Chapter #529

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                                +   +
                              +       +
                            +           +
                          +               +
                        +                   +
                      +                       +
                    +      THE ADVENTURERS      +
                      +                       +
                        +      Epic III     +
                          +               +
                            +           +
                              +       +
                                +   +

+    Many of the locations, non-player characters, spells, and      +
+  other terms used in these stories are the property of TSR, Inc.  +
+  However, this does not mean that TSR in any way endorses or      +
+  authorizes their use, and any such items contained within these  +
+  stories should not be considered representative of TSR in any    +
+  way, shape, or form.                                             +
+    The player characters contained in these writings are copy-    +
+  right 1991-7 by Thomas Miller.  Any resemblance to any persons   +
+  or characters either real or fictional is utterly coincidental.  +
+  Copying and/or distribution of these tales is permissible only   +
+  under the sole condition that no part of them will be used or    +
+  sold for profit.  In that case, I hope you enjoy them.           +
+                                                                   +
+                                  Thomas Miller                    +
+                           +
+  Peldor/Corvis   20th level human thief                       (N) +
+  Date:        11/2/576 C.Y. (Common Year)                         +
+  Time:        morning                                             +
+  Place:       the Free City of Greyhawk                           +
+  Climate:     cool                                                +
+  "Keep your friends close...keep your enemies closer."            +
+                        - Don Michael Corleone, _The Godfather_    +

                  DXXIX.  Endings and Beginnings

  After completing a mission for Sharyn and securing himself a place
within her organization, Corvis has just been taken aback by an odd

Corvis:  (unable to betray his surprise)  Pardon?
Sharyn:  Remove your hat.
Corvis:  What?  Why?
Sharyn:  If you want to be part of my organization, do it.  No, on
  second thought, if you want to leave this building alive, do it.
Corvis:  If you insist...(he sighs, and removes his hat)  Happy?
Sharyn:  Very well.
Corvis:  What was that about?
Sharyn:  I'm aware that you've got a lot of magical items.  I had to
  make sure that your hat wasn't some kind of shapechanging device.
Corvis:  (laughs, long and hard)  No, I'm afraid these scars are
  quite real.  The hat's magical, all right - it helps me hear faint
  noises.  Handy, in this business, don't you agree?
Sharyn:  Very well.  Go now - I'll be in touch.  You'll need to be
  looking for a place to live in the River Quarter.
Corvis:  (nods)  I've got just the place in mind.

  After he left the Guildmaster's office and headed back to his
tavern room, Corvis pondered the woman's actions with amazement.
She really didn't know!  He'd been somewhat worried there for a
moment, but all seemed well now.  His scars, eyepatch, false ruin
of an eye, and hair were all the result of a complex disguise, the
kind you didn't take off and then put right back on.  Sure, the
disguise itched and sweated and was generally uncomfortable, but
that was a necessary evil of the plan.  As long as he was willing
to do what the other guy wouldn't, he knew he'd win in the end.
  Other components of the false identity included semi-permanent
hair dye and a radically trimmed mustache.  Everything could be
reversed or regrown, in time - but not until the deception had run
its course.  Now, he was one step closer to that goal.  He had to
plan his next steps carefully, and successfully infiltrate Sharyn's
organization and power structure.  Once he had an idea of what was
going on, he would have to act in the best way possible.  A direct
confrontation would probably lead to a fight, and then a murder
trial, and he didn't really want that.
  Corvis had been wondering about the Green Dragon Inn over the last
few days, but common sense prevailed.  He realized that nothing too
significant could possibly have happened with the building's ongoing
construction in a few short days.  Though suspicion seemed to be off
of him for now, he didn't want to risk anything, even a stroll by
the site.  He couldn't be sure when he was being watched, and he
didn't want to risk anything - not when he was so close.

  The next weeks went by in a blur.  By now, Corvis was starting to
think like Corvis, to become Corvis.  He'd gotten into certain habits
in his new identity:  drinking red wine, flirting with women, working
out in the Guildhall's training yard.  This latter, especially, he
found rather enjoyable; it had been a while since he'd exercised and
practiced on a daily basis.  The training did him good, both as part
of his identity and as a means of relieving stress.  He found that
other, less skilled thieves turned to him for advice and training
  As far as his new position went, Corvis found Sharyn to be only a
semi-competent boss.  He quickly realized why things were going to
pot since her appointment as Guildmaster:  simply put, her private
goals, whatever they were, interfered with the smooth and equitable
operation of the Guild itself.  For example, it became obvious right
away that she was skimming more than the Guild's share of profits.
This led him to believe that she was diverting the excess funds to
some side agenda or project, and he resolved to try and figure out
what it might be.
  Another problem of Sharyn's was that she didn't trust anybody, and
nobody trusted her.  They feared her, because of her position, but
that wasn't the same thing.  Corvis believed that you had to lead by
example, not through indirect means like intimidation and bullying.
Sharyn tried to keep control with an iron fist, but she didn't allow
any finger to know what any other finger was doing.  As a result, her
intended fist couldn't hold everything it was supposed to.
  Corvis estimated that the Guild members in general would eventually
revolt against their less-than-competent leader.  However, that could
take a year or more, and Corvis didn't want to wait that long.  He
was dealing with pieces of a plan, but hadn't put it all together yet.
He was pleased to see that Sharyn had actually granted him significant
power, if only in his quarter.  He didn't waste it, either; within the
first week, he'd turned losses into profits.  Middlemen who had been
skimming their own profits were eliminated.  Those businesses that
hadn't been treated fairly started getting a fair shake, and their
owners were happy.  The Guild's popularity in the River Quarter rose
to heights not seen in more than a year.  Sharyn noticed this, too,
just like she noticed that the funds coming in from that section of
the city stabilized.  It took weeks of slow, painstaking, patient
work, but eventually, Corvis started making the other Quarters look
bad compared to his.
  As a safety measure, Corvis didn't keep written records of anything
pertaining to his private agenda.  All pertinent names, places, and
amounts were committed to memory.  He was taking no chances with any
searches of his records or offices.  However, Sharyn didn't seem too
interested in his methods, as long as his results continued to make
an impact.  Of course, if she'd given him the full power and scope
that a Quartermaster should have - as Org Nenshen had granted his
people - Corvis would have been able to generate even more dramatic
results.  That was, as he already knew, one of Sharyn's problems.
She did okay in the short term, in the smaller picture, but her
particular methods and habits didn't work when applied to a larger-
scale organization.
  Things were still risky, of course; on several different occasions,
he'd been left in Sharyn's office with some of her records lying
right there on the desk.  Resisting all temptation, he'd left the
documents alone; the time had not yet come to act.  It soon would,
though - it soon would.  Corvis kept his eye and ears open, waiting
for any sign of the Oligarchy's discontent or suspicion of Sharyn.
Although she was a member of the Oligarchy, only by virtue of her
position, it was obvious that several of the city's rulers didn't
care for her or her methods.
  This became apparent at the next weekly meeting of all the Guild

Sharyn:  -demanding more accountability from us.  I think they
  think we're up to something.
Simpkin:  Well, are you?

  Simpkin Furzear, aka the Weasel, was a lean, mean halfling who
didn't have a streak of decency in him.  Corvis had known of his
activities for some time, and the Weasel was someone to be concerned
about, especially since he was in charge of Guild operations in the
wealthy Foreign Quarter.  The wizened little halfling slicked back
his greasy black hair - what was left of it, anyway - and coughed,
a raspy sound that tended to set people's teeth on edge.

Sharyn:  The Guild isn't up to anything it's not always been up to.
  Remember that well.
Larrat:  Of course.

  Larrat Helfdene folded his hands, a curious gesture since the man
had no right hand.  The story went that he'd lost it on a job, but
thanks to Org Nenshen's friendship, he was able to secure a desk
job that eventually led to his appointment as Master Thief of the
Slum Quarter.  Larrat was of middle age, simple and amiable, and
Corvis knew him to be no real threat.

Simpkin:  (snivels at Larrat)  Especially in the Slum Quarter...
  no one's been up to anything _there_ for a long time.
Larrat:  (used to being looked down on by those in better positions,
  he keeps quiet and calm)
Repnel:  We all know that our respective Quarters are each unique.
  No need to remind us again, Simpkin.

