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crowded the balconies of the great tiered ring around the plaza, silent people
who stared down at the procession.
No cheering from the privileged, Idaho thought. The silence of the people on the
balconies filled Idaho with foreboding.
He entered the ramp-tunnel and its lip hid the plaza. The Fish Speaker chant
faded away as he descended into the depths. The sound of marching feet all
around him was curiously amplified.
Curiosity replaced the sense of oppressive foreboding. Idaho stared around him.
The flat-floored tube was artificially illuminated and wide, very wide. Idaho
estimated that seventy people could march abreast into the bowels of the plaza.
There were no mobs of greeters here, only a widely spaced line of Fish Speakers
who did not chant, contenting themselves to stare at the passage of their God.
Memory of the charts told Idaho the layout of this gigantic complex beneath the
plaza-a private city within the City, a place where only the God Emperor, the
courtiers and the Fish Speakers could go without escort. But the charts had told
nothing of the thick pillars, the sense of massive, guarded spaces, the eerie
quiet broken by the tramping of feet and the creaking of Leto's cart.
Idaho looked suddenly at the Fish Speakers lining the way and realized that
their mouths were moving in unison, a silent word on their lips. He recognized
the word:
"Siaynoq."
===
"Another Festival so soon?" the Lord Leto asked.
"It has been ten years," the majordomo said.
Do you think by this exchange that the Lord Leto betrays an ignorance of time's
passage?
-The Oral History
DURING THE private audience period preceding the Festival proper, many commented
that the God Emperor spent more than the allotted time with the new Ixian
Ambassador, a young woman named Hwi Noree.
She was brought down at midmorning by two Fish Speakers who were still full of
first-day excitement. The private audience chamber beneath the plaza was
brilliantly illuminated. The light revealed a room about fifty meters long by
thirty-five wide. Antique Fremen rugs decorated the walls, their bright patterns
worked in jewels and precious metals, all combined in weavings of priceless
spice-fibers. The dull reds of which the Old Fremen had been so fond
predominated. The chamber's floor was mostly transparent, a setting for exotic
fishes worked in radiant crystal. Beneath the floor flowed a stream of clear
blue water, all of its moisture sealed away from the audience chamber, but
excitingly near Leto, who rested on a padded elevation at the end of the room
opposite the door.
His first view of Hwi Noree revealed a remarkable likeness to her Uncle Malky,
but her grave movements and the calmness of her stride were equally remarkable
in their difference from Malky. She did have that dark skin, though, the oval
face with its regular features. Placid brown eyes stared back at Leto. And
where Malky's hair had been gray, hers was a luminous brown. Hwi Noree radiated
an inner peace which Leto sensed spreading its influence around her as she
approached. She stopped ten paces away, below him. There was a classical balance
about her, something not accidental.
With growing excitement, Leto realized a betrayal of lxian machinations in the
new Ambassador. They were well along in their own program to breed selected
types for specific functions. Hwi Noree's function was distressingly obvious-to
charm the God Emperor, to find a chink in his armor.
Despite this, as the meeting progressed, Leto found himself truly enjoying her
company. Hwi Noree stood in a puddle of daylight which was guided into the
chamber by a system of Ixian prisms. The light filled Leto's end of the chamber
with glowing gold which centered on the Ambassador. dimming behind the God
Emperor where stood a short line of Fish Speaker guards-twelve women chosen for
their inability to hear or speak.
Hwi Noree wore a simple gown of purple ambiel decorated only by a silver
necklace pendant stamped with the symbol of IX. Soft sandals the color of her
gown peeked from beneath her hem.
"Are you aware," Leto asked her, "that I killed one of your ancestors?"
She smiled softly. "My Uncle Malky included that information in my early
training, Lord."
As she spoke, Leto realized that part of her education had been conducted by the
Bene Gesserit. She had their way of controlling her responses, of sensing the
undertones in a conversation. He could see, however, that the Bene Gesserit
overlay had been a delicate thing, never penetrating the basic sweetness of her
nature.
"You were told that I would introduce this subject," he said.
"Yes, Lord. I know that my ancestor had the temerity to bring a weapon here in
the attempt to harm you."
"As did your immediate predecessor. Were you told that, as well?"
" I did not learn it until my arrival, Lord. They were fools! Why did you spare
my predecessor?"
"When I did not spare your ancestor?"
"Yes, Lord."
"Kobat, your predecessor, was more valuable to me as a messenger."
"Then they told me the truth," she said. Again -,h.= smiled. "One cannot always
depend on hearing truth from lone', associates and superiors."
The response was so utterly open that Leto could not suppress a chuckle. Even as
he laughed, he realized that this young woman still possessed the Mind of First
Awakening, the elemental mind which came in the first shock of birth-awareness.
She was alive!"Then you do not hold it against me that I killed your ancestor?"
he asked.
"He tried to assassinate you! I am told you crushed him, Lord, with your own
body."
"True."
"And next you turned his weapon against your own Holy Self to demonstrate that
the weapon was ineffectual . . . and it was the best lasgun we lxians could
make."
"The witnesses reported correctly," Leto said. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]