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"Standing a little aside from the whole show, watching with cool approval, was the tallest woman of all, taller than Ivan. She wore loose silky trousers, shirt, and a light, knee-length coat in an indeterminate planetary style. She was very straight-backed, yet thin and faintly frail. Age-softened skin clad bones of timeless elegance. Her bright silver hair was cut in short wisps around her perfectly-shaped head."
―Ivan sees Moira at the spaceport[src]

Moira ghem Estif, originally a member of the Star Crèche Constellation Rond, was sent from Eta Ceta to Barrayar to become the haut wife of General Rae ghem Estif, as a reward for his military achievements there (see Ninth Satrapy). She eventually became the Grandmother of the Jacksonian House Cordonah.


"Grandmama’s fine lips thinned. “You understand, when I was…detached, from the haut, I was already a fully-trained geneticist. I simply missed the cut, and not by very much—but it was always harder for us girls from the outer planets to compete with the haut women from Eta Ceta itself. They always had access to the very latest developments, you know."
―Moira on being culled[src]

When the occupation of Barrayar soured, the ghem General and his wife declined to return to Eta Ceta to make their (final) apologies to the Star Creche, relocating instead to Komarr, where the General had been given a block of voting shares. He applied for Komarran citizenship, but Moira did not, choosing instead to live under the legal residency umbrella of her spouse, effectively becomming a stateless person. Since the general's son (by one of his prior wives), Captain ghem Estif, had perished in the destruction of Vorkosigan Vashnoi, Moira chose to redress this imbalance by producing a daughter for the general, Udine.[1] Eventually, Udine married a wealthy Komarran trader.

When Barrayar captured Komarr, making it unsafe for the ghem Estif family to remain there, they relocated to Jackson's Whole with the help of a mercenary named Shiv Arqua, who became Udine's second husband. Since the Whole had no central government in the usual sense, Moira was able to remain a stateless person for the better part of a century. Shiv and Udine rose in status to become the Baron and Baronne of House Cordonah.

At some point after her husband died, Moira relocated to Earth, where she lived for eight years, working in the genetics industry to 'keep her hand in'. Her old Star Creche training, which had become somewhat obsolete by Cetagandan standards, was not so obsolete by Earth's.[1]

When House Cordonah was ousted from the Whole by House Prestene, Moira auctioned her hair (never previously cut) to a collector for a large sum to create working capital for her family. She then accompanied them to Escobar to retrieve Amiri and Jet, at which point they received word of Tej and Rish, who were in hiding on Barrayar. Remembering an old Star Creche research facility that might still be buried on Barrayar, Moira and her family went to retrieve Tej and Rish and, incidentally, attempt to obtain the contents of the old research facility, which could be sold for additional capital, perhaps enough to allow her family to retake their Jacksonian House. To facilitate retrieval of the contents of the buried lab, Moira had brought along an experimental prototype GalacTech mycoborer kit (a technology unknown on Barrayar at the time). Although the venture did not go entirely as planned, a significant amount of working capital was obtained, enough to allow the family to proceed with their return to Jacksonian space to attempt to recapture their House.

"It’s... it’s a girl thing. Ghem Estif-Arqua style."
―Tej on Moira's destroying the brooch[src]

At some point after the venture, Moira offered to sell gene samplings of the post-Time of Isolation Barrayaran population, taken during the first conflict between Barrayar and Cetaganda, to a member of the Star Crèche at the neutral location of House Dyne. When the haut woman came to pay her ten million Betan dollars for the brooch the genes were contained in, Moira vaporized it in front of her, and left.

Personality and traits[]

"Despite all the mother-in-law jokes everyone tells, Grandmama always did get along very well with Dada. I think it was because she spent the whole of her life up until the Barrayaran annexation of Komarr following all the rules, no matter how stupid they were, and being screwed over for it, and Dada finally taught her how to break them. And break away from them."
―Tej on her grandmother's personality[src]

Moira was elderly but not frail; she was dignified and had a strong sense of her superiority. In fact, she had strong opinions about everything, particularly the dangerousness and backwardsness of Barrayarans. She strongly supported her family's goals, to the point of selling "genuine haut woman" hair and travelling with them to Barrayar to recover the treasure cache she'd abandoned some 100 years before. She nursed a considerable resentment towards the haut for 'culling' her from the genome, and towards Cetaganda in general for the way it had treated her, her husband and the other ghem and haut connected with the ill-fated Barrayaran war.

Notes and references[]