I made up my mind, and I started writing; I typed until the blog post was done that day. I made my way through an entire chapter, but where was I going without ever knowing the way? Here I am, most of the way through the Vorkosigan Saga Reread, in Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, with only one more book (CryoBurn) before I’m caught up with the series, so unless Lois McMaster Bujold manages to come out with another one in the next…let’s see, fourteen more chapters in this book, one a week at my current pace…then one more book, probably about the same size… Yeah, I don’t think the publishing industry moves that fast, even if she announces today that she’s finished another one. Anyway, Chapter Thirteen awaits.
Ivan’s birthday continues with a dinner out at a restaurant where Tej is surprised how mild a reaction the diners have to Rish’s appearance; Rish says that according to Byerly she goes so far beyond “mutation” to be in a completely different category…as long as she stays clear of proles. Tej is also surprised that they are joining two others there, who Ivan introduces as Duv Galeni and his wife Delia. After they order, Tej asks the two of them–Duv having a noticeably Komarran accent, to her ears–how they met Ivan. Delia says she’s the daughter of Commodore Koudelka–the one who smuggled the baby Ivan out of the capital–and Ivan asks about her sisters, more potential female company for Tej. Martya is with Enrique in Vorkosigan’s District, Olivia with Count Dono Vorrutyer, and Kareen on Escobar with Mark. Galeni merely mentions that Ivan was assigned to him at the embassy on Earth while he was stationed there.
After some conversation about Rish and Tej’s travels and travails, Tej comes to the conclusion that Galeni’s another ImpSec man, which he admits, Delia adding that he’s even head of the Komarran Affairs division. He and Ivan do seem to actually be friends, though, and Tej senses that Duv and Delia are judging whether she’s good enough for him. She decides that’s sweet, and realizes that she doesn’t have any friends who would care about Ivan’s worthiness, except for her scattered family. Duv and Delia are amused by the story of how Ivan and Tej ended up married, and Galeni mentions Ivan’s previous kidnapping on Earth, hidden in a pumping chamber and threatened with drowning.
“Is your claustrophobia better now?” Delia asked Ivan Xav, more in a tone of curiosity than concern.
Ivan Xav gritted his teeth. “I do not have claustrophobia. Thank you very much, Delia. There’s nothing irrational about it…about me.”
“But Miles said–”
“I have an allergy to total strangers trying to kill me, is all. One that Miles shares, I might point out.”
Delia points out that Miles almost seems to like it, and Ivan joins her in poking fun at Lord Auditor Coz.
After dinner, Galeni presents them with a book-disc, as a combination wedding and birthday present. It turns out to be a new Barrayaran history, which Galeni modestly admits he contributed several chapters to, as history is one of his hobbies. Ivan tells Tej that Galeni was an actual professor when he quit to join the Imperial Service; Galeni notes that at least his tendency to “scholastic prolixity” has mostly been eliminated by writing ImpSec reports. Tej accepts the gift, though with private reservations because she’s not planning to stay on Barrayar for too much longer. The Galenis leave promptly, having two young children at home, and Ivan expresses pity for Galeni’s domestic constraints, though he admits it probably suits him.
After they get home Tej asks Rish about Byerly. Rish says that he’s interesting, which Tej considers faint praise.
“Byerly…I’ve never encountered anyone whose mouth and whose hands seemed to be telling two such different stories. … The mouth ripples on amusingly enough, though most of what comes out is camouflage and the rest is lies–not so much to me, though. But the hands… The hands are strangely shy, until suddenly they turn eloquent. And then their candor could make you weep. A woman might fall in love with the hands. Though only if the woman were nearly as foolish as my little even-sister–which, luckily, doesn’t seem to be possible.”
On the last day of Ivan’s leave, he tours them around Vorbarr Sultana, in the process of which he discovers that Tej and Rish can’t drive; it wasn’t necessary, or that advisable, on Jackson’s Whole, so they never learned. Ivan responds by signing them up for driving lessons while he’s at work; the instructor cheerfully informs them that learning on Vorbarr Sultana will acquaint them with the worst traffic conditions the planet has to offer. Rish begs off due to sensory overload, but Tej perseveres and earns herself a learner’s permit; she does wound one pillar on her first evening out, but Ivan assures her later that groundcars are packed with safety features so she shouldn’t worry too much, and anyway, this is just a rental.
They make it back otherwise unscathed, and Tej exults over her success; Ivan tells her about his own scariest driving experience, when his Uncle Aral showed him a few lightflyer tricks, mostly, Ivan thinks, to shake up his new security men. He encourages her to go on to lightflyers once she’s mastered the groundcar, since there’s lots of places on the planet still where the roads are hardly adequate; unfortunately, Uncle Aral is too busy on Sergyar these days to give her the special course. Next, upon finding out that neither Tej and Rish can cook worth much, he sends them to apprentice under Ma Kosti; she’s initially dubious of Rish, but Rish wins her over by demonstrating her discrimination of smell and taste.
Rish begins to complain about having to sleep on the couch, and Ivan encourages her to look for a small apartment in his building, or he could look for a larger one; Rish reminds him that they’ll be leaving soon, and points out that, if ImpSec could call them at any time, they should hurry up and get this quickie divorce. Ivan says they’ll have to fly up to Vorpatril’s District when Count Falco is presiding in person, and he should be able to work it out for them; they shouldn’t even need a lawyer. Rish points out that if he’s dispensing justice for a whole district, or even a sizable chunk of it, they may need to confirm that they can fit into his schedule. Ivan finally gives and checks, only the discover that Count is booked up for months, and he’d rather not ask to be seen sooner as a favour, because Count Falco has a nasty habit of collecting on his favours. He did get on the waiting list, though, in case there’s a cancellation sooner.
“Your protection won’t be withdrawn till you’re safe on Escobar, anyway, regardless of when we do this divorce deal.”
Rish nodded. Tej felt…odd.
They were going to Escobar, in theory, to take up a new life under new identities. Lady Vorpatril was certainly a new identity, enjoying a safety that didn’t rely on obscurity… No. Stick to the plan. Without the plan, they had no anchor at all; it was the last lifeline her parents had thrown to her, as they went down with their House.
Ivan buys them their own copy of Great House, and invites Byerly over to play with them; he discovers that Morozov’s tactic works, as he learns a lot about Tej and Rish’s upbringing as they play. He also learns the truth behind the “even-sister” and “odd-sister” that Tej and Rish call each other. Tej says that the Jewels were mostly created based on the Baronne’s genome, and they ended up being interleaved with Tej’s full siblings, like even and odd numbers. Ivan is somewhat flabbergasted by the realization that Rish is actually his sister-in-law.
Once Tej gets her actual driver’s license, Ivan encourages her to take other courses, noting that they have universities, colleges, and tech schools in Vorbarr Sultana; Tej is somewhat daunted by this, never having actually had to decide for herself what to learn. Ivan says that might also be a way for her to meet new people, and tries to think of other women to introduce her too–Tatya Vorbretten or Tattie Vorsmythe, perhaps, or he could try asking his mother… He’s interrupted by a call, and returns, a little unsettled, to tell her that they’ve got an opening at Count Falco’s court next week; Rish think it’ll be good to get that out of the way, but Tej is not nearly as eager anymore.
Taking the day off leaves them with a long weekend, so Ivan takes Tej out to the Vorpatril District, leaving Rish to spend some time with Byerly. The district is on the northeastern coast, and in the wintry weather is fairly deserted, though Tej is not bothered by it, Jackson’s Whole being a fairly cold planet. Ivan finds an inn near the summer resort town of Bonsanklar, where they spend a cozy day before having to head to New Evias, the district capital.
Ivan tries to clarify, for Tej, just who is supposed to be called “Lord” what. In addition to the regular rules–Count VorX’s firstborn is Lord VorX, and the other children are Lord/Lady FirstName–Ivan notes that children of the younger siblings are just called “VorX”, no Lord or Lady, with Vor as an honorific, so By can properly just be called “Vorrutyer”. But there are other VorX titles, like Ivan himself, who do inherit the title, and may have acquired it for a variety of reasons–Ivan’s grandfather married a princess, for instance.
“Those are the correct formal titles. Then we come to casual conversation. Falco, or Aral, would be Falco or Aral to their close friends and cronies, wives, and what-not. But I’d never call ’em that; it would be Count Falco or Count Aral, sort of like Uncle Aral. Informal but not so familiar or intimate, y’see? And also useful when there are a bunch of people with the same last name in the conversation, to keep straight which is which. So my mother gets called Lady Alys a lot, because there’s another Lady Vorpatril in town, Falcon’s daughter-in-law, as well as his Countess Vorpatril. Er, and you, now.”
He advises Tej, who doesn’t know Falco, to call him “sir” or “Count Vorpatril”, and adds that they should stick to the formal usage while they’re in court.
They enter New Evias, the lightflyer’s piloting taken over by traffic control, which is pretty good but isn’t always good at gentle landings. The Count’s court is in a musty pre-Isolation building, which satisfied Tej with its obvious authenticity. They bump into the Count in the hall, and he greets them jovially; Ivan introduces Tej, who the Count says he’s already heard about from Alys. Count Falco says his wife wants to hear about the wedding, and reminds them that a courtesy visit is in order next time they’re down in the capital; Ivan reminds him of the intentionally temporary nature of the marriage, and the Count acknowledges this before heading off for the courtroom.
After a brief wait, they are called into the chamber for the hearing. The Count is attended by his clerk and a guard, with a female lawyer still clearing up from the previous case. They are directed to sit at separate tables, with their respective counsels, but Ivan says they don’t need lawyers, and Tej says they’d rather sit together. The clerk announces the case, stumbling over “Lady Vorpatril”, and the lawyer decides to stay and watch. Ivan and Tej come forward hesitantly when summoned, while the clerk reads out the details of the case.
Count Falco asks them what grounds they have for dissolution of the marriage; Ivan states that the marriage was intended as temporary from the start. Falco notes that they took a permanent oath, though, and has Ivan recite it to be certain; Tej asks what grounds there normally are for dissolution. Falco asks if either of them has a hidden mutation; Tej says she was certified gene-clean at birth, Ivan says he’s fine, and Falco notes that the Vorbretten case set a predent for ignoring her Cetagandan heritage too, and in any case Ivan was aware of it. Falco asks about adultery; Ivan protests there’s hardly been time, and they both deny any such thing took place. Nonsupport? Tej says that Ivan provides her with ample food, clothing, shelter, etc. Abuse? They both indignant deny beating the other, or restricting their freedom.
“So, we must cross of abuse, as well. What about denial of marital rights?”
“Sir?” said Tej. “What does that mean, in Barrayaran?”
Falco smiled. “When was the last time you had sex?” he clarified.
“Oh! This morning, sir.” Tej thought for a moment, then volunteered, “It was really good.”
Two snickers sounded from the back of the room. Ivan did not deign to turn his head.
Next Falco asks about “denial of children”; Ivan reiterates that this is a temporary marriage, though Tej notes that her mother sold eggs for capital when she was younger, and she herself could certainly provide some, which takes the Barrayarans in the room aback. Falco says that he’s run out of reasons; Tej says that Ivan promised her a divorce, but Falco says that breach of promise applies to the promise to marry. He asks if either of them has a financial claim, which they deny.
“Now, that is interesting. And nearly unique, if I may say so.” Falco sat back, sighing. At length, his tapping fingers stilled. He drew a breath. “It is the ruling of this Count’s Court that the respondents, Lord Ivan Xav Vorpatril and Lady Akuti Tejaswini Jyoti ghem Estif Arqua Vorpatril, have no grounds for the dissolution of their respective, freely spoken marital oaths. Your petition is denied. Case closed.”
Ivan sputters that he can’t do that; Falco says that he does that every day, listen to petitions and make judgements, and there’s always something new under the sun. He then adds some personal words, admonishing Ivan from “playing fast and loose” with solemn oaths in his jurisdiction; if they do acquire some grounds, they can try him again, but not until at least half a year has elapsed. He shoos them out and reminds them that they owe him and the Countess a visit. Ivan and Tej are gently ushered out in bewilderment.
The door closed on the babble, although it opened again in a moment to emit the lawyer, papers and files stacked in her arms.
She twisted around her stack and reached into her case to extract a card, which she handed to Ivan. “My number, Captain.”
Ivan took it in numb fingers. “Is this…if we want legal advice?”
“No, love, it’s for if you ever want a date.” She trod away up the hall, laughing.
So I guess that the no-fault divorce is not enshrined in law on Barrayar, or at any event Count Falco doesn’t believe in it. Is there some special temporary oath that Ivan could have used? Probably not, Barrayar being what it was. Why would Ivan think that this would work, then? It also makes me wonder what precise grounds Ekaterin would have used in trying to divorce Tien; she could have used the Vorzohn’s Dystrophy, but she probably wouldn’t have unless she was desperate, because of Nikki. Nonsupport, with him taking her money and then losing it? Psychological abuse? Denial of children, or would that not work because they did have one? I’m sure the Ekaterin who got up the nerve to leave him in the first place would have come up with some way to do it.
I was never clear on whether Duv Galeni and Miles were actually friends–in Memory, at least, they had some dicey moments–but I suppose it’s not out of the question that Ivan and Galeni got on somewhat better. The dinner had more of those tellings-of-past-events, but it did elide the Ser Galen matter, a.k.a. Galeni’s actual involvement in the matters on Earth. It does also sound like Martya is still with Enrique, though not necessarily married, the way Delia and Olivia are.
The Rish and Byerly thing definitely seems to be on. Interesting that Rish can sense the hidden, sensitive By inside by watching his hands. He’s got a lot of practice concealing his true self, possibly even from himself, through his years of undercover work, but Rish seems to be getting at the layer beneath. Does he keep up his facade even when they’re alone, I wonder? Or does he get to relax it just a little bit? I can’t recall at the moment, but I wonder if his cover is going to hold up until the end of the book…
So the whole divorce thing didn’t come off…so what’s next for our still-married protagonists? Will she run off to Escobar and abandon her husband, or stay and learn to love Barrayar? What did happen to the rest of her family? Tune in next week, for another chapter and stuff.