After the overthrow of Shaddam IV, the reign of Paul-Muad'Dib lasted fourteen years. He established his new capital in Arrakeen on the sacred desert planet, Dune. Though Muad'Dib's Jihad is over at long last, conflicts continue to flare up. Paul's mother, the Lady Jessica, has withdrawn from the constant battles and political schemes and returned to the Atreides ancestral home of Caladan to serve there as Duchess.
In my private life on Caladan, I receive few reports of my son's Jihad, not because I choose to be ignorant, but because the news is rarely anything I wish to hear. -Lady Jessica, Duchess of Caladan
The unscheduled ship loomed in orbit over Caladan, a former Guild Heighliner pressed into ser vice as a Jihad transport. A young boy from the fishing village, apprenticed to the Castle as a page, rushed into the garden courtyard. Looking awkward in his formal clothing, he blurted, "It's a military- equipped vessel, my Lady. Fully armed!"
Kneeling beside a rosemary bush, Jessica snipped off fragrant twigs for the kitchens. Here in her private garden, she maintained flowers, herbs, and shrubs in a perfect combination of order and chaos, useful flora and pretty pleasantries. In the peace and stillness just after dawn, Jessica liked to work and meditate here, nourishing her plants and uprooting the per sis tent weeds that tried to ruin the careful balance.
Unruffled by the boy's panic, she inhaled deeply of the aromatic evergreen oils released by her touch. Jessica rose to her feet and brushed dirt off her knees. "Have they sent any messages?"
"Only that they are dispatching a group of Qizarate emissaries, my Lady. They demand to speak with you on an urgent matter."
The young man quailed at her expression. "I'm sure they meant it as a request, my Lady. After all, would they dare to make demands of the Duchess of Caladan- and the mother of Muad'Dib? Still, it must be important news indeed, to warrant a vessel like that!" The young man fidgeted like an eel washed up on shore.
She straightened her garment. "Well, I'm sure the emissary considers it important. Probably just another request for me to increase the limits on the number of pilgrims allowed to come here."
Caladan, the seat of House Atreides for more than twenty generations, had escaped the ravages of the Jihad, primarily because of Jessica's refusal to let too many outsiders swarm in. Caladan's self- sufficient people preferred to be left alone. They would gladly have accepted their Duke Leto back, but he had been murdered through treachery at high levels; now the people had his son Paul- Muad'Dib instead, the Emperor of the Known Universe.
Despite Jessica's best efforts, Caladan could never be completely isolated from the outside storms in the galaxy. Though Paul paid little attention to his home planet anymore, he had been christened and raised here; the people could never escape the shadow cast by her son. After all the years of Paul's Jihad, a weary and wounded peace had settled over the Imperium like a cold winter fog. Looking at the young messenger now, she realized that he had been born after Paul became Emperor. The boy had never known anything but the looming Jihad and the harsher side of her son's nature. . . .
She left the courtyard gardens, shouting to the boy. "Summon Gurney Halleck. He and I will meet the delegation in the main hall of Castle Caladan."
Jessica changed out of her gardening clothes into a sea- green gown of state. She lifted her ash- bronze hair and draped a pendant bearing a golden Atreides hawk crest around her neck. She refused to hurry. The more she thought about it, the more she wondered what news the ship might bring. Perhaps it wasn't a trivial matter after all. . . .
Gurney was waiting for her in the main hall. He had been out running his gaze hounds, and his face was still flushed from the exercise. "According to the spaceport, the emissary is a high- ranking member of the Qizarate, bringing an army of retainers and honor guards from Arrakis. Says he has a message of the utmost importance."
She pretended a disinterest she did not truly feel. "By my count, this is the ninth 'urgent message' they've delivered since the Jihad ended two years ago."
"Even so, my Lady, this one feels different."
Gurney had aged well, though he was not, and never would be, a handsome man with that inkvine scar on his jaw and those haunted eyes. In his youth he'd been ground under the Harkonnen boot, but years of brave ser vice had shaped him into one of House Atreides's greatest assets.
She lowered herself into the chair that her beloved Duke Leto had once used. While scurrying castle servants prepared for the emissary and his entourage, the director of the kitchen staff asked Jessica about appropriate refreshments. She answered in a cool tone, "Just water. Serve them water."
"Nothing else, my Lady? Is that not an insult to such an important personage?"
Gurney chuckled. "They're from Dune. They'll consider it an honor." The foyer's oaken castle doors were flung open to the damp breeze, and the honor guard marched in with a great commotion. Fifteen men, former soldiers from Paul's Jihad, carried green banners with highlights of black or white. The members of this unruly entourage wore imitation stillsuits as if they were uniforms, though stillsuits were completely unnecessary in Caladan's moist air. Glistening droplets covered the group from the light drizzle that had begun to fall outside; the visitors seemed to consider it a sign from God.
The front ranks of the entourage shifted aside so that a Qizara, a yellow- robed priest of the Jihad, could step forward. The priest lowered his damp hood to show his bald scalp, and his eyes glittered with awe, completely blue from addiction to the spice melange. "I am Isbar, and I present myself to the mother of Muad'Dib." He bowed, then continued the bow all the way to the floor until he had prostrated himself. "Enough of this. Everyone here knows who I am."
Even when Isbar stood, he kept his head bowed and his eyes averted. "Seeing the bounty of water on Caladan, we more fully understand Muad'Dib's sacrifice in coming to Dune as the savior of the Fremen." Jessica's voice had enough of an edge to show that she did not wish to waste time on ceremony. "You have come a long way. What is the urgency this time?"
Isbar seemed to wrestle with his message as if it were a living thing, and Jessica sensed the depth of his dread. The members of the honor guard remained silent as statues.
"Out with it, man!" Gurney ordered.
The priest blurted, "Muad'Dib is dead, my Lady. Your son has gone to Shai- Hulud."
Jessica felt as though she had been struck with a cudgel.
Gurney groaned. "Oh no. No . . . not Paul!"
Isbar continued, anxious to purge himself of his words. "Forsaking his rule, the holy Muad'Dib walked out into the desert and vanished into the sands."
It took all of Jessica's Bene Gesserit training to erect a thick wall around herself, to give herself time to think. The shutdown of her emotions was automatic, ingrained. She forced herself not to cry out, kept her voice quiet and steady. "Tell me everything, priest."
The Qizara's words stung like sand pellets blown by a harsh wind. "You know of the recent plot by traitors among his own Fedaykin. Even though blinded by a stone- burner, the blessed Muad'Dib viewed the world with divine eyes, not the artificial Tleilaxu ones that he purchased for his injured soldiers."
Yes, Jessica knew all of that. Because of her son's dangerous decisions, and backlash from the Jihad, he'd always faced the very real threat of assassination. "But Paul survived the plot that blinded him. Was there another one?"
"An extension of the same conspiracy, Great Lady. A Guild Steersman was implicated, as well as the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam." He added, as an afterthought, "By order of the Imperial Regent Alia, both have now been executed along with Korba the Panegyrist, architect of the cabal against your son."
Too many facts clamored at her at once. Mohiam, executed? That news shook her to the core. Jessica's relationship with the old Reverend Mother had been tumultuous, love and hate cycling like the tides. Alia . . . Regent now? Not Irulan? Of course, it was appropriate. But if Alia was the ruler . . . "What of Chani, my son's beloved? What of Princess Irulan, his wife?"
"Irulan has been imprisoned in Arrakeen until her involvement in the plot can be mea sured. Regent Alia would not allow her to be executed with the others, but it is known that Irulan associated with the traitors." The priest swallowed hard. "As for Chani . . . she did not survive the birth of the twins."
"Twins?" Jessica shot to her feet. "I have grandchildren?"
"A boy and a girl. Paul's children are healthy, and-"
Her calm façade slipped dangerously. "You did not think to inform me of this immediately?" She struggled to or ga nize her thoughts. "Tell me all that I need to know, without delay."
The Qizara fumbled with his story. "You know of the ghola who was a gift to Muad'Dib from the Tleilaxu and the Guild? He turned out to be a weapon, an assassination tool created from the slain body of a faithful Atreides retainer."
Jessica had heard of the ghola grown from Duncan Idaho's dead cells, but had always assumed him to be some sort of exotic performer or Jongleur mimic.
"Hayt had the appearance and mannerisms of Duncan Idaho, but not the memories," the priest continued. "Though programmed to kill Muad'Dib, his true personality surfaced and defeated the alter ego, and through that crisis he became the true Duncan Idaho again. Now he aids the Imperial Regent Alia."
At first, the idea amazed her- Duncan, truly alive and aware again?- then her focus returned to the most pressing question. "Enough distractions, Isbar. I need more details about what happened to my son."
The priest kept his head bowed, which muffled his voice. "They say that through prescience, Muad'Dib knew the tragedies that would befall him, but could do nothing to prevent what he called his 'terrible purpose.' That knowledge destroyed him. Some say that at the end he was truly blind, without any future sight, and he could no longer bear the grief." The Qizara paused, then spoke with greater confidence. "But I believe, as do many others, that Muad'Dib knew it was his time, that he felt the call of Shai- Hulud. His spirit is still out there on the sands, forever intertwined with the desert."
Gurney wrestled with his sorrow and anger, clenching and unclenching his fists. "And you all just let him walk off into the dunes, blind?"
"That's what blind Fremen are compelled to do, Gurney," Jessica said.
Isbar straightened. "One does not 'let' Muad'Dib do a thing, Gurney Halleck. He knows the will of God. It is not for us to understand what he chooses to do."
Gurney would not let the matter drop so easily. "And were searches made? Did you attempt to find him? Was his body recovered?"
"Many 'thopters flew over the desert, and many searchers probed the sands. Alas, Muad'Dib has vanished." Isbar bowed reverently. Gurney's eyes were shining as he turned to Jessica. "Given his skills in the desert, my Lady, he might have survived. Paul could have found a way."
"Not if he didn't want to survive." She shook her head, then looked sharply at the priest. "What of Stilgar? What is his part in this?"
"Stilgar's loyalty is beyond question. The Bene Gesserit witch, Korba, and the Steersman died by his hand. He remains on Dune as liaison to the Fremen."
Jessica tried to imagine the uproar that would occur across the Imperium. "And when did all this happen? When was Paul last seen?" "Twenty- seven days ago," Isbar said.
Gurney roared in astonishment. "Almost a month! By the infinite hells, what took you so long to get here?"
The priest backed away from the man's anger, bumping into members of the entourage. "We needed to make the proper arrangements and gather a party of appropriate importance. It was necessary to obtain a sufficiently impressive Guild ship to bring this terrible news." Jessica felt pummeled by blow after blow. Twenty- seven days- and she hadn't known, hadn't guessed. How had she not sensed the loss of her son?
"There is one more thing, my Lady, and we are all disturbed by it," Isbar added. "Bronso of Ix continues to spread lies and heresy. He was captured once while Muad'Dib was alive, but he escaped from his death cell. Now the news of your son's death has emboldened him. His blasphemous writings demean the sacred memory of the Messiah. He distributes treatises and manifestos, seeking to strip Muad'Dib of his greatness. We must stop him, my Lady. As the mother of the Holy Emperor, you-"
Jessica cut him off. "My son is dead, Isbar. Bronso has been producing his tracts for seven years and you haven't been able to stop him- so his complaints are hardly news. I have no time for trivial conversation." She rose abruptly. "This audience is at an end."
Yes, I am haunted by memories from my past, but not all of them are sad. I recall many joyous times with Paul Atreides—Paul, not Muad'Dib, mind you. As I consider those times now, I feel like a man who has been served many fine banquets.—Gurney Halleck, "Memories and Ghosts," Unfinished Songs
Scenting prey, the gaze hounds bayed, and Gurney ran with them.
The cool air of that afternoon burned his lungs as he crashed through the underbrush, subconsciously trying to run from the devastating news.
The muscular gaze hounds, with gold- green eyes, wide set and bright, had vision as acute as an ea gle's, and a keen sense of smell. Protected by thick coats of russet and gray fur, the beasts splashed across brackish puddles, ripped through pampas grass, and howled like a choir performing for the tone deaf. The joy of the hunt was palpable in their actions.
Gurney loved his hounds. Years ago, he had kept another six dogs, but had been forced to put them down when they contracted the bloodfire virus. Jessica herself had given him these puppies to raise, and he resisted placing himself in a risky emotional position again, resolving not to become attached, considering the pain of losing all those other dogs.
That old grief was nothing compared to what he felt now. Paul Atreides, the young Master, was dead. . . .Gurney stumbled as he lagged behind the hounds. He paused to
catch his breath, closed his eyes for just a moment, then ran on after the baying dogs. He had no real interest in the hunt, but he needed to get away from the castle, from Jessica, and especially from Isbar and his Qizarate cronies. He could not risk losing control in front of others.
Gurney Halleck had served House Atreides for most of his life. He had helped to overthrow the Tleilaxu and reclaim Ix for House Vernius, before Paul's birth; later he'd fought at Duke Leto's side against Viscount Mo ritani during the War of Assassins; he had tried to protect the Atreides against Harkonnen treachery on Arrakis; and he had served Paul throughout the years of his recent Jihad, until retiring from the fight and coming here to Caladan. He should have known the difficulties were not over.
Now Paul was gone. The young Master had walked into the desert . . .blind and alone. Gurney had not been there for him. He wished he had remained on Dune, despite his antipathy toward the constant slaughter. So selfish of him to abandon the Jihad and his own responsibilities! Paul Atreides, Duke Leto's son, had needed him in the epic struggle, and Gurney turned his back on that need.
How can I ever forget that, or overcome the shame?
Splashing through sodden clumps of swamp grasses, he abruptly came upon the gaze hounds barking and yelping where a gray- furred marsh hare had wedged its bristly body into a crack under a mossy limestone overhang. The seven dogs sat back on their haunches, waiting for Gurney, fixated on where the terrified hare huddled, out of reach but unable to escape.
Gurney withdrew his hunting pistol and killed the hare instantly and painlessly with one shot to the head. He reached in and pulled out the warm, twitching carcass. The perfectly behaved gaze hounds observed him, their topaz eyes gleaming with alert fascination. Gurney tossed the animal to the ground and, when he gave a signal, the dogs fell upon the fresh kill, snapping at the flesh as if they had not eaten in days. A quick, predatory violence.
A flash of one of the bloody battlefields of the Jihad crossed Gurney's memory vision, and he blinked it away, relegating those sights to the past, where they belonged.
But there were other memories he could not suppress, the things he would miss about Paul, and he felt his warrior self breaking down, crumbling. Paul, who had been such a huge, irreplaceable part of his life, had faded into the expanse of desert, like a Fremen raider evading Harkonnens. This time, Paul would not be coming back.
As he watched the gaze hounds tear the meat apart, Gurney felt as if parts of himself had been torn away, leaving raw and gaping wounds.
That night, when Castle Caladan lay dark and quiet, the servants retired, leaving Jessica to mourn in private. But she could not sleep, could not find peace in an empty bedchamber that echoed with cold silence.
She felt off balance, adrift. Due to her Bene Gesserit training, the valves of her emotions had been rusted shut with disuse, especially after Leto's death, after she had turned her back on Arrakis and returned here.
But Paul was her son!
With a silent tread, Jessica glided down the castle's corridors to the doorway of Gurney's private chambers. She paused, wanting someone to talk to. She and Gurney could relate their common loss and consider what to do now, how to help Alia hold the already strained empire together until Paul's children came of age. What sort of future could they create for those infant twins? The winds of Dune— the politics and desert storms— could strip a person's flesh down to the bone.
Before she knocked at the heavy door, Jessica was surprised to hear strange sounds coming from within— wordless animal noises. She realized with a start that Gurney was sobbing. Alone and in private, the stoic troubadour warrior unleashed his sorrow with an unsettling abandon.
Jessica was even more disturbed to realize that her own grief was not nearly so deep or uncontrolled: It was somewhere far away, out of her reach. The lump inside her was hard and heavy. And numb. She didn't know how to access the emotions beneath. The very idea upset her. Why can't I feel it the way he does?
Hearing Gurney's private sorrow, Jessica wanted to go in and offer comfort, but she knew that would shame him. The troubadour warrior would never want her to see his naked sentiments. He would consider it a weakness. So she withdrew, leaving him to his own grief.
Unsteady on her feet, Jessica searched within herself, but encountered only hardened barriers that surrounded her sadness and prevented a real emotional release. Paul was my son!
As she returned to her chambers in the dead of night, Jessica quietly cursed the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. Damn them! They had stripped away a mother's ability to feel the proper anguish at losing her child.
Excerpted from THE WINDS OF DUNE by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
Copyright © 2009 by Herbert Properties LLC.
Published in September 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.