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My father, Cassio Mollari, did not become the head of House Mollari until late in his life, as my grandfather reached a considerable age. If he resented this, or resented how clearly my grandfather favoured my uncle, who as the son of a mistress could not inherit but conducted most of the negotations for House Mollari in my grandfather's old age, he never spoke it in my presence.

Whath he spoke of, quite often, was duty.

House Mollari, like most of the great Houses, had produced an Emperor once, but that had been a long, long time ago, and our glory had faded since then. My grandfather in his way resurrected it for a while; he was celebrated as a war hero in the conquest of Narn, and ended up ruling a Narn province. He also ended up with a reputation as one of the most brutal governors, so much so that the Emperor, Turhan's predecessor, who was no friend of Narns, nonetheless recalled him. My father, for his part, had only been on Narn once, as a young man, as part of his father's staff, and then never again. We did not have any Narn servants in the house, either; the first Narn I spoke to was the servant of my grandfather's third wife, and that is another story. But to return to my father: he was a quiet, calm man, unlike myself, and though he never would have said it, he regarded my grandfather's war record as something shameful. And thus, he never made any attempt to profit from it. He sought office, but not through any of his father's friends; he left that to my uncle, who as an illegitimate son could only go thus far and not further, and so neither of them ended up with any significant posts. They spent their lives at court, hoping in vain for the tide to turn.

"House Mollari must regain its dignity, Londo," he told me. "It is my duty to make it a House to be proud of again, and it shall be yours."

When I rebelled in my adolescence, as boys are wont to do, and declared I was sick of duty, he shook his head wearily, and told me I would learn. The duels I ended up fighting and the kind ladies who graced me with their company were greeted with weary sighs as well, and mild punishments, though in the manner of adolescents everywhere, I thought they were very unjust and harsh at the time. The only thing that disquieted him severely was my brief ambition to be a writer of sorts, a poet. This, he told me, would not do. His second wife, who was more practical, elaborated on his behalf and told me that I could find my pleasure whereever I wanted, as long as it was discreet, but there was no question about actually taking up a profession that would put me on a level with harp players and dancing girls, yes? No question at all.

Then my grandfather finally did die, and my father, the new head of House Mollari, took a look at our family fortune, found it severely reduced, and for the first time in his life followed his brother's advice. He declared I was to marry the Lady Timov, daughter of Algul, whose father had been a merchant rich enough to buy himself a seat in the Centaurum. I told him I would do no such thing, and would marry only for love. For the first time, he raised his voice, and I stormed out of our town residence, wandered around the city indulging in feeling miserable, trapped and misunderstood, and ended up in a tavern where a beautiful dancer kissed me on the head and told me it couldn't be that bad. Whereupon I fell in love with her.

I married her, and that was when I saw my father stripped of all the quiet gentility, the calm dignity that were so much part of his being that I had not even guessed there was something in him that existed separately.

"You will do your duty," he told me, and proceeded to declare that if I did not, if I did not divorce this unsuitable wife immediately and married the Lady Timov, I would be dead to him. I would no longer be a member of House Mollari, and neither he nor anyone else of our family would speak another word to me, for as long as I lived.

Given that I had been, as my friend Urza later put it, a spoiled brat, you might think my natural inclination would have been to believe he was bluffing. But I looked into his eyes, and suddenly realized what I had never understood before: he had not been the neglected son of a harsh father. No, it had been my father who had banished my grandfather from his sight, because he disapproved of his actions. My grandfather had had no other choice than to rely on his illegitimate son, because his heir was not talking to him. Because my father had kept his distance for all of the eighteeen years of my own life, and ten years before that.

My father was no war hero, and held no office of great renown, but his will and resolution were iron-clad and stronger than anyone elses I knew. And I was certain, absolutely certain, that if I did not obey, he would indeed cut me off from his life as he had cut off my grandfather, with the difference that my grandfather had been the one with the financial means.

And thus I obeyed, and took the first step on the path that was to lead me to my present position. In a fitting irony, I did not have many conversations with my father after that argument, and only one I shall never forget. He was sitting near a window, and when I entered to tell him some trivial thing that escapes me at the moment, he did not seem to listen. I repeated what I had said, and then he looked up to me, and said: "My shoes are too tight, and I have forgotten how to dance."

I did not understand what he meant then. But I did not forget, and decades later, when Vir's young relatives visited Babylon 5, I finally came to comprehend. It left me wondering, at times: was there ever a time when he had known? Or had the break with his father driven all the innocence and joy from his life so early that he only remembered a wish, not a reality?

I do not know. But I, too, forgot how to dance a long time ago.


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July 2010

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