Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

= = = = = =

You have loved Caladan And lamented its lost host — But pain discovers New lovers cannot erase Those forever ghost. -Refrain from The Habbanya Lament

Stilgar quadrupled the sietch guard around the twins, but he knew it was useless. The lad was like his Atreides namesake, the grandfather Leto. Everyone who’d known the original Duke remarked on it. Leto had the measuring look about him, and caution, yes, but all of it had to be evaluated against that latent wildness, the susceptibility to dangerous decisions. Ghanima was more like her mother. There was Chani’s red hair, the set of Chani’s eyes, and a calculating way about her when she adjusted to difficulties. She often said that she only did what she had to do, but where Leto led she would follow. And Leto was going to lead them into danger. Not once did Stilgar think of taking his problem to Alia. That ruled out Irulan, who ran to Alia with anything and everything. In coming to his decision, Stilgar realized he had accepted the possibility that Leto judged Alia correctly. She uses people in a casual and callous way, he thought. She even uses Duncan that way. It isn’t so much that she’d turn on me and kill me. She’d discard me. Meanwhile the guard was strengthened and Stilgar stalked his sietch like a robed specter, prying everywhere. All the time, his mind seethed with the doubts Leto had planted there. If one could not depend upon tradition, then where was the rock upon which to anchor his life? On the afternoon of the Convocation of Welcome for the Lady Jessica, Stilgar spied Ghanima standing with her grandmother at the entrance lip to the sietch’s great assembly chamber. It was early and Alia had not yet arrived, but people already were thronging into the chamber, casting surreptitious glances at the child and adult as they passed. Stilgar paused in a shadowed alcove out of the crowd flow and watched the pair of them, unable to hear their words above the murmuring throb of an assembling multitude. The people of many tribes would be here today to welcome back their old Reverend Mother. But he stared at Ghanima. Her eyes, the way they danced when she spoke! The movement fascinated him. Those deep blue, steady, demanding, measuring eyes. And that way of throwing her red-gold hair off her shoulder with a twist of the head: that was Chani. It was a ghostly resurrection, an uncanny resemblance. Slowly Stilgar drew closer and took up his station in another alcove. He could not associate Ghanima’s observing manner with any other child of his experience — except her brother. Where was Leto? Stilgar glanced back up the crowded passage. His guards would have spread an alarm if anything were amiss. He shook his head. These twins assaulted his sanity. They were a constant abrasion against his peace of mind. He could almost hate them. Kin were not immune from one’s hatred, but blood (and its precious water) carried demands for one’s countenance which transcended most other concerns. These twins existed as his greatest responsibility. Dust-filtered brown light came from the cavernous assembly chamber beyond Ghanima and Jessica. It touched the child’s shoulders and the new white robe she wore, backlighting her hair as she turned to peer into the passage at the people thronging past. Why did Leto afflict me with these doubts? he wondered. There was no doubt that it had been done deliberately. Perhaps Leto wanted me to have a small share of his own mental experience. Stilgar knew why the twins were different, but had always found his reasoning processes unable to accept what he knew. He had never experienced the womb as prison to an awakened consciousness — a living awareness from the second month of gestation, so it was said. Leto had once said that his memory was like “an internal holograph, expanding in size and in detail from that original shocked awakening, but never changing shape or outline.” For the first time, as he watched Ghanima and the Lady Jessica, Stilgar began to understand what it must be like to live in such a scrambled web of memories, unable to retreat or find a sealed room of the mind. Faced with such a condition, one had to integrate madness, to select and reject from a multitude of offerings in a system where answers changed as fast as the question. There could be no fixed tradition. There could be no absolute answers to double-faced questions. What works? That which does not work. What does not work? That which works. He recognized this pattern. It was the old Fremen game of riddles. Question: “It brings death and life.” Answer: “The Coriolis wind.” Why did Leto want me to understand this? Stilgar asked himself. From his cautious probings, Stilgar knew that the twins shared a common view of their difference: they thought of it as affliction. The birth canal would be a draining place to such a one, he thought. Ignorance reduces the shock of some experiences, but they would have no ignorance about birth. What would it be like to live a life where you knew all of the things that could go wrong? You would face a constant war with doubts. You would resent your difference from your fellows. It would be pleasant to inflict others with even a taste of that difference. “Why me?” would be your first unanswered question. And what have I been asking myself? Stilgar thought. A wry smile touched his lips. Why me? Seeing the twins in this new way, he understood the dangerous chances they took with their uncompleted bodies. Ghanima had put it to him succinctly once after he’d berated her for climbing the precipitous west face to the rim above Sietch Tabr. “Why should I fear death? I’ve been there before — many times.” How can I presume to teach such children? Stilgar wondered. How can anyone presume?

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66

Categories: Herbert, Frank