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Mon Apr 24 02:39:33 BST 2017


ther
was with him constantly, and she shielded him from a great deal, but she wa=
s
always vigilant and worried - he probably picked up on that tension. The ot=
her
close emotional relationship was with Drou - and that has continued through=
 his

life. Not only does she act as backup hostess to Alys (a prole as Imperial =
hostess -
that's pretty impressive), but she's having relaxed gossips with Gregor - s=
he was
the one who told him about Miles's courtship.

He can't even move around his home - at Drou's wedding the staff are in a p=
anic
because he's escaped from his room. He's watched all the time.

His father was a distant, glittering hero. Ezar was probably terrifying.

At age four he'd play very quietly when he could, and stop instantly when t=
old
to. He'd sit still, wearing uncomfortable clothes, through interminable cer=
emonies.
By four he was trained and controlled.

His father dies. His grandfather dies. He has to light the funeral offering=
 for
each of them. Now he's Emperor and has even more boring and stressful
things to do, more endless ceremonies, more pressure to conform. (And he's
just a baby, poor mite. You want to just hug him and then tell him to run,
and yell. Make noise. Play.)

Then the shatteringly traumatic loss of his mother, several hours in a ligh=
tflyer
with a stinking, horribly burned man who snarled at him (unsurprisingly, po=
or
guy). Handed from one stranger to another, cared for by Cordelia (I wonder
if he started bonding with her then) and he had to be quieter than ever. On=
ce
again he'd probably pick up the fear and tension in the adults, his world h=
ad no
security at that time.

Finally back with Cordelia and Aral, his mother gone - that's shattering. A=
nd
it's back to the ceremonies and the control.

And another funeral offering, for his mother. At that point he expected his=
 own
death to follow fairly soon.  AND HE WAS ONLY FOUR.

All of that's enough to turn anyone into a basket case. Fortunately for Gre=
gor,
and Barrayar, he had Cordelia. She crashed through the Barrayaran rules, sh=
e
wanted him to walk freely through his own home, to play, to learn more than
just Barrayaran mores, and to find his centre.  And Aral, one of the very f=
ew
people who would run an Empire for 16 years, and then give it back. Aral ta=
ught
him so much about running an empire, being politically aware, coping, findi=
ng
your way despite all the boundaries and roadblocks (and Gregor remembers
it all pretty well - he sends Miles to ask Aral for his wisdom on reputatio=
n and
public opinion. He values Aral's teachings.)

And deep down, all that time, he's wondered about Mad Yuri and Mad Granny
genes, and just how long before his DNA turns him into a monster. Plus his
claim to the camp stool is fairly shaky, so there's still challengers circl=
ing, waiting.

Then he's twenty and in full control. And he has a desperate need to prove
himself, and falls for the first fast talker to come along - and it very ne=
arly
ends in disaster and tragedy. Saved by his little brother. Who he almost ki=
lled.

And doesn't that help with the Mad Genes fears. First big chance and he tur=
ned
on his family. Ohhh yeah, Yuri would be proud. So he limps along for a few
more years, pretending to be in charge but really a glove puppet in the Ara=
l
and Simon show, following their directions (because they made the best
choices, so letting them run things was the only good choice he thought he
could make.)  Finally when on Komarr - a lovely comfortable visit, yeah - s=
ome
party guest with a spiteful gleam in his eyes makes some comments about
Serg, and all those half-heard comments, the small clues, fall into place. =
Not
just Mad Yuri and Mad Granny DNA, but dear daddy as well. As far from a
hero as you could get, a psychotic sexual sadist.

And he's drunk, depressed, alone, miserable, having a 'my life sucks' momen=
t,
and he's just not good enough - he'll never be Aral, with that long list of
achievements. He'll be his father, a miserable failure, and worse. And he r=
uns.

For the first time he's totally alone. Nobody watching, nobody near. He lea=
rns
fast, he finds out just what he can do. Which is mostly to change lightbulb=
s.

And then he gets the Cavilo treatment, and wow is that a master class in
survival, thinking fast, lying, being devious. All Aral's political trainin=
g, all
Cordelia's Betan attitudes, all of his own training in control and patience=
 -
it all comes in handy. It's almost a fairy tale, the emperor going out to f=
ind
a bride - if she was a little different (a bit more Elli Quin, a bit less p=
sycho killer)
it would have been magical.  But it was certainly a steep learning curve.

And then the biggest moment (which we don't see, dammit) when he
finally stands up to Aral, gets to sail into battle, and decides that he re=
ally
can be an emperor, it's a lousy job but it's his, and he'll do it well.

And he starts wheeling an dealing, doing the charming emperor act, with fla=
ir.

Then it's a long, steady path - doing his job, doing it well, building a gr=
oup
of family and friends around him. Planning where he wants the Empire to
go, and working to head it in that direction - and generally succeeding
(Although it's a long, slow process.)

Gloomy Gregor, serious, stern, controlled. Careful with every word he
says. Always obedient to the expectations of those around him. Quiet
Gregor. He even gets angry quietly.

Finally, FINALLY, after a decade of interminable deb balls, he finds someon=
e
who ticks all the boxes, and he has a reason to smile.

And he has Laisa, the boys, peace for the Empire, political stability, prog=
ress,
enough wealth to kick along some of his special projects (thank you, Ivan)
and some of the long-term plans for the empire are starting to gather speed=
,
all those small changes and minor legal twitches are starting to add up.

So, Gregor came through a childhood that could have destroyed him, and
by sheer luck and the hard work and love of a handful of people he managed
to become an admirable man and an effective emperor. He's still pretty
quiet, but he makes it work for him.

Gregor the Quiet? Wonder what name they'll give him.

Gwynne




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