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.It was three hours before dawn.Armed guards battered in the door of the prefab dwelling, though the Hallecks never kept it locked.The uniformed men lit blazing glowglobes as they marched in, knocking furniture aside, smashing crockery.They uprooted all the flowers Bheth had planted in old pots outside the front door.They tore down the curtains that covered the small windows.Gurney’s mother screamed and huddled far back on the bed.His father lurched up, went to the door of their chamber, and saw the troopers.Instead of defending his home, he backed away and slammed the bedroom door, as if that could protect him.But the guards were only interested in Gurney.They dragged the young man from his bed, and he came out flailing wildly with his fists.The men found his resistance amusing, and flung him facedown on the fireplace hearth; Gurney chipped a tooth and scraped his chin.He tried to get back to his hands and knees, but two Harkonnens kicked him in the ribs.After ransacking a small closet, one blond soldier came out with the nicked and patched baliset.He tossed it on the floor, and Kryubi made sure Gurney’s face was turned toward the instrument.As the Harkonnens pressed their victim’s cheek against the hearth bricks, the guard captain stomped on the baliset with a booted foot, breaking its spine.The strings twanged in a discordant jangle.Gurney moaned, feeling a greater pain from that than from the blows he had received.All the work he had put into restoring the instrument, all the pleasure it had given him.“Bastards!” he spat, which earned him another pummeling.He made a concentrated effort to see their faces, recognized a square-featured, brown-haired ditch-digger he’d known from a nearby village, now resplendent in his new uniform with the low-rank insignia of an Immenbrech.He saw another guard with a bulbous nose and a harelip, a man he was sure had been “recruited” from Dmitri five years before.But their faces showed no recognition, no sympathy.They were the Baron’s men now, and would never do anything to risk being sent back to their former lives.Seeing that Gurney recognized them, the guards dragged him outside and beat him with redoubled enthusiasm.During the attack, Kryubi stood tall, sad, and appraising.He ran a finger along his shred of mustache.The guard captain watched in grim silence as his men punched and kicked and beat Gurney, drawing energy from their victim’s refusal to cry out as often as they would have liked.They finally stepped back to catch their breath.And brought out the sticks.At last, when Gurney could no longer move because his bones were broken, his muscles battered, and his flesh covered with clotting blood, the Harkonnens withdrew.Under the harsh glare of clustered glowglobes, he lay bleeding and moaning.Kryubi held up his hand and signaled the men to return to their craft.They took all the glowglobes but one, which shed a single flickering light upon the mangled man.Kryubi stared at him with apparent concern, then knelt close by.He spoke quiet words meant only for Gurney.Even through the pain-fogged clamor in his skull, Gurney found it strange.He had expected the Harkonnen guard captain to crow his triumph so that all the villagers could hear.Instead, Kryubi seemed more disappointed than smug.“Any other man would have given up long ago.Most men would have been more intelligent.You brought this on yourself, Gurney Halleck.”The captain shook his head.“Why did you force me to do this? Why did you insist on bringing wrath down upon yourself? I’ve saved your life this time.Barely.But if you defy the Harkonnens again, we may have to kill you.” He shrugged.“Or perhaps just kill your family and maim you instead.One of my men has a certain talent for gouging out eyes with his fingers.”Gurney tried to speak several times around broken, blood-thick lips.“Bastards,” he finally managed.“Where’s my sister?”“Your sister is not of concern right now.She is gone.Stay here and forget about her.Do your work.We each have our job to do for the Baron, and if you fail in yours”— Kryubi’s nostrils flared—“then I must do mine.If you speak out against the Baron, if you insult him, if you ridicule him to incite discontent, I will have to act.You’re smart enough to know that.”With an angry grunt, Gurney shook his head.Only his anger sustained him.Every drop of his blood that spattered the ground he swore to repay with Harkonnen blood.With his dying breath he would discover what had happened to his sister— and if by some miracle Bheth remained alive, he would rescue her.Kryubi turned toward the troop transport, where the guards had already seated themselves.“Don’t make me come back.” He looked over his shoulder at Gurney and added a very odd word.“Please.”Gurney lay still, wondering how long it would take for his parents to venture out and see whether he lived or not.He watched through blurred vision and pain-smeared eyes as the transport lifted off and left the village.He wondered if any other lights would come on, if any villagers would come out and help him, now that the Harkonnens were gone.But the dwellings in Dmitri remained dark.Everyone pretended not to have seen or heard.The strictest limits are self-imposed [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]