New Excerpt From Dune: The Lady of Caladan

Tor Books has posted the first three chapters of Dune: The Lady of Caladan, written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. This book will be published on September 21, 2021 and is the second part of the prequel trilogy telling the story of the year before Dune. What led to the plot against House Atreides and the noble family’s subsequent expatriation to Arrakis?

Here’s the official synopsis for book two of The Caladan Trilogy:

Book cover for 'Dune: The Lady of Caladan', by Matt Griffin. The artwork portrays Lady Jessica.

Lady Jessica, mother of Paul, and consort to Leto Atreides. The choices she made shaped an empire, but first the Lady of Caladan must reckon with her own betrayal of the Bene Gesserit. She has already betrayed her ancient order, but now she must decide if her loyalty to the Sisterhood is more important than the love of her own family.

Meanwhile, events in the greater empire are accelerating beyond the control of even the Reverend Mother, and Lady Jessica’s family is on a collision course with destiny.

If you haven’t started this trilogy, I recommend checking out our book review of Dune: The Duke of Caladan, the first part of the trilogy (released in 2020). The following excerpt does contain spoilers for some events in that novel.

As the first chapter of Dune: The Lady of Caladan opens, Lady Jessica is en route to Wallach IX, homeworld of the Bene Gesserit. After recent events on Caladan, she faces more uncertainty about her future than ever before. Could that have been the last time she’ll ever see her family? Soon the terrible truth behind the Sisterhood’s urgent summons will be revealed…

Chapter 1

The Kwisatz Haderach breeding program was designed to benefit humanity, but at what cost? At what human cost?
—LADY JESSICA, private journals

In her mind and heart, Jessica found herself at the bottom of an abyss. Each moment took her farther from Caladan, Duke Leto, and Paul.

After receiving the Bene Gesserit ultimatum, and the threat against her family, Jessica had crossed star systems in a Spacing Guild Heighliner, brought back to Wallach IX like a recalcitrant child. She felt no warm homecoming as she rode a shuttle down from the huge orbiting ship to the Sisterhood’s dreary, cold homeworld.

Would she ever see Caladan again? Or Leto or Paul? She shifted her position on the hard seat of the shuttle. Maybe the answer to that question depended on what Mother Superior Harishka wanted from her.

Exceptionally strong side winds buffeted the vessel, which made the pilot change his descent and swoop around, rising higher until the turbulence abated. Other passengers muttered a drone of unease, but Jessica remained silent. She had her own turbulence to deal with.

As she looked out the diamond-shaped windowport, the roiling clouds mirrored her troubled mind. She resented the iron control that the Sisterhood exerted over her. She had been separate from them many years, imagining herself independent on Caladan, but they had cracked the whip. The Bene Gesserit summons had left no room for discussion. Reverend Mother Mohiam had threatened to destroy the Duke and the future of House Atreides if she didn’t obey, and the Sisterhood certainly had the means to do so.

They wanted Jessica for their own purposes, had withdrawn her—permanently?—from Caladan. Never in her life had she felt so dismal, separated from everyone and everything she loved. But she did not intend to meekly comply.

The shuttle rocked again in the unsettled air and began to descend again after circumventing the storm, and Jessica saw they were approaching the Mother School complex below. Through a veil of tangled clouds, she made out the ancient buildings and new annexes, the angles of red-tiled roofs, the low underbrush that covered the grounds. The foliage had turned a bright scarlet and orange with autumn colors. The structures were connected, like the countless women in the Sisterhood, all part of an intricate and powerful political machine.

Jessica had been here since infancy, parentless, and the Sisterhood had raised her, indoctrinated her, and enfolded her life from birth until her inevitable death. The Bene Gesserit owned her.

Using some of the very methods taught to her at the Mother School, Jessica concentrated on a breathing exercise that brought clarity and calm. She felt her muscles relax. She had to be at her best and sharpest to face whatever came next.

As she centered herself, the turbulence around the shuttle smoothed, and the remaining clouds parted over the landing zone on the perimeter of the complex. Still wearing garments from Caladan, Jessica felt out of place, but soon they would make her change into the school’s traditional dark garb, to remind her that she was still one of them, always one of them.

Wallach IX, with its weak sun and chill climate, had long been a place where young women of the order either rose to the challenges, or failed. Jessica felt an odd nostalgia for the ancient training center, torn by her loyalties to the Sisterhood and her family. She had spent so many years here, soft clay for them to shape as they chose, finally assigning her as the bound concubine of a young Duke with great potential.

And now she was back. She felt a deep sense of foreboding.

Mother Superior Harishka greeted her in person on the tarmac. The Mother Superior had piercing eyes and a severe, uncompromising demeanor. Despite her age, the old woman’s skin was remarkably tight and smooth, possibly from the geriatric effects of the melange she consumed regularly. She had filled the same role for decades, after a lifetime of service to the order. “Come with me. You are needed immediately.” She didn’t explain about the urgent matter that had turned Jessica’s life upside down.

Despite her advanced years, Harishka set a brisk pace, moving like a military commander leading a charge against enemy lines. They entered a large new administration building that had been built with a generous donation from old Viscount Alfred Tull, whose name was on a plaque by the entrance. “I want you to see this first, before you attempt to settle in. We may not have much time,” Harishka said. “You need to know the reason you are here, and why it is so important.”

Yes, she thought. I need to know that.

As Jessica followed them up wide stairs and down long corridors, she absorbed peripheral details, but did not ask questions, though a desperate curiosity clamored inside. In an isolated section of the third floor, Harishka led her to a viewing window that looked into a large medical chamber with a closed door. Two other Sisters remained there, outside the plaz like guardians, but Jessica stepped up to the window, determined to see.

Harishka explained, “The room is sealed and barricaded, but do not underestimate the danger. This is clear armored plaz, and she can see us now if she is alert enough, but for our protection we can always set it to one-way plaz if necessary.”

With all the precautions taken, Jessica expected to see some kind of caged monster inside. Instead, she saw an ancient woman stretched on a bed, tossing restlessly in her sleep. She wore only a medical gown, with tubes and monitors connected to her. Her face was drawn back in a grimace, and she cried out, but the thick plaz blocked all sound. Despite the wrinkles on her age-spotted neck, arms, and hands, her face was not nearly as shriveled as her body.

Jessica didn’t understand. “She . . . is the danger? What does this have to do with me?”

The Mother Superior gave an oblique answer. “This is Lethea, a former Kwisatz Mother. Now she serves in a different capacity for as long as she remains alive . . . and for as long as she withholds what we need.”

Kwisatz Mother. Jessica remembered Shaddam Corrino’s first wife, Anirul, who had been present during Paul’s birth, who had been greatly interested in the boy child. Anirul had been a Bene Gesserit of “hidden rank,” but quietly held the same title. She had died very shortly after Paul was born.

“And what does a Kwisatz Mother do?” Jessica asked. And why did she have the power to summon me?

“Like a Guild Navigator foreseeing safe pathways throughout the stars, so a Kwisatz Mother can see each thread in the immense tapestry of our breeding plans. Lethea was relieved of duty due to mental instability. She is still useful—even if she is dangerous.”

Jessica couldn’t tear her gaze from the crone writhing on the medical bed, locked away alone. Lethea seemed barely able to move. “Dangerous?”

Harishka stared ahead, as if her gaze could bore through the barrier. “She has already murdered several of us. Hence the need for all the security.”

The Mother Superior nodded to one of the two women stationed there to watch Lethea. She was in her thirties with black hair and an olive complexion. “Sister Jiara has watched Lethea closely, but I’m afraid she has few answers.”

Jiara looked through the plaz. “Her mind is crumbling, but it is still incredibly powerful.” She paused just a beat. “Enough to kill several Sisters through her sheer force of will.”

As if sensing their presence, Lethea’s eyes opened to narrow slits, and she stared directly at Jessica from the other side of the armored room. Jessica shuddered. “Why do you need her? What is so important?”

“Lethea has a special prescience the Sisterhood needs, a predictive ability about the future of our order. It has proven to be accurate, and valuable to us, enabling us to make calculated decisions. That is why we keep her alive, despite the danger. But her mental gift comes and goes, and Lethea is losing control of it.”

“She is out of her mind,” Jiara added, sounding bitter. “But she insisted that we bring you here.”

Jessica had so many questions that she could no longer contain them. “What does this have to do with me? I’ve never met this Kwisatz Mother.”

Harishka turned toward Jessica and said, “You are here because Lethea said, ‘Take her away. Our future depends on it.’ Then she insisted that you be separated from your son. She says you could bring about the end of the Sisterhood.”

Jessica felt as if she had fallen off a ledge. “Separate me from Paul?” This made absolutely no sense at all. “Why? For what purpose?”

Harishka’s expression fell. ”We need you to discover the answer. She predicted horror, bloodshed, disaster. That’s why we called you here so urgently.”

Behind the plaz wall, Lethea’s gaze held on Jessica, then shifted to glare at Mother Superior Harishka, Jiara, and at the other Sister. Finally, the old woman closed her eyes and sagged like a rag onto the medical bed.

“She’s a crafty one,” Jiara whispered. “Look at her. She wants to kill more of us, if given the chance.”

“Is she really asleep at last?” the other Sister asked.

Harishka touched a button on the wall, and with a quiet hiss, the door to the medical room opened. She called for three Medical Sisters, who rushed down the hall. “Attend to her now, quickly, while you can.” The trio hurried in, rolling a machine and hooked it to the old woman, adding tubes and lines, but trying not to disturb her. Two of the Sisters took readings, while the third remained alert, as if ready for an attack.

“Intravenous feeder,” Harishka explained to Jessica. “Lethea refuses to eat on her own. We keep her alive, no matter how much she objects. And we expect you to pry answers from her.”

The two women worked quickly, but as they were unhooking the feeding tube, the patient stirred. Alarmed, the Medical Sisters abandoned the feeding machine and bolted for the door.

Lethea snapped fully awake and called out in a strange way, “Stop!”

Jessica recognized the irresistible power of Voice. Was this how she killed?

Two Sisters had made it through the door, but the third, the one who had been guarding them, jerked to a sudden stop. Terrified, she struggled, but could not move, as if snagged by a lasso. Her companions turned and grabbed her, dragging her out into the corridor, then slammed the door behind them.

Thrashing on her medical bed, Lethea glowered at the window.

“We have to send in teams of three,” Harishka said. “She only seems able to control the mind of one Sister at a time, and this way, the other two can stop a victim from killing herself.”

“It’s a game to her,” said Jiara, “seeing if she can catch one of us alone.”

Lethea shot a hostile, terrifying gaze through the window at Jessica, but Jessica refused to turn away, meeting the stare with her own. “Is that why Lethea demanded to see me? Because she wants to kill me?”

“It is possible,” the Mother Superior said. “Very possible.”

To read the entirety of the free excerpt, including chapters 2-3, head over to the Tor/Forge Blog. For more information about The Caladan Trilogy and other Dune publications coming out this year, stay tuned for our coverage of the “DUNE Publishing Highlights 2021” panel at this year’s edition of [email protected] (July 21-25).

Dune: The Lady of Caladan can be pre-ordered now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats: