Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Natural selection has been described as an environment selectively screening for those who will have progeny. Where humans are concerned, though, this is an extremely limiting viewpoint. Reproduction by sex tends toward experiment and innovation. It raises many questions, including the ancient one about whether environment is a selective agent after the variation occurs, or whether environment plays a pre-selective role in determining the variations which it screens. Dune did not realty answer those questions: it merely raised new questions which Leto and the Sisterhood may attempt to answer over the next five hundred generations. -The Dune Catastrophe, After Harq al-Ada

The bare brown rocks of the Shield Wall loomed in the distance, visible to Ghanima as the embodiment of that apparition which threatened her future. She stood at the edge of the roof garden atop the Keep, the setting sun at her back. The sun held a deep orange glow from intervening dust clouds, a color as rich as the rim of a worm’s mouth. She sighed, thinking: Alia . . . Alia . . . Is your fate to be my fate? The inner lives had grown increasingly clamorous of late. There was something about female conditioning in a Fremen society — perhaps it was a real sexual difference, but whatever — the female was more susceptible to that inner tide. Her grandmother had warned about it as they’d schemed, drawing on the accumulated wisdom of the Bene Gesserit but awakening that wisdom’s threats within Ghanima. “Abomination;” the Lady Jessica had said, “our term for the pre-born, has a long history of bitter experiences behind it. The way of it seems to be that the inner lives divide. They split into the benign and the malignant. The benign remain tractable, useful. The malignant appear to unite in one powerful psyche, trying to take over the living flesh and its consciousness. The process is known to take considerable time, but its signs are well known.” “Why did you abandon Alia?” Ghanima asked. “I fled in terror of what I’d created,” Jessica said, her voice low. “I gave up. And my burden now is that . . . perhaps I gave up too soon.” “What do you mean?” “I cannot explain yet, but . . . maybe . . . no! I’ll not give you false hopes. Ghafla, the abominable distraction, has a long history in human mythology. It was called many things, but chiefly it was called possession. That’s what it seems to be. You lose your way in the malignancy and it takes possession of you.” “Leto . . . feared the spice,” Ghanima said, finding that she could talk about him quietly. The terrible price demanded of them! “And wisely,” Jessica had said. She would say no more. But Ghanima had risked an explosion of her inner memories, peering past an odd blurred veil and futilely expanding on the Bene Gesserit fears. To explain what had befallen Alia did not ease it one bit. The Bene Gesserit accumulation of experience had pointed to a possible way out of the trap, though, and when Ghanima ventured the inner sharing, she first called upon the Mohalata, a partnership of the benign which might protect her. She recalled that sharing as she stood in the sunset glow at the edge of the Keep’s roof garden. Immediately she felt the memory-presence of her mother. Chani stood there, an apparition between Ghanima and the distant cliffs. “Enter here and you will eat the fruit of the Zaqquum, the food of hell!” Chani said. “Bar this door, my daughter; it is your only safety.” The inner clamor lifted itself around the vision and Ghanima fled, sinking her consciousness into the Sisterhood’s Credo, reacting out of desperation more than trust. Quickly she recited the Credo, moving her lips, letting her voice rise to a whisper: “Religion is the emulation of the adult by the child. Religion is the encystment of past beliefs: mythology, which is guesswork, the hidden assumptions of trust in the universe, those pronouncements which men have made in search of personal power, all of it mingled with shreds of enlightenment. And always the ultimate unspoken commandment is ‘Thou shall not question!’ But we question. We break that commandment as a matter of course. The work to which we have set ourselves is the liberating of the imagination, the harnessing of imagination to humankind’s deepest sense of creativity.” Slowly a sense of order returned to Ghanima’s thoughts. She felt her body trembling, though, and knew how fragile was this peace she had attained — and that blurring veil remained in her mind. “Leb Kamai,” she whispered. “Heart of my enemy, you shall not be my heart.” And she called up a memory of Farad’n’s features, the saturnine young face with its heavy brows and firm mouth. Hate will make me strong, she thought. In hate, I can resist Alia’s fate. But the trembling fragility of her position remained, and all she could think about was how much Farad’n resembled his uncle, the late Shaddam IV. “Here you are!” It was Irulan coming up from Ghanima’s right, striding along the parapet with movements reminiscent of a man. Turning, Ghanima thought: And she’s Shaddam’s daughter. “Why will you persist in sneaking out alone?” Irulan demanded, stopping in front of Ghanima and towering over her with a scowling face. Ghanima refrained from saying that she was not alone, that guards had seen her emerge onto the roof. Irulan’s anger went to the fact that they were in the open here and that a distant weapon might find them. “You’re not wearing a stillsuit,” Ghanima said. “Did you know that in the old days someone caught outside the sietch without