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I had been informed, then I would know. Since I knew nothing of this until you mentioned it, then either I was not informed, or I have suddenly gone senile and should be taken out and shot. Which of those possibilities are you suggesting is the case here?" Vole's hands moved faster. "I meant no offense, Excellency, because certainly Your Excellency's memory is in perfect condition, the whole world is confident in Your Excellency's magnificent abilities and - "

"Vole?"

"Yes, Excellency?"

"Shut up."

"Yes, Excellency." The minister stepped back out of the way as Londo regarded the ornate carriage that had been brought into the circular drive behind the palace. He had, of course, seen it many times before, at traditional ceremonies and other formal occasions, but rarely this close. It had been built twelve hundred years earlier, during the reign of Emperor Morell, as a gift for his wife Celina. Not long thereafter, she went mad and hanged herself from the highest of the palace's four towers. Londo wondered if there was a cause-and-effect relationship there, given the garish bad taste that had gone into the design of the carriage, the almost grotesque indulgence of encrusting it end to end with every gemstone to be found on Centauri Prime.

If I had to ride in this thing every day, I'd probably kill myself too.

"Is this really necessary?" Londo asked resignedly, already suspecting the answer.

Minister Vole nodded. Londo stared at the minister's hands. Vole whipped them behind his back and continued nodding. "It is tradition, Your Excellency. "

"I know the tradition," Londo said, and sighed. He wondered absently which of the four towers in the palace was, in fact, the highest.

One never knew when that sort of information could come in handy.



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