Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Many forces sought control of the Atreides twins and, when the death of Leto was announced, this movement of plot and counterplot was amplified. Note the relative motivations: the Sisterhood feared Alia, an adult Abomination, but still wanted those genetic characteristics carried by the Atreides. The Church hierarchy of Auqaf and Hajj saw only the power implicit in control of Muad’Dib’s heir. CHOAM wanted a doorway to the wealth of Dune. Farad’n and his Sardaukar sought a return to glory for House Corrino. The Spacing Guild feared the equation Arrakis = melange; without the spice they could not navigate. Jessica wished to repair what her disobedience to the Bene Gesserit had created. Few thought to ask the twins what their plans might be, until it was too late. -The Book of Kreos

Shortly after the evening meal, Leto saw a man walking past the arched doorway to his chamber, and his mind went with the man. The passage had been left open and Leto had seen some activity out there — spice hampers being wheeled past, three women with the obvious off-world sophistication of dress which marked them as smugglers. This man who took Leto’s mind walking might have been no different except that he moved like Stilgar, a much younger Stilgar. It was a peculiar walk his mind took. Time filled Leto’s awareness like a stellar globe. He could see infinite timespaces, but he had to press into his own future before knowing in which moment his flesh lay. His multifaceted memory-lives surged and receded, but they were his now. They were like waves on a beach, but if they rose too high, he could command them and they would retreat, leaving the royal Harum behind. Now and again he would listen to those memory-lives. One would rise like a prompter, poking its head up out of the stage and calling cues for his behavior. His father came during the mind-walk and said: “You are a child seeking to be a man. When you are a man, you will seek in vain for the child you were.” All the while, he felt his body being plagued by the fleas and lice of an old sietch poorly maintained. None of the attendants who brought his heavily spice-laced food appeared bothered by the creatures. Did these people have immunity from such things, or was it only that they had lived with them so long they could ignore discomfort? Who were these people assembled around Gurney? How had they come to this place? Was this Jacurutu? His multi-memories produced answers he did not like. They were ugly people and Gurney was the ugliest. Perfection floated here, though, dormant and waiting beneath an ugly surface. Part of him knew he remained spice-bound, held in bondage by the heavy dosages of melange in every meal. His child’s body wanted to rebel while her persona raved with the immediate presence of memories carried over from thousands of eons. His mind returned from its walk, and he wondered if his body had really stayed behind. Spice confused the senses. He felt the pressures of self-limitations piling up against him like the long barachan dunes of the bled slowly building themselves a ramp against a desert cliff. One day a few trickles of sand would flow over the cliff, then more and more and more . . . and only the sand would remain exposed to the sky. But the cliff would still be there underneath. I’m still within the trance, he thought. He knew he would come soon to a branching of life and death. His captors kept sending him back into the spice thralldom, unsatisfied with his responses at every return. Always, treacherous Namri waited there with his knife. Leto knew countless pasts and futures, but he had yet to learn what would satisfy Namri . . . or Gurney Halleck. They wanted something outside of the visions. The life and death branching lured Leto. His life, he knew, would have to possess some inner meaning which carried it above the vision circumstances. Thinking of this demand, he felt that his inner awareness was his true being and his outer existence was the trance. This terrified him. He did not want to go back to the sietch with its fleas, its Namri, its Gurney Halleck. I’m a coward, he thought. But a coward, even a coward, might die bravely with nothing but a gesture. Where was that gesture which could make him whole once more? How could he awaken from trance and vision into the universe which Gurney demanded? Without that turning, without an awakening from aimless visions, he knew he could die in a prison of his own choosing. In this he had at last come to cooperate with his captors. Somewhere he had to find wisdom, an inner balance which would reflect upon the universe and return to him an image of calm strength. Only then might he seek his Golden Path and survive the skin which was not his own. Someone was playing the baliset out there in the sietch. Leto felt that his body probably heard the music in the present. He sensed the cot beneath his back. He could hear music. It was Gurney at the baliset. No other fingers could quite compare with his mastery of that most difficult instrument. He played an old Fremen song, one called a hadith because of its internal narrative and the voice which invoked those patterns required for survival on Arrakis. The song told the story of human occupations within a sietch. Leto felt the music move him through a marvelous ancient cavern. He saw women trampling spice residue for fuel, curding the spice for fermentation, forming spice-fabrics. Melange was everywhere in the sietch. Those moments came when Leto could not distinguish between the music and the people of the cavern vision. The whine and slap of a power loom was the whine and slap of the baliset. But his inner eyes beheld fabrics of human hair, the long fur of mutated rats, threads of desert cotton, and strips curled from the skin of birds. He saw a sietch school. The eco-language of Dune raged through his mind on its wings of music. He saw the sun-powered kitchen, the long chamber where stillsuits were made and maintained. He saw weather forecasters reading the sticks they’d brought in from the sand. Somewhere during this journey, someone brought him food and spooned it into his mouth, holding his head up with a strong arm. He knew this as a real-time sensation, but the marvelous play of motion continued within him. As though it came in the next instant after the spice-laden food, he saw the hurtling of a sandstorm. Moving images within the sand breath became the golden reflections of a moth’s eyes, and his own life was reduced to the viscous trail of a crawling insect. Words from the Panoplia Prophetica raved through him: “It is said that there is nothing firm, nothing balanced, nothing durable in all the universe — that nothing remains in its state, that each day, some time each hour, brings change.” The old Missionaria Protectiva knew what they were doing, he thought. They knew about Terrible Purposes. They knew how to manipulate people and religions. Even my father didn’t escape them, not in the end. There lay the clue he’d been seeking. Leto studied it. He felt strength flowing back into his flesh. His entire multifaceted being turned over and looked out upon the universe. He sat up and found himself alone in the gloomy cell with only the light from the outer passage where the man had walked past and taken his mind an eon ago. “Good fortune to us all!” he called in the traditional Fremen way. Gurney Halleck appeared in the arched doorway, his head a black silhouette against the light from the outer passage. “Bring light,” Leto said. “You wish to be tested further?” Leto laughed. “No. It’s my turn to test you.” “We shall see.” Halleck turned away, returning in a moment with a bright blue glowglobe in the crook of his left elbow. He released it in the cell, allowing it to drift above their heads. “Where’s Namri?” Leto asked. “Just outside where I can call him.” “Ahh, Old Father Eternity always waits patiently,” Leto said. He felt curiously released, poised on the edge of discovery. “You call Namri by the name reserved for Shai-Hulud?” Halleck asked. “His knife’s a worm’s tooth,” Leto said. “Thus, he’s Old Father Eternity.” Halleck smiled grimly, but remained silent. “You still wait to pass judgment on me,” Leto said. “And there’s no way to exchange information, I’ll admit, without making judgments. You can’t ask the universe to be exact, though.” A rustling sound behind Halleck alerted Leto to Namri’s approach. He stopped half a pace to Halleck’s left. “Ahhh, the left hand of the damned,” Leto said. “It’s not wise to joke about the Infinite and the Absolute,” Namri growled. He glanced sideways at Halleck. “Are you God, Namri, that you invoke absolutes?” Leto asked. But he kept his attention on Halleck. Judgment would come from there. Both men merely stared at him without answering. “Every judgment teeters on the brink of error,” Leto explained. “To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous. Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.” “What word game is this you play?” Halleck demanded. “Let him speak,” Namri said. “It’s the game Namri initiated with me,” Leto said, and saw the old Fremen’s head nod agreement. He’d certainly recognized the riddle game. “Our senses always have at least two levels,” Leto said. “Trivia and message,” Namri said. “Excellent!” Leto said. “You gave me trivia; I give you message. I see, I hear, I detect odors, I touch; I feel changes in temperature, taste. I sense the passage of time. I may take emotive samples. Ahhhhh! I am happy. You see, Gurney? Namri? There’s no mystery about a human life. It’s not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” “You try our patience, lad,” Namri said. “Is this the place where you wish to die?” But Halleck put out a restraining hand. “First, I am not a lad,” Leto said. He made the first sign at his right ear. “You’ll not slay me; I’ve placed a water burden upon you.” Namri drew his crysknife half out of its sheath. “I owe you nothing!” “But God created Arrakis to train the faithful,” Leto said. “I’ve not only showed you my faith, I’ve made you conscious of your own existence. Life requires dispute. You’ve been made to know — by me! — that your reality differs from all others; thus, you know you’re alive.” “Irreverence is a dangerous game to play with me,” Namri said. He held his crysknife half drawn. “Irreverence is a most necessary ingredient of religion,” Leto said. “Not to speak of its importance in philosophy. Irreverence is the only way left to us for testing our universe.” “So you think you understand the universe?” Halleck asked, and he opened a space between himself and Namri “Ye-esss,” Namri said, and there was death in his voice. “The universe can be understood only by the wind,” Leto said. “There’s no mighty seat of reason which dwells within the brain. Creation is discovery. God discovered us in the Void because we moved against a background which He already knew. The wall was blank. Then there was movement.” “You play hide and seek with death,” Halleck warned. “But you are both my friends,” Leto said. He faced Namri. “When you offer a candidate as Friend of your Sietch, do you not slay a hawk and an eagle as the offering? And is this not the response: ‘God send each man at his end, such hawks, such eagles, and such friends’?” Namri’s hand slid from his knife. The blade slipped back into its sheath. He stared wide-eyed at Leto. Each sietch kept its friendship ritual secret, yet here was a selected part of the rite. Halleck, though, asked: “Is this place your end?” “I know what you need to hear from me, Gurney,” Leto said, watching the play of hope and suspicion across the ugly face. Leto touched his own breast. “This child was never a child. My father lives within me, but he is not me. You loved him, and he was a gallant human whose affairs beat upon high shores. His intent was to close down the cycle of wars, but he reckoned without the movement of infinity as expressed by life. That’s Rhajia! Namri knows. Its movement can be seen by any mortal. Beware paths which narrow future possibilities. Such paths divert you from infinity into lethal traps.” “What is it I need to hear from you?” Halleck asked. “He’s just word playing,” Namri said, but his voice carried deep hesitation, doubts. “I ally myself with Namri against my father,” Leto said. “And my father within allies himself with us against what was made of him.” “Why?” Halleck demanded. “Because it’s the amor fati which I bring to humankind, the act of ultimate self-examination. In this universe, I choose to ally myself against any force which brings humiliation upon humankind. Gurney! Gurney! You were not born and raised in the desert. Your flesh doesn’t know the truth of which I speak. But Namri knows. In the open land, one direction is as good as another.” “I still have not heard what I must hear,” Halleck snarled. “He speaks for war and against peace,” Namri said. “No,” Leto said. “Nor did my father speak against war. But look what was made of him. Peace has only one meaning in this Imperium. It’s the maintenance of a single way of life. You are commanded to be contented. Life must be uniform on all planets as it is in the Imperial Government. The major object of priestly study is to find the correct forms of human behavior. For this they go to the words of Muad’Dib! Tell me, Namri, are you content?” “No.” The words came out flat, spontaneous rejection. “Then do you blaspheme?” “Of course not!” “But you aren’t contented. You see, Gurney? Namri proves it to us. Every question, every problem doesn’t have a single correct answer. One must permit diversity. A monolith is unstable. Then why do you demand a single correct statement from me? Is that to be the measure of your monstrous judgment?” “Will you force me to have you slain?” Halleck asked, and there was agony in his voice. “No, I’ll have pity upon you,” Leto said. “Send word to my grandmother that I’ll cooperate. The Sisterhood may come to regret my cooperation, but an Atreides gives his word.” “A Truthsayer should test that,” Namri said. “These Atreides . . .” “He’ll have his chance to say before his grandmother what must be said,” Halleck said. He nodded with his head toward the passage. Namri paused before leaving, glanced at Leto. “I pray we do the right thing in leaving him alive.” “Go, friends,” Leto said. “Go and reflect.” As the two men departed, Leto threw himself onto his back, feeling the cold cot against his spine. Movement sent his head spinning over the edge of his spice-burdened consciousness. In that instant he saw the entire planet — every village, every town, every city, the desert places and the planted places. All of the shapes which smashed against his vision bore intimate relationships to a mixture of elements within themselves and without. He saw the structures of Imperial society reflected in physical structures of its planets and their communities. Like a gigantic unfolding within him, he saw this revelation for what it must be: a window into the society’s invisible parts. Seeing this, Leto realized that every system had such a window. Even the system of himself and his universe. He began peering into windows, a cosmic voyeur. This was what his grandmother and the Sisterhood sought! He knew it. His awareness flowed on a new, higher level. He felt the past carried in his cells, in his memories, in the archetypes which haunted his assumptions, in the myths which hemmed him, in his languages and their prehistoric detritus. It was all of the shapes out of his human and nonhuman past, all of the lives which he now commanded, all integrated in him at last. And he felt himself as a thing caught up in the ebb and flow of nucleotides. Against the backdrop of infinity he was a protozoan creature in which birth and death were virtually simultaneous, but he was both infinite and protozoan, a creature of molecular memories. We humans are a form of colony organism! he thought. They wanted his cooperation. Promising cooperation had won him another reprieve from Namri’s knife. By summoning to cooperation, they sought to recognize a healer. And he thought: But I’ll not bring them social order in the way they expect it! A grimace contorted Leto’s mouth. He knew he’d not be as unconsciously malevolent as was his father — despotism at one terminal and slavery at the other — but this universe might pray for those “good old days.” His father-within spoke to him then, cautiously probing, unable to demand attention but pleading for audience. And Leto answered: “No. We will give them complexities to occupy their minds. There are many modes of flight from danger. How will they know I’m dangerous unless they experience me for thousands of years? Yes, father-within, we’ll give them question marks.”

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Categories: Herbert, Frank