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"As a mercenary officer Thorne was conscientious, loyal, and aggressive, and Miles liked him/her/it ... a lot. However.... Miles could smell Bel's floral perfume from here. Bel was emphasizing the female side today. And had been, increasingly, for the five days of this voyage. Normally Bel chose to come on ambiguous-to-male, soft short brown hair and chiselled, beardless facial features counteracted by the grey-and-white Dendarii military uniform, assertive gestures, and wicked humor. It worried Miles exceedingly to sense Bel soften in his presence."

Bel Thorne by gemmiona

Bel Thorne was a hermaphrodite originally from Beta Colony who served under Admiral Naismith in the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet for approximately twelve years.


After leaving Beta Colony, Thorne joined the Oseran Free Mercenary Fleet. After serving for approximately twelve years, then-Lieutenant Thorne's contract was held by Captain Auson of the Ariel during the Pelian-Felician war, running wormhole-blockade duty near Tau Verde IV for a year due to an Oseran contract with the Pelians. Though a punctiliously loyal soldier, Thorne chafed at Auson's lax command style and lost no opportunity to criticize him. Against Thorne's advice, Auson chose to shake down a recently arrived ship and attempted to take a Barrayaran woman hostage instead of the agreed-upon Betan jump pilot, having "had enough of Betans lately" — prompting the ship's owner, Miles Vorkosigan, to hijack the Ariel rather than give up his liegewoman. Charging out to defend the ship, Thorne ran smack into Miles and Arde Mayhew, turning the collision into a tackle and grappling for the nearest weapon, but collapsed when stunned by Mayhew.

Miles, claiming to be a mercenary commander to bamboozle the Ariel's crew into complacency, declared them all trainees in the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet. Thorne approved of his hands-on style of leadership, which turned the Ariel back into a fighting ship within a week. Though fully aware that there was no such thing as the "Betan rejuvination treatment" rumored to have given Miles his youthful looks, Thorne kept silent about that and about the Barrayaran reflexes which clashed with Admiral Naismith's Betan identity. Elena Bothari correctly deduced a crush on the young "Admiral," though Miles disbelieved it and Thorne made no advances at the time.

On arrival at a Felician orbiting metals refinery which turned out to have been taken over by the Pelians, Thorne asked for orders instead of urging the crew to retake the ship. Miles challenged Thorne to come up with a way to capture the station intact; Thorne, knowing the ship and its crew and manifest intimately, instantly proposed a Trojan-horse operation to ambush the Pelians' ambush. With Miles's backing, Thorne led a commando raid into the station, taking it successfully with few casualties while the Ariel and Arde's ship dealt with an unexpected outside threat in the form of the newly-arrived Triumph. Miles rewarded Thorne with command of the Ariel, shifting Auson to the Triumph instead, thus ameliorating Auson's ire at the handover of his ship to his upstart Betan first officer. Tung, whose personal enmity with Thorne nearly brought them to blows at the time, eventually came round to joining the Dendarii as Fleet Commander, and Thorne had no trouble working alongside him thereafter.

Captain Thorne served under Miles as a trusted shipmaster in the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet for over a decade. Among other operations, Thorne provided crucial aid in the Hegen Hub war, helped to extract the Quaddie woman Nicol (falling in love with her in the process) from debt-slavery on Jackson's Whole, acted as Miles's adjunct during the liberation of Dagoola IV, and served as fleet intelligence officer from the Triumph during the subsequent layover in Earth orbit, occupying that post during Ser Galen's attempt to replace Miles with Jacksonian-born clone-brother Mark. Despite numerous attempts on Thorne's part to form a more personal relationship with Admiral Naismith, Miles remained "too Barrayaran" to consider a relationship with a hermaphrodite, though he liked and respected Thorne otherwise. Thorne took his rebuffs with good nature, but never stopped hoping.

