Leto looked at his daughter, who was curled up on the couch, surrounded by pop tart crumbs. Sparkle had been happy to send her a few boxes, and Hania had received them with much enthusiasm. Now it looked like she had, in a very un-Fremen way, consumed all of them, and ended up looking quite sick. She made an unintelligible sound.
"No," the response came, now a little clearer, and Hania made the effort to gesture somewhere in the direction behind the couch.
"So just enough to make you sick?" Leto sounded more amused than angry. "Apart from gluttony being very wasteful it also results in this. As you know." There had been incidents where Hania had eaten too much cake.
There was another noise coming from Hania, this time a little irritated.
"What Fremen girl would be allowed to call a worm when she doesn't even know how to make resources last? Or how to share with her tribe?" Not that Leto found the sugary things that appetizing.
There was a muttering resembling something like 'go away'. Leto sat down on the opposite couch, leaning back and resting an arm against the backrest.
"Or respect her elders?" He was sounding far too cheerful now. He should scold her for real, as what he said was true and Hania knew it too. "You can't just pick the parts you like."
Some days his daughter's lack of self control really bothered him. Where had it come from? He had been less strict than a Fremen father would have been, that was true, but not to the extent that he hadn't taught her what was expected from her. Her rebellious nature? That would come from her mother - and it was one of the things he loved most about Alice - but for a girl growing up as the only daughter of House Atreides it wasn't the most helpful trait. He had Ghanima had rebelled too, it was true, setting the universe on the course they had chosen, but they had a purpose, and used the rules to this end.
Hania bent the rules according to her whims and didn't know where she lacked control to do so.
"I will tell Sparkle what you did and leave for him to decide whether he wants to send you more of these." Leto suspected that Sparkle would happily send more, but he for now he would let Hania think the opposite. Sadly, apart from feeling sick, this might not be a very good lesson.
Leto had guessed what was coming once the same dream had recurred several nights in a row. Then the urge to return to Fandom grew strong, and he gave in to it. This had happened before after all, although not to him, and of all the things the island could force upon its inhabitants, even the former ones, this was hardly the worst.
It wasn't the worst, but it was still... not painful, but seeing his father in front of him filled him with grief.
"My son?" The hooded figure of Paul Atreides moved slowly forward, letting his staff guide him as his sight could not.
Leto approached him, moving close enough so that he could place a hand on his father's shoulder. "Yes father. It seems a place beyond our universe offered us one more meeting, without neither of us being able to predict it."
"A place of freedom then," Paul said. "From the visions. You have been here before?"
"I have lived here. That is why I am sometimes drawn back. That is why you are here."
Leto felt a hard grip on his arm, the one covered with wormskin. "Your voice is still the same. How much have you changed?"
"Not much. Not yet. Could you see me you would still recognize me."
Paul's other hand reached out to touch his face. "You could have stayed here. Free of the curse of prescience you could have shaped your own life. Don't you think that is what a father would wish for his child?"
Leto let his father run his fingers across the human skin of his face. "Then you should have stayed to teach me that lesson." There was harshness now just below the surface, and Leto spoke in his father's voice as a reminder of what he was: pre-born, caught in the memories of his ancestors. "I may be many things but I am still you child." His voice was his own again. "But unlike Ghanima I may be able to forgive you and I will not spend these few days accusing you or letting you accuse me. We have both made our choices."
"How many nights have I sat on dunes like this, imagining a night just like this, with my father. Just the two of us, talking and laughing. And how many nights have I gone to sleep on the cold floor of the sietch, dreaming of his arms around me, sheltering me from everything I was afraid of, everything I could not understand."
Leto turned in his sleep. In the dream he felt the sand beneath him as he was sitting opposite his father, seeing for the first time the man whose memories he carried inside him. Even as he dreamt he knew this had happened before.
His father's response: "And are you a good Fremen?"
"Yes." A gust of wind carried with it sand that settled on his skin.
"Will you permit a blind man to go into the desert finally? Will you let me find peace on my own terms?" The voice of Paul Atreides, now known as the Preacher, echoed strangely. Then there was a long stillness.
"Not yet," Leto said. The desert turned strangely silent.
He opened his eyes and blinked a few times. It was morning, the sunlight filtered through the curtains and Alice lay sleeping next to him. For a while he remained still, just listening to her breathing as he recalled the dream. His father rarely appeared in them anymore, and it confused Leto.
He pushed himself up to sitting and smiled as he brushed his fingers across Alice's cheek. Hania would probably be awake, and her company would distract him from pondering the meaning of dreams.
Responsibilities on Arrakis had kept Leto's thoughts away from his recent conversation with Sparkle. He had also let go of concerns about whether what had been said should have remained unspoken since that was no longer a possibility, and while he might be able to do many things, changing the past wasn't one of them.
Now he drew in a breath of chilly air. It was different from the cold of Arrakis nights, with more moisture, but not at all close to being painful. They had visited this park before, but only stopped outside briefly, when Sparkle had taken him to the Conservatory. The glass building could be seen behind the trees. How long ago had that been? Almost a year ago? Time hadn't begun to rush past him as quickly as it was going to, but it still surprised him a little.
He let go of those thoughts though. Today he was just planning to enjoy a walk in the park with Sparkle, and he extended a hand towards him, smiling.
Leto should know by now that visiting Fandom came with certain risks, more specifically the risk of turning into some kind of altered version of yourself. This was particularly problematic when your reason for visiting was to have a very serious conversation with a friend, and even more so when your alternate version had planned to have more or less the same kind of conversation. Then your alternate version decided to tell your alternate version friend certain things that were not according to the plan, things that weren't untrue but that perhaps were better left unsaid. Most of all Leto in his true version would have liked to make that choice himself.
He had considered going to the desert to clear his mind, but that wasn't really the kind of clarity he needed, so here he was in his office, going through the kind of reports he usually left to Farad'n. Alice was still asleep; he hadn't told her yet, although she was well aware of the things that had been told. Apparently it had been obvious.
He turned to the documents in front of him, letting his full focus turn on their dullness. His thoughts - reflection, worry - would fade. But now he had another conversation that needed to be had, one where he wasn't sure what should be said.
[Can be open for phonecalls or anyone on Arrakis.]
When visiting Fandom one should go on adventures. That was obvious and Hania had informed Sparkle that is was obvious and that he ought to come with her. The preserve was also the obvious place to start as it had trees, and trees could be climbed.
Climbing trees was a lot harder than climbing rocks, Hania quickly discovered, at least if you came from a desert planet with very few plants at all. Having got to the point where she was hanging from a thick branch, clinging with both arms and legs, she called to Sparkle:
The throne room was less crowded than usual. The general perception was that the matter had little relevance to other, more important events, and Leto found this irritating. Cutting off the Spice flow to the remote planetary system known as the Cerevnas, at least to the level where they could do little more than survive, should be seen as a warning sign of more to come. Of course the members of the court were aware of that, but no one had yet been forced to take the blame for the recent assassination, and the uncertainty of who would go down for this would have more imminent consequences.
"The queen captured the bishop," Hania pointed out. Leto looked at her, an eyebrow raised. "That means the queen found the secret letter the bishop was trying to pass on to the pawn, who was going to give it to the knight. So she put him in prison." "Of course, but do you think whoever wrote the letter was stupid enough not to write it in code?" Leto said, letting a white pawn approach one of Hania's black ones. "Your queen still doesn't know who wrote it." "Well, she is going to suspect the knight might be a traitor," Hania replied quickly. "Why else would she communicate with the enemy?" Leto knew Hania's knights were always women. He was undecided about his own. "It might be a love letter," he suggested, knowing that Hania would reject the idea. "Someone in the white court has secretly fallen in love with your knight and keeps sending coded letters to express his or her feelings." Hania wrinkled her nose. "No, the knight wouldn't put up with that. She would tell the queen immediately. She has no patience for romance." She didn't much care for anything romantic. "Still, it could be a letter asking the knight to try and influence the queen towards a peaceful solution to the game. That might not be treason, depending on the law in your kingdom." "That is definitely treason," Hania replied with a firm nod. "So, what about my bishop?" Leto asked. "What about him?" Hania gave him a defiant look. Leto pointed at the board. "My pawn just gave your pawn a letter from my queen offering a ransom for his freedom." Hania carefully looked at the pieces on the board to make sure that there was a connection of white pieces from the queen to that pawn that could have transfered the message. "My pawn takes a step back to deliver the message to my queen," Hania announced. "Let negotiations begin." Leto pointed at the three white pieces next to the board. "Meanwhile, the bishop tells his fellow prisoners who sent the letter." Hania fell silent, considering the implication of this. Her father usually had a plan when he decided things like that, plans that would not be clear until much later. "I think it's the king," she speculated. "The bishop was standing next to the king." "He was also standing next to the knight," Leto pointed out. "And the letter was sent to another knight." It was impossible for Hania to know whether her father was giving her the true answer or not. Unlike him she wasn't a Truthsayer, and that, she often told him, meant he had an unfair advantage. "If your knight is sending my knight silly love letters she will kill him." "Her," Leto said. "Her, then. Either way, she'll be dead." He raised an eyebrow. "You're just speculating. What about the negotiations?"
As always, this would be a long game.
[NFI due to distance, can be open for phonecalls etc.]
Irulan took a seat opposite Leto, the desk covered in various reports separating them.
"It is done, then?" she asked.
Leto gave a small nod in reply, then laughed softly. "Sadly this offers you nothing to add to your chronicles."
"As if I didn't have enough already. Are you going to tell me the consequences at least?"
"With the head of their House dead the Moritani will spend most of their resources on the struggle between the possible successors," he said. "But you know that. The outcome is yet undetermined." He look he gave Irulan showed his excitement.
"Don't tell me you are just playing games." Irulan might reproach him for that, but she would in no way be surprised. It amused Leto how she sometimes, just for a moment, slipped into treating him like he was still a child.
"No," he said. "Although I could have waited a century and there would have been only one contestant for the title. Either way, they will fall and return in a changed form. I'm just curious to have the nature of it less determined, and the use of them... as yet unknown."
"And that is not a game?"
"What isn't a game?" Leto leaned back in this chair, looking fondly at Irulan.
She raised an eyebrow and gave him a look that told him she wasn't going to be tricked into having that conversation again. "I suppose Idaho will be pleased to hear the news. As a Swordsmaster of Ginaz..." She didn't need to finish that sentence.
"Poison was a better choice though. The number of suspects increased."
He gestured at the table in front of him. "It is going to be a long day."
Later, as the stones on the terrace outside were no longer burning hot from the sun, Leto left the desk and walked over to the balustrade. The desert stretched out in front of him, and he could see the reddish colour on the horizon that was a warning of a desert storm to come. It never reached the city, not completely, although in the morning there street sweepers would be busy. This was to be a desert night, he thought, a time to let the wind and sand tear his skin while leaving no trace. He would walk through it and then return early in the morning, before Alice was awake, and then watch her wake up and they would laugh together at how their bed had turned into a sand box.
Irulan was right, of course. He was playing games, but what was the fun in following a path without making the occasional detour?
[Open for Ghanima if she's there or for phonecalls.]