For a while now, I’ve given various consideration to commissioning a portrait of Queen Viarraluca, title character from my novel-in-progress, First Empress. About a week and a half ago, I emailed the amazing and talented Adelruna to discuss the possibility. I’m very definitely pleased with the end results. As well as being an intelligent and powerful ruler, the young queen is trained as a heavy infantrywoman, preferring to fight on the front lines beside the hoplites, gaining her soldiers’ loyalty by sharing in their danger and hardship. I feel like Adelruna has portrayed her strength and courage elegantly in this portrait.
I make no apologies for the fact that Queen Viarra is a tyrant. While she loves her friends and works toward the benefit of her subjects, she’s ruthless and sometimes brutal toward those who cross her. (And damn, she’s fun to write.) I don’t see her as being opposed to others’ individual freedoms, but she places more value on the security and stability of her hegemony. Twice she executes nobles for daring to conspire against her and even has her own uncle hanged for assassinating her brothers. The following excerpt is from Chapter 8 when Viarra confronts one of the nobles involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the young queen.
Walking beside Captain Alden, Bevren followed her majesty to the gates of Lord Halben’s townhouse, more than fifty hoplites in tow.
“Stand aside,” Queen Viarra ordered as Halben’s gate guards approached. Startled, the guards leapt out of the way, her majesty striding between them. She stormed through the open gates and across the courtyard, her soldiers nearly jogging to keep up.
“Your majesty, this is entirely out of line,” a self-important house slave objected, stepping between the queen and the front door. “If you’ll come back in the morning when—” he cut off as Viarra grabbed him by the hair and turned him forcibly around. The movement caused the sweating bastard to fall to one knee.
“Tell them to open the fucking door,” the queen demanded coldly, keeping ahold of the slave’s hair.
“For Andiva’s sake, open the door!” the man bleated. The doors swung open a moment later, revealing a pair of terrified doormen. Queen Viarra tossed the slave aside and strode through the entryway, likely looking like an archangel of death to the terrified occupants. Bevren followed with the rest of the soldiers, taking note of the servants and family members cowering in doorways and behind furniture.
Lord Halben and Lady Lyria stepped from their bedchamber as the queen approached with her soldiers. “Queen Viarra, what is the meaning of this?” he demanded. “Storming my home in the middle of the night and—” he cut off, turning white and pissing down his leg as Captain Alden held up the assassination contract with the conspirators’ names signed to it.
“Majesty, I can explain—” the traitor began.
He cut off as Viarra grabbed him by the tunic and threw him through a nearby table.
“No, you can’t explain,” Viarra told him cold-bloodedly as she stepped over and jerked him to his knees. “Every lying word you speak in useless explanation is another second you get to spend alive. You don’t get that right.” She turned and threw him to the stone floor in front of her soldiers, bloodying his nose and splitting his lip. “Take him to Fort Lynra and crucify him with the others,” she ordered.
Two hoplites yanked him to his feet and dragged him down the hall, screaming his traitorous head off.
Bevren turned back to where Lady Lyria stood, covering her mouth. She sobbed and shook her head in disbelief as she read the contract for Queen Viarra’s assassination.
“I apologize, Lady Lyria,” the Queen said with unexpected tenderness as she stepped over and took the noblewoman’s hand. The lady looked up at the queen in surprise. “I apologize that I must deprive you of your husband. I want you to know that I harbor no ill will to you or your children. If you choose to stay in the city, I am willing to offer you your husband’s seat on the council, as well as my protection from any reprisals that may come because of his part in the plot against me. However, if you no longer feel safe here in Andivel, I have a ship standing by to take you and your children to be with your family in Ovec at first light.”
“I… thank you for your mercy, your majesty,” Lady Lyria replied, trembling and clutching the queen’s hand. “I will take my children and return to Ovec. But… perhaps in a few years, when my son is older, we can return and he may serve on the council as his father did.” She looked hopefully up at the tall queen.
“I will see to it,” her majesty nodded. “I’ll make sure your home is maintained for your return.”