Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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You Bene Gesserit call your activity of the Panoplia Prophetica a “Science of Religion.” Very well. I, a seeker after another kind of scientist, find this an appropriate definition. You do, indeed, build your own myths, but so do all societies. You I must warn, however. You are behaving as so many other misguided scientists have behaved. Your actions reveal that you wish to take something out of [away from] life. It is time you were reminded of that which you so often profess: One cannot have a single thing without its opposite. -The Preacher at Arrakeen: A Message to the Sisterhood

In the hour before dawn, Jessica sat immobile on a worn rug of spice-cloth. Around her were the bare rocks of an old and poor sietch, one of the original settlements. It lay below the rim of Red Chasm, sheltered from the westerlies of the desert. Al-Fali and his brothers had brought her here; now they awaited word from Stilgar. The Fedaykin had moved cautiously in the matter of communication, however. Stilgar was not to know their location. The Fedaykin already knew they were under a proces-verbal, an official report of crimes against the Imperium. Alia was taking the tack that her mother had been suborned by enemies of the realm, although the Sisterhood had not yet been named. The high-handed, tyrannical nature of Alia’s power was out in the open, however, and her belief that because she controlled the Priesthood she controlled the Fremen was about to be tested. Jessica’s message to Stilgar had been direct and simple: “My daughter is possessed and must be put to the trial.” Fears destroyed values, though, and it already was known that some Fremen would prefer not to believe this accusation. Their attempts to use the accusation as a passport had brought on two battles during the night, but the ornithopters al-Fali’s people had stolen had brought the fugitives to this precarious safety: Red Chasm Sietch. Word was going out to the Fedaykin from here, but fewer than two hundred of them remained on Arrakis. The others held posts throughout the Empire. Reflecting upon these facts, Jessica wondered if she had come to the place of her death. Some of the Fedaykin believed it, but the death commandos accepted this easily enough. Al-Fali had merely grinned at her when some of his young men voiced their fears. “When God hath ordained a creature to die in a particular place. He causeth that creature’s wants to direct him to that place,” the old Naib had said. The patched curtains at her doorway rustled; al-Fali entered. The old man’s narrow, windburned face appeared drawn, his eyes feverish. Obviously he had not rested. “Someone comes,” he said. “From Stilgar?” “Perhaps.” He lowered his eyes, glanced leftward in the manner of the old Fremen who brought bad news. “What is it?” Jessica demanded. “We have word from Tabr that your grandchildren are not there.” He spoke without looking at her. “Alia . . .” “She has ordered that the twins be given over to her custody, but Sietch Tabr reports that the children are not there. That is all we know.” “Stilgar’s sent them into the desert,” Jessica said. “Possibly, but it is known that he was searching for them all through the night. Perhaps it was a trick on his part . . .” “That’s not Stilgar’s way,” she said, and thought: Unless the twins put him up to it. But that didn’t feel right either. She wondered at herself: no sensations of panic to suppress, and her fears for the twins were tempered by what Ghanima had revealed. She peered up at al-Fali, found him studying her with pity in his eyes. She said: “They’ve gone into the desert by themselves.” “Alone? Those two children!” She did not bother to explain that “those two children” probably knew more about desert survival than most living Fremen. Her thoughts were fixed, instead, on Leto’s odd behavior when he’d insisted that she allow herself to be abducted. She’d put the memory aside, but this moment demanded it. He’d said she would know the moment to obey him. “The messenger should be in the sietch by now,” al-Fali said. “I will bring him to you.” He let himself out through the patched curtain. Jessica stared at the curtain. It was red cloth of spice-fiber, but the patches were blue. The story was that this sietch had refused to profit from Muad’Dib’s religion, earning the enmity of Alia’s Priesthood. The people here reportedly had put their capital into a scheme to raise dogs as large as ponies, dogs bred for intelligence as guardians of children. The dogs had all died. Some said it was poison and the Priests were blamed. She shook her head to drive out these reflections, recognizing them for what they were: ghafla, the gadfly distraction. Where had those children gone? To Jacurutu? They had a plan. They tried to enlighten me to the extent they thought I’d accept, she remembered. And when they’d reached the limits as they saw them, Leto had commanded her to obey. He’d commanded her! Leto had recognized what Alia was doing; that much was obvious. Both twins had spoken of their aunt’s “affliction,” even when defending her. Alia was gambling on the rightness of her position in the Regency. Demanding custody of the twins confirmed that. Jessica found a harsh laugh shaking her own breast. The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam had been fond of explaining this particular error to her student, Jessica. “If you focus your awareness only upon your own