The Honored Matres
are a fictional matriarchal
organization in Frank Herbert
's science fiction Dune universe
. They are described as an aggressive cult obsessed with power, violence and sexual domination. For this reason they are often described as "whores," especially by their enemies, the Bene Gesserit
The Honored Matres are first introduced in Herbert's Heretics of Dune (1984) and play a continued role in his final Dune novel, Chapterhouse Dune (1985). They also appear in Hunters of Dune (2006) and Sandworms of Dune (2007), novels by Herbert's son Brian Herbert and author Kevin J. Anderson which conclude the original series. These sequels are based on Frank Herbert's notes for his own seventh novel in the series.
After the death of Leto Atreides II
, the God Emperor, billions of people of the Old Empire
take to the stars in a diaspora
known as the Scattering
. Representatives from each major race and order of the Empire spread out beyond the Known Universe in fleets of no-ships
, beginning the journey along Leto II's Golden Path
to save mankind from destruction.
Back into the Old Empire
The Honored Matres develop during this Scattering; in Heretics of Dune
, they return to the Old Empire, wreaking havoc and leaving destruction in their wake. Tleilaxu
notes that they are "Far more terrible than Reverend Mothers
of the Bene Gesserit
." It is ultimately indicated in Chapterhouse Dune
that they are fleeing a powerful, "unknown enemy" who had conquered their own massive empire out in the Scattering.
Violent and without mercy, the Matres possess military and sexual skills that seem to indicate to some that they are an outgrowth from or a combination of the Fish Speakers and Bene Gesserit who fled out into the Scattering. They do not, however, possess Other Memory or utilize melange, and their skill as sexual imprinters has surpassed that of the Bene Gesserit. The Matres target the Bene Tleilax, and capture and torture as many Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers as possible to glean their secrets. Similarly, the Bene Gesserit hope to decipher their new enemies' motives, and learn enough about the fearsome Matres to defeat them.
The Honored Matres make many attacks on Bene Gesserit strongholds throughout the known bounds of the Old Empire. They mark the Bene Gesserit Bashar Miles Teg and the Duncan Idaho ghola for death, destroying the Gammu Keep in an unsuccessful attempt to kill Idaho, and annihilating the planet Rakis with their Obliterators, killing Teg.
Eventually, the core of the Honored Matres is destroyed according to the plan of the Bene Gesserit leader, Mother Superior Darwi Odrade. At the Battle of Junction, the Honored Matre stronghold, both Odrade and Great Honored Matre Logno perish, giving Murbella, a former Honored Matre assimilated into the Bene Gesserit, the chance to ascend to both positions, carrying out the rest of Odrade's plan by unifying the orders.
Hunters of Dune
The first sequel to the original Dune
series finds the Bene Gesserit unified with the Honored Matres into a New Sisterhood
. Joining forces to prepare for their mutual Enemy, both factions struggle to coexist in this new form, under Murbella's rule.
But renegade Matres still persist; led by Matre Superior Hellica, they still maintain strongholds on captured worlds such as Buzzell, Gammu, and Tleilax. Over the course of twenty years, Murbella leads the Sisterhood against the renegades, culminating in the Battle of Tleilax, where Hellica is killed and the planet is completely destroyed. Upon killing Hellica, Murbella discovers that she is in fact a Face Dancer. With the fall of Tleilax, the unbalanced and vindictive breed of Honored Matres is crushed.
Origins of the Honored Matres
Murbella soon learns the "missing link" in the origin of the Matres by exploring their past through Other Memory; initially a hybrid group of Bene Gesserit and Fish Speakers, they had developed their violent tendencies with their third addition: awakened Tleilaxu females. The best kept secret of the Tleilaxu — that their famed axlotl tanks
are in fact their race's females kept in a vegetative state — had been laid bare before the matriarchal alliance, and their wrath had known no bounds. Attacking every Tleilaxu planet on their way out of the galaxy, the martial prowess of both the Fish Speakers and the Bene Gesserit had ensured their victory. They had managed to liberate a number of the axlotl tanks, and their next task had been to rehabilitate the brain-dead women. The fledgling order had enjoyed a modicum of success, and eventually the Tleilaxu females, angry at their males for treating them in such a way, had vowed revenge. Thus, when the Honored Matres burst upon the universe again, they take special care to lay waste to every extant Tleilaxu world (though the Matres of later generations cannot remember the origin of their own hatred for the Tleilaxu). This anger leads to the name of the order, "Honored Matres," or Honored Mothers.
Murbella also discovers the true nature of the unknown Enemy: they are the resurrected thinking machines
, thought destroyed millennia before but amassing a force to finally exterminate humanity. Through Other Memory she witnesses the Honored Matres' first encounter with the unknown Enemy. A young Matre commander had invaded an area controlled by the remnants of the machine empire, with initial success. However, the thinking machines' retribution had been terrible, especially when they had realized that humans still existed. The machines had destroyed the Honored Matre empire, and the remnants had then fled back to the Old Empire to build a new dominion.
The Honored Matres rule through sexual enslavement, sheer physical power, and the terror inspired by their draconian methods. They are completely without mercy and quick to anger, often resorting to extreme measures of violence in the face of the slightest provocations. The Bene Gesserit initially believe that these tendencies arise from the rage that comes from inability to satisfy the increasingly jaded tastes that necessarily come from being able to exercise absolute sexual or sensual control over another person. However, Murbella, the combined Mother Commander of both the Honored Matres and Bene Gesserit, is able to access the Other Memories of the Honored Matres to find that these tendencies come from the Tleilaxu females retribution towards males from the millennia of abuse they suffered as axlotl tanks. The leadership succession practices employed by the order are severe; a subordinate sister that manages to kill the leader, the so-called Great Honored Matre or Matre Superior, takes her place.
The Honored Matres are characterized by their extremely violent tendencies and their ability to imprint a man sexually, amplifying his orgasmic response to such an ecstatic (and addictive) height that the victim of an imprinting is a willing slave of the Honored Matre who "marks" him. Both of these qualities are presumably evolutions of the unbridled sexual energies of the Siaynoq communion once enjoyed by the Fish Speakers with the God Emperor Leto Atreides II, once those energies ceased to have a singular focus. The sexual imprinting practiced by the Honored Matres hearkens back to the obvious roots of this order in the original Bene Gesserit, however the Honored Matre form of imprinting has been shown to be far more potent than anything practiced by their progenitors.
Alternatives to Melange
Due to no longer having access to Melange, the Honored Matres employed a substitute drug that satisfied their addictions. One of the benefits of the drug is that it stimulates production of adrenaline and other chemicals typically produced by the body when experiencing pain. In addition to heightening the senses and responses of a user, this stimulant has the unique property of causing the eyes of an addict to be covered in flecks of orange when agitated, and when an addict is completely enraged the eyes are consumed by the color orange. However, it does not give access to the Other Memories possessed by the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers, nor is there any evidence that it provides the same prescient abilities that sometimes accompany large doses of Melange.
In order to replace what was gained from Other Memory, the Honored Matres use an agony inducing device known as a T-Probe in order to impress knowledge directly to their nervous system.
Prana bindu and the Hormu fighting style
The Honored Matres exercise a form of what the Bene Gesserit refer to as prana bindu, but enhanced to a far higher degree. This is coupled with their fighting style, which is known only as 'Hormu' and is centered around the use of kicks to weak points on the body. The combination of these produces a warrior that is superhumanly fast and more than a match for any fully trained Reverend Mother in direct combat.
Honored Matres are capable of using combinations of language and tone in order to compel listeners into obedience on a subconscious level. Through manipulating the use of these skills, an Honored Matre is capable of prompting the unconscious mind on a level that may be difficult to resist. However in Chapterhouse: Dune both Odrade and Murbella comment that these skills are nowhere near as potent as the Bene Gesserit Voice. Further, in Heretics of Dune, Odrade theorises that the Honored Matres may have been driven back from the Scattering as their subjects have developed resistance to their form of Voice control due to its over use.
Notable Honored Matres
In Chapterhouse Dune
, the Great Honored Matre
; she is referred to as "Spider Queen" by the Bene Gesserit leader Darwi Odrade
. Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Lucilla
flees the destruction of Lampadas
by the Honored Matres, but is forced to land on Gammu. She is captured and brought before Dama, but not killed outright. A game of words begins, and Dama tries to persuade Lucilla to join the Honored Matres, preserving her life in exchange for Bene Gesserit secrets. Dama does not try to hide the fact that the Matres dearly want to learn to modify their biochemistry as the Bene Gesserit do. These word battles with Lucilla continue for weeks. When she reveals to Dama that although the Bene Gesserit know how to manipulate and control the populace, they practice and believe in democracy, Dama's desire to destroy the Sisterhood is redoubled when she discovers the Bene Gesserit teach this dangerous knowledge. Dama kills Lucilla. Dama soon meets with Mother Superior Odrade; Dama at first seems surprisingly cooperative, but Odrade soon realizes that Dama intends no reasonable negotiation. Under cover of Odrade's diplomacy, the Bene Gesserit forces under Miles Teg
attack Gammu with tremendous force. Logno
— chief advisor to Dama — assassinates Dama with poison and assumes control of the Honored Matres.
In Hunters of Dune
has declared herself Matre Superior
of the largest renegade Honored Matre force. Based on the conquered planet Tleilax
in the formal capital Bandalong
, Hellica forces captive Lost Tleilaxu Uxtal
to produce increased quantities of the orange spice substitute using the secret of the Tleilaxu axlotl tanks. Uxtal is also producing gholas
for the Face Dancer Khrone
; Hellica befriends the sociopathic
ghola of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
. When Guild Navigator Edrik
seeks Uxtal's knowledge in producing melange
in the tanks, Hellica's price for his expertise is Edrik's help transporting a certain cargo. He agrees, delivering by heighliner the Obliterators
that destroy the planet Richese
, where the Bene Gesserit are mass-producing weapons and armed battleships. Later, Hellica attempts an Obliterator attack on Chapterhouse
itself, but the plan fails. Murbella
's forces conquer Tleilax, and Hellica is killed. However, it is revealed that she and some of her elite guard were actually Face Dancer duplicates; it is unknown when the original Hellica was disposed of and replaced.
In Chapterhouse Dune
assassinates Great Honored Matre Dama
with poison while the Bene Gesserit forces are attacking Gammu. Logno, the former chief advisor to Dama, assumes control of the Honored Matres and immediately surrenders. Bene Gesserit leader Odrade is surprised, but she and Miles Teg
soon realize they have fallen into a trap. The Honored Matres use "the Weapon" and turn defeat into victory. Murbella
saves as much of the Bene Gesserit force as she can and they begin to withdraw to Chapterhouse
. Odrade, however, had planned for the possible failure of the Bene Gesserit attack and left Murbella instructions for a last desperate gamble. Murbella pilots a small craft down to the surface, announcing herself as an Honored Matre who, in the confusion, has managed to escape the Bene Gesserit with all their secrets. She arrives on the planet and immediately announces her intentions by killing an overeager Honored Matre with a blinding speed enhanced by Bene Gesserit training that makes her faster than any Honored Matre before her. Murbella is taken to Logno, and immediately declares herself hostile. Logno cannot help herself and attacks, Murbella disposes of her and some allies. She takes charge of the Honored Matres, who are awed by her physical prowess.