Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Only in the realm of mathematics can you understand Muad’Dib’s precise view of the future. Thus: first, we postulate any number of point-dimensions in space. (This is the classic n-fold extended aggregate of n dimensions.) With this framework, Time as commonly understood becomes an aggregate of one-dimensional properties. Applying this to the Muad’Dib phenomenon, we find that we either are confronted by new properties of Time or (by reduction through the infinity calculus) we are dealing with separate systems which contain n body properties. For Muad’Dib, we assume the latter. As demonstrated by the reduction, the point dimensions of the n-fold can only have separate existence within different frameworks of Time. Separate dimensions of Time are thus demonstrated to coexist. This being the inescapable case, Muad’Dib’s predictions required that he perceive the n-fold not as extended aggregate but as an operation within a single framework. In effect, he froze his universe into that one framework which was his view of Time. -Palimbasha: Lectures at Sietch Tabr

Leto lay at the crest of a dune, peering across open sand at a sinuous rock outcropping. The rock lay like an immense worm atop the sand, flat and threatening in the morning sunlight. Nothing stirred there. No bird circled overhead; no animal scampered among the rocks. He would see the slots of a windtrap almost at the center of the “worm’s” back. There’d be water here. The rock-worm held the familiar appearance of a sietch shelter, except for the absence of living things. He lay quietly, blending with sand, watching. One of Gurney Halleck’s tunes kept flowing through his mind, monotonously persistent:

Beneath the hill where the fox runs lightly, A dappled sun shines brightly Where my one love’s still. Beneath the hill in the fennel brake I spy my love who cannot wake. He hides in a grave Beneath the hill.

Where was the entrance to that place? Leto wondered. He felt the certainty that this must be Jacurutu/Fondak, but there was something wrong here beyond the lack of animal movement. Something flickered at the edges of conscious perception, warning him. What hid beneath the hill? Lack of animals was bothersome. It aroused his Fremen sense of caution: The absence says more than the presence when it comes to desert survival. But there was a windtrap. There would be water and humans to use it. This was the tabu place which hid behind Fondak’s name, its other identity lost even to the memories of most Fremen. And no birds or animals could be seen there. No humans — yet here the Golden Path began. His father had once said: “There’s unknown all around at every moment. That’s where you seek knowledge.” Leto glanced out to his right along the dune crests. There’d been a mother storm recently. Lake Azrak, the gypsum plain, had been exposed from beneath its sandy cover. Fremen superstition said that whoever saw the Biyan, the White Lands, was granted a two-edged wish, a wish which might destroy you. Leto saw only a gypsum plain which told him that open water had existed once here on Arrakis. As it would exist once more. He peered upward, swinging his gaze all around in the search for movement. The sky was porous after the storm. Light passing through it generated a sensation of milky presence, of a silver sun lost somewhere above the dust veil which persisted in the high altitudes. Once more Leto brought his attention back to the sinuous rock. He slipped the binoculars from his Fremkit, focused their motile lenses and peered at the naked greyness, this out-cropping where once the men of Jacurutu had lived. Amplification revealed a thorn bush, the one called Queen of Night. The bush nestled in shadows at a cleft which might be an entrance into the old sietch. He scanned the length of the outcropping. The silver sun turned reds into grey, casting a diffuse flatness over the long expanse of rock. He rolled over, turning his back on Jacurutu, scanned the circle of his surroundings through the binoculars. Nothing in that wilderness preserved the marks of human passage. The wind already had obliterated his tracks, leaving only a vague roundness where he had dropped from his worm in the night. Again he looked at Jacurutu. Except for the windtrap, there was no sign that men had ever passed this way. And without that sinuous length of rock, there was nothing here to subtract from the bleached sand, a wilderness from horizon to horizon. Leto felt suddenly that he was in this place because he had refused to be confined in the system which his ancestors bequeathed him. He thought of how people looked at him, that universal mistake in every glance except Ghanima’s. Except for that ragged mob of other memories, this child was never a child. I must accept responsibility for the decision we made, he thought. Once more he scanned the length of rock. By all the descriptions this had to be Fondak, and no other place could be Jacurutu. He felt a strange resonant relationship with the tabu of this place. In the Bene Gesserit Way, he opened his mind to Jacurutu, seeking to know nothing about it. Knowing was a barrier which prevented learning. For a few moments he allowed himself merely to resonate, making no demands, asking no questions. The problem lay within the lack of animal life, but it was a particular thing which alerted him. He perceived it then: there were no scavenger birds — no eagles, no vultures, no hawks. Even when other life hid, these remained. Every watering place in this desert held its chain of life. At the end of the chain were the omnipresent scavengers. Nothing had come to investigate his presence. How well he knew the “watchdogs of the sietch,” that line of crouched birds on the cliff’s edge at Tabr, primitive undertakers waiting for flesh. As the Fremen said: “Our competitors.” But they said it with no sense of jealousy because questing birds often told when strangers approached. What if this Fondak has been abandoned even by the smugglers? Leto paused to drink from one of his catchtubes. What if there’s truly no water here? He reviewed his position. He’d run two worms into the sand getting here, riding them with his flail through the night, leaving them half-dead. This was the Inner Desert where the smugglers’ haven was to be found. If life existed here, if it could exist, it would have to be in the presence of water. What if there’s no water? What if this isn’t Fondak/Jacurutu? Once more he aimed his binoculars at the windtrap. Its outer edges were sand-etched, in need of maintenance, but enough of it remained. There should be water. But what if there isn’t? An abandoned sietch might lose its water to the air, to any number of catastrophes. Why were there no scavenger birds? Killed for their water? By whom? How could all of them be eliminated? Poison? Poisoned water. The legend of Jacurutu contained no story of the cistern poisoned, but it might have been. If the original flocks were slain, would they not have been renewed by this time? The Iduali were wiped out generations ago and the stories never mentioned poison. Again he examined the rock with his binoculars. How could an entire sietch have been wiped out? Certainly some must have escaped. All of the inhabitants of a sietch were seldom at home. Parties roamed the desert, trekked to the towns. With a sigh of resignation Leto put away his binoculars. He slipped down the hidden face of the dune, took extra care to dig in his stilltent and conceal all sign of his intrusion as he prepared to spend the hot hours. The sluggish currents of fatigue stole along his limbs as he sealed himself in the darkness. Within the tent’s sweaty, confines he spent much of the day drowsing, imagining mistakes he could have made. His dreams were defensive, but there could be no self-defense in this trial he and Ghanima had chosen. Failure would scald their souls. He ate spice-biscuits and slept, awakened to eat once more, to drink and return to sleep. It had been a long journey to this place, a severe test for the muscles of a child. Toward evening he awoke refreshed, listened for signs of life. He crept out of his sandy shroud. There was dust high up in the sky blowing one way, but he could feel sand stinging his cheek from another direction — sure sign there would be a weather change. He sensed a storm coming. Cautiously he crept to the crest of his dune, peered once more at those enigmatic rocks. The intervening air was yellow. The signs spoke of a Coriolis storm approaching, the wind that carried death in its belly. There’d be a great winding sheet of wind-driven sand that might stretch across four degrees of latitude. The desolate emptiness of the gypsum pan was a yellow surface now, reflecting the dust clouds. The false peace of evening enfolded him. Then the day collapsed and it was night, the quick night of the Inner Desert. The rocks were transformed into angular peaks frosted by the light of First Moon. He felt sandthorns stinging his skin. A peal of dry thunder sounded like an echo from distant drums and, in the space between moonlight and darkness he saw sudden movement: bats. He could hear the stirring of their wings, their tiny squeaks. Bats. By design or accident, this place conveyed a sense of abandoned desolation. It was where the half-legendary smuggler stronghold should be: Fondak. But what if it were not Fondak? What if the tabu still ruled and this were only the shell of ghostly Jacurutu? Leto crouched in the lee of his dune and waited for the night to settle into its own rhythms. Patience and caution — caution and patience. For a time he amused himself by reviewing Chaucer’s route from London to Canterbury, listing the places from Southwark: two miles to the watering-place of St. Thomas, five miles to Deptford, six miles to Greenwich, thirty miles to Rochester, forty miles to Sittingboume, fifty-five miles to Boughton under Blean, fifty-eight miles to Harbledown, and sixty miles to Canterbury. It gave him a sense of timeless buoyancy to know that few in his universe would recall Chaucer or know any London except the village on Gansireed. St. Thomas was preserved in the Orange Catholic Bible and the Azhar Book, but Canterbury was gone from the memories of men, as was the planet which had known it. There lay the burden of his memories, of all those lives which threatened to engulf him. He had made that trip to Canterbury once. His present trip was longer, though, and more dangerous. Presently he crept over the dune’s crest and made his way toward the moonlit rocks. He blended with shadows, slid across the crests, made no sounds that might signal his presence. The dust had gone as it often did just before a storm, and the night was brilliant. The day had revealed no movement, but he heard small creatures hustling in the darkness as he neared the rocks. In a valley between two dunes he came upon a family of jerboa which scampered away at his approach. He eased over the next crest, his emotions beset by salty anxieties. That cleft he had seen — did it lead up to an entrance? And there were other concerns: the old-time sietch had always been guarded by traps — poisoned barbs in pits, poisoned spines on plants. He felt himself caught up in the Fremen agrapha: The ear-minded night. And he listened for the slightest sound. The grey rocks lowered above him now, made giant by his nearness. As he listened, he heard birds invisible in that cliff, the soft calling of winged prey. They were the sounds of daybirds, but abroad by night. What had turned their world around? Human predation? Abruptly Leto froze against the sand. There was fire on the cliff, a ballet of glittering and mysterious gems against the night’s black gauze, the sort of signal a sietch might send to wanderers across the bled. Who were these occupants of this place? He crept forward into the deepest shadows at the cliff’s base, felt along the rock with a hand, sliding his body behind the hand as he sought the fissure he’d seen by daylight. He located it on his eighth step, slipped the sandsnorkel from his kit and probed the darkness. As he moved, something tight and binding dropped over his shoulders and arms, immobilizing him. Trapvine! He resisted the urge to struggle; that only made the vine pull tighter. He dropped the snorkel, flexed the fingers of his right hand, trying for the knife at his waist. He felt like a bare innocent for not throwing something into that fissure from a distance, testing the darkness for its dangers. His mind had been too occupied by the fire on the cliff. Each movement tightened the trapvine, but his fingers at last touched the knife hilt. Stealthily, he closed his hand around the hilt, began to slip it free. Flaring light enveloped him, arresting all movement. “Ahhh, a fine catch in our net.” It was a heavy masculine voice from behind Leto, something vaguely familiar in the tone. Leto tried to turn his head, aware of the vine’s dangerous propensity to crush a body which moved too freely. A hand took his knife, before he could see his captor. The hand moved expertly over his body, extracting the small devices he and Ghanima carried as a matter of survival. Nothing escaped the searcher, not even the shigawire garrote concealed in his hair. Leto still had not seen the man. Fingers did something with the trapvine and he found he could breathe easier, but the man said: “Do not struggle, Leto Atreides. I have your water in my cup.” By supreme effort Leto remained calm, said: “You know my name?” “Of course! When one baits a trap, it’s for a purpose. One aims for a specific quarry, not so?” Leto remained silent, but his thoughts whirled. “You feel betrayed!” the heavy voice said. Hands turned him around, gently but with an obvious show of strength. An adult male was telling the child what the odds were. Leto stared up into the glare from twin floater flares, saw the black outline of a stillsuit-masked face, the hood. As his eyes adjusted he made out a dark strip of skin, the utterly shadowed eyes of melange addiction. “You wonder why we went to all this trouble,” the man said. His voice issued from the shielded lower part of his face with a curious muffled quality, as though he tried to conceal an accent. “I long ago ceased to wonder at the numbers of people who want the Atreides twins dead,” Leto said. “Their reasons are obvious.” As he spoke, Leto’s mind flung itself against the unknown as against a cage, questing wildly for answers. A baited trap? But who had known except Ghanima? Impossible! Ghanima wouldn’t betray her own brother. Then did someone know him well enough to predict his actions? Who? His grandmother? How could she? “You could not be permitted to go on as you were,” the man said. “Very bad. Before ascending the throne, you need to be educated.” The whiteless eyes stared down at him. “You wonder how one could presume to educate such a person as yourself? You, with the knowledge of a multitude held there in your memories? That’s just it, you see! You think yourself educated, but all you are is a repository of dead lives. You don’t yet have a life of your own. You’re just a walking surfeit of others, all with one goal — to seek death. Not good in a ruler, being a death seeker. You’d strew your surroundings with corpses. Your father, for example, never understood the –” “You dare speak of him that way?” “Many’s the time I’ve dared it. He was only Paul Atreides, after all. Well, boy, welcome to your school.” The man brought a hand from beneath his robe, touched Leto’s cheek. Leto felt the jolt of a slapshot and found himself winding downward into a darkness where a green flag waved. It was the green banner of the Atreides with its day and night symbols, its Dune staff which concealed a water tube. He heard the water gurgling as unconsciousness enfolded him. Or was it someone chuckling?

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Categories: Herbert, Frank