Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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This is the fallacy of power: ultimately it is effective only in an absolute, a limited universe. But the basic lesson of our relativistic universe is that things change. Any power must always meet a greater power. Paul Muad’Dib taught this lesson to the Sardaukar on the Plains of Arrakeen. His descendants have yet to learn the lesson for themselves. -The Preacher at Arrakeen

The first supplicant for the morning audience was a Kadeshian troubadour, a pilgrim of the Hajj whose purse had been emptied by Arrakeen mercenaries. He stood on the water-green stone of the chamber floor with no air of begging about him. Jessica admired his boldness from where she sat with Alia atop the seven-step platform. Identical thrones had been placed here for mother and daughter, and Jessica made particular note of the fact that Alia sat on the right, the masculine position. As for the Kadeshian troubadour, it was obvious that Javid’s people had passed him for just this quality he now displayed, his boldness. The troubadour was expected to provide some entertainment for the courtiers of the Great Hall; it was the payment he’d make in lieu of the money he no longer possessed. From the report of the Priest-Advocate who now pled the troubadour’s case, the Kadeshian had retained only the clothing on his back and the baliset slung over one shoulder on a leather cord. “He says he was fed a dark drink,” the Advocate said, barely hiding the smile which sought to twist his lips. “If it please your Holiness, the drink left him helpless but awake while his purse was cut,” Jessica studied the troubadour while the Advocate droned on and on with a false subservience, his voice full of mucky morals. The Kadeshian was tall, easily two meters. He had a roving eye which showed intelligent alertness and humor. His golden hair was worn to the shoulders in the style of his planet, and there was a sense of virile strength in the broad chest and neatly tapering body which a grey Hajj robe could not conceal. His name was given as Tagir Mohandis and he was descended from merchant engineers, proud of his ancestry and himself. Alia finally cut off the pleading with a hand wave, spoke without turning: “The Lady Jessica will render first judgment in honor of her return to us.” “Thank you, daughter,” Jessica said, staling the order of ascendancy to all who heard. Daughter! So this Tagir Mohandis was part of their plan. Or was he an innocent dupe? This judgment was designed to open attack on herself, Jessica realized. It was obvious in Alia’s attitude. “Do you play that instrument well?” Jessica asked, indicating the nine-string baliset on the troubadour’s shoulder. “As well as the Great Gurney Halleck himself!” Tagir Mohandis spoke loudly for all in the hall to hear, and his words evoked an interested stir among the courtiers. “You seek the gift of transport money,” Jessica said. “Where would that money take you?” “To Salusa Secundus and Farad’n’s court,” Mohandis said. “I’ve heard he seeks troubadours and minstrels, that he supports the arts and builds a great renaissance of cultivated life around him.” Jessica refrained from glancing at Alia. They’d known, of course, what Mohandis would ask. She found herself enjoying this byplay. Did they think her unable to meet this thrust? “Will you play for your passage?” Jessica asked. “My terms are Fremen terms. If I enjoy your music, I may keep you here to smooth away my cares; if your music offends me, I may send you to toil in the desert for your passage money. If I deem your playing just right for Farad’n, who is said to be an enemy of the Atreides, then I will send you to him with my blessing. Will you play on these terms, Tagir Mohandis?” He threw his head back in a great roaring laugh. His blond hair danced as he unslung the baliset and tuned it deftly to indicate acceptance of her challenge. The crowd in the chamber started to press closer, but were held back by courtiers and guards. Presently Mohandis strummed a note, holding the bass hum of the side strings with a fine attention to their compelling vibration. Then, lifting his voice in a mellow tenor, he sang, obviously improvising, but his touch so deft that Jessica was enthralled before she focused on his lyrics:

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Categories: Herbert, Frank