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Excerpt: Sands of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

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The world of Dune has shaped an entire generation of science fiction. From the sand blasted world of Arrakis, to the splendor of the imperial homeworld of Kaitain, readers have lived in a universe of treachery and wonder.

Now, these stories expand on the Dune universe, telling of the lost years of Gurney Halleck as he works with smugglers on Arrakis in a deadly gambit for revenge; inside the ranks of the Sardaukar as the child of a betrayed nobleman becomes one of the Emperor’s most ruthless fighters; a young firebrand Fremen woman, a guerrilla fighter against the ruthless Harkonnens, who will one day become Shadout Mapes.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Sands of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, on sale 6/28/2022.


The Edge of a Crysknife

*

Part I

I know that you have borne children, that you have lost loved

ones, that you have hidden in fear and that you have done

violence and will yet do more violence. I know many things.

Lady Jessica to Shadout Mapes

*

Chapter I

Blood covered her hands, and when it dried in the hot desert air, Mapes regretted the waste of water. But that couldn’t be helped—these men needed to die. They were Harkonnens.

In the heat of the deep desert, a huge spice harvester throbbed and thrummed as enormous treads crawled along the crest of a dune. Intake machinery chewed up the sand and digested the powder through a complex interplay of centrifuges and electromagnetic separators. The harvester vomited out a cloud of exhaust dust, sand, and debris that settled onto the disturbed dunes behind the moving machine, while the bins filled up with the rare spice melange.

The droning operation sent pulsing vibrations beneath the desert, sure to call a sandworm . . . and very soon. The noise also drowned out the sounds of Fremen violence inside the great machine.

In the operations bridge of the moving factory, another Harkonnen worker tried to flee, but a Fremen death-commando, a Fedaykin, ran after him. Disguised in a grimy shipsuit, the attacker had predatory and sure movements, not at all like the morose sand crew the Harkonnens had hired.

Though small and brown-skinned, young Mapes had fit in among the regular workers, as had her companions, but she didn’t laugh or joke with the sand crew, didn’t try to make friends with people she knew she would have to kill. Nevertheless, she and her companions were hired by uninquisitive company bosses. Too many crews had been lost as it was, some through desertion, others through accidents and catastrophic loss in the field. Mapes knew that part of those losses were intentional—thanks to freedom fighters like herself.

Her companion Ahar, a muscular man of few words but great dedication, slammed the doomed worker against a metal bulkhead and raised his crysknife—a milky crystalline blade ground from the discarded tooth of a giant worm—and drove the point deep into the man’s throat. The victim gurgled, but did not scream as he slid to the deck. Ahar had used an instinctive Fremen killing blow, one that brought quick and silent death, but wasted no more blood than was necessary.

Alas, today the commandos would not reclaim the water of these victims for the tribe. They had to kill the crew, destroy the spice harvester, and escape like dust devils in the wind. There was no time.

Mapes gripped her own knife, a razor-sharp weapon made of simple plasteel. Possessing a crysknife was a sacred honor, and her comrades in the sietch had not yet deemed her worthy of one, though she had already participated in more than a dozen raids.

Mapes was a firebrand, but Fremen women did not usually join the Fedaykin, the special death commando squads that were historically formed to avenge particular wrongs—and the very existence of these offworld oppressors on Dune was wrong. The Fedaykin had accepted Mapes in part because of her skill and tenacity, but primarily due to her legendary mother. Some saw Mapes as a new Safia, and they were willing to let her prove herself.

Now, the young woman pursued her second victim inside the noisy operations bridge. Five workers lay dead already, smearing the dusty metal of the deck with their blood. Although she was smaller than her target, the spice worker was afraid. She collided with him and knocked him against the bank of controls. He defended himself like one who had never been in a fight before. He flailed his hands to drive her off, and she slashed open his palm with the edge of her knife. He gasped and doubled over, more in horror than in pain.

“Why? Why are you doing this?” he bleated. “We paid your wages! We just harvest the spice.”

“You are Harkonnens,” she said. “All Harkonnens must die.”

The man swiped at her with his bleeding hand, flinging droplets of red through the air like precious rain. “Not a Harkonnen! Never even met Dmitri Harkonnen! Just an offworld hire brought in to work the machinery. My contract is up in six months.” He stared at his dead comrades on the deck. “None of us are Harkonnens.”

“You work for the enemy, therefore you are the enemy.” Without further conversation, she stabbed him and shoved him aside, then turned to work the controls. She shut down the main engines, and the lumbering factory ground to a halt in a valley between dunes. The intake scoop and the turbine blades creaked and froze silent; the gray-tan exhaust plume dissipated.

Increasingly urgent voices came over the outside commline. “Wormsign spotted. Range, four minutes, twenty seconds. Prepare for retrieval.”

Mapes considered just ignoring the call, but decided to continue the deception. She flicked on the comm. “Acknowledged. Preparing evacuation parties. Send in the carryall.”

Hearing a yell behind her, Mapes whirled as a uniformed factory worker threw himself at her with desperation in his eyes. She raised her blade to defend herself, but his feet stuttered and stumbled on the deck. Behind him, another man plunged a crysknife into his back, pushed deeper, harder until the worker crumpled.

She saw the rakish, handsome face of her rescuer, and her heart swelled. “Thank you Rafir, my love. I will reward you later when we are back home in the sietch.”

Her partner, heart of her heart, took charge of the Fedaykin band, who were now the only survivors on the operations bridge. “Hai ha—time to go! Our enemies are dead, and Mapes shut down the machinery. And a worm comes!”

The other Fremen took this as good news and cheered. “Shai- Hulud!”

“Shai-Hulud,” Mapes responded. The monstrous sandworm would do the rest of the work for them, cleansing the sands.

Leaving the dead behind with a whispered regret of wasted water, Mapes, Rafir, and their companions emerged from the roof access hatch to the open, dusty air, and climbed down rungs along the great factory’s hull. The smell of acrid cinnamon—potent, fresh melange—filled the air. An exposed spice vein formed a rusty stain across the sand, worth millions of solaris to offworlders. Now that fortune would all go back into the sands of Dune where it belonged. Outside, three groundcars rolled along the powdery surface, exterior teams rushing back toward the harvester for extraction and rescue along with the cargo. The commline was scratchy with static caused by the disturbed sand and dust, and the voices were tinged with fear. “A worm is coming. Less than three minutes! Why didn’t you sound the return call?”

An overlapping voice bellowed, “Chief, why aren’t you responding?”

A third said, “Carryall’s coming. I see it in the air. We can make it back to the harvester pickup point, but just barely.”

Climbing down the hot rungs, Mapes looked down at Rafir. They exchanged a smile as sharp as a crysknife’s edge. Reaching the soft ground, Mapes stripped out of the despised company uniform and tossed it into the hot desert wind. The other commandos did the same as if they felt soiled. Underneath, they all wore stillsuits that modulated their body temperatures in the heat and reclaimed all of the body’s lost moisture. Mapes pulled forth a line with connected noseplugs from her collar and connected them to her nostrils.

With spare, efficient movements, the Fedaykin circled behind the enormous machine and worked their way up the rising face of the nearby dune. Despite her size, Mapes kept up, and the team respected her. She had as much drying blood on her hands as her companions did on theirs.

Up in the sky, she spotted the glint of sunlight on metal, the rescue craft swooping in. The carryall was designed to connect with the spice factory and lift it to safety when a ubiquitous, destructive sandworm arrived. The three groundcars raced toward the factory, ready to be taken away, but the workers would find no refuge.

The band of Fremen climbed the crumbling dune face, not bothering to disguise the vibrations of their footsteps because there was simply so much background noise in the excavation area. On the sand crest ahead, Mapes could see a lone, huddled figure. Rafir spotted him as well. “Onorio is in position,” he said.

The carryall swooped in, a large framework with powerful beating wings. Mapes paused to glance at the sand workers scrambling out of their groundcars, waving their hands at the approaching rescue craft.

Out beyond the harvested area, she saw ripples in the sand, a swift behemoth coming closer and closer. It would be close.

On the crest of the dune, Onorio rose to his feet, discarding all pretense of camouflage. He shook dust from his tan cape and raised a long weapon, bracing it against his shoulder. An archaic device that one of the disguised Fremen had purchased from a rarities dealer in Arrakeen, considered nothing more than a useless curiosity in a city where most people wore shields. But out here in the open desert, shields were far more problematic, and the weight of a shield generator would be too much for a carryall and its gigantic load. Mapes paused to watch what the antique weapon would do. The rocket launcher coughed out a projectile that arced upward, deceptively silent, but when it struck the unshielded carryall, the explosion blossomed into smoke and fire. The retrieval craft broke apart, and smoking shrapnel thundered down like meteor strikes.

One of the fragments crashed into a groundcar, killing two workers who tried to dive out of the way.

The retreating Fedaykin reached the dune crest, and Rafir congratulated Onorio on his shot. Only three members of the harvester crew remained alive, and after the destruction of the carryall, they huddled in despair by their groundcars, knowing their fate when the great worm arrived.

Like a thick, tan storm-front, the ripples in the sand approached. The worm exploded to the surface, a leviathan of crusted rings with an open, round mouth as vast as the largest grotto in a Fremen sietch. The crystalline teeth lining its gullet looked like tiny silver thorns.

Drawn by the vibrations, offended by trespassers in the sand, Shai-Hulud ran amuck. Though transfixed by the sandworm’s strength and majesty, Mapes fully understood the danger. She felt like a shivering rodent, hypnotized by a viper about to strike.

Rafir touched her arm. “Come, we must use the tumult as our opportunity.” He released a deep breath before fitting his nose plugs and tightening his stillsuit fittings. “Our lives depend on it. We have to go to ground.”

The sandworm crashed into the motionless harvester, pulling the huge factory under the sands along with its full bins of melange. It also destroyed all trace of the ruined carryall, the abandoned groundcars, and the workers.

The Fedaykin rolled down the other side of the tall dune like discarded debris, and when they were far down the sloping face, they each checked their breathing tubes and mouth coverings, pulled hooded cloaks over their bodies, and wallowed into the sand.

Covered by a layer of dust, Mapes lay perfectly still, trying not to breathe, willing her heartbeat to slow. They had vanished into the sand, but the worm did not use eyes. She couldn’t see anything, but she knew her fellow Fremen were there, Rafir was there, and Shai-Hulud continued his blessed destruction.

Many hours later, after the worm retreated to the depths of the desert, Mapes and her friends would emerge. After nightfall and the rising of the two moons, they would make their way back to the sietch.

Mapes couldn’t wait to tell her mother of another victory against the Harkonnens.

Copyright © Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson 2022

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