Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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The assumption that a whole system can be made to work better through an assault on its conscious elements betrays a dangerous ignorance. This has often been the ignorant approach of those who call themselves scientists and technologists. -The Butlerian Jihad, by Harq al-Ada

“He runs at night, cousin,” Ghanima said. “He runs. Have you seen him run?” “No,” Farad’n said. He waited with Ghanima outside the small audience hall of the Keep where Leto had called them to attend. Tyekanik stood at one side, uncomfortable with the Lady Jessica, who appeared withdrawn, as though her mind lived in another place. It was hardly an hour past the morning meal, but already many things had been set moving — a summons to the Guild, messages to CHOAM and the Landsraad. Farad’n found it difficult to understand these Atreides. The Lady Jessica had warned him, but still the reality of them puzzled him. They still talked of the betrothal, although most political reasons for it seemed to have dissolved. Leto would assume the throne; there appeared little doubt of that. His odd living skin would have to be removed, of course . . . but, in time . . . “He runs to tire himself,” Ghanima said. “He’s Kralizec embodied. No wind ever ran as he runs. He’s a blur atop the dunes. I’ve seen him. He runs and runs. And when he has exhausted himself at last, he returns and rests his head in my lap. ‘Ask our mother within to find a way for me to die,’ he pleads.” Farad’n stared at her. In the week since the riot in the plaza, the Keep had moved to strange rhythms, mysterious comings and goings; stories of bitter fighting beyond the Shield Wall came to him through Tyekanik, whose military advice had been asked. “I don’t understand you,” Farad’n said. “Find a way for him to die?” “He asked me to prepare you,” Ghanima said. Not for the first time, she was struck by the curious innocence of this Corrino Prince. Was that Jessica’s doing, or something born in him? “For what?” “He’s no longer human,” Ghanima said. “Yesterday you asked when he was going to remove the living skin? Never. It’s part of him now and he’s part of it. Leto estimates he has perhaps four thousand years before metamorphosis destroys him.” Farad’n tried to swallow in a dry throat. “You see why he runs?” Ghanima asked. “But if he’ll live so long and be so –” “Because the memory of being human is so rich in him. Think of all those lives, cousin. No. You can’t imagine what that is because you’ve no experience of it. But I know. I can imagine his pain. He gives more than anyone ever gave before. Our father walked into the desert trying to escape it. Alia became Abomination in fear of it. Our grandmother has only the blurred infancy of this condition, yet must use every Bene Gesserit wile to live with it — which is what Reverend Mother training amounts to anyway. But Leto! He’s all alone, never to be duplicated.” Farad’n felt stunned by her words. Emperor for four thousand years? “Jessica knows,” Ghanima said, looking across at her grandmother. “He told her last night. He called himself the first truly long-range planner in human history.” “What . . . does he plan?” “The Golden Path. He’ll explain it to you later.” “And he has a role for me in this . . . plan?” “As my mate,” Ghanima said. “He’s taking over the Sisterhood’s breeding program. I’m sure my grandmother told you about the Bene Gesserit dream for a male Reverend with extraordinary powers. He’s –” “You mean we’re just to be –” “Not just.” She took his arm, squeezed it with a warm familiarity. “He’ll have many very responsible tasks for both of us. When we’re not producing children, that is.” “Well, you’re a little young yet,” Farad’n said, disengaging his arm. “Don’t ever make that mistake again,” she said. There was ice in her tone. Jessica came up to them with Tyekanik. “Tyek tells me the fighting has spread off-planet,” Jessica said. “The Central Temple on Biarek is under siege.” Farad’n thought her oddly calm in this statement. He’d reviewed the reports with Tyekanik during the night. A wildfire of rebellion was spreading through the Empire. It would be put down, of course, but Leto would have a sorry Empire to restore. “Here’s Stilgar now,” Ghanima said. “They’ve been waiting for him.” And once more she took Farad’n’s arm. The old Fremen Naib had entered by the far door escorted by two former Death Commando companions from the desert days. All were dressed in formal black robes with white piping and yellow headbands for mourning. They approached with steady strides, but Stilgar kept his attention on Jessica. He stopped in front of her, nodded warily. “You still worry about the death of Duncan Idaho,” Jessica said. She didn’t like this caution in her old friend. “Reverend Mother,” he said. So it’s going to be that way! Jessica thought. All formal and according to the Fremen code, with blood difficult to expunge. She said: “By our view, you but played apart which Duncan assigned you. Not the first time a man has given his life for the Atreides. Why do they do it, Stil? You’ve been ready for it more than once. Why? Is it that you know how much the Atreides give in return?” “I’m happy you seek no excuse for revenge,” he said. “But there are matters I must discuss with your grandson. These matters may separate us from you forever.” “You mean Tabr will not pay him homage?” Ghanima asked. “I mean I reserve my judgment.” He looked coldly at Ghanima. “I don’t like what my Fremen have become,” he growled. “We will go back to the old ways. Without you if necessary.” “For a time, perhaps,” Ghanima said. “But the desert is dying, Stil. What’ll you do when there are no more worms, no more desert?” “I don’t believe it!” “Within one hundred years,” Ghanima said, “there’ll be fewer than fifty worms, and those will be sick ones kept in a carefully managed reservation. Their spice will be for the Spacing Guild only, and the price . . .” She shook her head. “I’ve seen Leto’s figures. He’s been all over the planet. He knows.” “Is this another trick to keep the Fremen as your vassals?” “When were you ever my vassal?” Ghanima asked. Stilgar scowled. No matter what he said or did, these twins always made it his fault! “Last night he told me about this Golden Path,” Stilgar blurted. “I don’t like it!” “That’s odd,” Ghanima said, glancing at her grandmother. “Most of the Empire will welcome it.” “Destruction of us all,” Stilgar muttered. “But everyone longs for the Golden Age,” Ghanima said. “Isn’t that so, grandmother?” “Everyone,” Jessica agreed. “They long for the Pharaonic Empire which Leto will give them,” Ghanima said. “They long for a rich peace with abundant harvests, plentiful trade, a leveling of all except the Golden Ruler.” “It’ll be the death of the Fremen!” Stilgar protested. “How can you say that? Will we not need soldiers and brave men to remove the occasional dissatisfaction? Why, Stil, you and Tyek’s brave companions will be hard pressed to do the job.” Stilgar looked at the Sardaukar officer and a strange light of understanding passed between them. “And Leto will control the spice,” Jessica reminded them. “He’ll control it absolutely,” Ghanima said. Farad’n, listening with the new awareness which Jessica had taught him, heard a set piece, a prepared performance between Ghanima and her grandmother. “Peace will endure and endure and endure,” Ghanima said. “Memory of war will all but vanish. Leto will lead humankind through that garden for at least four thousand years.” Tyekanik glanced questioningly at Farad’n, cleared his throat. “Yes, Tyek?” Farad’n said. “I’d speak privately with you, My Prince.” Farad’n smiled, knowing the question in Tyekanik’s military mind, knowing that at least two others present also recognized this question. “I’ll not sell the Sardaukar,” Farad’n said. “No need,” Ghanima said. “Do you listen to this child?” Tyekanik demanded. He was outraged. The old Naib there understood the problems being raised by all of this plotting, but nobody else knew a damned thing about the situation! Ghanima smiled grimly, said: “Tell him, Farad’n.” Farad’n sighed. It was easy to forget the strangeness of this child who was not a child. He could imagine a lifetime married to her, the hidden reservations on every intimacy. It was not a totally pleasant prospect, but he was beginning to recognize its inevitability. Absolute control of dwindling spice supplies! Nothing would move in the universe without the spice. “Later, Tyek,” Farad’n said. “But –” “Later, I said!” For the first time, he used Voice on Tyekanik, saw the man blink with surprise and remain silent. A tight smile touched Jessica’s mouth. “He talks of peace and death in the same breath,” Stilgar muttered. “Golden Age!” Ghanima said: “He’ll lead humans through the cult of death into the free air of exuberant life! He speaks of death because that’s necessary, Stil. It’s a tension by which the living know they’re alive. When his Empire falls . . . Oh, yes, it’ll fall. You think this is Kralizec now, but Kralizec is yet to come. And when it comes, humans will have renewed their memory of what it’s like to be alive. The memory will persist as long as there’s a single human living. We’ll go through the crucible once more, Stil. And we’ll come out of it. We always arise from our own ashes. Always.” Farad’n, hearing her words, understood now what she’d meant in telling him about Leto running. He’ll not be human. Stilgar was not yet convinced. “No more worms,” he growled. “Oh, the worms will come back,” Ghanima assured him. “All will be dead within two hundred years, but they’ll come back.” “How . . . ” Stilgar broke off. Farad’n felt his mind awash in revelation. He knew what Ghanima would say before she spoke. “The Guild will barely make it through the lean years, and only then because of its stockpiles and ours,” Ghanima said. “But there’ll be abundance after Kralizec. The worms will return after my brother goes into the sand.”

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Categories: Herbert, Frank