pulled, twisted, adjusted, took a plastic sleeve from his pocket, slipped it over the arm and wrist, and blew it up. “That’ll keep it till the doctor sees it.”

“Hadn’t you better … containerize that horrendous horse?” Cordelia said to Piotr.

“ ’S not h’rrendous,” Miles insisted, scrambling to his feet. “It’s the prettiest.”

“You think so, eh?” said Piotr roughly. “How do you figure that? You like brown?”

“It moves the springiest,” Miles explained earnestly, bouncing in imitation.

Piotr’s attention was arrested. “And so it does,” he said, sounding bemused. “It’s my hottest dressage prospect … You like horses?”

“They’re great. They’re wonderful.” Miles pirouetted.

“I could never much interest your father in them.” Piotr gave Aral a dirty look.

Thank God, thought Cordelia.

“On a horse, I could go as fast as anybody, I bet,” said Miles.

“I doubt it,” said Piotr coldly, “if that was a sample. If you’re going to do it, you have to do it right.”

“Teach me,” said Miles instantly.

Piotr’s brows shot up. He glanced at Cordelia, and smiled sourly. “If your mother gives permission.” He rocked on his heels, in certain smug safety, knowing Cordelias rooted antipathy to the beasts.

Cordelia bit her tongue on Over my dead body, and thought fast. Aral’s intent eyes were signaling something, but she couldn’t read it. Was this a new way for Piotr to try and kill Miles? Take him out and get him smashed, trampled, broken … tired out? Now there was a thought. …

Risk, or security? In the few months since Miles had at last acquired a full range of motion, she’d run on panicked overdrive, trying to save him from physical harm; he’d spent the same time near-frantically trying to escape her supervision. Much more of this struggle, and either she’d be insane, or he would.

If she could not keep him safe, perhaps the next best thing was to teach him competence at living dangerously. He was almost undrownable already. His big grey eyes were radiating a desperate, silent plea at her, Let me, let me, let me … with enough transmission energy to burn through steel. I would fight the world for you, but I’m damned if I can figure out how to save you from yourself. Go for it, kid.

“Yes,” she said. “If the sergeant accompanies you.”

Bothari shot her a look of horrified reproach. Aral rubbed his chin, his eyes alight. Piotr looked utterly taken aback to have his bluff called.

“Good,” said Miles. “Can I have my own horse? Can I have that one?”

“No, not that one,” said Piotr indignantly. Then drawn in, added, “Perhaps a pony.”

“Horse,” said Miles, watching his face.

Cordelia recognized the Instant Re-Negotiation Mode, a spinal reflex, as far as she could tell, triggered by the faintest concession. The kid should be put to work beating out treaties with the Cetagandans. She wondered how many horses he’d finally end up with. “A pony,” she put in, giving Piotr the support that he did not yet recognize how badly he was going to need. “A gentle pony. A gentle short pony.”

Piotr pursed his lips, and gave her a challenging look. “Perhaps you can work up to a horse,” he said to Miles. “Earn it, by learning well.”

“Can I start now?”

“You have to get your arm set first,” said Cordelia firmly.

“I don’t have to wait till it heals, do I?”

“It will teach you not to run around breaking things!”

Piotr regarded Cordelia through half-lidded eyes. “Actually, proper dressage training starts on a lunge line. You aren’t permitted to use your arms till you’ve developed your seat.”

“Yeah?” said Miles, hanging worshipfully on his words. “What else—?”

By the time Cordelia withdrew to hunt up the personal physician who accompanied the Lord Regent’s traveling circus, ah, entourage, Piotr had recaptured his horse—rather efficiently, though Cordelia wondered if the sugar in his pockets was cheating—and was already explaining to Miles how to make a simple line into an effective halter, which side of the beast to stand on, and what direction to face while leading. The boy, barely waist-high to the old man, was taking it in like a sponge, upturned face passionately intent.

“Want to lay a side-bet, who’s leading who on that lunge line by the end of the week?” Aral murmured in her ear.

“No contest. I must say, the months Miles spent immobilized in that dreadful spinal brace did teach him how to do charm. The most efficient long-term way to control those about you, and thus exert your will. I’m glad he didn’t decide to perfect whining as a strategy. He’s the most willful little monster I’ve ever encountered, but he makes you not notice.”

“I don’t think the Count has a chance,” Aral agreed.

She smiled at the vision, then glanced at him more seriously. “When my father was home on leave one time from the Betan Astronomical Survey, we made model gliders together. Two things were required to get them to fly. First we had to give them a running start. Then we had to let them go.” She sighed. “Learning just when to let go was the hardest part.”

Piotr, his horse, Bothari, and Miles turned out of sight into the barn. By his gestures, Miles was asking questions at a rapid-fire rate.

Aral gripped her hand as they turned to go up the hill. “I believe he’ll soar high, dear Captain.”

Author’s Afterword

I was asked by my publisher if I would like to contribute a preface to Cordelia’s Honor. Upon reflection, I decided I’d rather write an afterword. For one thing, it was a horrifying thought that anything at all should further delay new readers from meeting my characters; secondly, discursive comments about a book make ever so much more sense after people have read it.

I’d like to thank Baen Books for this combined edition of Shards of Honor and Barrayar. Here at last in one set of covers is the whole story arc, very much as I originally conceived its shape, if not its details. As a longtime series reader, and now writer, I’m very aware of the pitfalls of what I’ve come to believe is another story form, as distinct from the novel as the novel is from the short story. A proper series in this sense is neither an extension of the novel (as in the multi-volume single story) nor a replication (as when essentially the same story is told over and over, cookie-cutter fashion), but another animal altogether, with its own internal demands. In addition, one must assume that readers, as I did when reading my own favorite series, will encounter the books in utterly random order. Therefore each series novel must simultaneously be a complete tale in itself, and uphold its unique place in the growing structure; it must be two books at once. The understructure must be global and timeless as well as linear and sequential. The series landscape must satisfy its readers regardless of what direction they chance to travel through it, or how often.

I had no more idea of all this when I started writing the Vorkosigan series than I had of what my own life would be like when I started living it. A brief history of how I came to write these two books may illustrate both.

I began what was to become Shards of Honor in December of 1982. Inspired by the example of a new- writer friend, and by the economic pressures of the rust-belt Midwest town in which I was living, I set out to Write A Novel. My writing career has been on-the-job training throughout, and this was no exception; my only plan of how to structure my material was to plant an eavesdropping device in my main character’s brain and follow her through her first weeks of action. This brought Cordelia and me to the end of what later became the first section of Shards. (It then had the working title of Mirrors.) I now had in hand a messy first draft of about a hundred pages of narrative, with no chapter breaks, that clearly wasn’t long enough to be a novel. I paused briefly, flirted with a really bad scenario about a convenient alien invasion that would force Barrayar and Beta to ally, decided “Why should I make things easy on my characters?”, and plunged on to the much better and more inherent idea of the Escobar invasion, thus accidentally discovering my first application of the rule for finding plots for character-centered novels, which is to ask “So what’s the worst possible thing I can do to this guy?” And then do it.

Thus I already knew, at this early date, that Aral and Cordelia would have a physically handicapped son in

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