Alia had spoken only once of her daughter.
"I will not have her, Duncan," she had whispered, her arms wrapped tightly around him, her eyes raw from tears.
"You are the Regent," he had said, placing his hands on the side of her face, his thumbs gently sweeping the tears from beneath her eyes. She was fragile now, as he lifted her into his arms, taking her to their bed in the Imperial Suite. The impenetrable mask she wore in public had slipped every night for the past week, and until now she had given him no data. The cause of her distress had been unknowable to him, so he had put aside his Mentat instincts to analyse as best he could and comforted her as he remembered Duncan doing to so many others, on another, water-rich, world.
These memories are as much ghosts as the man himself.
He was Duncan Idaho in every way but one: the real Duncan Idaho had died a decade ago, defending his Duke's son and concubine. Now the son was dead and the concubine had fled, afraid of the emotions this planet stirred in her and Duncan had only the daughter left to serve, and to love.
"It would be a cruel thing to do," Alia murmured as he laid her on the rich green silken sheets. She turned towards him as he lay next to her; her eyes were wide, staring at him, through him. He did not know if there was something else that she saw here, though she had always denied to him any ability of prescience. "She would be cursed from conception."
"She would be loved," he said, stroking her soft hair and marvelling how, even now tears still pricked at her eyes.
She gives water to the dead.
"Oh, Duncan, Duncan..." she had repeated his name again and again as her fists clenched and unclenched before she finally stood and began pacing the room. Finally, said, "I hold the Throne only in trust."
"You are Muad'Dib's sister."
"I am a tool! Forged by my brother and his damnable prescience. He could have stayed, Duncan!" The tears were flowing again, but this time Duncan knew they were for no ghost of the future, but for Paul. "Will I never escape this anger?" she asked turning to him, her eyes pleading. He saw a child before him, and it occurred to him that had Duncan lived that would be what he had known her as. Fool he thought, this one has never been a child.
"It is animal instinct," she said. "I should not entertain it, but I am alone." He held his expression immobile, forcing himself not to reply. "The twins have each other." She paused, frowning. "Would I make the same mistakes as my mother?"
"You should sleep."
"I will find no rest there."
He was aware of that. There were few nights when she did not call out, did not scream. Often shaking him and calling his name, though he would already be awake. Sometimes she would speak of the other memory, name those that called to her, tell him of the demands they made on her flesh.
"I wish my brother were there," she had said once. "That I might at least have an ally."
"What of your parents?"
"My father is silent, my mother quiet. Perhaps she resents that she is but an echo of the living. I do not know."
He realised that Alia was staring at him. "You would have been a good father, Duncan," she said.
Something stirred within him. "You cannot know what will come."
"No," she said quietly. "It would be better for us all if I did not, perhaps, perhaps...the abilities of my brother elude me." He eyes closed tightly. "They deny them to me, I think. They resent me. What am I to them but an inconvenience? They live on in the mind of one who should not exist. I will have no part in the creation of a Kwistatz Haderach."
He attempted to fathom her motives. Her behaviour had been increasingly erratic over the past few months, but mention of a child was something new.
Does she hope to usurp the Throne?
He could not accept that she would be so transparent, and she spoke of a daughter, not a son.
Alia returned to their bed, her expression lighter. He caught a hint of laughter in her eyes, and she reached out her arm, touching his cheek with the back of her hand. "Dearest Duncan, sometimes I think we should leave. Book passage on the next Guild transport and vanish into the universe."
"I would follow you," he said softly, taking her hand and kissing it.
"My mother fled, my brother is gone. Why should I too not run from these choices that try to confine me? Why should we not run?" He was startled at the hint of desperation in her voice.
"I have often wished to return to the desert." It was not entirely a lie. The memories of Duncan's time amongst the Fremen were appealing ones.
"Ride south to the deep desert and we may find tribes free from the influence of the Imperium." She smiled. "No one would plot against the life of a simple Sayyadina. I would have nothing to think of but you, my love."
"It is a pleasant dream," he said carefully.
The smile faltered and she sighed. "Is that all that we can find pleasure in?"
"Do you wish to have a child?" he had asked her then. He did not want to be manipulated, but would accept her will. If she wanted an heir to her Regency, he could not approve, but he could recognise her ambition.
"More each day," she whispered. Her eyes fixed ahead, unblinking, once again, he recognised the grief in her. "But I cannot, Duncan, don't you understand? I was to be the last in the chain, the mother of the Kwisatz Haderach. It cannot come to pass the way the Bene Gesserit would have it now, but my genes are the same. I am afraid of what would happen were a child of mine set loose on the universe. I am afraid that you were sent here as part of a plot involving a Bene Gesserit. I am afraid...and it makes me weak, Duncan. That is something that I cannot be. Any child I had would be a tool, of mine, of the Bene Gesserit, and any force that would plot against the Imperium. Politics makes betrayers of us all."
"I will stay with you, always." He took her in his arms, rocking her gently. Her fears were strong tonight; he did not believe he would sleep.
"Without you, I would truly be lost," she murmured against his shoulder
Compassion swept through him. He was a ghola-Mentat, afraid of false memories, yet he was free of the profound terror he saw well controlled in her that her will would not be strong enough to hold back the tide of the Other Memory. She clung to him because he was hers. Alia's. She wished a child for it would be of her.
Her two choices had always been plain: to run or to fight. The familiarity of the desert world and the Arrakeen Palace had made her wary, the Other Memory knew more of these places than her and so she had yearned to run, to find another place where it could not tell her of things that she wished only to discover for herself. It was little more than an idle wish; the Other Memory was a part of her.
The fight frightened her though, as she searched desperately to define herself, to know herself. The fight was for her right to existence. Not for her the question 'who am I?' but rather 'am I who I think I am?' She searched for herself amidst a raging sea of others. He had attracted her, and she had been thrilled to discover that this was her own untainted desire. Sex held no mystery for her, but she had delighted in their courtship nonetheless, playing the part of an innocent, and he, the gallant soldier.
He was the consort of the Regent of the Known Universe.
And she lay in his arms, delicate and trembling.
By morning, she would be smiling at him as she left to deal with public business, brisk and efficient and tainted with an aura that kept her apart from all the citizens of the Imperium, a hostage to her brother's mystique.
He held her close, wishing he possessed the self-control to end this cursed feeling of love.