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Tales of Valkia (Semi-Closed)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Comrade Commisar
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Compulsory Consumerist State

Tales of Valkia (Semi-Closed)

Postby Comrade Commisar » Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:52 pm

In summary, this is an anthology of short stories, perspectives, and general media about Valkia. Similar to a previous incarnation, but more modern, and granting a certain leniency in that it doesn't need to be limited to people from the region, so as long as such stories are set in the region. Basically, as long as the general setting is in Valkia, and it isn't a large story that warrants its own thread, it's fine. Probably.

Ideally, this will include all the little side plots and other short stories that people want to write about and/or roleplay. The types of stories that people like to flaunt in chats, but otherwise don't want to commit to for any prolonged period. The kind of things where you really want to write about it, but don't appreciate the closed nature of factbooks, or the open nature of an entire formal thread. Things like that.

Try to refrain from one-liners. Don't do anything that will get you in trouble with the forum. If it's too sexual, grotesque, or graphic, you are probably better off writing someplace else. Remember that lore and canon are reserved as the discretion of the participants involved, and that they maintain the right to ignore you if you write something disagreeable. Try to work with each other on something nice. That's the whole point of this entire thread, after all. Good writing.
A complete mess of a nation known in-character as the 'North Lands'; populated by pious priestesses, wandering mercenaries, violent bandits, and various internal power struggles. Be careful of who you deal with.

Basically, a decentralized feudalistic society ranging anywhere between medieval and interwar.

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Barboneia
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Compulsory Consumerist State

Sympatiaa Paholaiselle

Postby Barboneia » Sat Aug 31, 2019 9:07 pm

“Peltola.. Hey. Peltola! C’mon!”

Corporal Thomas Peltola, member of the Greater Barboneian Army’s Third Infantry Fighting Group, looked up to the source of the voice. It was the first time he had been disturbed from reading his novel for the last three hours, and he was startled by the interruption. His Sergeant, a dour-faced bear of a man named Johannes, glared at him from across the barracks. “Peltola, you were told to report to the supply room four hours ago, were you not?” Thomas’ eyes widened. He had, in fact, been told to report to the supply room some time ago. But he completely forgot. “Oh… Yeah, uh, my apologies, sir, I was-” ''Busy hiding in the barracks reading? Christ, if this is the current state of the military, we might as well give every new recruit a book instead of a rifle.” Johannes looked down at the clipboard he was holding. “If you don’t get to the supply room at the south end of the base right now, I’ll be recommending you for disciplinary action. Is that clear, Corporal?” Thomas jumped up from the bed he was laying on and saluted. “Yes, sir, Sergeant, sir!” This seemed to satisfy Johannes, who simply nodded and left. Thomas seemed to visibly deflate upon his departure. Well, I can always read later, he thought to himself as he zipped up his windbreaker, grabbed his rifle, and moved to leave the barracks.

Corporal Peltola had the dubious privilege of, along with the rest of the Third Infantry Fighting Group, being deployed to a small operating base not far into the North Lands interior, far from the frontlines of Operation Northern Retaliation. Earlier that year, the military mobilized to invade the lawless territories that made up the North Lands and, as part of his compulsory conscription, Thomas was deployed into the military as part of the invading force, though thankfully had not experienced any actual combat thus far. Unfortunately, to him, he might as well have been sent to hell for his deployment. The North Lands was largely uninhabitable. Although it was covered in lush forests and seemingly idyllic streams and rivers and lakes and what have you, it seemed frozen over most of the year, and the inhabitants seemed to prefer eating any transgressors into the area than attempting diplomacy with them. Explorers, oil workers, and anyone else insane or stupid enough to enter the region were quickly beset by the natives, known as North Landers by most people in Valkia, or, alternatively (and more offensively), chimeras. Thomas didn’t particularly have any prejudice against them; he was friends with a few in school, and had a crush on a particularly attractive North Lander during his time in vocational school. His comrades, however, mostly despised them, and seemed more than enthusiastic at the chance to be able to kill them wholesale.

While Thomas hadn’t witnessed any being killed he, along with most of the army and the rest of the country, heard the stories of the initial invasion forces absolutely brutalizing the local people through the reporting media. Burning down villages, executing surrendering militia members, things like that. It seemed as though the military’s line of thinking was that the North Landers weren’t human, therefore, any war crimes committed against them “didn’t count”. Thomas, and many others, disagreed. But their opinions didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and once the Barboneian war machine was moving, it was impossible to stop.

Thomas made his way to the southern part of the base, passing lines of vehicles undergoing repairs, supply clerks surveying the stores, barracks, garages, everything an invading army needs to maintain its supremacy and continue acting as an effective fighting force. Thomas pulled his hood up and grimaced. It was mid-August, and yet it might as well have been the middle of December, it was so cold. Thomas was a native of the Great South of Barboneia, and wasn’t as used to the cold as many of his more northern-hailing comrades. He was glad that the supply building was a comfortable room temperature, used to maintain the integrity of many of the foodstuffs stored inside and other equipment. Thomas was also glad to see, as he entered the building, that he was relieving his friend Kristo, and could talk to him briefly before he had to leave. “Hi, Tom,” Kristo said warmly, slinging his rifle over his back. “Weren’t you supposed to come a few hours earlier?” Thomas chuckled a bit. “...Heh, yeah, sorry. I was reading in the barracks.” “But they called for you on the announcements, like, four times.” Thomas blinked. “...I may have fallen asleep a bit, too.” Kristo shrugged. “I don’t mind, anyways. They keep it warmer in here than they do the barracks so extra time spent here is fine by me. Oh, yeah, did you hear about that North Lander they caught sneaking around the base last night?” Thomas shook his head as he was looking over some of the crates in the room, and sat down on a relatively sturdy one. “No. It must’ve been after I went to bed.” “Well, she managed to get her hands on a bunch of spare magazines. But get this; she didn’t grab any actual ammo for them, they were completely empty! These natives aren’t very intelligent… I’m surprised they’re managing to resist our occupation as hard as they have been.” Kristo sighed, and stretched a bit. “Well, I just wanted to tell you that, to keep your guard up. You know how the COs get when they see the grunts slacking off in any way. Especially after we had a security breach like that. And I wouldn’t get too comfortable. The Sergeant has been doing hourly inspections. If he catches you sitting down…” He mimicked shooting Thomas, who begrudgingly stood back up with a groan. “Yeah, yeah. See you, Kris.”

Thomas never liked being assigned guard duty. It mostly consisted of standing around, sometimes checking into the other store rooms, trying not to get sore from holding his rifle for hours on end, occasionally helping someone grab a spare supply or two, and today was no different. Sergeant Johannes did show up, once, but for most of his shift, Thomas simply did what he always did; specifically, nothing. He tried to entertain himself for a little while by taking inventory, but lost track at the forty-eighth crate of army-issued socks.

However, shortly before he was to be relieved, around ten hours into his assignment, he was startled by a loud crash in the room next to the one he was in. Things falling over wasn’t uncommon; people didn’t always bother putting everything back properly, or making sure the crates were stacked correctly, or things would fall over in the crates themselves, but this was much louder than usual. Almost like it was intentional. Thomas, a bit nervous, raised his rifle, and moved into the storage building’s hallway. Everything was silent now, but this did nothing to calm him down. Slowly, he moved to the door of the ration storage room, where the crash had happened in. He put his ear against it. He could hear a slight rustling sound, as if… someone were going through the rations! Maybe a recruit was looking for a second dinner. Whatever the case, he wouldn’t stand for it. If it was a recruit, he would just let them off with a warning, but if it was some… thing, else, well..

Thomas held his breath and quickly slammed through the door, bursting into the room, rifle raised. He had hoped to freak out the poor rookie going through the rations, but what he saw instead made his eyes widen. Sitting among the smashed remains of a wooden ration crate, her arms overflowing with the brown ration sleeves, was a North Lander woman, her eyes filled with fear. She had a thin, rather pretty face, framed by long black strands of hair, and her eyes themselves were a deep shade of brown. And her ears… Her ears were quite big, bigger than any he had seen on a North Lander. Thomas was about to say something, perhaps warn her to surrender or something, but suddenly, she stood up, and his jaw nearly dropped. He hadn’t noticed while she was sitting, but she was extremely tall. Thomas was about 5’11”, but she had at least a foot on him in terms of height. She held a controlling presence in the room, towering over the Corporal, and normally he would be scared… But she was so thin. She obviously hadn’t eaten well in months. And though she glared at him, he could tell she was even more scared than he was, and probably just wanted him to leave her alone. What could he do? She was a North Lander, and though she didn’t seem to be wearing militia clothing, her presence, in a highly secured Barboneian military base, could only result in her execution, especially considering she was stealing from them. Thomas knew, in the back of his mind, that he should shoot her, report the incident, and possibly get a medal for his actions. It was the right thing to do. He had a duty to do so.

But he didn’t.

Thomas lowered his rifle. Looking behind her, he could see an open window, likely how she was able to climb in. He locked eyes with her for a brief second and nodded towards it. Her angry expression turned to one of genuine surprise. She raised an eyebrow. He nodded once more, and taking this as confirmation, she was gone without a sound, as though she vanished into thin air. Thomas blinked. Had he imagined all of this? No, the crate was still smashed. There were rations all over the ground. And the window was open. It had definitely occurred. It was all so sudden, like some sort of frenzied fever dream. And now, he could be court martialed for potentially aiding the enemy if he was found out, for letting her escape like that AND steal rations to boot.

But luckily, he wasn’t. Thomas claimed that the broken crate could have been caused by vermin, and, though he himself figured this to be too outlandish to be accepted, it was barely questioned by command. They didn’t even notice the open window that the North Lander escaped out of. He was surprised by their lack of investigation, but eventually accepted it, and tried to forget about the incident. Though whenever he closed his eyes, or tried to sleep at night, that woman appeared again, her big eyes staring back at him, capturing his very soul in a tight grip, never letting him truly forget.

TWO WEEKS LATER


“THEY HIT THE COMMAND VEHICLE WITH A FUCKING ROCKET! I THOUGHT THESE SAVAGES-”

Sergeant Johannes was cut off as their vehicle was struck by an explosion. It spun out, the driver blinded by the blast steering wildly, and crashed into a ditch off of the road. The truck flipped a few times before coming to a stop upside down. Johannes gurgled something; a piece of debris had sliced his throat open, and he tried desperately to keep his wound shut as it gushed blood. He suddenly went limp, his body hanging down, arms outstretched, still buckled into its seat like a macabre Halloween decoration.

Thomas lay on his back on the roof, now floor, of the truck, holding his head in his hands. His entire body was aching, and his vision was blurry. He raised his head to watch as the driver, Private Jarmo Litmanen, kicked his door open and crawled out of the wreck. He leaned against the vehicle to bring himself to his feet, feeling his way around due to his loss of vision. As soon as he stood up he was immediately shot in the back by an unseen enemy. Jarmo cried out, clutching at the wound. A second shot hit him in the neck, causing him to slump back against the truck, silent.

Thomas was breathing heavily. This is how I die, he thought. What was supposed to be a simple supply run would be his final moments. He would laugh at how coincidental it was that his first actual combat engagement would be his last if the situation weren't so grim. He also wanted to cry. He just had to witness two people die gruesomely, he missed his friends and family back home, and he was forced into this conflict against his will. Now he would die for something he didn’t believe in. At least he would get a nice headstone, he thought morosely.

A few large figures suddenly appeared around the truck, and his eyes widened. Never mind. I don’t think there will be anything left when these natives are done with me. Thomas rolled himself over, and tried to crawl away from the side the North Landers were on, but it was too late. One of them pulled open the door to the backseat and the other reached in to pull him out. He thrashed around, trying desperately to break free of their grip, but they simply pulled harder, dragging him out onto the cold, dirty snow. He tried to cry out, to curse them, to provide any sort of defiance to his captors, but he couldn’t make a sound, save for a low groan. They threw him roughly against the ground, and one of them stomped down hard on his stomach, holding him in place. He felt like vomiting. Thomas gave up. He knew it was useless to resist, and if he tried to they would just prolong his death. A tall shadow fell over him, and he watched with squinted eyes as they raised a crude spear high over his head. He closed his eyes.

To his surprise, however, the spear wasn’t brought down. He heard what seemed like a discussion in the North Landers alien tongue, and felt a large hand shake his shoulder. He slowly opened his eyes.

The figure above him was tall, but most distinctly, had very large ears on their head. As his vision cleared, his eyes widened so much that he almost thought they would pop out of his head. It was the same North Lander woman from what seemed like ages ago, even though it had only been two weeks, but she looked much healthier. Not only that, she wore a heavy fur cloak typical of the militia groups present in the area. It seemed obvious that she was some kind of leader among the group, and held the same kind of presence she had before, but when she looked down at him, she seemed to warm up considerably. She locked eyes with him, and nodded. He could only blink back in response, his head spinning. Maybe this time, he really was in a dream. Then his vision went black.

Of the fourteen members of the Third Infantry Fighting Group assigned to the supply convoy between Operations Base Ketola and Forward Base Partsington, twenty-two year old Corporal Thomas Peltola was the only survivor of an ambush by a North Lander militia group on September 5th, 2011. He only suffered a concussion and minor injuries typical of a car crash. When asked how he managed to survive, he claimed that he didn’t know.

Thomas Peltola was honorably discharged from the Greater Barboneian Army the following November, and returned home with a Medal of Life for the wounds he suffered in action. He returned to his hometown of Kindred and finished his education in computer engineering. Over the years, he seemed to completely forget the two strange encounters he had during his brief military career. Thomas eventually married a beautiful North Lander woman in 2018 he met during a job in the North Lands.

He never noticed how large her ears were.
Last edited by Barboneia on Sat Aug 31, 2019 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Darussalam
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traincore

Postby Darussalam » Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:01 am

Slime molds are strangely fascinating organism. Neither plant nor animal, some thought for a while that it was a variety of fungi before it got reclassified once again. The thing about slime molds is that there may not be one sort of it - the organisms collectively called slime molds are spreading paraphyletically over the evolutionary tree, unified only by their most distinguishable characteristic. Slime molds exist in two states: as single-celled amorphous microscopic sacs, or multicellular reproductive hive structures called plasmodia. In the wilderness, you could find them underneath dead trees, yellow and slimy, with spindly vascular growths connecting to food sources for the hive's sustenance.

Slime molds, obviously, lack any brain structure. And yet they're bizarrely intelligent. When you place a slime mold on a surface, it will start spreading radially in a fractal pattern, reinforcing routes to food sources while recoiling from dangers and obstacles. This way they establish a relatively efficient pathway structure. With a few modifications around, they could easily serve as an algorithm for human problem-solving.

And it already started decades ago. Some researchers were looking to assess the problem-solving ability of slime molds. An easiest point of reference: public transit infrastructure. They compared a rail network designed by engineers to the one mapped by the mold by putting food in the mock-station-nodes. The researchers discovered what network is more cost-efficient and fault-resistant. Hint: it wasn't the human-created one. This finding attracted the interest of construction and rail companies. This is neither the first nor the last time in Darussalam that weird competitors disrupted the labor market.

Who, or what, designed the cavernous tunnels extending miles underneath Darussalami cities, laying the structure for the lifeline of Darussalami market superorganism? I'm not sure anybody knows. The pressure to efficiently serve millions of commuters punctually has ensured public transportation in Darussalam to be liberated from human agency in a considerably significant manner, moreso even than most other sectors. Sometime ago, shareholders of the realm's largest rail company decided that their interests are better-served by a betting-market algorithm than some bizarre and inefficient 'corporate structure', and it only got worse further downwards - nothing but interlocking system of self-propelling algorithms operating in autonomous feedback loops planning and designing timetables and route layouts. That said, I'm sure everyone has their guess.

Right now, I'm having one - an intensely specific guess. It's 2 am and I'm commuting, ten meters beneath the surface, apparently all by myself. The train hauled itself through the chthonic darkness, navigated by some distant algorithm. My headphones are blasting speedcore at full-volume to obscure what I, in my present sleep-deprived state, imagined as sloshing sound from outside, like the tunnels are covered by some kind of slimy, gelatinous membrane. For some reason, sometime ago, the sloshing sound harmonized, assuming tone and rhythm into something that resembles childish giggle, although fake and uncanny, reverberating throughout the train. I can't see anything on the windows - there's only darkness and my face faintly reflected, looking scared shitless. But I know that I shouldn't fall asleep, and I won't.

And I couldn't. The atmosphere is unlike usual - instead of cool and dry, like you'd expect from a train, it's warm and moist, like everything will be wet when touched. It's almost tropical down here, for fuck's sake. Must be the air conditioner screwing up again.

Thankfully, the train has stopped at my destination - the endpoint station for this route. The train's avatars are reminding me to bring my belongings out, smiling characters with large eyes and long animal ears with flashing scripts repeating their conversation in several languages. I'm stepping out to the platform, eager to be back at my apartment just a few minutes walk away.

A few minutes of walk and I realize that I'm getting out at the wrong place.

To be clear, it looks like my station. It's still weirdly moist and warm, but the station's brightly lit, the light reflected on the crystal-clean tiled floor. I feel like standing on an alien landscape. No one's here, as expected from a subway station at 2 in the morning. I could recognize the shops around, although most of them are closed. The signs are exactly the same, pretending as if they're directing at the same place. Even the toilet's working well, and so is the washbasin. It looks exactly like the real one. It feels almost exactly like the real one.

But here's a thing: subway stations are supposed to have a way out, rising up to the surface.

I'm rushing back to the platform, hoping the train's still there somehow. Not happening. I'm waiting for a few minutes. Five. Ten. Nothing comes. The speakers aren't announcing anything. The adverts, usually ubiquitous, aren't showing anything. Nobody is around. I'm not counting something that vacillates behind my back, an amorphous blob of shadow flashing for half a second on the corner of my eye. I hope it's not actually real. I checked my interface. No signal.

I'm trying not to think about anything, especially the slime molds. How do I get out of here? I looked at the tunnels. They're dark. Different gods reign there, slimy and eyeless gods with many tendrils. And yet they look alluring. How else am I supposed to get out? This is definitely not endpoint. This is a replica, something designed to entrap. Like an anglerfish's light. True enough, sloshing sound is coming back, wafting through as echoes from the tunnel. Now it's inviting me, coyly.

I don't want to have anything to do with it, but can you blame me for being curious?

I can feel my dead feet dragging my limp body slowly, approaching the darkness. What do slime molds eat? These irrelevant questions are set aside, at the backseat of my mind, like a faint echo of agonizing scream. I climb down to the rail, and begin walking. What do they eat down here? The backseat of my qualia screamed that I should've slept in the office instead, but I keep walking. I don't know why. I'd probably fuck something there. Fuck something rough and hard. There's definitely a girl there, a whore, standing in the middle the tunnel, slimy and hot. Pheromones overwhelm my brain, hijacking the command control, dragging me further in. The soft, sloshing echoes giggled. Soon it was everywhere - wrapping my arms, my legs, snucking through my ears and nostrils. For the first time, I could see them. I don't think they could, however. They have no eyes.
Last edited by Darussalam on Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:11 am, edited 6 times in total.
The Eternal Phantasmagoria
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A Lovecraftian hybrid of totalitarian panopticon and crypto-anarchy with Arabian Nights aesthetics.

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TURTLESHROOM II
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Writing This Good Deserves Fan Art

Postby TURTLESHROOM II » Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:30 pm

Image


I originally wanted to draw him in a suit, but then I remembered it was 2:00 AM and he was so tired he was about to pass out, so I changed it to a cheap button shirt under a robe he's worn for the past several days straight.

As for that one long, curly strand of hair, I saw that in an anime adaptation of one of my favorite video game's characters. I hated it, but it made me think of Daru because of his love for anime.
Last edited by TURTLESHROOM II on Thu Oct 17, 2019 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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TURTLESHROOM II
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Postby TURTLESHROOM II » Wed Jan 08, 2020 6:43 pm

DRY DRY DIGEST

INTERNAL AFFAIRS: Deputy Ruled to Have Dragged Suicidal Chimera Behind a Truck In Chaibn


• ASTRONOMONOV VILLAGE, DRY DRY DIGEST

Today, the Noble Committee of Constabulary Purity (NCCP) of the Astronomonov Municipal Police Administration District issued its findings in the bizarre suicide case of a chimera that allegedly committed arson, bank robbery, and murder.

The official story reported by the police at the time stated that, during the course of his attempted suicide, the cat boy wrapped a chain around his neck and flattened a cotton field that was then torn by the treads of a police truck.

"After careful review of the incident, the Noble Committee has ruled that the senior officer, Sheriff Deputy Ishmael Olstya, misreported the suicide ritual of the chimera in order to hide the fact that he bound the alleged arsonist, murderer, and bank robber to the trailer hitch of his truck and dragged him through the cotton fields prior to his death."

The Astronomonov municipal NCCP ruled unanimously that Deputy Olstya's act of lying to reporters and police hierarchy necessitated immediate disciplinary action.

Deputy Olstya was ordered to compensate the farmer for the damage sustained to his fields, land, and infrastructure from his own pocket. Deputy Olstya was then put on unpaid administrative leave for six months and has formally been confined to desk jockey duty for the next two years.

To prevent this incident from happening again, Deputy Olstya's partner has been reassigned after being put on three weeks of paid leave and a redaction of his Christmas Bonus. Deputy Olstya will be presented with a new partner that is expected to keep watch on him.

Deputy Olstya has also been ordered to submit a handwritten, eight thousand word essay to the general public explaining that his acts were wrong, apologizing for tarnishing the image of the police, and admitting dishonorable conduct to the alleged murderous chimera. He will be made to tell the true story of what, how, and why he enacted punitive force on the chimera.

Under TurtleShroomian law, policemen committing unnecessary violence to an active and dangerous suspect that is visibly and clearly in the course of committing a violent crime, in the presence of two or more witnesses, is not a criminal offense. This is known under TurtleShroomian law as "punitive force" and is a valid defense in court; use of punitive force against alleged nonviolent offenders is a criminal offense and is also grounds for mandatory termination of employment. Intentionally using punitive force against an individual that the officer knows is innocent is a criminal offense punishable by up to sixty years in prison.

Lying to authorities, however, is a crime. Authorities lying to themselves are punished based on the situation and context; the discipline meted out can be anything from intra-agency discipline all the way up to actually having charges pressed

Planting evidence to frame or fabricate charges is punishable, at maximum, by death. As no evidence was fabricated in the course of Deputy Olstya's lie, this was not the case.

In accordance with TurtleShroomian law, all imperial, parishional, amalgamated, municipal, and local police forces are required to have a Noble Committee of Constabulary Purity to oversee internal affairs and check for police misconduct.


-DRY DRY DIGEST
Last edited by TURTLESHROOM II on Mon Mar 23, 2020 9:44 am, edited 4 times in total.
Jesus loves you and died for you!
CM wrote:Have I reached peak enlightened centrism yet? I'm getting chills just thinking about taking an actual position.

Proctopeo wrote:anarcho-von habsburgism

The Selkie wrote:"Tengri's balls, [do] boys really never grow up?!"
Nuroblav wrote:On the contrary! Seize the means of ROBOT ARMS!
News ticker (updated 9/11/2020 AD):

Government announces finalization of Internet backbone and anti-porn protocols, Internet to be reinstated by end of year -|- Virginio Orsini-Borgia arrives to petition the Crown -|- TS has perfected hydrogen bomb, anonymous source claims

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Barboneia
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Founded: Sep 17, 2014
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The Fox and the Farmhand

Postby Barboneia » Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:35 pm

THE FOX AND THE FARMHAND
As published in Folklore of Northern Barboneia, 1983 Edition
Edited by Ula Viitanen


The year 1772 was a particularly cold one in New Gothenburg. The frost had come early this year, killing the crops out in their fields in early September, and snow soon blanketed the land afterwards, reaching as far south as the southern shores of Barbone Lake. While many towns and villages were lucky enough to have their food stores filled from the early harvests, others were not so lucky. One such village was Grestin, founded far to the north of Barbone Landing, along the Hasa River. Originally a small trading post set up for expedition parties into the North Lands, a few ramshackle homes built up around it, and soon after farms and other homesteads followed. The town usually had stores filled early in the year; after all, they were far in the north, and it got colder faster than the other parts of the country. However, a terrible rot had ruined much of the food, and the town had hoped that their autumn harvest would replenish it. With the fields barren, they had to turn to other sources of food.

