Raised in the Imperial court and born to be a political bargaining chip, Irulan was sent at an early age to be trained as a Bene Gesserit Sister…
Set two years before Dune, Princess of Dune is the never-before-told story of two key women in the life of Paul Muad’Dib—Princess Irulan, his wife in name only, and Paul’s true love, the Fremen Chani. We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Princess of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, out from Tor Books on October 3.
Raised in the Imperial court and born to be a political bargaining chip, Irulan was sent at an early age to be trained as a Bene Gesserit Sister. As Princess Royal, she also learned important lessons from her father—the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV. Now of marriageable age, Princess Irulan sees the machinations of the many factions vying for power—the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, the Spacing Guild, the Imperial throne, and a ruthless rebellion in the Imperial military. The young woman has a wise and independent streak and is determined to become much more than a pawn to be moved about on anyone’s gameboard.
Meanwhile, on Arrakis, Chani—the daughter of Liet-Kynes, the Imperial Planetologist who serves under the harsh rule of House Harkonnen—is trained in the Fremen mystical ways by an ancient Reverend Mother. Brought up to believe in her father’s ecological dream of a green Arrakis, she follows Liet around to Imperial testing stations, surviving the many hazards of desert life. Chani soon learns the harsh cost of Fremen dreams and obligations under the oppressive boot heel of the long Harkonnen occupation.
Certain things about Navigators and foldspace mechanics must never be revealed to outsiders.
—Norma Cenva, genius Rossak scientist and first Navigator,
written before her transformation into the Oracle of Time.
In a prominent viewing stand, Princess Irulan sat beside her father, Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe, surrounded by opulence but without any Imperial entourage. They were extremely honored guests; historically, spectacles such as this one were for the eyes of the Spacing Guild only.
The funeral of a Navigator was a rare and solemn event.
Amid the exotic lights and sounds, the regal pair gazed across the immensity of the Junction spaceport and its array of enormous landed Heighliners. The Guild held its secrets.
Irulan and her father wore fine but tastefully subdued garb: the Princess in a dark dress and minimal jewelry with her blond hair neatly coiffed, and Shaddam IV in a dark robe of state with little adornment. Guild dignitaries filled the other seats of the viewing area.
It was an overcast day on the central Guild planet, warm but not humid. Breezes whisked away industrial odors from the presentation complex, and a haze of artificial lights filled the air. At the entrances to the restricted viewing area, Imperial Sardaukar stood at attention, and more of the Emperor’s elite soldiers remained back at the luxurious Imperial frigate, awaiting Shaddam’s return to the spaceport.
Irulan’s father had grudgingly agreed to the security restrictions, after Guild reassurances from their high-level representative, Starguide Serello. Now the Starguide sat on the other side of the Emperor in the viewing stand, and he had presented guarantees from his superiors that the Corrino guests would be safe, and a Guild guarantee was not given lightly. In this ultra-security zone, Irulan felt assured that she and her father need not worry.
The Padishah Emperor and his eldest daughter were the only outsiders allowed to see this celebration of a Navigator’s life. To Irulan’s knowledge, such an honor had never been granted in the millennia of cooperation between the Spacing Guild and House Corrino.
The invitation included her, rather than the Empress, because Shaddam was currently without a wife, having recently lost his latest spouse, Firenza Thorvald. Irulan, at twenty-six years old, was the Princess, his most important child. In her position, Irulan had traveled on diplomatic missions and visited many worlds, but she had never been to the Guild’s headquarters. Few outsiders saw any part of Junction, the nexus of all galactic spacefaring routes. Even her father, for all his grand importance, had never been here.
Ahead of her on the presentation field, the vast array of Heighliners filled her with awe. The enormous ships landed on no other planet, and now hundreds of them covered the ground as far as she could see—all to memorialize one of the powerful, mysterious Navigators.
Her father seemed pleased to witness the event. He leaned close to her. “Most impressive, isn’t it? This will be noted in my official biography.” He kept his voice to a whisper out of respect, although even a shout would have been swallowed by the immensity.
The handsome Starguide glanced at the visitors, noting the whispers, but his expression remained stony and unreadable. Serello had a solid jaw and a thick head of dark, wavy hair; his eyes were a startling deep black. A man of illustrious credentials and reputation, he reported directly to a small cadre of Guild leadership; an hour ago, he had met Shaddam and Irulan at the Imperial frigate and escorted them here for the event.
The ceremony unfolded, and the Imperial guests watched with rapt attention. Despite her Bene Gesserit upbringing and long years of practice maintaining a calm demeanor, the Princess felt a rush of excitement just to be here.
Thousands of uniformed Guildsmen gathered in the foreground below, making little noise despite their large numbers. The Guildsmen displayed a variety of body shapes, but they all wore similar gray uniforms. Many looked ordinary to Princess Irulan, but others had physical deformities, which gave them an alien air.
Nearby, shielded and murky tanks held Navigators, altered humans who guided the great Heighliners safely through foldspace. Preparing for this event, Irulan had studied diligently, utilizing secure Imperial and Bene Gesserit documentation, to learn what was known about Navigators, despite the Spacing Guild’s mystique.
Each Navigator had an enormously expanded consciousness and prescience, by which they chose safe pathways through space. Due to lifelong immersion in spice gas, Navigators typically lived for centuries, and thus the death of one was a momentous event. The name of this fallen Navigator had not been revealed. Irulan wondered if the mutated humans even maintained their original names.
In the wide assembly area below, the motley assortment of Guildsmen encircled a clearplaz globe mounted on a towering column. Serello had explained to them in an awed whisper that the hypnotic orb contained the Oracle of Time, an entity said to be thousands of years old. Irulan found the globe compelling, magical.
Within the sphere and pedestal of the Oracle, lights flickered, then fell entirely dark, as black as deep space. Irulan covered a quiet exclamation so as not to call attention to herself.
Serello leaned over and whispered to the Emperor. The two men rose together and walked to a speaking bubble at the head of the viewing area, while Irulan remained in her seat. Her father was tall, but the Starguide loomed half a head over him.
The Guild representative spoke first, his voice carrying out over the vast assemblage, and all faces turned in his direction. “We are honored to be joined by Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, as well as his daughter Princess Irulan. His Imperial Majesty will address the loss of our Navigator comrade, who served the Guild and the Imperium so well.”
The big Starguide stepped to one side, and Shaddam moved with Imperial grace to the center of the speaking bubble, his head held high to display his aquiline nose and classic facial features. He looked as dignified and somber as Irulan had ever seen him.
“We offer heartfelt condolences to those who knew this fallen Navigator. The Spacing Guild is an essential partner to House Corrino in commerce, military affairs, and so much more. On behalf of the Imperium, we express our deepest gratitude for his long years of service.” He bowed his head enough to show his respect for the Guild, though she knew it went against his proud nature. The Emperor exited the speaking bubble, and both men returned to their seats.
The field erupted with glowing colors, like an aurora awakening within the globe of the Oracle of Time. The sphere rose from its pedestal, as if borne on suspensor engines. The round chamber lit up with a rainbow of spectacular streaks of color, and Irulan smiled in delight.
Now the sturdy support column illuminated a fiery orange to reveal that the pedestal itself was a tank of spice gas holding a floating, misshapen form—motionless except for the natural eddies in the tank’s gas. Above, the Oracle sphere dimmed so that all eyes focused on the Navigator’s tank.
Inside, a hypnotic display of gases swirled and lights flashed. The dead figure—a grossly distorted humanoid body—seemed to move of its own volition, like a last burst of life before the end.
In the air outside the tank, a parade of immense holograms was projected, a record of the dead Navigator’s life. At first, he appeared as a normal child and young man, dressed in clothing that had gone out of fashion centuries ago. This was followed by his metamorphosed form inside a tank, and then a huge Heighliner moving away from Junction orbit and out to open space.
A funeral dirge came from orchestral instruments, a haunting tune with a slow, regular beat.
Hovering in the air above the immense field, the Oracle of Time brightened, while the coffin tank dimmed to conceal the floating figure. Bursts of light from the Oracle’s globe lit the area.
An eerie, all-encompassing genderless voice filled the air, accompanied by the sphere’s pulsing. Then shimmering ephemeral shapes surrounded the globe as the Oracle spoke. “Hear my words. Our blessed Navigator’s body will return to the source of the spice.”
The globe went dark again, still suspended in the air.
Irulan and her father exchanged curious glances.
Now the darkened tank, like an alien sarcophagus, rose from the ground and floated beneath the globe. As if linked by unseen wires, both objects drifted toward the field of Heighliners.
The Emperor looked at Serello, as if to ask a question, but the Starguide announced in a voice that allowed no discussion. “It is time for you and the Princess to return to Kaitain. The Guild is grateful for your attendance.”
Not accustomed to being dismissed, Shaddam persisted, “I would like to ask—”
“Sire, the rest of this sacred ceremony is strictly confidential. Please understand and respect our ways. We are honored that you attended.”
Shaddam was startled by the attitude. Bowing, the Starguide departed quickly after sending a signal for the Sardaukar to come and escort the Corrinos back to the Imperial frigate.
Excerpted from Princess of Dune, copyright © 2023 by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.