Chapter no 20


She heard approaching footsteps, turned to see Paul come out of the cave’s depths trailed by the elfin-faced Chani.

There’s another thing , Jessica thought. Paul must be cautioned about their women. One of these desert women would not do as wife to a Duke. As concubine, yes, but not as wife .

Then she wondered at herself, thinking: Have I been infected with his schemes? And she saw how well she had been conditioned. I can think of the marital needs of royalty without once weighing my own concubinage. Yet . . . I was more than concubine.


Paul stopped in front of her. Chani stood at his elbow.

“Mother, do you know what they’re doing back there?”

Jessica looked at the dark patch of his eyes staring out from the hood. “I think so.”

“Chani showed me . . . because I’m supposed to see it and give my . . . permission for the weighing of the water.”

Jessica looked at Chani.

“They’re recovering Jamis’ water,” Chani said, and her thin voice came out nasal past the nose plugs. “It’s the rule. The flesh belongs to the person, but his water belongs to the tribe . . . except in the combat.”

“They say the water’s mine,” Paul said.

Jessica wondered why this should make her suddenly alert and cautious.

“Combat water belongs to the winner,” Chani said. “It’s because you have to fight in the open without stillsuits. The winner has to get his water back that he loses while fighting.”

“I don’t want his water,” Paul muttered. He felt that he was a part of many images moving simultaneously in a fragmenting way that was disconcerting to the inner eye. He could not be certain what he would do, but of one thing he was positive: he did not want the water distilled out of Jamis’ flesh.

“It’s . . . water,” Chani said.

Jessica marveled at the way she said it. “Water .” So much meaning in a simple sound. A Bene Gesserit axiom came to Jessica’s mind: “Survival is the ability to swim in strange water .” And Jessica thought: Paul and I, we must find the currents and patterns in these strange waters . . . if we’re to survive.

“You will accept the water,” Jessica said.




She recognized the tone in her voice. She had used that same tone once with Leto, telling her lost Duke that he would accept a large sum offered for his support in a questionable venture – because money maintained power for the Atreides.

On Arrakis, water was money. She saw that clearly.

Paul remained silent, knowing then that he would do as she ordered – not because she ordered it, but because her tone of voice had forced him to re-evaluate. To refuse the water would be to break with accepted Fremen practice.

Presently Paul recalled the words of 467 Kalima in Yueh’s O.C. Bible. He said: “From water does all life begin.”

Jessica stared at him. Where did he learn that quotation? she asked herself. He hasn’t studied the mysteries .

“Thus it is spoken,” Chani said. “Giudichar mantene: It is written in the Shah-Nama that water was the first of all things created.”

For no reason she could explain (and this bothered her more than the sensation), Jessica suddenly shuddered. She turned away to hide her confusion and was just in time to see the sunset. A violent calamity of color spilled over the sky as the sun dipped beneath the horizon.

“It is time!”

The voice was Stilgar’s ringing in the cavern. “Jamis’ weapon has been killed. Jamis has been called by Him, by Shai-hulud, who has ordained the phases for the moons that daily wane and – in the end – appear as bent and withered twigs.” Stilgar’s voice lowered. “Thus it is with Jamis.”

Silence fell like a blanket on the cavern.

Jessica saw the gray-shadow movement of Stilgar like a ghost figure within the dark inner reaches. She glanced back at the basin, sensing the coolness.

“The friends of Jamis will approach,” Stilgar said.

Men moved behind Jessica, dropping a curtain across the opening. A single glowglobe was lighted overhead far back in the cave. Its yellow glow picked out an inflowing of human figures. Jessica heard the rustling of the robes.

Chani took a step away as though pulled by the light.

Jessica bent close to Paul’s ear, speaking in the family code: “Follow their lead; do as they do. It will be a simple ceremony to placate the shade of Jamis.”

It will be more than that , Paul thought. And he felt a wrenching sensation within his awareness as though he were trying to grasp some thing in motion and render it motionless.

Chani glided back to Jessica’s side, took her hand. “Come, Sayyadina. We must sit apart.”

Paul watched them move off into the shadows, leaving him alone. He felt abandoned.

The men who had fixed the curtain came up beside him.

“Come, Usul.”

He allowed himself to be guided forward, to be pushed into a circle of people being formed around Stilgar, who stood beneath the glowglobe and beside a bundled, curving, and angular shape gathered beneath a robe on the rock floor.

The troop crouched down at a gesture from Stilgar, their robes hissing with the movement. Paul settled with them, watching Stilgar, noting the way the overhead globe made pits of his eyes and brightened the touch of green fabric at his neck. Paul shifted his attention to the robe-covered mound at Stilgar’s feet, recognized the handle of a baliset protruding from the fabric.

“The spirit leaves the body’s water when the first moon rises,” Stilgar intoned. “Thus it is spoken. When we see the first moon rise this night, whom will it summon?”




“Jamis,” the troop responded.

Stilgar turned full circle on one heel, passing his gaze across the ring of faces. “I was a friend of Jamis,” he said. “When the hawk plane stooped upon us at Hole-in-the-Rock, it was Jamis pulled me to safety.”

He bent over the pile beside him, lifted away the robe. “I take this robe as a friend of Jamis – leader’s right.” He draped the robe over a shoulder, straightening.

Now, Paul saw the contents of the mound exposed: the pale glistening gray of a stillsuit, a battered literjon, a kerchief with a small book in its center, the bladeless handle of a crysknife, an empty sheath, a folded pack, a paracompass, a distrans, a thumper, a pile of fist-sized metallic hooks, an assortment of what looked like small rocks within a fold of cloth, a clump of bundled feathers . . . and the baliset exposed beside the folded pack.

So Jamis played the baliset , Paul thought. The instrument reminded him of Gurney Halleck and all that was lost. Paul knew with his memory of the future in the past that some chance-lines could produce a meeting with Halleck, but the reunions were few and shadowed. They puzzled him. The uncertainty factor touched him with wonder. Does it mean that something I will do . . . that I may do, could destroy Gurney . . . or bring him back to life . . . or . . .

Paul swallowed, shook his head.

Again, Stilgar bent over the mound.

“For Jamis’ woman and for the guards,” he said. The small rocks and the book were taken into the folds of his robe.

“Leader’s right,” the troop intoned.

“The marker for Jamis’ coffee service,” Stilgar said, and he lifted a flat disc of green metal. “That it shall be given to Usul in suitable ceremony when we return to the sietch.”

“Leader’s right,” the troop intoned.

Lastly, he took the crysknife handle and stood with it.

“For the funeral plain,” he said.

“For the funeral plain,” the troop responded.

At her place in the circle across from Paul, Jessica nodded, recognizing the ancient source of the rite, and she thought: The meeting between ignorance and knowledge, between brutality and culture – it begins in the dignity with which we treat our dead . She looked across at Paul, wondering: Will he see it? Will he know what to do?

“We are friends of Jamis,” Stilgar said. “We are not wailing for our dead like a pack of garvarg.”

A gray-bearded man to Paul’s left stood up. “I was a friend of Jamis,” he said. He crossed to the mound, lifted the distrans. “When our water went below minim at the siege at Two Birds, Jamis shared.” The man returned to his place in the circle.

Am I supposed to say I was a friend of Jamis? Paul wondered. Do they expect me to take something from that pile? He saw faces turn toward him, turn away. They do expect it!

Another man across from Paul arose, went to the pack and removed the paracompass. “I was a friend of Jamis,” he said. “When the patrol caught us at Bight-of-the-Cliff and I was wounded, Jamis drew them off so the wounded could be saved.” He returned to his place in the circle.

Again, the faces turned toward Paul, and he saw the expectancy in them, lowered his eyes. An elbow nudged him and a voice hissed: “Would you bring the destruction on us?”

How can I say I was his friend? Paul wondered.

Another figure arose from the circle opposite Paul and, as the hooded face came into the light, he recognized his mother. She removed a kerchief from the mount. “I was a friend of Jamis,” she said. “When the spirit of spirits within him saw the needs of truth, that spirit withdrew and spared my son.” She returned to her place.

And Paul recalled the scorn in his mother’s voice as she had confronted him after the fight. “How does it feel to be a killer? ”

Again, he saw the faces turned toward him, felt the anger and fear in the troop. A passage his mother had once filmbooked for him on “The Cult of the Dead” flickered through Paul’s mind. He knew what he had to do.

