Alia Atreides, aka Saint Alia of the Knife and Alia VIII (10191 AG - 10219 AG), born in planet Arrakis. Posthumous daughter of Duke Leto Atreides I and his Bene Gesserit concubine Lady Jessica, was the younger sister of Paul Atreides. Regent of the Atreides Empire, she established an autocratic government based in the cult of her personality. She was kill by his nephew Leto Atreides II, the God-Emperor.
Alia was the first of the Atreides pre-born (her consciousness was permanently altered since her mother, Lady Jessica was pregnant to her during the Water of Life ceremony which made her a Fremen Reverend Mother. The Fremen did not know of Jessica's pregnancy, and so had no way of knowing that they were creating more than a new Reverend Mother when they fed Lady Jessica the "illuminating poison"; Jessica knew the effect the raw Water of Life would have on her unborn daughter, but could not refuse the ceremony.
The result was the creation of something Jessica's Bene Gesserit superiors had long feared: a child born with full awareness and knowledge of her ancestral memories and highly susceptible to Abomination from before birth. Alia was born in 10191 AG, within a year of her parents' move from Caladan to Arrakis. The superstitious Fremen were affected by the child from the moment of her birth. After only a few moments of crying, the newborn had focused eyes and looked around the birthing room as if taking in every detail; with a curious smile, she drank the Water of Conception fed her by her godmother Harah. Some of the other women present at the birth were unnerved by this behavior and spread the word among their people that their new Reverend Mother had given birth to a child who would bear careful watching (the Bene Gesserit were not the only group in the Imperium with legends of Abomination).
Alia had precocity in other matters. By the time she could walk, eight months old, and was exercising their water discipline as thoroughly as any adult among them. Her access to Fremen memories and to those of her own ancestors, meant she did not have to learn the discipline but simply implement what she already knew. Her first words to her godmother and nurse were not nonsense syllables, but a recognizable sentence: "I love you, Harah." Most unsettling was the child's habit of sitting alone at the edge of the desert, practicing adult Bene Gesserit exercises.
Only the stature of her family among the tribes saved the child from being put to the Test of Possession. This ritual evoked to the Fremen a feeling of communal guilt as no other action could and was seldom performed; but the sight of a child behaving so much older than her known years was enough to make them consider it.
After living with the Fremen for several years, in 10193 AG she was present in the palace in Arrakeen when her brother and his forces successfully conquered the combined forces of the Shaddam IV's Sardaukar and House Harkonnen. During the last engagements between the forces of Shaddam IV and Muad'Dib's Fremen, the two-year-old Alia permitted herself to be captured rather than take responsibility for telling her brother that his son had been killed in the fighting.
Taken before the Emperor, his Truthsayer R.M. Gaius Helen Mohiam, and the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the little girl exhibited such poise and intelligence that she unnerved all three. Mohiam recognized that she was the Abomination the Sisterhood had long known was possible, a development feared above all other consequences of their breeding program demanded that she be killed at once. Shaddam IV insisted that she reveal her brother's whereabouts and tried futilely to frighten her as though she were any other child.
The old Baron, already known to the girl as her maternal grandfather, made the most foolish mistake of all by seizing her, believing that she was helpless and easily dispatched. The "helpless" child struck him with a Gom Jabbar; the Harkonnen died moments later.
As she grew older Alia often mentioned her loneliness and isolation from the rest of humanity. Not even Muad'Dib, for all his own prescient abilities, shared her unique position as a pre-born. Jessica understood what had happened to her daughter as well as one who had not experienced such an awakening could, but provided little comfort to the girl who increasingly came to view her mother as the person to blame for her condition.
Maintaining an individual identity amid the barrage of memories was a constant drain, made more difficult by Alia's part in her brother's legend. As he was Muad'Dib, the Mahdi, so she became transformed into Saint Alia-of-the-Knife, the divine huntress who sought out the faithless, who could not be deceived.
Establishing Her Rule
Later, upon the death of Paul in 10209 AG, and with his children Leto and Ghanima still too young to effectively rule, Alia went from being a Princess to being the Imperial Regent Alia VIII of the Atreides Empire.
One of her first acts in that capacity was to order the deaths of those who had conspired against the Emperor, sparing none but the repentant Princess Irulan. Interestingly, in light of Paul's having ordered that Mohiam be spared, Alia's orders included her execution. It was assumed at the time that her action resulted from a simple desire for revenge, but she was Jessica's biological mother. This violation of her brother's express command marked the Lady's first departure from usual Atreides' behavior.
Within a month, Alia married the first ghola of Duncan Idaho, the Atreides swordmaster. The marriage ceremony was performed before an audience of hundreds of thousands of Imperial subjects in the capital city of Arrakeen as befitted the bride's rank; but Alia had chosen to observe the Fremen rites, omitting sections of the ritual which involved removing her crysknife from its sheath at her waist (she was still too much under the Fremen influence to unsheath a crysknife before a crowd of out-freyn and already adept enough a politician to realize how such an action would alienate the people who made up her power base).
She was corrupted by power and established a cult of personality, using rich trappings and grandiose titles such as the Mahdinate to build considerable political weight.
Into AbominationShortly thereafter, Alia fell fully into Abomination, and was secretly tormented by the living personalities of countless ancestors. Chief among these was the personality of Vladimir Harkonnen, who sought to use his granddaughter as a tool to reclaim power from beyond the grave.
Alia had few close, genuine relationships, largely due to her mentally and emotionally imbalanced state. Her relationship with her mother was strained at best, and simmered with deep resentment. And her interaction with Fremen was tarnished at an early age by their fear of her abilities and knowledge.
Though she loved and admired Paul, her brother, she also partly resented his influence. And her love for the original Duncan Idaho ghola was ultimately destroyed by a casual affair with Javid, one of her priests who secretly served the Fremen insurgents who plotted against her.
During the same years in which she held herself aloof from family and friends, Alia indulged in massive doses of melange, ostensibly for the purpose of broadening her prescient vision. However, Alia lacked her brother's prescient ability, and the spice trance most often failed her. The same drug which had initially keyed her sensitivity to her ancestral voices could be depended upon to keep those same voices from becoming blurred or unavailable. As a result, Alia's heavy melange consumption became a means of maintaining contact with her internal advisors and gave them power.
Alia's actions during her Regency were those of a power-hungry woman aided by the memories of generations of ambitious rulers and princelings. Her every manoeuvre, including her marriage to the first Duncan Idaho ghola, was seen as having been performed in order to solidify her own position, and her manipulation of the children in whose names she ruled was also considered a devious maneuver. Not content with having destroyed herself, she set about to lead her niece and nephew into similarly destructive ways. Since the most direct way of achieving this goal involved the children's becoming enmeshed in their ancestral memories, Alia continually tried to interest them in the spice trance.
Alia ordered the assassination of The Preacher, despite knowing it was her beloved brother. Upon Leto's return from the desert, he gave her a choice, Trial of Possession or suicide. Realising that she would not pass the Trial, Alia threw herself from a high window to her death, a death that was witnessed by her mother Jessica, the Atreides twins, and Farad'n Corrino.
Had it not been for her death, Alia could have continued to rule for several centuries by regenerating her cellular structure. According to Fremen tradition, as with all Abominations the only cure was death.
The impact of Alia's religious powerbase was long-lived. Many considered her a revered figure for several hundreds of years after her death. In the months prior to Leto II's death, a cult of Alia was discovered on Giedi Prime by Duncan Idaho's agents. Ultimately however, Alia's influence vanished after Leto's death, some three and a half thousand years after her own death.
In The Dune Catastrophe, Harq al-Ada makes the very point that Alia was capable of encompassing each of the contradictory personalities with which she has been credited, citing the opinion of Ghanima Atreides: "My aunt chose her own course at many junctures, but the opportunity to choose was not always given her. Leto and I pitied her even as we feared her, and I believe that she often felt the same mix of emotions toward herself."
| Preceded by|
| Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe|
10209 AG - 10218 AG
| Succeeded by|
Leto II Atreides