigan in all but name.
- Action Girl: All of them. Their mother, for one, was Kareen and young Gregor's personal bodyguard, and she was instrumental in training them, encouraged by Cordelia; their father approved.
- Delia is an essential part of Miles' notorious "Assault on Cockroach Central" (specifically the part that involves protecting the falsely accused Duv Galeni from catching a bad case of involuntary suicide).
- Martya and Kareen engineer a food fight that would put Blake Edwards to shame to protect Enrique Borgos (and their shares in Mark's company) from Escobaran law enforcement.
- Olivia personally beats down a couple of armed thugs hired by Richars Vorrutyer to reverse his cousin Dono's Betan sex-change surgery with a vibra-knife. Barehanded. Dressed in a ball gown.
- Amazon Brigade: The girls tend to go about in a herd by their own admission, and after watching Olivia clobber the thugs Ivan speculates that the mother-daughter wisdom passed down in the Koudelka clan extended to things a lot more dangerous than baking brownies. Junior officers at HQ refer to them as "Commodore Koudelka's all-blonde commando team." Kareen is the shortest of the sisters, and she's still 5'9".
- Ambiguously Bi: Kareen notes that she could have met a nice girl in Beta Colony. She'd already had experience with Betan herms, so it's possible she experimented further, though she could just be jerking her parent's chains by reminding them that there are worse romantic options (by Barrayaran standards, anyway) than Lord Mark.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: Proved, to Ivan's horror, when super-quiet Olivia takes down a couple of armed thugs single-handed.
- Dead Guy Junior: Kareen, named after Gregor's mother, the deceased Princess Kareen. Olivia is named for Miles' long-deceased grandmother, Princess Olivia Vorbarra-Vorkosigan.
- Deadpan Snarker: Martya.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Kareen is sanguine, Martya is choleric, Delia is melancholic, and Olivia is phlegmatic.
- Gender Rarity Value: The Koudelkas went for girls after noticing that everyone else was going for boys, making their daughters about the hottest commodities on the Vorbarr Sultana dating scene — which was the advantage they needed since they were not Vor.
- Nice Girl: "Everyone liked Kareen, because Kareen liked everyone." Cordelia noted that her charisma was her superpower.
- Sarcastic Devotee: Martya to Enrique. She snarks that he needs a keeper then promptly snares the job (and the good doctor) for herself. Even Kareen admits that level-headed Martya can "make the brains run on time." And he writes poetry!
Ekaterin Nile Vorvayne Vorsoisson Vorkosigan
Unhappily married to a mid-level bureaucrat on Komarr, Ekaterin is a woman of remarkable personal strength who has been socialized by a restrictive upbringing and a true Jerkass of a husband into a shadow of herself...until she gets caught up in a dangerous case that may have interstellar consequences.
- 0% Approval Rating: Not Ekaterin, but Tien, whom nobody likes, even people who never met him.Mark: From everything I've been able to gather - between the lines, mostly, Ekaterin doesn't talk about him much - Tien Vorsoisson was a pretty complete waste of food, water, oxygen, and time.
- Beware the Nice Ones: This over-socialized stay-at-home mom used a Komarran super-weapon as an anti-grav basketball while laughing in the face of certain death.
- In "Winterfair Gifts", someone tries to kill her with a toxin-laced wedding gift, a pearl necklace, and frame an old flame of Miles' for the deed. Once the toxin is detected and ImpSec cleans it out completely and marks the culprit for death, she wears the necklace to her wedding. A watching armsman decides at that point that she's going to make an excellent match for his nutty boss. When one of the guests compliments her on it, and comments that the giver must have spent a lot of money on it:Ekaterin: Yes, I expect it will cost him everything he has.
- In "Winterfair Gifts", someone tries to kill her with a toxin-laced wedding gift, a pearl necklace, and frame an old flame of Miles' for the deed. Once the toxin is detected and ImpSec cleans it out completely and marks the culprit for death, she wears the necklace to her wedding. A watching armsman decides at that point that she's going to make an excellent match for his nutty boss. When one of the guests compliments her on it, and comments that the giver must have spent a lot of money on it:
- Catchphrase: "Unpack, Miles," referring to the way Miles' brain runs five steps ahead of his mouth.
- Deadpan Snarker: She has her moments.
- Domestic Abuse: Tien certainly emotionally abused her and stole money from her to pay back his bad investments that should have gone to the medical treatment of their young son, and Miles considers it verging on abuse that Tien talked Ekaterin into having her son Nikolai by body-birth when the much safer, painless uterine replicator was already widely available. (At the time Ekaterine claims that she saw it as a romantic adventure; she was twenty, Tien was thirty. Considering the age difference, power imbalance, and Tien's personality overall, the abuse label holds.) At one point, Ekaterin brings up in Tien's post-mortem defense that he had never hit her, and Miles prays to whatever god might be listening that his best beloved would have higher praise for him after his own death than "he never hit me".
- Happily Married: Eventually. She has to wade through a lot of shit to get there.
- I Gave My Word: Takes this as seriously as Miles does, which leads to her putting up with mountains of garbage from her husband Tien.
- Oblivious to Love: She is blissfully unaware that Miles has a crush on her. Justified because she has been emotionally traumatized by marriage to Tien and is in no hurry to be tied down by anyone else. She even writes off Miles' confession at the end of Komarr as a joke by the next novel. Better still, she is determinedly ignoring the fact that she is falling hard for Miles — to the point of grinding her teeth in fury at a hypothetical Vor débutante insulting him and feeling like crying at the thought of never again having physical contact with Miles.
- Parenthetical Swearing: Coming from her, a single "twit" has the force of a Cluster F-Bomb from less repressed characters.
- Proper Lady: Nearly a textbook example. No wonder Knight Errant Miles fell for her almost immediately.
- Shout-Out: Her maiden name is a tribute to Harriet Vane, wife of Lord Peter Wimsey.
Lord Auditor Professor Georg Vorthys
One of the eight permanent Imperial Auditors and Ekatarin's great uncle by marriage, Georg Vorthys is a Professor Emeritus of Engineering Failure Analysis at Vorbarr Sultana University and is generally regarded as the Empire's authority on the subject. He is Emperor Gregor's go-to Auditor for technical/scientific issues.
- Genius Sweet Tooth: The man loves his cookies.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Well, as much as an engineer can be, it seems; he tends to prefer having his custom-tailored suits made with "nice big pockets". His wife the Professora is a better example on the Distaff side.
Professora Helen Vorthys
Georg's wife, Ekatarin's great aunt and a professor of History at Vorbarr Sultana University. A highly accomplished academic in her own right, Miles and Gregor alike have been known to employ her and her graduate students to research historical precedents. Implied to be one of Lady Alys' secret coterie of highly influential women.
- Cool Old Lady: She's fairly progressive in her views, even moreso than Ekaterin in some ways.
- Lady and a Scholar: Emperor Gregor values her advice on historical precedents.
- Happily Married: Ekaterin is wistfully jealous of her aunt and uncle's relationship.
Town Clown, impoverished, imprudent, and impervious to put-downs, but very witty...if you care for a certain nasty type of humor. Also an ImpSec informant, thought by some to be reporting to Lady Alys Vorpatril.
- Agent Provocateur: Manipulates his cousin Richers into prematurely sending goons to attack his other cousin Dono so as to sabotage his case against the other.
- Ambiguously Bi: Actually discussed in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. The conclusion reached was that Ivan wanted to know as little about By's sex life as possible, no matter who it was with. Rish and Tej, with their advanced sense of smell, notes that By just fooled around with a guy.
- Continuity Nod: In Memory an exasperated Alys complains about a "certain nameless wit, or halfwit" suggesting she should start including boys in her bride search for Gregor. In A Civil Campaign we are introduced to Byerly.
- Deadpan Snarker: even manages to out-snark Miles.
- Guile Hero: For a given value of "hero". Guile Anti-Hero, perhaps?
- Hidden Depths: By's backstory, when it finally comes out in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, makes him a much more sympathetic character.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: By covers an op by hiring a contract kidnapper, and then recruits Ivan to make sure the kidnapper doesn't find his prey. Without telling Ivan why he was recruited.
- It's Personal: implied to be the underlying reason why he exceeded his brief in helping Dono against Richars.
- Impoverished Patrician
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: A self-admitted weasel who plays for high stakes...but who actually cares, deep down, about protecting the weak and punishing the guilty.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: While
partiallyentirely true, it is also his cover.
