Grim stared at the closed gate of the Temple, longing for his sister beyond the wall. It had taken a day to leave, despite their best efforts to the contrary. Due to the deaths of several men-one killed by Grim and two by Kaeral-the Masters were forced to conduct an investigation. Some had witnessed the final moments of the situation, but in the end, Veil's testimony had freed them from responsibility.
The Masters agreed that Grim, Prism, and Kaeral should leave for their own safety, and so Kaeral had gathered his family and their friends to travel north. They had packed their few belongings inside the streetcar they'd stolen from Kobinaru. It would take them some distance before running out of fuel, and they might be able to scavenge some along the way.
To the North lay the Dorram, the region of Prism's birth. Reports said the Dorram remained almost untouched by the rebellion, but the Dorramu had never heavily participated in the government to begin with. Effects of the rebellion would hit them soon enough, when failing infrastructure and the lack of trade isolated them from the rest of the world, but for now, it would be at least as safe as anywhere.
Grim wasn't convinced it was the best move, however. Fedain lived in the Dorram, too. How could he face his people? How could he look them in the eye without seeing the blood staining his soul? Somehow, they would know, and that would be the end of it. He had no place among his people anymore.
"Everyone ready to go?" Kaeral asked. He'd just finished checking the supplies in the storage compartment beneath the streetcar.
"I'd like to leave this place behind for good, I think," Prism said, casting a forlorn glance at the temple. "Get a fresh start somewhere else."
"As if there are any fresh starts to be had anywhere," Grim muttered. Before anyone could respond, the streetcar violently rocked back and forth, jostling the passengers. Kaeral's son, Villar, started to wail, and his father struggled to maintain his footing in the center aisle. Outside, the trees surrounding the temple complex trembled, and the walls themselves shuddered from the tremors in the ground.
"What the hell is . . ." Kaeral started as the tremors ceased. His eyes widened in horror, and whatever he'd been about to ask fled from him as he pointed toward Kobinaru. "Look!"
The group turned as one to the city. The skyline disappeared before their eyes, once-towering buildings falling as their supports gave way from the force of the quaking earth. Huge sections of the city wall collapsed both inward and outward, and a gigantic cloud of debris bubbled out from the city.
"The city is . . ." Grim gasped. "Was that Oligan's weapon?"
"It must have been," Prism said. "It must be . . ."
"No one could have survived that," One of Tala's wives said.
Prism grimaced. "Captain Tson, Grandmaster Valkean."
"Cousin Zaalf . . ." Kaeral whispered. "Sharda . . ."
"All my drinkin' buddies," Tala said.
Grim felt it all; the despair around him, and the responsibility to any survivors in the city. They were his people and had always been his people. Even after rejecting him, he owed them his help. Regardless of what Veil thought, Grim was a Fedain, and he needed to prove that to himself now more than ever. "All those people," he amended. "We have to go over there."
Kaeral blanched. "We what?"
"There will be survivors. On the fringe of the blast zone at least. Some buried in rubble, too. Who is going to help them if we don't?"
"Let's go," Prism said confidently.
"Are you mad?" Kaeral looked between Prism and Grim, laughing in disbelief. "We just escaped from that city!"
Grim held his ground. "And now they need us."
Kaeral met Grim's eyes, holding an intense battle of wills for several seconds before Kaeral conceded with a resolute nod. He turned to Tala and said, "Tala, please promise me you'll take care of my son?" As Tala nodded, Kaeral continued. "Drop us off at the city and head for the first village on the northeast road. We'll rendezvous with you in a day or two."
"Will do, nephew," Tala said. "I'd go with ye, but I've gotta take care of my own."
The streetcar inched its way down the hillside, where it became apparent it was not a weapon which had struck the city, but an earthquake. Massive fissures split the ground, and on occasion the streetcar had to maneuver past them by driving away from the road. Several aftershocks struck them as well, leveling Kobinaru further and stalling their progress.
Grim found this odd, as Kobinaru did not sit on a major fault line, though an unexpected earthquake of great magnitude could certainly cause the devastation they'd witnessed. Without a history of earthquakes, the massive buildings of Kobinaru had not been built to withstand them. Considering the extent of the damage, however, the quake must have been powerful indeed.
Eventually they were within the outskirts of the city and the road became impassable with rubble. Grim left the streetcar first, followed immediately by Prism and then Kaeral, the latter of whom spent just a moment saying goodbye to his son before joining them.
They ventured into the city amid first cries of people in pain. Grim sprinted to their aid, putting his full focus into rescuing everyone he could. If he could save their lives, perhaps he could erase some of his guilt: if he could save their lives, perhaps he could save himself.
Prism and Kaeral let him take the lead, following him into unstable buildings to rescue stranded citizens and helping him dig through the rubble for those groaning or crying within. Grim inspected each one for injuries and healed them as needed.
Hours stretched on, and Grim slowly weakened, losing what energy he had until only adrenaline fueled him. If he pushed himself any harder he'd wind up unconscious, or worse, but he couldn't allow himself to stop.
Each person he rescued joined the effort, uniting under his guidance and following his example as they searched through the ruins for their neighbors. Prism and Kaeral split from him, leading other groups on grand rescue missions of their own as he continued to slowly work his way through the outer city.
Eventually Prism returned to Grim, catching him as he staggered on to yet another house. One look into Prism's eyes told Grim why he'd come. Prism had sensed the weakness in Grim, how close he was to death.
"You need to take a break, Grim," Prism said, catching Grim's arm and keeping him from walking forward.
Grim tried to break free of Prism's grip but couldn't and lost his balance in the effort. He fell to his knees but kept his focus forward, breathing heavily. "I can't. I need to heal them."
"If you keep going at that rate, you'll kill yourself."
Grim coughed and wiped spittle from his mouth. "Better I die than them."
Prism knelt in front of him, his hands on Grim's shoulders. Prism's anger hit Grim like a dull ache in his skull. "No!" Prism growled. "Don't you dare talk like that. Whatever happened back at the temple, whatever guilt you're feeling, the weight of the world does not rest on your shoulders. You don't get to die on account of feeling sorry for yourself."
"I killed a man, Prism!" Grim spat.
"You saved me!" Prism insisted. "It's the same thing I'd do for you."
Grim avoided Prism's gaze, his shame returning to the forefront of his thoughts. "I'm a Fedain. The rules are different."
"No! They're the same." Prism hugged Grim against him. Grim didn't reciprocate, but he enjoyed the warmth from Prism, though he didn't believe he deserved it. "We're the same, Grim. We're all just trying to survive, we're all just trying to live. All we can do is make the best of the life we've got, and the same goes for you."
"Hey, you two, stop yammering and help me!" Kaeral shouted from down the road.
"What's the problem?" Prism asked.
"There's a little girl trapped beneath the outer wall. It's too heavy for us to lift, but I can hear her crying," Kaeral replied. "I'm going to slither in, but I'm going to need Grim once I get her out. I'm certain she's injured."
Grim slipped from Prism's grasp, fueled by necessity. Prism let him go, watching on in worry, and followed silently. Kaeral led them to a collapsed section of city wall, the corpses of several people visible beneath it.
But the wall had crashed into a house, obliterating the upper levels but leaving the cellar intact. A child-sized hole allowed access, and a young girl's voice echoed from inside. The crowd of survivors Kaeral had led here stood watching, wanting to help but unsure how.
Kaeral wasted no time in activating his snake tattoos. He entered the cavity headfirst, his bones and muscles compressing in unnatural ways as he slipped past the tight access point. Prism and Grim waited at the ready as Kaeral searched through the dark for the victim.
"She has a broken leg!" Kaeral shouted after a moment. "I'll hand her up to you in a moment but be careful with her right side!"
Prism reached into the hole as soon as the girl's hands come into view. He gently cupped his hands beneath her arms and pulled her from the dark, she cried as her leg scraped against the ground, and Prism rested her in his lap in a way which kept her leg from further harm. "It's okay, you're safe now," he said.
"Here, let me see your leg," Grim said. He smiled as he touched her leg, searching with his energy for the break and applying just enough pressure to guide it back into place. He willed the bone to mend and the broken blood vessels nearby to reconnect. Within a matter of seconds, the leg was as good as new. "There, does that feel better?"
The little girl wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and nodded. "Yes, thank you, Mister."
"You're welcome," Grim said as Kaeral climbed back through the hole and joined them. "Kaeral here is going to take you to the others, and maybe we can find your parents?"
The little girl nodded and let Kaeral take her hand to lead her away. They joined the crowd, talking excitedly amongst themselves about where the girl's parents might be. After a moment, someone found her aunt among the crowd, who came to scoop the girl into her arms.
Grim stopped paying attention when Prism grasped his hands. "These hands of yours, are a gift. You can and have healed so many with them. Sometimes you used your abilities, and sometimes all it took was throwing paint on the boy who ran into you." Prism lifted Grim's right hand to his face and kissed it softly. "You have the power of life and death in your hands, but you also have the judgment to know when to use them. You know the weight of responsibility, and you have to trust yourself to know what's right."
"But what if I don't know?" Grim asked. "What if I harm someone, and they didn't deserve it?"
"Then we'll face it together," Prism said. "We never have to be apart again. We can handle every decision with whatever wisdom we have between us. And, when the world quiets down, and we have a chance at peace, we'll find a quiet corner and settle down. We'll live the rest of our lives in pleasant company, helping friends, family, and neighbors for the rest of our days."
Grim ached to believe Prism's words, desiring nothing more than to escape the world with him. The idea of someday gave him hope, but he needed more. "Do you promise?"
"I promise," Prism said without hesitation. "I'll give my life to making it happen for you. Whatever it takes to save that future for you, I'll do it. Because you deserve to be happy, Grim. You deserve to have peace, after all you've done for those you love, and those you don't even know."
He nodded toward the group of survivors, some of which glanced over at them fondly, wearing smiles of hope and gratitude. "Those people," Prism said gently, "prove you're a good person. Forget what Veil said-you're more Fedain than any of them, because you came here without hesitation and saved all these people. They'll continue to save more, and more, all because you insisted we come here and pull them from the rubble. So, you can't die now, because there're more people who need you, especially me."
Grim sighed, wanting to cry but too exhausted for tears. He settled for a kiss instead, locking lips with Prism for a few quick pecks before readjusting his position, curling into his lover's lap. "Thank you, Prism. I love you."
"And I love you," Prism replied cradling Grim.
"What was your name before Grandmaster Valkean gave you a different one?" Grim asked. "I've never thought to ask, because Prism fit you so nicely."
"Jurka," Prism said laughing. "It sounds so foreign now."
"What does it mean?"
Grim snorted. "Valkean was right to give you a different one. 'where light and color meet'. I don't think I could call you anything but Prism now. Ever since that day, all I've wanted is this, and maybe . . . maybe now that I have it, I can be willing to fight for it." He lifted his hand, imagining the blood coating it once again. The memory still stained his thoughts, but he could see past his bloody fingers now, remembering Prism with a noose around his neck. "Maybe, I can look past the guilt and see that sometimes things are worth fighting for."
"Grim, wake up!" Prism said, nudging Grim gently. The sun rose over Kobinaru, bathing them in a soft, orange glow. Grim stirred as Prism stared into the distant sky, through the broken wall of the ruined house they'd taken shelter in. The stairs had collapsed, but they'd climbed to the second floor for privacy.
There'd been no energy left for lovemaking, but they'd found a blanket to share as they slept naked in each other's arms. Prism had longed for this moment for well over a year, and he couldn't be happier with the outcome, no matter their humble surroundings.
"What is it?" Grim asked, yawning.
Prism pointed at the strange shape in the sky. It appeared to be a giant eagle, flying toward the Temple. It perched atop a tree on a lower hilltop adjacent to the Temple's hill.
"What is it?" Grim asked. "That's a huge bird for this region. Giant eagles like that only inhabit the Northern mountains. They say the Gor even ride them."
"Indeed!" Prism replied, "isn't it beautiful?"
Grim nodded before burying his head in Prism's embrace. They watched the bird in tranquil silence, enjoying the morning. Tranquility swiftly faded to sinking dread when the eagle hopped from the tree, assuming a man's form as it reached the ground. The man was dressed in brown robes with a red sash, the mark of a Grandmaster of the Order of the Mountain.
"Valkean . . .?" Prism said.
"Khalis . . ." Grim whispered, his fingers gripping Prism's naked thigh as the memory of the demon overwhelmed him.
"It can't be . . ." Prism said. "Valkean couldn't have been Khalis all this time?"
"No . . ." Grim said. "I don't think so. He's just wearing Valkean's skin."
Prism nodded. "And the monks will have no idea. We'll have to get over there. I wonder if this is the first time? When did the switch happen?"
"I don't know," Grim said. "Let's find Kaeral and get over there. Who knows how much damage he could do before they find out?"
Prism agreed. Though many of the people inside the Temple had desired his blood, most of the current residents were innocent, especially the Masters and Veil. He flipped the blanket away from their bodies and searched for his clothing.
All he had were his monk robes. Though putting them on again after a night with Grim in his arms was strange, they would do for this journey at least. Master Jovun had declared Prism a friend of the Order, and Prism could wear the robes one more time in their defense.
They carefully made their way down the ruined staircase to the city street. Kaeral had insisted on giving them privacy and slept among the survivors. Several camps had formed on the street, makeshift shelters serving to protect the people where the ruins could not be trusted.
By the time they found Kaeral, he was sitting with another Gor, one whom Prism and Grim recognized immediately as Zaalf, the tattooist who'd created their Familiar bond.
"It's about time you two woke up," Kaeral said as they approached. "Prism, Grim, I'd like you to meet my cousin, Zaalf Terbrinix. Rescue crews cleaned out his shop late last night."
"We've met, actually," Prism said, nodding. Grim smiled and took Zaalf's hand.
"Ya two are still together, yeah?" Zaalf said, raising an eyebrow as he looked between them. He nodded back to Kaeral and asked, "And ya'r mixed up with this rascal too? Why am I not surprised?"
"The world gets smaller every day." Kaeral shook his head, laughing heartily in disbelief. "How'd you meet Zaalf? Oh . . . he's the one who did your tattoos!"
"That's right." Grim nodded. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that with so few Gor living in Kobinaru, you two would be related."
"We're actually not. I call him my cousin because we're two of the few Gor in the city." Kaeral snickered at the situation and added, "His daughter Sharda and I used to see each other."
Zaalf sucked in his breath, displeased at the mention of his daughter's name. "She had a crazy tryst with a Fedain woman after that. I ain't seen her in a few days, not since the rebels tried to kill everyone, but I bet she's alive."
"While I'm glad your cousin is alive," Prism said, "we need to get back to the Temple."
Kaeral groaned. "Why do you keep trying to take me dangerous places?"
"Grandmaster Valkean might be a demon," Prism said.
"What? That doesn't make any sense."
"We just saw him shift form," Grim said. "I know how it sounds, but . . ."
"No, you don't know how it sounds. Believe me, I'm usually the first person to believe in weird things happening," Kaeral replied, "but Zaalf was just telling me what happened here two days ago."
Zaalf cleared his throat and took his cue. "The monks came and talked, and the rebels wouldn't listen. Then the monks tried to free the Fedain prisoners. They fought to the death, yeah? Every last one of 'em. Ol' Valkean went down last, fightin' like a god. Must've shot him at least a dozen times before he finally went down."
"And you're sure he died then?" Prism asked. Despite the ridiculousness of the question, he had to be sure.
Zaalf snorted. "Ya think? If ya really think there's a question, someone cut out his heart shortly after. No one saw it happen, but the rebels hung his heartless corpse in front of the Council Chambers. I bet he's still there if the buildin's still standin'."
Prism stiffened at the image, but forced the excess tension from his body. He didn't have the time to think, any more than when he'd last faced Khalis. "All the more reason to get to the Temple as quickly as possible."
"You don't seem phased by Valkean's death." Kaeral said. "I'd have thought it would affect you more."
"I don't have the luxury of time. I'll mourn later."
Kaeral sighed, but he grinned after a moment. "Let's go then."
Prism returned the smile with as much strength as he could manage. He could read the respect in Kaeral's eyes. Reckless loyalty to each other had brought them this far, and they'd done a lot of good along the way. There was no one he'd rather have at his side for this insane adventure. "We need fire," he said. Arson would only intrigue Kaeral more.
"I can manage that." Kaeral grinned at Zaalf. "Zaalf. Know where I can get some alcohol?"
"Why do ya think I stayed home until I heard ya were leadin' the searches? Got a whole stash of brew in my basement," Zaalf said. "But I thought I taught ya better than that. What ya need is proper fuel. Just fill up at any of the broken fuel stations. Lots of things burn better than brew."
"Perfect," Kaeral said. "Next time I want to start a riot, I'll come to you first."
Prism, Grim, and Kaeral talked strategy as they salvaged several bottles from the nearby rubble. They found a fuel station and pumped some from the large tanks beneath the ground. Once they'd filled their bottles with fuel and made some ready to use cloth wicks, they tucked them all into their clothes and left for the Temple.
Most of the walk passed in silence, though Grim's fear increased through the link with every step as they neared the Temple. After they'd reached the base of the hill, Prism couldn't contain his worry any longer and asked, "Are you going to be okay facing him? If he really is Khalis, I mean?"
"With you there, I think I'll be fine." Grim remained silent for another twenty steps before he admitted, "I'm worried though."
Kaeral snaked his arm around Grim's shoulder and said, "Don't be. We can handle this."
"But . . ." Grim protested.
Prism smiled, mouthing thanks to Kaeral. "You won't have to fight, Grim."
Grim shook his head. "I'll do it if I have to, though."
"You don't-" Prism started, but Grim cut him off with a finger to Prism's mouth.
"No. I will," Grim insisted. His feelings came across the link. While the remorse was still there, determination and responsibility now reinforced it. "If you can give yourself to the future, I can too."
Prism accepted Grim's declaration as fact and chose to say no more on the subject. Instead, they resumed their march to the Temple, solemn resolve guiding every step until they reached the gates and Prism knocked on the door.
The viewing plate opened, and a short monk, Junior Master Isan, peered through, his eyes widening as he identified the visitor. "Ma . . . Prism, you weren't expected to return."
"There's a matter of great importance. Is the Grandmaster present?"
The gates creaked open, allowing the group inside. Master Isan then answered Prism's question. "Yes, he's just returned from Kobinaru. Unfortunately, the remainder of his group did not. How did you know he'd returned?"
"We encountered him on the road," Kaeral lied. "We've learned some important information and must speak to him at once."
"Understood," Master Isan said, treating Kaeral's urgency as genuine. "He's called a meeting of all Senior Masters, both on and off the council, but you can probably stay in there if you're quiet and speak to him when they're done."
Prism bowed. "Thank you."
He led the way into the Temple. Each of them maintained their composure, walking with a purpose to give the impression they belonged there. They made their way to the meeting hall, but stayed in the hall just before entering, allowing them to see Valkean standing in the center of the room but remain out of view of the other Senior Masters.
"What you're saying, Grandmaster Valkean, is incredibly difficult to believe," Master Jovun said as Prism motioned for his companions to stay back.
Grandmaster Valkean responded in his usual calm and reasoned tone. "I understand that, Master Jovun. But the reports were coming in from all over the country. Natural disasters, including the earthquake here, have happened in at least a dozen locations throughout Ultaka within the last two days." He paused for effect before adding, "There are even rumors of demons attacking villages in the South."
"Demons," an unrecognizable voice said. "We've had about enough of demons here."
"I don't mean to be superstitious, but the world is certainly changing, and that earthquake was unlike anything I've ever experienced. People are frightened. Mention of the Cataclysm has already begun to spread, and it seems the end of the world may be upon us once again. All I'm counseling is that we need to be vigilant," Grandmaster Valkean said.
Prism could sense the lie in his voice. There was something off about him, something that didn't quite sound like Valkean. The discrepancy was so minor that, if he hadn't already suspected Valkean was an imposter, Prism would have written it off as a sign of Valkean having a minor illness.
But he knew better-the man who stood before him was not Valkean. He stepped forward, attracting the attention of the Masters. "Don't trust him," he said forcefully.
"Prism?" Master Jovun said. "What are you doing here?"
"Don't trust him." Prism switched his attention from Jovun to Valkean with an icy stare. "He's not whom he says he is."
"This is highly irregular, Prism. You are no longer a member of this Order, and you are interrupting official business," Master Jovun said with annoyance.
"Master Vinh," Prism said, switching targets and tactics with equal skill. "Can Grandmaster Valkean juggle peach pits?"
Master Vinh smiled at the cryptic question. "Yes."
"Then perhaps he should prove it."
Grandmaster Valkean stared at Prism with a frown. "You want me to 'juggle'?"
"Grandmaster Valkean, do you know why I joined this Order?" Master Vinh asked.
"To pursue enlightenment," Grandmaster Valkean replied. Master Vinh raised an eyebrow and shrugged at Prism.
"Grandmaster Valkean, who gave me my name?" Prism asked.
"Prism?" Grandmaster Valkean asked. He hesitated, his eyes searching Prism's expression for an answer before he said confidently. "I did, of course."
"What was happening at the time? What happened when I had you at knifepoint and demanded a ransom for your safety?" Prism asked, purposefully misstating the facts.
Grandmaster Valkean paused again, his eyes narrowing at the trap Prism had him in. "You . . . I disarmed you, of course."
"He doesn't know," Prism said, addressing the other Masters. "Ask him anything personal he should know about you. Give it a go."
"This is madness!" Master Jovun said. "I refuse to let this farce go on any longer. This man is clearly Valkean!"
"Grandmaster Valkean," Master Vinh said with a sly smile, "why did you join the Order?"
Grandmaster Valkean stared at Master Vinh for a moment, struggling to find an answer. "The same as anyone else's," he said cautiously, stalling for time.
It was enough to convince Master Vinh. "Grandmaster Valkean would answer that question without hesitation, and we all know his answer would be 'because I was always a monk'. This is not Valkean."
Nearly every Master gasped in unison, realizing the truth as Master Vinh said it. Prism walked to one of the lanterns hanging from the wall, joining Kaeral as they lit the wicks of their makeshift firebombs. Khalis, still wearing Valkean's face, took a step backward, preparing to flee the council room even as he said, "The Trial has begun. The world will be purified."
"Shut up, demon," Kaeral said.
They tossed their firebombs in tandem, both breaking as they collided with their target. Fiery liquid spread across the demon's skin, which burned with a furiously bright light as he shifted shape, losing the Grandmaster's visage in favor of his Sendar form.
Khalis writhed on the floor, trying to put out the flames on his body. He glanced up just in time to see Grim raise his own lit bomb. "Naxthul . . ." Khalis wailed, "my love, I have failed you . . ."
Grim let the bomb fly, and it exploded across the back of the already dying demon. The First demon had been slain, but the world would face more within the day.
"To think . . . he'd been sent to help us against the demons he helped summon," Prism said in disbelief as Ghayle concluded the vision.
"Yes," Ghayle replied, "But there was always a risk of detection."
Prism tried to wrap his thoughts around an inconsistency in Khalis' actions and voiced his concerns to Ghayle. "How could he act so differently? He seemed personable when he wore Valkean's skin, but when I faced him after he attacked Grim, he fought like a cornered beast."
"When he was gathering the Purities, he was acting under compulsion, as if he was hypnotized," Ghayle said. "His purpose was singular, and almost all of his mind was directed to sensing the Purities. When he harvested the Purity of Stillness from Grim, all he could think about was getting it back to me to complete the ritual. As soon as the ritual was complete, however, he regained full control of his mind."
"Which means his personality finally came through," Prism said, nodding in understanding. "He was good. He picked up on my name and details about the Masters easily. If I hadn't revealed his true nature . . ."
"He might've worn Valkean's face all through the Trial, helping to guide the world until the demons were beaten," Ghayle replied.
"How could we have been so wrong?" Prism asked.
"Wrong? I don't think that's the case here. You defended your people from a perceived threat. You had every reason to believe he was a danger to you. There was always a risk the Vhor would die before they could organize the resistance. Naxthul understood that, though losing Khalis pained him greatly."
"But if we'd listened, maybe the world wouldn't be where it is, clutched in the grasp of an insane, immortal king."
"Maybe, but there's still hope." Ghayle smiled warmly. "Naxthul is still alive. For eight hundred years he has tried to free the demons from Neredos to end the trial, but it's not as simple as it seems."
"But Grim is hunting him," Prism said. "And if I know anything about determination, Grim will eventually accomplish his task."
"Grim will not be freed until the demons are freed, unless someone decides to open only the pillar he's trapped inside," Ghayle pointed out.
"Do you think that might happen?"
Prism considered it for a moment, trying to absorb everything he'd seen so far. One memory teased at the edge of his consciousness, one he sometimes relived when he needed perspective. He longed to experience it in the pure form Ghayle could show him. "Will you take me to one more day?"
"Of course," Ghayle replied. "What would you like to see?"
"Master Vinh, of course," Prism said with a chuckle. "And that damned apple tree."
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