Tag Archives: Nala’s Story

Nala’s Story, Part One

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[535 words – Word-a-Week]”Get back in line!”

The young woman frowned and turned her head toward the command. She scowled and stared at the old man, his robe barely concealing his enormous pot belly. His face, wrinkled and lined gleamed in the mid-day sun. I hope you die of heat stroke, she thought before gathering herself, disregarding her chains, and replying an a way unexpected: “No man has power over me, yī qiào bù tōng.”

Her scowl changed to a smile and she fluttered her eyelashes as the old man processed her insult and her use of the modern Han chengyu. His face darkened and the wrinkles that were so pronounced, began to flush a deep crimson.

Her victory and the accompanying smile were short lived. He gathered the chains binding her wrists and pulled down hard. The force spun her around and she stumbled backward, falling into his arms. She stared up, her back arched over his pot belly, the sweat-soaked clothing unwelcome against her bare skin. He looked into her wide eyes and whispered. “Watch your tone, slave. Or I’ll sell you to the Magistrate at a discount.” His eyes roamed her supline figure, his perpetual frown forming a lecherous leer. “You know what happens to girls joining his harem…”

He let the threat linger, unclarified. She cringed, not at his threat, but at his affront on her olfactory. He stunk with a stench of fermented wine, onions, and urine. The odor was all the more evident as he leaned closer and tugged on her bindings. As the metal dug into her wrists, all she could do was close her eyes and will the cretin to have his fun humiliating her and return her to the line.

Before the he could further her humiliation, an ebony hand waved between his roving eyes and her upturned face. “Please, honorable sir, forgive Nala, it won’t happen again.”

The old man looked up to the face of Hazina. Her dark features were the color of wet river rock. Nala saw the gleam in the old man’s eyes. It was a dangerous gleam – one of years of getting what he wanted. When the gleam was aimed at Nala, she did not fear it. He could wear out his eyes, staring at me like that, Nala had told Hazina once, he has no hold over me.

This time, however, the look was aimed at the only thing that made Nala endure his advances: Hazina.

Her soft eyes pleaded with him. She repeated her earlier plea: “Please, honorable sir, forgive my sister’s rude behavior.”

The old man’s eyes flittered back and forth between Hazina’s in her pastoral dress and Nala in her ruqun parted slightly. He erupted in a spattering of Han dialect, to fast for Nala to comprehend. The tirade ended with him turning his head and spitting into the dirt. He released Nala and she collapsed to the ground. He glared at Hazina a final time before stalking away.

Off to harass some other girl, Nala thought as she gathered herself up and worked to loosen the chains that bound her to her sister. She pressed her knuckles into her back at the strain the altercation had caused her.

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Nala’s Story, Part Two

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[674 #3WW]Nala sat upon the hot ground, rubbing the tenseness from her neck and twisting her back, attempting to return to a vestige of comfort. She heard a sound, but squeezed her eyes closed. She thought if she were not to witness it, it might go away.

Sniffle.

Nala sighed. Not again, she lamented.

She cleared her throat and looked up at her sister, bound by metal as she was. Watery brown eyes stared back. Streaks of tears formed lines in the dirt caked to her face. Hazina’s face was contorted in sadness and and a healthy dose of disappointment.

Nala tried mustering her brightest smile. “Hazina, I am all right…”

“He would have sold you, just to be done with your defiance,” she spoke between sobs, face streaking with each new deluge. Each word a sadness emblazoned across her placid features. “What would I have done if he had killed you?”

“We are too valuable for the knife, Hazina.”

Hazina wiped her face with her grimy hands. “That would not have stopped him from beating you,” she hissed.

Nala stood and looked at her older sister. Her voluptuous chest and otherwise emaciated body in the flimsy Han dress. The hem muddied from constant standing and walking during inclement weather. It hung loose on her malnourished frame, and billowed at the slightest breeze. She quaked like the ground did when a new ship was launched, as each sob wracked her body. Unlike Nala’s long flowing tresses, Hazina wore hers atop her head in the Han fashion. Although Hazina was a shade darker than Nala, the dirt and bruises that marred what used to be skin enviably smooth. Nala stepped towards her sister and took her hands gently into her own.

Such a waste of beauty, she thought, before condemning it.

Nala looked down at her own clothing. She missed her Nubian straight dress. The fabric was so sheen, it left little to the imagination. The taskmaster has cut it off immediately. To gauge my property’s worth, he sneered, before forcing her to wear the traditional ruqun, worn by Han women. Nala had refused, but the taskmaster chided her. Wear nothing; it will drive up your value, he had said, turning to Hazina. Nala relented, as she always did, protecting her older sister.

Is not that her job, Nala thought, to protect me?

Nala shifted her weight from one foot to the other, attempting to relieve her blistered feet. Her hands and wrists were bruised before she were manacled, and her long straight hair was filthy. She paled in comparison to her sister’s beauty. Hazina radiated warmth. She was the constantly happy and full of optimism. It was hard to tell that she was always hungry. She rarely hid her smile. A smile that fed the desert of their home.

Nala frowned at her envy. The snarling pessimistic envy of a cold woman who saw the worst in everyone and whose default facial expression was a glare.

Like an unfriendly moon that basked on the effervescence of the sun. Other than blood, the only thing that connected them was misery. They were the same – young girls abducted from poor villages along the river Nile. They were both for sale on the market, but chose to cope with their new lives in different ways.
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Nala’s Story, Part Three

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[513 words – Sunday Scribblings 2]”Nala!”

Nala flinched, the intrusion collapsing her thoughts. Hazina still sniffled and looked to her sister, eyes expectant. Her arms clung to her sides, hands trembling.

Nala felt a painful lurch in her stomach. It amazed her that Hazina could maintain her optimism. Surely that could only conclude in an all-powerful God. Nala’s sister likely saved her life, as she had before, and was rewarded with scorn and derision. I’m a terrible person, Nala thought.

Nala forced another smile and reached for Hazina’s hands. “I am still with you,” she said, projecting a confidence manufactured.

Hazina clenched her jaw, her blotched face tightened. An angry Hazina was a rare sight. “Nala! How can you joke that way? What if he were to sell you to the Magistrate?”

“The Magistrate?”

“You do not know of him?” Hazina exclaimed, loud enough for the other slaves in their group to focus their attention on the outburst.

Nala felt a scowl tugging at her counterfeit smile.

“He is the infamous Champion Standing,” another from the crowd exclaimed. Nala stared after the voice trying to figure out the brunette’s name. Baba… She was a new acquisition. Her situation had not yet broken her spirit. She maintained her own brand of optimism. “It is said,” she whispered, “that he has a harem slaves… Each night, he summons one to his bedchamber… and then…”

Nala waited a heartbeat or two before she asked the much anticipated, “….and then?”

“They never return!” Hazina interrupted, eyes wide, tears a distant memory.

Nala looked to her sister, losing the fight to maintain her flippant smile. “What?”

“They are executed.” This time a tall raven-haired girl spoke out.

Fabia, Nala thought, always quiet. Nala appreciated Fabia’s analytical mind.

“For the  entertainment of his clan,” Fabia concluded. “He hungers for battle after retiring from the Hanian Island tournaments.” Fabia nodded as if there could be no other explanation. “His head guard has seen it with his own eyes. He warns women to avoid public places alone.”

The silence consumed them, and they reflected on Fabia’s words with dejection.

Nala felt bile rising. Their Champion was macabre, she thought. The people of the Han Dynasty were sadistic. She kicked at the ground, loosing a cloud of dust. Even the land itself was corrupt. Why couldn’t we have been born someplace where we could live with human dignity.
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Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

Those of you who read my impotent flailings on Twitter know why I stole that line from the 1989 Batman movie. One of the questions I get asked is where do I get my ideas for my fiction. I’m all like, “I dunno, story fae?” I’ve heard somewhere that all stories are thematically one of the following:

  • Man versus nature.
  • Man versus society.
  • Man versus man.
  • Man versus machine, or in Greek, Deus ex machina.
  • Love conquers all.

Of course, in the examples above, Man is used colloquially to refer to humanity. Some of you know my day job is in broadcasting. A co-worker who has been a reporter for about 500 years likes to tout the oft repeated, all stories are derivative of only two works: Shakespeare and the bible. The problem with both of those lines of thinking is that it limits the writer to a narrow view of their works. The Shakespeare/Bible thinking is quite dated, with Shakespeare doing his work around the turn of the 15th century; the Torah generally acknowledged to have been written in the 12th century BCE; and the Ketuvim, Deuterocanonical, and New Testaments written in the first three centuries of the common era. We can be inclusive, and state that the Holy Quran was written during the 6th century and the Book of Mormon less than 200 years ago. I could go on about other religious texts, but you all would likely fall asleep.

Why the history lesson? For one, religion is an interest of mine, but mostly to illustrate the sheer age of these sources. We however, live in a modern society. We are modern thinkers. We get our ideas from popular culture. I steal them from everywhere: music, TV shows, movies, other books and something someone said to me that one time over there. Take my current project, Nala’s Story, fas an example: there are themes of what the Greeks called brotherly love. Obviously, Nala and Hazina are sisters, but marginalized people have been written about in the Torah (the Book of Exodus comes to mind); the Holy Quran (90th surah); and of course The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. Slavery could be categorized as both Man vs. nature & Man vs. society.

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Nala’s Story – Week One Review

Yesterday, in a rambly post, I talked briefly about the inspirations for Nala’s Story. There had been some interest in a sequel to Champion Standing while it was being edited. I even wrote a few chapters, I think two of them ended up on the blog.

Well, Champion Standing fell flat on its cover. All the interest that surfaced during the editing phase seemed to seep away. There was an initial surge in sales during the month it was released (thanks, guys and dolls.) But flatline most of the rest of the year. No worries, I know I’m pretty low on the lists. I’ve always strived for organic growth instead of an unreliable spike caused by BookBub or some other marketing campaign, so these times of famine are to be expected.

I decided I wanted to see if there may still be some interest in the Champion Standing universe. Now, I wouldn’t scrap a project just because I couldn’t see potential interest in it. I write what I want to write, but you already knew that. I still want to write Champion Rising. I also wanted to keep my two-releases-a-year schedule. This fall happens to be my last semester at Northern Arizona University. Hell’s yeah, am I right? I didn’t want an intensive writing project while I’m finishing up my degree, so that means I need to have everything done before classes start in August or September.

Last month I tried writing a romance novella during a long weekend. I like to push myself. I like putting square pegs in round holes. That one didn’t pan out, but I did manage to crank out 10k words in just two days. I needed a more attainable goal. I decided on writing the first draft of a novelette in six weeks – 500 words at a time with the weekends off. Chuck Wendig has a plan that involves writing the entire first draft of a novel in a year doing something similar.

I started a few days late last week, but I’m gonna count that as my first week. Because, hey, my project, my rules. I’m working in a prompt of some kind for each installment. I’ve already written many 350-word chapter skeletons, and I’m fleshing them out to the 500 words based on the prompt. Six weeks times five days of five hundred words equal 15,000 words. I should have the first draft done by the end of May. June and July for rewrites and editing. Maybe get some additional art for the cover from Joel Cotejar. Publish in August. I had fun narrating The Beginnings Project, chapter nine, so I’d like to do an audiobook of Nala’s Story as well.

So, join me on this journey. Read the installments from last week. Comment the heck out of each one. Spread the word. Eat your vegetables and brush your teeth.
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Nala’s Story, Part Four

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[545 words – SM Cadman]The sun began its rise as it did every day in the east. For Nala, it was a day like any other: mundane and inane. The taskmaster yanked on the chains linking his wares numbered thirteen. Their bare feet shuffling against the manacles and constant pull of their bindings. Each step seemed to add to the grit floating only inches above the ground. The taskmaster shouted out prices for his wares that were exorbitant.

Nala looked towards the sky as she trudged along. Pray for rain, she thought. It was during the long trek to the market that she was grateful for the thin ruqun, the woven cotton breathed well in the oppressive heat.

“Such a delicate flower, wilting in the sun.”

Nala reloaded the scowl she constantly wore with fresh scorn. She stared ahead and ignored the handsome man. He couldn’t’ve been older than twenty, and the fresh style of his clothes indicated he came from a wealthy clan. Nala knew the best way to combat his advances was to act disinterested with a conviction so profound, he had no choice but to move along.

Nala’s spirit rose slightly as the man walked past her, but the excitement of another noble scorned died as dread replaced it. The man stood beside Hazina, gripping her frail wrist. His ogle was a clear indication of his desires. Hazina’s delicate features were pinched with reluctance.

“Come with me,” he demanded, “I will shower you with gifts and stones as precious as you are. A bountiful…” His eyes lingered on her bosom and he licked his lips. “….woman such as you belongs in my house.”

Nala’s hackles rose as the spoiled man tightened his grip on Hazina. She squirmed, trying to free her wrist.

“Please let me go!” Hazina cried, the discomfort clear in her eyes and on her face. She had seen so much in the last thirteen years.

The man chortled – a belly laugh devoid of cheer, but that dripped with malice. Hazina turned from discomfort to a terror that only victims of the sex trade knew. He yanked on her wrist, pulling her towards him. “Come with me, wench, I will buy you.”

Nala reacted without forethought. The man yelped and rolled on the ground, both hands cupping his manhood. All those within hearing distance of his yelp and subsequent fall to the ground, watched with interest. As the man rolled in the dirt, he moaned and wailed, his pretty clothes gathering the loose dust. Eleven other slaves in the troupe stared at Nala – some in in awe and others in shock. Hazina, however, was horrified.

Nala returned her stare. “You know what life he will force upon you.” She looked down at the man, streaks of dust caked on tears. “In fact,” she shuffled to the man, preparing to lash out again, “perhaps he needs to be taught a lesson!”

“You whore!” he bellowed as he rose to his feet. Nala clenched her fists for another strike, when the chains binding her tightened. She fell back, tripped, and collapsed in the dirt.

Fool! She chastised herself as she looked up into the eyes of the taskmaster for the second time in as many days. This is going to be very bad…

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Nala’s Story, Part Five

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[532 words – Word-a-Week]The injured man approached Nala without trepidation. He was a predator, stalking a cornered prey. If my hands were not bound, thought Nala, he would be the prey. He brandished not talons or fangs, but an anticipatory smile. Nala reacted to his smile with a smile of her own. It was a smile of a woman who stopped caring what would happen to her. She would hurt this man, and by extension, all men.

The man drew back his arm, palm outstretched, prepared to slap Nala. Nala snarled and gripped the length of chain that bound her as her only weapon. Before anyone could find out who had the upper hand – the wronged noble or the indignant slave girl, a third party held down the man’s arm.

Mirroring looks of surprise and confusion played out on their faces. In unison, both combatants turned to see whom had dared interrupt the fight of the righteous.

The first thing Nala saw, were amber eyes. Amber was too plain a word to describe the cross between honey and… Nala lost the comparison. Artists and poets could encapsulate the proper simile of eyes and colers that were filled with purpose. They looked at her with an intensity so earnest, they froze her, her body refusing her will. It was as if it needed permission from those eyes to obey her.

Nala dropped her chains, but could not look away from the fervent orbs. Nala couldn’t decide if the passion behind those eyes were what cut her so deeply, stealing focus from anything else, or the fact that the rest of his face was concealed with cloth.

The newcomer held Nala’s gaze for a moment longer before turning to the noble. “Leave her be.”

The voice was equal to the vehemence in his eyes. His strong baritone carried, but the man had not raised his voice. His plain tunic and covered head betrayed the authority in his voice. The noble bowed slightly and disappeared into the crowd, putting as much distance between him and his dishonor.

Whatever hold his magnificent eyes held over Nala, suspicion wormed its way into her mind. Her spellbound stare shattered by supposition. Is this man in league with the inglorious noble? The thought repelled her so much, she had to spit it out, saliva steaming on the packed ground.

The newcomer smiled at Nala’s display. He strode, back straight, head held high, towards Nala and leaned close to her ear.

“A dead protector protects no one at all,” he whispered.

Nala’s eyes grew wide as she glanced to her sister, unable to meet the stranger’s gaze. He turned to the taskmaster and declared, “I’ll take all of them at your overinflated prices.”

The man strode to the taskmaster, producing a pouch that jangled with each step. The pouch changed hands and a few words were exchanged. The stranger looked back at the girls and disappeared into the crowd, leaving the taskmaster to gape at the pouch and its contents.

Hazina shuffled to her little sister and squeezed her in a deep embrace. The girls looked at one another, then to the taskmaster. Nala wondered what results her actions had gotten them all into.

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Nala’s Story, Part Six

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[500 words – WoW555]A week had passed since the mysterious stranger purchased their freedom from the loathsome taskmaster. When Nala thought about it, she admitted that really, their freedom had been bought the day they were forced into the taskmaster’s troupe. It wasn’t as if women had genuine freedom, arranged marriages were so common, but even a loveless life was a step above servitude. Her freedom had been purchased with the blood of her family and friends. The price was the destruction of their village. Nala closed her eyes and saw the charred remains. She dared not breathe when she recalled it, for the stench she remembered would overpower her. It was best to live in the comfort of the last week, smelling of flowers.

For that week, she felt like a proper woman. Well, she admitted, at least like a human being. It wasn’t that she had dreamed of a life of nobility, but what could someone such as her really dream about? A roof over her head and walls to protect her? A Master that didn’t beat her every night? Nala was grateful for that, but she was a practical woman – a polished wooden floor under her bare feet was the dream. No coarse sand between her toes. No trudging to the market each day. Her body was clean and her bruises had faded – she had to pinch her skin to verify it really was hers. For the first time in Nala’s life, she had a choice in what clothes to wear; what to adorn her body with. Hazina’s cheery smile didn’t seem out of place in the lavish rooms they now lived in. These new freedoms tried to put her mind at ease.

Her new life of a week was so surreal, accepting it seemed to betray her. She waited for the debt to come due for such opalescence. She saw calves fattened before the slaughter, and she felt more like the calf than the noble prepared to eat such a magnificent feast.

Nala tried to push the thoughts from her mind. Hazina and the rest of the girls seemed so happy. Are they naïve, Nala wondered, or am I too bitter? Nala kept her suspicions to herself, and instead of enjoying the lavish clothes and showers of exotic oils, she searched the grounds for the mysterious man with an air of superiority and the most beautiful eyes she had ever witnessed.

The man had vanished into the crowd like an oasis skirts the desert horizon. She was the caravan, camping on water’s edge. She made the most of the safety she was afforded, but knew she would eventually have to leave the luxury of palm trees. She kept watch for predators and other suspicious behavior. As in the desert, she knew there was plenty.

Survival had been her primary mission for so long, but to survive like this? She almost considered it paradise.

And it was paradise; at least until the first girl was summoned away.

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Nala’s Story, Part Seven

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[585 words – Inspiration Monday]Fabia was the first of the girls to be summoned.

None of of the girls knew how to react. The guard who had come to escort Fabia away was quiet, responding to Nala’s queries with an unhelpful “Mi’lord commands it.”

Mi’lord? thought Nala, such an honorific wasn’t telling. She didn’t know where they were kept. The imposing frame and the blank stare of the guard stopped Nala from further questions.

The girls held back their tears and hugged a normally placid Fabia fare well. Fabia’s placidity gave way to apprehension as she was led away, her flowing gown bobbed on the floor with each hesitant step.

A hesitance, Nala suspected, was not untoward.

Fabia didn’t return the following morning. Another girl was summoned from the group – a girl Nala didn’t know. Like Fabia, she never returned. Two sleepless nights gave way to worrisome days. After five days, the group was five less – no indication that they had ever been there at all.

The women gossiped. They were convinced that they were in the city of the Champion Standing’s birth. No other story could explain why no slaves returned after being summoned. He must have used them through the night and executed them in the morning. The rumors had to be true.

Their explanations filled them with dread. Fabia and the other girls would never return, the girls whispered.

The dread compounded. On the sixth night, a girl cried, and struggled against the guard. The entirety of the situation seemed wasteful to Nala. The beautiful clothes, expensive jewelry, posh living conditions… Showered upon innocent girls only to be sacrificed for the sick pleasure of a twisted Lord.

The girls wails increased in intensity. She wanted to live. We all want to live, thought Nala, perhaps I should take her place…”

The guard grew weary of the girl’s protestations and pushed her away. He turned to Hazina and beckoned her to him.

Nala’s resolve intensified. It was a return to that day in the market. “I will go tonight,” she declared.

“No,” Hazina protested, her happy demeanor cast away like a soiled garment. “What will I do without you?” she cried, holding Nala’s hands tightly within her own.

Nala shook her head and gently pried away Hazina’s hands. “I will be all right, Hazina.” Nala eyed the guard to be sure he wasn’t watching them too closely, before she revealed a curved dagger secreted behind her belt. “I will end this today.”

“It’s too dangerous,” Hazina hissed to her sister.

“I have to go, Hazina,” Nala interrupted her, casting a glance at the guard. “Someone has to do this. You know I am the only one able.”
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Nala’s Story, Part Eight

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[588 words – #3WW]Nala felt an immediate disdain toward the guard.

He carried himself with an aura of respect. Not that he needed or commanded respect, but an almost reverent, detached respect. If not of Nala, then at least of the situation. Nala was suspicious of the calm respect of the guard. She had encountered plenty of guards in her life, and no guard treated a slave girl like anything other than refuse. If a guard treated her almost like a person, then something was amiss.

Nala cast a sideways glance at him. Why was he being so civil? she thought. As if civility was something to be bestowed on her, not something all human beings shared.

Maybe, her thoughts continued, what awaited me was something so profane, that he did not bother to have sadistic fun at my expense.

The thoughts made Nala wearisome of the so-called Champion Standing. She heard the tales of him when someone deigned to talk to a slave girl: The champion of champions. He bested hundreds of competitors to claim the title, and defended it each time the tournament began anew on Hainan Island. Chancellors and generals befriended the man.

Against her will, Nala’s heart beat louder, it threatened to leave her and save itself. Nala knew she couldn’t trust her heart, and walking down the wooden corridor, it rebelled. What was planned for me? What heinous acts would he commit? What fate had befallen to the girls that had gone before me? Those thoughts and many others flittered around in her head as she pursed her lips into a pout.

Finally, they reached a pair of double doors. The doors were inlaid with brass hinges, The expense of such craftsmanship was astounding. Nala inhaled sharply, and awaited whatever fate was on the other side of those doors.

The guard stepped forward and pulled open one of the doors. The hinges were silent. He motioned for Nala to step through the threshold. No cajoling, No shoving. Nala’s suspicion was at an all-time high. Slave girls simply weren’t treated this way.

The door closed as silently as it had opened. Nala didn’t hear the sound of a latch, but she suspected the guard waited on the other side for a command. Nala’s senses tried to comprehend everything at once. As her heart, they rebelled. Her eyes scanned the decorated walls, the elaborate chandelier hanging overhead and a bed big enough for three to a broad silhouette staring out a window.

Is he the Han champion? Nala wondered. The over-sized black robe she made out as her eyes adjusted to the dim light was adorned with the Han language and looked too expensive for him to not be the Champion Standing.

With his back still turned, Nala took a tentative step towards the menacing silhouette, her bare feet noiseless on the polished wooden floor. Nala took another silent step forward, but the robed figure didn’t move. It was as if he couldn’t hear her advance.
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