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datatime: 2022-12-03 20:50:20 Author:UvDmjioO

Leto laughed and waved the man away. "Jerrik, you know I've been handling these boats for years now. The seas are calm, and we have a shore-com aboard. But thank you for your concern. Don't worry, we won't go far, just to the reefs."

"There's the reef," Leto said. "We'll anchor about half a kilometer away so we don't risk ripping open the hull. Then we can go diving." He opened a compartment and withdrew a sack and a small spatulaknife for each of them. "The coral gems don't grow very deep. We can dive without air tanks." He slapped Rhombur on the back. "It's about time you started to earn your keep around here."

Finally, as Rhombur looked on with curiosity and trepidation, Leto clapped him on the shoulder. "Remember your rock collection? You and I are going to dive for coral gems."

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."

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?"

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."

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

THE NEXT DAY, a calm and sunny morning, Leto stood next to Rhombur at an open window, admiring the quays at the base of the promontory. The ocean spread out like a blue-green prairie, curving off to the distant horizon. "A perfect day," Leto said, realizing that his friend was homesick for the lost underground city of Vernii, probably tired of too much weather. "Now it's my turn to show you around Caladan."

"Just keeping you out of trouble is, uh, effort enough," Rhombur countered.

After all preparations were completed, he and Rhombur boarded the wickerwood coracle. An Atreides burgee flew from the stern, snapping in the breeze. As the mariner assistants cast off the lines, one asked, "You can handle this yourself, m'Lord?"

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."

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.

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."

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."

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."

Paulus hit a piece of furniture hard with his hand, and Leto heard wood scraping across stone, a chair shoved aside. "And I'm to believe you are familiar enough with the inner workings of Ix to make such a judgment? Or have you already come to a conclusion based on what you want to hear, without being troubled by mere lack of evidence?" He laughed, and his tone turned more gentle." Besides, you seem to be working well with young Kailea. She enjoys your company. How can you say such things about her to me, and then pretend to be kind to her face?"

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.

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.

"Just keeping you out of trouble is, uh, effort enough," Rhombur countered.

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

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.

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?"

He made a rude noise. "There was no choice, Helena. On my honor and my word -- there was no choice."

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.

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.

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