Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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If you believe certain words, you believe their hidden arguments. When you believe something is right or wrong, true or false, you believe the assumptions in the words which express the arguments. Such assumptions are often full of holes, but remain most precious to the convinced. -The Open-Ended Proof from, The Panoplia Prophetica

Leto’s mind floated in a stew of fierce odors. He recognized the heavy cinnamon of melange, the confined sweat of working bodies, the acridity of an uncapped deathstill, dust of many sorts with flint dominant. The odors formed a trail through dreamsand, created shapes of fog in a dead land. He knew these odors should tell him something, but part of him could not yet listen. Thoughts like wraiths floated through his mind: In this time I have no finished features; I am all of my ancestors. The sun setting into the sand is the sun setting into my soul. Once this multitude within me was great, but that’s ended. I’m Fremen and I’ll have a Fremen ending. The Golden Path is ended before it began. It’s nothing but a windblown trail. We Fremen knew all the tricks to conceal ourselves: we left no feces, no water, no tracks . . . Now, look at my trail vanish. A masculine voice spoke close to his ear: “I could kill you, Atreides. I could kill you, Atreides.” It was repeated over and over until it lost meaning, became a wordless thing carried within Leto’s dreaming, a litany of sorts: “I could kill you, Atreides.” Leto cleared his throat and felt the reality of this simple act shake his senses. His dry throat managed: “Who . . .” The voice beside him said: “I’m an educated Fremen and I’ve killed my man. You took away our gods, Atreides. What do we care about your stinking Muad’Dib? Your god’s dead!” Was that a real Ouraba voice or another part of his dream? Leto opened his eyes, found himself unfettered on a hard couch. He looked upward at rock, dim glowglobes, an unmasked face staring down at him so close he could smell the breath with its familiar odors of a sietch diet. The face was Fremen; no mistaking the dark skin, those sharp features and water-wasted flesh. This was no fat city dweller. Here was a desert Fremen. “I am Namri, father of Javid,” the Fremen said. “Do you know me now, Atreides?” “I know Javid,” Leto husked. “Yes, your family knows my son well. I am proud of him. You Atreides may know him even better soon.” “What . . .” “I am one of your schoolmasters, Atreides. I have only one function: I am the one who could kill you. I’d do it gladly. In this school, to graduate is to live; to fail is to be given into my hands.” Leto heard implacable sincerity in that voice. It chilled him. This was a human gom jabbar, a high-handed enemy to test his right of entrance into the human concourse. Leto sensed his grandmother’s hand in this and, behind her, the faceless masses of the Bene Gesserit. He writhed at this thought. “Your education begins with me,” Namri said. “That is just. It is fitting. Because it could end with me. Listen to me carefully now. My every word carries your life in it. Everything about me holds your death within it.” Leto shot his glance around the room: rock walls, barren — only this couch, the dim glowglobes, and a dark passage behind Namri. “You will not get past me,” Namri said. And Leto believed him. “Why’re you doing this?” Leto asked. “That’s already been explained. Think what plans are in your head! You are here and you cannot put a future into your present condition. The two don’t go together: now and future. But if you really know your past, if you look backward and see where you’ve been, perhaps there’ll be reason once more. If not, there will be your death.” Leto noted that Namri’s tone was not unkind, but it was firm and no denying the death in it. Namri rocked back on his heels, stared at the rock ceiling. “In olden times Fremen faced east at dawn. Eos, you know? That’s dawn in one of the old tongues.” Bitter pride in his voice, Leto said: “I speak that tongue.” “You have not listened to me, then,” Namri said, and there was a knife edge in his voice. “Night was the time of chaos. Day was the time of order. That’s how it was in the time of that tongue you say you speak: darkness-disorder, light-order. We Fremen changed that. Eos was the light we distrusted. We preferred the light of a moon, or the stars. Light was too much order and that can be fatal. You see what you Eos-Atreides have done? Man is a creature of only that light which protects him. The sun was our enemy on Dune.” Namri brought his gaze down to Leto’s level. “What light do you prefer, Atreides?” By Namri’s poised attitude, Leto sensed that this question carried deep weight. Would the man kill him if he failed to answer correctly? He might. Leto saw Namri’s hand resting quietly next to the polished hilt of a crysknife. A ring in the form of a magic tortoise glittered on the Fremen’s knife hand. Leto eased himself up onto his elbows, sent his mind questing into Fremen beliefs. They trusted the Law and loved to hear its lessons expounded in analogy, these old Fremen. The light of the moon? “I prefer . . . the light of Lisanu L’haqq,” Leto said, watching Namri for subtle revelations. The man seemed disappointed, but his hand moved away from his knife. “It is the light of truth, the light of the perfect man in which the influence of al-Mutakallim can clearly be seen,” Leto continued. “What other light would a human prefer?” “You speak as one who recites, not one who believes,” Namri said. And Leto thought: I did recite. But he began to sense the drift of Namri’s thoughts, how his words were filtered through early training in the ancient riddle game. Thousands of these riddles went into Fremen training, and Leto had but to bend his attention upon this custom to find examples flooding his mind. “Challenge: Silence? Answer: The friend of the hunted. ” Namri nodded to himself as though he shared this thought, said: “There is a cave which is the cave of life for Fremen. It is an actual cave which the desert has hidden. Shai-Hulud, the great-grandfather of all Fremen, sealed up that cave. My Uncle Ziamad told me about it and he never lied to me. There is such a cave.” Leto heard the challenging silence when Namri finished speaking. Cave of life? “My Uncle Stilgar also told me of that cave,” Leto said. “It was sealed to keep cowards from hiding there.” The reflection of a glowglobe glittered in Namri’s shadowed eyes. He asked: “Would you Atreides open that cave? You seek to control life through a ministry: your Central Ministry for Information, Auqaf and Hajj. The Maulana in charge is called Kausar. He has come a long way from his family’s beginnings at the salt mines of Niazi. Tell me, Atreides, what is wrong with your ministry?” Leto sat up, aware now that he was fully into the riddle game with Namri and that the forfeit was death. The man gave every indication that he’d use that crysknife at the first wrong answer. Namri, recognizing this awareness in Leto, said: “Believe me, Atreides. I am the clod-crusher. I am the Iron Hammer.” Now Leto understood. Namri saw himself as Mirzabah, the Iron Hammer with which the dead are beaten who cannot reply satisfactorily to the questions they must answer before entry into paradise. What was wrong with the central ministry which Alia and her priests had created? Leto thought of why he’d come into the desert, and a small hope returned to him that the Golden Path might yet appear in his universe. What this Namri implied by his question was no more than the motive which had driven Muad’Dib’s own son into the desert. “God’s it is to show the way,” Leto said. Namri’s chin jerked down and he stared sharply at Leto. “Can it be true that you believe this?” he demanded. “It’s why I am here,” Leto said. “To find the way?” “To find it for myself.” Leto put his feet over the edge of the cot. The rock floor was uncarpeted, cold. “The Priests created their ministry to hide the way.” “You speak like a true rebel,” Namri said, and he rubbed the tortoise ring on his finger. “We shall see. Listen carefully once more. You know the high Shield Wall at Jalalud-Din? That Wall bears my family’s marks carved there in the first days. Javid, my son, has seen those marks. Abedi Jalal, my nephew, has seen them. Mujahid Shafqat of the Other Ones, he too has seen our marks. In the season of the storms near Sukkar, I came down with my friend Yakup Abad near that place. The winds were blistering hot like the whirlwinds from which we learned our dances. We did not take time to see the marks because a storm blocked the way. But when the storm passed we saw the vision of Thatta upon the blown sand. The face of Shakir Ali was there for a moment, looking down upon his city of tombs. The vision was gone in the instant, but we all saw it. Tell me, Atreides, where can I find that city of tombs?” The whirlwinds from which we learned our dances, Leto thought. The vision of Thatta and Shakir Ali. These were the words of a Zensunni Wanderer, those who considered themselves to be the only true men of the desert. And Fremen were forbidden to have tombs. “The city of tombs is at the end of the path which all men follow,” Leto said. And he dredged up the Zensunni beatifies. “It is in a garden one thousand paces square. There is a fine entry corridor two hundred and thirty-three paces long and one hundred paces wide all paved with marble from ancient Jaipur. Therein dwells ar-Razzaq, he who provides food for all who ask. And on the Day of Reckoning, all who stand up and seek the city of tombs shall not find it. For it is written: That which you know in one world, you shall not find in another.” “Again you recite without belief,” Namri sneered. “But I’ll accept it for now because I think you know why you’re here.” A cold smile touched his lips. “I give you a provisional future, Atreides.” Leto studied the man warily. Was this another question in disguise? “Good!” Namri said. “Your awareness has been prepared. I’ve sunk home the barbs. One more thing, then. Have you heard that they use imitation stillsuits in the cities of far Kadrish?” As Namri waited, Leto quested in his mind for a hidden meaning. Imitation stillsuits? They were worn on many planets. He said: “The foppish habits of Kadrish are an old story often repeated. The wise animal blends into its surroundings.” Namri nodded slowly. Then: “The one who trapped you and brought you here will see you presently. Do not try to leave this place. It would be your death.” Arising as he spoke, Namri went out into the dark passage. For a long time after he had gone, Leto stared into the passage. He could hear sounds out there, the quiet voices of men on guard duty. Namri’s story of the mirage-vision stayed with Leto. It brought up the long desert crossing to this place. It no longer mattered whether this were Jacurutu/Fondak. Namri was not a smuggler. He was something much more potent. And the game Namri played smelled of the Lady Jessica; it stank of the Bene Gesserit. Leto sensed an enclosing peril in this realization. But that dark passage where Namri had gone was the only exit from this room. And outside lay a strange sietch — beyond that, the desert. The harsh severity of that desert, its ordered chaos with mirages and endless dunes, came over Leto as part of the trap in which he was caught. He could recross that sand, but where would flight take him? The thought was like stagnant water. It would not quench his thirst.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank