Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Peace demands solutions, but we never reach living solutions; we only work toward them. A fixed solution is, by definition, a dead solution. The trouble with peace is that it tends to punish mistakes instead of rewarding brilliance. -The Words of My Father: an account of Muad’Dib reconstructed by Harq al-Ada

“She’s training him? She’s training Farad’n?” Alia glared at Duncan Idaho with a deliberate mix of anger and incredulity. The Guild heighliner had swung into orbit around Arrakis at noon local. An hour later the lighter had put Idaho down at Arrakeen, unannounced, but all casual and open. Within minutes a ‘thopter had deposited him atop the Keep. Warned of his impending arrival, Alia had greeted him there, coldly formal before her guards, but now they stood in her quarters beneath the north rim. He had just delivered his report, truthfully, precisely, emphasizing each datum in mentat fashion. “She has taken leave of her senses,” Alia said. He treated the statement as a mentat problem. “All the indicators are that she remains well balanced, sane. I should say her sanity index was –” “Stop that!” Alia snapped. “What can she be thinking of?” Idaho, who knew that his own emotional balance depended now upon retreat into mentat coldness, said: “I compute she is thinking of her granddaughter’s betrothal.” His features remained carefully bland, a mask for the raging grief which threatened to engulf him. There was no Alia here. Alia was dead. For a time he’d maintained a myth-Alia before his senses, someone he’d manufactured out of his own needs, but a mentat could carry on such self-deception for only a limited time. This creature in human guise was possessed; a demon-psyche drove her. His steely eyes with their myriad facets available at will reproduced upon his vision centers a multiplicity of myth-Alias. But when he combined them into a single image, no Alia remained. Her features moved to other demands. She was a shell within which outrages had been committed. “Where’s Ghanima?” he asked. She waved the question aside. “I’ve sent her with Irulan to stay in Stilgar’s keeping.” Neutral territory, he thought. There’s been another negotiation with rebellious tribes. She’s losing ground and doesn’t know it . . . or does she? Is there another reason? Has Stilgar gone over to her? “The betrothal,” Alia mused. “What are conditions in the Corrino House?” “Salusa swarms with outrine relatives, all working upon Farad’n, hoping for a share in his return to power.” “And she’s training him in the Bene Gesserit . . .” “Is it not fitting for Ghanima’s husband?” Alia smiled to herself, thinking of Ghanima’s adamant rage. Let Farad’n be trained. Jessica was training a corpse. It would all work out. “I must consider this at length,” she said. “You’re very quiet, Duncan.” “I await your questions.” “I see. You know, I was very angry with you. Taking her to Farad’n!” “You commanded me to make it real.” “I was forced to put out the report that you’d both been taken captive,” she said. “I obeyed your orders.” “You’re so literal at times, Duncan. You almost frighten me. But if you hadn’t, well . . .” “The Lady Jessica’s out of harm’s way,” he said. “And for Ghanima’s sake we should be grateful that –” “Exceedingly grateful,” she agreed. And she thought: He’s no longer trustworthy. He has that damnable Atreides loyalty. I must make an excuse to send him away . . . and have him eliminated. An accident, of course. She touched his cheek. Idaho forced himself to respond to the caress, taking her hand and kissing it. “Duncan, Duncan, how sad it is,” she said. “But I cannot keep you here with me. Too much is happening and I’ve so few I can completely trust.” He released her hand, waited. “I was forced to send Ghanima to Tabr,” she said. “Things are in deep unrest here. Raiders from the Broken Lands breached the qanats at Kagga Basin and spilled all of their waters into the sands. Arrakeen was on short rations. The Basin’s alive with sandtrout yet, reaping the water harvest. They’re being dealt with, of course, but we’re spread very thin.” He’d already noted how few amazons of Alia’s guard were to be seen in the Keep. And he thought: The Maquis of the Inner Desert will keep on probing her defenses. Doesn’t she know that? “Tabr is still neutral territory,” she said. “Negotiations are continuing there right now. Javid’s there with a delegation from the Priesthood. But I’d like you at Tabr to watch them, especially Irulan.” “She is Corrino,” he agreed. But he saw in her eyes that she was rejecting him. How transparent this Alia-creature had become! She waved a hand. “Go now, Duncan, before I soften and keep you here beside me. I’ve missed you so . . .” “And I’ve missed you,” he said, allowing all of his grief to flow into his voice. She stared at him, startled by the sadness. Then: “For my sake, Duncan.” And she thought: Too bad, Duncan. She said: “Zia will take you to Tabr. We need the ‘thopter back here.” Her pet amazon, he thought: I must be careful of that one. “I understand,” he said, once more taking her hand and kissing it. He stared at the dear flesh which once had been his Alia’s. He could not bring himself to look at her face as he left. Someone else stared back at him from her eyes. As he mounted to the Keep’s roof pad, Idaho probed a growing sense of unanswered questions. The meeting with Alia had been extremely trying for the mentat part of him which kept reading data signs. He waited beside the ‘thopter with one of the Keep’s amazons, stared grimly southward. Imagination took his gaze beyond the Shield Wall to Sietch Tabr. Why does Zia take me to Tabr? Returning a ‘thopter is a menial task. What is the delay? Is Zia getting special instructions? Idaho glanced at the watchful guard, mounted to the pilot’s position in the ‘thopter. He leaned out, said: “Tell Alia I’ll send the ‘thopter back immediately with one of Stilgar’s men.” Before the guard could protest he closed the door and started the ‘thopter. He could see her standing there indecisively. Who could question Alia’s consort? He had the ‘thopter airborne before she could make up her mind what to do. Now, alone in the ‘thopter, he allowed his grief to spend itself in great wracking sobs. Alia was gone. They had parted forever. Tears flowed from his Tleilaxu eyes and he whispered: “Let all the waters of Dune flow into the sand. They will not match my tears.” This was a non-mentat excess, though, and he recognized it as such, forcing himself to sober assessment of present necessities. The ‘thopter demanded his attention. The reactions of flying brought him some relief, and he had himself once more in hand. Ghanima with Stilgar again. And Irulan. Why had Zia been designated to accompany him? He made it a mentat problem and the answer chilled him. I was to have a fatal accident.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank