Chapterhouse: Dune

Those who would repeat the past must control the teaching of history.

—Bene Gesserit Coda

When the ghola-baby was delivered from the first Bene Gesserit axlotl tank, Mother Superior Darwi Odrade ordered a quiet celebration in her private dining room atop Central. It was barely dawn, and the two other members of her Council —Tamalane and Bellonda—showed impatience at the summons, even though Odrade had ordered breakfast served by her personal chef.

“It isn’t every woman who can preside at the birth of her own father,” Odrade quipped when the others complained they had too many demands on their time to permit of “time-wasting nonsense.”

Only aged Tamalane showed sly amusement.

Bellonda held her over-fleshed features expressionless, often her equivalent of a scowl.

Was it possible, Odrade wondered, that Bell had not exorcised resentment of the relative opulence in Mother Superior’s surroundings? Odrade’s quarters were a distinct mark of her position but the distinction represented her duties more than any elevation over her Sisters. The small dining room allowed her to consult aides during meals.

Bellonda glanced this way and that, obviously impatient to be gone. Much effort had been expended without success in attempts to break through Bellonda’s coldly remote shell.

“It felt very odd to hold that baby in my arms and think: This is my father,” Odrade said.

“I heard you the first time!” Bellonda spoke from the belly, almost a baritone rumbling as though each word caused her vague indigestion.

She understood Odrade’s wry jest, though. The old Bashar Miles Teg had, indeed, been the Mother Superior’s father. And Odrade herself had collected cells (as fingernail scrapings) to grow this new ghola, part of a long-time “possibility plan” should they ever succeed in duplicating Tleilaxu tanks. But Bellonda would be drummed out of the Bene Gesserit rather than go along with Odrade’s comment on the Sisterhood’s vital equipment.

“I find this frivolous at such a time,” Bellonda said. “Those madwomen hunting us to exterminate us and you want a celebration!”

Odrade held herself to a mild tone with some effort. “If the Honored Matres find us before we are ready perhaps it will be because we failed to keep up our morale.”

Bellonda’s silent stare directly into Odrade’s eyes carried frustrating accusation: Those terrible women already have exterminated sixteen of our planets!

Odrade knew it was wrong to think of those planets as Bene Gesserit possessions. The loosely organized confederation of planetary governments assembled after the Famine Times and the Scattering depended heavily on the Sisterhood for vital services and reliable communications, but old factions persisted—CHOAM, Spacing Guild, Tleilaxu, remnant pockets of the Divided God’s priesthood, even Fish Speaker auxiliaries and schismatic assemblages. The Divided God had bequeathed humankind a divided empire—all of whose factions were suddenly moot because of rampaging Honored Matre assaults from the Scattering. The Bene Gesserit—holding to most of their old forms—were the natural prime target for attack.

Bellonda’s thoughts never strayed far from this Honored Matre threat. It was a weakness Odrade recognized. Sometimes, Odrade hesitated on the point of replacing Bellonda, but even in the Bene Gesserit there were factions these days and no one could deny that Bell was a supreme organizer. Archives had never been more efficient than under her guidance.

As she frequently did, Bellonda without even speaking the words managed to focus Mother Superior’s attention on the hunters who stalked them with savage persistence. It spoiled the mood of quiet success Odrade had hoped to achieve this morning.

She forced herself to think of the new ghola. Teg! If his original memories could be restored, the Sisterhood once more would have the finest Bashar ever to serve them. A Mentat Bashar! A military genius