Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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In all major socializing forces you will find an underlying movement to gain and maintain power through the use of words. From witch doctor to priest to bureaucrat it is all the same. A governed populace must be conditioned to accept power-words as actual things, to confuse the symbolized system with the tangible universe. In the maintenance of such a power structure, certain symbols are kept out of the reach of common understanding — symbols such as those dealing with economic manipulation or those which define the local interpretation of sanity. Symbol-secrecy of this form leads to the development of fragmented sub-languages, each being a signal that its users are accumulating some form of power. With this insight into a power process, our Imperial Security Force must be ever alert to the formation of sub-languages. -Lecture to the Arrakeen War College by, The Princess Irulan

“It is perhaps unnecessary to tell you,” Farad’n said, “but to avoid any errors I’ll announce that a mute has been stationed with orders to kill you both should I show signs of succumbing to witchery.” He did not expect to see any effect from these words. Both the Lady Jessica and Idaho gratified his expectations. Farad’n had chosen with care the setting for this first examination of the pair, Shaddam’s old State Audience Chamber. What it lacked in grandeur it made up for with exotic appointments. Outside it was a winter afternoon, but the windowless chamber’s lighting simulated a timeless summer day bathed in golden light from artfully scattered glowglobes of the purest Ixian crystal. The news from Arrakis filled Farad’n with quiet elation. Leto, the male twin, was dead, killed by an assassin-tiger. Ghanima, the surviving sister, was in the custody of her aunt and reputedly was a hostage. The full report did much to explain the presence of Idaho and the Lady Jessica. Sanctuary was what they wanted. Corrino spies reported an uneasy truce on Arrakis. Alia had agreed to submit herself to a test called “the Trial of Possession,” the purpose of which had not been fully explained. However, no date had been set for this trial and two Corrino spies believed it might never take place. This much was certain, though: there had been fighting between desert Fremen and the Imperial Military Fremen, an abortive civil war which had brought government to a temporary standstill. Stilgar’s holdings were now neutral ground, designated after an exchange of hostages. Ghanima evidently had been considered one of these hostages, although the working of this remained unclear. Jessica and Idaho had been brought to the audience securely bound in suspensor chairs. Both were held down by deadly thin strands of shigawire which would cut flesh at the slightest struggle. Two Sardaukar troopers had brought them, checked the bindings, and had gone away silently. The warning had, indeed, been unnecessary. Jessica had seen the armed mute standing against a wall at her right, an old but efficient projectile weapon in his hand. She allowed her gaze to roam over the room’s exotic inlays. The broad leaves of the rare iron bush had been set with eye pearls and interlaced to form the center crescent of the domed ceiling. The floor beneath her was alternate blocks of diamond wood and kabuzu shell arranged within rectangular borders of passaquet bones. These had been set on end, laser-cut and polished. Selected hard materials decorated the walls in stress-woven patterns which outlined the four positions of the Lion symbol claimed by descendants of the late Shaddam IV. The lions were executed in wild gold. Farad’n had chosen to receive the captives while standing. He wore uniform shorts and a light golden jacket of elf-silk open at the throat. His only decoration was the princely starburst of his royal family worn at the left breast. He was attended by the Bashar Tyekanik wearing Sardaukar dress tans and heavy boots, an ornate lasegun carried in a front holster at the belt buckle. Tyekanik, whose heavy visage was known to Jessica from Bene Gesserit reports, stood three paces to the left and slightly behind Farad’n. A single throne of dark wood sat on the floor near the wall directly behind the two. “Now,” Farad’n said, addressing Jessica, “do you have anything to say?” “I would inquire why we are bound thus?” Jessica said, indicating the shigawire. “We have only just now received reports from Arrakis to explain your presence here,” Farad’n said. “Perhaps I’ll have you released presently.” He smiled. “If you –” He broke off as his mother entered by the State doors behind the captives. Wensicia hurried past Jessica and Idaho without a glance, presented a small message cube to Farad’n, actuated it. He studied the glowing face, glancing occasionally at Jessica, back to the cube. The glowing face went dark and he returned the cube to his mother, indicated that she should show it to Tyekanik. While she was doing this, he scowled at Jessica. Presently Wensicia stationed herself at Farad’n’s right hand, the darkened cube in her hand, partly concealed in a fold of her white gown. Jessica glanced to her right at Idaho, but he refused to meet her gaze. “The Bene Gesserit are displeased with me,” Farad’n said. “They believe I was responsible for the death of your grandson.” Jessica held her face emotionless, thinking: So Ghanima’s story is to be trusted, unless . . . She didn’t like the suspected unknowns. Idaho closed his eyes, opened them to glance at Jessica, She continued to stare at Farad’n. Idaho had told her about this Rhajia vision, but she’d seemed unworried. He didn’t know how to catalogue her lack of emotion. She obviously knew something, though, that she wasn’t revealing. “This is the situation,” Farad’n said, and he proceeded to explain everything he’d learned about events on Arrakis, leaving out nothing. He concluded: “Your granddaughter survives, but she’s reportedly in the custody of the Lady Alia. This should gratify you.” “Did you kill my grandson?” Jessica asked. Farad’n answered truthfully: “I did not. I recently learned of a plot, but it was not of my making.” Jessica looked at Wensicia, saw the gloating expression on that heart-shaped face, thought: Her doing! The lioness schemes for her cub. This was a game the lioness might live to regret. Returning her attention to Farad’n, Jessica said: “But the Sisterhood believes you killed him.” Farad’n turned to his mother. “Show her the message.” As Wensicia hesitated, he spoke with an edge of anger which Jessica noted for future use. “I said show it to her!” Face pale, Wensicia presented the message face of the cube to Jessica, activated it. Words flowed across the face, responding to Jessica’s eve movements: “Bene Gesserit Council on Wallach IX files formal protest against House Corrino in assassination of Leto Atreides II. Arguments and showing of evidence are assigned to Landsraad Internal Security Commission. Neutral ground will be chosen and names of judges will be submitted for approval by all parties. Your immediate response required. Sabit Rekush for the Landsraad.” Wensicia returned to her son’s side. “How do you intend to respond?” Jessica asked. Wensicia said: “Since my son has not yet been formally invested as head of House Corrino, I will — Where are you going?” This last was addressed to Farad’n who, as she spoke, turned and headed for a side door near the watchful mute. Farad’n paused, half turned. “I’m going back to my books and the other pursuits which hold much more interest for me.” “How dare you?” Wensicia demanded. A dark flush spread from her neck up across her cheeks. “I’ll dare quite a few things in my own name,” Farad’n said. “You have made decisions in my name, decisions which I find extremely distasteful. Either I will make the decisions in my own name from this point on or you can find yourself another heir for House Corrino!” Jessica passed her gaze swiftly across the participants in this confrontation, seeing the real anger in Farad’n. The Bashar Aide stood stiffly at attention, trying to make it appear that he had heard nothing. Wensicia hesitated on the brink of screaming rage. Farad’n appeared perfectly willing to accept any outcome from his throw of the dice. Jessica rather admired his poise, seeing many things in this confrontation which could be of value to her. It seemed that the decision to send assassin tigers against her grandchildren had been made without Farad’n’s knowledge. There could be little doubt of his truthfulness in saying he’d learned of the plot after its inception. There was no mistaking the real anger in his eyes as he stood there, ready to accept any decision. Wensicia took a deep, trembling breath. Then: “Very well. The formal investiture will take place tomorrow. You may act in advance of it now.” She looked at Tyekanik, who refused to meet her gaze. There’ll be a screaming fight once mother and son get out of here, Jessica thought. But I do believe he has won. She allowed her thoughts to return then to the message from the Landsraad. The Sisterhood had judged their messengers with a finesse which did credit to Bene Gesserit planning. Hidden in the formal notice of protest was a message for Jessica’s eyes. The fact of the message said the Sisterhood’s spies knew Jessica’s situation and they’d gauged Farad’n with a superb nicety to guess he’d show it to his captive. “I’d like an answer to my question,” Jessica said, addressing herself to Farad’n as he returned to face her. “I shall tell the Landsraad that I had nothing to do with this assassination,” Farad’n said. “I will add that I share the Sisterhood’s distaste for the manner of it, although I cannot be completely displeased at the outcome. My apologies for any grief this may have caused you. Fortune passes everywhere.” Fortune passes everywhere! Jessica thought. That’d been a favorite saying of her Duke, and there’d been something in Farad’n’s manner which said he knew this. She forced herself to ignore the possibility that they’d really killed Leto. She had to assume that Ghanima’s fears for Leto had motivated a complete revelation of the twins’ plan. The smugglers would put Gurney in position to meet Leto then and the Sisterhood’s devices would be carried out. Leto had to be tested. He had to be. Without the testing he was doomed as Alia was doomed. And Ghanima . . . Well, that could be faced later. There was no way to send the pre-born before a Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. Jessica allowed herself a deep sigh. “Sooner or later,” she said, “it’ll occur to someone that you and my granddaughter could unite our two Houses and heal old wounds.” “This has already been mentioned to me as a possibility,” Farad’n said, glancing briefly as his mother. “My response was that I’d prefer to await the outcome of recent events on Arrakis. There’s no need for a hasty decision.” “There’s always the possibility that you’ve already played into my daughter’s hands,” Jessica said. Farad’n stiffened. “Explain!” “Matters on Arrakis are not as they may seem to you,” Jessica said. “Alia plays her own game. Abomination’s game. My granddaughter is in danger unless Alia can contrive a way to use her.” “You expect me to believe that you and your daughter oppose each other, that Atreides fights Atreides?” Jessica looked at Wensicia, back to Farad’n. “Corrino fights Corrino.” A wry smile moved Farad’n’s lips. “Well taken. How would I have played into your daughter’s hands?” “By becoming implicated in my grandson’s death, by abducting me.” “Abduct . . .” “Don’t trust this witch,” Wensicia cautioned. “I’ll choose whom to trust, mother,” Farad’n said. “Forgive me, Lady Jessica, but I don’t understand this matter of abduction. I’d understood that you and your faithful retainer –” “Who is Alia’s husband,” Jessica said. Farad’n turned a measuring stare on Idaho, looked to the Bashar. “What think you, Tyek?” The Bashar apparently was having thoughts similar to those Jessica professed. He said: “I like her reasoning. Caution!” “He’s a ghola-mentat,” Farad’n said. “We could test him to the death and not find a certain answer.” “But it’s a safe working assumption that we may’ve been tricked,” Tyekanik said. Jessica knew the moment had come to make her move. Now if Idaho’s grief only kept him locked in the part he’d chosen. She disliked using him this way, but there were larger considerations. “To begin with,” Jessica said, “I might announce publicly that I came here of my own free choice.” “Interesting,” Farad’n said. “You’d have to trust me and grant me the complete freedom of Salusa Secundus,” Jessica said. “There could be no appearance that I spoke out of compulsion.” “No!” Wensicia protested. Farad’n ignored her. “What reason would you give?” “That I’m the Sisterhood’s plenipotentiary sent here to take over your education.” “But the Sisterhood accuses –” “That’d require a decisive action from you,” Jessica said. “Don’t trust her!” Wensicia said. With extreme politeness, Farad’n glanced at her, said: “If you interrupt me once more, I’ll have Tyek remove you. He heard you consent to the formal investiture. That binds him to me now.” “She’s a witch, I tell you!” Wensicia looked to the mute against the side wall. Farad’n hesitated. Then: “Tyek, what think you? Have I been witched?” “Not in my judgment. She –” “You’ve both been witched!” “Mother.” His tone was flat and final. Wensicia clenched her fists, tried to speak, whirled, and fled the room. Addressing himself once more to Jessica, Farad’n asked: “Would the Bene Gesserit consent to this?” “They would.” Farad’n absorbed the implications of this, smiled tightly. “What does the Sisterhood want in all of this?” “Your marriage to my granddaughter.” Idaho shot a questioning look at Jessica, made as though to speak, but remained silent. Jessica said: “You were going to say something, Duncan?” “I was going to say that the Bene Gesserit want what they’ve always wanted: a universe which won’t interfere with them.” “An obvious assumption,” Farad’n said, “but I hardly see why you intrude with it.” Idaho’s eyebrows managed the shrug which the shigawire would not permit his body. Disconcertingly, he smiled. Farad’n saw the smile, whirled to confront Idaho. “I amuse you?” “This whole situation amuses me. Someone in your family has compromised the Spacing Guild by using them to carry instruments of assassination to Arrakis, instruments whose intent could not be concealed. You’ve offended the Bene Gesserit by killing a male they wanted for their breeding pro –” “You call me a liar, ghola?” “No. I believe you didn’t know about the plot. But I thought the situation needed bringing into focus.” “Don’t forget that he’s a mentat,” Jessica cautioned. “My very thought,” Farad’n said. Once more he faced Jessica. “Let us say that I free you and you make your announcement. That still leaves the matter of your grandson’s death. The mentat is correct.” “Was it your mother?” Jessica asked. “My Lord!” Tyekanik warned. “It’s all right, Tyek.” Farad’n waved a hand easily. “And if I say it was my mother?” Risking everything in the test of this internal break among the Corrino, Jessica said: “You must denounce her and banish her.” “My Lord,” Tyekanik said, “there could be trickery within trickery here.” Idaho said: “And the Lady Jessica and I are the ones who’ve been tricked.” Farad’n’s jaw hardened. And Jessica thought: Don’t interfere, Duncan! Not now! But Idaho’s words had sent her own Bene Gesserit abilities at logic into motion. He shocked her. She began to wonder if there were the possibility that she was being used in ways she didn’t understand. Ghanima and Leto . . . The pre-born could draw upon countless inner experiences, a storehouse of advice far more extensive than the living Bene Gesserit depended upon. And there was that other question: Had her own Sisterhood been completely candid with her? They still might not trust her. After all, she’d betrayed them once . . . to her Duke. Farad’n looked at Idaho with a puzzled frown. “Mentat, I need to know what this Preacher is to you.” “He arranged the passage here. I . . . We did not exchange ten words. Others acted for him. He could be . . . He could be Paul Atreides, but I don’t have enough data for certainty. All I know for certain is that it was time for me to leave and he had the means.” “You speak of being tricked,” Farad’n reminded him. “Alia expects you to kill us quietly and conceal the evidence of it,” Idaho said. “Having rid her of the Lady Jessica, I’m no longer useful. And the Lady Jessica, having served her Sisterhood’s purposes, is no longer useful to them. Alia will be calling the Bene Gesserit to account, but they will win.” Jessica closed her eyes in concentration. He was right! She could hear the mentat firmness in his voice, that deep sincerity of pronouncement. The pattern fell into place without a chink. She took two deep breaths and triggered the mnemonic trance, rolled the data through her mind, came out of the trance and opened her eyes. It was done while Farad’n moved from in front of her to a position within half a step of Idaho — a space of no more than three steps. “Say no more, Duncan,” Jessica said, and she thought mournfully of how Leto had warned her against Bene Gesserit conditioning. Idaho, about to speak, closed his mouth. “I command here,” Farad’n said. “Continue, mentat.” Idaho remained silent. Farad’n half turned to study Jessica. She stared at a point on the far wall, reviewing what Idaho and the trance had built. The Bene Gesserit hadn’t abandoned the Atreides line, of course. But they wanted control of a Kwisatz Haderach and they’d invested too much in the long breeding program. They wanted the open clash between Atreides and Corrino, a situation where they could step in as arbiters. And Duncan was right. They’d emerge with control of both Ghanima and Farad’n. It was the only compromise possible. The wonder was that Alia hadn’t seen it. Jessica swallowed past a tightness in her throat. Alia . . . Abomination! Ghanima was right to pity her. But who was left to pity Ghanima? “The Sisterhood has promised to put you on the throne with Ghanima as your mate,” Jessica said. Farad’n took a backward step. Did the witch read minds? “They worked secretly and not through your mother,” Jessica said. “They told you I was not privy to their plan.” Jessica read revelation in Farad’n’s face. How open he was. But it was true, the whole structure. Idaho had demonstrated masterful abilities as a mentat in seeing through to the fabric on the limited data available to him. “So they played a double game and told you,” Farad’n said. “They told me nothing of this,” Jessica said. “Duncan was correct: they tricked me.” She nodded to herself. It had been a classic delaying action in the Sisterhood’s traditional pattern — a reasonable story, easily accepted because it squared with what one might believe of their motives. But they wanted Jessica out of the way — a flawed sister who’d failed them once. Tyekanik moved to Farad’n’s side. “My Lord, these two are too dangerous to –” “Wait a bit, Tyek,” Farad’n said. “There are wheels within wheels here.” He faced Jessica. “We’ve had reasons to believe that Alia might offer herself as my bride.” Idaho gave an involuntary start, controlled himself. Blood began dripping from his left wrist where the shigawire had cut. Jessica allowed herself a small, eye-widening response. She who’d known the original Leto as lover, father of her children, confidant and friend, saw his trait of cold reasoning filtered now through the twistings of an Abomination. “Will you accept?” Idaho asked. “It is being considered.” “Duncan, I told you to be silent,” Jessica said. She addressed Farad’n. “Her price was two inconsequential deaths — the two of us.” “We suspected treachery,” Farad’n said. “Wasn’t it your son who said ‘treachery breeds treachery?’ ” “The Sisterhood is out to control both Atreides and Corrino,” Jessica said. “Isn’t that obvious?” “We’re toying now with the idea of accepting your offer, Lady Jessica, but Duncan Idaho should be sent back to his loving wife.” Pain is a function of nerves, Idaho reminded himself. Pain comes as light comes to the eyes. Effort comes from the muscles, not from nerves. It was an old mentat drill and he completed it in the space of one breath, flexed his right wrist and severed an artery against the shigawire. Tyekanik leaped to the chair, hit its trip lock to release the bindings, shouted for medical aid. It was revealing that assistants came swarming at once through doors hidden in wall panels. There was always a bit of foolishness in Duncan, Jessica thought. Farad’n studied Jessica a moment while the medics ministered to Idaho. “I didn’t say I was going to accept his Alia.” “That’s not why he cut his wrist,” Jessica said. “Oh? I thought he was simply removing himself.” “You’re not that stupid,” Jessica said. “Stop pretending with me.” He smiled. “I’m well aware that Alia would destroy me. Not even the Bene Gesserit could expect me to accept her.” Jessica bent a weighted stare upon Farad’n. What was this young scion of House Corrino? He didn’t play the fool well. Again, she recalled Leto’s words that she’d encounter an interesting student. And The Preacher wanted this as well, Idaho said. She wished she’d met this Preacher. “Will you banish Wensicia?” Jessica asked. “It seems a reasonable bargain,” Farad’n said. Jessica glanced at Idaho. The medics had finished with him. Less dangerous restraints held him in the floater chair. “Mentats should beware of absolutes,” she said. “I’m tired,” Idaho said. “You’ve no idea how tired I am.” “When it’s overexploited, even loyalty wears out finally,” Farad’n said. Again Jessica shot that measuring stare at him. Farad’n, seeing this, thought: In time she’ll know me for certain and that could be valuable. A renegade Bene Gesserit of my own! It’s the one thing her son had that I don’t have. Let her get only a glimpse of me now. She can see the rest later. “A fair exchange,” Farad’n said. “I accept your offer on your terms.” He signaled the mute against the wall with a complex flickering of fingers. The mute nodded. Farad’n bent to the chair’s controls, released Jessica. Tyekanik asked: “My Lord, are you sure?” “Isn’t it what we discussed?” Farad’n asked. “Yes, but . . .” Farad’n chuckled, addressed Jessica. “Tyek suspects my sources. But one learns from books and reels only that certain things can be done. Actual learning requires that you do those things.” Jessica mused on this as she lifted herself from the chair. Her mind returned to Farad’n’s hand signals. He had an Atreides-style battle language! It spoke of careful analysis. Someone here was consciously copying the Atreides. “Of course,” Jessica said, “you’ll want me to teach you as the Bene Gesserit are taught.” Farad’n beamed at her. “The one offer I cannot resist,” he said.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank