Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Muad’Dib was disinherited and he spoke for the disinherited of all time. He cried out against that profound injustice which alienates the individual from that which he was taught to believe, from that which seemed to come to him as a right. -The Mahdinate, An Analysis by Harq al-Ada

Gurney Halleck sat on the butte at Shuloch with his baliset beside him on a spice-fiber rug. Below him the enclosed basin swarmed with workers planting crops. The sand ramp up which the Cast Out had lured worms on a spice trail had been blocked off with a new qanat. Plantings moved down the slope to hold it. It was almost time for the noon meal and Halleck had been on the butte for more than an hour, seeking privacy in which to think. Humans did the labor below him, but everything he saw was the work of melange. Leto’s personal estimate was that spice production would fall soon to a stabilized one-tenth of its peak in the Harkonnen years. Stockpiles throughout the empire doubled in value at every new posting. Three hundred and twenty-one liters were said to have bought half of Novebruns Planet from the Metulli Family. The Cast Out worked like men driven by a devil, and perhaps they were. Before every meal, they faced the Tanzerouft and prayed to Shai-Hulud personified. That was how they saw Leto and, through their eyes, Halleck saw a future where most of humankind shared that view. Halleck wasn’t sure he liked the prospect. Leto had set the pattern when he’d brought Halleck and The Preacher here in Halleck’s stolen ‘thopter. With his bare hands Leto had breached the Shuloch qanat, hurling large stones more than fifty meters. When the Cast Out had tried to intervene, Leto had decapitated the first to reach him, using no more than a blurred sweep of his arm. He’d hurled others back into their companions and had laughed at their weapons. In a demon-voice he’d roared at them: “Fire will not touch me! Your knives will not harm me! I wear the skin of Shai-Hulud!” The Cast Out had recognized him then and recalled his escape, leaping from the butte “directly to the desert.” They’d prostrated themselves before him and Leto had issued his orders. “I bring you two guests. You will guard them and honor them. You will rebuild your qanat and begin planting an oasis garden. One day I’ll make my home here. You will prepare my home. You will sell no more spice, but you will store every bit you collect.” On and on he’d gone with his instructions, and the Cast Out had heard every word, seeing him through fear-glazed eyes, through a terrifying awe. Here was Shai-Hulud come up from the sand at last! There’d been no intimation of this metamorphosis when Leto had found Halleck with Ghadhean al-Fali in one of the small rebel sietches at Gare Ruden. With his blind companion, Leto had come up from the desert along the old spice route, traveling by worm through an area where worms were now a rarity. He’d spoken of several detours forced upon him by the presence of moisture in the sand, enough water to poison a worm. They’d arrived shortly after noon and had been brought into the stone-walled common room by guards. The memory haunted Halleck now. “So this is The Preacher,” he’d said. Striding around the blind man, studying him, Halleck recalled the stories about him. No stillsuit mask hid the old face in sietch, and the features were there for memory to make its comparisons. Yes, the man did look like the old Duke for whom Leto had been named. Was it a chance likeness? “You know the stories about this one?” Halleck asked, speaking in an aside to Leto. “That he’s your father come back from the desert?” “I’ve heard the stories.” Halleck turned to examine the boy. Leto wore an odd stillsuit with rolled edges around his face and ears. A black robe covered it and sandboots sheathed his feet. There was much to be explained about his presence here — how he’d managed to escape once more. “Why do you bring The Preacher here?” Halleck asked. “In Jacurutu they said he works for them.” “No more. I bring him because Alia wants him dead.” “So? You think this is a sanctuary?” “You are his sanctuary.” All this time The Preacher stood near them, listening but giving no sign that he cared which turn their discussion took. “He has served me well, Gurney,” Leto said. “House Atreides has not lost all sense of obligation to those who serve us.” “House Atreides?” “I am House Atreides.” “You fled Jacurutu before I could complete the testing which your grandmother ordered,” Halleck said, his voice cold. “How can you assume –” “This man’s life is to be guarded as though it were your own.” Leto spoke as though there were no argument and he met Halleck’s stare without flinching. Jessica had trained Halleck in many of the Bene Gesserit refinements of observation and he’d detected nothing in Leto which spoke of other than calm assurance. Jessica’s orders remained, though. “Your grandmother charged me to complete your education and be sure you’re not possessed.” “I’m not possessed.” Just a flat statement. “Why did you run away?” “Namri had orders to kill me no matter what I did. His orders were from Alia.” “Are you a Truthsayer, then?” “I am.” Another flat statement filled with self-assurance. “And Ghanima as well?” “No.” The