Chapter 2 – Piecing it Together

Life contains many mysteries. For example, I have no idea why people worship gods who have no real reason to help them. A god is a power beyond anything we can imagine. It would be like me helping a beetle. Why would a god be at all interested in what I want?

The Book of Lost Wisdom, Kalutu

Seventeenth of Learning 1142

Maynor ran down palace corridors, ignoring curious stares from passing servants and guards. Eric and Dahr were missing. Had he been responsible? Evidence suggested he might be. It was unthinkable.

Maynor questions guard

He thought about the night before—strained to remember specific details. He remembered escorting Striker to retrieve her pet kreve, which had gone well, and he remembered having dinner with the king and the rest of the Misfits of Karmenon. He’d had some wine, but surely not enough to cause a blackout. He’d gone back to his room and had fallen into a deep sleep, after what had been a long day. He had remained there until Chari and Kalutu had woken him early this morning, far earlier than he’d have preferred, with a story his memory couldn’t support.

One of three things was possible. First, Chari and Kalutu were wrong or had somehow been deceived by an impostor. Second, something had tampered with his mind and he didn’t remember. Or third, and least likely but he still considered it, Kalutu and Chari were lying, and he hadn’t come to their chambers. He didn’t really believe that to be the case, they looked genuinely concerned. But Kalutu at least, was a completely unknown factor, provided to them by Dahr’s unknown god, who was yet another unknown factor. So many strange things had already happened, and now the princes were missing. Given what had occurred already, it was hard to dismiss any notion, no matter how unlikely it seemed.

He was out of breath by the time he reached the corridor where the Misfits of Karmenon slept. He shouldn’t have been. He was in better shape than that, though now that he thought about it, he felt weak and fatigued, as if he hadn’t slept in a long time, or as if he was sick. He didn’t feel particularly sick but he couldn’t shake the fact that his body felt wrong, and he wasn’t sure why. It couldn’t have been the alcohol, he hadn’t had enough of it to effect him this way. He closed his eyes, and opened them three times. His mind felt fuzzy. He was having trouble focusing. If it continued, he’d have to find a healer to check him over…or if it came to it, a mage. He needed to consider every possibility.

Two guards stood outside the corridor, standing alert and ready, no doubt having heard his approach.

“Captain Maynor!” said Kyril, and they both saluted him.

“Is every member of the Misfits of Karmenon still in their room?”

“Every member except Striker.”

“When did she leave?”

Kyril looked surprised but answered anyway. “With you last night.”

“With me!”

The guard looked a bit embarrassed, but it didn’t stop him from answering. “After you and she..spent some time alone in her room, you both left together.”

“I want you to tell me everything. In detail. Slowly.”

If the guard thought the request odd, he didn’t show it. “Last night, after dinner, the Misfits returned to their rooms. Striker was unsteady on her feet, we assumed because she’d had too much to drink, so you helped her to her door, and then stood there talking to her for a while. I assume she invited you in, because that’s where you went. It wasn’t my place to say anything, so I didn’t.”

“Quite right. How long were we in there for?”

“I can’t say for sure, but at least an hour. Then you both came out looking disheveled but happy. I’m afraid we all thought there had been a tryst, but no one said it aloud, Sir.”

“It’s all right. I don’t care about gossip. What if I told you I have no memory of going to Striker’s room at all? How did I look?”

“Like you’d had a bit more to drink than usual, but that’s all. I didn’t see anything else amiss.”

“I see. You didn’t see my impropriety as amiss?”

“Some of us thought you might know her, because you’d volunteered to go off with her. It wasn’t our place to question.”

He was of course, correct, but it didn’t stop Maynor from wanting to scold him for something…anything, because as of now, the only person who’d actually done anything out of line was Maynor himself, and maybe Striker.

He started with her room, knocking loudly before opening the door. Aside from the large canopy bed looking like it had been through a great battle, the room revealed nothing. There was a chest of draws, a night stand, and a plush red-velvet chair that no one seemed to have sat in.

A brief examination of the room told him that none of Striker’s personal possessions remained, and nothing else but the bed seemed to have been disturbed. Even now, so many hours later, he could still smell the scent of sex. He thought about Striker then and had to admit he was attracted to her, but he didn’t believe, even now, that he’d have given in to that temptation. Though evidence suggested otherwise, he still hoped for another explanation. With a frown, he left the room, and walked back into the hallway.

He knocked on every other door, and one by one, bleary eyed Misfits of Karmenon emerged from their rooms. Garne was the first one out, disheveled and grumpy, but he confined his complaining to grumbling under his breath. Both Borin and Dreek came out together, both looking like they hadn’t gone to sleep, which from what Maynor knew about their respective species seemed fairly likely. Merck Vanderoth came out next, wearing the same clothes he’d worn yesterday as if he’d fallen asleep in them. Ressssen was the last one out, wearing the same green robes she had on yesterday as well. It occurred to Maynor that without hair to mess up, it was a lot harder to look like you’ve been sleeping.

He watched them without saying anything at first. There was general concern once they realized Striker had not emerged from her room, but they seemed happy to whisper among themselves, rather than to question an obviously annoyed captain of the guard. Finally he spoke to them as a group, rather than singling out any specific member. He watched all their reactions, as he spoke.

“Last night, I apparently spent some time in Striker’s room. She’s not there now.”

There was no comment, but Garne smirked knowingly, and the serpent lord looked surprised, if he was reading her expression correctly.

“I don’t remember going into her room, but there are witnesses I trust that say I did. Has this sort of thing happened before?”

They all seemed to be thinking, but it was the serpent lord who replied. “Striker has always been free with her body. Every time we go to town, it seems, she finds a man to spend time with. And I’ve never seen her spend more than a night with the same man. And now that you mention it, I’ve also never seen her interact with one of them after that first night. I didn’t think anything of it, and I’m still not sure I do.”

“What are you saying?” asked Garne. “This is Striker we’re talking about. She’s harmless.”

“That remains to be seen,” said Maynor. “I think you should all come with me.”

“This isn’t just about Striker’s disappearance,” said Garne. “What’s going on?”

Maynor hesitated. If these people were somehow in league with Striker, or whoever took the princes, he didn’t want to reveal much. However, if they were, they’d already know. And if they weren’t involved in the disappearance or his memory lapse, than it wouldn’t matter if he told them, and it might shake loose some extra information.

“Both of the princes are missing. There have been claims that I came to their rooms last night, but I have no memory of doing so.”

“So you blame the strangers, got it,” said Garne, sourly.

“No one is blaming anyone. But you can bet we’re going to do everything we can to find Prince Eric and Prince Dahr. Come with me. I need to figure out what’s going on.”

Maynor didn’t wait for them to reply, but led them away from their rooms, motioning for both guards to follow as the group made their way past them.


It had taken a while for everyone to gather in the throne room, since the original plan had been to meet at Leata’s office. Eventually, however, they had all arrived, separately or in groups–King Terrence and Queen Treya, Leata, Maynor, Lord Ormund, Princess Chari, Kalutu, the Misfits of Karmenon and the guards who had spent the night watching their rooms.

King Terrence spoke as soon as the doors had been closed behind the last of them, which had been Maynor and the people who had accompanied him.

“Maynor, report.”

And Maynor did. He left out no detail. He didn’t try to dodge the blame. He only provided facts, leaving his theories till later if the king asked for them. The king listened, eyes locked on his, then turned his attention to Lord Ormund.

“He’s telling the truth, Your Majesty.”

“Thank you, Lord Ormund. Maynor, do you know anything at all about the whereabouts of my sons?”

“Only what I’ve told you, Your Highness.”

Again, Lord Ormund verified that Maynor was speaking the truth.

“Then what the hell happened?” asked the king. “Did you spend time alone with Striker in her room last night?”

“Not to my recollection.”

The king looked at Lord Ormund, who nodded. “It’s all true, Your Majesty. Whatever happened to your sons, it’s clear that either Maynor doesn’t know anything about it, or what he did know has been removed from his memory.”

“What do you mean?” asked the king.

“Memories can be altered. They can be erased. If Maynor were behind the whole plot, and he had someone remove that information, it would look like he was telling the truth. I’m not saying I think that’s what happened. I’m simply saying that truth spells can be fooled. They only reveal that someone is telling the truth as they currently know it. They don’t reveal the actual truth.”

“If Maynor says he doesn’t remember, that’s good enough for me,” said the king. “The real question is, where is Striker, and is she with my sons?”

“We should check the practice yard,” suggested Maynor. “See if her kreve is still there, though how she could get it out of the palace unseen, I have no idea.”

The king looked at the two guards. “You both saw Maynor last night leave with Striker, but he doesn’t remember it. Have you any other information about what’s going on?”

Both guards shook their heads.

“Okay, check the practice yard. If you see the creature, don’t approach it, just verify that it’s there and report back.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

They left the room, and everyone was silent, except, of course, for Chari.

“What do we do now?”

“We find out what happened. If they’re in the palace, we’ll find them.”

“And if they’re not in the palace?”

The king looked at Chari thoughtfully. “Maynor, find out who was on duty last night at each of the palace gates. Bring them here. Don’t question them. Don’t explain where they’re going, or why you need them. Just find them and return with them.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

Chari looked like she was about to say something, but held back at the last moment. King Terrence had a pretty good idea of what she was thinking.

“It’s okay, Chari. I trust Maynor. He’s been a loyal servant since before you were born. He’s had ample opportunity to betray me. If he did somehow take Dahr and Eric from their rooms last night, and it wasn’t some sort of impostor, he wasn’t doing it of his own volition.”

Maynor nodded in appreciation before bowing and moving off to follow instructions.

Queen Treya was the next to speak. “Chari, you’ll be spending the day with me.”

“Why?” asked Chari.

“Because I wouldn’t want you running off to search for Eric, particularly if he’s not in the palace.”

“Do you really think I would…”

“Yes. You would. And your parents could start a war over it, so I can’t allow it.”

“Your Highness…Treya, he’s my husband. And Sheba said…”

“Sheba said a lot of things that no one understands. Eric and Dahr are gone, for now. That doesn’t mean you’re supposed to follow them.”

Chari looked like she was about to protest, but nodded instead. The queen studied her carefully, but didn’t say anything else.

The two guards that had been sent to check on the kreve, returned to announce that there was no sign of it. And so everyone waited in silence for Maynor to return with a bevy of guards, who looked as if they were recently roused from sleep, which was very likely the case. They all looked frightened to be in the throne room.

“Last night, did any of you see Maynor leave the palace?”

One of the guards spoke, but the king couldn’t remember his name. “No, Your Highness. Maynor simply relieved us and said he’d take over.”

Maynor looked startled, but said nothing.

“So you left your post?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“You didn’t think that was suspicious?”

“Your Highness, Maynor is our superior. We trust him implicitly. If he tells us to leave, that’s what we do. Did something happen?”

“Yes. Eric and Dahr are missing, and Maynor has no memory of relieving you of your duty.”

Both of the guards looked shocked. “Your Highness, you have to believe me, Maynor…”

“I do believe you, be at ease. Neither of you are in trouble. Did you see anything else?”

“No Your Highness, we returned to our quarters to sleep, and that’s all we did.”

Interrogation of the rest of the guards provided no further information, and so the king dismissed them. During this time servants and guards had started reporting in. There was no sign of either of the princes.

“What do we do now?” asked Treya.

“We try to find them. It’s clear they left the palace, and my guess is that Striker was with them. What she could possibly want with them is a mystery. Can anyone shed any light on that?”

The king was looking at the Misfits of Karmenon when he said it, particularly at Ressssen.

“Your Highnessss, we have no idea what happened last night, but I trust Striker and don’t believe she would betray us this way, or you.”

“The truth,” said Lord Ormund.

“It’s time to expand our search. Maynor, find whoever was guarding the gates out of the city last night. I want them here. We need to know if either of the princes or Striker left the city.”

Chari exchanged a look with Kalutu but neither said anything. The king made a note of it, but didn’t ask. It was likely they simply hadn’t considered the possibility.

Once Maynor was gone, the king returned his attention to the Misfits. “I want to know everything you know about Striker, and I mean everything. It’s going to take Maynor some time to get back, and we’re going to put that time to good use. Leata, get a servant to bring food to the throne room, because no one is going anywhere until we’ve made some progress.”

“At once, Your Highness.”

“You can’t possibly be hungry with all this going on,” said Treya.

