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Dune: House Harkonnen Part 55

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I need all my strength today.

A man should not have to attend the funeral of his own child. The natural order had been disrupted. Though Kailea had not been his wife, and Victor had not been the official ducal heir, Leto could not think of a more terrible thing to befall a person. Why had he been the one to survive, the one to endure the knowing, the awful sense of loss?

The cortege of boats set course for the coral gem beds far offshore, where Leto and Rhombur had gone diving years ago, where Leto would have taken his own son one day. But Victor hadn't been given enough time; Leto could never fulfill all the promises he'd made to the boy, both in words and in his heart....

The Atreides funeral barge rose several tiers high, an impressive floating monument. On the top level, giant kabuzu shell cressets, fifteen meters tall, burned whale oil. Up there Victor's body lay in a golden coffin surrounded by his favorite things- a stuffed Salusan bull toy, a feathered vara vara lance with a rubber tip, filmbooks, games, seashells he had collected from the shore. Representatives of many Great Houses had also sent wrapped gifts. The baubles and keepsakes nearly engulfed the child's tiny, preserved body. lance with a rubber tip, filmbooks, games, seashells he had collected from the shore. Representatives of many Great Houses had also sent wrapped gifts. The baubles and keepsakes nearly engulfed the child's tiny, preserved body.

Bright flowers, green-and-black pennants, and long ribbons decorated the gilded tiers. Donated paintings and artists' renderings depicted a proud Duke Leto holding his newborn son high overhead, then later teaching the boy how to bullfight... fishing with him on one of the docks... protecting him from the attack of the elecran. Other images showed Victor on his mother's lap, doing school lessons, or running while holding a whistle-kite by its string. And then, poignantly, several empty panels, left blank to represent what Victor had not done in his life and never would.



Reaching the reefs, crewmen set anchors to keep the barge in place. The boats took up positions encircling the funeral barge; Duncan Idaho piloted a small motorboat around to the bow and tied up alongside.

Atreides soldiers began clanging their ceremonial shields in a mounting crescendo that carried across the waves. Duke Atreides and Jessica stood together with their heads bowed. The brisk wind blew in their faces, stinging Leto's eyes, ruffling Jessica's dark robe.

After a long moment the Duke straightened and drew a deep breath of sea air to drive back a tide of tears. He looked up at the top level of the barge, where his son lay. A shaft of bright sunlight flashed on the golden coffin.

Slowly, Leto raised his hands to the heavens.

The clashing of shields ceased, and a hush fell over the assemblage. Waves lapped against the boats, and far overhead a lone seabird called. The engine of Duncan Idaho's motorboat purred steadily.

In one of the Duke's hands he held a transmitter, which he activated. The flaming cressets tipped in toward Victor and poured burning oil over his coffin. Within seconds the top level of the wooden barge caught on fire.

Duncan helped Jessica into the motorboat, then Leto joined them. They untied from the funeral barge and drifted away as the roaring fire grew brighter and hotter.

"It is done," Leto said, not taking his eyes from the flames while Duncan maneuvered the boat into position in the circle of larger boats.

As the Duke watched his son's funeral pyre consume the entire barge in a splash of yellow-and-orange light, he murmured to Jessica, "I can never again think fondly of Kailea. Now you alone provide the strength I need to survive." He had already sent his regrets to Archduke Armand Ecaz declining the offer of marriage to his daughter Ilesa- at least for the time being- and the Archduke had quietly withdrawn the offer.

Deeply touched by his words, Jessica promised herself that she would never press Leto for a commitment that he was not willing to offer. It was enough that she had the trust of the Duke she loved. And you are my only man, And you are my only man, she thought to herself. she thought to herself.

She dared not let the Sisterhood know about the baby boy she carried in her womb, not until it was too late for them to interfere. Mohiam had given her explicit instructions, without explaining the Bene Gesserit's grand plans for the daughter Jessica had been ordered to bear.

But Leto wanted another son so badly.... After the funeral she would tell him she was pregnant- and no more. He deserved to at least know that, so that he could hope for another son.

As they drifted away from the rising flames on the funeral barge, Duke Leto felt determination strengthen his heart. Though he believed in Jessica, trusted and deeply loved her, he had too many scars from the tragedies, and knew he must always maintain a dignified distance.

His father had taught him this, that an Atreides Duke always lived in a different world from his women. As the leader of a Great House, Leto's primary obligation was to his people, and he could not allow himself to get too close to anyone.

I am an island, he thought. he thought.

FAMILY TREE

Praise for the Dune Dune novels of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson novels of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson DUNE: HOUSE HARKONNEN "The second Dune Dune series is proving to be more accessible and just as entertaining as the original." series is proving to be more accessible and just as entertaining as the original."

-The Oregonian "Extraordinarily well-developed and continually fascinating."

-Kirkus Reviews "Each action lays another stone in the remarkable construct of the world of Dune Dune."

-Booklist "Entertaining... page-turning... Dune Dune fans will enjoy visiting familiar places and encountering familiar characters." fans will enjoy visiting familiar places and encountering familiar characters."

-Contra Costa Times DUNE: HOUSE ATREIDES "Rich interweaving of politics and plotting made the Dune Dune novels special. And novels special. And Dune: House Atreides Dune: House Atreides does its predecessors justice." does its predecessors justice."

-USA Today "A spirited and entertaining adventure... The real pleasure here comes from watching the authors lay out the plot threads that will converge in Dune Dune."

-The Philadelphia Inquirer "The... authors have woven a web of plots and ideas every bit as complex and compelling as the original Dune Dune novels." novels."

-St. Petersburg Times "The attendant excitement and myriad revelations not only make this novel a terrific read in its own right but will inspire readers to turn, or return, to its great predecessor."

-Publishers Weekly (starred review) (starred review) "Dune: House Atreides is a terrific prequel, but it's also a first-rate adventure on its own. Frank Herbert would surely be delighted and proud of this continuation of his vision." is a terrific prequel, but it's also a first-rate adventure on its own. Frank Herbert would surely be delighted and proud of this continuation of his vision."

- Dean Koontz "Written in a style so close to the original that it is hard to believe Frank Herbert did not direct it through some mysterious genetic link... I can't wait for the sequel."

-Rocky Mountain News "[The authors'] research and passion for the material have served them well.... Dune: House Atreides Dune: House Atreides captures the essence of captures the essence of Dune Dune while illuminating further the workings of Frank Herbert's universe." while illuminating further the workings of Frank Herbert's universe."

-The Seattle Times This edition contains the complete text of the original hardcover edition. NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED.

DUNE: HOUSE HARKONNEN

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