[GURPS Dune] - Fresh Tracks


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A beginning is a very delicate time.

I've started another GURPS (3rd ed) game set in the Dune universe. This follows on from my previous campaign, but isn't a sequel - the party is Fremen again, but they are completely new characters, based in a different sietch. The events of the previous campaign happened, and so may affect this campaign, which starts about two years after the last one ended. The current year is 10,176 so the Harkonnen are still in charge on Dune.

As with the last campaign, it is run over IRC. Two of the players from the last campaign are also playing in this one: Jen (Zahra in the last campaign, Kaleem in this one) and Dan (played Mash'al in the last campaign, R'ad in this one).

A note on names: Fremen have a sietch name, which is only known to members of the sietch, and a common name, which is used outside the sietch. I'm intending to use the sietch name by default, and will only use the common name when quoting dialogue where the common name has been used.

The Characters


Common name Aziz

Age: 26

A middle child with both younger and older sisters, his father died when he was 12 and his mother not longer after his 18th birthday. He is by nature a gregarious person but due to the tribe's more sober outlook he limits his interaction with others.

He is short and slim, with good but not outrageous looks.


Common name Omair

Age: 30

Sietch name - his first Sietch name was Arif (knowledgable), but he has since been renamed R'ad (thunder) for his demolitions (though it probably also refers to the noise he makes when tinkering with engines, and to the constant muted rumbling in his ears).

The story goes that when Omair was still a babe, his parents gave him a broken glow globe to play with as a rolling toy and that within an hour he had dismantled it, repaired it and set in floating once again. He personally dismisses the story as nonsense, but it cannot be denied that he has an uncanny knack with machines and that before he even rode his first worm and became a man he had already had improved the air seals on the Sietch entrance and increased the efficiency of the wind traps by 5%.

Since then, Arif has gained a deserved reputation as a maker of extremely reliable maula pistols, introduced a thumper just as effective but half the weight of the old design, and once converted a set of suspensors into an anti-gravity sick bed such that a terribly burned Sietch warrior could be suspended in mid air while his wounds healed.

There have been mishaps as well, of course, many of them just as spectacular as his innovations. (The field death still was an unmitigated disaster and the less said of the personal ornithopter wings project the better.) On the whole, though, Arif has greatly increased the comfort, strength and wealth of Sietch Maysarah and become a highly valued member.

Arif's talents and interests have inevitably led him to spend time in Carthag, studying (and often stealing) off-worlder machines, to examine their weaknesses and learning (and sometimes adapting and adopting) their strengths. He visits there regularly, occasionally meeting and drinking with engineers of some of the off world shuttles. He has yet to persuade any of them to take him to an orbiting starship and let him examine it and though he has given up trying, he hasn't given up hope.

He has had three wives.

His first wife, Hanan, died of the spice agony eight years ago as she failed the test to become a Reverend Mother.

Very soon thereafter, he made Tahaddi Challenge to a warrior named Yusuf who had commented that Hanan's death was Shai-Hulud's judgement on Arif for loving his machines more than his wife. Arif won the Challenge and took Yusuf's young widow Nazia as his second wife. The pairing was not a happy one for Arif neglected her in almost exactly the way Yusuf had accused him of neglecting Hana, burying his grief by tending his machines rather than his new wife. They parted by mutual agreement a year later. However, during that year, Arif and Shaheen (his nine year old son by Hanan) grew cold and distant from one another and to this day barely speak more than Sietch fellows must. For five more years, Arif did little but tend his machines knowing that if they broke he could at least fix them again.

Two years ago, he took Varisha (lightning) as his third wife. Her five year old son Raseem (by her first husband, killed in a raid she was leading on a Harkonnen spice mining operation) had shown an interest and aptitude in mechanics and was an increasing presence in Arif's workshop. Varisha would bring food and coffee to the pair as they worked and began inviting Arif to join them in their yali of an evening. Arif was actually oblivious to the sub-text until Varisha offered him her water rings and he realised like the dawn breaking that he wanted nothing more than he wanted a family again.

Although Arif had not previously been much of a mission specialist, he and Varisha turned out to make an excellent partnership on field missions and raids; she with her tactical skills of knowing where to strike and he with his engineering and demolitions skills to know how to cause the greatest devastation. It didn't always go perfectly, of course. When the Harkonnens were flying mapping and spotting flights over the deep Bled, an attempt to cripple their ornithopter fleet went near disastrously wrong. It had been an ambitious objective to begin with, but when delays in getting clear meant he was still in the blast zone when his explosives went off, it was only by purest luck that he was only horribly injured rather than killed outright.

"Oh, but the noise of it!", said another of the raiders weeks later. A convalescent Arif had been released from the infirmary and though still weak, sickly and partially deaf from his wounds, he was being feted by most of the Maysarah warriors. "It was like the roar of Shai-Hulud himself and I would swear to you that all of Carthag shook! Varisha the lighting has found her thunder!"

It seemed just a witty comment, but the laughter died as the Reverend Mother gasped and recoiled as if slapped. She looked sharply at the suddenly very frightened speaker and said, "There is a man. There is a very dangerous man, who says that a storm is coming. That there is going to be a war."

She murmured almost to herself, "The blaze burns bright indeed, but I had not imagined the storm would rise here...".

Turning to Arif, she stared hard and deep for a moment that seemed an hour before sighing and nodding. "Very well. As you have been called, so I now name you as R'ad, the Thunder." She turned and returned to her yali, but everyone there heard her mutter "And may Shai-Hulud protect us all..."

Varisha moved closer to her husband as he stared after the Reverend Mother. She learned close to murmur something but, whatever it was, R'ad could hear only distant thunder...


Common name Saqib

Age: 25

Lessons were hard in the seitch: long hours spent learning how to survive in the harsh but beautiful Arrakis deserts. One particularly hot afternoon, the children were learning how to stitch still suits. Saqib hated these lessons. His fingers were big and clumsy and he could not make the needle behave. After accidentally drawing blood for the second time that day, his teachers told him to go and fetch waterskins. As he stood up, whispers and poorly-stifled giggles rippled through the other children. He looked in their direction and they did their best to pretend they were concentrating on their work. He knew he was not good enough with words to counter their taunts so he turned and walked away. He was angry that even his teachers believed he could not be a good Fremen, but he was also relieved to be away from the other children. His eyes were burning and he was glad they could not see him waste water on their petty jibes.

As he walked through the seitch he met his mother. She smiled at him kindly, instantly recognising what must have happened. Again. She gave him the chance to explain in his own words:

"I am not Fremen. They all say it. I am too big, too clumsy, too stupid. They say I will not survive outside the seitch."

"My son," she said. "Being Fremen is not in your body and it is not in your mind. Being Fremen is in your heart. My dear Saqib, your heart is bigger and stronger than theirs. You are more Fremen than any who would speak such things about their own seitch."


The day had come at last: Saqib was to become a man. He stood at the seitch entrance with two other boys who would be calling their first worm soon. He towered over his peers, looking every inch a grown man. Some suggested his mother lied about his age, even though they all remembered his birth; he had always been big and his mother had needed extra water to nurse him. He looked around and saw his mother standing nearby. She nodded in encouragement as he caught her eye. The Naib invited him forward and he stepped out onto the sand. He was in full view of the whole tribe as he walked with an uneven stride to his position away from the rocks. The back of his neck prickled. He knew that most of them were here to watch him fail. He planted his thumper and stepped away, readying his Maker Hook. For long moments they waited. He began to believe that Shai-Hulud would not answer his call. Finally, in the distance he spotted worm sign. He adjusted his grip on the hook and prepared to run. As the worm approached, there were no gasps or exclamations, only silence. Shai-Hulud had answered, but had not deigned to send a worm of significant size. Saqib sighed in relief and disappointment. Watching the thumper get swallowed by the huge mouth, he headed at speed to the worm's side. Digging in his Maker Hook, he hauled himself atop the monster. Success, but far from impressive.

As he returned to the seitch later, he overheard people whispering about him, saying he had called not a worm but a sandtrout. Implicit in their taunts was yet again the suggestion that he did not belong. He had learned long ago that keeping his mouth shut was usually the best course of action, but today he did not. He stepped close to the ring leader of the little group. Looming over him, he spoke simply:

"Shai-Hulud answered. I rode the worm. I am Fremen."

The smaller man's bravery wavered in such close proximity to this giant of men and he took a moment to compose his response. As he struggled for witty words, the reverend mother emerged from the shaddows, her cloak billowing about her. She looked first at Saqib and then at the other man. Moving to Saqib's side, she raised her eyebrows in a silent dare. When the man hesitated, she spoke.

"His name is Kaleem, He Who Speaks. You should listen."

After a moment's pause to let the full weight of her words sink in, she turned and disappeared into the shadows once more. The two men eyed each other uneasily, then both left in silence.
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When you awaken, the first light shows you the new world - all fresh and ready for your tracks.

The session opened the morning after a tau orgy. Normally, this is done as a celebration, though this time there was nothing particular to celebrate, and Reverend Mother Rasheedah didn't tell anyone why she converted the water of life to enable the orgy. One of the effects of the tau orgy is that the members of a sietch become more aware of each other's feelings and desires. After the orgy, Kaleem and R'ad each realise that the reverend mother wishes to speak to them.

Reverend Mother Rasheedah walks through the common area, appearing to look individually at every person present, before continuing on to her yali. Kaleem follows her, and R'ad does likewise a little later. When Kaleem arrives, Rasheedah bids him to sit on a cushion. R'ad arrives, and seeing Kaleem, apologises, assuming that Rasheedah is busy. Rasheedah, however, tells him that he should sit, pointing out that there is a spare cushion. (There are, in fact, four cushions set in a circle, including the one that Rasheedah is sat on. Four coffee cups are set out.)

Rasheedah pours coffee into three cups, before apologising for the delay, saying that she would like them all present before she starts. R'ad wonders why Kaleem is present, casting his memory back to try and find anything of relevance. Shamal arrives, unsure whether or not he should enter, but Rasheedah invites him in, telling him that there is a cushion and coffee awaiting him. As R'ad wonders at the odd trio that Rasheedah has gathered, she asks if they know why they are there. None of them do.

She tells them that she did not call them to her. She knew that three would come, but not which three. She also tells them that it is important that they work together, and that she has a task to entrust to them, noting that "There are others that would normally do this sort of work, but when God commands, even a reverend mother must obey." She tells them that the task is not especially important, but adds with a very slight touch of Voice, "I am sure that you would not wish to disappoint your reverend mother."

Their task is to go to Carthag. Someone important is due to arrive on Dune tomorrow, but she does not know who. They are to find out and report back. Kaleem is shocked to think that he is to go to the city, while R'ad is relieved as he realises that his presence is due to having contacts in the city, not because he is to fulfil some sort of destiny.

As they take their leave, R'ad tells them to dress for the desert and meet at the sietch entrance in half an hour, reminding them that weapons are forbidden to Fremen in the city, so they will need cloaks to hide them.

Kaleem arrives at the entrance a few minutes later, Shamal arrives five minutes before the half hour is up, while R'ad arrives five minutes after the time he designated, apologising that he had to make it clear to his wife that Rasheedah had said that only the three of them were to go.