Slowly, Paul got to his feet.

A sigh passed around the circle.

Paul felt the diminishment of his self as he advanced into the center of the circle. It was as though he lost a fragment of himself and sought it here. He bent over the mound of belongings, lifted out the baliset. A string twanged softly as it struck against something in the pile.

“I was a friend of Jamis,” Paul whispered.

He felt tears burning his eyes, forced more volume into his voice. “Jamis taught me . . . that . . . when you kill . . . you pay for it. I wish I’d known Jamis better.”

Blindly, he groped his way back to his place in the circle, sank to the rock floor.

A voice hissed: “He sheds tears!”

It was taken up around the ring: “Usul gives moisture to the dead!”

He felt fingers touch his damp cheek, heard the awed whispers.

Jessica, hearing the voices, felt the depth of the experience, realized what terrible inhibitions there must be against shedding tears. She focused on the words: “He gives moisture to the dead .” It was a gift to the shadow world – tears. They would be sacred beyond a doubt.

Nothing on this planet had so forcefully hammered into her the ultimate value of water. Not the water-sellers, not the dried skins of the natives, not stillsuits or the rules of water discipline. Here there was a substance more precious than all others – it was life itself and entwined all around with symbolism and ritual.


“I touched his cheek,” someone whispered. “I felt the gift.”

At first, the fingers touching his face frightened Paul. He clutched the cold handle of the baliset, feeling the strings bite his palm. Then he saw the faces beyond the groping hands – the eyes wide and wondering.

Presently, the hands withdrew. The funeral ceremony resumed. But now there was a subtle space around Paul, a drawing back as the troop honored him by a respectful isolation. The ceremony ended with a low chant:

“Full moon calls thee –

Shai-hulud shall thou see;

Red the night, dusky sky,

Bloody death didst thou die.

We pray to a moon: she is round –




Luck with us will then abound,

What we seek for shall be found

In the land of solid ground.”

A bulging sack remained at Stilgar’s feet. He crouched, placed his palms against it. Someone came up beside him, crouched at his elbow, and Paul recognized Chani’s face in the hood shadow.

“Jamis carried thirty-three liters and seven and three-thirty-seconds drachms of the tribe’s water,” Chani said. “I bless it now in the presence of a Sayyadina. Ekkeri-akairi, this is the water, fillissin-follasy of Paul-Muad’Dib! Kivi a-kavi, never the more, nakalas! Nakelas! to be measured and counted, ukair-an! by the heartbeats jan-jan-jan of our friend . . . Jamis.”

In an abrupt and profound silence, Chani turned, stared at Paul. Presently she said: “Where I am flame be thou the coals. Where I am dew be thou the water.”

“Bi-lal kaifa,” intoned the troop.

“To Paul-Muad’Dib goes this portion,” Chani said. “May he guard it for the tribe, preserving it against careless loss. May he be generous with it in time of need. May he pass it on in his time for the good of the tribe.”

“Bi-lal kaifa,” intoned the troop.

I must accept that water , Paul thought. Slowly, he arose, made his way to Chani’s side. Stilgar stepped back to make room for him, took the baliset gently from his hand.

“Kneel,” Chani said.

Paul knelt.

She guided his hands to the waterbag, held them against the resilient surface. “With this water the tribe entrusts thee,” she said. “Jamis is gone from it. Take it in peace.” She stood, pulling Paul up with her.

Stilgar returned the baliset, extended a small pile of metal rings in one palm. Paul looked at them, seeing the different sizes, the way the light of the glowglobe reflected off them.

Chani took the largest ring, held it on a finger. “Thirty liters,” she said. One by one, she took the others, showing each to Paul, counting them. “Two liters; one liter; seven watercounters of one drachm each; one watercounter of three-thirty-seconds drachms. In all – thirty-three liters and seven and three-thirty-seconds drachms.”




She held them up on her finger for Paul to see.

“Do you accept them?” Stilgar asked.

Paul swallowed, nodded. “Yes.”

“Later,” Chani said, “I will show you how to tie them in a kerchief so they won’t rattle and give you away when you need silence.” She extended her hand.

“Will you . . . hold them for me?” Paul asked.

Chani turned a startled glance on Stilgar.

He smiled, said, “Paul-Muad’Dib who is Usul does not yet know our ways, Chani. Hold his watercounters without commitment until it’s time to show him the manner of carrying them.”

She nodded, whipped a ribbon of cloth from beneath her robe, linked the rings onto it with an intricate over and under weaving, hesitated, then stuffed them into the sash beneath her robe.

I missed something there , Paul thought. He sensed the feeling of humor around him, something bantering in it, and his mind linked up a prescient memory: watercounters offered to a woman – courtship ritual .

“Watermasters,” Stilgar said.

The troop arose in a hissing of robes. Two men stepped out, lifted the waterbag. Stilgar took down the glowglobe, led the way with it into the depths of the cave.

Paul was pressed in behind Chani, noted the buttery glow of light over rock walls, the way the shadows danced, and he felt the troop’s lift of spirits contained in a hushed air of expectancy.

Jessica, pulled into the end of the troop by eager hands, hemmed around by jostling bodies, suppressed a moment of panic. She had recognized fragments of the ritual, identified the shards of Chakobsa and Bhotani-jib in the words, and she knew the wild violence that could explode out of these seemingly simple moments.

Jan-jan-jan , she thought. Go-go-go .

It was like a child’s game that had lost all inhibition in adult hands.




Stilgar stopped at a yellow rock wall. He pressed an outcropping and the wall swung silently away from him, opening along an irregular crack. He led the way through past a dark honeycomb lattice that directed a cool wash of air across Paul when he passed it.

Paul turned a questioning stare on Chani, tugged her arm. “That air felt damp,” he said.

“Sh-h-h-h,” she whispered.

But a man behind them said: “Plenty of moisture in the trap tonight. Jamis’ way of telling us he’s satisfied.”

Jessica passed through the secret door, heard it close behind. She saw how the Fremen slowed while passing the honeycomb lattice, felt the dampness of the air as she came opposite it.

Windtrap! she thought. They’ve a concealed windtrap somewhere on the surface to funnel air down here into cooler regions and precipitate the moisture from it .

They passed through another rock door with latticework above it, and the door closed behind them. The draft of air at their backs carried a sensation of moisture clearly perceptible to both Jessica and Paul.

At the head of the troop, the glowglobe in Stilgar’s hands dropped below the level of the heads in front of Paul. Presently he felt steps beneath his feet, curving down to the left. Light reflected back up across hooded heads and a winding movement of people spiraling down the steps.

Jessica sensed mounting tension in the people around her, a pressure of silence that rasped her nerves with its urgency.

The steps ended and the troop passed through another low door. The light of the glowglobe was swallowed in a great open space with a high curved ceiling.

Paul felt Chani’s hand on his arm, heard a faint dripping sound in the chill air, felt an utter stillness come over the Fremen in the cathedral presence of water.

I have seen this place in a dream , he thought.

The thought was both reassuring and frustrating. Somewhere ahead of him on this path, the fanatic hordes cut their gory path across the universe in his name. The green and black Atreides banner would become a symbol of terror. Wild legions would charge into battle screaming their war cry: “Muad’Dib!”

It must not be , he thought. I cannot let it happen.

But he could feel the demanding race consciousness within him, his own terrible purpose, and he knew that no small thing could deflect the juggernaut. It was gathering weight and momentum. If he died this instant, the thing would go on through his mother and his unborn sister. Nothing less than the deaths of all the troop gathered here and now – himself and his mother included – could stop the thing.

Paul stared around him, saw the troop spread out in a line. They pressed him forward against a low barrier carved from native rock. Beyond the barrier in the glow of Stilgar’s globe, Paul saw an unruffled dark surface of water. It stretched away into shadows – deep and black – the far wall only faintly visible, perhaps a hundred meters away.

Jessica felt the dry pulling of skin on her cheeks and forehead relaxing in the presence of moisture. The water pool was deep; she could sense its deepness, and resisted a desire to dip her hands into it.

A splashing sounded on her left. She looked down the shadowy line of Fremen, saw Stilgar with Paul standing beside him and the watermasters emptying their load into the pool through a flowmeter. The meter was a round gray eye above the pool’s rim. She saw its glowing pointer move as the water flowed through it, saw the pointer stop at thirty-three liters, seven and three-thirty-seconds drachms.

Superb accuracy in water measurement , Jessica thought. And she noted that the walls of the meter trough held no trace of moisture after the water’s passage. The water flowed off those walls without binding tension. She saw a profound clue to Fremen technology in the simple fact: they were perfectionists.

Jessica worked her way down the barrier to Stilgar’s side. Way was made for her with casual courtesy. She noted the withdrawn look in Paul’s eyes, but the mystery of this great pool of water dominated her thoughts.

Stilgar looked at her. “There were those among us in need of water,” he said, “yet they would come here and not touch this water. Do you know that?”

“I believe it,” she said.

He looked at the pool. “We have more than thirty-eight million decaliters here,” he said. “Walled off from the little makers, hidden and preserved.”

“A treasure trove,” she said.




Stilgar lifted the globe to look into her eyes. “It is greater than treasure. We have thousands of such caches. Only a few of us know them all.” He cocked his head to one side. The globe cast a yellow-shadowed glow across face and beard. “Hear that?”

They listened.

The dripping of water precipitated from the windtrap filled the room with its presence. Jessica saw that the entire troop was caught up in a rapture of listening. Only Paul seemed to stand remote from it.

To Paul, the sound was like moments ticking away. He could feel time flowing through him, the instants never to be recaptured. He sensed a need for decision, but felt powerless to move.

“It has been calculated with precision,” Stilgar whispered. “We know to within a million decaliters how much we need. When we have it, we shall change the face of Arrakis.”

A hushed whisper of response lifted from the troop: “Bi-lal kaifa.”

“We will trap the dunes beneath grass plantings,” Stilgar said, his voice growing stronger. “We will tie the water into the soil with trees and undergrowth.”

“Bi-lal kaifa,” intoned the troop.

“Each year the polar ice retreats,” Stilgar said.

“Bi-lal kaifa,” they chanted.

“We shall make a homeworld of Arrakis – with melting lenses at the poles, with lakes in the temperate zones, and only the deep desert for the maker and his spice.”

“Bi-lal kaifa.”

“And no man ever again shall want for water. It shall be his for dipping from well or pond or lake or canal. It shall run down through the qanats to feed our plants. It shall be there for any man to take. It shall be his for holding out his hand.”

“Bi-lal kaifa.”

Jessica felt the religious ritual in the words, noted her own instinctively awed response. They’re in league with the future , she thought. They have their mountain to climb. This is the scientist’s dream . . . and these simple people, these peasants, are filled with it .

Her thoughts turned to Liet-Kynes, the Emperor’s planetary ecologist, the man who had gone native – and she wondered at him. This was a dream to capture men’s souls, and she could sense the hand of the ecologist in it. This was a dream for which men would die willingly. It was another of the essential ingredients that she felt her son needed; people with a goal. Such people would be easy to imbue with fervor and fanaticism. They could be wielded like a sword to win back Paul’s place for him.

“We leave now,” Stilgar said, “and wait for the first moon’s rising. When Jamis is safely on his way, we will go home.”

Whispering their reluctance, the troop fell in behind him, turned back along the water barrier and up the stairs.

And Paul, walking behind Chani, felt that a vital moment had passed him, that he had missed an essential decision and was now caught up in his own myth. He knew he had seen this place before, experienced it in a fragment of prescient dream on faraway Caladan, but details of the place were being filled in now that he had not seen. He felt a new sense of wonder at the limits of his gift. It was as though he rode within the wave of time, sometimes in its trough, sometimes on a crest – and all around him the other waves lifted and fell, revealing and then hiding what they bore on their surface.

Through it all, the wild jihad still loomed ahead of him, the violence and the slaughter. It was like a promontory above the surf.

The troop filed through the last door into the main cavern. The door was sealed. Lights were extinguished, hoods removed from the cavern openings, revealing the night and the stars that had come over the desert.

Jessica moved to the dry lip of the cavern’s edge, looked up at the stars. They were sharp and near. She felt the stirring of the troop around her, heard the sound of a baliset being tuned somewhere behind her, and Paul’s voice humming the pitch. There was a melancholy in his tone that she did not like.

Chani’s voice intruded from the deep cave darkness: “Tell me about the waters of your birthworld, Paul Muad’Dib.”

And Paul: “Another time, Chani. I promise.”

Such sadness .

“It’s a good baliset,” Chani said.

“Very good,” Paul said. “Do you think Jamis’ll mind my using it?”

He speaks of the dead in the present tense , Jessica thought. The implications disturbed her.

A man’s voice intruded: “He liked music betimes, Jamis did.”

“Then sing me one of your songs,” Chani pleaded.




Such feminine allure in that girl-child’s voice , Jessica thought. I must caution Paul about their women . . . and soon .

“This was a song of a friend of mine,” Paul said. “I expect he’s dead now, Gurney is. He called it his evensong.”

The troop grew still, listening as Paul’s voice lifted in a sweet boy tenor with the baliset tinkling and strumming beneath it:

“This clear time of seeing embers –

A gold-bright sun’s lost in first dusk.

What frenzied senses, desp’rate musk

Are consort of rememb’ring.”

Jessica felt the verbal music in her breast – pagan and charged with sounds that made her suddenly and intensely aware of herself, feeling her own body and its needs. She listened with a tense stillness.

“Night’s pearl-censered requi-em . . .

“Tis for us!

What joys run, then –

Bright in your eyes –

What flower-spangled amores

Pull at our hearts . . .

What flower-spangled amores

Fill our desires.”

And Jessica heard the after-stillness that hummed in the air with the last note. Why does my son sing a love song to that girl-child? she asked herself. She felt an abrupt fear. She could sense life flowing around her and she had no grasp on its reins. Why did he choose that song? she wondered. The instincts are true sometimes. Why did he do this?

Paul sat silently in the darkness, a single stark thought dominating his awareness: My mother is my enemy. She does not know it, but she is. She is bringing the jihad. She bore me; she trained me. She is my enemy .

The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.

– from “Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

On his seventeenth birthday, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen killed his one hundredth slave-gladiator in the family games. Visiting observers from the Imperial Court  – a Count and Lady Fenring – were on the Harkonnen homeworld of Giedi Prime for the event, invited to sit that afternoon with the immediate family in the golden box above the triangular arena.

In honor of the na-Baron’s nativity and to remind all Harkonnens and subjects that Feyd-Rautha was heir-designate, it was holiday on Giedi Prime. The old Baron had decreed a meridian-to-meridian rest from labors, and effort had been spent in the family city of Harko to create the illusion of gaiety: banners flew from buildings, new paint had been splashed on the walls along Court Way.

But off the main way, Count Fenring and his lady noted the rubbish heaps, the scabrous brown walls reflected in the dark puddles of the streets, and the furtive scurrying of the people.

In the Baron’s blue-walled keep, there was fearful perfection, but the Count and his lady saw the price being paid – guards everywhere and weapons with that special sheen that told a trained eye they were in regular use. There were checkpoints for routine passage from area to area even within the keep. The servants revealed their military training in the way they walked, in the set of their shoulders . . . in the way their eyes watched and watched and watched.

“The pressure’s on,” the Count hummed to his lady in their secret language. “The Baron is just beginning to see the price he really paid to rid himself of the Duke Leto.”

“Sometime I must recount for you the legend of the phoenix,” she said.

They were in the reception hall of the keep waiting to go to the family games. It was not a large hall – perhaps forty meters long and half that in width – but false pillars along the sides had been shaped with an abrupt taper, and the ceiling had a subtle arch, all giving the illusion of much greater space.

“Ah-h-h, here comes the Baron,” the Count said.




The Baron moved down the length of the hall with that peculiar waddling-glide imparted by the necessities of guiding suspensor-hung weight. His jowls bobbed up and down; the suspensors jiggled and shifted beneath his orange robe. Rings glittered on his hands and opafires shone where they had been woven into the robe.

At the Baron’s elbow walked Feyd-Rautha. His dark hair was dressed in close ringlets that seemed incongruously gay above sullen eyes. He wore a tight-fitting black tunic and snug trousers with a suggestion of bell at the bottom. Soft-soled slippers covered his small feet.

Lady Fenring, noting the young man’s poise and the sure flow of muscles beneath the tunic thought: Here’s one who won’t let himself go to fat .

The Baron stopped in front of them, took Feyd-Rautha’s arm in a possessive grip, said, “My nephew, the na-Baron, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen.” And, turning his baby-fat face toward Feyd-Rautha, he said, “The Count and Lady Fenring of whom I’ve spoken.”

Feyd-Rautha dipped his head with the required courtesy. He stared at the Lady Fenring. She was golden-haired and willowy, her perfection of figure clothed in a flowing gown of ecru – simple fitness of form without ornament. Gray-green eyes stared back at him. She had that Bene Gesserit serene repose about her that the young man found subtly disturbing.

“Um-m-m-m-ah-hm-m-m-m,” said the Count. He studied Feyd-Rautha. “The, hm-m-m-m, precise young man, ah, my . . . hm-m-m-m . . . dear?” The Count glanced at the Baron. “My dear Baron, you say you’ve spoken of us to this precise young man? What did you say?”

“I told my nephew of the great esteem our Emperor holds for you. Count Fenring,” the Baron said. And he thought: Mark him well, Feyd! A killer with the manners of a rabbit – this is the most dangerous kind .

“Of course!” said the Count, and he smiled at his lady.

Feyd-Rautha found the man’s actions and words almost insulting. They stopped just short of something overt that would require notice. The young man focused his attention on the Count: a small man, weak-looking. The face was weaselish with overlarge dark eyes. There was gray at the temples. And his movements – he moved a hand or turned his head one way, then he spoke another way. It was difficult to follow.

“Um-m-m-m-m-ah-h-h-hm-m-m, you come upon such, mm-m-m, preciseness so rarely,” the Count said, addressing the Baron’s shoulder. “I . . . ah, congratulate you on the hm-m-m perfection of your ah-h-h heir. In the light of the hm-m-m elder, one might say.”




“You are too kind,” the Baron said. He bowed, but Feyd-Rautha noted that his uncle’s eyes did not agree with the courtesy.

“When you’re mm-m-m ironic, that ah-h-h suggests you’re hm-m-m-m thinking deep thoughts,” the Count said.

There he goes again , Feyd-Rautha thought. It sounds like he’s being insulting, but there’s nothing you can call out for satisfaction .

Listening to the man gave Feyd-Rautha the feeling his head was being pushed through mush . . . um-m-m-ah-h-h-hm-m-m-m! Feyd-Rautha turned his attention back to the Lady Fenring.

“We’re ah-h-h taking up too much of this young man’s time,” she said. “I understand he’s to appear in the arena today.”

By the houris of the Imperial hareem, she’s a lovely one! Feyd-Rautha thought. He said: “I shall make a kill for you this day, my Lady. I shall make the dedication in the arena, with your permission.”

She returned his stare serenely, but her voice carried whiplash as she said: “You do not have my permission.”

“Feyd!” the Baron said. And he thought: That imp! Does he want this deadly Count to call him out?

But the Count only smiled and said: “Hm-m-m-m-um-m-m.”

“You really must be getting ready for the arena, Feyd,” the Baron said. “You must be rested and not take any foolish risks.”

Feyd-Rautha bowed, his face dark with resentment. “I’m sure everything will be as you wish, Uncle.” He nodded to Count Fenring. “Sir.” To the lady: “My Lady.” And he turned, strode out of the hall, barely glancing at the knot of Families Minor near the double doors.

“He’s so young,” the Baron sighed.

“Um-m-m-m-ah indeed hmmm,” the Count said.

And the Lady Fenring thought: Can that be the young man the Reverend Mother meant? Is that a bloodline we must preserve?

“We’ve more than an hour before going to the arena,” the Baron said. “Perhaps we could have our little talk now, Count Fenring.” He tipped his gross head to the right. “There’s a considerable amount of progress to be discussed.”

And the Baron thought; Let us see now how the Emperors errand boy gets across whatever message he carries without ever being so crass as to speak it right out .




