Completed Made to Last

Holiday Challenge. Little Rohka questions her great grandmother.

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

Made to Last

Postby Rohka on December 28th, 2020, 4:22 am

73rd of Spring, 506 AV

“Do stones last longer than wood?”

Little Rohka asked her great grandmother a question she’d been holding since picking up several little pebbles by the shore. The waves gently lapped at the dirt while she sat upon the grassy ground, two stones in hand, her hair in two braids that she’d slept in the night before and hadn’t taken apart. The morning rays of sun were beginning to form dew on every blade, and Rohka kept her eyes on the ground as she listened for an answer.

Leonara continued to carve away at the cedar log before her. She was sitting down as well, legs crossed, her own hair tightly braided with every single silver strand locked in place with an oil she made herself. The call of a bird signalling food carried through the wind, and Leonara Calico looked up from her work to see the child looking up at her. The innocence in the face she saw made her own heart aware of the time they were now able to spend, as she knew her own time was short in this world. It made her smile. The girl's question was fair, of course, but she was certain that the answer wouldn't satisfy the curiosity in a way that Rohka had probably hoped for.

"It depends on the type of stone and the type of wood, Rowboat," said the Calico woman, invoking the nickname that she'd given the child when she was born. "There are soft stones and there are hard stones. There are trees with wood that can last for a season and there are trees with wood that can last for a lifetime. Our own lumber is known to last for many lifetimes. You could almost say that it's magic." Leonara winked, knowing that the mention of magic would spin the wheels in Rohka's mind.

The ten-year-old child stood up slowly, smiling. "Magic?" she asked, still holding the two pebbles. "But Gran, why does it take magic for something to last for a long time?"

Leonara took in a breath and used her chisel to begin an arc in the log. She answered as she continued to draw out the design she was working to complete this morning.

"Time is never really on our side. It's better that you understand that sooner than later, my child. We are mortal beings, which means that you and I live in bodies that don't last forever. But trees and stones are different. The stones you hold in your hand were most likely formed out of the heat and pressure deep under the ground from so many years before you were born. And the trees with the large tree trunks? Have you ever looked at a tree stump, Rohka? There are rings within rings on them, have you noticed that? You can see them here too, in the carving. The light wood, and the dark wood," said Leonara, pointing out the lines with her finger.

The girl nodded, her head slightly tilted as she tried to put the pieces of logic together.

"These are growth rings. The wood is light here because it grew quickly during the spring and summer. It's dark here because it grew slowly in the winter. This log will not grow anymore, Rowboat. Unlike you and I right now, this is a dead tree." She paused when she saw the beginnings of a frown on her great granddaughter's face. She motioned for the girl to come closer. Rohka walked over and placed the palm-sized pebbles on top of the log.

"This tree won't grow anymore, but it will last for as long as we choose to let it last. I chose to make it into something that I see in it. I also choose to protect it from burning or rotting for as long as I work with it. For as long as I am alive, I use every ounce of my being to protect our trees, Rowboat. That is the only magic I use."
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Made to Last

Postby Rohka on December 28th, 2020, 4:24 am

"Then who protects the stones?" asked Rohka, gripping her pebbles close to her chest. "Wood comes from trees, but do stones come from underground?"

At this question, Leonara couldn't help but laugh. "Well, I never," she said, as her laughter subsided. "You can protect the stones if you like. I don't think they need protection, though. Stones do not grow, I think. I don't know enough about where stones come from," she said, pondering deeply. The old woman took a moment to smooth over the last etch that she made, pushing off the wood chips, letting them fall to the grass below. Her eyes twinkled before she closed them, listening to her heart as her fingers traced over the newly made arch. "I remember a man from my youth," said Leonara, her eyes still closed. "He was from Zeltiva. He spoke of mountains, and something called a quarry. We bonded over our art. He carved stone, that man," she said, her eyes fluttering open with a hint of a smirk on her lips. Leonara then grinned at the girl who was now placing a pebble on top of the other, attempting to balance it.

"Stone carvings?" asked Rohka, her eyes widening.

"Yes, I was surprised too," said the Calico woman. "I think I wanted to impress him, at the time. I told him about a cave I knew, on our shore. We went there together." She began to laugh. "Long story short, that man became your great grandfather."

Rohka laughed along with her, excited to hear more. "Great Granpapa used to carve stones?"

Leonara nodded. "You know, I can take you to the cave, if you like. I haven't been back there in a long time. You and I will need to head home and get properly dressed though, if you decide to come with me. What do you say, Roh?"

The girl was ecstatic. It sounded like an adventure she never expected. She agreed to go, wholeheartedly.

"Okay perfect. We'll go in the afternoon, after I finish a portion of this piece."

"Can I help you, Gran?"

"Of course you can. Hand me that tool, with the thick handle."

Rohka grabbed the sharp, double edged carving knife and gripped the handle.

"That one is little too big for your hands, Rowboat, but I can still show you how to work with it. If you are serious about helping me, I can have a couple tools made for you. The handle must fit your hand so that it counterbalances any of your gripping limitations. It will be simple for me to order a maker from the Company to assess you."

Rohka was entirely willing to help.

"Alright. Pay close attention. Matter of fact, you can help me with this design that I'm thinking of creating on this log here. Close your eyes and tell me what you picture when you think of the first animal your heart desires to commune towards understanding in full detail."

Rohka closed her eyes. Her mind wandered to the sky she'd seen this morning, getting brighter as each chime passed by. She'd seen a flock of birds flying up above.

"Birds, Gran." she said.
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Made to Last

Postby Rohka on December 28th, 2020, 4:25 am

"Good. Any bird in particular?"

Rohka began to picture the birds she remembered. Their colours, their feathers, and even some of the beaks she'd seen before. None called up a clear image in her mind.

"I'm not sure. I don't know how to know."

At this, Leonara hummed. This was common. The girl was young, so it would take a bit of guidance to see the creature in her heart with care.

"Ask yourself what bird you need to talk to the most. What bird do you want to befriend?"

Rohka began to think. The world seemed to grow quieter around her. A blankness remained, but she continued to hold the question and allowed her mind to wander.

She saw what she imagined to be mountains, and something white at the peaks, something she could only assume to be snow. She saw large wingspans, and a sound that resonated in her heart, bringing a heat into the lower half of her body. Leonara could sense what was happening.

"That's good. You'll see it soon, my child."

Rohka saw a different form of tree now, and so many of them, with needle-like points. The winged creature was perched upon a branch, a bright coldness blowing through the wings.

"It's a bird from a wintery place, Gran," said Roh, her eyes still closed. "It's really big." It took her another moment to recognize the shape of it.

"It's an owl."

"Wonderful," said Leonara, her face beaming. "Come use this piece of charcoal, draw out the eyes of your owl. A big circle for the iris, a littler one for the pupil. We'll plan for wings on this one."

"But Gran, what are you making?" asked Rohka as she picked up the piece of charcoal. As instructed, she drew out two large circles, slightly unevenly, and smaller ones inside. She then drew a 'V' shape between the eyes for the beak. Leonara nodded, approvingly.

"This will become a totem pole. A record of our history. It's a bit more than that, but you will learn about it as you grow older, my child." Leonara placed the carving knife in Rohka's hands and helped to guide her with making the first mark into the wood of the pole. The girl began to see the pattern and picked up on it, using her own force to dig a little deeper into the grain. Slowly but surely, the indentations formed for the design of what was becoming the head of the pole. Leonara was at once so proud of her great grandchild. She knew right then and there that the girl was beginning to grow a certain form of potential within her. This was not an art that was simply about the natural world.

There was a supernatural element to the process. A fruition that needed to be birthed over time.
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Made to Last

Postby Rohka on December 28th, 2020, 4:26 am

Leonara made sure that she had all the necessary equipment to make the trek towards the cave she mentioned to Roh. The location was meant to be a secret, and the old woman prayed to the Gods that the child would keep it that way. The two of them wore fitted boots and clothing that covered their skin, to protect themselves from overgrown foliage of the possibly poisonous type.

“Remember Roh, the kit you carry in your pack is mostly for emergency purposes only. This will only take a couple bells to arrive at the site, and we should most likely be home before dark. Is your waterskin filled?”

Rohka nodded.

“Perfect. I’m bringing along some rope I made here. Braided the fibres from the inner bark of a cedar tree. There’s a little bit of climbing involved to get to the cave, so I want to be sure that we have what we need to stay safe.”

The girl was excited to get going. Her pack was slung behind her shoulders along with a small bow and a handful of arrows. Gran had mentioned that they may do a bit of hunting for fun, if time allowed. They packed some preserved food, just in case. Strapped to her belt was also a knife made of deer bone. Gran noticed it and smiled.

“I didn’t know you had that, Rowboat,” she said, pointing to the weapon. “It won’t do much other than puncture. I don’t think you’ll need it.”

Rohka frowned.

“Fine,” said the old woman, laughing. “Every bit of weight counts, alright?”

Once they'd secured their belongings, they began to set off into the wilderness of the Lakeshore. Walking among the trees with her great Grandmother was not exactly new to the little Calico girl. Leonara had been known to take her grand daughters on trips with her into the woods. Having no daughters of her own, the old Calico had been determined to raise the women in her family with the strengths required to survive independently. The two of them passed by familiar territory as they continued to walk along the travelled paths. The terrain was fairly even, and the air was warm, which was natural for the afternoon of a late spring day.

"Gran," said Roh, slightly jogging as her great grandmother had picked up her pace. Rohka pushed herself to keep up. She figured asking her Gran a question might help keep her mind off of the tiredness that was beginning to creep in.

"What was Great Granpa like?"

"Oh, well, he was a good man," said Leonara, scratching her brow as she thought about what to say. The terrain was more uneven now, and it seemed they were heading down a slope of sorts. She pulled her own slashing knife out and made a swinging whack against a branch in their path. "A brave man, too," she said, putting the knife back into the loop on her belt.

"He taught me a lot since he came here. He taught me about my own family, and about the complexities of living life here in Ravok compared to what it would've been like to live in Zeltiva. He was proud of me. He wanted to help me continue to build the company because he believed in our vision. He really believed in me. Zendal was the true love and light of my life."

Rohka continued to listen as she went on, following in her great grandmother's footsteps. Every once in a while though, the girl stopped to pick up a tiny rock that caught her eye, and would put it into her pocket. It was also a bit like taking a break. She saw a little pebble with sparkles in it so she leaned down to take a closer look.

"You should be asking the stone if it wants to come with you," said Leonara with a smile. "That's something Zendal taught me. If you listen to it, you might find that it wishes to be left alone. I make sure to listen to the trees I fell, you know. There are some that are adamant about continuing to grow and spread its roots, its seeds, even just its scent. Some of them are quite funny about it."

Rohka never considered listening to the rocks before. She found it to be an odd thing to think about when touching and feeling something that isn't really able to talk. Leonara paused as she watched the child turning the stone in her hands.

"Just feel. Take a few breaths, meditate on it. You will know. Pick up another one too, if you want to compare."

The girl did as she was told, picking up another dark grey coloured pebble. She breathed in and out, feeling for the mysterious answer. Something in her imagination felt strange, like it was foreign in a way to attempt such a form of communication. She dropped the stone with sparkles, and looked at another, bigger pebble off to the side. It was smoother, in a light grey shade. She picked it up and felt it along with the darker grey one, feeling for a difference. Leonara watched her silently. After a few more ticks, she dropped the light grey one.

"This one wants to come," said Rohka. "It has edges, see?" She pointed to the rough shape of the darker stone, rubbing a sliver of glassy texture.

"I see it. Doesn't look like the weather eroded it as much as the other ones around here. We'll need to find you an expert on these rocks, if you're so curious. If your great grandfather was alive, I'm sure he would've shared his knowledge with you. The man was quite the expert in geology. He used to help his uncle run the mines in Zeltiva."

Rohka stood back up and continued to walk along the trail. "Gran, why did he come to Ravok?"
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Made to Last

Postby Rohka on December 28th, 2020, 4:28 am

This was a question she was expecting to be asked, and the old woman slowed her pace down a bit to help answer. They were almost at the site they were looking for, and were nearing the section of territory that would need them to start climbing down a bit. Leonara noticed a couple stumps of trees in the distance and walked towards it, figuring that they deserved a bit of a resting stop before continuing onwards.

"Rohka," she began, her tone more serious than it had been all day. "Let's sit down over here." They both reached the stumps and set their packs down. Rohka took out some fruit preserves and started to munch on it.

"I'll tell you a bit of a story," said Leonara, as she took a swig from her waterskin.

"Your great grandfather Zendal was the son of a Gracey family daughter. The Gracey family had its roots in many places across Zeltiva, and they were known to be the 'old money' sort of people. Why? See, the Gracey Family earned their status and wealth through building their Shipping Company. Do you know why shipping is important, Rowboat? Shipping allows you to do business with other cities in Mizahar. Shipping is what helps you move goods from one place to another. The Gracey Shipping Company earned their reputation for being among the fastest for moving imports and exports between the cities that they served.

"Zendal was a man of many strengths, but what perplexed him most of all was the process of healing. He'd seen a lot of injuries in his time in Zeltiva, especially when he worked in the mines. He'd seen both sailors and captains alike falling ill to mysterious forms of sickness. It seemed he'd developed an almost uncanny form of empathy towards them. He'd yearned to help, so he'd studied the art and science of herbal medicines and shadowed surgeons at the Healing Centre whenever he got the chance. The Goddess Rak'keli saw this in him, I suppose. Zendal never told me this story in detail, but I think it had something to do with the death of his mother. Rak'keli granted him with her healing gnosis, marking him with winged serpants on both his palms along with a lesson about the necessity of death. Your great grandfather grew a desire to find more answers to divinity's processes.

"The Gracey family were not really known to be of the pious sort. I think they had an affinity for Xyna though, the goddess of trade and money. While his family may not have worshipped any god or goddess in particular, Zendal began his own quest to uncover the secrets that the divine held for what he called 'soul healing'. I still have a hard time understanding what he meant by it, but I think I've gotten better at grokking the concept. The first clue in his quest came from a conversation while he was drunk, apparently. Zendal told me that he was at a tavern once, and he'd heard a story about a crazy woman named Tasha. You see, Tasha was my great grandmother. She's the one who founded the Calico Lumber Company, here in Ravok. She was born in Zeltiva, and as a matter of fact, her father worked for the Gracey family as a sailor. Tasha was known to accuse the Gracey family of murdering her father. No one really believed her. Her father died when Tasha was about your age, and people were telling her that he died from an illness while he was at sea."

Rohka's eyebrows were so furrowed that they looked like they were sewn together. Leonara began to laugh.

"Oh lord, have I confused you? I'm sorry Rowboat. You asked me why your Great Granpa came to Ravok, right? The simple answer was that he wanted to follow the threads of history. He wanted to become the best healer of souls. When he heard Tasha's story and about the nefarious deeds that she and her sisters committed in Zeltiva, he said he became curious. It was his family that the woman had accused, after all. Zendal managed to put pieces together somehow and arranged for a trip to Ravok. He apologized to my family on behalf of the Gracey family."

"He apologized? Why did Great Granpa's family murder Tasha's father?"

At this, Leonara smirked. Rohka didn't bat an eye at hearing about Tasha Calico's potential crimes, and instead was more concerned about the potential murder. This was probably Vida's trait in her.

"Don't assume so quickly, my child. I said that your Great Granpa apologized. I didn't say why. I also didn't say that our family offered forgiveness. Come, let's finish our snack and get going. I'll tell you more about it when we arrive at the cave."

They got up once again to continue their trek through the woods.
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Made to Last

Postby Rohka on December 28th, 2020, 4:31 am

It was time to climb downwards. Leonara explained that she would tie a rope to a tree to help them climb back up when they were done exploring the cave. This was apparently a shortcut, as the long way back up would take another bell of walking.

"Look for the right footholds. I'll go first and I'll watch you. It's not a long way down, I promise. Be careful, though. Ready?"

Rohka studied the rope as her great grandmother took hold of it and descended over the edge of the terrain. Her hands gripped the bound fibres and deftly made it to the ground below. Chunks of dirt fell below as well, and Rohka became nervous. She reached for the rope that was tightly secured to the base of a tree and walked forward to the edge.

"That's it. Hold on tight and do what I did."

The encouragement helped give her confidence. She closed her eyes, took in a deep breath, and focused herself on the task. She breathed out, her mind more stilled than it was earlier. It would take attention to find the footholds. Rohka opened her eyes and began to climb down, her arms straining as she held onto the rope. Every step was measured, and it seemed to take forever to find a secure way to place her foot on the ledges. There, on the far side, she noticed what seemed like a smaller piece of dirt, but she figured she was close enough to the ground that it would be fine.

She went to step down, and the ledge gave way. Rohka let out a shriek and held onto the rope with both hands, now dangling freely with her eyes closed shut in panic.

"It's okay, Rowboat," said Leonara. "You can jump down now if you want."

The girl opened her eyes and saw that she was, in fact, no more than a few feet off the ground now.

She jumped.

"Perfect. Now look, over there. Do you see it?"

In the distance was a very large mound of dirt and rock, covered in a deep green moss and overlain with fallen logs. There, in the middle of the mound, was a dark opening that seemed to be as tall as an average human. Sunbeams filtered through the trees and lit bit and pieces of the moss and the logs with light. The opening, however, looked like it would swallow any ounce of brightness that dared to go near it. Rohka was afraid that the cave was somehow occupied. What if there was a monster in there?

"Are you readying yourself for a fight, Rowboat?"

The girl noticed that her hand had gone to hold onto the handle of her bone knife. She smiled, sheepishly.

"I'll protect you, Gran," said Rohka, her voice low.

"You're a sweetheart. Stay close, alright? There should hopefully be zero animals inside. I don't see tracks around here," Leonara pulled out an arrow and readied her bow. "But we'll keep watch as we go in. Come with me."
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Made to Last

Postby Rohka on December 28th, 2020, 4:33 am

Leonara took out a simple candle-lit lantern, used her flint and steel to set it afire. The light allowed them to see better in the darkness of the entrance. As they walked inside, Rohka noticed the walls of a a dark, almost black rock. It was like nothing she'd ever seen before. After a few more distracted steps, she bumped into Leonara's back.

"Whoa there, child. Keep your eyes ahead, alright? I need your help," said the old woman, pointing in front of herself. There before them, was a pile of stones and logs and dead plants all stacked on top of each other.

"This was Zendal's idea. To keep the animals out. Help me move them, will you? We'll need to put them back afterwards. We'll just remove enough to squeeze through."

Rohka picked up the first log and heaved it up. Leonara grabbed the other side. The moved it over to the edge of the cave wall. Rohka pulled again on another stone, causing a cascading effect as the debris fell down. She wiped the sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand and helped her great grandmother remove more of the barrier. A small entrance was created, finally, after a few more chimes of work.

"Alright Rowboat, slide through here after me. I'll reach my hand out for you."

The girl watched Leonara slip through with ease. She saw her hand and held on, leaning her back against the wall of the cave and scooting her body around the broken barrier. When she came to the other side at last, she heard her great grandmother squeal with delight.

"We made it," she said, her voice high and excited. "Look around."

The walls were covered in charcoal drawings and sketches. Something glowed on the ceilings, giving the area a light green luminescence. Off to the side was something that looked like a clear, dark pool of water, and in the middle of the water were large, black, smooth, stone sculptures. In the near middle, there were rugs and pillows of various colours. There were so many plain wax candles as well, half burned. She watched as Leonara began to light a few of them. She then grabbed a broom of sorta and began to clean away the cobwebs and dust.

"I missed this place, Rohka. It's not the same, without your great grandfather."

She wasn't really sure what she was looking at. The girl walked towards the pool with the sculptures in the middle.

"Zendal made all of those," she said, her face beaming manically in the candlelight.

They were figures. She could see them now. Each figure was beautifully sculpted in a form that looked almost real enough to touch. The stone was pitch black. She turned back to look at her great grandmother and saw that she was now seated upon a pillow, legs crossed, eyes closed, holding prayer beads in her hands.

"Wash your hands in the water, my child. Bring me some as well. It will cleanse us of any negativity we may have brought in with us."

Rohka did as she was told. Leonara wiped her face with the water as well.

"Thank you, love," her eyes were still closed as she mumbled something under her breath. Rohka assumed it was a prayer of sorts.

The girl looked at the walls again, noticing the various animals, stick figures, trees, and words she couldn't read.

"What language is that, Gran?"

"The ancient tongue. Language of the early humans who colonized Mizahar, many milennia ago."

"Did you write this, Gran?"

"No," she replied, her eyes still closed. "I drew a few things though, with Zendal's help. He was my guide. His soul was my guide." Leonara opened her eyes again, looking straight into her great granddaughter's deep, brown orbs.

"This cave became my home away from home, Rowboat. With Zendal gone now, this cave is no longer what it once was. The magic I felt in here, when he was here, it's not as strong anymore. He carved those, my child, as a proxy to learn the art and history of the divine cycle of rebirth. He and I practiced meditation here, with the goal of accessing our soulcore. You should know, Rohka, that there are only two known ways to break the cycle of reincarnation. One is to be claimed by a god, and the other is to become a god. Most try their hardest to be claimed. That's exactly what Zendal did. He wanted to prove to Rak'keli that he could learn to heal not only the wounds and traumas of the body, but also the deepest wounds and traumas of the soul. He used these sculptures to do just that. See that one over there?" Leonara pointed to one of the sculptures. Rohka walked towards it as she listened. She could begin to see the resemblance now.

"That's me. Zendal made my form in stone. He also wondered about the soulcores of the Gods and Goddesses. He made a sculpture of the God of Truth as well. He says the God came to him in a dream. He didn't know his name. The God told him that in order to fulfill his dream, Zendal needed to learn many truths. And do you see the figure over there? We needed to ensure that our lord was properly worshipped as well, so Zendal created a sculpture for Rhysol as well. And right over there, that one is Vida. He made that one when she was pregnant with you." Leonara paused here, to allow it all to settle in the girl's mind.

There were at least ten sculptures in the middle of the clear pool of water. Rohka was entranced. She waded into the pool. It was shallow, going up to her knees, and she heard no objection from her great grandmother. She continued to walk towards the sculpture, her hands still wet. The sculptures were giant in Rohka's eyes. She moved in and laid her palm on the sculpture of the God of Truth.

Suddenly, she felt herself transported to an unknown space. It was dreamy, murky, unclear, but a man stood before her.

"Listen closely, Rohka. I am Zendal. You must learn my story. You will leave Ravok and you will be sick. Heal as quickly as you can. We need you. Learn the truth of your existence and then learn to leave the cycle of reincarnation."

Rohka removed her palm. The stoned cracked.

Stunned and in a daze, the girl fainted.
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Made to Last

Postby Rohka on December 28th, 2020, 4:36 am

Rohka awoke in her great grandmother's lap, rocking her back and forth.

"Shh, it's okay. You activated something. Whatever you saw was yours to see. He talked to you, didn't he?"

The girl nodded.

"As Vida's child, you must learn the art of fortune telling. Some day, your cards will tell you more of what you need to know. The history of our peoples is vast, my child. Look around you." Leonara gently pushed the girl to sit up.

Rohka climbed out of her great grandmother's lap and walked closer to the walls.

"Someday, I will tell you more about our history, from the little I've gathered from learning about it here. You'll need to learn of Alahea and of Suva. Many will try to convince you of their greatness. Learn, my child, that our line descends from the Suvan Empire. There are wrongs to be righted. This has been an ongoing struggle for so many generations. The stones you see in here, and the wood that makes up this city are both symbols of what we continue to give to the gods in faith that our voices are heard. You asked what lasts longer, Rowboat? Perhaps it is neither the stone nor the wood. Perhaps it was always the will we impose upon it. Our kind has survived for so long upon Mizahar, haven't we?

Let us pray now."

Rohka sat beside her grandmother and held her palms together in prayer.

"What are we praying for, Gran?"

After a long pause, the old woman gave her answer.

"Peace between the divine."

_____

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