Standard Year 904 and of the colony,
When Jean reached the hilltop, Snowmelt had already come and gone. He leaned heavily on his staff and looked first at the rough stone marker, then upward and outward across the endless melt to the lake. After a time, tears came and he let the precious moisture fall upon the earth that covered his father’s body. Farewell, Jandrax. No man on this planet has made a mark so uniquely his own.
Snowmelt approached then, shyly, much as Isaac must have approached the altar. Jean smiled down at him, and reached out his hand. Snowmelt touched him fleetingly then withdrew. He scuffed the damp earth with his moccasin. He was slim, brown and powerful. The perfect savage. “Son,” Jean said, “I am leaving for a while.”
Snowmelt flashed a resentful look. “I know. Back to the island. Everyone is talking about it.”
Jean frowned his distaste. “The tribe is making me a prophet, and I never wanted that.”
“You claimed to speak to God. Prophet or liar; you left yourself no third alternative.”
“I suppose not. Well, I was warned.”
“Why are you going? Why must you leave me?”
Jean squinted at the distance and turned his face away to hide the depth of his feelings. “That I cannot answer. Rather, I will not. I will not burden you with it all, though you know part.”
Now his son turned away, for to acknowledge that his father was a cripple, to acknowledge that no woman chose to bed with him, was to acknowledge shame on them both. Yet the knowledge would not go away. “Was there never a woman of the tribe who looked favorably upon you?”
“Yes, Son; once. Briefly.”
“The winged girl was very beautiful?”
“But she too will have aged.”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not.”
“And if you go to the island, there will be no way to reenact what happened before. You said yourself that the presence rejected you.”
“I can only try.”
Snowmelt turned blindly toward Jean, unaccustomed tears streaking his face. “If you loved me, you would stay.” Jean reached out to him and, for once, Snowmelt allowed himself to be embraced.
“My son! If I did not love you, I would not have stayed these twelve, long, hungry years.”
Snowmelt pushed away and turned his back. For a time, Jean let the silence lie between them, then he said, “Will you come to the lakeshore to see me off?”
He shrugged without turning. “I suppose.”
“See that you do!” Without looking back, Snowmelt began to descend the hill. Jean let him go. Soon only his shaggy head showed occasionally above the siskal.
Excerpt from the DUBOIS HIEROS.
Manuscript discovered on the planet
Jandrax, galactic coordinates 11C 927C84.
1. In the morning of the world, the hero strove with the winds and cast down the mountains. The wind walker and the cloud dancer moved into the open air and there was rain, and from the rain, grasses, and from the grasses, cattle, and from the cattle, men.
2. The hero lay upon Sinai at the world’s edge and dreamed himself a dream.
3. First from the dream came the walker of winds, and he cleaved her to wife.
4. And from out of her loins came all manner of things, both good and evil . . .
One last comment —- Is this reality? Fantasy? Hallucination? The true hand of God?