The Children of Dune are twin siblings Leto and Ghanima Atreides, whose father, the Emperor Paul Muad’Dib, disappeared in the desert wastelands of Arrakis nine years ago. Like their father, the twins possess supernormal abilities—making them valuable to their manipulative aunt Alia, who rules the Empire in the name of House Atreides.
Facing treason and rebellion on two fronts, Alia’s rule is not absolute. The displaced House Corrino is plotting to regain the throne while the fanatical Fremen are being provoked into open revolt by the enigmatic figure known only as The Preacher. Alia believes that by obtaining the secrets of the twins’ prophetic visions, she can maintain control over her dynasty.
But Leto and Ghanima have their own plans for their visions—and their destinies....
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About the Author
In 1952, Herbert began publishing science fiction with “Looking for Something?” in Startling Stories. But his emergence as a writer of major stature did not occur until 1965, with the publication of Dune. Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune followed, completing the saga that the Chicago Tribune would call “one of the monuments of modern science fiction.” Herbert is also the author of some twenty other books, including The White Plague, The Dosadi Experiment, and Destination: Void. He died in 1986.
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Church and State, scientific reason and faith, the individual and his ...
Books by Frank Herbert
THE BOOK OF FRANK HERBERT DESTINATION VOID (revised edition)
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1. Dune (Imaginary place)—Fiction. I. Title.
FOR BEV: Out of the wonderful commitment of our love and to share her beauty and her wisdom for she truly inspired this book.
by Brian Herbert
Frank Herbert had a remarkably inventive and original mind. In his first novel, The Dragon in the Sea (1956), he came up with the concept of containerized shipping, an idea that the Japanese later commercialized to enormous success. Dune, only his second novel, was published in 1965. A complex, revolutionary work, it featured layers of ecology, philosophy, history, religion, and politics beneath the epic tale of the heroic Paul Atreides.
By 1968, five more of Frank Herbert’s novels had been published: Destination: Void, The Eyes of Heisenberg, The Green Brain, The Heaven Makers, and The Santaroga Barrier. All the while, the popularity of Dune was growing, particularly among university intellectuals who were impressed by the complex messages interwoven into the great adventure story. The novel became a textbook for many classes. The Whole Earth Catalog extolled it as an environmental handbook.
As his eldest son, I didn’t even know what my father had created. In 1966, I was hitchhiking near Carmel, California, and a young hippie couple gave me a ride in their Volkswagen Beetle. I was sitting in the back of the small car as it puttered along, and we were chatting. I told them that my dad was a newspaperman for the San Francisco Examiner and that he had written a couple of books.
“Oh?” the young man said. “What did he write?”
“Uh, Dune,” I said.
“Dune!” He was so excited that he pulled the car off to the side of the road. “Your dad is Frank Herbert?”
Hesitantly I replied, “Yeah.”
“Dune! I love that book! One of my friends at college turned me on to it. Wow! I can’t believe it!”
I was dumbfounded. As I wrote in Dreamer of Dune, my biography of Frank Herbert, my bearded father and I did not get along well in those years. I was a rebellious teenager, and we had one shouting argument after another. The relationship seemed hopeless. But Dad had apparently written something remarkable. Even so, he was not making much money from his writing or from his newspaper job. As a family, we were on the poor side of average, and some of our relatives considered my father something of a black sheep. He was eccentric, they said, and went his own way. How little did they know. How little did I know. I hadn‘t even read the novel yet.
Dune Messiah, Frank Herbert’s first sequel to Dune, was published in 1969. In that book, he flipped over what he called the “myth of the hero” and showed the dark side of Paul Atreides. Some readers didn’t understand it. Why would the author do that to his great hero? In interviews, Dad spent years afterward explaining why, and his reasons were sound. He believed that charismatic leaders could be dangerous because they could lead their followers off the edge of a cliff.
His alternate way of looking at the universe fascinated many readers anyway, and they couldn’t wait to see where he was going with the series. He was developing a core readership. In the early 1970s, Frank Herbert became involved with the environmental movement, just as the popularity of the novel Dune was skyrocketing. He spoke on college campuses all over the country. Readers wanted even more sequels, but Dad took his time with the third book, wanting the next novel in the series to be as skillfully written as possible. In conjunction with the first Earth Day, Dad wrote entries for and edited New World or No World, a book about the importance of protecting the environment. He followed that with two novels, Soul Catcher and The Godmakers, and then a third, Hellstrom’s Hive, which had a movie tie-in. His book Threshold: The Blue Angels Experience was also published with a film connection.
By 1976, Frank Herbert had completed his long-awaited sequel, which he titled Children of Dune. A four-part Analogy serialization of the novel early that year was a resounding success, causing issues to sell out at news-stands. Letters poured in from excited fans who loved the story.
For months, David Hartwell, Dad’s astute editor at G. P. Putnam’s Sons, had been trying to convince company management that they were not printing enough copies, that when Children of Dune was printed soon in hardcover, it was going to be a national best seller purchased by more than science fiction fans. Like Dune, it would be a genre buster, he said.
Dune itself had not made it onto very many best-seller lists since its popularity had been a gradual groundswell. Its sales since publication were impressive, though, and Dune Messiah had sold relatively well. But Dune Messiah hadn’t been favorably received by the critics, and consensus held that its sales came on the coattails of Dune. Would Children of Dune be an even bigger critical disappointment than Dune Messiah?
There had never been a hardcover science fiction best seller, so Putnam management proceeded with extreme caution. Suddenly the Analog results provided David Hartwell with the necessary ammunition. Putnam increased the first print run to 75,000 copies, more than any science fiction hardcover printing in history. Publication was scheduled for later in the year, after completion of the magazine serialization.
When Children of Dune came out in hardback in 1976, it was an instant best seller. True to the prediction of David Hartwell and the gut feeling of my father, it became the top-selling hardback in science fiction history up to that time . . . more than 100,000 copies in a few months. When the novel came out in paperback the following year, Berkley Books initially printed 750,000 copies. That wasn’t half enough, and they went back to press. Six months after the release of the paperback, Dad said paperback sales were approaching two million copies.
“It’s a runaway best seller,” he told me in a telephone conversation. Dad enjoyed this phrase, and I heard it often in the ensuing years regarding his numerous best sellers.
At the age of fifty-five, Dad went on his first book tour, and it was a big one—twenty-one cities in thirty days, including an appearance on The Today Show in New York City with fellow science fiction writers Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey. The Literary Guild made arrangements to offer all three books of the Dune trilogy in a boxed hardbound set.
At the vanguard of an explosive growth of sales in science fiction, Frank Herbert blazed the trail for other writers in the genre. After the phenomenal success of the Dune series, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and other science fiction writers had national hardcover best sellers.
Children of Dune is an exciting, vividly imagined novel. It is Frank Herbert at the top of his craft.
Brian Herbert Seattle, Washington January 11, 2008
* * *Muad’Dib’s teachings have become the playground of scholastics, of the superstitious and the corrupt. He taught a balanced way of life, a philosophy with which a human can meet problems arising from an ever-changing universe. He said humankind is still evolving, in a process which will never end. He said this evolution moves on changing principles which are known only to eternity. How can corrupted reasoning play with such an essence?
—WORDS OF THE MENTAT DUNCAN IDAHO
A spot of light appeared on the deep red rug which covered the raw rock of the cave floor. The light glowed without apparent source, having its existence only on the red fabric surface woven of spice fiber. A questing circle about two centimeters in diameter, it moved erratically—now elongated, now an oval. Encountering the deep green side of a bed, it leaped upward, folded itself across the bed’s surface.
Beneath the green covering lay a child with rusty hair, face still round with baby fat, a generous mouth—a figure lacking the lean sparseness of Fremen tradition, but not as water-fat as an off-worlder. As the light passed across closed eyelids, the small figure stirred. The light winked out.
Now there was only the sound of even breathing and, faint behind it, a reassuring drip-drip-drip of water collecting in a catch-basin from the windstill far above the cave.
Again the light appeared in the chamber—slightly larger, a few lumens brighter. This time there was a suggestion of source and movement to it: a hooded figure filled the arched doorway at the chamber’s edge and the light originated there. Once more the light flowed around the chamber, testing, questing. There was a sense of menace in it, a restless dissatisfaction. It avoided the sleeping child, paused on the gridded air inlet at an upper corner, probed a bulge in the green and gold wall hangings which softened the enclosing rock.
Presently the light winked out. The hooded figure moved with a betraying swish of fabric, took up a station at one side of the arched doorway. Anyone aware of the routine here in Sietch Tabr would have suspected at once that this must be Stilgar, Naib of the Sietch, guardian of the orphaned twins who would one day take up the mantle of their father, Paul Muad’Dib. Stilgar often made night inspections of the twins’ quarters, always going first to the chamber where Ghanima slept and ending here in the adjoining room, where he could reassure himself that Leto was not threatened.
I’m an old fool, Stilgar thought.
He fingered the cold surface of the light projector before restoring it to the loop in his belt sash. The projector irritated him even while he depended upon it. The thing was a subtle instrument of the Imperium, a device to detect the presence of large living bodies. It had shown only the sleeping children in the royal bedchambers.
Stilgar knew his thoughts and emotions were like the light. He could not still a restless inner projection. Some greater power controlled that movement. It projected him into this moment where he sensed the accumulated peril. Here lay the magnet for dreams of grandeur throughout the known universe. Here lay temporal riches, secular authority and that most powerful of all mystic talismans: the divine authenticity of Muad’Dib’s religious bequest. In these twins—Leto and his sister Ghanima—an awesome power focused. While they lived, Muad’Dib, though dead, lived in them.
These were not merely nine-year-old children; they were a natural force, objects of veneration and fear. They were the children of Paul Atreides, who had become Muad’Dib, the Mahdi of all the Fremen. Muad’Dib had ignited an explosion of humanity; Fremen had spread from this planet in a jihad, carrying their fervor across the human universe in a wave of religious government whose scope and ubiquitous authority had left its mark on every planet.
Yet these children of Muad’Dib are flesh and blood, Stilgar thought. Two simple thrusts of my knife would still their hearts. Their water would return to the tribe.
His wayward mind fell into turmoil at such a thought.
To kill Muad’Dib’s children!
But the years had made him wise in introspection. Stilgar knew the origin of such a terrible thought. It came from the left hand of the damned, not from the right hand of the blessed. The ayat and burhan of Life held few mysteries for him. Once he’d been proud to think of himself as Fremen, to think of the desert as a friend, to name his planet Dune in his thoughts and not Arrakis, as it was marked on all of the Imperial star charts.
How simple things were when our Messiah was only a dream, he thought. By finding our Mahdi we loosed upon the universe countless messianic dreams. Every people subjugated by the jihad now dreams of a leader to come.
Stilgar glanced into the darkened bedchamber.
If my knife liberated all of those people, would they make a messiah of me?
Leto could be heard stirring restlessly in his bed.
Stilgar sighed. He had never known the Atreides grandfather whose name this child had taken. But many said the moral strength of Muad’Dib had come from that source. Would that terrifying quality of rightness skip a generation now? Stilgar found himself unable to answer this question.
He thought: Sietch Tabr is mine. I rule here. I am a Naib of the Fremen. Without me there would have been no Muad’Dib. These twins, now . . . through Chani, their mother and my kinswoman, my blood flows in their veins. I am there with Muad’Dib and Chani and all the others. What have we done to our universe?
Stilgar could not explain why such thoughts came to him in the night and why they made him feel so guilty. He crouched within his hooded robe. Reality was not at all like the dream. The Friendly Desert, which once had spread from pole to pole, was reduced to half its former size. The mythic paradise of spreading greenery filled him with dismay. It was not like the dream. And as his planet changed, he knew he had changed. He had become a far more subtle person than the one-time sietch chieftain. He was aware now of many things—of statecraft and profound consequences in the smallest decisions. Yet he felt this knowledge and subtlety as a thin veneer covering an iron core of simpler, more deterministic awareness. And that older core called out to him, pleaded with him for a return to cleaner values.
The morning sounds of the sietch began intruding upon his thoughts. People were beginning to move about in the cavern. He felt a breeze against his cheeks: people were going out through the doorseals into the predawn darkness. The breeze spoke of carelessness as it spoke of the time. Warren dwellers no longer maintained the tight water discipline of the old days. Why should they, when rain had been recorded on this planet, when clouds were seen, when eight Fremen had been inundated and killed by a flash flood in a wadi? Until that event, the word drowned had not existed in the language of Dune. But this was no longer Dune; this was Arrakis . . . and it was the morning of an eventful day.
He thought: Jessica, mother of Muad’Dib and grandmother of these royal twins, returns to our planet today. Why does she end her self-imposed exile at this time? Why does she leave the softness and security of Caladan for the dangers of Arrakis?
And there were other worries: Would she sense Stilgar’s doubts? She was a Bene Gesserit witch, graduate of the Sisterhood’s deepest training, and a Reverend Mother in her own right. Such females were acute and they were dangerous. Would she order him to fall upon his own knife as the Umma-Protector of Liet-Kynes had been ordered?
Would I obey her? he wondered.
He could not answer that question, but now he thought about Liet-Kynes, the planetologist who had first dreamed of transforming the planetwide desert of Dune into the human-supportive green planet which it was becoming. Liet-Kynes had been Chani’s father. Without him there would have been no dream, no Chani, no royal twins. The workings of this fragile chain dismayed Stilgar.
How have we met in this place? he asked himself. How have we combined? For what purpose? Is it my duty to end it all, to shatter that great combination?
