25th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

After a rest before heading out, we exited the temple planning to head out looking for the Great Worm tribe. Instead, we were confronted with a weird floating ship in the sky. It was unlike anything I’d seen, it looked like a ship, complete with harpoons, bow and stern. But it also had skids on the bottom of it, like what would be found on a sled. And above it, a red balloon that held the thing floating in the sky.

Onboard, we could see figures with black masks for faces, beckoning for us to come up to them.

Lilli’s eyes went wide and she ran to the contraption, eager to get onboard and experience it, but Cyke merely picked her up off the ground, so her little legs kept cartwheeling like she was still running.

With care, we approached the ship and after some back and forth climbed a ladder to climb aboard using a rope ladder.

There are four people on the ship, all wearing black masks that are shaped like a dragon, and black armour to match. One of them introduces herself as Delsephine.

On behalf of Klauth the dragon, she has come to offer this airship on his behalf to aid in fighting the Giants. She only offers one condition for this offer, which is that we are not to encroach on the Kauthian Vale.

Every time Klauth’s name is mentioned they all bow their heads with reverence and wave their hands in a symbolic gesture. We quickly find it easier to stop using his name.

We are hesitant to accept this offer as it would be unwise to sard off a dragon, so we tell them we need time to think about it and disembark.

I knew Lilli had been desperate to try out hew new spell so I whispered in her ear to prepare herself and proceed to throw her casually off the side of the ship, floating well above the ground. Lilli used her new slowfall spell to descent with grace to the ground, whilst the rest of us tried to race her to the bottom on the rope ladder.

Harshnag did not have any concerns about the offer and was not worried about us leaving him for the time being. The airship would not be able to support his weight unfortunately.

Lilli checked in and sent for Felgolos, asking him how risky the offer was. Felgolos seemed to think that we were not in any great danger as long as we weren’t pressed into his service irrevocably.

Accepting the offer, we got a tour of the airship, which had a fire elemental heating the air going into the balloon and an air elemental turning a blade at the rear of the ship. Lilli seemed to take all this in with excitement, and ever John and Cykellion took great interest in learning the ship.

It made no sense to me. Surely it was just magicks and the elementals were for show. Hot air couldn’t possibly make a thing fly. And how could a twisted piece of wood spinning make a ship move? If hot air could do these things, all of the lands nobles would float off into the sky. I think they were misleading our group on their tour and hiding the fact it was merely magicks at play, so I checked out the accommodations.

The ship had four rooms with hammocks. We split up into two groups and share two of the rooms. But nobody’s keen to stay below decks for long, not with the sights that could be beholden onboard.

We continued onto the area where the Great Worm tribe were meant to be, just much more swiftly than expected. The crew insist the ship can cover one hundred and ninety miles in a day, whereas we could only manage forty, while mounted.

It’s almost no time at all before we are landing down near the Great Worm Tribe cavern area. Inside the large, naturally formed cavern there is a series of caves leading off to each side of the area, and there is a raised hill in the middle containing a gong and a alter.

A group of barbarians start to gather and begin to threaten us, but before they can really get into the swing of it Cykellion shows them the severed head of their leader, which we went back to get once we realised he was important. They flee instantly at the sight of the head, leaving us the immediately to ourselves.

As we are approaching the alter, I saw John eyeing off the gong. He walked up purposefully, grabbing a nearby mallet and gave the gong a good hard ring.

I’m not sure what possessed him to do so, but the effect was immediate. The ringing noise reverberated around the cavern, causing ice to drop down from the roof onto where we rudding well stood!

We mostly managed to get out of the way of the ice, but immediately after that some infant Remorhaz popped out of the dislodged ice and attacked us.

Thankfully, they were not as fierce as their full-grown adult counterparts, but they still required some putting down.

That little distraction out of the way, we strode up to the alter. As I approached, I could hear a voice in my head. I shook my head but the voice was still there.

It asked for us to free it from the alter. It was the Coautl! I.. spoke back to it in our head and told it that we would free it. Motioning to Cyke, I indicated he should approach the alter and place the head on it.

As soon as he did the alter split in two with a cracking noise and the Couatl spring forth from it. it was a serpentine creature, but with feathered wings which it used to sprint forth into the air in front of us.

