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Dune: Paul’s Women, Chapter 9 (Book II)

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Paul’s Atreides Women

Book Two: MUAD’DIB

Chapter 9

 

Prophecy and prescience – How can they be put to the test in the face of the unanswered questions? Consider: How much is actual prediction of the "waveform" (as Muad’Dib referred to his visionimage) and how much is the prophet shaping the future to fit the prophecy? What of the harmonics inherent in the act of prophecy? Does the prophet see the future or does he see a line of weakness, a fault or cleavage that he may shatter with words or decisions as a diamond- cutter shatters his gem with a blow of a knife?

- "Private Reflections on Muad’Dib" by the Princess Irulan

 

Helena burst into the room. Naked on the bed was her son. He was completely bald and shaved and she almost didn’t recognize him. The servants had attended her request.

“Get dressed! Now!”

He understood the urgency in her tone and didn’t lost time. Jumped from the bed and dressed quickly, letting his military train react.

“What happened?”

“We are in danger. Gaius sent me a message. The sisterhood decided that since you didn’t had Gaius pregnant, they don’t need you anymore. You are a liability for the sisterhood if the Harkonnen discover that you are alive.”

“And why are you in danger?”

“There is the rumor that I was helping you to escape…”

“Mother! Stop to think! You are panicking! That message can be a trap! Gaius would got you away from her path!”

“I know, but shall we wait and see? Or let us think that she still has feelings for you and decided to help you? Let’s go.”

A ornithopter waited of for them and transported them to the spaceport. There they took a shuttle to a luxury cruise liner on Wallach’s IX orbit before the liner got into a much bigger guild ship.

As in all liners the accommodations were quite small. Helena had planned the essential in so short time. She had bought second class tickets so they could merge better with the rest of the passengers, mostly space tourists. There was only a double bed in the bedroom, a chair, a small closet and a minuscule bathroom.

Leto embraced his mother.

“Tiny accommodations!” he kissed her forehead.

She showed her annoyance and pulled his arms away. The two standing in the middle of the bedroom didn’t had much space. Their contact was unavoidable.

“Leto, I disobeyed the sisterhood to save you life. We are on the run… so save me from those remarks!”

Leto nodded. He was dealing badly with his losses and was being childish with his mother. He passed his hand by his recently shaved head. He also missed his hair and his beard.

“So… what are our plans?”

“The liner is on a tourist route, it will get out of the guild ship when we arrive at a planet, it will stay there one day or two, it will get in again in a guild ship and it will move on. We have a seven day ticket. The liner has shops. We need to buy new clothes. Than we will get out in some planet and take other ship to Arrakis.”

“Very well… and what we will be doing in the meanwhile?”

“We will think on something.” She answered nonchalantly.

 

***

 

Leto woke up in the middle of the nigh. As if the word nigh had some meaning in space.

They had been shopping in the cheapest stores in the liner. Money could be a problem in the next days until he could go to a bank and get his hands to some secret funds from his duchy. Leto was wearing an old out of use pajama. He stretched his arm and felt his side bed empty but still warm.

He was hearing water running. His mother was on the shower. He thought in Arrakis: It was a waste of water. He got up and undressed his two pajama pieces. Naked he gave the two steps that divided the bed from the small bathroom door.

Why was he doing this? Why did he desire his mother? He rested his hand on the door handle and hesitated. His mother was completely naked on the other side of the door. Was he trying to substitute the loss of Jessica? His sweet Jessica. Or his more recent absence from Gaius body? A body to which he had become addicted. He was ashamed, but he knew that he had given himself completely to her. She wanted his semen and she had it. But for both it was much more than that.

It was impressive how the Bene Gesserit sisters could maintain their bodies so desirable. Even his own mother was so desirable. Maybe it was their train, or their dependence from the mélange. Leto didn’t knew, and in that moment he didn’t care.

He look to the door handle. His member grew as he anticipated his following moment.

When did he begun to desire his mother? Was it some days before, when she masturbated him to get his semen’s sample? Or was it before? Many years ago, before he knew Jessica, before he knew Gaius? Surely before he knew Iphigenia.

He offered images of himself as a boy, as a child, he recalled those days in Caladan were the castle was full of children. Sons and daughter of nobles, Atreides vassals, sons and daughter of maidens and servants. The castle was full of life.

