Chapter no 30


“I’ll pull their fangs presently,” Paul said.

And he thought then about the Guild – the force that had specialized for so long that it had become a parasite, unable to exist independently of the life upon which it fed. They had never dared grasp the sword . . . and now they could not grasp it. They might have taken Arrakis when they realized the error of specializing on the melange awareness-spectrum narcotic for their navigators. They could have done this, lived their glorious day and died. Instead, they’d existed from moment to moment, hoping the seas in which they swam might produce a new host when the old one died.

The Guild navigators, gifted with limited prescience, had made the fatal decision: they’d chosen always the clear, safe course that leads ever downward into stagnation.

Let them look closely at their new host , Paul thought.

“There’s also a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother who says she’s a friend of your mother,” Gurney said.

“My mother has no Bene Gesserit friends.”

Again, Gurney glanced around the Great Hall, then bent close to Paul’s ear. “Thufir Hawat’s with ’em, m’Lord. I had no chance to see him alone, but he used our old hand signs to say he’s been working with the Harkonnens, thought you were dead. Says he’s to be left among ’em.”

“You left Thufir among those – ”

“He wanted it . . . and I thought it best. If . . . there’s something wrong, he’s where we can control him. If not – we’ve an ear on the other side.”

Paul thought then of prescient glimpses into the possibilities of this moment – and one time-line where Thufir carried a poisoned needle which the Emperor commanded he use against “this upstart Duke.”

The entrance guards stepped aside, formed a short corridor of lances. There came a murmurous swish of garments, feet rasping the sand that had drifted into the Residency.

The Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV led his people into the hall. His burseg helmet had been lost and the red hair stood out in disarray. His uniform’s left sleeve had been ripped along the inner seam. He was beltless and without weapons, but his presence moved with him like a force-shield bubble that kept his immediate area open.

A Fremen lance dropped across his path, stopped him where Paul had ordered. The others bunched up behind, a montage of color, of shuffling and of staring faces.




Paul swept his gaze across the group, saw women who hid signs of weeping, saw the lackeys who had come to enjoy grandstand seats at a Sardaukar victory and now stood choked to silence by defeat. Paul saw the bird-bright eyes of the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam glaring beneath her black hood, and beside her the narrow furtiveness of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen.

There’s a face time betrayed to me , Paul thought.

He looked beyond Feyd-Rautha then, attracted by a movement, seeing there a narrow, weaselish face he’d never before encountered – not in time or out of it. It was a face he felt he should know and the feeling carried with it a marker of fear.

Why should I fear that man? he wondered.

He leaned toward his mother, whispered: “That man to the left of the Reverend Mother, the evil-looking one – who is that?”

Jessica looked, recognizing the face from her Duke’s dossiers. “Count Fenring,” she said. “The one who was here immediately before us. A genetic-eunuch . . . and a killer.”

The Emperor’s errand boy , Paul thought. And the thought was a shock crashing across his consciousness because he had seen the Emperor in uncounted associations spread through the possible futures – but never once had Count Fenring appeared within those prescient visions.

It occurred to Paul then that he had seen his own dead body along countless reaches of the time web, but never once had he seen his moment of death.

Have I been denied a glimpse of this man because he is the one who kills me? Paul wondered.

The thought sent a pang of foreboding through him. He forced his attention away from Fenring, looked now at the remnants of Sardaukar men and officers, the bitterness on their faces and the desperation. Here and there among them, faces caught Paul’s attention briefly: Sardaukar officers measuring the preparations within this room, planning and scheming yet for a way to turn defeat into victory.

Paul’s attention came at last to a tall blonde woman, green-eyed, a face of patrician beauty, classic in its hauteur, untouched by tears, completely undefeated. Without being told it, Paul knew her – Princess Royal, Bene Gesserit – trained, a face that time vision had shown him in many aspects: Irulan.

There’s my key , he thought.

Then he saw movement in the clustered people, a face and figure emerged – Thufir Hawat, the seamed old features with darkly stained lips, the hunched shoulders, the look of fragile age about him.

“There’s Thufir Hawat,” Paul said. “Let him stand free, Gurney.”

“M’Lord,” Gurney said.

“Let him stand free,” Paul repeated.

Gurney nodded.

Hawat shambled forward as a Fremen lance was lifted and replaced behind him. The rheumy eyes peered at Paul, measuring, seeking.

Paul stepped forward one pace, sensed the tense, waiting movement of the Emperor and his people.

Hawat’s gaze stabbed past Paul, and the old man said: “Lady Jessica, I but learned this day how I’ve wronged you in my thoughts. You needn’t forgive.”

Paul waited, but his mother remained silent.

