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  #1  
Old Nov 4th, 2020, 01:13 PM
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A Lovely Late Night Stroll

The StoryCount Vauquelin couldn’t have picked a better night for his Midnight Mass.

The sky looked like it was painted by a melancholy artist who only knew of lonely summer nights in Louisiana. A moody midnight blue streaked with violets blanketed the horizon and a mist creeped in from the shadows. Crawling across the marshland like a ghost in search of a love lost, it's wispy form curling with the wind like out-stretched hands. The city lights of New Orleans twinkled in the coming twilight. Bright and burning but every bit as distant as the stars that slowly began to blink in overhead. But their names you knew, as the stars were nearly as unchanging as the fire that burned within your very chest.

Every constellation seemed to have accepted Count Vauquelin’s invitation for a night of wonder. The Dippers of course appeared together followed by Mother Ursa and her child who hid playfully behind a drifting cloud as Canis Major bounded past his master Boötes, the old Herdsman struggling to catch up as he just didn’t have that same youthlike spark of his past. His knees were old and achy and only had a few more hundred years before he could no longer make the journey here. More familiar faces trickled in (Cancer scuttled behind bull-headed Taurus and the Twins stood in awe as Orion’s belt made their grand entrance) until finally the night was all but a canvas of stars that shimmered in lively conversation.

It was truly a beautiful night.

Which made it all the more horrible that yours began in a swamp.

You probably checked your invitation at least five times when you arrived at the fork in the road that the letter instructed you to turn right at. You checked your invitation because said road could hardly be called a road, let alone anything remotely traversable. It was a muddy amalgamation of rotted roots that tried and failed to choke the competition out, forming a makeshift bridge made purely of primal spite across swamp water that bubbled and burped like a witch’s cauldron. All the while, guarded by reeds so tall that the threat of a velociraptor attack never felt more real. And then there were the mosquitos. God help you, then there were the mosquitos.

They were everywhere. In your ears. In your nose. Biting. Buzzing. Biting. Buzzing. Biting. Buzzing. A constant irritation that even the Devil turned his back on when they first appeared on Earth. Killing one seemed to only summon a hundred more in its place as the hot humid weather that plagued the bayou was unfortunately where those little vampires loved to party most.

And it was through that mosquito-infested, boot-eating, trip hazard mistakenly called a path that you were supposed to go. Because on the other side was the Ferryman. A changeling tasked with chauffeuring you to Count Vauquelin’s masquerade, which was hidden deep within the swamp. Admittedly, you couldn’t help but think that none of the Count’s other guests were given the same route. But at least you wouldn’t walk the path blind. Moonlight broke through the thick canopy and lit your journey ahead, guiding you long enough for you to spot the red glow of a lantern’s light in the distance. A sign that meant you were close to the appointed meeting place between you, the Ferryman, and whoever else the Count called upon for aid.

Eventually, you would arrive in a clearing free of mud and mosquitos. A reprieve that perhaps was short-lived as a cursory glance around the area proved more terrifying than helpful. The red lantern that guided you from the path creaked painfully beneath the overhang of a shabby hut that looked like it housed murdered victims more than a friendly face. No lights were on inside. The front door slated shut from the outside. And a sign that firmly warned “No Trespassers” was staked in front of a dock that looked like it was one stiff breeze away from falling apart.

No one was here, but you, and a frog whose croak was so deep it was made for singing the blues.


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Here it is! The beginning of our journey! You don't have to match me on length-- I'm just a wordy bastard. Feel free to introduce your characters however you like. Unless you super want to look into that spooky hut.You don't have to make any rolls just yet. Just have fun and write!
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Old Nov 4th, 2020, 04:12 PM
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Stroll my ass.

Gethin Couch sneered as he took the turn off of the gravel drive and plunged into his cab into the depths of the swamp. As he breached the treeline, the hunched miserable old man seemed to concentrate. No not like he was focusing more on the road. More like what they do with frozen orange juice. You take out all the **** that isn't and leave what is. The lines across his face deepened, his beaked nose became a cruel hook, the all too wide snarl became wider and sharper. On top of it all the red newsboy cap elongated into something pointed and curling, the red tartan changing into the vibrant red of fresh blood.

His burning coal-like eyes were not on the stars. The stars could go sit on a damned pike for all Robin Redcap cared. It was what was between the stars that counted. He heard on NPR the other day that apparently the vast gulfs of space were made up mostly of Dark Matter, invisible unknowable sources of mass that the humans haven't even begun to understand. It was comforting after a manner, the Unknown and the Fear of the Unknown were still strong amongst humans despite it all. That Lovecraft fellow about some seventy years back had it right. There are awful things out there to fear, things beyond human comprehension. And that is how Robin wanted it to stay.

The Count, oh me oh ****-ing my, the Count. Robin owed a favor. It wasn't a geas or an oath or a binding, but it was a favor and Robin Redcap owed no one nothing for long. But he owed a favor and that favor came with an invite. Robin just about bit off the hand of the messenger, but for once held his tongue and his appetite. He would have chance enough at this Gala-****-ing-thing to get his fill.

After all, there was a man who was supposed to die tonight. Hopefully Robin would be there for the action.

Swerving his cab into park in front of the hut, Robin dismounted with a disconcerting crunch even in the soft muddy ground. Though barely meeting the height requirements to drive, the stout form vibrated with menace, made all the worse by the thick black hideously cleated boots that gave him at least a few extra inches. He locked the cab up and dropped the key into his boot, releasing a temporary waft of whatever hell laid beneath his stockings. Looking around the space and seeing no ferryman, Robin took a brief moment to bless the red lamp with a twisted yellow smile before stomping over to the hut. Huge hairy hands as knobbly as an orangutan’s pounded on the wooden door. “Hey, git ‘er ass out ‘ere and to the Ferry! Godsdamn unprofessional innit to not be waiting?!”

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Old Nov 4th, 2020, 06:46 PM
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Ill met by moonlightLooking upwards, the night sky was a blanket of stars and moonlight. But down here among the muck and the mire it was dark, littered with long shadows cast by the trees lining what could charitably be called a road. The darkness had never bothered Gainsboro. He vaguely remembered it being an issue for Steve. But he wasn't Steve anymore. The squire picked his way easily enough through the ruts and potholes, deeply regretting his choice of costume. The darkness might not have been a problem, but the heat and humidity were another matter. Inside his mask Gainsboro was already dripping. There was a strange chemical smell from the rubber mixed with his sweat, and it only seemed to make the insects swarm harder, crawling inside the mask to bask in the dubious concoction.

What kind of fool came to a swamp party wearing a full suit and a rubber mask? This kind. Gainsboro briefly considered removing the mask, but the invitation had said Masquerade, and he didn't want to risk offending (or being recognized) by arriving without his full get-up. And he had to be nearly there, right? Every so often he got a glimpse of a red lantern up ahead. That had to be it.

Then the night was split by a sudden banging noise. It wasn't that the swamp had been quiet, exactly. But there was a distinct difference between the croaks, gurgles and buzzes that preceded this new noise. It sounded, for all the world, like an angry orangutan pounding on a door. It was immediately followed by a rough voice that brought to mind gravel and broken glass.

Gainsboro cautiously stepped forward into the light around the rough hut and got his first glimpse of the man who was waiting there. Well, not quite a man, certainly one of the Kithain. This fellow wasn't exactly large, but he radiated a kind of animosity that made the squire's palms itch. He longed to reach for the hilt of Sword, but something stayed his hand. It was unlikely that the count's would-be attack would be wandering through the swamp without a plan to reach the party itself. No, despite appearances, this must be another guest, following the exact same set of directions as Gainsboro himself was.

He cleared his throat carefully to announce his presence, then spoke. "Perhaps the Ferryman waits for everyone to gather? There are already two of us, there may be more to come."

 
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Old Nov 5th, 2020, 09:02 AM
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Papa MungoAll that existed was the roar of the engine and whatever popped up in the short cone of light cast in front of the dirt bike. Mungo weaved around what passed for a road, avoiding puddles and rocks as best he could in the dark, his black satin scarf waving behind him like it wanted to be anywhere else. Having nowhere else to hold it he had opted to wear his mask for the journey so the bells at the top of the long curving tendrils tinkled every time he hit a bump or swerved particularly sharply.

Usually Mungo would have persuaded somebody to give him a lift if he had to go anywhere outside the city, but the invitation he had received seemed to suggest he should come alone, and under the circumstances he decided to follow that to the letter. Fortunately his friend, Phil, had taken him dirt biking a couple of times so he knew enough to not embarrass himself dumping the clutch, but Phil had still looked skeptical about allowing him to go out into the bayou in the dark. He had come around after a bit of persuasion and Mungo owed him a bottle of bourbon. He really had to remember that when he got back.

A red light appeared in the distance beckoning him on. The trip had seemed to go on forever, just Mungo, the bike, and about ten yards of mud, branches and the occasional startled armadillo. The red light came as a welcome reminder that time and space still existed somewhere out there.

