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The Golden Lane

 
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Mallory
Old Wyrm
Old Wyrm


Joined: 03 Sep 2016
Posts: 347
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Jobs: Apothecary, Alchemist
Can Be Found: The Lyceum or Kabuki Street, most of the time
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:28 am    Post subject: The Golden Lane Reply with quote

Early April

Winter was overstaying its welcome in RhyDin this year, so when the first day came that was nearly warm, and mostly sunny, Mallory St. Martin spent as much of it as she could outside. She was almost happy to wash the windows at Panacea this morning, spent her afternoon tutoring Latin students in a statue park near their school, and enjoyed the last hour of the day at a table near the Marketplace, working on two tacos and her second beer while she flipped through her notes on elementary cantrips.

She lifted her head to let her gaze tick over passerby as a breeze flapped the pages of her notebook... but no one seemed to be paying her any mind, besides the halfling server who trundled off with her empty bottle and a dozen others. A calm had settled over her life since the death of Belladonna. She breathed a quiet sigh and bent her head to her work again.

Not everything had returned to normal -- Lavanya and Janel had not returned to the gym for training. Ishmerai was not there to help tutor them, returning instead to Faerie to recover from the effects of his long journey; and the massive gap in their ranks left by Almast and all of the others was too painful to overcome. "NIHIL OBSTAT," the motto over their gym, now encircled a small tattoo of a diamond on her right shoulder.

Someone was shouting nearby, the noise enough to shake her from her reverie and still the hand that had reached up to rub her shoulder -- it sounded like two someones, evidently upset. They were kids, probably siblings based on the way they whined. A smile crept onto her lips. Then someone cleared their throat. When Mallory looked up again, a dark haired woman was standing over her.

She was petite, dressed for the budding spring day in jeans and a t-shirt, partially hidden beneath a light jacket, that pictured Tinker Bell. Her black hair was pulled back in a high ponytail, revealing her elongated, pointed ears. Her smile for the young witch was touched by glamour, and there was a warmth in her green eyes. "Mallory St. Martin," she greeted, her voice musical and pleasing, as she took a seat uninvited across from her.

Drip, drip, drip. "Lorelei." Blood dripped off the heel of Mallory's thumb and onto the corner of her notebook, soaking through the pages. A thorny vine had wound its way around her wrist, biting into her palm within a split-second of the intruder announcing herself, and her fingers were extended in a ward against charms. Her smile came with effort, an empty nicety next to her defensive posture.

"You are bleeding," the faerie queen observed, amusement masked by concern which was quickly eclipsed by a pleased smile when the server delivered a plate of tacos to her. "Oh thank you! They look just amazing." The hafling blushed, bowing his head to the lady before wandering off once again.

Mallory only saw the server moving away in her periphery, her eyes locked on the royal being across the table from her, but once the halfling left she replied, "I am used to it." She paused, quietly considering Lorelei's possible motives before she asked her, "What are you doing here?"

"Eating tacos." She tried to carefully lift her first taco, but ended up losing some of the slaw on top. "Is there a proper way to eat such a thing or do I just shove it in my mouth?" Lorelei looked from the taco in question to Mallory.

It took effort for Mallory not to snort, but she couldn't resist giving voice to the innuendo. "Everyone is messy their first time. You're doing fine." Drip, drip, her fingers remained in their awkward position. "Is that what you came to RhyDin to ask me?"

"Excellent," she ignored Mallory's question for the moment and took a bite out of the taco. "Mmm... that's good." When she set it down on the plate, it immediately fell apart but she had her attention on the witch now as she used a paper napkin to dab at her lips. "I did not intend to ask you about tacos, blood witch. I did come to speak to you." Lorelei set the napkin down carefully as if it was made of linen. "You see, there is a debt existing between you and I, mortal girl. I have given you some time in this world to recuperate after the trials you have been a part of, but the time has come for us to settle our debt." She spoke regretfully, as if she did not wish to do this but had been forced to do so.

Mallory's fingers twitched. She studied Lorelei's gaze carefully. She hadn't cast a spell yet, but the blood continued to flow with its promise of power. "So you have come to my table uninvited," she said slowly, "to claim that there is something I owe you." Her words were guarded, cool despite their content.

"Claim? Curious. Do you deny that I have provided you services, aid... information, Mallory St. Martin?"

"What was asked of you was provided without any discussion of trade that I was party to. Did anyone else discuss trade?" There was a sliver of doubt in her voice, as she wondered if she had misjudged, if Jewell had cut a second deal.

Her smile was both sweet and condescending as ****, though there was a real note of regret in her tone as she explained patiently to the young mortal, "Deals do not need to be discussed prior to being made. You have incurred a debt, and I will collect. I must. Surely you understand."

Mallory shifted in her seat, her right hand curled around the strap of her bag. Her left hand continued to bleed. "The last time someone came to collect, my friends and I turned his head into a door knocker." She lifted her chin, ever so slightly. "You can ask Jewell. She was there."

"Ah yes, my dear cousin. Shall we invite her into this conversation then?"

The witch's eyes flared as she leaned very slowly and carefully out of her seat, digging into the backpack by her chair. She unlocked her phone blindly, tapped her thumb in the corner where she knew her messages were, and slid it across the table. "She's near the top." Giving this faerie queen unfettered access to her texts felt like a better option than taking her eyes off of her, at the moment.

"I do not care for technological wizardy." The faerie left the phone untouched, opting to gather up the remains of first taco instead, considering it from two angles before shoving the entire thing in her mouth.

"And I trust you less than you trust my phone." The witch rested her right hand on the edge of the table, considering retrieving the device while she watched Lorelei critically.

Her laughter and whatever she tried to say initially in response was muffled by the mouthful of taco. A goblet appeared in her hand and she took a sip before trying again, "I came here to have a conversation with you, Mallory St. Martin. I think you can trust me not to force you against your will."

"Bull****." The witch's eyes darted away for a moment, as long as she dared, to find Jewell in her contacts and put a call on speaker. Her muscles were tense and her eyes were narrowed, like a cornered animal waiting for the sign that it would have to strike.

The phone rang.

Lorelei shrugged and went to work on the second taco as Jewell's voice rang out from the phone. "Hey yo, Mal. What's up? Everything good?"

Drip, drip, drip. "Your cousin's here. I think she wants to collect me." The witch clenched her teeth together.

There was a moment of silence from the Empress when all they could hear was music playing in the background. "Lorelei?"

"Present," Lorelei managed around another mouthful of taco.

"We're at Hugo's. South of the Marketplace." Mallory's gaze quickly dipped to Lorelei's (salsa-stained) hands at that announcement, then back up to her eyes.

Lorelei simply grinned at her and started licking the salsa off her fingers.

There was a sense of strain beneath Jewell's upbeat response, "Hugo's? They make those killer tacos, right? I'll be there in under five. Gotta put clothes on."

Mallory reached across the table and disconnected the call. The rhythm of her dripping blood had slowed, but as she ticked over to recent contacts, then Eri, the vines that wreathed her left wrist writhed around her, reopening the cut with their thorns. The phone rang twice before it went to voicemail.

"It's Eri. Sorry I missed you. I will call you back."

"Babe, it's me." Mallory smiled at Lorelei as she bled on the tablecloth. "I ran into Lorelei at the taco place, but I should be home soon. I can pick up dessert on the way home. Call me back."

Lorelei waited until Mallory ended the call before commenting, "Your girlfriend is a remarkable young woman as well."

"Have you met her father?" the witch asked as she slid the phone away, dropping it into her bag.

Her smile was enigmatic, as if she did not recognize the threat hidden beneath a majority of what Mallory was saying. "Perhaps."

"I think you'd remember him if you did," Mallory said with a soft smile. "Oni are ancient, remarkable beings."

"As are sídhe."

As if on cue, a blue haired faerie breezed through the afternoon crowd at Hugo's and slid into a seat next to Mallory, hip-bumping her to make room. "Scoot. Hey Lore, been a while." She struck an ultra-casual note in both her manner and attire, having thrown on a dress, pulled up her signature colored hair in a messy bun, and totally forgotten shoes. She looked better than she had over the last few months: her skin was tan, her cheeks sun-kissed, and her frame finally edging away from skeletal. "Hey Donny," she called to one of the servers, "get me a Badsider?"

"Two," the witch added, recovering from her momentary shock at Jewell's breezy arrival--and attitude. She dabbed at her cut with a napkin, gaze ticking between the two faeries as they spoke.

"What is Badsider?"

"Amazingness," Jewell responded blithely.

"I would like one as well!" Lorelei called after Donny.

Mallory killed what remained of her beer with a quick swig, but her one-and-a-half tacos hadn't been touched since Lorelei's arrival. She'd lost her appetite.

Donny obligingly brought a round of Badsiders, leaving them on the table before returning to the bar area with a smile for the Empress. She blew him a kiss in return, took a sip of her Badsider, and then leaned towards Lorelei, quickly dropping the facade. "So what the hell do you want?"

"Your time in these lands has undone you once more, I see. Your witch is more polite than you are, cousin." Lorelei remarked dryly before examining her Badsider bottle and taking a tentative sip.

Mallory dug out her phone again, though she glanced up from it when Lorelei mentioned her, thumb hovering over Team Awesome.

"Yeah, well..." Jewell shrugged, unconcerned. "You were the one who said you didn't trust me anymore after I handed you the crown, and yet here you are."

"Yes but apparently you trust me enough to put your knight under my care."

Her brow furrowed and Jewell looked at Mallory instead of pressing Lorelei further. "Did she tell you what she wanted?"

"Me," the witch ventured slowly. "She spoke of my debts for at least one thing I had never asked her for."

"Yes but you took much and more from my archives, did you not?" Lorelei countered serenely.

"Who cares? You're trying to poach my witch, Lore." She pointed at her with her Badsider even as she slouched in her seat, "And I don't appreciate it."

Mallory's gaze ticked from Jewell back to Lorelei, but if she disagreed with the assertion she did not give voice to it, merely tapped at her phone's display to keep it active.

"You know that debts must be settled, cousin. And now that you are here as well, it brings to mind that you are both in my debt." Jewell's grey eyes narrowed. "The knowledge to save your life, my knights, your knight. If you give me your witch, I can be persuaded to overlook them all."

Mallory's breath hitched before she heard Jewell's answer. "No. She's mine. Try again."

"Cousin, be reasonable. What continued use do you have for the witch? Your trials are over and your life has been saved, and you are still more than powerful in your own right. You could rule this land on your own if you so wished it. You do not need her. Her mastery of old magic though could prove very useful to me. You have left me to rule in our dear grandmother's stead, and that is no easy task. You know this. The unseelie are--"

"Yeaaah," Jewell cut her off with a drawn-out drawl, slowly spinning her Badsider around. "I don't care about any of that so it's still going to be a big, fat no. Find your own witch."

The witch in question raised her eyebrows when she was mentioned again, drawing in the hot sauce on her plate with a plastic fork while the conversation volleyed back and forth.

This second, firm denial put a dent in Lorelei's smile and chilled her demeanor. "I see. Yet I must have my due, Jewell. You know this. So what shall I have in compensation for the aid I have rendered you, the lives I lost, and the knowledge the witch stole? You will not even grant me her service for a time?"

"Absolutely not."

"Fine. Then I demand your service as recompense instead."

Mallory planted her hand on the edge of the table. "Are you ****ing--?!"

Jewell actually snorted with laughter, cutting off the witch at her side. "**** no." Planting her bare feet on the sticky ground, she forced herself to sit upright. "You knew that wasn't going to happen, so stop playing games, Lore. I prefer directness. You can't have the witch, so what's your real second choice?"

"Ishmerai."

"How long?" Mallory spoke up first. Her knuckles were white.

It was good that she did so because Jewell's mouth had gone dry and her teeth locked into her cheek to hold back a mewling sound of distress as she waited for Lorelei's response.

The faerie queen did not prolong their suffering intentionally, but she considered the question for some time before responding, "I am not merciless. I require his service for the span of her mortal life," she nodded to Mallory, "to replace the service I would have from her."

The dishes and bottles on the table rattled, one toppling over and spilling off the edge, the witch's magic involuntarily pushing out when she stood from the table to hiss at Lorelei: "How long for me?"

"Sit down. Now." Jewell demanded of Mallory quietly and in a manner she rarely used with the girl, and after a long stare from the witch, she dropped back into her seat.

Lorelei looked pleased. "So who will it be then? The girl or the knight? She seems willing enough--"

"Stop." Even the faerie queen fell silent and obeyed the blue haired sídhe's command when it was spoken with such a cold, deadly edge. "The girl is not an option, so you may have the knight." Her cousin opened her mouth to say something, but Jewell cut her off. "But know this, Lorelei--I will remember this request of yours and it does not please me." Lorelei, of all people, knew what Ishmerai meant to Jewell.

The faerie queen stood. "Then perhaps cousin you should be more careful when you request aid in the future if you do not feel capable of paying the price due." Jewell simply waved her hand, dismissive. "I take my leave of you now and will share the details of the bargain with my knight upon my return."

"You do that," Jewell replied stonily, staring at her cousin with unveiled hostility.

"Cousin. Mallory St. Martin." Lorelei bowed her head to each in turn before turning to leave, quickly blending in with the crowd before she crossed the Veil.

"Jewell." Mallory spoke the sídhe's name with a quaver in her voice.

She waited until she was absolutely sure that Lorelei was gone before looking to Mallory, forcing a smile she did not feel even as her world fell apart. "I just-- I couldn't let her..."

Mallory wrapped her arms around Jewell and squeezed, pressing her face to the sidhé's shoulder. "Jewell, I'm sorry," she whispered tremulously, hot tears falling freely from her face.

To her credit, she did not cry. She just held the young woman tightly and reassured her, "It'll be okay."

It had to be true. Faeries couldn't lie.

((Adapted from play with Jewell, with thanks!))


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mallory
Old Wyrm
Old Wyrm


Joined: 03 Sep 2016
Posts: 347
See this user's pet
Jobs: Apothecary, Alchemist
Can Be Found: The Lyceum or Kabuki Street, most of the time
49058.58 Silver Crowns

Items

PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The tale of Lorelei and Ishmerai came out in an incoherent stream as soon as Mallory crossed the threshold, so much of it at once that she wasn't sure what she had said by the time she was done. It had been an hour, and the witch sat on her and Eri's bed, curled into a ball with her arms around her knees and leaning into the delinquent's arms. Even after the tears stopped, she'd been quietly morose for a long stretch...

...but now her expression turned to a deepening frown, gaze ticking back and forth over an empty patch of their bedroom wall.

Eri herself was quiet. The delinquent rested there with her arms around Mallory with her eyes fixed thoughtfully on the doorway. Her own expression was a slight frown as she tried but failed to think of some strategy.

"It's my fault," Mallory muttered softly, her gaze still restless. "I asked Jewell for the Vitaeum. I told them we needed an artifact from Faerie. I read more than I should've from Lorelei's library. I sent her that message, begging for help... It's my fault, and he's paying for it," she added, squeezing her knees closer to her face.

Eri's hand reached to pat the witch's arm. Her frown deepened as she listened and her head shook once as she considered what Mallory had said. "I don't see how that is your fault. Libraries are meant to be read. And what kind of person agrees to help and then comes around talking about debts? I don't think that some big shot faerie has any right coming and interrupting your dinner and upsetting your sense of calm. Shoving us around like some kind of big shot..." The yanki was reflective for a moment. "I can't think of some way to get revenge though. It's a completely different world from here, and she is personally powerful, yes?"

"She is," the witch agreed, leaning instinctively into Eri's touch. "She's a faerie queen, and... I think she's got a lot to prove. Still, though." She lifted her head to offer the delinquent a half-hearted smile. "That was my table she welcomed herself to and threatened me... then as much as told me I'd never see my friend again. Yeah -- I don't think she meant it to be that personal, but it sure ****ing felt that way." She blew out a long breath, following Eri's gaze to the door, then back with a more genuine smile.

"Did I tell you how close I came to trying to summon your father?"

Eri's frown was banished when she saw Mallory smile. Her own smile replaced the thoughtful look and she shook her head. "No, you did not mention that. You could, I think. I am not sure just how he thinks but I am sure that he would help. He did make those portals for us and helped with wards -- so I think he has some interest in how we are doing."

"Yeah," Mallory laughed softly, "I'd say so..." She trailed off, lips parted, tongue tucked behind her teeth as she thought. "Hey -- one of those portals goes straight to Brno, right? In Moravia?"

"Yes it does" Eri confirmed with a nod.

The witch lifted her chin. "You busy this weekend?"

"No, I'm not busy. You feel like taking a trip by portal?" The delinquent asked.

Mallory thought for a moment... laughed softly, sniffled, and nodded. "Sure. **** it. Let's go to Prague."


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mallory
Old Wyrm
Old Wyrm


Joined: 03 Sep 2016
Posts: 347
See this user's pet
Jobs: Apothecary, Alchemist
Can Be Found: The Lyceum or Kabuki Street, most of the time
49058.58 Silver Crowns

Items

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They had taken two girls from their security team along for the ride, clad in their favored jumpsuits and surgical masks, both unarmed yet managing to exude a quiet menace, as equally effective a deterrent as a sword or sidearm.

The girls were silent and vigilant for the first leg of the journey, certainly not their first trip to Earth, which was a good thing for Mallory who was awe-struck by the experience. The tiny portal in Kabuki Street disgorged them in a place that struck the witch as -- green, yet modern. She could see rolling, wooded hills and vast farmland stretching to the north of Brno, where they were headed, and the air lacked the fetid odor she'd grown used to over the course of two decades in RhyDin. There were less animals here in spite of the farmland, and she counted far more well-groomed dogs on leashes than livestock or beasts of burden. Bicycles rolled through the wide plazas paved with even stones, criss-crossed by streetcars and a surprisingly thin crowd for all the buildings around them.

There were more officials here, too, people in uniforms with wide caps and light blue shirts to control the flow of traffic, mind the crowd (sparse as it was, compared to RhyDin), and guard the train station as people came and went. Cash settled most matters of travel, but there were people to check her papers and they seemed satisfied with the idea that Mallory St. Martin was an American citizen touring the Czech Republic with her Japanese girlfriend and her two friends.