Game in the area was typically prevalent, though their close proximity to the North Lands meant that much fauna had been driven out of the area before their settlement, either due to being overly hunted or simply to escape to somewhere less dangerous. Rabbits, birds, and the occasional elk would have to suffice the small population. As the days dragged on into weeks and the people were forced to find contentment with their meager food availability, some brave souls decided that they had had enough, and would try their hand at ice fishing. This was a dangerous prospect; the Hasa River was very deep, and the ice that formed over the river, in contrast, was thin. Many who failed to watch their step found themselves plunged into its cold depths, forced into an eternal sleep. This did not deter those who still chose to head out. Armed with spears or rudimentary fishing rods, they huddled around their holes, waiting for the first signs of movement. It worked, at least for a while; many people were able to bolster their tables with fish in addition to whatever else had been scrounged for the day.

One day, a young woman appeared along the river, staring out at some of the men who were fishing. She was short, about the height of a teenage girl, and wore a long navy-blue robe that barely clung to her thin, pale body. It was well worn, covered in dirt and rips, as if she had been traveling for a while, and had been hastily mended many times, with patches covering the bottom part of the robe like a crude chessboard. She had long, unkempt blonde hair, which flowed down her shoulders not unlike a waterfall flows down the rocks. And her eyes were the deepest shade of blue, as if staring into the ocean itself. The two most notable things about her, however, were the two fox ears sticking out of the top of her head, and the long, foxy tail that trailed out of the bottom of her robe. She was a North Lander, it was plain to tell. The inhabitants of Grestin had little interaction with North Landers most of the time despite their close proximity to the North Lands, but most of the time it was pleasant. They usually traded meat and hides at the trading post and were on their way. Some residents had their concerns, brought about from the attacks the North Landers had waged on some of the towns to the south, but they never had any real reason to be worried.

Had the girl been cleaned up, many would have seen her as beautiful, but she only looked mournful as she set off across the ice, holding the robe tight to her body to keep warm.

The first man she approached was a middle aged, miserable lout named Jonni. He was wiry, but wore a large, thick jacket he had purchased for himself when he was in Talecton a few years ago. He owned the local general store with his wife, where he charged high prices for even basic items that were a necessity in the small town. Few liked him, save for the owner of the town's tavern, and only because he proved to be his best customer, for Jonni idled there every night. His face was scrunched up in concentration as he gripped the fishing rod tightly, and he nearly fell off his stool when he finally got a bite. "Hah, you bastard, I finally gots you!" he cried as he pulled his line in, savoring the appearance of the small fish on the end. "Bloody finally. The missus will be happy to night, finally off my arse..." He went quiet, however, as the young woman approached him, her eyes cast downward. "I'm so, so sorry to disturb you, sir... but I haven't eaten in weeks... I feel myself growing weak... Please, may I have that fish?" She gestured to the slimy creature Jonni held in his hands, drawing its last breaths. "I will do anything to repay you, I assure you. But I am so hungry..."

Jonni looked incredulous, and sneered at her. "Oh, the pathetic North Lander needs help from a human? Why would I ever give this fish, the very thing I EARNED, to a disgusting creature like you?! Go back to your kinsmen, and stay away from our village if you know what's good for you. Your kind is unwelcome, especially not vagrants like yourself!" He quickly turned away, casting a final glare at her before carefully walking across the ice back towards town. The woman shook her head in disbelief, and continued onward.

The next man she approached was a large figure, a burly, hairy man in a darkened vest over a long shirt. He had a thick mustache that dripped with sweat, and he periodically wiped his brow with the back of his hand. Known as Alexandr, he was a farmer who had come from the south a few years after Grestin was founded with his loving wife and their two teenage daughters. Despite his outwardly rough appearance, he was a caring, loving man, who had much respect in the community for his willingness to help the other farmers with their work when they needed it and his generally jovial attitude. He hated ice fishing, but he saw no other options for food. He was a poor hunter, and the rest of his family were already out every day gathering food from the forests. He saw it as his responsibility to make sure they could stay well fed, even if fish was all he could offer.

Alexandr nearly let go of his rod as the young woman approached him. He was shocked at her appearance; she wasn't even wearing shoes! And that robe seemed to do nothing to keep her warm. He looked up at her, and raised an eyebrow. "What in the blazes are you doing out on the ice like this? Aren't you cold?" The girl nodded slowly. "I'm so hungry, sir... I haven't eaten in days... I've been hoping that one of you fishermen could help me... Please... Can you catch me something to eat? I will do anything in return..."

Alexandr stared at her. He could see she was telling the truth; she was so thin, it seemed like her robe was going to slip off at any second. But she was also a stranger. And yet...

He needed to help her. He knew that. "I'm sorry, young lady, but... I need to catch something for my family. This winter has been hard on everyone in the village, and I have three mouths to feed beside my own. I really wish I could help you immediately, but if I leave this hole for a second, I'm afraid I'll miss my chance to catch anything. But please... Go to the village, and go to the farmhouse on the northern end of town. Tell my wife or my daughters that I told you to see them, and they'll give you something to eat, I can assure you of that." He smiled at her softly, and she returned it. "Thank you, sir... Thank you so much... Bless you..."

As she walked away, she smiled to herself. So not everyone in this village is cruel, just as I thought. I am thankful for that. And I will make sure that man gets what he deserves. But he is not who I am looking for...

As she continued along the ice, she finally saw who she had been seeking; a young man, short, barely twenty years old, staring intensely at a small hole he had broken in the ice. He wore a soft but worn jacket a few sizes too big, and he was quite handsome; many of the girls in town swooned when he went by. He was very quiet, however, and wasn't very outspoken; this was Ahto, one of Alexandr's farmhands, an orphan who had lived alone in town ever since his parents died of disease only a few years earlier. Alexandr had suggested that he go fishing to get some more food for himself, and Ahto agreed that it was a good idea. It was very calming. He hadn't caught anything, but just sitting out on the river, far from everyone else, alone in his own world as the snow fell down around him... It was cathartic.

Suddenly, Ahto felt a tug on his line. He quickly gripped the fishing pole tightly, and, with all of his strength, pulled out whatever he had caught. He was awestruck as the fish flopped out of the hole onto the ice. It was huge! It must've been at least a foot long... If he were to eat some of it, then smoke it, he could keep fed for weeks! He appreciated Alexandr and the others in the village for always helping him, but this could prove that he was able to be independent, to be able to truly live on his own, as his own man. Maybe he would be able to catch even more, and he could help feed others in his village, so they could all pull through the winter.

Ahto was preparing to return to town when the young woman approached him, staring up at him, her eyes sorrowful. He was a bit taken aback; she had appeared out of seemingly nowhere, but she was also really beautiful despite how dirty she was, or for being a North Lander. Was he hallucinating?

"Excuse me, sir," she said quietly, in heavily accented Finnish. "I watched you catch that fish... And I know I have no right to ask... But please... May I have it? I haven't eaten in so, so long... My stomach is empty... I will pay you back however you want, however I can... I promise you this..."

Ahto stared down at her, holding the fish close to his body. He suddenly noticed how thin she was, and how sunken in her cheeks were. And her eyes were so mournful... But he suddenly thought back to himself. He was also hungry. He had only been eating berries and roots and whatever else he was able to trade for that the others didn't want. The fish would help him out a lot... And who was this girl, anyways? She appeared out of nowhere, she wasn't human... Maybe her tribe was somewhere in the woods, waiting to strike. Maybe she had a knife behind her back, and she was ready to kill him if he refused. He could run. He could tell her to leave him alone, threaten her with the wrath of his village and make sure she never came back.

But those eyes...

He knew the truth. She was just a young, tired, hungry woman who needed something to eat. He would always be able to get food even if he himself didn't produce it. This girl didn't have that luxury.

He held the fish out, prompting her to grab it. "You clearly need this far more than I do. Take it, I insist. And I assure you, you don't need to pay me back."

The girl smiled, and reached out to hug him. "Thank you so much, Ahto. I promise, you will not regret this."

Wait.

Did she just call him Ahto? How did she know his-

Ahto's vision went white. He felt the girl release him, and the fish slip out of his hands. What the hell just happened? Did he die? Was all of this just a horrible dream? Maybe he slipped through the ice without realizing it, and this was what he would see before death...

Suddenly, his vision returned to him, and he was standing on the frozen river again, but he wasn't sure where he was. The fishing hole wasn't nearby, and neither was the girl. A bright flash appeared in front of him, and he stumbled back a bit. His eyes widened. it was the girl, but she was... different now. She had somehow grown at least 10 feet tall, and stood high over him; the top of his head barely reached her thighs. Her robe had been transformed into a clean, finely woven, bright blue one covered with intricate symbols representing fish, tusks, and waves. She was clean now, her face free of dirt, and her hair even longer, flowing down her back and down her shoulders. And she clearly wasn't starving now; In polite terms, she was quite voluptuous, her robe clinging tightly to her body. She smiled down at Ahto, her deep blue eyes piercing him.

"Hello, Ahto." She said in a soft, kind voice. "I've been watching you for some time. I was there when you were born. I watched you grow up, with your mother and father." Her tone grew a bit sad. "And I watched you when they passed away. I'm very sorry for that," she said earnestly. "And I see how upset you are at the state of your village. I believe I can help you with that," she said, her smile returning. She leaned down a bit, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You're not the first human to show me kindness. Quite the opposite. Many of my kin characterize your people as being cruel, merciless, having nothing but hatred for my kind. But you're perfect proof that that is untrue. And I appreciate it. Greatly."

Ahto looked both mystified and terrified. He had simply stared up at her, watching her speak. Finally, he asked, "Am I dreaming right now?"

The woman laughed. "No, no. This is all real. This river, your village, the ice, the snow... Yourself... And me. I am a real Goddess. My name is Tulva. I am the Goddess of the rivers, lakes, streams, ponds... You get the idea. And fishing, though that's a bit more a recent addition... In any case, enough about me, young man. I'm here to help you." Out of seemingly thin air, a long, ornately crafted fishing rod appeared in her hand. She reached down and handed it to Ahto. "This is for you, my friend. It is crafted of the finest wood, and the string, golden and beautiful, is made from a strand of my own hair. It will never break as long as you wield it, never snap, never lose pray. When you use this rod, every time you cast it, you will catch something. It is a powerful tool, but one you will find useful. Use it well."

Ahto stared at the rod in his hands. It really was beautiful. He ran a hand along its length, admiring the craftsmanship and the details carved into it, including Tulva's name and a small icon of a fox with a fish in its mouth, which he assumed was her symbol. "Wow..."

She grinned. "It is nice, isn't it? I actually made it myself... First one in a while... But anyways! I think it's time you go back to your village. There will be some excitement there soon, I think, and I wouldn't want you to miss it, despite how much I'd like you to stay here with me." She leaned down and gave him a kiss on his forehead, causing him to blush. "Farewell, Ahto... I don't think I'll be seeing you again... But I'll always be with you in some way... And I'll keep watching, don't worry." She turned to walk away, but stopped, and looked over her shoulder at him. "Oh... And thanks for the fish."

In a flash, she was gone. Ahto was back by the hole in the ice he had been at not long ago. He stared down at the rod in his hands, and began to head back to Grestin.

- - -

In the days that followed, the villagers were shocked to find that the stores had somehow been filled up again. Grain, smoked meats, fruits, and vegetables were all piled inside, with a note on top of one pile reading "For Alexandr and his village, from a friend". Alexandr swore he didn't know where it could have come from, though a small part of his mind suspected that he knew the source. He went looking for the young woman every day for the rest of winter, but had no luck.

Tulva's gift to Ahto was put to good use. He never told anyone where he acquired it, but he became something of a local celebrity, using the rod to catch dozens of large, fat fish everyday that he was able to share with the others in the village. He grew so popular that his strange skill drew visitors from across New Gothenburg, to see the man who always caught his marks.

As he grew older, Ahto eventually married one of Alexandr's daughters, who had grown close to his young farmhand and treated him like a son. Eventually, when Alexandr and his wife grew too old to work the farm anymore, Ahto took over, and managed it well with his wife, though he still preferred fishing.

And true to her word, Tulva continued to watch over him, even when she was busy with other affairs. She made sure that he was safe, that Grestin was safe, and that they would always prosper for as long as she was able to.

It is a rarity to gain the favor of a goddess, much less their blessing. But with a kind heart, and a good conscience, anyone can be blessed in their own way.

Editor's Note - Though this story is often considered fictional and ahistorical, often surmised as having been written by a New Gothenburgian sympathetic to the persecution of the North Landers in the country at the time to show a mystical and "good" perspective on the North Landers, recent documents recovered from Grestin City archives show that an individual named "Ahto Tulvasen" did live in the then village at the time the story takes place. Some, however, state that the supposed event played out differently, with some saying that the goddess lured Tulvasen onto thin ice to drown him, or even that she ended up eating him in place of the fish. None of these are based in historical fact, however, and many say that the name "Tulvasen" is a coincidence and inspired the original storymaker to come up with the name of the supposed North Lander goddess. No documents or evidence exists of any goddess of water or fishing existing in the loosely defined North Lander religious pantheon.

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Barboneia
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Posts: 10528
Founded: Sep 17, 2014
Compulsory Consumerist State

Productivity

Postby Barboneia » Wed May 27, 2020 12:19 pm

People don’t usually acknowledge the beauty around them.

Everyone is always busy doing things, they never stop to just look around, take in their surroundings, think about how long it took for their cities and towns to be built, and what had to be sacrificed to create them. The next time you’re on your way to work, or driving home, or whatever it is you’re doing, take a moment to see how everyone else is so absorbed in their own thoughts, constantly moving, just constantly… Doing. I guess that’s the best way to describe it.

In Barboneia, people are always busy. I’d argue that, in Valkia, next to Darussalam, we are one of the most productive nations, with some of the hardest working people available. It’s the Nordic work ethic. A sense of “Janteloven” if you want to use fancy business terms. Barboneia is one of the newer countries in the region, and we’ve always been scrambling to prove ourselves, to defend our borders, and to show our neighbors that we’re just as good, if not better, than them. And what do we have to show for it? We have massive industries outputting an untold amount of goods every day, ranging from electronics to automobiles, to alcohol, even firearms and other things. When the other countries need productive workers, where do you think they seek them from?

The 1900s were called “The Barboneian Age” in some circles, and for good reason. Until the recession in the ‘90s, our population boomed, and our industries were working day and night to help the economy. We became powerful. With the deals we were constantly making with Darussalam, the Commonwealth, Hiluxia, Seceria, and even Turtleshroom, our industrial might was something to be envied.

But what did we trade for this? I believe we traded our ability to empathize with others. Barboneian society became a self centered one, where people kept to themselves, let their emotions bottle up, and, when they couldn’t find a good enough outlet, released them in the worst possible ways. Sure, in the workplace, people treat each other as equals, try and help each other, but when the average worker goes home, what can they turn to? A poster in the metro station telling them to keep their head up.

Since the first settlers arrived in New Gothenburg in the 1740s, suicide was an ever-present part of Barboneian society. From despair over having your crop ruined, or misery in being exiled to a frozen corner of the earth surrounded by savage animal-eared people, Barboneians have always accepted taking their own lives as an alternative to continuing their miserable existence. Unlike some cultures, we Barboneians see it as a means to an end, a choice someone willingly makes, and something that might eventually occur to everyone.

Even in 2019, with our mental health campaigns and suicide hotlines, the rates haven’t gone down much from their peak in 1994. Everyone from college students to stockbrokers to old veterans were doing it. And when people hear the news of their loved ones doing it, they don’t wail, or cry out “how could this happen?”, they simply nod their heads, and go to the funerals, and stay stony-faced through it.

All of these thoughts were running through my head as I drove along the highway, my eyes red, barely looking at the road ahead of me. It was around noon, and I had left work for a “lunch break”, instead finding myself driving out of Vespero to somewhere that I didn’t know. I just needed to get away from it all. I don’t know what one event was causing me so much misery, but I couldn’t take it for the last few months. My girlfriend broke up with me when I found out she had been seeing someone else, I was growing distant from my friends and family, and I discovered that I had been passed up for promotion, when I had put so much effort into a job I had spent over six years of my life on. All of these events occurring at the same time had caused me to become distressed. What was the point of my life? Was I here just to be a joke to the rest of the world?

I admit, my thinking was rash, but I was committed to it. On August 19th, 2019, I would kill myself. I would do it in a secluded place so as not to inconvenience anyone else. I would be getting back at my ex, my former friends, my employers… It would all work out in the end. Or so I thought.

At this time of day, the highway was mostly clear of traffic, other than the occasional vacationer or semi-trucks, or workers going home for their lunch breaks. The vehicles and the road signs all flew by in a blur as I sped along. New Ostrobothnia, Keskusta, Kalajoki, Itäpää… Eventually, after nearly an hour of driving, past miles of forests and marshes, I could see the land begin to turn hilly in front of me, and I knew I had almost arrived.

The Sibelius Mountains, christened in the 1960s after the Finnish composer, marked Barboneia’s natural eastern land border, separating the country from the Terra Nullius beyond. Other than the few towns nestled in the foothills, the mountains were largely uninhabited save for the nature reserves and parks established within its limits. The one I was approaching, Aravirta National Park, overlooked the Barbonas River, and held a number of walking paths and trails that snaked through the foothills, where one could find peace and solace away from the cities and suburbs in the west. As a child, my family would often travel here. For days we would camp in the hills, off the path, near the river, where we could fish, swim, and just simply enjoy ourselves in our own company. I recall a time when my brothers and I dived to the bottom of the river to look for big rocks, and once we had amassed enough of a collection, we would drop them all in at once to see how big of a wave we could make. The sight of dozens of rocks breaking the surface stuck to my thoughts for most of my life.

But as I began to navigate the twisting path to the familiar site next to the river, the thought of my brothers or my parents never even crossed my mind.

It was late summer, and the heat was bearing down on me, hard. Most of the dew on the foliage had vanished at this point of the day, and I realized that my normal work attire of khakis and a dress shirt wasn’t really fitting for trudging through the undergrowth. But I didn’t care. Why would I? It wouldn’t matter soon. Nothing mattered. I just wanted to take in a bit of nature before I put myself to rest. And take in nature, I did. All around me the trees rose to the open skies, huge, proud pines that had established themselves in the land long before the first settlers had arrived, perhaps even further beyond. The air was pleasant, consisting of floral scents of the wildflowers pushing themselves out of the ground and the wet smell of dirt and soil that permeated wherever I walked. All around, I could hear the chirping of birds and insects, creating an almost sensory overload that, briefly, brought me back to my youth.

For a moment, I felt as though I could hear my family chattering to each other as we pulled our things along for our little basecamp along the river.

As I pushed through the undergrowth, crunching over needles and cones and whatever other detritus had collected on the ground, I finally found myself in the clearing of my youth. A wide, flat area of grass nestled along the river, flanked on either side by the foliage and surrounding forest. On the other side of the river was an old, long-abandoned cottage that my brothers and I had theorized had once been the residence of a nasty witch who would turn travelers into frogs for her soup. The river, which began in the Sibelius foothills and eventually drained into Barbone Lake to the west, flowed clear here, and I could see a few schools of fish dart among the reeds and moss and rocks that covered the bottom of the river. Near the edge of the clearing, where it began to turn back into forest, right along the river’s edge, was a huge boulder, maybe six or seven feet tall, where my brothers and I would jump from to dive in. We would plunge straight to the bottom of the river, and frantically swim back up to the surface. It was great fun, and possibly one of my favorite things to do when we were visiting.

I sat on the rock for what seemed like hours, staring into the river and just… Thinking about my life. My thoughts drifted back to the family home, my school years, my ex-girlfriend, my job… It had all culminated to this moment. I was 29 years old, and today, I would be ending my life prematurely. My body would wash up somewhere near the towns, maybe, or maybe it would just sink to the bottom. I guess it didn’t matter in the end.

I stood up, trying to keep my footing on the uneven surface. When I hit the water, I would sink down, and I wouldn’t allow myself to come up to the surface. It would take a little long for my lungs to fill with water, but I could stand the wait. I didn’t believe it would be too unpleasant.

I prepared myself for the fall when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something strange that piqued my interest.

It was a fox, a big one, nearly two meters long it looked, sitting at the edge of the clearing, staring at me. My eyes widened. It’s eyes were blue, for one, and it looked like it had blonde fur. I had never seen any foxes that looked like it. Something in its eyes… I felt as though it were staring straight into my soul, as though it knew me. Like it knew everything I had ever done, and why I was now here.

Suddenly, the fox seemed to yawn. My legs seemed to turn to jelly, as I lost feeling in them, and as my body plunged into the river so far below, my vision went black.

- - -

When I opened my eyes, I was laying in the parking lot of the Aravirta National Park, right next to my car, about a dozen people crouched around me. I coughed, and soon realized that they were an assortment of paramedics, park goers, and a park ranger. One of the paramedics, his hand on my chest, sighed in relief. “You were out for a good bit. Looks like you hit your head on something, mate.” I blinked, and could see that it was becoming evening at this point, the sky turning various shades of pink and orange. I looked down at my wet, dirty clothes, and my eyes went wide. “...What happened to me?” I asked, looking around at the group. “Well, we found you washed up near the park office,” the ranger said. “This North Lander woman came by and told us about you, but she left before we could inquire further. Do you know anything about her?” I shook my head, and he shrugged. “Well, you’re lucky she saw you. You could’ve been laying there for a while before anyone could find you.”

I wanted to ask something more, but the paramedics lifted me up and onto a stretcher. “We’re gonna take you to the hospital in Keskusta. We got all your information from your car, you left your wallet and stuff in it, thankfully. You’ll be home in no time, buddy.”

As the paramedics loaded me into an ambulance parked nearby, I noticed the fox from before sitting near the edge of the parking lot, by the path that led into the woods. I could be wrong, but it almost looked like it was smiling.

- - -

There are a few places in Vespero where you can get good coffee. If you’re cheap, you can always go to one of the chains, or you can try and find a nice, more “up-scale” place like the cafes in North Side, near the waterfront, though I find the clientele often consists of hipsters and people pretending to look busy.

In honesty, my favorite place is a little family-run joint near Svinhufvud Park called Kotilainen’s. They have easily the best croissants outside of the Great South, and I went to school with the son of the owners. I used to go here all the time with my ex, but despite that I don’t get any negative memories from visiting it. From the patio outside there’s an incredible view of the Barboneian Broadcasting Company Tower.

It was a cool Sunday evening, and I was relaxing on said patio with a few of my coworkers. It had been a month since my little “accident”, and I had been feeling a lot better. I had gotten a raise, had started going out with my friends more often, and had finally gone to see a therapist on the recommendation of the doctor who had treated me. It’s surprising, but she was really helping me deal with my issues. I knew I’d never be completely happy in my life, but just being able to talk about it was making me feel better.

I wasn’t really listening to what my coworkers were saying, and was staring out at the street absentmindedly. Cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, pedestrians… An ever present blur that filled the roadways of the nation. Normally I would complain about it, complain about how everyone was in a rush, but it was nice to watch.

I noticed, however, a figure across the road.

Standing in front of the crowd of pedestrians waiting to cross the street was a North Lander woman. She was tall, easily the tallest of the group, and wore a navy pantsuit that lovingly complimented her figure. I was amazed to notice that I could make out that her eyes were the same color as her suit, a deep blue, and that she had long, beautiful blonde hair.

For just a split second, she seemed to notice me, and she smiled.

I smiled back.
Last edited by Barboneia on Wed May 27, 2020 12:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.


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