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datatime: 2022-11-30 04:42:37 Author:UpVfTFPK

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?"

She lashed out at him with such vehemence that Leto took a silent step backward in surprise out in the shadowy hall. "You're the one who has made a choice here, Paulus. And you've made the wrong one. That choice will cost you and our House dearly."

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

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.

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.

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."

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.

"Still it was your own decision, despite my warnings and despite my advice. Your decision alone, Paulus Atreides." Her voice was frighteningly cold. "You must live with the consequences, and be damned by them."

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."

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."

"Still it was your own decision, despite my warnings and despite my advice. Your decision alone, Paulus Atreides." Her voice was frighteningly cold. "You must live with the consequences, and be damned by them."

"Still it was your own decision, despite my warnings and despite my advice. Your decision alone, Paulus Atreides." Her voice was frighteningly cold. "You must live with the consequences, and be damned by them."

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."

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."

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.

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."

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 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.

"Then what --"

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

She lashed out at him with such vehemence that Leto took a silent step backward in surprise out in the shadowy hall. "You're the one who has made a choice here, Paulus. And you've made the wrong one. That choice will cost you and our House dearly."

"Still it was your own decision, despite my warnings and despite my advice. Your decision alone, Paulus Atreides." Her voice was frighteningly cold. "You must live with the consequences, and be damned by them."

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."

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

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