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|Dune Messiah(Dune Series #2) by Frank Herbert|
"You've done it then," Irulan said.
Scytale, who had resumed his roly-poly first appearance, said: "As our long-winded friend indicates, we've done it."
"How has Idaho been conditioned?" Irulan asked.
"Idaho?" Edric asked, looking at the Tleilaxu. "Do you know of an Idaho, Scytale?"
"We sold you a creature called Hayt," Scytale said.
"Ah, yes - Hayt," Edric said. "Why did you sell him to us?"
"Because we once bred a kwisatz haderach of our own," Scytale said.
With a quick movement of her old head, the Reverend Mother looked up at him. "You didn't tell us that!" she accused.
"You didn't ask," Scytale said.
"How did you overcome your kwisatz haderach?" Irulan asked.
"A creature who has spent his life creating one particular representation of his selfdom will die rather than become the antithesis of that representation," Scytale said.
"I do not understand," Edric ventured.
"He killed himself," the Reverend Mother growled.
"Follow me well, Reverend Mother," Scytale warned, using a voice mode which said: You are not a sex object, have never been a sex object, cannot be a sex object.
The Tleilaxu waited for the blatant emphasis to sink in. She must not mistake his intent. Realization must pass through anger into awareness that the Tleilaxu certainly could not make such an accusation, knowing as he must the breeding requirements of the Sisterhood. His words, though, contained a gutter insult, completely out of character for a Tleilaxu.
Swiftly, using the mirabhasa placative mode, Edric tried to smooth over the moment. "Scytale, you told us you sold Hayt because you shared our desire on how to use him."
"Edric, you will remain silent until I give you permission to speak," Scytale said. And as the Guildsman started to protest, the Reverend Mother snapped: "Shut up, Edric!"
The Guildsman drew back into his tank in flailing agitation.
"Our own transient emotions aren't pertinent to a solution of the mutual problem," Scytale said. "They cloud reasoning because the only relevant emotion is the basic fear which brought us to this meeting."
"We understand," Irulan said, glancing at the Reverend Mother.
"You must see the dangerous limitations of our shield," Scytale said. "The oracle cannot chance upon what it cannot understand."
"You are devious, Scytale," Irulan said.
How devious she must not guess, Scytale thought. When this is done, we will possess a kwisatz haderach we can control. These others will possess nothing.
"What was the origin of your kwisatz haderach?" the Reverend Mother asked.
"We've dabbled in various pure essences," Scytale said. "Pure good and pure evil. A pure villain who delights only in creating pain and terror can be quite educational."
"The old Baron Harkonnen, our Emperor's grandfather, was he a Tleilaxu creation?" Irulan asked.
"Not one of ours," Scytale said. "But then nature often produces creations as deadly as ours. We merely produce them under conditions where we can study them."
"I will not be passed by and treated this way!" Edric protested. "Who is it hides this meeting from -"
"You see?" Scytale asked. "Whose best judgment conceals us? What judgment?"
"I wish to discuss our mode of giving Hayt to the Emperor," Edric insisted. "It's my understanding that Hayt reflects the old morality that the Atreides learned on his birthworld. Hayt is supposed to make it easy for the Emperor to enlarge his moral nature, to delineate the positive-negative elements of life and religion."
Scytale smiled, passing a benign gaze over his companions. They were as he'd been led to expect. The old Reverend Mother wielded her emotions like a scythe. Irulan had been well trained for a task at which she had failed, a flawed Bene Gesserit creation. Edric was no more (and no less) than the magician's hand: he might conceal and distract. For now, Edric relapsed into sullen silence as the others ignored him.
"Do I understand that this Hayt is intended to poison Paul's psyche?" Irulan asked.
"More or less," Scytale said.
"And what of the Qizarate?" Irulan asked.
"It requires only the slightest shift in emphasis, a glissade of the emotions, to transform envy into enmity," Scytale said.
"And CHOAM?" Irulan asked.
"They will rally round profit," Scytale said.
"What of the other power groups?"
"One invokes the name of government," Scytale said. "We will annex the less powerful in the name of morality and progress. Our opposition will die of its own entanglements."
"Hayt is a multi-purpose ghola," Scytale said. "The Emperor's sister is of an age when she can be distracted by a charming male designed for that purpose. She will be attracted by his maleness and by his abilities as a mentat."
Mohiam allowed her old eyes to go wide in surprise. "The ghola's a mentat? That's a dangerous move."
"To be accurate," Irulan said, "a mentat must have accurate data. What if Paul asks him to define the purpose behind our gift?"
"Hayt will tell the truth," Scytale said. "It makes no difference."
"So you leave an escape door open for Paul," Irulan said.
"A mentat!" Mohiam muttered.
Scytale glanced at the old Reverend Mother, seeing the ancient hates which colored her responses. From the days of the Butlerian Jihad when "thinking machines" had been wiped from most of the universe, computers had inspired distrust. Old emotions colored the human computer as well.
"I do not like the way you smile," Mohiam said abruptly, speaking in the truth mode as she glared up at Scytale.
In the same mode, Scytale said: "And I think less of what pleases you. But we must work together. We all see that." He glanced at the Guildsman. "Don't we, Edric?"
"You teach painful lessons," Edric said. "I presume you wished to make it plain that I must not assert myself against the combined judgments of my fellow conspirators."
"You see, he can be taught," Scytale said.
"I see other things as well," Edric growled. "The Atreides holds a monopoly on the spice. Without it I cannot probe the future. The Bene Gesserit lose their truthsense. We have stockpiles, but these are finite. Melange is a powerful coin."
"Our civilization has more than one coin," Scytale said. "Thus, the law of supply and demand fails."
"You think to steal the secret of it," Mohiam wheezed. "And him with a planet guarded by his mad Fremen!"
"The Fremen are civil, educated and ignorant," Scytale said. "They're not mad. They're trained to believe, not to know. Belief can be manipulated. Only knowledge is dangerous."
"But will I be left with something to father a royal dynasty?" Irulan asked.
They all heard the commitment in her voice, but only Edric smiled at it.
"Something," Scytale said. "Something."
"It means the end of this Atreides as a ruling force," Edric said.
"I should imagine that others less gifted as oracles have made that prediction," Scytale said. "For them, 'mektub al mellah', as the Fremen say."
"The thing was written with salt," Irulan translated.
As she spoke, Scytale recognized what the Bene Gesserit had arrayed here for him - a beautiful and intelligent female who could never be his. Ah, well, he thought, perhaps I'll copy her for another.
= = = = = =
Every civilization must contend with an unconscious force which can block, betray or countermand almost any conscious intention of the collectivity. -Tleilaxu Theorem (unproven)
Paul sat on the edge of his bed and began stripping off his desert boots. They smelled rancid from the lubricant which eased the action of the heel-powered pumps that drove his stillsuit. It was late. He had prolonged his nighttime walk and caused worry for those who loved him. Admittedly, the walks were dangerous, but it was a kind of danger he could recognize and meet immediately. Something compelling and attractive surrounded walking anonymously at night in the streets of Arrakeen.
He tossed the boots into the corner beneath the room's lone glowglobe, attacked the seal strips of his stillsuit. Gods below, how tired he was! The tiredness stopped at his muscles, though, and left his mind seething. Watching the mundane activities of everyday life filled him with profound envy. Most of that nameless flowing life outside the walls of his Keep couldn't be shared by an Emperor - but... to walk down a public street without attracting attention: what a privilege! To pass by the clamoring of mendicant pilgrims, to hear a Fremen curse a shopkeeper: "You have damp hands!"...
Paul smiled at the memory, slipped out of his stillsuit.
He stood naked and oddly attuned to his world. Dune was a world of paradox now - a world under siege, yet the center of power. To come under siege, he decided, was the inevitable fate of power. He stared down at the green carpeting, feeling its rough texture against his soles.
The streets had been ankle deep in sand blown over the Shield Wall on the stratus wind. Foot traffic had churned it into choking dust which clogged stillsuit Filters. He could smell the dust even now despite a blower cleaning at the portals of his Keep. It was an odor full of desert memories.
Other days... other dangers.
Compared to those other days, the peril in his lonely walks remained minor. But, putting on a stillsuit, he put on the desert. The suit with all its apparatus for reclaiming his body's moisture guided his thoughts in subtle ways, fixed his movements in a desert pattern. He became wild Fremen. More than a disguise, the suit made of him a stranger to his city self. In the stillsuit, he abandoned security and put on the old skills of violence. Pilgrims and townfolk passed him then with eyes downcast. They left the wild ones strictly alone out of prudence. If the desert had a face for city folk, it was a Fremen face concealed by a stillsuit's mouth-nose filters.
