A+ Ships is a bi-weekly feature celebrating relationships in fiction between characters that fall along the asexual spectrum. For more information, see the A+ Ships FAQ.
I’m very excited to kick off this new feature, and I figured the best way to do so would be to talk about one of my favorite pairings in my new novel, From Under the Mountain. FUTM is a high fantasy novel about a nineteen year old girl, Guerline, who becomes empress after her entire family dies; she must keep her empire from tearing itself apart in a civil war between humans and witches, and protect it from an ancient evil seeking revenge for four thousand years of imprisonment.
Guerline, the protagonist, has spent most of her life isolated from everyone except her companion, Eva. This was honestly preferable to her, given her family–her father was at best stern, her mother resentful, and her brother Alcander, as the heir, developed an inflated sense of his own importance. Guerline has always been uncomfortable with being noticed, because being noticed usually meant something bad. She is a demisexual lesbian.
Theodor Warren is Guerline’s Lord Engineer, her advisor on matters of infrastructure and civil planning. He is northern-born, and, at 28, the youngest person ever appointed to the imperial council (he got the job at 23). Like most northerners, he values solitude and quiet. This was how he met Guerline–by accidentally discovering some of her hiding places in the palace. He is (like me!) a panromantic asexual.
Romantically speaking, From Under the Mountain focuses on Guerline’s relationship with her non-ace companion, Eva. But there’s heavy implication that Theodor is in love with the empress. Before her parents died, he was one of the few councilors who spoke to her and treated her like someone worth noticing, but always oh so gently–he’s so sensitive to her emotions and knows what to say and when to say it. Once she’s empress, he makes sure he’s available to help her because he knows how difficult the transition will be for her. And his loyalty is absolute.
Up until her parents die, Guerline is forbidden to have lovers or relationships because to them, her value is in her future marriage prospects. With that in mind, it’s understandable that her newfound freedom to pursue relationships focuses exclusively on Eva; but Theodor’s devotion does not go unnoticed. When everything starts to fall apart, and Guerline’s doubting everything, she never doubts Theodor. Her love for him is not quite romantic, but it is true and meaningful.
I think it’s so important for Guerline to have this kind of love in her life, because once she becomes empress, so many of her relationships become transactional in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of way, or it’s simply others demanding that Guerline fix everything because she’s the empress now and she has that power. While Guerline and Theodor’s relationship is about supporting each other, they do it for the sake of the other person, not so that they can extract something or earn something later. More importantly, there’s no pressure on either of them to go beyond their comfort level merely for the sake of the other person.
What I love about this ship is the implicitness of it. There’s one moment where it almost comes out, but the rest of the time, it’s something that is just felt when they’re together: that these are two people who care deeply for one another. They know it, and you know it, without either of them having to say a word or make any physical signs of it, except perhaps when their eyes find each other across a room. And as the author, I have the added joy of knowing this to be a lasting connection that only grows stronger. 😉
Have you read From Under the Mountain? Do you ship it? Comment below!