  Repnel Porton, a shaggy-bearded man in his thirties, feared no
one.  It wasn't because he was particularly brave or foolish; he
simply had a job to do, and do well.  Repnel didn't like to see
inter-Guild friction, and did his part to stop bullying whenever
it began (which was usually an effort on Simpkin's part).  Repnel
was in charge of the Artisans' Quarter, and specialized in running
protection rackets.  He was competent and aggressive, but not evil
like Simpkin.

Simpkin:  (sneers at Repnel)  We'll find out where the losses are
  coming from, Repnel.  Sooner or later, we will.
Sharyn:  I can tell you where they're _not_ coming from, people.
  (she nods at Corvis)  The River Quarter's revenue is up almost
  twofold since last week.
Corvis:  (leans back, smiling)
Simpkin:  Bah.
Pavel:  Perhaps our newest member would like to share the secret of
  his prosperity with us?

  Pavel Alektrion, a young and aristocratic fellow, ran the Guild
operations in the Garden Quarter.  Pavel was an ex-adventurer who
had made a place for himself here; nobody outside the Guild knew
that the dashing young socialite doubled as a master of thieves.
The man was wealthy enough to retire ten times over; he was a thief
because he enjoyed it, not because he needed to be.  Of all the
Quarter masters, it was Pavel whom Corvis felt the most kinship
with.  Unfortunately, Pavel was a con man and blackmailer of the
highest caliber - not a man to be trusted.

Corvis:  Secret?  I have no secret.  I just run things efficiently
  and don't take any crap from people.
Pavel:  Perhaps a dangerous approach, no?
Corvis:  Only for the incompetent.  (he glances at Simpkin)
Simpkin:  (fumes)  Watch your tongue!  You're the new one on the
  block, and-
Sharyn:  Simpkin.
Simpkin:  Eh?  (he looks at her)
Sharyn:  None of that, now.  We don't need infighting among our
  ranks - we need co-operation and unity.
Simpkin:  Hmph.  (he casts a baleful glance at Corvis)
Sharyn:  Now, Gerald will explain the problem in a bit more detail.

  In the tradition of Org Nenshen before her, Sharyn had retained
control of her old Quarter after becoming Guildmaster.  In this
case, the Thieves' Quarter remained under her control; she ran all
its operations from her office in the Guildhall.  Thus were six of
the city's seven quarters represented in the Guild.  The position
in the High Quarter - Org's old quarter - has been filled by one
of Sharyn's agents upon her promotion to Guildmaster.  Her choice
had been a simple man of no action, but rather words and numbers:
Gerald Sivadus.
  Gerald was an accountant by profession, and one loyal to Sharyn;
she'd employed him in the Thieves' Quarter for many years.  Almost
all thieves were thieves by actual deed and activity; Gerald was
a thief of numbers.  He knew every single tax and levy law in Grey-
hawk, and was a member in good standing of the Guild of Scribes.
He also knew the laws of the city, and used this knowledge to find
ways around any regulations and ordinances necessary for Sharyn's
aims.  He was a good person to have on your side; unfortunately,
Sharyn controlled him.  Gerald was meticulous, detail-oriented,
and ill-tempered when he was at work.  He had a tendency to fire
scribes on a regular basis, because they weren't good enough for
him.  The man was also a master forger and counterfeiter, and had
ties to similar people in the city.
  Gerald seldom spoke up, and when he did, it was to clarify some
point Sharyn made.

Gerald:  Right, then.  (he smooths his short grey hair)  The city
  rulers are looking at the Guild as a whole, and making that the
  problem.  Since we're comprised of seven distinct parts, we will
  use that to defeat their aims.
Simpkin:  How?
Repnel:  What _are_ the problems?
Gerald:  It's become more and more difficult to pay the Guild's...
  contributions to the city coffers.  I've made it happen, but only
  by taking from some quarters to pay the shares of others.
Larrat:  But some of our quarters are by nature poorer than others!
  We can't all make the same profit.
Gerald:  That's beside the point.  You all have your quotas; they
  need to be met next time, or an audit will be called for.
Sharyn:  And remember:  a failed audit is grounds for punishment.
Corvis:  (blinks)
Simpkin:  (grimaces at everyone)
Sharyn:  That's all for this week.  I expect only good news next

  On this grim note, the meeting concluded.  Each of the Quarters'
Master Thieves was left to his own thoughts.  As for Corvis, his
thoughts as he left the Guildhall centered on the best way to get
his hands on Sharyn's records.  The question was, even if he did
succeed at that goal, would the documents do any good?  Would the
Oligarchy take solid proof of profit-skimming, embezzlement, and
murder and actually _act_ on it?  If so, would some of the other
Guild Quartermasters testify against her?  Whose paranoia and
suspicions would rule the day?
  It was time to take things to the next step, Corvis decided.  He
was well aware (from previous years as well as his current operation)
that the halfling Simpkin spent most of his nights in the gambling
house known as the Pit.  If that pattern held true, Corvis had a
rather nasty idea to implement, once the time came.
  He waited, biding his time, until six days had passed.  The day
before Sharyn's next meeting, he prepared himself, double-checking
his plan, looking for mistakes in his plotting.  He could find none.
After night fell, Corvis retreated to a lowlife tavern.  Using a
back exit, he entered unseen and assumed the form of a nondescript
human of middle age, average build, and plain looks.  Next he headed
out into the street.  Shortly, he arrived at the Pit, and entered the
noisy, smelly place.  He roamed around until he spotted Simpkin; the
evil little halfling was playing cards at a private table, in the
company of a group of mean-looking scoundrels.  Good enough, thought
Corvis; time to up the ante a bit.
  He left the Pit and walked in the direction of the Foreign Quarter,
or more specifically, Simpkin's house.  The halfling undoubtedly had
guards and wards against thieves, but not thieves of Corvis' skill -
he hoped.  Otherwise, this would be a short-lived little adventure.
  Getting past the guards was trivial; he turned invisible, then
levitated over the razor-edged fence and into a tree.  From this high
perch, he was able to spring over Simpkin's yard altogether, thanks
to his magical boots.  This maneuver totally avoided the ferocious
guard dogs that roamed the yard, and also placed Corvis on the roof
of the halfling's spacious house.  Rather than use a window and risk
whatever wards were in place there, he used a spell scroll to open
a dimensional door to the area _inside_ the house.  This put him on
the top floor, in a hallway that he hoped led to Simpkin's private
chambers.  Sneaking up to various doors one by one, he checked them
for traps, picked their locks, and opened them just a hair.  If they
looked interesting, he then explored them.  In this manner, he found
and checked a linen closet, a washroom, a storage room full of crates,
and then a bedroom.  This latter chamber was the only one that had a
trap _and_ a lock on its door; Corvis was able to bypass both, though
it took him a while.
  Still invisible, he entered the bedchamber, blade drawn.  No guards
waited here, though; as Corvis had figured, Simpkin didn't trust any
of his minions to remain in his personal chambers.  A cursory look
around the room revealed nothing, but Corvis wasn't done.  The ring
of human influence that he'd borrowed from Tanya wasn't his only
loaner item.  He removed that ring and slipped another one onto his
finger; instantly, his vision changed, allowing him to see through
solid objects simply by concentrating.  He'd been practicing, and as
a result, this strange vision was nothing new to him.  No time was
wasted as Corvis roamed the bedchamber, scanning the walls, floor,
ceiling, and furniture.
  It didn't take him long to find what he was looking for, though it
wasn't hidden behind a closet wall, a mirror, or anything else most
people would have hidden something important behind.  No, Simpkin's
secret vault was behind a simple wall of wood; the door was concealed,
and well.  Only one out of ten thieves might have found it, even if
they'd known where to look.  The opening-point of the doorway was
seamless, its panel blending in perfectly with the surrounding wall.
Corvis didn't try to open it; instead, he peered through the panel
with his amplified vision.  He found what he'd worried he might find:
a thin wire, connecting the inside of the concealed door with something
beyond.  Undoubtedly a trap, and probably a deadly one - clever, that
  Corvis was more clever, though.  He used another scroll, which held
the power of another dimensional door, and entered the vault that way.
He bypassed not only the door and its trap, but also got around the
ten-foot access passage that was sized for nothing larger than a
halfling.  The chamber beyond wasn't much larger, but he was able to
sit within and peruse its contents.  These included sacks of gold and
platinum coins, pouches full of gems, and several thick ledgers.
  Despite the value of the monetary treasure, it was these latter
items that Corvis was really after.  The books detailed Simpkin's
accounts and activities in the Foreign Quarter - as well as all the
other quarters!  Simpkin had been a naughty fellow indeed.  Stuffing
both loot and ledgers into his magical sack, Corvis prepared to make
his exit.  It was then that he learned of another, lower-key trap.
His boots, legs, and the seat of his pants were stuck to the floor!
  Try as he might, he couldn't get away; his pants wouldn't even rip
apart.  The glue, or whatever it was, had to be magical - somehow
holding the victim in place, rooted to the floor.  Corvis didn't
panic, though; he sat there and thought for a bit.  Then he reached
around, removing his backpack, and rummaged through it carefully so
as not to get it stuck to the floor as well.  Within the pack, he
found a certain potion bottle, opened it, and began smearing the
oil within all over his person and clothing.
  The air around him seemed to shimmer, but this effect was expected.
After all, Alindyar had explained the workings of this rare and
powerful oil to him some time ago.  He had been transported to the
Ethereal Plane, thereby escaping the final sinister trap of Simpkin's
vault.  He didn't have to worry about the dimensional doors; he knew
that both would expire before anyone found them.  With a contented
sigh, Corvis made his way through the Ethereal Plane, following the
instructions he'd been given along with the description of the magic