Preacher broke his silence then, turning his blind sockets toward Halleck but pointing at Leto. “You think you can test him?” “Don’t interfere when you know nothing of the problem or its consequences,” Halleck ordered, not looking at the man. “Oh, I know its consequences well enough,” The Preacher said. “I was tested once by an old woman who thought she knew what she was doing. She didn’t know, as it turned out.” Halleck looked at him then. “You’re another Truthsayer?” “Anyone can be a Truthsayer, even you,” The Preacher said. “It’s a matter of self-honesty about the nature of your own feelings. It requires that you have an inner agreement with truth which allows ready recognition.” “Why do you interfere?” Halleck asked, putting hand to crysknife. Who was this Preacher? “I’m responsive to these events,” The Preacher said. “My mother could put her own blood upon the altar, but I have other motives. And I do see your problem.” “Oh?” Halleck was actually curious now. “The Lady Jessica ordered you to differentiate between the wolf and the dog, between ze’eb and ke’leb. By her definition a wolf is someone with power who misuses that power. However, between wolf and dog there is a dawn period when you cannot distinguish between them.” “That’s close to the mark,” Halleck said, noting how more and more people of the sietch had entered the common room to listen. “How do you know this?” “Because I know this planet. You don’t understand? Think how it is. Beneath the surface there are rocks, dirt, sediment, sand. That’s the planet’s memory, the picture of its history. It’s the same with humans. The dog remembers the wolf. Each universe revolves around a core of being, and outward from that core go all of the memories, right out to the surface.” “Very interesting,” Halleck said. “How does that help me carry out my orders?” “Review the picture of your history which is within you. Communicate as animals would communicate.” Halleck shook his head. There was a compelling directness about this Preacher, a quality which he’d recognized many times in the Atreides, and there was more than a little hint that the man was employing the powers of Voice. Halleck felt his heart begin to hammer. Was it possible? “Jessica wanted an ultimate test, a stress by which the underlying fabric of her grandson exposed itself,” The Preacher said. “But the fabric’s always there, open to your gaze.” Halleck turned to stare at Leto. The movement came of itself, compelled by irresistible forces. The Preacher continued as though lecturing an obstinate pupil. “This young person confuses you because he’s not a singular being. He’s a community. As with any community under stress, any member of that community may assume command. This command isn’t always benign, and we get our stories of Abomination. But you’ve already wounded this community enough, Gurney Halleck. Can’t you see that the transformation already has taken place? This youth has achieved an inner cooperation which is enormously powerful, that cannot be subverted. Without eyes I see this. Once I opposed him, but now I do his bidding. He is the Healer.” “Who are you?” Halleck demanded. “I’m no more than what you see. Don’t look at me, look at this person you were ordered to teach and test. He has been formed by crisis. He survived a lethal environment. He is here.” “Who are you?” Halleck insisted. “I tell you only to look at this Atreides youth! He is the ultimate feedback upon which our species depends. He’ll reinsert into the system the results of its past performance. No other human could know that past performance as he knows it. And you consider destroying such a one!” “I was ordered to test him and I’ve not –” “But you have!” “Is he Abomination?” A weary laugh shook The Preacher. “You persist in Bene Gesserit nonsense. How they create the myths by which men sleep!” “Are you Paul Atreides?” Halleck asked. “Paul Atreides is no more. He tried to stand as a supreme moral symbol while he renounced all moral pretensions. He became a saint without a god, every word a blasphemy. How can you think –” “Because you speak with his voice.” “Would you test me, now? Beware, Gurney Halleck.” Halleck swallowed, forced his attention back to the impassive Leto who still stood calmly observant. “Who’s being tested?” The Preacher asked. “Is it, perhaps, that the Lady Jessica tests you, Gurney Halleck?” Halleck found this thought deeply disturbing, wondering why he let this Preacher’s words move him. But it was a deep thing in Atreides servants to obey that autocratic mystique. Jessica, explaining this, had made it even more mysterious. Halleck now felt something changing within himself, a something whose edges had only been touched by the Bene Gesserit training Jessica had pressed upon him. Inarticulate fury arose in him. He did not want to change! “Which of you plays God and to what end?” The Preacher asked. “You cannot rely on reason alone to answer that question.” Slowly, deliberately, Halleck raised his attention from Leto to the blind man. Jessica kept saying he should achieve the balance of kairits — “thou shalt-thou shalt not.” She called it a discipline without words and phrases, no rules or arguments. It was the sharpened edge of his own internal truth, all-engrossing. Something in the blind man’s voice, his tone, his manner, ignited a fury which burned itself into blinding calmness within Halleck. “Answer my question,” The Preacher said. Halleck felt the words deepen his concentration upon this place, this one moment and its demands. His position in the universe was defined only by his concentration. No doubt remained in him. This was Paul Atreides, not dead, but returned. And this non-child, Leto. Halleck looked once more at Leto, really saw him. He saw the signs of stress around the eyes, the sense of balance in the stance, the passive mouth with its quirking sense of humor. Leto stood out from his background as though at the focus of a blinding light. He had achieved harmony simply by accepting it. “Tell me, Paul,” Halleck said. “Does your mother know?” The Preacher sighed. “To the Sisterhood, all achieved harmony simply by accepting it.” “Tell me, Paul,” Halleck said. “Does your mother know?” The Preacher sighed. “To the Sisterhood, all of it, I am dead. Do not try to revive me.” Still not looking at him, Halleck asked: “But why does she –” “She does what she must. She makes her own life, thinking she rules many lives. Thus we all play god.” “But you’re alive,” Halleck whispered, overcome now by his realization, turning at last to stare at this man, younger than himself, but so aged by the desert that he appeared to carry twice Halleck’s years. “What is that?” Paul demanded. “Alive?” Halleck peered around them at the watching Fremen, their faces caught between doubt and awe. “My mother never had to learn my lesson.” It was Paul’s voice! “To be a god can ultimately become boring and degrading. There’d be reason enough for the invention of free will! A god might wish to escape into sleep and be alive only in the unconscious projections of his dream-creatures.” “But you’re alive!” Halleck spoke louder now. Paul ignored the excitement in his old companion’s voice, asked: “Would you really have pitted this lad against his sister in the test-Mashhad? What deadly nonsense! Each would have said: ‘No! Kill me! Let the other live!’ Where would such a test lead? What is it then to be alive, Gurney?” “That was not the test,” Halleck protested. He did not like the way the Fremen pressed closer around them, studying Paul, ignoring Leto. But Leto intruded now. “Look at the fabric, father.” “Yes . . . yes . . . “Paul held his head high as though sniffing the air. “It’s Farad’n, then!” “How easy it is to follow our thoughts instead of our senses,” Leto said. Halleck had been unable to follow this thought and, about to ask, was interrupted by Leto’s hand upon his arm. “Don’t ask, Gurney. You might return to suspecting that I’m Abomination. No! Let it happen, Gurney. If you try to force it, you’ll only destroy yourself.” But Halleck felt himself overcome by doubts. Jessica had warned him. “They can be very beguiling, these pre-born. They have tricks you’ve never even dreamed.” Halleck shook his head slowly. And Paul! Gods below! Paul alive and in league with this question mark he’d fathered! The Fremen around them could no longer be held back. They pressed between Halleck and Paul, between Leto and Paul, shoving the two to the background. The air was showered with hoarse questions. “Are you Muad’Dib? Are you truly Muad’Dib? Is it true, what he says? Tell us!” “You must think of me only as The Preacher,” Paul said, pushing against them. “I cannot be Paul Atreides or Muad’Dib, never again. I’m not Chani’s mate or Emperor.” Halleck, fearing what might happen if these frustrated questions found no logical answer, was about to act when Leto moved ahead of him. It was there Halleck first saw an element of the terrible change which had been wrought in Leto. A bull voice roared, “Stand aside!” — and Leto moved forward, thrusting adult Fremen right and left, knocking them down, clubbing them with his hands, wrenching knives from their hands by grasping the blades. In less than a minute those Fremen still standing were pressed back against the walls in silent consternation. Leto stood beside his father. “When Shai-Hulud speaks, you obey,” Leto said. And when a few of the Fremen had started to argue, Leto had torn a corner of rock from the passage wall beside the room’s exit and crumbled it in his bare hands, smiling all the while. “I will tear your sietch down around your faces,” he said. “The Desert Demon,” someone whispered. “And your qanats,” Leto agreed. “I will rip them apart. We have not been here, do you hear me?” Heads shook from side to side in terrified submission. “No one here has seen us,” Leto said. “One whisper from you and I will return to drive you into the desert without water.” Halleck saw hands being raised in the warding gesture, the sign of the worm. “We will go now, my father and I, accompanied by our old friend,” Leto said. “Make our ‘thopter ready.” And Leto had guided them to Shuloch then, explaining enroute that they must move swiftly because “Farad’n will be here on Arrakis very soon. And, as my father has said, then you’ll see the real test, Gurney.” Looking down from the Shuloch butte, Halleck asked himself once more, as he asked every day: “What test? What does he mean?” But Leto was no longer in Shuloch, and Paul refused to answer.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank