Thieves & Kings : Between the Shadows (Talisman)

Episode 16 - Return to Cragmaw Castle

“Take a look at a castle. Any castle. Now break down the key elements that make it a castle. They haven’t changed in a thousand years. 1: Location. A site on high ground that commands the territory as far as the eye can see. 2: Protection. Big walls, walls strong enough to withstand a frontal attack. 3: A garrison. Men who are trained and willing to kill. 4: A flag. You tell your men you are soldiers and that’s your flag. You tell them nobody takes our flag. And you raise that flag so it flies high where everyone can see it. Now you’ve got yourself a castle. The only difference between this castle and all the rest is that they were built to keep people out. This castle is built to keep people in.”

https://youtu.be/bndL7wwAj0U

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Episode 15 - Hush

“Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them.”

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https://youtu.be/H-Iuk_wb0OE

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Episode 14 - Festival of Harvest Crossing

“We reap what we sow. Choose what you nourish carefully.”

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https://youtu.be/hp0mf92ZZBY

15th of Shorn, Early Morning : Fardelver : The day progresses rapidly, with the adventurers selling off many of their gathered treasures to the Lionshield Coster and taking their new-found wealth in preparation for the coming festival.

That evening, they gather in Daran Elderbreath’s orchard for the scheduled moot, finding many from the community and surrounding lands have gathered. Bran immediately starts by asking the community to bring forward any outstanding issues of concern to the community. A few fairly common complaints arise, including the information that the giant Ridorthu now lives in the neighborhood, and rumors of strange cultist activities in the region are being noticed. The locals are warned to attach bells to their livestock if they use the eastern hills for grazing, as Ridorthu seems to recognize that as a sign of ownership.

Someone brings up the costs of increasing patrols and other possible expenses of the baron’s rule… TAXES! The expected costs are agreed to be unknown at this time, and exact demands are suspended until the following month, and taxes are expected to be paid on the traditional day for such, the 15th of Uktar

It concludes with a strange ritual where the former bandits of the new baronial guard are asked to display their loyalty to the community, rather than themselves, wherein they cut off the brand of their former allegiance. Talrich leads the way as an example, and with Lamisson leading them, they all submit.

As the proceedings draw down, Dame Savra Bellmantle arrives in the splendour of her hippogriff. She formally invited the new baron to attend the master of her order, Thurl Masterson at their fortress, Feathergale Spire. While warned it is somewhat condescending towards him and his position, he accepts, and with the conclusion of the hallmoot, the group retires to the hippogriff paddock where they ask several questions of her regarding training and possible purchase of the fledglings in the coming weeks. She leaves the community displaying her control of her mount, and giving everyone hope moving forward.

16th : After a restful evening, the community gathers for the actual festival the next day. Filled to the bursting point, Fardelver has many visiting relatives, merchants and even a band of dwarves from nearby Thunder Rift in attendance. peddlars from far afield, weavers, tanners, cobblers and others come from surrounding communities, and a small market is set-up in the village commons, along with numerous smaller merchants who have travelled from Brightwater to acquire surpluses from the locals for the coming winter. Competitions for the fattest animals, an archery contest and a bout with staves is a highlight, and various performers (jugglers and minstrels) wander the market seeking coins. While the market itself ends with the fall of the sun, the merriment continues long into the evening.

Ebron manages to meet with Matron Isabeal Fernwood to foster the bugbear child Nodlehs and agrees to her service. Gareth spends much of the day with Nilsa wandering the market and seeing the sites. Moirin spends most of the day at the Sleeping Giant with her friend Falco. Bran looks for and finds the Chronicles of Glitterhoof, which contain a surprising amount of information regarding taxation and the duties required under a feudal government, as well as the rights and responsibilities of everyone in the situation.

In the evening, Gareth encounters a suspicious individual in the markets while looking for information regarding Glasstaff, and follows him to the “Sleeping Giant”.The obvious bandit is quickly identified as the individual the adventurers encountered back at Wyvern Tor, and he and his companions leave the inn with their horses, riding east out of the town some time after dark. The group gathers and makes plans to follow their trail on the morrow.

17th : Gathering at the Stonehill Inn, the adventurers head east out of town, and follow a small trail that leads east past the Echo Hills toa rocky pass that edges into a rough valley footing the Sword Mountains. This proves to be watched over by a bare spire of stone that has clear view of the approaches, and none in the group had never seen nor heard made mention of before. Ten scouts the barren area around the tower in cat form, eventually approaching the stone bridge that leads across to the entrance, where the guards watching the entrance try to boot her off the bridge. She escapes and reports back to the adventurers of her findings. They begin looking for options and discuss how to assault a literal fortress only a few hours out of town…

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Episode 13 - The Dark Tower

“Battles that last five minutes spawn legends that live a thousand years.”

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11th of Shorn, TR 1050, Early-Morning : The Tyrant’s Tower :

Fighting through the remaining bugbear soldiers in the tower barracks, the adventurers explore the fortress, finding it incredibly strong and easily defended against a typical assault. Following a short rest, they encounter a young elf druid, named Ten, who joins with them to assault the remaining bugbear warriors in the outer barracks. Lead by a tough bugbear leader, they nonetheless defeat them and find various goods, a large store of Blood Gold, and the leader’s exceptional weapon, Bloodletter. Moirin claims the morningstar for herself, and the group explores the tower fairly completely, before deciding to lock the site up and escape after hiding the corpses and their equipment in the woods nearby.

13th of Azura : The group returns to Fardelverwithout incident, and spend the next day dealing with personal issues and pursuits. Ebron insults Osh with an offer to take care of his bugbear baby taken from the tower, and eventually they manage to figure out how to feed and generally care for the unruly, loud infant.

Seeking Fatemaker Garaele to contact their ally Larenth of the Thorns in hopes he can deal with the infant problem, Ebron discovers that the Fatemaker might not be all that she appears, and is “dressed-down”_ for trying to foist the problems he has created on others. Unsure of who exactly the Fatemaker might be, he carefully negotiates his way through the conversation and rethinks his choices. He then tracks down Osh to apologize for his actions, and she presents herself in a far more independent light than she had a few weeks earlier. She accepts his apology, but it is obvious she has moved on and is trying to build her own life independent of Ebron and his companions.

The group makes final preparations for the coming Moot on the 15th, and spend the night resting for the coming festivities the day after, known as the Festival of Harvest Crossing, one of te most important holidays among the rural folk of the region.

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Episode 12 - Into the Woods

“…And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

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https://youtu.be/lrDU8DcT9lU

8th of Shorn, TR 1050 : Deepvale, “Comb & Wattle Inn” : Informing the lead merchant of the village of Deepvale, Cora Rushlight of the coming moot on the evening of the 15th, they discover her brother, a local shepherd, is missing, and they agree to go looking for him and his flock. They head into the Echo Hills, discovering the odd nature of their development, and uncover a long buried barrow of giant proportions high in the hills. It turns out to be inhabited by a young stone giant named Ridorthu, who has been the source of recent rumors of something large moving about the hills. They fail to convince him to stop raiding the local flocks, but do understand he respects fences as proving ownership of flocks, and agree to return sometime soon to engage in a riddle contest with him. They also learn of a great horde of orcs forming in the depths of the Sword Mountains, and this may be the source of great concern come winter.

They bring the frightened and now herdless brother of Cora, Beroth back to his family, though Bran compensates him for the loss. Cora is thankful for his safe return and offers them to stay anytime at her inn should they pass this way again. Returning through the nearby villages of Saddlemere and Archers they warn the locals to keep close watch on their herds at night, and avoid using the high pastures in the Echo Hillls, as well as informing them of the coming moot.

In Fardelver they meet with Steward Hallwinter and inform him as well of the giant and to inform locals to avoid the region’s high pastures as well. He answers their questions regarding nearby Feathergale Spire, of which little is known about the denizens other than they are wealthy knights of some sort of order that have flying creatures at their disposal. They seem to spend very little time interacting with the locals, and are somewhat “above” the locals farmers and huntsmen.The group make last minute preparations for their trip into the woods, and spend some personal time among friends and family. The preparations for the moot seem to be progressing well enough.

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10th of Shorn : Travelling into the Fangwood north of Fardelver, they are quickly met by a gnoll from the Riverpaw Tribe who seems to have been patiently waiting in the area for their arrival. He speaks no Common, but they follow him into the depths of the woodlands, eventually reaching a position deep int eh southern portion of the woods. Using Comprehend Languages, they finally understand he is trying to give them instructions on how to assault the Tyrant’s Tower, the outer defensive work overlooking the trail leading to Cragmaw Castle located about three miles north of the tower. They agree that seizing the tower is a good beginning to their take-over of the region, and set a plan in motion.

Talrich uses a Potion of Invisibility to sneak next to the rear of the tower the following morning, when the local bugbears are sleeping, and scaling the tower, enters its battlements. Leaving a rope for the adventurers to follow, They do so, and after disabling the signal mechanism for the fire beacon on the roof, they enter the upper levels of the tower itself, engaging several bugbears who are caught resting and without their usual armor, making them generally easier prey. Slaying six of the beasts, they discover the last two were females protecting their young bugbear kits, but concentrate on the remaining guards in the tower who are now alarmed of the intrusion, and moving to attack…

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Episode 11 - Fleecemane

“I’d rather live one day as a lion than 1000 years as a sheep.”

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https://youtu.be/WtXTmA98oo0
https://youtu.be/j2QXLlzsgoY

5th of Shorn, TR 1050 : Fardelver, Stonehill Inn.

Synopsis : The adventurers make good on their promise to slay Fleecemane, travelling to the region terrorized by the aberrant beast some days journey north-east on the edge of the Fangwood. They encounter a starving troll along the way that proves difficult to slay, and eventually encounter Fleecemane and his small pride of forest lions. He proves very powerful and dangerous, but is defeated. They recover various coins, minor magic relics, and the War-Horn of the Reeve, a relic of the legacy of House Crownhill

Returning to Fardelver with the carcass some days later, they set about trying to remove the hide, but find it difficult until they think to use its own claws to carve the hide from its rotting bones, and recover the valuable Fleecemane’s Hide. Taking it to nearby Deepvale, they explore the isolated village, and discover that the hide has magically changed from the black, bloody hide of a mangy aberration, into a finely-tanned hide with various magical powers. They further explore the community and interact with the local craftsmen, informing them of whom Talon’s Hawks are.

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Episode 10 - Doom of Thundertrees

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

https://youtu.be/h-EpQysxbzo

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2nd of Shorn, TR 1050 : Fardelver : Early Morning :

Synopsis :The adventurers travel to Thundertrees, investigating the ruined village. They encounter Larenth of the Thorns, a druid who lives in Moirin’s ancestral home, and proves to be an adopted brother of the family. After a private discourse, Moirin reveals she is not who she appears to be to him, and begs him not to reveal the truth of her taking over Moirin’s life. He agrees, but suggests she trust her companions to do the “right” thing.

During their discussion, the rest of the group begins clearing the local weeds from a couple nearby farms, but halt their activities to return and feast with Larenth. He proposes the adventurers might prove their metal to the Circle of Thorns by bringing some of the recently arisen aberrations from the forest’s edge. Other than Venomfang, who claims the western portions of the Fangwood, there is Fleecemane a massive dire lion that has become an aberration itself. The group agrees to hunt this beast, and in return, Larenth promises to show the adventurers to Cragmaw Castle once they have dealt with the beast.

During the night, Venomfang returns amid roaring and howling, displaying its massive bulk and impressive power, perching on the village’s watch tower before entering back into its lair for the night. The adventurers agree that dealing with such a monster is beyond their present capabilities, but speculate that Hew is likely within its hoard, and eventually the beast and its treasures need to be dealt with.

4th of Shorn : Returning to Fardelver, the adventurers visit the Sleeping Giant, and engage in an unparalleled night of debauchery and drinking, making inquiries after the Wildhammer clan. Moirin makes a new friend in the form of Falco Wildhammer, and nearly wins a hard-fought game of Daggers with the dwarf. In the end, they leave the Sleeping Giant not enemies with its denizens, and agree that they might come back… but Fleecemane awaits…

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Episode 9 - Twelve Tasks

“A lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinion of sheep.”

https://youtu.be/0NMPt7K9ZRs

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28th of Azura, TR 1050 : Old Owl Well, Kost’s Camp : After dividing up the recovered relics in Harmon Kost’s former possession, as well as his meager other treasures, the adventurers travel back through Golden Vale to recover their buried equipment, and then proceed on into Fardelver late on the 30th. During their travels they encounter the tracks of both orcs and goblins, who seem to be avoiding the large group in their journey.

They quickly split-up attending to various personal tasks, including making arrangements for their hippogriff fledglings, and selling-off various other goods and making longer term arrangements regarding their stay in the region.

That night, Silverfrond is lured to the stables by Nilsa Dread, who seduces him and promptly reveals herself to be an agent of evil, nearly slaying him in his undressed state. The timely appearance of Ebron, however, halts the assassination attempt, and when the creature attempts to flee by transforming into an angel (?), it is slain by their combined efforts, though the creature’s attempts to fly away are interrupted and it is knocked out of the sky and into the nearby paddock housing the hippogriffs, who promptly tear the corpse to pieces and devour it. Later, Nilsa is discovered tied-up and gagged at the back of the stables, and both she and Silverfrond spend a few hours of peaceful repose in the stables together.

1st of Shorn : The group learns of the near assassination of the night before, and ponder who sent the shape-changing creature to slay Silverfrond. Bran gets his new armor adjusted, meets with Master Halia Thornton to discuss the claimancy of the region as his personal fief, and later meets with Daran Elderbreath and Sir Hallwinter to propose the latter become the new realm’s steward. Hallwinter first knights Bran with Talon, giving him a charge to look after the people of the realm first, and obey his personal oaths, and then kneels before him and accepts his offer as steward of the realm.

Meanwhile, Talrich returns to the Alderleaf Farm, and meets with his aunt and Vesta Oakbrow, a feral druid. It becomes apparent that his aunt has chosen the young girl to be his future bride, and the two find their meeting both awkward and forced, before she abruptly leaves and summons a pair of large wolves to ride away on. Char, Moirin, and Silverfrond travel a short distance east to the Deepwaters Steading, hoping to find a person to help train the hippogriffs, but find the locals very argumentative and confrontational. They return to Fardelver still unsure of what to do with the creatures, but arrange for their long-term care and feeding for the time being.

Meeting together that night at the Stonehill Inn, the group discusses their next plans, and consulting the map agree that they should travel to Thundertrees, and sort out Moirin’s personal quest to bring peace to that fallen village. They ready their equipment and other goods, and prepare to leave on the morrow.

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Episode 8 - The Mezuzah of the Eater

“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”

https://youtu.be/INaM813ohL8

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27th of Azura, TR 1050 (Evening) : Wyvern Tor : After a long rest, the characters continue on towards Old Owl Well, with their hippogriff fledglings in tow. They fight an owlbear in the middle of their camp, but make the journey otherwise without event. Eventually reaching the site, Bran and Ebron proceed forward, leaving the rest of the group at the edge of the ruined village.

The pair turn over their heads and receive a very generous payment in platinum, and discuss matters a little regarding Harmon Kost’s activities, though he remains vague, as usual. They part ways, recognizing they cannot attack him for the next day.Relating the incident to the group, Char offers to meet with him as a fellow spellcaster and try to get him to admit more to what he’s searching for. The meeting is pleasant (as these things go), and she learns of his search for a silver “Angel Mirror”, which seems oddly similar to the “Angel Comb” that Fatemaker Garaele had asked the adventurers to keep an eye open for. They part on friendly enough terms, and the group camps in the ruins of the village.

28th of Azura : In the morning, the group agrees Kost represents a presence that is unwelcome in the area, and despite some misgivings, engage his zombies on the outskirts of his camp. The brawl is tough, but a timely cast Turn Undead by Ebron reduces their enemies by more than half, and the group quickly proceeds to Kost’s tent, despite his ghoulish servants, animated orc heads (!) and his ineffectual use of Barak. The group eventually brawls with him in his tent, though the fight is a near thing, eventually wearing down his efforts at charming them to attack each other, and even using his consort Osh to heal himself from her near sacrifice. He was eventually worn down by multiple attacks, though Bran was knocked unconscious, and beheaded.

The group brought Osh and Bran back from the near death, and proceed to salvage Kost’s camp of anything of value, discussing their plans once they return to Fardelver. Among the various treasures, they recover an odd relic in his travel chest, which Bran immediately recognizes and opens to revel its prophecy;

“Out of the Eater, something to Eat; Out of the Strong, something Sweet.”

Unsure of its exact meaning, Bran begins to ponder the fact that there was once a cult of the Lion God in the area, and what that means for him. The group begins a rest in the ruins under the tower, and discuss their options, before retrieving the hippogriffs and explore the ruins around the camp.

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Episode 7 - Wyvern Tor

“But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering, though models are easy to find. Much the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.”JRR Tolkien on Orcish.

https://youtu.be/xhu_MUcy7Gc

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23rd of Azura, TR 1050, Early Morning, Fardelver : Gathering the adventurers together in the early dawn at the Stonehill Inn, Ebron and Bran relate their encounters on the road with hobgoblin scouts, and the strange necromancer Harmon Kost, as well as the deal they struck. The group agrees to resolve the matter together, adn gather supplies while the two tired adventurers get in some rest.

The remaining adventurers gather supplies and inquire after the location known as Wyvern Tor, gaining a basic description on how to find it, located north-east of Fardelver. They also discover that several inaccuracies exist on their present map, and Daran Elderbreath marks the site, as well as various other important landmarks to look for on their journey. Talrich reinforces this information through his aunt, Mistress Quelline Alderleaf, though her knowledge is third-hand and she has never been there herself. Silverfrond and Moirin hash out a few personal details. Char and her goblin servant Droop discuss the philosophy of adventurers and trade; Droop remains surprisingly logical and very ungoblinlike.

24th of Azura : The adventurers head out early, well rested and restocked with food and sundries. They journey north-east, until they find themselves in the foothills near Icespire Peak, without incident. They discover that a pall of smoke, not clouds as previously thought, hangs about the peak even in the face of its high winds. Their camp is cold and in a hidden lee on the north side of the mountain. They do spy a small flock of what might be stirges flying nearby, but they do not spot the party.

25th of Azura : The adventurers quickly spot the peak of Wyvern Tor away to the north-east of them, and follow it without major incident, until they overlook the so-called “Golden Vale”, finding it a pleasant series of graggy dells and meadows tucked away from most everyone’s consideration. They travel down into its depths, following a distant firelight at the base of the Tor itself, and quickly encounter the swath of destruction marking an orcish war band.

With Talrich taking the lead, they scout the fringes of the devastated camp area, and eventually he returns to relate a small camp of a dozen tents with orcs and a small handful of human bandits conferring animatedly. The distant sounds of a war drum (?) and strange screeching is heard from within a walled-off cave near the camp, following a pattern of about ten minutes of ritualized chanting and ten minutes of screeching, over and over again.

Eventually, as they confer about their plans, the horse-equipped bandits leave the camp, heading quickly south-west, back the way the adventurers came, and pass out of the vale. Fearing they mean to attack Fardelver, they write a quick note and give it to Quoth, who grasps it and is ordered to bring it directly to Sir Sildar Hallwinter’s hand to warn of the possible bandit’s approach. Silverfrond quickly misses his constant companion.

When a small group of orcs head north out of the camp and begin hacking down several trees in the area, the adventurers slip around the camp to engage the orcs in a quick battle, discovering them to be of the local Rotting Eye Tribe. Char reveals the insidious nature of her strange tome, the Infinitium Codex, releasing its power of the Flensing Gaze upon the one orc she put to sleep early in the fight, and revealing that she might be in private conversation with the infernal book constantly. As per her previous agreement with the book, Char is rewarded for her efforts with access to the Speak w/ Animals spell which she can cast from the book as a ritual.

Within minutes, the combat attracts the remaining orcs in the camp, but with the first group defeated, the adventurers prepare themselves and draw the orcs to them with ranged fire and defending themselves among the trees. Leading this group is a tall orc wearing strange green armor, and the battle is engaged!

The fight proved difficult, with the brutal leader dealing devastating blows, though the adventurers manage to get in several of their own despite his terrific armor and shield work. Despite the fall of Bran in his defense of the others, the orcs are put to rest, and the battle ends in a few minutes. The bodies are quickly searched and stripped of their weapons, a dozen Orc War Cleavers, with a small collection of spades and axes for simple construction work, and curiously ten (10) coins on every orc warrior, each a coin of Blood Gold. The leader’s armor proves to be Orc Heavy Armor, which Ebron refuses to don, giving the opportunity to claim it to Bran. The orc’s battle axe and shield are of good quality, but otherwise seemingly of no consequence. Ebron takes the heads of all thirteen (13) of the orcs, and tosses them into a sack later taken from the orc camp.

Burying the arms of their conquest in the small woodland for retrieval later, the adventurers head into the camp and search it, finding it abandoned. The tents are crudely made, and only the leader’s contains a handful of poor gemstones, such as rock crystals and other fancy stones worth perhaps 50 gp total. A large store of meat is in stock, hinting at the richness of the local game in the Golden Vale, however.

Entering the barricaded cave, they find a small open area with a cleared sleeping space, and a crude drum made of a hollowed log with heavy padded sticks, covered in bloody runes hinting at its ritualistic value. Ebron quickly destroys the device. Deeper in the cave is a rough pen made from shaped logs that holds eight (8) fledgling hippogriffs.

Using the newly accessed ritual of Speak w/ Animals, Char talks with the creatures finding them amenable to discourse, though their limited intelligence limits them to simple two-or three-word answers and thoughts. Three (3) of the beasts are amenable to talking provided they are fed by the adventurers, while the remaining five (5) are very distrustful of all “two-legs”, though they too are hungry and trail after the adventurers once they leave the cave, having promised they can get fed by them if they do so. The two sides of hippogriffs bicker constantly back and forth, with hunger winning over the five hold-outs, though they do not allow the adventurers to approach too closely.

Now with a gaggle of young hippogriff fledgelings in tow, the adventurers settle in for the night among the orcs camp, realizing that the shaman likely fled after the fight ended in the woods, and will likely send word to his people of the adventurers victory. With a sack of heads to meet their obligation to Harmon Kost, they engage in a long rest, and discuss their plans for the morrow…

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