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by Frank Herbert

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Book Summary

Paul Atreides, the son of a betrayed duke, is given up for dead on a treacherous desert planet and adopted by its fierce, nomadic people, who help him unravel his most unexpected destiny.

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Excerpt: Dune


Ace Books

Copyright © 2005 Frank Herbert
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780441013593

Chapter One

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then, take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.
from "Manual of Muad'Dib"
by the Princess Irulan

In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the finalscurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old cronecame to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.

    It was a warm night at Castle Caladan, and the ancient pile of stonethat had served the Atreides family as home for twenty-six generationsbore that cooled-sweat feeling it acquired before a change in the weather.

    The old woman was let in by the side door down the vaulted passageby Paul's room and she was allowed a moment to peer in at him where helay in his bed.

    By the half-light of a suspensor lamp, dimmed and hanging near thefloor, the awakened boy could see a bulky female shape at his door,standing one step ahead of his mother. The old woman was a witchshadow—hair like matted spiderwebs, hooded 'round darkness offeatures, eyes like glittering jewels.

    "Is he not small for his age, Jessica?" the old woman asked. Hervoice wheezed and twanged like an untuned baliset.

    Paul's mother answered in her soft contralto: "The Atreides areknown to start late getting their growth, Your Reverence."

    "So I've heard, so I've heard," wheezed the old woman. "Yet he'salready fifteen."

    "Yes, Your Reverence."

    "He's awake and listening to us," said the old woman. "Sly littlerascal." She chuckled. "But royalty has need of slyness. And if he'sreally the Kwisatz Haderach ... well...."

    Within the shadows of his bed, Paul held his eyes open to mere slits.Two bird-bright ovals—the eyes of the old woman—seemed to expandand glow as they stared into his.

    "Sleep well, you sly little rascal," said the old woman. "Tomorrowyou'll need all your faculties to meet my gom jabbar."

    And she was gone, pushing his mother out, closing the door with asolid thump.

    Paul lay awake wondering: What's a gom jabbar?

    In all the upset during this time of change, the old woman was thestrangest thing he had seen.

    Your Reverence.

    And the way she called his mother Jessica like a common servingwench instead of what she was—a Bene Gesserit Lady, a duke's concubineand mother of the ducal heir.

    Is a gom jabbar something of Arrakis I must know before we gothere? he wondered.

    He mouthed her strange words: Gom jabbar ... Kwisatz Haderach.

    There had been so many things to learn. Arrakis would be a place sodifferent from Caladan that Paul's mind whirled with the new knowledge.Arrakis—Dune—Desert Planet.

    Thufir Hawat, his father's Master of Assassins, had explained it:their mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, had been on Arrakis eighty years,holding the planet in quasi-fief under a CHOAM Company contract tomine the geriatric spice, melange. Now the Harkonnens were leaving tobe replaced by the House of Atreides in fief-complete—an apparent victoryfor the Duke Leto. Yet, Hawat had said, this appearance containedthe deadliest peril, for the Duke Leto was popular among the GreatHouses of the Landsraad.

    "A popular man arouses the jealousy of the powerful," Hawat hadsaid.

    Arrakis—Dune—Desert Planet.

    Paul fell asleep to dream of an Arrakeen cavern, silent people allaround him moving in the dim light of glowglobes. It was solemn thereand like a cathedral as he listened to a faint sound—the drip-drip-drip ofwater. Even while he remained in the dream, Paul knew he wouldremember it upon awakening. He always remembered the dreams thatwere predictions.

    The dream faded.

    Paul awoke to feel himself in the warmth of his bed—thinking ...thinking. This world of Castle Caladan, without play or companions hisown age, perhaps did not deserve sadness in farewell. Dr. Yueh, histeacher, had hinted that the faufreluches class system was not rigidlyguarded on Arrakis. The planet sheltered people who lived at the desertedge without caid or bashar to command them: will-o'-the-sand peoplecalled Fremen, marked down on no census of the Imperial Regate.

    Arrakis—Dune—Desert Planet.

    Paul sensed his own tensions, decided to practice one of the mind-bodylessons his mother had taught him. Three quick breaths triggeredthe responses: he fell into the floating awareness ... focusing the consciousness... aortal dilation ... avoiding the unfocused mechanism ofconsciousness ... to be conscious by choice ... blood enriched andswift-flooding the overload regions ... one does not obtain food-safety-freedomby instinct alone ... animal consciousness does not extendbeyond the given moment nor into the idea that its victims may becomeextinct ... the animal destroys and does not produce ... animalpleasures remain close to sensation levels and avoid the perceptual ...the human requires a background grid through which to see his universe... focused consciousness by choice, this forms your grid ... bodilyintegrity follows nerve-blood flow according to the deepest awareness ofcell needs ... all things/cells/beings are impermanent ... strive for flow-permanencewithin....

    Over and over and over within Paul's floating awareness the lessonrolled.

    When dawn touched Paul's window sill with yellow light, he sensedit through closed eyelids, opened them, hearing then the renewed bustleand hurry in the castle, seeing the familiar patterned beams of hisbedroom ceiling.

    The hall door opened and his mother peered in, hair like shadedbronze held with black ribbon at the crown, her oval face emotionlessand green eyes staring solemnly.

    "You're awake," she said. "Did you sleep well?"


    He studied the tallness of her, saw the hint of tension in hershoulders as she chose clothing for him from the closet racks. Anothermight have missed the tension, but she had trained him in the BeneGesserit Way—in the minutiae of observation. She turned, holding asemiformal jacket for him. It carried the red Atreides hawk crest abovethe breast pocket.

    "Hurry and dress," she said. "Reverend Mother is waiting."

    "I dreamed of her once," Paul said. "Who is she?"

    "She was my teacher at the Bene Gesserit school. Now, she's theEmperor's Truthsayer. And Paul...." She hesitated. "You must tellher about your dreams."

    "I will. Is she the reason we got Arrakis?"

    "We did not get Arrakis." Jessica flicked dust from a pair oftrousers, hung them with the jacket on the dressing stand beside his bed."Don't keep Reverend Mother waiting."

    Paul sat up, hugged his knees. "What's a gom jabbar?"

    Again, the training she had given him exposed her almost invisiblehesitation, a nervous betrayal he felt as fear.

    Jessica crossed to the window, flung wide the draperies, staredacross the river orchards toward Mount Syubi. "You'll learn about ...the gom jabbar soon enough," she said.

    He heard the fear in her voice and wondered at it.

    Jessica spoke without turning. "Reverend Mother is waiting in mymorning room. Please hurry."

The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam sat in a tapestried chairwatching mother and son approach. Windows on each side of heroverlooked the curving southern bend of the river and the greenfarmlands of the Atreides family holding, but the Reverend Motherignored the view. She was feeling her age this morning, more than a littlepetulant. She blamed it on space travel and association with thatabominable Spacing Guild and its secretive ways. But here was a missionthat required personal attention from a Bene Gesserit-with-the-Sight.Even the Padishah Emperor's Truthsayer couldn't evade that responsibilitywhen the duty call came.

    Damn that Jessica! the Reverend Mother thought. If only she'dborne us a girl as she was ordered to do!

    Jessica stopped three paces from the chair, dropped a small curtsy, agentle flick of left hand along the line of her skirt. Paul gave the shortbow his dancing master had taught—the one used "when in doubt ofanother's station."

    The nuances of Paul's greeting were not lost on the ReverendMother. She said: "He's a cautious one, Jessica."

    Jessica's hand went to Paul's shoulder, tightened there. For a heartbeat,fear pulsed through her palm. Then she had herself under control."Thus he has been taught, Your Reverence."

    What does she fear? Paul wondered.

    The old woman studied Paul in one gestalten flicker: face oval likeJessica's, but strong bones ... hair: the Duke's black-black but withbrowline of the maternal grandfather who cannot be named, and thatthin, disdainful nose; shape of directly staring green eyes: like the oldDuke, the paternal grandfather who is dead.

    Now, there was a man who appreciated the power of bravura—evenin death, the Reverend Mother thought.

    "Teaching is one thing," she said, "the basic ingredient is another.We shall see." The old eyes darted a hard glance at Jessica. "Leave us. Ienjoin you to practice the meditation of peace."

    Jessica took her hand from Paul's shoulder. "Your Reverence, I—"

    "Jessica, you know it must be done."

    Paul looked up at his mother, puzzled.

    Jessica straightened. "Yes ... of course."

    Paul looked back at the Reverend Mother. Politeness and hismother's obvious awe of this old woman argued caution. Yet he felt anangry apprehension at the fear he sensed radiating from his mother.

    "Paul...." Jessica took a deep breath. "... this test you're aboutto receive ... it's important to me."

    "Test?" He looked up at her.

    "Remember that you're a duke's son," Jessica said. She whirledand strode from the room in a dry swishing of skirt. The door closedsolidly behind her.

    Paul faced the old woman, holding anger in check. "Does onedismiss the Lady Jessica as though she were a serving wench?"

    A smile flicked the corners of the wrinkled old mouth. "The LadyJessica was my serving wench, lad, for fourteen years at school." Shenodded. "And a good one, too. Now, you come here!"

    The command whipped out at him. Paul found himself obeyingbefore he could think about it. Using the Voice on me, he thought. Hestopped at her gesture, standing beside her knees.

    "See this?" she asked. From the folds of her gown, she lifted agreen metal cube about fifteen centimeters on a side. She turned it andPaul saw that one side was open—black and oddly frightening. No lightpenetrated that open blackness.

    "Put your right hand in the box," she said.

    Fear shot through Paul. He started to back away, but the oldwoman said: "Is this how you obey your mother?"

    He looked up into bird-bright eyes.

    Slowly, feeling the compulsions and unable to inhibit them, Paulput his hand into the box. He felt first a sense of cold as the blacknessclosed around his hand, then slick metal against his fingers and aprickling as though his hand were asleep.

    A predatory look filled the old woman's features. She lifted herright hand away from the box and poised the hand close to the side ofPaul's neck. He saw a glint of metal there and started to turn toward it.

    "Stop!" she snapped.

    Using the Voice again! He swung his attention back to her face.

    "I hold at your neck the gom jabbar," she said. "The gom jabbar,the high-handed enemy. It's a needle with a drop of poison on its tip.Ah-ah! Don't pull away or you'll feel that poison."

    Paul tried to swallow in a dry throat. He could not take his attentionfrom the seamed old face, the glistening eyes, the pale gums aroundsilvery metal teeth that flashed as she spoke.

    "A duke's son must know about poisons," she said. "It's the wayof our times, eh? Musky, to be poisoned in your drink. Aumas, to bepoisoned in your food. The quick ones and the slow ones and the ones inbetween. Here's a new one for you: the gom jabbar. It kills onlyanimals."

    Pride overcame Paul's fear. "You dare suggest a duke's son is ananimal?" he demanded.

    "Let us say I suggest you may be human," she said. "Steady! Iwarn you not to try jerking away. I am old, but my hand can drive thisneedle into your neck before you escape me."

    "Who are you?" he whispered. "How did you trick my mother intoleaving me alone with you? Are you from the Harkonnens?"

    "The Harkonnens? Bless us, no! Now, be silent." A dry fingertouched his neck and he stilled the involuntary urge to leap away.

    "Good," she said. "You pass the first test. Now, here's the way ofthe rest of it: If you withdraw your hand from the box you die. This is theonly rule. Keep your hand in the box and live. Withdraw it and die."

    Paul took a deep breath to still his trembling. "If I call out there'llbe servants on you in seconds and you'll die."

    "Servants will not pass your mother who stands guard outside thatdoor. Depend on it. Your mother survived this test. Now it's your turn.Be honored. We seldom administer this to men-children."

    Curiosity reduced Paul's fear to a manageable level. He heard truthin the old woman's voice, no denying it. If his mother stood guard outthere ... if this were truly a test.... And whatever it was, he knew himselfcaught in it, trapped by that hand at his neck: the gom jabbar. Herecalled the response from the Litany against Fear as his mother hadtaught him out of the Bene Gesserit rite.

    "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death thatbrings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass overme and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye tosee its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I willremain."

    He felt calmness return, said: "Get on with it, old woman."

    "Old woman!" she snapped. "You've courage, and that can't bedenied. Well, we shall see, sirra." She bent close, lowered her voicealmost to a whisper. "You will feel pain in this hand within the box.Pain. But! Withdraw the hand and I'll touch your neck with my gom jabbar—thedeath so swift it's like the fall of the headsman's axe. Withdrawyour hand and the gom jabbar takes you. Understand?"

