Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

“Here I redeem the pledge thou gavest; I pour sweet water upon thee. Life shall prevail in this windless place: My love, thou shalt live in a palace, Thy enemies shall fall to emptiness. We travel this path together Which love has traced for thee. Surely well do I show the way For my love is thy palace . . .”

Her voice fell into the desert silence which even a whisper might despoil, and Leto felt himself sinking, sinking — becoming the father whose memories spread like an overlayer in the genes of his immediate past. For this brief space, I must be Paul, he told himself. This is not Ghani beside me; it is my beloved Chani, whose wise counsel has saved us both many a time. For her part, Ghanima had slipped into the persona-memory of her mother with frightening ease, as she had known she would. How much easier this was for the female — and how much more dangerous. In a voice turned suddenly husky, Ghanima said: “Look there, beloved!” First Moon had risen and, against its cold light, they saw an arc of orange fire falling upward into space. The transport which had brought the Lady Jessica, laden now with spice, was returning to its mother-cluster in orbit. The keenest of remembrances ran through Leto then, bringing memories like bright bell-sounds. For a flickering instant he was another Leto — Jessica’s Duke. Necessity pushed those memories aside, but not before he felt the piercing of the love and the pain. I must be Paul, he reminded himself. The transformation came over him with a frightening duality, as though Leto were a dark screen against which his father was projected. He felt both his own flesh and his father’s, and the flickering differences threatened to overcome him. “Help me, father,” he whispered. The flickering disturbance passed and now there was another imprint upon his awareness, while his own identity as Leto stood at one side as an observer. “My last vision has not yet come to pass,” he said, and the voice was Paul’s. He turned to Ghanima. “You know what I saw.” She touched his cheek with her right hand. “Did you walk into the desert to die, beloved? Is that what you did?” “It may be that I did, but that vision . . . Would that not be reason enough to stay alive?” “But blind?” she asked. “Even so.” “Where could you go?” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “Jacurutu.” “Beloved!” Tears began flowing down her cheeks. “Muad’Dib, the hero, must be destroyed utterly,” he said. “Otherwise this child cannot bring us back from chaos.” “The Golden Path,” she said. “It is not a good vision.” “It’s the only possible vision.” “Alia has failed, then . . .” “Utterly. You see the record of it.” “Your mother has returned too late.” She nodded, and it was Chani’s wise expression on the childish face of Ghanima. “Could there not be another vision? Perhaps if –” “No, beloved. Not yet. This child cannot peer into the future yet and return safely.” Again a shuddering breath disturbed his body, and Leto-observer felt the deep longing of his father to live once more in vital flesh, to make living decisions and . . . How desperate the need to unmake past mistakes! “Father!” Leto called, and it was as though he shouted echoingly within his own skull. It was a profound act of will which Leto felt then: the slow, clinging withdrawal of his father’s internal presence, the release of senses and muscles. “Beloved,” Chani’s voice whispered beside him, and the withdrawal slowed. “What is happening?” “Don’t go yet,” Leto said, and it was his own voice, rasping and uncertain, still his own. Then: “Chani, you must tell us: How do we avoid . . . what has happened to Alia?” It was Paul-within who answered him, though, with words which fell upon his inner ear, halting and with long pauses: “There is no certainty. You . . . saw . . . what almost . . . happened . . . with . . . me.” “But Alia . . .” “The damned Baron has her!” Leto felt his throat burning with dryness. “Is he . . . have I . . .” “He’s in you . . . but . . . I . . . we cannot . . . sometime we sense . . . each other, but you . . .” “Can you not read my thoughts?” Leto asked. “Would you know then if . . . he . . .” “Sometimes I can feel your thoughts . . . but I . . . we live only through . . . the . . . reflection of . . . your awareness. Your memory creates us. The danger . . . it is a precise memory. And . . . those of us . . . those of us who loved power . . . and gathered it at . . . any price . . . those can be . . . more precise.” “Stronger?” Leto whispered. “Stronger.” “I know your vision,” Leto said. “Rather