Barrayaran culture is made up of many parts. On the one hand, they have a feudal political system that glorifies the military. On the other hand, they have absolutely gorgeous weddings. (Although these have moderated in recent years, the planet’s rabid anti-mutant biases mean that most Barrayarans refuse to acknowledge the existence of individuals who deviate from the standard “two hands” configuration.)
Anyway, GORGEOUS weddings. Very meaningful. Lots of groats. In the run-up to the wedding, we learn that Miles can effectively deploy his reputation as a murderer against people who believe, well, that he’s a murderer. He didn’t like those people anyway, so this is very convenient. The rest of Gregor’s wedding is also very educational.
Per prior arrangement, Gregor’s wedding does not involve public nudity. Appropriate parties have appropriately witnessed proofs of Gregor and Laisa’s genetic health, supposedly on the morning of the wedding ceremony. Miles is our viewpoint character here, and he’s not involved in that part of the proceedings to the extent that he doesn’t note when it took place. Possibly before breakfast? Gregor and Laisa could have had fasting blood work drawn at the same time! This is not the possibility Miles raised when the arrangement was discussed in planning meetings, but both of them are of an age where it makes sense to monitor one’s cholesterol.
The parts of the wedding that Miles DOES comment on are the parts that involve horses. That childhood programming really stuck, didn’t it? Gregor is on a glossy black beast. I imagine that Laisa’s mare is the same one Gregor had flown in for their lunch date in the Palace gardens in Memory. Laisa’s father has been taught how to lead a horse. Once again, Miles suspects horsey tranquilizers. And honestly, I would hope so. The wedding involves a lot of noise and fuss and skirts. These are all things that horses can be trained for, and I’m sure these horses have been. The addition of people almost entirely unfamiliar with horses in key roles, in combination with a need to ensure that the entire event runs smoothly, suggests to me that a little Ace would be a reasonable backup plan. Laisa’s wedding outfit strikes me as heavy for Midsummer but appropriate for riding. I hope she goes all-in on Barrayar’s equestrian sports as part of her embrace of her new planet.
Mark is scrupulously honest in matters of business. I know, he helped Enrique skip bail on Escobar (I can’t imagine that the Duronas would have put him on to Enrique’s case if Mark was going to insist that Enrique had to stand trial), but his proposed plan for selling Imperial wedding groats actually involves wedding groats. The plan also involves several kilos of filler groats. Buyers would be getting an essentially homeopathic quantity of wedding groats. In related news, Barrayaran women’s formalwear, while sometimes useful for first aid, does not have pockets. Kareen has to get Mark to hold on to her wedding groats for her.
Dono and Olivia are getting married. I’m so happy for them! Large weddings are very fashionable right now because Gregor and Laisa are literally in the process of having one. This puts Commodore Koudelka in a tough spot. He’s suddenly grateful that Mark and Kareen aren’t rushing towards matrimony as well. He apologizes for his earlier over-reaction to Mark’s relationship with Kareen. This is a lovely conversation, where Mark says that he’s not good at family yet, but he means to try. The Commodore had expected to control the General Staff in his old age and has been a little surprised that his daughters have not all paired off with military officers. Delia picked Duv, who is climbing the ranks in ImpSec. Olivia, however, went for Dono, who seems positioned to be an influential politician, and whose matrimonial agenda suggests that he intends to dedicate himself to all aspects of that project—he will not be dying without a designated heir. I imagine that he and Olivia are planning to use a uterine replicator. Commodore Koudelka doesn’t know who Martya might choose yet, but Mark is quite certain she’s thinking seriously about Enrique. At the very least, Enrique has been the topic of serious discussion; Martya has previously said that she thinks Enrique is the sort who needs a managing type of wife, and Kareen has told Mark that awkward academic types are supposed to age well.
Contemplating the differences between what the Commodore expected from his daughters and what he is likely to get, Mark considers sending Kou and Drou on a trip to the Betan Orb. I don’t know what kind of gifts people get their in-laws in the Galactic Nexus, so maybe an all-expenses-paid trip to a sex resort is just like sending them on a cruise. Or possibly it’s well-intentioned but just a little awkward. Mark is still learning about family, and he means to try.
Ma Kosti is on hand to hand out samples of maple ambrosia, a product that combines bug butter with maple mead. Ivan doesn’t think much of either bug butter OR maple mead, but he gives high marks to the combination. Ma Kosti denies being responsible for the innovation involved here; she says it was Miles’s idea, part of his effort to funnel money back to the people of his District. Miles isn’t Count yet, but he is his father’s voting representative, and while the Viceroy is on Sergyar, he is the ranking Vorkosigan on the planet. He’s obviously quite busy with his duties as Auditor, but I see he means to try at local politics just like Harra told him to.
Ivan discovers that Byerly and his mother are both on the Imperial payroll. Ivan is having a very educational year. Miles appears to have figured out Byerly’s role in ImpSec before the wedding and offered constructive criticism. That sounds like it was fun. I’m sorry we missed that. Ivan’s reaction is also fun, as is his pulling rank on an ensign trying to make time with a woman in an alcove that Ivan has decided to appropriate. It’s like literally everyone else on the planet is pairing off, but not Ivan. Or Byerly. For some reason. Poor things.
Like Delia and Olivia, Miles would love to plan a fashionably large wedding, but Cordelia has coached Ekaterin on preventing it—she says it wouldn’t feel right during her mourning year, but perhaps if Miles wanted to wait? They plan for a smaller outdoor wedding in Ekaterin’s Barrayaran garden in Autumn. Join me next week as we explore that—shifted slightly off the planned schedule—in “Winterfair Gifts.”
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.