Barrayar by Bujold Lois McMaster

Barrayar by Bujold Lois McMaster

Author:Bujold, Lois McMaster [Bujold, Lois McMaster]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00


CHAPTER TWELVE

The Major put Gregor, comfortably padded by the bedroll and saddlebags, up behind him. Cordelia faced one more climb onto that torture-device for humans and horses called a saddle. She would never have made it without Bothari. The Major took her reins this time, and Rose and his horse walked side by side with a lot less jerking of the bridle. Bothari dropped back, trailing watchfully.

"So," said the old man after a time, with a sideways look at her, "you're the new Lady Vorkosigan."

Cordelia, rumpled and filthy, smiled back desperately. "Yes. Ah, Count Piotr didn't mention your name, Major ... ?"

"Amor Klyeuvi, Milady. But folks up here just call me Kly."

"And, uh ... what are you?" Besides some mountain kobold Piotr had conjured out of the ground.

He smiled, an expression more repellent than attractive given the state of his teeth. "I'm the Imperial Mail, Milady. I ride the circuit through these hills, out of Vorkosigan Surleau, every ten days. Been at it for eighteen years. There are grown kids up here with kids of their own who never knew me as anything but Kly the Mail."

"I thought mail went to these parts by lightflyer."

"They're phasing them in. But the flyers don't go to every house, just to these central drop-points. No courtesy to it, anymore." He spat disgust and gum-leaf. "But if the General'll hold 'em off another two years here, I'll make my last twenty, and be a triple-twenty-years Service man. I retired with my double-twenty, see."

"From what branch, Major Klyuevi?"

"Imperial Rangers." He watched slyly for her reaction; she rewarded him with impressed raised brows. "I was a throat-cutter, not a tech. 'S why I could never go higher than major. Got my start at age fourteen, in these mountains, running rings around the Cetagandans with the General and Ezar. Never did get back to school after that. Just training courses. The Service passed me by, in time."

"Not entirely, it seems," said Cordelia, staring around the apparently unpeopled wilderness.

"No ..." His breath became a purse-lipped sigh, as he glanced back over his shoulder at Gregor in meditative unease.

"Did Piotr tell you what happened yesterday afternoon?"

"No. I left the lake day-before-yesterday morning. Missed all the excitement. I expect the news will catch up with me before noon."

"Is ... anything else likely to catch up with us by then?"

"We'll just have to see." He added more hesitantly, "You'll have to get out of those clothes, Milady. The name VORKOSIGAN, A., in big block letters over your jacket-pocket isn't any too anonymous."

Cordelia glanced down at Aral's black fatigue shirt, quelled.

"My lord's livery sticks out like a flag, too," Kly added, looking back at Bothari. "But you'll pass well enough, in the right clothes. I'll see what I can do, in a bit here."

Cordelia sagged, her belly aching in anticipation of rest. Refuge. But at what price to those who gave her refuge? "Will helping us put you in danger?"

His tufted grey brow rose. "Belike." His tone did not invite further comment on the topic.



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