Wagging Tongues Will - Part XL

It took a while to for everyone to find their places at the Reception in the Long House. The Keep had kindly provided a wide passageway that led directly from the Cathedral to that huge hall, but even so, it still took a while. Charles and Kimberly alternately stood and sat next to their private table at the head of the room, admiring the bright decorations lining the room, as well as the numerous gifts that had been arrayed against the walls, some larger than others, and some quite small.

The cake was already placed upon its own table flush with the stairs, and the smell of the frosting and of the moist bread made Charles’s mouth water. There were four layers to the cake, each staked upon one another. The bottom layer was at least two cubits in width, while the topmost was only a handspan across. Upon the top was a painted wooden figurine of two rats dressed in their wedding clothes. Along the edge of each layer were twisting vines and ribbons of frosting that cascaded down to the next layer. Charles dreaded the thought of cutting that.

When Thalberg arrived, he saw to the arranging of the food, his injury appearing to have no effect on his activities. His staff brought out plates of fruits, pastries, fresh fish, and a bit of venison, as well as a lovely white wine. Charles and Kimberly were served first of course, and at the rat’s behest, everybody who was served went right ahead and ate their meal. The fruits were just ripe, preserved in some fashion that rat could only guess at. The pastries included cinnamon rolls and a little cherry tart, both of which nearly melted in the rat’s muzzle. The fish had a perkiness that caused the rat to reach for the Chablis more than once. The venison was soft, not too salty, with a scrumptious taste that made the rat wish they could have afforded more.

By the time both Charles and Kimberly had finished their repast and had taken up slowly sipping at the tender, but dry Chablis, all of the guests had been assembled and were eating away. Scanning the crowd, he spotted more faces that he had missed during the ceremony. There at the end of one table was Chris and Lurene. And nearby he saw Angus and Garigan deep in discussion. It was no surprise to see Habakkuk, Nahum, and Tallis all sitting together, all three of the friends now the Headmasters of the Writer’s Guild. They were surrounded by so many of the others he’d known in his years as a scribe. So many wonderful faces he recognised, and with each, a memory of some moment together came to him.

And then, his eyes came to rest upon the fox Misha Brightleaf. Misha had risen from his own seat, holding the delicate glass goblet aloft in his right paw. He grinned wickedly to Charles once, and then turned to all of the rest assembled. “I want you all to know,” he began in a loud voice, “just how much this honour has meant to me. Charles Matthias is a man I have served next to in this last year, and one that I have come to know very well. Now that he’s married, I will miss all those times spent with him getting totally drunk.” There were a few laughs at that, though Charles himself felt his ears starting to blush.

Misha turned, the look in his eyes whimsical. “Matt, I may miss your company, but I don’t think I’m going to miss your singing.” Now almost everyone in the crowd laughed at that, smiles plastered clear over their faces and muzzles. Charles smiled broadly, shaking his head as he blushed. “Kimberly, please tell me you are going to do something about that!” Misha exclaimed, but Kimberly could only laugh merrily.

“But Matt is a brave fighter as well as drinker. I mean, we’ve all heard the story about how he ran from the army of Lutins.” There was a bit of laughter at that as well. Charles gave the fox a bemused stare for that one. “But his bravery does have its limits.” Misha turned to stare mock forlornly at the rat. “I mean, you didn’t even try my bean dip at the Christmas Party!” All of the Long Scouts laughed at that, some even hurling a few jabs at the fox for the dip’s toxic qualities. That elicited quite a bit more hearty chuckles from the crowd.

Misha held up his free paw then, smiling to everyone. “But there is also a gentle side to the rat, a kindness that he has shown us all over the years. Kimberly, thank you for that. He’d be a complete scoundrel if it weren’t for you.”

“Just like you, Misha!” one of the Longs shouted then, at which even Charles laughed heartily.

Misha waved one hand to acknowledge the ribbing, and then held his goblet aloft. “A toast then, to my good friend, Charles Matthias, and his lovely wife, the Lady Kimberly Matthias. A more lovely pair I have not seen together.”

“To Charles and Kimberly!” the crowd echoed as they raised aloft their goblets, and drank to them heartily.

Misha wiped his muzzle with the back of his free paw then. “And another toast. May you both have many fine children. Being rats, I’m sure you will accomplish this by this time next year.”

Both Charles and Kimberly blushed vividly at that, even as the guests laughed and shared in that whimsical toast. Misha continued to grin to both of them as he raised his goblet again. “And one last toast now, to a happy marriage between you both. Kimberly may your spirit shine, and Matt your Sondeck swell to proportions nobody would ever suspect!” That brought even more laughter from the crowd, even though most would have no idea what the fox had just said. Charles could not believe he’d just said that, but knew it was harmless, those that knew would not talk, and those that didn’t would forget the word long before the reception was over.

Misha and the rest enjoyed their final toast then, before the fox smiled to them both, and returned to his seat with the announcement, “It is time at last to cut the cake!”

Charles and Kimberly both stood up then and surveyed the massive baker’s achievement. Charles reached up cautiously and removed the two rat figurines from the topmost layer, licked the frosting from the edges, and felt his body tremble at the sugary delight. He handed it to Kimberly, who also licked some of it lean, smiling, her whole body shimmering as she tasted it. Carefully then, Charles lifted the topmost layer and set it aside. The next highest he was also able to move with ease. But he could no quite get a good grip on the third layer, and so Kimberly moved to the other side and helped him lift it free.

Both together then they carried the largest of the layers to their own table and set it down in the middle. Misha called out, “You’ll need a sword to cut that!”

Charles laughed and nodded his assent. “Yes, I think we will!”

But Kimberly laughed and shook her head. “There’s a bread knife already laid out.” She retrieved the implement which had been sitting behind the cake the whole time and hefted it aloft for all to see. Charles beamed to her, and held out his paw. Wrapping it around her own gripping the knife’s handle, they pressed solidly down into the middle of the cake, slicing downwards. Once the cut had been completed, most of the guests applauded in delight.

Charles smiled to his beloved, his wife. That would take him a while to get used to, he was sure. Lifting the knife again, they made a second cut, just an inch from the first. Once completed, they tried to scoop the knife beneath the slice of cake, and pull it out. Part of it came out at least, and then some of it fell from the knife and onto the floor. Charles let out a startled chuckle, and reached down to pick up the offending piece, and set it back on the table. Kimberly had managed to get the rest out and onto her plate as well.

Scooping a bit of the moist filling into a gloved paw, Charles held it before Kimberly’s muzzle. She grabbed a bit herself, this one with some frosting, and held it before Charles’s. Each opened their mouths as the other pushed that bit of cake inside. It was warm and sweet to his tongue, and with slow deliberation, Charles began to chew the delight even as he let go of the morsel in his wife’s muzzle. They smiled to each other as each swallowed the bite and began to lick their muzzles where the cake had smeared. The audience applauded again at that.

After they had returned to their seats, several of Kimberly’s former coworkers from the Kitchens took the cake and began to professionally slice it for the rest of the guests. There was just barely enough for everyone to have one slice. Everybody was talking while they ate, and those at the front table talked with Charles and Kimberly as well, though neither rat could remember much of the conversation. But at some point somebody suggested it was time to open all of the gifts.

Misha jumped to his paws then, grinning with his whole muzzle. “Would you care to open mine?” There was a slyness to his expression that made Charles unsure if he wanted to know what the fox had bought for him. From the laughs that came from some of his fellow Longs, he knew that Misha had already told them what he’d planned.

Charles and Kimberly looked to each other and then nodded. “Certainly. Which one is it?”

Misha shook his head. “It was too big for that. Both of you close your eyes.” There was some laughter then as Charles and Kimberly did as instructed, covering their eyes with their paws as well. They could hear Misha and a large group of Keepers crossing the hall towards the large storeroom beside the left staircase. It was the one with double doors. Both doors were opened, and Charles could hear something heavy being lifted and carried out, as well as other lighter items. It sounded as if made from wood.

“All right,” Misha said after all of the items had been set down, right in front of them. “You can open your eyes now.”

Charles did so to behold a fine mahogany dining table before him, complete with a set of six chairs, each crafted in the same style. The table was rectangular in shape, though each of the corners had been smoothed down. The edges was carved into a lovely sloping design, while the legs beneath each appeared to end in elephantine paws. The chairs were more slender, the seats having bright maroon cushions sewn into them, as well as large hole at the base to make room for their tails. The most pleasant thing was that it was sized for a rat morph.

“This is beautiful!” Charles exclaimed.

“Oh, that is so lovely,” Kimberly added.

Misha had a sly expression still. “As you in your confusion destroyed the rest of your furniture during the siege, I thought you might like this.”

“You should have made it from steel instead of wood,” shouted Jotham. “That way he can’t break it too!”

The Long Scouts all laughed at that, as did several other Keepers. Charles gave them a sarcastic smile. “I won’t be destroying this one, that’s for sure. Thank you, Misha. This is absolutely beautiful.”

“Thank you, Misha,” Kimberly said, smiling brightly. “I’ve never seen a table so wonderful.”

“You are most welcome, my Lady!” Misha said with a flourish.

“Might I be able to present the next gift?” Bernadette asked. Kimberly smiled to her good friend from the Kitchens, and Charles nodded his assent. “Well, actually, all of us in the Kitchens pooled together for this one. You’ll have to close your eyes again.”

Charles and Kimberly did so, laughing a bit as they heard some more folks move back into the storage room. This time, what came out sounded more like iron though. When they set it down next to the table, it landed with a load clanging. Charles jumped slightly at that, his flesh set on edge from the crash. But when he opened his eyes, he saw before him a large cast iron stove.

“Good for cooking and keeping your house warm!” Bernadette trilled, her whiskers twitching happily, although Charles suspected there would be tears in her eyes before too much longer.

Thalberg himself had come to stand next to it, his crocodilian visage bearing the largest smile he was capable of offering. “Only the best for one of our best cooks. We will miss you there, my Lady.” And at that, Thalberg bowed deeply at his wait, hands firmly resting upon his cane as he did so. Quite a few in the crowd were amazed at this, as the Steward was not one who often gave such praise.

“Thank you,” Kimberly said, her eyes on the verge of tears then. She stepped around and gave Bernadette a tight hug, as well as several other members of the Kitchen staff who were standing nearby. Thalberg even allowed her to shower such emotion upon him, though he did not quite reciprocate. Charles just smiled to them all, looking back and forth between them and the stove. He caught Misha’s glance, and saw him nodding in approval. It was a fine stove, large iron front that stood just a short distance above the ground, with a flat top surface to cook things upon, and a chimney pipe in the back.

“Now,” Bernadette said, wiping a tear from her eye with one paw, “once you get to your new home, find a place to put this, and take measurements to fit this into the chimney. We’ll have the necessary pipes made for you as well and get them to you in a few days.”

“Thank you all very much. I’m sure we’ll make many wonderful meals with this,” Charles said, patting the top of the stove with one gloved paw. His claws rasped against it, some of the gold paint he’d used on them flaking off.

One by one then, Charles and Kimberly began to open the remaining presents that had been assembled. From the other Longs they received a lovely set of pots and pans, as well as a fine set of plates, cups, and utensils. Danielle had even managed to produce a set of fine herbs and spices to aid in their cooking. Lord and Lady Avery had given them a placard with two rats arm in arm displayed on either side to hang from their new home. There were no more jokes though about their gifts until they had finished opening all of the presents on one of the tables.

“You must accept our gift next,” Meredith said. The bear was still rather weak, but he was up and about now, if only with the help of Elisha his wife. Finbar, Kershaw, and Jotham nodded at that, as they had contributed to the gift.

“All right, which one is it?” Charles asked, standing next to Misha’s table, where they had stacked most of the other gifts they had been given, almost everyone of which was meant for their housewarming.

Finbar shook his head. “You have to close your eyes again.”

Kimberly and Charles looked at each other and then back towards the quartet of Longs. “Again?”

“Don’t worry,” Kershaw put in, his voice still a little weak. He remained where he sat slouched in his chair. “This is the last one.”

“We promise!” Jotham said with a laugh.

Charles gave an exaggerated sigh and closed his yes, covering them with his paws again. Kimberly did the same, and then another group of Keepers disappeared into that storage room. He could hear grunts as they lifted whatever it was and brought it out. It landed with a loud thumping sound, though also had the sound of wood. “You can open your eyes now,” Finbar said, levity firm in his voice.

The two rats did so, and beheld a large four poster bed, made from what appeared to be hickory. Finbar gave the smooth headboard a good pat with one paw. “I’m sure you two will get a lot of use out of this.”

“It’s nice and sturdy too,” Jotham put in, to the crowd’s amusement.

“Even you’ll have a hard time of breaking this one, Matt!” Misha interjected with a mocking grin. And at that quite a few of the guests did erupt into more laughter!

There was a mattress already on the bed, though there were no covers. Charles took Kimberly’s paw in his own and led her over towards the bed. It was quite wide, offering them plenty of room to sleep, and then some. Charles climbed up onto the mattress, and scooted to the far side, while Kimberly climbed up next to him. They both laid down then, heads a short distance form the headboard, while their foot paws where at least three feet from the end. In fact, the could have fit two more folks their size on the bed with ease.

“It’s kind of large,” Charles pointed out as he sat up again, though he was smiling widely at the gift.

“Well, gotta have room for all of those children you’ll be having,” Jotham pointed out, provoking some more laughter.

Charles laughed himself a bit. He’d never really given much thought to having children of his own, but he did like the idea. He patted the mattress once with his paw, and it gave back a good soft thump. “The mattress is very comfortable too. Thank you all for this. You can rest assured, it will be put to the test.” All of the Longs and quite a few others got a good laugh out of that.

“And to go with this,” Finbar announced then, producing a large, thick bundle wrapped firmly in parchment. “Here is a gift from me and Mom.” Charles looked at the ferret curiously after hearing that, but he and Kimberly pulled the wrappings free, revealing a very large and well made quilt. The outside was of alternating green and brown squares, brown to match the wood, while the inside pattern represented an idyllic forest scene, something that could have been found in Glen Avery.

“This is beautiful,” Charles said as he ran his paws along the smooth fabric. It was thick, and would keep them very warm on winter nights.

Kimberly bundled a bit in her arms and pressed them against her muzzle. “It’s so soft too!”

Finbar smiled then. “I knew you would like it.”

“Thank you, Finbar!” Charles declared, reaching over the headboard to give the ferret a quick hug. “This is a wonderful gift, and we will see that it gets plenty of use as well!” Finbar could only beam proudly in response.

After they both got off of the bed, leaving the quilt right there, they proceeded to open the presents on the other side of the Long House. Hector had fashioned from wood a sculpture of Charles and Kimberly entwined in a dance and then varnished it to seal in the colour. Sir Saulius and the other knights gave them a large shield bearing an issuant rat clutching a sword atop the standard of Metamor. Charles did not have an official coat of arms, but that lovely gift would serve in its capacity. But when they opened the gift from Elliot, Julian, and Goldmark, both of them gasped out loud.

It had been wrapped in a large amount of coloured paper, and handed to the two of them very gently. The three rats watched as the two married rodents tore the paper open, their eyes firm with delight. And then Charles pulled away the last of the paper to reveal a glass sculpture of such exquisite delicateness that he was afraid to even touch it. His breath was caught away as he gazed at the firm colours, the bright green for the grass, the brown and tan of their fur, to the black and white of their clothes, to the bark upon the trees behind them. The gift was a glass relief showing the two of them standing in their wedding attire before a forest scene.

“This is... priceless!” Charles gasped finally as he beheld the object. Though he knew it was just glass, the craftsmanship behind it was beyond belief.

They all nodded, even as Kimberly continued to gawk at it, as well as everyone else who was close by. “I asked the glassblower in town to make this for you both after you told me you’d become engaged,” Julian explained. “He thought it such a challenge, and such a worthy cause, his price was most reasonable.”

“And just what constitutes reasonable?” Misha asked as he tried to peer over Charles’s shoulder to see what the rat cradled within his paws.

“That’s going to be our little secret,” Elliot declared proudly as he smiled to his fellow rodent.

Charles gingerly handed the glass sculpture to Kimberly, and then gave the three of them a comradely hug. “I’m going to miss you fellows. This is just... so beautiful I can’t find words for it.”

“That’s a first,” Nahum added with a wink. Those in the Writer’s Guild got quite a good laugh from that, as did those who had read any of the rodent’s stories.

It was not long after that he finally got down to the last present, this one from the Writer’s Guild themselves. Charles grimaced as he recognised the paper they had used to wrap it with – old rough drafts of his own works that he’d thrown out. What he found inside though was a handsomely bound volume. The side of each page had been dipped in gold paint, giving it a regal look. “What’s this?” he asked, his voice trembling as he held the tome.

“Every member of the Writer’s Guild selected their favourite story and we bound them all up for you both,” Tallis announced proudly. “We all have a story in there. We even picked one of your own to be placed first.”

Charles let his eyes slide speculatively towards the kangaroo who stood not too far off. “Everyone?”

Habakkuk nodded. “Yes. I have a story in there as well I finally finished it.”

“Thank you all! I’ve missed working with you, this will be a joy to read!”

The members of the Writer’s Guild shouted their congratulations once more, as Charles moved among them, trying to give them each a quick hug. It went faster than he could have anticipated, and soon, he was laying the thick tome upon the mattress of their new bed. He stepped around to the table that he and Kimberly had eaten at, and picked up his goblet which had just a little bit of the Chablis left. He raised it high then, smiling, feeling a tear coming to his eye. “Thank you all, my friends. Each and every one of you is a good friend that I treasure now and forever. You all,” he paused and offered his arm to Kimberly, who eagerly slipped within it, pressing close to him. “You all have made this day the happiest in my entire life. Thank you!”

All of the Keepers raised their own goblets, and with one final cheer they finished their wine. Charles set his goblet down firmly, nearly breaking it in the process. He wrapped Kimberly in his arms tightly and kissed her once more, and she returned it with verve. Applause rose up from those assembled then, but Charles paid them no mind as he savoured the taste of his beloved wife.

And then, they broke apart, simply smiling to one another. Yet, at Misha’s voice, they both turned to consider the fox. “My fellow Metamorians, it is now time for music and dancing!” Charles could see several musicians gathering behind the tables at the section of the Long Hall that had not been used for feasting. He saw both Dream Serpent and Sir Egland among them, as well as a few others he knew less well.

Turning to Kimberly once more he drew one claw across her shortened whiskers. “May I have the first dance my beautiful wife?”

“I will dance all night with you, my husband,” Kimberly said, her eyes beaming in delight.

And they very nearly did.

Morning in Ava-shavåis was always a splendid array of colours, from the golden embers of the sun shining through the evergreens, cascading along the jewelled towers and spires, which further cast the ice covered river in a dazzling rainbow. Qan-af-årael stood perched upon the balcony outside his solar and watched as the snow was painted in the morning brilliance, even as his people moved through it without disturbing the solemnity.

However, the ancient Åelf was anything but solemn. Ever since that horrible mural had glowed red the week before, he’d found no answers to his questions. Each night when the Story would be told, the sky was filled with clouds. He simply had to wait for them to break. While a week was certainly a passage of time of no consequence to one as old as he, there had been stretches of decades during which the Story had never revealed itself to him, that it happened after such a cataclysmic event as he’d witnessed frightened him.

The Sword of Yajakali and the Pillars of Ahdyojiak. If their enemy felt they needed to risk using the Pillars, a monument not even he understood the full history of, then truly they must have been desperate. The thought of their enemy being desperate did not please him in the least. Where had the sword gone to? Who had sent it through, and from where? So many questions he had, but no way to seek their answers.

There was another possibility that Qan-af had considered, but could not be certain of. It may not have been desperation that led their enemy to use the Pillars. It could have been arrogance. Surely they must have known that people such as he would learn that the Pillars had been used. The magic unleashed in that moment would have been noticed by mages of sufficient awareness on both continents.

Qan-af’s thoughts were distracted then by something in the sky. Glancing upwards, he watched as a pigeon circled overhead, slowly descending towards his aviary. A message, the Åelf knew, but not yet from who. Crossing back into his solar, he descended a short flight of steps to another side of the tower, to the aviary. It was a room much like the rest, walls decorated with ancient murals of his people and of places important to them all. But in this room was the depiction of the battle of Jagoduun. A pleasant irony, since within this room Qan-af strove to coordinate the efforts against Yajakali, once Prince of Jagoduun.

The pigeon landed upon the sill, looking up at the old Åelf unafraid. Qan-af offered it a perch upon a long slender finger, and it accepted. He carried it over to the gossamer mesh cage that hung from the ceiling. Opening the hatch, the bird hopped in, finding fresh seed inside to eat. With nimble fingers, Wan-af undid the metal clasp about it leg, and pulled a small rolled up piece of parchment free.

Unrolling the parchment, he knew immediately that the message had come from Metamor. The style of lettering belonged to their ally at Metamor. It was written in an ancient human tongue, but one that Qan-af had learned centuries ago. Gingerly he unrolled the parchment and read, “The three are split.”

Qan-af let the message fall from his fingers then. It curled back into a tight circle as it landed upon the bright stones of the floor. The Åelf glanced upwards, seeing before him on the wall a depiction of the Prince’s craftsmanship, the nine mages standing outside casting their own spell. Eleven thousand years ago, it had happened.

“And now it will happen again,” Qan-af said, his voice dry. He turned and left the aviary. He wished to spend some time with his pupil Andares-es-sebashou. The ancient Åelf needed a bit of youth about him now.

Dame Bryonoth looked up when she heard the knocking at her door. It was Sir Egland, it had to be. He had been checking on his fellow knight everyday for the last week and a half now. This time would be no different. Bryonoth had returned to her home with Egland and Intoran, but she was no more active now than she had been there. In fact, she had not uttered a single word during the rat’s wedding the previous day.

“Bryonoth?” Egland called as he stepped within the room. She had not bothered to change her clothes in several days, and they stank.

Egland blinked as he saw what had become of his friend and fellow knight. Bryonoth sat upon her bed, long slender, feminine hands between her legs, hips much wider than they had been before, while her shirt was stretched firmly from the overt breasts that she now bore. Her hair had grown even longer than before, and was far finer as well, carrying a glossy sheen that had not existed before. Even the face had been worn smooth, any traces of masculinity completely erased. Sir Albert Bryonoth was now a Dame – a woman.

“Bryonoth?” Egland asked again, the word coming up painfully through his throat.

“It hast left,” Bryonoth replied, her voice high pitched, a clear soprano. “All of me hast left.”

Egland tensed at the doorway. “No, the good person who I called Ts’amut is still there.”

“No. I art no longer thy Ts’amut.”

The voice was bitter, and it pained Egland to hear it, but he knew in that moment that calling Bryonoth his Ts’amut would now pain her. “Yisaada then.” The Flatlander word for sister.

Bryonoth let out a long sigh. Her shirt was wet, Egland could see that now. Tears? “I will be well. Just leave me, my Ts’amut.”

Egland sighed and nodded, and then wished he hadn’t. His antlers were beginning to feel strangely heavy. Perhaps they were ready to come off? “All right, Yisaada. Should I have Intoran bring you anything?”

“No. I am well.”

Egland breathed heavily then, and decided that he could do no more good that day. Just like all the days before it. With a sad resigned sigh, he closed the door behind him.

Bryonoth continued to just stare past her legs and into the shadows beside her bed. A strange crooked smile crossed her lips then. “All is well,” she breathed, voice husky. And then the smile faded, and she continued to sit upon her bed, lamenting her lost masculinity.

Dawn was beginning to shine across the land to the west. But upon the merchant vessel they’d arranged their passage on, it was still night. Zagrosek stood at the rail, watching and feeling the waves move beneath him. Agathe was still sleeping in their chambers below decks. This was nothing new though. Ever since she had cast that spell, she had slept most almost every hour of every day. It had taken two days before she had even risen from sleep, famished and still exhausted.

He, on the other hand, could not sleep. And so he wandered the decks as the sailors climbed through the riggings, shouted out orders, and generally kept themselves busy. Ellcaran was already several days behind them, and so too were the ice flows, leaving them a relatively safe passage as they continued south. Zagrosek watched nearly every mile of the coast though, trying to grasp at something, but finding himself unable to.

He sighed heavily then. Leaning out on the railing, he watched as the waves roiled and toiled about, splashing against the hull, and spraying him with salt water every now and then. He did not mind being wet; it was not that cold out. The currents had brought a warm air so early in the season. It was certain sign of safe passage, as if it had been prearranged.

With a snort, he derided it and wished for a storm. If it were not for Agathe, he would not mind seeing the vessel sunk at see. Yet he could not quite determine why. Losing Phil the way he had certainly stung, but it was not the first time he’d over played his hand. Agathe would be quick to recite a list for me should he ask.

No, despite their success on this venture, there was something tickling at the back of his mind, something that bothered him a great deal. Zagrosek spat into the ocean then, though he could not see where his spit landed. It was just as well. He could not see what was bothering him either.

And so he continued to sulk, watching the shoreline slowly slip past them as they sailed onwards to the South.

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