Historian’s Note: This is an excerpt from Emperor Cotto’s personal chronicles, written in 2279.
Lady Mariel, wife of Prime Minister Durla and the former wife of Emperor Londo Mollari, was interred at Apia. And I killed her just as surely as if I had plunged a dagger into her hearts with my own hand. I have many more regrets, but this is my greatest shame.
Almost twenty years ago, I nearly left Londo for good. He had used me, you see, to get to Lord Refa and, he believed at the time, to avenge the death of his love. He used my loyalty, to my family and to him, to lead Refa astray, and for a time, I didn’t think I would ever recover from the knowledge that our friendship had not, in the end, made me indispensable. But I did recover, and, eventually, I forgave.
What does this have to do with Mariel? Well, while I did forgive Londo and, perhaps, had begun to understand why he did what he did, that one, blinding moment of total clarity didn’t truly come until Kane showed me that my trust in Mariel and her affections had been misplaced. Because before then, I had never been hurt in so personal and intimate a way. When you make love, you reveal so much more of yourself than you do even in the closest friendships. It leaves you open, a little dizzy, and very vulnerable. Mariel saw me at my weakest and most exposed, and she laughed. Discovering this, I finally knew what it was like to feel that burning sense that the universe itself had a personal vendetta against me. Cut off both from home and from my peers on Babylon 5, I had been so alone, and Mariel had been a light of hope. To see that light snuffed out before my eyes was, as the Humans say, the last straw. Tired of being hurt, I hardened my heart.
Fourteen words. Strange, that an emotion as complex as love can be enkindled by a spell so simple.
If I was to save my people, I needed a connection to Minister Durla- a spy in the royal palace itself. I had learned that Lady Mariel was Durla’s weakness- and so I asked a wizard to make her my instrument. When she was returned to me, I knew at once that I had made a mistake. But the fourteen words could not be called back. Words never can.
I didn’t simply use her. I imprisoned her. I robbed her of her free will and left her vulnerable to Durla’s insecurity and rage. Nothing she had ever done had made her deserving of such a punishment. Nothing I have ever done- or will do- can erase that mark on my soul. I betrayed my own belief in freedom, and no amount of justification can ever undo that sin.
As it turns out, Londo and I are not that different.