The Count spoke to his lady: “Um-m-m-m-ah-h-h-hm-m-m, you mm-m will ah-h-h excuse us, my dear?”

“Each day, some time each hour, brings change,” she said. “Mm-m-m-m.” And she smiled sweetly at the Baron before turning away. Her long skirts swished and she walked with a straight-backed regal stride toward the double doors at the end of the hall.

The Baron noted how all conversation among the Houses Minor there stopped at her approach, how the eyes followed her. Bene Gesserit! the Baron thought. The universe would be better rid of them all!

“There’s a cone of silence between two of the pillars over here on our left,” the Baron said. “We can talk there without fear of being overheard.” He led the way with his waddling gait into the sound-deadening field, feeling the noises of the keep become dull and distant.

The Count moved up beside the Baron, and they turned, facing the wall so their lips could not be read.

“We’re not satisfied with the way you ordered the Sardaukar off Arrakis,” the Count said.

Straight talk! the Baron thought.

“The Sardaukar could not stay longer without risking that others would find out how the Emperor helped me,” the Baron said.

“But your nephew Rabban does not appear to be pressing strongly enough toward a solution of the Fremen problem.”

“What does the Emperor wish?” the Baron asked. “There cannot be more than a handful of Fremen left on Arrakis. The southern desert is uninhabitable. The northern desert is swept regularly by our patrols.”

“Who says the southern desert is uninhabitable?”

“Your own planetologist said it, my dear Count.”

“But Doctor Kynes is dead.”

“Ah, yes . . . unfortunate, that.”

“We’ve word from an overflight across the southern reaches,” the Count said. “There’s evidence of plant life.”

“Has the Guild then agreed to a watch from space?”

“You know better than that, Baron. The Emperor cannot legally post a watch on Arrakis.”

“And I cannot afford it,” the Baron said. “Who made this overflight?”

“A . . . smuggler.”

“Someone has lied to you, Count,” the Baron said. “Smugglers cannot navigate the southern reaches any better than can Rabban’s men. Storms, sand-static, and all that, you know. Navigation markers are knocked out faster than they can be installed.”

“We’ll discuss various types of static another time,” the Count said.




Ah-h-h-h , the Baron thought. “Have you found some mistake in my accounting then?” he demanded.

“When you imagine mistakes there can be no self-defense,” the Count said.

He’s deliberately trying to arouse my anger , the Baron thought. He took two deep breaths to calm himself. He could smell his own sweat, and the harness of the suspensors beneath his robe felt suddenly itchy and galling.

“The Emperor cannot be unhappy about the death of the concubine and the boy,” the Baron said. “They fled into the desert. There was a storm.”

“Yes, there were so many convenient accidents,” the Count agreed.

“I do not like your tone, Count,” the Baron said.

“Anger is one thing, violence another,” the Count said. “Let me caution you: Should an unfortunate accident occur to me here the Great Houses all would learn what you did on Arrakis. They’ve long suspected how you do business.”

“The only recent business I can recall,” the Baron said, “was transportation of several legions of Sardaukar to Arrakis.”

“You think you could hold that over the Emperor’s head?”

“I wouldn’t think of it!”

The Count smiled. “Sardaukar commanders could be found who’d confess they acted without orders because they wanted a battle with your Fremen scum.”

“Many might doubt such a confession,” the Baron said, but the threat staggered him. Are Sardaukar truly that disciplined? he wondered.

“The Emperor does wish to audit your books,” the Count said.

“Any time.”

“You . . . ah . . . have no objections?”




“None. My CHOAM Company directorship will bear the closest scrutiny.” And he thought: Let him bring a false accusation against me and have it exposed. I shall stand there, Promethean, saying: “Behold me, I am wronged.” Then let him bring any other accusation against me, even a true one. The Great Houses will not believe a second attack from an accuser once proved wrong .”

“No doubt your books will bear the closest scrutiny,” the Count muttered.

“Why is the Emperor so interested in exterminating the Fremen?” the Baron asked.

“You wish the subject to be changed, eh?” The Count shrugged. “It is the Sardaukar who wish it, not the Emperor. They needed practice in killing . . . and they hate to see a task left undone.”

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