Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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These are illusions of popular history which a successful religion must promote: Evil men never prosper; only the brave deserve the fair; honesty is the best policy; actions speak louder than words; virtue always triumphs; a good deed is its own reward; any bad human can be reformed; religious talismans protect one from demon possession; only females understand the ancient mysteries; the rich are doomed to unhappiness . . . -From the Instruction Manual: Missionaria Protectiva

“I am called Muriz,” the leathery Fremen said. He sat on cavern rock in the glow of a spice lamp whose fluttering light revealed damp walls and dark holes which were passages from this place. Sounds of dripping water could be heard down one of those passages and, although water sounds were essential to the Fremen paradise, the six bound men facing Muriz took no pleasure from the rhythmic dripping. There was the musty smell of a deathstill in the chamber. A youth of perhaps fourteen standard years came out of the passage and stood at Muriz’s left hand. An unsheathed crysknife reflected pale yellow from the spice lamp as the youth lifted the blade and pointed it briefly at each of the bound men. With a gesture toward the youth, Muriz said: “This is my son, Assan Tariq, who is about to undergo his test of manhood.” Muriz cleared his throat, stared once at each of the six captives. They sat in a loose semicircle across from him, tightly restrained with spice-fiber ropes which held their legs crossed, their hands behind them. The bindings terminated in a tight noose at each man’s throat. Their stillsuits had been cut away at the neck. The bound men stared back at Muriz without flinching. Two of them wore loose off-world garments which marked them as wealthy residents of an Arrakeen city. These two had skin which was smoother, lighter than that of their companions, whose sere features and bony frames marked them as desert-born. Muriz resembled the desert dwellers, but his eyes were more deeply sunken, whiteless pits which not even the glow of the spicelamp touched. His son appeared an unformed copy of the man, with a flatness of face which did not quite hide the turmoil boiling within him. “Among the Cast Out we have a special test for manhood,” Muriz said. “One day my son will be a judge in Shuloch. We must know that he can act as he must. Our judges cannot forget Jacurutu and our day of despair. Kralizec, the Typhoon Struggle, lives in our hearts.” It was all spoken with the flat intonation of ritual. One of the soft-featured city dwellers across from Muriz stirred, said: “You do wrong to threaten us and bind us captive. We came peacefully on umma.” Muriz nodded. “You came in search of a personal religious awakening? Good. You shall have that awakening.” The soft-featured man said: “If we –” Beside him a darker desert Fremen snapped: “Be silent, fool! These are the water stealers. These are the ones we thought we’d wiped out.” “That old story,” the soft-featured captive said. “Jacurutu is more than a story,” Muriz said. Once more he gestured to his son. “I have presented Assan Tariq. I am arifa in this place, your only judge. My son, too, will be trained to detect demons. The old ways are best.” “That’s why we came into the deep desert,” the soft-featured man protested. “We chose the old way, wandering in –” “With paid guides,” Muriz said, gesturing to the darker captives. “You would buy your way into heaven?” Muriz glanced up at his son. “Assan, are you prepared?” “I have reflected long upon that night when men came and murdered our people,” Assan said. His voice projected an uneasy straining. “They owe us water.” “Your father gives you six of them,” Muriz said. “Their water is ours. Their shades are yours, your guardians forevermore. Their shades will warn you of demons. They will be your slaves when you cross over into the alam al-mythal. What do you say, my son?” “I thank my father,” Assan said. He took a short step forward. “I accept manhood among the Cast Out. This water is our water.” As he finished speaking, the youth crossed to the captives. Starting on the left, he gripped the man’s hair and drove the crysknife up under the chin into the brain. It was skillfully done to spill the minimum blood. Only the one soft-featured city Fremen protested, squalling as the youth grabbed his hair. The others spat at Assan Tariq in the old way, saying by this: “See how little I value my water when it is taken by animals!” When it was done, Muriz clapped his hands once. Attendants came and began removing the bodies, taking them to the deathstill where they could be rendered for their water. Muriz arose, looked at his son who stood breathing deeply, watching the attendants remove the bodies. “Now you are a man,” Muriz said. “The water of our enemies will feed slaves. And, my son . . .” Assan Tariq turned an alert and pouncing look upon his father. The youth’s lips were drawn back in a tight smile. “The Preacher must not know of this,” Muriz said. “I understand, father.” “You did it well,” Muriz said. “Those who stumble upon Shuloch must not survive.” “As you say, father.” “You are trusted with important duties,” Muriz said. “I am proud of you.”

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Categories: Herbert, Frank