He is for Siona. If he survives.
And if he failed, then Siona would try. Siona would succeed or she would not. Nayla wondered, though, if she might experience an orgasm should Idaho reach the top. He was so close to it now.
Idaho took several deep breaths after dislodging the rock. It was a bad moment and he took the time to recover, clinging to a three-point hold on the Wall. Almost of its own accord, his free hand groped upward once more, wriggling past the rotten place into another slender crack. Slowly, he shifted his weight onto that hand. Slowly... slowly. His left knee felt the place where a toehold could be achieved. He lifted his foot to that place, tested it. Memory told him the top was near, but he pushed the memory aside. There was only the climb and the knowledge that Leto would arrive tomorrow.
Leto and Hwi.
He could not think about that, either. But it would not go away. The top... Hwi... Leto... tomorrow...
Every thought fed his desperation, forced him into the immediate remembrance of the climbs of his childhood. The more he remembered consciously, the more his abilities were blocked. He was forced to pause, breathing deeply in the attempt to center himself, to go back to the natural ways of his past.
But were those ways natural?
There was a blockage in his mind. He could sense intrusions, a finality... the fatality of what might have been and now would never be.
Leto would arrive up there tomorrow.
Idaho felt perspiration run down his face around the place where he pressed a cheek against the rock.
Leto. will defeat you, Leto. I will defeat you for myself, not for Hwi, but only for myself.
A sensation of cleansing began to spread through him. It was like the thing which had happened in the night while he prepared himself mentally for this climb. Siona had sensed his sleeplessness. She had begun to talk to him, telling him the smallest details of her desperate run through the Forbidden Forest and her oath at the edge of the river.
"Now I have given an oath to command his Fish Speakers," she said. "I will honor that oath, but I hope it will not happen in the way he wants."
"What does he want?" Idaho asked.
"He has many motives and I cannot see them all. Who could possibly understand him? I only know that I will never forgive him."
This memory brought Idaho back to the sensation of the Wall's rock against his cheek. His perspiration had dried in the light breeze and he felt chilled. But he had found his center.
Idaho felt the ghosts of all his other selves, the gholas who had died in Leto's service. Could he believe Siona's suspicions? Yes. Leto was capable of killing with his own body, his own hands. The rumor which Siona recounted had a feeling of truth in it. And Siona, too, was Atreides. Leto had become something else... no longer Atreides, not even human. He had become not so much a living creature as a brute fact of nature, opaque and impenetrable, all of his experiences sealed off within him. And Siona opposed him. The real Atreides turned away from him.
As I do.
A brute fact of nature, nothing more. Just like this Wall.
Idaho's right hand groped upward and found a sharp ledge. He could feel nothing above the ledge and tried to remember a wide crack at this place in the pattern. He could not dare to allow himself into the belief that he had reached the top... not
yet. The sharp edge cut into his fingers as he put his weight on it. He brought his left hand up to that level, found a purchase and pulled himself slowly upward. His eyes reached the level of his hands. He stared across a flat space which reached outward... outward into blue sky. The surface where his hands clutched showed ancient weather cracks. He crawled his fingers across that surface, one hand at a time, seeking out the cracks, dragging his chest up... his waist... his hips. He rolled then, twisting and crawling until the Wall was far behind him. Only then did he stand and tell himself what his senses reported.
The top. And he had not required pitons or hammer.
A faint sound reached him. Cheering?
He walked back to the edge and looked down, waving to them. Yes, they were cheering. Turning back, he strode to the center of the roadway, letting elation still the trembling of his muscles, soothe the aching of his shoulders. Slowly, he turned full circle, examining the top while he let his memories at last estimate the height of that climb.
Nine hundred meters... at least that.
The Royal Roadway interested him. It was not like what he had seen on the way to Onn. It was wide, wide... at least five hundred meters. The roadbed was a smooth, unbroken gray with its edge some one hundred meters from each lip of the Wall. Rock pillars at man height marked the road's edge, stretching away like sentinels along the path Leto would use.
Idaho walked to the far side of the Wall opposite the Sareer and peered down. Far away in the depths, a hurtling green flow of river battered itself into foam against buttress rocks. He looked to the right. Leto would come from there. Road and Wall curved gently to the right, the curve beginning about three hundred meters from the place where Idaho stood. Idaho returned to the road and walked along its edge, following the curve until it made a returning "S" and narrowed, sloping gently downward. He stopped and looked at what was revealed for him, seeing the new pattern take shape.
