Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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The child who refuses to travel in the father’s harness, this is the symbol of man’s most unique capability. “I do not have to be what my father was. I do not have to obey my father’s rules or even believe everything he believed. It is my strength as a human that I can make my own choices of what to believe and what not to believe, of what to be and what not to be.” -Leto Atreides II, The Harq al-Ada Biography

Pilgrim women were dancing to drum and flute in the Temple plaza, no coverings on their heads, bangles at their necks, their dresses thin and revealing. Their long black hair was thrown straight out, then straggled across their faces as they whirled. Alia looked down at the scene from her Temple aerie, both attracted and repelled. It was mid-morning, the hour when the aroma of spice-coffee began to waft across the plaza from the vendors beneath the shaded arches. Soon she would have to go out and greet Farad’n, present the formal gifts and supervise his first meeting with Ghanima. It was all working out according to plan. Ghani would kill him and, in the shattering aftermath, only one person would be prepared to pick up the pieces. The puppets danced when the strings were pulled. Stilgar had killed Agarves just as she’d hoped. And Agarves had led the kidnappers to the djedida without knowing it, a secret signal transmitter hidden in the new boots she’d given him. Now Stilgar and Irulan waited in the Temple dungeons. Perhaps they would die, but there might be other uses for them. There was no harm in waiting. She noted that town Fremen were watching the pilgrim dancers below her, their eyes intense and unwavering. A basic sexual equality had come out of the desert to persist in Fremen town and city, but social differences between male and female already were making themselves felt. That, too, went according to plan. Divide and weaken. Alia could sense the subtle change in the way the two Fremen watched those off-planet women and their exotic dance. Let them watch. Let them fill their minds with ghafla. The louvers of Alia’s window had been opened and she could feel a sharp increase in the heat which began about sunrise in this season and would peak in mid-afternoon. The temperature on the stone floor of the plaza would be much higher. It would be uncomfortable for those dancers, but still they whirled and bent, swung their arms and their hair in the frenzy of their dedication. They had dedicated their dance to Alia, the Womb of Heaven. An aide had come to whisper this to Alia, sneering at the off-world women and their peculiar ways. The aide had explained that the women were from lx, where remnants of the forbidden science and technology remained. Alia sniffed. Those women were as ignorant, as superstitious and backward as the desert Fremen . . . just as that sneering aide had said, trying to curry favor by reporting the dedication of the dance. And neither the aide nor the Ixians even knew that Ix was merely a number in a forgotten language. Laughing lightly to herself, Alia thought: Let them dance. The dancing wasted energy which might be put to more destructive uses. And the music was pleasant, a thin wailing played against flat tympani from gourd drums and clapped hands. Abruptly the music was drowned beneath a roaring of many voices from the plaza’s far side. The dancers missed a step, recovered in a brief confusion, but they had lost their sensuous singleness, and even their attention wandered to the far gate of the plaza, where a mob could be seen spreading onto the stones like water rushing through the opened valve of a qanat. Alia stared at that oncoming wave. She heard words now, and one above all others: “Preacher! Preacher!” Then she saw him, striding with the first spread of the wave, one hand on the shoulder of his young guide. The pilgrim dancers gave up their whirling, retired to the terraced steps below Alia. They were joined by their audience, and Alia sensed awe in the watchers. Her own emotion was fear. How dare he! She half turned to summon guards, but second thoughts stopped her. The mob already filled the plaza. They could turn ugly if thwarted in their obvious desire to hear the blind visionary. Alia clenched her fists. The Preacher! Why was Paul doing this? To half the population he was a “desert madman” and, therefore, sacred. Others whispered in the bazaars and shops that it must be Muad’Dib. Why else did the Mahdinate let him speak such angry heresy? Alia could see refugees among the mob, remnants from the abandoned sietches, their robes in tatters. That would be a dangerous place down there, a place where mistakes could be made. “Mistress?” The voice came from behind Alia. She turned, saw Zia standing in the arched doorway to the outer