londo_mollari: (Londo)
[personal profile] londo_mollari
ooc: entry written shortly after the events of the s2 episode Knives, and of course locked

When my friend Urza Jaddo and I were boys, we were both taught how to fence; all sons of the great Houses are. But many regard it as an antiquated tradition, something they have no further use for in later life. Urza and I, on the other hand, entered a duelling society and practiced at every opportunity. We enjoyed the clash of swords, the elegant, dangerous dance of it; we enjoyed it more than any other sport we had ever come across, safe one.

Once, our teacher pulled me aside and asked me whether I know why I kept losing whenever Urza and I sparred.

"Because," I said, "he is the better fighter." To admit it was a little wounding to my young vanity, but not very; after all, there were other areas at which I excelled more than he did, and Urza was my dearest friend.

"No," said our teacher. "Because he understands that this is not a game, and you do not. As it happens, he is a better fighter, but even the best fighter can be defeated if his opponent wants to win badly enough. You, young Mollari, want too many things at once. And until you can focus on winning more than an anything else, you shall never defeat anyone, least of all your friend."

I am sitting in my quarters. The brivari on my table is the same bottle I shared with Urza not a day ago, but there is no taste of it in my mouth, even when I try to swallow it from the cup I am holding in my hands. All I can taste is his blood. All I can see is his blood, on my hands, my hands that were cleaned hours ago.

Urza, who was a soldier, killed a great many people in his time. I, who am a politician, bear the responsibility for a great more deaths. Some of those dead are Centauri; we are at war, after all, and despite the help from Mr. Morden's allies, this is not a tale for children in which only the enemy ever suffers losses. But until now, I never killed one of my people with my own hands. It was not that I thought myself incapable of it. Fencing is not all a son of a noble House is schooled in. We have a long and enduring tradition of poison used in politics, you see, and though we also have an assassins' guild for the applications, we do learn at least the names and symptoms of the most effective poisons, the antidotes, if there are any, and the way how to use them. And there is a reason why we clasp each other's wrists in greeting, we Centauri; it is an old method to check for hidden daggers.

Urza always thought that learning about poisons and hidden weapons was superfluous. A friend was a friend, and an enemy was an enemy, and any enemy of his would not come close enough to use either poison or dagger.

He came here for help. For an alliance, he said; but when I gave him help, when I used my connection with Refa to restore Urza's old status in the Centaurum and take the smear of treason from his name, he challenged me to a duel and made me into the instrument of his death instead, and now I wonder whether that had not been his intention from the beginning. How could he not have known that I am of the party that furthers the war? He must have known. The blade he presented me with, his gift brought from Centauri Prime, that blade was forged a long time ago.

Our teacher was wrong. In the end, I did not win against Urza because I wanted to. I won because he wanted to die. Because he could think of no other way to save his family, who is now my family, my responsibility, and as a part of House Mollari free of any slur that Refa might have started. That was always Urza's way; he was, as I said, a soldier, and his own life counted little if it was spent in the service of the greater good. But I should have thought of another way. I should have -

I had a choice, at the last moment. When I recognized the opening he gave me. I could have refused to take it. I could have stopped the duel. I could have refused the challenge from the start. It would have shamed me in the eyes of our fellow Centauri, true, but I had been thought of as a fool and a joke before, and would have been able to rise above it a second time. And Urza would still be alive.

No. No, he would not. He was a Centauri, you see; Centauri to the core. He believed that our current path, that path that I more than anyone else found for our people, is wrong; that it brings us nothing but guilt and shame. And thus, he sacrificed his life. It is what we were taught, as boys: loyalty to your house, to your Emperor, but above all to your people. I could see it in his eyes when I pushed the blade in his chest; when I held him in my arms, and asked him why. He was never more a Centauri than he was then.

He did not ask me why. He never doubted I would, indeed, finish the duel, instead of breaking it off. Urza knew me better than anyone, and he knew this: I, too, am Centauri. If you take your people to war, if you decide that the path to the stars has to be paid with blood, then you must do so without sparing yourself. To demand of others that they should kill, but be unwilling to do so yourself; to demand of others that their friends and families should be in danger, or should die, and yet believe that yours should be spared; that would be the action of a dishonorable coward.

And thus I struck, and the blood of my friend spilled on my hands, and I do not believe they will ever be clean again.

It changes nothing. My path is set. If I turn back now, then Urza would have died in vain. I must see this to the end.

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July 2010

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