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  • Home > Frank Herbert > Dune Series > Dune Messiah (Chapter Sixteen)     
  • Dune Messiah(Dune Series #2)(16) by Frank Herbert
  • "You're my man," she said. "I know this, but suddenly I don't understand you."

    Abruptly, Paul felt that he walked down a long cavern. His flesh moved - one foot and then another - but his thoughts went elsewhere. "I don't understand myself," he whispered. When he opened his eyes, he found that he had moved away from Chani.

    She spoke from somewhere behind him. "Beloved, I'll not ask again what you've seen. I only know I'm to give you the heir we want."

    He nodded, then: "I've known that from the beginning." He turned, studied her. Chani seemed very far away.

    She drew herself up, placed a hand on her abdomen. "I'm hungry. The medics tell me I must eat three or four times what I ate before. I'm frightened, beloved. It goes too fast."

    Too fast, he agreed. This fetus knows the necessity for speed.

    = = = = = =

    The audacious nature of Muad'dib's actions may be seen in the fact that He knew from the beginning whither He was bound, yet not once did He step aside from that path. He put it clearly when He said: "I tell you that I come now to my time of testing when it will be shown that I am the Ultimate Servant." Thus He weaves all into One, that both friend and foe may worship Him. It is for this reason and this reason only that His Apostles prayed: "Lord, save us from the other paths which Muad'dib covered with the Waters of His Life. " Those "other paths" may be imagined only with the deepest revulsion. -from The Yiam-el-Din (Book of Judgment)

    The messenger was a young woman - her face, name and family known to Chani - which was how she'd penetrated Imperial Security.

    Chani had done no more than identify her for a Security Officer named Bannerjee, who then arranged the meeting with Muad'dib. Bannerjee acted out of instinct and the assurance that the young woman's father had been a member of the Emperor's Death Commandos, the dreaded Fedaykin, in the days before the Jihad. Otherwise, he might have ignored her plea that her message was intended only for the ears of Muad'dib.

    She was, of course, screened and searched before the meeting in Paul's private office. Even so, Bannerjee accompanied her, hand on knife, other hand on her arm.

    It was almost midday when they brought her into the room - an odd space, mixture of desert-Fremen and Family-Aristocrat. Hiereg hangings lined three walls: delicate tapestries adorned with figures out of Fremen mythology. A view screen covered the fourth wall, a silver-gray surface behind an oval desk whose top held only one object, a Fremen sandclock built into an orrery. The orrery, a suspensor mechanism from lx, carried both moons of Arrakis in the classic Worm Trine aligned with the sun.

    Paul, standing beside the desk, glanced at Bannerjee. The Security Officer was one of those who'd come up through the Fremen Constabulary, winning his place on brains and proven loyalty despite the smuggler ancestry attested by his name. He was a solid figure, almost fat. Wisps of black hair fell down over the dark, wet-appearing skin of his forehead like the crest of an exotic bird. His eyes were blue-blue and steady in a gaze which could look upon happiness or atrocity without change of expression. Both Chani and Stilgar trusted him. Paul knew that if he told Bannerjee to throttle the girl immediately, Bannerjee would do it.

    "Sire, here is the messenger girl," Bannerjee said. "M'Lady Chani said she sent word to you."

    "Yes." Paul nodded curtly.

    Oddly, the girl didn't look at him. Her attention remained on the orrery. She was dark-skinned, of medium height, her figure concealed beneath a robe whose rich wine fabric and simple cut spoke of wealth. Her blue-black hair was held in a narrow band of material which matched the robe. The robe concealed her hands. Paul suspected that the hands were tightly clasped. It would be in character. Everything about her would be in character - including the robe: a last piece of finery saved for such a moment.

    Paul motioned Bannerjee aside. He hesitated before obeying. Now, the girl moved - one step forward. When she moved there was grace. Still, her eyes avoided him.

    Paul cleared his throat.

    Now the girl lifted her gaze, the whiteless eyes widening with just the right shade of awe. She had an odd little face with delicate chin, a sense of reserve in the way she held her small mouth. The eyes appeared abnormally large above slanted cheeks. There was a cheerless air about her, something which said she seldom smiled. The corners of her eyes even held a faint yellow misting which could have been from dust irritation or the tracery of semuta.

    Everything was in character.

    "You asked to see me," Paul said.

    The moment of supreme test for this girl-shape had come. Scytale had put on the shape, the mannerisms, the sex, the voice - everything his abilities could grasp and assume. But this was a female known to Muad'dib in the sietch days. She'd been a child, then, but she and Muad'dib shared common experiences. Certain areas of memory must be avoided delicately. It was the most exacting part Scytale had ever attempted.

    "I am Otheym's Lichna of Berk al Dib."

    The girl's voice came out small, but firm, giving name, father and pedigree.

    Paul nodded. He saw how Chani had been fooled. The timbre of voice, everything reproduced with exactitude. Had it not been for his own Bene Gesserit training in voice and for the web of dao in which oracular vision enfolded him, this Face-Dancer disguise might have gulled even him.

    Training exposed certain discrepancies: the girl was older than her known years; too much control tuned the vocal cords; set of neck and shoulders missed by a fraction the subtle hauteur of Fremen poise. But there were niceties, too: the rich robe had been patched to betray actual status... and the features were beautifully exact. They spoke a certain sympathy of this Face Dancer for the role being played.

    "Rest in my home, daughter of Otheym," Paul said in formal Fremen greeting. "You are welcome as water after a dry crossing."

    The faintest of relaxations exposed the confidence this apparent acceptance had conveyed.

    "I bring a message," she said.

    "A man's messenger is as himself," Paul said.

    Scytale breathed softly. It went well, but now came the crucial task: the Atreides must be guided onto that special path. He must lose his Fremen concubine in circumstances where no other shared the blame. The failure must belong only to the omnipotent Muad'dib. He had to be led into an ultimate realization of his failure and thence to acceptance of the Tleilaxu alternative.

    "I am the smoke which banishes sleep in the night," Scytale said, employing a Fedaykin code phrase: I bear bad tidings.

    Paul fought to maintain calmness. He felt naked, his soul abandoned in a groping-time concealed from every vision. Powerful oracles hid this Face Dancer. Only the edges of these moments were known to Paul. He knew only what he could not do. He could not slay this Face Dancer. That would precipitate the future which must be avoided at all cost. Somehow, a way must be found to reach into the darkness and change the terrifying pattern.

    "Give me your message," Paul said.

    Bannerjee moved to place himself where he could watch the girl's face. She seemed to notice him for the First time and her gaze went to the knife handle beneath the Security Officer's hand.

    "The innocent do not believe in evil," she said, looking squarely at Bannerjee.

    Ahhh, well done, Paul thought. It was what the real Lichna would've said. He felt a momentary pang for the real daughter of Otheym - dead now, a corpse in the sand. There was no time for such emotions, though. He scowled.

    Bannerjee kept his attention on the girl.

    "I was told to deliver my message in secret," she said.

    "Why?" Bannerjee demanded, voice harsh, probing.

    "Because it is my father's wish."

    "This is my friend," Paul said. "Am I not a Fremen? Then my friend may hear anything I hear."

    Scytale composed the girl-shape. Was this a true Fremen custom... or was it a test?

    "The Emperor may make his own rules," Scytale said. "This is the message: My father wishes you to come to him, bringing Chani."

    "Why must I bring Chani?"

    "She is your woman and a Sayyadina. This is a Water matter, by the rules of our tribes. She must attest it that my father speaks according to the Fremen Way."

    There truly are Fremen in the conspiracy, Paul thought. This moment fitted the shape of things to come for sure. And he had no alternative but to commit himself to this course.

    "Of what will your father speak?" Paul asked.

    "He will speak of a plot against you - a plot among the Fremen."

    "Why doesn't he bring that message in person?" Bannerjee demanded.

    She kept her gaze on Paul. "My father cannot come here. The plotters suspect him. He'd not survive the journey."

    "Could he not divulge the plot to you?" Bannerjee asked. "How came he to risk his daughter on such a mission?"

    "The details are locked in a distrans carrier that only Muad'dib may open," she said. "This much I know."

    "Why not send the distrans, then?" Paul asked.

    "It is a human distrans," she said.

    "I'll go, then," Paul said. "But I'll go alone."

    "Chani must come with you!"

    "Chani is with child."

    "When has a Fremen woman refused to..."

    "My enemies fed her a subtle poison," Paul said. "It will be a difficult birth. Her health will not permit her to accompany me now."

    Before Scytale could still them, strange emotions passed over the girl-features: frustration, anger. Scytale was reminded that every victim must have a way of escape - even such a one as Muad'dib. The conspiracy had not failed, though. This Atreides remained in the net. He was a creature who had developed firmly into one pattern. He'd destroy himself before changing into the opposite of that pattern. That had been the way with the Tleilaxu kwisatz haderach. It'd be the way with this one. And then... the ghola.

    "Let me ask Chani to decide this," she said.

    "I have decided it," Paul said. "You will accompany me in Chani's stead."

    "It requires a Sayyadina of the Rite!"

    "Are you not Chani's friend?"

    Boxed! Scytale thought. Does he suspect? No. He's being Fremen-cautious. And the contraceptive is a fact. Well - there are other ways.

    "My father told me I was not to return," Scytale said, "that I was to seek asylum with you. He said you'd not risk me."

    Paul nodded. It was beautifully in character. He couldn't deny this asylum. She'd plead Fremen obedience to a father's command.

    "I'll take Stilgar's wife, Harah," Paul said. "You'll tell us the way to your father."

    "How do you know you can trust Stilgar's wife?"

    "I know it."

    "But I don't."

    Paul pursed his lips, then: "Does your mother live?"

    "My true mother has gone to Shai-hulud. My second mother still lives and cares for my father. Why?"

    "She's of Sietch Tabr?"


    "I remember her," Paul said. "She will serve in Chani's place." He motioned to Bannerjee. "Have attendants take Otheym's Lichna to suitable quarters."

    Bannerjee nodded. Attendants. The key word meant that this messenger must be put under special guard. He took her arm. She resisted.

    "How will you go to my father?" she pleaded.

    "You'll describe the way to Bannerjee," Paul said. "He is my friend."

    "No! My father has commanded it! I cannot!"

    "Bannerjee?" Paul said.

    Bannerjee paused. Paul saw the man searching that encyclopedic memory which had helped bring him to his position of trust. "I know a guide who can take you to Otheym," Bannerjee said.

    "Then I'll go alone," Paul said.

    "Sire, if you... "

    "Otheym wants it this way," Paul said, barely concealing the irony which consumed him.

    "Sire, it's too dangerous," Bannerjee protested.

    "Even an Emperor must accept some risks," Paul said. "The decision is made. Do as I've commanded."

    Reluctantly, Bannerjee led the Face Dancer from the room.

    Paul turned toward the blank screen behind his desk. He felt that he waited for the arrival of a rock on its blind journey from some height.

    Should he tell Bannerjee about the messenger's true nature? he wondered. No! Such an incident hadn't been written on the screen of his vision. Any deviation here carried precipitate violence. A moment of fulcrum had to be found, a place where he could will himself out of the vision.

    If such a moment existed...

    = = = = = =

    No matter how exotic human civilization becomes, no matter the developments of life and society nor the complexity of the machine / human interface, there always come interludes of lonely power when the course of humankind, the very future of humankind, depends upon the relatively simple actions of single individuals. -from The Tlielaxu Godbuk

    As he crossed over on the high footbridge from his Keep to the Qizarate Office Building, Paul added a limp to his walk. It was almost sunset and he walked through long shadows that helped conceal him, but sharp eyes still might detect something in his carriage that identified him. He wore a shield, but it was not activated, his aides having decided that the shimmer of it might arouse suspicions.

    Paul glanced left. Strings of sandclouds lay across the sunset like slatted shutters. The air was hiereg dry through his stillsuit filters.

    He wasn't really alone out here, but the web of Security hadn't been this loose around him since he'd ceased walking the streets alone in the night. Ornithopters with night scanners drifted far overhead in seemingly random pattern, all of them tied to his movements through a transmitter concealed in his clothing. Picked men walked the streets below. Others had fanned out through the city after seeing the Emperor in his disguise - Fremen costume down to the stillsuit and temag desert boots, the darkened features. His cheeks had been distorted with plastene inserts. A catchtube ran down along his left jaw.

    As he reached the opposite end of the bridge, Paul glanced back, noted a movement beside the stone lattice that concealed a balcony of his private quarters. Chani, no doubt. "Hunting for sand in the desert," she'd called this venture.

    How little she understood the bitter choice. Selecting among agonies, he thought, made even lesser agonies near unbearable.

    For a blurred, emotionally painful moment, he relived their parting. At the last instant, Chani had experienced a tau-glimpse of his feelings, but she had misinterpreted. She had thought his emotions were those experienced in the parting of loved ones when one entered the dangerous unknown.

    Would that I did not know, he thought.

    He had crossed the bridge now and entered the upper passageway through the office building. There were fixed glowglobes here and people hurrying on business. The Qizarate never slept. Paul found his attention caught by the signs above doorways, as though he were seeing them for the first time: Speed Merchants. Wind Stills and Retorts. Prophetic Prospects. Tests of Faith. Religious Supply. Weaponry... Propagation of the Faith...

    A more honest label would've been Propagation of the Bureaucracy, he thought.

    A type of religious civil servant had sprung up all through his universe. This new man of the Qizarate was more often a convert. He seldom displaced a Freman in the key posts, but he was filling all the interstices. He used melange as much to show he could afford it as for the geriatric benefits. He stood apart from his rulers - Emperor, Guild, Bene Gesserit, Landsraad, Family or Qizarate. His gods were Routine and Records. He was served by mentats and prodigious filing systems. Expediency was the first word in his catechism, although he gave proper lip-service to the precepts of the Butlerians. Machines could not be fashioned in the image of a man's mind, he said, but he betrayed by every action that he preferred machines to men, statistics to individuals, the faraway general view to the intimate personal touch requiring imagination and initiative.

    As Paul emerged onto the ramp at the far side of the building, he heard the bells calling the Evening Rite at Alia's Fane.

    There was an odd feeling of permanence about the bells.

    The temple across the thronged square was new, its rituals of recent devising, but there was something about this setting in a desert sink at the edge of Arrakeen - something in the way wind-driven sand had begun to weather stones and plastene, something in the haphazard way buildings had gone up around the Fane. Everything conspired to produce the impression that this was a very old place full of traditions and mystery.

    He was down into the press of people now - committed. The only guide his Security force could find had insisted it be done this way. Security hadn't liked Paul's ready agreement. Stilgar had liked it even less. And Chani had objected most of all.

    The crowd around him, even while its members brushed against him, glanced his way unseeing and passed on, gave him a curious freedom of movement. It was the way they'd been conditioned to treat a Fremen, he knew. He carried himself like a man of the inner desert. Such men were quick to anger.

    As he moved into the quickening flow to the temple steps, the crush of people became even greater. Those all around could not help but press against him now, but he found himself the target for ritual apologies: "Your pardon, noble sir. I cannot prevent this discourtesy." "Pardon, sir; this crush of people is the worst I've ever seen." "I abase myself, holy citizen. A lout shoved me."

    Paul ignored the words after the first few. There was no feeling in them except a kind of ritual fear. He found himself, instead, thinking that he had come a long way from his boyhood days in Caladan Castle. Where had he put his foot on the path that led to this journey across a crowded square on a planet so far from Caladan? Had he really put his foot on a path? He could not say he had acted at any point in his life for one specific reason. The motives and impinging forces had been complex - more complex possibly than any other set of goads in human history. He had the heady feeling here that he might still avoid the fate he could see so clearly along this path. But the crowd pushed him forward and he experienced the dizzy sense that he had lost his way, lost personal direction over his life.

    The crowd flowed with him up the steps now into the temple portico. Voices grew hushed. The smell of fear grew stronger - acrid, sweaty.

    Acolytes had already begun the service within the temple. Their plain chant dominated the other sounds - whispers, rustle of garments, shuffling feet, coughs - telling the story of the Far Places visited by the Priestess in her holy trance.

    "She rides the sandworm of space!

    She guides through all storms

    Into the land of gentle winds.

    Though we sleep by the snake's den,

    She guards our dreaming souls.

    Shunning the desert heat,

    She hides us in a cool hollow.

    The gleaming of her white teeth

    Guides us in the night.

    By the braids of her hair

    We are lifted up to heaven!

    Sweet fragrance, flower-scented.

    Surrounds us in her presence."

    Balak! Paul thought, thinking in Fremen. Look out! She can be filled with angry passion, too.
  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire