Whew, thought Cordelia. What a very peculiar business. She wondered if it would make more sense for her to surrender, and try negotiating some sort of truce – really, Barrayarans couldn’t be all that bad, could they?
A sudden movement in the mottled shade caught her eye. Cordelia started to her feet as she caught sight of the tall, hatchet-faced Barrayaran soldier in camouflage fatigues. She didn't have time to think. As soon as she saw the Barrayaran begin to raise his weapon, she blindly shoved Dubauer behind her.
The crackle of the nerve disruptor was the last sound she heard.
Miles stood stock-still in the center of the Council of Counts, transfixed by the needler's tiny dark eye. Fascinating, that the pit of hell should have so narrow an entrance...
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the Counts all on their feet, half of them already rushing toward the weapon in a mass of scarlet robes.
Vordrozda smiled triumphantly as he pressed the trigger. Gregor rose from the dais with a cry as the swarm of deadly needles erupted from the traitor’s hand, but by the time he reached the spot, it was far too late.
Aral smiled to himself as they walked up the path from the stables. He’d left all the guards – and the comlink - behind today, and that was something he hadn’t done in years. If only Miles could be at home more often.
"So, Miles," he began, "Did you run into any trouble on Earth? The report you gave Simon was very confusing, even by your usual standards."
"No trouble at all, sir," Mark assured him, withdrawing one hand from his pocket to touch the Butcher's. Vorkosigan looked down at him in puzzlement.
Then the skin patch started to take effect.
Every day, he begged them for Miles. Miles was his liegelord’s heir, the one with the right to release him from his oath and his life. Even when trapped in the torturous maze that his mind had become, he knew that a Vorkosigan should be the one to set him free.
It took him several agonizing weeks to realize that they’d never called Miles at all. Every day he’d begged, they’d soothed him with false promises.
The next morning, Simon waited until the guard turned his back. Then he reached out and removed the nerve disruptor from the man’s belt.
The signs were slow to appear. Laisa was the first to spot them, but she held her peace too long. Perhaps, she hoped to herself, it was only stress. Perhaps.
When they became unmistakable, it was too long before anyone had the courage to act. The worst men moved only to take advantage, while the best hesitated, unsure where their loyalties now lay. Only when thousands were dead did they move at last.
Even after Gregor Vorbarra’s civil war was ended, the Imperium abolished, the constitution written and ratified, no one ever found out what had happened to the body.