Read Dune Messiah Online

Authors: Frank Herbert

Tags: #Dune (Imaginary place), #Fantasy, #General, #Science Fiction, #Fiction

Dune Messiah (8 page)

BOOK: Dune Messiah
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“Even his tax officials use this method,” Farok complained. “In my day, the distrans was implanted only in the lower animals.”
But revenue information must be kept secret,
Scytale thought.
More than one government has fallen because people discovered the real extent of official wealth.
“How do the Fremen cohorts feel now about Muad’dib’s Jihad?” Scytale asked. “Do they object to making a god out of their Emperor?”
“Most of them don’t even consider this,” Farok said. “They think of the Jihad the way I thought of it—most of them. It is a source of strange experiences, adventure, wealth. This graben hovel in which I live”—Farok gestured at the courtyard—“it cost sixty lidas of spice. Ninety kontars! There was a time when I could not even imagine such riches.” He shook his head.
Across the courtyard, the blind youth took up the notes of a love ballad on his baliset.
Ninety kontars,
Scytale thought
. How strange
Great riches, certainly. Farok’s hovel would be a palace on many another world, but all things were relative—even the kontar. Did Farok, for example, know whence came his measure for this weight of spice? Did he ever think to himself that one and a half kontar once limited a camel load? Not likely. Farok might never even have heard of a camel or of the Golden Age of Earth.
His words oddly in rhythm to the melody of his son’s baliset, Farok said: “I owned a crysknife, water rings to ten liters, my own lance which had been my father’s, a coffee service, a bottle made of red glass older than any memory in my sietch. I had my own share of our spice, but no money. I was rich and did not know it. Two wives I had: one plain and dear to me, the other stupid and obstinate, but with form and face of an angel. I was a Fremen Naib, a rider of worms, master of the leviathan and of the sand.”
The youth across the courtyard picked up the beat of his melody.
“I knew many things without the need to think about them,” Farok said. “I knew there was water far beneath our sand, held there in bondage by the Little Makers. I knew that my ancestors sacrificed virgins to Shai-hulud … before Liet-Kynes made us stop. It was wrong of us to stop. I had seen the jewels in the mouth of a worm. My soul had four gates and I knew them all.”
He fell silent, musing.
“Then the Atreides came with his witch mother,” Scytale said.
“The Atreides came,” Farok agreed. “The one we named
in our sietch, his private name among us. Our Muad’dib, our Mahdi! And when he called for the Jihad, I was one of those who asked: ‘Why should I go to fight there? I have no relatives there.’ But other men went—young men, friends, companions of my childhood. When they returned, they spoke of wizardry, of the power in this Atreides
He fought our enemy, the Harkonnen. Liet-Kynes, who had promised us a paradise upon our planet, blessed him. It was said this Atreides came to change our world and our universe, that he was the man to make the golden flower blossom in the night.”
Farok held up his hands, examined the palms. “Men pointed to First Moon and said: ‘His soul is there.’ Thus, he was called Muad’dib. I did not understand all this.”
He lowered his hands, stared across the courtyard at his son. “I had no thoughts in my head. There were thoughts only in my heart and my belly and my loins.”
Again, the tempo of the background music increased.
“Do you know why I enlisted in the Jihad?” The old eyes stared hard at Scytale. “I heard there was a thing called a sea. It is very hard to believe in a sea when you have lived only here among our dunes. We have no seas. Men of Dune had never known a sea. We had our windtraps. We collected water for the great change Liet-Kynes promised us … this great change Muad’dib is bringing with a wave of his hand. I could imagine a
, water flowing across the land in a canal. From this, my mind could picture a river. But a sea?”
Farok gazed at the translucent cover of his courtyard as though trying to probe into the universe beyond. “A sea,” he said, voice low. “It was too much for my mind to picture. Yet, men I knew said they had seen this marvel. I thought they lied, but I had to know for myself. It was for this reason that I enlisted.”
The youth struck a loud final chord on the baliset, took up a new song with an oddly undulating rhythm.
“Did you find your sea?” Scytale asked.
Farok remained silent and Scytale thought the old man had not heard. The baliset music rose around them and fell like a tidal movement. Farok breathed to its rhythm.
“There was a sunset,” Farok said presently. “One of the elder artists might have painted such a sunset. It had red in it the color of the glass in my bottle. There was gold … blue. It was on the world they call En feil, the one where I led my legion to victory. We came out of a mountain pass where the air was sick with water. I could scarcely breathe it. And there below me was the thing my friends had told me about: water as far as I could see and farther. We marched down to it. I waded out into it and drank. It was bitter and made me ill. But the wonder of it has never left me.”
Scytale found himself sharing the old Fremen’s awe.
“I immersed myself in that sea,” Farok said, looking down at the water creatures worked into the tiles of his floor. “One man sank beneath that water … another man arose from it. I felt that I could remember a past which had never been. I stared around me with eyes which could accept anything … anything at all. I saw a body in the water—one of the defenders we had slain. There was a log nearby supported on that water, a piece of a great tree. I can close my eyes now and see that log. It was black on one end from a fire. And there was a piece of cloth in that water—no more than a yellow rag … torn, dirty. I looked at all these things and I understood why they had come to this place. It was for me to see them.”
Farok turned slowly, stared into Scytale’s eyes. “The universe is unfinished, you know,” he said.
This one is garrulous, but deep,
Scytale thought. And he said: “I can see it made a profound impression on you.”
“You are a Tleilaxu,” Farok said. “You have seen many seas. I have seen only this one, yet I know a thing about seas which you do not.”
Scytale found himself in the grip of an odd feeling of disquiet.
“The Mother of Chaos was born in a sea,” Farok said. “A Qizara Tafwid stood nearby when I came dripping from that water. He had not entered the sea. He stood on the sand … it was wet sand … with some of my men who shared his fear. He watched me with eyes that knew I had learned something which was denied to him. I had become a sea creature and I frightened him. The sea healed me of the Jihad and I think he saw this.”
Scytale realized that somewhere in this recital the music had stopped. He found it disturbing that he could not place the instant when the baliset had fallen silent.
As though it were relevant to what he’d been recounting, Farok said: “Every gate is guarded. There’s no way into the Emperor’s fortress.”
“That’s its weakness,” Scytale said.
Farok stretched his neck upward, peering.
“There’s a way in,” Scytale explained. “The fact that most men—including, we may hope, the Emperor—believe otherwise … that’s to our advantage.” He rubbed his lips, feeling the strangeness of the visage he’d chosen. The musician’s silence bothered him. Did it mean Farok’s son was through transmitting? That had been the way of it, naturally: The message condensed and transmitted within the music. It had been impressed upon Scytale’s own neural system, there to be triggered at the proper moment by the distrans embedded in his adrenal cortex. If it was ended, he had become a container of unknown words. He was a vessel sloshing with data: every cell of the conspiracy here on Arrakis, every name, every contact phrase—all the vital information.
With this information, they could brave Arrakis, capture a sandworm, begin the culture of melange somewhere beyond Muad’dib’s writ. They could break the monopoly as they broke Muad’dib. They could do many things with this information.
“We have the woman here,” Farok said. “Do you wish to see her now?”
“I’ve seen her,” Scytale said. “I’ve studied her with care. Where is she?”
Farok snapped his fingers.
The youth took up his rebec, drew the bow across it. Semuta music wailed from the strings. As though drawn by the sound, a young woman in a blue robe emerged from a doorway behind the musician. Narcotic dullness filled her eyes which were the total blue of the Ibad. She was a Fremen, addicted to the spice, and now caught by an offworld vice. Her awareness lay deep within the semuta, lost somewhere and riding the ecstasy of the music.
“Otheym’s daughter,” Farok said. “My son gave her the narcotic in the hope of winning a woman of the People for himself despite his blindness. As you can see, his victory is empty. Semuta has taken what he hoped to gain.”
“Her father doesn’t know?” Scytale asked.
“She doesn’t even know,” Farok said. “My son supplies false memories with which she accounts to herself for her visits. She thinks herself in love with him. This is what her family believes. They are outraged because he is not a complete man, but they won’t interfere, of course.”
The music trailed away to silence.
At a gesture from the musician, the young woman seated herself beside him, bent close to listen as he murmured to her.
“What will you do with her?” Farok asked.
Once more, Scytale studied the courtyard. “Who else is in this house?” he asked.
“We are all here now,” Farok said. “You’ve not told me what you’ll do with the woman. It is my son who wishes to know.”
As though about to answer, Scytale extended his right arm. From the sleeve of his robe, a glistening needle darted, embedded itself in Farok’s neck. There was no outcry, no change of posture. Farok would be dead in a minute, but he sat unmoving, frozen by the dart’s poison.
Slowly, Scytale climbed to his feet, crossed to the blind musician. The youth was still murmuring to the young woman when the dart whipped into him.
Scytale took the young woman’s arm, urged her gently to her feet, shifted his own appearance before she looked at him. She came erect, focused on him.
“What is it, Farok?” she asked.
“My son is tired and must rest,” Scytale said. “Come. We’ll go out the back way.”
“We had such a nice talk,” she said. “I think I’ve convinced him to get Tleilaxu eyes. It’d make a man of him again.”
“Haven’t I said it many times?” Scytale asked, urging her into a rear chamber.
His voice, he noted with pride, matched his features precisely. It unmistakably was the voice of the old Fremen, who certainly was dead by this time.
Scytale sighed. It had been done with sympathy, he told himself, and the victims certainly had known their peril. Now, the young woman would have to be given her chance.
Empires do not suffer emptiness of purpose at the time of their creation. It is when they have become established that aims are lost and replaced by vague ritual.
It was going to be a bad session, this meeting of the Imperial Council, Alia realized. She sensed contention gathering force, storing up energy—the way Irulan refused to look at Chani, Stilgar’s nervous shuffling of papers, the scowls Paul directed at Korba the Qizara.
She seated herself at the end of the golden council table so she could look out the balcony windows at the dusty light of the afternoon.
Korba, interrupted by her entrance, went on with something he’d been saying to Paul. “What I mean, m’Lord, is that there aren’t as many gods as once there were.”
Alia laughed, throwing her head back. The movement dropped the black hood of her aba robe. Her features lay exposed—blue-in-blue “spice eyes,” her mother’s oval face beneath a cap of bronze hair, small nose, mouth wide and generous.
Korba’s cheeks went almost the color of his orange robe. He glared at Alia, an angry gnome, bald and fuming.
“Do you know what’s being said about your brother?” he demanded.
“I know what’s being said about your Qizarate,” Alia countered. “You’re not divines, you’re god’s spies.”
Korba glanced at Paul for support, said: “We are sent by the writ of Muad’dib, that He shall know the truth of His people and they shall know the truth of Him.”
“Spies,” Alia said.
Korba pursed his lips in injured silence.
Paul looked at his sister, wondering why she provoked Korba. Abruptly, he saw that Alia had passed into womanhood, beautiful with the first blazing innocence of youth. He found himself surprised that he hadn’t noticed it until this moment. She was fifteen—almost sixteen, a Reverend Mother without motherhood, virgin priestess, object of fearful veneration for the superstitious masses—Alia of the Knife.
“This is not the time or place for your sister’s levity,” Irulan said.
BOOK: Dune Messiah
11.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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