- "She sat in a float-chair, clothed from slender neck to ankle in flowing robes of shining white, a dozen shimmering textures lying one atop another. Her hair glinted ebony, masses of it that poured down across her shoulders, past her lap, to coil around her feet. When she stood, it would trail on the floor like a banner. Her enormous eyes were an ice blue of such arctic purity as to make Lady Gelle's eyes look like mud-puddles. Skin . . . Miles felt he had never seen skin before, just blotched bags people wore around themselves to keep from leaking. This perfect ivory surface . . . his hands ached with the desire to touch it, just once, and die. Her lips were warm, as if roses pulsed with blood. . . . How old was she? Twenty? Forty? This was a haut-woman. Who could tell? Who could care? Men of the old religion had worshipped on their knees icons far less glorious, in beaten silver and hammered gold. Miles was on his knees now, and could not remember how he'd come to be there."
- ―Miles' first sight of Haut Rian[src]
Rian Degtiar, a member of the Cetagandan Empire's haut class, served for a time as the acting keeper of the Star Crèche after the death of the Empress, Lisbet Degtiar, with the title of "Servant of the Celestial Lady, Handmaiden of the Star Crèche". As a fellow member of the Degtiar Constellation, she was related to Lisbet, though three generations removed.
She recruited Miles Vorkosigan, who was on a courtesy diplomatic mission to attend the state funeral of the late Empress, to help solve the mystery of the disappearance of the Great Key, a sophisticated decoding device without which the entire genetic database of the haut was indecipherable.
- "He felt his underlying assumptions slowly wringing inside-out. Rian seemed less and less like a damsel in distress all the time. In fact, he was beginning to wonder if he was trying to rescue the dragon. Well, dragons need to be rescued too, sometimes. . . ."
- ―Miles' later sense of Rian[src]
At the conclusion of the novel she was elevated to permanent keeper of the Star Crèche and became the leading one of Fletchir Giaja's Empresses, the one who was tasked with the job of creating the next haut-Emperor.