He roared into the clearing and skidded to a stop, throwing a spray of mud up over the old hut beside the water.

When he turned off the engine the sudden relative silence came as a bit of a shock and he just sat there for a few moments marveling in the sensation. This had to be the place, didn't it? He set the kickstand and let the bike rest on it, and as it did the front wheel turned and the light revealed two figures near the building.

Uh-oh, wasn't that where the mud had just splashed.

Mungo swung his leg off the bike and held his palms out to the figures as he tried to get a read on them.

"Hey! Sorry, didn't expec…"

He stopped as he made out the face of the smaller of the two, and the mouth, and the teeth. And the expression.

He cleared his throat. "You know, I'm sure that'll brush right out." He should change the subject. "You here for the party? I am, got an invitation and everythin'. Either of you two gents know about that?"
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Old Nov 5th, 2020, 09:29 AM
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FlintThe meeting place wasn't far from his little house in the swamp as such things went. Oh, to be sure it was a long and perilous trip if one didn't know the way but after years of living here Flint knew which paths to take and which to avoid. He pushed off on his raft, poling his way through the stagnant waters and grumbling to himself every inch of the way.

In a short while he saw the red light beckoning and steeled himself for what was to come. For the most part he would rather face some foul monster than go to a party. As he was not consulted in this decision though he had little choice but to press on. Sparing a moment he he examined himself in the moonlight to make sure he was as presentable as he was willing to be.

Simple clothes, for a party anyway, consisting of trousers, heavy boots and tunic with a fine hooded cloak. None of this hid the chimerical chain mail he wore or the icy great spear secured across his back. His House Scathach loyalties were displayed as a simple medallion he wore and his Brotherhood of Thor allegiance was indicated by a simple cloak pin. Was it politically correct to display all this so openly? Probably not but Flint was not the sort to hide his true sympathies.

Frowning behind the bird mask he wore for the masquerade the troll took note of the figures standing near the red light as he emerged from the swamp. Still grumbling under his breath he pulled the raft up out of the water and laid it aside before straightening his clothes and stepping closer to the gathering. Then, in a rather gravelly voice he spoke.

"Is this where we are to gather for the masquerade?"

The way he said it almost made masquerade sound like a swear word. For Flint it rather was. His oaths demanded service but no where was it written he had to be happy about it.
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Old Nov 5th, 2020, 10:09 AM
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Nobody's HomeThe whole shack shook as Gethin pounded on the front door. Leaves, screws, and a family of possums scattered from the rooftop. The possums disappeared into the brush (Mother Possum gave Frank the dirtiest of looks that reminded him too much of the rich old ladies from the Garden District that were "too good" for his tricks.not before narrowly dodging a dirt bike that appeared seemingly out of nowhere) while Gethin was showered in rotted old leaves that were rocked free from the tin metal roof. They were an awful kind of rot that mushed between your fingertips like jelly. Or not. I am not telling that pair of gnashing teeth how to live his life.Gethin probably liked it. But maybe not as much as the old and rusty screws that clattered at his feet. They looked like they could give a man tetanus from a glance alone.

Nobody answered his knocking. Nor did a light turn on as Flint, Frank, and Gainsboro made their arrival. All four would find themselves strangely stranded in the clearing. Flint in particular would be the first to notice that said ferry that was supposed to take them to the party wasn’t even tied up to the dock that his raft rested up against. In fact, he couldn’t see anything remotely “sea-worthy” beyond a very angry looking goose that was eyeballing him from the reeds to his right.

It hissed.
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Old Nov 5th, 2020, 01:08 PM
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" I didn't ask 'er opini-?"

The twisted gnome of a creature turned around and stopped his diatribe when he saw the Nixon mask. "...I voted for that mean old ****." That was went the ooze and tetanus fell upon him. And then moments later a would-be bokor splashed them both with swamp mud. AND THEN SOME TROLL SHOWED UP.

Covered in muck and surrounded by men all at the very least a foot taller than him, the Red Cap violently ground his teeth. The audible crack and whine of his teeth echoed around the clearing. A group job?! A GROUP JOB?! WHO THE GODDAMN **** SAID ANYTHING ABOUT A GROUP JOB?! The Count could have hired a corey of Red Caps if he wanted a group job.

" GRAAAH! Ain't you all sharp as a sheep's arse, we've ben had! That shi t-he Count sent us commoner scum into the swamp with the rest of the filth."

Robin raised a huge iron shod boot and stomped on the door. " I " STOMP "AIN'T" STOMP "HAV'N IT!" STOMP

CRACK

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Old Nov 5th, 2020, 02:32 PM
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Ill met by moonlightIt was impossible to miss the noise of the bike coming up behind them. Gainsboro turned to watch its approach with some curiosity. The Ferryman, or another guest? It was impossible to make out anything behind the overpowering glow of the bike's headlamp, but a subtle shift in the light's angle alerted him to what was coming next. Plus, he'd just walked around a particularly broad patch of mud just about... there. Gainsboro took a few quick steps to one side just as the bike skidded to a stop in front of the hut, spraying the doorstep... and its now lone occupant with mud.

Gainsboro could only give a sheepish glance towards the angry man, now covered in muck and rotting leaves dislodged from the hut's roof. The hen was distracted by a hail from the bike's rider, followed very quickly by a large figure coming ashore nearby. Gainsboro glanced back and forth between the three. The angry man seemed quite convinced this was all some sort of set up... not much of a payoff, if it was, though. The other two seemed like they'd received the same invitation, which was... odd.

"Yes, the Count's costume ball." He gestured to his own absurd getup, as if he felt the need to explain why he was dressed like Richard Nixon in the middle of a swamp on a Louisiana night. "We're supposed to meet the ferryman..." He trailed off as he considered the troll, the third man could only be a troll. House Scathach? Squire Gainsboro had gone quite far afield to meet with fellow House members, but he didn't recognize this one, large enough to be unmistakable. Was he local? Or had the Count brought in outside help? He sounded like a guest... but he was the only one with a boat. "...is that not you?"

That was when the hut's door gave way with a sharp crack, surrendering to the first man's relentless boot. Gainsboro chewed the inside of his cheek thoughtfully, and hoped that he was very much wrong about the troll being the ferryman.

 
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Old Nov 5th, 2020, 03:20 PM
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FlintHe frowned again, which seemed to be his default expression. Flint's social skills were mostly forgotten at this point in his life and so far his patience was wearing thin. Not a good omen for the night. His peers here in the swamp seemed as confused as he himself was and one of them, a Redcap unless he missed his guess, seemed intent on bringing the little shed down into a pile of kindling.

Casting a side long glance at the goose, and wondering if maybe it was the ferryman in disguise, he then glanced up at the one who had spoken to him. He appeared thus far to be the most civil of them all despite the Nixon mask.

"No. I was nearby in the swamp when I got the call to attend. This was just the easiest way to get here."

Flint didn't see any point in mentioning his house to total strangers. Especially when they might be odd or dangerous as at least one of these seemed to be.

"If your done tearing the shed down maybe we can look around to see if there are any clues. If we were called to protect the Count then maybe we are being tested? Or maybe there has already been an attack and we need to find another way there to effect a rescue."

His eyes went back to the goose, still not trusting the bird.

"Unless someone has a better idea?"
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Old Nov 5th, 2020, 03:59 PM
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Papa MungoFrank raised his eyebrows at the idea that he may be required to protect the Count. 'Protection' had never really been his thing. Still, maybe the Count just didn't know that.

He regarded the little group, head cocked to one side and a wry grin on his face. Apparently nobody had any better idea of what to do than he did.

"The way I see it," he thought out loud, "the ferryman isn't here yet. If he was, well, the ferry would be too. And it isn't." He gestured at the empty patch of fetid water at the dock, just where Flint's raft had been a few moments before.

"Soo.. maybe we have to signal him? Does anybody see a lightswitch, or something?"


 
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Old Nov 6th, 2020, 10:04 AM
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Ruh-Roh, Raggy!The door groaned under Gethin’s boot, and bowed inward just enough for the wood to split down the middle. Forming a deep crack that branched out towards the edges of the door, which grew bigger after Gethin came down on it with a second, angrier stomp, leaving a perfect indentation of his boot outlined amongst the splintered wood. On the third and final stomp, the door could take no more punishment. With a sharp CRACK, the plank that kept the door locked in place broke in half, and the door was kicked open, banging loudly against the hut’s interior wall as a quarter of the door, splintered and busted, clattered against the ground, while the other half still attached to its hinges, weakly swung back and forth.

The hut was dark. Too dark in fact to see anything of value without a proper light source. Except for good Squire Gainsboro whose eyes were made to pierce such darkness. What he saw, however, was meant for him and him alone.



Meanwhile, Flint had troubles of his own. The goose he eyeballed with suspicion eyeballed him right back, and the instant he looked away, it moved closer. The hate in its eyes unfathomable. It didn’t seem like a changeling in disguise, but he didn’t know for certain. Pooka were excellent shapeshifters and it was possible that the Ferryman could have been the hissing feathered terror that stalked him in the water. But the only way to know for certain was to use his Kenning.

As for Frank: damn, he looked good.



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Old Nov 6th, 2020, 12:23 PM
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Flint vs GooseNo one it seemed had a better idea. Flint continued to frown, especially as the door shattered under the hob nailed boot of the suspected Redcap. Well, he could sort that out in a bit. And if there was a switch or signal he would let the others look for the moment.

The troll was a stubborn creature and the goose just seemed odd to him. Surely a more mundane animal would have fled when faced with this...group. It might be his imagination but he had to be sure. Studying it for a long moment, and trying to ignore the chaos around him, Flint turned his full attention to the animal that might be more than it seemed.

"So, are you just a humble goose?" he said under his breath. "Or maybe something more in disguise?"
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Old Nov 6th, 2020, 12:56 PM
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"Oh aye, talk to the goose. If'n that Goose is a pooka I'm gunna have myself some foie gras before the damn party."

Kicking dust off of his iron boot, Robin spat into the mud and peered inside. "It's a damn shame when yer eyes go, I remember when I was haunting Aberystwyth an' my eyes could jus' BURN through the dark." Sneering, he pulled a pair of spectacles from an grimy inner pocket and stuck them on the end of his huge nose to little avail. "Blast and buggery! Oi! Alright then! You want a signal? I'll wake up the whole swamp if I have to!"

Pulling the key back from his boot, Robin pulled open his cab door and blared the thing back to life. With a deft three point turn he turned it to face the shed and put the high beams on and giving the horn a single loud HOOOOOOOONK .

"LET'S GIT THIS ARS'N PARTY STARTED!"
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Old Nov 6th, 2020, 02:03 PM
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Ill met by moonlightGainsboro nodded sagely as the troll confirmed he was not the ferryman, as if he had been sure all along and only asked for arcane reasons... Or at least that's what he hoped it looked like. Well, one way or another, the door was open now. May as well make use of it. He peered inwards, curiously. It hardly looked like a home. If anything, it reminded him of the little shed they gave them to take breaks at his day job, well... really it was his night job, but you know... not his real jon. His Autumn job. Yeah, that. Anyways, there was a shed with some beaten up chairs, a small tv and a coffee maker. It was where they took breaks...

What was he thinking about again? Right! The hut.

The first man seemed to be having some issue with seeing inside. Did he think glasses would... help? Gainsboro peered around him as the man turned to go back to his car. That's when he spotted it. Luckily, nobody else seemed to be trying to go in yet. He drew his sword carefully and stepped forward slowly until he stood framed in the doorway. "I think there's something in here..."

He stood there for a moment there when brilliant lights burst forth behind him, followed immediately by the taxicab's horn blaring ear-shatteringly loud. For a split-second he was limed in brilliant light. The view from inside the cabin must have been terribly spectacular, the fae swordsman a sillohuette of pure darkness, with a burning corona, and the blast of infernal trumpets to herald his arrival.

From behind the view wasn't nearly as impressive with his cheap suit and rubber mask illuminated fully. He jumped a little at the sound of the horn and then stepped into the room in a rush, grabbing at the sheet he'd seen moving. "Aha!"

 
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Old Nov 6th, 2020, 04:34 PM
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Papa MungoFrank was running his hands around the wall when he was suddenly in a spotlight and a sound like a billion angry geese filled the air. He jumped. He wasn't proud of it, but there it was. He jumped almost high enough to hit his head on the overhang of the roof. When he came back down again he spun round in a crouch, in a very bad imitation of a fighting pose. Had the troll somehow summoned a great goose guardian with his aggressive investigation?

No, it turned out, it was only a taxi cab. Maybe the ferryman's ferry had broken down?

"Looks like our ride's here," he said, turning towards the door only to see only one figure there, and with a sword. He took a step away from the door, initially wondering if he'd been lured into an ambush and then remembering that he was so small-time he wasn't really worth going to the trouble. He had hoped that this invitation would be his ticket into the big leagues. Well, probably the mid-leagues was more likely, but certainly an upward trajectory, but so far it seemed more likely that somebody was producing a hidden camera show and having a good chuckle.

As his eyes adjusted to the glare from the headlights he made out the silhouette of the redcap at the driver's door and finally caught up with what was going on. Well, he had caught up with the redcap's movements, but what about the ornery goose? Or, more to the point, the sword-wielding figure in the cabin.

He peered round the door and saw it was just Richard Nixon.

"Oh, let me guess," he said in a weary tone, "this is the gate to the water, isn't it? So you just had to break in."
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