I immediately felt a wave of goodness radiate from the creature and felt completely at ease around it. It was named Quetzal and insisted on knowing more about us, and insisted that we receive a reward for our assistance.

We introduced ourselves and gave it some insight into our pasts and shortly thereafter it vanished with final thanks, leaving behind a rainbow feather.

We pocketed the feather and turned to head out, but not before Lilli wove some magic on the alter. Immediately, a booming voice could be heard from the alter, shouting a chilling warning to all that come close.

DOOM! DOOM! DOOM BEFALLS ALL WHO WORSHIP EVIL DRAGONS! BEGONE FROM THIS PLACE! DOOOOOM! DOOOOOOM! DOOOM TO THE GREAT WYRM TRIBE!
DOOOOOOOOOOOOM! DOOOOOM!
Dooooooooooom.
Deaaaaaaaathh.

We could hear it all the way back to the airship. I would be interested to know what the barbarian folk would make of their new talking altar.

Lilli quickly discovered the Feather of the Couatl enabled her to scribe in her books without requiring magical ink, massively reducing her requirement to spend all our gold on magical ink. When she realised what she now possessed she jumped into the air with a sqwark and ran off to begin scribing as much as she could before we got underway.

Our next stop was to be Xantharl’s Keep, to track down the bounty we heard about from Darz back in Triboar.

We got the flying ship underway and proceeded to head toward Xanthal’s Keep, with Cyke, John and Lilli learning how to fly the ship.

It will be our first night aboard the ship. We’ve tried to set ourselves into groups that will be combat ready if it comes to it, and I’m keeping Morning in my cabin at night for extra protection.

26th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

We landed at Xantharl’s Keep the next day and went immediately hunting for Worvil ‘The Weevil’ Folkbeard.

I knew of Xantharl’s Keep from my time in the Axe. It was almost a forward warning station for Mirabar, with a large compliment of soldiers from the Axe posted here. It’s Lord was Lord Narbeck who reported to the Marchion back at Mirabar, the new marchion Selin Ramur.

I would have been best to avoid this place.

We headed to the local inn, the Falling Orc. Also the only one in town. The stableboy there was not particularly impressed to be stabling a lion and a clockwork horse but was appeased by an extra tip for his efforts. The inn’s mead-puller Arzastra, organized a room for the night for us and we had a lunch before getting on with our hunt.

We found The Weevil cleaning out stables but decide not to take him had on. Waiting until darkness, we set Luke out to stalk the weevil, and break into his room at the Inn to look for evidence.

I saw at the bar downstairs having a mead whilst we waited for Luke to finish up his business. I was halfway through a mead when Lilli’s Tressum come downstairs mewing for attention.

I put down my mead with a sigh and headed upstairs, popping the buckle on my sword sheath in preparation for a brawl.

We heard Luke shouting at us to cut him off downstairs so we turned and ran outside. We could hear footsteps running and glass shattering and by the time I caught up the Weevil was down and encased in John’s vines, and Lilli was weaving spells on him to convince him to stay. Luke was already trussing him up.

From the trail of glass outside the window, I’d guesses the Weevil interrupted Luke and managed to break out the window fifteen feet above the ground. From the distance the weevil covered, he didn’t make it that before and certainly didn’t make it out of range of John’s Roots incantation.

I cast Zone of Truth on him and we interrogated him. He confessed his crimes and admitted there was a hefty bounty on his head, so that was enough for us to take him in. He did try and slip his cuffs, but Luke spotted it and laid him out quickly.

We didn’t hear the four Axe guardsmen catch up to us in the commotion. They saw my Axe badge and were satisfied when we said we were taking in a known criminal, so we went to the guardhouse to claim our bounty and verify our story.

It wasn’t a position that I was happy to be in but I think my face was forgotten around these parts away from Mirabar, and my appearance has changed in the years since my service. I still carry the badge of the Axe on me discretely, out of some sort of damn pride. Damn pride serving a city, in which the citizens would prefer to see my head on a pike. How stupid can one man be?

In the guardhouse, we are confronted with Lord Narbeck. I had a flash of panic but I didn’t meet him in person, so hopefully he won’t remember me. I never thought I’d need a false name, but I’m not even sure I have it to me to be a fake. I paid my price, and this sarding Keep wasn’t on the out of bounds list.

