Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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One small bird has called thee From a beak streaked crimson. It cried once over Sietch Tabr And thou went forth unto Funeral Plain. -Lament for Leto II

Leto awoke to the tinkle of water rings in a woman’s hair. He looked to the open doorway of his cell and saw Sabiha sitting there. In the half-immersed awareness of the spice he saw her outlined by all that his vision revealed about her. She was two years past the age when most Fremen women were wed or at least betrothed. Therefore her family was saving her for something . . . or someone. She was nubile . . . obviously. His vision-shrouded eyes saw her as a creature out of humankind’s Terranic past: dark hair and pale skin, deep sockets which gave her blue-in-blue eyes a greenish cast. She possessed a small nose and a wide mouth above a sharp chin. And she was a living signal to him that the Bene Gesserit plan was known — or suspected — here in Jacurutu. So they hoped to revive Pharaonic Imperialism through him, did they? Then what was their design to force him into marrying his sister? Surely Sabiha could not prevent that. His captors knew the plan, though. And how had they learned it? They’d not shared its vision. They’d not gone with him where life became a moving membrane in other dimensions. The reflexive and circular subjectivity of the visions which revealed Sabiha were his and his alone. Again the water rings tinkled in Sabiha’s hair and the sound stirred up his visions. He knew where he had been and what he had learned. Nothing could erase that. He was not riding a great Maker palanquin now, the tinkle of water rings among the passengers a rhythm for their passage songs. No . . . He was here in the cell of Jacurutu, embarked on that most dangerous of all journeys: away from and back to the Ahl as-sunna wal-jamas, from the real world of the senses and back to that world. What was she doing there with the water rings tinkling in her hair? Oh, yes. She was mixing more of the brew which they thought held him captive: food laced with spice essence to keep him half in and half out of the real universe until either he died or his grandmother’s plan succeeded. And every time he thought he’d won, they sent him back. The Lady Jessica was right, of course — that old witch! But what a thing to do. The total recall of all those lives within him was of no use at all until he could organize the data and remember it at will. Those lives had been the raw stuff of anarchy. One or all of them could have overwhelmed him. The spice and its peculiar setting here in Jacurutu had been a desperate gamble. Now Gurney waits for the sign and I refuse to give it to him. How long will his patience last? He stared out at Sabiha. She’d thrown her hood back and revealed the tribal tattoos at her temples. Leto did not recognize the tattoos at first, then remembered where he was. Yes, Jacurutu still lived. Leto did not know whether to be thankful toward his grandmother or hate her. She wanted him to have conscious-level instincts. But instincts were only racial memories of how to handle crises. His direct memories of those other lives told him far more than that. He had it all organized now, and could see the peril of revealing himself to Gurney. No way of keeping the revelation from Namri. And Namri was another problem. Sabiha entered the cell with a bowl in her hands. He admired the way the light from outside made rainbow circles at the edges of her hair. Gently she raised his head and began feeding him from the bowl. It was only then he realized how weak he was. He allowed her to feed him while his mind went roving, recalling the session with Gurney and Namri. They believed him! Namri more than Gurney, but even Gurney could not deny what his senses had already reported to him about the planet. Sabiha wiped his mouth with a hem of her robe. Ahhh, Sabiha, he thought, recalling that other vision which filled his heart with pain. Many nights have I dreamed beside the open water, hearing the winds pass overhead. Many nights my flesh lay beside the snake’s den and I dreamed of Sabiha in the summer heat. I saw her storing spice-bread baked on red-hot sheets of plasteel. I saw the clear water in the qanat, gentle and shining, but a storm wind ran through my heart. She sips coffee and eats. Her teeth shine in the shadows. I see her braiding my water rings into her hair. The amber fragrance of her bosom strikes through to my innermost senses. She torments me and oppresses me by her very existence. The pressure of his multi-memories exploded the time-frozen englobement which he had tried to resist. He felt twining bodies, the sounds of sex, rhythms laced in every sensory impression: lips, breathing, moist breaths, tongues. Somewhere in his vision there were helix