Today we’ll look into the details of Zotra’s life and see how the most beautiful woman of Dis became the horrific creature we know.
Long before now, Zotra was a witch of exceptional beauty and negligible magical power. This exotic blond and horned woman was sold as a concubine to one of the Shiraz families of Dis: the Kan.
Zotra became famous for her abilities as a poet as well as for her flighty character. Brogar Kan, the old patriarch of the Kan family, seemed entranced by her charms and granted her every wish. She had a keen sense of observation… which allowed her to guess the unexpressed desires of people. She collected lovers, and persuaded each of them that they were her choice of heart. The vast palace of the Kan family soon became a playing ground for Zotra and her whims.
When Brogar reached the twilight of his life, Zotra decided that the time had come for her to leave the Kan family. She presented her decision to Brogar, thanked him for his affection and wished him a pleasant and calm death. The man burst into laughter and gave her hell. He had Zotra locked away in one of the palace’s bedrooms, where she remained grounded for the following months.
Brogar soon died, and his eldest son Woden became patriarch. Like everyone else, Woden had played along with Zotra’s petty games upon request of his father – now he could teach her a lesson. He treated her with cruelty and had her chained to a rail that ran through the palace.
At Woden’s official ceremony of recognition as a patriarch, Zotra seized the occasion. She spilled the vicissitudes of her master and humiliated Woden Kan before all of Dis’ nobility. Enraged, Woden dragged her before the Polemarch, high juge of Dis’ conflicts and right arm of Kazim. The heir wanted an exemplary punishment for the woman who had tarnished his name. Woden kneeled before the Polemarch. He asked him to deprive Zotra of her two most precious goods: her voice and her beauty.
The Polemarch surprisingly accepted his selfish request. He canalized Woden’s feelings into a potion which would disfigure Zotra. The heir went back to his dwelling, lugging Zotra with him. He forced her to drink the filthy liquor and, as the poison rampaged through her body, he locked her up and walked away from her screams. When morning came, Woden’s hate had transformed her into a horrid creature. She had become a manticore with distorted limbs, a muscular body and vague remains of the witch’s horns and blond hair. She went berserk on the home of the Kan and killed most of its household, forcing Woden to flee Dis.
Without knowing it, she had carried out the Polemarch’s true judgment. She had condemned a family he had appraised unworthy and depraved. When Zotra finally fell from exhaustion, the Polemarch came to her and asked her to serve him.
Now known as Zotra the Red, the man-eating manticore, the former concubine serves the Polemarch of her own free will.
To create this character, I took inspiration from famous chinese concubines. (Look Diaochan and Wu Zetian up, they’re pretty cool.) When we first wrote her, Zotra was meant to be the daughter of a Shiraz and her name was Zotra Daji, from the name of the demon concubine Daji. Yet we needed her to be brought from outside of Dis, so we settled on a witch character and got rid of her surname.
The tale of Zotra the Red is one I like to tell because it highlights values around the notion of freedom. The characters Zotra was confronted to reflect different variations of enslavement: Brogar is slavery perceived as freedom, Woden is pure slavery, the Polemarch is accepted restraint.
As a member of the Company of Thorns, Zotra will follow a quest to define what freedom truly is. We want this quest to resonate with Orin’s own inability to free himself from Kazim’s influence. Zotra, along with all the other members of the Company, must be one of the triggers that will make Orin Aki grow up.
Zotra will have to face the two most interesting extremes of restraint: self-enslavement and true freedom. But that’s another story…
Thank you for reading and tell us what you think on the forums!
Do you think Zotra will become a strength for the Thorns? Or a liability?