R'ad produces a miniature thumper, giving it to Shamal with a request that he field test it, and warning him that it will probably start earlier than expected. Shamal places the thumper and prepares himself, and R'ad notes that "Good. It didn't explode. That's an improvement", drawing a shocked look from Kaleem. The worm that comes is a reasonable size, though not notably large, and is mounted competently by Shamal, followed by the others, R'ad using an odd, powered device to scale the worm, rather than climbing as is usual.

Once on top of the worm, they realise that none of them know the way to Carthag. R'ad, the only one that has been to the city before, is used to travelling by ornithopter, and doesn't recognise any landmarks from this low down. Eventually he recognises a rock formation and realises that they are going the wrong way. R'ad suggests that they take Rasheedah's closing remark ("May Shai-Hulud guide you") literally, and Shamal chooses a new direction. When the worm tires, Shamal guides it to a rock formation where they gather their breath and agree that the rest of the sietch need never know how badly this trip started.

Once the old worm is safely away, R'ad plants a new thumper. This one is answered by a huge worm, and as R'ad runs alongside to plant his maker hook, he notices an already-lifted scale. Taking hold of it, the worm turns, lifting him up without using a maker hook. Once the others are up and hooks are properly placed, R'ad removes a broken piece of maker hook from the uplifted scale, allowing it to close.

They continue in the direction that Shamal chose earlier, and are rewarded after some time by the sight of Carthag. R'ad guides the worm close to some rocks a couple of miles outside of the city outskirts, and they all dismount and climb onto the rocks as the worm dives back into the sand.


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We're not in the Sietch anymore

The session started with the characters entering Carthag. R'ad, the only one of the three that had been to the city before, briefs the others as they walk. He gives them a brief run-down of how to behave in the city, then tells them his plan - they'll go to a tavern that shuttle pilots and engineers frequent. R'ad will introduce the others, they'll lose just enough money at cards that the off-worlders will be willing to talk to Shamal.

Most of the city dwellers stay out of their way, keeping a way clear for them as they walk. A water-seller, however, starts to head towards Shamal. As the water-seller gets close, he suddenly stops, then walks away from them, head down. Not sure what is going on, the three follow the water-seller, who enters an alley. As the water-seller gets close to the far end of the alley, Shamal says "I want water". The water-seller stops suddenly, turns around and walks towards Shamal.

The water-seller tells Shamal that he charges 10 solaris a litre, but can provide smaller quantities if required. On being asked how small, he produces a tiny vial, holding about 1 cubic centimetre of water, and says the price is 10 centimes. (NB: the books don't mention monetary units lower than a solari. I've decided that there are 100 centimes to a solari). The water-seller suddenly realises who he is speaking to, and asks why Shamal wants to buy water. When Shamal replies "Novelty", the water-seller puts the vial back in his clothes, and starts to look nervously at the others, asking "What do you really want?" R'ad says that the water-seller knew they were of the desert, yet he approached them and led them into the alley. The seller sighs, saying "It's been a bad few days. I saw him (indicating Shamal), and at first I thought he wasn't one of you. As soon as I realised, I got out of your way. You people generally don't treat businessmen like me very well".

R'ad tells Shamal in Chakobsa that they're wasting their time, and Shamal tells the water-seller that he can go, which he does, visibly relieved. However, when R'ad suggests that it might be a drug, rather than water, in the vial, Shamal calls him back. The water-seller is obvious nervous, despite Kaleem giving him his most friendly grin, but Shamal pays without any issue. Shamal, convinced that the water-seller was trying to give him a message, examines the vial and asks R'ad to do the same. R'ad concludes that it is simply stale catchpocket water.

They continue on their way, R'ad telling them that they're going to a tavern named "Lehrer's Landfall", which is near the spaceport. R'ad continues his brief, telling them that most off-worlders hate Dune and want to spend as little time on-planet as possible. They spend their time on-planet drinking, taking drugs, gambling or swapping stories. They are going to find people that gamble, deliberately lose money to loosen tongues, then ask what's going on.

Reaching the tavern, they enter. It's a shabby place, but reasonably clean. R'ad recognises Gregor Pranse and Renno Yohsa, a shuttle pilot and engineer that he is on friendly terms with. R'ad walks up to them, saying "greetings, Renno. I thought I heard a shuttle coming in with faulty engine balance. I could hear it even out in the desert." Renno gets up, looking like she's about to rip R'ad's head off, but instead smiles at him while he tells Gregor that he should get rid of her and take him on instead.

Kaleem, who doesn't understand Galach, is concerned by Renno's apparent aggression, and places his hand discreetly on his crysknife, hidden under his cloak.

Kaleem relaxes slightly when R'ad, Gregor and Renno grip forearms in greeting, before R'ad introduces the others: "The pretty one is Aziz. I brought him along to distract Renno. The big feller is Saqib. He doesn't talk much, but he's good for heavy lifting."

As Shamal gets to know the two off-worlders and R'ad orders a round of drinks, Kaleem wonders if he is tainted by this meeting, then looks at his hand, thinking "Everything has changed, yet I feel no different".

R'ad suggests a game of cards as the drinks arrive, and he and Renno continue to swap insults. When the drinks arrive, the fremen aren't impressed by their spice coffee (R'ad and Shamal realise it doesn't have enough spice), but try not to react visibly. R'ad provides money for the fremen, and Kaleem is surprised that R'ad suggests that he should play too.

As they start to play, R'ad asks what brings them to Dune. He gets the slightly improbably answer of "tourists", and realises that they don't wish to say more. He looks at his cards and mutters in Chakobsa, "They know something they don't want to talk about", in a tone of voice that should sound like a curse to the off-worlders, who (as far as he knows) don't speak Chakobsa.

Unfortunately, Shamal's player had to leave suddenly at that point, so we had to leave it there.


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Few forces can match the power of fanaticism. One that comes close is wounded pride.

We started exactly where we left off last week.

As another round of cards progresses, R'ad asked the two off-worlders about their tourists. Gregor tells him that they're a bunch of nobles with too much money and too little sense, who want to see a worm. R'ad suggests that he could arrange it, for the right price, and asks who he should ask around for. Shamal asks if they have no sense, to which Gregor replies that they don't have sense, but they do have money. Gregor gives R'ad a name: Josif Doflein, and says that "He'll either run a mile as soon as he sees you, or add you to his list of stories to tell his mates back home".

Renno suggests that R'ad's plan is to take their money, then take them to the desert and let a worm eat them, keeping their money. R'ad asks if they'd pay up front, but on further consideration decides that if Dune is to become a tourist destination, he'd prefer to be the one running safe trips into the desert. Renno is sceptical that the desert is ever safe, but when R'ad suggests that Renno and Gregor could earn a cut for introducing prospective clients, their interest is aroused.

R'ad wins the round, with a slightly better hand than Gregor. Once new drinks have been brought and R'ad has dealt a new hand, Gregor prompts him about his plan. R'ad asks if there are more people arriving. There are, but Gregor doesn't know who will be on them. Renno mentions that Rabban is nervous about someone arriving. She doesn't know who, but she's heard from some Harkonnen that Rabban is taking his nervousness out on his men. There's a little discussion about who could make Rabban nervous, and Shamal goes outside briefly to check that there are no patrols incoming. It's decided that Gregor will find out who is due in the spaceport, and that a decision whether or not to market the desert trip will be made once they know how many customers they will likely have. The party leave, after making arrangements to meet again in three hours.

Shamal asks R'ad if he knows of anywhere else worth checking, but R'ad doesn't know of anywhere useful, and suggests that they pay a visit to Umma's Carthag residence, pointing out that he may know who the visitor is that they're to investigate.

When they get there, the door is answered by Mais Afya, another member of their sietch (played by a new player, Steph). Mais Afya spends a lot of time away from the sietch, and none of the characters know her particularly well or what she does when she is away. Meeting her at Umma's residence came as something of a shock, but as R'ad pointed out, few of the day's events were expected. Mais Afya leads the others to the common room, which is empty, and directs them to sit before making coffee (real spice coffee, of the sort that is served in sietches).

Over coffee, Mais Afya asks about the sietch and R'ad's burns on his face. The others ask about how much time she spends in the city, and her work with Umma (she often takes him into the desert, since he can't ride the great worms). Shamal notes that she spends a great deal of time in the city, and she and R'ad both point out that the city is where the Harkonnens can be found - if they are to be defeated. As R'ad is talking, Umma enters the room, but R'ad's hearing loss means that he doesn't realise at first. Mais Afya introduces the others to Umma. They are somewhat star-struck, but he simply returns greetings, then heads out again with a book and a fresh coffee.

Shamal suggests that they might include Mais Afya. R'ad initially appears a little put out at the suggestion that they might need someone else with knowledge of the city, but relents: "The Reverend Mother said the three of us had found our way to her, but now we would seem to have found our way to Jumanak [Mais Afya] as well. You're the one with good with people rather than machines or weapons, Aziz. You brief her."

Shamal briefs Mais Afya on their mission, and R'ad asks her if she could ask Umma if he knows who is coming to Dune, since they were only tasked with finding out. Shortly after, Umma comes back into the room, carrying a book and a small potted plant. He informs Mais Afya that if it works as he thinks it should, it will reduce the timescale of their work by decades. As Mais Afya asks Umma if he's aware of anyone important arriving on-planet, R'ad is mortified to realise that he has been slow to respect Umma twice in an hour. Umma doesn't react to R'ad's lack of respect, but replies to Mais Afya that "Well, there's the Baron and his mentat". Mais Afya asks if the Baron is coming to inspect Umma's work, but he tells her that no-one in the Imperium is aware of his work, and it is important that it stay that way. No, the Baron is coming to check up on his nephew, Rabban.

This prompts some discussion of dealing with Rabban permanently, which Umma objects to, since Rabban is an idiot, and anyone more intelligent would make his work more difficult. It's then suggested that killing the Baron would lead to Rabban leaving to deal with the Landsraad, but Umma points out that the Baron has two nephews (something the fremen hadn't realised), and he doesn't know if either one has been named heir. R'ad asks what the consequences would be if they killed both the Baron and Rabban, but Umma replies that he simply doesn't know what the consequences would be. It may even be enough to make the emperor take notice. R'ad agrees with Mais Afya that it is better to simply gather intelligence, at least for now. Mais Afya asks Umma if he's likely to need a guide in the near future, but he replies that he doesn't expect so, and he can take an ornithopter if neccessary.

R'ad suggests a plan - they stay in the city long enough to meet Gregor and Renno, then decide whether or not the offered fee is enough. If it is, they return the next day to take the off-worlders into the desert. In the meantime, they can go back to the sietch to report what they have discovered, and potentially get new orders. Mais Afya asks rather awkwardly if she can help, and the others admit that none of them know the way between the sietch and the city. There is a short debate over the relative merits of sandworms and ornithopters as means of transport, and R'ad, who tends to use ornithopters, asks Umma if he understands. Umma replies, "I'm not of the bled, Omair. I flew ornithopters for years before I first rode on top of a worm. I will take either form of transport to get where I need to go", which R'ad seems to take as support for his view.


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You should be more careful where you walk. You may stumble.

We skipped a couple of hours, so that the session began not long before the characters were due to meet Gregor and Renno to find out what tourists they had found. Mais Afya's player couldn't join us, so R'ad suggested that Mais Afya should meet the others outside the city, to avoid overwhelming his contacts.

The party headed into the streets, R'ad reminding them to try and avoid patrols, especially as they were likely to be extra harsh with the Baron en-route. As they walk, a Harkonnen patrol of seven men turns a corner in front of them, heading towards them. R'ad leads the others into an alley to avoid the patrol, but the other two aren't quick enough, and they get barged out of the way by the soldiers, Shamal deliberately falling.

The patrol leader laughs at the sight of Shamal falling, causing Kaleem to bunch his fists and start towards him, but Shamal stops him, asking Kaleem to help him up. As Kaleem helps Shamal up, another Harkonnen soldier swings a boot at Shamal but misses, and R'ad hides in the alley, preparing a maula pistol. Shamal "stumbles" into another soldier, stabbing him in the groin, and Kaleem, realising Shamal's plan, stabs a second soldier. Kaleem and Shamal despatch another two soldiers before the Harkonnens can react.

The patrol leader flicks a switch at his belt as he runs at Shamal, but he doesn't start to shimmer. Either it's not a shield belt, or it's not working. He cuts a wound down Shamal's arm, and one of the soldiers fires a laser pistol at Kaleem, inflicting a nasty burn on his chest. The last Harkonnen draws a knife, but looks at the paralysed bodies on the floor, unsure of himself.

R'ad fires his maula pistol twice, paralysing the patrol leader and the one with the laser pistol. Kaleem rushes the last Harkonnen, bringing his knife down into his shoulder. He looks petrified, but the poison doesn't work, and Shamal fails to hit him with his knife. The Harkonnen raises his own knife, then decides better of it and turns to run. He doesn't get far, however, before a dart from R'ad brings him down.

R'ad emerges from the alley, annoyed at the other two. He directs them to disarm the paralysed Harkonnens while he, after making sure that the leader's device wouldn't electocute him, removes it and secrets it under his cloak. Kaleem destroys the Harkonnen's guns, and they head away, taking a route that initially goes away from their intended destination.

They don't get far, however, before they see another patrol running towards them. This one only has four men, but they are tougher-looking than the previous patrol, and all four have a laser pistol drawn, ready for use. The leader is looking at a device as he runs. Shamal asks if they should run, but R'ad replies, "Not yet. Point in a random direction and say 'they went that way'. And then kill the crap out of them. I want the device that officer is holding." Shamal shoots. R'ad: "Or we could simply open fire on them rather than attempting a diversionary tactic. I suppose that works too."

All four Harkonnens fire as they approach, the leader putting the device in his belt as he does so. Two draw a knife, the last drops his pistol and draws two, nasty-looking barbed knives. Shamal and Kaleem are hit by pistol fire. Both are now quite badly wounded, but still on their feet.

R'ad fires two shots, taking down the leader and one other. Kaleem squares up to the Harkonnen with two blades, cutting him on the face, but the poison doesn't take effect. Shamal takes a shot at the other Harkonnen, dropping him. Although Kaleem and the last Harkonnen are engaged in a close melee, R'ad manages to shoot the Harkonnen in the cheek. When he drops, R'ad walks casually up to him and shoots him again, in the neck.

R'ad takes the device that the leader was looking at, saying that "I think they're using some kind of new alert and location device and that I might have inadvertently led this second patrol right to us. I need to make sure we're not going to draw down any more attention...". After examining both devices, he removes their power packs.

R'ad tells Shamal that they need to get somewhere quiet to tend Shamal and Kaleem's wounds, and so that he can give the two of them "a strongly worded brief on drawing down trouble in the City", before complimenting Kaleem on his "You might stumble" line. He then leads them off to a different area of the city, so that attention isn't focused on a single area.


Note: the quote at the top of this post is from Kaleem. As he stabbed the last Harkonnen from the first patrol, he told him "You should be more careful where you walk", then, once R'ad's dart had taken him down (about 10 minutes later), he stood over him and said, "You may stumble."


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You have to kiss the worm before steering it, don'cha know?

Since I've got behind on writing up sessions, I'm going to keep them short until I get caught up.

As the group get close to Lehrer's Landfall, R'ad suggests that the other two should get their wounds tended, so as to cause less of a stir. Mais Afya arrives at this point, and they all head into an alley, and onto a roof, where they are out of sight. R'ad examines the devices he got from the Harkonnen as Mais Afya tends to the other two's wounds. Once done, they head to the bar, Mais Afya following a little later, cartwheeling off the roof onto the street when there are no bystanders.

At the bar, Gregor notes Shamal & Kaleem's wounds, asking if they ran into trouble. R'ad shrugs it off, saying that the two of them got into an argument with each other. Gregor tells them that they have eight tourists lined up - six men and two women. Gregor is evidently drunk. Shamal confirms that they can provide stillsuits, but the tourists will have to bring 10 litres of water each. Gregor, getting maudlin, complains about the planet and its lack of rain. The plan is made - they will meet at Lehrer's Landfall the next morning at 7. The tourists will be given a half-day trip into the desert, and hopefully see a worm, for 1,000 solaris per person.

The party head back to the sietch without any issues, other than Mais Afya, doing an acrobatic leap onto the worm, stumbling and falling face-first onto its back. As the others head to Reverend Mother Rasheedah's yali to report, R'ad heads to his workshop, thinking about how the newly-acquired Harkonnen devices work and what he can do with them.


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Might be foolish, but not THAT foolish

The characters go to Reverend Mother Rasheedah's yali to find that she is waiting for them, with Naib Jasmir and fresh coffee. Jasmir is obviously displeased when R'ad does not come to the yali, and sends someone to get him. Jasmir threatens to have R'ad's water, but Rasheedah tells him that "They are guided by Shai-Hulud, Jasmir. I cannot allow you to stand in their way." Meanwhile, R'ad meets his wife in the corridor outside his workshop, and is greeted with a slap. She is unhappy that he didn't let her go with them, having told her that Rasheedah had forbidden it, when Rasheedah hadn't specifically said that only the three should go. The messenger that Jasmir sent finds R'ad, and as R'ad arrives at Rasheedah's yali, Rasheedah is telling Mais Afya that she should work with the others: "Shamal, Kaleem and R'ad indicated that they were to work together. Now you have shown that the three should be four."

