Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Fremen speech implies great concision, a precise sense of expression. It is immersed in the illusion of absolutes. Its assumptions are a fertile ground for absolutist religions. Furthermore, Fremen are fond of moralizing. They confront the terrifying instability of all things with institutionalized statements. They say: “We know there is no summa of all attainable knowledge; that is the preserve of God. But whatever men can learn, men can contain.” Out of this knife-edged approach to the universe they carve a fantastic belief in signs and omens and in their own destiny. This is an origin of their Kralizec legend: the war at the end of the universe. -Bene Gesserit Private Reports/folio 800881

“They have him securely in a safe place,” Namri said, smiling across the square stone room at Gurney Halleck. “You may report this to your friends.” “Where is this safe place?” Halleck asked. He didn’t like Namri’s tone, felt constrained by Jessica’s orders. Damn the witch! Her explanations made no sense except the warning about what could happen if Leto failed to master his terrible memories. “It’s a safe place,” Namri said. “That’s all I’m permitted to tell you.” “How do you know this?” “I’ve had a distrans. Sabiha is with him.” “Sabiha! She’ll just let him –” “Not this time.” “Are you going to kill him?” “That’s no longer up to me.” Halleck grimaced. Distrans. What was the range of those damned cave bats? He’d often seen them flitting across the desert with hidden messages imprinted upon their squeaking calls. But how far would they go on this hellhole planet? “I must see him for myself,” Halleck said. “That’s not permitted.” Halleck took a deep breath to quiet himself. He had spent two days and two nights waiting for search reports. Now it was another morning and he felt his role dissolving around him, leaving him naked. He had never liked command anyway. Command always waited while others did the interesting and dangerous things. “Why isn’t it permitted?” he asked. The smugglers who’d arranged this safe-sietch had left too many questions unanswered and he wanted no more of the same from Namri. “Some believe you saw too much when you saw this sietch,” Namri said. Halleck heard the menace, relaxed into the easy stance of the trained fighter, hand near but not on his knife. He longed for a shield, but that had been ruled out by its effect on the worms, its short life in the presence of storm-generated static charges. “This secrecy isn’t part of our agreement,” Halleck said. “If I’d killed him, would that have been part of our agreement?” Again Halleck felt the jockeying of unseen forces about which the Lady Jessica hadn’t warned him. This damned plan of hers! Maybe it was right not to trust the Bene Gesserit. Immediately, he felt disloyal. She’d explained the problem, and he’d come into her plan with the expectation that it, like all plans, would need adjustments later. This wasn’t any Bene Gesserit; this was Jessica of the Atreides who’d never been other than friend and supporter to him. Without her, he knew he’d have been adrift in a universe more dangerous than the one he now inhabited. “You can’t answer my question,” Namri said. “You were to kill him only if he showed himself to be . . . possessed,” Halleck said. “Abomination.” Namri put his fist beside his right ear. “Your Lady knew we had tests for such. Wise of her to leave that judgment in my hands.” Halleck compressed his lips in frustration. “You heard the Reverend Mother’s words to me,” Namri said. “We Fremen understand such women but you off-worlders never understand them. Fremen women often send their sons to death.” Halleck spoke past still lips. “Are you telling me you’ve killed him?” “He lives. He is in a safe place. He’ll continue to receive the spice.” “But I’m to escort him back to his grandmother if he survives,” Halleck said. Namri merely shrugged. Halleck understood that this was all the answer he’d get. Damn! He couldn’t go back to Jessica with such unanswered questions! He shook his head. “Why question what you cannot change?” Namri asked. “You’re being well paid.” Halleck scowled at the man. Fremen! They believed all foreigners were influenced primarily by money. But Namri was speaking more than Fremen prejudice. Other forces were at work here and that was obvious to one who’d been trained in observation by a Bene Gesserit. This whole thing had the smell of a feint within a feint within a feint . . . Shifting to the insultingly familiar form, Halleck said: “The Lady Jessica will be wrathful. She could send cohorts against –” “Zanadiq!” Namri cursed. “You office messenger! You stand outside the Mohalata! I take pleasure in possessing your water for the Noble People!” Halleck rested a hand on his knife, readied his left sleeve where he’d prepared a small surprise for attackers. “I see no water spilled here,” he said. “Perhaps you’re blinded by your pride.” “You live because I wished you to learn before dying that your Lady Jessica will not send cohorts against anyone. You are not to be lured quietly into the Huanui, off-world scum. I am of the Noble People, and you –” “And I’m just a servant of the Atreides,” Halleck said, voice mild. “We’re the scum who lifted the Harkonnen yoke from your smelly neck.” Namri showed white teeth in a grimace. “Your Lady is prisoner on Salusa Secundus. The notes you thought were from her came from her daughter!” By extreme effort, Halleck managed to keep his voice even. “No matter. Alia will . . .” Namri drew his crysknife. “What do you know of the Womb of Heaven? I am her servant, you male whore. I do her bidding when I take your water!” And he lunged across the room with foolhardy directness. Halleck, not allowing himself to be tricked by such seeming clumsiness, flicked up the left arm of his robe, releasing the extra length of heavy fabric he’d had sewn there, letting that take Namri’s knife. In the same movement, Halleck swept the folds of cloth over Namri’s head, came in under and through the cloth with his own knife aimed directly for the face. He felt the point bite home as Namri’s body hit him with a hard surface of metal armor beneath the robe. The Fremen emitted one outraged squeal, jerked backward, and fell. He lay there, blood gushing from his mouth as his eyes glared at Halleck then slowly dulled. Halleck blew air through his lips. How could that fool Namri have expected anyone to miss the presence of armor beneath a robe? Halleck addressed the corpse as he recovered the trick sleeve, wiped his knife and sheathed it. “How did you think we Atreides servants were trained, fool?” He took a deep breath thinking: Well now. Whose feint am I? There’d been the ring of truth in Namri’s words. Jessica a prisoner of the Corrinos and Alia working her own devious schemes. Jessica herself had warned of many contingencies with Alia as enemy, but had not predicted herself as prisoner. He had his orders to obey, though. First there was the necessity of getting away from this place. Luckily one robed Fremen looked much like another. He rolled Namri’s body into a corner, threw cushions over it, moved a rug to cover the blood. When it was done, Halleck adjusted the nose and mouth tubes of his stillsuit, brought up the mask as one would in preparing for the desert, pulled the hood of his robe forward and went out into the long passage. The innocent move without care, he thought, setting his pace at an easy saunter. He felt curiously free, as though he’d moved out of danger, not into it. I never did like her plan for the boy, he thought. And I’ll tell her so if I see her. If. Because if Namri spoke the truth, the most dangerous alternate plan went into effect. Alia wouldn’t let him live long if she caught him, but there was always Stilgar — a good Fremen with a good Fremen’s superstitions. Jessica had explained it: “There’s a very thin layer of civilized behavior over Stilgar’s original nature. And here’s how you take that layer off him . . .”

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