As weary as I am since my return to Amber, I must commit these
events to print lest I forget them amid the upheaval I've come home to.
I've often heard the phrase "devil take you for a fool," but I
suppose, like any man, we never see the trouble we get into until we're
already there. Such was the nature of the Guard's training on Arrakis.
Quite possibly the deadliest, most unforgiving place I've ever been.
The Guard mustered on the plains just past the forest of Arden.
All told they were in fine spirits, but I suspect that was because they
did not know what awaited them. I had seen the majority of my volunteers
before, and most of them had already had some sort of military training
either from myself or their own nobles. I'll not soon forget the look on
young Kindin's face when he saw my battalion, or rather squad, of Amber's
poor and downtrodden. All told, I like the sons of Arion well enough, but
Bittor's arrogance doesn't suit him. I was particularly struck by his
reaction to the women of the Guard. In Caledon, some of our bravest
warriors were beautiful women and an enemy ignored them at his peril.
Whatever else I think of the royal family, I will admit that they don't
The same, however, cannot be said of Amber's gentry. I rather
suspect that Arion will learn that soon enough.
Thanks to a stop at some of the storehouses by the docks, the
Guard was provisioned and off we went. By this time I had divided the
Guard into three companies, leaving the "Dirty Dozen," as Jamie called
them, for myself. As lieutenants I chose Kindin (Arion), Brendan (Nilus),
and Ayden (Karm) to lead the three elements. Each flight is composed of
14 men, with one member of the Guard serving as an advance scout, rotated
out from the three flights. I have taken it upon myself to watch and
train my squad closely, not only to ensure that they become fine soldiers,
but also to see that they do not dishonor my house and colors.
I made a bit of a show of passing sashes of tartan to the
lieutenants and plainly explained that the colors were a mark of the
regiment and would be earned by all those who saw battle in the Guard's
In taking the Guard to train on the world I came to know as
Arrakis, I had intended to take them as close to hell as I could. By the
time we arrived, I came to think that I did too good a job.
The heat was almost too much for us, to say nothing of the horses.
Not one hour into making plans to find water and shelter, we lost half the
horses and two men to the heat. I had remembered from Michael Kinross,
Caledon's greatest Crusader, that even the driest desert held water
somewhere, and though we were provisioned for one week, I was almost sure
that things would not go as planned. We set out for some rocky foothills
which I judged to be no more than five or six hundred yards away. With
luck, there would be water under the more solid ground. Jamie struck up
"Mullhollands's reel," the march of our old regiment, and we moved toward
the rock. Then the ground began to tear itself apart.
I have been a soldier all my life. In that time, I have been
afraid for my life *three times*. Once, at the battle of Ballycraig
against the Anglion Garrison. Again on Feylor at Rossmullen Glen, where
we faced the "Unseen Blades" of Feyan assassins, and five years ago back
in Caledon at the second battle of Kier Reach, where I was saved from a
Mercian wife by a young Jamie Rossnevin. I have now raised the count to
The rumbling was subtle at first. Only Bruce had a clue how bad
it was. As a result, he broke rank and moved towards the rock with more
speed than I've seen in the beastie. Soon we could see grains of sand
jumping like fleas from a hound and could feel the ground shake. A wind,
worse than the fiercest gale was whipping at our backs, driving us towards
the hills. In the blackness of the biting wind, I could see flashes of
static electricity and something enormous within the cloud. I gave the
order to break and flee for the rock, hoping that would provide shelter
from whatever evil we had aroused.
A few of the younger lads fell in the confusion but were helped to
their feet by Logo and Carsten, two of my own squad who seem eager to
serve. Even more of a surprise were the three men from Herse, who kept
their mounts and were moving like collies to get any stray recruits to the
rock at great risk to their own safety. I must complement Dagan on the
fine job he's done with his people.
With surprising quickness, most of the Guard made it to the rocks.
By this time, though, we had all lost our balance at least once, and our
horses were lost to the beast inside the storm; which I could now see.