“It’s an old warrior habit. If you never know when your next meal is going to be, you make sure you eat, because if you don’t and have no time later, you may have cause to regret skipping that meal. It’s the same thing with sleep. The difference between surviving in battle and dying could be whether or not you’re well rested. I survived the Undead War by eating and sleeping as regularly as I could. I’m not going to start changing now.”

Treya nodded. “You’re right, of course.”

“Okay, Misfits, it’s time to tell me about your companion.”

“She was my friend,” said Borin quickly, seemingly happy to share the fact.

“Your friend?”

“She was. She told me so.”

“And?” asked the king.

“That’s it,” said Borin. “That’s all I know. But I know she wouldn’t do anything wrong.”

“Do you now?”

“She was kind,” said the salad. “Trustworthy.”

“That remains to be seen,” said the king, frustration evident in his voice.

Garne, the warrior, spoke next in his gruff baritone. “I think we all feel that way. Striker was… Striker. She was funny, spontaneous, friendly, generally happy. And she liked to get laid.”

“I see,” said the king. “And that is relevant how?”

“I mean she really liked it. Like a driving force. She would always find some nobody when we got into a new town, someone we never saw before, and she’d end up taking them back to her room. Just a night or two, and then we’d never see them again. Or rather, we’d see them again, but never with her. But we all noticed it.”

“I’m not sure how that’s helpful, but since I’m trying to build a picture of her, thank you.”

Ressssen looked hesitant for a few moments but then seemed to make a decision. “When we were in Pelaro, we had been invited to a dinner by one of the minor nobles. This was because Striker had been posing as a princess.”

“Posing as a princess?” asked King Terrence.

“Yes, we were trying to see as many noble children as we could. We were searching for Prince Dahr but didn’t yet know where to find him.”


“It was believed nobles would want their sons to meet a princess, and then Merck, who was there, could see if one of those matched the one that was in his vision. Obviously that didn’t happen.”


“But there were people talking during that gathering, and I overheard some of it. One lord insisted that Striker had spent the night with a man who didn’t remember it the next morning when they tried to question him.”

“Why would they question him?”

“To get information about the princess of course.”

“Is this the way nobles behave in Pelaro?” the king seemed astonished.

Treya smiled, gently, “My love, this is the way nobles behave everywhere.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” said the king, doubtfully.

“The point isss, Your Highness, Maynor said he doesn’t remember, even though people saw him going into Striker’s room.”

“You think she does something to them, that they’re not having sex.”

“No. They’re having ssssex. I can taste it in the air afterwards. But I believe there may be something more going on as well.”

The other Misfits stared at Ressssen. Garne glowered. Borin looked thoughtful. Dreek was, as always, impossible to read.

“How long have you known this?” asked Garne.

“Even now, I don’t know this. But I know what I heard at that gathering, and I know what I’ve heard here. It may be nothing. But a crime has perhaps occurred here, and we are implicated. And we will cooperate.”

Garne nodded but didn’t look pleased. The king could understand why he’d be protective of Striker. After all, they were the only two humans in the group.

At this point, tables were delivered to the throne room and food followed shortly after. The king told everyone to dig in and joined them himself, but his mind remained on the information he had, scant as it was. He filled a plate with eggs, sausage, bread rolls, a selection of fruit and a pastry. Everyone else was doing the same, though perhaps not quite as enthusiastically as he was. The truth was, there was nothing constructive he could do, but he could fuel his body, so it’s what he did.

At length everyone had eaten, but no one was talking when Maynor returned to the throne room with a couple of guards. “Your Highness, you’ll want to hear this.”

King Terrence studied the two guards, neither of which he knew by name. “Speak.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” said the taller of the two. “My name is Henrick, and I work most nights on the east gate. Last night, Maynor, Prince Eric, Prince Dahr, a young woman I didn’t know and a kreve came to the gate, and Maynor asked me to let them out, so I did. It was Maynor, Your Highness. I wouldn’t have opened the gate otherwise.”

“It’s okay,” said the king, “You’re not in trouble. No one expects you to disobey the captain of the guard.”

“But Maynor said it wasn’t him!” the guard seemed near hysterical.

“I think it was,” said the king.

Maynor looked crestfallen. “Your Majesty?”

“We think Striker did something to you, we’re not sure what. You don’t remember going to her room at all last night?”

“I don’t.”

“Too many people saw you up and about for it to be a coincidence, but I trust you and always have.”

“What do you think she did? A spell of some sort?”

“I’m not sure, but at least we know we don’t have to check the city. That will save time. They already have many hours head start on us though. Do you have any idea what time they left?”

“It’s hard to say, Your Highness,” said the guard. “It was definitely past midnight, but how much later, I don’t know.”

“So, a maximum of maybe 9 hours. That’s a big head start. I assume that she had some sort of escape plan, so that’s in her favor, but I can’t imagine it would be that hard to track a kreve.”

Queen Treya, who had been mostly silent until now, spoke. “I think it might be time to wake King Leonid and Queen Rhea.”

“For what purpose?”

“Because if I don’t miss my guess, Princess Chari is going to make an attempt to go after them. That’s your plan, isn’t it, princess?”

Chari didn’t answer but looked guilty.

“I thought as much.”

King Terrence nodded. “Leata, see to it please.”

“Of course, Your Highness.”

Ressssen stepped forward. “Your Highness, I would like to be included in the party to go after them.”

“You’re only a low level team. Why should I trust the well being of my sons to untried adventurers?”

“Because we know Striker better than you. We’ve fought with her, and we’ve seen her fight. To some degree we know how she thinks. And her actions reflect on all of us. We need the ability to make this right.”

The king’s gaze softened, understanding her point. “We’ll have to see. I can’t just send you out alone.”

“I’ll go with them,” said Maynor. “Like the Misfits, I’m at least partially responsible for what has happened.”

The king started to speak, but Maynor held up a hand. “Please, Your Majesty, let me finish. I heard what you said earlier about trusting me, but right now, I don’t trust myself. And I won’t be much use to you if I don’t somehow regain that trust. Let me at least try to make up for what I’ve done.”

“You want me to send you out with a Tier 1 team of adventurers?”

“I want you to hire them so that they are working on your behalf. It will give them cover and clout if they need it. And I’ll accompany them as your representative on this mission.”

The king looked thoughtful, but it was Garne’s next words that made up his mind. “Your Highness, Striker is our friend, our compatriot, our companion. I don’t know what she did or didn’t do. I don’t know if she did it of her own free will, or if she was somehow coerced. I don’t know if she’s truly the person she has claimed to be all this time, but until I find out, I will not be able to live with myself. She’s like family. Let us do this, please.”

The king relented. “Very well. I’ll hire the Misfits of Karmenon, and Maynor will represent my interests. Leave immediately. Maynor, make sure you’re well provisioned from our stores before you go. As for payment…”

“One gold,” said Ressssen. “This isn’t about payment. We’re not trying to turn a profit on your misery. We’re trying to make amends.”

“Fine,” said King Terrence. “One gold, if you don’t bring our sons back to us. We’ll discuss a more suitable compensation if you do. Either way, we’ll pay to provision you, no expense spared. The best equipment, the best healing potions, the best stamina potions. We’re going to send you out with every advantage we can give you.”

“Will you be sending out others as well?” asked Treya.


Sheba’s voice filled the room for all to hear. The king nodded matter of factly, as if the voice of the goddess suddenly appearing was commonplace.

“What the hell was that?” asked Garne.

“That was Sheba,” said the king. “It looks like you’re the ones that need to go after my sons after all.”

The Misfits of Karmenon stared at the king with open mouths, but he didn’t have the time to be amused by their astonishment, and he was getting used to people reacting that way anyway. He wondered if his own familiarity was itself a problem of some sort. There was no humility in it. He was spared from further introspection by the throne room doors opening. King Leonid and Queen Rhea hurriedly entered followed by two of their household guards. Neither stopped to bow. They ran to the thrones.

“Your Highness, we just heard. We are so sorry.”

Queen Rhea had been the one to speak. Relief flooded her face when her eyes fell on Chari standing off to the side.

“It’s a tragedy,” said King Leonid. “How can we help?”

“Make sure Chari doesn’t try to follow them,” said the queen.

“I’ll assign a detachment of guards, just to make sure,” said King Leonid.

Chari’s eyes flared. “That’s my husband out there!”

“And we’re doing everything we can to get him back,” said Queen Treya. “Having to worry about you as well as them, isn’t going to help anyone.”

Chari looked like she was about to argue the point, but instead she bowed her head. “Yes, Your Highness. There is, however, at least one thing I can do.”

“Oh?” asked the queen.

“Let the guards escort Kalutu and I to the Temple of Sheba, so that we might sit in prayer.”

She looked up hopefully at the queen.

“That’s all you’ll do, sit in prayer?”

“Yes, Your Highness. If I can’t help, at least let me do something. I’ll have guards with me after all.”

Queen Treya looked over at Queen Rhea, who nodded once.

“Very well. Wait for the guards though.”

“I will, Your Highness.” Then she looked at the Misfits of Karmenon. “Godspeed. Find my husband. I’ll be in my chambers until the guards come to get me.” She looked back to King Terrence. “If it would be all right, Your Majesty, I’d like to take Kalutu with me. The four of us have been training together and now two of us are missing. I’m sure Kalutu could use the company as much as I. After all, he’s lost both his masters.”

Terrence nodded. If he had any questions for either Kalutu or Princess Chari, he’d find them later. Their story checked out. The focus had to be on Striker.

Princess Chari walked toward the door, followed by Kalutu. King Leonid nodded to the guards that had accompanied him, and they moved off to follow. Chari made no move to stop them.

When they were gone, King Terrence looked at Maynor. “Who will be in charge of the palace guard in your absence?”

“Captain Jericho, Your Highness.”

The king looked frustrated. “I banished him to the wall for a reason.”

“Your Highness, under normal circumstances, anyone could take care of routine guard duty. But we left routine behind some time ago. Once I leave there’ll be only one other Captain in the city, and that is Captain Jericho.”

“Will he be staying at the palace?”

Before Maynor could answer, Queen Treya cut in, sounding amused in spite of the day’s grim discoveries. “Terrence, it’s been almost twenty years. Surely even you can’t hold a grudge that long.”

“I’m not holding a grudge. I just don’t like him.”

“Would you like him more if he were less good-looking?”

“You think he’s good looking, do you? He stayed behind and ignored his inheritance just to protect you. From me!”

“He did. He’s a loyal subject. Loyal to both of us. You have no reason to be jealous of him.”

“I’m not jealous, he’s just…intolerably smug.”

“Well, you’re the king. So you can be smug right back to him.”

The king looked exasperated. “I don’t do smug. It would be hypocritical to act that way if it’s the reason I don’t like him in the first place.”

Maynor cleared his throat. “Your Highness, the sun isn’t going to wait to rise higher.”

Chastened, the king turned to the captain of the guard.

“You’re right of course. Bring them back, my friend. You are dismissed.”

Maynor nodded at the Misfits, and they followed him from the room.

The moment of light banter had done nothing to ease the king’s growing restlessness. “We’ve got some idea of what’s going on, what else can we do?”

He looked around at the people in the room. No one had an answer.

Queen Treya placed a gentle hand over his. “This is in the hands of the goddess now, my love. Our part in this is over.”

“We can’t just sit here and do nothing.”

Treya nodded. “Of course we can’t. We can run the kingdom. We can honor Sheba with our actions. We can be the king and queen she wishes us to be. We knew this was coming. We were warned.”

“I’d be a lot happier if I had some idea of what had happened though.”

“We may never know. You should make peace with that. I’m not saying not to try to find out, but don’t let it become an obsession. Let people do their jobs, as we need to do ours.”

King Terrence stared blankly at his wife, as if he was having trouble understanding her words. Then he nodded. “It will be as you say. You are wise beyond your years, my wife.”

“I’d better be. I’m not that old yet.”

King Terrence dropped his head so the others wouldn’t see the fear in his eyes.

Please, my goddess, protect them. They’re our sons. Guide them back to us. I will always bear whatever burdens you require, but I beg you, do not take my sons. I fear that would break me.

Sheba’s voice replied inside his mind.

You are stronger than you think, King Terrence of Twyl. And I will protect your sons if it is possible to do so. But there are other forces at work here, and as much as I would like to, I cannot guarantee their safe return.

Other forces? Forces so great even you can’t influence them? If you can’t, then how can my sons?

Because there are things that mortals can do that the gods cannot.

King Terrence thought about that for a long time but could make no sense of the statement.


The Aptly Named Book of Lost Wisdom Volume 2 continues with Chapter 3 – The Getaway, coming soon.

Back to Book 2 – Chapter 1 – The Secret



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