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Construction at the palace at Arrakeen, the single most colossal structure known in all of human history, was built during the twelve-year reign of Paul Atreides and the Fremen Jihad. Its construction was financed by spice trade: the jihad and the demands placed on the Guild navigators, encouraged by deliberate the Imperial policy, inflated the already high value of spice so greatly that Arrakis became the wealthiest planet of the Imperium. The labor for the building of the palace was in largest part supplied by the transport to Arrakis of huge workforces from planets conquered by the jihad. Also, many whole structures from subjected planets were brought in the heighliners to become part of the palace. The most important eye-witness accounts of the interior of the Imperial Keep are those of Farok, who was entertained there with other Fremen warriors at a feast celebrating the Molitor victory, and more extensively those of R.M. Gaius Helen Mohiam. Farok was not overimpressed:

"It was cold in all that stone despite the best Ixian space heaters… He has trees in there, you know — trees from many worlds. And somewhere deep inside, I am told, he and Chani live a nomadic life and that all within the walls of their Keep. Out to the Great Hall he comes for the public audiences. He has reception halls and formal meeting places, a whole wing for his personal guard, places for the ceremonies and an inner section for communications. There is a room far beneath his fortress, I am told, where he keeps a stunted worm surrounded by a water moat with which to poison it. There he reads the future."

The Emperor entered and left the Keep by a 'thopter landing jutting from an inner wall. The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, after being first softened up in a tiny cell carved with cutterays from the veined brown rock beneath Paul's Keep, was forced to hobble a great distance to the Imperial Presence. She went along seemingly endless vaulted passages lit by triangular metaglass windows and paved with tiles figuring water creatures from exotic planets. She was impressed by the immensity of this citadel, then oppressed by it. The place reeked to her of terrifying physical power.

"No planet, no civilization in all human history had ever before seen such man-made immensity. A dozen ancient cities could be hidden in its walls!"

She passed oval doors with winking lights, recognizing them for Ixian handiwork: pneumatic transport orifices.

As she got nearer to the Grand Reception Hall, the passages grew larger by subtle stages — tricks of arching, graduated amplification of pillared supports, displacement of the triangular windows by larger, oblong Shapes. Finally, in the far wall of a tall antechamber loomed the double doors of the Hall. "The doorway stood at least eighty meters high, half that in width." The doors swung inward, operated by Ixian machinery, immense and silent. The interior of the Hall itself could have housed the entire citadel of any ruler in human history.

Mohiam was impressed by the architectural subtleties of the Hall's construction even more than by its immensity. "The open sweep of the room said much about hidden structural forces balanced with nicety. Trusses and supporting beams behind these walls and the faraway domed ceiling must surpass anything ever before attempted. Everything spoke of engineering genius."

In spite of the huge scale of the Hall, its focus- — the throne of the Emperor and the Emperor Paul himself — was not dwarfed. Paul's green throne had been cut from a single Hagar emerald, the most precious possession of a subject planet. Paul conducted Mohiam into a private chamber beyond a passage behind the throne. This was a twenty-meter cube lit by yellow glowglobes, with the deep orange hangings of a desert stilltent on the walls. Paul liked to think of his fortress, that awesome pile of plasteel, as his "sietch above the sand." Through the grillwork which vented it, Paul's sleeping chamber looked over a deep abyss to the gentle arc of a footbridge constructed of crystal-stabilized gold and platinum, decorated by fire jewels from far Cedon. The bridge led to the galleries of the inner city across a pool and fountain filled with waterflowers with blood-red petals. In another direction he could see the lower buildings of the government warren. Within Paul's view also were colossal structures showing every extravagance of architecture a demented history could produce and a rapacious hand could seize: terraces like mesas, squares as large as cities, parks, premises, bits of cultured wilderness, a postern from most ancient Baghdad, a dome dreamed in mythical Damascus, an arch from the low gravity of Atar, all creating an effect of unrivaled magnificence mixed with barbarity, in which superb artistry would abut inexplicable prodigies of dismal tastelessness. Here were orchards and groves, open plantings to rival those of fabled Lebanon, thanks to the prodigality with which Paul spent water. On an escarpment near to Paul's Keep was established a fitting companion, Alia's Temple, built during the same twelve-year anni mirabiles. It had two-thousand-meter sides and doors large enough to have admitted an entire cathedral from one of the ancient religions, designed to reduce a pilgrim's soul to motedom. Alia's Temple was itself one of the wonders of the universe.

While it certainly would have been a prodigious feat to have built the entire palace in the twelve years it seems to have taken, it would not have been impossible, given the resources available to Paul Atreides. However, a curiously persistent, if apocryphal, tradition among the Qizarate (cited in Yiam-el-Din) holds that the great citadel was completed in very much less than twelve years:

"And it came to pass when the time was ripe for building that Muad'Dib surveyed the battle plain where the Sardaukar legions were obliterated; and he measured the battle plain with a rule. "Here will I build my palace on the place of chaos and death," he declared. "And the name of the palace shall be Paul's Keep and it shall be a great citadel, a sietch above the sand to dwarf all other Imperial monuments. And beside it will I build Alia's Temple, and pilgrims will come from all over the universe to worship there. And I will build my city in seven weeks, according to the plan of the ancient scriptures. So will I be known to future ages as the Dune Messiah, the Mahdi, who will lead his people to Paradise." And it was done as he had said.

The Qizarate believed that the "ancient scriptures" referred to are to be found in the O.C. Bible, Prophets LXXXIX, 24-26. Known to have been a favorite with Muad'Dib, it is the text before all others which prophesies of the Messiah. Unfortunately, like other prophetic scriptural texts, it is far from easy to interpret. It concerns the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming and cutting off of the Messiah. Three groups of weeks are mentioned, one of seventy, one of seven and /One of sixty-two. The Qizarate interpreted seventy weeks as the time granted to the Fremen for completing their conquest of the Sardaukar, seven weeks for the building of the palace, and sixty-two weeks for the cutting off of the Mahdi, but they do not regard the three periods of weeks as continuous. The O.C. Bible Commentaries, which suggests a substitution of years for the stated weeks, was disregarded. Rather, the Qizarate point to the significance of the seven-week period as a symbolic re-enactment of the seven days of Genesis. Supposing that we entertain this wild hypothesis, that Paul's Keep was built in only seven weeks, what does it suggest to us concerning the forces at Paul's command? There is another apocryphal tradition that should be mentioned here. It is supposed that Muad'Dib modeled his building not only on the story of Jerusalem but also on that of Solomon's Temple. A curious myth regarding the construction of Paul's Keep tells that he employed giant sandworms to bore through the rocks to lay the foundations and that what we take for the work of cutterays and even what we think to be plasmeld structures are really the production of sandworm teeth and sandworm furnaces. The superstitious Fremen believed that there was a sort of emperor among the sandworms. the Grandfather of the Desert, the oldest and largest sandworm — Shai-Hulud. Muad'Dib is supposed to have formed an alliance with this god among worms, or rather he gained an ascendancy over it, for the apocryphal Dune Gospels recast the encounter of Jesus with Shaitan in the wilderness of temptation in terms of a fantastic duel between Muad'Dib and Shai-Hulud in the deep desert. It is supposed that Muad'Dib had a particular reason for wishing to employ Shai-Hulud and his subject sandworms in the construction of his citadel, probably reflecting the obscure Bremen tradition that Solomon employed a worm called Shamir to cut the stones for his Temple.

Many are the myths of Solomon, however, and the Azhar Book contradicts that of Shamir the Worm by tracing one concerning a shameer that was a magic pebble! The main purport of the Temple-building myth is simply that Solomon employed multitudes of djinn in its construction. Had Muad'Dib a similar command over spirits? Was it possible for him to materialize his ancestors, drawing them up from his inner being and giving them tangible form? Or rather did he call spirits from the vasty deep of space, like a galactic Glendower? Alternatively, did he have some means of fixing time, so that years of work could be performed is a few days? These questions cannot now be answered; the true powers commanded by Paul Muad'Dib are unknown to us.

It is recorded in the O.C. Bible that Solomon the Magnificent took seven years to build his Temple. It would be in accordance with the Imperial spirit of Muad'Dib that he should pointedly take only seven weeks to build an overwhelmingly greater structure. It would also be characteristic of Paul's real humility that he did not, as even the apocryphal records tell us, take only seven days.

M.T. Further references:

  • Princess Irulan Corrino-Atreides, Muad'Dib: The Ninety-Nine Wonders of the Universe, tr. G W Maur, Arrakis Studies 9 (Grumman: United Worlds), and Conversations with Muad'Dib. Lib Conf. Temp. Series 346;
  • R.M. Gaius Helen Mohiam, Diaries, Lib. Conf. Temp. Series 133;
  • Anon., Yiam-el-Din: The Book of Judgment, tr. D.D Shuurd. Arrakis Studies 43 (Grumman: United Worlds);
  • Pyer Briizvair, et al., A Variorum Edition of the Orange Catholic Bible, 6v. (Bolchef: Collegium Tarno);
  • Anon., The Dune Gospels, Rakis Ref. Cat. 1- T2;
  • Anon., The Azhar Book, Ed. K. R. Barauz, Arrakis Studies 49 (Grumman: United Worlds).

Image Gallery:



Arrakeen from the side

Arrakeen from above