The durbar wound its inevitable way from entertainment to satiety to boredom as the parade of tribute went on, and on and on. I read Uncle Paul's filament OC Bible which fit discreetly into the palm of my hand. Leto and Paul continued their perennial game of pyramid chess using their mnemonist abilities to visualize a board that had no physical existence, and Ghanima was either meditating or dozing. To my left I could hear Irulan and Sil's low pitched voices rising and falling in rhythmic conversation, and then I heard Irulan gasp.
I looked up. A score or so of children were performing an intricate dance before the reviewing stand involving much spinning and swirling of colored streamers. Only not all were children, there were Face Dancers among them!
"The fools," Leto said quietly from behind me. "Did they think we would not see?"
"A strangely blatant attempt," his twin agreed softly.
Our mother's voice floated from beyond them, grim in tone. "Not all our enemies are wise enough to be subtle."
I consulted my eidetic memory to learn which world was presenting this deceptive show. "The Harkonnen influence just might make the government on Giedi Prime this clumsy and obvious," I murmured.
"Or the Bene Tleilaxu might be making use of them as a shield for some attempt of their own," said Paul.
'They wouldn't be obvious," Ghani pointed out, quite inarguably.
"We'll learn who is behind this, soon enough," Mother promised.
The children gave way to yet another pageant. Troubled, I turned the micron thick pages of the little bible to a familiar passage: 'Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess?' I was being deaf, we all were. We were missing something obvious, something simple - perhaps too simple for our tortuous, preborn, memory stuffed minds to grasp.
The Parade of Tribute ground on as inexorable and inescapable as the preset future of Muad'Dib's vision. Leto and Paul finished their game of Cheops. I passed Uncle Paul's bible to Ghanima and joined the boys in a riddle-play conducted entirely in our secret languages. The time passed slowly. Paul gave up his place to Ghani in return for the tiny bible. I yawned and considered a nap.
Suddenly Leto broke off mid-riddle-response. "I can't stand any more of this nonsense, let's go!"
Mother straightened abruptly, turning her back on the colloquy of priest-treasurers she'd been consulting sotto-voce. "Impossible!" she snapped.
"Impossible?" Leto echoed, mockery vibrato in his precisely controlled Voice. "Nothing is impossible to the Kwisatch Haderach!"
"A Kwisatch Haderach," my own brother corrected crisply, for that was a title both boys, and Ghani and I as well, could claim.
Leto laughed. Mother, bristling, opened her mouth to respond and was forestalled by Irulan, leaning forward to catch her eye. "It's already been a long day for them, Alia. And there's still the reception of the Ambassadors tonight."
"I'm tired," I agreed quickly.
"And I'm bored," said Leto, "which is an exceptionally exhausting state of being."
"Perhaps it would be wise to allow the children some rest," Father suggested, his tonalities conveying to mother a reminder of just how difficult Leto could become when frustrated.
Our departure was considerably more discrete than our arrival, the four of us tucked into a suspensor-car beneath a polarized dome, we could see out but none of the weary, sun worn people trekking back to the city could see us. The car moved at little more than a walking pace, maneuvering between the crowds of citizens seeking their homes, pilgrims their hotels and delegates the comforts of the palace's vast guest quarters. As we approached Mother's temple we found ourselves circling the fringes of a crowd that did not move, stone still and staring as if mesmerized at a tall hooded figure high on the temple steps, the shorter figure of a boy at his side.
I caught my breath and beside me Leto leaned forward to bark a sharp order into the ear of our driver. "Stop and let us out!" the man obeyed the Holy Heir, indeed Leto's voice gave him no choice. The car halted and lowered gently to the ground as Ghani pulled out and distributed the dun colored, jubba-cloaks from the vehicle's fremkit. Swathed, our finery well covered, we emerged one by one to insinuate ourselves into the crowd. I worked my way slowly forward on Leto's heels, Ghani and Paul following close behind, we were not noticed, less because of our flimsy disguise then the crowd's fascination with the Preacher's words.
"- all men must see that the teaching of religion by rules and rote is largely a hoax," he thundered, Voice sending shivers down my spine. Mentally I completed the text with him. "The proper teaching is recognized with ease. You can know it without fail because it awakens within you that sensation which tells you this is something you've always known!"
Muad'Dib's teachings held that resonance for me. His words gave form and substance to knowledge I had not known that I had until I read them. Surely, surely I was not the only one he touched so? The inspiration he'd given to the Tribes had been genuine hadn't it? And yet - and yet I could not deny that somewhere along the way something had gone terribly, terribly wrong. Muad'Dib had taught freedom not oppression, the spiritual unity of tau not the enforced conformity of a theocracy that crushed all souls into a single mold. The Preacher spoke aright, the religion of Muad'Dib was NOT Muad'Dib! It used his name and his heirs to justify their domination.
I was roused from such thoughts by bumping into Leto's suddenly stationary back and
saw that we had arrived at the foot of the first flight of steps. Ghani and Paul crowded in behind and the four of us huddled, staring upward, drinking in words that echoed our own thoughts – and fears. Words that seemed directed specifically at us.
"This is the fallacy of power: ultimately it is effective only in an absolute, limited universe."
"Isn't that exactly what we have?" Leto muttered, to himself rather than me. And the Preacher answered:
"But the basic lesson of our relativistic universe is that things change. Any power must always meet a greater power. Paul Muad'Dib taught this lesson to the Sardaukar on the Plains of Arrakeen. His descendants have yet to learn the lesson for themselves.
"Who will be their teacher? The priests of the great hoax called the Church of Muad'Dib with their rules and rote? The Holy Regent Alia?" Blood burned in my cheeks, such scorching scorn! How dared this ragged ulemma criticize my mother? Yet, were he Muad'Dib, who had better right?
'Mother controls the Church,' the thought held exquisite pain but could not be denied, had I not seen with my own eyes, how she swathed herself in the symbols of hieratic power? But Uncle Paul had created the Qizarate! How could he have failed to See what it would become? Our messiah had proved himself mortal, had he also been fallible?
I looked at my brother. I could see from his stance and the position of his right arm that his hand was clenched on the hilt of his crysknife but he held himself in check.
"I preach to the Fremen!" the Preacher declaimed. "The Fremen must return to his original faith, to his genius in forming human communities; he must return to the past where that lesson of survival was learned in the struggle with Arrakis."
Was this so? Then we were lost for return to the past is one of the few things that are truly impossible. If recreating the World of the Fathers was the only way for the Fremen to remain Fremen then we had destroyed our people by fulfilling their dearest dream.
"The only business of the Fremen should be that of opening his soul to the inner teachings," the Preacher thundered. "The worlds of the Imperium, the Landsraad and the CHOAM Confederacy have no message to give him. They will only rob him of his soul."
'Disengage' the thought arose my mind whole and complete in itself as if fully formulated in some unknown depth of mind before bursting into full consciousness. We must disengage ourselves and our people. We must not, and they must not, become cogs in the machine of empire.
'Humans must never submit to machines' was the first teaching. Oh but machines need not be made of wires and circuits. They could be created out of systems and ideals as well! Had the Bulterian Jihad succeeded only in replacing machines made of metal with machines made of dehumanized men?
Revelation beat upon my ego like a sandstorm upon a stilltent's fabric. We had made men machines! What was a mentat but a human computing machine? a Bene Gesserit but a reproductive machine? a Kwisatch Haderach but a machine for harnessing and controlling the very powers of the universe?
Revelation crystalized into words; 'Love of power is the root of all evil.'
The Preacher spoke on, my mentat trained eidetic memory automatically recording his words even as my sentiency reeled. "I will not argue with the Fremen claims that they are divinely inspired to transmit a religious revelation. It is their concurrent claim to ideological revelation which inspires me to shower them with derision. Of course they make that dual claim in the hope that it will strengthen their mandarinate and help them to endure in a universe which finds them increasingly oppressive. It is in the name of all those oppressed people that I warn the Fremen: short-term expediency always fails in the long term."
"Expediency has become our only guide. The government of the Qizarate has neither logic nor morality to recommend it." Each of us had taken a different thought away from our encounter with the Preacher. That was Paul's.
"Muad'Dib was protector of the oppressed. Now his Church oppresses the universe in his name and ours." Ghanima brooded.
We sat in council. The four of us concealed by leaves and branches in a secret bower hollowed out of a dense shrubbery tucked into a corner of the second terrace of our creche's garden. The scent of jasmine and the crushed thyme on which we sat was thick around us. I picked up a broken stalk and twirled it between my fingers. Thyme. Time. Time was our enemy as the machine gathered momentum to crush us. Disengage!
Neither Paul nor Ghani seemed to have shared my revelation. Had Leto? I looked across the green twilight at my cousin. "Have you seen the Preacher?"
"I have seen the Sandworm," he answered, expression unreadable – even to me.
Ghani and Paul looked back and forth between us as the riddle exchange continued.
"What about the Sandworm?" I challenged.
"It gives us the air we breathe," he responded.
"Then why do we destroy its land?"
"Because Shai-Hulud, the Sandworm deified, orders it."
"You would ride the Sandworm, cousin?" I asked, deeply disturbed.
"It is that or be crushed beneath him."
I spoke directly. "What have you seen, Leto?"
"The vision Muad'Dib denied," he answered. "I have seen the Golden Path."