Or that she was American, anyway. Travelling within the country, even boarding a train, no one asked anything that warranted the story she'd spent three days practicing, beyond a disinterested "americký?" from the conductor.

Their two guards spent the better part of the three-hour journey in the beverage car, giving Mallory and Eri some privacy while they went over their itinerary. They had to see the old astronomical clock, the old bridges spanning the Vltava, the ancient castle complex, the massive churches that held less trepidation than wonder for the witch, the hotel where they would be spending the weekend...

...and a dead-end alley near the town square, where a strange silence fell within sight of the hustle and bustle just behind them. The rattle of trains, the blaring of horns, all the noise of the city seemed to echo up and over the alley in the distant sky, and when the four of them craned their heads up to look, the buildings seemed to stretch a little taller than they'd appeared out on the street. There were a few odds and ends piled up here and never retrieved. Pallets to be broken down, pinning an old poster celebrating May Day. A rusty bicycle chained to a windowed door that looked in on a solid brick wall. At the end, a rack of milk bottles on the old wooden doorstep of a windowless stretch of building, overgrown with pale blue-green mushrooms.

And the very end of the alley held nothing at all. The bricks here were damp and mossy, and the left corner dipped towards a black crack in the wall, where oily water flowed in a narrow rivulet.

Mallory stopped a few feet short of this curious feature, then turned to give Eri a significant look as she said, "I think Riko and Yasue should wait at the hotel." She set her teeth, pulled her jacket sleeves down over the goosebumps forming on her bare skin, and folded her arms tightly.

Eri looked at the wall closely, a hand raised to scratch her head. She seemed puzzled until she saw the lone curious feature, then lit up in understanding. She caught the witch's look with a nod and asked the pair, "RiYa.. can you wait for us there?" The two guards turned to depart the alley cautiously, standing shoulder to shoulder, casting mistrustful looks at the city all around.

She spoke up again once the pair of delinquents were out of sight. "I'm sure it's safe... probably," she added speculatively, with an owlish blink at the afterthought. She peered at the bricks more closely and muttered thoughtfully, "How to open it...?" She raised her small fist to knock on the mossy surface, and found the witch's slender fingers catching her by the wrist.

"This way," Mallory said with a flicker of smile before pressing closer to the reeking, slimy wall, keeping hold of her girlfriend's hand as they sidled up to the corner.

There was no single moment where the crack widened to accommodate them, nor any clockwork cycling of bricks to admit them inward. They were simply in broad daylight in one moment and complete darkness the next --

-- and the next, they came stumbling out into the dead end of a completely different alley. It was much shorter than the last one, though the buildings that surrounded them gave the same eerie sense of stretching taller than they were, with the added quality of looming over them, and the sky seemed like a distant, alien thing in much the same way. The street it opened onto looked a little like the Golden Lane, with the brightly colored rowhouses and squat cottages built practically on top of each other, except there were no tour guides or pamphlets or posted hours, and the street seemed cramped and smelly and alive in the way only a well-used city street could.

A donkey gave the disheveled travelers a disinterested look as he gnawed on someone's potted flowers. He was hitched between a rowhouse stoop and an old teal vespa. Something about the pairing struck Mallory as quintessentially RhyDinian...

Eri kept a firm hold on Mallory's hand as they arrived, but was mindful out of habit to not squeeze too tightly. The delinquent gawked at the strange surroundings and peered up at the sky visible past the looming buildings. When she spotted the donkey and the vespa she nodded firmly. "Yep, this is a place he'd go..."

"I wonder if we'll find any of his handiwork," the witch murmured, gently squeezing Eri's hand as they proceeded out of the alley and into the street. No one was out to greet them with the wary stare reserved for strangers, but there was the unshakeable feeling that they were both being fixed with just such a stare. On their right the street seemed to grow darker, dark enough that soot-covered lamps had been illuminated in broad daylight to dispel the gloom, and while it was exactly opposite the direction of that feeling... the feeling seemed like the safer option.

"There," whispered Mallory, pointing at the other end of the street, at a chipped, faded, faintly visible wooden sign dangling over a solid black door without a visible knob or peephole, and no windows nearby. "The inverted crown... and the wolf astride it. That's the place."

The delinquent studied the sign over Mallory's shoulder curiously. "It is kind of ominous, isn't it?" she whispered as she started to approach the door, though she kept her hand securely in the witch's grasp. "Did you bring the letter?"

In reply, Mallory simply withdrew her left hand from her pocket and flexed her fingers. A faint ring of blood welled out of an invisible cut in her palm, and the space in the middle shimmered. Paper rustled within. She winked at Eri, closed her hand, and stepped up to the door. "Do you want to knock? or shall I?" Lips curved into a sly smile. Despite her trepidation, she was beginning to enjoy this.

The conjuring of the letter from shimmering space made Eri's dark eyes widen comically. She grinned brightly at the wink, her apprehension settled, and she nodded decisively. "Let's see..." Again she raised a diminutive fist to knock. Her fist drew back a few inches and landed with a

BOOM.

The sound echoed into a vast abyss on the other side of the door, fading across an unfathomable distance, and stopped. For ten full seconds, nothing happened. Mallory opened her mouth to speak when the peephole flipped open and the door handle twisted to admit them. "Come in, come in!" trilled a little voice at about knee height. "There is no need to stand on ceremony, Mallory St. Martin and Eri Maeda, for we know your names already! Let yourselves in next time!"

By the time they stooped to look, the source of the voice had padded quickly away, and the darkness faded from the space within.

It was a fairly normal bookstore, at least by certain standards. There was a heavy bronze bell dangling over the doorway that rang like a bell a fraction its weight when they entered, and they stepped into a small space flanked on all sides by the end of bookshelves. Each shelf was painted the same handsome black as the door, were subtly carved and gilded along the corners, and bore no other visible markings despite the countless volumes of unalphabetized books that completely filled every shelf they could see -- though none of the books themselves bore any titles along their spines.

