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When the Lord Regent now attends the Council of Counts, he sits upon the Emperor’s dais. He does not sit on the Emperor’s camp stool, not yet; but next to it, where the Dowager Crown Princess once held the Vorbarra vote.

Count Vorhalas watches the man he had once called friend, and remembers how carefully old Ezar had placed his pieces, how he had positioned Negri and the Princess to balance the Regent’s power. But now the board is overturned; Negri is dead, and the Princess is dead. Vorkosigan now holds the military and the Emperor and Vorbarra’s District, and his pet lieutenant holds ImpSec, and Ezar would never have allowed this.

It may not be as bad as it appears; it may be that Vorkosigan will willingly return the Imperium when the time comes. But if he does not, thinks Count Vorhalas, who will make him? 

Vidal Vordarian would have checked the Regent’s power, but now Vordarian’s body is burned and his head is buried, and his most powerful supporters are chained to the pillars in the Great Square. His Conservative Party is leaderless, too ashamed and afraid even to speak against the Regent’s increasingly radical policies. 

The Conservatives are not yet dead, Count Vorhalas knows. They can still be revived. But who would dare to do it now? 

A man who is above suspicion, he thinks. A man who has sacrificed his own flesh and blood to the Imperium and asked nothing in return. A man whose loyalty has been proved beyond any shadow of doubt; only such a man could take up the mantle of the Opposition and not be tainted by its previous bearer. 

Count Vorhalas remembers his sons, and thinks that such a man could stand against the Lord Regent, if the time ever came.