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Covenant of La Roche Caribet

Winter 1225 - Spring 1226: Storm, death and demons

March 1226

It is the first week in March, and I am preparing to return to Saxum Caribetum. I have packed both the liber quaestionum on Perdo and the one on Animal that I have copied out during the past two months. Guenna is packing my clothes, though I fear she is finding that La Gatita is too enthusiastic an assistant. If Guenna does not take care, the kitten will find herself packed up in the trunk by accident which would be bad for her and for my dresses. I have decided to take the kitten with me. I have been talking to some of the grogs in the kitchens here and learnt what to give her to eat and drink - La Gatita seems happy enough with what is provided but rarely seems to have had enough. The girls in the kitchen say I must not give in to her demands, for fear of over-feeding her, but her squeaks are hard to resist. Now I am getting to know her, she is an appealing little thing. She has slightly fluffy black fur except that her paws and the tip of her tiny tail are white. She seems lively and healthy, but they say she is odd and I have to believe them because they have seen dozens of kittens grow up. When I first showed her to the grogs, almost eight weeks ago, they estimated that she was about twelve weeks old and now, she looks no older or larger, despite all that time (and all that food). I mentioned this to Soliferreus over dinner a few days ago and, although he was apparently surprised at it, he said nothing except that his Zinzibra had taken against my kitten because it was getting too much attention. Laurentius listened patiently while I explained about the kitten's failure to grow and, once he had grasped that this could be something significant, was all for taking La Gatita into his laboratory until he could spend a season researching her condition. I do not think he was very pleased when I declined his offer, thinking it would do her no good to be shut up in there for months, if not years to say nothing of the possible effects of the research process on her when he did finally get around to it. I have been wondering just where La Gatita was while I was bathing in my longevity potion. It is just possible that she was close by and got splashed with some of the scented water, and that this has affected her development. Anyway, there will, I trust, be plenty of time for me to learn more about her once I and she are back in Caribet.

18th March: Safe on dry land

What a relief to be on terra firma! My eyes tell me that we have reached Brittany, but my inside and my legs still feel as if I am in that boat. I doubt if I shall ever be much of a sailor, which is a pity since the most striking demonstrations of the power of Auram and Aquam can be met out there.

By arrangement, I met the Redcap Jézéquel Mercereris of Fudarus on the north coast of Spain close by where we had landed. After arduous toil through the mountains on foot, through mud and snow, I was looking forward to resting in the boat. The sky looked dark and threatening, but I felt sure the worst of the weather would pass over and break over the mountains because Jézéquel seemed entirely relaxed and cheerful about our journey. The boat was very small, but we all managed to squeeze in, and everything was stable as long as no-one moved without warning everyone else and taking the greatest care. Jézéquel explained to me that she had an appointment to keep on the way, so there would be a slight detour, which should not cause us any significant delay. I was very concerned, because I had an appointment of my own to keep, in the Valley of the Mists with the Lady Cierella. I mentioned to Jézéquel how helpful it would be to me if it was possible for a message to be delivered to maga Gwénolé of Wirbelnia within the coming two weeks. She did not take up the hint and, as she was already doing me a favour, I did not press the point.

Jézééquel made everything secure and the boat set sail. I was curious about where she might be heading. It looked as if she was making directly for the darkest part of the sky and before long it started to rain heavily and the wind strengthened so that the little boat was tossed from one towering wave-crest to the next like sea foam. I felt very queasy but poor Guenna was quite unwell and poor Julius was horribly sick over the side of the boat. Still Jézéquel appeared unconcerned and kept her heading into the eye of the storm. I shouted to our captain for her permission to calm the storm a little. I have no idea whether she heard me but I thought it polite to ask and took her smile in my direction as agreement. I had to concentrate very hard to form the spell under the violent attacks of rain, wind and sea. It was as if they knew what I was about and were resisting. In fact, I do believe that they were, for although it felt to me that I had harnessed the magic energies very effectively with my favourite combination of Rego Auram, the storm raged just as furiously as before. It was all I could do to cling on tightly while I got my breath back.

Jézéquel's appointment

After a little while, we reached the eye of the storm. The rain continued to pour down on us, but the wind slackened a little and the boat came to a standstill. Julius, still hanging weakly over the side of the boat, drew my attention to a huge dark shape that was rising swiftly up under the boat. I watched in alarm for a moment, expecting it to break the surface and toss our little craft aside but it seemed to slow as it got closer. I turned around to ask Jézéquel about it and was astonished to see her shrugging off the last of her garments before diving over the side of the boat. I had to assume that this thing under the keel was what or who she had come to meet, so settled down as well as I could to wait. While looking about, I noticed that despite the incessant downpour and the tumultuous waves, very little water had accumulated inside the boat. Most of what there was appeared to be on myself and my companions. Now that we were not being thrown up and down so violently, I cast spells on each of us to keep the rain off. This was very satisfactory so, after resting a little, I cast another spell on each of us to dry us out. This was not quite so easy for although it all worked in the end, and the one I did first, on myself, was quite easy, I failed for Julius the first time I tried. This may have been because I was tired, but it felt more as if being dry myself was a hindrance. By the time this was all done, we had been waiting for the best part of an hour, I believe. The dark shape was still below the boat, and though Jézéquel had not once come up for air, I had to assume she was still there and would return before too long. Since we in the boat were now tolerably comfortable, I proposed a meal. I was quite glad of some bread to settle my stomach though Julius would take nothing but water. While I was eating, Jézéquel popped up out of the sea and clambered aboard. Ignatius was looking at her far too intently, I thought, so I offered to dry her off by magic so she could get her clothes on again quickly, but she declined the offer. As it happened, she was very soon dressed and back at the tiller. The boat resumed its headlong dash through the waves as we sailed back into the worst of the storm.

Walking from Vannes

We still had a long way to go when my first spells wore off, so I renewed the ones to keep the rain off which kept us dry until we reached Vannes. When taking leave of Jézéquel I once again mentioned how urgently I desired to get a message to Gwénolé. The redcap is entirely self-sufficient and any small spell I could cast would be of no use to her, and might even appear insulting to her, or make me look foolish, I think. I have no resources at my disposal to allow me to make her any promise of favours in future, so I could only trust to the redcap's sense of duty to convey the messages of the Order. She said she would see that it was carried on from Fudarus, which I suppose is the best that I could expect. I just hope it is delivered in time! Whilst I feel confident that I can manage the re-enactment and so on without Gwénolé, I feel sure she would wish to be present and she seems to have some trick with the time in the Valley of Mists so that time spent there was no greater than it appeared to be. I have already lost several days of this season and, if I take over a week to visit Cierella, I fear that it will be too late to do anything productive or constructive with what remains of spring. Now I anticipate a four day walk to get home. I trust it will not take longer, for I would not wish to be late for my appointment with the Lady Cierella.

22nd March: Catching up with Council

It is a relief to be home. Travel at this time of year is always unpleasant, however much one can control the wet and the wind - there is just so much of both! I have become more convinced as the journey progressed that casting spells seems that much easier when I am soaked through. I have been picking up bits of news here and there, either directly from Jehan or indirectly from my servants. Of my sodales, there is as yet no sign. The last Council meeting was preceded by the casting of the Aegis of the Hearth, of course, and, in my absence, Joach performed the ritual using a scroll. He is now distilling vis; I very much hope that I will see him soon, on one of his rare excursions from the laboratory, so I can see this little flying pig I have heard so much about. Speculor handed his tractatus on Hermetic law to Iuris Perita at the end of last season and has now gone out to hunt vis. Constantine has also departed on the same errand. Both of them now know Sight of the Elusive Vis so I am confident that they will bring back several pawns. I do hope it includes Herbam and some of the types we are entirely lacking. Our stores of Imaginem, Intellego and Corpus are really fairly respectable now that the grogs have brought in the pieces from the bogs and the vis from the regio at the equinox has been prepared. It appears that there was some talk of trying the experiment of not collecting the four pawns of Intellego vis in spring to see if that had any effect on the regio later in the year, but no-one was willing to risk the possible loss of four pawns. I would have voted the same way myself, had I been here; we can try experiments when we have our five pawns of each Art in store. Iuris Perita is presumably in her sanctum - since she has this season to herself there is no telling what she might be up to but if I were her, I would be reading Speculor's tractatus.

Visiting Cierella

I was very anxious to keep my annual appointment with the Lady Cierella in the Valley of the Mists. Ignatius and Julius claimed to remember the way, so we made as much speed as could be managed with minimal use of magic to draw attention to ourselves - I merely made some of the muddy roads that bit firmer, smoother and drier. I kept La Gatita inside my cloak except when we stopped to rest. I was very afraid that she might try to run away but it seems she knows me now and rarely kept us waiting long before she put in an appearance, demanding food or attention. We went a swiftly as we could. On reaching the Valley, I lingered for a while in the hope that Gwénolé would arrive. I and the grogs walked up and down along the rough ground on the eastern side of the valley, hoping to find her but after two days, I decided I could not afford to wait longer, particularly as she might already be inside.

We had come better prepared this time, and I had my grogs fill two water skins each with water from the lively stream in the valley. Then we followed the stream, guided by the rustlings and flickering shadows in the vegetation to either side, until we reached the Palace of Mists. We were met by a silver wolf, which conducted us into Cierella's presence. Alas, there was no sign of Gwénolé. Remembering what I had been taught by Gwénolé a year ago, I commenced by referring to Cierella's current vigour and beauty, but swiftly moved on to contrast this with how she had appeared when I found her in the Dark Lord's cage. I reminded her in elaborate detail of how aged, withered and weak she had become in captivity and, as last year, she deteriorated while I spoke. Although I had a good idea of what to expect, and felt confident that all would be well, I was anxious to get the unpleasant part of the re-enactment over with as soon as possible, so set off up the now-dry stream bed without delay. The caves were as uncomfortable, the unicorn as predictable, and the long grass as fatiguing as before. I had set such a pace, and tired myself out in the long grass that I was obliged to call for a brief rest at the base of the Dark Lord's tower. Once inside, everything went as anticipated. I was delighted to see the Lady Cierella restored to her powers and free, but my mind was mostly occupied with quelling my fears of the fall from the tower and I was not really able to relax until we were back in her valley and the boulder had been washed away.

My calm was short-lived. No sooner did the feast begin than I remembered that I was going to be called upon for a story. I gently awoke my kitten and stood her on the table, where she immediately became sniffing around the remains of the meal, utterly oblivious of the wolves around the edge of the clearing. I did not notice whether she ate anything, because I had to give my full attention to telling the story of how and where I found her. Fortunately, it seemed that my tale was quite well-received and the kitten herself then became the focus of attention for a little. Cierella looked at the kitten quite closely, and gave me a look that I could not interpret. I rather hoped that someone from this land of the fae might have some informative comment to make on the cat herself or her origins, but no-one offered anything. Cierella gave me a gift before we left: a pawn of Muto vis (as grey slime) and one of Auram (as fine dust).

We left the Valley of Mists after what seemed to be just a day and a night, and set off back to Saxum Caribetum. Alas, during our visit with Cierella, a whole week had passed outside the valley.

10th April: Settling in

My sanctum has been made comfortable again and I have taken the dust sheets off my equipment. Not that I expect to be using much of it right away since I intend to spend what remains of this season studying that book I copied out on Animal. My interest in the subject has been aroused by the antics of my kitten, who seems none the worse for the difficult journey and the change of scene. She continues to be very curious about everything in my rooms. I have been careful not to let her out just yet, following the instructions given me by the grogs in Castellar. Not only might she get lost in a strange place, she might even be trodden on because she does love to get underfoot and is still just a tiny little thing. I am still calling her La Gatita, but now we are home, this non-specific Spanish name does not seem appropriate and, if she is to live with me, she needs a suitable name that is entirely her own. I am considering Alacritas because she is such a lively little thing when not fast asleep, though Dormitora suits her the rest of the time.

I hear that there is a new resident up at the manor house. I can hardly believe it, but they say that Achilles has engaged a tutor for his wife! Some lady to teach her needlework, or even manners, might be appropriate but I gather this is an educated man. I cannot imagine what he is meant to teach her, particularly as they say she is once again in an interesting condition, and I doubt he knows any more about babies than I do myself.

11th April: News from Lamballe

Iuris Perita has emerged from her sanctum only to set off on an expedition. She said nothing about what she had interrupted, but did tell me something of what took her away. Apparently a small group of pilgrims called at the village yesterday, claiming to be heading for the Hermitage but having taken the wrong path in the mist. The weather has been particularly unpleasant so that is plausible. The group included a minor lord from somewhere near Dinan, a priest, a wealthy widow from Lamballe and an affluent merchant from the same town. It is to Lamballe that Iuris Perita is going, on account of some story these brought with them.

The story

I got most of the details from Jimena, who was called over to the manor soon after the pilgrims arrived yesterday afternoon in order to treat one of the servants, who had a broken leg, and the widow, who was not ill but fancied herself so. During the lengthy process of investigating the woman's health, Jimena was told by this Beatrix that she was off on pilgrimage to pray that she will not die in her home town of Lamballe and that she will rest in peace. Her travelling companion, Aleum the merchant, is going to pray for the same things on behalf of his sick wife. Over the past year the graveyards of Lamballe have been frequently raided and desecrated. The townsfolk have posted guards overnight but these have been overcome with drowsiness and, when they awake in the morning, have no memory at all of what happened. There is mention of a local man named Budog who confessed to have been working for the grave robbers and was hung for it. Then a baker named Konan said he saw Budog walking through the town, and that he had been brought back to life at the cost of his right hand. My first thought was that this was peasant superstition. My second thought was that perhaps our sodalis Elise was being particularly unsubtle and it was a good thing that Iuris Perita was going to investigate (and that I was not). Jimena herself is going to accompany Iuris Perita, along with Caspar, Yves and, of course, Duncan. They leave tomorrow.

23rd April: Death and demons

I was glad that our people returned safely from Lamballe today. That is, Iuris Perita and Jimena are unharmed, but Duncan has been badly wounded and must stay in Jimena's care for a while. I have learnt something of what happened from Jimena.

Initial investigations

From Caribet, they headed to St.Brieuc and the Tour de Cesson. Maga Elise was there, and was able to assure our princeps that she had nothing to do with Lamballe. However, the tale interested Elise and she joined the expedition. Just as they had been told, the town of Lamballe was festooned with banners bearing crude images of skeletons and by skeletons made from scraps of wood. The people in the inn, where Jimena took rooms, said these where to trick the demons that came at night for the corpses. The town had two churches, to St.Jean and St.Martin, each with its own graveyard adjacent. There were plenty of people willing to talk about the grave robbers and the hanged man who came back. Jimena spoke to the parish priest on the first morning in town. He had with him a wealthy-looking priest with a southern complexion who was keen to preach. By following him, they discovered that this priest was in expensive lodgings and had his own bodyguard.

While Caspar and Jimena was finding this out, Elise and Iuris Perita had visited a house reported to be the home of an alchemist. I wonder whether Iuris Perita still suspected that Elise was not innocent in this matter, and that is why the magae stayed together? By some means, probably magic, they learnt that the house was inhabited by four people and several spirits. Upstairs there was a workroom with books, laboratory equipment and a number of small metal cages.

Caspar and Jimena had also visited the other church the next day. The priest there, Fr.Bernard, was quite friendly towards them and told them that he was going to conduct a funeral later that day. They also discovered that there was to be a burial at the church of St.Jean that day too, and that the visiting priest, Fr.Marco, was to preach at it. Jimena attended at St.Jean and reports that Fr.Marco was an eloquent and educated speaker. Caspar attended at St.Martin, while a watch was mounted on the alchemist's house - Jimena wasn't quite clear on how this was done since she is fairly certain that the magae did not go out during the day. I suspect it was that ghostly cat that accompanies Elise.

Vigil

Keeping watch on both cemeteries that night left everyone very vulnerable. It was decided that, since trouble could strike at either, it was best to set watches at both, but for the magae to wait at the inn, which was approximately equidistant from both, until the alarm was raised. I feel sure that it ought to have been possible to use magic in some way to alert the magae to trouble, but the plan decided on involved a grog as runner. Yves and Duncan took up position at the church of St.Jean as evening drew on, and Jimena went with Caspar to the church of St.Jean. Bearing in mind the reports of the guards set by the townsfolk, and not wishing to have to explain their interest, or to be seen in suspicious circumstances, Jimena chose to watch from inside the church - it would be much safer too, if there really were demons about. Fortunately, it was not long after the full moon and the clouds were scattered, so they could observe quite well. At midnight, a mist began to rise from the ground in the churchyard of St.Martin and the two town guards sagged; Jimena says they were still standing upright, but seemed to be asleep on their feet. Four hooded figures emerged from the thickening mist and immediately began rapid excavation of the fresh grave. Caspar dashed from the side door of the church which, fortunately, he could use without being seen from the graveyard, and ran as fast as he could to the inn. Meanwhile, Jimena grasped the crucifix from the altar and clutched it to her while keeping watch on the activity outside. She saw one of the figures draw a knife and cut into the corpse, then reach inside it, pull something out and hand the dripping mass to one of the other figures. The recipient and the figure beside it threw back their hood to reveal the heads of dogs. As the first wolfed down the offering, the one with the knife pulled another organ from the corpse to feed the second. Then the group of four gathered up the corpse, wrapped it and moved away towards the churchyard gate. One of them paused by the guards, then all left.

Action

Poor Jimena must have been very seriously frightened. She was very pale as she told me of the dreadful scene in the churchyard where she had to watch and wait alone, praying that she be undetected and that the magae would arrive at once and deal with the villains. She had to make a very swift decision. Despite the chill, she dropped her cloak in the church porch where she felt sure the magae would find it, then crept out to try and see which way the dreadful procession was heading. Mist still lingered about the churchyard. The guards were still apparently asleep. The gate was closed, though she felt sure she had not heard it open or close. She went through and a little way along the path but there was no sign or sound. Fearing to wander off alone in the dark, Jimena went back for her cloak. As she passed the guards she confirmed that they were alive but asleep as if by magic because she could not wake them.

Iuris Perita, Elise and Caspar arrived as Jimena was fastening her cloak. Iuris Perita went at once to study the earth around where the grave robbers had been but learnt nothing with her spells except that there had been four pairs of feet. The tracks just disappeared. Having lost the trail here, it was decided to make haste to the church of St.Jean, in case there had been trouble there too. They were still cautious, though, because of the risk of being mistaken by the town's people for the grave robbers. As they paused in the shadow of a building close by St.Jean's, they saw a mist rising from the ground in the graveyard and saw the two guards standing by it sag. Jimena made her way round to the church door to find Duncan and Yves there. She quickly told them what she was expecting to happen. Once again, she took the crucifix from the altar. Yves and Duncan managed between them to lift up the stone basin that held holy water near the back of the church and staggered outside with it.

By the time Jimena emerged from the church she saw that Elise had confronted the four hooded figures beside the grave. Elise was pointing at one of them with her bone talisman. Not far from the gate stood Caspar, apparently in the same slumped state as the town guards while Iuris Perita was standing a little further off. Yves and Duncan caught Elise's attention and she cast a spell to gather up the holy water and shower the dog-headed creatures with it. They yowled as steam rose from their bodies, but they did not seem greatly harmed and there was no more holy water. The pair threw themselves as Yves and Duncan, tearing at them like wild animals. Jimena tried to wake Caspar but he was as entranced as the first pair of guards. She left him to Iuris Perita, hoping some magic might rouse him. Elise and the one who seemed to be the leader of the demonic group were still facing each other across the open grave but the fourth hooded figure was shambling heedlessly across the graveyard towards a tree. Jimena approached this figure but it ignored her. She struck it from behind using the heavy crucifix and ducked away but there was no retaliation - it simply hesitated and resumed its lumbering, now going round in circles. She says she went on hitting it while all the time she could hear the sounds of struggle and spell-casting behind her.

One of the dog-headed demons hurt Duncan very badly, but Yves slew the other before joining the re-awakened Caspar in destroying the one that had injured Duncan so badly. (Yves is now spoken of throughout the covenant as Yves Demon-slayer). Jimena did not stop hitting the lumbering creature until Iuris Perita called to her that her help was needed for Duncan. She found him seriously wounded but was able to staunch the blood and bind up the worst of the wounds. There was a disgusting, nauseating stench where the demons had been vanquished, but no sign of their leader. Elise had gone over to look at the lumbering figure, which still stumbled in circles, ignoring her. Iuris Perita was anxious that we get away before anyone came to accuse us of having disturbed the grave. Yves and Caspar returned the font to the church and put the crucifix back on the altar. Elise used some magic to help Duncan once they had moved away from the church but he will be a long time recovering, Jimena says.

Covering the tracks

The next day, under instructions from Iuris Perita, efforts were made by our people to encourage the theory that it was angelic intervention that foiled the robbers at St.Jean the previous night. By the time the group was ready to set off again, this idea had taken quite a hold locally. The journey back was difficult, with Duncan so badly hurt. Elise went back to St.Brieuc, of course. I do think we ought to have negotiated some regular vis payment from Elise for the privilege of living in our tower. After all, it is we who made it habitable at some considerable loss - poor Donal! Let us pray that Jimena can keep his brother from joining him just yet.

A season's inactivity

I have had to postpone my plan to study the Animal primer. I thought it would be an entirely trivial matter but I found the first section surprisingly hard going and at that rate I shall fail to finish the book before the solstice, so I shall try it another season, when I have not lost thirty days to other activities. In fact, I have been extremely busy, on account of La Gatita. Her behaviour has been such that I actually cast an Intellego Vim spell on her, to try and determine whether she was not some form of minor imp. Of course, I have tried Intellego Animal to try and learn other things about the kitten. I tried at first to interpret what she was saying, and I think it was usually some demand for food or attention, or to be left in peace, but it was not the magic which revealed these. This puzzled me considerably such that in the end I was trying spells to tell me whether she was or was not a cat, but even when soaking wet and taking the greatest care, I could learn nothing about her. I do believe that the little thing is actually resisting my spells. This is a little worrying. It may be that Speculor could manage better, but I do not like to admit my own failure, and I am rather worried that my sodales may take too much interest in my pet.

I have been much occupied with trying to train the kitten in what she may or may not do. This has not so far been a success, but I have done better in training the grogs. Julius and Ignatius are now quite adept at entertaining her with a piece of ribbon or an old quill. The pair are under instructions that, if I am working in here when they are on duty, they are to consider it their special task to keep the little one out of my way. This is working fairly well - as you can see, there are very few paw-sized smudges on this parchment. It has been a matter of high priority to rearrange almost everything in the room to safeguard it from attack. I have had stout cloth bound around the legs of the tables, which protects them very well from claw-sharpening activities but does make it much easier to climb up to the table surface. I have now to ensure that everything is put away in the chests when not in use, and to arrange that nothing can be knocked off the table with a bat of the paw or a swish of the tail. I am wondering if all this is really worth while, but will persevere. I must start taking the kitten outside soon. If she can learn to take herself in and out, there will be less strain on myself and the grogs, I think. I suspect that she has found a way to take herself outside, for there are times when I cannot find her anywhere in my rooms.

30th May: Letter from Gwénolé

Bartholomeus ad Wirbelnia came this way, bringing with him a letter for me from Gwénolé saying that she received my message too late to join in the fun, but hopes to help out again soon. I suppose by that that she intends to join us here at the solstice. I shall be very glad to see her, and learn what she is able to tell me about the La Gatita. I also wish to speak to her about my study of faerie. While at Castellar I spoke to my parens about my growing interest in faerie magic. He agreed that there was magic theory work to be done in that area, and encouraged me to pursue the matter. I rather feel that he was glad to see me taking a long term research interest in anything. He told me of Letitia ad Montibus Plani, filia Praextus Bonisagi, who is a Faerie Maga within our own House. I should very much like to get in touch with this maga, for although I can undoubtedly learn much from Gwénolé, her approach does not entirely suit me. Laurentius also suggested that I might make contact with Bouvignol Bonisagi, filius Soliferreus ad Petrusca although I fear that he has forgotten how hard it is for a junior maga to approach a senior member of the House for a favour. Still, teaching is the great tradition of our House, so I shall write to Soliferreus ad Castellar, who may feel that he does, to a small degree, owe me a favour, and ask him if he would be so kind as to write me a letter of introduction to his filius. Of course, if I was as important and highly-regarded as Laurentius himself, I would be able to make an approach through Arch Maga Meriel herself, who shares her parens with my parens, but for now, I will try through Soliferreus' line.

While I was reading, someone knocked on my santum door. Guena opened it and thought it important enough to interrupt me. There was one of the scribes carrying my little Alacritas by the scruff of her neck! I have no idea how she could have got out because I am quite sure no-one had opened the door in the past two hours, since Guena entered, and I know the kitten was here then because I had to remove her from the middle of the book I was examining. Arnaud said something about the kitten having knocked over some ink, so I reminded him that she was as yet very young and occassional accidents were only to be expected. I hope this will not become a regular occurrence.

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