About three kilometers away down the gentle slope, the roadway narrowed and crossed the river gorge on a bridge whose faery trusses appeared insubstantial and toy like at this distance. Idaho remembered a similar bridge on the road to Onn, the substantial feel of it beneath his feet. He trusted his memory, thinking about bridges as a military leader was forced to think about them-passages or traps.
Moving out to his left, he looked down and outward to
another high Wall at the far anchor of the faery bridge. The road continued there, turning gently until it was a line running straight northward. There were two Walls along there and the river between them. The river glided in a man-made chasm, its moisture confined and channeled into a northward wind drift while the water itself flowed southward.
Idaho ignored the river then. It was there and it would be there tomorrow. He fixed his attention on the bridge, letting his military training examine it. He nodded once to himself before turning back the way he had come, lifting the light rope from his shoulders as he walked.
It was only when she saw the rope come snaking down that Nayla had her orgasm.
What am I eliminating? The bourgeois infatuation with peaceful conservation of the past. This is a binding force, a thing which holds humankind into one vulnerable unit in spite of illusionary separations across parsecs of space. If I can find the scattered bits, others can find them. When you are together, you can share a common catastrophe. You can be exterminated together. Thus, I demonstrate the terrible danger of a gliding, passionless mediocrity, a movement without ambitions or aims. I show you that entire civilizations can do this thing. I give you eons of life which slips gently toward death without fuss or stirring, without even asking 'Why?' I show you the false happiness and the shadow-catastrophe called Leto, the God Emperor. Now, will you learn the real happiness?- The Stolen Journals
HAVING SPENT the night with only one brief catnap, Leto was awake when Moneo emerged from the guest house at dawn. The Royal Cart had been parked almost in the center of a three-sided courtyard. The cart's cover had been set on one-way opaque, concealing its occupant, and was tightly sealed against moisture. Leto could hear the faint stirring of the fans which pulsed his air through a drying cycle.
Moneo's feet scratched on the courtyard's cobbles as he approached the cart. Dawn light edged the guest house roof with orange above the majordomo.
Leto opened the cart's cover as Moneo stopped in front of him. There was a yeasting dirt smell to the air and the accumulation of moisture in the breeze was painful.
"We should arrive at Tuono about noon," Moneo said. "I wish you'd let me bring in 'thopters to guard the sky."
"I do not want 'thopters," Leto said. "We can go down to Tuono on suspensors and ropes."
Leto marveled at the plastic images in this brief exchange. Moneo had never liked peregrinations. His youth as a rebel had left him with suspicions of everything he could not see or label. He remained a mass of latent judgments.
"You know I don't want 'thopters for transport," Moneo said. "I want them to guard..."
Moneo looked past Leto at the open end of the courtyard which overlooked the river canyon. Dawn light was frosting the mist which arose from the depths. He thought of how far down that canyon dropped... a body twisting, twisting as it fell. Moneo had found himself unable to go to the canyon's lip last night and peer down into it. The drop was such a... such a temptation.
With that insightful power which filled Moneo with such awe, Leto said: "There's a lesson in every temptation, Moneo."
Speechless, Moneo turned to stare directly into Leto's eyes.
"See the lesson in my life, Moneo."
"Lord?" It was only a whisper.
"They tempt me first with evil, then with good. Each temptation is fashioned with exquisite attention to my susceptibilities. Tell me, Moneo, if I choose the good, does that make me good?"
"Of course it does, Lord."
"Perhaps you will never lose the habit of judgment," Leto said.
Moneo looked away from him once more and stared at the chasm's edge. Leto rolled his body to look where Moneo looked. Dwarf pines had been cultured along the lip of the canyon. There were hanging dewdrops on the damp needles, each of them sending a promise of pain to Leto. He longed to close the cart's cover, but there was an immediacy in those jewels which attracted his memories even while they repelled his body. The opposed synchrony threatened to fill him with turmoil.
"I just don't like going around on foot," Moneo said.
"It was the Fremen war," Leto said.
Moneo sighed. "The others will be ready in a few minutes. Hwi was breakfasting when I came out."
Leto did not respond. His thoughts were lost in memories of night-the one just past and the millennial others which crowded his pasts-clouds and stars, the rains and the open blackness pocked with glittering flakes from a shredded cosmos, a universe of nights, extravagant with them as he had been with his heartbeats.
Moneo suddenly demanded: "Where are your guards?"
"I sent them to eat."
"I don't like them leaving you unguarded!"
The crystal sound of Moneo's voice rang in Leto's memories, speaking things not cast in words. Moneo feared a universe where there was no God Emperor. He would rather die than see such a universe.
"What will happen today?" Moneo demanded.
It was a question directed not to the God Emperor but to the prophet. ` A seed blown on the wind could be tomorrow's willow tree," Leto said.
"You know our future! Why won't you share it?" Moneo was close to hysteria... refusing anything his immediate senses did not report.
Leto turned to glare at the majordomo, a gaze so obviously filled with pent-up emotions that Moneo recoiled from it.
"Take charge of your own existence, Moneo!"
Moneo took a deep, trembling breath. "Lord, I meant no offense. I sought only...
"Look upward, Moneo!"
Involuntarily, Moneo obeyed, peering into the cloudless sky where morning light was increasing. "What is it, Lord?"
"There's no reassuring ceiling over you, Moneo. Only an open sky full of changes. Welcome it. Every sense you possess is an instrument for reacting to change. Does that tell you nothing?"
"Lord, I only came out to enquire when you would be ready to proceed."
"Moneo, I beg you to be truthful with me."
"I am truthful, Lord!"
"But if you live in bad faith, lies will appear to you like the truth."
"Lord, if I lie... then I do not know it."
"That has the ring of truth. But I know what you dread and will not speak."
Moneo began to tremble. The God Emperor was in the most terrible of moods, a deep threat in every word.
"You dread the imperialism of consciousness," Leto said, "and you are right to fear it. Send Hwi out here immediately!"
Moneo whirled and fled back into the guest house. It was as though his entrance stirred up an insect colony. Within seconds, Fish Speakers emerged and spread around the Royal Cart. Courtiers peered from the guest house windows or came out and stood under deep eaves, afraid to approach him. In contrast to this excitement, Hwi emerged presently from the wide central doorway and strode out of the shadows, moving slowly toward Leto, her chin up, her gaze seeking his face.
Leto felt himself becoming calm as he looked at her. She wore a golden gown he had not seen before. It had been piped with silver and jade at the neck and the cuffs of its long sleeves. The hem, almost dragging on the ground, had heavy green braid to outline deep red crenellations.
Hwi smiled as she stopped in front of him.
"Good morning, love." She spoke softly. "What have you done to get poor Moneo so upset?"
Soothed by her presence and her voice, he smiled. "I did what I always hope to do. I produced an effect."
"You certainly did. He told the Fish Speakers you were in an angry and terrifying mood. Are you terrifying, Love?"
"Only to those who refuse to live by their own strengths."
"Ahhh, yes." She pirouetted for him then, displaying her new gown. "Do you like it? Your Fish Speakers gave it to me. They decorated it themselves."
"My love," he said, a warning note in his voice, "decoration! That is how you prepare the sacrifice."
She came up to the edge of the cart and leaned on it just below his face, a mock solemn expression on her lips. "Will they sacrifice me, then?"
"Some of them would like to."
"But you will not permit it."
"Our fates are joined," he said.
"Then I shall not fear." She reached up and touched one of his silver-skinned hands, but jerked away as his fingers began to tremble.
"Forgive me, Love. I forget that we are joined in soul and not in flesh," she said.
The sandtrout skin still shuddered from Hwi's touch. "Moisture in the air makes me overly sensitive," he said. Slowly, the shuddering subsided.
"I refuse to regret what cannot be," she whispered.
"Be strong, Hwi, for your soul is mine."
She turned at a sound from the guest house. "Moneo returns," she said. "Please, Love, do not frighten him."
"Is Moneo your friend, too?"
"We are friends of the stomach. We both like yogurt."
Leto was still chuckling when Moneo stopped beside Hwi. Moneo ventured a smile, casting a puzzled glance at Hwi. There was gratitude in the majordomo's manner and some of the subservience he was accustomed to show to Leto he now directed at Hwi. "Is it well with you, Lady Hwi?"
"It is well with me."
Leto said: "In the time of the stomach, friendships of the stomach are to be nurtured and cultivated. Let us be on our way, Moneo. Tuono awaits."
Moneo turned and shouted orders to the Fish Speakers and courtiers.
Leto grinned at Hwi. "Do I not play the impatient bridegroom with a certain style?"