Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

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The audacious nature of Muad’dib’s actions may be seen in the fact that He knew from the beginning whither He was bound, yet not once did He step aside from that path. He put it clearly when He said: “I tell you that I come now to my time of testing when it will be shown that I am the Ultimate Servant.” Thus He weaves all into One, that both friend and foe may worship Him. It is for this reason and this reason only that His Apostles prayed: “Lord, save us from the other paths which Muad’dib covered with the Waters of His Life. ” Those “other paths” may be imagined only with the deepest revulsion. -from The Yiam-el-Din (Book of Judgment)

The messenger was a young woman — her face, name and family known to Chani — which was how she’d penetrated Imperial Security. Chani had done no more than identify her for a Security Officer named Bannerjee, who then arranged the meeting with Muad’dib. Bannerjee acted out of instinct and the assurance that the young woman’s father had been a member of the Emperor’s Death Commandos, the dreaded Fedaykin, in the days before the Jihad. Otherwise, he might have ignored her plea that her message was intended only for the ears of Muad’dib. She was, of course, screened and searched before the meeting in Paul’s private office. Even so, Bannerjee accompanied her, hand on knife, other hand on her arm. It was almost midday when they brought her into the room — an odd space, mixture of desert-Fremen and Family-Aristocrat. Hiereg hangings lined three walls: delicate tapestries adorned with figures out of Fremen mythology. A view screen covered the fourth wall, a silver-gray surface behind an oval desk whose top held only one object, a Fremen sandclock built into an orrery. The orrery, a suspensor mechanism from lx, carried both moons of Arrakis in the classic Worm Trine aligned with the sun. Paul, standing beside the desk, glanced at Bannerjee. The Security Officer was one of those who’d come up through the Fremen Constabulary, winning his place on brains and proven loyalty despite the smuggler ancestry attested by his name. He was a solid figure, almost fat. Wisps of black hair fell down over the dark, wet-appearing skin of his forehead like the crest of an exotic bird. His eyes were blue-blue and steady in a gaze which could look upon happiness or atrocity without change of expression. Both Chani and Stilgar trusted him. Paul knew that if he told Bannerjee to throttle the girl immediately, Bannerjee would do it. “Sire, here is the messenger girl,” Bannerjee said. “M’Lady Chani said she sent word to you.” “Yes.” Paul nodded curtly. Oddly, the girl didn’t look at him. Her attention remained on the orrery. She was dark-skinned, of medium height, her figure concealed beneath a robe whose rich wine fabric and simple cut spoke of wealth. Her blue-black hair was held in a narrow band of material which matched the robe. The robe concealed her hands. Paul suspected that the hands were tightly clasped. It would be in character. Everything about her would be in character — including the robe: a last piece of finery saved for such a moment. Paul motioned Bannerjee aside. He hesitated before obeying. Now, the girl moved — one step forward. When she moved there was grace. Still, her eyes avoided him. Paul cleared his throat. Now the girl lifted her gaze, the whiteless eyes widening with just the right shade of awe. She had an odd little face with delicate chin, a sense of reserve in the way she held her small mouth. The eyes appeared abnormally large above slanted cheeks. There was a cheerless air about her, something which said she seldom smiled. The corners of her eyes even held a faint yellow misting which could have been from dust irritation or the tracery of semuta. Everything was in character. “You asked to see me,” Paul said. The moment of supreme test for this girl-shape had come. Scytale had put on the shape, the mannerisms, the sex, the voice — everything his abilities could grasp and assume. But this was a female known to Muad’dib in the sietch days. She’d been a child, then, but she and Muad’dib shared common experiences. Certain areas of memory must be avoided delicately. It was the most exacting part Scytale had ever attempted. “I am Otheym’s Lichna of Berk al Dib.” The girl’s voice came out small, but firm, giving name, father and pedigree. Paul nodded. He saw how Chani had been fooled. The timbre of voice, everything reproduced with exactitude. Had it not been for his own Bene Gesserit training in voice and for the web of dao in which oracular vision enfolded him, this Face-Dancer disguise might have gulled even him. Training exposed certain discrepancies: the girl was older than her known years; too much control tuned the vocal cords; set of neck and shoulders missed by a fraction the subtle hauteur of Fremen poise. But there were niceties, too: the rich robe had been patched to betray actual status . . . and the features were beautifully exact. They spoke a certain sympathy of this Face Dancer for the role being played. “Rest in my home, daughter of Otheym,” Paul said in formal Fremen greeting. “You are welcome as water after a dry crossing.” The faintest of relaxations exposed the confidence this apparent acceptance had conveyed. “I bring a message,” she said. “A man’s messenger is as himself,” Paul said. Scytale breathed softly. It went well, but now came the crucial task: the Atreides must be guided onto that special path. He must lose his Fremen concubine in circumstances where no other shared the blame. The failure must belong only to the omnipotent Muad’dib. He had to be led into an ultimate realization of his failure and thence to acceptance of the Tleilaxu alternative. “I am the smoke which banishes sleep in the night,” Scytale said, employing a Fedaykin code phrase: I bear bad tidings. Paul fought to maintain calmness. He felt naked, his soul abandoned in a groping-time concealed from every vision. Powerful oracles hid this Face Dancer. Only the edges of these moments were known to Paul. He knew only what he could not do. He could not slay this Face Dancer. That would precipitate the future which must be avoided at all cost. Somehow, a way must be found to reach into the darkness and change the terrifying pattern. “Give me your message,” Paul said. Bannerjee moved to place himself where he could watch the girl’s face. She seemed to notice him for the First time and her gaze went to the knife handle beneath the Security Officer’s hand. “The innocent do not believe in evil,” she said, looking squarely at Bannerjee. Ahhh, well done, Paul thought. It was what the real Lichna would’ve said. He felt a momentary pang for the real daughter of Otheym — dead now, a corpse in the sand. There was no time for such emotions, though. He scowled. Bannerjee kept his attention on the girl. “I was told to deliver my message in secret,” she said. “Why?” Bannerjee demanded, voice harsh, probing. “Because it is my father’s wish.” “This is my friend,” Paul said. “Am I not a Fremen? Then my friend may hear anything I hear.” Scytale composed the girl-shape. Was this a true Fremen custom . . . or was it a test? “The Emperor may make his own rules,” Scytale said. “This is the message: My father wishes you to come to him, bringing Chani.” “Why must I bring Chani?” “She is your woman and a Sayyadina. This is a Water matter, by the rules of our tribes. She must attest it that my father speaks according to the Fremen Way.” There truly are Fremen in the conspiracy, Paul thought. This moment fitted the shape of things to come for sure. And he had no alternative but to commit himself to this course. “Of what will your father speak?” Paul asked. “He will speak of a plot against you — a plot among the Fremen.” “Why doesn’t he bring that message in person?” Bannerjee demanded. She kept her gaze on Paul. “My father cannot come here. The plotters suspect him. He’d not survive the journey.” “Could he not divulge the plot to you?” Bannerjee asked. “How came he to risk his daughter on such a mission?” “The details are locked in a distrans carrier that only Muad’dib may open,” she said. “This much I know.” “Why not send the distrans, then?” Paul asked. “It is a human distrans,” she said. “I’ll go, then,” Paul said. “But I’ll go alone.” “Chani must come with you!” “Chani is with child.” “When has a Fremen woman refused to . . .” “My enemies fed her a subtle poison,” Paul said. “It will be a difficult birth. Her health will not permit her to accompany me now.” Before Scytale could still them, strange emotions passed over the girl-features: frustration, anger. Scytale was reminded that every victim must have a way of escape — even such a one as Muad’dib. The conspiracy had not failed, though. This Atreides remained in the net. He was a creature who had developed firmly into one pattern. He’d destroy himself before changing into the opposite of that pattern. That had been the way with the Tleilaxu kwisatz haderach. It’d be the way with this one. And then . . . the ghola. “Let me ask Chani to decide this,” she said. “I have decided it,” Paul said. “You will accompany me in Chani’s stead.” “It requires a Sayyadina of the Rite!” “Are you not Chani’s friend?” Boxed! Scytale thought. Does he suspect? No. He’s being Fremen-cautious. And the contraceptive is a fact. Well — there are other ways. “My father told me I was not to return,” Scytale said, “that I was to seek asylum with you. He said you’d not risk me.” Paul nodded. It was beautifully in character. He couldn’t deny this asylum. She’d plead Fremen obedience to a father’s command. “I’ll take Stilgar’s wife, Harah,” Paul said. “You’ll tell us the way to your father.” “How do you know you can trust Stilgar’s wife?” “I know it.” “But I don’t.” Paul pursed his lips, then: “Does your mother live?” “My true mother has gone to Shai-hulud. My second mother still lives and cares for my father. Why?” “She’s of Sietch Tabr?” “Yes.” “I remember her,” Paul said. “She will serve in Chani’s place.” He motioned to Bannerjee. “Have attendants take Otheym’s Lichna to suitable quarters.” Bannerjee nodded. Attendants. The key word meant that this messenger must be put under special guard. He took her arm. She resisted. “How will you go to my father?” she pleaded. “You’ll describe the way to Bannerjee,” Paul said. “He is my friend.” “No! My father has commanded it! I cannot!” “Bannerjee?” Paul said. Bannerjee paused. Paul saw the man searching that encyclopedic memory which had helped bring him to his position of trust. “I know a guide who can take you to Otheym,” Bannerjee said. “Then I’ll go alone,” Paul said. “Sire, if you . . . ” “Otheym wants it this way,” Paul said, barely concealing the irony which consumed him. “Sire, it’s too dangerous,” Bannerjee protested. “Even an Emperor must accept some risks,” Paul said. “The decision is made. Do as I’ve commanded.” Reluctantly, Bannerjee led the Face Dancer from the room. Paul turned toward the blank screen behind his desk. He felt that he waited for the arrival of a rock on its blind journey from some height. Should he tell Bannerjee about the messenger’s true nature? he wondered. No! Such an incident hadn’t been written on the screen of his vision. Any deviation here carried precipitate violence. A moment of fulcrum had to be found, a place where he could will himself out of the vision. If such a moment existed . . .

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Categories: Herbert, Frank