rightness, then you invite the forces of opposition to overwhelm you. This is a common error. Even I, your teacher, have made it.” “And even I, your student, have made it,” Jessica whispered to herself. She heard fabrics whispering in the passage beyond the curtain. Two young Fremen entered, part of the entourage they’d picked up during the night. The two were obviously awed at being in the presence of Muad’Dib’s mother. Jessica had read them completely: they were non-thinkers, attaching themselves to any fancied power for the identity which this gave them. Without a reflection from her they were empty. Thus, they were dangerous. “We were sent ahead by al-Fali to prepare you,” one of the young Fremen said. Jessica felt an abrupt clenching tightness in her breast, but her voice remained calm. “Prepare me for what?” “Stilgar has sent Duncan Idaho as his messenger.” Jessica pulled her aba hood up over her hair, an unconscious gesture. Duncan? But he was Alia’s tool. The Fremen who’d spoken took a half step forward. “Idaho says he has come to take you to safety, but al-Fali does not see how this can be.” “It seems passing strange, indeed,” Jessica said. “But there are stranger things in our universe. Bring him.” They glanced at each other but obeyed, leaving together with such a rush that they tore another rent in the worn curtain. Presently Idaho stepped through the curtain, followed by the two Fremen and al-Fali bringing up the rear, hand on his crysknife. Idaho appeared composed. He wore the dress casuals of an Atreides House Guard, a uniform which had changed little in more than fourteen centuries. Arrakis had replaced the old gold-handled plasteel blade with a crysknife, but that was minor. “I’m told you wish to help me,” Jessica said. “As odd as that may seem,” he said. “But didn’t Alia send you to abduct me?” she asked. A slight raising of his black eyebrows was the only mark of surprise. The many-faceted Tleilaxu eyes continued to stare at her with glittering intensity. “Those were her orders,” he said. Al-Fali’s knuckles went white on his crysknife, but he did not draw. “I’ve spent much of this night reviewing the mistakes I made with my daughter,” she said. “There were many,” Idaho agreed, “and I shared in most of them.” She saw now that his jaw muscles were trembling. “It was easy to listen to the arguments which led us astray,” Jessica said. “I wanted to leave this place . . . You . . . you wanted a girl you saw as a younger version of me.” He accepted this silently. “Where are my grandchildren?” she demanded, voice going harsh. He blinked. Then: “Stilgar believes they have gone into the desert — hiding. Perhaps they saw this crisis coming.” Jessica glanced at al-Fali, who nodded his recognition that she had anticipated this. “What is Alia doing?” Jessica asked. “She risks civil war,” he said. “Do you believe it’ll come to that?” Idaho shrugged. “Probably not. These are softer times. There are more people willing to listen to pleasant arguments.” “I agree,” she said. “Well and good, what of my grandchildren?” “Stilgar will find them — if . . .” “Yes, I see.” It was really up to Gurney Halleck then. She turned to look at the rock wall on her left. “Alia grasps the power firmly now.” She looked back at Idaho. “You understand? One uses power by grasping it lightly. To grasp too strongly is to be taken over by power, and thus to become its victim.” “As my Duke always told me,” Idaho said. Somehow Jessica knew he meant the older Leto, not Paul. She asked: “Where am I to be taken in this . . . abduction?” Idaho peered down at her as though trying to see into the shadows created by the hood. Al-Fali stepped forward: “My Lady, you are not seriously thinking . . .” “Is it not my right to decide my own fate?” Jessica asked. “But this . . .” Al-Fali’s head nodded toward Idaho. “This was my loyal guardian before Alia was born,” Jessica said. “Before he died saving my son’s life and mine. We Atreides always honor certain obligations.” “Then you will go with me?” Idaho asked. “Where would you take her?” al-Fali asked. “Best that you don’t know,” Jessica said. Al-Fali scowled but remained silent. His face betrayed indecision, an understanding of the wisdom in her words but an unresolved doubt of Idaho’s trustworthiness. “What of the Fedaykin who helped me?” Jessica asked. “They have Stilgar’s countenance if they can get to Tabr,” Idaho said. Jessica faced al-Fali: “I command you to go there, my friend. Stilgar can use Fedaykin in the search for my grandchildren.” The old Naib lowered his gaze. “As Muad’Dib’s mother commands.” He’s still obeying Paul, she thought. “We should be out of here quickly,” Idaho said. “The search is certain to include this place, and that early.” Jessica rocked forward and arose with that fluid grace which never quite left the Bene Gesserit, even when they felt the pangs of age. And she felt old now after her night of flight. Even as she moved, her mind remained on that peculiar interview with her grandson. What was he really doing? She shook her head, covered the motion by adjusting her hood. It was too easy to fall into the trap of underestimating Leto. Life with ordinary children conditioned one to a false view of the inheritance which the twins enjoyed. Her attention was caught by Idaho’s pose. He stood in the relaxed preparedness for violence, one foot ahead of the other, a stance which she herself had taught him. She shot a quick look at the two young Fremen, at al-Fali. Doubts still assailed the old Fremen Naib and the two young men felt this. “I trust this man with my life,” she said, addressing herself to al-Fali. “And it is not the first time.” “My Lady,” al-Fali protested. “It’s just . . .” He glared at Idaho. “He’s the husband of the Coan-Teen!” “And he was trained by my Duke and by me,” she said. “But he’s a ghola!” The words were torn from al-Fali. “My son’s ghola,” she reminded him. It was too much for a former Fedaykin who’d once pledged himself to support Muad’Dib to the death. He sighed, stepped aside, and motioned the two young men to open the curtains. Jessica stepped through, Idaho behind her. She turned, spoke to al-Fali in the doorway. “You are to go to Stilgar. He’s to be trusted.” “Yes . . .” But she still heard doubts in the old man’s voice. Idaho touched her arm. “We should go at once. Is there anything you wish to take?” “Only my common sense,” she said. “Why? Do you fear you’re making a mistake?” She glanced up at him. “You were always the best ‘thopter pilot in our service, Duncan.” This did not amuse him. He stepped ahead of her, moving swiftly, retracing the way he’d come. Al-Fali fell into step beside Jessica. “How did you know he came by ‘thopter?” “He wears no stillsuit,” Jessica said. Al-Fali appeared abashed by this obvious perception. He would not be silenced, though. “Our messenger brought him here directly from Stilgar’s. They could’ve been seen.” “Were you seen, Duncan?” Jessica asked Idaho’s back. “You know better than that,” he said. “We flew lower than the dune tops.” They turned into a side passage which led downward in spiral steps, debouching finally into an open chamber well-lighted by glowglobes high in the brown rock. A single ornithopter sat facing the far wall, crouched there like an insect waiting to spring. The wall would be false rock, then — a door opening onto the desert. As poor as this sietch was, it still maintained the instruments of secrecy and mobility. Idaho opened the ornithopter’s door for her, helped her into the right-hand seat. As she moved past him, she saw perspiration on his forehead where a lock of the black goat-hair lay tumbled. Unbidden, Jessica found herself recalling that head spouting blood in a noisy cavern. The steely marbles of the Tleilaxu eyes brought her out of that recollection. Nothing was as it seemed anymore. She busied herself fastening her seatbelt. “It’s been along time since you’ve flown me, Duncan,” she said. “Long and far time,” he said. He was already checking the controls. Al-Fali and the two younger Fremen waited beside the controls to the false rock, prepared to open it. “Do you think I harbor doubts about you?” Jessica asked, speaking softly to Idaho. Idaho kept his attention on an engine instrument, ignited the impellers and watched a needle move. A smile touched his mouth, a quick and harsh gesture in his sharp features, gone as quickly as it had come. “I am still Atreides,” Jessica said. “Alia is not.” “Have no fear,” he grated. “I still serve the Atreides.” “Alia is no longer Atreides,” Jessica repeated. “You needn’t remind me!” he snarled. “Now shut up and let me fly this thing.” The desperation in his voice was quite unexpected, out of keeping with the Idaho she’d known. Putting down a renewed sense of fear, Jessica asked: “Where are we going, Duncan? You can tell me now.” But he nodded to al-Fali and the false rock opened outward into bright silvery sunlight. The ornithopter leaped outward and up, its wings throbbing with the effort, the jets roaring, and they mounted into an empty sky. Idaho set a southwesterly course toward Sahaya Ridge which could be seen as a dark line upon the sand. Presently he said: “Do not think harshly of me, My Lady.” “I haven’t thought harshly of you since that night you came into our Arrakeen great hall roaring drunk on spice-beer,” she said. But his words renewed her doubts, and she fell into the relaxed preparedness of complete prana-bindu defense. “I remember that night well,” he said. “I was very young . . . inexperienced.” “But the best swordmaster in my Duke’s retinue.” “Not quite, My Lady. Gurney could best me six times out of ten.” He glanced at her. “Where is Gurney?” “Doing my bidding.” He shook his head. “Do you know where we’re going?” she asked. “Yes, My Lady.” “Then tell me.” “Very well. I promised that I would create a believable plot against House Atreides. Only one way, really, to do that.” He pressed a button on the control wheel and cocoon restraints whipped from Jessica’s seat, enfolded her in unbreakable softness, leaving only her head exposed. “I’m taking you to Salusa Secundus,” he said. “To Farad’n.” In a rare, uncontrolled spasm, Jessica surged against the restraints, felt them tighten, easing only when she relaxed, but not before she felt the deadly shigawire concealed in the protective sheathing. “The shigawire release has been disconnected,” he said, not looking at her. “Oh yes, and don’t try Voice on me. I’ve come a long way since the days when you could move me that way.” He looked at her. “The Tleilaxu armored me against such wiles.” “You’re obeying Alia,” Jessica said, “and she –” “Not Alia,” he said. “We do The Preacher’s bidding. He wants you to teach Farad’n as once you taught . . . Paul.” Jessica remained in frozen silence, remembering Leto’s words, that she would find an interesting student. Presently she said: “This Preacher — is he my son?” Idaho’s voice seemed to come from a great distance: “I wish I knew.”

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