Stilgar admitted the terrible urging within him now. He could make that choice, denying love and family to do what a Naib must do on occasion: make a deadly decision for the good of the tribe. By one view, such a murder represented ultimate betrayal and atrocity. To kill mere children! Yet they were not mere children. They had eaten melange, had shared in the sietch orgy, had probed the desert for sandtrout and played the other games of Fremen children. . . . And they sat in the Royal Council. Children of such tender years, yet wise enough to sit in the Council. They might be children in flesh, but they were ancient in experience, born with a totality of genetic memory, a terrifying awareness which set their Aunt Alia and themselves apart from all other living humans.
Many times in many nights had Stilgar found his mind circling this difference shared by the twins and their aunt; many times had he been awakened from sleep by these torments, coming here to the twins’ bedchambers with his dreams unfinished. Now his doubts came to focus. Failure to make a decision was in itself a decision—he knew this. These twins and their aunt had awakened in the womb, knowing there all of the memories passed on to them by their ancestors. Spice addiction had done this, spice addiction of the mothers—the Lady Jessica and Chani. The Lady Jessica had borne a son, Muad’Dib, before her addiction. Alia had come after the addiction. That was clear in retrospect. The countless generations of selective breeding directed by the Bene Gesserits had achieved Muad’Dib, but nowhere in the Sisterhood’s plans had they allowed for melange. Oh, they knew about this possibility, but they feared it and called it Abomination. That was the most dismaying fact. Abomination. They must possess reasons for such a judgment. And if they said Alia was an Abomination, then that must apply equally to the twins, because Chani, too, had been addicted, her body saturated with spice, and her genes had somehow complemented those of Muad’Dib.
Stilgar’s thoughts moved in ferment. There could be no doubt these twins went beyond their father. But in which direction? The boy spoke of an ability to be his father—and had proved it. Even as an infant, Leto had revealed memories which only Muad’Dib should have known. Were there other ancestors waiting in that vast spectrum of memories—ancestors whose beliefs and habits created unspeakable dangers for living humans?
Abominations, the holy witches of the Bene Gesserit said. Yet the Sisterhood coveted the genophase of these children. The witches wanted sperm and ovum without the disturbing flesh which carried them. Was that why the Lady Jessica returned at this time? She had broken with the Sisterhood to support her Ducal mate, but rumor said she had returned to the Bene Gesserit ways.
I could end all of these dreams, Stilgar thought. How simple it would be.
And yet again he wondered at himself that he could contemplate such a choice. Were Muad’Dib’s twins responsible for the reality which obliterated the dreams of others? No. They were merely the lens through which light poured to reveal new shapes in the universe.
In torment, his mind reverted to primary Fremen beliefs, and he thought: God’s command comes; so seek not to hasten it. God’s it is to show the way; and some do swerve from it.
It was the religion of Muad’Dib which upset Stilgar most. Why did they make a god of Muad’Dib? Why deify a man known to be flesh? Muad’Dib’s Golden Elixir of Life had created a bureaucratic monster which sat astride human affairs. Government and religion united, and breaking a law became sin. A smell of blasphemy arose like smoke around any questioning of governmental edicts. The guilt of rebellion invoked hellfire and self-righteous judgments.
Yet it was men who created these governmental edicts.
Stilgar shook his head sadly, not seeing the attendants who had moved into the Royal Antechamber for their morning duties.
He fingered the crysknife at his waist, thinking of the past it symbolized, thinking that more than once he had sympathized with rebels whose abortive uprisings had been crushed by his own orders. Confusion washed through his mind and he wished he knew how to obliterate it, returning to the simplicities represented by the knife. But the universe would not turn backward. It was a great engine projected upon the grey void of nonexistence. His knife, if it brought the deaths of the twins, would only reverberate against that void, weaving new complexities to echo through human history, creating new surges of chaos, inviting humankind to attempt other forms of order and disorder.
Stilgar sighed, growing aware of the movements around him. Yes, these attendants represented a kind of order which was bound around Muad’Dib’s twins. They moved from one moment to the next, meeting whatever necessities occurred there. Best to emulate them, Stilgar told himself. Best meet what comes when it comes.
I am an attendant yet, he told himself. And my master is God the Merciful, the Compassionate. And he quoted to himself: “Surely, We have put on their necks fetters up to the chin, so their heads are raised; and We have put before them a barrier and behind them a barrier; and We have covered them, so they do not see.”
Thus was it written in the old Fremen religion.
Stilgar nodded to himself.
To see, to anticipate the next moment as Muad’Dib had done with his awesome visions of the future, added a counterforce to human affairs. It created new places for decisions. To be unfettered, yes, that might well indicate a whim of God. Another complexity beyond ordinary human reach.
Stilgar removed his hand from the knife. His fingers tingled with remembrance of it. But the blade which once had glistened in a sandworm’s gaping mouth remained in its sheath. Stilgar knew he would not draw this blade now to kill the twins. He had reached a decision. Better to retain that one old virtue which he still cherished: loyalty. Better the complexities one thought he knew than the complexities which defied understanding. Better the now than the future of a dream. The bitter taste in his mouth told Stilgar how empty and revolting some dreams could be.
No! No more dreams!
* * *CHALLENGE: “Have you seen The Preacher?”
—RIDDLES OF ARRAKIS BY HARQ AL-ADA
As was the Fremen custom, the Atreides twins arose an hour before dawn. They yawned and stretched in secret unison in their adjoining chambers, feeling the activity of the cave-warren around them. They could hear attendants in the antechamber preparing breakfast, a simple gruel with dates and nuts blended in liquid skimmed from partially fermented spice. There were glowglobes in the antechamber and a soft yellow light entered through the open archways of the bedchambers. The twins dressed swiftly in the soft light, each hearing the other nearby. As they had agreed, they donned stillsuits against the desert’s parching winds.
Presently the royal pair met in the antechamber, noting the sudden stillness of the attendants. Leto, it was observed, wore a black-edged tan cape over his stillsuit’s grey slickness. His sister wore a green cape. The neck of each cape was held by a clasp in the form of an Atreides hawk—gold with red jewels for eyes.
Seeing this finery, Harah, who was one of Stilgar’s wives, said: “I see you have dressed to honor your grandmother.” Leto picked up his breakfast bowl before looking at Harah’s dark and wind-creased face. He shook his head. Then: “How do you know it’s not ourselves we honor?”
Harah met his taunting stare without flinching, said: “My eyes are just as blue as yours!”
Ghanima laughed aloud. Harah was always an adept at the Fremen challenge-game. In one sentence, she had said: “Don’t taunt me, boy. You may be royalty, but we both bear the stigma of melange-addiction—eyes without whites. What Fremen needs more finery or more honor than that?”
Leto smiled, shook his head ruefully. “Harah, my love, if you were but younger and not already Stilgar’s, I’d make you my own.”
Harah accepted the small victory easily, signaling the other attendants to continue preparing the chambers for this day’s important activities. “Eat your breakfasts,” she said. “You’ll need the energy today.”
“Then you agree that we’re not too fine for our grandmother?” Ghanima asked, speaking around a mouthful of gruel.
“Don’t fear her, Ghani,” Harah said.
Leto gulped a mouthful of gruel, sent a probing stare at Harah. The woman was infernally folk-wise, seeing through the game of finery so quickly. “Will she believe we fear her?” Leto asked.
“Like as not,” Harah said. “She was our Reverend Mother, remember. I know her ways.”
“How was Alia dressed?” Ghanima asked.
“I’ve not seen her.” Harah spoke shortly, turning away.
Leto and Ghanima exchanged a look of shared secrets, bent quickly to their breakfast. Presently they went out into the great central passage.
Ghanima spoke in one of the ancient languages they shared in genetic memory: “So today we have a grandmother.”
“It bothers Alia greatly,” Leto said.
“Who likes to give up such authority?” Ghanima asked.
Leto laughed softly, an oddly adult sound from flesh so young. “It’s more than that.”
“Will her mother’s eyes observe what we have observed?”
“And why not?” Leto asked.
“Yes. . . . That could be what Alia fears.”
“Who knows Abomination better than Abomination?” Leto asked.
“We could be wrong, you know,” Ghanima said.
“But we’re not.” And he quoted from the Bene Gesserit Azhar Book: “It is with reason and terrible experience that we call the pre-born Abomination. For who knows what lost and damned persona out of our evil past may take over the living flesh?”
“I know the history of it,” Ghanima said. “But if that’s true, why don’t we suffer from this inner assault?”
“Perhaps our parents stand guard within us,” Leto said.
“Then why not guardians for Alia as well?”
“I don’t know. It could be because one of her parents remains among the living. It could be simply that we are still young and strong. Perhaps when we’re older and more cynical . . .”
“We must take great care with this grandmother,” Ghanima said.
“And not discuss this Preacher who wanders our planet speaking heresy? ”
“You don’t really think he’s our father!”
“I make no judgment on it, but Alia fears him.”
Ghanima shook her head sharply. “I don’t believe this Abomination nonsense!”
“You’ve just as many memories as I have,” Leto said. “You can believe what you want to believe.”
“You think it’s because we haven’t dared the spice trance and Alia has,” Ghanima said.
“That’s exactly what I think.”
They fell silent, moving out into the flow of people in the central passage. It was cool in Sietch Tabr, but the stillsuits were warm and the twins kept their condenser hoods thrown back from their red hair. Their faces betrayed the stamp of shared genes: generous mouths, widely set eyes of spice addict blue-on-blue.
Leto was first to note the approach of their Aunt Alia.
“Here she comes now,” he said, shifting to Atreides battle language as a warning.
Ghanima nodded to her aunt as Alia stopped in front of them, said: “A spoil of war greets her illustrious relative.” Using the same Chakobsa language, Ghanima emphasized the meaning of her own name—Spoil of War.
“You see, Beloved Aunt,” Leto said, “we prepare ourselves for today’s encounter with your mother.”
Alia, the one person in the teeming royal household who harbored not the faintest surprise at adult behavior from these children, glared from one to the other. Then: “Hold your tongues, both of you!”
Alia’s bronze hair was pulled back into two golden water rings. Her oval face held a frown, the wide mouth with its downturned hint of self-indulgence was held in a tight line. Worry wrinkles fanned the corners of her blue-on-blue eyes.
“I’ve warned both of you how to behave today,” Alia said. “You know the reasons as well as I.”
“We know your reasons, but you may not know ours,” Ghanima said.
“Ghani!” Alia growled.
Leto glared at his aunt, said: “Today of all days, we will not pretend to be simpering infants!”
“No one wants you to simper,” Alia said. “But we think it unwise for you to provoke dangerous thoughts in my mother. Irulan agrees with me. Who knows what role the Lady Jessica will choose? She is, after all, Bene Gesserit.”
Leto shook his head, wondering: Why does Alia not see what we suspect? Is she too far gone? And he made special note of the subtle gene-markers on Alia’s face which betrayed the presence of her maternal grandfather. The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen had not been a pleasant person. At this observation, Leto felt the vague stirrings of his own disquiet, thinking: My own ancestor, too.
He said: “The Lady Jessica was trained to rule.”
Ghanima nodded. “Why does she choose this time to come back?”
Alia scowled. Then: “Is it possible she merely wants to see her grandchildren? ”
Ghanima thought: That’s what you hope, my dear aunt. But it’s damned well not likely.
“She cannot rule here,” Alia said. “She has Caladan. That should be enough.”
Ghanima spoke placatingly: “When our father went into the desert to die, he left you as Regent. He . . .”
“Have you any complaint?” Alia demanded.
“It was a reasonable choice,” Leto said, following his sister’s lead. “You were the one person who knew what it was like to be born as we were born.”
“It’s rumored that my mother has returned to the Sisterhood,” Alia said, “and you both know what the Bene Gesserit think about. . . .”
“Abomination,” Leto said.
“Yes!” Alia bit the word off.
“Once a witch, always a witch—so it’s said,” Ghanima said.
Sister, you play a dangerous game, Leto thought, but he followed her lead, saying: “Our grandmother was a woman of greater simplicity than others of her kind. You share her memories, Alia; surely you must know what to expect.”
“Simplicity!” Alia said, shaking her head, looking around her at the thronged passage, then back to the twins. “If my mother were less complex, neither of you would be here—nor I. I would have been her firstborn and none of this. . . .” A shrug, half shudder, moved her shoulders. “I warn you two, be very careful what you do today.” Alia looked up. “Here comes my guard.”
“And you still don’t think it safe for us to accompany you to the spaceport? ” Leto asked.
“Wait here,” Alia said. “I’ll bring her back.”
Leto exchanged a look with his sister, said: “You’ve told us many times that the memories we hold from those who’ve passed before us lack a certain usefulness until we’ve experienced enough with our own flesh to make them reality. My sister and I believe this. We anticipate dangerous changes with the arrival of our grandmother.”
“Don’t stop believing that,” Alia said. She turned away to be enclosed by her guards and they moved swiftly down the passage toward the State Entrance where ornithopters awaited them.
Ghanima wiped a tear from her right eye.
“Water for the dead?” Leto whispered, taking his sister’s arm.
Ghanima drew in a deep, sighing breath, thinking of how she had observed her aunt, using the way she knew best from her own accumulation of ancestral experiences. “Spice trance did it?” she asked, knowing what Leto would say.
“Do you have a better suggestion?”
“For the sake of argument, why didn’t our father . . . or even our grandmother succumb?”
He studied her a moment. Then: “You know the answer as well as I do. They had secure personalities by the time they came to Arrakis. The spice trance—well . . .” He shrugged. “They weren’t born into this world already possessed of their ancestors. Alia, though . . .”
“Why didn’t she believe the Bene Gesserit warnings?” Ghanima chewed her lower lip. “Alia had the same information to draw upon that we do.”
“They already were calling her Abomination,” Leto said. “Don’t you find it tempting to find out if you’re stronger than all of those . . .”
“No, I don’t!” Ghanima looked away from her brother’s probing stare, shuddered. She had only to consult her genetic memories and the Sisterhood’s warnings took on vivid shape. The pre-born observably tended to become adults of nasty habits. And the likely cause . . . Again she shuddered.
“Pity we don’t have a few pre-born in our ancestry,” Leto said.
“Perhaps we do.”
“But we’d . . . Ahh, yes, the old unanswered question: Do we really have open access to every ancestor’s total file of experiences?”
From his own inner turmoil, Leto knew how this conversation must be disturbing his sister. They’d considered this question many times, always without conclusion. He said: “We must delay and delay and delay every time she urges the trance upon us. Extreme caution with a spice overdose; that’s our best course.”
“An overdose would have to be pretty large,” Ghanima said.
“Our tolerance is probably high,” he agreed. “Look how much Alia requires. ”
“I pity her,” Ghanima said. “The lure of it must’ve been subtle and insidious, creeping up on her until . . .”
“She’s a victim, yes,” Leto said. “Abomination.”
“We could be wrong.”
“I always wonder,” Ghanima mused, “if the next ancestral memory I seek will be the one which . . .”
“The past is no farther away than your pillow,” Leto said.
“We must make the opportunity to discuss this with our grandmother. ”
“So her memory within me urges,” Leto said.
Ghanima met his gaze. Then: “Too much knowledge never makes for simple decisions.”
* * *The sietch at the desert’s rim
—FROM A FREMEN SONG
Alia felt her heart pounding as she walked away from the twins. For a few pulsing seconds, she had felt herself near compulsion to stay with them and beg their help. What a foolish weakness! Memory of it sent a warning stillness through Alia. Would these twins dare practice prescience? The path which had engulfed their father must lure them—spice trance with its visions of the future wavering like gauze blown on a fickle wind.
Why cannot I see the future? Alia wondered. Much as I try, why does it elude me?
The twins must be made to try, she told herself. They could be lured into it. They had the curiosity of children and it was linked to memories which traversed millennia.
Just as I have, Alia thought.
Her guards opened the moisture seals at the State Entrance of the sietch, stood aside as she emerged onto the landing lip where the ornithopters waited. There was a wind from the desert blowing dust across the sky, but the day was bright. Emerging from the glowglobes of the sietch into the daylight sent her thoughts outward.
Why was the Lady Jessica returning at this moment? Had stories been carried to Caladan, stories of how the Regency was . . .
“We must hurry, My Lady,” one of her guards said, raising his voice above the wind sounds.
Alia allowed herself to be helped into her ornithopter and secured the safety harness, but her thoughts went leaping ahead.
As the ornithopter’s wings dipped and the craft went skidding into the air, she felt the pomp and power of her position as physical things—but they were fragile, oh, how fragile!
Why now, when her plans were not completed?
The dust mists drifted, lifting, and she could see the bright sunlight upon the changing landscape of the planet: broad reaches of green vegetation where parched earth had once dominated.
Without a vision of the future, I could fail. Oh, what magic I could perform if only I could see as Paul saw! Not for me the bitterness which prescient visions brought.
A tormenting hunger shuddered through her and she wished she could put aside the power. Oh, to be as others were—blind in that safest of all blindnesses, living only the hypnoidal half-life into which birth-shock precipitated most humans. But no! She had been born an Atreides, victim of that eons-deep awareness inflicted by her mother’s spice addiction.
Why does my mother return today?
Gurney Halleck would be with her—ever the devoted servant, the hired killer of ugly mien, loyal and straightforward, a musician who played murder with a sliptip, or entertained with equal ease upon his nine-string baliset. Some said he’d become her mother’s lover. That would be a thing to ferret out; it might prove a most valuable leverage.
The wish to be as others were left her.
Leto must be lured into the spice trance.
She recalled asking the boy how he would deal with Gurney Halleck. And Leto, sensing undercurrents in her question, had said Halleck was loyal “to a fault,” adding: “He adored . . . my father.”
She’d noted the small hesitation. Leto had almost said “me” instead of “my father.” Yes, it was hard at times to separate the genetic memory from the chord of living flesh. Gurney Halleck would not make that separation easier for Leto.
A harsh smile touched Alia’s lips.
Gurney had chosen to return to Caladan with the Lady Jessica after Paul’s death. His return would tangle many things. Coming back to Arrakis, he would add his own complexities to the existing lines. He had served Paul’s father—and thus the succession went: Leto I to Paul to Leto II. And out of the Bene Gesserit breeding program: Jessica to Alia to Ghanima—a branching line. Gurney, adding to the confusion of identities, might prove valuable.
What would he do if he discovered we carry the blood of Harkonnens, the Harkonnens he hates so bitterly?
The smile on Alia’s lips became introspective. The twins were, after all, children. They were like children with countless parents, whose memories belonged both to others and to self. They would stand at the lip of Sietch Tabr and watch the track of their grandmother’s ship landing in the Arrakeen Basin. That burning mark of a ship’s passage visible on the sky—would it make Jessica’s arrival more real for her grandchildren?
My mother will ask me about their training, Alia thought. Do I mix prana-bindu disciplines with a judicious hand? And I will tell her that they train themselves—just as I did. I will quote her grandson to her: “Among the responsibilities of command is the necessity to punish . . . but only when the victim demands it.”
It came to Alia then that if she could only focus the Lady Jessica’s attention sharply enough onto the twins, others might escape a closer inspection.
Such a thing could be done. Leto was very much like Paul. And why not? He could be Paul whenever he chose. Even Ghanima possessed this shattering ability.
Just as I can be my mother or any of the others who’ve shared their lives with us.
She veered away from this thought, staring out at the passing landscape of the Shield Wall. Then: How was it to leave the warm safety of water-rich Caladan and return to Arrakis, to this desert planet where her Duke was murdered and her son died a martyr?
Why did the Lady Jessica come back at this time?
Alia found no answer—nothing certain. She could share another’s ego-awareness, but when experiences went their separate ways, then motives diverged as well. The stuff of decisions lay in the private actions taken by individuals. For the pre-born, the many-born Atreides, this remained the paramount reality, in itself another kind of birth: it was the absolute separation of living, breathing flesh when that flesh left the womb which had afflicted it with multiple awareness.
Alia saw nothing strange in loving and hating her mother simultaneously. It was a necessity, a required balance without room for guilt or blame. Where could loving or hating stop? Was one to blame the Bene Gesserit because they set the Lady Jessica upon a certain course? Guilt and blame grew diffuse when memory covered millennia. The Sisterhood had only been seeking to breed a Kwisatz Haderach: the male counterpart of a fully developed Reverend Mother . . . and more—a human of superior sensitivity and awareness, the Kwisatz Haderach who could be many places simultaneously. And the Lady Jessica, merely a pawn in that breeding program, had the bad taste to fall in love with the breeding partner to whom she had been assigned. Responsive to her beloved Duke’s wishes, she produced a son instead of the daughter which the Sisterhood had commanded as the firstborn.
Leaving me to be born after she became addicted to the spice! And now they don’t want me. Now they fear me! With good reason . . .
