So I’m rereading this series, the Vorkosigan Saga? By Lois McMaster Bujold? And I’m also, like, writing down the stuff that happens, and then saying things that it makes me think about? So I’m all the way up to, like, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, which doesn’t even really have much for Vorkosigans in it, except in this chapter, which is, like, Chapter Ten, so here it is?
Ivan manages to overcome his wife’s distraction in bed that night, and discovers that his experience with bleary-eyed admirals also helps him deal with Tej in the morning. His mother calls to inform him that she’s having the women out to shop for clothing; Rish expresses concern for safety, but Ivan assures her that his mother gets the best ImpSec guards, mostly as a tribute to Illyan. Christos and Alys’s personal dresser escorts the women out, promising to teach them Barrayar’s “clothing dialect”. Ivan is just as happy to be staying at home, where he can merely approve of everything they buy, rather than trying to figure out what they want him to say about outfits they’re trying on. Left to himself, Ivan starts on his backlog of personal mail, but after half an hour he’s interrupted by a call from Miles.
“Sorry for the interruption”–Miles did not look in the least sorry–“but I must not be behindhand in conveying my thanks for the extremely thoughtful gift you forwarded from Komarr. Ekaterin actually wondered if she should put flowers in it, next time you came over, but I suggested target practice. Or passing it along to the twins, which might be an ever faster way to dispose of it. At which point the light dawned, and she looked very relieved.”
“Hey, it took me half an hour to find that vase!” said Ivan in mock indignation.
“Hidden in the back of the store, was it, lest it frighten away customers?”
Miles also congratulates him on his marriage; he heard about it very quickly, after Alys called him about the rumours coming in. Ivan says it was an accident, and invites him to read the ImpSec report if he wants all the details. Miles invites them all over to Vorkosigan House for a Ma Kosti tea; Ivan protests this blatant bribery, and Miles says he’s off to Sergyar soon, and doesn’t want to miss meeting her. When Ivan is still reluctant, Miles says they are “requested and required” to attend, and Ivan realizes that it’s really Gregor who wants to meet them.
Tej is not best pleased to be heading over to meet the Barrayaran Emperor (and not just because Ivan’s sports car requires Rish to sit on her lap). Ivan keeps not proving to be as much of a “nobody” as he claimed, and as a result she feels like it’s becoming much harder to hide. And then there’s the Imperial Auditor, who apparently has the power to execute her if he wants to… They’re well-dressed for it, at least, having acquired a selection of “casual” Barrayaran clothing, and impressed Lady Alys’s dresser with her colour sense, besides; now Tej wonders if Alys had been forewarned about this little social engagement.
Ivan manages to drive with something approaching caution, and soon they arrive at the walled-in house, where they are admitted after a brief scan. Ivan helps them out of the car and they are admitted into the huge four-storey house, once the modern force-screen is lowered. Rish is transfixed by the intricate mosaic on the floor of the entry hall, an almost lifelike depiction of a garden, murmuring to herself at how she could dance on a floor like this.
A call of “Ware escapee!” heralds the arrival of a naked toddler (much to Ivan’s dismay) with an arresting, diminutive figure limping in pursuit. The toddler stops in wonderment at the sight of Rish, and Ivan reluctantly grabs the child, Sasha, and hands him back to the short man, who reports the capture via his wristcom; a more normal-sized woman appears and collects Sasha, and Ivan introduces them as Lord and Lady Vorkosigan. Ekaterin welcomes them and tells them about their impending trip to Sergyar–taking the twins, and her son Nikki, to visit the Count and Countess.
Ekaterin heads back up the stairs with Sasha while Miles takes the others to the library, where another man is waiting for them; Ivan greets him as “Sire”, but Gregor says he’s in Count Vorbarra mode right now, to save on hassle. He welcomes Tej and Rish to Barrayar, in a way that reminds Tej of Ekaterin welcoming them to her house, and they all sit down. There is a fire on the hearth, which Tej has to remind herself isn’t dangerous here.
Gregor asks about how they met, and the full story comes out–including Rish stunning Ivan, which wasn’t in the ImpSec report. Miles gets more and more amused, behind his hand, as Tej and Ivan tell the story. Tej brings up the proposed plan to smuggle them to Escobar on a courier vessel, as she has realized that Gregor is likely one of the people who could make this happen. He says he might be able to do something for them, and asks where they might be able to meet her brother. Tej says that Amiri never wanted to get into the house business, and convinced his parents to let him go study on Escobar under an assumed name; she was supposed to meet him if the worst happened, and her sisters were to go to Earth to meet up their Cetagandan grandmother, which is the first Ivan knows that the widow ghem Estif is still alive. Tej says she’s about 130 years old, but still limber, though her hair has all gone silver.
