Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Fremen were the first humans to develop a conscious/unconscious symbology through which to experience the movements and relationships of their planetary system. They were the first people anywhere to express climate in terms of a semi-mathematic language whose written symbols embody (and internalize) the external relationships. The language itself was part of the system it described. Its written form carried the shape of what it described. The intimate local knowledge of what was available to support life was implicit in this development. One can measure the extent of this language/system interaction by the fact that Fremen accepted themselves as foraging and browsing animals. -The Story of Liet-Kynes by Harq al-Ada

“Kaveh wahid,” Stilgar said. Bring coffee. He signaled with a raised hand to an aide who stood at one side near the single door to the austere rock-walled room where he had spent this wakeful night. This was the place where the old Fremen Naib usually took his spartan breakfast, and it was almost breakfast time, but after such a night he did not feel hungry. He stood, stretching his muscles. Duncan Idaho sat on a low cushion near the door, trying to suppress a yawn. He had just realized that, while they talked, he and Stilgar had gone through an entire night. “Forgive me, Stil,” he said. “I’ve kept you up all night.” “To stay awake all night adds a day to your life,” Stilgar said, accepting the tray with coffee as it was passed in the door. He pushed a low bench in front of Idaho, placed the tray on it and sat across from his guest. Both men wore the yellow robes of mourning, but Idaho’s was a borrowed garment worn because the people of Tabr had resented the Atreides green of his working uniform. Stilgar poured the dark brew from the fat copper carafe, sipped first, and lifted his cup as a signal to Idaho — the ancient Fremen custom: “It is safe; I have taken some of it. ” The coffee was Harah’s work, done just as Stilgar preferred it: the beans roasted to a rose-brown, ground to a fine powder in a stone mortar while still hot, and boiled immediately; a pinch of melange added. Idaho inhaled the spice-rich aroma, sipped carefully but noisily. He still did not know if he had convinced Stilgar. His mentat faculties had begun to work sluggishly in the early hours of the morning, all of his computations confronted at last by the inescapable datum supplied in the message from Gurney Halleck. Alia had known about Leto! She’d known. And Javid had to be a part of that knowing. “I must be freed of your restraints,” Idaho said at last, taking up the arguments once more. Stilgar stood his ground. “The agreement of neutrality requires me to make hard judgments, Ghani is safe here. You and Irulan are safe here. But you may not send messages. Receive messages, yes, but you may not send them. I’ve given my word.” “This is not the treatment usually accorded a guest and an old friend who has shared your dangers,” Idaho said, knowing he’d used this argument before. Stilgar put down his cup, setting it carefully into its place on the tray and keeping his attention on it as he spoke. “We Fremen don’t feel guilt for the same things that arouse such feelings in others,” he said. He raised his attention to Idaho’s face. He must be made to take Ghani and flee this place, Idaho thought. He said: “It was not my intention to raise a storm of guilt.” “I understand that,” Stilgar said. “I raise the question to impress upon you our Fremen attitude, because that is what we are dealing with: Fremen. Even Alia thinks Fremen.” “And the Priests?” “They are another matter,” Stilgar said. “They want the people to swallow the grey wind of sin, taking that into the everlasting. This is a great blotch by which they seek to know their own piety.” He spoke in a level voice, but Idaho heard the bitterness and wondered why that bitterness could not sway Stilgar. “It’s an old, old trick of autocratic rule,” Idaho said. “Alia knows it well. Good subjects must feel guilty. The guilt begins as a feeling of failure. The good autocrat provides many opportunities for failure in the populace.” “I’ve noticed.” Stilgar spoke dryly. “But you must forgive me if I mention to you once more that this is your wife of whom you speak. It is the