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The Redux of the Tale of a Falling Empire

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WlfSamurai

Maelstrom Engineer
Taeran sighs and has the sudden feeling she doesn't have time to waste sifting through this riffraff. Immediately, she begins to consider ways and angles to zip through the line of potentials to find the real "meat" of the organization. Perhaps a visit to the bar-tender or tavern-owner could give the right direction.

Taeran tosses her snow-white hair, cracks her neck, and strides to the bar. She waits her turn to be served. As she does, she glances around the room, trying to take in as much information, notice as many details as she can, and keep a heightened sense of awareness. She does her best to keep her glances casual and non-threatening using a certain amount of finesse.

[Finess+Awareness=3 successes to take stock and notice anything that stands out.]
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
As she looks around, Taeran finds her eyes drawn towards a figure sat alone in a booth in a corner of the room. A longer look allows her to identify the figure as a woman nearly identical to her in build, clad in form-fitting black clothes - shirt, gloves, pants and leather boots - that are clearly finely made and tailored to her. Her head is covered by a black hood, but Taeran is just about able to catch a glimpse of a youngish face framed by black bangs of hair.

The woman currently appears to be relaxing in her seat, a flagon in front of her, ankles crossed and resting against the edge of her table. Every other criminal in the room seems to be leaving her alone, as if in deference to her. The thug in the alleyway mentioned that there were no big, district-spanning criminal syndicates in Kandara, but perhaps a single well-off criminal treated with a degree of respect is the next best thing.
 

WlfSamurai

Maelstrom Engineer
Taeran makes a mental note of the woman in the corner. She orders her drink when she can and flips a coin to pay. Taking a swig of her whiskey, all she can think about is how this has suddenly become far more interesting. She takes another sip and pulls her hair back over her ear. Grabbing her glass, she turns away from the bar and starts walking toward the woman's table.

Keeping her walk casual, Taeran never directly looks at the woman. While moving, she pays close attention her peripheral vision so her eyes never move too far, but she can keep an eye for movement. If this is an ambush or trap, she wants options. She stops in front of the woman's table and looks down at her.

"Hello," Taeran says. "May I sit with you?"
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
The woman in black is in conversation with one of the finer looking prostitutes within the room when Taeran approaches her. Her glance soon moves towards the white-haired Dynast however, and after giving her an appraising look, she flips a silver coin towards the prostitute with a smile.

"You wait up in my room, love. I'll join you shortly." she says in a warm voice, speaking Flametongue. The prostitute nods, gives Taeran a flirtatious wink, then she turns and leaves for a staircase in the back of the establishment, giving a tantalising roll of her hips all the way. The woman in black watches her go, then looks back at Taeran.

"By all means." she says cordially, indicating the seat opposite her. "Dare I ask who you are?"
 

WlfSamurai

Maelstrom Engineer
Taeran watches the prostitute, as well, pretending to be impressed. Pulling out a chair and sitting, she says, "You'll have fun with that one, I bet." Once seated, she smiles. "Let's say I'm another friendly face looking for work in this stink-hole. We can skip names for now. You seem like someone who knows her way around town. Where can a girl find some not-so-decent-work?"
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
The woman in black nods and gives Taeran a little smile, before taking her legs off the table as if to get out of the Dynast's personal space.

"That really depends on what kind of work you're looking to do. The outfits around here are often eager for additional muscle or eyes, and there are plenty of people in this city who don't mind paying to have someone else killed." she answers. "If you're a burglar, pickpocket or footpad, there's pickings to be had mostly anywhere in the city, though of course you get greater risks and rewards the closer you get to the Dragon District."

"Me, personally? Aside from the occasional bit of pickpocketing, I largely stick to burglary. I'm actually somewhat of a legend in that field." she continues, letting a slight hint of pride creep into her voice at that last sentence. "I largely work alone, though I do pay certain criminals here to keep me informed of events throughout the city..."
 

WlfSamurai

Maelstrom Engineer
"I see," says Taeran. "That's all VERY helpful, actually. Thank you! Do you think that, if I slip this small pile of coin to you without drawing attention, like so..." Taeran cups her hand over the small pile of coin she's used slight of hand to get onto the table. She slowly slides it toward the woman. "...that you'd be willing to feed me information about job opportunities or people I should talk to for 'useful' intel?" Taeran's smile just slightly tips one corner of her mouth.
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
The woman in black looks at the pile of coin as if assessing it, then nods.

"If you're willing to make a habit of it, then yes, I most certainly can do so. I'm sure you'll have no trouble obtaining the additional coin." she replies. "Will you be coming back here regularly? Or do you have another location where you would prefer to have me update you?"
 
Session 1, Scene 3

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
Having made her deal with Taeran, the woman in black stands up from her table. As she does, Taeran immediately notices the cudgel she wears on her waist, previously obscured from view by the table and her body. Both the shaft and the head of the cudgel are made of Black Jade, and the latter is shaped like the head of a fox, with two claw-like protrusions that look like they could aid with climbing. Whoever this woman is, she's clearly an Essence-user, which no doubt provides some explanation on how she's been so successful.

"I'll see you around." the woman in black assures the white-haired Dynast. "Oh, and in case you want a name to refer to me as, you can call me the Black Fox. I imagine many in this city will know of it."

With one last smile, the woman turns around and walks towards the staircase in the back of the establishment, no doubt to make use of the prostitute she hired.

Later...
The inaugural feast to celebrate Kitava's appointment and arrival is due to be held in the evening. Hasuri Hudia is fully occupied with the preparations for it, while Netara and Boroma are much the same with their own duties, though the latter two do try and make time for anyone who wishes to talk with them. Janhuren sticks close to Boroma, not letting the young king out of his sight.

In addition to those four, two more members of House Hasuri can be found within the palace. One is Hasuri Nansho, an Earth Aspect ancestor of Janhuren's far into his third century of life (late 200's). A grey-haired and scarred veteran of war, age and an accumulation of wounds have forced him to take up a retirement role as both the head of the security for the palace and the commander of the palace guard. Though somewhat dour-looking, and very much serious about his job, he comes off as a good bit more relaxed than Janhuren, and is perfectly happy to share war stories over a cup of tea or game of Gateway.

The other member of House Hasuri is Hasuri Karudo, a Fire Aspect in his fourth decade and a long-time member of the Wyld Hunt. As he proudly states to anyone who asks, he has travelled and helped kill many Anathema across both the near-South and the Scavenger Lands, such is his dedication to the hunt. Along the way he has acquired both a Red Jade Direlance and a distinctive suit of Red Jade Articulated Plate styled in the manner of a dragon, both of which, he reveals, he can summon to his side in a burst of flames out of thin air (Arsenal-Summoning Gesture). Prior to the start of the feast, he spends most of his time in a palace courtyard, training with his direlance as if preparing for his next hunt.

The time before the feast also provides an opportunity for Kitava and her staff to brush up on the various guests who will be attending. Most of them are just the wealthiest and most influential mortals in Kandara (whom Kitava can veto and invite as she pleases), typically long established merchants and noble families, but then there is Cathak Cainan Valina, the satrap of Nagaraja.

A daughter of House Cathak's current head, Valina has been alive about as long as Ferela, and she is said to be almost a mirror image of the Scarlet Empress, a masterwork copy in which a bit of artistic licence was taken. She is wise, beautiful, charming, a natural leader, and talented in a variety of fields, but at the same time there is a lot of her father in her. Since graduating from the House of Bells at the top of her class, she has spent much of her life fighting to protect and expand the Realm, both serving with distinction in the legions, and riding with the Wyld Hunt. She is fearless in battle, the mastermind of many military victories, dedicated to the Realm and her duties, and ruthless when necessary. She is very much beloved and respected on the Blessed Isle, with even the Scarlet Empress said to have taken a liking to her. Were it not for the fact that the Empress is not expected to choose her heir for over two centuries, many would no doubt put her forward as a successor to the Scarlet Throne.

Whatever the reports and rumours say, Kitava and the others will have a chance to see Valina for themselves within the palace's front courtyard early in the evening, when she approaches them at the head of her own small entourage, riding a magnificent white simhata. After she dismounts from the lion-horse with the kind of elegance that only the military can teach, the Kandara-based Dragon-blooded soon see that the reports are at least true in regards to Valina's appearance. The satrap of Nagaraja is a woman as tall as most men, with long red hair that has been meticulously combed straight and allowed to grow down her back to her waist. Her face has yet to bear any blemishes of age and is even largely bereft of scars, aside from a small nick above the corner of her left eye. The Cathaks being as practical as ever, she wears boots and gloves of fine leather, and an ankle-length crimson robe that looks like it could do triple-duty as light armour, riding gear and fine formal wear. Beneath the clothes, there is clearly a thin layer of muscle on Valina's body.

There's little time to admire Valina for those so inclined, as immediately after dismounting, she walks towards Kitava with the confident - but not arrogant - stride of the career general, before clasping her hands and bowing in greeting to her fellow satrap.

"Lady Kitava. It is truly an honour to be in the presence of you and your staff. Kandara will no doubt be in good hands." she says warmly. Whether she's being honest, or just trying to flatter the Air Aspect, it sounds very much like the former. Valina does not appear the type to rely on false compliments too heavily. In fact, some instinct tells Kitava that the main reason Valina hasn't congratulated her on her appointment is because she thinks it might be a sore point for the Air Aspect, given the circumstances behind it.
 

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Kitava steps forward and bows deeply in reply, the fabric of her long trailing sleeves gossamer light, drifting lazily in the gentle currents of air behind her in defiance of gravity. The weave is so fine it looks like a window into another world, an ornate palace of ice in the midst of a crystal forest blanketed in pristine white snow bathed in the light of a sun of such exquisitely intense emerald other colours quite literally pale by comparison, bowing in deference. She had requested the sun be gold to match the family colours, but Berengiere had flatly refused, instead including a river of gold running beside the palace. Careful observation reveals the gown itself seems alive, subtly tailoring its cut to the tastes of observers and reweaving the pattern over the course of the night to depict wings of the palace being torn down and rebuilt in new styles in a process of endless renewal and reinvention.

It was humiliating to admit to herself that she lacked the liquid funds to commission new jewellery to go with the gown in preparation for this event, dripping instead with gold and white jade borrowed from family members to keep up appearances, but Valina has not been on the Blessed Isle in years and, Dragons willing, won't know these have been worn before. To admit a lack of wealth was to admit weakness, something she could never afford, but those who truly understood wealth knew it lay not in the talent but in the mine, and such a mine Berengiere would prove to be. She had depleted her vast reserves of jade, but jade was merely a proxy for power. Power was the Pole towards which all jade aligns, and she had found power to make her the envy of the Realm. Her family knew only too well how dangerous envy could be. She was going to need every friend she could get. To wit.

"The honour is all ours, Lady Valina. We can only hope to benefit from your accumulated wisdom, as we benefit every day from your tireless defense of Creation. I sleep soundly knowing you are the impregnable bastion protecting the people under my care from threats beyond the Threshold. I, and all Creation, owe you a great debt for your service."

She rises smoothly and gestures to Taeran beside her, "Allow me to introduce my sister Ragara Neva Taeran, Dutiful and Impartial Minister for the Apportioning of Imperial Justice. Commander of the Imperial Garrison, Winglord Tepet Manato. Ledaal Ferala, Perspicacious and Equitable Assessor of the Imperial Tithe. Ragara Ramuron, who has generously volunteered to ward my person from the innumerable dangers of the Threshold."

"You have travelled far, and I would be remiss to stand between you and refreshment a moment longer than necessary, but please allow me to take a moment of your time to present a small token of our appreciation for everything you have done for Kandara." She gestures at a servant who carries forward a small bronze plaque engraved with a poem and the image of a soldier taking their oath before a Legion recruiter, with the oath inscribed beneath. It is not the work of a master craftswoman, but great care has been taken in its making and it is clearly a labour of love. "You have touched countless lives ending incursions from vicious Anathema, and three stood out when my attendants canvassed the countryside. White Lilly, a poet; Stalwart Ash, a smith; Shining Waters, who enlisted in the Legions last year. All three personally witnessed you fighting in defense of their homes as children, and all are grateful you gave them the opportunity to continue to walk the Immaculate Path. White Lilly's poem is... rustic in metre and phrasing, but it speaks to the heart, and its message of valour, resilience, and hope for new opportunities has proven popular with the people. They, and I, hope this small reminder of the good you have done will strengthen your resolve in trying times."