The four report that they have discovered that the important person coming to Dune is the Baron Harkonnen, with his mentat, and that they are arriving tomorrow. They didn't find out why the Baron was coming to Dune, but they do have a reason to be back in the city and talking to rich off-worlders the next day - they are going to take some off-worlders into the desert to see a worm. Jasmir looks about to explode with rage, but Rasheedah says something that the others can't hear, and he calms down somewhat. Jasmir gets angry again when it seems that a plan has already been made, and Mais Afya says that they have to take them somewhere or default on the agreement: "They're off-worlders, Mais Afya. I AM YOUR NAIB. Your promise to them means nothing. Loyalty to your tribe means everything".

Rasheedah asks Kaleem what he thinks of the plan, and he hesitantly responds "If the storm is coming, we may need eyes everywhere to spot it". Rasheedah tells Jasmir that he should let them go: "R'ad and Mais Afya are foolish sometimes, but they know where their loyalties lie. Besides, they'll have Kaleem with them". This comment appears to take everyone by surprise.

Jasmir asks if they will be able to find out why the Baron is on Dune, and R'ad answers that the best they can hope for is hearsay "Well, without breaking into the palace, of course". His face drops when Jasmir responds "Then you may need to break into the palace". Rasheedah tells them to take a desert bat, and send a distrans as soon as they have information, in case the sietch needs to act quickly.

Shamal asks how urgent it is, and if they should wait until after they have taken the off-worlders into the desert. This provokes Jasmir's anger again: "Damnit, Shamal. I said you MAY have to break in. Go, take your blasted off-worlders out to the desert. If you find out why the Baron is here, send a distrans. If you don't find out, we'll just assume that you're too bloody incompetent to find out. Is that acceptable to you!?". Once Shamal agrees that it is acceptable, Jasmir, obviously not pleased, tells them to leave.

The four then make a plan. They will take an ornithopter from the sietch and hide it, as an emergency get-out plan. They will work in two teams - one to call a worm, one to show it to the tourists. R'ad objects to the constant talk of disposing of the off-worlders permanently, pointing out that the existence of worms is well known. It is agreed, however (somewhat reluctantly by R'ad), that they should not hesitate if the off-worlders get to see too much of how closely the fremen live with Shai-Hulud.

R'ad manages to get the others to agree to his wife being part of "team desert", as she "just lambasted me for not being included in this morning's mission and I might just live the night through if we can manage to somehow include her tomorrow". The plan is agreed - they will fly over the spot where team desert are hiding. At that point a thumper is planted, and the ornithopter flies over the same point half an hour later, just in time to see the worm devour the thumper.

As the others leave, R'ad asks Mais Afya to talk to his wife about the next morning's mission. "She hardly knows you. She's far less likely to slap you than me." Mais Afya agrees, and goes off to talk to Varisha, thinking that R'ad is a coward.


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You seldom find real loyalties in commerce

The characters met up in the communal area of the sietch. R'ad was telling his son, Raseem, that he wants him to examine the devices he brought back from the city. He is to work out what they are for and how they work, but he is not to miss knife training.

R'ad tells Shamal that he has already taken Varisha and Mais Afya out to the desert. This way, the off-worlders won't meet Mais Afya. As they leave the communal area, Shamal asks R'ad about his son, and R'ad replies that he has a talent for machines, but he knows from experience that many in the sietch don't value such talents. Shamal and R'ad discuss the relative priorities, R'ad opining that "For certain, it will be warriors that make Dune free of Harkonnen occupation, but it'll be engineers who make this planet green. And still suits are such an everyday part of our lives that there are some who all too easily forget what a marvel of engineering they are." R'ad is evidently concerned that Raseem is falling behind on traditional sietch skills, which many will see as a weakness. As they enter the cavern containing the ornithopters, Kaleem eyes the machines suspiciously.

When they take off, R'ad starts to talk exitedly about flying and how he loves it, while the others grip their seats tight, wondering if it is normal for an ornithopter to shake as much as it is. R'ad takes it to several thousand feet up, showing the others how much is visible from high up, and explaining his plans to create a machine that will fly high enough for him to be able to see half the planet at once. After a little while, he heads for the point where the ornithopter is to be hidden, a short distance from the city.


As they enter Lehrer's Landfall, they see Gregor Pranse and Renno Yohsa sat at a table with six young men and two young women. Gregor introduces people, while Renno takes R'ad off to one side for a quiet word. She advises him to keep an eye on the young woman named Tessia, saying that she's found out that she's from Ecaz, but is trying to keep it secret. R'ad fails to understand why it may be important, and Renno has to explain that Ecaz is a planet, and that there's no reason to keep it secret that she's from there. Renno adds that "It may be that I'm being paranoid, but we're going into the desert where there are lots of worms, any one of which could eat us all in a single gulp. I just don't want any surprises". R'ad fails to understand, but promises to keep an eye on her, saying that he doesn't want any surprises either, and thanks Renno for the heads-up.

Meanwhile, on being introduced to the Fremen, one of the off-worlders (Porce Rohr) smiles at Shamal and says, in heavily accented Chakobsa, "You son of a whore!". As Kaleem glares at him, growling slightly, Porce looks surprised and Gregor bursts into laughter. Shamal asks him what he said, and Porce indicates Gregor as he replies "I. I don't know. He told me it was a greeting in your language". Gregor says he has no idea what it means, but R'ad calls him that when he loses at cards.

As they head off, one of the women (Janess Berto-Anirul) smiles at Shamal as he promises that their is a good chance that they will see a worm, and a couple of the men complain at the cost, and the cost of the water that they had to bring. As they walk, Shamal and R'ad both note that Tessia has the gait of a warrior. R'ad watches her closely, looking for signs of hidden weapons.

When they get to the ornithopter (a big one, almost as big as a carryall), Kaleem drops the pack of stillsuits that he's been carrying. R'ad tells Shamal to get the off-worlders into stillsuits properly, while he and Kaleem check the ornithopter before take-off. One of the men, Vorian Pellew, offers Tessia a hand as they enter. As they check the craft, R'ad asks Kaleem what he thinks of Tessia. Kaleem says that the others treat her as though she is fragile, and she doesn't object. R'ad points out that she walks the way Kaleem does - never off-balance, always aware.

Meanwhile, as they get changed, Vorian works his way closer to Tessia. When they are almost naked, he gets very close. Suddenly, without warning, her fist comes down and he collapses as she punches him hard in the groin.

Hearing the commotion, Kaleem goes to see what is wrong, but is waved away by Shamal, who is watching carefully but not interfering. He re-joins R'ad, who tells him about Renno's paranoia, and says that if anything goes wrong, Gregor and Renno are next to be saved after the Fremen.

Tessia tells Vorian, "You need to pay a lot more than a thousand solaris and a few drops of water to get inside my pants. Now get up." Another of the men, Erwin Stauffman, helps Vorian to his feet and into his stillsuit as Janess shares a look with Tessia.

Once everyone is suited up, Shamal gives a quick introduction on how to use the suits, and the six men strap on belts. As he gets into the ornithopter, R'ad realises that they are shield belts, and warns them to take them off. After some arguing and a lot of grumbling, they do as they are told. R'ad tries to spot if Tessia is carrying a hidden shield belt, then hides a smile as she discreetly turns to show him that she does not.

Janess asks Shamal if they are ready to go, and gives him a big smile when he says yes. Then she sits, indicating to Tessia that she should sit next to her. There is some grumbling from the men as they take off, R'ad giving his best tour guide impression. Renno is aghast when R'ad suggests that "In the unlikely event of a mechanical mishap and unplanned landing in the desert, please look to your stewards Renno and Saqib for direction".


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The desert is beautiful, not nice

R'ad brings the ornithopter up high enough that human figures would be too small to make out, and starts toward the rendezvous. One of the off-worlders gets impatient, and R'ad suggests that he could land and hope to take off again before a worm rose beneath them. During the discussion, one of the passengers realises that Kaleem doesn't speak Galach, and complains "What a miserable bloody planet. No water, can't wear shields, and the natives can't even talk the Emperor's language".

Janess asks Shamal how he manages to avoid the worms and he responds that he knows when and where to walk, and that he does so lightly and without rythm, leading Janess to ask why without rythm. He tells her that "[/i]The worms do not like rythm, there are some who say that they hate humans for their music[/i]", telling the others in Chakobsa that "I am spinning them tales, let us see what they believe".

It transpires that Janess sings and Porce plays baliset. Renno says that she also sings, though Gregor says that people pay her to shut up. Renno says that her songs tend to be loud and crude, and adds that the lyrics have to be simple so that Gregor can join in.

Suddenly Kaleem shouts "Ach" (the worm steersman's call for left turn) at R'ad, pointing out wormsign to Shamal, then shouting again, louder, as R'ad didn't hear the first time. Shamal tells the others that they may have wormsign, then has to explain exactly what that means.

Kaleem steps away from the window to give the passengers a better view, joining R'ad in the cockpit as the ornithopter swoops to get into a good position. The Fremen debate (in Chakobsa) how close to get, and whether or not to push Lars (the most irritating off-worlder) out of the door. R'ad positions the ornithopter directly in front of where the worm is likely to rise. Suddenly Erwin Stauffman, one of the off-worlders, grabs at a door handle, trying to get it open. R'ad yells at him to leave it alone, and he lets go. R'ad tells him that the front cockpit is the best place for a better view, and Lars and Erwin both move into the cockpit, making it rather crowded.

Gregor grips his seat very hard, as R'ad tries to work out whether worms can detect vibrations through the air or just through sand. Lars asks when it will surface. R'ad responds that he could take them lower to get its attention, and Lars, to R'ads surprise tells him to do it.

R'ad drops the ornithopter a couple of dozen feet, just as the worm breaks the sand. As R'ad pulls on the controls to gain altitude, Janess quietly chants the litany against fear, Tessia watches the worm intently, provoking Shamal's suspicions. Shamal asks Tessia if she is impressed, and she obviously is, answering "It's ... it's like nothing I've ever seen before. No other planet has anything like this. This is ... just ... amazing".

As the front of the worm crashes back down on the desert and it starts to dive under the sand, R'ad brings the ornithopter around to show the full length, telling himself to never play dare with off-worlders who know nothing. Renno assures Gregor that it's alright, the worm is going back under the sand. Armand comments that "You know, I think that actually was worth a thousand solaris".

Kaleem relaxes slightly, intoning, "Bless the Maker and His water. Bless the coming and going of Him. May His passage cleanse the world. May He keep the world for His people". R'ad responds "And may at least one of his people be reminded that the Maker is not be casually summoned to entertain off-worlders. My drop in altitude near killed us all." Shamal compliments R'ad on his flying, but R'ad responds that he was an idiot to have put them in such peril, before turning the ornithopter back towards Carthag.

As they fly back to the city, there are discussions in Galach and Chakobsa about how much danger they were in. R'ad says that he had intended to show others the might and majesty of Shai-Hulud, but hadn't considered that he might be taunting the great worms, and says that he shall think on it.

The others discuss whether or not the worm could have caught them if it wished to. Erwin doubts it, but Shamal is convinced that they are still alive only by the worm's grace. Janess and Tessia marvel that he lives in the desert with them, and Shamal counters that one must always be on their guard in the city also.

Shamal asks the others what their plans are next. The men intend to go on to Gamont, Janess says that she is going to work for Lady Fenring, Tessia says that she is looking for work. "I'd been working on the Guild heighliner, decided to get off and actually walk on a planet. Something happens to a person when they spend too long on a spaceship".

Shamal asks what it's like to be on a spaceship, and she replies, "It's just not natural. There's no sun, no moons. No day, no night. The Navigators might like it, I suppose, but they're not human any more. No, humans should live on planets". Shamal asks if Dune will be her home, and she responds that it will be for a while.

Once landed, they change back out of their still suits, Vorian keeping well away from Tessia.

R'ad takes Renno aside to ask about Gregor. She assures him that he'll be fine, that he just didn't expect to get that close to a worm, and R'ad admits that he hadn't intended to, but he let Erwin and Lars get to him.

Shamal asks Tessia about space travel, and suggests that she could tell him more over a meal. Tessia agrees, and Shamal asks Gregor where a good meal can be obtained. Gregor replies, "Caladan. They have lovely sea creatures on Caladan. Oh, you mean on this planet? Nowhere." Then he adds, "There's a place called Zawba'a Ramliyya in Arrakeen. You'd hate it - all desert fremen do, but the food is probably as good as you'll get"

Shamal says he'll risk it, and he and Tessia agree to meet that evening.

Meanwhile, R'ad and Renno are bartering over how the money and water should be split. R'ad suggests that the Fremen take all the water and a quarter of the money. Renno agrees that the water is less useful to them, but wants the Fremen to only take a tenth of the money, pointing out that the water wasn't cheap. After some arguing, they settle on the water and a fifth of the money for the Fremen.

Renno asks what they will do with so much money. R'ad responds "Try to buy your berth on a shuttle from Gregor, obviously..." and Shamal says "Buy a meal".

Renno wishes Shamal a good meal, but advises him to try and ignore the surroundings. Shamal asks if she has a better suggestion, but she says "No, Gregor's right, you'll not get better food on this planet. Just bear in mind that it's intended for off-worlders, not natives"


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Truth suffers from too much analysis.

We start as the characters enter Lehrer's Landfall, having left the off-worlders. Mais Afya, already seated at a table with Varisha, waves them over. R'ad is a little worried at what mood the two women will be in, but they seem happy enough, and R'ad lets them think that it he deliberately allowed the 'thopter to get so close to the worm. Shamal tells them about his plan to meet Tessia later that day, that she's had martial training and is interested in Dune. R'ad points out that they need to get the water somewhere safe, then the Naib may want them to break into the palace. R'ad isn't sure about that, though, as he was too busy doing calculations in binary to pay attention to the conversation. Varisha accuses R'ad of being an idiot, pointing out that "He's the naib, R'ad. You're supposed to listen to him, not calculate how to bounce a laser beam off his beard". R'ad, missing the point entirely, points out that it wouldn't bounce off, it'd burn his face. From this point on, R'ad was pre-occupied to varying degrees with ways of bouncing a laser beam off the naib's face.

Mais Afya suggests that Shamal should have some sort of backup - it seems likely that Tessia is working for someone, and will therefore have backup, so Shamal should too. They move to Umma's, with the intention of storing the water there, and so that they can talk without any risk of R'ad or Varisha being recognised (they're both wanted by the Harkonnens). On arrival, Mais Afya puts the water into the room where she stays, then lets Umma know that they are there.

At about this point, R'ad finally works out a way to bounce a laser beam off the naib's beard, by using acid, electrodes and silver to gilt all the bristles. Having worked out a solution, he starts to take note of what is going on around him again.

As Varisha makes coffee, R'ad starts looking through some of Umma's books and Mais Afya talks to Shamal about the two female off-worlders. R'ad finds information on Ecaz, the planet that Tessia is from, and shows it to the others. There is no obvious connection to the Harkonnens or the Baron, though R'ad points out that every house would like to control spice production. Shamal seems to think that none of this matters, but R'ad and Mais Afya both think they need to know more, and R'ad points out that the Beast sometimes has guests for dinner. He and Mais Afya describe the way they deliberately waste water when there are guests, selling off water squeezed from towels afterwards. They realise that this could give them an excuse to be outside the palace later, which could potentially get them a view inside.

Shamal suggests that they want to know why Tessia is on Dune, what her house has to gain and what she knows of the Baron. R'ad agrees, since they seem to have no other way of getting the information that the naib and reverend mother wanted. Mais Afya takes a coffee to Umma, and on returning tells the others that Umma says House Ecaz is close to House Atreides. There is some discussion about who should go to backup Shamal, Maif Afya suggesting that she and Varisha should go. R'ad, looking up from a book, points out that the book says that Atreides and Harkonnens have a long-running feud, and asks why an Atreides ally would be looking for work on a Harkonnen planet if she didn't have ulterior motives. He suggests that there is Landsraad stuff going on, that they cant' see. Then he adds, "Mind you, this book also says that planet Caladan is 90% covered in water, which is plainly nonsense."

Suddenly they realise that Shamal has planned to meet Tessia in Arrakeen (120 miles away), but at least some of them need to be in Carthag, as that is where the Beast is based, and so where the Baron is likely to arrive. The talk turns to finding Tessia and re-arranging her date with Shamal, to somewhere in Carthag. R'ad suggests that they could take over a private residence and persuade the occupants to be somewhere else for the night. Mais Afya says it has to be somewhere public, and a place she went with Umma when he had a meeting once. "It was classy, and people didn't look at me too weird when I walked in as his bodyguard". It's decided that they will find Tessia and eat in Carthag, potentially going to Arrakeen for a second date.
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