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The Dendarii Mountains Oral History Project.

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My story? There's probably no harm in telling you now. It's all so long in the past. I don't think anyone would care anymore.

I've never told anyone this. It's why I never got married. I would have felt honor-bound to tell her, and then, well, who knows what could have happened then. I got it drilled into me for seven years that I couldn't tell anyone and then after old Esterhazy didn't come back from the revolt, there was no one left who even knew. I couldn't tell anyone, you know. You didn't know what would happen. Things were so chaotic then. It's better now.

I was born in Vorbarr Sultana. Most of the people in the village, they've never gone further than Hassadar, but I started out way past there. I only ended up in the District when I was five. Before that, I was the Emperor of Barrayar.

I was only the Emperor for a few months. My grandfather died and left me in the care of a Regent. This is all ancient history to everyone now, isn't it? It's the story of Emperor Vidal Vordarian. I was drilling one of the kids here for their exams and did you know their school doesn't even tell them my name? Oh, yes, Emperor Ezar died, there was a short-lived Regency, and then Vidal Vordarian defeated Aral Vorkosigan. Neat and tidy, everyone accounted for but me. Well, I wasn't important to the story. That's the only reason I was able to disappear from it.

I don't remember much. My security chief took me from my mother and brought me to Vorkosigan, who gave me to his armsman and told him to keep me safe, and I never saw my mother or any of the Vorkosigans again. Old man Esterhazy brought me here and told his family a story, but everyone thought that I was old Count Piotr's or Lord Aral's bastard. That's what everyone'll tell you if you ask them about me. I'm the village Vor bastard.

Actually, I'm the village Vor, but I suppose I don't count as Vor. I haven't been one in eighty years.

I like living here. I left for a few years to go to Hassadar for school, but came back. A lot of the kids don't, you know. They leave for school, and then take their education and don't come back. It's always seemed a waste to me. Don't they care about their families? The Esterhazys took me in and gave me parents and siblings. I couldn't pay them back by disappearing.

I did think a couple times about trying to get a message to my mother in Vorbarr Sultana, but I could never think of what to tell her. I wanted to let her know that I was alive, in case she felt bad that I was dead. But I couldn't think of anything else to say. I was always scared of the consequences, I suppose. She'd married Vordarian and they'd had some kids -- five kids? I never remember. I was happy when she killed him, though, I'll tell you that. I always felt a little guilty that I wasn't avenging the Vorkosigans. They'd put their hands between mine and so I had an obligation. That's about all I remember of being Vor, knowing I was responsible.

One of the people who passed through a year or so after the assassination, she told a story she'd picked up, that my mother had done it for me, to avenge me. That's when I felt guiltiest about never telling her. I was young enough to feel it was my fault and not old enough to realize I didn't have any way of getting a message to her in the first place. I couldn't have told her anything. She was executed, what year was that? It all runs together sometimes. I went and burnt an offering in secret for her. Yeah, you want to know what I'd change? I'd change that. I should have found some way to let her know I was alive. It wasn't right, that she didn't know. But she had her revenge. She was the Empress, the Vorest of the Vor, so I know she died content with it. That was her victory. Vordarian took her son; she took his life.

Except he didn't take her son, that was Negri getting me to the Vorkosigans, and when they were losing, they made sure to lose me so I couldn't be found. They saved my life. And I've spent that life mostly here, up and down these mountains. I never thought about settling permanently anywhere else. You don't get views like this in the lowlands. More sun, maybe, but not the view. Winters are better down there, can't say I haven't thought about it. But Vordarian put out that I'd died in these mountains. I think it'll be funny to prove him right, and him dead sixty years now.

By trade, I'm an electrician. I've also tried my hand at carpentry. I've worked on most of the buildings in this village in one way or another. Even now, I like to keep my hand in as much as I can. I like to try to make things and fix them. It's good work, I like it, the satisfaction. But I don't hunt and I don't butcher. I leave that to others. I'm no good at it. Too weak at it, they used to call me. Soft. But more scared than soft, I'd say. I'm not good with blood, not after what happened. You understand.

It's been a good life, I suppose. I didn't make roots to tie me down, but this is my home. You've got to take care of your own people. Not like this new Count, he's never been here, or the one before him. I don't remember much about being Vor, but I remember that. It's about honor and responsibility. The old Vorkosigans lived that. These ones don't.

Who you reporting this to, the university? You can tell them I said that. That Count needs to come see his District. He wasn't even born here. It's disgraceful.

 

Postscript:

"Remember that crazy old man who thinks he's Gregor Vorbarra? He gave me some DNA."

"Are you serious? Are you going to test it?"

"I was... but then I thought. What if he's not a crazy old man? What if he's right?"

"Well, if he's right, we'll be the ones who found the missing child Emperor. We'll be famous--"

"--and stabbed in the back immediately by ImpSec."

"Yeah. Probably best to wait."

"Definitely."