shapes, coal-colored, and he felt the beat of those shapes as they turned within him. A voice pleaded in his skull: “Please, please, please, please . . .” There was an adult beefswelling in his loins and he felt his mouth open, holding, clinging to the girder-shape of ecstasy. Then a sigh, a lingering groundswelling sweetness, a collapse. Oh, how sweet to let that come into existence! “Sabiha,” he whispered. “Oh, my Sabiha.” When her charge had clearly gone deeply into the trance after his food, Sabiha took the bowl and left, pausing at the doorway to speak to Namri. “He called my name again.” “Go back and stay with him,” Namri said. “I must find Halleck and discuss this with him.” Sabiha deposited the bowl beside the doorway and returned to the cell. She sat on the edge of the cot, staring at Leto’s shadowed face. Presently he opened his eyes and put a hand out, touching her cheek. He began to talk to her then, telling her about the vision in which she had lived. She covered his hand with her own as he spoke. How sweet he was . . . how very swee — She sank onto the cot, cushioned by his hand, unconscious before he pulled the hand away. Leto sat up, feeling the depths of his weakness. The spice and its visions had drained him. He searched through his cells for every spare spark of energy, climbed from the cot without disturbing Sabiha. He had to go, but he knew he’d not get far. Slowly he sealed his stillsuit, drew the robe around him, slipped through the passage to the outer shaft. There were a few people about, busy at their own affairs. They knew him, but he was not their responsibility. Namri and Halleck would know what he was doing; Sabiha could not be far away. He found the kind of side passage he needed and walked boldly down it. Behind him Sabiha slept peacefully until Halleck roused her. She sat up, rubbed her eyes, saw the empty cot, saw her uncle standing behind Halleck, the anger on their faces. Namri answered the expression on her face: “Yes, he’s gone.” “How could you let him escape?” Halleck raged. “How is this possible?” “He was seen going toward the lower exit,” Namri said, his voice oddly calm. Sabiha cowered in front of them, remembering. “How?” Halleck demanded. “I don’t know. I don’t know.” “It’s night and he’s weak,” Namri said. “He won’t get far.” Halleck whirled on him. “You want the boy to die!” “It wouldn’t displease me.” Again Halleck confronted Sabiha. “Tell me what happened.” “He touched my cheek. He kept talking about his vision . . . us together.” She looked down at the empty cot. “He made me sleep. He put some magic on me.” Halleck glanced at Namri. “Could he be hiding inside somewhere?” “Nowhere inside. He’d be found, seen. He was headed for the exit. He’s out there.” “Magic,” Sabiha muttered. “No magic,” Namri said. “He hypnotized her. Almost did it to me, you remember? Said I was his friend.” “He’s very weak,” Halleck said. “Only in his body,” Namri said. “He won’t go far, though. I disabled the heel pumps of his stillsuit. He’ll die with no water if we don’t find him.” Halleck almost turned and struck Namri, but held himself in rigid control. Jessica had warned him that Namri might have to kill the lad. Gods below! What a pass they’d come to, Atreides against Atreides. He said: “Is it possible he just wandered away in the spice trance?” “What difference does it make?” Namri asked. “If he escapes us he must die.” “We’ll start searching at first light,” Halleck said. “Did he take a Fremkit?” “There’re always a few beside the doorseal,” Namri said. “He’d’ve been a fool not to take one. Somehow he has never struck me as a fool.” “Then send a message to our friends,” Halleck said. “Tell them what’s happened.” “No messages this night,” Namri said. “There’s a storm coming. The tribes have been tracking it for three days now. It’ll be here by midnight. Already communication’s blanked out. The satellites signed off this sector two hours ago.” A deep sigh shook Halleck. The boy would die out there for sure if the sandblast storm caught him. It would eat the flesh from his bones and sliver the bones to fragments. The contrived false death would become real. He slapped a fist into an open palm. The storm could trap them in the sietch. They couldn’t even mount a search. And storm static had already isolated the sietch. “Distrans,” he said, thinking they might imprint a message onto a bat’s voice and dispatch it with the alarm. Namri shook his head. “Bats won’t fly in a storm. Come on, man. They’re more sensitive than we are. They’ll cower in the cliffs until it’s past. Best to wait for the satellites to pick us up again. Then we can try to find his remains.” “Not if he took a Fremkit and hid in the sand,” Sabiha said. Cursing under his breath, Halleck whirled away from them, strode out into the sietch.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank