Continuing Tales

Most Prized Possession

A Labyrinth Story
by Jester3

Part 37 of 42

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Most Prized Possession

Sarah had already searched the dining hall, the library, the throne room, and the castle gardens, when a lanky goblin guard approached her in the great hall. His armor clanked noisily as he shuffled towards her. Only his snout protruded from the oversized helmet, which had fallen down over his eyes.

He stopped in front of her, puffing out his chest as he straightened himself. "Sarah..." he huffed, obviously winded from his jaunt through the castle. "His highness wants a word with you. He waits in his chamber." Sarah nodded hastily, as she was more than eager to meet with Jareth. Figures he'd be in his room now. After she had waited and waited for him. She politely thanked the Goblin and hurried off in the direction of the grand staircase.

After a very brief detour to her own chamber to freshen up, she stood before the door that separated her room from Jareth's. Just as she raised her fist to knock, the heavy door swung open, groaning on its ancient hinges. Lowering her fist, she stepped inside

his bedchamber.

The room was rather dark. Only sparse light spilled in from the balcony and it was somber at best, as the sky was overcast. The grey light seemed to fade as the sun sunk lower behind the thunderheads on the horizon. Suddenly the heavy wooden door slammed with a loud clank. She jumped at the sound, silently vowing that she'd never get used to the creepiness of doors that opened and closed by themselves. Undeterred, she ventured further into the opulent room. Her jade eyes darkened, taking in more light as her gaze swept the seemingly vacant room.

Jareth was nowhere to be found.

She was about to turn and leave when something stopped her. There was something different about the air in the room, a subtle stirring, making her skin tingle. Not unlike an electric charge, it made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. She couldn't pinpoint the source, but the very air around her seemed to crackle with some unleashed energy.


No sooner had the thought occurred, when a sudden flash of lightening illuminated the room from the open balcony. She half expected to see a white owl fly in, but instead only the jarring crash of thunder met her ears, startling her. The crash was close, far too close. Hastily she backed away from the balcony, nearly tripping over her feet as all the candles and sconces in the room suddenly sputtered and blazed to life. Holding a frightened hand over her chest she turned just in time to see the King of the Goblins emerge from the shadows.

Somehow he appeared crueler than she had ever remembered him. His sharp striking features and cold expression were only intensified by the paleness of his alabaster skin. His mouth, which so often held a touch of arrogant amusement, was devoid of any mirth, and was instead set into the severest of frowns.

His icy gaze raked over her as he stalked closer, his lips tightening into a thin grim line. The picture sent a chill through her body, despite the fact that the room was rather warm. Unable to meet his gaze, she lowered her eyes, noticing how the black fabric of his opened poet's shirt looked shocking against the marble white skin of his chest. Dropping her eyes lower she saw that his hands and lower body were also encased in black leather. The part of her brain that would have normally greeted such a sight with a feral purr, was too busy being frightened, for even in her startled stupor, she knew the unpleasant truth immediately. Something's wrong.

Only after a startled gasp escaped her lips, did she realize that she had been backing away from his imposing presence. She stiffened suddenly, making a conscious effort to stand her ground. Catching her breath she admonished, "Jareth...You scared me."

His tone was chillingly indifferent, "Did I?"

"Yes. Where have you been? I've been looking for you all afternoon."

"Is that so? Why is that?"

Caught slightly off guard by the question she stammered, "I uh...well, I guess I was just a bit lonely." Her reply was met with silence. Ignoring the gut feeling that something was terribly off, she told herself that he might be in a sour mood due to any number of mundane reasons. Maybe the cause was whatever monotonous task had kept him away all day. Perhaps if she could just lighten the mood a bit...It was worth a shot.

She bit her lip shyly, offering a playful grin as she admitted, "I missed you Jareth...where have you been?"

His reply was firm, "That's none of your business." Leveling a cold glare at her, he went on, "Now...the reason I summoned you..."

She cut him off, disbelief infiltrating her voice, "Summoned me?"

"Yes, our little trek last night did a number on my boots. I want them polished. See to it that they are gleaming by the time I return."

Gaping at him, she dumbly mumbled, "Polish your boots? By the time you return...You're leaving?!?"

"That is precisely what I said. Are you hard of hearing?" He strode away from her not bothering to look back as he emphasized, "Remember...gleaming."

Quickly she darted ahead of him, slamming her body against the door to block his exit. Her eyes were wide with disbelief as she demanded, "Why are you treating me like this?"

He sighed impatiently, "Like what Sarah? Like someone bound to do as I say? You may remember that is why you are do whatever I tell you to do."

Aghast, she spat, "What?! You can't be serious!"

Narrowing his eyes he evenly replied, "I can and I am. Dead serious."

Frustration and anger were evident in her voice as she sputtered, "But...what about last night...and the last few days...everything you said...everything I said."

Jareth shrugged indifferently, his reply cold as it was cruel, "What about it?"

Feeling as if a barrel of ice water had just been dumped over her head, Sarah could do nothing but stare wide-eyed in shock.

But despite the fact that she couldn't believe what she was hearing, the Goblin king kept right on talking, "The fact that we were intimate doesn't change the fact that your life, for the remainder of the year, belongs to me." As an afterthought he added, "Nor does it change the fact that I have a kingdom to run."

The blood had now drained completely from Sarah's face as her worst fears were being realized. This couldn't be happening...It had to be a dream.

But Jareth's firm grip on her arm as he shoved her aside was all too real. Something had happened. The way he was behaving was proof of it. His cold exterior was merely a front for some other emotion, something much more dark and sinister.

She reached for him in desperation, and his gloved hand caught her wrist. His grip tightened as he warned in an icy whisper, "Do not touch me."

Stunned by the graveness of his tone she babbled, "But...last night..."

He leaned in, his leering face only inches from her own, the iron grip of his fingers bruising her delicate wrist. His tone was scornful and derisive, "While I have enjoyed your affections, they are no longer required..."

Her liquid green eyes darted over his face as though searching for answers. Pulling her hand free she demanded, "Jareth what's wrong? Why are you so angry?"

With a sinister arch of his eyebrow he drawled, "What makes you think I'm angry?"

"You must be. Why else would you treat me like this?"

"Like what exactly?"

"Like your...whore." She chanced a glance at his face and immediately regretted it.

His tone was arrogant and triumphant, "Because Sarah that is precisely what you are."

And there it was.

His words cut deep, snuffing out any ember of hope that remained in her. She had begun to trust him, and just when she had convinced herself that he wasn't the villain she had made him out to be, he had proven her wrong in one sentence. Those few cruel words had sent the tower of possibility that she had constructed in her mind crashing to the floor. She had let herself be deceived. Behind the shimmering image of all she hoped he truly could be, hid the true monster, and she had just gotten an unpleasant glimpse. Cold, cruel and hateful was all he seemed now.

She had thought that she had misunderstood him, that his cool indifferent exterior had merely been the result of lifetimes of isolation and the power that his title afforded him. She had been sure that a decent person existed just under the hard exterior, and that given enough time, she could change him.

It looked as though she had been gravely mistaken.

Jareth had only sought to use her. The realization washed over her, bringing with it deep regret and terrible anger. The potent mixture of such unsettling emotions overwhelmed her. She closed her eyes against the wave of repulsion and nausea. For an instant she feared she would throw up. After taking a deep breath the urge to wretch subsided, but the anger lingered and swelled to a rage so hot that she was overcome by the desire to hurt him.

Her jaw clenched painfully driving her teeth together as her hands balled into tight fists at her side. She was consumed by the urge to lash out and hit him, clenching her fists tighter, she fought to restrain herself.

He would expect hysterics and a dramatic reaction. No doubt he was expecting her to hit him. She was determined not to give him the satisfaction at seeing her lose control.

As her blazing emerald eyes rose to meet his cool blue and hazel ones her suspicions were confirmed. His frame had tensed as if anticipating her attack. His expression was one of smug patience as he awaited her unavoidable outburst. She seethed at his presumptiousness, no doubt he had some devastating remark ready to sling at her. She afforded herself another deep calming breath, cooling her blazing fury to an icy resolve. No, she wouldn't resort to cruelty. She was better than that...better than him.

She inhaled sharply, her eyes bright with defiance as she raised her head high. With all the grace she could manage she evenly replied, "Well, I'm glad I know now where we stand. If that's truly how you feel, than we have nothing more to say to one another."

With that she turned on her heel and strode silently from his room. She didn't even slam his door on the way out. She simply left. No screaming, no hysterics, no violence.

Jareth stared in stunned silence as she simply walked away. This was not the hot tempered impulsive display he had expected. He was so unsettled by her uncharacteristic exit that he failed to notice the small black bird that took flight from his balcony.

Sarah stormed down the long stone corridors of the goblin Castle, her arms limply hugging her body as her vision began to blur. Her hands clutched tightly at the fabric of her skirt. She would not cry. Not here at least. She knew his sight was not restricted to what was right in front of him, and she was not going to give him the luxury of knowing that he had broken her heart quite effectively into pieces.

She had to get out of the castle. She burst through the large entrance doors to the castle, startling a flock of birds that were scavenging the nearby grounds. Darkness had already settled over the Underground and thunder rumbled in the distance as heavy raindrops pounded on the ground and stone entrance. Sarah was grateful for the rain, which felt blessedly cool on her burning cheeks as it mingled with the hot tears that she could no longer contain.

Wrapping her arms about herself for warmth she stumbled blindly through the pouring rain, heading in the general direction of the Goblin City. For a good part of the night she wandered aimlessly, oblivious to the few goblins that scurried across her path dashing for cover from the torrential downpour. Sarah had no desire to escape the rain, she let it wash over her as the endless stream of tears poured down her face.

The pain of Jareth's cold cruel words reverberated painfully in her mind. The depair and sadness seeped in and surrounded her like a dark fathomless ocean, with seemingly no way out. She wandered on aimlessly into the night, not caring where she would end up. For the time being it was better to remain in the downpour where at least the rain would mask her tears.

It seemed an eternity that she walked and cried.

Finally, through the wind and the rain came the unmistakable sound of goblin voices. There were a great many of them and above the rising din came shouts of merriment and mischievous laughter. The sudden racket jolted Sarah away from her thoughts and she halted, peering through the driving rain to seek the source of the noise.

There was a modest bulging hut up on her right. Smoke billowed from the tiny metal chimney atop the simple thatched roof and warm yellow light spilled through the numerous crisscrosses of the small square windows. Moving closer to the hut she squinted to see inside.

Many goblins were assembled inside the place, lounging about on long wooden tables and benches, some were singing, rather badly, with arms thrown carelessly about one another. Most of them were brandishing casks and flagons overflowing with ale.

Sarah looked over and spotted the door to the establishment. An unimpressive wooden sign swung back and forth in the wind just over the entrance. It read, "The Barrel Burrow." The crude carving on the sign depicted a goblin drinking from a barrel of ale.

Realization dawned on her. This was an Underground pub, a beer hall for goblins.

Under normal circumstances Sarah would have simply kept right on walking, but the circumstances were worlds away from normal. The pain of Jareth's cold cruel words pierced her to the core. The despair and sadness she felt surrounded her like a dark fathomless ocean, and she was drowning.

Nothing in the world could take the pain away, but some hard core liquor would be a start. If it would at least take the edge off, than so be it. Sarah was no fool. She knew that drinking would not solve any of her problems. But she was not looking for a solution. She was looking for temporary numbness. Unconsciousness would even be blessed compared to the agony she was now enduring.

Certainly the tavern would have something potent. Sarah stepped up to the door, blinking the tears and rain out of her eyes. With a sigh she slicked her dripping hair back and out of her face. As she pushed the door open, she was engulfed by the wild chatter and blasted by the heat from the fire that blazed in the hearth.

She gave the place a cursory glance. The walls were crude plaster supported by a multitude of heavy wooden beams. The straw on the floor made it feel more like a barn than a bar, but this was no time to be choosy. Scores of goblins of all shapes and sizes, were scattered over the crude benches and tables made from split logs. Raucous laughter and frivolous drinking songs spilled from their beaks and mouths as ale sloshed over the tops of their primitive mugs.

It took a moment for the goblins to notice the sopping wet human in the doorway, but little by little they fell silent until eventually all eyes settled on her. Sarah approached the bar, which by the look of it, had once been a heavy wooden door. Hastily she wiped the tears and rain from her face. The chill in her icy fingers penetrated deep, into the bone, a sharp contrast to her burning cheeks. Her face felt as though it were on fire as she took in the goblin crowd that was now staring expectantly at her.

She knew she must look a frightful mess, and she blushed furiously, realizing that her misery must have been horrendously plain to them. It didn't make her feel at all better knowing that it wouldn't take much for even their simple goblin minds to discern the cause of her misery.

The wiry little barkeep's rag halted its haphazard wiping as the girl stepped up to the bar. Craning his neck up, the small goblin eyed her questioningly. Sarah slumped onto the nearest stool, which had been made from a tree stump. "What's the strongest thing you've got?"

The goblin's eyes widened as Sarah produced a gold coin and slid it across the bar. As he disappeared beneath the bar Sarah could hear the sound of bottles clanking together as things were moved around. After a moment the goblin resurfaced with a squat glass bottle full of brown liquid in hand. "Wormwood Draught." He stated as he set down the bottle, "Strongest stuff in these parts, that is. Pint a that and ya won't even remember who y'are, nevermind where y'been." The goblin gave her a snaggle-toothed grin as he set a teeny shot glass in front of her.

Sarah's green eyes settled on him as she resolutely stated, "Leave the bottle."

His eyes widened but he merely shook his head as he ventured, "Want a cup at least?"

Sarah shook her head as she uncorked the bottle with her teeth, "That won't be necessary."

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Underground...

Leaves rustled on a young sapling as Mordred emerged from the dense forest. His stony jade colored eyes were fixed on the raven that scratched at the stone floor of the ancient circle. As Mordred approached the raven hopped frantically causing a stirring of black feathers before it resumed it's true form. Nyx stood imperiously where the bird had just been, his shock of black hair and perfectly tailored black velvet overcoat sharply contrasted with his white cravat and fair skin. His metallic grey eyes danced with impatience as he awaited the news his messenger had brought.

Mordred knew his master well enough to cut to the chase. "It is time. They are at odds." Nyx nodded eagerly, "You're certain?" Mordred's mouth twisted into a jagged grin that was wholly sinister, "I overheard them myself. The girl left the castle."

A slow smile crept over Nyx's face, "Summon the others. We have work to do."

Much later that night...

Sarah staggered down the hallway to her room in the goblin castle, thankful that she hadn't run into anyone, especially Jareth. Now, saturated with alcohol, she was feeling brazenly uninhibited. There was no telling what she might say or do if she and his highness crossed paths. Simply navigating the dark corridors to her room was challenging enough. Even collecting her few belongings would require severe concentration on her part, exercising any restraint, whether vocal or physical, was not even an option in her current state.

After double-checking to make sure she had reached her room and not Jareth's, she took a swig from the bottle clutched in her hand and flung the door open, not even comprehending that the sound would surely travel. Hastily she began dumping the contents of several of the dresser drawers onto the bed.

Sarah wasn't in any condition to be making intelligent decisions about what she may or may not need in her haphazard flight from the castle, so she was going with less discriminating method of just dumping her belongings into the crude sack she had made out of her blankets. In one fluid motion she used her arm to send everything on the top of her dresser flying onto the top of the nearby pile. She would have enjoyed the disarray and commotion had it not been for one thing.

His haughty voice came from behind, like a cold calm cutting through her deliberate attempt of making chaos. "What exactly do you think you are doing?"

As if by instinct, her fingers curled tightly around the smooth glass of the bottle. She turned towards his voice, raising the bottle to her lips as their eyes met. Her intense green eyes remained locked with his as she swilled a mouthful of the burning liquid. The searing of her throat reminded her of the blazing anger she still felt towards him. Mercifully, the mind numbing draught had dulled the breath taking pain caused by his earlier onslaught, but her anger remained, and if anything it was only sharpened by the drink.

Carefully she lowered the bottle and used her sleeve to wipe her lips. Sarcastically she slurred, "Exactly what it looks like I'm doing. Packing."

Jareth stalked closer, crossing his arms over his chest. It infuriated her that even his mannerisms could appear so indifferent. He regarded her for a moment, and when he finally replied, his tone was smug as he tsked, "In case you have forgotten our little bargain, might I remind you that leaving my kingdom is out of the question."

Before he could say another word she drunkenly interjected, "I'm well aware of that."

"In that case...just where do you plan on going?"

"I don't really care. The forest, the stable...the deepest darkest oubliette, or even the bog of eternal stench. I don't give a shit where I spend the night, so long as it's far, far away from you."

"Is that so?"

His mouth was drawn into a somber line, and for one fleeting moment Sarah thought she saw a flicker of regret. But before she could even be sure, it was gone, replaced by indifference.

"After the way you treated me? Yes!" She hesitated for a moment desperately fighting to keep the tears from spilling over. Her eyes were glassy and she was sure it was obvious that she was seconds away from breaking down, but she blinked back the stinging tears. No way was she going to lose it in front of him.

But suddenly there was that uncertainty again. His eyes met hers and for a second they softened with something like concern, his unfeeling mask momentarily slipping. His frown deepened for an instant, before he quickly averted his eyes and lowered his head. Sarah froze, as every fiber of her being screamed to give him a second chance. Though she knew the error of it, she could not stop her herself from feeling. With every breath that tiny flicker of hope burned brighter, her heart beating that single desire for him to make everything right again.

Softly she stammered, "...unless...well...unless you have something else to say to me." Turning his back on her he started back toward his room.

Sarah readied herself for his reply. She expected his authoritative refusal, or some display of bravado to cover up the fact that he cared. God forbid that he actually admit he was hurting too. She had come to expect condescension from him, or a stern warning, perhaps he'd even drag her to the dungeon for her defiance, basically anything that would circumvent the truth. But still she hoped...maybe an all out shouting match would bring her closer to the truth of why he was acting like this.

With his back to her he quietly replied, "I've said my piece, do what you will Sarah."

His reaction was not at all what she had imagined. No ultimatum, nor drama of any kind. He merely walked away.

As he strode back through the doorway of his chamber he left Sarah gaping where she stood in disbelief. He didn't want the last biting word? No stream of condescending remarks? Impossible. Maybe he was having a change of heart...maybe he was already having regrets.

Aghast with disbelief she hurried after him, her bottle of wormsword draught still dangling from her hand as she caught up to him in his chamber. Incredulously she demanded, "You're not even going to try and stop me?"

His tone was indifferent as he glanced back at her, "Why should I?"

She was at a loss for words, "I..."

He interrupted, "Sleep wherever you want Sarah. So long as you remain within the confines of my kingdom, it is none of my concern."

She detected an element of coldness in his voice, but she was growing weary of trying to decipher his cryptic behavior. She was far too drunk for it. If he wanted to be cold and abrupt, than so would she.

Vehemently she spat with finality, "Fine. Whatever. Goodbye Jareth."

Turning on her heel she made for the door with no intention of looking back. But his voice stopped her.

"Wait...Before you leave..."

It was the touch of something almost civil in his voice that made her turn around, however when she saw his icy expression she second-guessed herself. In a tired voice she sighed, "What is it?"

"Before you leave..." his lips twisting into a cruel smirk, "You'd better do as I requested..."

Her eyes widened at his audacity as he finished, "...My boots are in severe need of polishing."

What a dick. She closed her eyes slowly as his words sunk in, kindling an anger so hot it nearly made her see red.

The next few moments seemed to happen in slow motion. Slowly she brought the bottle to her lips. The glass felt cool against her mouth as she took a long drought. Taking the drink allowed her just enough time to contemplate her move. The shocking taste of the liquor seemed to give her momentary clarity of mind. The burning liquid seared her throat, but the sensation was no match for the fire that coursed through her veins. Fury overwhelmed her sensibilities, and with deadly acuity her feral eyes sought what she was looking for.

His black leather boots sat innocently at the foot of his monstrous bed. They had done nothing wrong, it was too bad that they were about to bear the brunt of her wrath. It seemed she was instantly beside them, and without so much as a glance in his direction she raised the bottle in her hand and tipped it, pouring the potent brown liquid all over, and inside, his pristine black leather boots.

Taken aback the goblin king could do nothing but stare as she emptied the bottle of booze all over his boots.

Still holding the empty bottle she viciously sneered, "There! Happy? No?" Before she even knew what she was doing she was flat out yelling at him, "Polish your own goddamn boots Jareth! I'm through taking orders, I'm through with this place...And I'm Through. With. You!!!!"

It took him several moments to replace the surprise on his face with disdain. She had already begun to storm away by the time he had collected himself enough to chide, "Ah yes. Run away Sarah. It's much easier than facing your mistakes head on isn't it?"

Stopping short she whipped around to face him. She was leaning close, and he noticed how red her face was, from her anger no doubt, and when she spoke he caught the strong smell of alcohol on her breath. "You're right Jareth. I have made mistakes. The biggest one being that I trusted you." She shook her head in disgust, "I knew I was crazy to have feelings for you...I should have listened to my instincts. You aren't anything but a monster, and I made a huge mistake to try and see you as something more. My actions have been loaded with mistakes since I came here...what the hell...what's one more?"

She turned her back on him and without hesitation she whipped the bottle across the room with brilliant accuracy. Her aim was perfect. The bottle struck the enormous gilded mirror dead center. With a sickening smash the mirror shattered into hundreds of tiny fragments. Without another word she grabbed up her belongings and strode out of the castle leaving the Goblin King speechless.

It was fortunate for Sarah that she knew the way to the stables like the back of her hand otherwise she never would have navigated the way through the dark with her vision blinded by tears. She was sure she was well out of sight from the castle when she finally broke down and cried. She was a sobbing mess by the time she reached the stable. Luckily Tempest had the ability to communicate mentally, otherwise he may not have ever gotten the gist of what had put her in such a state. He tried to be gentle and comforting, but he knew that the girl had to cry herself out before her emotions simply consumed her. Exhausted by her sobbing she curled up in her blankets atop a pile of hay in the loft above Tempest's stall.

Jareth paced the length of his bedroom, pausing long enough to snatch up one of his boots. After pouring out the liquid that had pooled inside, he cast the boot aside, frowning as he stooped to pick up a fragment of glass from the once impressive mirror. It wasn't the damage to the mirror or his boots that concerned him, for such damage could be righted with the flick of a wrist.

It was another sort of damage that irked him. He had just wreaked havoc on the delicate bonds he had so carefully forged with Sarah. Of course it had been his intent all along, well almost all along, until he had let his heart get the better of him, but his anger had put him back on the path that his scheme demanded. He had been merciless, and the injury he caused exceeded even his own expectations. Surly a wound like that would never heal.

His frown deepened as he let the fragment of glass fall back to the floor. He glanced about the empty room. Suddenly the air in the castle seemed oppressive, warm and uncomfortable. He couldn't think here.

Normally after achieving such a victory he would take flight over the labyrinth and revel in his accomplishment. Tonight he didn't feel much like flying, something about him felt much too heavy. Tonight he would walk.

The rain had stopped and the skies were once again clear. It was rather late and the sapphire night sky above the junkyard was full of brilliant stars that twinkled like precious diamonds. Jareth wandered amongst the towering piles of junk plagued by his thoughts. Pulling his jacket tighter for warmth he crouched beside a blazing fire that had burst into existence by a mere thought.

He knew he would be alone here, as it was late and the inhabitants of the junkyard would have retired to their beds by now. Silently he watched the fire, the mesmerizing flames aiding his contemplation. By all rights he should have been pleased. Sarah was now the one suffering a broken heart. He had won. Revenge was his.

In actuality he was anything but pleased. The flames danced in his dual colored eyes and for the first time in his life he truly felt like a monster. The thoughts circled through his head like a whirlwind of confusion. I hurt her. I deliberately and mercilessly hurt her.

He couldn't get the image out of his head, as the disbelief and hurt washed across her face. He knew that she could be a good actress when she wanted to be but there was no doubt in his mind that her pain was genuine. How could she have been so upset if she didn't love him?

She does love me.

The only one in the world brave enough to look for the good in me. She took a chance by getting to know me. By the fates she saw me and she loved and trusted me. And I hurt her. I betrayed that trust, I betrayed her because I didn't give her a chance. I didn't trust her because I am weak and afraid. All the power I possess, and I fear losing myself in this girl.

I am a coward. I am so afraid, that I hurt her on purpose. I am nothing but a villain. All this time I was protecting my pride, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing. I already have lost myself in her. I close my eyes and I see her smile, her sweet face. Now she knows what a true monster I am. I don't deserve her. How could she ever forgive me after hurting her so deeply? It is too late, I cannot undo what I have done.

I have lost. I've lost everything.

Most Prized Possession

A Labyrinth Story
by Jester3

Part 37 of 42

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