By Deborah Baudoin




   It took Lennier only one hour to complete the repairs to the White Star. This was not a poor reflection on her people; he simply had inside help. The dimension shift would not have been so damaging to a Vorlon ship; but Kosh needed what Kosh needed, and no Vorlon ships had been available. They had all passed beyond the rim some thirty years before.

   Lennier paused for a moment in the corridors of the Al-shii. The crew bustled around, anxious, tense. He suppressed a smile. If they knew what they were truly in store for, they would be far more nervous. Facing down a Minbari warship was one thing. Facing down destiny was far more intimidating. He'd given Delenn only a sample of Valen's work, just enough to show her the way. If she could handle that taste, he would give her more.

   With that thought firmly in his mind, he headed for the Satai's quarters. She answered his ring immediately, letting him in without a second of delay.

   He found her, kneeling before a small alter, meditating. He had seen Delenn in perhaps every condition known to Minbari, from fury to late-stage pregnancy. But he had never before seen her stark-white with fear.

   Until today.

   She raised her eyes to him, slowly focusing. Her face was tear-streaked, eyes red, skin paler than usual. The information he'd given her to read was still flickering on a computer screen behind her. She hadn't bothered to shut it off.

   He crossed slowly to her, leaning over to blow out the single candle that was threatening to burn itself into a small puddle of wax on the alter. Taking her hand, he led her silently to the sofa, where he sat beside her.

   They said nothing for a long time. Finally, Lennier smiled gently. "When I first met Delenn, many years ago, I was just out of temple. I walked onto a crowded space station with an expression which I suspect was quite similar to yours."

   Delenn shook her head, apparently not hearing him. "One thousand years..." she whispered. "One thousand years of peace, all because one man lived instead of dying."


   She wiped a single tear from her cheek. "So much lost. So many generations, torn and isolated, because he died. We lost so much."

   "You did not lose it, Delenn," Lennier caressed her jaw softly. "It was simply delayed."

   "I...I do not understand."

   "Perhaps," he said. "You understand more than you wish to understand. Perhaps you know all too clearly what this means."

   He hadn't thought it possible, but her face turned even whiter. "No... I cannot." She shrugged away from his touch, turning to face the now-abandoned alter. "I cannot do what you ask."

   "I ask nothing, Delenn. I am merely offering you an opportunity. What you do with it is completely up to you. If you choose to follow the path which has opened before you, I will supply you with the rest of Valen's teachings. They will be invaluable to you in forming the Council."

   She whirled to face him, a curious mixture of anger and shame in her eyes. "We are not the Minbari you know. We have not had one thousand years of peace. The clans barely co-exist, fighting and feuding and scrambling for power. How can I...why would they listen to me?"

   "You would be amazed at how willing even the most irrational people are to listen to the truth." Lennier placed his hand over her heart. The link formed between him, Kosh, and Delenn reasserted itself as he made contact. She gasped. "You are stronger than you think," he added, his voice taking on the same sonorous tones he attributed to the Kosh of the old days.

   Their minds joined their souls, intertwining with the physical contact. Lennier saw a brief flash in his mind--Neroon, angry, hurt. Delenn tried to hide it from him, but their thoughts were too symbiotic for that.

   "He is too ambitious," she began.

   "Ambition is not always a negative thing."

   "He does not respect the old ways...."

   "But he has dreams for a new way. Dreams can be powerful tools."

   Delenn wrested herself away from the contact. "He will never agree to it. He is too proud. He is too arrogant."

   "Is it he who is too proud and arrogant?" Her eyes flared; for a moment, he thought she might actually strike him.

   Then she caught her breath as realization hit. She sank back into the cushions on the couch. "Valen said, 'Some must be sacrificed if all are to be saved.'"

   "The third principal of sentient life is the ability to sacrifice one's self for a person, a cause, or an idea."

   She gazed up at him, tears beginning to flow, and he knew she'd made her decision. "Did she know you loved her?" Delenn whispered.

   He caressed her face softly. "From the very moment we met."

   She took his hand in hers, kissing it briefly. "She was very fortunate."

   Lennier smiled again. "We have two hours until Neroon's ship arrives. I will guide you through the most important of Valen's teachings. To learn them fully will take a lifetime, but you are young. You will have time."



   Neroon could hardly tear his eyes from the scene. A sleek alien ship, far more advanced than he could have dreamed...under the protection of the Al-shii. His teeth ground together slightly as his second gave him the report.

   "The alien ship appears to be fully operational, Shai Alyt. Both the Al-shii and the alien ship are shielded, and weapons are functioning."

   So. It would not be as easy as he had hoped. No bother. He did not intend to let Delenn walk away with this prize. "Make contact with Satai Delenn."

   "We already have an incoming message."

   Of course. She had to be in control, even now. Neroon suppressed a snarling smile. "Put it through."

   She appeared before him, larger than life, but beautiful as ever. Even after all these years, his pulse still raced at the sight of her. But today, she looked older, even more solemn than he had remembered. Today she looked as if she were carrying the burden of a lifetime. "Satai Delenn," he said, his voice silken and dangerous.

   "Shai Neroon. You honor us with your presence. I have dispatched a message to Minbar, asking to convene a council of the elders from each of the clans. We will join them in two days."

   "Two days?" His smile was little more than an exotic grimace. "Do you happen to have a spare jumpgate, Satai? This one will do us no good."

   "The White Star has jumpgate capacity. You and I will travel aboard her, and our ships will follow through safely."

   His eyes narrowed. She was toying with him, a profoundly irritating habit she'd always had. "What is this game, Delenn?"

   For the first time, she smiled. "You have always wanted a joining of our clans, Neroon. Come aboard the White Star, and I will tell you a story beyond your wildest imaginings."



   "It is impossible," Neroon said for what seemed like the hundredth time. "A coalition? A Council made up of all three castes?" He laughed darkly, but there was no humor in the sound. "You are a dreamer, Delenn. A foolish dreamer with a foolish dream."

   She looked at him for a long moment, recognizing his bitterness. She had felt it, too. "A foolish dreamer, yes, Neroon. But a foolish dream?" She crossed the short distance to the desk where he sat reading the data crystal Lennier had given her. "Is it truly foolish? How long have the clans fought amongst themselves? A thousand years? Two thousand? You hurt my clan. I hurt your clan. When will it end?"

   "Never," came the rough reply.

   "Yes, never." She knelt before him, her face level with his. "Unless we do something about it. As you have said many times before, a change must come if we are ever to grow as a race."

   "My change never meant a secret council floating in space!" He shut off the computer. "The Starriders do not cower behind robes, Delenn. We do not cower behind anonymity." His voice echoed through the office, too loud. Taking a deep breath, he softened his tone. "Your ideals are noble, Delenn, but it won't work."

   "We can make it work...."

   "No. It will never do. The clans are too proud. They would never submit to such a rule."

   Delenn leaned back, sitting on her heels, searching his expression. "Is your pride more important than our race?" she asked softly.

   Neroon sighed.

   She asked it again. "Is pride more important than our race?"

   No response.

   Delenn lowered her gaze, releasing a long, heavy breath. She lifted her hands to the crystal she wore attached to her robe and carefully unclasped it. "I received this upon completion of my tenth year in temple. It is a symbol of adulthood in my clan; given only to those who honor the ways of Family Mir." She handed it to Neroon. "Take it."

   There was a long silence.

   "Take it."

   He took the crystal, gently turning it in the palm of his hand. The dim light in the office caught the crystal, reflecting against his face.

   "Many years ago," Delenn whispered, "You asked a question of me. I said no. Will you allow the anger from all those years to destroy our hope?"

   "It has nothing to do with--"

   "Neither of us can unite our people alone. But together, we can create miracles." She placed her hand over his heart in the ancient way. A pulse of blue-white light sparked between them. Neroon started, but did not pull away. Delenn smoothed her hand down his chest until it rested above a thick silver pin. "Give this to me," she said, her voice barely a whisper.

   "You know the meaning of this?" he asked, equally quiet.

   "It is a symbol, won for bravery in your first battle. A true warrior would only part with this for one reason."

   "To give to his mate. A sign that she is under his protection."

   Delenn fingered the knot of silver, deftly removing it from his tunic. She held it to the light. "Give this to me," she repeated.

   "Yes." A hoarse whisper. His hand clasped over hers, taking the pin from her small grip. Neroon lowered himself to the floor, kneeling face to face with her. "By taking my protection, you join our clans," he added.

   "Our clans will join anyway. When the Council is formed." She guided his hand to her heart. "By taking your protection, I join our hearts."

   He lifted her hand to his lips. "When the Council is formed." He smiled as he kissed her fingers, then attached the pin to her dress.

   Delenn nodded, a blue-white gleam in her eyes. "And so it begins."




   Lennier's flyer arrived safely at Z'ha'dum. It shocked him to see the planet again. He was there when the Drakh had destroyed Z'ha'dum. But that was a long time ago. The Drakh had not destroyed this Z'ha'dum because the most recent Shadow war had not taken place in this dimension.

   Kosh sang within him, reaching out to the presence far beneath the planet's surface. Of course, he was here, too. Waiting. Sheridan had never released him from self-imposed isolation. Because the Sheridan of this dimension had not lived long enough to even *hear* of Z'ha'dum, much less visit it.

   Lennier could already feel the effects of the joining with Kosh fading. Even a Vorlon could die, he reminded himself. From foul play, of old age...perhaps even of a broken heart.

   There had never been any denying of Kosh's bond with Sheridan and Delenn. He had broken off a piece of himself, staying with Sheridan, guiding him until his last breath. He had transferred to Delenn, then to David. But even a Vorlon has its limits.

   As the flyer glided through the atmosphere of Z'ha'dum, he felt the age coming back to him. Kosh had given him the appearance of youth, strength to survive the dimension jump into this reality. Lennier was going to the sea.

   To find renewed purpose.

   To bring the Vorlon home.

   He piloted the flyer to a small cavern, deep beneath the planet's surface. The lights flickered off red glistening rock, marking the place which had been prepared for them.

   By the time the landing was complete, he felt drained. Age came back with a vengeance, and Lennier could barely hold his head up. He popped the hatch of the flyer, and somehow managed to drag himself outside into the cavern.

   A hand grasped his shoulders. A familiar voice.

   "Welcome," Lorien said. "Welcome home."


   The End





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