This week we’re going to get caught in a trapvine by a very old friend who we should have seen coming.
Index to the reread can be located here! And don’t forget this is a reread, which means that any and all of these posts will contain spoilers for all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series. If you’re not caught up, keep that in mind.
(Through “You will learn the integrated communication methods as you complete the next step in your mental education.”)
Jessica and Duncan have arrived on Selusa Secundus, and word has spread that Leto is dead and Alia has agreed to submit to a Trial of Possession, though many (including Farad’n) do not know what that means. No date has been set for the trial, which leads meany to believe it will never occur. A civil war has broken out on Arrakis between the desert Fremen and the Imperial Fremen, with Stilgar’s sietch serving as neutral ground for hostage exchange. Wensicia arrives with a message from the Bene Gesserit, stating that they believe Farad’n to be responsible for Leto’s murder. He tells Jessica that it was not him but his mother who created the plan, and that she will have to answer for it. Jessica points out that some will probably suggest a union between Ghanima and Farad’n to end the feud between their houses, and Farad’n agrees, but wants to wait out the situation on Arrakis before making any choices. She tells him that he has played into Alia’s hands by making it seem as though he’s abducted her, but Jessica has a solution; she tells everyone that she came there of her own free will to oversee his education as recommended by the Sisterhood. To make this work, she would have to be given free rein on Salusa Secundus, however.
Duncan is amused by the whole situation, noting how House Corrino looks poorly now after offending for the Sisterhood and the Spacing Guild with their schemes. Jessica notes that Farad’n would have to denounce and banish his mother if he blamed her for the plot against Leto’s life. Duncan notes that he and Jessica are the ones who were tricked, and explains that Farad’n is expected to do away with both of them so that an open clash can occur between Houses Corrino and Atreides, leaving Farad’n and Ghanima to wed so that the Sisterhood can step in to arbitrate and have control over a Kwisatz Haderach at last. Jessica realizes that the Sisterhood lied to her because they want her out of the way for failing them before. Farad’n let’s them know that there’s more in play; it is suspected that Alia might offer herself as a bride for Farad’n, and he is considering it. The price would be the deaths of Jessica and Duncan. Duncan cuts his wrist on the shigawire holding them in place, trying to kill himself, but Jessica and Farad’n strike their bargain and he accepts her offer. Jessica notes that he’s been studying the Atreides and has his own style of their battle language. She offers to train him in the ways of the Sisterhood as she did Paul.
Leto rides a worm into the deep desert searching out Jacurutu. The sietch was one where water-hunting Fremen who didn’t hesitate to take the water of unknown lonely tribesman stayed and congregated generations ago. One day the other Fremen took them on and supposedly wiped them out. It is a place where no Fremen will go now, a perfect place for Leto to hide and seek out of the Golden Path, one that will take them out of his father’s destructive visions. Farad’n watches Duncan Idaho attempt to speak with Jessica, which confuses him, since he is sure they know they are being watched at every moment. He cannot figure out why Duncan tried to kill himself however, and spends much time thinking over the man’s ghola training, his loyalty to the Atreides, and how the new Fremen are clashing with the old Fremen.
On the Kwisatz Haderach day, the Preacher goes to the square to give a sermon on the religion of Muad’Dib and the death of Leto. Though there is a warrant for his arrest, no one will touch him. Alia disguises herself and goes out to hear him, desperate to know if it is Paul. She fears him, wants to kill him, but knows she cannot. She gets pushed closer to him and he grabs her by the arm, speaks directly to her. Once the sermon is over, he comes close to her, and says: “Stop trying to pull me once more into the background, sister.” She knows this is Paul. And everyone has turned against her. She doesn’t know what to do now. Duncan finally has his conversation with Jessica, asks about what House Atreides has become now, and how there are groups of Fremen that curse their name. He learned of them at the Preacher behest and became one of their number, the Zarr Sadus. He requests to withdraw from Atreides service, and Jessica grants it, telling him to leave her presence.
Leto finds a place that he believes is Jacurutu, but he can find no sign of water, which concerns him. He makes his way there anyway, and ends up caught in a trapvine by a man who refuses to identify himself, but knows that the boy in his trap is Leto and the many lives within him, and claims that he will see to his education. The man speaks lightly of what Paul did and didn’t understand, and claims that “he was only Paul Atreides, after all.” Leto falls unconscious. Alia is busy yelling at her guards for not catching the Preacher, though they claim that they are trying their utmost.
Leto wakes to Namri, the father of Javid, and one of his new teachers. If Leto completes his schooling in this place he gets to live, if not, Namri’s function is to kill him. They get caught up on a challenge of riddles that Leto must answer correctly or forfeit his life. But he answers like a true rebel, making it clear that he wants to the way for himself, to challenge the religion his father created. Namri believes that Leto recites these ideas without conviction, but he’ll take it for now. He warns Leto to wait for the man who captured him there. Leto realizes that this plot smells like the Bene Gesserit, but he doesn’t like his odds of escaping back into the desert regardless. In the meantime, Jessica is giving Farad’n his first Bene Gesserit instruction, which begins with patience. She tells him to age his hands in his mind, then revert them backward to infancy. She leaves him to this task, as it will take time.
Random aside: Farad’n is dressed in elf-silk when he receives Jessica and Duncan for the first time, and now I really want to know what passes as elf silk. It’s not like they have actually elves in the universe, so it must be some kind of reference, but to what? And what manner of elf?
Another random aside that I find fascinating: the narrative makes mention of the fact that Farad’n wears permanent contact lenses to mask the blue of spice addiction in his eyes. Which led me to thinking about the various ways that wealthy people mask traits at this point in time, and what is desirable across the Imperium. The Fremen are a symbol of Paul’s empire and spice is one of the most important substances in the universe, but the upper classes still do not want the marks of that addiction to be visible—just because it gives people leverage to know for certain, or for other reasons? It’s just fascinating that even when spice is so important, and when it offers such astounding benefits, people still don’t want its mark visible on their person. You’d think that after a certain point it could become fashionable to have the blue eyes as a mark of status. Instead we have permanent contacts (which sounds awful, by the by).
There is a lot of sadness bound up in Duncan’s character at this point, and all of the questions and musing he offers in this section are valid. But the one that fascinates me the most is the question of what makes up House Atreides. Is it the people? Is it the ideals they stood for? Duncan knows not to make it about fealty to a bloodline alone, as has been the case in centuries past. He had reasons for binding himself to them, and his dissolution is played off as sensible.
The reveal of the Preacher as Paul is one of my favorite aspects of this book because the mystery of it is not what’s important. We’re told again and again that it very well could be him, we’re meant to question it, but there’s very little to deny it. Instead, the suspense is just the desire to have it confirmed, and we spend over half the book waiting for it. There’s something extra painful and also extremely touching about the reveal being to Alia, as well. For all that she is out of control, you have to assume that Paul is well aware of the part that he played in her downward spiral, and bears the guilt for her along with the guilt for everything else he has wrought. His sermons are kind of touch and go, for my money. Sometimes they really hit his points in a thoughtful and sharp way, sometimes they just ramble on for far too long. I’d argue that the sermon before revealing himself to Alia is one of those.
There’s an opener to one of these sections that notes that Paul basically screwed up the universe by viewing Time via prescience; essentially, by viewing the future, he froze the universe to his perception of Time, which is not normally how Time functions, being inherently malleable and changeable. If that’s really what Herbert intended all along, I really love that interpretation of how prescience damages the universe. It gives such incredible power some very tangible and destructive limits.
There’s something so brilliant about Leto believing himself so infallible and so ahead of the curve in practically every way, only to get caught by (who is soon to be revealed as) Gurney Halleck. Not only does his capture parallel Paul and Jessica’s first encounter with Stilgar and company in the first book, but making it Gurney is another callback—he was always the man who could outstep Paul, one of the few who could put him through his paces. And the fact that Gurney is constantly underestimated as a character throughout this series makes it even better. always described as a “lump of a man,” but ultimately valued for being more frank, more aware, more honest and upstanding than the rest of the conspirators around him.
Also, shoutout to the Canterbury Tales, which Leto is thinking about as he crosses the desert, while simultaneously noting that no one in the universe knows the Canterbury Tales anymore, and he only does through preborn memories. Sorry, Chaucer, my man. You had a good run, I guess.
Jessica’s training of Farad’n and Leto’s training at the hands of Gurney are now the dual threads we’re meant to follow, very clearly. The turn of the universe rests on where these lessons lead, and of course, they’re off to a rocky start.