Coldstone Chronicles: The Fall of the Nervii: Stormclouds (redux)

Hey all. Those of you who've been around for a while (and those who've bothered to read the entire chronicles archives) may recall reading a story written and posted by me two years ago entitled 'The Fall of the Nervii.' It was an eighteen thousand word piece that I'd written for my final school year 4 Unit English major project, and as such I decided to post it here for all to marvel at. 🙂

At any rate, for the past year or so I've been toying with the idea of rewriting the story, possibly in preparation for publishing. I've written a first redraft of the prologue, entitled Stormclouds, which I've decided to share with you all. For the interested, the original version of this segment is still viewable (url="http://"http://www.ambrosiasw.com/webboard/Forum49/HTML/000006.html")here(/url).

Enjoy!

-Andiyar

Stormclouds

Forks of light stabbed downwards, illuminating the sky in eerie relief before fading away into darkness, echoing booms of thunder crashing through the air. Rain sheeted down, freezing cold water washing over the ground, chilling the feet of the man standing guard. Rivulets ran down his shoulders, chilling the metal of his arm guards and breastplate, before running down to his hands and sliding along the shaft of his spear, soaking into the earth.

“At least,” he thought to himself, “Atrius is as miserable as I am.” He glanced across at Atrius, standing ramrod straight in the night, then chuckled briefly and turned back to his post.

Light flared in a nearby tent, and the flap rustled, lifted, and fell back into the darkness. The soldier watched, silently, as a man made his way through the rain towards him. As the man made as if to enter the tent, he held his spear in front of the entrance, noting that Atrius has also blocked the entry with his weapon.

“Who comes here, this night?” the soldier asked brusquely. The man in front of him appeared to have officers’ epaulets upon his shoulders, but the general had expressed his wish to not be disturbed.

“It is I, Marcus Brutus,” the man replied, lifting the hood of his oiled cloak and holding up his lantern to reveal his face. “I wish to speak with Caesar.”

The legionnaire moved his spear aside, and nodded at Atrius, who also shifted his spear. “Enter, sir. The general is expecting you.”

Brutus nodded. “What is your name, soldier?”

“Gracus, sir.”

“Very well, Gracus. I shall commend you to the general for your vigilance.” Brutus reached forward, and lifted up the tent flap, then entered, leaving it to fall behind him. Gracus raised a quizzical eyebrow at Atrius, who shrugged in return. Gracus grinned, then returned to staring at the night.

“Bloody officers,” he thought. “Never can pick ‘em.”


Brutus stepped forward, then bowed from the waist, fist clenched against his chest in salute.

“My general,” he said, “I have come as you commanded.”

“At ease, my friend,” he heard the quiet voice, and he lifted his eyes to look upon one of the greatest generals in the history of Rome. He was sitting at a small folding desk covered with papers, candles burning in pillared stands. Dark wings of hair with hints of grey framed a weathered face, with dark eyes that missed nothing.

“I expect you are wondering why you were summoned here, tonight, in such foul weather.” Caesar stated, pushing back his chair, and stretching slowly, before moving across to an ornate stand, upon which several goblets stood, as well as a decanter of wine. He poured two goblets out carefully, and then carried one across to Brutus.

“I had wondered, general,” Brutus replied, taking the goblet and sniffing the bouquet. A rich, pleasant aroma wafted through his nostrils, and smiling, he took a mouthful of the wine, savouring it before swallowing. “Excellent wine, if I may be so bold, sir.”

Caesar looked amused. “Of course, Brutus. Just because we are on the march does not require us to sink to a level of total barbarism. And please, dispense with the formality. We’ve known each other for far too long to stand upon ceremony.” He motioned to a chair in front of his desk, then returned to his own seat, and sampled the wine, watching Brutus over the rim of the goblet.

Brutus took his seat in front of Caesar’s desk, and drank more wine, watching the general silently. Eventually Caesar laughed, then placed his goblet on the table, and started shuffling through the papers on his desk.

“Enough games then, my friend. As you are well aware, the tribes in the north of Gaul have been rather troublesome of late. They have recently uprisen against our Roman authority, and have overrun several of the border forts along their region.”

Brutus nodded. Such was common knowledge in the army; more so was why they were marching towards Gaul, and the Belgae region to the north. They were a force intended for chastisement.

“At any rate, I have received urgent pleas from the northern governors to bring a force of legionnaires through the Alps and reassimilate the savages under their proper masters. There is however, a small problem. I have received no word whatsoever from the governors since midsummer, and scouts sent into the passes have not returned.”

“But surely, Caesar . You are not suggesting that a full rebellion has taken place? That we are losing control of the province? That would be-“

“Disastrous. Yes.” Caesar cut him off, calmly. “And that is, of course, the reason for the number of troops assembled here. Ten legions should be more than sufficient to quell the rebelling tribes. There has been insufficient time for them to rally all of Gaul to their cause, it is probable that only the north is in revolt, and that they have somehow managed to seize the passes. It is my intention to take the passes back, and chase the tribesmen back to Belgae where they belong.”

“And after that, Caesar? Shall we forgive, forget, and garrison their tribal lands with a legion or two to keep them docile?” Brutus asked, sipping the last of his wine.

Caesar smiled grimly. “No, my friend. Once they are in Belgae, we shall surround them and then, we shall destroy them.”

Brutus met his superior’s eyes, and nodded once. Rebellion was treason against Rome, and treason bought a man either death in battle against the legions, or death hanging from a cross where the world could see the death reserved for traitors.

“And now, Brutus,” Caesar said, “I require your help in formulating battle strategies against the tribes. The most troublesome are likely to be the southern Belgae. I believe that they call themselves-” and he glanced at a dispatch, “yes, they call themselves the Nervii. Once they are crushed, the rest of Belgae will fall like rotted fruit.”

Brutus rose, and refilled his goblet, then turned back to Caesar. The general’s eyes were gleaming in the tent, with anger or excitement, Brutus was unsure. “The rewards will, of course, be great, my general?” he asked, easing back into his seat with a raised eyebrow.

“I do what I do for Rome, Brutus,” Caesar replied easily. Then he smiled. “But if she sees fit to bestow bounty upon me for loyal service, I would hardly be a loyal soldier if I refused to accept my pay, now would I?”

“Of course, Caesar,” Brutus smiled, and reached for a map of the Alpine passes. “Shall we begin?”


The torrents of rain spilt themselves upon the roof of a small log cabin, on a hillside where the mountains gradually faded into the plains. Stands of oak trees around the cabin sheltered it from the worst of the downpour, but the water still formed new rivers around the house, flowing down the hill.

Puffs of smoke rose from a short chimney, the top covered against the rain with the sides open to allow the smoke to escape, sparks occasionally rising from inside the chimney to be snuffed out in an instant by the driving rain.

Inside, a man sat in front of the fire, resting his chin upon his hands, gazing into the dancing flames. The floating sparks reflected in his clear blue eyes, behind which shadows seemed to gather in the light of the fire.

The man blinked, then looked down to a small table next to his chair, upon which a folded parchment sat where it had been dropped from his fingers. Sighing, he reached down and retrieved it, then read it once again:

_My old friend,

The long feared retribution is coming at last. Spies have reported that the legions are moving towards the Alpine passes, and intend to cross into southern Gaul, before sweeping north to destroy the Belgae. They cannot let our rebellion go unpunished; the region is too volatile for any action of ours to be left alone for long.

From the reports, it seems that at least eight legions are marching towards the passes, some scouts count as many as ten. Far worse for us is that the first general himself is in command. Caesar is returning to Gaul.

We have begun to muster our forces, but if the passes cannot be held long enough for us to assemble, the legions will tear us apart. We are no match for their strength, we can only hope to win through overwhelming numbers. Morale is even now lower than ever, and it will continue to grow worse.

Please, my friend. The Nervii need you, you are a living legend to our people. Your presence would inspire the troops, and give them the courage they need to fight the legions. I know your oath, and am sorry to have to ask you to violate it once more, but you are our only hope.

I can no longer lead our people, old friend. I am growing older and weaker now, and the chieftains are beginning to look elsewhere for guidance. I need someone strong to hold them together, someone who they will all trust. I need you.

Please hurry. There is not much time.

Bladrath
Chief of the Nervii
Warlord of the Southern Belgae_

The man sighed again, and folded up the letter once more. He stared moodily into the flames, seeing in them visions of blood, of death. Raising his eyes, he looked above the fireplace to the twin blades crossed there, gleaming with silver light in the illumination of the fireplace.

“No,” he whispered, then stood, and resolutely walked out of the room, into a small kitchen area. He poured a mug of water from a pottery jug, and drank slowly, listening to the thunder and the rain.

Finishing his drink, he put the mug back onto the bench, and walked back into the warmth of the fire lit sitting room. He hesitated, then picked up the letter and made as if to throw it into the flames.

“Not so fast, soul brother,” a voice whispered in his mind. He paused, then looked at the twin swords again, his brow drawing down into a frown. He shook his head, and held the letter out to the flames again.

“No!” the voice cried. The man pulled back, and glared up at the crossed blades, almost as if he believed they were alive.

“I’ll not walk that path again, do you hear me?” he growled. “I have given my world, I will not kill again.”

“Then all of your people will die, and you will be to blame.” The voice hissed.

He froze, staring at the swords. “It is not my responsibility, not my task. I am not the man I used to be . I am different now.”

“It is still within you, soul brother. You have just to let yourself go again,” the voice whispered, seductively.

“And if I don’t? If I do not give in to your lust for blood and battle again?” the man growled, his eyes staring murderously at the blades.

“Then the Nervii will die, now, and for eternity, and you will have to live with the knowledge that you could have prevented it, if you had but tried.” The voice stated, with finality.

The man’s shoulders slumped, and he unclenched his fists, the letter falling to the floor. He lifted a shaking hand, and reached out, caressing the hilt of one of the blades.

“Yes, soul brother. Yes.” The voice purred.

Pulling it free of the wall, the man raised the blade in front of him, his eyes taking in the long, slightly curved blade, carved with runes from the ancient tongues of the Norse gods, the hilt engraved with the druidic symbols of power from Prydein. Almost hypnotically, the carvings called to him, and he tilted the blade backwards and forwards, reflecting the firelight.

Reaching up without looking, he took the other hilt in his hand and lifted it next to its mirrored twin, the symbols and carvings inverted back, along the blade and hilt. With a sudden movement, the man sprang into the centre of the room, lashing out with the blades at invisible enemies, ducking, twisting, turning and slicing the air into ribbons as he moved with consummate skill and speed.

Panting, he stopped, and looked down again at the twin swords in his hands.

“See, soul brother? You are complete once more,” the voice murmured in his mind.

“Yes,” he whispered back. “I feel alive again.”

“And so will you go, soul brother? Will we aid your people once more, or shall we be hung back above the fire whilst you slip slowly but surely into dreams of death?”

“I gave my word,” the man said, his eyes hardening. “I swore not to kill.”

“You also swore to protect your people. You must do as you have pledged.”

The man looked into the fire once more, as if hoping a solution would come from the dancing flames.

“Come, soul brother,” the voice whispered. “Let us fight once more. One last dance with death before life is over.”

He made his decision. Walking over to the wall, he pulled down a pair of scabbards, and sheathed the two blades, then fastened them to a long baldric. He leant the baldric against the wall, then walked into the kitchen, gathering up some food and filling a waterskin. Grabbing a pack hanging near the back door, he placed the food and water inside, and through in some clothes from his bedroom, then returned to the front sitting room.

He stood still for a minute, then nodded to himself, picked up the baldric and swung it over both of his shoulders, cinching it around his waist. The twin hilts rose above his shoulders, and he absently drew each fractionally, making sure that they were clear in their scabbards. Picking up his pack, he drew it on carefully, making sure the baldric remained steady, then swung an oiled cloak over his shoulders.

He glanced at the fire, then muttering to himself, fetched the jug of water from the kitchen and doused the flames with it, creating a long hiss of smoke that funnelled up the chimney.

Turning away from the house now, he reached for the latch, and lifted it, easing the door back with a loud creak. Flashes of lightening still lit up the night, and the cascading rainwater still poured down with violent intensity. Pulling the hood of his cloak up, he spared one last glace for the home he was leaving, then stepped outside, swinging the door shut behind him, then turned and began to make his way down the hill to the west, through the storm.

And Death walked with him, into the darkness.

Š2001-2003 Ben Thomas, all rights reserved.

(This message has been edited by Tarnćlion Andiyarus (edited 11-03-2003).)

Welcome back to the chronicles, Ben. Like Gandalf, I too have returned at the coming of the dawn.

Let me first say that this opening chapter is head and shoulders above the original. I'm going to concentrate this post on exactly how your new choices made this rendition better.

In the exposition, the initial concentration on weather and Gracus's misery are a big plus,a s they give a more human feel to the narrative, something that had always been a bit lacking in the original. The transition between the first and second parts is also smoother; each scene is concentrated in one place rather than doing a quick back-and-forth. You've got a dangling phrase in the first sentence, but it hardly detracts. Nice job.

The conversation between Brutus and Caesar shows a great improvement. Throughout the scene, I'm seeing a closer correlation to the duo portrayed in Shakespeare's play; that's mostly because you lessened the amiabilty Brutus shows toward Caesar, and increased his rationality. Caesar also takes on more of the character of a victorious lord, which is also good mojo. I would've loved to seen the bad weather in the first scene carried over into this one, but that's just icing on the cake.

The beginning of the third scene picks the mood up nicely, and the letter seems to be written by a real person, now. Bladrath's new title flows nicely, and the omission of Bladrath's coming death either changes the plot, or will make the plot twist more memorable. I'd prefer the second. 🙂 Your addition of Zeltar's inner conflict (if that's still his name) really improves the scene. It transforms him from a faceless killer into a person with conflicting desires. Whereas your previous version basically said, "Check out this badass," this one sets up for a great character.

Throughout this entire piece, I can see numerous places where a changed word improved the atmosphere and helped move the plot. One striking example was the use of 'storm' instead of 'rain' in the second to last line. Dialogue as a whole is much more interesting.

If you're looking at rewriting the rest of this story, I will eagarly await it!

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Sometimes it would stop raining long enough for the stars to come out. And then it was nice. - Forrest Gump
Check out my (url="http://"http://www.livejournal.com/users/~celchu")blog.(/url)

Edit: By the way, I hold the distinction of being the only other person to have posted in both the original version and this one. Over two year ago... has it really been that long?

(This message has been edited by Celchu (edited 11-02-2003).)

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Originally posted by Celchu:
Welcome back to the chronicles, Ben. Like Gandalf, I too have returned at the coming of the dawn.

And on a shining white horse, I might add. Nice trim. 😉

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**
Let me first say that this opening chapter is head and shoulders above the original. I'm going to concentrate this post on exactly how your new choices made this rendition better.

In the exposition, the initial concentration on weather and Gracus's misery are a big plus,a s they give a more human feel to the narrative, something that had always been a bit lacking in the original. The transition between the first and second parts is also smoother; each scene is concentrated in one place rather than doing a quick back-and-forth. You've got a dangling phrase in the first sentence, but it hardly detracts. Nice job.**

I agree here. I felt that the original guard, Trelius (plus unnamed companion) was not real, not alive, and besides, since I used/use Trelius later in the piece as a cohort commander, presenting him as a tent guard seems a bit suspicious here, even though I do mention him getting promoted in the original, or even accounting them as two different men.

As to the hanging phrase, I'm assuming the salutation of Brutus in the second section. I might work on that a bit... it's a little abrupt, but not too bad as it stands. We'll see. 🙂

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**
The conversation between Brutus and Caesar shows a great improvement. Throughout the scene, I'm seeing a closer correlation to the duo portrayed in Shakespeare's play; that's mostly because you lessened the amiabilty Brutus shows toward Caesar, and increased his rationality. Caesar also takes on more of the character of a victorious lord, which is also good mojo. I would've loved to seen the bad weather in the first scene carried over into this one, but that's just icing on the cake.**

Glad to hear that someone else saw that. I was trying to move away from 'buddy-buddy' Brutus & Caesar to friendly, although not close Brutus & Caesar. Similar to Shakespeare, in fact, where they were friends, although never that close. The bad weather may just make an appearance when I do my edits in the next few weeks, perhaps some flickering candles, leaking tents... I think a leaking tent might make an appearance. Right over Brutus' wine, perhaps? 😉

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**
The beginning of the third scene picks the mood up nicely, and the letter seems to be written by a real person, now. Bladrath's new title flows nicely, and the omission of Bladrath's coming death either changes the plot, or will make the plot twist more memorable. I'd prefer the second.:) Your addition of Zeltar's inner conflict (if that's still his name) really improves the scene. It transforms him from a faceless killer into a person with conflicting desires. Whereas your previous version basically said, "Check out this badass," this one sets up for a great character.**

I agree here. Zeltar was too shallow - too much of a burn-fight-kill character who only began to show emotion when he was embroiled in life and death struggles. I still haven't decided if the swords are actually alive, either. Could be amusing, but I'm think it's a little too unrealistic... just. A split-personality division could be interesting too.... a lá 'Dark Moon' by David Gemmell with the character Tarantio/Dace. Basically, Tarantio saw his father kill himself out of despair when he was a child, and he in turn 'created' Dace to be a strong friend/protector who shared his body and talked to him.

Quote

**
Throughout this entire piece, I can see numerous places where a changed word improved the atmosphere and helped move the plot. One striking example was the use of 'storm' instead of 'rain' in the second to last line. Dialogue as a whole is much more interesting.

If you're looking at rewriting the rest of this story, I will eagarly await it!

**

I am indeed! And, as I mentioned, if I like it enough, I might prod it into shape and submit it to (url="http://"http://www.lulu.com/")Lulu.com(/url) to get it done in book form... I've already written up a collection of poetry that's coming to print from there (I just need to approve the final copy, which I should receive any day now), so it should be fun.

Thanks for the positive comments, my friend. Good to see you gracing this board once more. 🙂

-Andiyar

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"Any good that I may do here, let me do now, for I may not pass this way again"

(Edit - wrong Gemmell book. Bad Andiyar. /Edit)

(This message has been edited by Tarnćlion Andiyarus (edited 11-03-2003).)

Hey Ive just read the excerpts fromthe story about the Fall of the Nervii; I really like it and wanted to add a few comments.

First thing I noticed is that you changed the swords carachter(s) from an ancient greek sword with greek scripts to a twin swords kit, of curved design.

I question this selection, although the dual swords may make for a more appealing screen play ala Crouching Tiger-Hidden Dragon action sequences I think it somehow smacks of sci-fi.

With all due respect, I liked the first version better.

Gallic sword craft typically featured straight line blades, and while they apear to have often enough carried two blades they were likely a short 'sax' (big-knife) and longer (traditional) 'spatha' sword, for which the Gauls were famous and feared.

Ive never heard of a twin sword fighting Gaul, as well the shield was very important in Gallic/Gaellic culture and the shield was considered a 'sibling' to the sword or lance as well a badge of sorts as shields often had heraldic significance and a tribe may be recognizable by the shape and design of their shields (at least among warrior nobility.

It was a mark of shame to lose or abandone a shield in combat, no Gallic warrior went into a fight without his shield, especialy considering the Roman reliance on indirect fire and missile barrages, archers and slingers as well as the well known Roman Pilum.

If you really want to have the cartachter wield a curved blade maybe you can depict a 'falcatta' type sword, used by the Gauls/Galatians of Spain but likely was used elsewhere, with a shield.

Chain mail was a Gallic invention and the Roman Legionaire Helmet is actually a knock-of a traditional Gallic helmet. Despite being labelled by the Romans as Savages, many martial innovations of Gallic designs were adopted by the Romans.

As well it is worth mentioning that the Legions often employed troops of Gallic or even German origin and thus afforded them Gallic style equipment.

I take this as similar to the Europeans adopting native (some) dress during the French/English and American revolutionary war.

Nervii were the Mohawks of their time, fierce warriors feared and often despised by all around them.

Also, this is knit picking; but the written 'note' or message recieved by the semi-retired Gallic Nobleman 'warrior', was it written in Latin or Greek? Or runic?

I ask because the application of runic was typically as 'inscriptions', 'spells' or magical 'title' rather than correspondence.

The use of Greek or Latin is not at all impossible, especially by nobles and druids who were often very learned and literate.

However, that being said, it would be like an Iroquoi or Huron American native speaking and/or reading french or english, or maybe even Latin (evangelists).

Not unheard of, but not too common either.

I really wnat to read more and I really think you have done a very good job of carachter development and story backdrop, good writing and fun reading.

I want more, whats the latest?

Write back when you can.

Cheers,
Correus

I know preatty well Latin and some Greek. I can help into this.

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(url="http://"http://www.cialispleasures.com")Cialis(/url)

Wow... it's been a little while since I trawled this thread. Sorry this comment in particular has taken so long - I'm hoping this gets seen! 🙂

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Originally posted by Correus:
**Hey Ive just read the excerpts fromthe story about the Fall of the Nervii; I really like it and wanted to add a few comments.

First thing I noticed is that you changed the swords carachter(s) from an ancient greek sword with greek scripts to a twin swords kit, of curved design.

I question this selection, although the dual swords may make for a more appealing screen play ala Crouching Tiger-Hidden Dragon action sequences I think it somehow smacks of sci-fi.

With all due respect, I liked the first version better.**

Hrm. I wouldn't personally call twin swords 'sci-fi' in any sense of the term, as science fiction is really science as applied to fiction - lasers, spacecraft & whatnot (depending on the author). I agree that it has become more fantasy fiction in style, at least partially, but that was just part of the game - as the original was written as a 'historical' fiction, but was more of a fantasy, so this is being written as a fantasy fiction, but with a more authentic feel... also, there's reasons behind the swords. You'll see, assuming I ever get there. ^_^

Quote

**
Gallic sword craft typically featured straight line blades, and while they apear to have often enough carried two blades they were likely a short 'sax' (big-knife) and longer (traditional) 'spatha' sword, for which the Gauls were famous and feared.

Ive never heard of a twin sword fighting Gaul, as well the shield was very important in Gallic/Gaellic culture and the shield was considered a 'sibling' to the sword or lance as well a badge of sorts as shields often had heraldic significance and a tribe may be recognizable by the shape and design of their shields (at least among warrior nobility.

It was a mark of shame to lose or abandone a shield in combat, no Gallic warrior went into a fight without his shield, especialy considering the Roman reliance on indirect fire and missile barrages, archers and slingers as well as the well known Roman Pilum.

If you really want to have the cartachter wield a curved blade maybe you can depict a 'falcatta' type sword, used by the Gauls/Galatians of Spain but likely was used elsewhere, with a shield.**

All quite correct - and I see you share the same love of ancient history as I do! But there's one small problem here - you're assuming that Zeltar is a Gaul! He isn't. He is Celtic in origin, but he's had a bit of a, shall we say, distorted, life. 🙂

Quote

**
Also, this is knit picking; but the written 'note' or message recieved by the semi-retired Gallic Nobleman 'warrior', was it written in Latin or Greek? Or runic?

I ask because the application of runic was typically as 'inscriptions', 'spells' or magical 'title' rather than correspondence.

The use of Greek or Latin is not at all impossible, especially by nobles and druids who were often very learned and literate.

However, that being said, it would be like an Iroquoi or Huron American native speaking and/or reading french or english, or maybe even Latin (evangelists).

Not unheard of, but not too common either.**

Latin. Bladrath, as a regional tributary king and 'governor' figure, is able to read and write in fair Latin - it is required for him to do so. Zeltar, despite the possible first impression, is highly educated, and is fluent in both Latin and Greek. Yes. There are reasons. 🙂

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**
I really wnat to read more and I really think you have done a very good job of carachter development and story backdrop, good writing and fun reading.

I want more, whats the latest?**

Thankyou very much! I've got a couple of chapters done beyond the most recent point posted here - Uni has gotten in the way of much beyond rapidfire scrawling, when time permits. I hope to do a bit more very shortly - and I might post one of the other chapters here soon. Hope you see it!

-Andiyar

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"Any good that I may do here, let me do now, for I may not pass this way again"

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