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Beyond all Mortal Ken (Forgotten Woods)

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Hush, now. It is nighttime, and the town is lost in sleep, wandering the roads of a thousand dreams. If you listen closely, you can hear them- deep snores, soft breaths, dying wheezes, no two quite the same. Signatures, carved in the silence. Here and there you may also catch scribbles, such as the pop and crackle of a fire in the hearth or the scritching and scurrying of hungry rats or the faint murmur of conversation between those few nocturnal dwellers who don't know the meaning of bedtime.

And footsteps! Let's not forget the footsteps. There's an artistry to them, a rhythm, such that each soft pad against the earth (heel-toe, heel-toe) fits neatly into the tapestry of the night's sounds, a cleanly drawn line amidst the scrawls emanating elsewhere. The wind picks up, and hums in tune. It's curious, excited. After all, these are no ordinary footsteps!

This is the sound of a force of nature, beginning to move.

A blue cloak floats down the road, carried by a pair of small feet that stride without the slightest deviation to the threshold of civilization. First it's the shadows of houses and taller buildings that fall behind her, then the long rows of crops rustling faintly in the wind, and finally the last fence marking the border. After that, nothing but barren road, thin grasses and scattered weeds. Then the shadows of the first trees.

They fall over the lady in blue, enveloping her swallowing her whole. She does not hesitate, only striding onward, onward, onward into the dark of the wilderness, until she passes out of sight and is lost to the world.

Forever.

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"You know, we could have waited until daylight. I'm not saying that we're bad in the dark, I'm just saying that we're better in the light."

In a lot of ways, the pixie wasn't wrong, annoying as that was to admit. Filomena was a superb scout on good, well-lit days, no matter where in the world they happened to be, and whenever they stumbled into the deeper parts of the forest she had no issues steering both of them in the right direction. When the sun fell, however, and the roads grew dark and unfamiliar, most pixies just weren't up to it. Heck, most species in general weren't up to it. That's why they slept.

"The roads are dangerous these days," The sylph reflected briefly. Her large, dark eyes were always trained forward, always scouring the path ahead as they moved. Even in the dark, they picked up minor details; the swaying of tree boughs, the way grass moved in the gentle breeze that followed her. She listened for her own gentle footfalls, and the soft beating of Filomena's wings as they walked along the road. Not too far behind them, the horizon was still lit with the scant few buildings with lights on. One of them was a tavern, and many more were homes to the people who lived and worked along there. They'd been there for a short while, but that had ended quickly when they'd both taken interest of something along the road. 

Specifically, the Sylphid woman Liiah and her companion, the pixie Filomena, had been resting in a tired old tavern known simply as 'Last Stop'. The choice of locale had largely been decided upon by the former of the two, much to the latters dismay, as the tavern had been mostly empty when they'd shown up. There were other, less sobering places to drink and rest, after all, and much of the town's population sought to spend their time there instead. To Lia, it was a chance to rest in silence, and not worry about watching her back, or Filomena's back for that matter. But to Filo it had practically been a death sentence.

"Come on, just one day in town?" The pixie pleaded again, hovering in front of her friend, eyes large and puppy-like. It had next to no effect on Lia, who brushed past her easily.

"These woods are dark and deep, Filo." The sylphid mentioned, nodding ahead of them. "There has to be some reason she is going into them."

While they'd been resting at the tavern, Filo had been the first to spot her. A lone figure, small in stature and sporting a gorgeous blue cloak, walked right past the town, without even stopping to look at any of the buildings. They'd watched her walk with curiosity for a short spell before Lia had ultimately made the decision for them, annoucning that they were leaving immediately.

"We already know why people go into those woods!" Filo protested. "The same reason anybody travels into the feywilds! They're trying to find the fey who live there, and get their help with something. We can do that any time; we're all practically related."

The sylphid swordswoman paused, watching the woman disappear into the woods at least a mile ahead of them. "It's going to be even darker inside of those woods, too." She breathed at last, consenting. "We're going to need light of some kind." She glanced at the pixie expectantly, who immediately shook her head adamantly.

"Absolutely not! I am not playing lantern for you, just so we can go satisfy your nature fetish!" Filo shook her head and turned on her heels, arms crossed indignantly.

The sylph sighed audibly, resting a hand against her forehead. Without Lia, she wouldn't be able to see in those woods, but she wasn't eager to wait until morning, when the woman had disappeared from sight entirely. She'd have to head back into town as quickly as she could, and gather together some supplies in order for them to enter the woods.

"Fine, we'll head back into town." She told her company. "But only for a bit; we need a gas lamp, and plenty of extra fuel." She cracked a small smile at her friend. "And we'll probably need to talk to the locals and figure out whatever we can. This can wait until we find a merchant or something."

The pixie hugged her friend's shoulder with a triumphant laugh. "Hah! I win again, Lia!"

"Yes, fine, you win again." 

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It had been four years since Gale Hawk had set foot in a forest.

His homeland, E'Kraun Forest of Iselyr had been the last time his eyes had ever gazed upon such beauty. Walking beneath the shadow of the trees and hearing and feeling the cold whisper of the wind. He took in that sight and the smell and the sound as he stepped off his horse and let him go with a gentle pat to his backside. To any other man, it would just be the mundane sound of the rustling of leaves and the swaying of branches, but to him, it was almost like listening to a favorite song. Instead of human hands, however, it was the trees and the animals that conducted a sweet, soothing melody.

The sound of distant footsteps snapped him out of his reverie - and his dark blue-green eyes scanned the horizon, just as his hand instinctively found its way to the handle of the sword on his back.

Gale was the tallest and leanest member of the Watchers - a group of demon-hunters that dedicated their lives to eradicating the creatures of Hell. As he was a hybrid of human and fairy, (Undine, or Water-Fairies specifically) he was the one most attuned to hunting in nature and the woodland areas. However, what he could sense here was no demon. The scent and the sound was far too.. graceful, ethereal even.

Gale had chosen to wear his armor for this particular mission: An ornate suit of blue dyed steel plates that covered him from head-to-toe. Unlike the battle suits of ordinary men, his was inscribed with Fairy Letters meant to show it was not forged by mortal hands. To any of the Fair Folk, it was meant to show he was one of them - that unlike his fully human comrades, he had immortal blood in his veins. 

Yet for all his preparation and the fact he had chosen to come here to seek out others of his Folk, he had forgone the use of his helmet - allowing his long red hair to hang loosely over his shoulders. It swayed in the wind - and he brushed it away with a hand every time it blew over his eyes.

"Dia dhaoibh!" He called - a traditional greeting in the Fairy language, or "Gods to you" in the common tongue. 

Before he could get any further, he could hear the sounds of conversation - and near to him. The voices were both light and feminine and a little weary too - and they spoke perfectly legible common.

Gale ducked behind the nearest tree - a particularly large trunked willow - as he heard the voices come closer. First determine if they were friend or foe, his cautious nature overruled his better judgment until he could find out.

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If the duo wanted to find assistance, then there was one who would offer it presumptuously. A nosy, short, and intruding entity had already trailed them. They weren't particularly good at this whole 'stealth' thing, poor Ist-Larros-Ollos, due to the fact their hand ticked as it moved, mechanisms and gears clicking together and showing its unliving nature. That didn't stop the monk from trying to sneak, and likely getting away from it by being far enough away and from the conversation overtaking them, but that doesn't matter.

ILO paused, placing their hand into their cloak, their physical hand wrapping around their pistol, and their brass hand going to pull their cloak over it, concealing it. It always paid off to be a little worried when speaking with strange creatures who may, or may not, wish to flay individuals alive. The monk breathed in, before going to approach from their shadowy hiding place. They would step over, just into sight.

What stood before them was a small person, in a large-brimmed hat, with brown clothing that covered their body in all places. They wore a brown scarf that looked like it was made from cloth merely cut into a long strip and wrapped around their face to their nose, and then left to dangle. The most striking feature of this creature was, though, their clockwork hand. A mechanism, some manner of machine, replacing their hand of flesh with wrought steel and cold brass.

"Greetings!" Ist began. 

"I am Ist-Larros-Ollos and I followed you out as you headed towards this dangerous place. I now hear that you wish to find assistance. It is my mission to help those in need, and I would like to help you." Ist bowed, deeply, and looked back, their eyes gleaming, wide with anticipation. 

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"Vince! I'm glad to see you in one piece! How was the job?" An old man greeted with a feeble smile. His face was weary from all those barkeeping tasks he did earlier. He finished wiping a table with his feeble hands and limped towards Vince, eager for some news.

Vince, on the other hand, sat near the wooden bar table. "It was boring..." He leaned against the table and drummed his fingers. Earlier, he had to harvest hundreds of hide from different monsters and deliver them back to the bar. It took him the whole day to finish this job. It was easy, but it took way too long. He took of the sack of hide he brought and hid it behind the bar table.

"Don't worry, I've got another job for ya. Something a little bit more... interesting." The old man cheesed, while checking the hide. "Pretty nice work you did in gettin' these skin." He tossed a few valuable coins at Vince's way.

"What job?" Vince took the money and focused on the old man. He did labor work for the past few hours and he was glad to have another job that was "interesting". 

"I want you to look into something for me." The old man's gaze steeled. This was a job that he didn't give freely to any mercenary. "I saw cute gal earlier, walking towards the woods." He pointed at the direction of the forest. "She was wrapped with a blue cloak, you'll recognize her when you see her." He looked at Vince with his jaded eyes. "Find out what she's doing, will ya?"

Vince brow visibly raised. "Why should I?" He stood and swaggered over the exit, jiggling the newly-earned coins in his pocket.

"I'll give ya twice of what you just earned." The old man's mouth slipped into a friendly smile. He held up a bag of coins, shaking it to tease Vince.

Vince walked outside and shouted, "Sure pops!". He had another job now. Another destination. He faced the direction the old man pointed at earlier and jogged towards it. Who was this mysterious, cloaked woman? What was she doing the woods? These were the questions he wanted to answer.

And he will get all the answers, if he dare travel the Forgotten Woods.

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The walk back towards the village, and more ironically 'The Last Stop' was far less quiet than the trip towards the woods in the first place. Although the air was still, and the sky was dark, there were far more noises along the road than their own footsteps. The fey found themselves halting in their tracks quickly at the first sign of disquiet, when somebody called out to them. It was a clear, and obvious greeting, but it'd been so unexpected that when the speaker had called out:

On 3/2/2018 at 9:07 AM, Sir Nathaniel said:

"Dia dhaoibh!"

They'd both frozen in place, uncertain for a moment. Of course, they both knew the greeting well enough, but their confusion didn't stem from the greeting alone.

"Was that for us?" Filo whispered in a hushed voice. The pixie rested on her comrade's shoulder briefly, leaning into her ear. Lia didn't answer immediately, but her hand did go to the zweihander resting along her back. She gripped the handle carefully as she continued walking forwards, eyes scanning the sides of the road as she moved. Step by step, they continued down the road, both of them peering out in the hopes of finding whatever fey had attempted to make contact. She thought that, briefly, she'd seen somebody hiding off to the side of her vision, but didn't have the chance to examine the site closer when another interloper walked into the path, loud and abrupt. His sudden appearance forced her to take a half-step back, drawing the zweihander with a practiced motion and resting it at the ready, eager to swing at the offender.

On 3/8/2018 at 6:40 AM, ThePerson said:

"I am Ist-Larros-Ollos and I followed you out as you headed towards this dangerous place. I now hear that you wish to find assistance. It is my mission to help those in need, and I would like to help you." Ist bowed, deeply, and looked back, their eyes gleaming, wide with anticipation. 

She stared at 'Ist', as they called themselves, then at her sword, and then back at him. With the situation slowly dissolving as quickly as it had occurred, she quickly rested her blade by her side and shook her head in annoyance.

Filomena, on the other hand, quickly fluttered off her shoulder and flew in Ist's face, examining them.