In truth, there existed now only the small danger that someone from the old sietch days might mark him by his walk, by his odor or by his eyes. Even then, the chances of meeting an enemy remained small.
A swish of door hangings and a wash of light broke his reverie. Chani entered bearing his coffee service on a platinum tray. Two slaved glowglobes followed her, darting to their positions: one at the head of their bed, one hovering beside her to light her work.
Chani moved with an ageless air of fragile power - so self-contained, so vulnerable. Something about the way she bent over the coffee service reminded him then of their first days. Her features remained darkly elfin, seemingly unmarked by their years - unless one examined the outer corners of her whiteless eyes, noting the lines there: "sandtracks," the Fremen of the desert called them.
Steam wafted from the pot as she lifted the lid by its Hagar emerald knob. He could tell the coffee wasn't yet ready by the way she replaced the lid. The pot - fluting silver female shape, pregnant - had come to him as a ghanima, a spoil of battle won when he'd slain the former owner in single combat. Jamis, that'd been the man's name... Jamis. What an odd immortality death had earned for Jamis. Knowing death to be inevitable, had Jamis carried that particular one in his hand?
Chani put out cups: blue pottery squatting like attendants beneath the immense pot. There were three cups: one for each drinker and one for all the former owners.
"It'll only be a moment," she said.
She looked at him then, and Paul wondered how he appeared in her eyes. Was he yet the exotic offworlder, slim and wiry but water-fat when compared to Fremen? Had he remained the Usul of his tribal name who'd taken her in "Fremen tau" while they'd been fugitives in the desert?
Paul stared down at his own body: hard muscles, slender... a few more scars, but essentially the same despite twelve years as Emperor. Looking up, he glimpsed his face in a shelf mirror - blue-blue Fremen eyes, mark of spice addiction; a sharp Atreides nose. He looked the proper grandson for an Atreides who'd died in the bullring creating a spectacle for his people.
Something the old man had said slipped then into Paul's mind: "One who rules assumes irrevocable responsibility for the ruled. You are a husbandman. This demands, at times, a selfless act of love which may only be amusing to those you rule."
People still remembered that old man with affection.
And what have I done for the Atreides name? Paul asked himself. I've loosed the wolf among the sheep.
For a moment, he contemplated all the death and violence going on in his mind.
"Into bed now!" Chani said in a sharp tone of command that Paul knew would've shocked his Imperial subjects.
He obeyed, lay back with his hands behind his head, letting himself be lulled by the pleasant familiarity of Chani's movements.
The room around them struck him suddenly with amusement. It was not at all what the populace must imagine as the Emperor's bedchamber. The yellow light of restless glowglobes moved the shadows in an array of colored glass jars on a shelf behind Chani. Paul named their contents silently - the dry ingredients of the desert pharmacopoeia, unguents, incense, mementos... a pinch of sand from Sietch Tabr, a lock of hair from their firstborn... long dead... twelve years dead... an innocent bystander killed in the battle that had made Paul Emperor.
The rich odor of spice-coffee filled the room. Paul inhaled, his glance falling on a yellow bowl beside the tray where Chani was preparing the coffee. The bowl held ground nuts. The inevitable poison-snooper mounted beneath the table waved its insect arms over the food. The snooper angered him. They'd never needed snoopers in the desert days!
"Coffee's ready," Chani said. "Are you hungry?"
His angry denial was drowned in the whistling scream of a spice lighter hurling itself spaceward from the field outside Arrakeen.
Chani saw his anger, though, poured their coffee, put a cup near his hand. She sat down on the foot of the bed, exposed his legs, began rubbing them where the muscles were knotted from walking in the stillsuit. Softly, with a casual air which did not deceive him, she said: "Let us discuss Irulan's desire for a child."
Paul's eyes snapped wide open. He studied Chani carefully, "Irulan's been back from Wallach less than two days," he said. "Has she been at you already?"
"We've not discussed her frustrations," Chani said.
Paul forced his mind to mental alertness, examined Chani in the harsh light of observational minutiae, the Bene Gesserit Way his mother had taught him in violation of her vows. It was a thing he didn't like doing with Chani. Part of her hold on him lay in the fact he so seldom needed his tension-building powers with her. Chani mostly avoided indiscreet questions. She maintained a Fremen sense of good manners. Hers were more often practical questions. What interested Chani were facts which bore on the position of her man - his strength in Council, the loyalty of his legions, the abilities and talents of his allies. Her memory held catalogs of names and cross-indexed details. She could rattle off the major weakness of every known enemy, the potential dispositions of opposing forces, battle plans of their military leaders, the tooling and production capacities of basic industries.
Why now, Paul wondered, did she ask about Irulan?
"I've troubled your mind," Chani said. "That wasn't my intention."
"What was your intention?"
She smiled shyly, meeting his gaze. "If you're angered, love, please don't hide it."
Paul sank back against the headboard. "Shall I put her away?" he asked. "Her use is limited now and I don't like the things I sense about her trip home to the Sisterhood."
"You'll not put her away," Chani said. She went on massaging his legs, spoke matter-of-factly: "You've said many times she's your contact with our enemies, that you can read their plans through her actions."
"Then why ask about her desire for a child?"
"I think it'd disconcert our enemies and put Irulan in a vulnerable position should you make her pregnant."
He read by the movements of her hands on his legs what that statement had cost her. A lump rose in his throat. Softly, he said: "Chani, beloved, I swore an oath never to take her into my bed. A child would give her too much power. Would you have her displace you?"
"I have no place."
"Not so, Sihaya, my desert springtime. What is this sudden concern for Irulan?"
"It's concern for you, not for her! If she carried an Atreides child, her friends would question her loyalties. The less trust our enemies place in her, the less use she is to them."
"A child for her could mean your death," Paul said. "You know the plotting in this place." A movement of his arm encompassed the Keep.
"You must have an heir!" she husked.
"Ahhh," he said.
So that was it: Chani had not produced a child for him. Someone else, then, must do it. Why not Irulan? That was the way Chani's mind worked. And it must be done in an act of love because all the Empire avowed strong taboos against artificial ways. Chani had come to a Fremen decision.
Paul studied her face in this new light. It was a face he knew better in some ways than his own. He had seen this face soft with passion, in the sweetness of sleep, awash in fears and angers and griefs.
He closed his eyes, and Chani came into his memories as a girl once more - veiled in springtime, singing, waking from sleep beside him - so perfect that the very vision of her consumed him. In his memory, she smiled... shyly at first, then strained against the vision as though she longed to escape.
Paul's mouth went dry. For a moment, his nostrils tasted the smoke of a devastated future and the voice of another kind of vision commanding him to disengage... disengage... disengage. His prophetic visions had been eavesdropping on eternity for such a long while, catching snatches of foreign tongues, listening to stones and to flesh not his own. Since the day of his first encounter with terrible purpose, he had peered at the future, hoping to find peace.
There existed a way, of course. He knew it by heart without knowing the heart of it - a rote future, strict in its instructions to him: disengage, disengage, disengage...
Paul opened his eyes, looked at the decision in Chani's face. She had stopped massaging his legs, sat still now - purest Fremen. Her features remained familiar beneath the blue nezhoni scarf she often wore about her hair in the privacy of their chambers. But the mask of decision sat on her, an ancient and alien-to-him way of thinking. Fremen women had shared their men for thousands of years - not always in peace, but with a way of making the fact nondestructive. Something mysteriously Fremen in this fashion had happened in Chani.
"You'll give me the only heir I want," he said.
"You've seen this?" she asked, making it obvious by her emphasis that she referred to prescience.
As he had done many times, Paul wondered how he could explain the delicacy of the oracle, the Timelines without number which vision waved before him on an undulating fabric. He sighed, remembered water lifted from a river in the hollow of his hands - trembling, draining. Memory drenched his face in it. How could he drench himself in futures growing increasingly obscure from the pressures of too many oracles?
"You've not seen it, then," Chani said.
That vision-future scarce any longer accessible to him except at the expenditure of life-draining effort, what could it show them except grief? Paul asked himself. He felt that he occupied an inhospitable middle zone, a wasted place where his emotions drifted, swayed, swept outward in unchecked restlessness.
Chani covered his legs, said: "An heir to House Atreides, this is not something you leave to chance or one woman."