The Honored Matres were a militaristic matriarchal cult, obsessed with power, violence and sexual domination.
Origins of the Honored Matres
Like many Kralizec-era institutions, the Honored Matres were born out of the Scattering. Following the death of the Tyrant, the God Emperor Leto Atreides II (13725 A.G.), and the collapse of his Imperium, a group of untrained Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers, a splinter faction of the Sisterhood, escaped the chaos of the Famine Times. These renegade Bene Gesserits joined up with a second group of militant Fish Speakers, former enforcers for the Tyrant, and together they fled outward, toward the unexplored regions of the galaxy.
During their flight, these women discovered several isolated and insular Tleilaxu worlds, and it was there that a long-kept secret was discovered. For more than ten thousand years, several questions were asked concerning the Bene Tleilax: how did the Tleilaxu create their gholas, and why had no one, other than the Tleilaxu themselves, ever seen a Tleilaxu female?
The Terrible Secret of the Bene Tleilax
What these Bene Gesserits and Fish Speakers learned horrified them: the Tleilaxu kept their females as less then slaves. From birth they were raised in captivity, kept uneducated, unable to read, barely able to speak. Then, in the first month of their menstruation, they were dragged away, strapped to tables and immobilized, rendered comatose, and through genetic alteration remade into little more than flesh vats, to be used only as mindless breeding machines to produce new Tleilaxu, or as axlotl tanks to produce clones and gholas. Utterly unconscious, they never had any idea how many offspring, clones or gholas passed out of their bodies.
It was a secret that could only have enraged such all-female organizations as the Bene Gesserits and militant Fish Speakers, and when these Reverend Mothers and ex-enforcers learned it, they reacted swiftly and mercilessly. Every male Tleilaxu on these outlying worlds was slaughtered to the last individual. Then, driven by compassion as well as outrage, they liberated the breeding tanks and took the Tleilaxu females with them on their journey; evidently they felt that a long insterstellar voyage, no matter how perilous, was infinitely better for these females than for them to live out their lives as half-living and unconscious wombs.
The Unification and Establishment of the Honored Matres
As the Reverend Mothers and Fish Speakers continued in their journey, they tended the freed Tleilaxu femals as best they could, trying to restore them to full and conscious lives. Many of these mindless tanks died. No medical reason could be diagnosed, though it was surmised that they simply did not want to live. But a number of females recovered and grew strong again, possibly for the first time in their once-miserable lives. And, having become fully aware of their former condition, they vowed reprisal for the monstrous crimes their males had committed for a thousand generations. And they never forgot those crimes or their previous treatment. They had existed for ten millennia as mere factories for Tleilaxu males, degraded, despised, mothers only in the most technical sense of the word. It was only natural that, once freed, they should demand to be revered, honored as true mothers. Honored Matres, they would be. Thus these vengeful Tleilaxu females united the Bene Gesserits and Fish Speakers under themselves, and for the next twelve centuries (ca. 13800-15000 A.G.) they wandered in the Scattering.
The Great Enemy
The Rise of Lenise and the Encounters with the Thinking Machines
The specific Honored Matre who was responsible for the destructive chain of events that made the cult feared back in the Old Empire was named Lenise, a harsh and ambitious commander with numerous military successes to her credit. She murdered numerous rival Matres in her rise to power and prominence, adding, as was her habit, a fresh metallic adornment to her cheeks and brow, one for every rival she killed, as if they were battle trophies. But when she finally failed in an attempt to assassinate a Matre of higher rank, she took her loyal squadrons and escaped further into uncharted space, salving her ego by assuring herself that she was not retreating, but embarking on the conquest of territory all her own.
In their rapacious expansion, Lenise's forces discovered (ca. 15000 A.G.) a strange manufacturing outpost, an interconnected metropolis inhabited entirely by thinking machines. She asked few questions about what she found. She neither knew, nor cared, that they had blundered into the fringe of the vast and growing Synchronized Empire, the existence of which had never been suspected. They simply attacked, without provocation. Never guessing the true scale and strength of the machines, the advantage of surprise enabled this incursion force to steal shiploads of powerful and exotic weapons (including a large cache of bombs known as Obliterators, capable of burning away entire planetary surfaces) and then to destroy the outpost before they left. Lenise added several new metal adornments to her face to celebrate her victory, not knowing that she had just awakened a sleeping giant.
They were officially disbanded and absorbed into the New Sisterhood following the Battle of Tleilax (15259 A.G.)