Aug 24, 2019 1:38 AM
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"Mm. Yes. But we've gotten distracted," he says. "We were speaking of cultural overviews."

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"Yes, though this does actually lead into another relevant cultural fact about the Sith. For example, if I were to admit that I, say, ran him through with my lightsaber without so much as a 'how do you do' - I would not be doing anything illegal. Other Sith might be annoyed by my lack of subtlety or finesse, and I would not be free from reprisal if someone were upset with me about his death, but I wouldn't go on trial for murder. Make of that what you will."

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"...I'm curious about the underlying principle," he says.

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"The - I suppose ultimate goal of the Sith is to result in the most powerful sith possible. That the strong rise above the weak, so that only the most powerful Sith are left standing. Power is a very vague term, Sith are very open to alternate power options, 'cunning' is just as valid as literal strength if it means you win in the end. That's the general philosophy behind it. In practice, it's - really what you can get away with. If you can kill a fellow Sith without upsetting anyone strong enough to squish you, it's fair game. But of course, just blatantly killing every Sith you can will get a response, if not from the people the Sith were apprenticed to, then from the other sith at risk, out to protect themselves."

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"That's... a new one," he says, contemplating the images generated by this description.

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"I am not very broken up about being the only Sith in the galaxy."

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"By default I suppose that makes you the strongest."

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She chuckles softly. "I suppose it does."

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"Congratulations."

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"Thank you. As the most powerful Sith in the galaxy, I hereby declare that the route to being the most powerful is to stop being incredibly stupid."

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"A respectable tradition."

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"Thank you, I try."

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"So, Barrayar, then. Has a summary of the Time of Isolation made its way to you somehow or other?"

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"Yes. You were cut off from everyone for six hundred years, then immediately after the isolation ended you were conquered, and then you tossed them out and gained your own empire soon after."

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"That's about the size of it, yes. It's left us with... some quirks, relative to the rest of this galaxy. Having developed in isolation while everyone else was part of the same interstellar fabric of trade. One thing I can tell you about Barrayar is that much of the structure of our government is based around spoken oaths. Giving one's word is a serious matter, and breaking it likewise."

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"Interesting. ... Aren't I glad I took giving my word very seriously."

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"There are some allowances to be made for foreigners, legally speaking, but for the most part... yes."

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"I'll let my people know to take it seriously," she says, nodding gravely.

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Another of his thoughtful pauses; then, "Although it's not strictly a fact about Barrayar, it also seems relevant for you to know that humans are the only sapient species native to this galaxy."

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".... Ah. That means some things for the members of my fleet that aren't human."

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"I'll have to take extra measures to make sure they're kept safe," she murmurs mostly to herself, and she picks up her datapad and types out a reminder. She glances back up at Count Vorkosigan. "How likely is it that others might want to - the term I want to use is study them? Asking them questions about their species and culture is fine if they consent, trapping them in a cage for scientific study and vivisection is not, and I need to know how likely the latter is. I think I'd like to keep them mostly secret if I can, anyway, but if I can't manage it, it's important to know the stakes."

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"On Barrayar in particular they're more likely to get people being very rude to them, maybe to the point of violence. That's one of the things I was going to get around to mentioning about Barrayaran culture - we tend to have... problems with anyone who doesn't look like a healthy ordinary human. It's been getting better since we rejoined the galaxy at large, but it's still unfortunately very widespread. Elsewhere... I can't say it wouldn't happen, but I don't think it's likely. Unless you ran into exactly the wrong people. I might recommend avoiding Jackson's Whole, actually."

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Callida nods. Jackson's Whole sounds too much like - well, like Sith philosophy, to her. She'd much rather avoid it entirely.

"How affected by this stigma are Barrayaran military officers? I imagine there's variance, but what I mean is, does discipline tend to win out?"

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"Tends to, yes."

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