hief, bowing deeply. Kraft took one

glass, giving

the other to Orison.



"A toast?" he asked. "To the success of my rebellion. To our inevitable marriage. And to the health of our progeny, who are, my dear, to inherit the Earth. A shotgun toast," he said. Orison dashed her brandy towa

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rd his face. Kraft turned, catching the shower against his left ear, where it tr


ickled down to stain the braid of his epaulette. He glared and raised his hand in a most unchivalrous gesture, then stop

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ped himself. One of the guards produced a silken cloth to blot him dry. "The word '


shotgun' was perhaps ill-chosen," Kraft said. "The spirit you show, dear Orison, is


a quality most appropriate to the future Empress of Earth." "Keep away from me," Or


ison said. "Our ceremony of betrothal is simple," Kraft said. He put his sword-arm

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about her waist. "You need only hear me say the words, 'I, Rex-Imperator, take thee to wife,' and then bow, in the prese

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nce of witne

sses of

my choosing.


be as noble

as any p

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rincess conceived in the Purple Chamber of the Palace of Chilif." "I'd rather die than marry you," Orison said. "You'v

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e established the

parameters o

f the possible rather neatly, my dear," Kraft Gerding said. "You will become my wife, and Empress-Apparent of Earth, or you will shortly be the loveliest corpse on this fair planet. My will is heaven's law, you understand. My word carries the sanction of two suns, and my anger breeds m

assive destr

uction. I ask of you your one slight person. In return, I offer to share with you my greatness. You will rule with me in the palace I have chosen—I forget its name, but it is presently used as the tomb of the lady who invented the brassiere—the Taj Mahal, that's it. Perhaps we could

rename it. A

nswer quickly, now; great deeds are deeds of impulse: marry me!" "You're mad," Orison said. "When a man has the power I have, he cannot be called a madman, for his mind shapes the world to his dreams. There is then, you see, no disorientation," Kraft said. "You've had a good ten seconds now to decide. Shall I call my wedding-guests or my executioner?" "Dink will never let you marry me," Orison said. "His suit has come so far as that?" Kraft said. "No matter. I'll destroy him." "Plea

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