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"In the final analysis, the legendary event called Leto’s Gambit became the basis of the young Duke Atreides’s immense popularity. He successfully projected himself as a shining beacon of honor in a galactic sea of darkness. To many members of the Landsraad, Leto’s honesty and naÏveté became a symbol of honor that shamed many of the Great and Minor Houses to alter their behavior toward each other . . . for a short time, at least, until familiar old patterns reemerged."
―Origins of House Atreides: Seeds of the Future in the Galactic Imperium, by Bronso of Ix[src]

A Trial by Forfeiture for Leto Atreides I, which was also known as Leto's Gambit, was held on Kaitain in 10156 AG, in Leto's first year as the Duke of House Atreides following the death of his father Paulus Atreides in his final bullfight. It was a demonstration of Leto's great courage as a ruler and thus showed the Landsraad what kind of Duke he would be, but went down in history in the following decades as an important event in the history of both Leto's life and House Atreides. It was moreover also remembered thousands of years later as an important part of the history of the Emperor's Blade.


Background information[]

Months before the trial, the newly ascended Leto was already becoming known for his steady hand, and for always speaking his mind when it came to the truth. Despite being in office for only a short time, Leto insisted on testifying on behalf of House Vernius in front of the Landsraad. His staunch defense of the deposed House, caught the attention of many noblemen, who were intrigued by the young man's honesty.

On the return trip home to Caladan from Kaitain, Leto was caught in a Harkonnen ambush. They used their a new secret technological device, a no-ship, to destroy a Tleilaxu vessel inside the Guild Heighliner, making it appear that the Atreides vessel had done the deed.

Immediately, most of the spacecraft that witnessed the horrifying event assumed the offending shots had come from House Atreides, since the invisible Harkonnen craft had fired from just under the Atreides space-faring vessel. Within minutes Leto had to turn on his ship's shields, to avoid being fired upon immediately from the other Great Houses' starships. Soon afterwards, the guiding Navigator of the heighliner demanded to know why the shield was on, as it was interfering with the Guild-crafts' Holtzman engine. Leto explained the situation, and demanded a full Trial by Forfeiture.


Unbeknownst to Leto, the Bene Gesserit needed his bloodline to achieve their future Kwisatz Haderach, and thus it was essential that he won the trial. While in an enclosed holding cell, he received a message cube from the Sisterhood, which contained the information: "Crown Prince Shaddam, like his father before him, maintains a secret and illegal alliance with the Bene Tleilax. This information may prove valuable to your defense— if you dare use it".

In a desperate bluff, he delivered his own message cube to his distaff cousin Crown Prince Shaddam Corrino. a note in which Leto pretended to have full knowledge of House Corrino's Project Amal, claiming that "Sire, defense documentation includes a full disclosure of your relationship with the Tleilaxu". Shaddam's growing fear of the Leto "spilling the beans" made him approach the Tleilaxu Master Hidar Fen Ajidica and demand for him to call off the Trial, but he could only get him to promise not to harm Leto.

Even this, however, was not fulfilled, as the Tleilaxu sent two assassins to kill Leto in his protected cell. Leto killed one of the attempted assassins with the knife of the Atreides Mentat Thufir Hawat, and killed the other using the holo-cart. On the better side of things, this attempt would certainly not look good for the Tleilaxu in the trial. When Leto, Hawat and Rhombur Vernius were alone again, the Mentat slipped a smuggled maula pistol into a bottom drawer of the desk, just in case next time a dagger was not sufficient.

Learning of this assassination attempt, Hasimir Fenring, the closest companion of the Crown Prince, killed the surviving pilot of the ship which had brought the assassins. This meant one less witness in the trial and thus slightly less of a case for the Tleilaxu, who quitely removed the pilot from their list of witnesses.

The trial[]

A few weeks later, the Landsraad Trial convened, headed up by Lord Bain O'Garee of the planet Hagal. Also on the tribunal were Baron Terkillian Sor of IV Anbus, Duke Prad Vidal of Ecaz, an ally of the Harkonnens, Count Anton Miche, and Rincon of House Fazeel. Leto was represented by two brilliant Ellacan attorneys, Clere Ruitt and Bruda Viol, who had been offered by the exiled Ixian Ambassador Cammar Pilru. As the Trial progressed, Leto was unable to prove that his ship had not fired the shots upon the Tleilaxu vessel.

As Leto faced the entire congress of nobility, watching with fear as the Lansraad led by O'Garee was just about to pronounce judgment against him, the Emperor strode into the Landsraad Chamber, and spoke a hearty defense of not only Leto, but of the thousands of years lineage of House Atreides. He talked of how both of the Tleilaxu starships could have been destroyed by debris.

At the end of the speech, Shaddam gave Leto a token of affection, the Corrino heirloom, his personal knife, what would come to be known as the Emperor's Blade, as a gift, and demanded that the Landsraad confirm Leto's innocence, which they did, much to the dismay of the Tleilaxu and Harkonnen. O'Garee and the rest of the tribunal wished to be on the future Emperor's "good side", and promptly released Leto, and proclaimed him innocent.


Leto returned to Caladan exonerated and innocent. The entire Landsraad was stunned that Leto had managed to win this seemingly hopeless Trial by Forfeiture. This monumental act granted him respect throughout the Imperium, and Leto’s gambit had impressed many of the Houses, in sharp contrast to earlier matters, in which the Great Houses considered this young Duke to be a bad ruler who did not understand the ways of the empire.

The young Duke even received a congratulatory letter from Hundro Moritani, the puckish and unlikeable Viscount of Grumman, who often refused to cooperate, or even participate, in matters of the Imperium. The Viscount said he admired Leto’s “brash flouting of the rules,” proving that “leadership is made by strong men with strong convictions, not clerks who study commas on lawslates.” Leto was never entirely sure that Moritani believed in his innocence; instead, he thought the Viscount simply enjoyed seeing the Duke get away unpunished, against such insurmountable odds.

Shortly after his return, with the new experimental form of communication used by the Spacing Guild, GuildLink, Leto communicated with Shaddam about the status of the planet Ix (which Shaddam refused to call the world, naming it Xuttah). While the now-Emperor agreed to give the Vernius children, Rhombur and Kaliea, pardon, he declined this for the renegade Earl Dominic Vernius and, also refused to restore the House Vernius to the planet.

Meanwhile, the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood began to search for who had really fired on the Tleilaxu ships, a search which would in the following decades lead them to House Harkonnen and to Richese, and would result in them destroying the last no-ship for thousands of years.