Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Oddly, Jessica’s thoughts were moving in a similar vein as she talked to her granddaughter. She’d been thinking how difficult it must be to carry mature minds in immature bodies. The body would have to learn what the mind already knew it could do — aligning responses and reflexes. The old Bene Gesserit prana-bindu regimen would be available to them, but even there the mind would run where the flesh could not. Gurney had a supremely difficult task carrying out her orders. “Stilgar is watching us from an alcove back there,” Ghanima said. Jessica did not turn. But she found herself confounded by what she heard in Ghanima’s voice. Ghanima loved the old Fremen as one would love a parent. Even while she spoke lightly of him and teased him, she loved him. The realization forced Jessica to see the old Naib in a new light, understanding in a gestalten revelation what the twins and Stilgar shared. This new Arrakis did not fit Stilgar well, Jessica realized. No more than this new universe fitted her grandchildren. Unwanted and undemanded, a Bene Gesserit saying flowed through Jessica’s mind: “To suspect your own mortality is to know the beginning of terror; to learn irrefutably that you are mortal is to know the end of terror.” Yes, death would not be a hard yoke to wear, but life was a slow fire to Stilgar and the twins. Each found an ill fitting world and longed for other ways where variations might be known without threat. They were children of Abraham, learning more from a hawk stooping over the desert than from any book yet written. Leto had confounded Jessica only that morning as they’d stood beside the qanat which flowed below the sietch. He’d said: “Water traps us, grandmother. We’d be better off living like dust because then the wind could carry us higher than the highest cliffs of the Shield Wall.” Although she was familiar with such devious maturity from the mouths of these children, Jessica had been caught by this utterance, but had managed: “Your father might’ve said that.” And Leto, throwing a handful of sand into the air to watch it fall: “Yes, he might’ve. But my father did not consider then how quickly water makes everything fall back to the ground from which it came.” Now, standing beside Ghanima in the sietch, Jessica felt the shock of those words anew. She turned, glanced back at the still-flowing throng, let her gaze wander across Stilgar’s shadowy shape in the alcove. Stilgar was no tame Fremen, trained only to carry twigs to the nest. He was still a hawk. When he thought of the color red, he did not think of flowers but of blood. “You’re so quiet, suddenly,” Ghanima said. “Is something wrong?” Jessica shook her head. “It’s something Leto said this morning, that’s all.” “When you went out to the plantings? What’d he say?” Jessica thought of the curious look of adult wisdom which had come over Leto’s face out there in the morning. It was the same look which came over Ghanima’s face right now. “He was recalling the time when Gurney came back from the smugglers to the Atreides banner,” Jessica said. “Then you were talking about Stilgar,” Ghanima said. Jessica did not question how this insight occurred. The twins appeared capable of reproducing each other’s thought trains at will. “Yes, we were,” Jessica said. “Stilgar didn’t like to hear Gurney calling . . . Paul his Duke, but Gurney’s presence forced this upon all of the Fremen. Gurney kept saying ‘My Duke.’ ” “I see,” Ghanima said. “And of course, Leto observed that he was not yet Stilgar’s Duke.” “That’s right.” “You know what he was doing to you, of course,” Ghanima said. “I’m not sure I do,” Jessica admitted, and she found this admission particularly disturbing because it had not occurred to her that Leto was doing anything at all to her. “He was trying to ignite your memories of our father,” Ghanima said. “Leto’s always hungry to know our father from the viewpoints of others who knew him.” “But . . . doesn’t Leto have . . .” “Oh, he can listen to the inner life. Certainly. But that’s not the same. You spoke about him, of course. Our father, I mean. You spoke of him as your son.” “Yes.” Jessica clipped it off. She did not like the feeling that these twins could turn her on and off at will, open her memories for observation, touch any emotion which attracted their interest. Ghanima might be doing that right now! “Leto said something to disturb you,” Ghanima said. Jessica found herself shocked at the necessity to suppress anger. “Yes . . . he did.” “You don’t like the fact that he knows our father as our mother knew him, and knows our mother as our father knew her,” Ghanima said. “You don’t like what that implies — what we may know about you.” “I’d never really thought about it that way before,” Jessica said, finding her voice stiff. “It’s the knowledge of sensual things which usually disturbs,” Ghanima said. “It’s your conditioning. You find it extremely difficult to think of us as anything but children. But there’s nothing our parents did together, in public or in private, that we would not know.” For a brief instant Jessica found herself returning to the reaction which had come over her out there beside the qanat, but now she focused that reaction upon Ghanima. “He probably spoke of your Duke’s ‘rutting sensuality,’ ” Ghanima said. “Sometimes Leto needs a bridle on his mouth!” Is there nothing these twins cannot profane? Jessica wondered, moving from shock to outrage to revulsion. How dared they speak of her Leto’s sensuality? Of course a man and woman who loved each other would share the pleasure of their bodies! It was a private and beautiful thing, not to be paraded in casual conversation between a child and an adult. Child and adult! Abruptly Jessica realized that neither Leto nor Ghanima had done this casually. As Jessica remained silent, Ghanima said: “We’ve shocked you. I apologize for both of us. Knowing Leto, I know he didn’t consider apologizing. Sometimes when he’s following a particular scent, he forgets how different we are . . . from you, for instance.” Jessica thought: And that is why you both do this, of course. You are teaching me! And she wondered then: Who else are you teaching? Stilgar? Duncan? “Leto tries to see things as you see them,” Ghanima said. “Memories are not enough. When you try the hardest, just then, you most often fail.” Jessica sighed. Ghanima touched her grandmother’s arm. “Your son left many things unsaid which yet must be said, even to you. Forgive us, but he loved you. Don’t you know that?” Jessica turned away to hide the tears glistening in her eyes. “He knew your fears,” Ghanima said. “Just as he knew Stilgar’s fears. Dear Stil. Our father was his ‘Doctor of Beasts’ and Stil was no more than the green snail hidden in its shell.” She hummed the tune from which she’d taken these words. The music hurled the lyrics against Jessica’s awareness without compromise:

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Categories: Herbert, Frank