a stillsuit was automatically killed. To waste water was to endanger the tribe.” “Water! Water!” Irulan snapped. “I want to know why you endanger yourself this way. Come back inside. You make trouble for all of us.” “What danger is there now?” Ghanima asked. “Stilgar has purged the traitors. Alia’s guards are everywhere.” Irulan peered upward at the darkening sky. Stars were already visible against a grey-blue backdrop. She returned her attention to Ghanima. “I won’t argue. I was sent to tell you we have word from Farad’n. He accepts, but for some reason he wishes to delay the ceremony.” “How long?” “We don’t know yet. It’s being negotiated. But Duncan is being sent home.” “And my grandmother?” “She chooses to stay on Salusa for the time being.” “Who can blame her?” Ghanima asked. “That silly fight with Alia!” “Don’t try to gull me, Irulan! That was no silly fight. I’ve heard the stories.” “The Sisterhood’s fears –” “Are real,” Ghanima said. “Well, you’ve delivered your message. Will you use this opportunity to have another try at dissuading me?” “I’ve given up.” “You should know better than to try lying to me,” Ghanima said. “Very well! I’ll keep trying to dissuade you. This course is madness.” And Irulan wondered why she let Ghanima become so irritating. A Bene Gesserit didn’t need to be irritated at anything. She said: “I’m concerned by the extreme danger to you. You know that. Ghani, Ghani . . . you’re Paul’s daughter. How can you –” “Because I’m his daughter,” Ghanima said. “We Atreides go back to Agamemnon and we know what’s in our blood. Never forget that, childless wife of my father. We Atreides have a bloody history and we’re not through with the blood.” Distracted, Irulan asked: “Who’s Agamemnon?” “How sparse your vaunted Bene Gesserit education proves itself,” Ghanima said. “I keep forgetting that you foreshorten history. But my memories go back to . . .” She broke off; best not to arouse those shades from their fragile sleep. “Whatever you remember,” Irulan said, “you must know how dangerous this course is to –” “I’ll kill him,” Ghanima said. “He owes me a life.” “And I’ll prevent it if I can.” “We already know this. You won’t get the opportunity. Alia is sending you south to one of the new towns until after it’s done.” Irulan shook her head in dismay. “Ghani, I took my oath that I’d guard you against any danger. I’ll do it with my own life if necessary. If you think I’m going to languish in some brickwalled djedida while you . . .” “There’s always the Huanui,” Ghanima said, speaking softly. “We have the deathstill as an alternative. I’m sure you couldn’t interfere from there.” Irulan paled, put a hand to her mouth, forgetting for a moment all of her training. It was a measure of how much care she had invested in Ghanima, this almost complete abandonment of everything except animal fear. She spoke out of that shattering emotion, allowing it to tremble on her lips. “Ghani, I don’t fear for myself. I’d throw myself into the worm’s mouth for you. Yes, I’m what you call me, the childless wife of your father, but you’re the child I never had. I beg you . . .” Tears glistened at the corners of her eyes. Ghanima fought down a tightness in her throat, said: “There is another difference between us. You were never Fremen. I’m nothing else. This is a chasm which divides us. Alia knows. Whatever else she may be, she knows this.” “You can’t tell what Alia knows,” Irulan said, speaking bitterly. “If I didn’t know her for Atreides, I’d swear she has set herself to destroy her own Family.” And how do you know she’s still Atreides? Ghanima thought, wondering at this blindness in Irulan. This was a Bene Gesserit, and who knew better than they the history of Abomination? She would not let herself even think about it, let alone believe it. Alia must have worked some witchery on this poor woman. Ghanima said: “I owe you a water debt. For that, I’ll guard your life. But your cousin’s forfeit. Say no more of that.” Irulan stilled the trembling of her lips, wiped her eyes. “I did love your father,” she whispered. “I didn’t even know it until he was dead.” “Perhaps he isn’t dead,” Ghanima said. “This Preacher . . .” “Ghani! Sometimes I don’t understand you. Would Paul attack his own family?” Ghanima shrugged, looked out at the darkening sky. “He might find amusement in such a –” “How can you speak so lightly of this –” “To keep away the dark depths,” Ghanima said. “I don’t taunt you. The gods know I don’t. But I’m just my father’s daughter. I’m every person who’s contributed seed to the Atreides. You won’t think of Abomination, but I can’t think of anything else. I’m the pre-born. I know what’s within me.” “That foolish old superstition about –” “Don’t!” Ghanima reached a hand toward Irulan’s mouth. “I’m every Bene Gesserit of their damnable breeding program up to and including my grandmother. And I’m very much more.” She tore at her left palm, drawing blood with a fingernail. “This is a young body, but its experiences . . . Oh, gods. Irulan! My experiences! No!” She put out her hand once more as Irulan moved closer. “I know all of those futures which my father explored. I’ve the wisdom of so many lifetimes, and all the ignorance, too . . . all the frailties. If you’d help me, Irulan, first learn who I am.” Instinctively Irulan bent and gathered Ghanima into her arms, holding her close, cheek against cheek. Don’t let me have to kill this woman. Ghanima thought. Don’t let that happen. As this thought swept through her, the whole desert passed into night.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank