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Clement "Kou" Koudelka served as an Ensign aboard the General Vorkraft under Captain Aral Vorkosigan during the novel Shards of Honor. He received a non-fatal hit by a nerve disruptor and eventually had his nerves replaced with artificial nerves. This "tin foil nervous system", as he described it, could not give him full mobility and he required various artificial aids. These included a walking cane, for which Cordelia Naismith shrewdly substituted a swordstick as a confidence booster.
Facing a life of poverty on the limited pay of an invalid ex-Ensign, he was surprised to find himself promoted to Lieutenant and made personal secretary to the Lord Regent, Aral Vorkosigan. Still severely emotionally traumatized by his injury, given Barrayar's intolerance for any disability or deformity, he met Ludmilla Droushnakovi when she was seconded to the Regent's household and immediately fell in love with her, but was too ashamed to woo her.
Despite this, they eventually consummated their mutual affection unknowingly during an assassination attempt on Cordelia and Aral. The confusion and trauma resulting from the assassination attempt led Koudelka to believe that he had sexually assaulted Droushnakovi, while she was confused and saddened by his avoidance and humiliation following their encounter. "Kou" married his "Drou" at the end of the novel Barrayar.
He was eventually promoted to Commodore, and he and his wife continue as Aral and Cordelia's closest friends. This friendship was tested when Mark Vorkosigan and Koudelka's daughter Kareen became a couple and engaged in a sexual relationship while on Beta Colony. Cordelia squashed the parental objections during a meeting at Vorkosigan House, partly by re-introducing them to the sofa on which they had their first sexual encounter.
Ludmilla "Drou" Droushnakovi was the personal bodyguard to Princess Kareen and later to Regent Consort Cordelia Vorkosigan and then eventually reassigned to child Emperor Gregor, who knew her as "Droushie". She married Clement Koudelka and eventually had four daughters with him.
"Drou", who like her husband despises her given name, is not only a fully trained bodyguard, expert in martial arts and weapons, but is tall and strong besides. During submission wrestling contests at Vorkosigan House she knocked out a male Barrayaran soldier in under 10 seconds, although her social conditioning got in the way until Cordelia told her to stop holding back.
As an Imperial bodyguard she was also required to learn every possible escape route from the Palace in case of emergency, and was made aware of the locations of secret caches of money, false documents and weapons set aside to aid an escape. This knowledge was equally useful in breaking into the Palace when it was occupied by Count Vordarian.
Naturally Drou trained her daughters in the same martial arts she learned, as a defense against the male dominated society they lived in. This training enabled Olivia to take down three hoodlums attempting to harm her intended, Lord Dono Vorrutyer, compared to one by Ivan Vorpatril who was also on the scene.
As a young woman, Drou was a tall, strapping muscular blonde, with what Cordelia referred to as 'valkyrie good looks.' Now a respected matron, she is still tautly muscled, but her long hair has acquired a silvery-sheen.
Her wedding dress was designed by Lady Alys Vorpatril, described as 'a graceful fall of white silk,' as her height would make her look ungainly and weighty in the lace gown she originally chose.
The Koudelka Girls
Koudelka and Droushanakovi had four girls. This was unusual for their generation, as recently imported Galactic technology allowed the parents to choose their children's sex; the patriarchal Barrayarans more often picked boys, resulting in a serious gender imbalance. In addition, the two later children were some of the first Barrayarans to be born in uterine replicators.
Kou and Drou had hoped their children would do well for themselves, ideally marrying promising young officers. This met with a limited amount of success, but as of A Civil Campaign, all four are either married or firmly attached—thought not always to whom their parents expected.
All four daughters are lovely and blonde, and all except Kareen are uncommonly tall. They are often half-jokingly referred to as Koudelka's All-Blonde Commando Team or just Team Koudelka.
Delia is the oldest and most socially adept of the Koudelka girls; she seems to be "in training to be Lady Alys." Fittingly, she follows Barrayaran social convention and becomes engaged to a rising officer, Duv Galeni. Duv was initially unaware of her interest, but his social and career prospects, not to mention his good looks, made him a prime target. He was also less than desirable to Vor women because of his Komarran roots. Delia simply determined that "he's the one" and set about making it happen. As her sister told Miles, "Some fellows you have to hit with a brick to get their attention. Some you have to hit with a big brick."
It is highly likely that Delia was named after Lady Cordelia Vorkosigan, her parents' liege-lady and good friend.
Olivia is her mother's daughter; bright, friendly, and dangerous. She spent much of her time in A Civil Campaign helping Lord Dono Vorrutyer lobby the Council of Counts, and was able to rescue him from a group of hoodlums who intended to reverse the sex-change operation that turned Lady Donna into Lord Dono. At the end of the novel, she and Dono announced their engagement. It is probable that Olivia was named after Countess Olivia Vorbarra Vorkosigan, Aral Vorkosigan's mother.
Martya is cynical, mostly about the patriarchal society of Barrayar and the Vor, but levelheaded and practical. She is also the most no-nonsense of the Koudelka girls and even a bit prickly. (Kareen observes that 'any man whose idea of a good time was to feed, pet and care for a creature that mainly responded to his worship with hostile noises, was going to get along great with Martya.') During the events of A Civil Campaign Kareen was forbidden to have any contact with the Vorkosigan household due to her forbidden affair with Mark Vorkosigan, and Martya was assigned as her warden. However, as she was not forbidden to contact the Vorkosigans, she was able to act as a conduit for information for Kareen—though not without tweaking her sister at the same time. Martya eventually became fond of Dr. Enrique Borgos, the quirky Escobaran biogeneticist principally responsible for Butter Bugs.
Kareen, the youngest Koudelka, is principally important in the Saga as the companion, business partner, and lover of Mark Vorkosigan, Miles Vorkosigan's clone brother. She first met Mark when he was introduced to Vor society at a ball while Miles was missing and presumed dead and Mark found himself thrust into the role of heir apparent. They fell hard and fast in love, in Mark's case almost to the point of dependency, and during their time on Beta—she there on an academic scholarship, he there for economics school and psychotherapy—became lovers. When they returned to Barrayar, Kareen felt trapped in a box, dependent on her family and pushed into traditional Barrayaran roles, which included chastity. This almost destroyed her and Mark, until Cordelia straightened them (and Kareen's parents) out. At that point, Kareen and Mark decided they had a "mutual option" on each other—not a formal promise to marry, but an accepted relationship which would be re-evaluated later, once Kareen had more of an idea of who she was and what she wanted.
Many years later, the Koudelka family finally accepts that Kareen will never be married or have children, even though all her sisters are married with children. Kareen is the unmarried life partner of Mark Vorkosigan and works/travels with him around the galaxy. Mark and Kareen adhere to the social norm of Beta Colony in choosing an unmarried life-partnership, which contrasts with Barrayaran marital norms. Mark's phobia about his upbringing makes him fearful of the thought of having children.
Kareen was named after Princess Kareen Vorbarra, whom Drou served as personal bodyguard.