sister of Muad’Dib.” “She’s possessed, I tell you!” “Many say it. She will have to undergo the test one day. Meanwhile there are other considerations more important.” Idaho shook his head sadly. “Everything I’ve told you can be verified. The communication with Jacurutu was always through Alia’s Temple. The plot against the twins had accomplices there. Money for the sale of worms off-planet goes there. All of the strings lead to Alia’s office, to the Regency.” Stilgar shook his head, drew in a deep breath. “This is neutral territory. I’ve given my word.” “Things can’t go on this way!” Idaho protested. “I agree.” Stilgar nodded. “Alia’s caught inside the circle and every day the circle grows smaller. It’s like our old custom of having many wives. This pinpoints male sterility.” He bent a questioning gaze on Idaho. “You say she deceived you with other men — ‘using her sex as a weapon’ is the way I believe you’ve expressed it. Then you have a perfectly legal avenue available to you. Javid’s here in Tabr with messages from Alia. You have only to –” “On your neutral territory?” “No, but outside in the desert . . .” “And if I took that opportunity to escape?” “You’ll not be given such an opportunity.” “Still, I swear to you, Alia’s possessed. What do I have to do to convince you of –” “A difficult thing to prove,” Stilgar said. It was the argument he’d used many times during the night. Idaho recalled Jessica’s words, said: “But you’ve ways of proving it.” “A way, yes,” Stilgar said. Again he shook his head. “Painful, irrevocable. That is why I remind you about our attitude toward guilt. We can free ourselves from guilts which might destroy us in everything except the Trial of Possession. For that, the tribunal, which is all of the people, accepts complete responsibility.” “You’ve done it before, haven’t you?” “I’m sure the Reverend Mother didn’t omit our history in her recital,” Stilgar said. “You well know we’ve done it before.” Idaho responded to the irritation in Stilgar’s voice. “I wasn’t trying to trap you in a falsehood. It’s just –” “It’s the long night and the questions without answers,” Stilgar said. “And now it’s morning.” “I must be allowed to send a message to Jessica,” Idaho said. “That would be a message to Salusa,” Stilgar said. “I don’t make evening promises. My word is meant to be kept; that is why Tabr’s neutral territory. I will hold you in silence. I have pledged this for my entire household.” “Alia must be brought to your Trial!” “Perhaps. First, we must find out if there are extenuating circumstances. A failure of authority, possibly. Or even bad luck. It could be a case of that natural bad tendency which all humans share, and not possession at all.” “You want to be sure I’m not just the husband wronged, seeking others to execute his revenge,” Idaho said. “The thought has occurred to others, not to me,” Stilgar said. He smiled to take the sting out of his words. “We Fremen have our science of tradition, our hadith. When we fear a mentat or a Reverend Mother, we revert to the hadith. It is said that the only fear we cannot correct is the fear of our own mistakes.” “The Lady Jessica must be told,” Idaho said. “Gurney says –” “That message may not come from Gurney Halleck.” “It comes from no other. We Atreides have our ways of verifying messages. Stil, won’t you at least explore some of –” “Jacurutu is no more,” Stilgar said. “It was destroyed many generations ago.” He touched Idaho’s sleeve. “In any event, I cannot spare the fighting men. These are troubled times, the threat to the qanat . . . you understand?” He sat back. “Now, when Alia –” “There is no more Alia,” Idaho said. “So you say.” Stilgar took another sip of coffee, replaced the cup. “Let it rest there, friend Idaho. Often there’s no need to tear off an arm to remove a splinter.” “Then let’s talk about Ghanima.” “There’s no need. She has my countenance, my bond. No one can harm her here.” He cannot be that naive, Idaho thought. But Stilgar was rising to indicate that the interview was ended. Idaho levered himself to his feet, feeling the stiffness in his knees. His calves felt numb. As Idaho stood, an aide entered and stood aside. Javid came into the room behind him. Idaho turned. Stilgar stood four paces away. Without hesitating, Idaho drew his knife in one swift motion and drove its point into the breast of the unsuspecting Javid. The man staggered backward, pulling himself off the knife. He turned, fell onto his face. His legs kicked and he was dead. “That was to silence the gossip,” Idaho said. The aide stood with drawn knife, undecided how to react. Idaho had already sheathed his own knife, leaving a trace of blood on the edge of his yellow robe. “You have defiled my honor!” Stilgar cried. “This is neutral –” “Shut up!” Idaho glared at the shocked Naib. “You wear a collar, Stilgar!” It was one of the three most deadly insults which could be directed at a Fremen. Stilgar’s face went pale. “You are a servant,” Idaho said. “You’ve sold Fremen for their water.” This was the second most deadly insult, the one which had destroyed the original Jacurutu. Stilgar ground his teeth, put a hand on his crysknife. The aide stepped back away from the body in the doorway. Turning his back on the Naib, Idaho stepped into the door, taking the narrow opening beside Javid’s body and speaking without turning, delivered the third insult. “You have no immortality, Stilgar. None of your descendants carry your blood!” “Where do you go now, mentat?” Stilgar called as Idaho continued leaving the room. Stilgar’s voice was as cold as a wind from the poles. “To find Jacurutu,” Idaho said, still not turning. Stilgar drew his knife. “Perhaps I can help you.” Idaho was at the outer lip of the passage now. Without stopping, he said: “If you’d help me with your knife, water-thief, please do it in my back. That’s the fitting way for one who wears the collar of a demon.” With two leaping strides Stilgar crossed the room, stepped on Javid’s body and caught Idaho in the outer passage. One gnarled hand jerked Idaho around and to a stop. Stilgar confronted Idaho with bared teeth and a drawn knife. Such was his rage that Stilgar did not even see the curious smile on Idaho’s face. “Draw your knife, mentat scum!” Stilgar roared. Idaho laughed. He cuffed Stilgar sharply — left hand, right hand — two stinging slaps to the head. With an incoherent screech, Stilgar drove his knife into Idaho’s abdomen, striking upward through the diaphragm into the heart. Idaho sagged onto the blade, grinned up at Stilgar, whose rage dissolved into sudden icy shock. “Two deaths for the Atreides,” Idaho husked. “The second for no better reason than the first.” He lurched sideways, collapsed to the stone floor on his face. Blood spread out from his wound. Stilgar stared down past his dripping knife at the body of Idaho, took a deep, trembling breath. Javid lay dead behind him. And the consort of Alia, the Womb of Heaven, lay dead at Stilgar’s own hands. It might be argued that a Naib had but protected the honor of his name, avenging the threat to his promised neutrality. But this dead man was Duncan Idaho. No matter the arguments available, no matter the “extenuating circumstances,” nothing could erase such an act. Even were Alia to approve privately, she would be forced to respond publicly in revenge. She was, after all, Fremen. To rule Fremen, she could be nothing else, not even to the smallest degree. Only then did it occur to Stilgar that this situation was precisely what Idaho had intended to buy with his “second death.” Stilgar looked up, saw the shocked face of Harah, his second wife, peering at him in an enclosing throng. Everywhere Stilgar turned there were faces with identical expressions: shock and an understanding of the consequences. Slowly Stilgar drew himself erect, wiped the blade on his sleeve and sheathed it. Speaking to the faces, his tone casual, he said: “Those who’ll go with me should pack at once. Send men to summon worms.” “Where will you go, Stilgar?” Harah asked. “Into the desert.” “I will go with you,” she said. “Of course you’ll go with me. All of my wives will go with me. And Ghanima. Get her, Harah. At once.” “Yes, Stilgar . . . at once.” She hesitated. “And Irulan?” “If she wishes.” “Yes, husband.” Still she hesitated. “You take Ghani as hostage?” “Hostage?” He was genuinely startled by the thought. “Woman . . .” He touched Idaho’s body softly with a toe. “If this mentat was right. I’m Ghani’s only hope.” And he remembered then Leto’s warning: “Beware of Alia. You must take Ghani and flee.”

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