than let him have me, I’ll become you.” “Not that!” Leto nodded to himself, sensing the enormous will-force his father had required to withdraw, recognizing the consequences of failure. Any possession reduced the possessed to Abomination. The recognition gave him a renewed sense of strength, and he felt his own body with abnormal acuteness and a deeply drawn awareness of past mistakes: his own and those of his ancestors. It was the uncertainties which weakened — he saw this now. For an instant, temptation warred with fear within him. This flesh possessed the ability to transform melange into a vision of the future. With the spice, he could breathe the future, shatter Time’s veils. He found the temptation difficult to shed, clasped his hands and sank into the prana-bindu awareness. His flesh negated the temptation. His flesh wore the deep knowledge learned in blood by Paul. Those who sought the future hoped to gain the winning gamble on tomorrow’s race. Instead they found themselves trapped into a lifetime whose every heartbeat and anguished wail was known. Paul’s final vision had shown the precarious way out of that trap, and Leto knew now that he had no other choice but to follow that way. “The joy of living, its beauty is all bound up in the fact that life can surprise you,” he said. A soft voice whispered in his ear: “I’ve always known that beauty.” Leto turned his head, stared into Ghanima’s eyes which glistened in the bright moonlight. He saw Chani looking back at him. “Mother,” he said, “you must withdraw.” “Ahhh, the temptation!” she said, and kissed him. He pushed her away. “Would you take your daughter’s life?” he demanded. “It’s so easy . . . so foolishly easy,” she said. Leto, feeling panic begin to grip him, remembered what an effort of will his father’s persona-within had required to abandon the flesh. Was Ghanima lost in that observer-world where he had watched and listened, learning what he had required from his father? “I will despise you, mother,” he said. “Others won’t despise me,” she said. “Be my beloved.” “If I do . . . you know what you both will become,” he said. “My father will despise you.” “Never!” “I will!” The sound was jerked out of his throat without his volition and it carried all the old overtones of Voice which Paul had learned from his witch mother. “Don’t say it,” she moaned. “I will despise you!” “Please . . . please don’t say it.” Leto rubbed his throat, feeling the muscles become once more his own. “He will despise you. He will turn his back on you. He will go into the desert again.” “No . . . no . . .” She shook her head from side to side. “You must leave, mother,” he said. “No . . . no . . .” But the voice lacked its original force. Leto watched his sister’s face. How the muscles twitched! Emotions fled across the flesh at the turmoil within her. “Leave,” he whispered “Leave.” “No-o-o-o . . .” He gripped her arm, felt the tremors which pulsed through her muscles, the nerves twitching. She writhed, tried to pull away, but he held tightly to her arm, whispering: “Leave . . . leave . . .” And all the time, Leto berated himself for talking Ghani into this parent game which once they’d played often, but she had lately resisted. It was true that the female had more weakness in that inner assault, he realized. There lay the origin of the Bene Gesserit fear. Hours passed and still Ghanima’s body trembled and twitched with the inner battle, but now his sister’s voice joined the argument. He heard her talking to that image within, the pleading. “Mother . . . please –” And once: “You’ve seen Alia! Will you become another Alia?” At last Ghanima leaned against him, whispered: “She has accepted it. She’s gone.” He stroked her head. “Ghani, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll never ask you to do that again. I was selfish. Forgive me.” “There’s nothing to forgive,” she said, and her voice came panting as though after great physical exertion. “We’ve learned much that we needed to know.” “She spoke to you of many things,” he said. “We’ll share it later when –” “No! We’ll do it now. You were right.” “My Golden Path?” “Your damned Golden Path!” “Logic’s useless unless it’s armed with essential data,” he said. “But I –” “Grandmother came back to guide our education and to see if we’d been . . . contaminated.” “That’s what Duncan says. There’s nothing new in –” “Prime computation,” she agreed, her voice strengthening. She pulled away from him, looked out at the desert which lay in a predawn hush. This battle . . . this knowledge, had cost them a night. The Royal Guard beyond the moisture seal must have had much to explain. Leto had charged that nothing disturb them. “People often learn subtlety as they age,” Leto said. “What is it we’re learning with all of this agedness to draw upon?” “The universe as we see it is never quite the exact physical universe,” she said. “We mustn’t perceive this grandmother just as a grandmother.” “That’d be dangerous,” he agreed. “But my ques –” “There’s something beyond subtlety,” she said. “We must have a place in our awareness to perceive what we can’t preconceive. That’s why . . . my mother spoke to me often of Jessica. At the last, when we were both reconciled to the inner exchange, she said many things.” Ghanima sighed. “We know she’s our grandmother,” he said. “You were with her for hours yesterday. Is that why –” “If we allow it, our knowing will determine how we react to her,” Ghanima said. “That’s what my mother kept warning me. She quoted our grandmother once and –” Ghanima touched his arm. “– I heard the echo of it within me in our grandmother’s voice.” “Warning you,” Leto said. He found this thought disturbing. Was nothing in this world dependable? “Most deadly errors arise from obsolete assumptions,” Ghanima said. “That’s what my mother kept quoting.” “That’s pure Bene Gesserit.” “If . . . if Jessica has gone back to the Sisterhood completely . . .” “That’d be very dangerous to us,” he said, completing the thought. “We carry the blood of their Kwisatz Haderach — their male Bene Gesserit.” “They won’t abandon that search,” she said, “but they may abandon us. Our grandmother could be the instrument.” “There’s another way,” he said. “Yes — the two of us . . . mated. But they know what recessives might complicate that pairing.” “It’s a gamble they must’ve discussed.” “And with our grandmother, at that. I don’t like that way.” “Nor I.” “Still, it’s not the first time a royal line has tried to . . .” “It repels me,” he said, shuddering. She felt the movement, fell silent. “Power,” he said. And in that strange alchemy of their similarities she knew where his thoughts had been. “The power of the Kwisatz Haderach must fail,” she agreed. “Used in their way,” he said. In that instant, day came to the desert beyond their vantage point. They sensed the heat beginning. Colors leaped forth from the plantings beneath the cliff. Grey-green leaves sent spiked shadows along the ground. The low morning light of Dune’s silvery sun revealed the verdant oasis full of golden and purple shadows in the well of the sheltering cliffs. Leto stood, stretched. “The Golden Path, then,” Ghanima said, and she spoke as much to herself as to him, knowing how their father’s last vision met and melted into Leto’s dreams. Something brushed against the moisture seals behind them and voices could be heard murmuring there. Leto reverted to the ancient language they used for privacy: “L’ii ani howr samis sm’kwi owr samit sut.” That was where the decision lodged itself in their awareness. Literally: We will accompany each other into deathliness, though only one may return to report it. Ghanima stood then and, together, they returned through the moisture seals to the sietch, where the guards roused themselves and fell in behind as the twins headed toward their own quarters. The throngs parted before them with a difference on this morning, exchanging glances with the guards. Spending the night alone above the desert was an old Fremen custom for the holy sages. All the Uma had practiced this form of vigil. Paul Muad’Dib had done it . . . and Alia. Now the royal twins had begun. Leto noted the difference, mentioned it to Ghanima. “They don’t know what we’ve decided for them,” she said. “They don’t really know.” Still in the private language, he said: “It requires the most fortuitous beginning.” Ghanima hesitated a moment to form her thoughts. Then: “In that time, mourning for the sibling, it must be exactly real — even to the making of the tomb. The heart must follow the sleep lest there be no awakening.” In the ancient tongue it was an extremely convoluted statement, employing a pronominal object separated from the infinitive. It was a syntax which allowed each set of internal phrases to turn upon itself, becoming several different meanings, all definite and quite distinct but subtly interrelated. In part, what she had said was that they risked death with Leto’s plan and, real or simulated, it made no difference. The resultant change would be like death, literally: “funeral murder.” And there was an added meaning to the whole which pointed accusatively at whoever survived to report, that is: act out the living part. Any misstep there would negate the entire plan, and Leto’s Golden Path would become a dead end. “Extremely delicate,” Leto agreed. He parted the hangings for them as they entered their own anteroom. Activity among their attendants paused only for a heartbeat as the twins crossed to the arched passage which led into the quarters assigned to the Lady Jessica. “You are not Osiris.” Ghanima reminded him. “Nor will I try to be.” Ghanima took his arm to stop him. “Alia darsatay haunus m’smow,” she warned. Leto stared into his sister’s eyes. Indeed, Alia’s actions did give off a foul smell which their grandmother must have noted. He smiled appreciatively at Ghanima. She had mixed the ancient tongue with Fremen superstition to call up a most basic tribal omen. M’smow, the foul odor of a summer night, was the harbinger of death at the hands of demons. And Isis had been the demon-goddess of death to the people whose tongue they now spoke. “We Atreides have a reputation for audacity to maintain,” he said. “So we’ll take what we need,” she said. “It’s that or become petitioners before our own Regency,” he said. “Alia would enjoy that.” “But our plan . . .” She let it trail off. Our plan, he thought. She shared it completely now. He said: “I think of our plan as the toil of the shaduf.” Ghanima glanced back at the anteroom through which they’d passed, smelling the furry odors of morning with their sense of eternal beginning. She liked the way Leto had employed their private language. Toil of the shaduf. It was a pledge. He’d called their plan agricultural work of a very menial kind: fertilizing, irrigating, weeding, transplanting, pruning — yet with the Fremen implication that this labor occurred simultaneously in Another World where it symbolized cultivating the richness of the soul. Ghanima studied her brother as they hesitated here in the rock passage. It had grown increasingly obvious to her that he was pleading on two levels: one, for the Golden Path of his vision and their father’s, and two, that she allow him free reign to carry out the extremely dangerous myth-creation which the plan generated. This frightened her. Was there more to his private vision that he had not shared? Could he see himself as the potentially deified figure to lead humankind into a rebirth — like father, like son? The cult of Muad’Dib had turned sour, fermenting in Alia’s mismanagement and the unbridled license of a military priesthood which rode the Fremen power. Leto wanted regeneration. He’s hiding something from me, she realized. She reviewed what he had told her of his dream. It held such iridescent reality that he might walk around for hours afterward in a daze. The dream never varied, he said. “I am on sand in bright yellow daylight, yet there is no sun. Then I realize that I am the sun. My light shines out as a Golden Path. When I realize this, I move out of myself. I turn, expecting to see myself as the sun. But I am not the sun; I am a stick figure, a child’s drawing with zigzag lightning lines for eyes, stick legs and stick arms. There is a scepter in my left hand, and it’s a real scepter — much more detailed in its reality than the stick figure which holds it. The scepter moves, and this terrifies me. As it moves, I feel myself awaken, yet I know I’m still dreaming. I realize then that my skin is encased in something — an armor which moves as my skin moves. I cannot see this armor, but I feel it. My terror leaves me then, for this armor gives me the strength of ten thousand men.” As Ghanima stared at him, Leto tried to pull away, to continue their course toward Jessica’s quarters. Ghanima resisted. “This Golden Path could be no better than any other path,” she said. Leto looked at the rock floor between them, feeling the strong return of Ghanima’s doubts. “I must do it,” he said. “Alia is possessed,” she said. “That could happen to us. It could already have happened and we might not know it.” “No.” He shook his head, met her gaze. “Alia resisted. That gave the powers within her their strength. By her own strength she was overcome. We’ve dared to search within, to seek out the old languages and the old knowledge. We’re already amalgams of those lives within us. We don’t resist; we ride with them. This was what I learned from our father last night. It’s what I had to learn.” “He said nothing of that within me.” “You listened to our mother. It’s what we –” “And I almost lost.” “Is she still strong within you?” Fear tightened his face. “Yes . . . but now I think she guards me with her love. You were very good when you argued with her.” And