"I identify with the weak person; this is one reason why my fictional protagonists are essentially antiheroes."
- Philip K. Dick
||A dummy fighting instructor for the young Kwisatz Haderach-in-training.
In the world of Dune, very advanced technology mingles oddly with very simple political forms like feudal monarchies. Gurney Halleck is a weapons master teaching the young Paul Atreides to fight.
|A training table remained, and a fencing mirror with its crystal prisms quiescent, the target dummy beside it patched and padded, looking like an ancient foot soldier maimed and battered in the wars.
He gestured to the practice dummy. "Now, we'll work on your timing. Let me see you catch that thing sinister. I'll control it from over here where I can have a full view of the action. And I warn you I'll be trying new counters today."
Paul stretched up on his toes to relieve his muscles. He crossed to the dummy, slapped the switch on its chest with his rapier tip and felt the defensive field forcing his blade away.
"En garde!" Halleck called, and the dummy pressed the attack.
by Frank Herbert.
Published by Putnam in 1965
Additional resources -
Although many powerful weapons were available, Paul followed the Bene Gesserit teaching that his mother gave him: "Use the instruments only when they are absolutely necessary to amplify the flesh." (From Heretics of Dune.)
Here is another, more descriptive quote from Dune Messiah:
As she moved into the training room, Alia caught her own reflection multiplied thousands of times in the crystal prisms of a fencing mirror swinging in the heart of a target dummy. She saw the long sword waiting on its brackets against the target, and she thought: Yes! I'll work myself to exhaustion -- drain the flesh and clear the mind.
The sword felt right in her hand. She slipped the crysknife from its sheath at her neck, held it sinister, tapped the activating stud with the sword tip. Resistance came alive as the aura of the target shield built up, pushing her weapon slowly and firmly away.
Prisms glittered. The target slipped to her left.
Alia followed with the tip of the long blade, thinking as she often did that the thing could almost be alive. But it was only servomotors and complex reflector circuits designed to lure the eyes away from danger, to confuse and teach. It was an instrument geared to react as she reacted, an anti-self which moved as she moved, balancing light on its prisms, shifting its target, offering its counter-blade.
Many blades appeared to lunge at her from the prisms, but only one was real. She countered the real one, slipped the sword past shield resistance to tap the target. A marker light came alive: red and glistening among the prisms . . . more distraction.
Again the thing attacked, moving at one-marker speed now, just a bit faster than it had at the beginning.
She parried and, against all caution, moved into the danger zone, scored with the crysknife.
Two lights glowed from the prisms.
Again, the thing increased speed, moving out on its rollers, drawn like a magnet to the motions of her body and the tip of her sword.
Attack -- parry -- counter.
Attack -- parry -- counter . . .
She had four lights alive in there now, and the thing was becoming more dangerous, moving faster with each light, offering more areas of confusion.
Sweat glistened on her naked skin. She existed now in a universe whose dimensions were outlined by the threatening blade, the target, bare feet against the practice floor, senses / nerves / muscles -- motion against motion.
Attack -- parry -- counter.
Six lights . . . seven . . .
She had never before risked eight.
In a recess of her mind there grew a sense of urgency, a crying out against such wildness as this. The instrument of prisms and target could not think, feel caution or remorse. And it carried a real blade. To go against less defeated the purpose of such training. That attacking blade could maim and it could kill. But the finest swordsmen in the Imperium never went against more than seven lights...
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