Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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I will not argue with the Fremen claims that they are divinely inspired to transmit a religious revelation, it is their concurrent claim to ideological revelation which inspires me to shower them with derision. Of course, they make the dual claim in the hope that it will strengthen their mandarinate and help them to endure in a universe which finds them increasingly oppressive. It is in the name of all those oppressed people that I warn the Fremen: short-term expediency always fails in the long term. -The Preacher at Arrakeen

Leto had come up in the night with Stilgar to the narrow ledge at the crest of the low rock outcropping which Sietch Tabr called The Attendant. Under the waning light of Second Moon, the ledge gave them a panoramic view — the Shield Wall with Mount Idaho to the north, the Great Flat to the south and rolling dunes eastward toward Habbanya Ridge. Winding dust, the aftermath of a storm, hid the southern horizon. Moonlight frosted the rim of the Shield Wall. Stilgar had come against his will, joining the secretive venture finally because Leto aroused his curiosity. Why was it necessary to risk a sand crossing in the night? The lad had threatened to sneak away and make the journey alone if Stilgar refused. The way of it bothered him profoundly, though. Two such important targets alone in the night! Leto squatted on the ledge facing south toward the flat. Occasionally he pounded his knee as though in frustration. Stilgar waited. He was good at silent waiting, and stood two paces to one side of his charge, arms folded, his robe moving softly in the night breeze. For Leto, the sand crossing represented a response to inner desperation, a need to seek a new alignment for his life in a silent conflict which Ghanima could no longer risk. He had maneuvered Stilgar into sharing the journey because there were things Stilgar had to know in preparation for the days ahead. Again Leto pounded his knee. It was difficult to know a beginning! He felt, at times, like an extension of those countless other lives, all as real and immediate as his own. In the flow of those lives there was no ending, no accomplishment — only eternal beginning. They could be a mob, too, clamoring at him as though he were a single window through which each desired to peer. And there lay the peril which had destroyed Alia. Leto stared outward at the moonlight silvering the storm remnants. Folds and overfolds of dunes spread across the flat: silica grit measured out by the winds, mounded into waves — pea sand, grit sand, pebbles. He felt himself caught in one of those poised moments just before dawn. Time pressed at him. It was already the month of Akkad and behind him lay the last of an interminable waiting time: long hot days and hot dry winds, nights like this one tormented by gusts and endless blowings from the furnace lands of the Hawkbled. He glanced over his shoulder toward the Shield Wall, a broken line in starlight. Beyond that wall in the Northern Sink lay the focus of his problems. Once more he looked to the desert. As he stared into the hot darkness, day dawned, the sun rising out of dust scarves and placing a touch of lime into the storm’s red streamers. He closed his eyes, willing himself to see how this day would appear from Arrakeen, and the city lay there in his consciousness, caught up like a scattering of boxes between the light and the new shadows. Desert . . . boxes . . . desert . . . boxes . . . When he opened his eyes, the desert remained: a spreading curry expanse of wind-kicked sand. Oily shadows along the base of each dune reached out like rays of the night just past. They linked one time with the other. He thought of the night, squatting here with Stilgar restless beside him, the older man worried at the silence and the unexplained reasons for coming to this place. Stilgar must have many memories of passing this way with his beloved Muad’Dib. Even now Stilgar was moving, scanning all around, alert for dangers. Stilgar did not like the open in daylight. He was pure old Fremen in that. Leto’s mind was reluctant to leave the night and the clean exertions of a sand crossing. Once here in the rocks, the night had taken on its black stillness. He sympathized with Stilgar’s daylight fears. Black was a single thing even when it contained boiling terrors. Light could be many things. Night held its fear smells and its things which came with slithering sounds. Dimensions separated in the night, everything amplified — thorns sharper, blades more cutting. But terrors of the day could be worse. Stilgar cleared his throat. Leto spoke without turning: “I have a very serious problem, Stil.” “So I surmised.” The voice beside Leto came low and wary. The child had sounded disturbingly of the father. It was a thing of forbidden magic which touched a cord of revulsion in Stilgar. Fremen knew the terrors of possession. Those found possessed were rightfully killed and their water cast upon the sand lest it contaminate the tribal cistern. The dead should remain dead. It was correct to find one’s immortality in children, but children had no right to assume too exact a shape from their past. “My problem is that my father left so many things undone,” Leto said. “Especially the focus of our lives. The Empire cannot go on this way, Stil, without a proper focus for human life. I am speaking of life, you understand? Life, not death.” “Once, when he was troubled by a vision, your father spoke in this vein to me,” Stilgar said. Leto found himself tempted to pass off that questioning fear beside him with a light response, perhaps a suggestion that they break their fast. He realized that he was very hungry. They had eaten the previous noon and Leto had insisted on fasting through the night. But another hunger drew him now. The trouble with my life is the trouble with this place, Leto thought. No preliminary creation. I just go back and back and back until distances fade away. I cannot see the horizon; I cannot see Habbanya Ridge. I can’t find the original place of testing. “There’s really no substitute for prescience,” Leto said. “Perhaps I should risk the spice . . .” “And be destroyed as your father was?” “A dilemma,” Leto said. “Once your father confided in me that knowing the future too well was to be locked into that future to the exclusion of any freedom to change.” “The paradox which is our problem,” Leto said. “It’s a subtle and powerful thing, prescience. The future becomes now. To be sighted in the land of the blind carries its own perils. If you try to interpret what you see for the blind, you tend to forget that the blind possess an inherent movement conditioned by their blindness. They are like a monstrous machine moving along its own path. They have their own momentum, their own fixations. I fear the blind, Stil. I fear them. They can so easily crush anything in their path.” Stilgar stared at the desert. Lime dawn had become steel day. He said: “Why have we come to this place?” “Because I wanted you to see the place where I may die.” Stilgar tensed. Then: “So you have had a vision!” “Perhaps it was only a dream.” “Why do we come to such a dangerous place?” Stilgar glared down at his charge. “We will return at once.” “I won’t die today, Stil.” “No? What was this vision?” “I saw three paths,” Leto said. His voice came out with the sleepy sound of remembrance. “One of those futures requires me to kill our grandmother.” Stilgar shot a sharp glance back toward Sietch Tabr, as though he feared the Lady Jessica could hear them across the sandy distance. “Why?” “To keep from losing the spice monopoly.” “I don’t understand.” “Nor do I. But that is the thought of my dream when I use the knife.” “Oh.” Stilgar understood the use of a knife. He drew a deep breath. “What is the second path?” “Ghani and I marry to seal the Atreides bloodline.” “Ghaaa!” Stilgar expelled his breath in a violent expression of distaste. “It was usual in ancient times for kings and queens to do this,” Leto said. “Ghani and I have decided we will not breed.” “I warn you to hold fast in that decision!” There was death in Stilgar’s voice. By Fremen Law, incest was punishable by death on the hanging tripod. He cleared his throat, asked: “And the third path?” “I am called to reduce my father to human stature.” “He was my friend, Muad’Dib,” Stilgar muttered. “He was your god! I must undeify him.” Stilgar turned his back on the desert, stared toward the oasis of his beloved Sietch Tabr. Such talk always disturbed him. Leto sensed the sweaty smell of Stilgar’s movement. It was such a temptation to avoid the purposeful things which had to be said here. They could talk half the day away, moving from the specific to the abstract as through drawn away from real decisions, from those immediate necessities which confronted them. And there was no doubt that House Corrino posed a real threat to real lives — his own and Ghani’s. But everything he did now had to be weighed and tested against the secret necessities. Stilgar once had voted to have Farad’n assassinated, holding out for the subtle application of chaumurky: poison administered in a drink. Farad’n was known to be partial to certain sweet liquors. That could not be permitted. “If I die here, Stil,” Leto said, “you must beware of Alia. She is no longer your friend.” “What is this talk of death and your aunt?” Now Stilgar was truly outraged. Kill the Lady Jessica! Beware of Alia! Die in this place! “Small men change their faces at her command,” Leto said. “A ruler need not be a prophet, Stil. Nor even godlike. A ruler need only be sensitive. I brought you here with me to clarify what our Imperium requires. It requires good government. That does not depend upon laws or precedent, but upon the personal qualities of whoever governs.” “The Regency handles its Imperial duties quite well,” Stilgar said. “When you come of age –” “I am of age! I’m the oldest person here! You’re a puling infant beside me. I can remember times more than fifty centuries past. Hah! I can even remember when we Fremen were on Thurgrod.” “Why do you play with such fancies?” Stilgar demanded, his tone peremptory. Leto nodded to himself. Why indeed? Why recount his memories of those other centuries? Today’s Fremen were his immediate problem, most of them still only half-tamed savages, prone to laugh at unlucky innocence. “The crysknife dissolves at the death of its owner,” Leto said. “Muad’Dib has dissolved. Why are the Fremen still alive?” It was one of those abrupt thought changes which so confounded Stilgar. He found himself temporarily dumb. Such words contained meaning, but their intent eluded him. “I am expected to be Emperor, but I must be the servant,” Leto said. He glanced across his shoulder at Stilgar. “My grandfather for whom I was named added new words to his coat of arms when he came here to Dune: ‘Here I am; here I remain.’ ” “He had no choice,” Stilgar said. “Very good, Stil. Nor have I any choice. I should be the Emperor by birth, by the fitness of my understanding, by all that has gone into me. I even know what the Imperium requires: good government.” “Naib has an ancient meaning,” Stilgar said. “It is ‘servant of the Sietch.’ ” “I remember your training, Stil,” Leto said. “For proper government, the tribe must have ways to choose men whose lives reflect the way a government should behave.” From the depths of his Fremen soul, Stilgar said: “You’ll assume the Imperial Mantle if it’s meet. First you must prove that you can behave in the fashion of a ruler!” Unexpectedly, Leto laughed. Then: “Do you doubt my sincerity, Stil?” “Of course not.” “My birthright?” “You are who you are.” “And if I do what is expected of me, that is the measure of my sincerity, eh?” “It is the Fremen practice.” “Then I cannot have inner feelings to guide my behavior?” “I don’t understand what –” “If I always behave with propriety, no matter what it costs me to suppress my own desires, then that is the measure of me.” “Such is the essence of self-control, youngster.” “Youngster!” Leto shook his head. “Ahhh, Stil, you provide me with the key to a rational ethic of government. I must be constant, every action rooted in the traditions of the past.” “That is proper.” “But my past goes deeper than yours!” “What difference –” “I have no first person singular, Stil. I am a multiple person with memories of traditions more ancient than you could imagine. That’s my burden, Stil. I’m past-directed. I’m abrim with innate knowledge which resists newness and change. Yet Muad’Dib changed all this.” He gestured at the desert, his arm sweeping to encompass the Shield Wall behind him. Stilgar turned to peer at the Shield Wall. A village had been built beneath the wall since Muad’Dib’s time, houses to shelter a planetology crew helping spread plant life into the desert. Stilgar stared at the man-made intrusion into the landscape. Change? Yes. There was an alignment to the village, a trueness which offended him. He stood silently, ignoring the itching of grit particles under his stillsuit. That village was an offense against the thing this planet had been. Suddenly Stilgar wanted a circular howling of wind to leap over the dunes and obliterate that place. The sensation left him trembling. Leto said: “Have you noticed, Stil, that the new stillsuits are of sloppy manufacture? Our water loss is too high.” Stilgar stopped himself on the point of asking: Have I not said it? Instead he said: “Our people grow increasingly dependent upon the pills.” Leto nodded. The pills shifted body temperature, reduced water loss. They were cheaper and easier than stillsuits. But they inflicted the user with other burdens, among them a tendency to slowed reaction time, occasional blurred vision. “Is that why we came out here?” Stilgar asked. “To discuss stillsuit manufacture?” “Why not?” Leto asked. “Since you will not face what I must talk about.” “Why must I beware of your aunt?” Anger edged his voice. “Because she plays upon the old Fremen desire to resist charge, yet would bring more terrible change than you can imagine.” “You make much out of little! She’s a proper Fremen.” “Ahhh, then the proper Fremen holds to the ways of the past and I have an ancient past. Stil, were I to give free reign to this inclination, I would demand a closed society, completely dependent upon the sacred ways of the past. I would control migration, explaining that this fosters new ideas, and new ideas are a threat to the entire structure of life. Each little planetary polis would go its own way, becoming what it would. Finally the Empire would shatter under the weight of its differences.” Stilgar tried to swallow in a dry throat. These were words which Muad’Dib might have produced. They had his ring to them. They were paradox, frightening. But if one allowed any change . . . He shook his head. “The past may show the right way to behave if you live in the past, Stil, but circumstances change.” Stilgar could only agree that circumstances did change. How must one behave then? He looked beyond Leto, seeing the desert and not seeing it. Muad’Dib had walked there. The flat was a place of golden shadows as the sun climbed, purple shadows, gritty rivulets crested in dust vapors. The dust fog which usually hung over Habbanya Ridge was visible in the far distance now, and the desert between presented his eyes with dunes diminishing, one curve into another. Through the smoky shimmer of heat he saw the plants which crept out from the desert edge. Muad’Dib had caused life to sprout in that desolate place. Copper, gold, red flowers, yellow flowers, rust and russet, grey-green leaves, spikes and harsh shadows beneath bushes. The motion of the day’s heat set shadows quivering, vibrating in the air. Presently Stilgar said: “I am only a leader of Fremen; you are the son of a Duke.” “Not knowing what you said, you said it,” Leto said. Stilgar scowled. Once, long ago, Muad’Dib had chided him thus. “You remember it, don’t you, Stil?” Leto asked. “We were under Habbanya Ridge and the Sardaukar captain — remember him: Aramsham? He killed his friend to save himself. And you warned several times that day about preserving the lives of Sardaukar who’d seen our secret ways. Finally you said they would surely reveal what they’d seen; they must be killed. And my father said: ‘Not knowing what you said, you said it.’ And you were hurt. You told him you were only a simple leader of Fremen. Dukes must know more important things.” Stilgar stared down at Leto. We were under Habbanya Ridge! We! This . . . this child, not even conceived on that day, knew what had taken place in exact detail, the kind of detail which could only be known to someone who had been there. It was only another proof that these Atreides children could not be judged by ordinary standards. “Now you will listen to me,” Leto said. “If I die or disappear in the desert, you are to flee from Sietch Tabr. I command it. You are to take Ghani and –” “You are not yet my Duke! You’re a . . . a child!” “I’m an adult in a child’s flesh,” Leto said. He pointed down to a narrow crack in the rocks below them. “If I die here, it will be in that place. You will see the blood. You will know then. Take my sister and –” “I’m doubling your guard,” Stilgar said. “You’re not coming out here again. We are leaving now and you –” “Stil! You cannot hold me. Turn your mind once more to that time at Habbanya Ridge. Remember? The factory crawler was out there on the sand and a big Maker was coming. There was no way to save the crawler from the worm. And my father was annoyed that he couldn’t save that crawler. But Gurney could think only of the men he’d lost in the sand. Remember what he said: ‘Your father would’ve been more concerned for the men he couldn’t save.’ Stil, I charge you to save people. They’re more important than things. And Ghani is the most precious of all because, without me, she is the only hope for the Atreides.” “I will hear no more,” Stilgar said. He turned and began climbing down the rocks toward the oasis across the sand. He heard Leto following. Presently Leto passed him and, glancing back, said: “Have you noticed, Stil, how beautiful the young women are this year?”

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Categories: Herbert, Frank