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at the older woman. "Also well rehearsed." Delasi smiled and nodded. "She takes instruction well, and wishes only to be of service."

"Of course," Londo said. "Perhaps the two of you would care to ride with me in my carriage. We could talk further." The girl glanced up for a moment, and looked almost frightened. Delasi only nodded. "We would be most honored, Your Majesty."



* * *



"And how long have you been a prophetess?" Londo asked. The countryside passed slowly outside the carriage.

"She has been able to see since she was barely a child of three seasons," Delasi said.

"An advanced case, to be sure," Londo said. "You would almost think that a child who could see at three could be allowed to speak at sixteen." Delasi's lips pursed in a way Londo found most satisfying. Any farther, and he was sure her face would disappear entirely into her head. It was a trick he would actually pay to see. With her silence won, for the moment at least, he looked back to Shiri. "What can you tell me of my future, child?" he asked.

For the first time, she met his gaze. Her eyes were windows onto an old soul, framed with resignation and a sorrow that should never have been allowed into one so young. Her gaze seemed to pass right through him, to a place somewhere behind his head. Then she looked away again. "Perhaps His Majesty would prefer to hear of other things," she said.

"The emperor asked you a question," Delasi said. "Answer truthfully." Shiri considered her words carefully. "I see little joy, and much sorrow," she said at last. "I see fire and death and pain. I see you betrayed by almost everyone you have ever trusted."

"Almost everyone?"

"Your greatest enemy is also your greatest friend, and the trust you place in him is rewarded at the end of days.
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