Count René Vorbretten
Academy classmate of Miles and Ivan, and one of Miles' stoutest allies on the Council of Counts. An upright, forthright, and diligent young aristocrat who was forced to give up a promising military career after his father's untimely death, only to discover that he's one eighth Cetagandan Ghem. On his father's father's side, unfortunately.
- The Ace: He's described as being handsome, a capable administrator, hard-working, artistically talented, and even more charming to the ladies than Ivan.
- Caligula's Horse: Once again, the Lord Midnight precedent. His grandfather's illegitimacy does not automatically disqualify René from succession (namely due to the fact that his father and René both were confirmed as heir/Count, and so legally were the Count).
- Les Collaborateurs Descendant: It is believed that his Cetagandan ancestry came not from rape but from an affair with a Ghem-soldier, either because of mutual loneliness or because of an exchange of protection for sex or both.
- Embarrassing Nickname: He is sometimes called "Ghembretten".
- Fantastic Racism: He finds it quite creepy himself that he is part Cetagandan as he had grown up hating them for killing his father in battle.
- The attitude to his ancestry by others is a subversion. As several vor including The Emperor are already marrying off-worlders anyway, it may be that the key point was that his ancestor had an affair with an invader, not just an off-worlder, and that it has legal ramifications in a hereditary aristocracy.
- Happily Married: to Tatya, a classmate of Olivia Koudelka. Which pulls in the rest of Team Koudelka, and by extension, Miles, though Miles likely would have come to René's aid regardless.
- High Vor Who Actually Do Something: Though it's always offscreen, no one ever seems to mention René without complimenting his diligence, competence, or decency.
- Instant Expert: has an affinity for music due to his Cetagandan heritage.
- Nothing Personal: Even the distant cousin who's gunning for René's seat doesn't have anything against him personally, but turnover in the Council of Counts is so rare he's forced to challenge him out of party loyalty.
- His cousin Sigur shows far more grace than Richars in defeat, and the first thing he does after the lawsuit is congratulate René.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: René and Tatya are exceedingly, abundantly, just plain cute together.
- Tomato in the Mirror: He's rather hostile towards Cetagandans, only to discover that he has Cetagandans in his ancestry.
- Tragic Bigot: Olivia notes that René hated the Cetagandans for killing his father, and is thoroughly spooked to learn he's part Cetagandan himself.
Lord later Count Dono Vorrutyer
Byerly's cousin, and another old friend of Ivan... who was once Lady Donna Vorutyer, and more than just a friend. But when Donna's older brother dies under suspicious circumstances and she's faced with the prospect of her vile cousin Richars taking his place, she decides that extreme measures are called for. Now the new Lord Dono must engage both Richars and traditional Barrayaran society in a no-holds barred political battle in the Council of Counts, where mutual interests inevitably lead him to ally with Miles and René.
- Ain't No Rule: That a Count's sister can't get a sex change to contest the succession.
- Behind Every Great Man: The rare familial variety. Ivan and By both note that Lady Donna was running her brother Pierre's day-to-day affairs as an unofficial district deputy.
- Caligula's Horse: There's that Lord Midnight precedent again.
- The Casanova: As Donna or Dono, doesn't matter.
- The Charmer: several other characters — and not all of them women — note how dashing he is.
- Gender Bender: Only men can inherit a District Countship, so needs must when the devil drives.
- First Law of Gender-Bending: Averted. Dono tells Gregor he will remain a man even if he loses his suit for the countship.
- Second Law of Gender Bending: Also averted, surprisingly enough. Dono isn't interested in embracing masculinity so much as he's exploring the new possibilities it presents.
- Third Law of Gender Bending: Enforced. Playing the role is important to the outcome.
- Happily Married: To Olivia Koudelka!
- It's Personal: Richars tried to rape Donna at age 13, then drowned her puppy after she fought him off.
- Ladykiller in Love: After transitioning and while campaigning for the Countship, he befriends, and then quickly falls in love with, Olivia Koudelka, whom he later marries. Perhaps better phrased as Maneater In Love.
- Name's the Same: In-universe, a prior Lord Dono Vorrutyer was an insane architect during Dorca's time.
- Open Secret: Everyone in Pierre's district knew she was in charge of day-to-day affairs of running the district.
- Really Gets Around: Before his sex change, that is. Afterwards, in at least one case he privately visits the wife of a former lover, satisfying her that the change is permanent and prompting her to influence her husband in Dono's favour.
- Suddenly Sexuality: Although no evidence is given that Donna was bisexual prior to her sex change, and that she certainly enjoyed the company of men (including Ivan), as Dono he is definitely at least bi, diving right into a relationship with Olivia Kouldelka.
- Tranquil Fury: Ekaterin muses that the sex change was backed by a lot of rage. Miles supports it, saying, "Lady Donna never suffered fools lightly."
- Undying Loyalty: None of Pierre's armsmen, led by Szabo, wanted to see Richars take over the district as Count, and fully supported her sex change, overlooking any prejudices they might have about gender reassignment. They knew Donna was The Good Chancellor, and Richars would get rid of them "and replace [them] with his own creatures."
A conservative back-bencher who has hit on his own, wildly progressive scheme to improve his prospects in the never-ending demographic struggle between districts. He's manufacturing liege-people, using uterine replicators, confiscated eggs, and his own sperm. All girls, to take advantage of Gender Rarity Value and Barrayar's antiquated chattel and inheritance laws.
- Ain't No Rule: Half of the basis of his plan.
- Baby Factory: His end goal, though not in any sense normally considered socially acceptable.
- Distracted by the Sexy: leading to:
- For Want of a Nail: He's one nail, if not the nail, that undoes Richars Vorrutyer when the heroes arrange to have him occupied elsewhere during a crucial vote in the Council of Counts.
- Gender Rarity Value: Another aspect of his plan. Given Barrayar's skewed demographics, any girl is practically guaranteed a husband if she wants one, making each a two for one deal.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: he's so focused on the Barrayaran tradition of paternal rights that he failed to consider Barrayar's equally strong notion of paternal responsibility that Miles and Gregor — at Ekaterin's suggestion — exploit to put the kibosh on his scheme.
- Humiliation Conga: Not that he didn't deserve it.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: He's a pigheaded putz who is either blind or indifferent to the thorny emotional problems raised by the virtual-rape-by-proxy aspects of his scheme. But he does sincerely care for his many little girls, if only because unhappy badly-adjusted liege people would derail his plan... and because he knows the Emperor could terminate his parental rights if he abused or neglected them.
- Laser-Guided Karma: "Dowries! Dowries!" — due to one of Barrayar's many legal quirks, the Emperor is able to set a minimum dowry (bride gift) for a Count's acknowledged female bastards. Gregor takes merciless advantage of this to punish Vormuir and discourage imitators until the relevant laws can be updated.
- The real icing on the cake is the fact that the dowries will make all 118 of them attractive marriage prospects even if Barrayar's demographic trends revert to something more balanced. This means Count Vormuir will almost certainly have to pay for each and every one of his transgressions.
- Lysistrata Gambit: Countess Vormuir uses this to punish him for his extramarital activities, at least until Lord Dono convinces her to participate in their For Want of a Nail scheme.
- Refuge in Audacity: Gotta admit, his little plan is pretty ballsy. Even more radical than Dono's, in its own way.
Chief of Operations for the Barrayaran Imperial Service. Ivan's boss at the beginning of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. Visiting Komarr for fleet inspections.
- Da Chief: As his main job at the time is investigating for military corruption, pretty much.
- Deadpan Snarker: One of the things that keeps Ivan in line is the fear that if he doesnt the admiral will use sarcasm on him.
- Happily Married: We meet his wife briefly when he returns to Barrayar with Ivan and Tej.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: values Ivan for the skills he uses to maintain his relatively low profile, as they make Ivan a competent adjutant.
- Retired Badass: In Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen he gives Oliver the right of first refusal for his soon to be old job.
- Tranquil Fury: He calls Ivan "Ivan" when he's in a good mood, "Vorpatril" when he's neutral, and a very edged "Captain" when he's pissed.
Pierre "Le Sanguinaire" Vorrutyer
Warleader of Emperor Dorca the Just who brought the Vor into submission.
- The Butcher: His name in English means "Bloody Peter".
- The Dragon: Dorca's favorite hatchet man and most feared liegeman.
- The Dreaded: You don't earn the sobriquet "Le Sanguinere" for hosting tea parties.
- Four-Star Badass: So much so that Piotyr Vorkosigan, who was himself a first-rate general in everything from cavalry tactics to space-age warfare, reminisced about him with enthusiastic awe.
- Gunboat Diplomacy: Cavalry diplomacy, rather. But yeah.
- Henpecked Husband: It's said that the only one he was afraid of besides the Emperor was his wife. And some weren't sure he actually feared the Emperor.
- Long Dead Badass: Not quite so long, the History of Barrayar from collapse to rediscovery was actually fairly short.
Dorca the Just
Legendary Emperor who united Barrayar and brought the Vor under submission. Called "The Just" for his competence but not necessarily for his gentleness. Seems to be regarded by most Barrayarans as Fair For His Day.
- The Dreaded: Miles notes that he's known as "Dorca the Just" primarily because he was absolutely ruthless in dispensing rough justice.
- The Extremist Was Right: His methods in unifying Barrayar were pretty much exactly as extreme as they get, but they did left a much more stable society, and without him the Cetagandans would definitely have a field day insted of the murderous La Résistance they've encountered.
- Founder of the Kingdom: Dorca turned Barrayar from a gaggle of constantly warring feudal states into a stable absolute monarchy.
- Good Is Not Nice: Pierre "Le Sanguinaire" was afraid of him.
- Gunboat Diplomacy: How Dorca unified the empire though Asskicking Equals Authority.
- Long Dead Badass: You'd think so but this trope is actually subverted since Barrayar's local history isn't all that long. In fact, Aral is just his great-grandson, and there are probably people on Barrayar who still remember him personally.
- Meaningful Name: He is called The Just for being competent, bringing peace and bringing the Vor to heel using the Barrayaran idea of justice. Perhaps galactics wouldn't have called that a good reason for the title, but Barrayarans didn't really have time to be squeamish.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: The fate of Vor who insist on continuing banditry and private wars.
Mad Emperor Yuri
Predecessor to Ezar. Led war against Cetaganda but grew paranoid and ordered death squad after those he feared including Aral's family.
- The Caligula: went crazy, tried to massacre everyone who had a claim on the throne.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Quite literally as his capital punishment, he was to be cut with a blade by just about every Vor who sided against him. It was later called "Yuri's Dismemberment." Aral got the first cut. A child at the time, however, Aral found he didn't want it as much as he'd thought.
- Defiant to the End: Mocked Aral just before he took his aforementioned cut.Aral: He leered at me. "Strike, little boy. If you dare while you wear my uniform. My uniform on a child."
- Evil Uncle: To Aral's mother Olivia Vorbarra/Vorkosigan, and as extension an Evil Great-Uncle to Aral himself.
- He Who Fights Monsters: After Dorca's death, he became the face of the La Résistance fighting the Cetagandans, and it screwed him hugely.
- Mad Artist: He was famous for the absurd architectural projects he patronized, including the infamously ugly ImpSec building.
- Rebel Leader: Of La Résistance fighting the Centagandan invaders.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: He sent out death squads to kill nobles he thought were plotting to overthrow him, along with their families. Funny thing about sending death squads after your nobles (and their families); after too many times, they start plotting to overthrow you — especially when one of them is Count Piotr Pierre Vorkosigan. They eventually succeeded and then some.
Lord Dono Vorrutyer the Mad Architect
Ancestor of Count Dono's. Famed for eccentric building styles and for building Imp Sec headquarters. A running joke of Barrayarans and the despair of Security officers who must work there.
- Crazy-Prepared: His aesthetic style is questionable but from the security standpoint he is impeccable.
Prince Xav Vorbarra
Brother of Yuri and ambassador for the resistance. Usually spoken of in a positive light even from the point of view of modern Barrayar. Miles' great grandfather through his daughter Princess Olivia and the source of Miles' (and Aral's) arguable claim to the throne.
- Ambadassador: He was Barrayar's ambassador to Beta when the Cetagandans invaded, which is why he was off-world and may explain his relatively cosmopolitan attitudes for a man of his generation.
- Heroic Bastard: According to Word of God, he was a bastard son of the Emperor who was legitimized later on.
- Odd Marriage: With a Betan when offworld marriages were rare. As he works offworld it kind of makes sense.
- Rebel Leader: Similar to his brother Yuri he was the other face of Barrayaran Resistance, only for the wider Galactic community. Probably this was what let him to remain a little more sane afterwards.
- The Scrounger: Much of his job was getting Betan weapons for Barrayar to fight off the Cetagandans.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: References to him make him seem more amiable then the ferocious and sometimes bloodthirsty Vor of his time and one could infer him being able to better fit into Gregor's court.
- White Sheep: He objects to Honor Killing of the children of Barrayarans raped or seduced by Cetagandans.
Commander later Admiral Elli Quinn
Devastatingly beautiful former Oseran mercenary; after her face got burned off by plasma fire in one of his first battles, Miles bought her a very nice new one, and since then she's used it, plus her superlative competence and hilariously twisted personality, to spectacular effect in the Dendarii. Also sleeping with Miles, at least until the events of Memory.
- Action Girl: of the "act before you think" variety, at least at first, though she's actually more cunning than she lets on.
- The Blank: For a period of time. Miles gets her a new one. Ivan made the tactical error of audibly commenting on her grotesque appearance before the surgical repair. When she met him seven years later, he'd forgotten and tried to turn on the charm — but she hadn't.
- Blessed with Suck: Elli states that her new gorgeous face has resulted in a lot more objectification from men, and either has to prove herself, or in some cases, have them prove themselves (eg. asking a man who hits on her if he can do pushups with his tongue like Miles can.)
- Character Tic: She bites her nails when she's under serious stress.
- Lady of War: Certainly by the time she takes over Miles' job as Admiral of the Dendarii, plus his working relationship with Barrayaran Imperial Security.
- Loves My Alter Ego: Was in love with Admiral Naismith, but not in love with Lord Vorkosigan, despite knowing that they were the same person. Her inability to find a way to work around this ultimately scuttled the relationship.
- Odd Friendship: With Athosian Non-Action Guy Ethan, eventually.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Her new face. She realized it the second time a soldier made a pass at her instead of following orders, forcing her to learn some new leadership techniques.
- Space People: Born and raised on Kline Station before taking up a career as a space mercenary. She does not like being on the ground, which ultimately proves to be a deal-breaker in her relationship with Miles when he becomes Lord Vorkosigan full-time.
- Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Has what Miles considers a vile sense of humour; at one point, while in Miles' company, she fends off a marauding suitor by informing him that Miles can do push-ups with his tongue.
Captain Elena Bothari-Jesek
Miles' childhood friend and crush, the daughter of Sergeant Bothari, an Action Girl constrained by Barrayaran social norms...until she takes a role in Miles' new mercenary-ing endeavor and gets to spread her wings. Marries Baz Jesek (despite an Anguished Declaration of Love from Miles...bad timing, son) after her father's death.
- Child by Rape: She is one, which is part of why she and Miles can't find any info on her mother before they decamp to Beta Colony.
- I Gave My Word: She may be a renegade Barrayaran but she still takes her marriage vows as seriously as any Vor woman. When one Dendarii officer hits on her, she doesn't just reject him , she considers the advances an implied insult to her character.
- Lady of War: In the Blood, considering who her father is. She's sick of death and violence by Mirror Dance and just wants to settle down.
- Missing Mom: Well, she was missing, right up until she walked in and shot Elena's father to death right in front of her. Mother and daughter do eventually manage to some degree of reconciliation, despite the circumstances surrounding both Elena's conception and their deadly first meeting. Just how much is never made explicit. The fact that Miles notes both Elenas are meeting on a semi-regular basis indicates it's going well.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Her father is a tall scary/ugly sort where she is an elegant Statuesque Stunner... but when one compares their builds, heights, facial structures, and so forth they look very much alike. Miles once described them as a demon and an angel carved by the same sculptor.
Commodore Baz Jesek
An honest, very competent Barrayaran tech who deserted after a particularly harrowing combat experience gave him PTSD, Baz was scraping by in a Betan waste centre when Miles found him and took him under his wing for the mission that wound up launching Admiral Naismith and the Dendarii Mercenaries. Baz later rose high in the ranks of the Dendarii, married Miles' childhood friend and crush Elena (after being Baba'd by Miles himself, no less), and later retired with Elena to start a family.
Captain Bel Thorne
A Betan hermaphrodite and highly competent mercenary who becomes captain of the Ariel as a result of Miles's conquest of the Oseran fleet.
- Berserk Button: During "Labyrinth", develops one re: the powerful Jacksonian Houses that deal in the flesh trade (particularly Houses Bharaputra and Ryoval). This later leads Bel to betray Miles by helping Mark launch a rescue operation on some clones from House Bharaputra that ends up deep-sixing Bel's career with the Dendarii. It doesn't express regret for the outcome, only for having let Miles down.
- Bi the Way: In the most literal way possible.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Seems to have caught it off Miles by "Labyrinth", and in Mirror Dance it costs Bel its job.
- Did Not Get The Cute Quaddie: Or so it appears by the end of "Labyrinth", anyway, but by Diplomatic Immunity...
- Happily Partnered: With Nicol, as of Diplomatic Immunity. They're even planning a family together.
- It's Personal: Any kind of Playing with Syringes behaviour, especially by the profit-hungry Jacksonian major houses. Bel's a member of a genetically-engineered minority and knows where that road can lead.
- Knight Errant: Bel accepts a fee of only one Betan dollar, just to make it official, to rescue Nicol — but when Bel looks her up years later it claims to have kept that very dollar as its lady's favor. Miles is suspicious (knowing Bel's talent for scam) but admits that it's a wonderfully romantic gesture regardless.
- Pronoun Trouble: Bel (and other genetically-engineered Betan hermaphrodites) prefer the use of the pronoun "it"; during Diplomatic Immunity Bel explains that "it" doesn't have the same unfortunate connotations in Betan usage as it does on certain other planets.
- Purely Aesthetic Gender: Bel tends to vary its gender presentation along the sliding scale of masculinity/femininity depending upon what it wants from the situation at hand — or sometimes just to mess with people.
Formerly a captain in the Oseran mercenaries, Ky Tung hit it off much better with the young genius "Admiral Naismith" than with his pragmatic boss Oser, and took Miles under his wing.
- Accidental Truth: Practically the first thing he says to Miles is "Who do you think you are? Lord Vorkosigan?" He was referring to Aral's reputation as a strategic genius, but nearly caused Miles to choke on his drink.
- Ascended Fanboy: Of Aral Vorkosigan's mad tactical skills.
- Honour Before Reason: While more practical than Miles about it, Ky is a warrior and tactician first, a mercenary second; Proud Warrior Race Guy Miles appreciated this quality, Oser didn't. Guess who got to benefit from Ky's brains and experience, not to mention his loyalty?
- Old Master: Takes on Miles as a tactical and military apprentice.
- Passing the Torch: To Elli, after he decides to retire to Earth and get married.
- Worthy Opponent: To Miles in The Warrior's Apprentice, before they became allies.
- He was also a junior officer at Komarr. In other words, he survived both Vorkosigans.
- The Un-Reveal: Ky's parting words to Miles imply that he's aware of Miles' true identity.
An eight-foot-tall genetically engineered super-soldier with fangs and claws, Taura was rescued from Jackson's Whole by Miles and joined up with the Dendarii, becoming a valued fleet member and also Miles' lover (well, one of them). Taura is both a highly competent soldier, and immensely strong and fast in addition to her sheer size. Unfortunately, this comes at a terrible price, as her extremely high metabolism and overall genetic design means that her natural lifespan was cut very short; by the time she and her batch mates from the super soldier group were in their mid-to-late teens, she was the only one who hadn't died of old age. Miles sets the Dendarii fleet medics to prolonging her life, and it works until Cryoburn, when Sergeant Taura passes away aged thirty.
Under the muscle, confidence, and competence is a woman described by Miles as something of a fairy princess at heart. If kept away from pink things, frills, and bows, Taura is strikingly attractive. By the end of "Winterfair Gifts", she partners up with kindred spirit Armsman Roic.
- Action Girl: Comes with being a female super soldier.
- Beastess: Miles describes sex with her as like "being mugged by a Goddess".
- Beware the Nice Ones: In spite of the teeth, she's quite sweet. Unless someone threatens a loved one, in which case the "fairy princess" turns into a monster:Taura: The little man is mine. Hurt him one little bit, and I'll tear your head off and drink your blood.
- Big Eater: Her metabolism is stuck in permanent overdrive due to House Bharaputra's genetic tinkering.
- Dead Guy Junior: Miles and Ekaterine name their second daughter (fourth child overall) in her honor.
- First Girl Wins: Miles sleeps with Taura (discreetly) while in a relationship with Quinn. He does it partly because Taura doesn't have long to live, but also because he simply can't let her go.
- Friends with Benefits: With Miles, though she's clearly more than a little sad to see him taken off the market in "Winterfair Gifts".
- Game Face: She can make grown men wet themselves with hers.
- Gentle Giant: In spite of all the things spliced into her that make her a killer, she's downright cuddly. When the Dendarii are stuck with a hold full of terrified kids, Taura goes in and helps calm them down.
- Huge Girl, Tiny Guy: A necessary consequence of being eight feet tall, particularly where Miles is concerned.
- Intimate Psychotherapy: How Miles keeps her from acting on her suicidal impulses in "Labyrinth". (It was her idea.)
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: She takes apparent comfort, during the events of "Winterfair Gifts", in the fact that Ekaterin obviously loves Miles deeply, and vice versa.
- Pink Means Feminine: Taura's initial efforts to pretty up are informed by this, despite multiple people pointing out that however hot she is, pink frills don't do her any favours. Alys dresses her in white cream with no frills, and she's stunning. She'll still wear a bow just for Miles.
- Rescue Romance: Five words. "He came back for me."
- She Cleans Up Nicely: With a bit of help from Lady Alys. Armsman Roic concurs.
- Super Soldier: A genetically engineered soldier built by a committee with no actual soldiers on it. It would be hilarious, except...see below.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: With Ellie Quinn. Ironically, beautiful Ellie is the tomboy. Taura's the girly one.
- Your Days Are Numbered: A built-in component of her Super Soldier status. It bothers her lover and C.O. Miles more than it does her: she's too busy living her life as hard as she can to waste time feeling sorry for herself.
Pilot Officer Mayhew first appears near the end of the first Vokosigan Saga novel, Shards of Honor as a young, inexperienced cargo ship pilot, who Cordelia cons into giving her a lift, off the books, to Escobar when she has to escape from her home world of Beta Colony.
Eighteen years later a young Miles Vorkosigan, on Beta Colony to visit his grandmother, overhears some people talking about a down on his luck jump pilot who has taken his obsolete ship hostage, and is threatening to blow it up to save it from the wreckers, and then he recognizes the pilot's name, and decides to help him out.
When Miles first meets Arde, he is an alcoholic (and possibly other drug addicted) washed up pilot who has been rendered technologically obsolete. His neural implants, necessary to guide a ship through a wormhole jump, are for an obsolete system, and the ship he's holding is the last of its kind, the only one he can pilot. He has been medically rejected for getting new implants, so Miles decides to buy his ship, and hire Arde to pilot it.
In order to get Arde out of his legal troubles, Miles swears him as an armsman, which lets him cover Arde under his own Class III diplomatic immunity (or at least keep the lawyers arguing about it long enough for them to get out of the system.)
Prince Serg Vorbarra
Son of Ezar Vorbarra, father of Gregor, husband of Kareen, and demonstrably about the worst thing to hit the imperial Vorbarra line since they took Mad Yuri apart. A cruel, spoiled sadist who fell in readily with the monstrous Ges Vorrutyer and eventually, in Kareen's bitter words, "surpassed the master". His father Ezar set up the entire Escobar fiasco to annihilate Serg's warmongering faction while giving his son a chance to die a warrior's death. Royally Screwed Up doesn't even start to cover it.
- The Caligula: Invoked, and noted that he was getting worse by the day, thanks to Ges Vorrutyer.
- Domestic Abuse: Hinted at in the behaviour of his widow Princess Kareen.
- Glory Hound: Unlike Miles, very much not a positive example.
- The Wrongful Heir to the Throne: Or would have been, if Aral and Ezar hadn't taken care of him.
Serg's crony and teacher in cruelty, Aral's former brother-in-law, a vile man whose extremely foul proclivities proved to be his downfall. Killed by Bothari, though ultimately Cordelia Naismith had to take the credit.
- Depraved Bisexual: Unlike his ex-boyfriend (and ex-brother in law) Aral, Ges plays this deadly straight. He even starts referencing the Marquis de Sade.
- Finger in the Mail: Ges planned to have a long lock of Cordelia's very red hair with him during a staff meeting to taunt Aral. It never happens.
- Foil: For Oliver Jole and Aral himself.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Breaking Bothari and then turning him loose on Cordelia while armed was the last, if not the worst, mistake Ges ever made.
- If I Can't Have You...: Towards Aral.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Towards Cordelia
- Smug Snake: Is entirely too convinced he has Cordelia Naismith at his mercy because she's tied down and naked.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: After their marriage, Cordelia finds unsettling evidence of a kinder, gentler Ges in Aral's childhood bedroom.
Cavilo / Livia Nu
Mercenary in command of Randall's Rangers, Cavilo is probably the series' smartest antagonist, Miles' match in brainpower with absolutely zero morals.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: One of her defining traits. Though to be fair, Stanis Metzov really had it coming.
- Gambit Pileup: Unfortunately (for her) it backfires.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: "Stanis, darling..." she says, just before murdering the man who raped her.
- Not So Different: From Miles, a fact that a number of his friends and allies are quick to hang a lampshade or five on. The only real difference is that Miles does what he does for other people, whereas Cavilo is really only out for herself.Gregor: You're both twisty. And, ah, short.
- Opportunistic Bastard/Fatal Flaw: Cavilo is the leader of a mercenary company who has no qualms about betraying her employer if she gets a better offer from someone else. After capturing her at the end of the book Miles gives her a "Reason You Suck" Speech about it.Miles: You should have stuck to your original contract. Or your second plan. Or your third. You should, in fact, have stuck to something. Anything. Your total self-interest did not make you strong, it made you a rag in the wind, anybody's to pick up.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Stanis, darling. 'Spread your legs for me, bitch, or I'll blow your brains out.'"
- The Vamp: And she's terribly effective at it, though not enough fool Gregor.
- We Could Have Avoided All This: Miles notes that had she simply ferried Gregor straight back to Barrayar, she could have named her reward.
- Xanatos Gambit: She provides the page quote.Cavilo: The key of strategy, little Vor, is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory.
Head of the Jacksonian House Ryoval, aficionado in producing horribly genetically modified slaves to satisfy the perverted desires of his wealthy customers; practically makes his fellow Jacksonian barons look human. Killed by Mark Vorkosigan mid-torture, and had his House broken up among his rivals.
- Body Horror: His House's stock in trade.
- Grand Theft Me: Despite going well on a century, Ryoval looks like a young man...because, in the words of Mark, he's wearing the corpse of a clone.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Torturing Mark until he got Dissociative Identity Disorder amused Ryoval...and ultimately let Killer off the leash.
- Mind Rape: His favourite kind, after having gotten bored with the more traditional sort.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: While he got pretty close to killing his entire family, he didn't quite succeed, and the survivors are his enemies, particularly his brother Baron Fell.
- Torture Technician: Has a whole stable full of them, and indulges from time to time for his own amusement.
Seriously disturbed and extraordinarily cruel Komarran terrorist who helped create Mark and raised him to be a duplicate Miles as part of a byzantine plot against Aral. Not a good father; his son Duv was voluntarily estranged from him and Mark, also after a fashion his son, shot him point-blank.
- Abusive Parents: To Mark, despite Mark's being a clone. He didn't leave his biological son Duv Galeni many happy memories either, if their interactions are anything to go by.
- Face Death with Dignity: Not Galen, whose death is anything but dignified, but his sister. She merely stared her executioner in the eye as she was murdered. Aral remembered, which is why he supported Duv's ascension.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: After abusing and torturing Mark to train him into the perfect Tyke Bomb, Mark turns on him and shoots him dead.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: While his hatred of Barrayar in general and Aral Vorkosigan in particular is understandable, if somewhat misguided, his pursuit of his aims is totally despicable.
- Revenge: His motivation.
- Windmill Crusader: His sister died in the Solstice Massacre, an event widely attributed to Aral Vorkosigan's orders, and Ser Galen desperately wants to avenge both his personal loss and the Barrayaran occupation of Komarr. Shame about his methods, and his grip on reality, and the fact that his idea of "training" includes sexually assaulting Mark with a shock stick for the unforgivable crime of trying to sneak out for a date with a girl...
Lord Richars Vorrutyer
Dono and Byerly's cousin, and a real nasty piece of work. Suspected of murdering the previous Count Vorrutyer, and perhaps his fiancee before that. Appears to have inherited all of the Vorrutyer's families' demons that somehow bypassed Byerly and Dono, only he's been sneaky enough not to get caught.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Richars thinks himself as a Big Bad, but compared to every other antagonist in the Saga, he's a clumsy oaf.
- Critical Research Failure: He loves to think he's Count material, but his knowledge of the political scene is woefully inadequate.
- Drown The Puppy: His retaliation for Donna squealing on his attempted rape of her.
- Rape as Backstory: He's the rapist.
- Smug Snake / Underestimating Badassery: He talks down to Miles — all he thinks is that Miles is a Vorkosigan in terms of Old Vor prestige. He forgets just why Vorkosigans became the de facto right-hand family to the Emperor.Richars: Come on, Vorkosigan. We're both as Old Vor as it's possible to be. It's stupid of us to be brangling when we should both be on the same side. Our interests march together. It's a tradition. Don't pretend your father and grandfather weren't top party horse-traders.
Miles: My grandfather . . . learned his political science from the Cetagandans. Mad Emperor Yuri offered him postgraduate instruction after that. My grandfather schooled my father. (thinking) And both of them schooled me. This is the only warning you will receive, Richars.
General Stanis Metzov
Barrayaran general assigned as commander of the most miserable base on the planet as punishment for suspected atrocities during the Komarr Revolt. Latter gets it into his head to bully Miles, then orders a group of techs to risk unnecessary danger cleaning up gene-mutating poison. When they refuse, he orders them to strip naked in polar winter under the eyes of a firing squad made up of young, newly-recruited soldiers. Under the eyes of the son of the most powerful man in Barrayar. When he "somehow" finds himself in exile, he takes service under Cavilo, only to try to murder Admiral Naismith and get captured in the process.
- Bullying a Dragon: He didn't know that Miles was personally a Magnificent Bastard, but he should have known that he was the son of the prime minister, a foster brother of The Emperor and a family friend of Simon Illyan.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Discussed. When told he was cashiered "for brutality", a rival of Admiral Naismith says "From the Barrayaran Imperial Service? That must have taken some doing."
- Irrational Hatred: Of Miles. Exactly one ill-timed snarky remark on his first day at Kyril, and Metzov decides they are enemies for life.
- Karmic Death: See Cavilo's Pre Mortem One Liner.
- Reassigned to Kyril Island: Except it is decided that Kyril Island is too good for him.
Doctor Ethan Urquhart
- Fish out of Water: When he first gets to Kline Station. Ethan's from an all-male Planet of Hats that has no contact with women at all.
- Nice Guy: First to his irresponsible nitwit of a foster brother/boyfriend Janos, then to troubled Cetagandan gene-spliced super-agent Terrence Cee, with much more success to the latter than the former.
- Non-Action Guy: At first.
- Odd Friendship: Between super-responsible, straight-laced Straight Gay Non-Action Guy Ethan and snarky badass Action Girl Elli Quinn. One's a strictly religious downsider, the other a spacer mercenary: together they take on agents of the Cetagandan Empire!
- Straight Gay: Although technically since there are no women on his planet, and indeed most Athosians have never even seen a woman, they may have no concept of effeminacy upon which to base Camp Gay behavior. In addition, while most Athosians undergo a "madness" when seeing women for the first time, Ethan has no reaction.
- Took a Level in Badass: With a little help from Elli Quinn.
- Babies Ever After: What he was trying to do with Janine, and what eventually ended up happening in spite of her death.
- Bi the Way: Ghem-colonel Millisor implies that he was designed this way. It is hinted that he ultimately becomes Ethan Urquhart's romantic partner.
- Defusing the Tyke Bomb: The Cetagandans engineered him to be the perfect superagent, but with a little basic human kindness Doctor Urquhart almost manages to reduce him to tears.
- Pineal Weirdness: The source of his abilities.
- Telepathy: An unusual case: his is chemically generated. It is also receptive only. He can read minds, but not send thoughts.
Son of Komarran terrorist, Ser Galen, Duv joined the Barrayaran army after getting his PhD in Barrayaran history. An ambitious and conscientious officer, he hopes to rise in the ranks to better help his native Komarr. Later married to Delia Koudelka. Also winds up the first Komarran to head ImpSec Komarran Affairs.
- The Atoner: For the mistakes of his father.
- Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Milies initially thinks he's a deliberately obstructive superior plotting against him, but that turns out to not be the case and he and Miles end up (somewhat uneasy) friends.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: Duv is highly educated, well-read, level-headed, does everything by the book...and after a really bad week, took down a couple of Cetagandan ghem commandos with his bare hands, quite possibly by repeatedly smashing their heads into a nearby car.
- Deadpan Snarker: As one of Miles' former commanding officers, it comes naturally.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Subverted; he loses Laisa Toscane to the Emperor, but by the end of the same book he's pretty solid with Delia Koudelka.
- Foil: To Miles. He is quiet, rule-bound, and driven to work his butt off to be both good at his job and completely incorruptible — because if he's not, he'll be ejected from his job and things will instantly become much harder for the Komarrans who try to follow him.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: He actually has a PhD, but nobody calls him "doctor" in ImpSec.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Happens in universe when, furious over losing Laisa to Gregor, calls Miles in a drunken rage. His cultured accent slips down to "street Komaran".
- Unwanted Assistance: Toward Miles after said Miles, having accidentally sabotages his chances with Laisa Toscane by introducing her to Gregor, offers to assist Duv in his courtship of Delia Koudelka.
Laisa Vorbarra/Laisa Toscane
New wife of Gregor. First introduced in Memory. Their wedding forms the backdrop of the novel A Civil Campaign.
- Ambadassador: Well sort of. When first met she is a lobbyist for Komarran shipping interests and impresses Gregor with her intelligence and political savvy.
- Big Beautiful Woman: Is described as having "a figure that made Miles, for one, just want to sort of fall over on top of her and burrow in for the winter..." This proves to be a source of chagrin for Lady Alys, who had tried unsuccessfully for years to catch Emperor Gregor's eye with an endless parade of tall, slender Vor women, only to have him fall in love with a short, plump Komarran entirely of his own accord.
- Happily Married: To Gregor.
- Hot Consort: Downplayed. She is pretty, not gorgeous. But Gregor had had enough of gorgeous-looking suitors and secretly wanted a motherly looking one. Especially since he was somewhat paranoid about Vor genes producing another Prince Serg.
- Non-Idle Rich: She is the daughter and primary heiress of the powerful Toscane shipping dynasty, but she holds a doctorate in economics and is a shrewd negotiator in her own right.
- Not with Them for the Money: As a scion of "those Toscanes" the money really wasn't an issue but ,despite the political advantages, she didn't marry Gregor to become Empress, she married to become Gregor's wife. As it happens, she also makes one heck of an Empress.
- Thinks Like a Romance Novel: She has a romantic streak and was enamored by some of the "fairy tale" aspects of Barrayaran history.
The Durona Group
A medical clinic and biological research and development firm run by a group of nearly 40 clones. Formally serfs to Jackson Whole's Baron Fell. Now set up at Escobar.
- Berserk Button: If you sabotage a medical procedure performed by Doctor Raven Durona, putting the patient's life beyond any skills he has, he will be very, very pissed. Medicine is always chancy, but he does not appreciate being set up to fail.
- Clones Are People, Too: They refer to each other as siblings rather than clones, despite being raised on the distinctly clone-non-friendly world of Jackson's Whole. One of the reasons they wind up helping our heroes is to get the hell off Jackson's Whole so they can have their own individual lives apart from each other.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: They have a minor, disquieting habit of discussing/witnessing ethically dubious or morally bankrupt medical practices with more enthusiasm than one would like.
- Defector from Decadence: Lily, from House Ryoval. Inverted with her first daughter, who became Baronne Bharaputra. The two women hate each other.
- Intimate Healing: Rowan Durona practices this with Miles.
- The Matriarch: Lily, the matriarch, who is over 100 years old, but being a part of House Ryoval has hardened her forever. Miles even notes "100 year old eyes look at you differently."
- Theme Naming: All of the women are named after flowers, all of the men are named after birds.
- Tranquil Fury: Raven Durona, during Cryoburn, has a moment when he removes his surgical gloves and mask, face frozen into blankness, and breathes out sharply. Miles notes that other doctors would probably have thrown the equipment across the room and started swearing, but Raven still gets the sentiment across.
- Truly Single Parent: Lily Durona.
Mark's Escobaran business partner and creator of the butter bug — a creature that ingests organic matter of just about any variety and regurgitates it as bland nutritious goo that can be processed and flavoured in an enormous number of ways (nicknamed bug butter, not bug vomit, whatever Miles tells you), as well as excreting very high-quality fertilizer. He is brilliant and... fixated.
- Absent-Minded Professor: So very. Selling more than 100% of his projects to venture capitalists is probably the best example.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Obsessed with his butter bugs, thinks customizing his bugs (which look like a giant cross between a cockroach and a termite) with his host's livery is a way to get on his good side, and adapts his dissertation into poetry because he wanted to impress a pretty lady.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Enrique cares deeply for his bugs to the point that he cries when the queens die. It appears completely beyond his powers of comprehension that most people do not feel the same way immediately, or even after he explains how wonderful they are at length.
- Lovable Nerd: Well... Martya seems to like him, anyway.
- Manchild: He doesn't need an assistant, he needs a keeper. Or a mother. He has to be reminded to bathe, eat, sleep, dress, look both ways before crossing the road, that most people are a bit cagey about eating bug puke no matter how sanitary and nutritious it is...
- Stupid Crooks: Before meeting Mark, Enrique had sold several hundred percent of butter bug stock to his investors. Notably, he didn't even seem aware that this might be illegal. Or even impossible. "I was going to pay them back!"
Gifted Quaddie musician rescued from indentured servitude on Jackson's Whole by Miles and Bel. Has a second pair of arms instead of legs, which is a disability in gravity but gives her a huge advantage in free fall.
- Distressed Damsel: The closest thing to a traditional one in the whole series, and that doesn't stop her participating in the fight to escape.
- Rescue Romance: With Bel.
- Transhuman Alien: Genetically engineered for free fall.
The ghem Estif Arqua Family (House Cordonah)
House Cordonah is run by a Jacksoninan pirate and a ghem/haut Cetagandan woman. They have 11 children, six of whom were extensively genetically modified by the Baronne. Using her own gene pool, the Baronne created "Jewel" kids followed by "normal" kids in alternating sequence. The Jewels are just as much siblings as the other kids, but aren't known as such publicly.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: the ghem Estif ladies are white, Shiv is black, the even kids are black (described as "cinnamon" rather than using the Starbucks Skin Scale), and the Jewels have skin shades resembling their namesake gemstones (ruby, emerald, pearl, topaz, lapis lazuli, and onyx) .
- Amoral Attorney and Hello, Attorney!: Pidge.
- Badass Normal: Udine regards Shiv as her equal in intellect and ambition.
- Battle Couple: Shiv and Udine.
- Best Served Cold: Moira and the brooch at the end. It's worth it to her to blow up a very, very expensive item just to punish the haut for throwing her out.
- Cool Old Lady: Moira, who is 130 years old but still breaking into a hidden bunker and one hundred percent capable of Neck Lifting people she takes a dislike to.
- Dancing Is Serious Business: In fact it is business. The Jewels use their dance as an opportunity to spy on guests.
- Dude, Where's My Reward?: Amazingly, Pidge has the nerve to demand a 10% finder's fee of the treasure, because it wouldn't have been found without them. Even more amazingly, they do end up with 5% of it, which is their ten percent less expenses.
- Not only that, they do this while being personally tried by The Emperor for among other things, destroying ImpSec headquarters, risking the pollution of Vorbarr Sultana by the use of untested biological agents, risking the lives of unwitting Barrayaran subjects and being just plain obnoxious. Whatever you can say about them it is an awesome moment of Refuge in Audacity.
- Not to mention, the reason they knew where it was is that grandma had been married to a Ghem lord during the Occupation and had helped sort out the plunder. In other words they were claiming a finder's fee for a treasure whose location they knew because one of them had helped steal it!
- However, they do have leverage, as the Cetagandans have a toehold in the house that usurped them, the Prestenes, and having House Cordonah in Barrayar's pocket is extremely important for Gregor, since Baron Fell is aging.
- In addition, the entire Deal was set up by Alys, Udine and Moira, while the entire scheme was orchestrated by Illyan. You can bet all four influenced Gregor and it was a complete setup, all relying on Shiv to say "yes" to Gregor's offer.
- Not only that, they do this while being personally tried by The Emperor for among other things, destroying ImpSec headquarters, risking the pollution of Vorbarr Sultana by the use of untested biological agents, risking the lives of unwitting Barrayaran subjects and being just plain obnoxious. Whatever you can say about them it is an awesome moment of Refuge in Audacity.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: They all seem surprised that at least some powerful Barrayarans actually manage to do their jobs without bribery and actually value their given word. Or that Ivan married Tej for no other reason than to get her out of trouble. In Ivan's case they can't quite understand that he isn't playing for the Imperial throne when he is close enough in ancestry to make a play for it. That is kind of "evil cannot comprehend sloth."
- In general they are so obsessed with scheming that they can't comprehend anyone who isn't. Justified, as Simon Illyan went in with them on their scheme, behind Gregor's back!
- Everyone Is Related: The general public think the Jewels are the Baronne's specially created dance troupe. In reality, they're as much family as the "normal" kids.
- Foil: Shiv and Udine are to Aral and Cordelia. Ivan even warns Simon that whatever he's thinking of, not factoring in Udine would be akin to not factoring in Cordelia; Simon takes the advice seriously, having seen what kind of damage Cordelia was capable of when underestimated.
- Graceful Loser: Shiv's reaction to losing his bet with Simon, potentially getting them imprisoned on capital crimes, is to merely shake his hand and say, "Well played."
- Hypocrite: Tej and the rest of her family refer to commoners as grubbers. However, in Jacksonian society titles are meaningless without wealth to back them up, and their house has currently been ousted, leaving them virtually broke and technically no longer nobles.
- Instant Expert: Udine is the daughter of a haut lady and a ghem general. The kids are all half-Cetagandan, and canon precedence is that carefully cultivated Ceta genes can grant people the kind of dexterity, intellect, and learning speed that makes this trope possible.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Half of the kids (the Jewels) are visibly genetically modified, the other half were more normalized. They call themselves the "odd sibs" and "even sibs."
- Melting-Pot Nomenclature: Shiv got ahold of an old Earth baby name book and gave a lot of his children 3—5 names at a time, themed based on Earth locations.
- The Mole: Erik.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Shiv" is a common term for an improvised stiletto.
- Noble Fugitive: In fact this is Lampshaded when the book comments that Tej's marriage to Ivan works perfectly in Barrayar because every blue blooded vor will be enchanted by a tale of rescueing a lost princess from a fallen dynasty.
- Not So Different: Sometimes when they are talking shop with Vor about the details of various intrigues, you get this impression.
- Obliviously Evil: Can be chalked up to haut sense of entitlement, but Moira ghem Estif manages to render even Lady Alys and Simon Illyan speechless with her matter-of-fact recounting of her late-husband's personal tragedy of losing his son during the Cetagandan occupation of Barrayar when the young man went to Vorkosigan Vashnoi to be with (and possibly rescue) his Barrayaran lover just as the Cetagandan's nuked the entire city. That she tells this tale at a dinner party hosted for her family by Lady Alys, and her nonchalant reaction to the observation that the site no longer glows leaves the Barrayarans too shocked to even be angry. Especially when she asks that the next time Ivan flies over the site (because she calmly notes that they presumably cannot land in the radioactive wasteland) that he give a nod to her deceased stepson and his boyfriend.
- Yet in her detached way she was sufficiently moved to remember and tell the story and request Ivan give a salute her stepson and his lover. She also mentions she conceived Udine specifically to make up to General Ghem-Estif for the loss of his (presumably) only child. Nonetheless, she seems to exhibit no concern over everyone else who was killed in the city, weighing the entire tragedy only in terms of how it personally affected her and her husband.
- Obnoxious In-Laws: To Ivan. Well, when you roll into town, and take over your wife's life to the point where she doesn't even talk to her husband any more...Oh yeah, and they're trying to steal a ton of Cetagandan treasure from under the ImpSec offices.
- Only One Name: it appears that this is probably the case with the Jewels.
- Overly Long Name: the even-sib kids. Not surprisingly, they all go by nicknames.
- Pirate Booty: the hidden treasures in the Cetagandan bunker hidden under the ImpSec building. With strong undertones of Nazi Gold, at least from the Barrayaran perspective — most of the physical treasures there were stolen during the Cetagandan Occupation. Most of what's there that isn't just financially valuable is also fantastically historically valuable and often lost family heirlooms.
- Riches to Rags: The motivation behind their plot on Barrayar.
- Roaring Rampage of Rescue and Roaring Rampage of Revenge: presumably what the Arquas got up to by the time of the epilogue of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.
- Space People: As their House was originally based on a space station, albeit one relatively near an inhabitable planet, they have some of this mentality. At one point Tej has to remind herself that a fireplace is decorative rather than an environmental hazard.
- The Stateless: Lady Moira ghem Estif renounced her Cetagandan citizenship when she and her husband expatriated to Komarr in the wake of the disastrous invasion of Barrayar. Her husband took Komarran citizenship, and she had residency as his spouse. Since then, she has lived with House Cordonah on Jackson's Whole, and as a resident alien on Earth, but specifically calls out her status as someone who's been stateless for over a century.
- Theme Naming: The Jewels.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: While nowhere near as stunted as Miles, Shiv is on the short side of average height while Udine is One Head Taller and much stronger than her willowy frame would indicate thanks to her Haut bloodlines.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Space pirate Shiv and half-haut half-ghem Udine.
- White Sheep: Tej and Amiri. Tej has no interest in her family's scheming and is perfectly happy with a comfortable life as Lady Vorpatril. Amiri has just as little interest and wishes to be a doctor on Escobar. Not surprisingly Amiri is Tej's favorite sibling, though she's actually closest to Rish who has been her Knight Templar Big Brother since birth.
- Woman Scorned: Tej notes that Udine far more frightening than Shiv. While Shiv might give you fair warning, Udine won't even ask. Shiv also taught former haut lady Moira to give her entire former caste the middle finger.Udine: When I get my hands on those Prestenes, the retribution will be famous.
Akuti Tejaswini Jyoti ghem Estif Arqua Vorpatril (Tej)
A Baronette from House Cordonah on Jackson's Whole and the second youngest of a very large family. Enters into a citizenship marriage with Ivan in order to avoid arrest and capture. Turns out to actually like being Lady Vorpatril, despite getting the "fall in love" and "get married" parts out of order.
- Accidently Arranged Marriage: Her marriage purchases an alliance with Barrayar through sheer good luck, and she never knew Ivan was the Emperor's cousin. When her dad hears about it, it seems to hurt his pride that such a useful Deal was not gotten through his scheming. Though of course she only wanted Ivan Xav, none of her earlier suitors brought as much of a political package as a bride-price.
- Agents Dating: With Ivan, though there are some mix-ups because of the in-law troubles.
- Big Brother Worship: Toward Ameri who is offstage for much of the book but is her favorite sibling. Also toward Rish to some degree.
- Blessed with Suck: Tej's highly tuned Cetagandan senses come with downsides. She has a low tolerance for sonic or visual dissonance and is subject to horrendous wormhole jump sickness. She also has this attitude to her large breasts, frustrated they made her too "top heavy" to be a serious dancer like her Jewel half-siblings.
- Bonding Over Missing Parents: Tej thinks this applies to her and Ivan. It doesn't.
- Buxom Is Better: There's also a My Eyes Are Up Here when Ivan takes a little too long reading her nametag — before sighing everyone has that issue. Interestingly, Tej was the only one of her siblings not to be gene-modded — just two chromosomes from each of her parents and gene-cleaned for genetic disorders. So, her endowment is entirely natural and unplanned.
- Citizenship Marriage: With Ivan, in order to get diplomatic immunity on Komarr
- Conflicting Loyalty: Between her and Ivan Xav who is conflicted between her and Barrayar.
- Daddy's Girl: Tej, very much so. Rish not so much. She's mama's girl through and through
- D-Cup Distress: Tej dislikes being extremely well-endowed, and not just because of the unwanted attention. She wants to be a professional dancer like her half-siblings, but she moans to Ivan she's too "top heavy" to be one.
- Given Name Reveal: And it's a mouthful.
- Happily Married: Surprisingly, given their elopement.
- In-Series Nickname: "Tej" turns out to be short for her Overly Long Name.
- Insistent Terminology: always refers to her husband as "Ivan Xav" in every conversation and even inside her own head once she finds out that he's the only "Ivan Xav" among the many "Ivan Vorpatril"s in the Barrayaran peerage. Ivan Xav is her Ivan.
- Similarly, in her internal monologues, she always refers to Emperor Gregor as "The Gregor". Miles is similarly "The Coz".
- Interrupted Suicide: Ivan's proposal stops her and Rish from throwing themselves off a building to avoid arrest and capture.
- Instant Expert: The whole ghem Estif Arqua brood are half-Cetagandan, and there's canon precedence for the carefully toggled Cetagandan genes conveying Instant Expert status in a number of areas (see: René Vorbretton and music). Despite being the "control child", Tej is no exception:
- Having never really driven before landing on Barrayar, Ivan signs Tej up for driving lessons. Within a few hours she gets her learner's permit, has one moment of hitting a pillar on her first day, and then manages to get her license to drive in a week. In Vorbarr Sultana traffic.
- Picks up Barrayaran languages (all four of them) with stunning speed, to the point where she can identify a Barrayaran Russian speaker and converse with him fluently. She says to Ivan that languages are fun. Studying economics is much more like work.
- Mafia Princess: of the Yakuza princess subtype. Played with. Her family doesn't understand her lack of enthusiasm for the freebooting Jacksonian lifestyle.
- Meaningful Name: "Princess Radiant Light." Ivan thinks her father must have thought the world of her.
- Muscles Are Meaningless: She is about as normal as anyone with a Haut grandparent can get, but she can still lift grown men off their feet without actually meaning to.
- Omniglot: She can learn new languages in weeks. She picks up all four of Barrayar's languages in less than a month. Not only that, but she's able to detect, discern and mimic accents as well.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Much of the reason she gave up on dancing is that she was too tall, stocky, and top-heavy to measure up to the standards of the Jewels.
- Overly Long Name: A background character tries to read it off, hesitates, and then settles for "Lady Vorpatril." When she challenges Ivan to repeat her full name, he does it flawlessly, impressing her.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Subverted. When we last see her and Ivan, Ivan is Military Attache on an obscure planet where he was sent until the incident was forgotten and has moved the consulate to a tropical island so she and Ivan could spend a two-year working vacation. Kind of "Reassigned to Riviera."
- Suddenly Suitable Suitor: Inverted. Staying with her just about ruins Ivan Vorpatril's chances at becoming Emperor of Barrayar... and that is a bonus for him.
- White Sheep: She's the least genetically modified child of the entire family (at dad's request), "the control child" and the least understood by her family because she isn't obsessed with power and control. When her family needs her to help rob a vault, her primary job is driving the car.
Lapis Lazuli (Rish)
The next to the youngest Jewel in the Baronne's troupe of dancers and spies. A genetically engineered daughter of the Baronne, she has skin designed to look like her namesake, along with wicked dance skills, pointy ears, super strength and super senses.
- Beta Couple: With Byerly. She admires that he's as covertly sneaky as she is.
- Blessed with Suck: Rish's senses are even move highly tuned than Tej's. She can't even drive a groundcar without experiencing sensory overload.
- Blue Skinned Space Babe shot through with metallic gold, as well.
- Dancing Is Serious Business: And frequently camouflage for investigating a situation.
- Daddy's Girl: Inverted. Rish is mama's girl through and through, deeply grateful to her mother for giving her a striking appearance and enhanced senses and abilities.
- Daytime Drama Queen: While in hiding on Komarr she became addicted to several daytime holo-dramas. She's delighted to find out a few crewmembers on a military ship are also fans, and end up having sessions of watching tapes as they arrive.
- Deadpan Snarker: a match for Byerly in this regard
- Defrosting Ice Queen: She's warm around her family, but Ivan finds her chilly and intimidating. Byerly probably has a hand in mellowing her out a bit.Ivan: You're my sister-in-law? That... explains a lot, actually.
(Cue Byerly ROTFLMAO.)
- Grand Dame: Downplayed, but she loves being seen among high society — even among notoriously xenophobic Barrayarans — and looks down on "houseless grubbers." (She's exotic enough that Barrayarans think of her more as a displaced alien princess than a mutant.)
- I Am What I Am: She's proud to be blue and has no interest in hiding that from the norms, and screw you if you find her freaky.
- In-Series Nickname: "Lapis Lazuli" is her stage name, "Rish" is her family nickname. If she has a formal name it's never revealed.
- Knight Templar Big Brother: In fact the Barrayarans at first think she is a genetically engineered slave-bodyguard. She is genetically engineered, but her loyalty is perfectly normal sibling loyalty. (She was to be a "jeeve", but Udine stopped the loyalty treatments because she couldn't stand the idea of her Jewels dying if she died.) Her parents tasked her with keeping an eye on her baby sister—which probably makes her more dangerous than any artificial loyalty programming ever could—and it's implied that she's been doing so for Tej's entire life.
- Nobody Here but Us Statues: She and the Jewels jobs would often be as "living statues". Of course, people would forget they could hear and see everything going on in a party, and made them perfect spies, too.
- Only One Name: possibly, but she doesn't seem to have the mouthful that Tej has.
- Stage Name: She claims Lapis Lazuli is her stage name, "Rish" is a family nickname like Tej, Pidge, and Star. The only other Jewel we meet (Onyx) also has a family nickname, "Jet". If any of the jewels have any other names it's not mentioned.
- Sarcastic Devotee: Originally designed to be a loyal retainer ("jeeves"), but her mother discontinued loyalty treatments on the Jewels after a while. She's loyal on her own recognizance (and good old-fashioned filial piety). She loves her mom, dad, and baby sister in that order.
- Shout-Out: She looks a lot like a short Na'vi.
- Super Strength: Considerably shorter and slighter than Tej... and much stronger.
- Yaoi Fangirl: Aside from dating a bisexual man, when Tej brings up the idea of Ivan and By sleeping together, Rish expresses an intense desire to watch.
Ghem Colonel Benin
Cetagandan Security agent in Cetaganda who ferrets out a Government Conspiracy in the Centagandan court with Miles' help. Later meets Miles again in A Civil Campaign.
- Always Gets His Man: It doesn't matter to him that the victim was just a Ba servant. What matters was that someone was murdered.note
- Ambadassador: In A Civil Campaign we meet him as a Ghem-general and ambassador to Barrayar with the ultimate Cetagandan reward; a haut wife. He hints to Miles that Cetaganda knows who Admiral Naismath is.
Colonel BadassGeneral Badass: Thanks to Miles and Pel.
- Enemy Mine: He is an agent of Barrayar's traditional rival in interstellar politics. And if Miles ever did a deep-cover job on Cetaganda, presumably he would be a Worthy Opponent. But when we see him, he is an ally of Miles.
- Fall Guy: Benin was intended to be one by ghem-General Naru if he didn't falsify his investigation. Miles warned him that he better get the Emperor's protection to prevent anyone from impeding his case.
- Hero of Another Story: He's always on the opposite side of a mystery Miles is trying to solve, and one gets the impression that Benin has the tougher job.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Often painted as Miles' opposite number among the Cetagandans, and apparently equally open-minded. In Diplomatic Immunity, it's Benin that Miles contacts to avert a potential Cetagandan-Barrayaran conflict.
- Tribal Face Paint: Painted in Imperial rather than clan fashion to show where his loyalties were.
Engineer who arranges the escape of the quaddies in Falling Free two hundred years before Miles and has Graf Station named after him.
- Founder of the Kingdom: And the Quaddies will never forget him. Their main station is named after him, and Leo is by far the most popular name among male Quaddies.
- Interspecies Romance: Quaddies are still human, so it's more like "Transhuman Romance", as he and Silver hook up by the end of Falling Free.
- Messianic Archetype: Though it's more Moses than the Messiah. Graf even Lampshades his status by promising to bring the Quaddies to "the Promised Land".
- Socially Awkward Hero: And the Quaddies remember him as such in their opera The Crossing, in the most affectionate way.