“Thufir, old friend,” Paul said, “as you can see, my back is toward no door.”

“The universe is full of doors,” Hawat said.

“Am I my father’s son?” Paul asked.

“More like your grandfather’s,” Hawat rasped. “You’ve his manner and the look of him in your eyes.”

“Yet I’m my father’s son,” Paul said. “For I say to you, Thufir, that in payment for your years of service to my family you may now ask anything you wish of me. Anything at all. Do you need my life now, Thufir? It is yours.” Paul stepped forward a pace, hands at his side, seeing the look of awareness grow in Hawat’s eyes.

He realizes that I know of the treachery , Paul thought.

Pitching his voice to carry in a half-whisper for Hawat’s ears alone, Paul said: “I mean this, Thufir. If you’re to strike me, do it now.”

“I but wanted to stand before you once more, my Duke,” Hawat said. And Paul became aware for the first time of the effort the old man exerted to keep from falling. Paul reached out, supported Hawat by the shoulders, feeling the muscle tremors beneath his hands.

“Is there pain, old friend?” Paul asked.




“There is pain, my Duke,” Hawat agreed, “but the pleasure is greater.” He half turned in Paul’s arms, extended his left hand, palm up, toward the Emperor, exposing the tiny needle cupped against the fingers. “See, Majesty?” he called. “See your traitor’s needle? Did you think that I who’ve given my life to service of the Atreides would give them less now?”

Paul staggered as the old man sagged in his arms, felt the death there, the utter flaccidity. Gently, Paul lowered Hawat to the floor, straightened and signed for guardsmen to carry the body away.

Silence held the hall while his command was obeyed.

A look of deadly waiting held the Emperor’s face now. Eyes that had never admitted fear admitted it at last.

“Majesty,” Paul said, and noted the jerk of surprised attention in the tall Princess Royal. The words had been uttered with the Bene Gesserit controlled atonals, carrying in it every shade of contempt and scorn that Paul could put there.

Bene-Gesserit trained indeed , Paul thought.

The Emperor cleared his throat, said: “Perhaps my respected kinsman believes he has things all his own way now. Nothing could be more remote from fact. You have violated the Convention, used atomics against – ”

“I used atomics against a natural feature of the desert,” Paul said. “It was in my way and I was in a hurry to get to you, Majesty, to ask your explanation for some of your strange activities.”

“There’s a massed armada of the Great Houses in space over Arrakis right now,” the Emperor said. “I’ve but to say the word and they’ll – ”

“Oh, yes,” Paul said, “I almost forgot about them.” He searched through the Emperor’s suite until he saw the faces of the two Guildsmen, spoke aside to Gurney. “Are those the Guild agents, Gurney, the two fat ones dressed in gray over there?”

“Yes, m’Lord.”

“You two,” Paul said, pointing. “Get out of there immediately and dispatch messages that will get that fleet on its way home. After this, you’ll ask my permission before – ”

“The Guild doesn’t take your orders!” the taller of the two barked. He and his companion pushed through to the barrier lances, which were raised at a nod from Paul. The two men stepped out and the taller leveled an arm at Paul, said: “You may very well be under embargo for your – ”

“If I hear any more nonsense from either of you,” Paul said, “I’ll give the order that’ll destroy all spice production on Arrakis . . . forever.”

“Are you mad?” the tall Guildsman demanded. He fell back half a step.

“You grant that I have the power to do this thing, then?” Paul asked.

The Guildsman seemed to stare into space for a moment, then: “Yes, you could do it, but you must not.”

“Ah-h-h,” Paul said and nodded to himself. “Guild navigators, both of you, eh?”


The shorter of the pair said: “You would blind yourself, too, and condemn us all to slow death. Have you any idea what it means to be deprived of the spice liquor once you’re addicted?”

“The eye that looks ahead to the safe course is closed forever,” Paul said. “The Guild is crippled. Humans become little isolated clusters on their isolated planets. You know, I might do this thing out of pure spite . . . or out of ennui.”

“Let us talk this over privately,” the taller Guildsman said. “I’m sure we can come to some compromise that is – ”

“Send the message to your people over Arrakis,” Paul said. “I grow tired of this argument. If that fleet over us doesn’t leave soon there’ll be no need for us to talk.” He nodded toward his communications men at the side of the hall. “You may use our equipment.”

“First we must discuss this,” the tall Guildsman said. “We cannot just – ”

“Do it!” Paul barked. “The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it. You’ve agreed I have that power. We are not here to discuss or to negotiate or to compromise. You will obey my orders or suffer the immediate consequences!”

“He means it,” the shorter Guildsman said. And Paul saw the fear grip them.

Slowly the two crossed to the Fremen communications equipment.

“Will they obey?” Gurney asked.




“They have a narrow vision of time,” Paul said. “They can see ahead to a blank wall marking the consequences of disobedience. Every Guild navigator on every ship over us can look ahead to that same wall. They’ll obey.”

Paul turned back to look at the Emperor, said: “When they permitted you to mount your father’s throne, it was only on the assurance that you’d keep the spice flowing. You’ve failed them, Majesty. Do you know the consequences?”

“Nobody permitted me to – ”

“Stop playing the fool,” Paul barked. “The Guild is like a village beside a river. They need the water, but can only dip out what they require. They cannot dam the river and control it, because that focuses attention on what they take, it brings down eventual destruction. The spice flow, that’s their river, and I have built a dam. But my dam is such that you cannot destroy it without destroying the river.”

The Emperor brushed a hand through his red hair, glanced at the backs of the two Guildsmen.

“Even your Bene Gesserit Truthsayer is trembling,” Paul said. “There are other poisons the Reverend Mothers can use for their tricks, but once they’ve used the spice liquor, the others no longer work.”

The old woman pulled her shapeless black robes around her, pressed forward out of the crowd to stand at the barrier lances.

“Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam,” Paul said. “It has been a long time since Caladan, hasn’t it?”

She looked past him at his mother, said: “Well, Jessica, I see that your son is indeed the one. For that you can be forgiven even the abomination of your daughter.”

Paul stilled a cold, piercing anger, said: “You’ve never had the right or cause to forgive my mother anything!”

The old woman locked eyes with him.

“Try your tricks on me, old witch,” Paul said. “Where’s your gom jabbar? Try looking into that place where you dare not look! You’ll find me there staring out at you!”

The old woman dropped her gaze.

“Have you nothing to say?” Paul demanded.

“I welcomed you to the ranks of humans,” she muttered. “Don’t besmirch that.”

Paul raised his voice: “Observe her, comrades! This is a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother, patient in a patient cause. She could wait with her sisters – ninety generations for the proper combination of genes and environment to produce the one person their schemes required. Observe her! She knows now that the ninety generations have produced that person. Here I stand . . . but . . . I . . . will . . . never . . . do . . . her . . . bidding!”

“Jessica!” the old woman screamed. “Silence him!”

“Silence him yourself,” Jessica said.

Paul glared at the old woman. “For your part in all this I could gladly have you strangled,” he said. “You couldn’t prevent it!” he snapped as she stiffened in rage. “But I think it better punishment that you live out your years never able to touch me or bend me to a single thing your scheming desires.”

“Jessica, what have you done?” the old woman demanded.

“I’ll give you only one thing,” Paul said. “You saw part of what the race needs, but how poorly you saw it. You think to control human breeding and intermix a select few according to your master plan! How little you understand of what – ”

“You mustn’t speak of these things!” the old woman hissed.

“Silence!” Paul roared. The word seemed to take substance as it twisted through the air between them under Paul’s control.

The old woman reeled back into the arms of those behind her, face blank with shock at the power with which he had seized her psyche. “Jessica, “she whispered. “Jessica.”

“I remember your gom jabbar,” Paul said. “You remember mine. I can kill you with a word.”

The Fremen around the ball glanced knowingly at each other. Did the legend not say: “And his word shall carry death eternal to those who stand against righteousness .”

Paul turned his attention to the tall Princess Royal standing beside her Emperor father. Keeping his eyes focused on her, he said: “Majesty, we both know the way out of our difficulty.”

The Emperor glanced at his daughter, back to Paul. “You dare? You! An adventurer without family, a nobody from – ”

“You’ve already admitted who I am,” Paul said. “Royal kinsman, you said. Let’s stop this nonsense.”

“I am your ruler,” the Emperor said.

Paul glanced at the Guildsmen standing now at the communications equipment and facing him. One of them nodded.

“I could force it,” Paul said.

“You will not dare!” the Emperor grated.




Paul merely stared at him.

The Princess Royal put a hand on her father’s arm. “Father,” she said, and her voice was silky soft, soothing.

“Don’t try your tricks on me,” the Emperor said. He looked at her. “You don’t need to do this, Daughter. We’ve other resources that – ”

“But here’s a man fit to be your son,” she said.

The old Reverend Mother, her composure regained, forced her way to the Emperor’s side, leaned close to his ear and whispered.

“She pleads your case,” Jessica said.

Paul continued to look at the golden-haired Princess. Aside to his mother, he said: “That’s Irulan, the oldest, isn’t it?”


Chani moved up on Paul’s other side, said: “Do you wish me to leave, Muad’Dib?”

He glanced at her. “Leave? You’ll never again leave my side.”

“There’s nothing binding between us,” Chani said.

Paul looked down at her for a silent moment, then: “Speak only truth with me, my Sihaya.” As she started to reply, he silenced her with a finger to her lips. “That which binds us cannot be loosed,” he said. “Now, watch these matters closely for I wish to see this room later through your wisdom.”

The Emperor and his Truthsayer were carrying on a heated, low-voiced argument.

Paul spoke to his mother: “She reminds him that it’s part of their agreement to place a Bene Gesserit on the throne, and Irulan is the one they’ve groomed for it.”

“Was that their plan?” Jessica said.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Paul asked.

“I see the signs!” Jessica snapped. “My question was meant to remind you that you should not try to teach me those matters in which I instructed you.”

Paul glanced at her, caught a cold smile on her lips.

Gurney Halleck leaned between them, said: “I remind you, m’Lord, that there’s a Harkonnen in that bunch.” He nodded toward the dark-haired Feyd-Rautha pressed against a barrier lance on the left. “The one with the squinting eyes there on the left. As evil a face as I ever saw. You promised me once that – ”

“Thank you, Gurney,” Paul said.

“It’s the na-Baron . . . Baron now that the old man’s dead,” Gurney said. “He’ll do for what I’ve in – ”

“Can you take him, Gurney?”

“M’Lord jests!”

“That argument between the Emperor and his witch has gone on long enough, don’t you think, Mother?”

She nodded. “Indeed.”

Paul raised his voice, called out to the Emperor: “Majesty, is there a Harkonnen among you?”

Royal disdain revealed itself in the way the Emperor turned to look at Paul. “I believe my entourage has been placed under the protection of your ducal word,” he said.

“My question was for information only,” Paul said. “I wish to know if a Harkonnen is officially a part of your entourage or if a Harkonnen is merely hiding behind a technicality out of cowardice.”




The Emperor’s smile was calculating. “Anyone accepted into the Imperial company is a member of my entourage.”

“You have the word of a Duke,” Paul said, “but Muad’Dib is another matter. He may not recognize your definition of what constitutes an entourage. My friend Gurney Halleck wishes to kill a Harkonnen. If he – ”

“Kanly!” Feyd-Rautha shouted. He pressed against the barrier lance. “Your father named this vendetta, Atreides. You call me coward while you hide among your women and offer to send a lackey against me!”

The old Truthsayer whispered something fiercely into the Emperor’s ear, but he pushed her aside, said: “Kanly, is it? There are strict rules for kanly.”

“Paul, put a stop to this,” Jessica said.

“M’Lord,” Gurney said, “You promised me my day against the Harkonnens.”

“You’ve had your day against them,” Paul said and he felt a harlequin abandon take over his emotions. He slipped his robe and hood from his shoulders, handed them to his mother with his belt and crysknife, began unstrapping his stillsuit. He sensed now that the universe focused on this moment.

“There’s no need for this,” Jessica said. “There are easier ways, Paul.”

Paul stepped out of his stillsuit, slipped the crysknife from its sheath in his mother’s hand. “I know,” he said. “Poison, an assassin, all the old familiar ways.”

“You promised me a Harkonnen!” Gurney hissed, and Paul marked the rage in the man’s face, the way the inkvine scar stood out dark and ridged. “You owe it to me, m’Lord!”

“Have you suffered more from them than I?” Paul asked.

“My sister,” Gurney rasped. “My years in the slave pits – ”

“My father,” Paul said. “My good friends and companions, Thufir Hawat and Duncan Idaho, my years as a fugitive without rank or succor . . . and one more thing: it is now kanly and you know as well as I the rules that must prevail.”

Halleck’s shoulders sagged. “M’Lord, if that swine . . . he’s no more than a beast you’d spurn with your foot and discard the shoe because it’d been contaminated. Call in an executioner, if you must, or let me do it, but don’t offer yourself to – ”

“Muad’Dib need not do this thing,” Chani said.

He glanced at her, saw the fear for him in her eyes. “But the Duke Paul must,” he said.

“This is a Harkonnen animal!” Gurney rasped.

Paul hesitated on the point of revealing his own Harkonnen ancestry, stopped at a sharp look from his mother, said merely: “But this being has human shape, Gurney, and deserves human doubt.”

Gurney said: “If he so much as – ”

“Please stand aside,” Paul said. He hefted the crysknife, pushed Gurney gently aside.

“Gurney!” Jessica said. She touched Gurney’s arm. “He’s like his grandfather in this mood. Don’t distract him. It’s the only thing you can do for him now.” And she thought: Great Mother! What irony .

The Emperor was studying Feyd-Rautha, seeing the heavy shoulders, the thick muscles. He turned to look at Paul – a stringy whipcord of a youth, not as desiccated as the Arrakeen natives, but with ribs there to count, and sunken in the flanks so that the ripple and gather of muscles could be followed under the skin.

Jessica leaned close to Paul, pitched her voice for his ears alone: “One thing, Son. Sometimes a dangerous person is prepared by the Bene Gesserit, a word implanted into the deepest recesses by the old pleasure-pain methods. The word-sound most frequently used is Uroshnor. If this one’s been prepared, as I strongly suspect, that word uttered in his ear will render his muscles flaccid and – ”

“I want no special advantage for this one,” Paul said. “Step back out of my way.”

Gurney spoke to her: “Why is he doing this? Does he think to get himself killed and achieve martyrdom? This Fremen religious prattle, is that what clouds his reason?”

Jessica hid her face in her hands, realizing that she did not know fully why Paul took this course. She could feel death in the room and knew that the changed Paul was capable of such a thing as Gurney suggested. Every talent within her focused on the need to protect her son, but there was nothing she could do.

“Is it this religious prattle?” Gurney insisted.

“Be silent,” Jessica whispered. “And pray.”

The Emperor’s face was touched by an abrupt smile. “If Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen . . . of my entourage . . . so wishes,” he said, “I relieve him of all restraint and give him freedom to choose his own course in this.” The Emperor waved a hand toward Paul’s Fedaykin guards. “One of your rabble has my belt and short blade. If Feyd-Rautha wishes it, he may meet you with my blade in his hand.”

“I wish it,” Feyd-Rautha said, and Paul saw the elation on the man’s face.

He’s overconfident , Paul thought. There’s a natural advantage I can accept .




“Get the Emperor’s blade,” Paul said, and watched as his command was obeyed. “Put it on the floor there.” He indicated a place with his foot. “Clear the Imperial rabble back against the wall and let the Harkonnen stand clear.”

A flurry of robes, scraping of feet, low-voiced commands and protests accompanied obedience to Paul’s command. The Guildsmen remained standing near the communications equipment. They frowned at Paul in obvious indecision.

They’re accustomed to seeing the future , Paul thought. In this place and time they’re blind . . . even as I am . And he sampled the time-winds, sensing the turmoil, the storm nexus that now focused on this moment place. Even the faint gaps were closed now. Here was the unborn jihad, he knew. Here was the race consciousness that he had known once as his own terrible purpose. Here was reason enough for a Kwisatz Haderach or a Lisan al-Gaib or even the halting schemes of the Bene Gesserit. The race of humans had felt its own dormancy, sensed itself grown stale and knew now only the need to experience turmoil in which the genes would mingle and the strong new mixtures survive. All humans were alive as an unconscious single organism in this moment, experiencing a kind of sexual heat that could override any barrier.

And Paul saw how futile were any efforts of his to change any smallest bit of this. He had thought to oppose the jihad within himself, but the jihad would be. His legions would rage out from Arrakis even without him. They needed only the legend he already had become. He had shown them the way, given them mastery even over the Guild which must have the spice to exist.

A sense of failure pervaded him, and he saw through it that Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen had slipped out of the torn uniform, stripped down to a fighting girdle with a mail core.

This is the climax , Paul thought. From here, the future will open, the clouds part onto a kind of glory. And if I die here, they’ll say I sacrificed myself that my spirit might lead them. And if I live, they’ll say nothing can oppose Muad’Dib .

“Is the Atreides ready?” Feyd-Rautha called, using the words of the ancient kanly ritual.

Paul chose to answer him in the Fremen way: “May thy knife chip and shatter!” He pointed to the Emperor’s blade on the floor, indicating that Feyd-Rautha should advance and take it.

Keeping his attention on Paul, Feyd-Rautha picked up the knife, balancing it a moment in his hand to get the feel of it. Excitement kindled in him. This was a fight he had dreamed about – man against man, skill against skill with no shields intervening. He could see a way to power opening before him because the Emperor surely would reward whoever killed this troublesome duke. The reward might even be that haughty daughter and a share of the throne. And this yokel duke, this back-world adventurer could not possibly be a match for a Harkonnen trained in every device and every treachery by a thousand arena combats. And the yokel had no way of knowing he faced more weapons than a knife here.

Let us see if you’re proof against poison! Feyd-Rautha thought. He saluted Paul with the Emperor’s blade, said: “Meet your death, fool.”

“Shall we fight, cousin?” Paul asked. And he cat-footed forward, eyes on the waiting blade, his body crouched low with his own milk-white crysknife pointing out as though an extension of his arm.

They circled each other, bare feet grating on the floor, watching with eyes intent for the slightest opening.

“How beautifully you dance,” Feyd-Rautha said.

He’s a talker , Paul thought. There’s another weakness. He grows uneasy in the face of silence .

“Have you been shriven?” Feyd-Rautha asked.

Still, Paul circled in silence.

And the old Reverend Mother, watching the fight from the press of the Emperor’s suite, felt herself trembling. The Atreides youth had called the Harkonnen cousin. It could only mean he knew the ancestry they shared, easy to understand because he was the Kwisatz Haderach. But the words forced her to focus on the only thing that mattered to her here.

This could be a major catastrophe for the Bene Gesserit breeding scheme.

She had seen something of what Paul had seen here, that Feyd-Rautha might kill but not be victorious. Another thought, though, almost overwhelmed her. Two end products of this long and costly program faced each other in a fight to the death that might easily claim both of them. If both died here that would leave only Feyd-Rautha’s bastard daughter, still a baby, an unknown, an unmeasured factor, and Alia, the abomination.

“Perhaps you have only pagan rites here,” Feyd-Rautha said. “Would you like the Emperor’s Truthsayer to prepare your spirit for its journey?”

Paul smiled, circling to the right, alert, his black thoughts suppressed by the needs of the moment.

Feyd-Rautha leaped, feinting with right hand, but with the knife shifted in a blur to his left hand.

Paul dodged easily, noting the shield-conditioned hesitation in Feyd-Rautha’s thrust. Still, it was not as great a shield conditioning as some Paul had seen, and he sensed that Feyd-Rautha had fought before against unshielded foes.

“Does an Atreides run or stand and fight?” Feyd-Rautha asked.

Paul resumed his silent circling. Idaho ‘s words came back to him, the words of training from the long-ago practice floor on Caladan: “Use the first moments in study. You may miss many an opportunity for quick victory this way, but the moments of study are insurance of success. Take your time and be sure .”




“Perhaps you think this dance prolongs your life a few moments,” Feyd-Rautha said. “Well and good.” He stopped the circling, straightened.

Paul had seen enough for a first approximation. Feyd-Rautha led to the left side, presenting the right hip as though the mailed fighting girdle could protect his entire side. It was the action of a man trained to the shield and with a knife in both hands.

Or . . . And Paul hesitated . . . the girdle was more than it seemed .

The Harkonnen appeared too confident against a man who’d this day led the forces of victory against Sardaukar legions.

Feyd-Rautha noted the hesitation, said: “Why prolong the inevitable? You but keep me from exercising my rights over this ball of dirt.”

If it’s a flip-dart , Paul thought, it’s a cunning one. The girdle shows no signs of tampering .

“Why don’t you speak?” Feyd-Rautha demanded.

Paul resumed his probing circle, allowing himself a cold smile at the tone of unease in Feyd-Rautha’s voice, evidence that the pressure of silence was building.

“You smile, eh?” Feyd-Rautha asked. And he leaped in mid-sentence.

Expecting the slight hesitation, Paul almost failed to evade the downflash of blade, felt its tip scratch his left arm. He silenced the sudden pain there, his mind flooded with realization that the earlier hesitation had been a trick – an overfeint. Here was more of an opponent than he had expected. There would be tricks within tricks within tricks.

“Your own Thufir Hawat taught me some of my skills,” Feyd-Rautha said. “He gave me first blood. Too bad the old fool didn’t live to see it.”

And Paul recalled that Idaho had once said, “Expect only what happens in the fight. That way you’ll never be surprised .”

Again the two circled each other, crouched, cautious.

Paul saw the return of elation to his opponent, wondered at it. Did a scratch signify that much to the man? Unless there were poison on the blade! But how could there be? His own men had handled the weapon, snooped it before passing it. They were too well trained to miss an obvious thing like that.

“That woman you were talking to over there,” Feyd-Rautha said. “The little one. Is she something special to you? A pet perhaps? Will she deserve my special attentions?”

Paul remained silent, probing with his inner senses, examining the blood from the wound, finding a trace of soporific from the Emperor’s blade. He realigned his own metabolism to match this threat and change the molecules of the soporific, but he felt a thrill of doubt. They’d been prepared with soporific on a blade. A soporific. Nothing to alert a poison snooper, but strong enough to slow the muscles it touched. His enemies had their own plans within plans, their own stacked treacheries.

Again Feyd-Rautha leaped, stabbing.

Paul, the smile frozen on his face, feinted with slowness as though inhibited by the drug and at the last instant dodged to meet the downflashing arm on the crysknife’s point.

Feyd-Rautha ducked sideways and was out and away, his blade shifted to his left hand, and the measure of him that only a slight paleness of jaw betrayed the acid pain where Paul had cut him.

Let him know his own moment of doubt , Paul thought. Let him suspect poison .

“Treachery!” Feyd-Rautha shouted. “He’s poisoned me! I do feel poison in my arm!”

Paul dropped his cloak of silence, said: “Only a little acid to counter the soporific on the Emperor’s blade.”

Feyd-Rautha matched Paul’s cold smile, lifted blade in left hand for a mock salute. His eyes glared rage behind the knife.

Paul shifted his crysknife to his left hand, matching his opponent. Again, they circled, probing.

Feyd-Rautha began closing the space between them, edging in, knife held high, anger showing itself in squint of eye and set of jaw. He feinted right and under, and they were pressed against each other, knife hands gripped, straining.

Paul, cautious of Feyd-Rautha’s right hip where he suspected a poison flip-dart, forced the turn to the right. He almost failed to see the needlepoint flick out beneath the belt line. A shift and a giving in Feyd-Rautha’s motion warned him. The tiny point missed Paul’s flesh by the barest fraction.

On the left hip!

Treachery within treachery within treachery , Paul reminded himself. Using Bene Gesserit-trained muscles, he sagged to catch a reflex in Feyd-Rautha, but the necessity of avoiding the tiny point jutting from his opponent’s hip threw Paul off just enough that he missed his footing and found himself thrown hard to the floor, Feyd-Rautha on top.

“You see it there on my hip?” Feyd-Rautha whispered. “Your death, fool.” And he began twisting himself around, forcing the poisoned needle closer and closer. “It’ll stop your muscles and my knife will finish you. There’ll be never a trace left to detect!”

Paul strained, hearing the silent screams in his mind, his cell-stamped ancestors demanding that he use the secret word to slow Feyd-Rautha, to save himself.




“I will not say it!” Paul gasped.

Feyd-Rautha gaped at him, caught in the merest fraction of hesitation. It was enough for Paul to find the weakness of balance in one of his opponent’s leg muscles, and their positions were reversed. Feyd-Rautha lay partly underneath with right hip high, unable to turn because of the tiny needlepoint caught against the floor beneath him.

Paul twisted his left hand free, aided by the lubrication of blood from his arm, thrust once hard up underneath Feyd-Rautha’s jaw. The point slid home into the brain. Feyd-Rautha jerked and sagged back, still held partly on his side by the needle imbedded in the floor.

Breathing deeply to restore his calm, Paul pushed himself away and got to his feet. He stood over the body, knife in hand, raised his eyes with deliberate slowness to look across the room at the Emperor.

“Majesty,” Paul said, “your force is reduced by one more. Shall we now shed sham and pretense? Shall we now discuss what must be? Your daughter wed to me and the way opened for an Atreides to sit on the throne.”

The Emperor turned, looked at Count Fenring. The Count met his stare – gray eyes against green. The thought lay there clearly between them, their association so long that understanding could be achieved with a glance.

Kill this upstart for me , the Emperor was saying. The Atreides is young and resourceful, yes – but he is also tired from long effort and he’d be no match for you, anyway. Call him out now . . . you know the way of it. Kill him .

Slowly, Fenring moved his head, a prolonged turning until he faced Paul.

“Do it!” the Emperor hissed.

The Count focused on Paul, seeing with eyes his Lady Margot had trained in the Bene Gesserit way, aware of the mystery and hidden grandeur about this Atreides youth.

I could kill him , Fenring thought – and he knew this for a truth.

Something in his own secretive depths stayed the Count then, and he glimpsed briefly, inadequately, the advantage he held over Paul – a way of hiding from the youth, a furtiveness of person and motives that no eye could penetrate.

Paul, aware of some of this from the way the time nexus boiled, understood at last why he had never seen Fenring along the webs of prescience. Fenring was one of the might-have-beens, an almost Kwisatz Haderach, crippled by a flaw in the genetic pattern – a eunuch, his talent concentrated into furtiveness and inner seclusion. A deep compassion for the Count flowed through Paul, the first sense of brotherhood he’d ever experienced.

Fenring, reading Paul’s emotion, said, “Majesty, I must refuse.”

Rage overcame Shaddam IV. He took two short steps through the entourage, cuffed Fenring viciously across the jaw.

A dark flush spread up and over the Count’s face. He looked directly at the Emperor, spoke with deliberate lack of emphasis: “We have been friends, Majesty. What I do now is out of friendship. I shall forget that you struck me.”

Paul cleared his throat, said: “We were speaking of the throne, Majesty.”

The Emperor whirled, glared at Paul. “I sit on the throne!” he barked.

“You shall have a throne on Salusa Secundus,” Paul said.

“I put down my arms and came here on your word of bond!” the Emperor shouted. “You dare threaten – ”

“Your person is safe in my presence,” Paul said. “An Atreides promised it. Muad’Dib, however, sentences you to your prison planet. But have no fear, Majesty. I will ease the harshness of the place with all the powers at my disposal. It shall become a garden world, full of gentle things.”

As the hidden import of Paul’s words grew in the Emperor’s mind, he glared across the room at Paul. “Now we see true motives,” he sneered.

“Indeed,” Paul said.

“And what of Arrakis?” the Emperor asked. “Another garden world full of gentle things?”

“The Fremen have the word of Muad’Dib,” Paul said. “There will be flowing water here open to the sky and green oases rich with good things. But we have the spice to think of, too. Thus, there will always be desert on Arrakis . . . and fierce winds, and trials to toughen a man. We Fremen have a saying: ‘God created Arrakis to train the faithful.’ One cannot go against the word of God.”

The old Truthsayer, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, had her own view of the hidden meaning in Paul’s words now. She glimpsed the jihad and said: “You cannot loose these people upon the universe!”

“You will think back to the gentle ways of the Sardaukar!” Paul snapped.

“You cannot,” she whispered.

“You’re a Truthsayer,” Paul said. “Review your words.” He glanced at the Princess Royal, back to the Emperor. “Best be done quickly, Majesty.”

The Emperor turned a stricken look upon his daughter. She touched his arm, spoke soothingly: “For this I was trained, Father.”

He took a deep breath.

“You cannot stay this thing,” the old Truthsayer muttered.




The Emperor straightened, standing stiffly with a look of remembered dignity. “Who will negotiate for you, kinsman?” he asked.

Paul turned, saw his mother, her eyes heavy-lidded, standing with Chani in a squad of Fedaykin guards. He crossed to them, stood looking down at Chani.

“I know the reasons,” Chani whispered. “If it must be . . . Usul.”

Paul, hearing the secret tears in her voice, touched her cheek. “My Sihaya need fear nothing, ever,” he whispered. He dropped his arm, faced his mother. “You will negotiate for me, Mother, with Chani by your side. She has wisdom and sharp eyes. And it is wisely said that no one bargains tougher than a Fremen. She will be looking through the eyes of her love for me and with the thought of her sons to be, what they will need. Listen to her.”

Jessica sensed the harsh calculation in her son, put down a shudder. “What are your instructions?” she asked.

“The Emperor’s entire CHOAM Company holdings as dowry,” he said.

“Entire?” She was shocked almost speechless.

“He is to be stripped. I’ll want an earldom and CHOAM directorship for Gurney Halleck, and him in the fief of Caladan. There will be titles and attendant power for every surviving Atreides man, not excepting the lowliest trooper.”

“What of the Fremen?” Jessica asked.

“The Fremen are mine,” Paul said. “What they receive shall be dispensed by Muad’Dib. It’ll begin with Stilgar as Governor on Arrakis, but that can wait.”

“And for me?” Jessica asked.

“Is there something you wish?”

“Perhaps Caladan,” she said, looking at Gurney. “I’m not certain. I’ve become too much the Fremen . . . and the Reverend Mother. I need a time of peace and stillness in which to think.”

“That you shall have,” Paul said, “and anything else that Gurney or I can give you.”

Jessica nodded, feeling suddenly old and tired. She looked at Chani. “And for the royal concubine?”

“No title for me,” Chani whispered. “Nothing. I beg of you.”




Paul stared down into her eyes, remembering her suddenly as she had stood once with little Leto in her arms, their child now dead in this violence. “I swear to you now,” he whispered, “that you’ll need no title. That woman over there will be my wife and you but a concubine because this is a political thing and we must weld peace out of this moment, enlist the Great Houses of the Landsraad. We must obey the forms. Yet that princess shall have no more of me than my name. No child of mine nor touch nor softness of glance, nor instant of desire.”

“So you say now,” Chani said. She glanced across the room at the tall princess.

“Do you know so little of my son?” Jessica whispered. “See that princess standing there, so haughty and confident. They say she has pretensions of a literary nature. Let us hope she finds solace in such things; she’ll have little else.” A bitter laugh escaped Jessica. “Think on it, Chani: that princess will have the name, yet she’ll live as less than a concubine – never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she’s bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine – history will call us wives.”

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