After hearing his story he was quite happy and chatty and was happy to see a criminal off the streets. However, when he fetched his commissioner to fetch the gold, that’s where things went to sarding, ruddy manure.

His commissioner cast Zone of Truth to get a confession out of our bounty, now hazily awake. But this caught all of us in its aura. I resisted what I couldn’t, but the Weevil proved difficult to pin down in the spell’s effect.

It took the man four attempts to get the prisoner in his spell, and the final attempt pinned me in the spells effect as well.

After confirming the Weevils crimes they agreed to pay us, and the commissioner turned pointedly to me and asked for my introduction of our group, and for out business.

Under the influence of the spell I could not lie, and he knew it.

When I introduced myself as Morath Khalid, Lord Narbeck’s eyes flickered in recognition, and he started flipping backwards through the bounty book.

Even if I had resisted the priest’s spell would I have told him the truth? I should have walked into this guard house with a fake name ready, but I don’t think that I could have even gone through with a lie like that.

‘Morath Khalid, Morath Khalid’ he mused. I stared bolt straight ahead at him, too proud to look away. I could feel the others gazes drilling into the back of my head, but I dare not look away. I know what’s coming next, and it threatens everything we’ve been working toward. It threatens any trust and respect I’ve earned with my companions over the last months of travel and hardship.

He finds my name earlier on in the book as I know he will and he spits on the floor in disgust. His look of bored satisfaction with our arrest turns to disgust and loathing. ‘Morath Khalid. You disgrace. I can’t believe that you would come to my town and seriously expect us to pay you for the dishonour. You should have been executed for what you did, hell I have a mind to put you in chains and deliver you to the gates of Mirabar myself’

I open my mount to reply but I can hear Lilli blurt out behind me ‘Whats he worth?’

I’m staring at a fixed point at the wall above Narbeck ramrod straight. It is like being back at that forsaken farce of a hearing I had before my exile. I stared straight ahead, the room not in focus, and the people passing judgment upon me mere blurs. I focus on a chip in the wall and answer the questions asked of me in straight, short answers. It helps drown out the voices of the public crowd that have filled the citizen’s gantry in the chamber to demand my head on a spike and my corpse hung in a tree to be picked at by the carrion birds.

I don’t even need to look at my companions to know what their expressions would be.

Lilli was surprised and had already covered her mouth to try and stop the words escaping that she had just said. John, contemplative and taking this in without significant expression. Luke, looking ever more suspicious of me. Cykellion, building to anger and ready to speak his mind.

I stared straight ahead and insisted to Narbeck that I had paid my price, and the price I paid was worse than chains. Images of Teisha and my children flash across my mind unbidden, and the look of revulsion she had on her face the before I was dragged away. The family that I was probably within a mile of at Mirabar, but yet an eternity from having again.

As Lilli stammered out the words ‘Wha.. What did you do?’ I can hear the others behind me all at once start to attack Narbeck for his comments and begin to defend me, but I put a hand up to stop them and ask them not to argue. I won’t have any more innocents in danger because of me.

He tosses us the gold angrily and demands us to be gone. And as we are leaving he answers to Lilli that there is no current bounty, but only a recording of my crimes.

The Weevil, not really taking in this parley on account of probably being concussed, demanded to know whey we weren’t being reasonable with him. The end of the sentence was muffled by a gag and he was already being dragged out of the room by the time he realised what was happening.

We left Xantharl’s keep immediately and are heading for Triboar. Nobody has spoken further to me and that is what I need for now.

The defence my companions put up for me warms my heart but at the same time, I wonder how far our trust goes. Every man has his price I read the scholars say. They leap to my defence in warm blood, but when Narbeck’s words sink in will their minds question?

If there had been a sizable bounty on me what would it have taken for the others to offer me up to pocket the gold? Twenty thousand gold? Fifty thousand? I respect these people and have trusted them with their lives, but gold is gold and gold talks, as the dwarves say.

What would Luke do if he received a contract for my life, a sizable sum of gold and a one-sided account of my actions proving my guilt? Would he kill me in my sleep? Would he confront me first? Would he understand? He is a good man at heart but swift with a knife when the prey is guilty, and one thing the Holy Scripture of Lathander teaches is that no man is free of guilt.

Have they read my Journal? Will they read it in the future? What would they take away from the words I have written here? Are the up top deck now, discussing what to do with me?

