back, Very well. But we will be watching.
* * *
Londo stepped out of the tent into the chill, predawn air and made his way to Shiri's tent. The guard glanced up at his approach but made no effort to stop him from entering her bedchamber.
Times had changed, but emperors still had certain... privileges.
Londo guessed that the same thought that had occurred to the guard also came to Shiri when she opened her eyes and saw him standing over her bed. He put a hand on her shoulder. She trembled under his touch.
"Majesty-" she began.
"Shhh..." Londo said.
"But I haven't... I have never..."
"I have, many times, and as the Humans say, it's not all it's cracked up to be." He smiled down at her. "Don't worry. Now, put on your clothes, quickly. We have much to do, and little time in which to do it."
* * *
He led Shiri into the tended area that protected the royal carriage from the elements and dismissed the guard, who glanced back at them with obvious suspicion about what the two of them might want to do alone in the carriage.
Do I look like that much the lecher? Londo thought, and decided he probably did. No matter.
Time to get to work.
Londo approached the carriage. "You start at the back," he said, "and I will begin at the front. We'll meet somewhere in the middle."
"Majesty, what am I supposed to do?"
"Have you ever plucked a bird for dinner, child?"
"Then you can help me pluck this one," he said, and twisted free a small gem from the side of the carriage. He placed it in her hand, and her eyes went wide.
"Take them carefully, one at a time, from places where there are so many that they will not be missed. By the time we meet in the middle, you will have enough to restore your family's fortune