They’d achieved Paul, their Kwisatz Haderach, one lifetime too early—a minor miscalculation in a plan that extended. And now they had another problem: the Abomination, who carried the precious genes they’d sought for so many generations.
Alia felt a shadow pass across her, glanced upward. Her escort was assuming the high guard position preparatory to landing. She shook her head in wonderment at her wandering thoughts. What good was served by calling up old lifetimes and rubbing their mistakes together? This was a new lifetime.
Duncan Idaho had put his mentat awareness to the question of why Jessica returned at this time, evaluating the problem in the human-computer fashion which was his gift. He said she returned to take over the twins for the Sisterhood. The twins, too, carried those precious genes. Duncan could well be right. That might be enough to take the Lady Jessica out of her self-imposed seclusion on Caladan. If the Sisterhood commanded . . . Well, why else would she come back to the scenes of so much that must be shatteringly painful to her?
“We shall see,” Alia muttered.
She felt the ornithopter touch down on the roof of her Keep, a positive and jarring punctuation which filled her with grim anticipation.
* * *melange(me’-langealsoma,lanj) n-s, origin uncertain (thought to derive from ancient Terran Franzh): a. mixture of spices; b. spice of Arrakis (Dune) with geriatric properties first noted by Yanshuph Ashkoko, royal chemist in reign of Shakkad the Wise; Arrakeen melange, found only in deepest desert sands of Arrakis, linked to prophetic visions of Paul Muad’Dib (Atreides), first Fremen Mahdi; also employed by Spacing Guild Navigators and the Bene Gesserit.
—DICTIONARY ROYAL FIFTH EDITION
The two big cats came over the rocky ridge in the dawn light, loping easily. They were not really into the passionate hunt as yet, merely looking over their territory. They were called Laza tigers, a special breed brought here to the planet Salusa Secundus almost eight thousand years past. Genetic manipulation of the ancient Terran stock had erased some of the original tiger features and refined other elements. The fangs remained long. Their faces were wide, eyes alert and intelligent. The paws were enlarged to give them support on uneven terrain and their sheathed claws could extend some ten centimeters, sharpened at the ends into razor tips by abrasive compression of the sheath. Their coats were a flat and even tan which made them almost invisible against sand.
They differed in another way from their ancestors: servo-stimulators had been implanted in their brains while they were cubs. The stimulators made them pawns of whoever possessed the transmitter.
It was cold and as the cats paused to scan the terrain, their breath made fog on the air. Around them lay a region of Salusa Secundus left sere and barren, a place which harbored a scant few sandtrout smuggled from Arrakis and kept precariously alive in the dream that the melange monopoly might be broken. Where the cats stood, the landscape was marked by tan rocks and a scattering of sparse bushes, silvery green in the long shadows of the morning sun.
With only the slightest movement the cats grew suddenly alert. Their eyes turned slowly left, then their heads turned. Far down in the scarred land two children struggled up a dry wash, hand in hand. The children appeared to be of an age, perhaps nine or ten standard years. They were red-haired and wore stillsuits partly covered by rich white bourkas which bore all around the hem and at the forehead the hawk crest of the House Atreides worked in flame-jewel threads. As they walked, the children chattered happily and their voices carried clearly to the hunting cats. The Laza tigers knew this game; they had played it before, but they remained quiescent, awaiting the triggering of the chase signal in their servo-stimulators.
Now a man appeared on the ridgetop behind the cats. He stopped and surveyed the scene: cats, children. The man wore a Sardaukar working uniform in grey and black with insignia of a Levenbrech, aide to a Bashar. A harness passed behind his neck and under his arms to carry the servo-transmitter in a thin package against his chest where the keys could be reached easily by either hand.
The cats did not turn at his approach. They knew this man by sound and smell. He scrambled down to stop two paces from the cats, mopped his forehead. The air was cold, but this was hot work. Again his pale eyes surveyed the scene: cats, children. He pushed a damp strand of blond hair back under his black working helmet, touched the implanted microphone in his throat.
“The cats have them in sight.”
The answering voice came to him through receivers implanted behind each ear. “We see them.”
“This time?” the Levenbrech asked.
“Will they do it without a chase command?” the voice countered.
“They’re ready,” the Levenbrech said.
“Very well. Let us see if four conditioning sessions will be enough.”
“Tell me when you’re ready.”
“Now, then,” the Levenbrech said.
He touched a red key on the right hand side of his servo-transmitter, first releasing a bar which shielded the key. Now the cats stood without any transmitted restraints. He held his hand over a black key below the red one, ready to stop the animals should they turn on him. But they took no notice of him, crouched, and began working their way down the ridge toward the children. Their great paws slid out in smooth gliding motions.
The Levenbrech squatted to observe, knowing that somewhere around him a hidden transeye carried this entire scene to a secret monitor within the Keep where his Prince lived.
Presently the cats began to lope, then to run.
The children, intent on climbing through the rocky terrain, still had not seen their peril. One of them laughed, a high and piping sound in the clear air. The other child stumbled and, recovering balance, turned and saw the cats. The child pointed. “Look!”
Both children stopped and stared at the interesting intrusion into their lives. They were still standing when the Laza tigers hit them, one cat to each child. The children died with a casual abruptness, necks broken swiftly. The cats began to feed.
“Shall I recall them?” the Levenbrech asked.
“Let them finish. They did well. I knew they would; this pair is superb. ”
“Best I’ve ever seen,” the Levenbrech agreed.
“Very good, then. Transport is being sent for you. We will sign off now.”
The Levenbrech stood and stretched. He refrained from looking directly off to the high ground on his left where a telltale glitter had revealed the location of the transeye, which had relayed his fine performance to his Bashar far away in the green lands of the Capitol. The Levenbrech smiled. There would be a promotion for this day’s work. Already he could feel a Bator’s insignia at his neck—and someday, Burseg . . . Even, one day, Bashar. People who served well in the corps of Farad’n, grandson of the late Shaddam IV, earned rich promotions. One day, when the Prince was seated on his rightful throne, there would be even greater promotions. A Bashar’s rank might not be the end of it. There were Baronies and Earldoms to be had on the many worlds of this realm . . . once the twin Atreides were removed.
* * *The Fremen must return to his original faith, to his genius in forming human communities; he must return to the past, where that lesson of survival was learned in the struggle with Arrakis. The only business of the Fremen should be that of opening his soul to the inner teachings. The worlds of the Imperium, the Landsraad and the CHOAM Confederacy have no message to give him. They will only rob him of his soul.
—THE PREACHER AT ARRAKEEN
All around the Lady Jessica, reaching far out into the dun flatness of the landing plain upon which her transport rested, crackling and sighing after its dive from space, stood an ocean of humanity. She estimated half a million people were there and perhaps only a third of them pilgrims. They stood in awesome silence, attention fixed on the transport’s exit platform, whose shadowy hatchway concealed her and her party.
It lacked two hours until noon, but already the air above that throng reflected a dusty shimmering in promise of the day’s heat.
Jessica touched her silver-flecked copper hair where it framed her oval face beneath the aba hood of a Reverend Mother. She knew she did not look her best after the long trip, and the black of the aba was not her best color. But she had worn this garment here before. The significance of the aba robe would not be lost upon the Fremen. She sighed. Space travel did not agree with her, and there’d been that added burden of memories—the other trip from Caladan to Arrakis when her Duke had been forced into this fief against his better judgment.
Slowly, probing with her Bene Gesserit-trained ability to detect significant minutiae, she scanned the sea of people. There were stillsuit hoods of dull grey, garments of Fremen from the deep desert; there were white-robed pilgrims with penitence marks on their shoulders; there were scattered pockets of rich merchants, hoodless in light clothing to flaunt their disdain for water loss in Arrakeen’s parching air . . . and there was the delegation from the Society of the Faithful, green robed and heavily hooded, standing aloof within the sanctity of their own group.
Only when she lifted her gaze from the crowd did the scene take on any similarity to that which had greeted her upon her arrival with her beloved Duke. How long ago had that been? More than twenty years. She did not like to think of those intervening heartbeats. Time lay within her like a dead weight, and it was as though her years away from this planet had never been.
Once more into the dragon’s mouth, she thought.
Here, upon this plain, her son had wrested the Imperium from the late Shaddam IV. A convulsion of history had imprinted this place into men’s minds and beliefs.
She heard the restless stirring of the entourage behind her and again she sighed. They must wait for Alia, who had been delayed. Alia’s party could be seen now approaching from the far edge of the throng, creating a human wave as a wedge of Royal Guards opened a passage.
Jessica scanned the landscape once more. Many differences submitted to her searching stare. A prayer balcony had been added to the landing field’s control tower. And visible far off to the left across the plain stood the awesome pile of plasteel which Paul had built as his fortress—his “sietch above the sand.” It was the largest integrated single construction ever to rise from the hand of man. Entire cities could have been housed within its walls and room to spare. Now it housed the most powerful governing force in the Imperium, Alia’s “Society of the Faithful,” which she had built upon her brother’s body.
That place must go, Jessica thought.
Alia’s delegation had reached the foot of the exit ramp and stood there expectantly. Jessica recognized Stilgar’s craggy features. And God forfend! There stood the Princess Irulan hiding her savagery in that seductive body with its cap of golden hair exposed by a vagrant breeze. Irulan seemed not to have aged a day; it was an affront. And there, at the point of the wedge, was Alia, her features impudently youthful, her eyes staring upward into the hatchway’s shadows. Jessica’s mouth drew into a straight line and she scanned her daughter’s face. A leaden sensation pulsed through Jessica’s body and she heard the surf of her own life within her ears. The rumors were true! Horrible! Horrible! Alia had fallen into the forbidden way. The evidence was there for the initiate to read. Abomination!
In the few moments it took her to recover, Jessica realized how much she had hoped to find the rumors false.
What of the twins? she asked herself. Are they lost, too?
Slowly, as befitted the mother of a god, Jessica moved out of the shadows and onto the lip of the ramp. Her entourage remained behind as instructed. These next few moments were the crucial ones. Jessica stood alone in full view of the throng. She heard Gurney Halleck cough nervously behind her. Gurney had objected: “Not even a shield on you? Gods below, woman! You’re insane!”
But among Gurney’s most valuable features was a core of obedience. He would say his piece and then he would obey. Now he obeyed.
The human sea emitted a sound like the hiss of a giant sandworm as Jessica emerged. She raised her arms in the benedictory to which the priesthood had conditioned the Imperium. With significant pockets of tardiness, but still like one giant organism, the people sank to their knees. Even the official party complied.
Jessica had marked out the places of delay, and she knew that other eyes behind her and among her agents in the throng had memorized a temporary map with which to seek out the tardy.
As Jessica remained with her arms upraised, Gurney and his men emerged. They moved swiftly past her down the ramp, ignoring the official party’s startled looks, joining the agents who identified themselves by handsign. Quickly they fanned out through the human sea, leaping knots of kneeling figures, dashing through narrow lanes. A few of their targets saw the danger and tried to flee. They were the easiest: a thrown knife, a garrote loop and the runners went down. Others were herded out of the press, hands bound, feet hobbled.
Through it all, Jessica stood with arms outstretched, blessing by her presence, keeping the throng subservient. She read the signs of spreading rumors though, and knew the dominant one because it had been planted: “The Reverend Mother returns to weed out the slackers. Bless the mother of our Lord!”
When it was over—a few dead bodies sprawled on the sand, captives removed to holding pens beneath the landing tower—Jessica lowered her arms. Perhaps three minutes had elapsed. She knew there was little likelihood Gurney and his men had taken any of the ringleaders, the ones who posed the most potent threat. They would be the alert and sensitive ones. But the captives would contain some interesting fish as well as the usual culls and dullards.
Jessica lowered her arms and, cheering, the people surged to their feet.
As though nothing untoward had happened, Jessica walked alone down the ramp, avoiding her daughter, singling out Stilgar for concentrated attention. The black beard which fanned out across the neck of his stillsuit hood like a wild delta contained flecks of grey, but his eyes carried that same whiteless intensity they’d presented to her on their first encounter in the desert. Stilgar knew what had just occurred, and approved. Here stood a true Fremen Naib, a leader of men and capable of bloody decisions. His first words were completely in character.
“Welcome home, My Lady. It’s always a pleasure to see direct and effective action.”
Jessica allowed herself a tiny smile. “Close the port, Stil. No one leaves until we’ve questioned those we took.”
“It’s already done, My Lady,” Stilgar said. “Gurney’s man and I planned this together.”
“Those were your men, then, the ones who helped.”
“Some of them, My Lady.”
She read the hidden reservations, nodded. “You studied me pretty well in those old days, Stil.”
“As you once were at pains to tell me, My Lady, one observes the survivors and learns from them.”
Alia stepped forward then and Stilgar stood aside while Jessica confronted her daughter.
Knowing there was no way to hide what she had learned, Jessica did not even try concealment. Alia could read the minutiae when she needed, could read as well as any adept of the Sisterhood. She would already know by Jessica’s behavior what had been seen and interpreted. They were enemies for whom the word mortal touched only the surface.
Alia chose anger as the easiest and most proper reaction.
“How dare you plan an action such as this without consulting me?” she demanded, pushing her face close to Jessica’s.
Jessica spoke mildly: “As you’ve just heard, Gurney didn’t even let me in on the whole plan. It was thought . . .”
“And you, Stilgar!” Alia said, rounding on him. “To whom are you loyal?”
“My oath is to Muad’Dib’s children,” Stilgar said, speaking stiffly. “We have removed a threat to them.”
“And why doesn’t that fill you with joy . . . daughter?” Jessica asked.
Alia blinked, glanced once at her mother, suppressed the inner tempest, and even managed a straight-toothed smile. “I am filled with joy . . . mother,” she said. And to her own surprise, Alia found that she was happy, experiencing a terrible delight that it was all out in the open at last between herself and her mother. The moment she had dreaded was past and the power balance had not really been changed. “We will discuss this in more detail at a more convenient time,” Alia said, speaking both to her mother and Stilgar.
“But of course,” Jessica said, turning with a movement of dismissal to face the Princess Irulan.
For a few brief heartbeats, Jessica and the Princess stood silently studying each other—two Bene Gesserits who had broken with the Sisterhood for the same reason: love . . . both of them for love of men who now were dead. This Princess had loved Paul in vain, becoming his wife but not his mate. And now she lived only for the children given to Paul by his Fremen concubine, Chani.
Jessica spoke first: “Where are my grandchildren?”
“At Sietch Tabr.”
“Too dangerous for them here; I understand.”
Irulan permitted herself a faint nod. She had observed the interchange between Jessica and Alia, but put upon it an interpretation for which Alia had prepared her. “Jessica has returned to the Sisterhood and we both know they have plans for Paul’s children.” Irulan had never been the most accomplished adept in the Bene Gesserit—valuable more for the fact that she was a daughter of Shaddam IV than for any other reason; often too proud to exert herself in extending her capabilities. Now she chose sides with an abruptness which did no credit to her training.
“Really, Jessica,” Irulan said, “the Royal Council should have been consulted. It was wrong of you to work only through—”
“Am I to believe none of you trust Stilgar?” Jessica asked.
Irulan possessed the wit to realize there could be no answer to such a question. She was glad that the priestly delegates, unable to contain their impatience any longer, pressed forward. She exchanged a glance with Alia, thinking: Jessica’s as haughty and certain of herself as ever! A Bene Gesserit axiom arose unbidden in her mind, though: “The haughty do but build castle walls behind which they try to hide their doubts and fears.” Could that be true of Jessica? Surely not. Then it must be a pose. But for what purpose? The question disturbed Irulan.
The priests were noisy in their possession of Muad’Dib’s mother. Some only touched her arms, but most bowed low and spoke greetings. At last the leaders of the delegation took their turn with the Most Holy Reverend Mother, accepting the ordained role—“The first shall be last”—with practiced smiles, telling her that the official Lustration ceremony awaited her at the Keep, Paul’s old fortress-stronghold.
Jessica studied the pair, finding them repellent. One was called Javid, a young man of surly features and round cheeks, shadowed eyes which could not hide the suspicions lurking in their depths. The other was Zebataleph, second son of a Naib she’d known in her Fremen days, as he was quick to remind her. He was easily classified: jollity linked with ruthlessness, a thin face with blond beard, an air about him of secret excitements and powerful knowledge. Javid she judged far more dangerous of the two, a man of private counsel, simultaneously magnetic and—she could find no other word—repellent. She found his accents strange, full of old Fremen pronunciations, as though he’d come from some isolated pocket of his people.
“Tell me, Javid,” she said, “whence come you?”
“I am but a simple Fremen of the desert,” he said, every syllable giving the lie to the statement.
Zebataleph intruded with an offensive deference, almost mocking: “We have much to discuss of the old days, My Lady. I was one of the first, you know, to recognize the holy nature of your son’s mission.”
“But you weren’t one of his Fedaykin,” she said.
“No, My Lady. I possessed a more philosophic bent; I studied for the priesthood.”
And insured the preservation of your skin, she thought.
Javid said: “They await us at the Keep, My Lady.”
Again she found the strangeness of his accent an open question demanding an answer. “Who awaits us?” she asked.
“The Convocation of the Faith, all those who keep bright the name and the deeds of your holy son,” Javid said.
Jessica glanced around her, saw Alia smiling at Javid, asked: “Is this man one of your appointees, daughter?”
Alia nodded. “A man destined for great deeds.”
But Jessica saw that Javid had no pleasure in this attention, marked him for Gurney’s special study. And there came Gurney with five trusted men, signaling that they had the suspicious laggards under interrogation. He walked with the rolling stride of a powerful man, glance flicking left, right, all around, every muscle flowing through the relaxed alertness she had taught him out of the Bene Gesserit prana-bindu manual. He was an ugly lump of trained reflexes, a killer, and altogether terrifying to some, but Jessica loved him and prized him above all other living men. The scar of an inkvine whip rippled along his jaw, giving him a sinister appearance, but a smile softened his face as he saw Stilgar.
“Well done, Stil,” he said. And they gripped arms in the Fremen fashion.
“The Lustration,” Javid said, touching Jessica’s arm.
Jessica drew back, chose her words carefully in the controlled power of Voice, her tone and delivery calculated for a precise emotional effect upon Javid and Zebataleph: “I returned to Dune to see my grandchildren. Must we take time for this priestly nonsense?”
Zebataleph reacted with shock, his mouth dropping open, eyes alarmed, glancing about at those who had heard. The eyes marked each listener. Priestly nonsense! What effect would such words have, coming from the mother of their messiah?
Javid, however, confirmed Jessica’s assessment. His mouth hardened, then smiled. The eyes did not smile, nor did they waver to mark the listeners. Javid already knew each member of this party. He had an earshot map of those who would be watched with special care from this point onward. Only seconds later, Javid stopped smiling with an abruptness which said he knew how he had betrayed himself. Javid had not failed to do his home-work: he knew the observational powers possessed by the Lady Jessica. A short, jerking nod of his head acknowledged those powers.
In a lightning flash of mentation, Jessica weighed the necessities. A subtle hand signal to Gurney would bring Javid’s death. It could be done here for effect, or in quiet later, and be made to appear an accident.
She thought: When we try to conceal our innermost drives, the entire being screams betrayal. Bene Gesserit training turned upon this revelation—raising the adepts above it and teaching them to read the open flesh of others. She saw Javid’s intelligence as valuable, a temporary weight in the balance. If he could be won over, he could be the link she needed, the line into the Arrakeen priesthood. And he was Alia’s man.
Jessica said: “My official party must remain small. We have room for one addition, however. Javid, you will join us. Zebataleph, I am sorry. And, Javid . . . I will attend this—this ceremony—if you insist.”
Javid allowed himself a deep breath and a low-voiced “As Muad’Dib’s mother commands.” He glanced to Alia, to Zebataleph, back to Jessica. “It pains me to delay the reunion with your grandchildren, but there are, ahhh, reasons of state . . .”
Jessica thought: Good. He’s a businessman above all else. Once we’ve determined the proper coinage, we’ll buy him. And she found herself enjoying the fact that he insisted on his precious ceremony. This little victory would give him power with his fellows, and they both knew it. Accepting his Lustration could be a down payment on later services.
“I presume you’ve arranged transportation,” she said.
* * *I give you the desert chameleon, whose ability to blend itself into the background tells you all you need to know about the roots of ecology and the foundations of a personal identity.
—BOOK OF DIATRIBES FROM THE HAYT CHRONICLE
Excerpted from "Children of Dune"
Copyright © 1987 Frank Herbert.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents
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