The ceiling here was not suspended across some vast alien distance; instead it was rather low, and made of beaded copper, patterned like flowers, that looked rather tacky next to the gilded edges.

Eri's nervousness returned to some degree as they entered. Being called by name by a figure she didn't know and couldn't see set her on edge reliably. However, as she took in the sights in the archive, she couldn't avoid being impressed by the decorative shelves and unique look of the place. She turned to stare at a long table at one end of the space where two older looking men were seated.

"Hello?" Mallory ventured carefully to the two men. They didn't appear to be doing anything other than sitting across from each other at a long table, staring blankly into the middle distance, and she was a little surprised when one of them waved a hand dismissively and responded,

"Tace."

"Tch. Trams putidas," Mallory sneered, and the man who had told her to shut up gasped at her, wide-eyed and slack-jawed.

The other man, for his part, guffawed and slapped his knees heartily, too pleased with the outcome to hear the sound of bunny-slippered feet descending the stairs right behind the table. They did hear said figure yawning loudly, which caused both men to widen their eyes in a panic and vanish into clouds of slowly dissipating violet dust.

Though Eri couldn't understand the words, something in the exchange made her giggle. The light sound turned to full laughter as she watched the pair of strange figures vanish as abruptly as startled pigeons. Her eyes turned to the stairs to watch the approaching figure descend. She blinked in confusion at the combination of attire, bunny slippers and waistcoat and a significant absence of trousers. It took her a moment to venture a few careful words. "Could you help us please...?"

The figure paused to adjust her waistcoat, scratched her butt through the back of her soccer-patterned boxer shorts, and ducked her head to peer at the pair of them through the railing with a wide, wily smile. "Maybe!" she said, and took the rest of the stairs in a single bound, landing on the other side of the table from them with a thump (and a squeak, from her bunny slippers). Her long, tangled black hair fell in front of her dark eyes, and she pushed it back with her long fingers to peer owlishly at them.

She was extraordinarily pale.

Mallory was more than a little wary of this figure, and shocked by her appearance, but had the good sense not to leave the librarian to her own devices with two strangers in her midst for too long. She cleared her throat, opened her left hand, and tensed it until blood welled up, her palm shimmered, and a hastily written letter slid seamlessly out, untainted by its bloody passage. The librarian snatched it out of the air, loped over to the other end of the table, and sat indian-style on top of it while she spent entirely too long reading its brief contents.

The librarian made Eri equally nervous, and so when she kept her worried gaze on her as she read the letter she breathed a bit of a sigh of relief when the strangely dressed figure finally nodded and hopped up.

"Yes, I believe I can assist in any modest bit of research you would like to do" She said to Mallory. "It would be best to always honor favors owed to the elders after all. And luckily, since your appearance was foretold already I took the time to isolate the references that are likely to be pertinent."

Mallory frowned, opened her mouth, shut it, opened it again. "You know what I'm looking for?"

The librarian simply smiled.

"And it's a modest bit of research?"

"Modest in the face of the impossible vastness of my debts," the librarian replied with a deep chuckle. "Do you think I assembled this collection of tomes for a song?"

"I--"

"Except for this one," she said, and threw a centuries-old handwritten tome into Eri's arms. It was in Latin, and detailed the anatomy of frogs, as understood by a 16th-century physician. "Bohemian Rhapsody, a capella. 1989 was a very interesting year."

Eri caught the book reflexively, though she didn't look at what she clutched in her arms. Instead she was staring in a mixture of awe and confusion at their benefactor. "But how did you know what ...?" the delinquent stammered, then trailed off into pensive silence, and glanced over at Mallory.

"Because you told me, my dear sweet mountain cat," the librarian replied, kissed Eri on the side of her head when she turned away, and traipsed off among the shelves. "This way!" she called, and in the wake of her call, the library changed around them.

Neat little hand-painted signs dangled from the ceiling, detailing each section in Latin, Ancient Greek, Hebrew, Czech, German, French, and Elizabethan English. They could see the titles on the spines of the different books, too, in faded gold and silver and ruby letters. Runners lined a few of the rows, leading customers to the door the pair had entered through, to the stairs in the corner, to the study carrols suddenly visible in another corner, and the desk about a hundred feet back against the far wall, cluttered with thousands of dusty issues of National Geographic.

Floors 2-18, read a sign by the stairs that Mallory goggled at. Basement Archive access in employee restroom. Ask nicely!

The witch tore her eyes away to look back at Eri and mouth at her: "You okay?"

The delinquent shambled along with them and looked a bit stunned both from the reception they had gotten and the deceptive nature of the size and dimensions of the building they were walking through. Her gaze roamed along the signs, then turned back to meet the witch's eyes. She gave a reassuring grin, showing off her rows of evenly crowned teeth, and nodded. "It's really cool, actually!" she whispered.

"Good, you didn't get lost," the librarian smiled pleasantly at them both as they reached her woefully cluttered desk. She knocked several teetering piles of National Geographic back issues off of it and revealed three organized piles of books underneath. Pre-Kabbalistic Physiology Vol. I-IV... Babylonian Vampirism, Revised Edition... The Last Campaign of Sir Gorbert the Mad...

"Dissecting the Philosopher's Stone, by Maimonides?!" Mallory slid a bookmarked tome out of the stack and stared at its pages in disbelief.

The librarian smiled again and told Eri, since the witch seemed to already be lost to her reading: "Make yourselves comfortable," gesturing to a small collection of plush chairs nearby, only visible from this angle, "and I'll bring you some tea in a couple of hours. Restroom is in the back of the third floor. And please," she added with a too-sweet, sharp-toothed smile at the delinquent, "use the front door when you come back in the morning.

"When you came in through the delivery entrance, I nearly got the wrong idea."

Eri gave the smile and words a worried and wary look, but bowed politely in agreement. "We shall," she promised. As the librarian disappeared into the stacks to wherever tea took two hours to make, the delinquent turned to pick through the stack of books. She found one written in Amharic and held it out to Mallory: "Hey, look! This one is in, like, hieroglyphics!"

Mallory's eyes widened at the declaration, then narrowed on the tome in question. "No... I mean, it is in the Semitic branch, but..." She cradled the book by the spine, looking up from it into Eri's eyes with an apologetic expression. "It means this is gonna take a lot of time."

((Taken from live play with Eri -- whom I had an absolute blast writing this with!))


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mallory
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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2018 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Over the course of three days Mallory spent availing herself of the library's reading nook (a corner filled with menacing paintings of scowling Bohemian lords, old corduroy recliners, and an impressive collection of Beanie Babies), she never learned the librarian's name. The quirky vampiress frequently shadowed her steps through the stacks, chattering happily about misadventures in discoteques with Roka and the best kinds of cats and the burning of Rome, but each of the three times she'd asked, she'd gotten the same response:

The librarian smiled sweetly, patted her on the head, and flitted off to harass someone else.

This was as long as the witch could afford to stay in Prague on such short notice, and as long as she was willing to ask Eri to step away from her duties as sukeban, and she filled the final hours of her time in the library by taking notes on the few tomes that were strictly forbidden from being removed from the library, the alleged alchemical observations of Maimonides among them. She had set aside a small stack of volumes to take with her, each marked with a small summoning circle on the spine capable of returning them to the library, including titles in Hebrew, Latin, Czech and German, as well as guides for the tedious work of translating the latter two languages.

The librarian had left for her afternoon nap, something Eri had not scheduled despite her seeming participation -- a smile flickered across the witch's lips as she heard her girlfriend sigh in her sleep and shift in one of the recliners to get more comfortable, sliding three books of folklore focusing on hags out of her lap.

One slid further than the others, landing on the floor with a soft thump, followed by an annoyed shushing from the iron-helmeted man at a nearby study carrol. The witch gave him an equally annoyed look as she moved to retrieve the tome, stacking it with the others and setting off in search of the rickety brass book cart among the stacks. There were a few other patrons she passed as she wound her way between shelves, including an animated set of bright yellow robes and a very old woman who clacked along the old wooden floor on taloned feet, but no one here had paid her much mind since the two old men near the front had attempted to dismiss her in Latin.

She eventually found the cart lingering at the end of one of her favorite sections (Early Modern Magic), and as she bent to place the books of folklore, another tome caught her eye. It had an aged piece of blank parchment sticking out like a bookmark, inscribed with a loopy heart and simply signed "V." and, while she had not actually seen the librarian's handwriting, she immediately thought of her. She slid it out carefully, running her finger along the spine and the faded, barely visible silver symbol of Yggdrasil near the base, but was surprised to find that the title and contents were in Latin.

She pressed her back against the end of the shelf, sliding down it as she opened the book and read, her bright green eyes quickly picking their way through the familiar language as she flipped through the contents and skimmed ahead. She turned to the bookmark and brought her finger to the page to keep it from slipping away, landing next to a section heading --

ANNO PECCATUM

On the facing page was an illustration of classical Islamic anatomy, with the body subdivided into hundreds of different parts. Each was labeled in Arabic, a language she had only scratched the surface of, "but Safiya can help," she murmured.

She was already on her feet, stepping briskly and blindly back to the reading nook while she read. She needed her friend's expertise, she needed the Vitaeum, she needed to consult with Jewell or Cane -- she needed to return to RhyDin. She slid the volume into a stack with the others and reached out to gently shake Eri's shoulder, giving her a soft smile as the delinquent blinked awake.

"I think I found it."


Last edited by Mallory on Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue May 29, 2018 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Walpurgisnacht.

Mallory knelt in the center of the small, windowless room in their home in Riverwatch, faintly lit by the light of a single candle, which made her delicate work all the more difficult. She gently dabbed her ostrich feather quill in the little glass vial of Tyrian red dye, gathered from ten thousand rock snails, and hesitated.

The dye had been outrageously expensive and the cost still stung, but darker worries than wasting the dye were staying her hand. This was a year of her life, to start with. This was change. This was pain -- everything she could find on Anno Peccatum, "The Year of the Sinner," stressed how much of that she could and should expect.

"It's inevitable," she murmured, lifting her gaze to Eri with an uncertain frown, "and I'm making things right... right?"

Up to that point Eri had been fascinated by the idea of the ritual, driven by her characteristic interest in unfamiliar magic, and had even continued her study of Amharic and some of the other languages they had encountered. But now that the ritual was ready to begin, she developed a feeling of deep trepidation. Her eyes lingered on the hundreds of unlit candles around the room, nervous and upset at the implication. She mustered an answer soon enough, however, looking back to Mallory with a cautious nod. "Inevitable, probably. And right... I still believe that. The price is all that bothers me," she added with a frown.

"I don't think I'll find a better offer," the witch replied to that with a slow shake of her head. Her green eyes ticked back and forth as she thought, their shine faintly visible in the low candlelight, but she seemed to remember herself and lifted her head to give Eri a soft, reassuring smile. "It'll be okay. I do this practically every day, anyway... I barely feel it anymore."

Her head bent to the quill, checking that it was still wet, and she started the careful work of painting a thin-lined sigil onto the palm of her left hand, every line eventually curving in towards a single, central point. It was a familiar structure, a microcosm of the circle she had painted to replace Jewell's heart.

The solitary lit candle provided Eri enough light to see the careful linework being done. Mallory's words seemed to calm the half-oni enough to fall silent again, looking over the remaining details. When the sigil was complete, she double-checked the next steps: "Remind me, one more time, what I am going to do."

Mallory forced her hands to relax, palm-up in her lap. She swallowed before she answered Eri, "You're going to fold up the belt and set it between my teeth... and then you're going to stab me through the center of the sigil. All the way through. Okay?" She managed to give the delinquent another flicker of a smile, as weak as the candlelight.

The smile was the only thing that could have softened the impact of the words. The idea of hurting the witch was still a foreign one for Eri to contemplate, but she picked up the silver knife and the belt anyway. "It's magic," she reminded herself, as if concerned she would mess up her part of it. She held out the folded leather until Mallory bit down on it, before she leaned in to closely study the strange sigil painted on Mallory's hand.

The witch took slow, deep breaths to steady herself, and they came in a noisy hiss through the belt. She focused on the taste of the leather, the smell of the candle, anything other than what was about to happen as she laid the back of her hand flat on the floor... and waited.