Even the treachery of the Harkonnen ended that.

He recalled his father, strong as a bull. As a bull!!! He always went to his mother’s quarters after a night of spree in the castle, in the bullring, in the near villages. He could have possessed several women those nights, nobles or peasant girls, but he always got back to Helena’s chamber to end the night. Just to wake up again at the first sun rays and retread to his chambers or to his official duties.

In the morning Leto arrived to the chamber, sometimes he stood at the door, waiting to his father come out. Then he would run to her. She would fondle him extravagantly, received him in her naked arms in her bed, in which he could still detect the recent scent of his father. He would smile with happiness and would share her languid breakfast brought by the old maiden, who was always irritated to find the boy lying in bed next to his undressed mother, where a moment before the duke had been making love with her.

Sometimes the sheets would partially fall between two pieces of fruit or a cup of tea and he would envision the smooth skin of a lovely breast or her back all the way down to the roundness of her buttocks. Leto loved the voluptuousness of his mother with her flesh always appearing through the sheets, or the outline of the body wrapped in the thin transparent fabric. He loved her joy as much as the naked smooth shoulders and the visible cleavage, the delicate smile, the long sardonic eyes, or the long legs emerging from the edges of the sheet. His eyes drink her beauty as a sweat nectar of happiness.

And then she would request him to brush her hair which he would agree and would do it with one hand in the brush and the other caressing gently her bare shoulders.

He assisted at his mother’s toilette, watched her going to the bathroom enveloped in the sheets and saw her emerge from the bath half-covered by her towel, her bare legs dripping water, and watched her being prepared and dressed behind the translucent blind screen with all the maidens around her, helping her, but obscuring his vision.

Then one of the maidens would help her with the makeup, both sited in front of the dresser, and would smooth her checks before painting her lips with a rose lipstick. Then they both would laugh spreading perfume all around, while his mother would drop perfume in her hands and then would introduce it into her dress, between her breasts to spread it lavishly.

Leto look to the door handle. His member was erect like a phallic god.

He smiled when he recalled a certain hide and seek game; the children run everywhere trying to find a good spot. He passed trough the music room where his mother was seated and without words he raised her long dress and hided below. He heard the laughs of her mother and the maidens. Inside his private tent he gained awareness of the nakedness of his mothers legs, slightly opened to let him camp in between. Inside his encampment the light was cream, filtered by the dress color and he could see almost all the way to his mother’s private parts, only obscured there by the lack of brightness.

Her smell was intoxicating, and he extended his hand, almost in fear, and touched her smooth skin. He felt his mother tremble and laugh. Then his hand traveled inside to explore but then she quickly closed her legs, smashing him in between and raised up saying in the middle of some more laughs that the game was over.

He look to the door handle. He heard his mother to turn off the shower.

Leto shock his head, quickly he dressed again his pajama and got back to the bed.

The bathroom door opened and her head emerged looking to him. Leto half closed his eyes, pretending to sleep. Her hair dripped water and she was covered by a towel as he already had seen her many times before.

She removed the towel around her body to dry her hair and with her both arms raised, the towel covering her vision, Leto opened his eyes and saw her full mature well formed body, her long Amazon legs, her thin pubic hair, her smooth slim belly and her breasts swinging with the towel movements but only slightly sagging.

His member was still erect like a phallic god.

She dried herself and dressed again a pajama much like the one Leto was using. This time he completely closed his eyes.

Leto felt her mother lie down at his side as slowly has she could, to not waken him up. Then she turned her back to him.

He couldn’t avoid it and he joined her, embraced her from behind, spooning his pajama against hers. The phallic god was in between.

Helena laugh in a sad tone.

“You weren’t asleep.”

“No.”

They cuddled for a while and she accepted the bond and emotional comfort and physical contact, trying to enjoy the shared closeness.

“Mother?”

“Hmm?”

“After my father died, did you made missions for the Bene Gesserit?”

“Yes.”

“Did you had any lovers?”

“Yes.”

“Talk me about them.”

“Why?” she shrugged, “About men or women?”

It was his time to laugh. His hand was in her belly. He really liked to smell her humid hair.

“Women!” he considered, “have you ever been with Jessica?”

“No! When Jessica was in the school I was already married with your father. When he died and I returned, Jessica was already your concubine. Besides she always had the best teachers!”

“What does that mean? Who?” Leto raised his head from the pillow

“Well… Gaius… Margot….”

“Did she knew that Gaius was her mother?”

“I doubt it.”

There was a moment of silence.

“So?” asked Leto.

“Well… I was with Gaius, if that is what you want to know…”

“Probably not…”

“Do you love her?”

“I still desire her. And I loved her many years ago… what about men?”

Helena shrugged her shoulders again, it was not an easy theme for her: “The Sister Superiors sent men once to a mission with the emperor.”

“You have been with him?”

“Yes, just once.”

“What can you tell me?”

“He is old. He likes sex. End of story.” Helena hesitated, she was not used to talk about her sexual life, but she felt that she could be sincere at least once in her life. “The emperor was sexually imprinted by Gaius. He has difficulty to have an erection with other women, unless he uses spice. He doesn’t understand, and he thinks that he is impotent without the spice.”

“Could have Jessica imprinted me?”

“Yes, but for what I feel in my buttocks, she didn’t.”

Leto couldn’t avoid smiling and he turned again his conversation to the emperor:

“But the emperor had sex with you?”

“With a heavy dose of spice, yes.”

“Did you have pleasure with him?”

“A sort of…”

“But did you reach an orgasm?” Leto nestled even more in her body.

“No. I faked it.”

“What did he do to you?”

“There was another man in the bedroom. One of his friends, the Count Fenring. He watched it all. That made me uncomfortable. He is a eunuch. Than… he didn’t paid much attention to me… he just saw me naked, kissed me and penetrated me without many preliminaries, than he turned me around and made anal sex… I tried to seduce him… but his mind was elsewhere… he was rough with the anal sex…”

Leto felt uneasy with his mother’s confession, for a moment he avoided his phallic contact with her buttocks.

“At least did you had pleasure in any of your missions, you surely reached orgasms? Better talk about them!”

“Well.. I had some with your father… he was a bull…” She smiled but he didn’t saw it. Than she laugh recovering lost memories. “There was a time… I was sent on a mission to seduce the son of a minor house. He was handsome and… a virgin… poor boy! He was young… he had probably only some nineteen or twenty standard years. He was very sweet… good-looking… we went to bedroom… I sited on the wedge of the bed and called him to me and he approached timidly. I was already half-naked and I begun to undress him. I opened his belt and when I touched his penis to caress him he exploded immediately in my hands,” Helena laugh recalling the scene, “you should see his face… poor boy… he was horrified… and I explained to him that there were other ways to please women… I begun to introduce him to the art of cunnilingus… oh… and he was good at it… he had the touch! He could lick me for hours and hours, sometimes he would come just licking me! He was constantly ejaculating too soon… so we had to train a way… he would lick me almost until I reach the orgasm, and he would avoid it, and when I was almost on the edge, he would penetrate me and we would come almost at the same time… he was so sweet… his tongue was marvelous, he usually begun to kiss me and he opened my outer lips so softly than I could shiver with his kindness… than he concentrated on the hood, so when he begun to hear me stir, as he felt my clitoris to emerge, he pulled the hood back with the tip of his magic tongue and licked it back and forth without mercy... I would begun to moan…”

Leto wasn’t sure that he wanted to hear more. His hips jerked while his hands grabbed her hips, but Helena came back from the past and immediately broke contact.

“Enough! Take care of yourself, if not we will not be able to sleep.”

He did. He turned up and took care. Sometimes looking to her back. The bed shacked at the sounds of the springs. Second class bedrooms had old beds. His mother grumbled but said nothing more.

He also grumbled when he reached an unsatisfying orgasm.

In the following day he would have to wash his pajama trousers, like a young boy.

 

***

 

"Get their water," the man calling out of the night had said. And Paul fought down his fear, glanced at his mother. His trained eyes saw her readiness for battle, the waiting whipsnap of her muscles.

"It would be regrettable should we have to destroy you out of hand," the voice above them said.

That’s the one who spoke to us first, Jessica thought. There are at least two of them–one to our right and one on our left.

"Cignoro hrobosa sukares hin mange la pchagavas doi me kamavas na beslas lele pal hrobas!"

It was the man to their right calling out across the basin.

To Paul, the words were gibberish, but out of her Bene Gesserit training, Jessica recognized the speech. It was Chakobsa, one of the ancient hunting languages, and the man above them was saying that perhaps these were the strangers they sought.

In the sudden silence that followed the calling voice, the hoop-wheel face of the second moon–faintly ivory blue–rolled over the rocks across the basin, bright and peering.

Scrambling sounds came from the rocks–above and to both sides... dark motions in the moonlight.

Many figures flowed through the shadows.

A whole troop! Paul thought with a sudden pang.

A tall man in a mottled burnoose stepped in front of Jessica. His mouth baffle was thrown aside for clear speech, revealing a heavy beard in the sidelight of the moon, but face and eyes were hidden in the overhang of his hood.

"What have we here–jinn or human?" he asked.

And Jessica heard the true-banter in his voice, she allowed herself a faint hope. This was the voice of command, the voice that had first shocked them with its intrusion from the night.

"Human, I warrant," the man said.

Jessica sensed rather than saw the knife hidden in a fold of the man’s robe. She permitted herself one bitter regret that she and Paul had no shields.

"Do you also speak?" the man asked.

Jessica put all the royal arrogance at her command into her manner and voice. Reply was urgent, but she had not heard enough of this man to be certain she had a register on his culture and weaknesses.

"Who comes on us like criminals out of the night?" she demanded.

The burnoose-hooded head showed tension in a sudden twist, then slow relaxation that revealed much.

The man had good control.

Paul shifted away from his mother to separate them as targets and give each of them a clearer arena of action.

The hooded head turned at Paul’s movement, opening a wedge of face to moonlight. Jessica saw a sharp nose, one glinting eye–dark, so dark the eye, without any white in it–a heavy brown and upturned mustache.

"A likely cub," the man said. "If you’re fugitives from the Harkonnens, it may be you’re welcome among us. What is it, boy?"

The possibilities flashed through Paul’s mind: A trick? A fact? Immediate decision was needed.

"Why should you welcome fugitives?" he demanded.

"A child who thinks and speaks like a man," the tall man said. "Well, now, to answer your question, my young wali, I am one who does not pay the fai, the water tribute, to the Harkonnens. That is why I might welcome a fugitive."

He knows who we are, Paul thought. There’s concealment in his voice.

"I am Stilgar, the Fremen," the tall man said. "Does that speed your tongue, boy?"

It is the same voice, Paul thought. And he remembered the Council with this man seeking the body of a friend slain by the Harkonnens.

"I know you, Stilgar," Paul said. "I was with my father in Council when you came for the water of your friend. You took away with you my father’s man, Duncan Idaho – an exchange of friends."

"And Idaho abandoned us to return to his Duke," Stilgar said.

Jessica heard the shading of disgust in his voice, held herself prepared for attack.

The voice from the rocks above them called: "We waste time here, Stil."

"This is the Duke’s son," Stilgar barked. "He’s certainly the one Liet told us to seek."

"But... a child, Stil."

"The Duke was a man and this lad used a thumper," Stilgar said. "That was a brave crossing he made in the path of shai-hulud."

And Jessica heard him excluding her from his thoughts. Had he already passed sentence?

"We haven’t time for the test," the voice above them protested.

"Yet he could be the Lisan al-Gaib," Stilgar said.

He’s looking for an omen! Jessica thought.

"But the woman," the voice above them said.

Jessica readied herself anew. There had been death in that voice.

"Yes, the woman," Stilgar said. "And her water."

"You know the law," said the voice from the rocks. "Ones who cannot live with the desert –"

"Be quiet," Stilgar said. "Times change."

"Did Liet command this?" asked the voice from the rocks.

"You heard the voice of the cielago, Jamis," Stilgar said. "Why do you press me?"

And Jessica thought: Cielago! the clue of the tongue opened wide avenues of understanding: this was the language of Ilm and Fiqh, and cielago meant bat, a small flying mammal.

Voice of the cielago: they had received a distrans message to seek Paul and herself.

"I but remind you of your duties, friend Stilgar," said the voice above them.

"My duty is the strength of the tribe," Stilgar said. "That is my only duty. I need no one to remind me of it. This child-man interests me. He is full-fleshed. He has lived on much water. He has lived away from the father sun. He has not the eyes of the ibad. Yet he does not speak or act like a weakling of the pans. Nor did his father. How can this be?"

"We cannot stay out here all night arguing," said the voice from the rocks. "If a patrol –"

"I will not tell you again, Jamis, to be quiet," Stilgar said.

The man above them remained silent, but Jessica heard him moving, crossing by a leap over a defile and working his way down to the basin floor on their left.

"The voice of the cielago suggested there’d be value to us in saving you two," Stilgar said.

"I can see possibility in this strong boy-man: he is young and can learn. But what of yourself, woman?" He stared at Jessica.

I have his voice and pattern registered now, Jessica thought. I could control him with a word, but he’s a strong man... worth much more to us unblunted and with full freedom of action. We shall see.

"I am the mother of this boy," Jessica said. "In part, his strength which you admire is the product of my training."

"The strength of a woman can be boundless," Stilgar said. "Certain it is in a Reverend Mother. Are you a Reverend Mother?"

For the moment, Jessica put aside the implications of the question, answered truthfully,

"No."

"Are you trained in the ways of the desert?"

"No, but many consider my training valuable."

"We make our own judgments on value," Stilgar said.

"Every man has the right to his own judgments," she said.

"It is well that you see the reason," Stilgar said. "We cannot dally here to test you, woman. Do you understand? We’d not want your shade to plague us. I will take the boy-man, your son, and he shall have my countenance, sanctuary in my tribe. But for you, woman–you understand there is nothing personal in this? It is the rule, Istislah, in the general interest. Is that not enough?"

Paul took a half-step forward. "What are you talking about?"

Stilgar flicked a glance across Paul, but kept his attention on Jessica. "Unless you’ve been deeptrained from childhood to live here, you could bring destruction onto an entire tribe. It is the law, and we cannot carry useless..."

Jessica’s motion started as a slumping, deceptive faint to the ground. It was the obvious thing for a weak outworlder to do, and the obvious slows an opponent’s reactions. It takes an instant to interpret a known thing when that thing is exposed as something unknown. She shifted as she saw his right shoulder drop to bring a weapon within the folds of his robe to bear on her new position. A turn, a slash of her arm, a whirling of mingled robes, and she was against the rocks with the man helpless in front of her.

At his mother’s first movement, Paul backed two steps. As she attacked, he dove for shadows. A bearded man rose up in his path, half-crouched, lunging forward with a weapon in one hand. Paul took the man beneath the sternum with a straight-hand jab, sidestepped and chopped the base of his neck, relieving him of the weapon as he fell.

Then Paul was into the shadows, scrambling upward among the rocks, the weapon tucked into his waist sash. He had recognized it in spite of its unfamiliar shape–a projectile weapon, and that said many things about this place, another clue that shields were not used here.

They will concentrate on my mother and that Stilgar fellow. She can handle him. I must get to a safe vantage point where I can threaten them and give her time to escape.

There came a chorus of sharp spring-clicks from the basin. Projectiles whined off the rocks around him. One of them flicked his robe. He squeezed around a corner in the rocks, found himself in a narrow vertical crack, began inching upward–his back against one side, his feet against the other– slowly, as silently as he could.

The roar of Stilgar’s voice echoed up to him: "Get back, you wormheaded lice! She’ll break my neck if you come near!"

A voice out of the basin said: "The boy got away, Stil. What are we –"

"Of course he got away, you sand-brained... Ugh-h-h! Easy, woman!"

"Tell them to stop hunting my son," Jessica said.

"They’ve stopped, woman. He got away as you intended him to. Great gods below! Why didn’t you say you were a weirding woman and a fighter?"

"Tell your men to fall back," Jessica said. "Tell them to go out into the basin where I can see them... and you’d better believe that I know how many of them there are." And she thought: This is the delicate moment, but if this man is as sharp- minded as I think him, we have a chance.

Paul inched his way upward, found a narrow ledge on which he could rest and look down into the basin. Stilgar’s voice came up to him.

"And if I refuse? How can you... ugh-h-h! Leave be, woman! We mean no harm to you, now. Great gods! If you can do this to the strongest of us, you’re worth ten times your weight of water."

Now, the test of reason, Jessica thought. She said: "You ask after the Lisan al-Gaib."

"You could be the folk of the legend," he said, "but I’ll believe that when it’s been tested. All I know now is that you came here with that stupid Duke who... Aiee-e-e! Woman! I care not if you kill me! He was honorable and brave, but it was stupid to put himself in the way of the Harkonnen fist!"

Silence.

Presently, Jessica said: "He had no choice, but we’ll not argue it. Now, tell that man of yours behind the bush over there to stop trying to bring his weapon to bear on me, or I’ll rid the universe of you and take him next."

"You there!" Stilgar roared. "Do as she says!"

"But, Stil –"

"Do as she says, you wormfaced, crawling, sand-brained piece of lizard turd! Do it or I’ll help her dismember you! Can’t you see the worth of this woman?"

The man at the bush straightened from his partial concealment, lowered his weapon.

"He has obeyed," Stilgar said.

"Now," Jessica said, "explain clearly to your people what it is you wish of me. I want no young hothead to make a foolish mistake."

"When we slip into the villages and towns we must mask our origin, blend with the pan and graben folk," Stilgar said. "We carry no weapons, for the crysknife is sacred. But you, woman, you have the weirding ability of battle. We’d only heard of it and many doubted, but one cannot doubt what he sees with his own eyes. You mastered an armed Fremen. This is a weapon no search could expose."

There was a stirring in the basin as Stilgar’s words sank home.

"And if I agree to teach you the... weirding way?"

"My countenance for you as well as your son."

"How can we be sure of the truth in your promise?"

Stilgar’s voice lost some of its subtle undertone of reasoning, took on an edge of bitterness.

"Out here, woman, we carry no paper for contracts. We make no evening promises to be broken at dawn. When a man says a thing, that’s the contract. As leader of my people, I’ve put them in bond to my word. Teach us this weirding way and you have sanctuary with us as long as you wish. Your water shall mingle with our water."

"Can you speak for all Fremen?" Jessica asked.

"In time, that may be. But only my brother, Liet, speaks for all Fremen. Here, I promise only secrecy. My people will not speak of you to any other sietch. The Harkonnens have returned to Dune in force and your Duke is dead. It is said that you two died in a Mother storm. The hunter does not seek dead game."

There’s safety in that, Jessica thought. But these people have good communications and a message could be sent.

"I presume there was a reward offered for us," she said.

Stilgar remained silent, and she could almost see the thoughts turning over in his head, sensing the shifts of his muscles beneath her hands.

Presently, he said: "I will say it once more: I’ve given the tribe’s word- bond. My people know your worth to us now. What could the Harkonnens give us? Our freedom? Hah! no, you are the taqwa, that which buys us more than all the spice in the Harkonnen coffers."

"Then I shall teach you my way of battle," Jessica said, and she sensed the unconscious ritual-intensity of her own words.

"Now, will you release me?"

"So be it," Jessica said. She released her hold on him, stepped aside in full view of the bank in the basin. This is the test-mashed, she thought. But Paul must know about them even if I die for his knowledge.

In the waiting silence, Paul inched forward to get a better view of where his mother stood.

As he moved, he heard heavy breathing, suddenly stilled, above him in the vertical crack of the rock, and sensed a faint shadow there outlined against the stars.

Stilgar’s voice came up from the basin: "You, up there! Stop hunting the boy. He’ll come down presently."

The voice of a young boy or a girl sounded from the darkness above Paul: "But, Stil, he can’t be far from –"

"I said leave him be, Chani! You spawn of a lizard!"

There came a whispered imprecation from above Paul and a low voice: "Call me spawn of a lizard!"

But the shadow pulled back out of view.

Paul returned his attention to the basin, picking out the gray-shadowed movement of Stilgar beside his mother.

"Come in, all of you," Stilgar called. He turned to Jessica. "And now I’ll ask you how we may be certain you’ll fulfill your half of our bargain? You’re the one’s lived with papers and empty contracts and such as –"

"We of the Bene Gesserit don’t break our vows any more than you do," Jessica said.
There was a protracted silence, then a multiple hissing of voices: "A Bene Gesserit witch!"

Paul brought his captured weapon from his sash, trained it on the dark figure of Stilgar, but the man and his companions remained immobile, staring at Jessica.

"It is the legend," someone said.

"It was said that the Shadout Mapes gave this report on you," Stilgar said. "But a thing so important must be tested. If you are the Bene Gesserit of the legend whose son will lead us to paradise... " He shrugged.

Jessica sighed, thinking: So our Missionaria Protectiva even planted religious safety valves all through this hell hole. Ah, well... it’ll help, and that’s what it was meant to do. She said: "The seeress who brought you the legend, she gave it under the binding of karama and ijaz, the miracle and the inimitability of the prophecy – this I know. Do you wish a sign?"

His nostrils flared in the moonlight. "We cannot tarry for the rites," he whispered.

Jessica recalled a chart Kynes had shown her while arranging emergency escape routes.

How long ago it seemed. There had been a place called "Sietch Tabr" on the chart and beside it the notation: "Stilgar."

"Perhaps when we get to Sietch Tabr," she said.

The revelation shook him, and Jessica thought: If only he knew the tricks we use! She must’ve been good, that Bene Gesserit of the Missionaria Protectiva. These Fremen are beautifully prepared to believe in us.

Stilgar shifted uneasily. "We must go now."

She nodded, letting him know that they left with her permission.

He looked up at the cliff almost directly at the rock ledge where Paul crouched. "You there, lad: you may come down now." He returned his attention to Jessica, spoke with an apologetic tone: "Your son made an incredible amount of noise climbing. He has much to learn lest he endanger us all, but he’s young."

"No doubt we have much to teach each other," Jessica said. "Meanwhile, you’d best see to your companion out there. My noisy son was a bit rough in disarming him."

Stilgar whirled, his hood flapping. "Where?"

"Beyond those bushes." She pointed.

Stilgar touched two of his men. "See to it." He glanced at his companions, identifying them.

"Jamis is missing." He turned to Jessica. "Even your cub knows the weirding way."

"And you’ll notice that my son hasn’t stirred from up there as you ordered," Jessica said.

The two men Stilgar had sent returned supporting a third who stumbled and gasped between them.

Stilgar gave them a flicking glance, returned his attention to Jessica. "The son will take only your orders, eh? Good. He knows discipline."

"Paul, you may come down now," Jessica said.

Paul stood up, emerging into moonlight above his concealing cleft, slipped the Fremen weapon back into his sash. As he turned, another figure arose from the rocks to face him.

In the moonlight and reflection off gray stone, Paul saw a small figure in Fremen robes, a shadowed face peering out at him from the hood, and the muzzle of one of the projectile weapons aimed at him from a fold of robe.

"I am Chani, daughter of Liet."

The voice was lilting, half filled with laughter.

"I would not have permitted you to harm my companions," she said.

Paul swallowed. The figure in front of him turned into the moon’s path and he saw an elfin face, black pits of eyes. The time froze and he was delighted to appreciate her sweet face lines. The familiarity of that face, the ethereal features out of numberless visions in his earliest prescience, shocked Paul to stillness. He remembered the angry bravado with which he had once described this face-from-a-dream, telling the Reverend Mother Gains Helen Mohiam: "I will meet her."

There she was: “Chani!”

And here was the stunning face, but in no meeting he had ever dreamed.

"You were as noisy as shai-hulud in a rage," she said. "And you took the most difficult way up here. Follow me; I’ll show you an easier way down."

He scrambled out of the cleft, followed the swirling of her robe across a tumbled landscape.

She moved like a gazelle, dancing over the rocks. Paul felt hot blood in his face, was thankful for the darkness.

That beautiful girl! She was like a touch of destiny. He felt caught up on a wave, in tune with a motion that lifted all his spirits.

They stood presently amidst the Fremen on the basin floor.

Jessica turned a wry smile on Paul, but spoke to Stilgar: "This will be a good exchange of teachings. I hope you and your people feel no anger at our violence. It seemed... necessary. You were about to... make a mistake."

"To save one from a mistake is a gift of paradise," Stilgar said. He touched his lips with his left hand, lifted the weapon from Paul’s waist with the other, tossed it to a companion. "You will have your own maula pistol, lad, when you’ve earned it."

Paul started to speak, hesitated, remembering his mother’s teaching: "Beginnings are such delicate times."

"My son has what weapons he needs," Jessica said. She stared at Stilgar, forcing him to think of how Paul had acquired the pistol.

Stilgar glanced at the man Paul had subdued – Jamis. The man stood at one side, head lowered, breathing heavily. "You are a difficult woman," Stilgar said. He held out his left hand to a companion, snapped his fingers. "Kushti bakka te."

More Chakobsa, Jessica thought.

The companion pressed two squares of gauze into Stilgar’s hand. Stilgar ran them through his fingers, fixed one around Jessica’s neck beneath her hood, fitted the other around Paul’s neck in the same way.

"Now you wear the kerchief of the bakka," he said. "If we become separated, you will be recognized as belonging to Stilgar’s sietch. We will talk of weapons another time."

He moved out through his band now, inspecting them, giving Paul’s Fremkit pack to one of his men to carry.

Bakka, Jessica thought, recognizing the religious term: bakka – the weeper. She sensed how the symbolism of the kerchiefs united this band. Why should weeping unite them? she asked herself.

Stilgar came to the young girl who had embarrassed Paul, said: "Chani, take the child-man under your wing. Keep him out of trouble."

Chani touched Paul’s arm and let his hand move down searching for his. When she found it their fingers intertwined. "Come along, child-man."

Paul was pleased to receive her warm hand in his. Her skin was smooth and her touch gently and so he could hid the anger in his voice, when said: "My name is Paul. It were well you–"

"We’ll give you a name, manling," Stilgar said, "in the time of the mihna, at the test of aql."

The test of reason, Jessica translated. The sudden need of Paul’s ascendancy overrode all other consideration, and she barked, "My son’s been tested with the gom jabbar!"

In the stillness that followed, she knew she had struck to the heart of them.

"There’s much we don’t know of each other," Stilgar said. "But we tarry overlong. Day-sun mustn’t find us in the open." He crossed to the man Paul had struck down, said,

"Jamis, can you travel?"

A grunt answered him. "Surprised me, he did. ’Twas an accident. I can travel."

"No accident," Stilgar said. "I’ll hold you responsible with Chani for the lad’s safety, Jamis. These people have my countenance."

Jessica stared at the man, Jamis. His was the voice that had argued with Stilgar from the rocks. His was the voice with death in it. And Stilgar had seen fit to reinforce his order with this Jamis.

Stilgar flicked a testing glance across the group, motioned two men out. "Larus and Farrukh, you are to hide our tracks. See that we leave no trace. Extra care – we have two with us who’ve not been trained." He turned, hand upheld and aimed across the basin. "In squad line with flankers – move out. We must be at Cave of the Ridges before dawn."

Jessica fell into step beside Stilgar, counting heads. There were forty Fremen – she and Paul made it forty-two. And she thought: They travel as a military company – even the girl, Chani.

Paul took a place in the line behind Chani. He had put down the black feeling at being caught by the girl. In his mind now was the memory called up by his mother’s barked reminder:

"My son’s been tested with the gom jabbar!" He found that his hand tingled with remembered pain.

"Watch where you go," Chani hissed. "Do not brush against a bush lest you leave a thread to show our passage."

Paul swallowed, nodded.

Jessica listened to the sounds of the troop, hearing her own footsteps and Paul’s, marveling at the way the Fremen moved. They were forty people crossing the basin with only the sounds natural to the place – ghostly feluccas, their robes flitting through the shadows. Their destination was Sietch Tabr–Stilgar’s sietch.

She turned the word over in her mind; sietch. It was a Chakobsa word, unchanged from the old hunting language out of countless centuries. Sietch: a meeting place in time of danger.

The profound implications of the word and the language were just beginning to register with her after the tension of their encounter.

"We move well," Stilgar said. "With, Shai-hulud’s favor, we’ll reach Cave of the Ridges before dawn."

Jessica nodded, conserving her strength, sensing the terrible fatigue she held at bay by force of will... and, she admitted it: by the force of elation. Her mind focused on the value of this troop, seeing what was revealed here about the Fremen culture.

All of them, she thought, an entire culture trained to military order. What a priceless thing is here for an outcast Duke!