“Are you feeling alright?”
Viola blinked. “What? Sorry. I was miles away.”
“That much was obvious,” Amelia said, laughing. She rolled over, grabbed hold of one of the abundance of pillows scattered across the bed, and shied it in Viola’s direction. “Here. Catch!”
Viola dodged sideways, rolling her eyes as the pillow thudded into the wall behind her head. “What was that for?”
“Bringing you back to the present.” The younger girl grinned unrepentantly. “Now, what is it that’s worrying you?”
“Who said I was worried?”
“Your eyebrows.” She twisted around on the bed, tucking her feet up under her, and frowned at Viola. “You don’t make that face unless there’s something bothering you. So spill.”
I love you, ‘melia, but sometimes I could wish you were a little less bloody perceptive. But there was no way Amelia was going to let the matter drop now – and, truth be told, she was actually grateful for the opportunity to get the whole business off her chest (or, at least, make it someone else’s problem as well). “Fine. You win. It’s that damn letter.”
“The one from the Lord-Captain?” Amelia asked.
“The same. And if I’m apparently allowed to just call him ‘Archer’, I’m pretty damn sure you are.” She leant back against the wall, looking up at nothing in particular. “The whole thing smells wrong. Or, at the very least, it smells of secrets.”
“I mean… we are members of a secret society, Vi. The clue’s rather in the name.”
“Not remotely what I bloody meant, and you know it. What’s happened that they have to leave now? Why don’t they say where they’re going?” And, with a plaintive twist to her voice that she’d not intended and that made her sound more than half a cub again, “What the hells are we supposed to do about the whole sodding Avebury situation while they’re gone?”
The younger girl looked at her for a moment, her expression serious. Then, all at once, she slipped soundlessly off the bed, padded across the room, and threw her arms around Viola’s shoulders in a tight hug. “It’s going to be alright.”
“I know, ‘melia. I know. But, spirits and Ancestors, I could wish either of them had actually bothered to explain what the bloody hells they were up to before they sodded off to the back end of beyond.”
“They probably would have if they could.”
“I know, ‘melia.” It shouldn’t have been worrying her that much – Sabbat and Archer were both capable Order operatives in their own right, after all, and she’d dealt with the Sinnlenst on her own before multiple times. But Avebury was something new, and the blackmail plot needed someone subtler than her pulling the strings on the Order’s end, and…
And, if she was going to be entirely honest, the fact that two of her friends had just decided to up and disappear off into the middle of nowhere with no warning, no explanation and no bloody forwarding address was putting her hackles up even in two-legged form.
I’m sure they’ve got a perfectly good reason for it. I’m equally sure that right now I don’t sodding care.
“Do you think Harry might know?” Amelia asked, after a moment.
Viola blinked at her. “What?”
“If it’s to do with the Sinnlenst, I mean. I know Avebury doesn’t trust him-” (which was a point in his favour as far as Viola was concerned) “-but he might have overheard something or been in the room when it was discussed or-“
“Or you want another excuse to have him back up to the house,” Viola said, though without much in the way of heat. “You could just ask me to arrange a meeting, if that’s what you’re after.”
“Vi. It’s not like that.” She stuck her tongue out. “And besides, I’m perfectly capable of arranging my own trysts.”
A fact I didn’t need to be reminded of. Ancestors, if your parents ever catch wind of that we’re both going to be confined to the house for a month. At least. “Yes, and you promised me that you’d take me or Seb with you if you went down to Old Town again, remember?” And, because the mention of Mortimer had reminded her, “Has he ever told you much about his father?”
Now it was Amelia’s turn to look confused. “I don’t see how that follows?”
“It doesn’t. Only…” Only Sabbat’s carrying that damn talisman, and Mortimer’s father’s apparently an expert on things like that, and two plus two tends towards making four even when you’re dealing with magic. And if Mortimer’s actually come clean and told Amelia whose cub he is, then this becomes a whole lot easier to talk about.
“Only what?” the younger girl asked, frowning again. “What’re you not telling me?”
Oh ancestors. She doesn’t know. And I- alright, I didn’t actually promise Mortimer I’d not tell, but I did everything but. Think before you bloody speak, Viola Cervanso, or you’ll wind up in more trouble than you know how to get yourself out of.
“Wait,” Amelia said. “Is this about the fact that his father’s Archmage Verist?”
Viola nearly fell off the sofa in relief. “I- He told you, then?”
Amelia nodded. “Last night, when he was explaining what had happened at the Sinnlenst meeting.” She quirked an eyebrow. “Apparently you felt I ought to know.”
Viola was fairly sure she’d not actually said as much to Mortimer, but apparently she hadn’t needed to. I suppose having a werewolf growling at you when you’re already on edge is the kind of thing that sharpens your mind if you’re a furless. She owed him one, then, which meant that she also needed to come through on her side of bargain. “I did – and I do – but I also told him that you’d not go trying to make the two of them make up once you knew. That’s his clan business and none of yours.”
“I wasn’t going to,” the younger girl said, quick enough that it was obvious that she was lying. She sighed. “It’s just… Harry’s a good man, and I know Archmage Verist’s a good person as well – at least, Mama likes him, and she’s usually an excellent judge of character – so I’m sure the two of them would be able to work out their differences if someone just sat them down together.”
“Or they’d never talk to each other – or you – again.”
“Or that,” Amelia agreed, sighing again. “I know, I know. And I know it’s not my place to interfere. But…”
“If he wants your help, he’ll ask for it.” And, because she wasn’t completely heartless and Amelia was looking more than a little upset, “I’m pretty damn sure he’ll ask at some point. You’re one of the most silver-tongued folk I know.”
The younger girl blushed. “Now you’re flattering me to take my mind off it, aren’t you?”
“A little,” Viola admitted. “But you dealt with Avebury handily back there.”
“Even the part where I told him you were walking out with Sabbat?”
“…Don’t test me.” The mention of Sabbat brought her back to the reason she’d raised the topic of Mortimer’s father in the first place – she sat properly upright on the sofa, looked Amelia in the eye, and asked, “Do you know where this Archmage Verist of yours lives?”
“Cauldwell Hall,” the younger girl said, promptly. “Up in the mountains above the city. Why?”
“Because,” Viola said, slowly, teasing the thought out as she said it, “I think that’s where Archer and Sabbat have gone.”
Archer’s mouth tasted of blood, and it wasn’t his.
He rolled over onto his side, wincing as the motion sent a stab of pain through the darkness behind his missing eye, and tried to piece together the shattered fragments of his memory into something resembling a coherent order of events.
Three Sinnlenst, and a cart full of crates. I remember that much. On the road out of the city.
Getting back to Sabbat. Dropping the wolf-guise.
That damn argument over the plan.
Nosebleed. Or, no, was that earlier? He was bleeding, I know that.
And then something hit me in the back of the head and…
And then I died.
Well, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.
He’d managed to avoid actually dying for a good few years this time, but, given his line of work tended to come with a higher risk of it than the average, he’d probably been overdue a mistake of that calibre. And it wasn’t as though it was the first time he’d been shot in the head.
Though I feel distinctly less awful than the last time this happened. And I seem to have significantly less of a hole in my skull, which is a welcome relief.
Given how vampiric healing worked, however, he was fairly certain he knew the reason for both of those. Which meant there was a very important question he needed an answer to.
“Who did I drink?” The words came out in a croaking rasp, barely louder than a whisper, and he coughed, spitting blood and phlegm onto the already-bloodied snow. Ugh. I’ve not missed this part of the experience, I’ll admit.
“Not one o’ them, if that’s what you’re worryin’ about.”
He looked up.
Sabbat was sitting cross-legged in the snow a little way away, his unlit cigarette still dangling from the corner of his mouth. He’d stripped down to his shirtsleeves and waistcoat, and the sleeve on his left arm was rolled up above the elbow – as Archer watched, he lifted his forearm slightly and a trickle of dark blood ran down to join the spreading red stain that’d already swallowed half the white linen of his shirt.
“Tell me that’s not all yours.”
The assassin grinned crookedly. “Most of it ain’t. Din’t bleed any of ’em for you, though. I know that ain’t what you want.”
“And I’m grateful for it.” Gods, but my head hurts. He licked his lips, his eye drawn almost against his will to the blood still running down Sabbat’s arm. Just another couple of mouthfuls… if nothing else, it’d stop the headache.
Yes. Desperately. But Sabbat’s lips were greyer than they should have been, the shadows under his eyes darker, and, as he looked at him, Archer felt the words die on his tongue. You’re hurt worse than you’re letting on. And I’m not about to compound that, even if you’re offering.
