Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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It is commonly reported, my dear Georad, that there exists great natural virtue in the melange experience. Perhaps this is true. There remain within me, however, profound doubts that every use of melange always brings virtue. Me seems that certain persons have corrupted the use of melange in defiance of God. In the words of the Ecumenon, they have disfigured the soul. They skim the surface of melange and believe thereby to attain grace. They deride their fellows, do great harm to godliness, and they distort the meaning of this abundant gift maliciously, surely a mutilation beyond the power of man to restore. To be truly at one with the virtue of the spice, uncorrupted in all ways, full of goodly honor, a man must permit his deeds and his words to agree. When your actions describe a system of evil consequences, you should be judged by those consequences and not by your explanations. It is thus that we should judge Muad’Dib. -The Pedant Heresy

It was a small room tinged with the odor of ozone and reduced to a shadowy greyness by dimmed glowglobes and the metallic blue light of a single transeye-monitoring screen. The screen was about a meter wide and only two-thirds of a meter in height. It revealed in remote detail a barren, rocky valley with two Laza tigers feeding on the bloody remnants of a recent kill. On the hillside above the tigers could be seen a slender man in Sardaukar working uniform, Levenbrech insignia at his collar. He wore a servo-control keyboard against his chest. One veriform suspensor chair faced the screen, occupied by a fair-haired woman of indeterminate age. She had a heart-shaped face and slender hands which gripped the chair arms as she watched. The fullness of a white robe trimmed in gold concealed her figure. A pace to her right stood a blocky man dressed in the bronze and gold uniform of a Bashar Aide in the old Imperial Sardaukar. His greying hair had been closely cropped over square, emotionless features. The woman coughed, said: “It went as you predicted, Tyekanik.” “Assuredly, Princess,” the Bashar Aide said, his voice hoarse. She smiled at the tension in his voice, asked: “Tell me, Tyekanik, how will my son like the sound of Emperor Farad’n I?” “The title suits him, Princess.” “That was not my question.” “He might not approve some of the things done to gain him that, ahh, title.” “Then again . . .” She turned, peered up through the gloom at him. “You served my father well. It was not your fault that he lost the throne to the Atreides. But surely the sting of that loss must be felt as keenly by you as by any –” “Does the Princess Wensicia have some special task for me?” Tyekanik asked. His voice remained hoarse, but there was a sharp edge to it now. “You have a bad habit of interrupting me,” she said. Now he smiled, displaying thick teeth which glistened in the light from the screen. “At times you remind me of your father,” he said. “Always these circumlocutions before a request for a delicate . . . ahh, assignment.” She jerked her gaze away from him to conceal anger, asked: “Do you really think those Lazas will put my son on the throne?” “It’s distinctly possible, Princess. You must admit that the bastard get of Paul Atreides would be no more than juicy morsels for those two. And with those twins gone . . .” He shrugged. “The grandson of Shaddam IV becomes the logical successor,” she said. “That is if we can remove the objections of the Fremen, the Landsraad and CHOAM, not to mention any surviving Atreides who might –” “Javid assures me that his people can take care of Alia quite easily. I do not count the Lady Jessica as an Atreides. Who else remains?” “Landsraad and CHOAM will go where the profit goes,” she said, “but what of the Fremen?” “We’ll drown them in their Muad’Dib’s religion!” “Easier said than done, my dear Tyekanik.” “I see,” he said. “We’re back to that old argument.” “House Corrino has done worse things to gain power,” she said. “But to embrace this . . . this Mahdi’s religion!” “My son respects you,” she said. “Princess, I long for the day when House Corrino returns to its rightful seat of power. So does every remaining Sardaukar here on Salusa. But if you –” “Tyekanik! This is the planet Salusa Secundus. Do not fall into the lazy ways which spread through our Imperium. Full name, complete title — attention to every detail. Those attributes will send the Atreides lifeblood into the sands of Arrakis. Every detail, Tyekanik!” He knew what she was doing with this attack. It was part of the shifty trickiness she’d learned from her sister, Irulan. But he felt himself losing ground. “Do you hear me, Tyekanik?” “I hear, Princess.” “I want you to embrace this Muad’Dib religion,” she said. “Princess, I would walk into fire for you, but this . . .” “That is an order, Tyekanik!” He swallowed, stared into the screen. The Laza tigers had finished feeding and now lay on the sand completing their toilet, long tongues moving across their forepaws. “An order, Tyekanik — do you understand me?” “I hear and obey, Princess.” His voice did not change tone. She sighed. “Ohh, if my father were only alive . . .” “Yes, Princess.” “Don’t mock me, Tyekanik. I know how distasteful this is to you. But if you set the example . . .” “He may not follow, Princess.” “He’ll follow.” She pointed at the screen. “It occurs to me that the Levenbrech out there could be a problem.” “A problem? How is that?” “How many people know this thing of the tigers?” “That Levenbrech who is their trainer . . . one transport pilot, you, and of course . . .” He tapped his own chest. “What about the buyers?” “They know nothing. What is it you fear, Princess?” “My son is, well, sensitive.” “Sardaukar do not reveal secrets,” he said. “Neither do dead men.” She reached forward and depressed a red key beneath the lighted screen. Immediately the Laza tigers raised their heads. They got to their feet and looked up the hill at the Levenbrech. Moving as one, they turned and began a scrambling run up the hillside. Appearing calm at first, the Levenbrech depressed a key on his console. His movements were assured but, as the cats continued their dash toward him, he became more frenzied, pressing the key harder and harder. A look of startled awareness came over his features and his hand jerked toward the working knife at his waist. The movement came too late. A raking claw hit his chest and sent him sprawling. As he fell, the other tiger took his neck in one great-fanged bite and shook him. His spine snapped. “Attention to detail,” the Princess said. She turned, stiffened as Tyekanik drew his knife. But he presented the blade to her, handle foremost. “Perhaps you’d like to use my knife to attend to another detail,” he said. “Put that back in its sheath and don’t act the fool!” she raged. “Sometimes, Tyekanik, you try me to the –” “That was a good man out there, Princess. One of my best.” “One of my best,” she corrected him. He drew a deep, trembling breath, sheathed his knife. “And what of my transport pilot?” “This will be ascribed to an accident,” she said. “You will advise him to employ the utmost caution when he brings those tigers back to us. And of course, when he has delivered our pets to Javid’s people on the transport . . .” She looked at his knife. “Is that an order, Princess?” “It is.” “Shall I, then, fall on my knife, or will you take care of that, ahhh, detail?” She spoke with a false calm, her voice heavy: “Tyekanik, were I not absolutely convinced that you would fall on your knife at my command, you would not be standing here beside me — armed.” He swallowed, stared at the screen. The tigers once more were feeding. She refused to look at the scene, continued to stare at Tyekanik as she said: “You will, as well, tell our buyers not to bring us any more matched pairs of children who fit the necessary description.” “As you command, Princess.” “Don’t use that tone with me, Tyekanik.” “Yes, Princess.” Her lips drew into a straight line. Then: “How many more of those paired costumes do we have?” “Six sets of the robes, complete with stillsuits and the sand shoes, all with the Atreides insignia worked into them.” “Fabrics as rich as the ones on that pair?” she nodded toward the screen. “Fit for royalty, Princess.” “Attention to detail,” she said. “The garments will be dispatched to Arrakis as gifts for our royal cousins. They will be gifts from my son, do you understand me, Tyekanik?” “Completely, Princess.” “Have him inscribe a suitable note. It should say that he sends these few paltry garments as tokens of his devotion to House Atreides. Something on that order.” “And the occasion?” “There must be a birthday or holy day or something, Tyekanik. I leave that to you. I trust you, my friend.” He stared at her silently. Her face hardened. “Surely you must know that? Who else can I trust since the death of my husband?” He shrugged, thinking how closely she emulated the spider. It would not do to get on intimate terms with her, as he now suspected his Levenbrech had done. “And Tyekanik,” she said, “one more detail.” “Yes, Princess.” “My son is being trained to rule. There will come a time when he must grasp the sword in his own hands. You will know when that moment arrives. I’ll wish to be informed immediately.” “As you command, Princess.” She leaned back, peered knowingly at Tyekanik. “You do not approve of me, I know that. It is unimportant to me as long as you remember the lesson of the Levenbrech.” “He was very good with animals, but disposable; yes, Princess.” “That is not what I mean!” “It isn’t? Then . . . I don’t understand.” “An army,” she said, “is composed of disposable, completely replaceable parts. That is the lesson of the Levenbrech.” “Replaceable parts,” he said. “Including the supreme command?” “Without the supreme command there is seldom a reason for an army, Tyekanik. That is why you will immediately embrace this Mahdi religion and, at the same time, begin the campaign to convert my son.” “At once, Princess. I presume you don’t want me to stint his education in the other martial arts at the expense of this, ahh, religion?” She pushed herself out of the chair, strode around him, paused at the door, and spoke without looking back. “Someday you will try my patience once too often, Tyekanik.” With that, she let herself out.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank