A Tune To Dance To

Investigations and Codes

After a harrowing trip through the mists, we arrive at our destination; Maplebury. While Alanya looks after the exhausted Cecilia and helps he recover from her exertions, the others walk onto the village. The first port of call is the local inn; The Wolf’s Den. As Branimir goes to open the door, he hears a heated discussion taking place on the other side. “Don’t worry” says a deep voice, “I have sent for help”. A general murmering with a few shouted comments respond to the statement. It seems the people are not happy with whoever trid to calm them down. " Say that to those who have disappeared!", “You don’t know what to do, don’t you!?!”. Branimir leads the others into the inn and interrupts the ‘discussion’. “I have come to help you”. Brnaimir’s voice cuts through the general hubub and pointed exclamations of the unhappy crowd. “See!” exclaims the man with the deep voice, “Help arrives”. The group look around the room at the faces of the locals. They certainly don’t look happy or convinced by Branimir’s offer of help. The man with the voice steps forward and introduces himself as the Mayor of Maplebury. “Come this way sir” says the Mayor, gesticulating at Branimir and the others towards a room. “We’ll have some quiet to talk in”. The crowd follows the adventurers as they file into the indicated location. A small figure drops off a stool and follows them in, closing the door behind her.
The Mayor introduces Persyus, a Gnome mage. She has some interest in the disappeared. He then turns, dismissing her from the conversation. "You’ve heard of the ‘Whisteling Fiend’? Well, several men have disappeared from the village. All at night and all accompanied by a whisteling sound. We have no idea what is going on but believe the men to be dead. “Neither you nor the meddling old woman”, he indicates Persyus behind him, “need to get too involved in this. Its making things harder for those who have lost loved ones. I suggest you do as little as you can get away with and then leave.”
Outside, by the almost derelict Gipsy caravan, Cecilia recovers some streangth and downs a nice strong cup of tea. “I think you could do with a good meal too Cecilia” indicated Alanya. While waiting they see a steady stream of people leave the inn and make their way to various locations around the village. “Let’s go to the tavern and order up a plate of something nice and filling. It’ll get the glow back into your cheeks” says Alanya as she helps Cecilia up to her feet. They make their way to the Wolf’s Den inn and enter to see the others exiting from a back-room.
Branimir and Darry are with the Landlord, asking him questions about a disappeared man. Alanya and Cecilia sit down on the most ‘comfortable’ seats in the inn. “So where was the Candlemaker last time you saw him?” asked Darry. “Over by the fireplace”. The Landlord strides across the floor to point with his foot at an area next to the gently glowing fire. “It’s warm there and many a drunkard has spent a night by my fire. Normally they are still there in the morning when I come down for breakfast and they help to tidy up.”
Alanya asks the Landlord if he is serving food. She gets a rude response from him and basically gets told to sit down and wait as he is dealing with important matters.
While the questioning continues, Alain retires to a corner of the room and chanting quietly, gesticulates and paces around the room. After a few minutes of this, he informs all and sundry that “No magic residue remains here”. Alanya gets up and inspects the area indicated by the Landlord. She finds nothing of interest. Alanya can’t even confirm that anyone was asleep on the floor. Branimir also stoops down and takes a close look at the area. His eagle eyes spot something that Alanya missed. “Hmmmm. Look. Footprints going towards that window over there”. Pointing at the window, the Witch Finder moves there and finds it easy to open. Looking on the outside, he sees footprinds leading away from the window towards the woods. Running outside, we pick up the trail again and notice that several more sets of footprints join the first set. Also, marks indicating a trailed cloak or dress hem half obscure the marks. Arriving at a drier, rocky surface, the trail is lost.
After a quick chat, two go off to locate the local tracker and Red goes off to find Persyus the Gnome. It will be a couple of hours before the tracker comes back to the village. Persyus returns with Red to the location of the footprints. While they were away, Alanya guesses that the owners of the footprints probably weren’t too worried about being followed. She moves from the place the footprints were last seen, towards the woods and finds where the tracks continue into them. Alain talks with Persyus aout the whistleing, the disappearences and brings up the subject of Werewolves.
While waiting for the tracker to turn up, some of the group go to question the Candlemaker’s wife. She is of not much use, but Alain does notice that the men in this village have little regard for their womenfolk. It seems that, though of good character before arriving at Maplebury, they soon fall into abusive and violent ways. It was also noted that only men have disappeared…so far and that their disappearences are accompanied with a strange whisteling sound.
When the tracker arrives; a young man called Thomas barely into his late teens, the group moves into the woods following the trail. After something close to one hour of following the tracker, the group encounters a ravine. It is about 15 feet wide and very deep with sheer walls. Various ideas are put forward to cross it. The most dangerous one is settled on as this is potentially also the fastest way across. We volunteer Thomas to tie a rope about his body and to try to jump across. He’s happy to try but when he does so, he makes an abysmal attempt. Barely 3 feet over the ravine and he falls, swinging on the rope into the face of the sheer side below. Having all held onto the end of the rope, we haul him up and find that Thomas has a broken leg. We set and splint the broken member and decide to abandon our task to get Thomas back to the village and proper medical care.
We change our plans as it is now too late in the day to return to the ravine. We set watch around the village overnight in the hope of spotting the whistleing creature as it takes another victim.
During the night, Alanya is alerted to two men in robes walking out of the woods and towards the inn. At the door, the Landlord emerges and accepting a third robe from the men, dons it and walks off into the wood with them. Alanya runs off to tell Branimir, who also saw the situation taking place. Collecting the group together, the others are told of the happenings and the group move off into the woods, following the general direction of the men.
Keeping far enough behind the cloaked men, they are followed until they get to the ravine. Alanya notices one of the men bend down and fiddle with what looks like a rock at the side of the ravine. Suddenly movement is discerned in the ravine and the group sees a bridge appear. The men cross the bridge which then proceeds to disappear into the gloom. The group waits a few moments to make sure the men have gone and then proceed to the place where thet were standing. Alanya notices a curious rock with several indentations. She’s sure this is what the man was fiddling with before the bridge appeared. She places her fingers into the small hollows on the rock and realises that it’s some kinde of coded lock system. She starts to press the indentations in order…4…3….2….1. Indentations 3 and 4 caused a clicking noise, but no bridge appears. "OK. I think 3 and 4 are part of the code. Let me try 4….3….1…2. All positions click and the rock rotates clockwise. The code is repeated; 4…3…1…2. The rock rotates back anticlockwise. “Hmmmm. There must be further codes after the first one. Let’s see”. 4…3…1…2…rotate clockwise, 2…1…3….4. The rock rotates further clockwise. Still no bridge. Alanya tries 4…3…1…2. again. The rock turns anticlockwise. “Damn!” she exclaims under her breath. 2..1..3…4 and the rock rotates back to its original position. “3rd time lucky” she says quietly. 4…3…1…2 rotate clockwise. 2…1…3…4 rotate clockwise again. 1…2…3…4. The rock again rotated clockwise and a soft noise in the dark behind them indicates that the code has been broken. The bridge reforms and allows the group to cross the ravine. On the other side another stone allows the bridge to dismantle itself, leaving the ravine untouched.
The group move off into the night, roughly in the direction the men took. The trail is picked up and after a short while, the trail seems to follow an old delapidated cobbled road. Alain believes this to be a remnant of a long past empire. The group pass old ruined houses and buildings as they follow the trail until one house ahead is seen to have light at its windows.
The group approach carefully and study the lay of the land. Two cloaked men seem to stand guard at the main door, and light spills from the unshuttered windows of the building. Alain moves off into the dark, gesticulating for the rest of the group to stay put. Everyone waist for about half an hour but Alain does not return. Looking at each other the group decide to put an end to this. As a man, they all stand and move forwards to attack the cloaked senturies. As attacks are made with magic and swords, two other cloaked men emerge from the house and join in the fight. Alanya draws one of the men away from his companions and proceeds to put him out of the combat. Magic missiles and Panther spirits help to subdue and deal death to the other guards.

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The Hounds of Hate!

Having convinced Gardener Michaels to help us, and the others to not interfere, we started to formulate a plan to get Lord Burton-Westcote to the haunted pool in the marshes. Limited violence was the first idea, followed by using some sort of medicinal solution. Alain searches the House for any sign of an infermary, or medicine cupboard but none are found. On asking the Gardener if he was aware of where medicines were stored, he stated that none existed. If someone fell ill or was injured, plants were collected from the swamp and poultices and concotions were made up freshly.
In the end it was decided that Branimir should try to convince the Lord to go voluntarily by using his considerable charm. Before doing so though, Red took hold of Branimir’s hands. She seemed to contemplate for a few moments and then declaired that Branimir would find success in his task.
Branimir visits Lord Burton-Westcote in his office and proceeds to tell him of the haunted pool and the ghost that is present there. This is the source of the problems the Lord and his household have been experiencing. Branimir gived Burton-Westocote three options for removing the melign influence form the area; retrieve and destroy the bones, exorcise the ghost, or the direct presence of the Lord himself. The discussion covers all three options but the final answer is for Lord Burton-Westcote to accompany us to the haunted pool. A rendezvous is set up in the Great Hall at 11pm.
We congregate in the Great Hall at 11pm. Lord Burton-Westcote turns up. He is loaded with a couple of firearms; a flintlock pistol and a flintlock blunderbuss. Using our knowledge of the marshy swamp, we make our way, with the Lord, to the clearing with the haunted pool where we met the ghost of Anne Campbell. When we arrive at the pool, we are surrounded by a mist that thickens into a fog the further from the pool one goes. We wait at the pool, waiting for midnight to strike. As it does so, a strange shape starts to appear in the centre of the pool. The shape starts to grow and we realise that the pool is starting to freeze from the centre out. As the pond freezes, we note that the night gets colder and more uncomfortable. We notice a creature affected by the cold which has fallen out of a tree. It dies as we watch. The mists and fog around us starts to swirl and move around the pool.
Slowly, rising out of the centre of the pool, through the frozen ice, the skeleton of Anne Campbell appears. It goes through the reverse of what it did the last time we saw it. Gradually, the organs and sinews and muscles of the ghostly body appear in place over the skeleton until an image of Anne Campbell is standing there. The reappearance of the ghost seems to unsettle several members of the party.
‘Anne?’. Lord Burton-Westcote moves toward the ghost. They start talking in quiet whispers and move off, away from the party. While watching this, Alain becomes aware that we are not alone. He whispers across to Alanya that ‘We are not alone. The hounds are in the area!’. How he whispers to someone from about 25 feet is a secret he has kept to himself.
Alanya becomes more alert as she searches the fog and mists for evidence of the hounds’ presence. The others also get on their guard, ready for any disturbance. As the group look around, four shapes move out of the fog towards the clearing. These shapes materialise into the bodies of four slavering and gowling hounds. Alain was right, well done friend.
With no further hesitation, the four hounds leap upon the party members, to be followed out of the fog by a large growling hound, much bigger then the others.
The fight starts and the party start off pretty badly. Two members; Branimir and Darry fall to the ground under the weight of the hounds’ attacks. We also notice that the ghost of Anne Campbell also joins in the attack on the side of the hounds. She is, in turn, attacked by Lord Burton-Westcote.
Branimir rises from the ground having been aided by Red to recover from his initial wounds. He in turn helps Darry and together we continue the fight. The large hound howls and as a result the mists and fog start to swirl about us more rapidly. As we trade blow for bite, we all become disorientated as the world unexpectedly shifts around us. We are immediately aware that we have changed position and some of us are now fighting hounds that but a moment ago were fighting other members of the group. Alanya finds herself fighting the Moorhound as we later discover the large hound to be.
Lord Burton-Westcote and Anne Campbell’s ghost continue to fight each other. As they do so, they accuse one another of the terrible acts that took place on the day of their aborted wedding. Anne admits to having killed Burton-Westcote’s brother, and he boasts of having held Anne’s head under the water of the pool and rues that he did not do the job properly.
We continue to fight, some of us with little success, but others are starting to make a difference and are hurting the hounds. The ‘shifting world’ happens a couple of times more during the fight, helping to disorientate the protagonists, though now we are aware that the Moorhound is initiating these occurrences.
During the fight, the ghost of Anne finds itself next to Darry. It reaches forward into Darry’s chest where his heart is and starts to squeeze. This causes Darry to fall to the ground in fearful pain and close to death. The ghost then attempts the same move on Branimir.
While this is going on, other group members kill some of the hounds. As they die, they turn back to the mud and filth they are made of and from their remains, four smaller hounds appear. They seem less substantial than the original hound, as if the power holding them together is weakening.
Branimir, meantime, has the ghost’s hand about his heart and is imminent danger of serious injury and death. He overcomes the pain he is in and having covered his sword with his own blood by running his hand over it, he slashes at the ghost. This is the end of the ghost. Whatever magic Branimir has placed onto his sword it succeeds in overcoming that which holds Anne Campbell to this haunted clearing. The ghost blinks out of existance with a fearful screem.
At this point, Lord Burton-Westcote turns his attention to Alanya and fires his pistol at her and his blunderbuss at the Moorhound, catching another party member as he does so. Shouts ring out. ‘Burton-Westcote!! Attack the hounds, the hounds. They are the manifestation of Anne’s hate. The curse is lifted if they are killed!‘.
The party then start to gain the upper hand. The Moorhound and it’s minions are overcome and as the Moorhound dies, it turns into an evil whirlwind of black smoke dissipating into the mist and fog, never to be seen again.
At the moment of the Moorhound’s death, Lord Buton-Westcote also falls dead to the earth by the now defrosted pool. As we watch, he rapidly goes through the stages of decomposition until no more than a darkened stain remains on the ground. As this happens, the ghost of Anne Campbell reappears and mockingly thanks us for our aid in her revenge on Lord Burton-Westcote. She then winks out of existance leving us to recover in the clearing.
Alanya notices, in the darkness, a small unnatural shape on the ground near to where the ghost was last seen. She picks it up and finds a golden locket in her hand. Opening it up, she can just make out the faded images of a very young Anne Campbell and another slightly older boy. Engraved on the locket are the words ‘For Anne. For ever’.
After having recovered our breath and composure, we make our way back to the House, this time without Lord Burton-Westcote. We spend the some time healing our wounds and while this is going on, Alanya performs a further check on the locket. It reveals that it holds magical properties of protection.
In the morning, we find that a group of Gypsies has made it’s home on the House’s lawn. Michaels is perplexed as they are destroying his hard work. As we approach the camp, a voice calls out to us and beckons us over to one of the caravans. We do so and realise that we already know this caravan and it’s inhabitant. It’s Nana Eva, she whom we encountered many years ago in our infancy when poor William was killed. She offers us tea and congratulates us on our work to lift the curse. She also suggests that, as there are no heirs to Lord Burton-Westocte, we take over the House and use it as a pied a terre, keeping the staff on to look after us.
We look at each other, some a bit disturbed but others seeing the wisdom in her suggestion.

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Sleeping Dogs Lie.

These are notes for when I’m more awake.

  • Brought into the house by the servants entrance, into the kitchen.,
  • Branimir charms the cook into not turfing us out, and letting the grounds keeper off.
  • We get lunch, it doesn’t seem to be lunch, or people.
  • We learn the master of the house goes off into the moor every morning.
  • We learn that he hasn’t aged in at lease 80 years, nosferatu?
  • we learn he’s up and about during the day, and is working in his study, probably not vampyre then.
  • There is a maid, she is young and skittish.
  • There is a butler, he is a harsh taskmaster.
  • We are taken to see his Lordship, he seems to be human and alive. He is the groom however.
  • We convince him of our intentions and he decides to show us something about the hounds at midnight.
  • Alain distracts him while Red and myself case the room.
  • Red spots a plaque over the mantle, which reads “curse transcript goes here”.
  • Yep, he’s tied up in the hounds, which are part of a curse.
  • We rest until midnight.
  • we are summoned to the ballroom, the maid is nervous, the lord is about to show us the hounds.
  • The hounds are ghostly and chase the apparition of what is probably the bride.
  • They are followed by the ‘ghost’ of the groom.
  • He asks us to put the bride to rest.
  • We press him for more information, he provides us with a map he claims to have drawn at the time.
  • Alain steals the book on ghost he saw in the lord’s study, the very one from when we where children.
  • We depart onto the moor.
  • we are guided across the moor by Red’s spirits, including one who come unbidden, Red says this is the lord of death.
  • we find the clearing marked on the map, the bride is there.
  • she says that the groom chased her here and watched her die.
  • she wants him brought to the clearing to resolve the curse.
  • the curse manifests as a black hound which lead the pack to its own savage goals.
  • we return to the house and convince the staff not to interfere in us taking their lord onto the moor, even against his will.
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The Beasts of the Moor...
Excerpt 1 from The Account of Alain van Thrift

Exerpt from the ‘On the Trail of the Whistling Fiend – The Account of Alain van Thrift

I shall never forget that morning, its details and nuances are seared into my mind as bright as the dawn sunlight that thrust about the edges of that old red curtain that hung over my study’s sole window. I was perusing Etherard’s Compendium of Old-Mist Horror’s, which as it turns out, was rather apt. Something small fell out of the book and fluttered to the floor. The deep, rich colours of the oil paint caught my eye and recognition of what it was overcame me before I had even turned to look upon it. As I picked it up and turned it around in my hands, I was, of course, looking upon a card from a familiar tarot deck. The 10 of Stars. Slight cracks in that old paint were the only thing that could give away its age; it was oddly pristine. As if it hadn’t aged a day. It was exactly as it had been when I was a child.

Yet, I was not surprised. It was a moment I had long expected, at times dreaded, but in that instant I simply accepted it with a strange serenity. The culmination of the all ordeals I had endured, the lessons I had learnt and the skills (indeed, magyks), I had mastered.

I placed the book carefully down upon my dresser, leaving it open upon the page the old tarot card had fallen from. I glanced at the page (it recounted the tale of the Phantom-Dog of Gespenthund, the significance of which was lost on my young self in his youthful naïveté. In hindsight, of course, the connotations are obvious), stood up, took my cloak, spell-book (in those days it was mostly blank parchment!) and travelling satchel. With barely a glance around the room which I had spent the vast majority of my waking moments the last 10 or so years (and to which, I am sorry to say, I never returned), I walked through the threshold and strode-swiftly to the courtyard.

I was a little taken aback by what I saw there, although of course I took pains to make sure this fact was concealed. Twas simply a cart, albeit one ordained with attractive intricate carvings (of crows, perhaps ravens although ornithology is not a speciality of mine, flying over the roof of some grand building). I suppose I was expecting something a little more grandiose, considering the import I weighted upon the moment, recognising it as a turning point in my life, such as it had been up until that point. But life is never as one expects or imagines and the colourful and ornate carriage that would whisk me away on my adventurous venture would never arrive. (I learnt later never to judge a vardo by its cover, if you’ll excuse the brutalised metaphor, as they come in many shapes and indeed, sizes)

The young vistani man simply nodded to me as I climbed aboard. I was unsure what to say, somewhat lost for words by the enormity of the occasion and we sat in silence as he took me through the mists. As is often the case with such journeys it became impossible to track the passage of time and I can say neither whether we journeyed for hours or minutes. I could not even tell you which it appeared to me to be. The odd dilation of time is symptomatic of the strange magics of the vistani and is worthy of a tome of its own. And so I sat in quiet contemplation of what might await me at the end of my strange misty journey – it was as the others, thick white mist without – although in this case nearly unique in that my ‘carriage’ appeared open topped. Despite that fact not a single tendril encroached further than the bullwark my driver had doubtless created. I began to daydream of what I might find. Perhaps an old castle, standing forboding over a downtrodden and desolate village? It would be raining, with rumbles of distant thunder. The villagers would run up to me as I dismounted my coach, pleading for salvation from the darkness.

My theatrical imaginings were cut short as the mists cleared and I noted our passage through the main street of Mordentshire. It came to a slow stop outside The Beached Mermaid

Lester will finish soon

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Prelude
The First Card Turned...

The thick mist billowed around the Vistani vardo. A soft breeze caused the charms and chimes hanging from the wagon’s roof the tinkle and ring. The smoke muffled the voices of the men who hurriedly packed away the camp. Their movements were practised, precise. They’d moved camp a hundred times before and would a hundred times hence. The gypsies were constantly moving, roaming the lands trading in furs, fortunes and entertainment.

But this was no ordinary caravan. This caravan was lead by the ancient Raunie Madame Eva. Eva was rumoured to be as old as time, as wise as the moon and as intelligent as all the scholars in the land. She was a small, hunched woman with a face like old parchment. Around her head she wore a simple black head-scarf, and her clothes were a warm, thick blouse and a black, heavy, woolen skirt. Her fingers were adorned with golden rings filled with stones of every colour.

Her thin mouth was drawn in a tight frown, her dark, brown eyes narrowed as she stared at the tarokka cards that were lain out in front of her; four cards in a simple cross. It was one of the simplest readings the deck could show, but it was also one of Eva’s favourites. When she was in a jovial mood, she’d joke that it was the first reading she was taught by her Oma, many years into the future.

Tonight, however, she was far from the happy stories and pleasant games around the campfire. The night was heavy, the sky black. A small bird, a vista-chiri chirruped happily in its cage. “Hush, hush now, Feeshka,” Madame Eva said, throwing a handful of seed into the cage, “Tonight is no night for song. There is a pall over the land. The cards scream it to me.”

Eva gently touched each card with a long, bony finger. She touched the centre card of the cross, “The Innocent sits at the centre of the reading, but they are reversed. Great potential is hidden, my little one, hidden deep in the hearts of those still pure. They are the focus, the calling of Fate brings them to my eye.”

She moved her hand and stroked the card to the left of The Innocent. “The Six of Coins, The Beggar. He too is reversed. Terrible ruin lies in the past of these innocents. Something is going to happen to them. I see blood, terror, death. I see them falling to a horrifying fate. Something for which they, no not them, everyone in their lives, they all will lose.”

Her finger shifted to the card above The Innocent. “Ah, The Mists, one of my favourite cards, but don’t tell anyone, Feeshka. How can a fortune-teller remain impartial if she has favourite cards in her deck?” Eva chuckled, a dry, raspy chuckle that carried much mirth. “But The Mists are ever changing, and who can predict the changing of the Mists more than a Vistani, eh? Here they show that our innocents future is not set in stone. They are to take an unexpected journey, and if their Nana Eva is going to help them, so much the better, eh?”

The little bird let out a cheep, a sound almost like laughter. “What, Feeshka? You accuse me of cheating fate? My little one, who am I to cheat fate?”

Eva was still chuckling when her finger moved to the card to the right of The Innocent. Her laughter stopped and her face became deadly serious. “The Ace of Swords, The Avenger, reversed. Oh, my little one, such a card is never a happy one. I see a battle in our innocent’s future. They will take on a foe of great power, and their battle will be one in vein. They will not be equipped to deal with this foe.” Eva reached out with her other hand and stroked a crystal ball placed in the centre of the small table she was performing her reading on. The glass clouded under her fingertips and cleared as soon as she took her fingers away, “I hear it, I hear it calling, whispering… no not whispering. I hear the future, I hear what comes and it sounds…cheerful?”

Eva shook and pulled her hand from the orb. “It is a deadly, evil foe. Something unheard of even in these lands.”

She looked at the last card, the card that would determine the outcome for her innocents. Her heart broke, “The Six of Glyphs, The Anarchist. Entropy, decay, destruction. The annihilation of our innocents. They are to die and be swallowed by the evil that plagues them. There is nothing I can do, Feeshka, nothing.”

Eva sat in the musty, dark vardo, looking at the cards. The single candle she had lit sputtered and spat. Reaching deep into the cushions she sat on, Eva pulled out a long pipe. She filled it with tobacco from a pouch and lit it with the candle. Feeshka sat in its cage, looking at its mistress with anticipation.

After what could have been hours, Eva reached forward and picked up the last of her deck. She looked at each card, studying it intently. She flipped them in her hands, scrutinising her readings and then her cards. Eventually she settled on one of the cards. She place the rest back on the table and, with a theatrical flourish she could not help but perform, she placed the new card over the Six of Glyphs.

“There, a much better reading,” she said to herself. In his cage, Feeshka chirruped and sang. Eva grinned and threw another handful of seed into the cage. “My little Feeshka, who is to know what the future holds? Not silly me with my tarokka. I am only an old woman, pay me no mind.”

With another chuckle, Eva pulled a blanket over herself. She put her pipe away and blew out the candle, “I can not change the outcome,” she said to herself, “But it does not mean they can’t.”

The wind outside the vardo picked up. The mists blew against the wagon. Inside, the fortune-teller ignored it, and fell asleep.

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