represented ultimate betrayal and atrocity. To kill mere children! Yet they were not mere children. They had eaten melange, had shared in the sietch orgy, had probed the desert for sandtrout and played the other games of Fremen children... And they sat in the Royal Council. Children of such tender years, yet wise enough to sit in the Council. They might be children in flesh, but they were ancient in experience, born with a totality of genetic memory, a terrifying awareness which set their Aunt Alia and themselves apart from all other living humans.

Many times in many nights had Stilgar found his mind circling this difference shared by the twins and their aunt; many times had he been awakened from sleep by these torments, coming here to the twins' bedchambers with his dreams unfinished. Now his doubts came to focus. Failure to make a decision was in itself a decision - he knew this. These twins and their aunt had awakened in the womb, knowing there all of the memories passed onto them by their ancestors. Spice addiction had done this, spice addiction of the mothers - the Lady Jessica and Chani. The Lady Jessica had borne a son, Muad'Dib before her Addiction. Alia had come after the addiction. That was clear in retrospect. The countless generations of selective breeding directed by the Bene Gesserits had achieved Muad'Dib, but nowhere in the Sisterhood's plans had they allowed for melange. Oh, they knew about this possibility, but they feared it and called it Abomination. That was the most dismaying fact. Abomination. They must possess reasons for such a judgment. And if they said Alia was an Abomination, then that must apply equally to the twins, because Chani, too, had been addicted, her body saturated with spice, and her genes had somehow complemented those of Muad'Dib.

Stilgar's thoughts moved in ferment. There could be no doubt these twins went beyond their father. But in which direction? The boy spoke of an ability to be his father - and had proved it. Even as an infant, Leto had revealed memories which only Muad'Dib should have known. Were there other ancestors waiting in that vast spectrum of memories - ancestors whose beliefs and habits created unspeakable dangers for living humans?

Abominations, the holy witches of the Bene Gesserit said. Yet the Sisterhood coveted the genophase of these children. The witches wanted sperm and ovum without the disturbing flesh which carried them. Was that why the Lady Jessica returned at this time? She had broken with the Sisterhood to support her Ducal mate, but rumor said she had returned to the Bene Gesserit ways.

I could end all of these dreams, Stilgar thought. How simple it would be.

And yet again he wondered at himself that he could contemplate such a choice. Were Muad'Dib's twins responsible for the reality which obliterated the dreams of others? No. They were merely the lens through which light poured to reveal new shapes in the universe.

In torment, his mind reverted to primary Fremen beliefs, and he thought: God's command comes; so seek not to hasten it. God's it is to show the way; and some do swerve from it.

It was the religion of Muad'Dib which upset Stilgar most. Why did they make a god of Muad'Dib? Why deify a man known to be flesh? Muad'Dib's Golden Elixir of Life had created a bureaucratic monster which sat astride human affairs. Government and religion united, and breaking a law became sin. A smell of blasphemy arose like smoke around any questioning of governmental edicts. The guilt of rebellion invoked hellfire and self-righteous judgments.

Yet it was men who created these governmental edicts.

Stilgar shook his head sadly, not seeing the attendants who had moved into the Royal Antechamber for their morning duties.

He fingered the crysknife at his waist, thinking of the past it symbolized, thinking that more than once he had sympathized with rebels whose abortive uprisings had been crushed by his own orders. Confusion washed through his mind and he wished he knew how to obliterate it, returning to the simplicities represented by the knife. But the universe would not turn backward. It was a great engine projected upon the grey void of nonexistence. His knife, if it brought the deaths of the twins, would only reverberate against that void, weaving new complexities to echo through human history, creating new surges of chaos, inviting humankind to attempt other forms of order and disorder.

Stilgar sighed, growing aware of the movements around him. Yes, these attendants represented a kind of order which was bound around Muad'Dib's twins. They moved from one moment to the next, meeting whatever necessities occurred there. Best to emulate them, Stilgar told himself. Best meet what comes when it comes.

I am an attendant yet, he told himself. And my master is God the Merciful, the Compassionate. And he quoted to himself: 'Surely, We have put on their necks fetters up to the chin, so their heads are raised; and We have put before them a barrier and behind them a barrier; and We have covered them, so they do not see.'

Thus was it written in the old Fremen religion.

Stilgar nodded to himself.

To see, to anticipate the next moment as Muad'Dib had done with his awesome visions of the future, added a counterforce to human affairs. It created new places for decisions. To be unfettered, yes, that might well indicate a whim of God. Another complexity beyond ordinary human reach.

Stilgar removed his hand from the knife. His fingers tingled with remembrance of it. But the blade which once had glistened in a sandworm's gaping mouth remained in its sheath. Stilgar knew he would not draw this blade now to kill the twins. He had reached a decision. Better to retain that one old virtue which he still cherished: loyalty. Better the complexities one thought he knew than the complexities which defied understanding. Better the now than the future of a dream. The bitter taste in his mouth told Stilgar how empty and revolting some dreams could be.

No! No more dreams!

= = = = = =

CHALLENGE: 'Have you seen The Preacher?' RESPONSE: 'I have seen a sandworm.' CHALLENGE: 'What about that sandworm?' RESPONSE: 'It gives us the air we breathe.' CHALLENGE: 'Then why do we destroy its land?' RESPONSE: 'Because Shai-Hulud [sandworm deified] orders it.' -Riddles of Arrakis by Harq al-Ada

As was the Fremen custom, the Atreides twins arose an hour before dawn. They yawned and stretched in secret unison in their adjoining chambers, feeling the activity of the cave-warren around them. They could hear attendants in the antechamber preparing breakfast, a simple gruel with dates and nuts blended in liquid skimmed from partially fermented spice. There were glowglobes in the antechamber and a soft yellow light entered through the open archways of the bedchambers. The twins dressed swiftly in the soft light, each hearing the other nearby. As they had agreed, they donned stillsuits against the desert's parching winds.

Presently the royal pair met in the antechamber, noting the sudden stillness of the attendants. Leto, it was observed, wore a black-edged tan cape over his stillsuit's grey slickness. His sister wore a green cape. The neck of each cape was held by a clasp in the form of an Atreides hawk - gold with red jewels for eyes.

Seeing this finery, Harah, who was one of Stilgar's wives, said: 'I see you have dressed to honor your grandmother.' Leto picked up his breakfast bowl before looking at Harah's dark and wind-creased face. He shook his head. Then: 'How do you know it's not ourselves we honor?'

Harah met his taunting stare without flinching, said: 'My eyes are just as blue as yours!'

Ghanima laughed aloud. Harah was always an adept at the Fremen challenge-game. In one sentence, she had said: 'Don't taunt me, boy. You may be royalty, but we both bear the stigma of melange-addiction - eyes without whites. What Fremen needs more finery or more honor than that?'

Leto smiled, shook his head ruefully. 'Harah, my love, if you were but younger and not already Stilgar's, I'd make you my own.'

Harah accepted the small victory easily, signaling the other attendants to continue preparing the chambers for this day's important activities. 'Eat your breakfasts,' she said. 'You'll need the energy today.'

'Then you agree that we're not too fine for our grandmother?' Ghanima asked, speaking around a mouthful of gruel.

'Don't fear her, Ghani,' Harah said.

Leto gulped a mouthful of gruel, sent a probing stare at Harah. The woman was infernally folk-wise, seeing through the game of finery so quickly. 'Will she believe we fear her?' Leto asked.

'Like as not,' Harah said. 'She was our Reverend Mother, remember. I know her ways.'

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