Two years later, back on the Ariel, Thorne ferried Admiral Naismith and Sergeant Taura's Green Squad back to Jackson's Whole on a top-secret mission to liberate a Bharaputran clone-creche. Though delighted at the opportunity to spend some time with Miles, Thorne realized halfway through the trip that the man occupying the Admiral's cabin was actually Miles's clone-brother Mark. Thorne cast out some hints, but pushed no further when balked by Mark's fear and inability to trust anyone with the truth. Thorne believed that the raid could be carried out all the same, and, buoyed by the thought of rescuing Bharaputra's enslaved clones, chose to continue the mission without contacting Miles.

Mark, however, had little of the tactical genius that Miles would have brought to the operation, and the raid became a disaster. Pinned down in the clone-creche, their drop-ship pilot dead, Thorne retook command from Mark, revealing his identity. With the arrival of Miles and a rescue squad, Thorne handed over command to Quinn, accepting that the deaths of Dendarii personnel during the snafu had destroyed their own career with the fleet.

Thorne was standing at hand, along with Mark and Quinn, when Miles was shot and killed on the way to the escape ships.

When Miles's cryo-chamber was lost on its the way off the planet, Thorne worked assiduously with Quinn, Mark, and the fleet to recover it. Though it was at this time that Taura was first admitted to the tiny Inner Circle of Dendarii who knew Miles's true identity, it transpired that Thorne, along with since-retired Commodore Tung, had known for years and, loyal to Miles, never let on. Thorne aided Mark's unauthorized return to Jackson's Whole to extract Miles and the clone group who had resurrected him; in the grip of cryo-amnesia, Miles perceived Thorne as a woman instead of a man, a departure from his habitual perception during Thorne's military career.

After his memory was restored, Miles asked for Thorne's resignation, and received it. Both regretted the necessity, but Thorne realized that they could no longer have continued with the Dendarii after Jackson's Whole. Miles, worried that Barrayaran Imperial Security would take a dim view of Thorne wandering around the Wormhole Nexus with a head full of Barrayaran secrets, sponsored Thorne for a job as a roving ImpSec observer. Before they parted, Thorne kissed Miles for the first and last time; Miles, throwing cultural mores to the winds, reciprocated.

Over the next two years, Thorne visited Beta Colony, but still felt out of touch with its culture. Shortly after a final departure from Beta, Thorne was invited to Miles's wedding to Ekaterin Vorsoisson. At an emotional low point and in the middle of a difficult ImpSec job, Thorne did not respond, though sincerely wishing them well. Thorne was remembered fondly and missed by the inner-circle Dendarii who did attend.

For about a week, Bel carried on a relationship with Oliver Jole, who was involved in providing military escort for Komarran trade fleets at the time. They asked him many questions about Barrayar and Barrayarans, and gave him the freedom to not have to care about his categories (bisexual, et cetera).

In time, Thorne moved to Graf Station and took a job as Assistant Portmaster, reconnecting with Nicol (now a harp-and-dulcimer player for the Minchenko Ballet) and settling down with her there. The following year, when a clash between Barrayaran military personnel and Quaddie security brought Lord Auditor Miles Vorkosigan to Graf Station to mediate between the various parties, Thorne recognized the name and awaited Miles among the disapproving Quaddie reception committee — thoroughly enjoying, with their notably vile sense of humor, the security-driven inability to acknowledge that they'd met before. When Miles, frantic to figure out where he stood with Thorne, finally engineered a private conference, the two broke into laughter and hugged before catching up on their mutual news.

Though liking Quaddiespace and its people, Thorne had been prevented from applying for citizenship there by their secret ties to ImpSec, and was startled to learn that Ekaterin's security clearance allowed her to know all about Miles's Dendarii career while Thorne hadn't been able to tell Nicol more than she had experienced during her brief encounter with the Dendarii. Thorne and Nicol were, however, serious about one another, and planned to start a family.

Thorne provided vital support to Miles's investigation of the incident on Graf Station, and played an important role in saving its inhabitants from a Cetagandan Ba attempting to smuggle stolen Star Creche uterine replicators past the station. Kidnapped and infected with a deadly bioweapon, Thorne was stripped and abandoned in a bod pod by the ba, falling into a feverish trance as the infection took its toll. Miles found Thorne there later, saving their life via quick-thinking resort to an ice-water bath which cooled the nano-agent and slowed the damage. Despite Miles's desperate distress, Thorne did not regain consciousness until after a blood-filtering treatment had begun; they confused their caretakers by calling out for "the Admiral" — meaning Admiral Naismith, who had been declared dead after Miles's forced retirement from the Dendarii. Miles had also been infected, and was able to rush to Thorne's side. Though barely able to speak, Thorne managed to convey that the ba had hidden another bioweapon in the roof of the Minchenko Ballet and boasted of this achievement while leaving Thorne to die. The bio-bomb was located and disposed of, saving Graf Station from disaster, and the ship carrying the Cetagandan infants was rushed to Tau Ceti, where Thorne and Miles were purged of the bio-infection.

Thorne suffered extensive circulatory damage and was advised to remain in a null-gravity environment for rehabilitation. Before the return to Quaddiespace, Thorne's name was placed on the Cetagandan Warrant List, a significant honor, and, mustered out of ImpSec due to the debilitating injury taken in service, was free to apply for Union citizenship and remain with Nicol. Thorne and Nicol declined Miles's earnest invitation to visit Barrayar, preferring less backward places where they wouldn't need a bodyguard, but looked forward to continued correspondence with the Vorkosigans now that they could correspond openly.

Personality and traits[]

Thorne was an excellent soldier and shipmaster, a "conscientious, loyal, and aggressive" mercenary with a vile sense of humor. They had a crush on Admiral Naismith but the feelings were not returned; Miles was too "hopelessly monosexual" to consider a romantic relationship with them, though he later regretted his sexual reticence.

Thorne preferred not to talk about Beta Colony or their own past, considering the colony too safe and boring for their tastes, though they insisted on Betan pronouns and proudly identified with the colony's progressive policies. An atypical herm for leaving Beta at all, Thorne was also an atypical Betan: cheerfully homicidal on occasion, well suited to mercenary life, and willing to take a unilateral stand for what they believed in without awaiting a committee vote. Despite fleet rumors about Betan sexual appetites, Thorn is only known to have consummated one relationship during their twenty-five-year career in the fleet, this being with Nicol before she left for Quaddiespace. While Thorne propositioned Miles at least seven times, they always backed off when he showed discomfort, and worked just as well alongside him professionally regardless of rejection. Thorne was also downright reticent in terms of sexually-charged conversation when compared with the rest of the fleet, except during actual come-ons, which were themselves couched in sensual but ambiguous terms. Thorne's reflexes were thoroughly Betan, though, relishing close contact and feeling no need for personal space except as far as non-Betans might require them.

Thorne identified as both male and female, usually presenting ambiguous-to-male while on duty but enjoying a more feminine demeanor when in Miles's company. Their interests were numerous and varied, from the history of genetic populations to galactic municipal infrastructures, animal care, music, and tea-making. A closet sensualist, Thorne enjoyed lace and silks, bright colors and perfumes, great food and music, iconic cultural experiences, and showing others a good time. They owned a pet hamster during their time in the Dendarii fleet.

Dashing and impetuous, Thorne loved to be a hero, charging Nicol only one Betan dollar to rescue her from Jackson's Whole because "that makes it a legal contract." Thorne was considered one of the fleet's best shipmasters: eager for action, punctilious about their role, and running a meticulously tight ship. While an experienced soldier, they had an unfortunate tendency to leap before looking, trusting to adrenaline and good will; though swift judgment and action were important qualities for a mercenary commander, well-meant haste without in-depth planning eventually doomed Thorne's career. Colleagues on Graf Station enjoyed working with Thorne, valuing their downsider Assistant Portmaster's intelligence, discretion, unflappability, vigorous work ethic, and appreciation of their cultural values.