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  • Home > Frank Herbert > Dune Series > Dune Messiah (Chapter Twenty-five)     
  • Dune Messiah(Dune Series #2)(25) by Frank Herbert
  • "Be still!" he ordered. "Chani is dead." He put a hand across her mouth as she started to protest. "I order you to be still!" He felt her subside and removed his hand. "Describe what you see," he said.

    "Paul!" Frustration and tears battled in her voice.

    "Never mind," he said. And he forced himself to inner stillness, opened the eyes of his vision to this moment. Yes - it was still here. Chani's body lay on a pallet within a ring of light. Someone had straightened her white robe, smoothed it trying to hide the blood from the birth. No matter; he could not turn his awareness from the vision of her face: such a mirror of eternity in the still features!

    He turned away, but the vision moved with him. She was gone... never to return. The air, the universe, all vacant - everywhere vacant. Was this the essence of his penance? he wondered. He wanted tears, but they would not come. Had he lived too long a Fremen? This death demanded its moisture!

    Nearby, a baby cried and was hushed. The sound pulled a curtain on his vision. Paul welcomed the darkness. This is another world, he thought. Two children.

    The thought came out of some lost oracular trance. He tried to recapture the timeless mind-dilation of the melange, but awareness fell short. No burst of the future came into this new consciousness. He felt himself rejecting the future - any future.

    "Goodbye, my Sihaya," he whispered.

    Alia's voice, harsh and demanding, came from somewhere behind him. "I've brought Lichna!"

    Paul turned. "That's not Lichna," he said. "That's a Face Dancer. Lichna's dead."

    "But hear what she says," Alia said.

    Slowly, Paul moved toward his sister's voice.

    "I'm not surprised to find you alive, Atreides." The voice was like Lichna's, but with subtle differences, as though the speaker used Lichna's vocal cords, but no longer bothered to control them sufficiently. Paul found himself struck by an odd note of honesty in the voice.

    "Not surprised?" Paul asked.

    "I am Scytale, a Tleilaxu of the Face Dancers, and I would know a thing before we bargain. Is that a ghola I see behind you, or Duncan Idaho?"

    "It's Duncan Idaho," Paul said. "And I will not bargain with you."

    "I think you'll bargain," Scytale said.

    "Duncan," Paul said, speaking over his shoulder, "will you kill this Tleilaxu if I ask it?"

    "Yes, m'Lord." There was the suppressed rage of a berserker in Idaho's voice.

    "Wait!" Alia said. "You don't know what you're rejecting."

    "But I do know," Paul said.

    "So it's truly Duncan Idaho of the Atreides," Scytale said. "We found the lever! A ghola can regain his past." Paul heard footsteps. Someone brushed past him on the left. Scytale's voice came from behind him now. "What do you remember of your past, Duncan?"

    "Everything. From my childhood on. I even remember you at the tank when they removed me from it," Idaho said.

    "Wonderful," Scytale breathed. "Wonderful."

    Paul heard the voice moving. I need a vision, he thought. Darkness frustrated him. Bene Gesserit training warned him of terrifying menace in Scytale, yet the creature remained a voice, a shadow of movement - entirely beyond him.

    "Are these the Atreides babies?" Scytale asked.

    "Harah!" Paul cried. "Get her away from there!"

    "Stay where you are!" Scytale shouted. "All of you! I warn you, a Face Dancer can move faster than you suspect. My knife can have both these lives before you touch me."

    Paul felt someone touch his right arm, then move off to the right.

    "That's far enough, Alia," Scytale said.

    "Alia," Paul said. "Don't."

    "It's my fault," Alia groaned. "My fault!"

    "Atreides," Scytale said, "shall we bargain now?"

    Behind him, Paul heard a single hoarse curse. His throat constricted at the suppressed violence in Idaho's voice. Idaho must not break! Scytale would kill the babies!

    "To strike a bargain, one requires a thing to sell," Scytale said. "Not so, Atreides? Will you have your Chani back? We can restore her to you. A ghola, Atreides. A ghola with full memory! But we must hurry. Call your friends to bring a cryologic tank to preserve the flesh."

    To hear Chani's voice once more, Paul thought. To feel her presence beside me. Ahhh, that's why they gave me Idaho as a ghola, to let me discover how much the re-creation is like the original. But now - full restoration... at their price. I'd be a Tleilaxu tool forevermore. And Chani... chained to the same fate by a threat to our children, exposed once more to the Qizarate's plotting...

    "What pressures would you use to restore Chani's memory to her?" Paul asked, fighting to keep his voice calm. "Would you condition her to... to kill one of her own children?"

    "We use whatever pressures we need," Scytale said. "What say you, Atreides?"

    "Alia," Paul said, "bargain with this thing. I cannot bargain with what I cannot see."

    "A wise choice," Scytale gloated. "Well, Alia, what do you offer me as your brother's agent?"

    Paul lowered his head, bringing himself to stillness within stillness. He'd glimpsed something just then - like a vision, but not a vision. It had been a knife close to him. There!

    "Give me a moment to think," Alia said.

    "My knife is patient," Scytale said, "but Chani's flesh is not. Take a reasonable amount of time."

    Paul felt himself blinking. It could not be... but it was! He felt eyes! Their vantage point was odd and they moved in an erratic way. There! The knife swam into his view. With a breath-stilling shock, Paul recognized the viewpoint. It was that of one of his children! He was seeing Scytale's knife hand from within the creche! It glittered only inches from him. Yes - and he could see himself across the room, as well - head down, standing quietly, a figure of no menace, ignored by the others in this room.

    "To begin, you might assign us all your CHOAM holdings," Scytale suggested.

    "All of them?" Alia protested.

    "All."

    Watching himself through the eyes in the creche, Paul slipped his crysknife from its belt sheath. The movement produced a strange sensation of duality. He measured the distance, the angle. There'd be no second chance. He prepared his body then in the Bene Gesserit way, armed himself like a cocked spring for a single concentrated movement, a prajna thing requiring all his muscles balanced in one exquisite unity.

    The crysknife leaped from his hand. The milky blur of it flashed into Scytale's right eye, jerked the Face Dancer's head back. Scytale threw both hands up and staggered backward against the wall. His knife clattered off the ceiling, to hit the floor. Scytale rebounded from the wall; he fell face forward, dead before he touched the floor.

    Still through the eyes in the creche, Paul watched the faces in the room turn toward his eyeless figure, read the combined shock. Then Alia rushed to the creche, bent over it and hid the view from him.

    "Oh, they're safe," Alia said. "They're safe."

    "M'Lord," Idaho whispered, "was that part of your vision?"

    "No." He waved a hand in Idaho's direction. "Let it be."

    "Forgive me, Paul," Alia said. "But when that creature said they could... revive... "

    "There are some prices an Atreides cannot pay," Paul said. "You know that."

    "I know," she sighed. "But I was tempted... "

    "Who was not tempted?" Paul asked.

    He turned away from them, groped his way to a wall, leaned against it and tried to understand what he had done. How? How? The eyes in the creche! He felt poised on the brink of terrifying revelation.

    "My eyes, father."

    The word-shapings shimmered before his sightless vision.

    "My son!" Paul whispered, too low for any to hear. "You're... aware."

    "Yes, father. Look!"

    Paul sagged against the wall in a spasm of dizziness. He felt that he'd been upended and drained. His own life whipped past him. He saw his father. He was his father. And the grandfather, and the grandfathers before that. His awareness tumbled through a mind-shattering corridor of his whole male line.

    "How?" he asked silently.

    Faint word-shapings appeared, faded and were gone, as though the strain was too great. Paul wiped saliva from the corner of his mouth. He remembered the awakening of Alia in the Lady Jessica's womb. But there had been no Water of Life, no overdose of melange this time... or had there? Had Chani's hunger been for that? Or was this somehow the genetic product of his line, foreseen by the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam?

    Paul felt himself in the creche then, with Alia cooing over him. Her hands soothed him. Her face loomed, a giant thing directly over him. She turned him then and he saw his creche companion - a girl with that bony-ribbed look of strength which came from a desert heritage. She had a full head of tawny red hair. As he stared, she opened her eyes. Those eyes! Chani peered out of her eyes... and the Lady Jessica. A multitude peered out of those eyes.

    "Look at that," Alia said. "They're staring at each other."

    "Babies can't focus at this age," Harah said.

    "I could," Alia said.

    Slowly, Paul felt himself being disengaged from that endless awareness. He was back at his own wailing wall then, leaning against it. Idaho shook his shoulder gently.

    "M'Lord?"

    "Let my son be called Leto for my father," Paul said, straightening.

    "At the time of naming," Harah said, "I will stand beside you as a friend of the mother and give that name."

    "And my daughter," Paul said. "Let her be called Ghanima."

    "Usul!" Harah objected. "Ghanima's an ill-omened name."

    "It saved your life," Paul said. "What matter that Alia made fun of you with that name? My daughter is Ghanima, a spoil of war."

    Paul heard wheels squeak behind him then - the pallet with Chani's body being moved. The chant of the Water Rite began.

    "Hal yawm!" Harah said. "I must leave now if I am to be the observer of the holy truth and stand beside my friend for the last time. Her water belongs to the tribe."

    "Her water belongs to the tribe," Paul murmured. He heard Harah leave. He groped outward and found Idaho's sleeve. "Take me to my quarters, Duncan."

    Inside his quarters, he shook himself free gently. It was a time to be alone. But before Idaho could leave there was a disturbance at the door.

    "Master!" It was Bijaz calling from the doorway.

    "Duncan," Paul said, "let him come two paces forward. Kill him if he comes farther."

    "Ayyah," Idaho said.

    "Duncan is it?" Bijaz asked. "Is it truly Duncan Idaho?"

    "It is," Idaho said. "I remember."

    "Then Scytale's plan succeeded!"

    "Scytale is dead," Paul said.

    "But I am not and the plan is not," Bijaz said. "By the tank in which I grew! It can be done! I shall have my pasts - all of them. It needs only the right trigger."

    "Trigger?" Paul asked.

    "The compulsion to kill you," Idaho said, rage thick in his voice. "Mentat computation: They found that I thought of you as the son I never had. Rather than slay you, the true Duncan Idaho would take over the ghola body. But... it might have failed. Tell me, dwarf, if your plan had failed, if I'd killed him, what then?"

    "Oh... then we'd have bargained with the sister to save her brother. But this way the bargaining is better."

    Paul took a shuddering breath. He could hear the mourners moving down the last passage now toward the deep rooms and the water stills.

    "It's not too late, m'Lord," Bijaz said. "Will you have your love back? We can restore her to you. A ghola, yes. But now - we hold out the full restoration. Shall we summon servants with a cryological tank, preserve the flesh of your beloved... "

    It was harder now, Paul found. He had exhausted his powers in the first Tleilaxu temptation. And now all that was for nothing! To feel Chani's presence once more...

    "Silence him," Paul told Idaho, speaking in Atreides battle tongue. He heard Idaho move toward the door.

    "Master!" Bijaz squeaked.

    "As you love me," Paul said, still in battle tongue, "do me this favor: Kill him before I succumb!"

    "Noooooo... " Bijaz screamed.

    The sound stopped abruptly with a frightened grunt.

    "I did him the kindness," Idaho said.

    Paul bent his head, listening. He no longer could hear the mourners. He thought of the ancient Fremen rite being performed now deep in the sietch, far down in the room of the death-still where the tribe recovered its water.
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