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Author Topic: Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24  (Read 4209 times)

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Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« on: July 23, 2010, 12:00:08 am »
Chapter Twenty-Four


   “We're ridin' out within th' hour.”  Jass held Ailidh's hands in his, his whiskey-colored eyes searching hers.  “I dinnae know yet when we'll return, but my guess is, no' until th' spring thaw at th' earliest.  You can get a message to me in Transha, though; it will get forwarded to Porgonnedd if we're still there instead.”  He lifted her fingertips to his lips, kissing each hand in turn.  “You'll write, aye?  I cannae promise prompt replies, but I'll send ye word back as I can.”

   “What's happened, Jass?”  Ailidh's eyes reflected her worry.  “Dhugal wouldn't be riding north this time of year unless the need is urgent.”

   Jass nodded.  “It's Caldreana.  She's wi' child, an' there's somethin' gone wrong.  Th' midwife's stopped her labor for now, or at least tha's th' last we've heard o' th' matter, but there's some danger tae the bairn an' tae Caldie as well.  She cannae leave her bed until th' babe is born, which wasnae supposed tae happen for some months yet.  Dhugal doesnae know if he can help or no'--he's a Healer, but he's trained as a battle surgeon, no' a midwife.  But still, Caldie's like a sister tae him.  She may really be his aunt, but he grew up thinkin' o' her as his twin.”

   Ailidh nodded, blinking away tears.  “I know.  I grew up with her, remember?”

   “Aye.”  Jass drew her close, for once heedless of the Contessa's watchful eyes.  “I'll send word back once we know more.”

   That will take forever!  I want to go with you, Ailidh sent into his mind.  

   Jass drew back to look at her, carefully concealing his startlement at Ailidh's unexpected mind-speech from her watching guardian. Ye cannae, chuisle.  Dhugal'd never allow it, and he doesnae want anythin' tae slow us down on our ride, he thought carefully, hoping that she'd be able to read him.  Aloud, he added, “If ye want tae help, I'm sure Caldie would appreciate a few prayers right now.  This is her first babe, an’ she’s hopin’ tae give Lord Philo an heir.”

#

   “Don’t you want to go down to the Great Hall with us for supper?” Sophie asked, concerned.  

   “No.  I’m not very hungry.  And anyway, I’m hoping I can get a quick note to Caldie written, so Jass can take it with him to Pelagog.”

   Celsie hugged Ailidh.  “I’m so sorry about your friend!  I hope she’ll be all right.  Shall we bring something back up for you?”

   “I suppose,” the Border girl said distractedly.  

   The other ladies left with the Contessa.  Ailidh sat in the silent bedchamber, quill in hand, staring at the blank parchment not knowing quite what to say.  At last, the thoughts formed—not the note she’d originally intended to send, but a different idea altogether—and she began to write, setting the words to paper in a quick, decisive scrawl, dusting it lightly with pounce to set the ink.

   She flew then to her storage chest, throwing back the lid and rummaging to the bottom of it for garments unworn for several months.  Swiftly, not giving herself time for second thoughts, she gathered these together into a rough pack except for one change of clothing, which she set apart to wear.  That done, she changed into the old garments, muttering a bit at the snug fit.   She folded the gown she’d been wearing and placed it in the trunk, replaced soft slippers with worn leather boots, added a dagger and scabbard to her belt, and threw a black hooded cloak over the whole.

   The letter, she folded and placed on the sitting room sideboard, where it would hopefully be seen once the Contessa and her house-sisters returned from their meal.  There was one more thing left to do.  Reaching into her sewing basket, she pulled out a pair of shears and a length of cord.  It wasn’t in Transha colors, but it would do for the moment.

   Her tasks done, she slipped out through the back corridors, not stopping until she reached the stables.  Once there, she found a shadowy corner and paused, pulling her long auburn curls back and plaiting them into a sufficient length to double back on itself and be tied into a Border braid.  The excess, she carefully snipped off with her shears, then secured the remaining braid back with the cord.  The effect wasn’t perfect, but would suffice for the moment, concealed as it would be under the hood of her cloak.

   The rest of her shorn hair, she stuffed under some loose straw, hoping no curious groom would take notice of it until she was well under way.

   A few careful inquiries of a stable lad revealed that Duke Dhugal and his men had just departed not two minutes before.  Passing herself off as one of their men-at-arms, unavoidably delayed, she managed to convince the lad to make a horse ready for her, blurring his memories and adding a bit of subtle persuasion to aid her efforts along.  He told her they had made straight for the North Road, and she nodded her thanks, making sure before she left that he would have no memories of seeing a Border lass, just—if pressed for details—a lone Transha youth pressed for time and eager to be off to join his traveling companions.

   She caught up with Dhugal and his men just within the city gates, easing her horse through the pedestrians and into the rear of their company just as they were leaving Rhemuth.  Once clear of the city, the company sped up from a slow trot to a swifter canter, Ailidh keeping pace along with them.  So far, in their haste to be away, none had yet noticed the addition of one more Transha rider.

#

   When the ladies returned to their apartment, there was a delivery maid waiting just outside the door, her arms laden with gowns.  “Deliveries for Lady Celeste de Chervignon and Mistress Ailidh nic Ardry, my ladies,” she shyly informed them.  “Four new gowns as ordered.”

   “Oh, those must be the gowns Ailidh and I ordered a few days ago at that shop Sir Jass showed us!”  Celsie dug into her belt pouch, producing a coin to pay the delivery maid with.  

   The Contessa rapped on the door, but there was no answer.  She frowned slightly.  “Ailidh must have dozed off,” she said, producing a key and letting the girls into the chamber.  The delivery maid glanced around the room, setting the gowns down on the nearest flat surface, a sideboard just inside the sitting area.  Celsie offered her payment for her services.  “Thank you, m’lady!” the maid murmured with a low bob, slipping the coin into her pouch and hastening back towards her shop.

   No one noticed the folded note the new garments had pushed to one side.  It fell into the narrow space between the sideboard and the wall.
#

   The Transha men rode all evening and well into the night.  Once beyond the more traversed roads just outside of Rhemuth, Dhugal broke the small group of riders into two sections, the first group leading the way forward, ensuring that the road was safe to travel and that brigands were not lying in wait around each bend.  The second group followed a short way behind, close enough to come to the aid of the first if needed, yet lingering just far enough back so that they could sneak up upon any possible ambush from behind, trapping the attacking force between the two groups of Transha men.  Ailidh found herself riding in the second group, still lingering at the rear of it.  At some point, one of the other riders, old Lambert,  had spotted a stray curl of auburn hair peeking out from under her hood, and had assumed she was one of the junior men-at-arms, a lad named Seamidh.  Ailidh didn’t disabuse him of the notion.  Fortunately, the real Seamidh was riding with the first group, so her deception remained undetected for the moment.  The riders had slowed their horses to a walk as they came to a rockier stretch of road.

   “Where’s th’ MacArdry plannin’ on beddin’ down th’ night?” one of the men asked, sounding weary.

   “Just south o’ Littleton, I think, no’ tha’ much further ahead,” Lambert answered.  “There’s an inn, if it’s no’ full up by now.  If it is, we push on a wee bit further tae the north.  There’s a stretch o’ woods will gie us a bit o’ cover from th’ winds, if we havetae make camp.”

   “Jesú, let’s hope not!  I could use a fire an’ a warm bed.”

   “An’ a warm wench too, I’ll warrant; aye, Lachlan?”

   The men laughed, Ailidh adding a quiet chuckle to ensure her silence didn’t draw undue attention.

   “Do ye think th’ MacArdry’ll be able tae heal th’ Lady Caldie?” another man asked quietly.
 
   “Well, he’s a Deryni, aye?  S’gotta be good f’r somethin’, ye’d think.  I hope he can.  She’s a bonny thing, is Caldie, an’ no’ yet wed more’n a year.”

   “Has it been that long?” another added.  “Aye, I s’pose it has.  Fast work, then.  No’ tha’ I can blame Lord Philo; I’d hae been on her like a duck on a bug if I thought ol’ Cauley’d let me have ‘er.”

   “Or the young laird,” old Lambert added.  “Mind yer tongue about th’ lady ‘round Dhugal; he’ll no’ brook disrespect o’ her.”

   “Aw, hell, nae disrespect intended!  I was right sweet on th’ lass.”

   “Well, let’s hope th’ MacArdry makes as good a midwife as he does a battle surgeon, then!”

   The banter continued as the men rode on, growing even more ribald as the men began to joke about the inherent possibilities of the MacArdry chief turning to Deryni midwifery as a sideline.  Ailidh stifled a yawn, hoping they’d get to the outskirts of Littleton soon.  

   “Yer awfully quiet tonight, Seamidh” the man named Lachlan remarked finally.  “Cat got yer tongue?”

   “Just…don’t have that much to say,” Ailidh answered, trying to lower her voice to sound more like the lad she was trying to pass herself off as.

   Lachlan gave her a second glance, reining in his horse to shorten the distance between them.  “Ye’re no’ ailin’, are ye, lad?”

   “No, just tired,” Ailidh responded.  She tried to extend her mental touch across the short distance between them in hopes of redirecting his thoughts so he’d not probe further, but she brushed up against unexpected, if rudimentary, shields.  She drew her mind-probe back, startled.

   “Damn it, yer no’ Seamidh, are ye?”

   Another rider had circled back to see what was happening.  “Nay, Seamidh’s in th’ MacArdry’s party, I think.”  He bent to peer under Ailidh’s hood.  “But if ye’re no’ Seamidh, who are ye?”

   Before she could react, Lachlan had drawn his sword, reaching the tip of it under the edge of her hood to flip it back.  “Sweet Jesú, it’s Jass’s wench!”

#

   “I'm not Jass's wench!” Ailidh muttered, as old Lambert led her forward toward Dhugal's party, Lachlan riding on her other side to ensure she didn't bolt.   

   The older man snorted.  “Ten tae one says ye will be now, once young Dhugal's done wi' chewin' ye up an' spittin' ye out!  Hell, lassie, wha' were ye thinkin', trying tae join in wi' us? Ye'll be ruined fer sure, once word gets out ye're missin' from Rhemuth!”

    The younger man gave her a sympathetic smile.  “Lambert's right, you know, Ailidh.  We've days o' hard ridin' ahead o' us, and Dhugal's goin' tae be none tae pleased tae see ye.  An' it's a bit late tae be turnin' back at this point.  'Course, if ye don' want Jass, I'll offer for ye!”  He gave her a teasing wink and a grin.

   Lambert rode up ahead, hailing the MacArdry chief.  Dhugal reined in, turning his horse around to ride partway back to meet him, Jass following closely behind.  The men conferred briefly, then Dhugal shot a quick look directly at Ailidh, his face looking thunderous in the moonlight.

#

   “Jass, you're wi' me.  Lachlan, ride back an' have th' rest o' th' men rejoin th' lead group; Lambert, ye ride forward an' let Ciard know wha's happened, then once th' rest o' th' men hae joined us, go on ahead an' secure lodgings for us all.  South end o' Littleton's just aroun' th' next bend.”  Gone for the moment was the polished Duke; the irate Border chief had gone full MacArdry.

    “An' wha' do we do about her lodgin's?”

    Dhugal gave an exasperated snort.  “Ailidh's stayin' wi' me.  She's under my protection...if I dinnae kill 'er first!”

   Lambert chuckled.  “Good luck wi' that!”  The men rode off to obey the MacArdry's orders.

   Jass eased his horse closer to Ailidh's.  “I thought I told you to stay home!” he muttered, whiskey eyes aflame.  

   She refused to look at  him, keeping her eyes forward, bracing herself for Dhugal's onslaught.  “I'm no' yours tae order, Jass MacArdry,” she whispered.

   “Nae, but ye're mine tae order,” The MacArdry barked, wheeling his mount around to face her now that he was done with dealing with his men for the moment.  “An' ye must hae known I'd never hae allowed ye tae ride out wi' us, Ailidh!  Wha' th' devil were ye thinkin'?”

   “ I was thinkin' tha' my best friend's in danger, an' mayhap in need o' a friend at her side, and nothin's goin' tae stop me from goin' tae her, Dhugal  MacArdry, if I have tae go it alone th' rest o' th' way!  Ye dinnae truly think I'd just sit aroun' in Rhemuth pushin' needles through cambric and makin' small talk while Caldie's in need, did ye?”  Her gray-green eyes flashed back at him.  “Ye're bluidy daft if ye did!”

   “Ailidh!”  Jass shot the lass a warning look.  

   She glared back.  “Dinnae 'Ailidh!' me, Jass; ye've nae say in this.”

    “Oh, he does now!” Dhugal said.  He shot a look at his retainer.  “Ye said yer courtin' th' lass, aye?”

   “Aye, Dhugal, but--”

   “Well, she's yours now.  We'll be stoppin' in Transha along th' way; there'll be time tae round up Father Keegan if ye can coax him out o' the pubs long enough.”  

   “Father....”  Ailidh's eyes widened.  “Dhugal, ye cannae--”

   Jass's hand clamping down on her arm stopped her short.  “No' now, lass!” he whispered, his face set.  “Dinnae make things worse for yerself than they already are!”  

   They followed Dhugal in silence the rest of the way to the inn.

#

   Ailidh lay in the unfamiliar bed, listening to Dhugal's and Jass's quiet conference.  Dhugal had walked her into the small chamber, asking curtly if she needed help unlacing, and upon being assured that she didn't, had informed her that she'd be given ten minutes, and no longer, to have a change of clothes and a quick rinse at the basin if she wanted one, and that she'd best be abed once he and Jass came back up.  Seeing the barely banked fury in his face, for once she'd dared not argue.

   They had returned, once they'd stopped by the stables to make sure their horses had been well tended to, and now they sat by the fireplace discussing her fate.  Ailidh wasn't sure if they thought she was asleep already, or if they simply didn't care that she wasn't.

   “Dhugal,” Jass was saying, “I want th' lass, but I'll no' force her.  I'm willin' tae wed wi' her—God knows I want tha'!--but is there nae other way than this?”

   “She's left me no choice, Jass.”  A short time away from Ailidh had allowed the MacArdry's temper to cool, but while he'd returned to the more polished diction he'd learned in Rhemuth, the Border Duke sounded no less resolute than he had been earlier.  “I can't send her back to Rhemuth; we're too far out now as it is, and there's no way to return her before she's been missed.  And we're a small party; I can't spare the escort.  Like it or not, once word gets out—and believe me, it will—that she's gone riding off unchaperoned with a rowdy lot of Border men, traveling and—what's worse—bunking down with us for several days and nights, how many people are going to remain unconvinced that she's an innocent lass, and that nothing improper's happened with any of the men?  Her reputation will be in ruins, even if I turn her around now and have her back in Rhemuth by daybreak.”  He shook his head. “There's only two solutions I see for it, Jass.  One is to take her on to Transha and leave her there, and not let her return to Rhemuth after—because you know the gossip will still be there whenever she returns, if she goes back unwed.  Or I can give her to you—or if she won't have you, to any man she will have—in hopes that at least some of the folks back in Rhemuth  will consider it an elopement once they learn she's been married.  There'll still be gossip, but at least it will die down after a bit, and the matter will be considered properly settled.”  Dhugal rubbed his forehead as if staving off a headache.  “She's not a stupid chit; I'm hoping she'll choose to wed you. It's the better of the two options.”

`   “Aye.”  Jass sighed.  “But dinnae go too hard on her, Dhugal.  She's young yet, an' she simply dinnae think it all through.”

   Dhugal raised an eyebrow at his knight.  “Ailidh's no younger than I am, Jass, and I had to learn to think ahead and to assume a man's responsibility at a much younger age.  The lass is a woman grown now.  She needs to learn to act like one.  I'm not saying to break her spirit—God knows no one who cares for Ailidh would want to see that—but she could use some settling, Jass.”  He quirked a wry smile at the slightly older man.  “Court her quickly, man.  You have two days to win her around.”

   He stood, reaching into his pouch for a coin.  “Let's see who wins the other half of the bed. Whoever wins the toss will be sleeping atop the covers, not under them.  Remember, she's still under my protection as far as Transha at least.”   He tossed the coin, catching it in mid-air and slapping it onto the back of his hand.  “Heads or tails?”

#

   Dhugal lay in the darkness of the quiet room, sleep evading him.  Beside him, separated only by a handspan and a couple of thin blankets, lay Ailidh, pretending to sleep.  He could hear the occasional sniff, and he suspected the lass was trying to hold back tears.

   After a while, he couldn't take it anymore.

   Try to get some sleep, lass.  We've got a long ride again tomorrow.

    Ailidh froze, motionless for a few short moments, then seemed almost to wilt.  I'm sorry, Dhugal.  I never meant to cause a problem for you.  I just.... Dhugal heard a quiet whimper in the darkness, knew that she'd just swallowed down a sob.

    He sighed heavily, then gathered her into his arms for a brief hug. I know.  You wanted to be with Caldie.  Well, I suppose you'll have your wish, if you're still feeling up to continuing on further once we've reached Transha.  Ailidh clung to him for a long moment, then Dhugal gently disengaged her arms from around his neck.  Sleep now, lass.  Neither of us will be any good for her if we're not well rested by the time we reach Pelagog.  

   He turned his back to her then, staring into the fireplace instead.  Beside it, Jass lay curled up on a makeshift pallet.  He also lay awake, arching a dark brow at his chief.

    Sleep, Jass, Dhugal mindspoke.

    Aye, I will.  An' ye can get yer own damn woman, an' leave mine be!

    Dhugal chuckled.  You're welcome to her.  God knows I don't need that much trouble! He closed his eyes and willed himself into slumber.


Chapter 25:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=569.0
« Last Edit: January 10, 2011, 03:37:20 pm by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Alkari

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2010, 12:19:55 am »
*GULPS*   Dhugal in full McArdry mode is great fun, though terrifying.  And he's certainly right about Ailidh learning to be responsible.
  
Quote
“Sweet Jesú, it’s Jass’s wench!”
Quote
An' ye can get yer own damn woman, an' leave mine be!
LOL - well, she certainly will be before too long :D

Offline AnnieUK

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2010, 05:03:23 am »
Ack!  Looks like Jass is going to get her then, if not in the way he had hoped.

My fave couple, Evie - you make things work out right for them - d'you hear me?

Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2010, 08:52:35 am »
*GULPS*   Dhugal in full McArdry mode is great fun, though terrifying.

Yeah, Dhugal's a fun lad to get all in a lather.   :D
Quote
Quote
“Sweet Jesú, it’s Jass’s wench!”

Quote
An' ye can get yer own damn woman, an' leave mine be!
LOL - well, she certainly will be before too long :D

Heh.  Jass trusts his chief completely in most situations, but I couldn't imagine him being the first to fall asleep while his woman is lying just four inches and two thin blankets away from his hot-blooded, eighteen-year-old, strong and extremely healthy young laird....   ;)
« Last Edit: July 23, 2010, 08:59:30 am by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline Evie

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2010, 08:54:01 am »
Ack!  Looks like Jass is going to get her then, if not in the way he had hoped.

My fave couple, Evie - you make things work out right for them - d'you hear me?

Well, then, you might not want to read the next chapter in which Jass takes an arrow to the head and Ailidh is dragged off by the Orcs to work in the mines of Moria....

Oh, sorry, wrong universe!   ;)
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
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Offline Elkhound

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2010, 09:09:24 am »
Ack!  Looks like Jass is going to get her then, if not in the way he had hoped.

My fave couple, Evie - you make things work out right for them - d'you hear me?

Well, then, you might not want to read the next chapter in which Jass takes an arrow to the head and Ailidh is dragged off by the Orcs to work in the mines of Moria....

Oh, sorry, wrong universe!   ;)

Interesting idea for a crossover.  Someone trying to use a portal gets hijacked to Middle Earth?

Offline AnnieUK

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2010, 09:15:13 am »
Maybe that's where Lewys ap Norfal went? ;)

Offline Alkari

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2010, 09:43:09 am »
Heh.  Jass trusts his chief completely in most situations, but I couldn't imagine him being the first to fall asleep while his woman is lying just four inches and two thin blankets away from his hot-blooded, eighteen-year-old, strong and extremely healthy young laird....   ;)
Well, Jass will just have to learn to win the toss, won't he :D   Of course, Dhugal was quite right to cheat and use his Deryni powers to get the bed, as it's probably better for Ailidh that it's not the hot-blooded, strong and extremely healthy young Jass lying there ...

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2010, 09:52:01 am »
Heh.  Jass trusts his chief completely in most situations, but I couldn't imagine him being the first to fall asleep while his woman is lying just four inches and two thin blankets away from his hot-blooded, eighteen-year-old, strong and extremely healthy young laird....   ;)
Well, Jass will just have to learn to win the toss, won't he :D   Of course, Dhugal was quite right to cheat and use his Deryni powers to get the bed, as it's probably better for Ailidh that it's not the hot-blooded, strong and extremely healthy young Jass lying there ...

Heh.  No cheating involved.  Dhugal knows that no matter how much Jass might be looking forward to a wedding night, he's not about to try to seduce the lass with their clan chief sharing the same room.  Talk about awkward....   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2010, 11:31:07 am »
Two down. . . .

Offline Elkhound

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2010, 02:24:13 pm »
Maybe that's where Lewys ap Norfal went? ;)

I've heard worse ideas for a fanfic.

Offline Alkari

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2010, 07:15:39 pm »
Maybe that's where Lewys ap Norfal went? ;)

I've heard worse ideas for a fanfic.
And he meets up with Gandalf or Sauron?  Er, don't go there ... !  :)

Offline Elkhound

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Maidens of Mayhem Chapter 24
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2010, 08:36:06 pm »
I'd have him jump into the Fourth Age.  I'm guessing that in Middle Earth the families that have an Elvish strain, like the princely house of Dol Amroth, the House of the Stewards, the Gondorian-Arnorian Royal Family, and others of the Numenorian nobility are the equivalent of Deryni.

But this discussion perhaps should be continued on another subforum.

 

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