"Wow! It's like a robo-man or something, like in that one fairy tale!" She remarked with excitement. "Except this guy looks all oiled up already; we don't even have to waste time fixing him!" She spun in place to grin at the sylph, pumping her fists in excitement. "This is so cool!"

Lia had to admit, she'd never seen anything quite like Ist before. She couldn't even begin to describe what it was she was trying to understand about him; it just seemed difficult to find any one thing to try and look at, seeing how seamless it all blended into one greater picture. Trying to examine their facial features was pointless--it just led to their internal workings, with that devilish ticking noise and peculiar twitching, as was examining their limbs. It was hard for the sylph to get a read on them, beyond recognizing that they weren't a natural-made occurrence. It made her somewhat hesitant to approach Ist.

"You don't look to be fairie." She mentioned at last, still gripping the zweihander with one hand. "That can't have been you that called, then." She mostly said it for herself, and for Filo. 

The pixie picked up on the tone in her friend's voice and quickly took off skywards, soaring above their heads until she was free enough from the influence of Lia's presence to detect anything else fey related in the area, before flying back down and circling around the only other person around they hadn't met. The pixie flew close to the ground, in the largest circle possible in order to reach the hidden speaker, only to surprise him with a startled cry of excitement.

"Whoa! Take a look at all this hair, Lia!" She called loud enough to get the sylph's attention. As her friend started over, she quickly casted a small orb of brilliant blue light--it illuminated the surrounding area--and the sneaky person watching them, as well.

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How long had it been now...days..hours...minutes..The large goliath was not worried, only annoyed. He came out this way with some other mercs and a very enthusiastic businessman. So far they hadn't come back. There was commotion he had over heard...

On 3/8/2018 at 6:40 AM, ThePerson said:

It is my mission to help those in need, and I would like to help you."

Help..they must be out here for the same damn reason. He decided to move from where he was posted. Being set up in the trees was nice but a bit rough for sleeping. A loud audible 'thud' was uttered by the ground as he leaped down. There was the group nearby he'd heard. A popping of knuckles from the old shaker as he made his way over. 

"I hear you're looking to aid. I assume you lot are heading into the trees?" Azul tried not to look desperate for a chance to get moving. There was quite a strange ensemble around him but he paid it no heed. "I'm a shaker, basically we smash and break and keep an eye on others. If you're going out there I'd oblige you to take me with. My strength could come in handy out there." 

The reason didn't matter, he was doing this for the job he was contracted to do, help secure a route through the woods to secure a supply line for the common folk in need. If these people feel into the same mind set, great. If they didn't well he'd still chart and secure the route. This would entail having to deal with local flora and fauna threats and then scouting once the route was secure.

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Vince jogged along the road, the ground crunching against his steps. He had a job from the old man and he would be damned if he didn't take it. The rewards was hefty, it was enough to give him a week's day of food and supplies. This thought quickened his jog to a sprint. And soon enough, he encountered a bizarre scene in the middle of the road. He gradually slowed down and stopped his movements, landing a feet away from the group.

Standing there at the scene, was a huge, muscular man towering over three figures. Two of them looked like they were fairies. The taller one carried a long sword. Is she carrying a zweihander? And is that smaller fairy a pixie? Vince really didn't know much but their dust are worth a lot, rumors say. The other figure was stranger than any being he had seen. It was wrapped around a long, brown robe and it wore a wide-brimmed hat.

Not sure of what to do, Vince walked towards the group. If they were in the middle of the road, they should be going to the woods, right? So he stopped aside the large, burly man and asked him, "You guys are heading to the woods, correct? Mind if I tag along?". He glanced at the other three figures, focusing his sight on the weird short figure with a hat. His eyebrows rose upon seeing the metalic, clockwork-like hand the being possessed. He stooped down the creature's level and met its gaze. "You intrigue me... I'm Vince, what's your name?".

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Lia watched passively as steadily more people crept out of the woodwork from all directions. It was peculiar, and almost funny, how so many people had somehow been hidden from view on this very stretch of road. Although she couldn't ascertain the full depth of any of their intentions, it was comforting to know that they didn't lack for company on their trip. Slowly, the sylvan woman tucked away her blade, sheathing it and standing up straight as her companion rejoined her. She looked from person to person, before speaking her mind at last.

"Well," She gave a gentle laugh, biting back a fit of giggles. "It looks like we won't have to go into town after all, Filo."

Although she wasn't terribly impressed at her inability to visit the human settlement, the pixie more than made up for her excitement by taking in the unique shapes that had lumbered out of the woods. They really were a group of all shapes and sizes. It was dizzying to keep track of all of them at once, and it thrilled the little fairie to no end. Filomena flitted in the faces of each newcomer, scrutinizing them carefully, babbling almost incoherently in excitement.

"Ohmigosh, lookit this guys---no, lookit that guys---no wait! This guy has a--" It was next to impossible for her to focus on any one target, such was her inattention, and with that lack of focus came a total lack of ability to finish sentences. From where she was standing, Lia thought it was charming, though she wasn't too sure what her companions may have thought. Before the fairie could drive them all off, however, the slyph clapped her hands once, loudly, to get the attention of just about everyone.

"Okay, okay! Here's a thought." She spoke up. 

"I can see that more than a few of you are trying to head into the Forgotten Woods, am I right?" She pointed to herself, and then at her pixie companion. "My name is Lia, and this is Filomena. We're adventurers, of a sort, so exploring forbidden places isn't exactly out of our job description." She raised her voice, loud enough for anyone hiding to hear. "But there's obviously strength in numbers, so if you want to come with us, just say so. If not, then there's nothing more to say on the subject."

"Step right up!" Filo parroted next to her, mimicking a carny she'd encountered once at a human fair. "Hurr-ay, Hurr-ay, right this way folks, and join the fun. Next stop: The Forbidden Woods!"

"Forgotten Woods." Lia pointed out.

"Is it?" Filo looked back at her, and then at the rest of the group. "Does anybody know the actual name of these stupid woods? I haven't met the fae here, so I dunno what they call it."

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Ist-Larros-Ollos stared at Vince. Indeed, the creature was quite short, with its clockwork hand and gleaming eyes. It seemed a bit flustered at being approached in such a brazen manner. Almost as a nervous tick, Ist went to adjust the mask pulled over their nose and mouth, pulling it up to nearly cover their eyes. "I am Ist-Larros-Ollos, designated ILO, student of Tephir-Hallo-Ansta-Maph-Il, designated THAMI." They bowed, deeply, and Vince would likely have spied their only weapon. A strange pistol, ticking and clicking like their arm, hidden amongst their many cloths and layers. 

Regaining their neutral, measured composure, ILO looked to the duo. Without a single bit of hesitation, they approached. "I will assist you on this endeavour." They said, confident. "It is well-known these woods are full of terrible, monstrous beings, that would tear me limb from limb and leave my entrails scattered across the ground, my blood curdling. I see no better place to head." It became evident that Ist was likely not a very social type, but they were sincere, not a hint of a lie in their breath.

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Vince nodded at ILO's statement. "I agree, joining up our forces seems like our only option here.". He pointed at the direction of the woods, "If we all want to get out of the Forgotten Woods alive, teaming up is the best choice to make.". He continued to judge ILO's appearance, looking for anything interesting he can make a comment on. His eyes stopped on a bulging spot hidden beneath the creature's clothes. Its outline was similar to a gun. Vince stooped down yet again and poked the hidden object, "Young fellow, what is that? Is it a gun?"

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Azul simply shook himself awake, he'd been asleep for a few days here in the outskirts. His body made a cacophony of pops and snaps as he stretched his back and shoulders then his head and finally his fingers. The shaker, as he called himself, bore only a few scars along his arms, which was hard to judge since his skin had the texture of stones. Azul spoke no words, he did not care to speak unless directly spoken with. For now, he knew they would be heading out soon enough so he began his routine to warm up. Azul found a nice spot around 50 feet away from the others and began to perform squats. 

