I. Emperor Gregor Vorbarra
“No Ivan, I will not annul your marriage. Tej and Byerly need you and each other at the moment. I will not deprive Vorrutyer of a critical prop while he is working so hard to salvage the situation on Jackson’s Whole. Dono isn’t enough and Dono isn’t read into Galactic Affairs.”
“You’ve handled Miles’ funks all your life, you’re within the need-to-know circle, you can advise on both the political and military logistics and you work best when you are assisting others. Go forth and assist. Keep him functional until the plans are realised. We will review the situation then.”
II. Dowager Lady Alys Vorpatril
Alys reeled away from the interview. Compassion, empathy, Old-Vor outrage and plain disgust were commingling into a seething stew, seasoned with a pinch of pride at Ivan’s sneaky competence. The fact that Gregor refused to end this marital travesty was worst of all. Her tolerance of galactic mores stopped abruptly at Ivan’s door.
Byerly was a talented player of the political game but he would never be a proper son in-law, nor could a half-blue creature be a true daughter for the Vorpatrils. No, this triad was wrong and she would ensure that Vorbarr Sultana gossip saw it that way.
III. Count Dono Vorrutyer
Poor By, to have obtained his long-term Vor crush at a price he never would have paid. Dono hadn’t even roasted Ivan yet. Several difficult nights, watching By drink himself unconscious, precluded it. Ivan was being kind and atypically sensitive, maybe he’d finally grown up. Dono had only met Tej twice but her philosophical resemblance to Ivan made her simple to understand. He approved of her efforts to reknit her shrunken family and shared her horror at Barrayar’s barbaric gender laws. Yes, this triad was a good thing and he would ensure that Vorbarr Sultana gossip saw it that way.
IV. Count Miles Vorkosigan
Byerly Vorrutyer-Vorpatril! Miles couldn’t stop wheezing. Ivan had steadfastly ignored his sniggering congratulations and gleeful messages on how many Barrayan laws he’d broken to get his obnoxious in-law returned safely home. No, he wasn’t helping Ivan out of this one.
In fact, it was a glorious opportunity to help some of Vorbarr Sultana’s excess men find mates. The imperium already quietly ignored Komarran polygamous marriages. Dorca’s morganatic marriage to his concubine, Xav’s mother, could offer a precedent on Barrayar. Time to start drafting a motion to reform the antiquated marriage laws. Miles pulled over a flimsy and began to write.
V. Count Falco Vorpatril
Monstrous! Ivan had horsed around with another marriage oath and betrayed the values of the Vor with it. Homosexuality of any kind was strictly illegal. Yes it went on, everyone knew that, and everyone had some relative that was ‘a bit funny’. However, there were ways around it that didn’t tear the fabric of society. Even Dorca’s morganatic marriage to his concubine, Xav’s mother, was an extra woman, not a man.
Twelve generations of Vorpatril service demanded action. Time to start drafting a motion to shore up the traditional marriage laws. Falco pulled over a flimsy and began to write.
VI. Lady Tejaswini Ghem Estif-Arqua Vorrutyer-Vorpatril
Tej’s emotions were as complex as Alys’s. Familial grief, pain, rage, and betrayal mingled with a shamed relief that she would never have to fight the Baronne for her identity again.
The operation for assassination and counter-coup was proceeding. However, Byerly and Moira had to be kept away from Jackson’s Whole for their own good. If By returned, he would be swallowed up by revenge and power struggles until he died, taking the last memories of the Arquas with him. No, she had a co-husband now and she would fight to keep him safe from himself. Rish would want that.
VII. Lord Byerly Vorrutyer-Vorpatril
Byerly’s days were spent in rage, plotting reprisals with Galactic Affairs; his nights in despair, as his murdered babies floated in front of his closed eyes; and his early mornings in raw gratitude for Tej and Ivan. Each day Ivan took on the Vor hyenas, protecting him from his former life, while each night, Ivan crossed his Vorish boundaries silently offering sympathy and physical comfort which By was free to accept or reject. Tej took on childcare and the brutal task of explaining why Mummy was gone. Byerly used to patronise them. Now he’d cut his throat before losing them.
VIII Lord Ivan Vorpatril
The irony was that a grieving Byerly was easier to cope with. Revenge-driven mania was something all Vor understood and could handle. By was too busy for sarcastic comments, putdowns and innuendo, despite having a husband (husband!) to sharpen his claws on.
He shuddered at the memory of their only love-making. It didn’t move him, yet it wasn’t a disaster either. The sharing of hands was no worse than he’d done for himself and it was satisfying to help a damaged man find forgetfulness. He could do this. As long as it stayed short term -Mamere was badgering him already.
IX. Countess Ekaterin Vorkosigan
Ekaterin ground her teeth. How could so many people in Vobarr Sultana be prurient idiots? Byerly had lost a wife and two children! Ivan had simply used a bureaucratic ruse to bring him safely home. Clearly Tej and Ivan needed help. Padma and Moira were either side of her youngest twins in age and probably hadn’t played in grassy open spaces. Time for a Ma Kosti tea and long chat. She’d set Galeni on Ivan and when By was released from Galactic Affairs, she would share her experience of how to go on after abrupt bereavement and re-marriage. Someone should.
X. Dowager Countess Cordelia Vorkosigan
Well it was past time that one of the Vor broke convention and made legal acknowledgement of their little sexual arrangements. The surprise was whom. Clearly the diplomatic corps had stretched Ivan’s boundaries. Sadly not so for Alys. She had finally hit her Old-Vor limit and her efforts painfully recalled Piotr’s stubbornness.
Miles wanted permission to use Aral and Jole as precedents and, for herself, she preferred the public honesty. However, it could undermine Aral’s legislative legacy and dog her girls’ future, regretfully she denied him. Instead, she'd send Byerly condolences and a welcome to the family message. Someone should.
XI & XII. Emperor Gregor Revisited
“Lady Tej has petitioned Us to ratify your group marriage with an imperial decree then post your combined family to a different planet. We have decided to grant it. Star is dead, Byerly has nearly concluded his post-action analysis and will need a new assignment soon. You three could make the imperium look less parochial in many diplomatic circles. I am minded to make use of that.”
Gregor carefully parsed Ivan’s current shade of bland: Upset with a hint of betrayal.
“Ivan, I understand how much you protest this, but you created the situation. You took more time over this marital decision than your first and that one worked out remarkably well. You’ve spent your life disparaging yourself compared to Miles; yet you may have the highest emotional intelligence of us all. Your instincts are superb, I trust them, perhaps you should too.”
“Now, there are several suitable postings, plus one new possibility. A new wormhole route has just been discovered via a very remote planet and would require only two envoys to represent our interests, not three.”
Gregor quirked an ironic eyebrow.
“I’m sure you and Byerly could do well representing Us on Athos. Do think it over.”