There was an art to giving a cheap gift to a Dynast because you couldn't afford anything more without appearing to have given a cheap gift to a Dynast because you couldn't afford anything more. It helped that ostentatious displays of wealth were significantly less impressive to those who already possess it.

Kitava desperately wants to make a good first impression. Cathak Cainan Valina is the sort of person you want favourably disposed towards you, so she'll try to instill some positive intimacies.

Force 4 + Embassy 5 + Harmonious Presence Meditation 2 + Thoughtful Gift Technique 2 + Stunt 2 = 15 dice with double 9s + 1 success; 10 hits + 1 = 11 successes
 
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WlfSamurai

Maelstrom Engineer
When introduced to Valina, Taeran bows her head and utters, "Lady Valina." As Kitava continues introductions in flowery language with bullshit tokens, Taeran seethes. The utter superiority of Valina seeps into the very ground she walks on. Taeran feels the bile at the back of her throat, a hatred in physical form. She's been in the Cathak's presences several times before, much like her sister, and each time found her looking down and speaking as if high above the rest.

Taeran can only continue her desperate yearn to find herself in a fighting pit with this snake of a woman. She'd seize the opportunity to end the life of one so self-centered and condescending. Too much talk. Not enough of it to the point. If everyone here would just say what they actually meant, they'd all get a lot more done. Smiling and pretending, each of these people a fake in their own ways. It makes Taeran sick, as it always has. She reflects on the fact that she could have stood with her sister and basked in the light of privileged appointment had she been able to stomach drive these people pass of as conversation. Or better yet: been appointed her own satrapy.

Taeran swallows the thought for the thousandth time, along with the last of her champaign.
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
Valina gives Kitava a nod. "Service to the Realm is its own reward, but you nevertheless have my thanks for this gift, Satrap." she says with what sounds like genuine appreciation, even to Taeran's ears.

[Valina gains a Minor Intimacy of Respect towards Kitava.]

If the satrap of Nagaraja notices the younger Water Aspect's hostility towards her, she ignores it, instead turning to Boroma and his mother.

"King Boroma. Regent Netara. You have my condolences for your loss." she says solemnly.

"Thank you, Satrap." replies Boroma, nodding his head. "My father may be one with the Five Dragons now, and two years may have passed since his death, but it is still an absence from Creation that aches at our hearts."

Netara gives a nod of her own, clearly grateful for the words of comfort. "Shall we head inside?" she suggests.

"Indeed." replies Valina.

"You just wait, everyone. My cooks have prepared a banquet that'll knock the tastebuds right out of your mouths!" Hudia declares proudly.

===

Hudia's words turn out to be anything but hyperbole as the assembled guests tuck into a delicious feast within the great hall of the palace. At one end of the room, the Dragon-blooded sit at a semi-circular table, a design that both allows a social hierachy of sorts to be established through seating arrangements, and enables all the diners to look at each other more easily than they could at a rectangular table. The mortal guests meanwhile sit at two long tables placed perpendicular to the straight side of the Dragon-blooded table, while upon a raised pavilion at one side of the room, musicians play a relaxing tune that washes over the assembled diners.

Kitava and Boroma both have the places of honor at the head of the Dragon-blooded table, with Netara sitting next to her son, and Ramuron sat between the two satraps. Valina seems to have no immediate desire to converse with her counterpart however; once the food is served and conversation breaks out across the room, she shoots an apologetic smile at Kitava and turns to look at Ferala.

Chowlett Chowlett
"So, Ferala, how's it been? Unless my memory's off, it's been four decades since we last attended a gala together." she says, the comment serving to remind everyone that out of all the Dynasts at this feast, Ferala and Valina are by far the oldest.

What does everyone else wish to do?
 

Chowlett

New Member
"So, Ferala, how's it been? Unless my memory's off, it's been four decades since we last attended a gala together." she says, the comment serving to remind everyone that out of all the Dynasts at this feast, Ferala and Valina are by far the oldest.
"Mm, I remember it well. You threw a celebration after your successful hunt of the Anathema known as Steel Hawk, if I recall correctly. The entertainments were quite extraordinary; although for some reason I have fondest memories of the sword-eater who performed during the first dessert course. A true master of his own art, and such a showman.

"I was most gratified to be invited, my lady; as I am now that you remembered the meeting.

"Hudia, you really have outdone yourself," she adds, turning momentarily to the major domo. "This is quite as delectable as at that feast Valina and I are recalling."

There is barely any deceit in Ferala's words - she really does remember the party with much fondness - but she is also alert to Valina's implication and not above joining in.
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
"Mm, I remember it well. You threw a celebration after your successful hunt of the Anathema known as Steel Hawk, if I recall correctly. The entertainments were quite extraordinary; although for some reason I have fondest memories of the sword-eater who performed during the first dessert course. A true master of his own art, and such a showman.

"I was most gratified to be invited, my lady; as I am now that you remembered the meeting.

"Hudia, you really have outdone yourself," she adds, turning momentarily to the major domo. "This is quite as delectable as at that feast Valina and I are recalling."

There is barely any deceit in Ferala's words - she really does remember the party with much fondness - but she is also alert to Valina's implication and not above joining in.

Hudia gives Ferala a smile, almost glowing from the kind words sent her way.

"Coming from a Dynast, that's quite the compliment." she replies. "I imagine you must be used to much more extravagant festivities back at home."

Valina chuckles a little. "I won't deny we're more fortunate when it comes to resources that we can afford to spare on this sort of thing." she says, indicating the feast as a whole. "Still, that is why you should take further heart from what Ferala says. She is correct; this is just as good as the celebration I once held."

Leaving Hudia grinning from the praise, Valina turns back to Ferala. "Speaking of, I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it. Considering how much trouble the Hawk had caused us during the hunt, it seemed only right to celebrate his demise." she says.
 

Random Word

Two Thousand Club
Kitava doesn't allow her disappointment at Valina's disinterest to show. Visible dependency would be to show weakness, and Valina is reminiscing with an old friend. There will be other opportunities to make an impression, and Ferala may simply prove a superior avenue to securing good relations with House Cathak. In the meantime, there is work to be done. She barely tastes her occasional small bites of food, so focused is her attention on conversation. She regales the table with tales of exotic southern locales between singling out notables for conversation, seeking to come away from the party armed with the name and a few personal details of every attendee, and in so doing laying the foundations of a rapport. She will need to learn where her base of support - and her enemies - lie if she is to make swift progress.

[Unless you want me to start making Venture rolls, Pass]
 

Chowlett

New Member
"Oh indeed. The Hawk had even made forays into our lands, so I can only imagine what he must have done to yours. Do you know, I heard..."

Ferala is deeply honoured by Valina's continued interest in their shared history, and is more than happy to keep up her end of the conversation. Seeing an opportunity to win friends for both the satrapy and herself, she recalls all her rusty court etiquette to steer the conversation to further reminiscences, cementing the good feeling between herself and the vastly more powerful Cathak.

Although she has no great advantages to doing so, Ferala is attempting an Instill action on Valina, aiming for a minor intimacy of Camaraderie with Ferala.
Sees the roll: Eww, no, she's rustier than she thought :(
Adds the stunt dice: Ohh, that's much better. :)
 
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Rykon

Four Thousand Club
Manato witnessed the exchange with a silent, stoic sense of decorum. His presence her merely a ceremonial formality to show his support for the new administration. Though in all these pandering pleasantries he began to wonder just how much of an advantage this senior Satrap really had here. Her own kin had been acting commander until recently and everything about the Steelscale incident had been unsettling. Reptilian behemoths don't just disappear without a trace. He kept reminding himself. To the casual observer, it was clear his attention was elsewhere. If there was more to this story who'd know? He caught a glance of Taeran and Ferela, exchanging glares or wistful memories with their guest. Well, I know who can find out if I'm missing any parts of the story.

Then came the opportunity, stories of an old wyld hunt. Manato cleared his throat to address their neighbor and guest. "Before we get too off track, I find myself curious. For such a troublesome Anathema, how did you bring down Steel Hawk?"
 

jaydude

Four Thousand Club
[With four successes total, I'm gonna let Ferala establish that Intimacy.]

Valina is smiling at Ferala in a way that indicates a willingness to see her as more than just an old acquaintance when Manato asks his question. She promptly turns to look at him.

"It was in the mountains southwest of here, east of Chiaroscuro and south of Kirighast." she explains. "Steel Hawk was one of the Frenzied, and fittingly enough he favoured avian forms, using them to scout the mountain passes for the tribe of barbarians he led, and then turning into a giant hawk to fight his tribe's enemies. We ended up taking to the skies ourselves, using bound Agatae summoned by our sorcerer, Ledaal Kitomi, and swarmed him from all directions. I cut at him with my sword, Kitomi bombarded him with her sorcery, the rest of our group did their part, and eventually Steel Hawk's form plummeted from the skies to impale itself upon a mountain's peak."
 
The Hunt for Steelscale, Session 2, Scene 1 New

jaydude

Four Thousand Club

Session 2: The Hunt for Steelscale​

Chowlett Chowlett D. Rex D. Rex Random Word Random Word Rykon Rykon WlfSamurai WlfSamurai

Valina stays in Kandara for a couple of days, often joining Kitava and Ramuron in their suite to discuss things like philosophy, politics and history. The two satraps don't always agree, but the both of them clearly have well thought-out and researched opinions on their subjects, and when the Cathak woman leaves to return to her own satrapy, she does so with a good deal of respect for Kitava.

Three weeks pass without trouble, allowing the new satrap and her staff to become better acquainted with their new duties. Karudo departs a few days after Valina to join a Wyld Hunt being called within the area; as the targeted Anathema flees north towards the Scavenger Lands, it becomes clear that he will be gone for at least a couple of months. Boroma and Netara continue to rule ander Kitava's supervision, and Sanda compiles a list of tyrant lizard sightings over the last couple of years, while a collection of astrologers are hired to begin reading the stars for any sign of Steelscale. None of the witness reports in recent months mention a grey tyrant lizard, but the astrologers do manage to pick up faint readings of an "unusual" beast of that nature only a few days ride from the city. It can't be said with certainty whether this is Steelscale however, until this afternoon.

A mortal landowner with a farm roughly one day's ride away comes to Kandara upon an exhausted-looking horse, one that was evidently pushed to travel at high speed. The man riding it doesn't look much better, tired and nearly shocked out of his mind. Upon being questioned by the guards at the city gate, he explains that he woke up one night to discover that a grey tyrant lizard had inexplicably snuck into the middle of his ranch and started devouring his sheep. The gigantic reptile soon caught sight of the landowner, and immediately abandoned its feast in order to chase him down; it was all the man could do to get on his horse, lure the beast away from his home and family, and then escape with his life to bear witness. His report on what the beast looked like is compared with what Sanda remembers from the failed hunt, as well as the most recent astrological readings. It all matches; this grey tyrant lizard is almost certainly Steelscale.

The captain at the gate naturally gives orders to relay the story to Manato, but he also commands one of his men to bring word of it to the palace, allowing Kitava and the rest of her staff to hear it as well (assuming of course that Manato doesn't pass on the news himself). How do you all react to this information?
 
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Chowlett

New Member
The news reached Ferala via more subtle means, before the messenger-servant brought it to her officially, and she had time to consider her reaction. Of course, the old king had ruled well and his death had been a tragedy; naturally, Steelscale must be brought down. The event would also provide Kitava an ideal opportunity to do something that would resonate with the whole satrapy, down to the lowest farmer in the fields, and - assuming a successful outcome - help cement her rule here.

Which left the question of what Ferala herself should do. Certainly she was tougher than she looked, a trained martial-artist, and would back herself to face any mortal foe as well as many younger Dynasts. But a Tyrant Lizard was another matter entirely. On the other hand, she needed to ensure that her own political capital was in good standing within the new court. And besides, many better warriors than her would be along for the hunt too. Still perhaps she should finish off her studies on that technique to better emulate the fluidity of water and thus avoid harm...

When the messenger finally did arrive, Ferala received the news impassively. "I trust the dragons will not find me wanting," was all she said.
 

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