Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
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 onto 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!