Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Thou didst divide the sand by thy strength; Thou breakest the heads of the dragons in the desert. Yea, I behold thee as a beast coming up from the dunes; thou hast the two horns of the lamb, but thou speakest as the dragon. -Revised Orange Catholic Bible Arran 11:4

It was the immutable prophecy, the threads become rope, a thing Leto now seemed to have known all of his life. He looked out across the evening shadows on the Tanzerouft. One hundred and seventy kilometers due north lay Old Gap, the deep and twisting crevasse through the Shield Wall by which the first Fremen had migrated into the desert. No doubts remained in Leto. He knew why he stood here alone in the desert, yet filled with a sense that he owned this entire land, that it must do his bidding. He felt the chord which connected him with all of humankind and that profound need for a universe of experiences which made logical sense, a universe of recognizable regularities within its perpetual changes. I know this universe. The worm which had brought him here had come to the stamping of his foot and, rising up in front of him, had stopped like an obedient beast. He’d leaped atop it and, with only his membrane-amplified hands, had exposed the leading lip of the worm’s rings to keep it on the surface. The worm had exhausted itself in the nightlong dash northward. Its silicon-sulfur internal “factory” had worked at capacity, exhaling lavish gusts of oxygen which a following wind had sent in enveloping eddies around Leto. At times the warm gusts had made him dizzy, filled his mind with strange perceptions. The reflexive and circular subjectivity of his visions had turned inward upon his ancestry, forcing him to relive portions of his Terranic past, then comparing those portions with his changing self. Already he could feel how far he’d drifted from something recognizably human. Seduced by the spice which he gulped from every trace he found, the membrane which covered him no longer was sandtrout, just as he was no longer human. Cilia had crept into his flesh, forming a new creature which would seek its own metamorphosis in the eons ahead. You saw this, father, and rejected it, he thought. It was a thing too terrible to face. Leto knew what was believed of his father, and why. Muad’Dib died of prescience. But Paul Atreides had passed from the universe of reality into the alam al-mythal while still alive, fleeing from this thing which his son had dared. Now there was only The Preacher. Leto squatted on the sand and kept his attention northward. The worm would come from that direction, and on its back would ride two people: a young Fremen and a blind man. A flight of pallid bats passed over Leto’s head, bending their course southeast. They were random specks in the darkening sky, and a knowledgeable Fremen eye could mark their back-course to learn where shelter lay that way. The Preacher would avoid that shelter, though. His destination was Shuloch, where no wild bats were permitted lest they guide strangers to a secret place. The worm appeared first as a dark movement between the desert and the northern sky. Matar, the rain of sand dropped from high altitudes by a dying stormwind, obscured the view for a few minutes, then it returned clearer and closer. The cold-line at the base of the dune where Leto crouched began to produce its nightly moisture. He tasted the fragile dampness in his nostrils, adjusted the bubble cap of the membrane over his mouth. There no longer was any need for him to find soaks and sip-wells. From his mother’s genes he had that longer, larger Fremen large intestine to take back water from everything which came its way. The living stillsuit grasped and retained every bit of moisture it encountered. And even while he sat here the membrane which touched sand extruded pseudopod-cilia to hunt for bits of energy which it could store. Leto studied the approaching worm. He knew the youthful guide had seen him by this time, noting the spot atop the dune. The worm rider would discern no principle in this object seen from a distance, but that was a problem Fremen had learned how to handle. Any unknown object was dangerous. The young guide’s reactions would be quite predictable, even without the vision. True to that prediction, the worm’s course shifted slightly and aimed directly at Leto. Giant worms were a weapon which Fremen had employed many times. Worms had helped beat Shaddam at Arrakeen. This worm, however, failed