Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

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“I’ve had a bellyful of the god and priest business! You think I don’t see my own mythos? Consult your data once more, Hayt. I’ve insinuated my rites into the most elementary human acts. The people eat in the name of Muad’dib! They make love in my name, are born in my name — cross the street in my name. A roof beam cannot be raised in the lowliest hovel of far Gangishree without invoking the blessing of Muad’dib!” -Book of Diatribes from The Hayt Chronicle

“You risk much leaving your post and coming to me here at this time,” Edric said, glaring through the walls of his tank at the Face Dancer. “How weak and narrow is your thinking,” Scytale said. “Who is it who comes to visit you?” Edric hesitated, observing the hulk shape, heavy eyelids, blunt face. It was early in the day and Edric’s metabolism had not yet cycled from night repose into full melange consumption. “This is not the shape which walked the streets?” Edric asked. “One would not look twice at some of the figures I have been today,” Scytale said. The chameleon thinks a change of shape will hide him from anything, Edric thought with rare insight. And he wondered if his presence in the conspiracy truly hid them from all oracular powers. The Emperor’s sister, now . . . Edric shook his head, stirring the orange gas of his tank, said: “Why are you here?” “The gift must be prodded to swifter action,” Scytale said. “That cannot be done.” “A way must be found,” Scytale insisted. “Why?” “Things are not to my liking. The Emperor is trying to split us. Already he has made his bid to the Bene Gesserit.” “Oh, that.” “That! You must prod the ghola to . . . ” “You fashioned him, Tleilaxu,” Edric said. “You know better than to ask this.” He paused, moved closer to the transparent wall of his tank. “Or did you lie to us about this gift?” “Lie?” “You said the weapon was to be aimed and released, nothing more. Once the ghola was given we could not tamper.” “Any ghola can be disturbed,” Scytale said. “You need do nothing more than question him about his original being.” “What will this do?” “It will stir him to actions which will serve our purposes.” “He is a mentat with powers of logic and reason,” Edric objected. “He may guess what I’m doing . . . or the sister. If her attention is focused upon –” “Do you hide us from the sibyl or don’t you?” Scytale asked. “I’m not afraid of oracles,” Edric said. “I’m concerned with logic, with real spies, with the physical powers of the Imperium, with the control of the spice, with –” “One can contemplate the Emperor and his powers comfortably if one remembers that all things are Finite,” Scytale said. Oddly, the Steersman recoiled in agitation, threshing his limbs like some weird newt. Scytale fought a sense of loathing at the sight. The Guild Navigator wore his usual dark leotard bulging at the belt with various containers. Yet . . . he gave the impression of nakedness when he moved. It was the swimming, reaching movements, Scytale decided, and he was struck once more by the delicate linkages of their conspiracy. They were not a compatible group. That was weakness. Edric’s agitation subsided. He stared out at Scytale, vision colored by the orange gas which sustained him. What plot did the Face Dancer hold in reserve to save himself? Edric wondered. The Tleilaxu was not acting in a predictable fashion. Evil omen. Something in the Navigator’s voice and actions told Scytale that the Guildsman feared the sister more than the Emperor. This was an abrupt thought flashed on the screen of awareness. Disturbing. Had they overlooked something important about Alia? Would the ghola be sufficient weapon to destroy both? “You know what is said of Alia?” Scytale asked, probing. “What do you mean?” Again, the fish-man was agitated. “Never have philosophy and culture had such a patroness,” Scytale said. “Pleasure and beauty unite in –” “What is enduring about beauty and pleasure?” Edric demanded. “We will destroy both Atreides. Culture! They dispense culture the better to rule. Beauty! They promote the beauty which enslaves. They create a literate ignorance — easiest thing of all. They leave nothing to chance. Chains! Everything they do forges chains, enslaves. But slaves always revolt.” “The sister may wed and produce offspring,” Scytale said. “Why do you speak of the sister?” Edric asked. “The Emperor may choose a mate for her,” Scytale said. “Let him choose. Already, it is too late.” “Even you cannot invent the next moment,” Scytale warned. “You are not a creator . . . any more than are the Atreides.” He nodded. “We must not presume too much.” “We aren’t the ones to flap our tongues about creation,” Edric protested. “We aren’t the rabble trying to make a messiah out of Muad’dib. What is this nonsense? Why are you raising such questions?” “It’s this planet,” Scytale said. “It raises questions.” “Planets don’t speak!” “This one does.” “Oh?” “It speaks of creation. Sand blowing in the night, that is creation.” “Sand blowing . . . ” “When you awaken, the first light shows you the new world — all fresh and ready for your tracks.” Untracked sand? Edric thought. Creation? He felt knotted with sudden anxiety. The confinement of his tank, the surrounding room, everything closed in upon him, constricted him. Tracks in sand. “You talk like a Fremen,” Edric said. “This is a Fremen thought and it’s instructive,” Scytale agreed. “They speak of Muad’dib’s Jihad as leaving tracks in the universe in the same way that a Fremen tracks new sand. They’ve marked out a trail in men’s lives.” “So?” “Another night comes,” Scytale said. “Winds blow.” “Yes,” Edric said, “the Jihad is finite. Muad’dib has used his Jihad and –” “He didn’t use the Jihad,” Scytale said. “The Jihad used him. I think he would’ve stopped it if he could.” “If he could? All he had to do was –” “Oh, be still!” Scytale barked. “You can’t stop a mental epidemic. It leaps from person to person across parsecs. It’s overwhelmingly contagious. It strikes at the unprotected side, in the place where we lodge the fragments of other such plagues. Who can stop such a thing? Muad’dib hasn’t the antidote. The thing has roots in chaos. Can orders reach there?” “Have you been infected, then?” Edric asked. He turned slowly in the orange gas, wondering why Scytale’s words carried such a tone of fear. Had the Face Dancer broken from the conspiracy? There was no way to peer into the future and examine this now. The future had become a muddy stream, clogged with prophets. “We’re all contaminated,” Scytale said, and he reminded himself that Edric’s intelligence had severe limits. How could this point be made that the Guildsman would understand it? “But when we destroy him,” Edric said, “the contag –” “I should leave you in this ignorance,” Scytale said. “But my duties will not permit it. Besides, it’s dangerous to all of us.” Edric recoiled, steadied himself with a kick of one webbed foot which sent the orange gas whipping around his legs. “You speak strangely,” he said. “This whole thing is explosive,” Scytale said in a calmer voice. “It’s ready to shatter. When it goes, it will send bits of itself out through the centuries. Don’t you see this?” “We’ve dealt with religions before,” Edric protested. “If this new –” “It is not just a religion!” Scytale said, wondering what the Reverend Mother would say to this harsh education of their fellow conspirator. “Religious government is something else. Muad’dib has crowded his Qizarate in everywhere, displaced the old functions of government. But he has no permanent civil service, no interlocking embassies. He has bishoprics, islands of authority. At the center of each island is a man. Men learn how to gain and hold personal power. Men are jealous.” “When they’re divided, we’ll absorb them one by one,” Edric said with a complacent smile. “Cut off the head and the body will fall to –” “This body has two heads,” Scytale said. “The sister — who may wed.” “Who will certainly wed.” “I don’t like your tone, Scytale.” “And I don’t like your ignorance.” “What if she does wed? Will that shake our plans?” “It will shake the universe.” “But they’re not unique. I, myself, possess powers which –” “You’re an infant. You toddle where they stride.” “They are not unique!” “You forget, Guildsman, that we once made a kwisatz haderach. This is a being filled by the spectacle of Time. It is a form of existence which cannot be threatened without enclosing yourself in the identical threat. Muad’dib knows we would attack his Chani. We must move faster than we have. You must get to the ghola, prod him as I have instructed.” “And if I do not?” “We will feel the thunderbolt.”

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Categories: Herbert, Frank