- "Roots grow deep in the dark."
- ―A self-reflection from Ekaterin[src]
Ekaterin Nile Vorvayne Vorsoisson Vorkosigan (vor-SWAH-sn vor-KO-suh-g'n) was a Vor woman of Barrayar. Originally of the Vorvayne family, she married Etienne Vorsoisson at a young age, and had a son, Nikolai Vorsoisson. Her husband Tien was murdered by Komarran terrorists as part of a plot against the Barrayaran Imperium, and Ekaterin was caught up in the aftermath. Captured by the same terrorists, she destroyed their supposed wormhole-collapsing device, preventing large loss of life. After returning to Barrayar, she was successfully (though not uneventfully) courted by Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, and married him. She had six children by him, twins Aral Alexander Vorkosigan and Helen Natalia Vorkosigan, daughters Elizabeth and Taura Vorkosigan and finally the twins Selig and Simone.
- "Oh," said Ekaterin faintly. "Drat."
There was a meditative pause before Lord Vorkosigan spoke. "Madame Vorsoisson," he said mildly at last, "has it ever occurred to you that you may be just a touch oversocialized?"
- ―Perhaps Ekaterin could be more outspoken[src]
Ekaterin was born to a comparatively low Vor family, the Vorvaynes. Her mother was the sister of Professora and Imperial Auditor Georg Vorthys, and her father was Alexander Vorvayne. She had three elder full brothers, including Hugo the eldest. Her mother died before Ekaterin was twenty, and her father eventually remarried a woman named Violie. She also had a fourth brother, who may have been a stepbrother.
Before Ekaterin's father remarried, he encouraged an arranged marriage between Ekaterin and Etienne Vorsoisson. Ekaterin, who was twenty at the time, accepted Etienne, who was ten years older, and the couple was initially happy.
Due to marrying Etienne, her name changed to Ekaterin Nile Vorvayne Vorsoisson. They had a child, Nikolai Vorsoisson. Unlike many other couples, they chose to gestate Nikolai the natural way, instead of using a uterine replicator. However, Etienne soon found that he had the genetic disease Vorzohn's Dystrophy. Although the disease was treatable, Etienne refused to seek treatment in the Barrayaran Empire out of fear that his secret would be exposed. To afford much more expensive (because of lack of insurance) outside treatment, Ekaterin's husband bet most of his money, along with some loans and bribes, on a Komarran trade fleet which instead returned a large loss.
By taking bribes, Etienne Vorsoisson had became entangled on the outskirts of a plot against the Barrayaran Imperium. With the failure of his investment, he faced both financial ruin and possible prosecution. Then Ekaterin discovered his misdeeds and she informed him that she intended to leave him. Desperate, Etienne attempted to turn the plotters in to Lord Auditor Miles Vorkosigan, but instead the terrorists ambushed and stunned them both, leaving them chained to a railing outside on Komarr. Etienne had failed to charge his breath mask, and suffocated in the toxic atmosphere.
The terrorists fled Komarr to a civilian transfer station by the wormhole leading to Barrayar. There they encountered Ekaterin, who was meeting her aunt. They both were kidnapped. Ekaterin masterminded three unsuccessful escape attempts, the last of which destroyed the terrorists' supposed wormhole collapsing device. In so doing, Ekaterin saved thousands of lives, although events and her role in them became deeply classified.
Returning to Barrayar, Ekaterin went to live in the Vorthys household in Vorbarr Sultana. She entered the traditional year of mourning for her husband, with the hidden desire never to remarry. Miles Vorkosigan, however, was determined to woo her, while his cousin Ivan Vorpatril mischievously encouraged other single Vor males to call on her. The result was a social disaster of epic proportions. Dealing with the fallout from this, complicated by insidious Barrayaran dynastic politics, led to Ekaterin eventually proposing to Vorkosigan in front of the entire Council of Counts. They were married the next Winterfair, and started their first two children the Winterfair after that.
As their children were gestating, the married couple took a delayed honeymoon, traveling as far as Earth. On their return trip, they were diverted on the orders of Emperor Gregor Vorbarra to Graf Station. The situation there became much more serious than initially anticipated, and Miles Vorkosigan was infected with a biological weapon. While he was ill, Ekaterin saw him safely to Rho Ceta to be cured.
By the time of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ekaterin had become famous in Vorbarr Sultana for her gardens.
Following the events of Cryoburn, Ekaterin became Countess Vorkosigan.
Personality and traits
- "Most likely." Slowly, Kareen sat up. "Ekaterin ... you do aesthetics."
Ekaterin made a throwaway gesture. "In a sense, I guess."
"Yes, you do. Your hair is always right. Your clothes always look better than anyone else's, and I don't think it's that you're spending more money on them."
Ekaterin shook her head in rueful agreement.
"You have what Lady Alys calls unerring taste, I think."
- ―Kareen Koudelka's thoughts on Ekaterin[src]
Ekaterin tended to be extremely reserved; she was generally silent when unsure of herself. She was impoverished for portions of her life; she learned to be frugal but still managed to create beauty around herself as she could.
Behind the scenes
- Ekaterin's middle name, Nile, was the original name of Elena Bothari in early drafts of The Warrior's Apprentice, after the character Nile Etland in a couple of 1960's James H. Schmitz stories from Analog magazine ("Trouble Tide" and The Tuvela).
- Ekaterin's maiden name, Vorvane, is a tribute to Harriet Vane, wife of Lord Peter Wimsey in Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey mysteries.