William Shakespeare’s Dune, Act II, Scene vi.

The Conference Room at the Landing Field


LETO: To go to war’s a calculated risk,
But calculation knows no shade of love
To blanch its crimson tally of the dead.
And when the blood and flesh is aye my own–
Damn Hawat! He did swear our house secure!

PAUL: The threat that thwarted Hawat was a thing
Too simple to be thwarted: like a thrust
In battle. One avoids it or one dies.
I did avoid this thing as I was taught
By Hawat, chiefest of my mentors here.

LETO: Thou wouldst defend him? Hawat waxes old

PAUL: And wisdom waxes with his age. How oft
Hath Hawat erred, and spilt Atreides blood
Through overconfidence, or foolish pride?

LETO: I see that wisdom grows in thee as well
Beyond thine age, and that doth gladden me.
Amen! Let Hawat punish Hawat, then:
T’will be a worser torment than we both
Could hang about his neck, I’ll warrant.


HAWAT: Lord!
I have this moment learned whereof I have
In duty to thy line and thee have failed
And must therefore thy service quit anon.

LETO: Sit down and cease to play the fool! Thy fault
Was to believe Harkonnen cleverer
Than could their feeble wit devise to be.
I’ll hear no more of this: the time is past
And passing faster than we can upon
So base a matter spend it: call the rest.

HAWAT: At once, my lord: Good Halleck, bring them in!


LETO: Good sirs, it seems our body politic
Hath so the habit of invasion took
We cannot shake it off for aye the space
Required to hold this simple globe in fief
By order of His Majesty our Lord.
Good Hawat, tell us of these Fremen folk
Who are our subjects now among the sands.

HAWAT: They bide to see if they can trust our words
But have the strength we need, and send us gifts
In token of their willingness to hope
That we may prove to earn their faithfulness.

OFFICER: You like them, Thufir?

HAWAT:                                            Duncan Idaho
Says they’re to be admired, and him I trust.

PAUL: How many are they?

HAWAT: One such tribe of theirs
Contains ten thousand people. Idaho
Saith more: that there are many “sietches.” Thus
They call their desert dwellings. All do give
Their loyalty to “Liet,” so they say.

LETO: That’s something new

HAWAT: And may but be the name
Of some desert and superstitious god.

OFFICER: And do they traffic with the smuggler bands?

HAWAT: One such left the sietch while Duncan watched.

LETO:  We’ll need to tread a careful path between
A yoke of tyranny and watchlessness.
Dear Gurney, you shall be my embassage
To contact these romantic businessmen
And say that in exchange for ducal tithes
I’ll see them not, nor commandeer their ships.

HALLECK: The Emperor is jealous of his spice
And may object to such a governance.

LETO: Then we shall tell him, and pass on the tithe
In name of House Corrino, and deduct
That profit from the levies we must pay
To arm the crown: ley naught illegal pass
While House Atreides rules the source of spice!
And let Harkonnen howl in vain at that,
And watch his creatures starve for want of graft.

HALLECK: O, would that I could see his purpling face
In apoplexy when he hears of this!

LETO: Now, Thufir, hast thou found the books that show
The profits that the leech Harkonnen suck’d
From this our new and profitable home?

HAWAT: I did, and can confirm Harkonnen took
Ten billion round solaris from the sand
For every year their tyranny did run.

HALLECK: “For they shall suck the treasure in the sand
“And take abundance from the ocean depths.”

LETO: And who among us thinks Harkonnen hath
Upon a mere command Imperial
Without a word of protest such great wealth
His mortal enemy Atreides left?
With sword and shield and naught else will we take
What law proclaims our own. So must we know
What weapons of inheritance have we
Left to us to wrest wealth from desert sands
By order of th’Imperial Judge of Change.
How much to harvest spice have we been left?

HAWAT: O, such a fleet we have to mine the sands
Of fair Arrakis’ dunes that every grain
Of spice shall flow unhindered to the sky
On paper ornithopters, burning ink:
So sayeth this report, than which no work
Of fiction telleth falser tales. In sooth
Not half our harvesters can work the sand
One third may have a carryall to fly
Them to their harvests. Every metal bolt
Is more corroded than the Baron’s soul
And could we scrub the rust from off their hulls
The half would fall to pieces. Fortune smiles
Indeed upon us if we get the half
Today to take the fields: A sixmonth hence
And half the half that’s left will broken lie.

LETO: So much we guessed. Have we the ornithopters
Poised to scout the sand for winds and foes?

HALLECK: Can we not pay the Guild for license, that
We may command the winds with satellites?

HAWAT: Not so, for that the Guild will not permit
On pain of full embargo ‘pon our House.
Nay, not for any price that’s named in coin.

OFFICER: No justice lies in this: our hands are tied!

LETO: Who calls for justice? Here’s no game for boys
To fleer and jest at: Justice is for us
To make, and win or die: the game of thrones
Plays on, and we will meet this clash of kings
And weather storms of swords, or we shall sit
With silent mien thereafter at the feast
For crows, whose voices hoarse shall mock our calls
For justice from th’indifferent universe.
Have you regrets that cast your lot with us?

OFFICER: Forgive me, Lord: I know you could not turn
Away from such a prize as this, and I
Could not but follow. Gall’s a bitter draught.

LETO: The bitter must we swallow with the sweet
And smile so long as we have legs to dance
Though we do dance with dragons, and our arms
We’ll use, and that for more than dance. Do not
Therefore our freedom use to cry
For justice from a brooding, distant throne,
But if you’d speak, speak here your bitterness:
I’ll not deny a man who’d speak his mind.

HALLECK: The other Houses say “Leto the Just”
And promise us their friendship without cost
They’d better govern words than govern worlds.

LETO: They know not who will win: Atreides hawk?
Harkonnen bull? They’ve all grown fat by sloth
And never risking what they could avoid.
Despite, not blame, they’ve earned from us in this.
Good Hawat, show us what we’ve with to work.

Hawat activates a projector, showing a harvester factory and a carryall

HAWAT: Such factories we have to harvest spice

LETO: And sandworms live that swallow such things whole?

HAWAT: Beneath the deepest desert sands there crawl
Such worms as t’would a mouthful make of this.
But by the Shield Wall they’re yet of size
To batter one to pieces and have done.
This carryall sets down the factory
And takes it off when worms do threaten it.
And never do they fail to threaten it.
The spicer slips within and out and’s gone
And ever leaves unsatisfied withal.

LETO: Harkonnen’s get is much like getting spice:
Small wonder that House profited thereby.

PAUL: We’ve shields enough: why use we not our power?

HAWAT: A one-man shield, they say, will call the worms
As does a rotting corpse a flock of crows
And set a killing madness in their blood
Or whatsoever floweth in their veins.
The Fremen use no shields, says Idaho.

PAUL: What, none? God’s teeth! Could they bring shields down?

HAWAT: If they had such a trick as that, some churl
“Romantic businessman” long since had ta’en
And sold to every corner of space known.
In theory one may counter-charge a shield
And bring it down entire, if one has but
A static charge an hundred miles square.
Small wonder none have tested such a thing.
And yet the Fremen seem to be amused
Not overawed by shields, which we have made
The cornerstone of all our battle arts.

LETO: I much mislike our ignorance of this.
Find answers to this, Thufir, urgently.
What profits planetary may this yield?

HAWAT: But little, if we do not wish to use
The people after Old Harkonnen’s wise.

LETO: We’ve come to make this world a home for us
The people and the Fremen must be ours:
A family extended, not our slaves.
On Caladan we ruled by air and sea
Arrakis we must rule by desert force
And that force must be of the desert sands.
Hear now: before CHOAM auditeth our books
Five full Fremen battalions must we have.

HAWAT: For such a force the time will press us sore

LETO: It presses us, do we this thing or no.
Harkonnen will be here with Sardaukar
Disguised in their own livery, so soon
As they can see an opening. How large
A force will they invade with, Thufir?

HAWAT:                                                        Guild
Fees being what they are, a force of four
Or five battalions I expect: no more.

LETO: Then let us have the Fremen and our own
Good men and true. Then loose the dogs of war
And get me Sardaukar as prisoners
To show the Landsraad proof perfidious:
Assassin war as royal policy.
Then things will change: but Thufir, what of those
Harkonnen agents thou hast put to death?

HAWAT: They’d lands to hold, and titles they pursued.

LETO: The forge me oaths of fealty from them
And confiscate their wealth by dint of law.

HAWAT: Most worthy. Fear will move them more than love.

PAUL (aside): Such fear will rather make them fight than yield.

HALLECK: “A stranger in a strange land have I been.”


IDAHO: A force of mercenaries have we ta’en
Disguised as Fremen, and they killed a man
True Fremen sent to warn us of their plot.
He tried to hide this blade within the sand.
A blade the like of which you’ve never seen.

OFFICER: A crysknife?

IDAHO:                                  ‘Tis beyond a shade of doubt.

IDAHO produces the sheathed blade, begins to draw.

STILGAR: That blade I charge thee keep within its sheath!

IDAHO: Sire, let him enter.

LETO:                                     Guard, admit that man.


IDAHO: My Lord, this chief hight Stilgar of the sietch
That warned us of Harkonnen’s treachery.

LETO: Be welcome, Stilgar. Tell us of this blade.
Why should we keep it hidden at your word?

STIL: Friend Idaho, you have observed our ways:
Are consecrate and honored by our laws.
Your eyes may see this blade, but these I know
By neither word nor deed. Should I then risk
Pollution of this blade by haughty gaze?

LETO: I am Duke Leto. May I see this blade?

STIL: The right to see the blade you yet may earn.
This is the blade of one who was your friend.

OFFICER: Who’s this to lecture us upon our rights?

STIL: The Duke Leto Atreides, it is said
Doth rule by leave of those he governeth.
Thus I must tell you of our custom here
That you may have our leave: those who have seen
A crysknife may this planet never leave
But by permission. They belong to us.

HALLECK: Duke Leto shall decide who

LETO:                                                             Gurney, hold!
The friendship of thy man indebts our House.
And we Atreides pay them to the full
If this then is thy custom, I decree
This knife shall be unsheathed but at thy word.

STILGAR spits on table before Duke. LETO and OFFICERS draw.

IDAHO: Hold! We thank thee, Stilgar, for thy gift
Of moisture of the body, and accept
Thy generosity toward us all.
Sire, this was his wealth poured out to thee
In token of respect. Please take it so.

STIL: You have the measure of a man with us.
Is there a bond upon thee to thy Duke?

IDAHO: He asks that I enlist with him, my Lord.

LETO: Can he and I command thy loyalty?

IDAHO: My Duke and thee I’ll serve, not thee alone.

STIL: So let it be: this crysknife Idaho
Shall keep as token of allegiance
He shall be Fremen and Atreides man
As Liet serves two masters, so shall he.

LETO: It is agreed.

STIL:                           The water of our friend
Is now Atreides water. Idaho’s
Is ours. It is a bond between us both.


IDAHO: This comes not cheap. Harkonnen’s set a price:
A million of solaris to the man
Who bringeth in a crysknife such as this.

LETO: What’s in this blade, so high a price to fetch?

IDAHO: The crysknife’s born within a sandworm’s mouth
And sharpened by a secret Fremen art
As much the mark of Fremen as the eyes
Blue-within-blue, and with this single blade
A blue-eyed man could spy out any sietch.

LETO: The Baron’s Mentat, Piter of de Vries

HAWAT: A devilish cunning personage, my Lord.

LETO: Protect that knife.

IDAHO:                                  I understand, my Lord.


HAWAT: I have the news of bases you did want,
That long ago the’Imperium did build
And long ago abandoned, though ‘tis said
They may have been preserved ere they were left.

LETO: And furnished with equipment? Where are they?

HAWAT: When asked, the Fremen say that Liet knows.

LETO: As much to say, ‘God knoweth?’

HAWAT:                                                        I do not
Pretend to be so certain since I heard
How Stilgar used the name. Is Liet man
Or ghost or god that we should look for him?

HALLECK: This ‘Liet serves two masters’ hath the sound
Of some quotation theological.

LETO: And thou wouldst know. This Kynes, the Judge of Change
Imperial ecologist would know,
If any person doth, where such things be.

HAWAT: But Kynes is servant to the Emperor.

LETO: And far removed from that same Emperor
I want those bases. Thus equipped, our debt
Of salvaging our wrecked equipment’s less.

HAWAT: Those bases are His Majesty’s own fief!
‘Twere hazardous extreme to commandeer
Such bases: they have some hold mystical
Upon th’imagination of the Fremen
And taking them could make them deadly foes.
And Kynes hath power of his arbitrage
And Fremen heed him: rash it were to move
Without a greater knowledge than we’ve now.

PAUL: Listen, father: Hawat speaks the truth.

LETO: Discover but these bases do exist.
You all have your assignments: Gurney go
And bring the smugglers to us. There’s an end.

GURNEY: ‘I shall go unto the rebellious men
Who dwell within the dry and desert land.’


LETO: Paul, remain. Thou wilt be safer here.
I’ve somewhat more with Hawat to discuss


PAUL: ‘And for the father nothing.” Those dark words
Of Reverend Mother, and my Mother too
Whose message warned of treason in our midst
Seem like a shadow cage their bars to cast
About my father: like an animal
He paces, desperate and not a lord
Of men. No, nor himself. What shall we do
When lords and fathers waver from the true?