I swear, even the Devil himself would hardly be a more pleasant
sight than the huge WORM (which moved towards us with great speed for its
Struggling to stay on my feet, I hurried the rest of the Guard to
the rocks, then turned to face the fury of a plan gone hopelessly wrong.
As I might have suspected, Jamie had taken position on a large boulder
near the main cluster and continued to play in defiance of the storm. It
may have been my imagination, or the heat, but I would swear that Jamie's
tune was doing something to lessen the storm which I was sure would kill
As if in response to Jamie's pipes, the great leviathan split its
huge maw like some sort of nightmarish, four-petaled flower. The sound
that issued from the mammoth beast was so great as to drown out even the
sounds of the storm and rattled us to our very bones. I was sure that, if
it had wanted to, the great worm could have smashed out island of safety
to pieces. Yet, the creature stopped short, and for a brief moment it
regarded us with non-existent eyes, somehow sensing we were foreign to ITS
desert. Then, with another thunderous cry, it reared back and slammed its
conical "head" into the sand only a few yard before us. As swiftly as it
had come, the monster was done. For a brief, beautiful moment only the
stirring sound of Jamie's pipes, which had not stopped this whole time,
disturbed the desert's new calm. Then things got worse.
Regardless of how things may have turned out, I'll never forgive
myself for allowing Arrakis' native people, at this point far from
friendly, from sneaking up on us. The only clue I had to their approach
was the tumbling of a few pebbles behind us, and by then it was too late.
When I turned to find the source of the noise, a handful of men and women
streamed from the crags of our rock. With cries not unlike the shrill
whine of the Bain Sidh, the night black bodies moved like lightning to
overpower us. Most of us were too shaken from our encounter with the worm
to put up much of a fight. Of the over sixty of us present, only seven;
myself, Kindin, Jono, Meadb, Finn, Nicademus, and Alecia, were able to
withstand the initial assault.
Our enemies were clearly men and women who fought a life and death
struggle every day, and much to my embarrassment, we were not much of a
challenge to them. After a flurry of blows, only Meadb, Nicademus and I
were left standing. These people moved like spirits! Dressed in black,
we could only mark the features of their bodies by the layers of sand and
dust that a lifetime of desert foraging left etched on their clothes.
Most of them fought with small knives, probably made of some sort of bone
or crafted rock. I found them oddly similar to the weapons of ancient
Caledon, before metalwork was widely used. Though not all of the savage
raiders were armed, they were all dangerous.
In particular, the Arrakean women seemed swift and confident. The
method of hand to hand combat used by the people of Arrakis seemed not
unlike that which I had seen in the East while trying to reclaim the
Sacred Sea from the Janusians, but more about the particulars later.
With our company now reduced to three standing members, I was
tempted to let my temper slip and destroy as many of these powerful
fighters as I could. I stopped short though, remembering the words of
Prince Benedict, who once wrote:
"Victory is a fickle mistress. While she often rides with the
strongest, fastest, and most voluminous army, she will grant
another day to the smartest soldier; and the smart man waits his
turn until Victory cannot ignore his courtship."
- Fields of Honor pg 2,756-
Having seen that our hosts had subdued my Guard rather than killed
us all outright, I raised my hand slowly so that Nicademus and Meadb would
cease the fight. I sheathed my sword and advanced closer towards the
perimeter of the circle which the Fremen, as we now know them, had made
around us. Some of the desert people dropped into strange, contorted
positions. Arrakean fighting stances, that they were kind enough to share
with us later.
One of the largest men I have ever seen, bigger I think than Felix
or Gerard, held a bone knife in each hand and, at my approach, quickly
flipped one around and presented me the intricate handle. Again this
seemed oddly familiar. Long ago in Caledon it was perfectly acceptable
for disputes between entire armies to be settled by champions from the two
sides (as it had been with Duncan MacFinn and the giant Pheaton; but
that's another story) and it appeared that I was to champion the Guard.
This was mistake number two on my part.
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