to do its rider’s bidding. It came to a halt ten meters away and no manner of goading would send it across another grain of sand. Leto arose, feeling the cilia snap back into the membrane behind him. He freed his mouth and called out: “Achlan, wasachlan!” Welcome, twice welcome! The blind man stood behind his guide atop the worm, one hand on the youth’s shoulder. The man held his face high, nose pointed over Leto’s head as though trying to sniff out this interruption. Sunset painted orange on his forehead. “Who is that?” the blind man asked, shaking his guide’s shoulder. “Why have we stopped?” His voice was nasal through the stillsuit plugs. The youth stared fearfully down at Leto, said: “It is only someone alone in the desert. A child by his looks. I tried to send the worm over him, but the worm won’t go.” “Why didn’t you say?” the blind man demanded. “I thought it was only someone alone in the desert!” the youth protested. “But it’s a demon.” “Spoken like a true son of Jacurutu,” Leto said. “And you, sire, you are The Preacher.” “I am that one, yes.” And there was fear in The Preacher’s voice because, at last, he had met his own past. “This is no garden,” Leto said, “but you are welcome to share this place with me tonight.” “Who are you?” The Preacher demanded. “How have you stopped our worm?” There was an ominous tone of recognition in The Preacher’s voice. Now he called up the memories of this alternate vision . . . knowing he could reach an end here. “It’s a demon!” the young guide protested. “We must flee this place or our souls –” “Silence!” The Preacher roared. “I am Leto Atreides,” Leto said. “Your worm stopped because I commanded it.” The Preacher stood in frozen silence. “Come, father,” Leto said. “Alight and spend the night with me. I’ll give you sweet syrup to sip. I see you’ve Fremkits with food and water jars. We’ll share our riches here upon the sand.” “Leto’s yet a child,” The Preacher protested. “And they say he’s dead of Corrino treachery. There’s no childhood in your voice.” “You know me, sire,” Leto said. “I’m small for my age as you were, but my experience is ancient and my voice has learned.” “What do you here in the Inner Desert?” The Preacher asked. “Bu ji,” Leto said. Nothing from nothing. It was the answer of a Zensunni wanderer, one who acted only from a position of rest, without effort and in harmony with his surroundings. The Preacher shook his guide’s shoulder. “Is it a child, truly a child?” “Aiya,” the youth said, keeping a fearful attention on Leto. A great shuddering sigh shook The Preacher. “No,” he said. “It is a demon in child form,” the guide said. “You will spend the night here,” Leto said. “We will do as he says,” The Preacher said. He released his grip on the guide, slipped off the worm’s side and slid down a ring to the sand, leaping clear when his feet touched. Turning, he said: “Take the worm off and send it back into the sand. It is tired and will not bother us.” “The worm will not go!” the youth protested. “It will go,” Leto said. “But if you try to flee on it, I’ll let it eat you.” He moved to one side out of the worm’s sensory range, pointed in the direction they had come. “Go that way.” The youth tapped a goad against the ring behind him, wiggled a hook where it held a ring open. Slowly the worm began to slide over the sand, turning as the youth shifted his hook down a side. The Preacher, following the sound of Leto’s voice, clambered up the duneslope and stood two paces away. It was done with a swift sureness which told Leto this would be no easy contest. Here the visions parted. Leto said: “Remove your suit mask, father.” The Preacher obeyed, dropping the fold of his hood and withdrawing the mouth cover. Knowing his own appearance, Leto studied this face, seeing the lines of likeness as though they’d been outlined in light. The lines formed an indefinable reconciliation, a pathway of genes without sharp boundaries, and there was no mistaking them. Those lines came down to Leto from the humming days, from the water-dripping days, from the miracle seas of Caladan. But now they stood at a dividing point on Arrakis as night waited to fold itself into the dunes. “So father,” Leto said glancing to the left where he could see the youthful guide trudging back to them from where the worm had been abandoned. “Mu zein! “‘The Preacher said, waving his right hand in a cutting gesture. This is no good! “Koolish zein,” Leto said, voice soft. This is all the good we may ever have. And he added, speaking in Chakobsa, the Atreides battle language: “Here I am; here I remain! We cannot forget that, father.” The Preacher’s shoulders sagged. He put both hands to his empty sockets in a long-unused gesture. “I gave you the sight of my eyes once and took your memories,” Leto said. “I know your decisions and I’ve been to that place where you hid yourself.” “I know.” The Preacher lowered his hands. “You will remain?” “You named me for the man who put that on his coat of arms,” Leto said. “J’y suis, j’y reste!” The Preacher sighed deeply. “How far has it gone, this thing you’ve done to yourself?” “My skin is not my own, father.” The Preacher shuddered. “Then I know how you found me here.” “Yes, I fastened my memory to a place my flesh had never known,” Leto said. “I need an evening with my father.” “I’m not your father. I’m only a poor copy, a relic.” He turned his head toward the sound of the approaching guide. “I no longer go to the visions for my future.” As he spoke, darkness covered the desert. Stars leaped out above them and Leto, too, turned toward the approaching guide. “Wubakh ul kuhar!” Leto called to the youth. “Greetings!” Back came the response: “Subakh un nar!” Speaking in a hoarse whisper, The Preacher said: “That young Assan Tariq is a dangerous one.” “All of the Cast Out are dangerous,” Leto said. “But not to me.” He spoke in a low, conversational tone. “If that’s your vision, I will not share it,” The Preacher said. “Perhaps you have no choice,” Leto said. “You are the fit-haquiqa. The Reality. You are Abu Dhur, Father of the Indefinite Roads of Time.” “I’m no more than bait in a trap,” The Preacher said, and his voice was bitter. “And Alia already has eaten that bait,” Leto said. “But I don’t like its taste.” “You cannot do this!” The Preacher hissed. “I’ve already done it. My skin is not my own.” “Perhaps it’s not too late for you to –” “It is too late.” Leto bent his head to one side. He could hear Assan Tariq trudging up the duneslope toward them, coming to the sound of their voices. “Greetings, Assan Tariq of Shuloch,” Leto said. The youth stopped just below Leto on the slope, a dark shadow there in the starlight. There was indecision in the set of his shoulders, the way he tipped his head. “Yes,” Leto said, “I’m the one who escaped from Shuloch.” “When I heard . . .” The Preacher began. And again: “You cannot do this!” “I am doing it. What matter if you’re made blind once more?” “You think I fear that?” The Preacher asked. “Do you not see the fine guide they have provided for me?” “I see him.” Again Leto faced Tariq. “Didn’t you hear me, Assan? I’m the one who escaped from Shuloch.” “You’re a demon,” the youth quavered. “Your demon,” Leto said. “But you are my demon.” And Leto felt the tension grow between himself and his father. It was a shadow play all around them, a projection of unconscious forms. And Leto felt the memories of his father, a form of backward prophecy which sorted visions from the familiar reality of this moment. Tariq sensed it, this battle of the visions. He slid several paces backward down the slope. “You cannot control the future,” The Preacher whispered, and the sound of his voice was filled with effort as though he lifted a great weight. Leto felt the dissonance between them then. It was an element of the universe with which his entire life grappled. Either he or his father would be forced to act soon, making a decision by that act, choosing a vision. And his father was right: trying for some ultimate control of the universe, you only built weapons with which the universe eventually defeated you. To choose and manage a vision required you to balance on a single, thin thread — playing God on a high tightwire with cosmic solitude on both sides. Neither contestant could retreat into death-as-surcease-from-paradox. Each knew the visions and the rules. All of the old illusions were dying. And when one contestant moved, the other might countermove. The only real truth that mattered to them now was that which separated them from the vision background. There was no place of safety, only a transitory shifting of relationships, marked out within the limits which they now imposed and bound for inevitable changes. Each of them had only a desperate and lonely courage upon which to rely, but Leto possessed two advantages: he had committed himself upon a path from which there was no turning back, and he had accepted the terrible consequences to himself. His father still hoped there was a way back and had made no final commitment. “You must not! You must not!” The Preacher rasped. He sees my advantage, Leto thought. Leto spoke in a conversational tone, masking his own tensions, the balancing effort this other-level contest required. “I have no passionate belief in truth, no faith other than what I create,” he said. And he felt then a movement between himself and his father, something with granular characteristics which touched only Leto’s own passionately subjective belief in himself. By such belief he knew that he posted the markers of the Golden Path. Someday such markers could tell others how to be human, a strange gift from a creature who no longer would be human on that day. But these markers were always set in place by gamblers. Leto felt them scattered throughout the landscape of his inner lives and, feeling this, poised himself for the ultimate gamble. Softly he sniffed the air, seeking the signal which both he and his father knew must come. One question remained: Would his father warn the terrified young guide who waited below them? Presently Leto sensed ozone in his nostrils, the betraying odor of a shield. True to his orders from the Cast Out, young Tariq was trying to kill both of these dangerous Atreides, not knowing the horrors which this would precipitate. “Don’t,” The Preacher whispered. But Leto knew the signal was a true one. He sensed ozone, but there was no tingling in the air around them. Tariq used a pseudo-shield in the desert, a weapon developed exclusively for Arrakis. The Holtzmann Effect would summon a worm while it maddened that worm. Nothing would stop such a worm — not water, not the presence of sandtrout . . . nothing. Yes, the youth had planted the device in the duneslope and was beginning to edge away from the danger zone. Leto launched himself off the dunetop, hearing his father scream in protest. But the awful impetus of Leto’s amplified muscles threw his body like a missile. One outflung hand caught the neck of Tariq’s stillsuit, the other slapped around to grip the doomed youth’s robe at the waist. There came a single snap as the neck broke. Leto rolled, lifting his body like a finely balanced instrument which dove directly into the sand where the pseudo-shield had been hidden. Fingers found the thing and he had it out of the sand, throwing it in a looping arc far out to the south of them. Presently there came a great hissing-thrashing din out on the desert where the pseudo-shield had gone. It subsided, and silence returned. Leto looked up to the top of the dune where his father stood, still defiant, but defeated. That was Paul Muad’Dib up there, blind, angry, near despair as a consequence of his flight from the vision which Leto had accepted. Paul’s mind would be reflecting now upon the Zensunni Long Koan: “In the one act of predicting an accurate future, Muad’Dib introduced an element of development and growth into the very prescience through which he saw human existence. By this, he brought uncertainty onto himself. Seeking the absolute of orderly prediction, he amplified disorder, distorted prediction.” Returning to the dunetop in a single leap, Leto said: “Now I’m your guide.” “Never!” “Would you go back to Shuloch? Even if they’d welcome you when you arrived without Tariq, where has Shuloch gone now? Do your eyes see it?” Paul confronted his son then, aiming the eyeless sockets at Leto. “Do you really know the universe you have created here?” Leto heard the particular emphasis. The vision which both of them knew had been set into terrible motion here had required an act of creation at a certain point in time. For that moment, the entire sentient universe shared a linear view of time which possessed characteristics of orderly progression. They entered this time as they might step onto a moving vehicle, and they could only leave it the same way. Against this, Leto held the multi-thread reins, balanced in his own vision-lighted view of time as multilinear and multilooped. He was the sighted man in the universe of the blind. Only he could scatter the orderly rationale because his father no longer held the reins. In Leto’s view, a son had altered the past. And a thought as yet undreamed in the farthest future could reflect upon the now and move his hand. Only his hand. Paul knew this because he no longer could see how Leto might manipulate the reins, could only recognize the inhuman consequences which Leto had accepted. And he thought: Here is the change for which I prayed. Why do I fear it? Because it’s the Golden Path! “I’m here to give purpose to evolution and, therefore, to give purpose to our lives,” Leto said. “Do you wish to live those thousands of years, changing as you now know you will change?” Leto recognized that his father was not speaking about physical changes. Both of them knew the physical consequences: Leto would adapt and adapt; the skin-which-was-not-his-own would adapt and adapt. The evolutionary thrust of each part would melt into the other and a single transformation would emerge. When metamorphosis came, if it came, a thinking creature of awesome dimensions would emerge upon the universe — and that universe would worship him. No . . . Paul was referring to the inner changes, the thoughts and decisions which would inflict themselves upon the worshipers. “Those who think you dead,” Leto said, “you know what they say about your last words.” “Of course.” ” ‘Now I do what all life must do in the service of life,’ ” Leto said. “You never said that, but a Priest who thought you could never return and call him liar put those words into your mouth.” “I’d not call him liar.” Paul took in a deep breath. “Those are good last words.” “Would you stay here or return to that hut in the basin of Shuloch?” Leto asked. “This is your universe now,” Paul said. The words filled with defeat cut through Leto. Paul had tried to guide the last strands of a personal vision, a choice he’d made years before in Sietch Tabr. For that, he’d accepted his role as an instrument of revenge for the Cast Out, the remnants of Jacurutu. They had contaminated him, but he’d accepted this rather than his view of this universe which Leto had chosen. The sadness in Leto was so great he could not speak for several minutes. When he could manage his voice, Leto said: “So you baited Alia, tempted her and confused her into inaction and the wrong decisions. And now she knows who you are.” “She knows . . . Yes, she knows.” Paul’s voice was old then and filled with hidden protests. There was a reserve of defiance in him, though. He said: “I’ll take the vision away from you if I can.” “Thousands of peaceful years,” Leto said. “That’s what I’ll give them.” “Dormancy! Stagnation!” “Of course. And those forms of violence which I permit. It’ll be a lesson which humankind will never forget.” “I spit on your lesson!” Paul said. “You think I’ve not seen a thing similar to what you choose?” “You saw it,” Leto agreed. “Is your vision any better than mine?” “Not one whit better. Worse, perhaps,” Leto said. “Then what can I do but resist you?” Paul demanded. “Kill me, perhaps?” “I’m not that innocent. I know what you’ve set in motion. I know about the broken qanats and the unrest.” “And now Assan Tariq will never return to Shuloch. You must go back with me or not at all because this is my vision now.” “I choose not to go back.” How old his voice sounds, Leto thought, and the thought was a wrenching pain. He said: “I’ve the hawk ring of the Atreides concealed in my dishdasha. Do you wish me to return it to you?” “If I’d only died,” Paul whispered. “I truly wanted to die when I went into the desert that night, but I knew I could not leave this world. I had to come back and –” “Restore the legend,” Leto said. “I know. And the jackals of Jacurutu were waiting for you that night as you knew they would be. They wanted your visions! You knew that.” “I refused. I never gave them one vision.” “But they contaminated you. They fed you spice essence and plied you with women and dreams. And you did have visions.” “Sometimes.” How sly his voice sounded. “Will you take back your hawk ring?” Leto asked. Paul sat down suddenly on the sand, a dark blotch in the starlight. “No!” So he knows the futility of that path, Leto thought. This revealed much, but not enough. The contest of the visions had moved from its delicate plane of choices down to a gross discarding of alternates. Paul knew he could not win, but he hoped yet to nullify that single vision to which Leto clung. Presently Paul said: “Yes, I was contaminated by the Jacurutu. But you contaminate yourself.” “That’s true,” Leto admitted. “I am your son.” “And are you a good Fremen?” “Yes.” “Will you permit a blind man to go into the desert finally? Will you let me find peace on my own terms?” He pounded the sand beside him. “No, I’ll not permit that,” Leto said. “But it’s your right to fall upon your knife if you insist upon it.” “And you would have my body!” “True.” “No!” And so he knows that path, Leto thought. The enshrining of Muad’Dib’s