Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Humankind periodically goes through a speedup of its affairs, thereby experiencing the race between the renewable vitality of the living and the beckoning vitiation of decadence. In this periodic race, any pause becomes luxury. Only then can one reflect that all is permitted; all is possible. -The Apocrypha of Muad’Dib

The touch of sand is important, Leto told himself. He could feel the grit beneath him where he sat beneath a brilliant sky. They had force-fed him another heavy dosage of melange, and Leto’s mind turned upon itself like a whirlpool. An unanswered question lay deep within the funnel of the whirlpool: Why do they insist that I say it? Gurney was stubborn; no doubt of that. And he’d had his orders from his Lady Jessica. They’d brought him out of the sietch into the daylight for this “lesson.” He had the strange sensation that he’d let his body take the short trip from the sietch while his inner being mediated a battle between the Duke Leto I and the old Baron Harkonnen. They’d fought within him, through him, because he would not let them communicate directly. The fight had taught him what had happened to Alia. Poor Alia. I was right to fear the spice trip, he thought. A welling bitterness toward the Lady Jessica filled him. Her damned gom jabbar! Fight it and win, or die in the attempt. She couldn’t put a poisoned needle against his neck, but she could send him into the valley of peril which had claimed her own daughter. Snuffling sounds intruded upon his awareness. They wavered, growing louder, then softer, louder . . . softer. There was no way for him to determine whether they had current reality or came from the spice. Leto’s body sagged over his folded arms. He felt hot sand through his buttocks. There was a rug directly in front of him, but he sat on open sand. A shadow lay across the rug: Namri. Leto stared into the muddy pattern of the rug, feeling bubbles ripple there. His awareness drifted on its own current through a landscape which stretched out to a horizon of shock-headed greenery. His skull thrummed with drums. He felt heat, fever. The fever was a pressure of burning which filled his senses, crowding out awareness of flesh until he could only feel the moving shadows of his peril. Namri and the knife. Pressure . . . pressure . . . Leto lay at last suspended between sky and sand, his mind lost to all but the fever. Now he waited for something to happen, sensing that any occurrence would be a first-and-only thing. Hot-hot pounding sunshine crashed brilliantly around him, without tranquillity, without remedy. Where is my Golden Path? Everywhere bugs crawled. Everywhere. My skin is not my own. He sent messages along his nerves, waited out the dragging other-person responses. Up head, he told his nerves. A head which might have been his own crept upward, looked out at patches of blankness in the bright light. Someone whispered: “He’s deep into it now.” No answer. Burn fire sun building heat on heat. Slowly, outbending, the current of his awareness took him drifting through a last screen of green blankness and there, across low folding dunes, distant no more than a kilometer beyond the stretched out chalk line of a cliff, there lay the green burgeoning future, upflung, flowing into endless green, greenswelling, green-green moving outward endlessly. In all of that green there was not one great worm. Riches of wild growth, but nowhere Shai-Hulud. Leto sensed that he had ventured across old boundaries into a new land which only the imagination had witnessed, and that he looked now directly through the very next veil which a yawning humankind called Unknown. It was bloodthirsty reality. He felt the red fruit of his life swaying on a limb, fluid slipping away from him, and the fluid was the spice essence flowing through his veins. Without Shai-Hulud, no more spice. He had seen a future without the great grey worm-serpent of Dune. He knew this, yet could not tear himself from the trance to rail against such a passage. Abruptly his awareness plunged back — back, back, away from such a deadly future. His thoughts went into his bowels, becoming primitive, moved only by intense emotions. He found himself unable to focus on any particular aspect of his vision or his surroundings, but there was a voice within him. It spoke an ancient language and he understood it perfectly. The voice was musical and lilting, but its words bludgeoned him. “It is not the present which influences the future, thou fool, but the future which forms the present. You have it all backward. Since the future is set, an unfolding of events which will assure that future is fixed and inevitable.” The words transfixed him. He felt terror rooted in the heavy matter of his body. By this he knew his body still existed, but the reckless nature and enormous power of his vision left him feeling contaminated, defenseless, unable to signal a muscle and gain its obedience. He knew he was submitting more and more to the onslaught of those collective lives whose memories once had made him believe he was real. Fear filled him. He thought that he might be losing the inner command, falling at last into Abomination. Leto felt his body twisting in terror. He had come to depend upon his victory and the newly won benevolent cooperation of those memories. They had turned against him, all of them — even royal Harum whom he’d trusted. He lay shimmering on a surface which had no roots, unable to give any expression to his own life. He tried to concentrate upon a mental picture of himself, was confronted by overlapping frames, each a different age: infant into doddering ancient. He recalled his father’s early training: Let the hands grow young, then old. But his whole body was immersed now in this lost reality and the entire image progression melted into other faces, the features of those who had given him their memories. A diamond thunderbolt shattered him. Leto felt pieces of his awareness drifting apart, yet he retained a sense of himself somewhere between being and nonbeing. Hope quickening, he felt his body breathing. In . . . Out. He took in a deep breath: yin. He let it out: yang. Somewhere just beyond his grasp lay a place of supreme independence, a victory over all of the confusions inherent in his multitude of lives — no false sense of command, but a true victory. He knew his previous mistake now: he had sought power in the reality of his trance, choosing that rather than face the fears which he and Ghanima had fed in each other. Fear defeated Alia! But the seeking after power spread another trap, diverting him into fantasy. He saw the illusion. The entire illusion process rotated half a turn and now he knew a center from which he could watch without purpose the flight of his visions, of his inner lives. Elation flooded him. It made him want to laugh, but he denied himself this luxury, knowing it would bar the doors of memory. Ahhhh, my memories, he thought. I have seen your illusion. You no longer invent the next moment for me. You merely show me how to create new moments. I’ll not lock myself on the old tracks. This thought passed through his awareness as though wiping a surface clean and in its wake he felt his entire body, an einfalle which reported in most minute detail on every cell, every nerve. He entered a state of intense quiet. In this quiet, he heard voices, knowing they came from a great distance, but he heard them clearly as though they echoed in a chasm. One of the voices was Halleck’s. “Perhaps we gave him too much of it.” Namri answered. “We gave him exactly what she told us to give him.” “Perhaps we should go back out there and have another look at him.” Halleck. “Sabiha is good at such things; she’ll call us if anything starts to go wrong.” Namri. “I don’t like this business of Sabiha.” Halleck. “She’s a necessary ingredient.” Namri. Leto felt bright light outside himself and darkness within, but the darkness was secretive, protective, and warm. The light began to blaze up and he felt that it came from the darkness within, swirling outward like a brilliant cloud. His body became transparent, drawing him upward, yet he retained that einfalle contact with every cell and nerve. The multitude of inner lives fell into alignment, nothing tangled or mixed. They became very quiet in duplication of his own inner silence, each memory-life discrete, an entity incorporeal and undivided. Leto spoke to them then: “I am your spirit. I am the only life you can realize. I am the house of your spirit in the land which is nowhere, the land which is your only remaining home. Without me, the intelligible universe reverts to chaos. Creative and abysmal are inextricably linked in me; only I can mediate between them. Without me, mankind will sink into the mire and vanity of knowing. Through me, you and they will find the only way out of chaos: understanding by living.” With this he let go of himself and became himself, his own person compassing the entirety of his past. It was not victory, not defeat, but a new thing to be shared with any inner life he chose. Leto savored this newness, letting it possess every cell, every nerve, giving up what the einfalle had presented to him and recovering the totality in the same instant. After a time, he awoke in white darkness. With a flash of awareness he knew where his flesh was: seated on sand about a kilometer from the cliff wall which marked the northern boundary of the sietch. He knew that sietch now: Jacurutu for certain . . . and Fondak. But it was far different from the myths and legends and the rumors which the smugglers allowed. A young woman sat on a rug directly in front of him, a bright glowglobe anchored to her left sleeve and drifting just above her head. When Leto looked away from the glowglobe, there were stars. He knew this young woman; she was the one from his vision earlier, the roaster of coffee. She was Namri’s niece, as ready with a knife as Namri was. There was the knife in her lap. She wore a simple green robe over a grey stillsuit. Sabiha, that was her name. And Namri had his own plans for her. Sabiha saw the awakening in his eyes, said: “It’s almost dawn. You’ve spent the whole night here.” “And most of a day,” he said. “You make good coffee.” This statement puzzled her, but she ignored it with a single-mindedness which spoke of harsh training and explicit instructions for her present behavior. “It’s the hour of assassins,” Leto said. “But your knife is no longer needed.” He glanced at the crysknife in her lap. “Namri will be the judge of that,” she said. Not Halleck, then. She only confirmed his inner knowledge. “Shai-Hulud is a great garbage collector and eraser of unwanted evidence,” Leto said. “I’ve used him thus myself.” She rested her hand lightly on the knife handle. “How much is revealed by where we sit and how we sit,” he said. “You sit upon the rug and I upon the sand.” Her hand closed over the knife handle. Leto yawned, a gaping and stretching which made his jaws ache. “I’ve had a vision which included you,” he said. Her shoulders relaxed slightly. “We’ve been very one-sided about Arrakis,” he said. “Barbaric of us. There’s a certain momentum in what we’ve been doing, but now we must undo some of our work. The scales must be brought into better balance.” A puzzled frown touched Sabiha’s face. “My vision,” he said. “Unless we restore the dance of life here on Dune, the dragon on the floor of the desert will be no more.” Because he’d used the Old Fremen name for the great worm, she was a moment understanding him. Then: “The worms?” “We’re in a dark passage,” he said. “Without spice, the Empire falls apart. The Guild will not move. Planets will slowly lose their clear memories of each other. They’ll turn inward upon themselves. Space will become a boundary when the Guild navigators lose their mastery. We’ll cling to our dunetops and be ignorant of that which is above us and below us.” “You speak very strangely,” she said. “How have you seen me in your vision?” Trust Fremen superstition! he thought. He said: “I’ve become pasigraphic. I’m a living glyph to write out the changes which must come to pass. If I do not write them, you’ll encounter such heartache as no human should experience.” “What words are these?” she asked, but her hand remained lightly on the knife. Leto turned his head toward the cliffs of Jacurutu, seeing the beginning glow which would be Second Moon making its predawn passage behind the rocks. The death-scream of a desert hare shocked its way through him. He saw Sabiha shudder. There came the beating of wings — a predator bird, night creature here. He saw the ember glow of many eyes as they swept past above him, headed for crannies in the cliff. “I must follow the dictates of my new heart,” Leto said. “You look upon me as a mere child, Sabiha, but if –” “They warned me about you,” Sabiha said, and now her shoulders were stiff with readiness. He heard the fear in her voice, said: “Don’t fear me, Sabiha. You’ve lived eight more years than this flesh of mine. For that, I honor you. But I have untold thousands more years of other lives, far more than you have known. Don’t look upon me as a child. I have bridged the many futures and, in one, saw us entwined in love. You and I, Sabiha.” “What are . . . This can’t . . . ” She broke off in confusion. “The idea could grow on you,” he said. “Now help me back to the sietch, for I’ve been in far places and am weak with the weariness of my travels. Namri must hear where I have been.” He saw the indecision in her, said: “Am I not the Guest of the Cavern? Namri must learn what I have learned. We have many things to do lest our universe degenerate.” “I don’t believe that . . . about the worms,” she said. “Nor about us entwined in love?” She shook her head. But he could see the thoughts drifting through her mind like windblown feathers. His words both attracted and repelled her. To be consort of power, that certainly carried high allure. Yet there were her uncle’s orders. But one day this son of Muad’Dib might rule here on Dune and in the farthest reaches of their universe. She encountered then an extremely Fremen, cavern-hiding aversion to such a future. The consort of Leto would be seen by everyone, would be an object of gossip and speculations. She could have wealth, though, and . . . “I am the son of Muad’Dib, able to see the future,” he said. Slowly she replaced her knife in its sheath, lifted herself easily from the rug, crossed to his side and helped him to his feet. Leto found himself amused by her actions then: she folded the rug neatly and draped it across her right shoulder. He saw her measuring the difference in their sizes, reflecting upon his words: Entwined in love? Size is another thing that changes, he thought. She put a hand on his arm then to help him and control him. He stumbled and she spoke sharply: “We’re too far from the sietch for that!” Meaning the unwanted sound which might attract a worm. Leto felt that his body had become a dry shell like that abandoned by an insect. He knew this shell: it was one with the society which had been built upon the melange trade and its Religion of the Golden Elixir. It was emptied by its excesses. Muad’Dib’s high aims had fallen into wizardry which was enforced by the military arm of Auqaf. Muad’Dib’s religion had another name now; it was Shien-san-Shao, an Ixian label which designated the intensity and insanity of those who thought they could bring the universe to paradise at the point of a crysknife. But that too would change as lx had changed. For they were merely the ninth planet of their sun, and had even forgotten the language which had given them their name. “The Jihad was a kind of mass insanity,” he muttered. “What?” Sabiha had been concentrating on the problem of making him walk without rhythm, hiding their presence out here on open sand. She was a moment focusing on his words, then interpreted them as another product of his obvious fatigue. She felt the weakness of him, the way he’d been drained by the trance. It seemed pointless and cruel to her. If he were to be killed as Namri said, then it should be done quickly without all of this by-play. Leto had spoken of a marvelous revelation, though. Perhaps that was what Namri sought. Certainly that must be the motive behind the behavior of this child’s own grandmother. Why else would Our Lady of Dune give her sanction to these perilous acts against a child? Child? Again she reflected upon his words. They were at the cliff base now and she stopped her charge, letting him relax a moment here where it was safer. Looking down at him in the dim starlight, she asked: “How could there be no more worms?” “Only I can change that,” he said. “Have no fear. I can change anything.” “But it’s–” “Some questions have no answers,” he said. “I’ve seen that future, but the contradictions would only confuse you. This is a changing universe and we are the strangest change of all. We resonate to many influences. Our futures need constant updating. Now, there’s a barrier which we must remove. This requires that we do brutal things, that we go against our most basic, our dearest wishes . . . But it must be done.” “What must be done?” “Have you ever killed a friend?” he asked and, turning, led the way into the gap which sloped upward to the sietch’s hidden entrance. He moved as quickly as his trance-fatigue would permit, but she was right behind him, clutching his robe and pulling him to a stop. “What’s this of killing a friend?” “He’ll die anyway,” Leto said. “I don’t have to do it, but I could prevent it. If I don’t prevent it, is that not killing him?” “Who is this . . . who will die?” “The alternative keeps me silent,” he said. “I might have to give my sister to a monster.” Again he turned away from her, and this time when she pulled at his robe he resisted, refusing to answer her questions. Best she not know until the time comes, he thought.

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