Elizabeth Moon

“no more stolen moments, let alone hours, in which to discover each other . . . from now on, they were formally betrothed, and that betrothal had its own rules. Maddening, perhaps intentionally so. Luci filched another stuffed date from the tray a sleepy maidservant was carrying back to the kitchen, and followed her father into the library. Her uncle and grandfather, already relaxed in chairs by the fireplace, looked up as she came in. "Luci, you should be in bed." "Papa, I'm not sleepy." He raised his eyebrows at her, but she didn't move. "Papa, I had a message cube from Esmay today." Her uncle Casimir sighed. "Esmay . . . now there's another problem. Berthold, did you get anywhere in the Landsmen's Guild?" "Nowhere. Oh, Vicarios won't oppose us, but that's because of Luci, and his support is half-hearted. It would be different if she hadn't left so young, I think. They don't really remember her, and even though they awarded her the Starmount, and consider her a hero, they do not want a Landbride—any Landbride but especially our Landbride—connected to an outlander family. Cosca told me frankly that even if she moved here, and also her husband, he would oppose it. Nothing good ever came from the stars, he insisted." "And the votes?" "Enough for a challenge, Casi, I'm sure of it. No, the only way out of this is for Esmaya to come and talk to them herself." "Or resign." "Or resign, but—will she?" Luci spoke up. "She mentioned that in her cube." "What—resigning? Why?" "Her precious Fleet seems to think about us the way the Landsmen's Guild thinks about them. She says they have some kind of regulation forbidding officers to marry Landbrides." Her father snorted. "Do they have one forbidding officers to be Landbrides? How ridiculous!" "Are you serious?" Casimir asked. "They have something specific about Landbrides? How would they know?" "I don't know," Luci said. "That's just what she said. And she said why didn't we take in all those women brought back from Our Texas—she was sure they'd fit in." A stunned silence, satisfying by its depth and length. "She what?" Casimir said finally. "Aren't those women—" "Free-birthers and religious cultists," Luci said, with satisfaction. "Exactly." "But—but the priests will object," Berthold said. "Not as badly as the Landsmen's Guild, if they hear of it. Dear God, I thought she had more sense than that!" "She is in love," Luci pointed out, willing now to be magnanimous. "Apparently Fleet is taking Barin's salary to pay for their upkeep—at least some of it—and Esmay's trying to help him out. Nineteen of them, after all, and all those children." "At our expense." Casimir shook his head. "Well, that settles it. She'll have to resign, as soon as I can get word to her. The Trustees will certainly not approve this, if I were willing to let it be known." He gave Luci a hard look. "You didn't tell Philip, I hope." "Of course not." Luci glared at her uncle. Esmay might not have any sense, but she knew what the family honor required. "I hope she does name you Landbride, Luci," Casimir said. "You'll be a good one." Luci had a sudden spasm of doubt. Was she being fair to Esmay, who after all had had so many bad things happen to her? But underneath the doubt, the same exultation she had felt when Esmay gave her the brown mare . . . mine, it's mine, I can take care of it, nobody can hurt it . . . "I wonder if we could place an ansible call," Casimir said. "Surely it's not that urgent,”

Elizabeth Moon, The Serrano Succession
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The Serrano Succession (The Serrano Legacy) The Serrano Succession by Elizabeth Moon
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