Ghanima sat on an out looking ledge in sietch Tabr: where she and Leto had sat for so long before he took the throne; where mother and father had met and fallen in love; and now, where she sat, and waited, and waited, and -
“Ghani?” Farad’n’s voice broke her reverie.
It annoyed her when he called her Ghani like Leto did. They had been married for 6 years now but he still acted more a tutor than a lover. She knew that was why he was here now: More pretentious lessons. As if there was a thing he could tell her which she didn’t already know. As if there was a single scrap of wisdom he possessed that she could not summon from the source at will. She had explained her pre-born memories to him many times but he didn’t understand - perhaps he never would.
Nevertheless, he insisted that she come of age and complete her “education” before he would touch her and initiate the millennia-long breeding program to come. Of course, Irulan agreed. Anything to maintain her thin slither of relevance at court.
“Ghani, come inside,” Farad’n pressed “We need to -”
“Don’t call me Ghani. My name is Ghanima.” She said coolly.
“I’m sorry. Ghanima. Would you please come inside. We have a lot to do today and there isn’t time for this.”
“You have no right to be familiar with me.” She went on. He had annoyed her and she detested his patronising tone: she wasn’t going to let him off the hook just yet. “You are my husband and my tutor and nothing else!” She turned to face him in her anger and saw the pained expression on his face. “All the love I have I give to my brother, he needs it more than you. More than anyone…” She turned away and looked out over the desert again feeling her anger diffuse.
She heard him walk up behind her and come to sit next to her. She shuffled away from him but he took her hand and tried to catch her eye.
“You have your own life Ghanima.”
She turned and looked into his eyes. She liked his eyes. Like all of him she considered them soft, the way a Fremen considers all things soft that were not born to the desert. But his eyes contained a sort of honest love which she respected. It was at moments like this when he really tried to understand and comfort her, that she almost wished she could love him back.
“So you say oh wise Harq Al-Ada,” she jibed without laughing “But I can’t abandon my brother, and he needs me. I’m the only one who can give him any comfort. The only one who can really weep for his pain.”
“Ah! But you could only help him so much more when you complete your studies!” Farad’n pressed with a smile.
He was clearly trying to make a joke but this pushed Ghanima over the edge and ignited her previous anger.
She stood up and, now shouting down to him, said “How little you know! How little you manage to understand! I have explained if not twenty times then a thousand how much more I know than you! And to think! To think that you could teach me how to comfort my brother! Would learning to count grains of sand help me still the desert storm! There is nothing you can do! Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! You are useless! It is your hubris to regret!”
Once again she allowed her anger to cool and felt it flow out of her in the Bene Gesserit way she knew Farad'n would notice. She sighed, “You will never understand…”
“Ghanima, please -”
“No more lessons.” She resolved firmly. “I am almost of age and I can't bear them anymore.”She saw him nod slowly.
“And if you ever try to teach me how to care for my brother again - ” She paused and let him take her eye. “I will take your water.”
She let the implication of what she had said sink in for a moment before turning and heading away from the ledge and hurrying away back inside.
“It might not be so easy,” he called after her. “I am also trained in the Bene Gesserit way.”
“Ha! You should watch your back Farad’n!” She replied. “Leto’s home.” And with that, she passed the sealed entrance to return to the sietch leaving him alone on the ledge.
Farad’n pondered their exchange for a moment. He had no doubt that she could kill him if she wished, and any attempt to harm her would result in instant death from Leto, our new “God Emperor.” Farad’n sighed. He loved Ghanima and was loyal to Leto but often wondered if he would ever know exactly what he had gotten himself into.
Now looking back over the sand Farad’n saw the long trail of sand thrown up into the air by Leto’s run Ghanima was right: he had returned from the desert again.
Ghanima had been waiting on Leto for 2 weeks now: his longest sustained run. She knew that his sandtrout skin gave him abilities. She knew that he could run for hours on end and that he had a strength greater than that of any man. But 2 weeks sustained running? The usual reports of sand demons and great disturbances in the weather from places he passed came in and were sent out the same way by a government on ice without his presence. Irulan tried to appoint herself regent on a couple of prior occasions when Leto was out. But nobody had taken any notice of her in a long time.
Didn’t he need food? Or water? Ghanimas attention snapped back to worry for Leto. As she thought about it she understood that he need not drink with the sandtrout stillsuit collecting all his water. Did something similar happen with his food?
She marveled at how little she knew about Leto’s new body. But then again, it was wrong of her to assume Leto knew any more.
Bounding down the final few steps with joyful agility she turned and hurried into the main hub of the sietch where, amid all the hustle and bustle of the traditional sietch life - now a relic alone in sietch Tabr - she sought out her brother.
“Ghani! Ghanima!” Came her brother's voice loud as a maker’s roar throughout the cavern. Everybody turned to look, including Ghanima who sprinted towards the voice and embraced the young man it belonged to. He was still slightly shorter than her and probably always would be now but that did not inconvenience her embrace nor the joy which it contained.
He flinched when her arms made contact with his skin and Ghanima pulled away. She looked into him and saw such dark and unimaginable pain she wanted to run back to her room and curl up under a mountain of sheets like a small child. But he had no choice, and she had to stay with him.
She moved back and stood by his side. Attendants and courtiers rushed forward. Among them was Stilgar, the old desert naib, with warnings of more angry fremen threatening revolt. There was Irulan, carrying some petition and crying for attention in a shrill voice. There was also Farad’n, of course, but he did not shout for attention. He was peering around between people and trying to see through the crowd as if he were looking for someone. Ghanima presumed it was her and tried to look away although she knew he had no control over her at all when Leto was here.
Ah, Leto, Ghanima thought to herself I’m so glad you’re back. And, as if he could read her thoughts, Leto reached out and took her hand.
It was a small, sensitive gesture which meant all the more knowing how much pain it could cause him. A long while passed before Ghanima spoke to Leto. As he masterfully steered through the crowd: nodding to him, waving to her, signing this, ratifying that. He maintained his grip on Ghanima’s hand and silently she followed.
When, after what may well have been several hours, they, at last, came to Leto’s private chamber he turned around and slowly closed the 12-foot doors, letting out an exasperated sigh.
Ghanima giggled and he Leto grinned back at her.
“You did? I thought I snuck in quite successfully.”
“Like a church mouse(!)” They laughed openly at the ancient reference.
Leto moved to hug her again but stopped himself short. Ghanima saw the same terrible agony behind his eyes.
“It hurts more doesn’t it?” She asked.
He nodded gently.
“That’s why you run.”
It wasn’t a question but Leto nodded again keeping her gaze.
“But come, dear Ghanima,” he continued after a moment's pause, “There will be much time to discuss all this at length. For now, I must return to court, I fear another instant without me will collapse the entire empire. And what good will the golden path do us then, eh?” He laughed but Ghanima didn’t join him.
“It would save us both.”
Noticing her response he grimaced, raised his arm, and wiped the small tear from the corner of her eye. He tasted it and whispered,
“I won’t apologise - you know I can’t.”
She didn’t respond but Leto knew she understood, she understood everything. He loved his Ghanima more than words could express, but it wasn’t a problem as she understood that as well. He walked behind her as she continued to stare out over the desert from the great window with which his room purchased a view of his planet and changed from the Fremen robes he wore while running and put on his imperial uniform.
He put his hand gently on her shoulder.
“Retrouvez moi à chez nous quand le soleil se couche.” Meet me at our place as the sun sets.
Ghanima turned around but he had already gone, and now there was no trace that he had ever been there at all.
She felt the familiar sense of loneliness, temporarily set back by Leto’s exuberant presence, return. She returned the way she came and reentered the sietch’s main area. Now she would wait again.
She had nothing to do and so, hardly thinking, she walked towards Farad’n’s quarters.