“I’ll survive. Verist almost certainly has something in storage, even if it’s cut with alcohol.” And, because he had to ask, “How much of your blood did it take?”
“T’bring you back? More’n I’d’ve liked, less than I’d’ve been willin’ t’give.” He looked away for a moment and, when he spoke again, his voice was so low Archer had to strain to hear it. “Din’t know if you’d wake up. Figured the least I could do was make the bastards pay for it.”
“What do you- Oh. The Sinnlenst.” He supposed he should probably be angry that the plan had failed. If he was honest, however, the only emotion he could come up with regarding the fate of the three was a deep and abiding sense of relief. They’re dead, and you’re not. That’s the best outcome I could have hoped for, given the circumstances. “What’s done is done. There’s no use worrying over it.”
“Ain’t fuckin’ worryin’. Din’t want another fuckin’ row, ‘s all.”
It self-evidently wasn’t, but Archer wasn’t going to push him on it. Not when you’re sitting there with both arms red to the elbow and my blood still spattered across your face. Gods, this isn’t how I wanted this to go. Any of this.
“Did you find out what they were carrying?” he asked, after a while.
Sabbat shook his head. “Reckoned we’d go back later, once I knew y’weren’t goin’ t’properly die on me. Ain’t as if they’re goin’ anywhere.”
“True. Though the horse-“
“Cart’s still stuck fast, an’ that horse ain’t movin’ any time soon.”
Oh. “I see.”
The assassin rolled his eyes. “What? It ain’t fuckin’ dead, if that’s what you’re worryin’ about. Panicked and kicked itself almost out of harness, aye, but it ain’t broken anythin’ that I can tell.”
That was something, at least. Though, given I’m fairly certain that when it comes to horses Sabbat’s knowledge of medicine is slim to non-existent, I’ll likely need to take a look at it myself.
“Help me up, will you?”
Sabbat nodded, scrambling to his feet with a wince he didn’t quite manage to hide. “Y’goin’ t’be alright t’walk once you’re up?”
“I think I’m going to have to be,” Archer said, and hoped he sounded a good deal more confident than he felt.
Judging by Sabbat’s expression, he’d failed at that. The assassin held out one blood-covered hand – Archer took it, trying not to focus on the slickness of the other man’s palm or the dried gore crusting around the edges of his fingernails, and hauled himself to his feet.
The world spun giddily sideways around him for a second and then slowed and settled to a more normal angle as gravity reasserted itself. Good. I’m not about to faint, then. That would be… unhelpful, to say the least.
“Y’alright? Look like you’re about t’keel over.”
And if you were anyone other than… yourself, that would almost sound like concern. “I’m fine. I just need a minute, that’s all.”
Sabbat scowled, but didn’t press the issue. After a moment, he jerked his head towards the road and said, gruffly, “Y’comin’? Longer we leave it, more chance of someone else comin’ down and stumblin’ over ’em.”
“Good point.” The mountain roads weren’t exactly well-travelled at this time of night, but if the Sinnlenst had been the vanguard of a larger party – or even if they simply had a friend or two who’d been delayed – then the sooner he and Sabbat dealt with the bodies the better. “Lead on.”
The box hadn’t approved.
Didn’t make sense to think of it like that, mind. It was a piece of sodding artifice – magical, aye, but without a mind behind it. It was about as capable of approving or disapproving of his actions as a fucking coatrack.
But still, when he’d taken his knife from his belt, sat down, gritted his teeth and very carefully opened up the vein on the inside of his elbow he’d got the distinct impression that the damn box hadn’t liked it one fucking bit.
Means it was a good idea, then.
It’d been a good idea whether the box liked it or not. It’d brought Archer back. But the fact that the thing hadn’t approved was definitely another point in its favour.
“How are you holding up?”
“Been worse.” He’d been a fuck of a lot better, too, but he also wasn’t the one who’d just come back from being shot in the head. “You?”
They trudged on in silence for a few more moments, their boots crunching through the snow. Then Archer stopped sharp enough that Sabbat nearly went over backwards trying to slow down to match.
“I can smell blood. A lot of blood.”
“Said I killed ’em, din’t I?”
“Killed them, yes. Exsanguinated them, no.” He closed his eye. “This… could be a problem.”
“Din’t exsanguinate ’em,” Sabbat muttered, more to himself than anyone else. “Not properly, anyhow. Ain’t a fuckin’ leech.” But that wasn’t the problem, and he knew it.
If he’d been thinking straight – and hells, he knew that he wasn’t, not right now – he’d have told Archer to wait back at the clearing. Too late for that now, though.
“Y’goin’ t’be alright?”
The vampire shook his head. “I can’t go down there. Not right now.” He held up a hand, his skin white as the snow in the moonlight filtering through the trees, and Sabbat saw that his fingers were trembling almost imperceptibly. “On a good day I’d have to concentrate on maintaining control over my hunger when faced with that much fresh blood. This is not a good day.”
He’d seen Archer lose control once before, back when they’d been on the Arrow, in the middle of a pitched battle when they’d run afoul of a naval frigate that wasn’t interested in taking prisoners. It wasn’t something he wanted to be anywhere near again – not least because it’d taken the other man a full month to stop moping and calling himself names afterwards.
“Here,” he said, before he could second-guess himself. He pushed back his left sleeve, baring the inside of his forearm. “Better’n drinkin’ corpses, anyhow.”
Archer winced, looking away. “No. You’ve lost too much blood already. I’ll… Gods dammit, I’ll think of something.”
“Or you’ll stand there tryin’ t’be noble an’ starvin’ y’self an’ we’ll get fuckin’ nowhere.” He reached out, resting his left hand carefully on the other man’s shoulder. “You ain’t makin’ me do this, Will. An’ I ain’t doin’ it on account of thinkin’ I owe you anythin’. I ain’t doin’ it out of anythin’ other’n my own fuckin’ choice.”
“I could hardly ‘make’ you do anything,” the vampire said, with something that might’ve been a laugh. “But your point’s taken.” The tip of his tongue flicked out, licking the crust of dried blood from the corner of his mouth. “Gods. Are you certain?”
Archer frowned. “You don’t sound-“
“Fuckin’ hellfire!” Sabbat growled, his fingers digging into the other man’s shoulder. “I said I was fuckin’ certain, an’ I’m fuckin’ certain. Fuckin’ do it an’ get it over with.” Before I lose my nerve over the fact that my best friend’s looking at me like I’m fucking prey.
“Thank you,” Archer said, quietly. He paused for a second, then added in a more normal tone, “You might want to let go of my shoulder.”
Sabbat blinked, caught off guard as much by the shift in tone as the request. Then, feeling oddly as though he was moving through treacle, he prised his fingers free of Archer’s shirt and began to pull his hand away.
As he did so, Archer reached up and, with a muttered ‘Let me’, caught hold of his wrist and turned it so the inside of his bared forearm faced towards the sky.
Then, very gently, he pulled Sabbat’s arm towards him, fastened his mouth over the wound that’d already been made, and began to drink.
Inside Sabbat’s waistcoat, pressed up against his ribcage, the metal inlay of the box writhed and twisted angrily against his chest, sending bright sparks of pain scattering along his ribs and up his spine. But, between the cool pressure of Archer’s fingers on his wrist and the heat of the vampire’s breath against his skin, he found that he’d little enough room left over to care about another few pinpricks of pain adding to the aches and wounds he’d been already carrying.
A part of him – the part which was very sodding aware of exactly how much blood he’d lost already – wanted to push Archer away. The rest of him…
Ain’t any difference between this and the last time. Aye, he’s conscious, but I’ve been conscious plenty of times when he’s been stitching me up, and that’s more than half the same sodding thing.
No reason it should feel any different.
Problem was, reason or not, it did.
He set his jaw, gritted his teeth and looked away, trying to focus on the cold air biting at his cheeks, the smell of pine in the air, the way the moonlight caught the edges of the ice crystals on the branches – everything and anything other than that gentle pressure on his wrist and that slow warm-then-cold-then-warm-again push and pull of breath against the bloodied skin of his upturned arm.
It didn’t hurt. He knew that he was losing blood – he could feel his lips and the tips of his ears tingling with something more than just the cold wind – but the area around the cut felt numb, as though his arm wasn’t part of him any more, and there was a warmth building in his chest like he’d just swallowed a mouthful of something strong and good and exceptionally bloody alcoholic.
Makes sense, I suppose. How else’re leech- vampires supposed to get anyone to let ’em drink more than once?
Course, back in the old days, wasn’t as if there was much in the way of ‘letting’ involved.
That should’ve probably worried him more, all things considered – and, if it’d been any other vampire with their mouth fastened onto an open vein in his arm, it would’ve. But this was Archer.
Bastard would’ve stood there and starved if I’d not made fucking clear I was offering it freely and willingly. He ain’t about to keep going if I tell him to stop. He licked his lips, tasted copper and dried blood. Doesn’t mean he’ll remember to stop on his own, though.
“Y’done yet?” His voice came out rougher than he intended, edges of the words catching like frayed cloth on broken glass. “Ain’t got all night.”
Archer didn’t respond. But the pressure on Sabbat’s wrist eased, just a little, and a heartbeat later he felt the vampire pull away, the snow creaking under his boots as he stepped back.
“Thank you,” Archer said, his voice so quiet it was almost a whisper. “Truly. I’m- That is- Thank you.“
“Don’t go gettin’ used to it. Ain’t plannin’ on makin’ it a regular occurrence.” If he was honest, he’d not been planning on offering at all. But Archer’d needed blood and, with the box, he could spare enough to keep him on his feet until the two of them made it up to wherever it was they were going.
And it hurt a fuck of a lot less than you’d expected it to, didn’t it? You’ve done a hell of a lot worse to yourself for far smaller rewards.
He had. Didn’t mean he was going to make a habit of letting his best friend use him as a damn blood doll, though.
“Are you alright?”
That caught him an eyeroll that was almost comfortingly familiar. “Given that’s what you’ve said the last several times I’ve asked, you’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you. Are you about to faint, pass out, or otherwise fall over?”
Sabbat shook his head, feeling the unfrozen corner of his mouth twist upward despite himself. “Ain’t y’got better things t’do than worryin’ over me?”
“Probably, yes. But I-“
“Like findin’ out what those fuckin’ Sinnlenst were cartin’ down the mountain in the middle o’ the night, for one.” He jerked his head towards the cart, then instantly regretted it as the motion set the world skewing sideways like he was standing on the deck of a ship in the middle of a storm. Hell’s gates. That’s just what I bloody need right now.
Thankfully, Archer hadn’t noticed any change in his expression – or, if he had, was clever enough not to be saying anything about it. “You make a good point.”
“Course I do.” He leaned against a tree, rummaging in his pocket for his cigarette case with his free hand. “Go see t’that horse of yours. I’ll catch up.”
“I’ll see you down there,” Archer said. He turned to go, then looked back over his shoulder, brow furrowed. “Are you certain you’re-“
“Just fuckin’ go, Archer.”
Sabbat watched him until he was almost at the cart. Then he sighed, rested his forehead against the trunk of the tree, and swore viciously under his breath.
The Sinnlenst were quite definitely dead. Living people tended to look significantly more… put together.
Archer suppressed a shudder as he stepped between the corpses. He’d seen his share of violence in his time, but there was something more than usually disturbing in the sheer rage with which the two Sinnlenst fighters had been taken apart.
Twilight Sister, if you’re listening, take these souls – for what they’re worth – and guide them beyond the doors of your mother’s hall. Sky Brother, take their flesh. Earth Brother, swallow their bones. Ocean Brother, take the last breaths from their broken lungs, and let them learn better in their next lives this side of the sky.
And Mother Moon, watch over us all. Especially a friend who may be in more need of your protection than he knows.
If they were lucky – and since when had luck ever entered into it – Sabbat’s actions had been a (rather understandable) response to having seen his best friend shot through the head in front of him. If they weren’t, this whole situation might be about to get a good deal more complicated.
I’ve not heard of any of the pre-Fall healing artefacts having any effects on behaviour. On the other hand, just because I haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. There are plenty of pre-Fall artefacts in existence which have yet to be studied even informally, after all.
That wasn’t exactly a reassuring thought, especially in the current circumstances.
Nothing I can do about it now, in any case. For the moment, let me focus on what I can control.
The Sinnlenst group’s mare was still standing between the shafts of the cart, her ears flicking and her tail pressed tight against her body. Archer stepped carefully around to put himself in her line of sight, palms open and low, moving as slowly and gently as he could given the terrain.
“Gently now, ijali-ta. It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you.”
She didn’t look hurt, thankfully, though he’d have to reserve full judgement until he could get closer and examine her properly. For now, I need her calm and quiet enough that she’s willing to let me get her out of harness and put her on a lead rope. That cart’s not going anywhere, and I’m not leaving her in the middle of a battlefield.
“Gently now. Softly now. That’s a good girl. That’s a brave girl.”
The mare’s ears were still flicking back and forth a little, but she lowered her head and, after a moment, allowed him to gently rest his palm on her muzzle. She was breathing faster than he’d have liked, but otherwise didn’t seem to be overly distressed – just nervous and uncomfortable in the harness, which he could more than understand.
“Just a little longer, ijali. Just be patient a little longer, then I’ll see what I can do for you.”
He stroked her nose until she calmed, then stepped carefully away and around, moving towards the back of the cart (and almost immediately sinking halfway to his knees in the freezing slush of the roadway).
Now, what was it that the Sinnlenst thought it worth killing – and dying – to stop us getting our hands on?
The crates were nailed shut, but one of them had clearly been dropped at some point and splintered along the edge – not much, but enough that he could work his fingers under the edge of the lid and, with a heave that set his shoulders and upper arms burning, yank it up and away, revealing the mysterious bounty that the three now-dead Sinnlenst had gone to so much trouble to protect.
At first glance, it looked like nothing so much as a crate full of straw. But there was something glittering under the layers of packing – and, when he reached in and brushed them aside, he found himself staring down at a stack of shining metal bars, all laid one beside the other as though they’d just come from the foundry.
Silver. And, if the other crates contained the same, a lot of it.
What in the world or out of it do they think they’re playing at?
Silver wasn’t exactly in short supply in the city, though it was as regulated as any other poison (while werewolves very rarely died from silver reactions, it could make them exceptionally ill, and there had been more than a few cases of powdered silver being used in attempted assassinations. Not to mention the existence of treated bullets and blades).
Which meant that, whatever the Sinnlenst were planning, they needed enough of the metal that they wouldn’t be able to come by it trivially.
Or they didn’t want to have a record of their purchases floating around. Even if they split the burden across multiple trades, someone would put two and two together eventually.
So, an off-the-books purchase of a staggeringly large quantity of silver, which had been being transported into the city in the dead of night. Add that to the blackmail racket Avebury was running, the incident at the Sinnlenst meeting, and the general existence of Caine, and it all added up to…
To something I don’t need to see more than the vague shape of to know is a very bad idea.
It was some kind of power play, that much was very clear. Fixing up alliances, consolidating supplies, removing anyone who’d stand against him and making a show of force at the same time – from where Archer was standing, it looked a lot like Adam Avebury was making a fairly concerted effort to stake his claim as the next leader of the Sinnlenst.
But the sheer amount of silver argued for something else. Something a good deal more interesting than a Sinnlenst power struggle.
Either he’s planning to poison the entire werewolf population of the city, or-
Or what? Ensure that half the city’s magicians ended up getting their silver from Sinnlenst suppliers and then use that to get a hold over them? Bring tainted silver into the city and have unknowing magicians use it in their circles? Use it himself?
The last should have been vanishingly unlikely, given the Sinnlenst hatred of magic and magic-users. But then again, Avebury was studying magic at the University, which would have been unthinkable behaviour for a member of the Sinnlenst even a few short decades ago. Times were changing and, inevitably, the war was going to change with them.
What in the name of all the gods would he want with that much silver, though? There’s no need to stockpile the damn stuff, not unless there’s some shortage coming that I’m as yet unaware of.
“Find anythin’ interestin’?” Sabbat called, limping into view round the side of the cart.
Archer nodded. “Plenty. These are full of silver.”
The assassin let out a low whistle. “Lady above. What the fuck’re they plannin’ on doin’ with it?”
“I wish I knew. Right now all I have is questions, and I’ve already had more than my fill of those tonight.”
“Ain’t entirely true,” Sabbat said. He leant against the footboard and grinned lopsidedly, baring bloodied teeth. “Y’got a horse.”
[START (SERIES) – Blood on the Snow: Chapter 1]
[Author’s note: this is first/discovery draft content – I apologise for the likely increased number of typos]
Copyright © 2021 by Finn McLellan. All rights reserved.
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