Ekaterin enters with the formal tea, which is ample and delectable, mostly due, she says, to the effect the Emperor’s presence has in inspiring Ma Kosti; Miles warns Gregor not to try to steal her away. Miles says that Tej’s grandmother must have been close to his own grandfather’s age, and was actually there for the Cetagandan invasion; he suggests that Tej should talk to the Vorbrettens, and explains the Cetagandan-heritage connection. Gregor notes that Miles is part Betan, and Ivan as well, because of their Betan great-grandmother.
Miles, returning to the subject of Escobar, asks if the medical clinic Amiri is at wouldn’t happen to be the Durona Group. Tej and Rish are shocked that they know this already, but Miles says that he was already acquainted with them, and his clone-brother Mark helped get them off Jackson’s Whole. Tej admits that the Cordonahs had an informal understanding with House Fell, the Duronas’ former home. Miles says that the family connection to the Durona Group may mean that their identities will have to be protected more carefully if Ivan and Tej go there. Rish notes suspiciously that Miles knows a lot about Jackson’s Whole, and he admits to having visited there several times in his pre-Auditor career…as a courier, of course. ImpSec also keeps an eye on the Jacksonian Houses that man the jump points, particularly Fell and Prestene, the latter being the one closest to the Cetagandan Empire.
Tej asks Gregor again about the ride to Escobar, and he says he’ll mention it to Allegre and let him work out the details with Ivan, but he says it won’t override other ImpSec business. He adds that Ivan’s security detail is aware of the increased risks, and Miles says that it’ll be easier to keep them from being blindsided if Tej and Rish don’t keep secrets from them. Tej isn’t happy to be putting these strangers at risk by her presence, haunted by the death of her bodyguard on Fell Station, but she supposes that everyone has to suffer the protection of strangers, to some extent.
One of Gregor’s guards alerts him to another upcoming appointment, and Gregor bids farewell to Ivan, Tej and Rish, though he asks Miles to stay for a few words. Ekaterin escorts them out, and in the entry hall Rish asks her about the mosaic; she says that Miles had encouraged her to make some changes to the house, and his mother had some bad associations to the old tile floor. This type of mosaic is, she says, a South Continent specialty, and Miles helped her secure the services of a famous artist Ekaterin had always admired. Ivan noted that pieces of the old floor ended up being sold for a good price as souvenirs.
[Ekaterin] turned to Tej. “Countess Cordelia Vorkosigan is very close friends with Ivan’s mother, you know. Cordelia has frequently mentioned to me how much she treasured having a woman friend, when she first came to Barrayar as a bride and a stranger, to show her how to go on here–all those things the men didn’t know. At least there’s no war on, this time. Perhaps when Miles and I get back from Sergyar, we can visit again…?”
A heartbreakingly kind offer, Tej thought. She smiled, but shook her head. “We don’t expect to be here that long.”
Tej realizes that her initial eagerness to leave Barrayar has been replaced by an inexplicable reluctance, which she admonishes herself to try to shrug off.
Another retelling of the initial incidents with Tej and Ivan’s meeting, and not particularly summarized in the book, so that Miles and Ivan can have some amusing exchanges…which I didn’t include here. Since Gregor and Miles surely already knew most of it…what was the point of that? Are we supposed to focus on the fact that the story seems more amusing now than it did at the time? Or just enjoy the witty banter?
This whole chapter almost feels like an effort to shoehorn Miles into the book. It’s true that Miles and Ekaterin would want to meet Tej, and I suppose it’s understandable that Gregor would as well, but somehow this scene doesn’t seem to justify its existence, or at least its length. The don’t-steal-Ma-Kosti joke is dragged out again. It all seems a little…precious, somehow.
This book takes place about seven years after _Mirror Dance_, by the end of which the Durona Group has relocated to Escobar. So I guess that Tej’s brother can’t have been there longer than that. Is Amiri the only non-Durona-clone person there? Surely not, or else he’d stick out like a sore thumb. It seems like a little bit of convenient coincidence, anyway. I suppose there might be some advantage to sending him offplanet to someplace that will at least be slightly familiar, to live among Jacksonians, and more-or-less known quantities, but by the same token it might make it a more obvious place to look for him. I hadn’t remembered this little factoid from the first read, but I wasn’t surprised when it turned up, because it seemed almost too obvious. After all, why invent another Escobaran medical clinic when there was one already there?
Another busy weekend coming up for me, which means definitely only one chapter next week; let’s hope it’s more exciting than this one. Looks like it’s got Ivan’s birthday party in it, so that should be good. And will contain more recap for our new characters. But that’ll be next week, so till then…