The shaker was still quite a bit annoyed that his party had not returned as well as that this was going to take some more time. The squats would help him prepare his mind for running and moving a bit swiftly as well as physically do the same. He had only heard rumors and stories of the forest, he simply knew not many others would take a dangerous task and he simply wanted, no needed, the work lest he start punching random civilians. He had not had a good bit of work for quite a while now and it was starting to show. Azul's demeanor was very harsh, he was quick to be irate as well as being a bit harsh with his word choice. He decided it best not to speak until it was necessary.

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Gale had fallen asleep in the Inn hours earlier. He’d get lost in a dream. He was chasing after someone in an endless maze. It went left and right up and down, hills here hills there. It was a confusing blithering mess. It even went straight up and curled back around; the inside of a Endless sphere.  There was something mesmerizing and yet philosophical about it. Was his subconscious telling him what he already knew ? The Hopless subjectivity Of his existence.  

 Gale was a freak even among freak. A Skeleton Pitch Black with his bones and held togther by a Burning Blue magic that scream out something much more sinister. He often wrapped his? Was he even a he? He was a ****ing skeleton with no genitalia! He was an It!  But Wel it was easier to just say he made it easier for the Humans and other creatures and his Mind to cope. Simplified it for himself.  At least unlike a majority of undead he was fully aware of himself and the world and its people. Something that condemned most Undead to Damnation by mortals.

while tho greater internal struggle raged inside of him, time easily slipped away. Pulling down hours and minutes and parts of a day, not that it mattered he was past the point of dying, past the point of no return, he’d be stuck here til the world ended, or the universe  decide it had enough. 

There was something stirring within him someone or someones he had to go met. Oh who his sense of fate was tingling what horrible events would he have to put up with today? 

He saw two, a pixie or a fairy or whatever the hell you called the small floating persona with wings who did all the magic shit, and a tall female who he forgot what made her kind special. Then it hit him, Did he really just think that? no they were Special! Oh gods he was slipping into the madness! Everything kissing meaning, no longer caring, he was loosing his mind! The one thing he wanted to keep.  In this bid of existential dread that stunned form a temporary psychiatric break the people he’d been focusing on had escaped from his vision. 

He exited the tavern and looked up and down the street for them. He couldn’t find them he felt so out of place and walked down the stairs and headed down the road. He felt so lost out here.

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Gale looked over the motley crew with what others might call detached curiosity, at least until the pixies revealed themselves. A sylph appeared to have appointed herself the de facto leader of this group, and she seemed to have no trouble accepting just about anyone into it. He supposed that might make sense. Forests and ancient places like this tended to have dark, hidden things within them. So often the rumor was that any mortal who entered it never returned. Fortunate then that Gale was not fully human. 

Well, time to get the meet and greet step over with. 

He stood to his full height and with a deep breath he walked forward, armor clanking softly as he took each step. When he entered the small clearing, he inspected each member of the group one by one. At least one man, a sylph, a pixie and some strange, mechanical being he had never seen before. 

In a clear voice he announced himself. 

“My name is Gale Hawk.” He said in the common tongue. “I am of the Iselyrian Undine folk, and I would know why you all have come here. To my knowledge I am the last of my kind. My mission is to see if any of my folk yet live here. If there are any more of the Fair Folk in this wood, I too would aid this endeavor.”

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As Vince reached down, ILO reacted with unnerving speed. They went to grab at the arm that was attempting to touch their weapon, and yank them to the ground with it, while twirling around to then push them onto the ground if they were successful. If, after this grim task was done, they were still able, they would draw their pistol, a grotesquely beautiful clockwork mechanism of wrought brass and cold steel, oddly complex and go to plant it on Vince's head. "I am a bearer of a Voice of Brass and Fire, and a holder of a three-pronged name!" They threatened, bluntly.

As the others approached, Ist blinked and turned their gaze to the one that spoke. They paused, nodding their head, unable to really bow. "Greetings. I am Ist-Larros-Ollos, designated ILO. I wish to assist these individuals in their quest. Please disregard my current actions, this one had made an unwise movement."

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