chamber. Armed House Guards were close behind her. “Yes, Zia?” “My Lady, Farad’n is out here requesting audience.” “Here? In my chambers?” “Yes, My Lady.” “Is he alone?” “Two bodyguards and the Lady Jessica.” Alia put a hand to her throat, remembering her last encounter with her mother. Times had changed, though. New conditions ruled their relationship. “How impetuous he is,” Alia said. “What reason does he give?” “He has heard about . . .” Zia pointed to the window over the plaza. “He says he was told you have the best vantage.” Alia frowned. “Do you believe this, Zia?” “No, My Lady. I think he has heard the rumors. He wants to watch your reaction.” “My mother put him up to this!” “Quite possibly, My Lady.” “Zia, my dear, I want you to carry out a specific set of very important orders for me. Come here.” Zia approached to within a pace. “My Lady?” “Have Farad’n, his guards, and my mother admitted. Then prepare to bring Ghanima, She is to be accoutered as a Fremen bride in every detail — complete.” “With knife. My Lady?” “With knife.” “My Lady, that’s –” “Ghanima poses no threat to me.” “My Lady, there’s reason to believe she fled with Stilgar more to protect him than for any other –” “Zia!” “My Lady?” “Ghanima already has made her plea for Stilgar’s life and Stilgar remains alive.” “But she’s the heir presumptive!” “Just carry out my orders. Have Ghanima prepared. While you’re seeing to that, send five attendants from the Temple Priesthood out into the plaza. They’re to invite The Preacher up here. Have them wait their opportunity and speak to him, nothing more. They are to use no force. I want them to issue a polite invitation. Absolutely no force. And Zia . . .” “My Lady?” How sullen she sounded. “The Preacher and Ghanima are to be brought before me simultaneously. They are to enter together upon my signal. Do you understand?” “I know the plan, My Lady, but –” “Just do it! Together.” And Alia nodded dismissal to the amazon aide. As Zia turner and left, Alia said: “On your way out, send in Farad’n’s party, but see that they’re preceded by ten of your most trustworthy people.” Zia glanced back but continued leaving the room. “It will be done as you command, My Lady.” Alia turned away to peer out the window. In just a few minutes the plan would bear its bloody fruit. And Paul would be here when his daughter delivered the coup de grace to his holy pretensions. Alia heard Zia’s guard detachment entering. It would be over soon. All over. She looked down with a swelling sense of triumph as The Preacher took his stance on the first step. His youthful guide squatted beside him. Alia saw the yellow robes of Temple Priests waiting on the left, held back by the press of the crowd. They were experienced with crowds, however. They’d find a way to approach their target. The Preacher’s voice boomed out over the plaza, and the mob waited upon his words with rapt attention. Let them listen! Soon his words would be made to mean other things than he intended. And there’d be no Preacher around to protest. She heard Farad’n’s party enter, Jessica’s voice. “Alia?” Without turning Alia said: “Welcome, Prince Farad’n, mother. Come and enjoy the show.” She glanced back then, saw the big Sardaukar, Tyekanik, scowling at her guards who were blocking the way. “But this isn’t hospitable.” Alia said. “Let them approach.” Two of her guards, obviously acting on Zia’s orders, came up to her and stood between her and the others. The other guards moved aside. Alia backed to the right side of the window, motioned to it. “This is truly the best vantage point.” Jessica, wearing her traditional black aba robe, glared at Alia, escorted Farad’n to the window, but stood between him and Alia’s guards. “This is very kind of you, Lady Alia,” Farad’n said. “I’ve heard so much about this Preacher.” “And there he is in the flesh,” Alia said. She saw that Farad’n wore the dress grey of a Sardaukar commander without decorations. He moved with a lean grace which Alia admired. Perhaps there would be more than idle amusement in this Corrino Prince. The Preacher’s voice boomed into the room over the amplifier pickups beside the window. Alia felt the tremors of it in her bones, began to listen to his words with growing fascination. “I found myself in the Desert of Zan,” The Preacher shouted, “in that waste of howling wilderness. And God commanded me to make that place clean. For we were provoked in the desert, and grieved in the desert, and we were tempted in that wilderness to forsake our ways.” Desert of Zan, Alia thought. That was the name given to the place of the first trial of the Zensunni Wanderers from whom the Fremen sprang. But his words! Was he taking credit for the destruction wrought against the sietch strongholds of the loyal tribes? “Wild beasts lie upon your lands,” The Preacher said, his voice booming across the plaza. “Doleful creatures fill your houses. You who fled your homes no longer multiply your days upon the sand. Yea, you who have forsaken our ways, you will die in a fouled nest if you continue on this path. But if you heed my warning, the Lord shall lead you through a land of pits into the Mountains of God. Yea, Shai-Hulud shall lead you.” Soft moans arose from the crowd. The Preacher paused, swinging his eyeless sockets from side to side at the sound. Then he raised his arms, spreading them wide, called out: “O God, my flesh longeth for Thy way in a dry and thirsty land!” An old woman in front of The Preacher, an obvious refugee by the patched and worn look of her garments, held up her hands to him, pleaded: “Help us, Muad’Dib. Help us!” In a sudden fearful constriction of her breast, Alia asked herself if that old woman really knew the truth. Alia glanced at her mother, but Jessica remained unmoving, dividing her attention between Alia’s guards, Farad’n and the view from the window. Farad’n stood rooted in fascinated attention. Alia glanced out the window, trying to see her Temple Priests. They were not in view and she suspected they had worked their way around below her near the Temple doors, seeking a direct route down the steps. The Preacher pointed his right hand over the old woman’s head, shouted: “You are the only help remaining! You were rebellious. You brought the dry wind which does not cleanse, nor does it cool. You bear the burden of our desert, and the whirlwind cometh from that place, from that terrible land. I have been in that wilderness. Water runs upon the sand from shattered qanats. Streams cross the ground. Water has fallen from the sky in the Belt of Dune! O my friends, God has commanded me. Make straight in the desert a highway for our Lord, for I am the voice that cometh to thee from the wilderness.” He pointed to the steps beneath his feet, a stiff and quivering finger. “This is no lost djedida which is no more inhabited forever! Here have we eaten the bread of heaven. And here the noise of strangers drives us from our homes! They breed for us a desolation, a land wherein no man dwelleth, nor any man pass thereby.” The crowd stirred uncomfortably, refugees and town Fremen peering about, looking at the pilgrims of the Hajj who stood among them. He could start a bloody riot! Alia thought. Well, let him. My Priests can grab him in the confusion. She saw the five Priests then, a tight knot of yellow robes working down the steps behind The Preacher. “The waters which we spread upon the desert have become blood,” The Preacher said, waving his arms wide. “Blood upon our land! Behold our desert which could rejoice and blossom; it has lured the stranger and seduced him in our midst. They come for violence! Their faces are closed up as for the last wind of Kralizec! They gather the captivity of the sand. They suck up the abundance of the sand, the treasure hidden in the depths. Behold them as they go forth to their evil work. It is written: ‘And I stood upon the sand, and I saw a beast rise up out of that sand, and upon the head of that beast was the name of God!’ ” Angry mutterings arose from the crowd. Fists were raised, shaken. “What is he doing?” Farad’n whispered. “I wish I knew,” Alia said. She put a hand to her breast, feeling the fearful excitement of this moment. The crowd would turn upon the pilgrims if he kept this up! But The Preacher half turned, aimed his dead sockets toward the Temple and raised a hand to point at the high windows of Alia’s aerie, “One blasphemy remains!” he screamed. “Blasphemy! And the name of that blasphemy is Alia!” Shocked silence gripped the plaza. Alia stood in unmoving consternation. She knew the mob could not see her, but she felt overcome by a sense of exposure, of vulnerability. The echoes of calming words within her skull competed with the pounding of her heart. She could only stare down at that incredible tableau. The Preacher remained with a hand pointing at her windows. His words had been too much for the Priests, though. They broke the silence with angry shouts, stormed down the steps, thrusting people aside. As they moved the crowd reacted, breaking like a wave upon the steps, sweeping over the first lines of onlookers, carrying The Preacher before them. He stumbled blindly, separated from his young guide. Then a yellow-clad arm arose from the press of people; a crysknife was brandished in its hand. She saw the knife strike downward, bury itself in The Preacher’s chest. The thunderous clang of the Temple’s giant doors being closed broke Alia from her shock. Guards obviously had closed the doors against the mob. But people already were drawing back, making an open space around a crumpled figure on the steps. An eerie quiet fell over the plaza. Alia saw many bodies, but only this one lay by itself. Then a voice screeched from the mob: “Muad’Dib! They’ve killed Muad’Dib!” “Gods below,” Alia quavered. “Gods below.” “A little late for that, don’t you think?” Jessica asked. Alia whirled, noting the sudden startled reaction of Farad’n as he saw the rage on her face. “That was Paul they killed!” Alia screamed. “That was your son! When they confirm it, do you know what’ll happen?” Jessica stood rooted for a long moment, thinking that she had just been told something already known to her. Farad’n’s hand upon her arm shattered the moment. “My Lady,” he said, and there was such compassion in his voice that Jessica thought she might die of it right there. She looked from the cold, glaring anger on Alia’s face to the sympathetic misery on Farad’n’s features, and thought: Perhaps I did my job too well. There could be no doubting Alia’s words. Jessica remembered every intonation of The Preacher’s voice, hearing her own tricks in it, the long years of instruction she’d spent there upon a young man meant to be Emperor, but who now lay a shattered mound of bloody rags upon the Temple steps. Ghafla blinded me, Jessica thought. Alia gestured to one of her aides, called: “Bring Ghanima now.” Jessica forced herself into recognizing these words. Ghanima? Why Ghanima now? The aide had turned toward the outer door, motioning for it to be unbarred, but before a word could be uttered the door bulged. Hinges popped. The bar snapped and the door, a thick plasteel construction meant to withstand terrible energies, toppled into the room. Guards leaped to avoid it, drawing their weapons. Jessica and Farad’n’s bodyguards closed in around the Corrino Prince. But the opening revealed only two children: Ghanima on the left, clad in her black betrothal robe, and Leto on the right, the grey slickness of a stillsuit beneath a desert-stained white robe. Alia stared from the fallen door to the children, found she was trembling uncontrollably. “The family here to greet us,” Leto said. “Grandmother.” He nodded to Jessica, shifted his attention to the Corrino Prince. “And this must be Prince Farad’n. Welcome to Arrakis, Prince.” Ghanima’s eyes appeared empty. She held her right hand on a ceremonial crysknife at her waist, and she appeared to be trying to escape from Leto’s grip on her arm. Leto shook her arm and her whole body shook with it. “Behold me, family,” Leto said. “I am Ari, the Lion of the Atreides. And here –” Again he shook Ghanima’s arm with that powerful ease which set her whole body jerking. “– here is Aryeh, the Atreides Lioness. We come to set you onto Secher Nbiw, the Golden Path.” Ghanima, absorbing the trigger words, Secher Nbiw, felt the locked-away consciousness flow into her mind. It flowed with a linear nicety, the inner awareness of her mother hovering there behind it, a guardian at a gate. And Ghanima knew in that instant that she had conquered the clamorous past. She possessed a gate through which she could peer when she needed that past. The months of self-hypnotic suppression had built for her a safe place from which to manage her own flesh. She started to turn toward Leto with the need to explain this when she became aware of where she stood and with whom. Leto released her arm. “Did our plan work?” Ghanima whispered. “Well enough,” Leto said. Recovering from her shock, Alia shouted at a clump of guards on her left: “Seize them!” But Leto bent, took the fallen door with one hand, skidded it across the room into the guards. Two were pinned against the wall. The others fell back in terror. That door weighed half a metric ton and this child had thrown it. Alia, growing aware that the corridor beyond the doorway contained fallen guards, realized that Leto must have dealt with them, that this child had shattered her impregnable door. Jessica, too, had seen the bodies, seen the awesome power in Leto and had made similar assumptions, but Ghanima’s words touched a core of Bene Gesserit discipline which forced Jessica to maintain her composure. This grandchild spoke of a plan. “What plan?” Jessica asked. “The Golden Path, our Imperial plan for our Imperium,” Leto said. He nodded to Farad’n. “Don’t think harshly of me, cousin. I act for you as well. Alia hoped to have Ghanima slay you. I’d rather you lived out your life in some degree of happiness.” Alia screamed at her guards cowering in the passage: “I command you to seize them!” But the guards refused to enter the room. “Wait for me here, sister,” Leto said. “I have a disagreeable task to perform.” He moved across the room toward Alia. She backed away from him into a corner, crouched and drew her knife. The green jewels of its handle flashed in the light from the window. Leto merely continued his advance, hands empty, but spread and ready. Alia lunged with the knife. Leto leaped almost to the ceiling, struck with his left foot. It caught Alia’s head a glancing blow and sent her sprawling with a bloody mark on her forehead. She lost her grip on the knife and it skidded across the floor. Alia scrambled after the knife, but found Leto standing in front of her. Alia hesitated, called up everything she knew of Bene Gesserit training. She came off the floor, body loose and poised. Once more Leto advanced upon her. Alia feinted to the left but her right shoulder came up and her right foot shot out in a toe-pointing kick which could disembowel a man if it struck precisely. Leto caught the blow on his arm, grabbed the foot, and picked her up by it, swinging her around his head. The speed with which he swung her sent a flapping, hissing sound through the room as her robe beat against her body. The others ducked away. Alia screamed and screamed, but still she continued to swing around and around and around. Presently she fell silent. Slowly Leto reduced the speed of her whirling, dropped her gently to the floor. She lay in a panting bundle. Leto bent over her. “I could’ve thrown you through a wall,” he said. “Perhaps that would’ve been best, but we’re now at the center of the struggle. You deserve your chance.” Alia’s eyes darted wildly from side to side. “I have conquered those inner lives,” Leto said. “Look at Ghani. She, too, can –” Ghanima interrupted: “Alia, I can show you –” “No!” The word was wrenched from Alia. Her chest heaved and voices began to pour from her mouth. They were disconnected, cursing, pleading. “You see! Why didn’t you listen?” And again: “Why’re you doing this? What’s happening?” And another voice: “Stop them! Make them stop!” Jessica covered her eyes, felt Farad’n’s hand steady her. Still Alia raved: “I’ll kill you!” Hideous curses erupted from her. “I’ll drink your blood!” The sounds of many languages began to pour from her, all jumbled and confused. The huddled guards in the outer passage made the sign of the worm, then held clenched fists beside their ears. She was possessed! Leto stood, shaking his head. He stepped to the window and with three swift blows shattered the supposedly unbreakable crystal-reinforced glass from its frame. A sly look came over Alia’s face. Jessica heard something like her own voice come from that twisting mouth, a parody of Bene Gesserit control. “All of you! Stay where you are!” Jessica, lowering her hands, found them damp with tears. Alia rolled to her knees, lurched to her feet. “Don’t you know who I am?” she demanded. It was her old voice, the sweet and lilting voice of the youthful Alia who was no more. “Why’re you all looking at me that way?” She turned pleading eyes to Jessica. “Mother, make them stop it.” Jessica could only shake her head from side to side, consumed by ultimate horror. All of the old Bene Gesserit warnings were true. She looked at Leto and Ghani standing side by side near Alia. What did those warnings mean for these poor twins? “Grandmother,” Leto said, and there was pleading in his voice. “Must we have a Trial of Possession?” “Who are you to speak of trial?” Alia asked, and her voice was that of a querulous man, an autocratic and sensual man far gone in self-indulgence. Both Leto and Ghanima recognized the voice. The Old Baron Harkonnen. Ghanima heard the same voice begin to echo in her own head, but the inner gate closed and she sensed her mother standing there. Jessica remained silent. “Then the decision is mine,” Leto said. “And the choice is yours, Alia. Trial of Possession, or . . .” He nodded toward the open window. “Who’re you to give me a choice?” Alia demanded, and it was still the voice of the Old Baron. “Demon!” Ghanima screamed. “Let her make her own choice!” “Mother,” Alia pleaded in her little-girl tones. “Mother, what’re they doing? What do you want me to do? Help me.” “Help yourself,” Leto ordered and, for just an instant, he saw the shattered presence of his aunt in her eyes, a glaring hopelessness which peered out at him and was gone. But her body moved, a sticklike, thrusting walk. She wavered, stumbled, veered from her path but returned to it, nearer and nearer the open window. Now the voice of the Old Baron raged from her lips: “Stop! Stop it, I say! I command you! Stop it! Feel this!” Alia clutched her head, stumbled closer to the window. She had the sill against her thighs then, but the voice still raved. “Don’t do this! Stop it and I’ll help you. I have a plan. Listen to me. Stop it, I say. Wait!” But Alia pulled her hands away from her head, clutched the broken casement. In one jerking motion, she pulled herself over the sill and was gone. Not even a screech came from her as she fell. In the room they heard the crowd shout, the sodden thump as Alia struck the steps far below. Leto looked at Jessica. “We told you to pity her.” Jessica turned and buried her face in Farad’n’s tunic.

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