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  • Home > Frank Herbert > Dune Series > Dune Messiah (Chapter Twenty-six)     
  • Dune Messiah(Dune Series #2)(26) by Frank Herbert
  • "There was no choice," Paul said. "You understand that, Duncan?"

    "I understand."

    "There are some things no one can bear. I meddled in all the possible futures I could create until, finally, they created me."

    "M'Lord, you shouldn't..."

    "There are problems in this universe for which there are no answers," Paul said. "Nothing. Nothing can be done."

    As he spoke, Paul felt his link with the vision shatter. His mind cowered, overwhelmed by infinite possibilities. His lost vision became like the wind, blowing where it willed.

    = = = = = =

    We say of Muad'dib that he has gone on a journey into that land where we walk without footprints. -Preamble to the Qizarate Creed

    There was a dike of water against the sand, an outer limit for the plantings of the sietch holding. A rock bridge came next and then the open desert beneath Idaho's feet. The promontory of Sietch Tabr dominated the night sky behind him. The light of both moons frosted its high rim. An orchard had been brought right down to the water.

    Idaho paused on the desert side and stared back at flowered branches over silent water - reflections and reality - four moons. The stillsuit felt greasy against his skin. Wet flint odors invaded his nostrils past the filters. There was a malignant simpering to the wind through the orchard. He listened for night sounds. Kangaroo mice inhabited the grass at the water verge; a hawk owl bounced its droning call into the cliff shadows; the wind-broken hiss of a sandfall came from the open bled.

    Idaho turned toward the sound.

    He could see no movement out there on the moonlit dunes.

    It was Tandis who had brought Paul this far. Then the man had returned to tell his account. And Paul had walked out into the desert - like a Fremen.

    "He was blind - truly blind," Tandis had said, as though that explained it. "Before that, he had the vision which he told to us... but... "

    A shrug. Blind Fremen were abandoned in the desert. Muad'dib might be Emperor, but he was also Fremen. Had he not made provision that Fremen guard and raise his children? He was Fremen.

    It was a skeleton desert here, Idaho saw. Moon-silvered ribs of rock showed through the sand; then the dunes began.

    I should not have left him alone, not even for a minute, Idaho thought. I knew what was in his mind.

    "He told me the future no longer needed his physical presence," Tandis had reported. "When he left me. He called back. 'Now I am free' were his words."

    Damn them! Idaho thought.

    The Fremen had refused to send 'thopters or searchers of any kind. Rescue was against their ancient customs.

    "There will be a worm for Muad'dib," they said. And they began the chant for those committed to the desert, the ones whose water went to Shai-hulud: "Mother of sand, father of Time, beginning of Life, grant him passage."

    Idaho seated himself on a flat rock and stared at the desert. The night out there was filled with camouflage patterns. There was no way to tell where Paul had gone.

    "Now I am free."

    Idaho spoke the words aloud, surprised by the sound of his own voice. For a time, he let his mind run, remembering a day when he'd taken the child Paul to the sea market on Caladan, the dazzling glare of a sun on water, the sea's riches brought up dead, there to be sold. Idaho remembered Gurney Halleck playing music of the baliset for them - pleasure, laughter. Rhythms pranced in his awareness, leading his mind like a thrall down channels of remembered delight.

    Gurney Halleck. Gurney would blame him for this tragedy.

    Memory music faded.

    He recalled Paul's words: "There are problems in this universe for which there are no answers."

    Idaho began to wonder how Paul would die out there in the desert. Quickly, killed by a worm? Slowly, in the sun? Some of the Fremen back there in the sietch had said Muad'dib would never die, that he had entered the ruh-world where all possible futures existed, that he would be present henceforth in the alam al-mythal, wandering there endlessly even after his flesh had ceased to be.

    He'll die and I'm powerless to prevent it, Idaho thought.

    He began to realize that there might be a certain fastidious courtesy in dying without a trace - no remains, nothing, and an entire planet for a tomb.

    Mentat, solve thyself, he thought.

    Words intruded on his memory - the ritual words of the Fedaykin lieutenant, posting a guard over Muad'dib's children: "It shall be the solemn duty of the officer in charge... "

    The plodding, self-important language of government enraged him. It had seduced the Fremen. It had seduced everyone. A man, a great man, was dying out there, but language plodded on... and on... and on...

    What had happened, he wondered, to all the clean meanings that screened out nonsense? Somewhere, in some lost where which the Imperium had created, they'd been walled off, sealed against chance rediscovery. His mind quested for solutions, mentat fashion. Patterns of knowledge glistened there. Lorelei hair might shimmer thus, beckoning... beckoning the enchanted seaman into emerald caverns...

    With an abrupt start, Idaho drew back from catatonic forgetfulness.

    So! he thought. Rather than face my failure, I would disappear within myself!

    The instant of that almost-plunge remained in his memory. Examining it, he felt his life stretch out as long as the existence of the universe. Real flesh lay condensed, finite in its emerald cavern of awareness, but infinite life had shared his being.

    Idaho stood up, feeling cleansed by the desert. Sand was beginning to chatter in the wind, pecking at the surfaces of leaves in the orchard behind him. There was the dry and abrasive smell of dust in the night air. His robe whipped to the pulse of a sudden gust.

    Somewhere far out in the bled, Idaho realized, a mother storm raged, lifting vortices of winding dust in hissing violence - a giant worm of sand powerful enough to cut flesh from bones.

    He will become one with the desert, Idaho thought. The desert will fulfill him.

    It was a Zensunni thought washing through his mind like clear water. Paul would go on marching out there, he knew. An Atreides would not give himself up completely to destiny, not even in the full awareness of the inevitable.

    A touch of prescience came over Idaho then, and he saw that people of the future would speak of Paul in terms of seas. Despite a life soaked in dust, water would follow him. "His flesh foundered," they would say, "but he swam on."

    Behind Idaho, a man cleared his throat.

    Idaho turned to discern the figure of Stilgar standing on the bridge over the qanat.

    "He will not be found," Stilgar said. "Yet all men will find him."

    "The desert takes him - and deifies him," Idaho said. "Yet he was an interloper here. He brought an alien chemistry to this planet - water."

    "The desert imposes its own rhythms," Stilgar said. "We welcomed him, called him our Mahdi, our Muad'dib, and gave him his secret name. Base of the Pillar: Usul."

    "Still he was not born a Fremen."

    "And that does not change the fact that we claimed him... and have claimed him finally." Stilgar put a hand on Idaho's shoulder. "All men are interlopers, old friend."

    "You're a deep one, aren't you, Stil?"

    "Deep enough. I can see how we clutter the universe with our migrations. Muad'dib gave us something uncluttered. Men will remember his Jihad for that, at least."

    "He won't give up to the desert," Idaho said. "He's blind, but he won't give up. He's a man of honor and principle. He was Atreides-trained."

    "And his water will be poured on the sand," Stilgar said. "Come." He pulled gently at Idaho's arm. "Alia is back and is asking for you."

    "She was with you at Sietch Makab?"

    "Yes - she helped whip those soft Naibs into line. They take her orders now... as I do."

    "What orders?"

    "She commanded the execution of the traitors."

    "Oh." Idaho suppressed a feeling of vertigo as he looked up at the promontory. "Which traitors?"

    "The Guildsman, the Reverend Mother Mohiam, Korba... a few others."

    "You slew a Reverend Mother?"

    "I did. Muad'dib left word that it should not be done." He shrugged. "But I disobeyed him, as Alia knew I would."

    Idaho stared again into the desert, feeling himself become whole, one person capable of seeing the pattern of what Paul had created. Judgment strategy, the Atreides called it in their training manuals. People are subordinate to government, but the ruled influence the rulers. Did the ruled have any concept, he wondered, of what they had helped create here?

    "Alia... " Stilgar said, clearing his throat. He sounded embarrassed. "She needs the comfort of your presence."

    "And she is the government," Idaho murmured.

    "A regency, no more."

    "Fortune passes everywhere, as her father often said," Idaho muttered.

    "We make our bargain with the future," Stilgar said. "Will you come now? We need you back there." Again, he sounded embarrassed. "She is... distraught. She cries out against her brother one moment, mourns him the next."

    "Presently," Idaho promised. He heard Stilgar leave. He stood facing into the rising wind, letting the grains of sand rattle against the stillsuit.

    Mentat awareness projected the outflowing patterns into the future. The possibilities dazzled him. Paul had set in motion a whirling vortex and nothing could stand in its path.

    The Bene Tleilax and the Guild had overplayed their hands and had lost, were discredited. The Qizarate was shaken by the treason of Korba and others high within it. And Paul's final voluntary act, his ultimate acceptance of their customs, had ensured the loyalty of the Fremen to him and to his house. He was one of them forever now.

    "Paul is gone!" Alia's voice was choked. She had come up almost silently to where Idaho stood and was now beside him. "He was a fool, Duncan!"

    "Don't say that!" he snapped.

    "The whole universe will say it before I'm through," she said.

    "Why, for the love of heaven?"

    "For the love of my brother, not of heaven."

    Zensunni insight dilated his awareness. He could sense that there was no vision in her - had been none since Chani's death. "You practice an odd love," he said.

    "Love? Duncan, he had but to step off the track! What matter that the rest of the universe would have come shattering down behind him? He'd have been safe... and Chani with him!"

    "Then... why didn't he?"

    "For the love of heaven," she whispered. Then, more loudly, she said: "Paul's entire life was a struggle to escape his Jihad and its deification. At least, he's free of it. He chose this!"

    "Ah, yes - the oracle." Idaho shook his head in wonder. "Even Chani's death. His moon fell."

    "He was a fool, wasn't he, Duncan?"

    Idaho's throat tightened with suppressed grief.

    "Such a fool!" Alia gasped her control breaking. "He'll live forever while we must die!"

    "Alia, don't... "

    "It's just grief," she said, voice low. "Just grief. Do you know what I must do for him? I must save the life of the Princess Irulan. That one! You should hear her grief. Wailing, giving moisture to the dead; she swears she loved him and knew it not. She reviles her Sisterhood, says she'll spend her life teaching Paul's children."

    "You trust her?"

    "She reeks of trustworthiness!"

    "Ahhh," Idaho murmured. The final pattern unreeled before his awareness like a design on fabric. The defection of the Princess Irulan was the last step. It left the Bene Gesserit with no remaining lever against the Atreides heirs.

    Alia began to sob, leaned against him, face pressed into his chest. "Ohhh, Duncan, Duncan! He's gone!"

    Idaho put his lips against her hair. "Please," he whispered. He felt her grief mingling with his like two streams entering the same pool.

    "I need you, Duncan," she sobbed. "Love me!"

    "I do," he whispered.

    She lifted her head, peered at the moon-frosted outline of his face. "I know, Duncan. Love knows love."

    Her words sent a shudder through him, a feeling of estrangement from his old self. He had come out here looking for one thing and had found another. It was as though he'd lurched into a room full of familiar people only to realize too late that he knew none of them.

    She pushed away from him, took his hand. "Will you come with me, Duncan?"

    "Wherever you lead," he said.

    She led him back across the qanat into the darkness at the base of the massif and its Place of Safety.

    Epilogue

    No bitter stench of funeral-still for Muad'dib. No knell nor solemn rite to free the mind From avaricious shadows. He is the fool saint, The golden stranger living forever On the edge of reason. Let your guard fall and he is there! His crimson peace and sovereign pallor Strike into our universe on prophetic webs To the verge, of a quiet glance - there! Out of bristling star-jungles: Mysterious, lethal, an oracle without eyes, Catspaw of prophecy, whose voice never dies! Shai-hulud, he awaits thee upon a strand Where couples walk and fix, eye to eye, The delicious ennui of love. He strides through the long cavern of time, Scattering the fool-self of his dream.
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