Ghanima thought about the reflected mother-within, said: “Our mother exists now for me in the alam al-mythal with the others, but she has tasted the fruit of hell. Now I can listen to her without fear. As to the others . . .” “Yes,” he said. “And I listened to my father, but I think I’m really following the counsel of the grandfather for whom I was named. Perhaps the name makes it easy.” “Are you counseled to speak to our grandmother of the Golden Path?” Leto waited while an attendant pressed past them with a basket-tray carrying the Lady Jessica’s breakfast. A strong smell of spice filled the air as the attendant passed. “She lives in us and in her own flesh,” Leto said. “Her counsel can be consulted twice.” “Not by me,” Ghanima protested. “I’m not risking that again.” “Then by me.” “I thought we agreed that she’s gone back to the Sisterhood.” “Indeed. Bene Gesserit at her beginning, her own creature in the middle, and Bene Gesserit at the end. But remember that she, too, carries Harkonnen blood and is closer to it than we are, that she has experienced a form of this inner sharing which we have.” “A very shallow form,” Ghanima said. “And you haven’t answered my question.” “I don’t think I’ll mention the Golden Path.” “I may.” “Ghani!” “We don’t need any more Atreides gods! We need a space for some humanity!” “Have I ever denied it?” “No.” She took a deep breath and looked away from him. Attendants peered in at them from the anteroom, hearing the argument by its tone but unable to understand the ancient words. “We have to do it,” he said. “If we fail to act, we might just as well fall upon our knives.” He used the Fremen form which carried the meaning of “spill our water into the tribal cistern.” Once more Ghanima looked at him. She was forced to agree. But she felt trapped within a construction of many walls. They both knew a day of reckoning lay across their path no matter what they did. Ghanima knew this with a certainty reinforced by the data garnered from those other memory-lives, but now she feared the strength which she gave those other psyches by using the data of their experiences. They lurked like harpies within her, shadow demons waiting in ambush. Except for her mother, who had held the fleshly power and had renounced it. Ghanima still felt shaken by that inner struggle, knowing she would have lost but for Leto’s persuasiveness. Leto said his Golden Path led out of this trap. Except for the nagging realization that he withheld something from his vision, she could only accept his sincerity. He needed her fertile creativity to enrich the plan. “We’ll be tested,” he said, knowing where her doubts led. “Not in the spice.” “Perhaps even there. Surely, in the desert and in the Trial of Possession.” “You never mentioned the Trial of Possession!” she accused. “Is that part of your dream?” He tried to swallow in a dry throat, cursed this betrayal “Yes.” “Then we will be . . . possessed?” “No.” She thought about the Trial — that ancient Fremen examination whose ending most often brought hideous death. Then this plan had other complexities. It would take them onto an edge where a plunge to either side might not be countenanced by the human mind and that mind remain sane. Knowing where her thoughts meandered, Leto said: “Power attracts the psychotics. Always. That’s what we have to avoid within ourselves.” “You’re sure we won’t be . . . possessed?” “Not if we create the Golden Path.” Still doubtful, she said: “I’ll not bear your children, Leto.” He shook his head, suppressing the inner betrayals, lapsed into the royal-formal form of the ancient tongue: “Sister mine, I love you more dearly than myself, but that is not the tender of my desires.” “Very well, then let us return to another argument before we join our grandmother. A knife slipped into Alia might settle most of our problems.” “If you believe that, you believe we can walk in mud and leave no tracks,” he said. “Besides, when has Alia ever given anyone an opportunity?” “There is talk about this Javid.” “Does Duncan show any signs of growing horns?” Ghanima shrugged. “One poison, two poison.” It was the common label applied to the royal habit of cataloguing companions by their threat to your person, a mark of rulers everywhere. “We must do it my way,” he said. “The other way might be cleaner.” By her reply, he knew she had finally suppressed her doubts and come around to agreement with his plan. The realization brought him no happiness. He found himself looking at his own hands, wondering if the dirt would cling.

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