  The next day, at the Guildhall, Sharyn received a small package via
anonymous courier.  After cautiously checking it, she opened it, and
was rather curious about its contents.  Curious, that is, until she
started reading them and realized what they were.  Suddenly, a number
of things made sense.
  She didn't say anything, but Simpkin was obviously nervous at the
Quarter Masters' meeting.  He was pale, and sweating profusely as he
emitted a steady stream of what Sharyn now knew to be lies.  The
halfling had been socking away far more illicit money than Sharyn
had ever stolen.  She knew that she couldn't prove it until a few
more days, when the payment and collection cycle rolled around fully.
However, Simpkin was in big trouble, and he knew it, and Sharyn knew
it, and he knew that she knew it.  The rest of the meeting was little
more than a formality; almost everyone sensed that something was
going on, but nobody knew what it was.
  Later that night, a chance few witnesses saw Sharyn's man Zsil make
his way toward Simpkin's house, talking quietly with the guards on the
halfling's property.  Roughly around that same time, in her chambers
within the Guildhall, Sharyn Messandier took a drink from a goblet of
her favorite wine - and then keeled over!

Sharyn:  Urk!  (recognizing the effects of poison from years of
  using it, she promptly shoves a finger down her throat, forcing
  herself to vomit)

  She struggled to get to a standing position, but only succeeded
in flopping down onto the floor again.  Her quick action had bought
her some time, but she could still feel her throat constricting,
her eyes burning.

Sharyn:  Gak!  (gasping and struggling, she crawls to a nearby
  nightstand and opens its drawer)  Urk...(she claws at the items
  in the drawer until she finds the one she wants:  a metal bottle)

  Acting with the quickly-fading strength, Sharyn uncorked the vial
and drank its contents.  Almost immediately, she was able to breathe
again; moments later she sat up, leaning against a wall.

Sharyn:  Poison...(she works a spell, further negating the effects
  of the foul stuff she drank)

  Furious, Sharyn stood, then marched to her door.  The guards on
the other side were surprised to see her, especially when she began
yelling and screaming.

Sharyn:  What am I paying you dolts for?!?
guard #1:  (confused)
Sharyn:  I was struggling for my life in there!
guard #2:  But we heard nothing-
Sharyn:  Never mind.  You - go and fetch Bergis, Lorvon, Targid,
  Norquist, and Sammy.  Tell them-  (her face darkens)  Tell them
  we're going to war.

  Elsewhere, about the same time Sharyn was finding her favorite
wine unpleasant, the halfling Simpkin was facing off against the
assassin Zsil.

Simpkin:  (backed into a corner)  Sharyn sent you, didn't she?  I
  knew that bitch was up to no good!  (he tenses, but can take no
  action without being shot)  I don't know how you got in here,
  but you'll never get out alive!
Zsil:  (doesn't talk, but rather raises his loaded crossbow, taking
  aim at the halfling's heart)
Simpkin:  Now wait!  Whatever she's paying you, I'll double it-
Zsil:  (fires his weapon)

  Simpkin leaped to one side, and for perhaps that reason, the
bolt missed his heart, instead lodging in his shoulder.  He fell
back, screaming in agony as the venom on the shaft began to make
his eyes water and his nose run.  When his guards smashed into his
bedchamber, however, there was no Zsil there to greet them.  The
man had simply vanished.

