The story of Artesia is as much a war story as it is an epic fantasy, and so it has a wide cast of characters drawn from throughout the setting of the Known World. Artesia leads an army composed of banner lords, landed knights who hold the ancient citadels of Daradja; free companies of Highlanders, from the many clans that claim descent from the original Daradjans and their great Queen, Dara, who gave the land its name; and mercenaries from all over the Known World. Camp followers and concubines, common soldiers and Kings, enchanters and priests: all play a part in her story. And as Artesia is also a magician, she sees into the Otherworld and encounters some of its great powers: Urgrayne, the Witch Queen; the Black Hunter, leading the Wild Hunt in bleakest night to prey upon the spirits of the living; the ghosts of her past, bound to her by magic and guilt; and the very gods and goddesses of the world themselves.
The citadels of Daradja, both allies and rivals, have provided lords to represent them in the war against the Empire, and Artesia must learn who amongst them are truly allies and who are but enemies in disguise. The Middle Kingdoms, who hold the Divine King as their god, greet her and her army with suspicion, though the High King, Awain, has guaranteed her safety as his guest, and some of the lowland lords do not seem as unfriendly as others. And then of course there is the Imperial Thessid enemy: Akkalion, the Undying Emperor, and Agameen, his Sultan; the emirs of their vast army; and their cursed allies, the Isliklidae, who bring darkness and death with them wherever they go. And beyond their war, other powers watch and wait: the Sun Court, birthplace of the Divine King; the League of Cities, and their merchant princes; and Palatia, ruled by the iron fist of the Usurper, called the most dangerous man in the world and hated everywhere, though he may himself be just a pawn…
Here is a selection of characters from the graphic novels; be warned: spoilers ahead if you have not read the series yet!
Artesia has two brothers, Stjepan and Justin. Stjepan was away, studying at the University of Therapoli under the patronage of the Erid King and the Earl of An-Athair, when their mother was burned at the stake. He is now a clerk at the High King’s Court; he claims to be a cartographer, but everyone assumes that he is a spy.
Artesia’s mother was a descendant of Arfane, the early Iron Age Athairi witch called the Queen of Ghosts. A midwife to the household of Orphin the Bull, Earl of An-Athair, she was burned at the stake as a witch. She cursed her husband Byron from her funeral pyre, and he wandered off into the Erid Wold, the great wood of An-Athair, and has not been seen since. Most people assume he is dead.
Lysia of Sess Pogue was and is enchantress, seer, magician and councilor to Bran and Artesia. Lysia found Artesia soon after she crossed the Djar Éduins from An-Athair and she brought Artesia to Dara Dess to become part of Bran’s household. Lysia was killed when Bran tried to betray Artesia, and her spirit was cursed, but Artesia saved her spirit from Limbo using magic, and now they are bound to each other.
In addition to Lysia, several other members of Bran’s household were killed by Bran’s Guard, and Artesia used magic to bind their spirits to her and save them from Limbo. Nema of Myr Iras was a student of the Highland’s most famous courtesan, Sela Maras of An-Athark. Nema’s voice was so renowned that she was called the Song Bird. Hethis, trained in the temples to Dieva in Lagapoli, was the youngest and newest of Bran’s concubines and his most recent favorite. Sura was originally from the Middle Kingdoms port city of Nomath, the daughter of a Maecite woman and a Golan sailor. Bran’s loyal Guard killed two other concubines, Arraca and Iolande, but their spirits were lost to Artesia and their fates are unknown.
Artesia was still young when her mother taught her spells and rituals to summon and bind a helping spirit. Of all the spirits of the Known World – song and word spirits, kiln spirits and salamanders, guardian spirits and banshees, sirens and graces, furies and oracle spirits, storm spirits and earthshakers, star children and nightmares, nymphs and sun devils – Artesia chose to summon a war spirit, a Bharab Dzerek, as her muse. Three of those dark Rahabi spirits arrived to be bound, and they were Artesia’s first and secret tutors of the arts of arms and warfare. They are Mormo, a daughter of Mogran the Riot Goddess; Charize, a daughter of Halé, the Goddess of Slaughter; and Demidice, a daughter of Médüre, the Cunning One.
King Branimir of Dara Dess
King Bran was called the Wolf of Dara Dess. Bran’s grandfather Morovic, Lord Baron of Gallos, was the younger brother of Crown Prince Pelias of the Middle Kingdom of Huelt, and he chose self-exile during a dispute over the proper succession to the throne. Bran, his war captain Ulin, and his lover Artesia had built one of the largest armies in recent Highlands history, until he decided that Artesia had grown to be too well-loved amongst his own bannermen. His betrayal failed, and Artesia cut off his head and bound his spirit to it, and left it in the shrine to Yhera in Dara Dess. Bran had no heirs.
Miklos of Tel Pass
Miklos, son of Mikhel, is the banner lord of the citadel of Tel Pass, a tributary of Dara Dess. Artesia has been enamored of his skills in the bedchamber, if not by his actions on the field, and he in turn has also seemed eager for her company, and thankfully he does not seem moved by jealousy.
