Next month sees the release of Sands of Dune: Novellas from the Worlds of Dune, an anthology of four short stories written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson. As was revealed last year, the highlight of this collection is a brand-new novella featuring Shadout Mapes and her fight against the Harkonnens during the decades leading up to events of the original Dune.
An excerpt released by Tor Books has revealed that this novella is titled The Edge of a Crysknife and opens with a line from Lady Jessica, from when she first encountered Shadout Mapes, serving as head housekeeper at the Residency in Arrakeen. Then the first chapter takes us back many years to when the latter was a young woman and member of the Fedaykin, the elite commandos of the Fremen.
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
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.”
To continue reading the rest of chapter 1, head over to the Tor/Forge Blog.
Sands of Dune: Novellas from the Worlds of Dune will be published on June 28, 2022, in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats: