“Hurry with that last load!” The sand scoured voice of the smuggler Kuthrut cut through the bustle of the encampment that had been hollowed out of a rocky uplift near the False Wall-W. “The bloody sun is going be upon us soon!”
Men grunted as they moved the plas sled deeper into the cramped encampment. Kuthrut scowled as he ducked and moved along a rough hewn hallway the ripe smells of unwashed bodies mingling with the rich spices that spoke of off Arrakis cooking mingling with the cinnamon richness of melange.
“The Guild want to know where their spice is,” the baritone of Gambol, Kuthrut’s partner in the smuggling operation, said without preamble when Kuthrut emerged from the moisture seal that guarded the large natural cave system they had discovered with the help of the Guild.
“They’ll wait, thy always do,” Kuthrut growled in response as he flopped down on a spice fiber mat and reached for a literjon, shaking it then raising the rim to his lips and drinking deeply.
“We may want to set up a bolt hole,” Gambol said as he passed Kuthrut some skewers of lizard heavily spiced with melange. “Harkonnen patrols have been getting pushy.”
Kuthrut gnawed on the tail of a lizard. “Have the other smugglers panicked yet?”
“A few are moving away from Tuck’s Seitch. They’re doing more than confiscating the spice they find, seems the Beast Rabban is gracing us with his presence.” Gambol adjusted his cloak as he settled into a more comfortable position.
“Probably has orders to squeeze every last grain of spice out of this god forsaken planet. The Baron probably plowed through his stockpiles to pay for his part in the destruction of the Atreides.”
“I’ll do some scouting the next buying trip,” Kuthrut yawned as he stretched out on the spice mat. “Damn CHOAM bastards making it hard for a man to make an honest living.”
“And the greedy Guild. Worse than Semuta addicts they are.” Gambon was examining the moisture seals as the rest of the tiny smuggler crew tramped in their robes flapping about their legs as dust danced and sparkled in the yellow light of the glowglobe.
The smugglers loosened their still suits as they reached for food and water the weariness of hard labor on their faces. The crew had been together more than ten years on Arrakis, surviving Guild fee’s and Harkonnen patrols. Soon bottles of spice beer were being passed back and forth among the men as Kuthrut and Gambon lounged off to the side conversing in low tones.
Paul Muad’ Dib and the twenty Fedaykin troop that accompanied him sheltered just above the floor of the Habbanya Erg as the morning sun heated the cool night air as dust devils danced over the distant dunes.
“The spice trail we left for that Harkonnen patrol seems to have done the trick,” Shandis whispered near Paul’s ear. Paul nodded. “What of the smuggler encampment that is suppose to be nearby?”
"Just before the worm tired we spotted signs of people near that outcropping,” a gloved finger stabbed at a pile of rock jutting up from the sand.
“Could be the ones we are looking for. The smuggler camps near Tuck’s Sietch are not capable of handling all of the smuggling activity my father’s men had record of.”
The Fedaykin nodded and settled into the shade his mouth tube back in place as he propped his feet up on a pack to get some rest during the heat of the day.
Paul gazed skyward his knowing the location of a Guild Heighliner despite not being able to see it from his vantage point. “One day we will be free of your shackles,” he thought as he replaced his nose tube and pulled his robe about him. “And you will no longer be masters of Arrakis.”
The Harkonnen troop thoptor thrummed as it lumbered over the dunes. The cabin stank of oil and blood the whimpers of the smuggler they had captured piped throughout the thoptor as the men took turns taking entertainment from his water rich flesh.
“Nearing the coordinates,” the pilot growled as the tip of a large rock outcropping appeared over the moon curves of the expansive dunes.
“Any sign of worms?” The Harkonnen Captain spat back.
“Out here, hard to tell, the bastards can bury themselves so deep you won’t see sing of them ‘till they’re upon you.”
“Damn smugglers are almost as bad as the filthy Fremen. Lazy sods lounging about during the heat of the day. Put us down on the ledge of rock and we’ll hike in,” The Captain ordered as he reached for his rifled slug thrower. We’ll catch them napping and spill their blood for making us chase this far after them.”
The pilot grunted acknowledgement as he guided the troop thoptor in a wide arc to use the sun to mask their approach from as many eyes as possible.
Kuthrut’s eyes popped open as the moisture seal exploded inward, heat, smoke, and flame filling the natural cavern. Harkonnen troops rushed in blades flashing and slug throwers barking as they fell upon the smugglers.
Gambon slashed the back of a Harkonnen, his mind racing, “The alarms didn’t sound!” his blade dripping crimson as a solid slug shattered his arm splintering, bone shards fletcheting free of their fleshy prison. A second slug shattered his chest, his still suit and robe black with blood as he collapsed to the spice mats.
The clash of combat rang off the rock walls as Paul Muad’Dib and his Fedaykin approached the hidden entrance to the smugglers encampment. The their rear, the Harkonnen troop thoptor silent, its pilots cooling body carefully bound up in preparation for the death stills.
Chrysknife’s were drawn as Fedaykin took up positions just inside the entrance making quick work of the token guard the Harkonnen Captain had left in place while the ecstasy of slaughter echoed from within.
Paul gave the order and his Fedaykin flashed their blades the red of Harkonnen blood splashing against rock as their breath gurgled and hissed from their lungs. The snap of a Muala pistol was followed by shouts of alarms and Paul cursed under his breath as he sprang forward. His chrysknife moving down and then up, the blade slicing leather and fabric, a red blossom spreading across the Harkonnen as he fell before Muad’ Dib’s blade, Paul moving onto the next Harkonnen before the first had collapsed to the cavern floor.
The orgy of battle faded, Paul glanced about, Fedaykin were gathering the Harkonnen dead, binding them for transport to the death stills. Shandis approached his cheek black with dried blood from a cut.
"We found their spice stores. All ready for transport to the Guild.”
“Get the spice and the bodies loaded on the thoptor, send word to have a worm ready when we rendezvous.”
Shandis nodded. “What of the smuggler we handed over to the Harkonnen?”
“His water belongs to the tribe,” Paul growled and adjusted his mouth flap.