Eri didn't leave her waiting for long. That would have been more cruel, she felt. Once she was certain she saw the right spot, she brought the point of the knife to rest there, and with her hands as steady as she could get them, pressed down hard enough to plunge the ceremonial blade through.

Blood welled out of her hand from the deep wound. Something pulsed from far away, shaking the walls of the tiny room. And muffled through the thick leather belt, the witch screamed in anguish.

((Written with Eri, with thanks!))
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 9:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

August 12th, 2018.

The house was dark, and completely quiet.

Eri was nestled under the blankets, and did not stir when Mallory sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Her fingers kneaded the comforter as she tried to gather her thoughts. What time is it? What woke me up? Her bleary eyes tried to focus through the red glare of the clock radio on her partner's nightstand, but her brain couldn't make sense of what she saw.

There was a cold chill on the back of her neck, and it remained there when she turned around to find the source. It wasn't coming from the windows, where gauzy curtains hung over the glass, obscuring the outside world. She closed her eyes and stretched out her left hand, fingers curling through the air, seeking the threads tied to the wards, or to any magic that had intruded on her home. She found one, thin and hot and deep, deep red, and plucked it.

There was a single, clear chime as her presence rippled across the intricate and infinite threads of the Weave, the structure of magic that stretched across the Multiverse and bound it by the very rules the witch exploited for her craft. The ripples dissipated as they met another source, a weight on the Weave -- another spider lurking on the web -- and the only source of motion she could sense nearby.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump. The rhythm drew her steps out of the bedroom and down the stairs, each staggered pair of footfalls matching the heartbeat she heard. It had started from outside, from that Other creating ripples in the weave, but now it pounded in her ears as if it were her own. She stared down the second story hall, towards the creaking door into the basement. It had yawned open while she slept, spilling nearly impenetrable blackness into the house, illuminated by a warm, red glow that rose up from the depths. It was a familiar feeling, that of climbing the thread of her own soul out of the Veil, of feeling it turn to slick, rubbery flesh under her hands, and feeling the darkness turn to blood around her. She drew closer...

...and turned away, down another hallway, into the heart of the house. She turned a corner and found herself face to face with the ritual chamber, where her nightly rituals to bind her blood to the Veil and draw upon its power usually took place. Anno Peccatum, she meant to say, though she struggled to speak, but the door swung open anyway.

A figure stood in the narrow doorway, tossing a strange ring up into the air and catching it, over and over. They were like Mallory but different, both familiar and strange. They seemed older, yet ageless, like their eyes had peered far enough through the mists of time that they carried some essential part of the aeons with them. Most of their skin was covered by a tieless suit, buttoned most of the way up, but Mallory could see shifting and writhing tendrils of black ink peeking out of their collar and cuffs. Their lips were thin and their skin was pale, but an undeniable heat lurked beneath the fragile surface. And their eyes were the color of blood, and seemed to promise life and power in infinite abundance when they narrowed them on Mallory.

The candles that lined the chamber roared with fire, casting the same rich, warm light as the red pulse that glowed out of the basement.

"Wh... who are you?" the witch demanded, finding her voice, though it echoed strangely as it reverberated throughout the house and rippled across the Weave. She struggled to keep her feet, disoriented by the effect, and braced herself against the wall as she gave the stranger a defiant sneer.

The figure turned their head, considered the witch... and curled a smile at her as the cracks in the floor yawned wider, and the walls and ceiling started to drift away from each other as hot blood flowed in through the gaps. "Malleus," they said, unfazed by the changes, and gave the ring a quick underhand toss down the hall.

Mallory dove forward and snatched the ring before it could roll through the cracks, striking the wall on her way down. She saw stars, wincing as she blinked to clear her vision...

...and found herself kneeling in the hall before the ritual chamber, with no cracks in the floor, and no blood flowing through the walls. Her surroundings were softly illuminated by the low light of early evening. She opened her hand, and found the ring resting there. It was unlike anything she had seen before, an unknown material with glistening bands and speckles of green and black, humming power through its surface and directly into her skin wherever it touched. She held it up to her hand for closer inspection, and frantic whispering reached her ears.

She looked up sharply at the sound, but Malleus was gone, leaving nothing but the ring, an empty doorway, and little tendrils of smoke dissipating over the unlit candles in the chamber beyond.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

August 20th, 2018.

Mallory sat alone at a table in front of a cafe in Dockside, near enough to the water that she could smell the salt in the air whenever the breeze picked up. She set her elbow on the corner of the book in front of her to keep the pages from flapping wildly, filled with cramped, tiny script in Demotic. Her fingers curled around the strange green ring dangling from her necklace, murmuring rapidly as her pencil moved over one of her composition journals, translating the ancient Egyptian prayers line by line.

At least, that was what she had been doing until a young man, about thirty years old, stepped into her light and smiled down at her. "Good book?" he asked her, and only chuckled when she lifted her head to stare at him. "Are you a student? I'm a T.A.," he added, shifting for a better look at her handiwork, and she turned her head to continue staring. "History, but I've taken some Latin. Ancient languages aren't so bad. Names and dates, though... not everyone can keep those straight," he chuckled again.

Then he offered his hand to her. "Marcus." Her green gaze only briefly ticked to his fingers, then back up to his face. "You've got a name, too... right?"

"Mal." She didn't shake his hand, and he withdrew it smoothly, playing it off with a flash of a toothy smile. "I'm waiting for someone." Her eyes narrowed when he sat his butt down on the edge of her table, and took this as an invitation to continue talking.

"So we're working on homework 'til he shows up." He looked around the tabletop for a translation guide, while she sized him up with exactly the kind of attention one gives to a cockroach while deciding how to remove it from the kitchen -- and if that would involve freeing it from its mortal coil.

A soft hissing noise that was laced with derision was issued somewhere off to Mallory's left, preempting the appearance of her brother in all his well-timed glory. "I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this is why you're -- what, early thirties? -- and still prowling cafes for hapless targets who can't just get up and walk away."

Marcus turned to Patrick in surprise and anger, but when he attempted to speak, Mallory flapped her hand at his back, startling him off the edge of the table. "Shoo!"

"Hey, you can't--"

"Tch! Shoo! Go on!"

"Listen," Patrick said conspiratorially, leaning toward Marcus as if he meant to impart words of wisdom. "In my experience, telling my sister she can't do something is the exact opposite of what you should be doing right now."

Marcus went from angry to bewildered at Trick's companionable body language. He opened his mouth again, and Mallory snapped her fingers and pointed up the street. "Tch!" He started and began to make a frustrated sound at her dismissal, but she simply repeated the gesture.

After another confused look at Trick's expression and at the witch's expectant stare, Marcus pushed out of her brother's grasp and hurried away from them. "Hey, that crazy bitch is all yours, bro. You deserve each other!"

"My God. He's deaf and dumb," Trick marveled, taking a seat at the table. "Did he miss the part where I said sister?"

"I think he tunes out whenever he senses a 'no' coming," Mallory observed as she shut her books... and looked up at Trick with a nearly ear-splitting grin, shaking with silent laughter. "That poor, dumb ****er. That could've gone so much worse..." She propped her chin on her hand. "Imagine if Eri had been there."

Patrick smirked, slouching in his seat. "He has no idea I practically saved his life."

"I think I need to take my '**** off, I'm busy' stare in for repairs. It usually works..." The server tending the tables out here finished pretending not to notice hers, now that Marcus was gone. She made eye contact to draw him over so they could order drinks.

"You're wearing a ring, for god's sake." He gave the drink menu a scornful stare, an expression that melted into dispassionate calm when he tipped his face up to the server. "Coke. Heavy ice."

"He's a T.A. He's very smart." She raised her eyebrows at him, stifling a giggle when he snorted, before she turned to the server to order a beer.

"How's all that going, by the way?" Trick waved a hand at her ring, doing his best (and failing) to appear only casually interested.

"She's not sick of me, if that's what you're asking." Lips curved into a smirk for her brother. "No firm wedding plans yet. No date. No dresses. No venue." Their drinks arrived, and she curled a few fingers around the neck of the bottle, chiming her ring against it. "And Eri's family is very laid back... I think we could get married anywhere, in any way, and they'd just show up and be happy."

"I'm going to be a nightmare if I ever get married someday," Trick said solemnly. It wasn't hard to imagine, either, with his need for order and attention to detail. "Not as bad as Oceane's being, but I'll probably drive my bride crazy."

"Probably." Mallory narrowed her eyes at him as she imagined the moment, dangling her bottle from her fingers. She watched him for a beat longer before she asked him, "Will you walk me down the aisle?"

He looked up at her from over the rim of his glass, mid-sip, slate blue eyes wide with wonder. Setting the drink aside, Trick licked his lips and sat forward, setting his elbows on the edge of the table. "Yeah. I--" The words caught in his throat. She watched him swallow the lump that had formed there. "Of course I will."

Mallory's smile turned sweet, and she nodded a few times and swigged her beer. Her gaze drifted to the street, eyes moving in that subtle way that indicated she was deep in thought. "I think Roka's going to walk Eri down the aisle. She said she wants to do a traditional Western wedding, and... I think that, and you walking with me, are the only two things we've decided." She shook her head. "It's hard."

It looked as though it took great restraint for him to keep from telling her to get a move on things, but his smile was so sincere that it didn't matter. "Nah, you guys'll get it figured out."

"Yeah. I know," Mallory replied, mirroring a fraction of his smile. "It's just hard to pick anything, when this moment is supposed to mean... forever. Trying to wrap my head around that concept isn't easy."

Patrick shifted his weight from one elbow to the other, reaching for a straw that he unwrapped with the intense concentration and precision of a brain surgeon. "I was a little surprised that you guys even got engaged, you know... 'Cause Eri's..." He made a vague gesture at her with the straw, indicating she could infer the rest.

"Super hot? brave? strong?" she guessed with a teasing grin.

"I don't think I'm allowed to say my future sister-in-law is hot. Am I?"

"It'd be a little weird," she admitted, and settled her beer on the table. "She's immortal. I wasn't sure until I asked Roka... but that's how it works. He's at least four centuries old now -- probably a lot older."

"Damn." He sounded stunned. "I don't know how you..." Trailing off, he shook his head. "I don't know if I could do that. Be with someone who would outlive me." A small furrow creased his brow as he worried at the inside of his cheek with his teeth.

"I think..." Mallory frowned, shook her head. "Even with different lifespans or the exact same, or complete agelessness... you can't know for sure. I might outlive her," Mallory said. "I don't want to, but -- something could happen. I learned that. Recently." She worried her lip, pausing before she continued. "And... knowing that anything can happen, and wanting to enjoy whatever time we have as much as we can, is why I proposed... months sooner than I'd been planning." She laughed quietly, color rising in her cheeks. "But if I can be like her..."

She looked up from the table to look her brother in the eye, significantly. "I'm trying. I've been trying to be like her... to live forever."

The muscles in Patrick's jaws jumped and twitched. Mallory watched him tighten the reins on his physical response, a riot of emotion being beaten into submission as he leaned slowly back in his chair, at which point his expression became inscrutable. He unlocked his jaws and ran the tip of his tongue across the inside of his cheek.

"Good. You can keep my grandkids in line."

Mallory's expression was more open, her nervousness clear as she watched him, but when he finally spoke up, she slowly cracked a smile, showing him a sliver of teeth. "I'll keep an eye on them. Chase down toddler Patrick Richie III when no one else is feeling up to it," sliding a fingernail behind her beer label. She paused. "...Eri and I would be the eccentric great aunts. The very eccentric great aunts," she realized.

A bubble of amusement fractured the careful construct of his emotions, so that along with the sound of his laugh there was a rush of tears he was forced to blink back. It was harder now to maintain his composure, his anemic smile belied by the bloom of color around his eyes as struggled to keep himself in check.

Mallory watched him for a moment, and her smile flickered as she stretched out her hand to the middle of the table, palm up, for him to take. Patrick drew in a steadying breath and let it back out at the same time he sat forward to put his hand in hers. She squeezed firmly but said nothing, letting silence fall over the table as they held hands and sipped their drinks.

((Written with Patrick's player, with thanks!))
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