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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella  (Read 1365 times)

Grey

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Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella
« on: 02 June 2015, 06:45:54 »
Who: Ilsa Centrella
   Aka Ilsa Liao-Centrella
What: Magestrix of the Magistry of Canopus
When: 3068 – Alive as of 3145
Weapon of Choice: Politics
         Cunning
         Manipulation

It is very easy to dismiss the Periphery nations, smaller, less well-resourced and relatively isolated compared to the Successor States, early sourcebooks gave them significant social advantages that had little or no impact upon the militaristic Battletech game, but served as a gentle reminder that these supposedly barbaric provinces have had an impact upon the setting far in excess of their size and reputation.

Enter Ilsa Centrella, aka Ilsa Liao-Centrella, first born of Sun-Tzu Liao and Naomi Centrella-Liao, out of wedlock and technically illegitimate, however since Sun-Tzu wouldn’t do something like bed his bride to be for any personal reason her birth was probably a calculated move to ensure that there was at least some sort of immediate heir to the Confederation who wasn’t Kali Liao.

Ilsa herself would not object to that, despite her surname she is far more Liao than Centrella, very much her father’s daughter in terms of priorities, cunning and ruthlessness.

She is still very much a Canopian, for that is the culture and freedom she champions over the more controlling and restrictive Confederation, it is simply that her attitudes are shaped very much by Sun-Tzu. Background material outright states that to her the Magistry comes first, followed by the Confederation with herself somewhere off in the distance. Aside from the presence of the Magistry of Canopus in the calculations this sounds exactly like dear old Dad.

Legitimacy aside her birth order is a bit of creator convenience. While not planned to be a joint throne it would have been preferable to many alternatives, and in this case means that the Canopian throne requirements are easily met, Ilsa is the eldest female heir, that’s all they require. By having her born before Daoshen but illegitimate the writers avoid any sort of dynastic tangles between her and Daoshen, something that may have cropped up if she were second or born during marriage. In short there will be no repeat of the FedCom.

Though considering how things went on that front Sun-Tzu probably wished Ilsa had been born male or the second daughter.

This is something of an odd line of thought because although she is not a mere place keeper as a character Ilsa, as a consequence of not being fully fleshed out, is not fully developed. So far she has appeared in one novel and as a side note in a number of sourcebooks. So far her direct contributions to the universe, aside from her daughter, have been minimal, and there has been little backfill of her history, unlike Daoshen.

We know little of her early years aside from being a literal poster child for the CCAF and being made an honorary sang-shao of the Red Lancers while a teenager. Background materials reveal she is a MechWarrior, or at least received the training, and does have military skills, but we have no idea for which military, let alone which unit she served.

This is most telling in the Wars of the Republic Era. Daoshen is all over the place, Sun-Tzu is doing his thing and Naomi is acting as she sees fit. Where is Ilsa? If Daoshen is taking a larger role in events why isn’t she? Is she in training, is she handling behind the scene matters, what?

Ultimately Wars of the Republic Era is written, two thirds anyway, as the rise of Daoshen, a dangerous and unpredictable factor in the Dark Age era, it is only natural that he overshadow any other character in the book.

While it would be very easy to dismiss Ilsa because of this, to class her as a two dimensional character of no import who did nothing between being born and her sudden appearance in the Dark Age.

But that’s a long time, almost seventy years, we have to wonder if she is a future player or if she has made all her moves, or if she has made all her big moves and is now simply awaiting the results.

Why? Danai.

We know that she is the product of a relationship between Ilsa and brother Daoshen. It is almost certain that Sun-Tzu and Naomi knew, hence the fiction that Danai is their third child. As freewheeling and liberal as the Magistry is a child born of incest would probably still produce a stigma for the ruling line, to say nothing of the potential reaction in the Confederation. Quite the risk all being said.

So Ilsa hooked Daoshen, put Sun-Tzu and Naomi in the position of backing her play and provided an heir for all four of them.

This means that Ilsa is in fact a political operator in a very long term sense. Leaving aside whether she planned on absorbing Andurien prior to the 3140’s or even 3130’s Danai was conceived as a part of a plan to control and manipulate Daoshen, who obsessed over his sister in a very unhealthy way.

Given that Daoshen is crazy there would be few ways to control or manipulate him, Ilsa apparently showed no hesitation in using the obvious and probably only lever available: his interest in her.

Deciding to behave like a Lannister in one manner means you may as well do so in others, and her brief showing in literature shows a consummate political operator with a high degree of cunning.

Even then it begs the question of whether or not she planned it all to go like this.

And by it I mean creating a situation where Danai is the only heir to three nations.

Officially Daoshen has no offspring, and someone who considers himself an immortal deity would probably not bother with such frivolities as an heir, either the creation or naming of.

Likewise Ilsa has no official offspring, Danai by virtue of being female and the last official offspring of two previous rulers of the two nations can easily inherit both. Did Ilsa ever consider having other children? Was Danai a hedge, a pawn or part of a master scheme?

The rub is that Ari Humphries, Ilsa’s husband, ruler of Andurien, also has no heirs. Unless there’s a spare Humphries around (and there may very well be) that particular throne would devolve to his wife’s offspring or heirs.

At least in theory. If nothing else it makes for a very interesting plot thread wherein a Periphery nation takes over one and a chunk Successor States, fulfilling her Great Grandmother’s ambitions.

But look at it, all those threads, individually very cunning, if they were designed to be woven together from the beginning they’re brilliant, if they were woven together as they developed it’s some damn amazing on the fly thinking.

Regardless, this sort of thing shows exactly who and what Ilsa is supposed to be. So what if she has MechWarrior training? That’s not where she’s lethal.

This is what prevents her from being a stopgap Magestrix. We have no idea if she has finished playing her role, let alone what her role is in the grand scheme of things, leaving her a rich mine of potential who seems to have very definite plans about what is going to follow her.


As a result of travelling to see family I had several hours of nervous flight time to knock together a few rough outlines for future articles and have five or six planned, starting with the Free Worlds League, followed by some mercenaries, but feel free to make requests, if it's someone who takes my interest then naturally they'll take priority.

Maelwys

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella
« Reply #1 on: 02 June 2015, 13:47:41 »
Its definitely an eye opener in the novel when Danai is talking to Ilsa, expressing her outrage at what Daoshen did to her, and Ilsa basically says "Nah, I've been manipulating him this entire time, and this was one way of doing it." Ilsa sort of suddenly goes from a half there character to one that demands recognition.

One thing however. There is no requirement for the Magestrix being the eldest daughter of a Centrella. There aren't actually any requirements for the Magestrix to be female, or even a member of the Centrella family, its just been traditional for a very very very very long time. The Magestrix can't even appoint her successor, she can just make sure her choice of successor is well groomed for the position. The Electors decide who the next Magestrix might be, and then turn that name over to the Central Committee, who require a 2/3rds vote to ratify her.

The Canopians could've passed Ilsa over for Erde (or theoretically anyone else).

Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella
« Reply #2 on: 04 June 2015, 07:36:01 »
Ilsa is very dangerous operator in the political sense.  I think one of few times we miss stuff about her was she only appeared in one novel, Principles of Desolation.  They should a lot shades of her without necessary giving way what she was.  She showed cracks in her facade when i came to Danai when  Daoshen Liao didn't show concern about her welfare when she went missing in Davion space. By the end of the novel, she was truly revealed as a shadow political operator who did the behind scenes weaving of threads of nation for sake of the nations.

Grey captured her character very well, i think only thing i found that was done wrong was her picture of her from Era Report: 3145.  The novel (despite how old she was) was highly attractive, and her fem charms was all about luring Duke Humphrey into marriage in the first place.  The picture doesn't show that at all. Era Report image wasn't good one, very life like but too aged to be use her beauty with her intelligence to lure a very paranoid Duke into marriage.  That's just my nickpick.

Thanks for doing such awesome review of the character, Grey!

I recommend doing Caleb Davion and then Danai Centrella-Liao to show evolution of both characters!
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guppylips

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella
« Reply #3 on: 09 June 2015, 03:56:48 »
to be fair, though the artwork is wonderful in Era Report:3145, everyone looks old :D

but yeah, i pictured Ilsa differently too. Like a high-class black-widow asian macchiavellan GILF. Ha!

Great write up Grey. I really like Ilsa.
« Last Edit: 09 June 2015, 04:02:31 by guppylips »

Maelwys

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella
« Reply #4 on: 09 June 2015, 05:21:26 »
People's ages in Dark Ages are kind of odd. I don't know if its because I'm sort of used to the early BT timelines where everyone seems young and everything (like meeting Victor and friends just as they're coming out of the Academy). Ilsa and Doashen are around 60 when the Blackout happens. Now admittedly, in BT it seems like 60 might be the new 30 depending on how you interpret the fluff with regards to life expectancies, but whenever I read something with alot of the characters I place them as younger than they are.

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella
« Reply #5 on: 09 June 2015, 05:47:28 »
Right, due to stress and depression I'm a little delayed but it looks like I'm wrapping this up with Danai then Caleb. Seems to make sense in that order, and it's an interesting dovetail to finish of Liaos then hit upon a Davion who's every bit as crazy as Liaos are reputed to be.

The picture is something I was going to comment on, not so much because of her obvious age (which is considerable compared to a lot of other characters) but because she is dressed in what would be considered Capellan fashion more than Canopian.

Again, the age factor of the art makes something conservative more appealing, however it's a bit of a visual window into her character, another aspect making her more Liao than Centrella.

As for the marriage to Ari Humphries, well, in part it's a plot twist that happens because it has to happen. I'm assuming that it's political math more than physical seduction, which is also a form of seduction. By this point Canopus has proven itself equal or stronger than Andurian, the Free Worlds League is reforming, the Capellans are getting adventurous for former territory (as Andurian has been on and off over the centuries) it may have seemed like a good alliance to him. And like all others in this position I imagine it'll go badly for him in the end.

But Maelwys does raise an interesting point about age in the Battletech Universe. On the one hand we had the timeline holding Victor and friends at a relatively youthful phase, but at the same time there's the likes of Fotch, Morgan Kell, Jamie Wolf and even Natasha Kerensky and Johanna who are active well into their 80s or longer. This will come up in future articles of course and will be quite interesting depending on the character.

Maelwys

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella
« Reply #6 on: 09 June 2015, 06:21:42 »
The picture is something I was going to comment on, not so much because of her obvious age (which is considerable compared to a lot of other characters) but because she is dressed in what would be considered Capellan fashion more than Canopian.

Probably a factor of dismissing the Periphery :) Actually, I wonder if it was intended, or a subconscious decision on the part of the author because we don't really see Ilsa as engaged in the business of running the Magistracy. I'm almost tempted to grab the books detailing the Capellans in MWDA and see if I figure out what she's wearing. My guess is it might be Capellan-like clothing. Especially since 9 times out of 10 that we see here, its interacting with Daoshen in the CapCon.

Thinking about it, do we ever really see any trappings from the Magistracy around her? Magistracy soldiers acting as staff or guards, personal assistants from the Magistracy? IIRC, its not mentioned at all, though I have to admit, I didn't really look that closely for that.

Quote
But Maelwys does raise an interesting point about age in the Battletech Universe. On the one hand we had the timeline holding Victor and friends at a relatively youthful phase, but at the same time there's the likes of Fotch, Morgan Kell, Jamie Wolf and even Natasha Kerensky and Johanna who are active well into their 80s or longer. This will come up in future articles of course and will be quite interesting depending on the character.

On the other hand, the older characters were mostly bit players (not necessarily in terms of results, I mean, Kell created the ARDC obviously, but in terms of screen time compared to others)  or relegated to sourcebooks rather than novels. They were also the "Elder Statesmen" kind of characters, the old guard from the 3025's. Its kind of hard to say where in that Doashen would fit in. Obviously he's not running around in a `Mech, but he's no exactly idle either.

Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Ilsa Liao-Centrella
« Reply #7 on: 09 June 2015, 07:29:22 »
Well artist may have taken it too literately how old they "looked", i know she was pushing seventy by the time 3145 happen, but she married in 3139.   Battletech characters did hang on to their youthful resemblances, there was saying Star League medical science's lingering effects or something.  8)
"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
"It's 200 LY to Sian, we got a full load of shells, a half a platoon of Grenadiers, it's exploding outside, and we're wearing flak jackets." VoTW Destrier - Misterpants