King Caslav of Umat
A Seated King of the Sun Court, Caslav Persislau Argus of the House of Argus holds many titles: King of Umat, the Silver King, and the King of the North Shore. He is leading a force of 1000 barons and knights in support of Awain, the High King, while Umati ships harass the Imperial fleets. Caslav sought and shared Artesia’s bed, but revealed a deep jealousy afterwards when she did not remain exclusive to him.
Wallis the Young
Walllis Liefring is the Baron of Misal Ruth. Wallis the Young is a seasoned veteran of the tournament circuit and campaigns with Owen Lis Red, the Grand Duke. He can boast a sizeable personal retinue, including his uncle, Lord Garin, and a brace of nephews. The Liefrings trace their ancestry back to Odyr, an Aurian chieftain who became a Golden Knight of An-Athair, though they also claim a mermaid as their ancestress and have one as their banner symbol.
Guielin and Bern Lis Red
The trueborn sons of Owen Lis Red, the Grand Duke of Har Misal, and his wife Ilyana, Guielin and Bern are a year apart in age but close enough in appearance as to be thought twins. Both have been champions in the Middle Kingdom’s Tournaments (though never champions of the Grand Tourney). They serve as deputies in their father’s personal forces, but chose to stay behind in the city of Abenton when the rest of the High King’s army crossed the river.
Pavel, Lord of Myr Lamas, and Umasza of the Ban Bres
Pavel is the highest ranking of the banner lords riding with Artesia into the Middle Kingdoms. He is in love with a Highlander from the Ban Bres clan, Umasza, who commands the Marauders, called by many the greatest of the Free Companies, founded by Urian the Black to serve King Cynan himself at the first Black Day Battle. She serves as Artesia’s second-in-command.
Ferris of Sess Pogue, Lord of Umis Karat
Ferris’ mother, Caila, was the sister of Lysia, King Bran’s enchantress and magician; an initiate into the mysteries of Hathhalla the Avenger, the Devouring Fire of the Sun, she commanded many Hathhallic initiates in her mercenary Lion Company. She was awarded the hold of Umis Karat by Artesia.
Demetrius & Vaslav
Demetrius commands the Silverwings Free Company. His younger brother, Vaslav, once served as his second but split off to form his own company, the Blackwings. Vaslav has been the most vocal in protesting the decision to aid the Middle Kingdoms against the Empire, but is not alone.
Harcas of the House of Goatis
A Palatian ex-legionare, and former master sergeant of the 43rd Labirine Guards, he now serves Artesia as her master sergeant and fieldmaster, and she has given him tactical command of the bannerets — lesser lords without the 20 bannermen required to gain their own holds. Nicknamed Harcas the Carcass and Harcas the Hammer.
Sava of Paster Myr
A Daradjan soldier from Artesia’s ranks, Sava is her chief of household, campmaster, and guard captain. Artesia has also asked her to undertake the training of a girl named Erce, who wants to be a warrior. Sava lost her arm defending the camp against an attack by the Düméghal bodyguards of the Isliklidae King, Ceryx. While Artesia trusts her implicitly, not much is known about her past before she joined Bran’s companies.
Every military camp has camp followers, and Dahlia is the chief courtesan amongst those that have followed Artesia’s army out of the Highlands. Dahlia is effectively a spy and agent for Artesia, ferreting out information and watching the mood of the camp, while using her charms and wiles to remain unnoticed, at least in this regard.
A girl in her early teens, Erce began following the army of Artesia as it crossed through Har Kamas Pass to pass over the Djar Éduin Mountains into the Middle Kingdoms. Artesia noticed her and asked her what she wanted, and Erce replied, “To be like you.” Despite her misgivings, Artesia has allowed Erce to become part of her household, and Sava has recently begun training her to bear arms and act as squire to Artesia.
Her Queen’s Guard
Bran’s most loyal Guardsman, the old King’s Guard, remained true to him until the bitter end of his betrayal of Artesia, but rather than being put to death they were made part of her Guard. Two have already died in her service. Those that remain are Becir the White; Urôs of Gallos — perhaps the most skilled swordsman in Artesia’s army; Korovic of Dara Dess — Artesia’s horsemaster; Timir — son of Timat; and Malir of Dara Dess. Gawin, son of Lewin the Ancient, was Bran’s herald, speaker, and advisor, and now serves as Artesia’s herald.
Artesia was only recently convinced that she should begin to build her own true Queen’s Court, and she has begun with five Daradjan magicians who were amongst the camp followers of her army. The five magicians – Gaefyr of Glam Aras, an old veteran enchanter who once served King Alexus of Finleth; Basi, a young card-reading oracle; Balia, an older hedge witch; Bryce of Teppin, a young magician; and Golo the Hag, a mysterious and ill-formed crone – now offer magic counsel and assistance to Artesia.
Samaia of the House of Bara
Samaia serves as chief lieutenant to Daemander, the captain of two hundred Palatian mercenaries that recently came into Artesia’s employ. She is a former cohort captain of the 3rd Black Arrow Guard, one of the most storied legions in Palatian history.
Captain Pazar of Hemelin
Pazar, son of Guizar of the Hemeliner House of Firelli, is a foreign mercenary captain who finds himself in command of both his own company, Pazar’s Pikes, and that of a rival, CaptainDucalli, similarly abandoned by the High King and then relieved of his head by Artesia’s guardsmen. Pazar has placed both companies, together 1200-strong, into a new contract with Artesia. The usually disciplined mercenary pikemen of Hemelin are famous (or infamous) for their eagerness for both war and gold.
Awain, the High King of the Middle Kingdoms
Awain Gauwes Urfortian has many titles, including the High King of the Middle Kingdoms, King of Atallica, and Dragon King of Therapoli; he is one of the Seated Kings of the Sun Court, blessed with the Patriarch’s favor, and a descendant of Fortias the Brave, who slew the last known Worm King. He has granted Artesia and her army guest rights, allowing them to practice their own traditions (that of the Old Religion) while aiding the Middle Kingdoms in the war.
Queen Myrina of Amora
A foreigner in these parts, Myrina is a Minor Queen of Amora, daughter to its High Queen, Ifare. She arrived in the Middle Kingdoms to find allies against the Imperials, as well as distinguish herself in the war enough to merit her mother’s attentions as an heir. She finds herself trapped in Abenton with Artesia, rather than across the river with the High King; this was not how she thought things might go.
Elisabeta Urfortias De Cürwell is the wife of Baron Augus De Cürwell of Abenton, and also the niece of Awain, the High King. Her husband has been missing for two years; she wears mourning clothes, but it is fairly certain that he is not in fact dead. The King’s Court has allowed the Baroness to act in her husband’s stead, against Middle Kingdoms traditions.
Owen Lis Red
A descendant of Fortias the Brave, Owen Lis Red comes from a royal house and so has the title of Duke as the lord of the great castle of Har Misal. He is by reputation one of the greatest and most feared warlords of the Middle Kingdoms; as the High King’s marshal he has the title of Grand Duke. A veteran of many tournaments and campaigns throughout the Middle Kingdoms, Owen has attracted a sizeable body of household lords and retainers, well over 200 in number, including a number of bastard sons.
Ilyana is the daughter of Hurian, late Baron of An-Ydain, and wife to Owen Lis Red. She has born him three sons (the youngest of which is but ten) and two daughters. She has oracular dreams, but she is discreet and her position as the Grand Duke’s wife has protected her from gossip and accusations of witchcraft. She recently told Artesia of a vision in which she saw her own death at Artesia’s hands.
Mirsed of Lamat Hüs
Mirsed, son of Riles, is one of the bannermen of King Renham of An-Athark and was a lieutenant to Becir Lord Hüs. He cut Becir’s throat during the thick of the Battle of Collwyn, aided by some loyal conspirators, and was rewarded by Artesia with the temporary command of An-Athark’s forces on the campaign. He is trying to rally his soldiers even as he angles to replace the man he murdered.
Agameen, Sultan of Thessid-Gola
Agameen is the ninth Sultan serving the Dreaming Emperor of Thessid-Gola, Akkalion. Scion of an old Sekereti noble line, Agameen had been Emir of Grand Sekeret before his selection to be Sultan. A warrior by instinct and a product of the Thessid-Golan military schools, his campaign in the Middle Kingdoms has been proclaimed as his attempt to finish what the Emperor Akkalion began: the restoration of the Golden Empire of Dauban Hess.
The Isliklidae King Ceryx
The Isliklid King of Ugeram, who makes his abode in the old Djar Mael citadel of Ferabis, is called either Ceryx or Cereliel in the Courts of the Empire, though none are sure if either is his real name; virtually nothing is known about him, other than his title. He has never made a public appearance at the Imperial Court, and none of his allies in the Empire have ever admitted to actually seeing him face-to-face. The men of Heth Moll, closest of the Daradjans to Uthed Mael and the lands of Ugeram, have had some dealings with him and his Düméghal; they call him The Bloody Footprint.
King Euwen of Angowrie
Euwen Derc Jaraslas is the young King of Angowrie. A rival to Crown Prince Edrick and to Derrek, Watchtower King of Warwark, King Euwen chose to betray his fellow Middle Kings and side with the Empire, aiding them in their invasion. His forces ambushed Derrek of Warwark and killed him, then helped the Imperials land along the Watchtower coast and surprise the Danian armies.
King Colin of Dainphalia
Colin Corvin Phalia is the King of Dainphalia, an Aurian kingdom beholden to Awain, the High King. An ally of the Crown Prince Edrick, Colin is clearly angling to be a powerful influence on the next High King of the Middle Kingdoms. He has taken an intense disliking to Artesia and her Highlanders, though why is somewhat unclear.