Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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As with so many other religions, Muad’Dib’s Golden Elixir of Life degenerated into external wizardry. Its mystical signs became mere symbols for deeper psychological processes, and those processes, of course, ran wild. What they needed was a living god, and they didn’t have one, a situation which Muad’Dib’s son has corrected. -Saying attributed to Lu Tung-pin, (Lu, The Guest of the Cavern)

Leto sat on the Lion Throne to accept the homage of the tribes. Ghanima stood beside him, one step down. The ceremony in the Great Hall went on for hours. Tribe after Fremen tribe passed before him through their delegates and their Naibs. Each group bore gifts fitting for a god of terrifying powers, a god of vengeance who promised them peace.
He’d cowed them into submission the previous week, performing for the assembled arifa of all the tribes. The Judges had seen him walk through a pit of fire, emerging unscathed to demonstrate that his skin bore no marks by asking them to study him closely. He’d ordered them to strike him with knives, and the impenetrable skin had sealed his face while they struck at him to no avail. Acids ran off him with only the lightest mist of smoke. He’d eaten their poisons and laughed at them.
At the end he’d summoned a worm and stood facing them at its mouth. He’d moved from that to the landing field at Arrakeen, where he’d brazenly toppled a Guild frigate by lifting one of its landing fins.
The arifa had reported all of this with a fearful awe, and now the tribal delegates had come to seal their submission.
The vaulted space of the Great Hall with its acoustical dampening systems tended to absorb sharp noises, but a constant rustling of moving feet insinuated itself into the senses, riding on dust and the flint odors brought in from the open.
Jessica, who’d refused to attend, watched from a high spy hole behind the throne. Her attention was caught by Farad’n and the realization that both she and Farad’n had been outmaneuvered. Of course Leto and Ghanima had anticipated the Sisterhood! The twins could consult within themselves a host of Bene Gesserits greater than all now living in the Empire.
She was particularly bitter at the way the Sisterhood’s mythology had trapped Alia. Fear built on fear! The habits of generations had imprinted the fate of Abomination upon her. Alia had known no hope. Of course she’d succumbed. Her fate made the accomplishment of Leto and Ghanima even more difficult to face. Not one way out of the trap, but two. Ghanima’s victory over the inner lives and her insistence that Alia deserved only pity were the bitterest things of all. Hypnotic suppression under stress linked to the wooing of a benign ancestor had saved Ghanima. They might have saved Alia. But without hope, nothing had been attempted until it was too late. Alia’s water had been poured upon the sand.
Jessica sighed, shifted her attention to Leto on the throne. A giant canopic jar containing the water of Muad’Dib occupied a place of honor at his right elbow. He’d boasted to Jessica that his father-within laughed at this gesture even while admiring it.
That jar and the boasting had firmed her resolve not to participate in this ritual. As long as she lived, she knew she could never accept Paul speaking through Leto’s mouth. She rejoiced that House Atreides had survived, but the things-that-might-have-been were beyond bearing.
Farad’n sat cross-legged beside the jar of Muad’Dib’s water. It was the position of the Royal Scribe, an honor newly conferred and newly accepted.
Farad’n felt that he was adjusting nicely to these new realities although Tyekanik still raged and promised dire consequences. Tyekanik and Stilgar had formed a partnership of distrust which seemed to amuse Leto.
In the hours of the homage ceremony, Farad’n had gone from awe to boredom to awe. They were an endless stream of humanity, these peerless fighting men. Their loyalty renewed to the Atreides on the throne could not be questioned. They stood in submissive terror before him, completely daunted by what the arifa had reported.
At last it drew to a close. The final Naib stood before Leto — Stilgar in the “rearguard position of honor.” Instead of panniers heavy with spice, fire jewels, or any of the other costly gifts which lay in mounds around the throne, Stilgar bore a headband of braided spice-fiber. The Atreides Hawk had been worked in gold and green into its design.
Ghanima recognized it and shot a sidewise glance at Leto.
Stilgar placed the headband on the second step below the throne, bowed low. “I give you the headband worn by your sister when I took her into the desert to protect her,” he said.
Leto suppressed a smile.
“I know you’ve fallen on hard times, Stilgar,” Leto said. “Is there something here you would have in return?” He gestured at the piles of costly gifts.
“No, My Lord.”
“I accept your gift then,” Leto said. He rocked forward, brought up the hem of Ghanima’s robe, ripped a thin strip from it. “In return, I give you this bit of Ghanima’s robe, the robe she wore when she was stolen from your desert camp, forcing me to save her.”
Stilgar accepted the cloth in a trembling hand. “Do you mock me, My Lord?”
“Mock you? By my name, Stilgar, never would I mock you. I have given you a gift without price. I command you to carry it always next to your heart as a reminder that all humans are prone to error and all leaders are human.”
A thin chuckle escaped Stilgar. “What a Naib you would have made!”
“What a Naib I am! Naib of Naibs. Never forget that!”
“As you say, My Lord.” Stilgar swallowed, remembering the report of his arifa. And he thought: Once I thought of slaying him. Now it’s too late. His glance fell on the jar, a graceful opaque gold capped with green. “That is water of my tribe.”
“And mine,” Leto said. “I command you to read the inscription upon its side. Read it aloud that all may hear it.”
Stilgar cast a questioning glance at Ghanima, but she returned it with a lift of her chin, a cold response which sent a chill through him. Were these Atreides imps bent on holding him to answer for his impetuosity and his mistakes?
“Read it,” Leto said, pointing.
Slowly Stilgar mounted the steps, bent to look at the jar. Presently he read aloud: “This water is the ultimate essence, a source of outward streaming creativity. Though motionless, this water is the means of all movement.”
“What does it mean, My Lord?” Stilgar whispered. He felt awed by the words, touched within himself in a place he could not understand.
“The body of Muad’Dib is a dry shell like that abandoned by an insect,” Leto said. “He mastered the inner world while holding the outer in contempt, and this led to catastrophe. He mastered the outer world while excluding the inner world, and this delivered his descendants to the demons. The Golden Elixir will vanish from Dune, yet Muad’Dib’s seed goes on, and his water moves our universe.”
Stilgar bowed his head. Mystical things always left him in turmoil.
“The beginning and the end are one,” Leto said. “You live in air but do not see it. A phase has closed. Out of that closing grows the beginning of its opposite. Thus, we will have Kralizec. Everything returns later in changed form. You have felt thoughts in your head; your descendants will feel thoughts in their bellies. Return to Sietch Tabr, Stilgar. Gurney Halleck will join you there as my advisor in your Council.”
“Don’t you trust me, My Lord?” Stilgar’s voice was low.
“Completely, else I’d not send Gurney to you. He’ll begin recruiting the new force we’ll need soon. I accept your pledge of fealty, Stilgar. You are dismissed.”
Stilgar bowed low, backed off the steps, turned and left the hall. The other Naibs fell into step behind him according to the Fremen principle that “the last shall be first.” But some of their queries could be heard on the throne as they departed.
“What were you talking about up there, Stil? What does that mean, those words on Muad’Dib’s water?”
Leto spoke to Farad’n. “Did you get all of that, Scribe?”
“Yes, My Lord.”
“My grandmother tells me she trained you well in the mnemonic processes of the Bene Gesserit. That’s good. I don’t want you scribbling beside me.”
“As you command, My Lord.”
“Come and stand before me,” Leto said.
Farad’n obeyed, more than ever thankful for Jessica’s training. When you accepted the fact that Leto no longer was human, no longer could think as humans thought, the course of his Golden Path became ever more frightening.
Leto looked up at Farad’n. The guards stood well back out of earshot. Only the counselors of the Inner Presence remained on the floor of the Great Hall, and they stood in subservient groups well beyond the first step. Ghanima had moved closer to rest an arm on the back of the throne.
“You’ve not yet agreed to give me your Sardaukar,” Leto said. “But you will.”
“I owe you much, but not that,” Farad’n said.
“You think they’d not mate well with my Fremen?”
“As well as those new friends, Stilgar and Tyekanik.”
“Yet you refuse?”
“I await your offer.”
“Then I must make the offer, knowing you will never repeat it. I pray my grandmother has done her part well, that you are prepared to understand.”
“What must I understand?”
“There’s always a prevailing mystique in any civilization,” Leto said. “It builds itself as a barrier against change, and that always leaves future generations unprepared for the universe’s treachery. All mystiques are the same in building these barriers — the religious mystique, the hero-leader mystique, the messiah mystique, the mystique of science/technology, and the mystique of nature itself. We live in an Imperium which such a mystique has shaped, and now that Imperium is falling apart because most people don’t distinguish between mystique and their universe. You see, the mystique is like demon possession; it tends to take over the consciousness, becoming all things to the observer.”
“I recognize your grandmother’s wisdom in these words,” Farad’n said.
“Well and good, cousin. She asked me if I were Abomination. I answered in the negative. That was my first treachery. You see, Ghanima escaped this, but I did not. I was forced to balance the inner lives under the pressure of excessive melange. I had to seek the active cooperation of those aroused lives within me. Doing this, I avoided the most malignant and chose a dominant helper thrust upon me by the inner awareness which was my father. I am not, in truth, my father or this helper. Then again, I am not the Second Leto.”
“You have an admirable directness,” Leto said. “I’m a community dominated by one who was ancient and surpassingly powerful. He fathered a dynasty which endured for three thousand of our years. His name was Harum and, until his line trailed out in the congenital weaknesses and superstitions of a descendant, his subjects lived in a rhythmic sublimity. They moved unconsciously with the changes of the seasons. They bred individuals who tended to be short-lived, superstitious, and easily led by a god-king. Taken as a whole, they were a powerful people. Their survival as a species became habit.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Farad’n said.
“Nor do I, really,” Leto said. “But it’s the universe I’ll create.”
“It’s a lesson I learned on Dune. We kept the presence of death a dominant specter among the living here. By that presence, the dead changed the living. The people of such a society sink down into their bellies. But when the time comes for the opposite, when they arise, they are great and beautiful.”
“That doesn’t answer my question,” Farad’n protested.
“You don’t trust me, cousin.”
“Nor does your own grandmother.”
“And with good reason,” Leto said. “But she acquiesces because she must. Bene Gesserits are pragmatists in the end. I share their view of our universe, you know. You wear the marks of that universe. You retain the habits of rule, cataloging all around you in terms of their possible threat or value.”
“I agreed to be your scribe.”
“It amused you and flattered, your real talent, which is that of historian. You’ve a definite genius for reading the present in terms of the past. You’ve anticipated me on several occasions.”
“I don’t like your veiled insinuations,” Farad’n said.
“Good. You come from infinite ambition to your present lowered estate. Didn’t my grandmother warn you about infinity? It attracts us like a floodlight in the night, blinding us to the excesses it can inflict upon the finite.”
“Bene Gesserit aphorisms!” Farad’n protested.
“But much more precise,” Leto said. “The Bene Gesserit believed they could predict the course of evolution. But they overlooked their own changes in the course of that evolution. They assumed they would stand still while their breeding plan evolved. I have no such reflexive blindness. Look carefully at me, Farad’n, for I am no longer human.”
“So your sister assures me.” Farad’n hesitated. Then: “Abomination?”
“By the Sisterhood’s definition, perhaps. Harum is cruel and autocratic. I partake of his cruelty. Mark me well: I have the cruelty of the husbandman, and this human universe is my farm. Fremen once kept tame eagles as pets, but I’ll keep a tame Farad’n.”
Farad’n’s face darkened. “Beware my claws, cousin. I well know my Sardaukar would fall in time before your Fremen. But we’d wound you sorely, and there are jackals waiting to pick off the weak.”
“I will use you well, that I promise,” Leto said. He leaned forward. “Did I not say I’m no longer human? Believe me, cousin. No children will spring from my loins, for I no longer have loins. And this forces my second treachery.”
Farad’n waited in silence, seeing at last the direction of Leto’s argument.
“I shall go against every Fremen precept,” Leto said. “They will accept because they can do nothing else. I kept you here under the lure of a betrothal, but there will be no betrothal of you and Ghanima. My sister will marry me!”
“But you –”
“Marry, I said. Ghanima must continue the Atreides line. There’s also the matter of the Bene Gesserit breeding program, which is now my breeding program.”
“I refuse,” Farad’n said.
“You refuse to father an Atreides dynasty?”
“What dynasty? You’ll occupy the throne for thousands of years,”
“And mold your descendants in my image. It will be the most intensive, the most inclusive training program in all of history. We’ll be an ecosystem in miniature. You see, whatever system animals choose to survive by must be based on the pattern of interlocking communities, interdependence, working together in the common design which is the system. And this system will produce the most knowledgeable rulers ever seen.”
“You put fancy words on a most distasteful –”
“Who will survive Kralizec?” Leto asked. “I promise you, Kralizec will come.”
“You’re a madman! You will shatter the Empire.”
“Of course I will . . . and I’m not a man. But I’ll create a new consciousness in all men. I tell you that below the desert of Dune there’s a secret place with the greatest treasure of all time. I do not lie. When the last worm dies and the last melange is harvested upon our sands, these deep treasures will spring up throughout our universe. As the power of the spice monopoly fades and the hidden stockpiles make their mark, new powers will appear throughout our realm. It is time humans learned once more to live in their instincts.”
Ghanima took her arm from the back of the throne, crossed to Farad’n’s side, took his hand.
“As my mother was not wife, you will not be husband,” Leto said. “But perhaps there will be love, and that will be enough.”
“Each day, each moment brings its change,” Ghanima said. “One learns by recognizing the moments.”
Farad’n felt the warmth of Ghanima’s tiny hand as an insistent presence. He recognized the ebb and flow of Leto’s arguments, but not once had Voice been used. It was an appeal to the guts, not to the mind.
“Is this what you offer for my Sardaukar?” he asked.
“Much, much more, cousin. I offer your descendants the Imperium. I offer you peace.”
“What will be the outcome of your peace?”
“It’s opposite,” Leto said, his voice calmly mocking.
Farad’n shook his head. “I find the price for my Sardaukar very high. Must I remain Scribe, the secret father of your royal line?”
“You must.”
“Will you try to force me into your habit of peace?”
“I will.”
“I’ll resist you every day of my life.”
“But that’s the function I expect of you, cousin. It’s why I chose you. I’ll make it official. I will give you a new name. From this moment, you’ll be called Breaking of the Habit, which in our tongue is Harq al-Ada. Come, cousin, don’t be obtuse. My mother taught you well. Give me your Sardaukar.”
“Give them,” Ghanima echoed. “He’ll have them one way or another.”
Farad’n heard fear for himself in her voice. Love, then? Leto asked not for reason, but for an intuitive leap. “Take them,” Farad’n said.
“Indeed,” Leto said. He lifted himself from the throne, a curiously fluid motion as though he kept his terrible powers under most delicate control. Leto stepped down then to Ghanima’s level, moved her gently until she faced away from him, turned and placed his back against hers. “Note this, cousin Harq al-Ada. This is the way it will always be with us. We’ll stand thus when we are married. Back to back, each looking outward from the other to protect the one thing which we have always been.” He turned, looked mockingly at Farad’n, lowered his voice: “Remember that, cousin, when you’re face to face with my Ghanima. Remember that when you whisper of love and soft things, when you are most tempted by the habits of my peace and my contentment. Your back will remain exposed.”
Turning from them, he strode down the steps into the waiting courtiers, picked them up in his wake like satellites, and left the hall.
Ghanima once more took Farad’n’s hand, but her gaze looked beyond the far end of the hall long after Leto had left it. “One of us had to accept the agony,” she said, “and he was always the stronger.”

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Categories: Herbert, Frank