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Steadholder Hall

City of Austen

Sword Steading


Steadholder’s Palace

City of Harrington

Harrington Steading

Planet Grayson

Yeltsin System

November 30, 1905 PD

[November 30, 4009 CE]

andrew lafollet stood against the rear wall of the enormous horseshoe-shaped chamber and hoped he looked less nervous than he felt. It was silly to feel so anxious, really, given how long he’d prepared and trained against this day.

He told himself that firmly. Very firmly.

Himself didn’t listen.

His lips twitched very slightly at the thought, and then he stiffened as a harsh iron-on-iron clang echoed in the hall. He knew what that sound was, and he watched the Door Warden draw his sword as the huge, centimeters-thick panels swung slowly open in response to that summons.

They parted fully, and a single woman stood in the opening, flanked by the kneeling ranks of the Steadholders’ Guard. She was tall—impossibly tall, for any Grayson woman—and she stood like a slender flame in a gown of white and a formal vest the same deep, rich shade as the green tunic LaFollet wore. The spired golden glory of the Star of Grayson glittered upon her breast in the light spilling through those portals, and the same light glowed in the green eyes of the treecat in her arms.

“Who petitions audience of the Protector?” the Door Warden demanded in formal challenge.

“I seek audience of no man.” The soprano voice was clear and unwavering, with an accent never born of Grayson. “I come not to petition, but to claim admittance to the Conclave and be seated therein, as is my right.”

“By what authority?” the Door Warden challenged, sword rising into a guard position, and she raised her head proudly.

“By my own authority, under God and the Law,” she returned.

“Name yourself,” the Warden commanded.

“I am Honor Stephanie Harrington, daughter of Alfred Harrington, come to claim of right my place as Steadholder Harrington,” she replied, and the Warden stepped back a pace and lowered his sword.

“Then enter this place, that the Conclave of Steadholders may judge your fitness for the office you claim, as is its ancient right,” he intoned.

LaFollet watched as she stepped forward in a swirl of skirts. The door boomed softly shut behind her, and the Door Warden went to one knee before the throne of Benjamin IX, Protector of Grayson, bowing across the jeweled Sword of State as he rested its tip on the stone floor.

“Your Grace, I present to you and to this Conclave Honor Stephanie Harrington, daughter of Alfred Harrington, who comes claiming a place among your steadholders,” he intoned, and the Protector gazed at her for a long, still moment, then raised his eyes to the long rows of throne-like seats.

“Steadholders,” his voice rose clear, “this woman claims right to a seat among you. Would any challenge her fitness so to do?”

LaFollet’s nostrils flared. It was not the simple question of Grayson’s normal formula, for this woman was the very first woman in the history of Grayson to claim Steading in her own right. It would take an extraordinarily brave or arrogant—or both—man to challenge that claim, but that didn’t mean no one would.

Yet only silence answered, and the Protector nodded.

“Would any speak in her favor?” he asked quietly, and this time a rumbling “Aye” replied.

“Your claim is freely granted by your peers, Lady Harrington,” the Protector declared with a smile. “Come now and take your place among them.”

The massed steadholders stood as she climbed the stone steps to stand directly before the Protector. Two small velvet cushions had been placed before his throne, and she set her treecat carefully on one, then went to her knees on the other. More than one of the watching steadholders frowned as she knelt without the curtsy Grayson’s formal etiquette demanded of its women, but no one spoke as the Door Warden went to one knee beside the throne to offer the Sword of State, hilt-first, to the Protector.

Benjamin accepted it, then extended its hilt to Lady Harrington, and she laid her hands upon it.

“Honor Stephanie Harrington,” the Protector said quietly, “are you prepared, in the presence of the assembled Steadholders of Grayson, to swear fealty to the Protector and People of Grayson under the eyes of God and His Holy Church?”

“I am, Your Grace, yet I may do so only with two reservations.” She withdrew her hands from the sword hilt. There was no refusal in her clear soprano, but she met the Protector’s eyes levelly, steadily.

“It is your ancient and lawful right to state reservations to your oath,” he said. “Yet it is also the right of this Conclave to reject those reservations and deny your place, should it find them offensive to it. Do you acknowledge that right?”

“I do, Your Grace.”

“Then state your first reservation.”

“As Your Grace knows, I am also a subject of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, a member of its peerage, and an officer in the Queen’s Navy. As such, I am under obligations I cannot honorably disregard. Nor may I abandon the nation to which I was born or my oaths to my Queen to accept even a steadholder’s high office, nor swear fealty to Grayson without reserving to myself the right and responsibility to meet and perform my duties to her.”

The Protector looked over her head at the Conclave.

“My Lords, this seems to me a right and honorable declaration, but the judgment in such matters must be yours. Does any man here dispute this woman’s right to hold steading on Grayson with this limitation?”

Silence answered, and the Protector turned back to Honor.

“And your second reservation is?”

“Your Grace, I am not a communicant of the Church of Humanity Unchained. I respect its doctrines and teachings, but I am not of your faith.”

“I see.” This time the Protector sounded grave, and LaFollet understood why perfectly. No steadholder not of the Church had ever held office, and now Benjamin looked at the white-haired man to his right.

“Reverend, this reservation touches upon the Church and so falls within your province. How say you?”

Reverend Julius Hanks, Grayson’s senior religious leader, gazed back at him for a moment, then laid one hand on Lady Harrington’s head.

“Lady Harrington, you say you are not of our Faith, but there are many ways to God.” Someone hissed audibly, and LaFollet’s eyes flashed with anger. But no one spoke, and the Reverend ignored the intrusion.

“Do you believe in God, my child?” he asked.

“I do, Reverend.” Lady Harrington’s reply was firm, unwavering.

“And do you serve Him to the best of your ability, as your heart gives you to understand His will for you?”

“I do.”

“Will you, as steadholder, guard and protect the right of your people to worship God as their own hearts call them so to do?”

“I will.”

“Will you respect and guard the sanctity of our Faith as you would your own?”

“I will.”

The Reverend nodded—in satisfaction, not surprise—and turned back to the Protector.

“Your Grace, this woman is not of our Faith, yet she has so declared before us all, making no effort to pretend otherwise. More, she stands proven a good and godly woman, one who hazarded her own life and suffered grievous wounds to protect not only our Church but our world when we had no claim upon her. I say to you, and to the Conclave”—he turned to face the assembled steadholders, and his resonant voice, trained in twice a score of cathedrals, seemed to fill that vast chamber—“that God knows His own! The Church accepts this woman as its champion and defender, whatever the faith through which she may serve God’s will in her own life.”

Another, deeper silence answered, and the Reverend stepped back beside the throne.

“Your reservations have been noted and accepted by the lords secular and temporal of Grayson, Honor Stephanie Harrington,” the Protector said, gazing down at her once more. “Do you swear now, before us all, that they constitute your sole reservations of heart and soul and mind?”

“I do so swear, Your Grace.”

“Then I call upon you to swear fealty before your peers,” the Protector said, and Lady Harrington placed her hands upon the sword once more.

“Do you, Honor Stephanie Harrington, daughter of Alfred Harrington, with the afore noted reservations, swear fealty to the Protector and People of Grayson?”

“I do.”

Andrew LaFollet’s spine straightened at the iron fidelity of that clear, unwavering soprano.

“Will you bear true service to the Protector and People of Grayson?”

“I will.”

“Do you swear, before God and this Conclave, to honor, preserve, and protect the Constitution of Grayson, and to protect and guide your people, guarding them as your own children? Will you swear to nurture them in time of peace, lead them in time of war, and govern them always with justice tempered by mercy, as God shall give you the wisdom so to do?”

“I do so swear,” Lady Harrington said softly, and Mayhew nodded.

“I accept your oath, Honor Stephanie Harrington. And as Protector of Grayson, I will answer fealty with fealty, protection with protection, justice with justice, and oath-breaking with vengeance, so help me God.”

The Protector’s right hand slid down to cover both of Lady Harrington’s. Then he returned the sword to the Warden, and Reverend Hanks handed him a gleaming double-handful of golden glory in its place. Benjamin shook it out reverently, and Lady Harrington bowed her head for him as he hung the massive chain about her neck. The patriarch’s key of a steadholder glittered below the Star of Grayson, and the Protector stood to take her hand in his own.

“Rise, then, Lady Harrington, Steadholder Harrington!” he said loudly, and Andrew LaFollet forgot discipline as his voice joined the roar of acclaim that rolled up against the crowded chamber’s walls.

* * *


Honor Harrington turned from her conversation with Lady Bethany Clinkscales, Howard Clinkscales’ senior wife.

“Yes, Mac?”

“Lord Clinkscales has arrived.”

“And about time, too,” Bethany said so tartly Honor chuckled. Clinkscales had sent her and his wives—Bethany, Rebecca, and Constance—ahead to her brand-new steading’s palace while he dealt with the last few formalities. She’d offered to stay with him, but he’d only shaken his head.

“Trust me, My Lady, you’d be bored to tears,” he said. “And to be totally honest, unless you’ve read my memos with a little more attention to the dreary formal details than I strongly suspect is the case, I expect you’d basically only be in the way.” He’d grinned at her snort of amusement, then shrugged. “Go ahead, My Lady. It’s a long flight back to Harrington, and I’ll be along as soon as I can.”

The armored air limo had delivered her from the shuttle pad to the palace an hour or so earlier, and Bethany and her sister wives had escorted her to her new office. It had been Clinkscales’ office, and she supposed it still was, although a second desk had been moved into it.

One with her name on it.

“I think we have to cut him some slack, Bethany,” she demurred now with a smile. “He’s been handling all the details for the Steading ever since it was formally established. I don’t suppose it’s very surprising those details put a crimp in his schedule today, as well.”

“When you’ve come to know my husband as well as I know him, My Lady, you’ll realize that most of those ‘crimps’ in his schedule were inserted by him. Usually to suit his own nefarious purposes.”

“I’m sure that’s at least a little unfair.” Honor’s eyes twinkled as she tasted Bethany’s loving exasperation.

“‘Little’ as in ‘you’d need a microscope to see it,’ you mean, My Lady?”

“Maybe not quite that little,” Honor said around a spurt of laughter, then turned to face the office door as Howard Clinkscales stepped through it, still carrying his silver-headed regent’s staff of office. She smiled as she saw him, but her eyebrows rose as she saw another dozen men at his heels, in the dark green tunics and lighter green trousers she’d chosen for the Harrington Steadholder’s Guard. They followed him through the door, and a corner of her mind reflected that it was a good thing the office was so large as they fell into four neat ranks behind Clinkscales.

“Howard,” she said.

“My Lady.”

Clinkscales bowed from the waist, and the men behind him followed suit. Honor inclined her head to acknowledge the courtesy, but she felt more than a little awkward as she did. It would have been easier if she’d been in uniform, she thought, but she wasn’t, and she had no idea how to curtsy properly in a gown. Besides, curtsying would have been the wrong response, since hers was the superior rank here in Harrington. On the other hand, there were no protocols—yet—for how a female steadholder properly acknowledged her subordinates. She hoped none of the guardsmen at Clinkscales’ heels were offended by her “masculine” response, but if they were, they’d better start getting over it now.

“I realize I’m still learning the ropes,” she continued, “but I can’t help suspecting that I should have been taking care of whatever’s kept you.”

“Most of it was just collecting documents, My Lady.” Clinkscales grimaced. “And, as I told you, it was also a boring process. I’ve shuffled all the paperwork off onto Arthur to keep an eye on for us. Tomorrow morning, though, you and I will have a marathon signing session to tidy up all the details. I’m sure,” he added dryly, “it will be just as boring as collecting them was.”

“I can barely wait.” Honor’s tone was equally dry. “Signing off on a new command’s paperwork is bad enough. I suspect this will be worse.”

“Oh, I think I can pretty much guarantee that,” Clinkscales replied, and Honor chuckled. Then she waved gracefully at the guardsmen who’d followed him into the office.

“Why is it that I don’t think you brought these gentlemen along just to protect you from my wrath when you warned me about that?”

“Because I’m not the one they’re here to protect, My Lady,” Clinkscales said, and Honor’s eyes narrowed at his suddenly serious tone.

She gazed at him for a moment, then raised an eyebrow in silent question, and the tall, still-burly regent braced himself on his staff.

“Your Grace, I know how busy you’ve been. That said, I also . . . strongly suspect there are at least a few of your obligations you’ve used that busyness to put off. Unfortunately, you can’t do that anymore.”

He paused, and Honor cocked her head, tasting his fond exasperation and the underlying thread of seriousness that ran through it.

“And just which of those ‘obligations’ did you have in mind, Howard?”

“My Lady, Grayson law is very specific about certain of a steadholder’s legal obligations. And one of those, as I’ve mentioned to you in more than one letter, is the requirement for any steadholder to be accompanied by his—or her—personal armsmen. As you may recall, I’ve suggested a time or two that it might be well for you to find time to visit Grayson so that we could take care of that minor detail.”

“Howard, I’m a serving naval officer, and I’ve been looking after myself for forty T-years. I don’t need—”

“Forgive me, My Lady,” Clinkscales interrupted, “but that’s not really the point. It’s completely true that you’re a naval officer with other valid requirements upon your time, and until today, those requirements trumped your obligations here on Grayson. But today you swore formal fealty and took your place as Harrington’s Lady Steader. And that means the law can no longer look the other way and make concessions to relieve you of Steadholder Harrington’s obligations.”

He held her eyes, and an edge of shame went through her, because he had a point. She knew he did. She had used her naval duties to put off this moment, partly because she’d known that Clinkscales would do a better job of establishing the Steading than she ever could have done. But also because of its irrevocability. She admitted that to herself now. She’d put it off because returning to Grayson, swearing her oaths, formally accepting all of “Steadholder Harrington’s obligations,” would force her own stubborn integrity and sense of duty to actually shoulder those obligations.

“Equally to the point,” Clinkscales continued after a moment in a deliberately lighter tone, “while I’m perfectly prepared to concede how capably you’ve ‘looked after’ yourself in the past, I personally think it’s time we added someone else to help with that little chore. Someone who might be there to lend a little assistance the next time, oh, you decide to take on an entire armed assassination team by yourself, let’s say. That’s definitely a factor in my thinking on this issue.”

He gave her a very no-nonsense look as he reminded her of her and Nimitz’s defense of Benjamin Mayhew and his family.

“But my personal feelings are also beside the point,” he continued. “First, it’s the law, and has been since the Civil War and the death of the Fifty-Three. And, second, allow me to point out that as of this morning, you are officially and legally Steadholder Harrington. That makes you a head of state, My Lady, and heads of state have responsibilities where the protection of the line of succession is concerned.”

Honor opened her mouth, but his raised hand cut her off politely.

“My Lady, as you just pointed out, you’re a naval officer, and as the Conclave recognized, your duties to your birth kingdom and your Queen predate your responsibilities to Grayson and your Key. I accept that, just as the Conclave did. And that means all of us accept that you may well be called to action yet again, where you’ll be at risk of serious injury or death. But you have no heir, and this is a very new steading. That means it’s . . . fragile, and if there’s anything I or anyone else can do to minimize the chance of something happening to you and destroying that fragility, it’s our responsibility to do it and your responsibility to let us do it.”

He held her eyes steadily, and Honor tasted the steely core of his determination. And, she realized, more than a little unwillingly, he had a point. Just as the captain of a Queen’s ship had no business leading ground attacks on something like Blackbird Base, a steadholder—any head of state—had no choice but to accept the protection of her own security service, at least when she was dirtside in her steadholder’s role. Aboard ship or on active naval service, it might be different, but she wasn’t aboard ship or on active service at the moment, was she?

“All right, Howard,” she sighed. “I’m really not trying to be difficult or play hooky. It’s just—”

“Just that you’re still having trouble accepting that you’re a steadholder, My Lady.” Clinkscales shook his head. “I have hopes you’ll figure that out before the Tester gathers me to His bosom, but to this point, I’ve been unable to convince the Austen City bookmakers to give me very good odds.”

“I’m not that bad, Howard!” she protested with a gurgle of laughter.

“With infinite respect, My Lady, you’re not ‘that,’ bad—you’re worse.”

Honor laughed out loud, then looked past him again at the twelve men who had followed him into her office. The one in the center of the front row wore the paired silver sword collar insignia of a major, and as he stood there, visored cap clasped under his left arm, she realized he looked familiar. She couldn’t quite place—

Then she had it, and her almond eyes darkened as memory rose from the depths.

“Major LaFollet,” she said quietly.

“My Lady.” His heels clicked as he bowed again in acknowledgment.

“I hadn’t realized you’d left Palace Security,” she said.

“The Protector agreed to my transfer as soon as I requested it, My Lady.”

“That’s not precisely what I was getting at.”

“My Lady, Allen died at your side.” LaFollet met her gaze unflinchingly. “And you killed the man who killed him. And then you and Nimitz”—he twitched his head in the treecat’s direction, never looking away from Honor—“went on to protect my Protector and his family from the men who’d come to murder them. Who almost killed you.” He shook his head ever so slightly. “The day the Harrington Steading Guard was stood up, I knew where the Tester wanted me.”

Nimitz made a soft sound from the corner of one of the office’s desks, and Honor opened her arms without really thinking about it as he leapt lightly into them. Her bond to the ’cat and his empathic sense was still growing, still deepening, yet it was more than strong enough for her to taste LaFollet’s iron sincerity.

And determination.

She closed her eyes for a moment, recalling that horrific dinner, the sonic disruptors, the blood, the terror, the sense of despair as she realized she and Nimitz were all that was left, and the agony of the disruptor bolt which had blinded her, destroyed the nerves for half her face, and hurled her paralyzed body to the floor. And as she looked at Andrew LaFollet, she saw again the blood-streaked face of the desperately determined lieutenant at the head of the Palace Security guardsmen who’d fought their way through everything the Maccabean traitors could throw in their path to reach their Protector.

The lieutenant who’d found his brother dead among the Mayhews’ fallen protectors.

She’d seen him so briefly, over Benjamin’s shoulder as the pistol of a fallen guardsmen in the Protector’s hand killed the assassin who’d shot her, who’d been about to fire the follow-up kill shot. But she remembered every hideous detail of that night, and she’d met LaFollet again—briefly—at the small, private dinner to which Benjamin had invited her before her return to Manticore. He’d been a captain, then, she recalled, and a member of Benjamin’s personal guard. The realization that he’d left a position like that to join Grayson’s newest, poorest, most junior steadholder’s guard . . . 

“I can’t speak for God, Major,” she said, finally. “But I know I can’t think of anyone I would rather have at the head of my own guardsmen.”

He bent his head again, and she tasted the sober pleasure—the satisfaction—that flowed through him. Then she looked back at Clinkscales.

“So, Howard!” she said in a deliberately brighter tone. “Bearing in mind that I’m totally new to all of this liege lady and fealty business, how does this work?”

“My Lady, I know I sent you an organizational chart.”

“Yes, you did,” she acknowledged with an edge of true contrition. “And I put it in a file somewhere, I promise! But it came in about the time I was trying to get Nike into commission, and, well, one thing got in the way, and then another thing got in the way, and . . .”

“I see.” Clinkscales gave her the kind of look tutors gave grammar school students who’d “lost their homework,” and Honor smiled at him. Then he shook his head.

“Obviously, my work is cut out for me,” he said dryly. His lips twitched at her smothered chuckle, but then he straightened his shoulders.

“At this moment, since the Steading has only a single city, no municipal police forces have been organized,” he said. “For now, the Harrington Steadholder’s Guard is charged with all police functions. In time, as additional municipalities grow and spread, their individual police forces will be responsible for enforcing local law while the Guard falls back to enforcing Steading law.

“As Steadholder Harrington, you command the entire Guard, which can be enlarged to whatever extent the Steading requires. The Mayhew Steadholder’s Guard, for example, has a roster strength of over seven thousand. At the moment, the Harrington Guard is at only about four hundred.”

Honored nodded, her expression serious, and even as she listened, she castigated herself for not having already paid more attention to Clinkscales’ memos on this subject.

“Although you command the entire Guard, there are significant legal constraints on the orders you can give it. Once upon a time, every armsman in a steading’s guard was answerable solely to its steadholder in his own person, but that was before the Civil War and Benjamin the Great’s Constitution. Now, although a steading’s police force is still known as the ‘Steadholder’s Guard,’ there are strict constitutional limits on the orders a steadholder may legitimately give to its members. Within a steading’s guard, however, a steadholder is entitled to a personal guard, a force of not more than fifty armsmen, which is answerable solely to him. Or to her. To whose armsmen he—or she—can legally give any order which doesn’t violate the Constitution. And from whose armsmen the security detail Grayson law requires accompany him—or her—at all times is drawn. The oaths of the other armsmen in any steading guard are sworn first to the Constitution and only then to the steadholder they serve. The oaths of your personal armsmen are sworn solely to you.”

Honor looked at him for a moment, then at the twelve men standing behind him. A part of her—a large part of her—shied away from the very notion that anyone might swear an oath which gave her such unbridled authority over them. If she understood Clinkscales correctly, and she was fairly certain she did, what he was saying was that she could give those men any order she chose, and they would be duty bound to obey it. In one way, that was no different from the authority that came with her commission as a Queen’s officer, but in another, it was totally different. As an officer of the Crown, she stood in a chain of command, of authority, which ran from the most junior passed midshipwoman all the way to the Queen herself. On Grayson—in Harrington—she was the Crown, and in an odd way, the notion of accepting “her” armsmens’ personal oath of fealty drove that home as her own oath to Benjamin Mayhew had not.

“And there’s no way I can get out of this, right?” she asked, only half-whimsically.

“No, My Lady. There’s not.”

Sympathy colored both Clinkscales’ tone and the emotions she sensed from him, but that sympathy was unaccompanied by even the slightest hope that she might somehow evade taking on those oaths and the mutual responsibilities that went with them. The responsibilities which would be just as inflexible for her as for her armsmen-to-be. And which her own sense of duty would no more permit her to shirk than their sense of duty would permit them to shirk theirs.

“All right, then,” she said quietly, meeting Major LaFollet’s gray eyes. “If someone will tell me how we do this, we should be about it.”

“Here, My Lady.” Clinkscales passed her a handheld. She glanced down at its display and her eyes darkened as she read the terms of her personal armsmens’ oath. Then she looked at the response required from her. It was just as clear, just as iron-ribbed, as she’d expected it to be, and she committed the formal words to memory even as she settled the responsibility that came with them into the bones of her soul.

“Are you ready, My Lady?” Clinkscales asked in a formal tone.

“I am,” she replied, equally formally.

“Then hold out your hands, please. Palms uppermost.”

She did, and Clinkscales stepped back and to the side.

“Major LaFollet,” he said.

LaFollet braced to attention, passed his cap to the shorter, fair-haired armsman to his right, took two crisp steps forward, and went to one knee before her. He reached out, laying his own hands atop hers, palm-to-palm, and looked up at her with steady eyes.

“Before God, Maker and Tester of us all; before His Son, Who died to intercede for us all; and before the Holy Comforter, I, Andrew Enoch LaFollet, do swear allegiance and fealty to Lady Honor Harrington, Steadholder Harrington, without mental or moral reservation,” he said, his voice as steady as those eyes. “I swear from this day, henceforth and forever, that I will be her true man, of heart, will, body, and sword, obedient to her word and to her will. I will stand before her in the Test of life, between her and those who would wreak her harm, and at her back in battle. I will do my utmost to discharge my obligations and duty to her, to her Key, and to her House, so long as I shall live, as God shall give me the ability and the wit so to do. I will fail not in this trust, though it cost me my life, and I submit myself to the judgment of the Steadholder and of God Himself for the fidelity with which I honor and discharge the obligations I now assume before Him and this company.”

The words rolled through Honor, carried on the wave front of his emotions, the sincerity of that oath. This man knew precisely what he’d just sworn to do, and he’d meant every word of it. He truly would die before he failed that vow, and she felt the granite soul of Grayson within those words as they infused that same stony integrity into her own heart, her own soul.

“And I, Honor Stephanie Harrington, do accept your oath,” she replied, her own voice equally steady, the sincerity etched equally deep into her bones. “You are my sword and my shield, and I will extend protection against all enemies, justice for justice, fidelity for fidelity, and punishment for oath-breaking. May God judge me and mine as He judges you and yours.”

“So witness we all,” Howard Clinkscales said softly, and a quiet tide of affirmations flowed from the armsmen behind LaFollet.

The major remained on one knee for a long, still moment. Then he stood and reclaimed his cap from his companion. But he didn’t return to the formation he’d left. Instead, he stepped behind Honor and took his place at her right shoulder. A place, she sensed already, that he would never relinquish.

“Armsman Candless,” he said, and the armsman who’d held his cap handed his own headgear to the man beside him. He went to a knee before Honor and extended his own hands to lay them atop hers.

“Before God, Maker and Tester of us all; before His Son, Who died to intercede for us all; and before the Holy Comforter,” he began, his voice every iota as steady as LaFollet’s had been, “I, James Alexander Candless, do swear allegiance and fealty to Lady Honor Harrington, Steadholder Harrington, without mental or moral reservation. I swear from this day, henceforth and forever, that I will be her true man, of heart, will, body, and sword, obedient to her word and to her will. I will—”

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