Perhaps I should burn my account here and be done with it. Perhaps I should leave the party when I next can and return to the church and abandon my path.

27th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

We spent the day traveling toward Triboar, but I wasn’t really aware of what happened. I spent most of the day in the cabin downstairs with Morning.

I dreamt the same sarding dream again. The same rudding dream as it always is.

Once again I am riding towards the dark rider, determined to get him this time, despite having never done so. Morning is ducking and weaving and bounding over the figures, cutting a line for the dark rider.

He sees me coming and swings his blood red axe at me, but I’m ready. I deflect the blow with the sword Lathander gave me and parry. Morning, the mount Lathander has granted me edges me closer and closer to the rider. At the last second, I block another blow, sword on axe, the rider closer than ever.

I catch up to him and grab him, poorly. My mailed hand only finds purchase on his cloak comes off to reveal a Paladin dressed in plate mail. He is bathed in the dawn light and carries a shield finely engraved with the dawn symbol of Lathander. He carries a blood red axe, and set against the night sky it is strikingly similar of the Axe of Mirabar’s insignia.

The paladins face - MY face - looks down at me with contempt. He rattles at me that ‘You need to save these people’, and picks me up from Morning without effort and throws me into a crowd of the strange figures that flee him.

The crowd of the strange figures close in around me, moving bizarrely, as if sick. They look like people but they do not. I need to save them, but they close on me. I deflect the first attack and the second, but they outnumber me and I have no room to manoeuvre. My survival instincts take over and I strike at a figure, which goes down with an ethereal screech. I keep attacking as they overwhelm me, fighting for my life against those I wish to save.

I am the rider. I ride amongst these figures, wielding a blood red Axe, the insignia of my rank in the Axe of Mirabar, cutting down those who flee from danger and certain death. I wish to save them. I tried to save them. Why can’t I save those I am sworn to protect?

I can see Teisha running away in the distance, horrified of the actions of the dark rider. They escape unharmed physically, but I cannot save them from pain nonetheless.

Why must I relive this day every sarding night?

28th Marpenoth, the Star Walkers Return

The others made a brief stop in Triboar to look at selling the Vonindod construct piece, but after taking it to Foehammer he talked us into keeping it in case we come across a forge that can work the Adamantite. We will keep it in the cell for now.

The others decided then that Waterdeep would be the next best stop to grab a bag of holding, with the intent to be ready to tackle Felgolos’ request next. A quick flight to Yatar and a teleport to Mirabar will have us there in hours.

I’m not really sure I care anymore. I wonder how bad it would be if one of the blue dragons guarding the lair ate me. How many would mourn my passing? One of the brothers at the Spires in Waterdeep would win a pool of gold, these adventures would bury their paladin friend and strip his body of the belongings he had that were still of use to them. Word would be unlikely to get back to Teisha about her ex-husbands overdue demise.

Slipping off and heading back to the Spires when we land at Waterdeep might be the best option for everyone.

29th Marpenoth to 1st Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

I’m watching the scene unfold before me once again. I know the dark rider will run people down. It was me, I was there, I took those lives.

Why does Lathander torment me with my past so? He is standing before me, The Morninglord in his light of dawn. He smiles broadly at me.

I’m done with this. I’m done with this misery. I throw the sword down at his feet and turn to walk away. When I turn around, the ruddy sword is sticking out of the ground directly in front of me. As I look up Lathander is in front of me again.

I step around the sword, ignoring it, and continue walking forward. As I reach Lathander, he steps aside, revealing the same damn sword sticking out of the ground behind him.

I angrily take it up and heft it toward him with all my weight behind the blow. It doesn’t land. Lathander has hit me before I get halfway through the blow and knocks me thirty feet across the field. As I look up and clear my head, the sword is on the ground just a few feet in front of me.

I pick it up, and without a pause, I hold the hilt in a stance like I would throw a javelin and aim at Lathanders beaming form.

I don’t get to throw it of course, as Morning’s jaws grasp my javelin arm and worries it like a hound would do with its prey. I’m torn backwards, thrashed back and forward by the now ferocious and growling lion until I no longer have any sense of direction. A final tug of my arm sends me rolling away.

Looking skyward, my arm on fire and no doubt badly savaged, I see Morning pad into view looking down at me as well at Lathander. He offers me his hand and helps me back to my feet.

As I survey the familiar scene I can hear his voice boom in my head, without spoken words.

“From Death”, he says. “Life”. He gestures to the scene in front of me and offers me my sword once more.

I can’t quit now, can I?

It’s breakfast time at the Spires of Morning. We stayed here for the night before setting out again into Waterdeep proper.

We found a building that Luke points out some Theives cant. He seemed to think it was quite an odd sign, somewhat old fashioned. We decide to head in whereupon the proprietor of the establishment promptly recognized me from the work I had been doing feeding in intel on Inns to Arelosa.

Strange enough, I couldn’t find a harper pin on him. I already figured that the inns are outside the Harper’s direct interests, but they clearly don’t mind.

It turned out he had a good stock of magical items, which was convenient as that’s exactly what we came to Waterdeep for. After some trading, we left with two Bag’s of Holding, along with a variety of magical equipment. I picked out an even stouter shield that looks guaranteed to help deflect even more blows in combat. It’s a shame to retire the one with Foehammer’s artisan carvings of Lathanders crest, but I think this will find a good home on the mantle where we make our rest.

He seemed to know that we were heading to steal from dragons from the bags of holding we were buying. He prodly held aloft shovels for each of us with a crooked smile and suggested from his experience, it was best to bring a shovel to a dragons lair. The faster you get the loot in the bags the faster you get out alive was his advice.

As soon as we returned via teleporter to Yatar, I hung it over my head on the air boat ship we were travelling in.

Lilli contacted Felgolos and arranged to meet him at Ascore. It was time to steal from Dragons.

I need to shake this off. We are going up against two dragons within a few days and the group don’t need me in shambles. I have a job to do, and the mission to quell the giant uprising cannot be underestimated.

The interim days have been quiet. We’ve spend a few days on the air ship now, with Cyke and Lilli learning how to fly the ship.

Im not used to the idea of being able to float so far above the sky in this contraption but it is an execelent means of travel, besides the Harpers teleporter network.

2nd Uktar, the Star Walkers Return

We made it to Ascore the next morning upon Lathanders holy hour of dawn. Ascore is a ruined village, the skeletal remains of a bustling port on what was once the Narrow Sea. All that remains is a set of docks and a few remenants of buildings, with the desert of sanding having swallowed the town. The water long ago was lost, replaced by mere sand.

When we landed we found a halfling smoking a pipe waiting for us, a halfling with a booming voice that didn’t suit his body. Felgolas had, of course, taking a more appropriate form to go unnoticed.

He had flown over at night and when we pooled our knowledge, we knew that there would be lairs in both boats, with the pipeweed in one. Felgolas found one boat upturned and another right way up, with the upturned one bearing a large hole in the roof.

He also found that the dragons took to the skies at midday and entertained themselves with mock battles that went for some time. This was our obvious time to get in and loot their lairs, using John’s Pass Without a Trace spell to help all of us be more stealthy.

As preparations were made, I took a look around the area and the party. A unit is only as strong as it’s the weakest soldier, and I couldn’t that be me. I had to have the strength to keep these people safe and progressing, and any member we lost was equally as bad to the party. It was time for me to shake off the past and focus on the present.

As the dragons took to the sky around midday and began to spar with each other we set off into the Dragon’s lair.

The plan is to use Johns Pass without a Trace to keep us quieter than we usually could, and Lilli to keep Detect Magic running to keep an eye out for magical traps. Luke will keep an eye out for physical traps. Lili’s already detected which boat contains the pipeweed, the northern upturned one. If it turns pear shaped, we will run out of here as fast as we can, and Felgolos will distract the two dragons.

We darted from building to building quietly, finding signs of battle and death as we went. Some of it seemed as recent as some months ago.

After seeing some movement in one building we halted and headed south to skirt around and keep undetected. On our detour, we came across what appeared to be an old shrine of some sorts. Upon closer inspected it appeared to be a shrine to the three dwarves gods, older gods that I have only heard of academically, not seen in practice.

Passing through the antechamber John’s eyes were drawn to the Dwarvish script above the doorway to the main hall, declaring ‘Clear Eyes have a true sight’. We could see in the small main chamber a pillar of obsidian, almost like a pyramid but with the top flat, almost like it was missing the tip. I recall the decor and theme of the temple to be belonging to the worship of Dumathiod, the dwarven god of secrets.

Thinking quickly and noticing some flecks of silver in the antechamber’s soiled hand basin, he suggested I try cleaning the basin with holy water and washing our eyes with it. Clear Eyes.

It worked! We could see the pyramid now as more of a glass, not obsidian. It was clear now that the pyramid was completed when we could see clearly, with a gem in the top. Cyke calmly took it from the top of the pyramid, despite it looking inaccessible behind the glass-like exterior.

We didn’t hang around to ask questions, so we quickly got back on track to the northern boat. We passed by another boat, this one right side up but split down the middle of the boat, with the second dragon’s treasure pile openly visible on the deck. Four out of place statues were littered around the pile, all facing inwards. They weren’t the target so we kept moving, skirting around a magical trap or two on the way to the main target.

We quickly rappelled up the hull of the overturned boat and dropped down a hole in the top that Felgolos mentioned to us earlier. Inside, huge skeletal remains, like the ribcage of a wyrm dominated the gloomy interior of the boat. Felgolos remained watching the sky as we pressed onward, to the pile of treasure.

I’ve never seen so much wealth in one place before! The pile was 4 foot high and ruddy well massive. There was art, silver bars, carpet, marble chess pieces, platinum bracelets.

We were, of course, surprised when a cloud of coins moved and skittered and picked themselves into the air, creating a vortex, elemental like shape. The air elemental was on us before we could react, picking up Lilli and smashing her directly into the wall of the ship with a sickening crunch. Felgolos cast silence on the battle as soon as he could, but did the Dragons hear the noise from the outside, or did their mock combat mask a sound such as this?

We didn’t even need to co-ordinate ourselves, we all knew that we had to pull out all the stops to put the elemental down as quickly as we could, and we had it down within a very short space of time, but at the cost of a lot of energy from all of us.

We filled the bags of holding as soon as we could, getting the fancy art and magical items, before breaking out the shovels and moving hundreds of pounds of gold into the tiny, magical sacks. The silence spell and lack of sound made the entire event eerily tense, with all of us working hard, grunting, clamouring and generally making a scene in a complete lack of sound.

We didn’t bother with the silver bars as they didn’t seem worth the weight to take. They were off the side of the treasure trove, and I can’t help but feel it was this Dragon’s least favourite treasure. I wonder how it will react to having its worst treasure politely left for it when it returns?

With the advantage of silence but the risk of the dragons returning any minute, Lilli wasted no time in silently blowing a massive hole in the side of the upturned ship, plunging us into the light of the noon sun.

Despite knowing we should leave, the second pile of treasure glistened nicely in the sun. We carefully checked the statues for traces of magic and detected plenty more magic items. It was time for us to go before the temptation got the best of us. We had plenty of spoils of our mission, we had the pipeweed to complete our deal with Felgolos, and the dragons remained circling in the sky, blissfully unaware that one of them was less wealthy than before.

I couldn’t get my mailed hand on the little gnome Lilli fast enough, as she darted away from us, lured towards the temptation of more magical spoils like they whispered sweet nothings into her head. I tried to shout out a warning to her, but no sound came out.

I’m sure she was muttering excitedly to herself as she slipped quietly but excitedly along the ground and into the midship of the second boat, shattered across the midships but upright, splintered woods posing an easy flight up to the deck and treasure. I’ve never seen someone combine slinking quietly and an excited dance into one motion, but she managed to do just that.

Ironically, I felt the tingle of the silence spell end as she got up to the pile and started looting the magical items. Up above us, we could make out the top half of her torso, having quickly taken up a rapier and slippers. I could almost see the indecision on her face as she did a double take, trying to tear herself away from something. However, she seemed to loose the battle of willpower, and she disappeared briefly out of sight as she picked up a piece of paper.

I opened my mouth to shout again but I knew it was too late. I was close enough to see her eyes flitter to the pages and back up quickly. I swear she locked eyes with me and I saw her eyes widen.

She vanished in a thunderous explosion of coins and wood splinters, completely obscuring her from view and sending debris one hundred feet into the air. The sound roused the statues guarding the ship which began to come to life, and we could hear the cry of the dragons as they began their descent directly down the ground to investigate.

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