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Chapter no 29

Dune

A Fedaykin went to look, returned, said: “The explosion caused a little rock to fall, but the engineers say it is still open. They’re cleaning up with lasbeams.”

“Tell them to use their hands!” Paul barked. “There are shields active down there?”

“They are being careful, Muad’Dib,” the man said, but he turned to obey.

The signalmen from outside pressed past them carrying their equipment.

“I told those men to leave their equipment!” Paul said.

“Fremen do not like to abandon equipment, Muad’Dib,” one of his Fedaykin chided.

“Men are more important than equipment now,” Paul said. “We’ll have more equipment than we can use soon or have no need for any equipment.”

Gurney Halleck came up beside him, said: “I heard them say the way down is open. We’re very close to the surface here, m’Lord, should the Harkonnens try to retaliate in kind.”

“They’re in no position to retaliate,” Paul said. “They’re just now finding out that they have no shields and are unable to get off Arrakis.”

“The new command post is all prepared, though, m’Lord,” Gurney said.

“They’ve no need of me in the command post yet,” Paul said. “The plan would go ahead without me. We must wait for the – ”

“I’m getting a message, Muad’Dib,” said the signalman at the communications equipment. The man shook his head, pressed a receiver phone against his ear. “Much static!” He began scribbling on a pad in front of him, shaking his head waiting, writing . . . waiting.

Paul crossed to the signalman’s side. The Fedaykin stepped back, giving him room. He looked down at what the man had written, read:

“Raid . . . on Sietch Tabr . . . captives . . . Alia (blank) families of (blank) dead are . . . they (blank) son of Muad’Dib . . . ”

Again, the signalman shook his head.

Paul looked up to see Gurney staring at him.

“The message is garbled,” Gurney said. “The static. You don’t know that . . . ”

 

 

 

“My son is dead,” Paul said, and knew as he spoke that it was true. “My son is dead . . . and Alia is a captive . . . hostage.” He felt emptied, a shell without emotions. Everything he touched brought death and grief. And it was like a disease that could spread across the universe.

He could feel the old-man wisdom, the accumulation out of the experiences from countless possible lives. Something seemed to chuckle and rub its hands within him.

And Paul thought: How little the universe knows about the nature of real cruelty!

And Muad’Dib stood before them, and he said: “Though we deem the captive dead, yet does she live. For her seed is my seed and her voice is my voice. And she sees unto the farthest reaches of possibility. Yea, unto the vale of the unknowable does she see because of me.”

– from “Arrakis Awakening” by the Princess Irulan

The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen stood with eyes downcast in the Imperial audience chamber, the oval selamlik within the Padishah Emperor’s hutment. With covert glances, the Baron had studied the metal-walled room and its occupants – the noukkers, the pages, the guards, the troop of House Sardaukar drawn up around the walls, standing at ease there beneath the bloody and tattered captured battle flags that were the room’s only decoration.

Voices sounded from the right of the chamber, echoing out of a high passage: “Make way! Make way for the Royal Person!”

The Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV came out of the passage into the audience chamber followed by his suite. He stood waiting while his throne was brought, ignoring the Baron, seemingly ignoring every person in the room.

The Baron found that he could not ignore the Royal Person, and studied the Emperor for a sign, any clue to the purpose of this audience. The Emperor stood poised, waiting – a slim, elegant figure in a gray Sardaukar uniform with silver and gold trim. His thin face and cold eyes reminded the Baron of the Duke Leto long dead. There was that same look of the predatory bird. But the Emperor’s hair was red, not black, and most of that hair was concealed by a Burseg’s ebon helmet with the Imperial crest in gold upon its crown.

Pages brought the throne. It was a massive chair carved from a single piece of Hagal quartz – blue-green translucency shot through with streaks of yellow fire. They placed it on the dais and the Emperor mounted, seated himself.

An old woman in a black aba robe with hood drawn down over her forehead detached herself from the Emperor’s suite, took up station behind the throne, one scrawny hand resting on the quartz back. Her face peered out of the hood like a witch caricature – sunken cheeks and eyes, an overlong nose, skin mottled and with protruding veins.

The Baron stilled his trembling at sight of her. The presence of the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, the Emperor’s Truthsayer, betrayed the importance of this audience. The Baron looked away from her, studied the suite for a clue. There were two of the Guild agents, one tall and fat, one short and fat, both with bland gray eyes. And among the lackeys stood one of the Emperor’s daughters, the Princess Irulan, a woman they said was being trained in the deepest of the Bene Gesserit ways, destined to be a Reverend Mother. She was tall, blonde, face of chiseled beauty, green eyes that looked past and through him.

“My dear Baron.”

The Emperor had deigned to notice him. The voice was baritone and with exquisite control. It managed to dismiss him while greeting him.

The Baron bowed low, advanced to the required position ten paces from the dais. “I came at your summons, Majesty.”

“Summons!” the old witch cackled.

“Now, Reverend Mother,” the Emperor chided, but he smiled at the Baron’s discomfiture, said: “First, you will tell me where you’ve sent your minion, Thufir Hawat.”

The Baron darted his gaze left and right, reviled himself for coming here without his own guards, not that they’d be much use against Sardaukar. Still . . .

“Well?” the Emperor said.

“He has been gone these five days, Majesty.” The Baron shot a glance at the Guild agents, back to the Emperor. “He was to land at a smuggler base and attempt infiltrating the camp of the Fremen fanatic, this Muad’Dib.”

“Incredible!” the Emperor said.

One of the witch’s clawlike hands tapped the Emperor’s shoulder. She leaned forward, whispered in his ear.

The Emperor nodded, said: “Five days, Baron. Tell me, why aren’t you worried about his absence?”

“But I am worried, Majesty!”

The Emperor continued to stare at him, waiting. The Reverend Mother emitted a cackling laugh.

“What I mean, Majesty,” the Baron said, “is that Hawat will be dead within another few hours, anyway.” And he explained about the latent poison and need for an antidote.

 

 

 

“How clever of you, Baron,” the Emperor said. “And where are your nephews, Rabban and the young Feyd-Rautha?”

“The storm comes, Majesty. I sent them to inspect our perimeter lest the Fremen attack under cover of the sand.”

“Perimeter,” the Emperor said. The word came out as though it puckered his mouth. “The storm won’t be much here in the basin, and that Fremen rabble won’t attack while I’m here with five legions of Sardaukar.”

“Surely not, Majesty,” the Baron said, “But error on the side of caution cannot be censured.”

“Ah-h-h-h,” the Emperor said. “Censure. Then I’m not to speak of how much time this Arrakis nonsense has taken from me? Nor the CHOAM Company profits pouring down this rat hole? Nor the court functions and affairs of state I’ve had to delay – even cancel – because of this stupid affair?”

The Baron lowered his gaze, frightened by the Imperial anger. The delicacy of his position here, alone and dependent upon the Convention and the dictum familia of the Great Houses, fretted him. Does he mean to kill me? the Baron asked himself. He couldn’t! Not with the other Great Houses waiting up there, aching for any excuse to gain from this upset on Arrakis.

“Have you taken hostages?” the Emperor asked.

“It’s useless, Majesty,” the Baron said. “These mad Fremen hold a burial ceremony for every captive and act as though such a one were already dead.”

“So?” the Emperor said.

And the Baron waited, glancing left and right at the metal walls of the selamlik, thinking of the monstrous fanmetal tent around him. Such unlimited wealth it represented that even the Baron was awed. He brings pages , the Baron thought, and useless court lackeys, his women and their companions – hair-dressers, designers, everything . . . all the fringe parasites of the Court. All here – fawning, slyly plotting, “roughing it” with the Emperor . . . here to watch him put an end to this affair, to make epigrams over the battles and idolize the wounded .

“Perhaps you’ve never sought the right kind of hostages,” the Emperor said.

He knows something , the Baron thought. Fear sat like a stone in his stomach until he could hardly bear the thought of eating. Yet, the feeling was like hunger, and he poised himself several times in his suspensors on the point of ordering food brought to him. But there was no one here to obey his summons.

“Do you have any idea who this Muad’Dib could be?” the Emperor asked.

“One of the Umma, surely,” the Baron said. “A Fremen fanatic, a religious adventurer. They crop up regularly on the fringes of civilization. Your Majesty knows this.”

The Emperor glanced at his Truthsayer, turned back to scowl at the Baron. “And you have no other knowledge of this Muad’Dib?”

“A madman,” the Baron said. “But all Fremen are a little mad.”

“Mad?”

“His people scream his name as they leap into battle. The women throw their babies at us and hurl themselves onto our knives to open a wedge for their men to attack us. They have no . . . no . . . decency!”

“As bad as that,” the Emperor murmured, and his tone of derision did not escape the Baron. “Tell me, my dear Baron, have you investigated the southern polar regions of Arrakis?”

The Baron stared up at the Emperor, shocked by the change of subject. “But . . . well, you know, Your Majesty, the entire region is uninhabitable, open to wind and worm. There’s not even any spice in those latitudes.”

 

 

 

“You’ve had no reports from spice lighters that patches of greenery appear there?”

“There’ve always been such reports. Some were investigated – long ago. A few plants were seen. Many ‘thopters were lost. Much too costly, Your Majesty. It’s a place where men cannot survive for long.”

“So,” the Emperor said. He snapped his fingers and a door opened at his left behind the throne. Through the door came two Sardaukar herding a girl-child who appeared to be about four years old. She wore a black aba, the hood thrown back to reveal the attachments of a stillsuit hanging free at her throat. Her eyes were Fremen blue, staring out of a soft, round face. She appeared completely unafraid and there was a look to her stare that made the Baron feel uneasy for no reason he could explain.

Even the old Bene Gesserit Truthsayer drew back as the child passed and made a warding sign in her direction. The old witch obviously was shaken by the child’s presence.

The Emperor cleared his throat to speak, but the child spoke first – a thin voice with traces of a soft-palate lisp, but clear nonetheless. “So here he is,” she said. She advanced to the edge of the dais. “He doesn’t appear much, does he – one frightened old fat man too weak to support his own flesh without the help of suspensors.”

It was such a totally unexpected statement from the mouth of a child that the Baron stared at her, speechless in spite of his anger. Is it a midget? he asked himself.

“My dear Baron,” the Emperor said, “become acquainted with the sister of Muad’Dib.”

“The sist . . . “The Baron shifted his attention to the Emperor. “I do not understand.”

“I, too, sometimes err on the side of caution,” the Emperor said. “It has been reported to me that your uninhabited south polar regions exhibit evidence of human activity.”

“But that’s impossible!” the Baron protested. “The worms . . . there’s sand clear to the . . . ”

“These people seem able to avoid the worms,” the Emperor said.

The child sat down on the dais beside the throne, dangled her feet over the edge, kicking them. There was such an air of sureness in the way she appraised her surroundings.

The Baron stared at the kicking feet, the way they moved the black robe, the wink of sandals beneath the fabric.

“Unfortunately,” the Emperor said, “I only sent in five troop carriers with a light attack force to pick up prisoners for questioning. We barely got away with three prisoners and one carrier. Mind you, Baron, my Sardaukar were almost overwhelmed by a force composed mostly of women, children, and old men. This child here was in command of one of the attacking groups.”

“You see, Your Majesty!” the Baron said. “You see how they are!”

“I allowed myself to be captured,” the child said. “I did not want to face my brother and have to tell him that his son had been killed.”

“Only a handful of our men got away,” the Emperor said. “Got away! You hear that?”

“We’d have had them, too,” the child said, “except for the flames.”

“My Sardaukar used the attitudinal jets on their carrier as flame-throwers,” the Emperor said. “A move of desperation and the only thing that got them away with their three prisoners. Mark that, my dear Baron: Sardaukar forced to retreat in confusion from women and children and old men!”

“We must attack in force,” the Baron rasped. “We must destroy every last vestige of – ”

“Silence!” the Emperor roared. He pushed himself forward on his throne. “Do not abuse my intelligence any longer. You stand there in your foolish innocence and – ”

“Majesty,” the old Truthsayer said.

He waved her to silence. “You say you don’t know about the activity we found, nor the fighting qualities of these superb people!” The Emperor lifted himself half off his throne. “What do you take me for, Baron?”

The Baron took two backward steps, thinking: It was Rabban. He has done this to me. Rabban has . . .

“And this fake dispute with Duke Leto,” the Emperor purred, sinking back into his throne. “How beautifully you maneuvered it.”

“Majesty,” the Baron pleaded. “What are you – ”

“Silence!”

The old Bene Gesserit put a hand on the Emperor’s shoulder, leaned close to whisper in his ear.

The child seated on the dais stopped kicking her feet, said: “Make him afraid some more, Shaddam. I shouldn’t enjoy this, but I find the pleasure impossible to suppress.”

“Quiet, child,” the Emperor said. He leaned forward, put a hand on her head, stared at the Baron. “Is it possible, Baron? Could you be as simpleminded as my Truthsayer suggests? Do you not recognize this child, daughter of your ally, Duke Leto?”

“My father was never his ally,” the child said. “My father is dead and this old Harkonnen beast has never seen me before.”

The Baron was reduced to stupefied glaring. When he found his voice it was only to rasp: “Who?”

“I am Alia, daughter of Duke Leto and the Lady Jessica, sister of Duke Paul-Muad’Dib,” the child said. She pushed herself off the dais, dropped to the floor of the audience chamber. “My brother has promised to have your head atop his battle standard and I think he shall.”

“Be hush, child,” the Emperor said, and he sank back into his throne, hand to chin, studying the Baron.

 

 

 

“I do not take the Emperor’s orders,” Alia said. She turned, looked up at the old Reverend Mother. “She knows.”

The Emperor glanced up at his Truthsayer. “What does she mean?”

“That child is an abomination!” the old woman said. “Her mother deserves a punishment greater than anything in history. Death! It cannot come too quickly for that child or for the one who spawned her!” The old woman pointed a finger at Alia. “Get out of my mind!”

“T�CP?” the Emperor whispered. He snapped his attention back to Alia. “By the Great Mother!”

“You don’t understand. Majesty,” the old woman said. “Not telepathy. She’s in my mind. She’s like the ones before me, the ones who gave me their memories. She stands in my mind! She cannot be there, but she is!”

“What others?” the Emperor demanded. “What’s this nonsense?”

The old woman straightened, lowered her pointing hand. “I’ve said too much, but the fact remains that this child who is not a child must be destroyed. Long were we warned against such a one and how to prevent such a birth, but one of our own has betrayed us.”

“You babble, old woman,” Alia said. “You don’t know how it was, yet you rattle on like a purblind fool.” Alia closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and held it.

The old Reverend Mother groaned and staggered.

Alia opened her eyes. “That is how it was,” she said. “A cosmic accident . . . and you played your part in it.”

The Reverend Mother held out both hands, palms pushing the air toward Alia.

“What is happening here?” the Emperor demanded. “Child, can you truly project your thoughts into the mind of another?”

“That’s not how it is at all,” Alia said. “Unless I’m born as you, I cannot think as you.”

“Kill her,” the old woman muttered, and clutched the back of the throne for support. “Kill her!” The sunken old eyes glared at Alia.

“Silence,” the Emperor said, and he studied Alia. “Child, can you communicate with your brother?”

“My brother knows I’m here,” Alia said.

“Can you tell him to surrender as the price of your life?”

Alia smiled up at him with clear innocence. “I shall not do that,” she said.

The Baron stumbled forward to stand beside Alia. “Majesty,” he pleaded, “I knew nothing of – ”

“Interrupt me once more, Baron,” the Emperor said, “and you will lose the powers of interruption . . . forever.” He kept his attention focused on Alia, studying her through slitted lids. “You will not, eh? Can you read in my mind what I’ll do if you disobey me?”

“I’ve already said I cannot read minds,” she said, “but one doesn’t need telepathy to read your intentions.”

The Emperor scowled. “Child, your cause is hopeless. I have but to rally my forces and reduce this planet to – ”

“It’s not that simple,” Alia said. She looked at the two Guildsmen. “Ask them.”

“It is not wise to go against my desires,” the Emperor said. “You should not deny me the least thing.”

“My brother comes now,” Alia said. “Even an Emperor may tremble before Muad’Dib, for he has the strength of righteousness and heaven smiles upon him.”

The Emperor surged to his feet. “This play has gone far enough. I will take your brother and this planet and grind them to – ”

The room rumbled and shook around them. There came a sudden cascade of sand behind the throne where the hutment was coupled to the Emperor’s ship. The abrupt flicker-tightening of skin pressure told of a wide-area shield being activated.

“I told you,” Alia said. “My brother comes.”

The Emperor stood in front of his throne, right hand pressed to right ear, the servo-receiver there chattering its report on the situation. The Baron moved two steps behind Alia. Sardaukar were leaping to positions at the doors.

“We will fall back into space and reform,” the Emperor said. “Baron, my apologies. These madmen are attacking under cover of the storm. We will show them an Emperor’s wrath, then.” He pointed at Alia. “Give her body to the storm.”

As he spoke, Alia fled backward, feigning terror: “Let the storm have what it can take!” she screamed. And she backed into the Baron’s arms.

“I have her, Majesty!” the Baron shouted. “Shall I dispatch her now-eeeeeeeeeeeh!” He hurled her to the floor, clutched his left arm.

“I’m sorry, Grandfather,” Alia said. “You’ve met the Atreides gom jabbar.” She got to her feet, dropped a dark needle from her hand.

The Baron fell back. His eyes bulged as he stared at a red slash on his left palm. “You . . . you . . . ” He rolled sideways in his suspensors, a sagging mass of flesh supported inches off the floor with head lolling and mouth hanging open.

“These people are insane,” the Emperor snarled. “Quick! Into the ship. We’ll purge this planet of every . . . ”

Something sparkled to his left. A roll of ball lightning bounced away from the wall there, crackled as it touched the metal floor. The smell of burned insulation swept through the selamlik.

“The shield!” one of the Sardaukar officers shouted. “The outer shield is down! They . . . ”

His words were drowned in a metallic roaring as the shipwall behind the Emperor trembled and rocked.

“They’ve shot the nose off our ship!” someone called.

Dust boiled through the room. Under its cover, Alia leaped up, ran toward the outer door.

 

 

 

The Emperor whirled, motioned his people into an emergency door that swung open in the ship’s side behind the throne. He flashed a hand signal to a Sardaukar officer leaping through the dust haze. “We will make our stand here!” the Emperor ordered.

Another crash shook the hutment. The double doors banged open at the far side of the chamber admitting wind-blown sand and the sound of shouting. A small, black-robed figure could be seen momentarily against the light – Alia darting out to find a knife and, as befitted her Fremen training, to kill Harkonnen and Sardaukar wounded. House Sardaukar charged through a greened yellow haze toward the opening, weapons ready, forming an arc there to protect the Emperor’s retreat.

“Save yourself, Sire!” a Sardaukar officer shouted. “Into the ship!”

But the Emperor stood alone now on his dais pointing toward the doors. A forty-meter section of the hutment had been blasted away there and the selamlik’s doors opened now onto drifting sand. A dust cloud hung low over the outside world blowing from pastel distances. Static lightning crackled from the cloud and the spark flashes of shields being shorted out by the storm’s charge could be seen through the haze. The plain surged with figures in combat – Sardaukar and leaping gyrating robed men who seemed to come down out of the storm.

All this was as a frame for the target of the Emperor’s pointing hand.

Out of the sand haze came an orderly mass of flashing shapes – great rising curves with crystal spokes that resolved into the gaping mouths of sandworms, a massed wall of them, each with troops of Fremen riding to the attack. They came in a hissing wedge, robes whipping in the wind as they cut through the melee on the plain.

Onward toward the Emperor’s hutment they came while the House Sardaukar stood awed for the first time in their history by an onslaught their minds found difficult to accept.

But the figures leaping from the worm backs were men, and the blades flashing in that ominous yellow light were a thing the Sardaukar had been trained to face. They threw themselves into combat. And it was man to man on the plain of Arrakeen while a picked Sardaukar bodyguard pressed the Emperor back into the ship, sealed the door on him, and prepared to die at that door as part of his shield.

In the shock of comparative silence within the ship, the Emperor stared at the wide-eyed faces of his suite, seeing his oldest daughter with the flush of exertion on her cheeks, the old Truthsayer standing like a black shadow with her hood pulled about her face, finding at last the faces he sought – the two Guildsmen. They wore the Guild gray, unadorned, and it seemed to fit the calm they maintained despite the high emotions around them.

The taller of the two, though, held a hand to his left eye. As the Emperor watched, someone jostled the Guildsman’s arm, the hand moved, and the eye was revealed. The man had lost one of his masking contact lenses, and the eye stared out a total blue so dark as to be almost black.

The smaller of the pair elbowed his way a step nearer the Emperor, said: “We cannot know how it will go.” And the taller companion, hand restored to eye, added in a cold voice: “But this Muad’Dib cannot know, either.”

The words shocked the Emperor out of his daze. He checked the scorn on his tongue by a visible effort because it did not take a Guild navigator’s single-minded focus on the main chance to see the immediate future out on that plain. Were these two so dependent upon their faculty that they had lost the use of their eyes and their reason? he wondered.

“Reverend Mother,” he said, “we must devise a plan.”

She pulled the hood from her face, met his gaze with an unblinking stare. The look that passed between them carried complete understanding. They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.

“Summon Count Fenring from his quarters,” the Reverend Mother said.

The Padishah Emperor nodded, waved for one of his aides to obey that command.

He was warrior and mystic, ogre and saint, the fox and the innocent, chivalrous, ruthless, less than a god, more than a man. There is no measuring Muad’Dib’s motives by ordinary standards. In the moment of his triumph, he saw the death prepared for him, yet he accepted the treachery. Can you say he did this out of a sense of justice? Whose justice, then? Remember, we speak now of the Muad’Dib who ordered battle drums made from his enemies’ skins, the Muad’Dib who denied the conventions of his ducal past with a wave of the hand, saying merely: “I am the Kwisatz Haderach. That is reason enough. ”

– from “Arrakis Awakening” by the Princess Irulan

It was to the Arrakeen governor’s mansion, the old Residency the Atreides had first occupied on Dune, that they escorted Paul-Muad’Dib on the evening of his victory. The building stood as Rabban had restored it, virtually untouched by the fighting although there had been looting by townspeople. Some of the furnishings in the main hall had been overturned or smashed.

Paul strode through the main entrance with Gurney Halleck and Stilgar a pace behind. Their escort fanned out into the Great Hall, straightening the place and clearing an area for Muad’Dib. One squad began investigating that no sly trap had been planted here.

“I remember the day we first came here with your father,” Gurney said. He glanced around at the beams and the high, slitted windows. “I didn’t like this place then and I like it less now. One of our caves would be safer.”

“Spoken like a true Fremen,” Stilgar said, and he marked the cold smile that his words brought to Muad’Dib’s lips. “Will you reconsider, Muad’Dib?”

“This place is a symbol,” Paul said. “Rabban lived here. By occupying this place I seal my victory for all to understand. Send men through the building. Touch nothing. Just be certain no Harkonnen people or toys remain.”

“As you command,” Stilgar said, and reluctance was heavy in his tone as he turned to obey.

Communications men hurried into the room with their equipment, began setting up near the massive fireplace. The Fremen guard that augmented the surviving Fedaykin took up stations around the room. There was muttering among them, much darting of suspicious glances. This had been too long a place of the enemy for them to accept their presence in it casually.

“Gurney, have an escort bring my mother and Chani,” Paul said. “Does Chani know yet about our son?”

“The message was sent, m’Lord.”

 

 

 

“Are the makers being taken out of the basin yet?”

“Yes, m’Lord. The storm’s almost spent.”

“What’s the extent of the storm damage?” Paul asked.

“In the direct path – on the landing field and across the spice storage yards of the plain – extensive damage,” Gurney said. “As much from battle as from the storm.”

“Nothing money won’t repair, I presume,” Paul said.

“Except for the lives, m’Lord,” Gurney said, and there was a tone of reproach in his voice as though to say: “When did an Atreides worry first about things when people were at stake? ”

But Paul could only focus his attention on the inner eye and the gaps visible to him in the time-wall that still lay across his path. Through each gap the jihad raged away down the corridors of the future.

He sighed, crossed the hall, seeing a chair against the wall. The chair had once stood in the dining hall and might even have held his own father. At the moment, though, it was only an object to rest his weariness and conceal it from the men. He sat down, pulling his robes around his legs, loosening his stillsuit at the neck.

“The Emperor is still holed up in the remains of his ship,” Gurney said.

“For now, contain him there,” Paul said. “Have they found the Harkonnens yet?”

“They’re still examining the dead.”

“What reply from the ships up there?” He jerked his chin toward the ceiling.

“No reply yet, m’Lord.”

Paul sighed, resting against the back of his chair. Presently, he said: “Bring me a captive Sardaukar. We must send a message to our Emperor. It’s time to discuss terms.”

“Yes, m’Lord.”

Gurney turned away, dropped a hand signal to one of the Fedaykin who took up close-guard position beside Paul.

“Gurney,” Paul whispered. “Since we’ve been rejoined I’ve yet to hear you produce the proper quotation for the event.” He turned, saw Gurney swallow, saw the sudden grim hardening of the man’s jaw.

“As you wish, m’Lord,” Gurney said. He cleared his throat, rasped: ” ‘And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son.’ ”

Paul closed his eyes, forcing grief out of his mind, letting it wait as he had once waited to mourn his father. Now, he gave his thoughts over to this day’s accumulated discoveries – the mixed futures and the hidden presence of Alia within his awareness.

Of all the uses of time-vision, this was the strangest. “I have breasted the future to place my words where only you can hear them,” Alia had said. “Even you cannot do that, my brother. I find it an interesting play. And . . . oh, yes – I’ve killed our grandfather, the demented old Baron. He had very little pain.”

Silence. His time sense had seen her withdrawal.

“Muad’Dib.”

Paul opened his eyes to see Stilgar’s black-bearded visage above him, the dark eyes glaring with battle light.

“You’ve found the body of the old Baron,” Paul said.

A hush of the person settled over Stilgar. “How could you know?” he whispered. “We just found the body in that great pile of metal the Emperor built.”

Paul ignored the question, seeing Gurney return accompanied by two Fremen who supported a captive Sardaukar.

“Here’s one of them, m’Lord,” Gurney said. He signed to the guard to hold the captive five paces in front of Paul.

The Sardaukar’s eyes, Paul noted, carried a glazed expression of shock. A blue bruise stretched from the bridge of his nose to the corner of his mouth. He was of the blond, chisel-featured caste, the look that seemed synonymous with rank among the Sardaukar, yet there were no insignia on his torn uniform except the gold buttons with the Imperial crest and the tattered braid of his trousers.

“I think this one’s an officer, m’Lord,” Gurney said.

Paul nodded, said: “I am the Duke Paul Atreides. Do you understand that, man?”

The Sardaukar stared at him unmoving.

“Speak up,” Paul said, “or your Emperor may die.”

The man blinked, swallowed.

“Who am I?” Paul demanded.

“You are the Duke Paul Atreides,” the man husked.

He seemed too submissive to Paul, but then the Sardaukar had never been prepared for such happenings as this day. They’d never known anything but victory which, Paul realized, could be a weakness in itself. He put that thought aside for later consideration in his own training program.

 

 

 

“I have a message for you to carry to the Emperor,” Paul said. And he couched his words in the ancient formula: “I, a Duke of a Great House, an Imperial Kinsman, give my word of bond under the Convention. If the Emperor and his people lay down their arms and come to me here I will guard their lives with my own.” Paul held up his left hand with the ducal signet for the Sardaukar to see. “I swear it by this.”

The man wet his lips with his tongue, glanced at Gurney.

“Yes,” Paul said. “Who but an Atreides could command the allegiance of Gurney Halleck.”

“I will carry the message,” the Sardaukar said.

“Take him to our forward command post and send him in,” Paul said.

“Yes, m’Lord.” Gurney motioned for the guard to obey, led them out.

Paul turned back to Stilgar.

“Chani and your mother have arrived,” Stilgar said. “Chani has asked time to be alone with her grief. The Reverend Mother sought a moment in the weirding room; I know not why.”

“My mother’s sick with longing for a planet she may never see,” Paul said. “Where water falls from the sky and plants grow so thickly you cannot walk between them.”

“Water from the sky,” Stilgar whispered.

In that instant, Paul saw how Stilgar had been transformed from the Fremen naib to a creature of the Lisan al-Gaib, a receptacle for awe and obedience. It was a lessening of the man, and Paul felt the ghost-wind of the jihad in it.

I have seen a friend become a worshiper , he thought.

In a rush of loneliness, Paul glanced around the room, noting how proper and on-review his guards had become in his presence. He sensed the subtle, prideful competition among them – each hoping for notice from Muad’Dib.

Muad’Dib from whom all blessings flow , he thought, and it was the bitterest thought of his life. They sense that I must take the throne , he thought. But they cannot know I do it to prevent the jihad.

Stilgar cleared his throat, said: “Rabban, too, is dead.”

Paul nodded.

Guards to the right suddenly snapped aside, standing at attention to open an aisle for Jessica. She wore her black aba and walked with a hint of striding across sand, but Paul noted how this house had restored to her something of what she had once been here – concubine to a ruling duke. Her presence carried some of its old assertiveness.

Jessica stopped in front of Paul, looked down at him. She saw his fatigue and how he hid it, but found no compassion for him. It was as though she had been rendered incapable of any emotion for her son.

Jessica had entered the Great Hall wondering why the place refused to fit itself snugly in to her memories. It remained a foreign room, as though she had never walked here, never walked here with her beloved Leto, never confronted a drunken Duncan Idaho here – never, never, never . . .

There should be a word-tension directly opposite to adab, the demanding memory , she thought. There should be a word for memories that deny themselves.

“Where is Alia?” she asked.

“Out doing what any good Fremen child should be doing in such times,” Paul said. “She’s killing enemy wounded and marking their bodies for the water-recovery teams.”

“Paul!”

“You must understand that she does this out of kindness,” he said. “Isn’t it odd how we misunderstand the hidden unity of kindness and cruelty?”

Jessica glared at her son, shocked by the profound change in him. Was it his child’s death did this? she wondered. And she said: “The men tell strange stories of you, Paul. They say you’ve all the powers of the legend – nothing can be hidden from you, that you see where others cannot see.”

“A Bene Gesserit should ask about legends?” he asked.

“I’ve had a hand in whatever you are,” she admitted, “but you mustn’t expect me to – ”

“How would you like to live billions upon billions of lives?” Paul asked. “There’s a fabric of legends for you! Think of all those experiences, the wisdom they’d bring. But wisdom tempers love, doesn’t it? And it puts a new shape on hate. How can you tell what’s ruthless unless you’ve plumbed the depths of both cruelty and kindness? You should fear me, Mother. I am the Kwisatz Haderach.”

Jessica tried to swallow in a dry throat. Presently, she said; “Once you denied to me that you were the Kwisatz Haderach.”

Paul shook his head. “I can deny nothing any more.” He looked up into her eyes. “The Emperor and his people come now. They will be announced any moment. Stand beside me. I wish a clear view of them. My future bride will be among them.”

“Paul!” Jessica snapped. “Don’t make the mistake your father made!”

“She’s a princess,” Paul said. “She’s my key to the throne, and that’s all she’ll ever be. Mistake? You think because I’m what you made me that I cannot feel the need for revenge?”

 

 

 

“Even on the innocent?” she asked, and she thought: He must not make the mistakes I made .

“There are no innocent any more,” Paul said.

“Tell that to Chani,” Jessica said, and gestured toward the passage from the rear of the Residency.

Chani entered the Great Hall there, walking between the Fremen guards as though unaware of them. Her hood and stillsuit cap were thrown back, face mask fastened aside. She walked with a fragile uncertainty as she crossed the room to stand beside Jessica.

Paul saw the marks of tears on her cheeks – She gives water to the dead . He felt a pang of grief strike through him, but it was as though he could only feel this thing through Chani’s presence.

“He is dead, beloved,” Chani said. “Our son is dead.”

Holding himself under stiff control, Paul got to his feet. He reached out, touched Chani’s cheek, feeling the dampness of her tears. “He cannot be replaced,” Paul said, “but there will be other sons. It is Usul who promises this.” Gently, he moved her aside, gestured to Stilgar.

“Muad’Dib,” Stilgar said.

“They come from the ship, the Emperor and his people,” Paul said. “I will stand here. Assemble the captives in an open space in the center of the room. They will be kept at a distance of ten meters from me unless I command otherwise.”

“As you command, Muad’Dib.”

As Stilgar turned to obey, Paul heard the awed muttering of Fremen guards: “You see? He knew! No one told him, but he knew!”

The Emperor’s entourage could be heard approaching now, his Sardaukar humming one of their marching tunes to keep up their spirits. There came a murmur of voices at the entrance and Gurney Halleck passed through the guard, crossed to confer with Stilgar, then moved to Paul’s side, a strange look in his eyes.

Will I lose Gurney, too? Paul wondered. The way I lost Stilgar – losing a friend to gain a creature?

“They have no throwing weapons,” Gurney said. “I’ve made sure of that myself.” He glanced around the room, seeing Paul’s preparations. “Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen is with them. Shall I cut him out?”

“Leave him.”

“There’re some Guild people, too, demanding special privileges, threatening an embargo against Arrakis. I told them I’d give you their message.”

“Let them threaten.”

“Paul!” Jessica hissed behind him. “He’s talking about the Guild!”

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