The late afternoon air held a slight chill, and a breeze stirred the robes of the solitary Minbari. The tall man, headbone carved in a Warrior-caste pattern, stood, statue still, looking outward. The last rays of the setting sun, reflected from the crystal surfaces of a nearby building, made bright spidery lines on long dark clothing.
Valen stood on that very spot, Lennier thought with awe, and I am approaching someone responsible for ending his thousand-year peace. I feel unworthy – and yet I would be even less worthy if I did not say what needs to be said.
Jaw set with forced determination, the young acolyte moved closer to his target, deliberately making enough noise to alert the other man to his presence. "Satai Morann?" Lennier asked tentatively, hands moving automatically to form the traditional triangular salute. The depth of his bow was barely appropriate to show respect for a superior.
"Satai no longer, as you know," the Warrior replied with a mixture of acerbity and nostalgia, returning his visitor's bow with stiff formality. "And you are…?"
The acolyte cleared his throat nervously, and his gaze dropped to his toes. "I – er, I'm Lennier, sir. I – "
"Ah, yes, Delenn's aide," the older man interrupted with a touch of impatience, but not unkindly. "I have heard about you." Ignoring the Religious man's sudden upward look of wide-eyed alarm, he continued, "I'm surprised you are not resting. The Dreaming is a taxing ritual."
Lennier's fingers clutched briefly at his robes before he could force himself to relax. "The Dreaming, yes, that's why I'm here – why I can't sleep." The young Minbari hesitated, tongue-tied with nerves.
The Warrior's brow-ridges rose in polite curiosity. "Yes?" he prompted.
"I saw – We saw, Delenn and I – It was the beginning of the war. The very beginning."
Morann nodded and said drily, "Yes, I was there. I remember it well. I understand how such a Dreaming might disturb the sleep of a Religious-caste acolyte, accustomed to peace, but what brings you here to see me?"
Lennier took a deep breath. "It's about Delenn. Delenn and Dukhat. I saw what happened when the Humans first fired on the Grey Council ship. I saw…" The acolyte paused as the memory of the scene from the past flashed across his present vision. "I saw Dukhat die in Delenn's arms. I smelled the smoke and the blood right along with her. I felt her grief and anger as if I lived it too. And then I saw you, standing over her, talking about a vote."
The Warrior frowned, his handsome face filled with impatience and discomfort. "Yes, as I said, I was there. I do not yet see any problem, or any reason for you to be here, disrupting my evening meditation."
The acolyte felt a flash of anger, quickly suppressed, along with an uncharitable thought about the conspicuous spirituality of meditation in a public place. "I did not know Dukhat, or Delenn as she was then. You did. You knew how close they were, and anyone who knew Delenn for as long as you did could not help knowing how intensely she feels. And yet you had to pressure into casting her vote right then, with the body of her mentor still warm in her arms. If you had done her the simple courtesy of allowing her the few moments it would have taken to walk down the hall to the Council chamber, to collect her thoughts and regain some semblance of rationality, a war – millions of deaths – might have been avoided."
The young Religious man stopped short, taken aback at his own temerity. "I am sorry, sir. Please forgive me if I have spoken too freely. I did not mean to offend…"
"And you did not, Lennier, though I am inclined to wonder if Delenn's informality has encouraged habits in you that will not serve you well with other elders."
The acolyte blushed, and his gaze twitched away from Morann's face, toward the increasing darkness outside. "Thank you, sir. I serve Delenn the best way I know how. I could not stand by and watch her take all the responsibility – and all the guilt – for the war on herself."
The Warrior chuckled quietly. "I was not aware that she had done that, but it does sound like Delenn. I suppose you would be terribly offended if I suggested that anyone with the hubris to take sole responsibility for a war deserves the guilt."
The younger man bristled with indignation but said nothing.
"Might I also suggest that, despite your experience in the Dreaming, you do not truly understand everything that happened?" Morann looked inquiry at his companion and continued. "I am Warrior caste. Fighting is my life's work. It is what I have been trained to do. At the time of our… encounter with the Humans, it was training that I had never had a chance to put into practice.
"Then along came these strange aliens, who fired on us, apparently without provocation. What better opportunity would we – the Warrior caste as a whole – have to show that we had a purpose? That we deserved the respect of the rest of our race, after generations of inactivity?" The Warrior's eyes, bright with passion, bored into Lennier's. "Can you understand why, at the time, war did not seem like such a bad thing?"
The acolyte nodded reluctantly. "I am Religious caste. That is my perspective – where my training lies – so I cannot say that I truly understand the desire to make war, but… Sir, you are not an evil man, though I was prepared to think you were, on Delenn's behalf, since she herself seems incapable of seeing the darkness in others. We are very different, you and I, but that is the way we should be in order to fulfill our functions and serve our people." Lennier smiled an apology. "And I am talking more than I should. Thank you for your time and patience, sir."
The young Minbari brought his fingers together in the traditional salute and bowed more deeply than etiquette required. He started to move away.
"Just a minute, young man," Morann said sharply.
The acolyte turned back with a curious tilt of his head.
The Warrior frowned, though his eyes were neutral. "If the opportunity arises, tell Delenn from me – remind her – that hers was the last vote, but it was not the only vote. That is the best I can do to ease her conscience." He nodded and turned to face the outside world.
Crystal buildings glowed against the velvet darkness, shining from within with man-made illumination. Lennier gave them a last parting glance and walked away in silence, contemplating opportunity.