body by his son could be contrived as a form of cement for Leto’s vision. “You never told them, did you, father?” Leto asked. “I never told them.” “But I told them,” Leto said. “I told Muriz. Kralizec, the Typhoon Struggle.” Paul’s shoulders sagged. “You cannot,” he whispered. “You cannot.” “I am a creature of this desert now, father,” Leto said. “Would you speak thus to a Coriolis storm?” “You think me coward for refusing that path,” Paul said, his voice husky and trembling. “Oh, I understand you well, son. Augury and haruspication have always been their own torments. But I was never lost in the possible futures because this one is unspeakable!” “Your Jihad will be a summer picnic on Caladan by comparison,” Leto agreed. “I’ll take you to Gurney Halleck now.” “Gurney! He serves the Sisterhood through my mother.” And now Leto understood the extent of his father’s vision. “No, father. Gurney no longer serves anyone. I know the place to find him and I can take you there. It’s time for the new legend to be created.” “I see that I cannot sway you. Let me touch you, then, for you are my son.” Leto held out his right hand to meet the groping fingers, felt their strength, matched it, and resisted every shift of Paul’s arm. “Not even a poisoned knife will harm me now,” Leto said. “I’m already a different chemistry.” Tears slipped from the sightless eyes and Paul released his grip, dropped his hand to his side. “If I’d chosen your way, I’d have become the bicouros of shaitan. What will you become?” “For a time they’ll call me the missionary of shaitan, too,” Leto said. “Then they’ll begin to wonder and, finally, they’ll understand. You didn’t take your vision far enough, father. Your hands did good things and evil.” “But the evil was known after the event!” “Which is the way of many great evils,” Leto said. “You crossed over only into a part of my vision. Was your strength not enough?” “You know I couldn’t stay there. I could never do an evil act which was known before the act. I’m not Jacurutu.” He clambered to his feet. “Do you think me one of those who laughs alone at night?” “It is sad that you were never really Fremen,” Leto said. “We Fremen know how to commission the arifa. Our judges can choose between evils. It’s always been that way for us.” “Fremen, is it? Slaves of the fate you helped to make?” Paul stepped toward Leto, reached out in an oddly shy movement, touched Leto’s sheathed arm, explored up it to where the membrane exposed an ear, then the cheek and, finally, the mouth. “Ahhhh, that is your own flesh yet,” he said. “Where will that flesh take you?” He dropped his hand. “Into a place where humans may create their futures from instant to instant.” “So you say. An Abomination might say the same.” “I’m not Abomination, though I might’ve been,” Leto said. “I saw how it goes with Alia. A demon lives in her, father. Ghani and I know that demon: it’s the Baron, your grandfather.” Paul buried his face in his hands. His shoulders shook for a moment, then he lowered his hands and his mouth was set in a harsh line. “There is a curse upon our House. I prayed that you would throw that ring into the sand, that you’d deny me and run away to make . . . another life. It was there for you.” “At what price?” After a long silence, Paul said: “The end adjusts the path behind it. Just once I failed to fight for my principles. Just once. I accepted the Mahdinate. I did it for Chani, but it made me a bad leader.” Leto found he couldn’t answer this. The memory of that decision was there within him. “I cannot lie to you any more than I could lie to myself,” Paul said. “I know this. Every man should have such an auditor. I will only ask this one thing: is the Typhoon Struggle necessary?” “It’s that or humans will be extinguished.” Paul heard the truth in Leto’s words, spoke in a low voice which acknowledged the greater breadth of his son’s vision. “I did not see that among the choices.” “I believe the Sisterhood suspects it,” Leto said. “I cannot accept any other explanation of my grandmother’s decision.” The night wind blew coldly around them then. It whipped Paul’s robe around his legs. He trembled. Seeing this, Leto said: “You’ve a kit, father. I’ll inflate the tent and we can spend this night in comfort.” But Paul could only shake his head, knowing he would have no comfort from this night or any other. Muad’Dib, The Hero, must be destroyed. He’d said it himself. Only The Preacher could go on now.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank