Delia Koudelka has grown up seeing women holding many different shades of power. Her examples include her own mother, Tante Cordelia, several Vor Ladies including Olivia’s friend’s Tatya-soon-to-be-Vorbretten, and a long list of teachers, diplomats, merchants and servants. Among all those roles they occupy it’s the way Lady Alys serves – the web of contacts she spins - that seems the most challenging. The most appealing.
‘You can do anything you want,’ Tante Corelia tells her. Delia is not a High Vor widow who was friends with the Princess Kareen. Even as Droushnakovi and Clement Koudelka’s daughter she’ll need a husband to help her achieve her dreams. But then the reverse is also true for Barrayaran men. With the exception of Captain Illyan, all the great men Delia knows lean on their wives; were it not so, their wives would rightly refuse to claim them.
At first she only glances at Duv Galeni as one of Miles’ reluctant friends.
The Koudelka sisters’ father knows the influential fathers of many men who are themselves about to become important. Olivia really likes Tatya and so does Delia, but part of that friendship is also Olivia preparing herself to marry a Vor lordling. Delia is not sure such a marriage is a path she wants to take. She wants a partnership like the one her parents have, like Tante Cordelia and Count Aral have. A Vor might give her that, but there’s also a chance he’d try to stifle her out of resentment for her lower birth.
Lady Alys is an institution. None of Delia’s sisters have yet found their own suitors, except maybe Kareen, and it’s best not to think about that. Delia still has time, until –
Emperor Gregor chooses Dr. Laisa Toscane as his bride. Suddenly, Delia has reason to fret.
Seeing the Emperor wed would be a worthy culmination of Lady Alys’ life’s work. A Komarran empress would only benefit from a social confidante who was brought up immersed in the Vor system but still has the vantage point to view it as an outsider.
Is there anyone, she asks herself but not yet her sisters, going through the list of men she’s met that even come close to her standards. There’s always Ivan, but…
It’s a coincidence that she meets Duv not far from the ImpSec building. They exchange pleasantries and he is surprised when she observes that he looks worried. He doesn’t tell her about his concerns, he’s better than that, but neither does he try to pretend her estimation is wrong.
Before she knows it a week has passed and she’s made it a point each day to see him when he gets out of work.
‘An accomplished, loyal officer,’ she writes Kareen because it’s easier than telling Martya or Olivia. ‘Not intimidated by but drawn to the orbit of the Vorkosigan’s, academically trained to understand the empire’s inner workings, and a friend of Dr. Toscane’s.’ There are many ways they could complement each other.
And she likes him. She likes him a lot.