|The dream was the same.
It was always the same.
The chakat lay on the ground before him, its four
legs bound by ropes, horns scratching the dry ground beneath its head. The sun was hot overhead.
A voice, always the same voice, whispered from
behind Londo. You know what you have to do.
What you have always done.
Londo stared at the creature, and its gaze met
his own. The eyes that looked back at him were fierce, proud, unbowed. And somehow familiar. In the
dream it said to him, soundlessly and wordlessly but
with absolute clarity.
It is duty. You cannot fight duty.
I can't do it, Londo thought back, and looked
down. The sword was in his hand.
Yes, you can, it thought at him, and it struggled
to raise its head, exposing its throat. Waiting for the
Sobbing, Londo brought down the sword, and
watched the life fade away in the creature's eyes.
Tears fresh on his face, Londo awoke to
| The title of emperor was just a cover, also
arranged by the Drakh . . . a means to an end.
But I 'm not supposed to think these things, he reminded himself as he felt the presence of the Keeper
stirring at the juncture where his shoulder met alien flesh, where nerves and neural pathways merged so that his will was no longer entirely his own. He was able to shield
only his most private thoughts; if he subvocalized or
brought his thoughts to the surface, theKeeper could sense the shape of them, and relay them by telepathic link to the Drakh, working quietly in the recesses and ancient tunnels beneath the royal palace . . . building a future for his world whose shape he did not like to consider for too long. But
at least it was a future, which is more than his people would have had if he had refused to accept the Keeper.
No one else could see the Keeper unless it allowed
them to see it, which was usually a prelude to extermination. He, on the other hand, could see it all the time, but tried desperately not to let his gaze wander in that direction
more than necessary.
Denial had always been one of his greatest strengths.
The bells stopped. Had it really been an hour already? He closed his eyes as he did when he was a child, against mornings that came too soon, hoping somehow that the day and his responsibilities would disappear, and he could be free. It was a fleeting hope and, like all hopes, daily crushed under the weight of the waking world.
He opened his eyes, the moment passed, and Emperor
Mollari the Second rose to begin the seventh day of his rule.
Minister Vole was wringing his hands again,