    "What's in the box?"


    He felt increased tingling in his hand, pressed his lips tightlytogether. How could this be a test? he wondered. The tingling became anitch.

    The old woman said: "You've heard of animals chewing off a leg toescape a trap? There's an animal kind of trick. A human would remain inthe trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapperand remove a threat to his kind."

    The itch became the faintest burning. "Why are you doing this?" hedemanded.

    "To determine if you're human. Be silent."

    Paul clenched his left hand into a fist as the burning sensationincreased in the other hand. It mounted slowly: heat upon heat upon heat... upon heat. He felt the fingernails of his free hand biting the palm. Hetried to flex the fingers of the burning hand, but couldn't move them.

    "It burns," he whispered.


    Pain throbbed up his arm. Sweat stood out on his forehead. Everyfiber cried out to withdraw the hand from that burning pit ... but ...the gom jabbar. Without turning his head, he tried to move his eyes tosee that terrible needle poised beside his neck. He sensed that he wasbreathing in gasps, tried to slow his breaths and couldn't.


    His world emptied of everything except that hand immersed inagony, the ancient face inches away staring at him.

    His lips were so dry he had difficulty separating them.

    The burning! The burning!

    He thought he could feel skin curling black on that agonized hand,the flesh crisping and dropping away until only charred bones remained.

    It stopped!

    As though a switch had been turned off, the pain stopped.

    Paul felt his right arm trembling, felt sweat bathing his body.

    "Enough," the old woman muttered. "Kull wahad! No woman-childever withstood that much. I must've wanted you to fail." Sheleaned back, withdrawing the gom jabbar from the side of his neck."Take your hand from the box, young human, and look at it."

    He fought down an aching shiver, stared at the lightless void wherehis hand seemed to remain of its own volition. Memory of pain inhibitedevery movement. Reason told him he would withdraw a blackened stumpfrom that box.

    "Do it!" she snapped.

    He jerked his hand from the box, stared at it astonished. Not amark. No sign of agony on the flesh. He held up the hand, turned it,flexed the fingers.

    "Pain by nerve induction," she said. "Can't go around maimingpotential humans. There're those who'd give a pretty for the secret ofthis box, though." She slipped it into the folds of her gown.

    "But the pain—" he said.

    "Pain," she sniffed. "A human can override any nerve in thebody."

    Paul felt his left hand aching, uncurled the clenched fingers, lookedat four bloody marks where fingernails had bitten his palm. He droppedthe hand to his side, looked at the old woman. "You did that to mymother once?"

    "Ever sift sand through a screen?" she asked.

    The tangential slash of her question shocked his mind into a higherawareness: Sand through a screen. He nodded.

    "We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans."

    He lifted his right hand, willing the memory of the pain. "Andthat's all there is to it—pain?"

    "I observed you in pain, lad. Pain's merely the axis of the test. Yourmother's told you about our ways of observing. I see the signs of herteaching in you. Our test is crisis and observation."

    He heard the confirmation in her voice, said: "It's truth!"

    She stared at him. He senses truth! Could he be the one? Could hetruly be the one? She extinguished the excitement, reminding herself:"Hope clouds observation."

    "You know when people believe what they say," she said.

    "I know it."

    The harmonics of ability confirmed by repeated test were in hisvoice. She heard them, said: "Perhaps you are the Kwisatz Haderach. Sitdown, little brother, here at my feet."

    "I prefer to stand."

    "Your mother sat at my feet once."

    "I'm not my mother."

    "You hate us a little, eh?" She looked toward the door, called out:"Jessica!"

    The door flew open and Jessica stood there staring hard-eyed intothe room. Hardness melted from her as she saw Paul. She managed afaint smile.

    "Jessica, have you ever stopped hating me?" the old woman asked.

    "I both love and hate you," Jessica said. "The hate—that's frompains I must never forget. The love—that's...."

    "Just the basic fact," the old woman said, but her voice was gentle."You may come in now, but remain silent. Close that door and mind itthat no one interrupts us."

    Jessica stepped into the room, closed the door and stood with herback to it. My son lives, she thought. My son lives and is ... human. Iknew he was ... but ... he lives. Now, I can go on living. The door felthard and real against her back. Everything in the room was immediateand pressing against her senses.

    My son lives.

    Paul looked at his mother. She told the truth. He wanted to getaway alone and think this experience through, but knew he could notleave until he was dismissed. The old woman had gained a power overhim. They spoke truth. His mother had undergone this test. There mustbe terrible purpose in it ... the pain and fear had been terrible. He understoodterrible purposes. They drove against all odds. They were theirown necessity. Paul felt that he had been infected with terrible purpose.He did not know yet what the terrible purpose was.

    "Some day, lad," the old woman said, "you, too, may have tostand outside a door like that. It takes a measure of doing."

    Paul looked down at the hand that had known pain, then up to theReverend Mother. The sound of her voice had contained a differencethen from any other voice in his experience. The words were outlined inbrilliance. There was an edge to them. He felt that any question he mightask her would bring an answer that could lift him out of his flesh-worldinto something greater.

    "Why do you test for humans?" he asked.

    "To set you free."


    "Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope thatthis would set them free. But that only permitted other men withmachines to enslave them."

    "`Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man'smind,'" Paul quoted.

    "Right out of the Butlerian Jihad and the Orange Catholic Bible,"she said. "But what the O.C. Bible should've said is: `Thou shalt notmake a machine to counterfeit a human mind.' Have you studied theMentat in your service?"

    "I've studied with Thufir Hawat."

    "The Great Revolt took away a crutch," she said. "It forced humanminds to develop. Schools were started to train human talents."

    "Bene Gesserit schools?"

    She nodded. "We have two chief survivors of those ancient schools:the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild. The Guild, so we think,emphasizes almost pure mathematics. Bene Gesserit performs anotherfunction."

    "Politics," he said.

    "Kull wahad!" the old woman said. She sent a hard glance atJessica.

    "I've not told him, Your Reverence," Jessica said.

    The Reverend Mother returned her attention to Paul. "You did thaton remarkably few clues," she said. "Politics indeed. The original BeneGesserit school was directed by those who saw the need of a thread ofcontinuity in human affairs. They saw there could be no such continuitywithout separating human stock from animal stock—for breeding purposes."

    The old woman's words abruptly lost their special sharpness forPaul. He felt an offense against what his mother called his instinct forrightness. It wasn't that Reverend Mother lied to him. She obviouslybelieved what she said. It was something deeper, something tied to histerrible purpose.

    He said: "But my mother tells me many Bene Gesserit of the schoolsdon't know their ancestry."

    "The genetic lines are always in our records," she said. "Yourmother knows that either she's of Bene Gesserit descent or her stock wasacceptable in itself."

    "Then why couldn't she know who her parents are?"

    "Some do.... Many don't. We might, for example, have wanted tobreed her to a close relative to set up a dominant in some genetic trait.We have many reasons."

    Again, Paul felt the offense against rightness. He said: "You take alot on yourselves."

    The Reverend Mother stared at him, wondering: Did I hear criticismin his voice? "We carry a heavy burden," she said.

    Paul felt himself coming more and more out of the shock of the test.He leveled a measuring stare at her, said: "You say maybe I'm the ...Kwisatz Haderach. What's that, a human gore jabbar?"

    "Paul," Jessica said. "You mustn't take that tone with—"

    "I'll handle this, Jessica," the old woman said. "Now, lad, do youknow about the Truthsayer drug?"

    "You take it to improve your ability to detect falsehood," he said."My mother's told me."

    "Have you ever seen truthtrance?"

    He shook his head. "No."

    "The drug's dangerous," she said, "but it gives insight. When aTruthsayer's gifted by the drug, she can look many places in hermemory—in her body's memory. We look down so many avenues of thepast ... but only feminine avenues." Her voice took on a note of sadness."Yet, there's a place where no Truthsayer can see. We are repelledby it, terrorized. It is said a man will come one day and find in the gift ofthe drug his inward eye. He will look where we cannot—into bothfeminine and masculine pasts."

    "Your Kwisatz Haderach?"

    "Yes, the one who can be many places at once: the KwisatzHaderach. Many men have tried the drug ... so many, but none has succeeded."

    "They tried and failed, all of them?"

    "Oh, no." She shook her head. "They tried and died."