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for the next five generations." She met his gaze, and he saw suspicion there. "What will it cost me?" He placed his hands on her shoulders. "A little of your honor. It is a terrible price, but the sting passes with time. I would do it for you, but I have so little honor left that it would hardly buy you a small cottage in the outer provinces.

"Now, enough talk," he said. "Start plucking."



* * *



The sky was starting to lighten as Londo hurried back to his tent. He glanced back briefly to see the lone Imperial Guard he had assigned to the task of riding off on dromeback, Shiri clinging to his back. If she looked back at him, he could not tell.

He was out of breath, but smiling broadly.

These were the moments he enjoyed most.

It took him only a few moments to rouse his entourage. He raised such a clatter and an alarm that the guards and functionaries and plenipotentiaries and escorts and chaperones and dromesmen piled into the clearing half-dressed. He hid his amusement at the sight, especially when Delasi appeared in their midst, her dress hanging in ways it was never intended by her designer, her body, or the Great Maker.

"We have been tricked," he said, his voice carrying through the clearing. "And it is on your behalf, Delasi, that we have endured this charade."

"Majesty, I-"

"You have not been invited to speak," he snapped, and she averted her eyes. Londo turned his attention to the rest of them. "The young girl Shiri, of House Dei, is no more a prophetess than I am. She came to see me last night, in tears - tears, I tell you - over her deception. She believed she was acting in a good cause, but the weight of her pretense and the terrible secret behind it were simply too much for the poor creature to bear." The crowd was silent, waiting
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