  Soon, after Sharyn had gathered her best, most powerful henchmen,
she headed for Simpkin's mansion.  Furious was an understatement;
Sharyn marched with fire in her eyes, steel in her hand, and blood
on her mind.  She and her men found Simpkin's guards in disarray
already, due to the murder attempt that had just been made on their
boss.  Simpkin had survived, despite the poisoned bolt that had
pierced his shoulder, and he was furious himself.  When Sharyn and
her men burst into his chambers, the yelling and screaming began
instantly, and soon turned to the clash of steel and the flow of
  In the meantime, Corvis was busy looting the only lightly-guarded
(and quite unoccupied) office of the Guildmaster herself.  Before the
news of the fight at Simpkin's home had reached Nerof Gasgol, Corvis
had already been talking with the Lord Mayor for half an hour.  The
former had revealed his true identity, as well as everything he'd
done over the past few weeks.  He told Nerof about the fund-skimming
of both Simpkin and Sharyn.  He explained in detail the problems that
the Guild faced, and the reasons for them.  He also detailed Sharyn's
plans to convert the entire Guild to the worship of Kurell, and then
use that unified organization for her own purposes.  Nerof had eyes
and ears everywhere, and had been aware of bits and pieces of this
puzzle up until now.  It didn't take him long to put the big picture
together rather quickly, especially with Sharyn's complete records
and journals sitting on the table before him.

  Afterwards, very few people ever knew the complete sequence of
events that happened on that fateful night.  If they had known, they
probably wouldn't have believed it all.

  Simpkin was dead, slain by Sharyn and her bodyguards.  The old
halfling's most trusted people had died with him, as had most of
Sharyn's.  The Guildmaster, wounded in the fight, had retreated to
her chambers in the Guildhall.  There, she'd remained under heavy
guard while she recuperated; the next morning, she'd awakened with
the intention of explaining recent events to the Oligarchs.  Her
plan to portray the deceased Simpkin as the cause of all the Guild's
recent troubles backfired in her face.  Nerof and the others allowed
her to weave her complex web of lies, even asking key questions whose
answers they already knew.  Unable to back out of her stories and
accounts, Sharyn became entangled in her own web.  The city's rulers
grilled her like no criminal had been grilled in years; by nightfall
she was in the city's dungeons, stripped of all rank and title.

  Elsewhere in the city, Peldor returned to his home - at least, his
temporary one - and the waiting arms of Tanya.  He told her the whole
marvelous story, and they celebrated.  Later, in the dark depths of
the night, they lay beneath the sheets, warmed by the dying embers in
the fireplace...

Peldor:  -and so, as you see, their greed and inherent distrust of
  each other made them easy to manipulate.  (he smiles)  That's why
  it's better to be a good guy than a bad guy.
Tanya:  One thing still bothers me.
Peldor:  Hmm?
Tanya:  She's going to figure out what happened to her, and who did
  it.  She may be in prison, but the fires of revenge can burn for a
  long time.  We should be worried.
Peldor:  I am, but the way things went down, there's not much I can
  do about it now.  I doubt they'll give her the death sentence; all
  we can do is wait and see what becomes of her.
Tanya:  Was she really a valued priestess of Kurell?
Peldor:  I'm sure she was.  Why?
Tanya:  Then why did her god - the patron deity of thieves - allow
  her to come to this?  Surely his base of worshippers is depleted
Peldor:  (shrugs)  The only thing I can think is that Kurell knew
  that Sharyn's plans were ultimately more harmful than beneficial.
  At least, that's what I like to think.  (he shakes his head)  Who
  can know the ways of gods?
Tanya:  Who indeed?
Peldor:  Let's change the subject.  I've been is
  the inn coming along?
Tanya:  I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.  (she frowns)  Do you
  think they'll want you to be Guildmaster now?
Peldor:  I don't want to think about that right now...I just want to
Tanya:  (nestles his head on her breast)  Sleep, then.  You've earned

next:      wrapping things up
ftp: in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
  in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
mail:       (preferred)
notes:     Thanks to Leonard Bottleman, Matt Hurd, and Lance Dooly
  for ideas and help on this plotline.

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