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"Then what --"

The Duke had several boats tied up at the dock, and Leto chose his favorite coracle, a white motorcraft around fifteen meters in length. With a wide, beamy hull, it featured a spacious cutty cabin in the front and sleeping quarters beneath, reached via a spiral staircase. Aft of the cabin were two decks, at midship and aftship, with cargo holds below: a nice setup for fishing or motor cruising. Additional modules stored on shore could be installed to change the functions of the craft: adding more cabin space or converting one or both cargo holds to additional sleeping or habitation areas.

Looking overboard, Rhombur saw rafts of leathery-leafed seaweed and round gourdlike fruits that held up the plants like air bladders. "Paradan melons," Leto said. "If you want one, just reach over the side and take it. If you've never had paradan fresh from the sea, you're in for a taste treat...though the fruit's a bit salty for me."

Servants packed them a lunch while three mariner assistants checked all the onboard systems in preparation for a day-long voyage. Rhombur watched Leto treat these people as friends while they loaded the gear. "Is your wife's leg better, Jerrik? Did you finish the roof on your smoke shed, Dom?"

Helena sounded eminently reasonable. "The children can't help who they are, Paulus -- they didn't ask to be born there, raised there, exposed to anything but proper teachings. Do you think they've ever held the Orange Catholic Bible? It's not their fault. They are what they are, and I can't hate them for it."

These precious stones, found in knobby coral reefs, were popular pieces on Caladan, but perilous to handle. Coral gems were said to hold tiny living creatures that caused their inner fires to dance and simmer. Because of the hazards and expense of containment, the gems did not support much of an off-world export market, given the more viable alternative of soostones from Buzzell. But local coral gems were lovely, nonetheless.

"Then what --"

Leto sailed the coracle for about an hour, consulting satellite maps and charts, making for a knot of outlying reefs. He handed Rhombur a set of binoculars and indicated a frothy, tumultuous patch on the sea. Isolated black ridges of rock barely poked above the waves like the spine of a sleeping leviathan.

The Duke had several boats tied up at the dock, and Leto chose his favorite coracle, a white motorcraft around fifteen meters in length. With a wide, beamy hull, it featured a spacious cutty cabin in the front and sleeping quarters beneath, reached via a spiral staircase. Aft of the cabin were two decks, at midship and aftship, with cargo holds below: a nice setup for fishing or motor cruising. Additional modules stored on shore could be installed to change the functions of the craft: adding more cabin space or converting one or both cargo holds to additional sleeping or habitation areas.

Far off to starboard a pod of murmons swam like furred logs, large but harmless creatures that drifted with ocean currents, singing to themselves with low, hooting sounds.

"Then what --"

"Oh, calm down and go to sleep, Helena."

Helena sounded eminently reasonable. "The children can't help who they are, Paulus -- they didn't ask to be born there, raised there, exposed to anything but proper teachings. Do you think they've ever held the Orange Catholic Bible? It's not their fault. They are what they are, and I can't hate them for it."

The two of them descended the narrow cliffside path and staircase, holding on to rails and vaulting weathered steps, avoiding the slippery moss and the white encrustations of salty spray.

Leto thought he wanted to give one to Kailea as a present. With the wealth of House Atreides, he could afford to buy Rhombur's sister many greater treasures if he wished, but the gift might mean more if he procured it himself. She would probably appreciate it either way.

The Prince of Ix stood at the bow while Leto worked the controls. Rhombur soaked up the experience of water and wind and sun, smiling. He took a deep breath. "I feel so alone and so free out here."

After the coracle was secured on its anchor cord, Leto pointed a scanner overboard to map out the contours of the reefs below. "Look at this," he said, letting his friend view the screen. "See those crannies and tiny caves? That's where you'll find the coral gems."

Unsettled, Leto crept away, his question forgotten, without waiting to see how soon they extinguished the lights.

Rhombur wandered the deck and tried to help, doing whatever Leto told him to do. He'd never been on an open boat before. The engines carried them away from the cliffs, beyond the shielded harbor, and out into open water. Sunlight glittered like sparkflies on the rippled surface of the sea.

Helena sounded eminently reasonable. "The children can't help who they are, Paulus -- they didn't ask to be born there, raised there, exposed to anything but proper teachings. Do you think they've ever held the Orange Catholic Bible? It's not their fault. They are what they are, and I can't hate them for it."

The Duke had several boats tied up at the dock, and Leto chose his favorite coracle, a white motorcraft around fifteen meters in length. With a wide, beamy hull, it featured a spacious cutty cabin in the front and sleeping quarters beneath, reached via a spiral staircase. Aft of the cabin were two decks, at midship and aftship, with cargo holds below: a nice setup for fishing or motor cruising. Additional modules stored on shore could be installed to change the functions of the craft: adding more cabin space or converting one or both cargo holds to additional sleeping or habitation areas.

Helena sounded eminently reasonable. "The children can't help who they are, Paulus -- they didn't ask to be born there, raised there, exposed to anything but proper teachings. Do you think they've ever held the Orange Catholic Bible? It's not their fault. They are what they are, and I can't hate them for it."

Leto thought he wanted to give one to Kailea as a present. With the wealth of House Atreides, he could afford to buy Rhombur's sister many greater treasures if he wished, but the gift might mean more if he procured it himself. She would probably appreciate it either way.

Leto thought he wanted to give one to Kailea as a present. With the wealth of House Atreides, he could afford to buy Rhombur's sister many greater treasures if he wished, but the gift might mean more if he procured it himself. She would probably appreciate it either way.

"Oh, calm down and go to sleep, Helena."

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