Note to the reader: I took certain amount of freedom with this story. The events are unfolding several years after Alia's death and Leto II ascent to the Imperial throne. Burseg Dermring becomes the commander of the Sardaukar corps as their loyalty to House Corrino quickly fades away. Enerblades are electric swords used by the Sardaukar. They are easily deadlier then Fremen Crysknives. If you enjoy the story let me know!
Princess Irulan was in a storm of emotions. Her Bene Gesserit training was the only thing preventing her from panicking. She was not young anymore; Getting older was not easy for her; the wrinkles on her face kept deepening. However, still beautiful, the only thing that kept her going was her responsibility. The responsibility for the Imperium.
But now it seemed like Leto refused to take responsibility.
"Greetings, my lord." She bowed down in front of the young man.
"Irulan. I am glad to see you."
His transformation was progressing. Hard dandruff covered a part of his face. A crown was covering for his loss of hair. She wondered whether it was causing any pain.
"My lord, you know why I am here."
"Indeed I do. I would listen to you nevertheless. Please speak."
"I would know better than to allow this madness to continue. Dermring must be stopped."
"I am afraid that is impossible. As you well know."
"You have got to do something! It is your responsibility as Emperor!"
"Intervening in the internal matters of House Corrino is beyond my duties as Emperor."
She did not expect a different answer. Yet her rage at his indifference grew even stronger.
"It ceased to be an internal Corrino affair ever since your father dissolved the Sardaukar."
"And The Sardaukar chose to keep their allegiance with House Corrino."
"Yes, until now."
"It would only take a small number of Imperial…"
"The Fedaykin will not defend their oppressors."
"They are my family!"
"Your family," his face was calm and his tongue assertive, "Is House Atreides."
She was silent. There was no way to convince him otherwise.
"If you won't take action, Farad'n will. He would not allow the downfall of Corrino."
"Farad'n is a puppet. He holds no political or military power. Corrino has fallen when Muad'dib ascended to the Imperial throne."
"He is the successor of House Corrino!"
"No. He is the successor of House Atreides."
Irulan was shaking. The thought of her bloodline besieged by those abominable traitors shook her entire essence. It seemed like he was engulfed in deep thought. He did not look at her; His eyes wandered away somewhere far beyond, into a place only he could see.
"Tell Farad'n I will organize a convention."
It was as if his emotional human side appeared suddenly beyond his prescient rationality.
The convention hall in the Arakeen palace was unchanged since the time of Muad'dib. The Atreides hawk insignia was on the western wall, with the Fedaykin crysknife on the other side. Irulan stood alongside Ghanima and Farad'n. Ghanima was shining in her long dress of brown and silver. Farad'n was plain-dressed and looked nervous. Something about him was pitiful; perhaps it was the way he reflected her fate.
The Sardaukar officers were stepping in, their black uniforms decorated with golden strings. Their rifles were taken away, yet they were allowed to keep their enerblades. In the days of her youth, she felt safe when surrounded by the most loyal and fierce fighters in the known universe. Now they disgusted her; they have revealed their true face. Undignified, disloyal scum.
Farad'n was approached by a tall, bright-haired and scarred Sardaukar.
"My Lord, Milady. I am bashar Gerod. The Sardaukar are at your disposal." He saluted.
"I am glad to make your acquaintance. Please take your place, bashar." Ghanima responded.
The Sardaukar were polite in their manners, careful in their speech. They ate quietly, every once in a while throwing a glance at the Empress and Farad'n.
"Bashar! I hope that you enjoy the meal. But let us discuss matters."
"As you wish, milady."
Irulan stared at them in a look of pure hatred.
Ghanima spoke slowly. "Lady Irulan has raised my concern over the state of affairs on Salusa Secundus. I would like to receive an explanation about this disruption of Imperial order."
"It is a purely internal matter of House Corrino. I was told the Emperor is not concerned. I can assure you that the rules of engagement are maintained."
"I will not tolerate such hypocrisy, bashar!" Irulan interrupted.
"Silence, Irulan!" Ghanima commanded.
"Please, let me speak, milady. I believe that as a representative of the General Staff I am responsible for providing you with all the details." He joined hands. "As you've been undoubtedly informed, the Sardaukar corps was shocked and terrified by the gruesome murder of caid Frank Rikan. His body was barely recognizable. One thing was apparent: his body was mutilated by an enerblade. The murderer was one of us."
Irulan remembered Rikan. An old fighter, who served her father loyally many years. After the banishment of Corrino to Salusa Secundus and his death, he was one of the first to poison the minds of the Sardaukar with ridiculous dreams of independence. At the time she considered whether he has gone mad by Corrino's downfall.
"A traitor. Ever since we, the Sardaukar, have been freed by the will of the great Paul Mud'dib, peace upon him, there have been those among us who chose to realign with House Corrino, and others who have become mercenaries. But we wanted to seek our own path. And the assassination of Rikan has confirmed that is the path we must take. Our investigation has led us to believe Corrino has been involved for certain, but we did not wish to initiate a conflict. We only requested the name. Burseg Dermring decided that after the murderer is found and punished, Corrino would know better than to intervene in our decision-making. But they refused, and so the burseg had no choice but demand that Corrino cooperate under threat of taking the palace. In response, they surrounded it with their mercenary guard and the Sardaukar still loyal to them. We wished to avoid this conflict, but it seems like now we are in quite a difficult situation. Some of our people still maintain loyalty to Corrino, and we fear a rebellion in our ranks. It's in our best interest to end the crisis as soon as possible. In fact, Milady, I have wished to receive the Emperor's support on the matter. Will his highness be joining us?"
"It will be as he decides. I speak in his name."
"It won't be necessary, Ghanima. I am here."
Leto was wearing a large cloak, the hood shadowing his face. Irulan was suddenly frightened by how much he resembled Paul in his Fremen attire.
"I was hoping that we would have the honor of glancing at your eminent magnificence unshadowed."
"Unfortunately you would not have it. You can be certain that my presence is sufficient."
"Emperor, I come with a message of burseg Dermring once again pledging his loyalty to the Imperium. He has sent a gift to indicate our pledge."
Gerod was given a container, which he opened to present an enerblade to Leto.
Ghanima frowned. The gift was in incredibly bad taste. Why would Dermring even consider sending it?
"This is an unusually rude gesture, bashar. This blade was used to slaughter great masses of my people."
"Indeed it was. However, now you are its owner. Your father has granted us freedom; we pray that you will not reverse his decision."
Leto stared into the distance. Was he once again considering the Golden Path? The way he never shared his thoughts with anyone angered Irulan. He said that fate can only proceed when left unknown; it was blind faith; Ghanima believed in this. To her, it made life so much more frightening.
Leto closed the lid. "Go with peace. Free you shall remain. I would send an Imperial order for Corrino to open the gates. You may proceed with the investigation. No member of the Corrino family is to be harmed. I am warning you. Necessary steps would be taken to prevent violence."
The Imperial order was obeyed. Faced with threat by imperial troops, Corrino opened the gates. The Sardaukar burseg Dermring issued the arrest of the entire Corrino family. He has prepared a trial. The Landsraad took no position and allowed the Sardaukar to lead the trial as they wished. Ghanima and Farad'n were sent as Imperial observers, strictly forbidden by Leto to intervene. There could be no doubt that the trial was rigged, nevertheless Leto's orders were unchanged.
Charged with continuous abuse of rights and pressured into admitting the responsibility for the assassination of caid Rikan, four members of the Corrino family were sentenced to death. Irulan's protests and Bene Gesserit threats of embargo on Salusa Secundus were in vain. The executions were followed by mass purges of Corrino officials. Leto took no action.
"Yes, my lord. You have called for me."
In the dark room, it seemed as if an aura surrounded him. His distorted hand, with nails transforming into claws, still bore the Ducal ring.
"You want to understand."
"I cannot. This is injustice."
"So is the death of billions in the name of Muad'dib. In my name. For the glory of Shai Hulud. "
"Your Golden Path?"
"Our Golden Path. Drink this, Irulan."
He gave her a cup, filled with an odd liquid. She didn't want to drink, she was afraid. Yet she obeyed. The liquid was heavy with spice. The narcotic essence took effect almost immediately, and she felt a sensation of dizziness.
He gave her his hand. She gripped it.
Suddenly she could see and hear things which felt distant and yet very clear. The sight of a great mob of people, one person speaking aloud. She recognized him. It was burseg Dermring.
"Brothers! A great day is upon us. We celebrate independence! No longer will our destiny be decided by others. We have the power, we have the initiative, and now we also have the way."
The voice became faint and distant. Many voices were mixed up, people shouting, cheering. Dermring's voice remained dominant. The only words she heard were "republic" and "freedom". The sights and voices grew more distant until fading away.
Then another sight appeared. It was a gathering. Several men, three of them in royal garments gathered around a table. Some of them wore Sardaukar uniform. But those were different; fancier. A conversation was held.
"You should well acknowledge the danger we're facing. We are willing to pay the price for the alliance, but in return we need the protection and assistance of the Sardaukar corps. We would not join the Republic to be cheaply sold out to the Atreides."
She realized who they were. Three rebel Houses, resisting the Emperor after Atreides' ascent to the Imperial throne. Only few out of many. She knew the war rages on somewhere out there, across the galaxy.
The third sight appeared from a deep mist, as if hidden from her eyes. It was unclear, far worse than the others. She could hear angry men shouting at each other, having a terrible argument. Single words were heard every once in a while- treachery, corruption, tyranny. A fat, uniformed man was trying to silence the others. Sardaukar guards, heavily armed and more numerous than before surrounded him.
A fourth sight was clouded, with only distant flashes of light passing through the mist. She thought she could hear the sounds of battle, shouts and gunfire, but she was unsure.
Then just Leto silently staring at her.
"You see, Irulan, the Republic is a paradox, a flawed organism created by ignorance or a hopeless, though noble attempt at fixing a broken system. It is self-destructive, and hence ironically serving the Golden Path. I have no need for the Sardaukar, neither did my father. They would reach certain prosperity through an attempt to construct a just state of limited democracy. But if their self-destructive path would be accompanied by sinful hopes of a great future for Salusa Secundus, granting them a temporary happiness, so be it. It would be a more virtuous fate than that of mercenaries."
Irulan bowed down to him. She remained with nothing more than her faith.
"Leto. Rikan was a good man."
"He was. But Dermring would have never initiated the coup otherwise. He thought Rikan to be a hopeless idealist, yet his death pushed him to follow the old fighter's will. Ironic, isn't it?"
"Very much so. It seems like fate works in unsuspected ways."
"I hope you are not angry, then."
"Not at all."
"That is good. I do not wish to anger the Empress."