Lost Chapter #25

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                      *    THE ADVENTURERS    *
                    *                           *
                      *     Lost Tales...     *
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*    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 1991-8 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                    *
*                                  tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu   *
*  Date:        11/8/538 C.Y. (Common Year)                         *
*  Time:        shortly before dusk                                 *
*  Place:       the outskirts of Ratik, east of the Rakers          *
*  Climate:     cold and unpleasant                                 *
*  "He's told us what he's not - he hasn't told us what he _is_."   *
*                                         - from _Breakheart Pass_  *

                    XXV.  Dark Destiny

I.  Ashes and Dust

  The company of gnolls and bugbears marched away from the burning
ruins of the small town, triumphant.  Their foray into civilized lands
had been a great success, netting them food and supplies for months.
In addition, they'd made away with a dozen human children, who could
be put to work as slaves if not eaten outright.  These children now
followed the battle-line of humanoids as the latter marched westward,
back to the Raker Mountains.  Ratik's soldiers were brave and skilled,
and its king strong, but it was simply impossible to defend every
town and village against the humanoid marauders.  These foes lived in
the high, craggy peaks to the west of Ratik, raiding eastward as they
wished.  The sudden, random nature of their attacks guaranteed at
least occasional victories, such as the one they'd enjoyed today.
In the decimated town behind the humanoids, more than a hundred men,
women, and children lay dead and mutilated.  They were the lucky
ones, for the children who'd been captured by the savages had
nothing but pain and suffering to look forward to.
  These captives were bound by the hands, and then in a line by
which they were forced to march.  Their short legs couldn't keep
the brutal pace set by the larger, stronger humanoids, though, and
often, one child or another would stumble and fall.  This merely
resulted in kicks or cuffs from whichever gnolls or bugbears were
closest.  One child collapsed, unable to continue further; he was
slain, his hands lopped off at the wrists so that the rope-train
of prisoners wouldn't be disturbed further.  However, as was often
the case in life, for every weak person, there was a strong one as
  In this case, it was the boy standing just behind the recently-
slain child.  His name was insignificant, but in his small black
eyes burned hatred beyond compare.  Earlier today, he'd watched as
his entire world - family, friends, pets, home, everything - had
been brutally wiped out.  This was, of course, the case with all of
the captive children, but in this boy's case, it was different.
While others allowed their pain and misery to weaken and break them,
he turned it all into hate and fierce determination.  He'd always
been a strong, wiry, quick kid, the one who won the playground
fights, the one who snuck out at night and ran around with no fear
of punishment, the one who others either looked up to or feared.
When he was six, he'd beaten up the local bully, a strapping ten-
year-old whose attitude changed after he took a swift kick to the
crotch.  Now, at the age of eight, the lad faced challenges greater
than any he'd ever dealt with before.
  When he'd first been bound and put into this prisoner-chain of
children, he had still been shocked and sad.  As they marched,
though, and he saw the brutish strength of his captors and the
shattered wills of his fellow captives, his tears had stopped
flowing.  Something changed in the boy at that moment, and though
he didn't know it, he'd taken the first step to a new, different
  For two days, the column marched toward the mountains.  The boy
was quiet and calm the entire time; he ate whatever food he could
and rested at every opportunity.  He helped his fellow captives do
the same, as best as he could anyway.  After all, the longer they
were around, the longer he'd be around, and that meant more chances
for escape.  It was escape that filled his thoughts now - he fully
intended to break free and slip away at night.  Of course, he would
have preferred to see the entire humanoid force die, but he had to
be practical at this point.
  He worked on his bonds when he could, trying to loosen them.  He
even lucked out on the second night of the march, spotting and
picking up a broken dagger-tip that one of the gnolls had discarded.
It was clear that the humanoids didn't even vaguely consider the
human children to be a threat.  The child smiled to himself as he
secreted the blade-fragment in one boot.
  On the third day of the march, his plan was thrown into turmoil
and doubt.  Not only had they reached the mountains - a terrain in
which the boy had no skill traveling or navigating - but a terrible
storm loomed on the horizon.  The bugbears grunted and howled as
they drove themselves and their captives on, ever faster, toward
the peaks.  It was obvious that they wanted to reach the mountains
before the early winter storm reached them.
  They barely made it.  Not an hour into the mountains, driving snow
and howling winds whipped through the passes and gullies, bringing
with them cold and ice worse than any the children had ever seen or
felt before.  The humanoid force took shelter in a large, dark cave
that night.  As for the boy, it was the worst night of his life.
Lying on the cold, hard stone in the darkness, listening to the low
grunts and growls of his captors, he got no sleep at all.
  The next day, another child was sick, and had to be cut from the
line.  This time, the humanoids made it clear what happened to such
weaklings:  the slain girl was torn apart and devoured.  It was a
terrifying sight, but at least to the one child, it was also a new
source of determination and willpower.  The trek resumed in the day-
time, for despite the snow and ice, at least there was visibility
during the daylight hours.  This became the pattern for the next
week:  long, arduous marching during the day and cramped, cold rest
stops at night.  The boy's body complained at first, for his arms and
legs ached constantly and his back felt as if it would snap at any
moment.  However, after two days of this, a strange thing happened:
he simply forgot to think about the pain and fatigue.  This wasn't
a conscious effort - it just happened.  At times, it seemed that he
wasn't even _in_ his body, but rather a free, bodiless spirit that
was simply tagging along for the ride.  Whatever the case, he lived
and moved on, surviving because there was no other alternative.
  Other children weren't so lucky.  One collapsed and died, most
likely a result of not getting enough to eat.  Another died in his
sleep.  A third somehow broke free of her bonds and fled, only to
run right over a cliff and fall several hundred feet to her death.
The boy simply waited, biding his time.  There would be a time and
a place to escape - but not now.

II.  Grim Opportunity

  The march was slow, and progress fleeting; in a week, they'd only
made it halfway to their home base, deep within the mountains.  The
children couldn't pick up any more than occasional words and phrases
of the humanoids' conversation, but it was clear that this storm was
the worst in a decade, and some of the humanoids were beginning to
doubt their scouts and leaders.  Internal strife was apparent - some
of the gnolls and bugbears snapped at each other, and arguments were
more and more frequent.  The boy took note of all this, his clever
mind putting together a plan, slowly and methodically.
  Two days later, things got worse - much worse.  Before, it had
been clear that the storm was exceptionally fierce and enduring.
Now, it was also clear that the humanoid troop was off-course and
hopelessly lost.  If morale among the smelly savages had been bad
before, it was terrible now.  He witnessed no less than five fights
to the death for the band's leadership, and he was sure there were
more.  Stability among the force, never strong to begin with, was
degenerating more and more rapidly.  It was as if the humanoids were
too stupid to put aside their differences and work together to get
out of this situation alive.
  The march continued, but by the positions of the stars, the boy
knew that the column was headed nore northward than westward, and he
wondered if anyone had ever taught the bugbears anything other than
warfare and slaughter.  Another captive child died of exhaustion,
bringing the number down to six, including the boy.  Days passed,
and the group ventured farther and farther off-course.  And still,
the freak storm raged on, unabated.
  Everything came to a head one night, as the group took refuge in
a large natural cavern whose southern face was open to the elements.
The gnolls and bugbears had piled dead trees, bushes, snow, and ice
high at this opening to keep out the cold.  It didn't help much,
but it made the shelter survivable.  Unfortunately, the humanoids
hadn't checked the cavern thoroughly, and in one remote nook was
a passage leading to the lair of a rather large bear.  This beast
exploded into action just as the intruders had gone to sleep, and
it tore through the camp, slaying humanoid raider and human child
  The boy had been working at his bonds, but his fragment of blade
was difficult to hold and position, and his fingers were bleeding and
raw, while the ropes holding him were barely damaged.  However, the
chaos caused by the wild bear enabled him to lay his hands on a
shortsword - little more than a dagger to the bugbear who'd dropped
it.  Oblivious to the danger and slaughter all around him, the boy
sliced his bonds apart with the razor-sharp edge of the weapon and
sprung to his feet.  Thinking quickly, he grabbed one of the slain
humanoids' supply packs and a loose fur, and bolted for the cavern
  A gnoll spotted the boy's flight and moved to stop him.  A loose
rock tripped the foe up, however, and without thinking, the boy
brought his sword down onto the sprawled foe, shearing half of its
face off.  It was the first time he'd ever used a real weapon on a
real foe, and it was another important step in the boy's growth
toward the path he would one day take.  Rather than finish off the
gnoll, he fled, darting out the cavern mouth and disappearing into
the storm beyond.

  After a dozen of their number lay dead or dying, the humanoids
finally armed and organized themselves.  The great bear was fought
and slain, and its meat provided food for weeks.  It didn't matter
in the end, though, because the entire force was buried in a sudden
avalanche a week later, as they tried to get back on course.

  As for the boy...well, he hadn't gotten far, wandering across the
dark, frozen slopes, before he'd had to seek shelter again.  A
hollow, dead tree provided a place to hole up against the elements,
and he bundled himself tightly in the fur he'd taken.  He didn't
know if the humanoids would try to follow him or not, but the
storm and darkness made him confident that they'd never find him,
and he knew he wouldn't last much longer outside, exposed.  He
drifted off to sleep, doing his best to ignore the howling wind,
the cold that crept through his garments and furs, and the insects
that crawled around inside the dead tree-trunk.

III.  Dark Salvation

  The next morning, he took advantage of the daylight to check his
pack and take inventory.  He had enough food (if one chose to call
the barely palatable dried meat "food") and drink for a day or two,
plus some other useful items:  a tattered old blanket, a rusty saw,
flint and steel, a flask of oil, a thirty-foot length of rope.  Of
course, there were also some items that had little or no use and
weighed the pack down, and these had to go.  Even with the newly-
lightened load, the pack was still more than he was used to bearing,
and his journey was a hard one.
  He didn't know which direction to go, or which terrain offered
the best chance of a viable shelter.  The dead tree had been a lucky
find, especially amidst a raging snowstorm; he doubted that fate
would smile upon him again.  A light snowfall made the day fairly
pleasant, save for the cold, but the boy knew that things could
get worse at any moment.  With that in mind, he plodded on, never
giving up.  Hours passed; he stopped for food and brief rest breaks
when necessary.  Only one in a hundred children would have kept
going and not succumbed to the weather and fatigue, but this one was
determined to live.
  Only the gods knew how far the boy walked that day, and how much
ground he covered.  By dusk, though, he had a problem.  His food was
nearly depleted; he couldn't believe he'd eaten that much, and he
realized that he'd not thought to ration the meat.  To make things
worse, the wind and snow were picking up - it looked as though another
blizzard was on the way.  And just when he thought things couldn't
be any worse, he heard a lone howl in the distance.  A wolf, he
thought, and redoubled his pace.
  It was nearly pointless, though.  Where would he go?  What would
he eat?  How would he find shelter?  Even if he survived the night,
what about the next night?  Or the next?
  Rather than keep running, he decided he'd go out with a fight.
Scanning the surrounding thin woodlands, he chose a tree that had
what he wanted, and quickly climbed it.  From his perch, he watched
and waited as he prepared his weapon.
  Not long after the boy took to the tree, a large, white wolf made
its way into the area.  It was following a scent, but the wind and
its accompanying noise kept the beast from ever suspecting that its
quarry waited overhead, still and silent as a statue.  As for the boy,
his muscles burned from staying in the same position for so long.
However, he dared not move until he was ready.
  It didn't take long.  The wolf tracked the boy's scent to the base
of the tree; as the animal began to circle the tree, confused, the
waiting lad leapt down from his perch, his sword tied securely to the
long, straight stick he'd found.  The makeshift spear, with the boy's
weight behind it, took the wolf in one shoulder and cut through bone
and muscle.  The boy's aim was true - the wolf was mortally wounded.
Still, in its death throes, the animal lashed out at its young slayer.
Sharp claws raked across the boy's chest, tearing skin and flesh.  He
cried out as he leapt back, partly by reflex and partly from the sheer
force of the blow.  The wolf clawed at the snow weakly, gasping, and
then expired.
  The boy was in a lot of pain, and blood from his wounds stained the
fresh snow red.  Working quickly, he placed rags over his wounds, and
tied them as best as he was able.  Next, he cut some meat from the
fresh kill, wrapping it and storing it in his pack.  He dragged the
wolf's corpse around the area, hoping to mask his own blood with
that of the slain animal.  After these tasks were completed, he ran
off into the snow, to seek shelter before nightfall.
  The wind blew, and the snow fell, and his vision quickly became
obscured.  The cold bit at his body, making him want nothing more
than to lay down and die.  He began to doubt his own senses, and as
he staggered along the slope, he grew weaker and weaker.  Even his
will to live could only carry him so far, and he was wounded and
losing blood.  As his vision began to blur, the boy found himself
praying - praying to any god who would listen.  All he wanted was
to live, to wreak vengeance upon those who had destroyed his world
and changed his life.  Consequences didn't matter to him at the
moment, for all he wanted was a chance.
  Perhaps it was fate again, or perhaps some dark power heard the
delirious plea.  Whatever the case, his fading senses led him to the
vertical base of a large, dark peak.  He could have sworn that the
rock of this mountain was as black as coal, but he never got the
chance to find out.  Fatigue finally overcame the boy, and he passed
out right there on the spot.

  Dark, horrible dreams assaulted his senses.  He saw, or thought
he saw, terrible deeds and fell powers.  He had no sense of time
or space, of being or not.  It was like all the nightmares he'd ever
had, rolled into one and made to last forever.

  Then, just like that, it all ended.  He opened his eyes, finding
himself lying prone on a crude cot.  He was in a roughly-hewn stone
chamber, which was lit by a single torch in a wall sconce.  He sat
up, finding his wounded chest bandaged tightly.  He was dressed in
a loose white robe, but nothing else.  He swung his legs over the
edge of the cot and stood up.  The floor was cold, but he didn't
care - he had to find out where he was, now that he knew he wasn't
  A single door of iron-banded wood offered exit, but it was locked.
Before he could worry about how to open it, the portal swung inward
of its own accord.  A tall, gaunt man with pale skin entered.  His
features were sharp and strong, his hair closely-trimmed, his eyes

boy:  Where am I?
gaunt man:  (speaking in clear, non-dialectual Common)  Nowhere.
boy:  What?  That's not possible.
gaunt man:  As far as the rest of the world is concerned, it is.
boy:  Oh.
gaunt man:  This place is called Death Mountain.
boy:  I'm inside the mountain?  The black mountain?
gaunt man:  (nods)
boy:  You saved me, then?
gaunt man:  Or perhaps you saved yourself.  Fate works in mysterious
boy:  What god is that?
gaunt man:  Perhaps you'd better come with me.
boy:  (complies)

  The gaunt man led the youth out into a hallway, also cut crudely
from the stone of the mountain.  Other doors and chambers, like the
one he had woken up in, lined the passage.  The gaunt man walked
down the hallway, not even looking back - as if he knew that the boy
would follow him.  They soon emerged into a large cavern, where
weird glowing fungus lined the walls.  In corrals, the boy saw farm
animals of all types.  In other areas of the sprawling chamber,
gardens were roped off.  He noticed that the young men and women who
attended the animals and gardens were all garbed in robes like he and
the gaunt man wore.  Most of the robes were grey, though a few were
white and the occasional one was black.
  The gaunt man led the boy through other chambers, too.  One contained
robed people firing bows and crossbows or throwing knives at targets.
Another had ropes suspended from the high ceiling, with people making
their way up or down these ropes.  A third room was occupied by men
and women doing strange stretches or resting in meditative poses.
  The boy figured that all of the people he'd seen thus far, except
for his strange companion, were between ten and twenty years old.
About one out of every four was female.

boy:  What _is_ this place?
gaunt man:  I'll be direct, because there's no point in belaboring the
  point.  Whether by chance or fate, you came here, to us.
boy:  Maybe both.
gaunt man:  Be that as it may, you have obviously survived much.  You
  seem hardy, and intelligent.  Our divinations have given us favorable
  answers.  Since you cannot be allowed to leave, we are offering you
  a chance to stay here and learn.
boy:  Learn what?  Thievery?  Battle?  I thought I saw some people
  casting spells in one of those other rooms - is this a school for
gaunt man:  Not quite.  I'm surprised that you haven't figured it out
  by now.  This, my young friend, is a school for those who deal
boy:  Killers?
gaunt man:  Killers, assassins, slayers...the list of terms is endless.
  The fact is, such individuals do a great and necessary service
  for the world, and it behooves certain greater powers to have
  such agents doing their worldly work.  Thus, the need for places
  such as this.
boy:  There are more of these mountains?
gaunt man:  (shrugs)  Who knows?  The fact is, this one is here, has
  been here for ages, and all the while has produced the finest and
  most feared assassins the world has ever known.  (he regards the boy)
  A list of names would probably be pointless.
boy:  Uh...what makes you think I want to have this training?
gaunt man:  (shrugs again)  As I said, the divinations regarding you
  were favorable.  However, to be frank...should you choose not to
  remain here and learn our ways, then a cold, dark grave awaits you
  in the belly of the mountain.  (he frowns)
boy:  (shakes his head)  I just wanted to know, don't worry.
gaunt man:  I haven't worried about anything for at least...oh, eleven
boy:  (his brow furrowed in thought)  I've lost everything I ever
  knew.  I have nothing left, save that I want to live and I have a
  burning need to deal some death.  (he looks up)  I'm yours.
gaunt man:  The way will be long and harsh.  Some don't survive, and
  some do but change their minds.  That's why we recruit young children,
  almost exclusively.
boy:  I will survive, and I won't change my mind.  When do I start?

  And so began a period of training that was to last more than a
decade.  The first thing was to lose his identity - none of the
students at this unique center of learning had names.  The boy was
then started on an exercise program, which included stretching,
running, climbing, rock-lifting, swimming, and far more.  His diet
was bolstered with the various foods and plants kept in this dark
place.  He was taught how to eat, walk, and sleep.  Bit by bit, his
body was nursed back to health, and then far beyond.  He marveled
at his newfound strength and endurance, but the training didn't end
there.  Drills and exercises to increase his reflexes and speed
became part of his daily life.  He learned to leap, dodge, roll,
sidestep, and much more.  Many of the teachers here, despite being
in their forties and fifties, had the bodies of men and women much
younger.  Their lessons taught the students how to remain fit and
alert well into their middle years.
  Even as his body was trained, so was his mind.  The teachers
held that death was a natural part of life, and thus the dealing
of death was merely the hastening of an inevitable process.  No
assassination was personal - merely business.  The students had to
learn to kill men, women, children - the guilty and innocent - with
equal resolve and lack of emotion.  In a way, it was ghastly, but
to the young man, it made a perfect kind of sense.  He threw himself
into his lessons, body, mind, and soul.  He absorbed everything there
was to learn, and was an apt pupil right from the beginning.  As time
went on, his skills grew, and the teachers began to take note.
  He mastered other skills as well.  He learned to read and write in
various languages.  The history of the world, as seen through the
eyes of the teachers here, was taught to him.  He learned the arts
of unarmed combat - throws, holds, killing moves.  He learned about
the human, demi-human, and humanoid anatomy - joints, vital organs,
pressure points.  He read tomes and listened to lectures concerning
various types of monsters, and their strengths and weaknesses.  The
common and uncommon poisons of the world were taught to him, along
with ways to create and neutralize them.  He learned how the magic
of wizards and priests worked, and how to deal with spells.  The
arts of disguise, trap-setting and disarming, escape, lock-picking,
knots, and dozens more were all here for the learning - and learn
them all he did.

  The boy grew into a young man.  He had arrived at Death Mountain
at the age of eight, and there he stayed until he was nineteen.
There simply came a point when he had learned all there was to
learn.  He knew when this point was reached, as did the teachers.
On that day, he stood at the great doorway to the outside world as
the gaunt man - who for all this time he had only known as "Shadow" -
handed him a small pendant.  It consisted of a black gemstone, carved
into an intricate skull, suspended from a silver chain.

gaunt man:  Wear this always, as a token of this place and a reminder
  of whom you owe.
young man:  (puts the item around his neck)
gaunt man:  You have done well...very well.  Some say that you are
  the most talented student we've ever had here.
young man:  Time will tell.
gaunt man:  There is nothing more we can teach you.  You must venture
  out into the world and ply your art.  It will be a lonely existence,
  but you knew that at the outset.
young man:  (nods)
gaunt man:  (hands the other a map)  This, combined with the skills
  you've learned here, will get you to civilization.  It will take
  some time, but you can take all the supplies you wish.
young man:  (nods, holding up his pack)  I am ready.
gaunt man:  Remember your lessons well, and your deeds will ensure
  you a place in history.  (with that cryptic statement, he turns
  a massive, pulley-and-weight driven crank, causing a thick stone
  door to open, revealing a bright, clear, cold day outside)
young man:  (covers his eyes, for it has been more than a decade
  since he saw the light of day)
gaunt man:  (stands by impassively as the younger man leaves the

  When the other was gone, the door was closed once more, and the
young man who would one day be known as Whisper looked back only
once before venturing toward civilization...and his destiny.

next:      there are no more lost tales to tell!
ftp:       ftp.myths.com in /pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
           ftp.intertex.net in /pub/users/zac/rpg/adventurers/
www:       http://www.myths.com/pub/rpg/stories/adventurers
homepage:  http://www.gatech.edu/oit/oe/design/thomas/adv/adv.html
mail:      tmiller@cimmeria.ns.gatech.edu       (preferred)
           thomas.miller@oit.gatech.edu         (emergency)
notes:     Some Whisper stats for you (NOTE!  these are only
  tentatively printed here for your enjoyment, and are subject
  to change at any point in any story I write) :

  human male warrior/thief, levels 13/16
  height 6'0"
  weight 180 lbs
  age 46 years (born in C.Y. 530)
  patron deity:  Nerull
  Str 18/52
  Dex 18
  Con 18
  Int 18
  Wis 15
  Cha 14
  Com 14
  HP  74
  AC  -6/-2 (leather armor +3, cloak +2, ring +4, Dex +4)
  combat (basic thac0 = 8) (no magical bonuses applied below)
    longsword    melee   2/round    thac0 6        damage +3
    shortbow     ranged  2/round    thac0 4        damage +3
    dagger       either  2/round    thac0 6 or 4   damage +3
  magical items usually on person:
    leather armor +3, cloak of protection +2, ring +4
    ring of regeneration
    boots of flying
    longsword +3, vorpal
    longsword, dancing
    dagger +4, of throwing
    chime of opening
    shortbow +1, of distance
    arrows (various enchantments)
    cube of force
    smoke powder
    iron bands of Bilarro
    gem of seeing
    wand of secret door & trap location
    belt of secrets (confers ethereal state for short time)
    pendant of Nerull (protects against death)
    earring of clarity (confers Tongues ability)
    potions:  invisibility, speed, extra-healing, gaseous form


  General comments on the lost tales:  some of them I had a clear
idea for, right from the beginning when I started the Lost Tales
project.  Others, I just kind of bumbled along with.  I'd break
them all down into three categories:

ones I had a clear idea for, that I thought turned out well:
  01 (Belphanior)
  02 (Peldor & Tanya)
  04 (Otto)
  20 (tarrasque)
  24 (iron dwarf)
ones I had an idea for, that I thought turned out mediocre:
  03 (Alindyar & Lyra)
  05 (Halbarad, Peyote, & Gorin)
  06 (Mongo, Gorin, Bosco)
  07 (Arnold)
  08 (Felicia & Eduardo)
  09 (Victoria)
  10 (Rillen)
  11 (Rob)
  13 (Bosco & brothers)
  17 (Lyra)
  19 (Bosco's soul)
  23 (wispy thing)
ones I had no idea for, that I thought turned out well:
  12 (Halbarad)
  14 (Peyote)
  15 (Ged)
  16 (Belgar)
  18 (Songa)
  21 (Feuerhauch)
  22 (Cynder)
  25 (Whisper)

  Whatever the individual cases, it's done now, and the lost tales
are there, side stories that support the main saga.  I will collect
them all into a "Book of Lost Tales" shortly.

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