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Author Topic: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen  (Read 2615 times)

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Offline Evie

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Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« on: July 18, 2011, 12:47:07 pm »
   Chapter Thirteen

   June 23, 1134
   Dhassa, the Bishop’s Palace

   We left Dhassa shortly after daybreak the following morning after a quick breakfast.  Denis, anxious to give us his travel blessings and see us off safely before getting too caught up in his busy schedule for the day, met us in the stable courtyard.

   Grub surprised him with a present upon his arrival.  “I saved something for you!”  My uncle looked startled as she thrust something into his hand.  It appeared to be a wadded up linen napkin pilfered from our breakfast table.  “It’s inside.  Careful, don’t drop it!”

   He prodded gingerly at the package.  “Hm.  Well, whatever it is, it’s much too small to be a sweet roll.”  Denis looked puzzled as he unfolded the small bundle, his expression clearing only slightly as his explorations revealed the prize at its center—a tiny ivory object with a smear of brownish red on one jagged end.  “Is it…?”  His expression turned to surprise.  “You’ve lost a tooth, have you?”

   Grub grinned, showing off the new gap in her smile.  “I did!  I saved the relic for you.”

   “The relic?”  The Bishop of Dhassa bit his lip, struggling not to laugh.

   “Yes.  Sister Luke at the convent said those fancy boxes we saw this morning were filled with all sorts of teeth and bones and stuff from all those saints in the colored windows.” She shrugged.  “I figured, since it was loose and you looked to be collecting….”

   His laugh broke free.  Denis shook his head, tucking the tooth away into his pouch for safe-keeping.  “An Arilan relic.  I shall have to ponder where to keep it.”  His blue-violet gaze slid over to Lady Avisa, who looked like she was struggling to keep her own composure.  “Maybe I could keep it in the small coffer on that lamp-stand just inside my study door where its sanctity might have some beneficial influence on my poor Bird of Paradise,” he added, his voice dry, though at the wicked gleam in his eyes as he shot her a wry smile she lost the battle and began to laugh.  He crouched down to sweep the child into his embrace.  “Be a good lass for your father.”

   “I will.”

   He glanced up at me.  “And make sure he minds his behavior and remembers to make his confessions regularly.  At least once a month, mind.”

   “He will.  If he doesn't, I'll kick him in the arse.”

   Denis drew back slightly, his eyebrows climbing into his hairline.  I suppressed a wince, waiting for the explosion.  Instead, he said mildly, “You'll do no such thing, Amanda Arilan.  You are a gently bred young lady now, or at least that's what you ought to be aspiring to, so that would hardly be fitting.  Instead, you'll have a quiet word with Kinlochan's chaplain, and if need be, he can kick your father....”  The steady gaze traveled back up to my face.  “In the hindquarters.”  It might have been a trick of the light, but I could swear I saw a trace of a smirk on the bishop's face.

   Our horses were led out, and in the background I could see the men-at-arms making some final adjustments to the baggage affixed to Lady Avisa’s coach.  Grub’s face lit up as a groom led Murray towards us, and as Denis released her and straightened, she scampered over to greet him, showing my mount the new space between her teeth.  He lowered his head as if to get a closer look, and my uncle chuckled.

   “Safe travels, Sextus,” he said softly.  He clapped my back.  “Take good care of your ladies on your way back to Kinlochan.”

   I knew, of course, that he only meant ‘my’ ladies in the most general way.  Still, a slow warmth crept up my neck as I glanced towards Lady Avisa.

   “I’ll do my best, Uncle Denis.”

   He nodded, and miracle of miracles, I thought I caught the faintest hint of an approving smile upon his lips.  “I know you will.”

#

   June 26
   Godwyn Hall, The Duchy of Haldane


   We’d newly arrived at Lady Avisa’s dower manor, where we planned to spend the rest of the evening and part of the next day before beginning the final leg of our journey to Kinlochan.  Lady Avisa had sent two of the men-at-arms ahead earlier in the morning so that they could inform her household of our imminent arrival and make the necessary preparations for our overnight stay.  The rest of us had arrived on schedule in the late afternoon.  Lady Avisa had excused herself to the manor house to oversee the remaining preparations, bringing Grub inside with her, while the men and I tended to the horses and put up the coach for the evening.

   Those labors done, I excused the men.  They headed for the hall with the eagerness of men who were no strangers to the manor and who looked forward to the rest and refreshment that awaited them within.   As I entered, a tall chestnut-haired man who looked to be not much older than myself glanced up at me from across the large room and smiled in greeting.  “Sir Sextus Arilan, are you?”

   “I am,” I affirmed, returning his polite bow.

   “James Holland, Lady Avisa’s steward for Godwyn Hall.  I’ve set up sleeping accommodations for you and Lady Amanda in my lady’s solar tonight, and will set out some pallets for your men here in the Hall once we retire for the night.  I hope that will be satisfactory.  The manor house has a guest wing, but it was in dire need of some repairs which are still underway and I’m afraid it’s not yet ready for use.”  He gave me an apologetic look.  “We weren’t expecting my lady to be in residence until her guardsmen arrived early this afternoon.”

   “That’s not a problem, Master James.  It’s just a two night stay.  We’ll be continuing on to Kinlochan the day after tomorrow at morning's light, but Lady Avisa wanted to see how her own lands are faring since our route brought us so close.”

   He nodded.  “You’re en route back from Dhassa, I understand?  Well, we’ll do our best to see to your comfort during your short stay.  I’ve had one of the chambermaids prepare a bath for you in the solar.”  The steward beckoned to a young boy standing attentively to one side of us.  “My son can show you the way.  Jamie?”

   “Aye, Father!”  The lad smiled up at me.  “This way, m’lord.”

#

   When we arrived upstairs, I found the bath almost fully poured for me.  “I’ve left the last bucket o’ hot water out, m’lord,” the chambermaid explained, bobbing a curtsey, “for I didna want t’ make th’ water too hot for a summer bath.  But I’ve left it close by, in case th’ bathwater cools too quickly and ye want t’ add a bit more warmth t’ keep from catching a chill.  Will there be aught else, m’lord?  If you need yer hair washed, Jamie can tend t’ ye.”  She gave me a shy smile.

   “I can wash my own hair,” I assured them both.  “I learned how long ago.”  I winked at the young chambermaid, who giggled.  “But before you leave, I have two questions.  Do you happen to know where my daughter has gone off to?”

   “Aye, m’lord, she’s wi’ Lady Avisa in her bower at th’ moment, havin’ a nap, but I think they mean to go down t’ th’ side garden in a wee bit, on th’ west side o’ the house.”  She pointed out a door on the other side of the solar.  “My lady’s bower is on th’ other side o’ that door, but she knows ye’re taking yer rest in here, so she’ll go out th’ other corridor instead o’ coming through here.  So ye can take all th’ time ye want for yer bath.”

   I nodded, though a concern for privacy hadn’t been among my worries.  I’d spent far too much time on campaign to be overly modest anymore, though as the maid spoke, it belatedly occurred to me that Lady Avisa, despite having been married before, might feel uncomfortable about walking in on a man having his bath, so I was glad she had an alternate means of exit from her bower.

   “And how soon am I expected downstairs?  Will we be dining in the Hall tonight?”

   “Lady Avisa has asked for a simple supper t’ be served in the Hall in a couple o’ hours.  If ye’re in need of a nap after yer bath, I can send someone up t’ wake ye beforehand.”

   “That won’t be necessary.  Thank you.”

   “Will that be all, m’lord?”  She curtseyed again.

   I glanced at the bathwater.  The lukewarm water looked inviting—warm enough for comfort, yet cool enough to provide some respite from the hot summer day, not to mention welcome relief from the sweat and grime of our days of travel.  I nodded at the chambermaid and the steward’s son.  “Yes.  Thank you both.”
#

   I readied myself for the bath, digging into my travel bags for a fresh change of clothing that wasn’t too wrinkled.  I found a set of clean clothes that would serve, sprinkling the tunic and chausses lightly with water from the tub and smoothing the worst of the creases out of the fabric with my hands before laying them out close to the open window to dry in the warm summer breeze blowing in.  As I walked back towards the tub, the sound of laughter and feminine voices drifted through the closed door between the solar and Lady Avisa’s bower. I paused near the doorway, my curiosity captured by their conversation.

   “She’s still asleep, m’lady.  Poor child; th’ coach travel must have tired her out.”

   “Oh, don’t even mention that God-forsaken coach!” Lady Avisa’s voice was saying.  “If I think of spending another minute in that blasted contraption, I’ll go mad.”  She sighed.  “I’ve never been so happy to set eyes on Godwyn Hall.”

   “Maybe you could ride Nutmeg the rest of the way to Kinlochan, m’lady?” a matronly sounding voice said.  “She ain’t so old she couldn’t handle a day’s journey.”

   “Or maybe you could ride pillion behind that handsome new steward o’ yours,” a younger voice said with a giggle.  “That’s what I’d do, m’lady.”

    “Sir Sextus is quite nice to look at, isn’t he?  I doubt he’d want his mount carrying a double burden when there’s a perfectly good coach available, though.  Besides….”  Avisa’s voice held a note of dry amusement, “the last time I had something strong and muscular surging between my legs, the poor soul died of heart failure!”

   Her attendants whooped with gleeful laughter.  “Lady Avisa!” the younger maid exclaimed, sounding scandalized.  “What a way t’ think o’ yer marital duties!”

   “Are you worried about overtaxing the horse’s energies or your steward’s?” another teased, causing another round of giggles.  My imagination supplied a vivid picture of the latter scenario, leaving me breathless.

   “The horse, you ninny!” Avisa exclaimed, sounding torn between amusement and exasperation.  “We don’t have that sort of relationship.”

   “You and the horse don’t?  Sweet Jesú, m’lady, I’d hope not!”

   Lady Avisa chortled.  “No, you know what I meant!  Mercy, it’s hot in here.  Cécy, open the windows, please.”

   “They’re already open, m’lady.”   

   I made a hasty retreat from the doorway.  The bathwater had cooled markedly even during the short delay since it had been brought up, but after overhearing Avisa’s maidservants at their jesting, the chilled water was a welcome relief.

#

   By the time I'd soaked away the soil and stresses of my travels and donned a fresh set of garb, it was time to go downstairs to the Hall.  There I found a trestle table set up with a few platters of manchet, fresh cheese, berries in cream, cold slices of meats, and a sallet, and close by was another table where Lady Avisa's Kinlochan men sat enjoying the simple meal.  My stomach growled in appreciation as I joined them.

   “Where are Lady Avisa and Amanda?” I asked once I noticed their absence from the Hall.  For that matter, the Hall seemed notably empty of females in general.

   Master James bowed before me as he served me from the platters.  “Lady Avisa asked to have their repast served in the side garden, my lord.  As your daughter fell asleep promptly after your arrival here, and Lady Avisa has been too caught up in various matters to have taken the time to refresh herself and relax earlier, they have both gone to do so now in the garden pavilion, now that the sun is low enough for the heat of the day to have subsided but before too much chill is in the night air.”

   “I see.”  That sounded like a pleasant enough way to end the day.  I took my trencher gratefully, suddenly starving, and gave the matter no more thought until I'd eaten my fill.

#

   “I'll be taking a walk around the grounds, if anyone should come looking for me,” I informed the most senior of Lady Avisa's Kinlochan guardsmen once I'd finished supping.  

   “Aye, m'lord.”  He glanced at the other three men-at-arms.  “I'll be sure to let Master James know as well.  The lads and I were thinking of heading down to the village tavern tonight for an hour or two; it's not but a few minutes' walk down the road, just past the next bend.  Would you care to join us?  It won't be for another hour or so, once our supper settles a bit and the moon has risen over the hills.”

   I considered the invitation.  On some other night it would have been tempting, but I was too weary to want to stir any distance from the manor house that night.  “Some other time, though thanks for thinking of me.  I believe I'll be early to bed tonight.”

   “Can't blame you,” he replied with a grin.  “I'll down a pint for you.”

   I chuckled, rising from the bench.  “Yes, do.”

#

   The manor gardens were small but well tended, and the garden paths looked inviting.  I strolled aimlessly for a few minutes, feeling vaguely restless.  My steps eventually led me to the west side of the house, where on the far end I saw a canvas pavilion, undecorated save for a heraldic lozenge.  Not the Moreau arms that hung so proudly on display at Kinlochan, but the lady’s own birthright, I assumed as I drew closer.  The heraldic arms of a Taggert daughter.  It was lit from within, the flicker of lamps or candlelight throwing shimmering highlights on the canvas even as the rising dusk created growing shadows where the fabric walls and roof before me folded and draped.  I heard feminine voices and laughter from within, along with the melodic strains of a rebec being played, and realized I'd found the retreat where Lady Avisa had decided to dine.

   The song ended, the rebec player following it with a new tune almost immediately, one with a melody which I recognized.   Summer is a-coming in, indeed, I thought with a smile as I approached the entrance flap. I could see silhouettes against the canvas now, one figure's shadow standing out crisply against the sun-bleached fabric.  The rebec player’s shadow, I saw, standing close by the near wall.  Other figures, their shapes less defined due to movement and their distance from the pavilion walls, moved within.

   I peered within.  Two women, their backs to me, stood holding a rectangle of snowy fabric.  Another woman stood nearby, carrying what appeared to be garments.  Something large and round lay just beyond all three, but it took me a moment to recognize what it was.

   A light sound barely audible over the music caught my ear.  As unexpected as it was, I did not recognize that either right away.  Lady Avisa's head, wrapped in a turban of toweling, popped up just as my mind belatedly realized it had been the soft trickle and splash of water I'd just heard.  The women holding the rectangle of cloth moved to enfold her within it, and with a sudden shock I realized I'd come upon my patroness at her bath.  I hastily dropped the canvas flap of the pavilion door back into place, but not before catching a glimpse of the large wooden vat lined with towels of bright linen and with a board stretched across it to hold goblets and platters containing what remained of a meal.  On the other side of the board sat my daughter, doubtless seated on a bench inside the tub so that her head and hands would not be submerged under the water while she enjoyed her bath and supper.  She glanced up at the motion of the falling fabric.

   “Six, is that you?” her gleeful voice asked.  “Are you going to join us?”

   A startled exclamation, followed by a chorus of shocked giggles.  The rebec was suddenly silenced.  As I stepped swiftly away from the pavilion's entrance, an unfamiliar face peered out at me.  “Lady Avisa is not available at the moment, my lord.  She'll be out presently,” the woman said briskly.

   “I...ah...it was nothing important,” I managed to mumble.  “My apologies.”  Within, I heard whispers and more laughter.  I hastily retraced my steps in the direction I'd come.

#

   There was a knock on the adjoining door between lady's bower and solar later that evening, after I’d tucked Grub into her makeshift bed and was getting ready to settle in for the night myself.  I opened it cautiously.  Lady Avisa stood on the other side of the doorway, one of her maidservants standing a discreet distance behind her, stealing curious looks at me.

   “I am so sorry I didn't think to warn you off from the side garden tonight,” the lady of the manor said, blushing fiercely.  “In truth, I simply didn't think.  My staff here is quite familiar with my summer customs, and doubtless believed you to be so as well, and I've also hardly seen you since our arrival....”  She dropped her eyes, looking suddenly shy.  “At any rate, I do hope you'll forgive my oversight.”

   I nodded.  “Of course.”  What else was there to say?  “I hope you rest well.  Good night, my lady.”

   “Good night, Sir Sextus.”  She closed the door quietly.  A moment later, I heard the click of the latch fall into place, and shortly after that a slight scraping sound, as of a trundle bed being pulled out from under a higher one and dragged into place.  The voices within the lady's bower soon subsided.  I finished my bedtime preparations and settled onto the cushioned daybed against the solar wall.  Despite my exhaustion, visions of Lady Avisa creamy shoulders and dewy skin kept flitting unbidden into my mind, and sleep was a long time in coming.


Chapter Fourteen:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=741.0
« Last Edit: July 25, 2011, 09:38:10 am by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2011, 01:15:49 pm »
That was an interesting initiation for Grub into the lifestyle of noble women in summer!  I'm not sure I can see Sophie following suit.

And it seems Grub has managed to charm her way into Bishop Denis' affections, Arilan relic and all.
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2011, 01:24:49 pm »
I knew that Grub would.  Curmudgenly types generally are highy susceptible to little girls, particularly ones that aren't scared of them.

Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2011, 01:35:51 pm »
That was an interesting initiation for Grub into the lifestyle of noble women in summer!  I'm not sure I can see Sophie following suit.

LOL!  No, neither can I, come to think.  At least not with the full entourage.  Sophie's a very modest little creature (which makes me giggle a bit when I consider I've paired her with Seisyll Arilan, who is a bit more like his younger brother in a few ways than either of them would ever willingly let on!  :D )  It's quite likely that some of the Arilan household also bathe outdoors in summer--it was common enough practice back then during warm weather--but it would be more likely the male members of the family, and they'd not make a mini-party of it.  I was sort of envisioning Denis having a nice soak possibly in some sheltered location out back behind the manor house when little Sextus stole his clothes and strung them up in the Great Hall, in that passing reference to that incident that flitted through Sextus's mind when Avisa was telling him about her childhood a few chapters back. Just imagine poor Denis realizing this and having to make his way back indoors, completely starkers and dripping wet (or else damp and clutching his towel around him for dear life), trying to figure out where his bishop robe has got off to!   ;D

Quote
And it seems Grub has managed to charm her way into Bishop Denis' affections, Arilan relic and all.

Oh yes, he's completely besotted.  She's an Arilan female; they're all born knowing the "Charm Uncle Denis" spell. :D
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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2011, 01:46:25 pm »
I knew that Grub would.  Curmudgenly types generally are highy susceptible to little girls, particularly ones that aren't scared of them.

Curmudgeonly professors who terrify most of their students have also been known to develop a soft spot for students who aren't intimidated by them, but who cheerfully rise to all the challenges thrown at them with a few creative twists thrown in for good measure.  Um, not that I would know this from personal experience or anything....
* Evie whistles cheerfully and remembers the bemused look on my professor's face when I turned in essays like "The Characters of Shakespeare's The Tempest Compared to the Characters of the Star Wars Trilogy," and the rather bizarre take on Antony and Cleopatra I wrote which was allegedly narrated to me by Shakespeare's ghost rising from a can of strawberry soda.  And no, I didn't do drugs in college, I'm naturally warped that way....   ;D
"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!

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2011, 04:15:45 pm »
Curmudgeonly professors who terrify most of their students have also been known to develop a soft spot for students who aren't intimidated by them, but who cheerfully rise to all the challenges thrown at them with a few creative twists thrown in for good measure.  Um, not that I would know this from personal experience or anything....
* Evie whistles cheerfully and remembers the bemused look on my professor's face when I turned in essays like "The Characters of Shakespeare's The Tempest Compared to the Characters of the Star Wars Trilogy," and the rather bizarre take on Antony and Cleopatra I wrote which was allegedly narrated to me by Shakespeare's ghost rising from a can of strawberry soda.  And no, I didn't do drugs in college, I'm naturally warped that way....   ;D
Sounds like you and I had the same Shakespeare professor, Evie.  Mine was rather taken aback by the paper I wrote regarding Shakespeare as a criminal profiler, a la Criminal Minds.  I got a B+ on it, despite the professor wondering where the heck I was going with it right at first.
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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2011, 04:17:50 pm »
Yes, love Grub charming Uncle Denis. And poor Sextus - bet he wishes that cold bath water was still available!

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2011, 04:55:10 pm »
LOL @ Arilan relic - and the idea that it would be beneficial to the Bird of Paradise plant!  (Is Grub going to send Uncle Denis all the rest of her teeth too?   Alkari ponders regular correspondence to Dhassa with little teeth carefully enclosed ...)

Poor Sextus would undoubtedly have slept better if he'd gone down to the village tavern with the men ;)

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2011, 06:29:20 pm »
Amanda definitely has "Uncle Denis" forever wrapped around her fingers.
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2011, 11:51:08 pm »
Poor Sextus would undoubtedly have slept better if he'd gone down to the village tavern with the men ;)

And found a nice bouncy wench who would say 'yes' and not much more?  Perhaps.

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2011, 11:57:35 pm »
LOL Elkhound.   Not sure about the nice bouncy wench - Sextus would probably be very circumspect about such things in a tavern so near his employer's manor - but a tankard or six of ale might have acted as a good sleeping potion ;)     Perhaps he should have let his bathwater get very cold!  :D
« Last Edit: July 18, 2011, 11:59:31 pm by Alkari »

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2011, 12:33:57 am »
LOL Elkhound.   Not sure about the nice bouncy wench - Sextus would probably be very circumspect about such things in a tavern so near his employer's manor - but a tankard or six of ale might have acted as a good sleeping potion ;)     Perhaps he should have let his bathwater get very cold!  :D

Sextus hasn't gotten any for a long time, and he mostly thinks with the head that isn't on his shoulders.

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2011, 09:35:39 am »
Mostly, dear.  Mostly, not always.   ;D

Even if Sextus had gone into town to find himself a biddable bouncy wench, I doubt he'd have found her an acceptable substitute for very long.  Not now that his heart has got annoyingly mixed up in the matter.   :D

It's probably a good thing Sextus didn't have himself a tankard or six of ale.  That might have left him quite unfit for the events of Chapter Fourteen, and looking back someday, Sextus will be quite glad not to have missed out on the little "adventure" I've got in store for him....   ;)
« Last Edit: July 19, 2011, 09:40:24 am by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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