Character Note: Ermenthalia
Dorilian Sordaneon’s paternal grandmother is not even named in Sordaneon. In The Kheld King, however, The Gracious Hierarchessa Ermenthalia has a major part to play.
In a story with as many characters as the Triempery Revelations series, introducing them all can be a challenge. Readers can be forgiven for glazing over if they are asked to keep track of too many. For that reason, some characters get bypassed in their first appearances and are introduced when they become more essential.
Early drafts of Sordaneon included Ermenthalia being present at Dorilian’s wedding. I cut her from that manuscript while doing a hard edit to reduce the size of the book (agents drilled into my head they would not even look at an unknown author’s book if it exceeded a certain word count). The scene worked just fine without old Ermenthalia, so out she went. Dorilian’s father Deben picked up the slack of advocating for the alliance with Mormantalorus.
Readers first meet Ermenthalia in The Kheld King, when Dorilian pays her a visit that launches an important plot arc. Ermenthalia is Deben’s mother, widow of the hostage Hierarch Labran. It’s from the latter connection that she gets her title of Gracious Hierarchessa. She is Dorilian’s grandmother, though not the warm and fuzzy kind. In fact, they barely know each other.
He had met her on five occasions: his birth and naming days, which he did not remember; his wedding to Daimonaeris, which he remembered only too well; his father’s ascension to the throne; and his own coronation as Hierarch. On the latter occasion. Ermenthalia had expressed hope that trouble with Mormantalorus was all a misunderstanding...
Ermenthalia is a daughter of the late Prince of Suddekar, Mezentius, a minor character readers did meet in Sordaneon. Her sister’s son was Heir to Suddekar and the father of Deleus, Dorilian’s first cousin (through Deleus’ mother). That Dorilian and Deleus look a lot alike is a consequence of a high degree of consanguinity.
Where things get interesting with Ermenthalia is that her mother was a princess of Mormantalorus, a cousin of the last Highborn Hierarch, Camas V Ciennoreon. That makes her also a twice removed cousin of Daimonaeris, Camas’ daughter, the unhappy princess who wed an unwilling Dorilian. Daimonaeris wasn’t happy about it either. Ermenthalia, however, had brokered the marriage/alliance with Nammuor and Deben, and those three were pleased as punch.
Notice the tangled family trees in play. The royal families of Sordan and Mormantalorus share a long history of marrying each other, more so than marrying with the Esseran Malyrdeons (though there was also plenty of that... more later about Marc Frederick’s Sordaneon ancestress). Which points to the matter of Ermenthalia’s loyalties.
Ermenthalia spent her childhood in the Mormantaloran domain of Nalapar, which was the domain of her mother’s Highborn prince of a father. She was immersed in a court which practiced Staubaun exceptionalism, in which the ruling class married amongst themselves and were governed by rigid social protocols; pure bloodlines did not mix with lesser, and never with the common-born workers or slaves who served them. Ermenthalia was fourteen when she returned to Suddekar and her father Mezentius’ court and from there was introduced to the Sordaneon court of the Hierarch Tarentar.
Tarentar was the son of a Rill Lord, but he’s more famous for having been married off to an Ardaenan princess to secure a treaty. He went on to father Labran Sordaneon, the Hierarch taken captive by Esseran King Marc Frederick Stauberg-Randolph, who thereby ended Sordan’s independence for nearly forty years. Before that happened, however, Tarentar sought to correct the half-breed bloodline issue by marrying his son to a female of impeccable and pure lineage.
Ermenthalia was perfect. The Highborn take the race of their mother, and Ermenthalia was so pure her issue would restore the Sordaneons to lofty lineage.
Tarentar agreed; Mezentius agreed. What stood in the way? A Wall Lord.
Tarentar was being pressured by Endurin Malyrdeon—who had put Tarentar in this spot in the first place by manuveuring the Ardaenan union. Endurin wanted Labran to wed Endurin’s natural granddaughter and sole remaining heir, Ariande, who was half-Kheld. Sordan adamantly opposed the marriage based on the bride’s mixed parentage. So did Labran, who found her too lowly. For Sordan, Ermenthalia was the better match.
Ariande made the question of marrying anyone moot by fleeing Stauberg and getting swept into a Rift event. She ended up being found by and wedding a First Creation man, William Randolph, the father of Marc Frederick.
Ermenthalia didn’t find mixed blood Labran any more appealing than Ariande had. His gray eyes and dark hair offended her Purist sensibilities, as did his arrogance and dismissiveness. Labran spent more time with his courtiers than his wife and eventual Hierarchessa. He did, however, consummate the marriage. Ermenthalia duly gave birth to twin sons, Deben (later Deben IV Sordaneon) and Delos. When Labran was taken hostage by Marc Frederick, she was unhappy mostly that Deben became a figurehead Hierarch of a subjugated state.
Ermenthalia was deeply invested in her sons. They were to be her legacy and her dreams were thwarted. Deben IV was hamstrung by war and politics and was widely seen as weak. Delos’ death by plasm shock after using the Lacenedon Crown to break the Vermillion Aqueduct affected Ermenthalia deeply and she never forgave the Stauberg-Randolphs—Emyli in particular, but Marc Frederick also for having “encouraged” Khelds to think themselves “better than their place”—for that conflict.
Ermenthalia vehemently opposed Essera’s push early in Labran’s captivity to have Deben wed the young Princess Emyli Stauberg-Randolph. Labran too withheld approval. Emyli, like Ariande before her, resolved the matter: she ran off with her Kheld lover. Alternative brides were quickly proposed. Princess Valyane of Teremar, daughter of the powerful Sordaneon Prince Sebbord Teremareon, brought with her a vast dowry that would enrich the Hierarch’s eventual heirs. That Valyane was herself the daughter of a half-Ardaenan noblewoman, a product of the same treaty of marriage exchanges that had led to Labran, was considered a necessary compromise.
Ermenthalia suffered the insult but resolved to repair the damage. After two childless unions, her cousin Camas V Ciennoreon had married again and sired a daughter. Daimonaeris would be the perfect bride for Ermenthalia’s tragically mixed blood grandson, Dorilian. Restore the pure bloodline... shore up Sordan’s crippled dynasty with a strong Mormantaloran alliance.
If only Dorilian would have cooperated.