Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Adraefan: 43. Apples, Tea, and Radagast
If he was not sitting with the other hobbits, or out taking long walks through the winding paths of Rivendell with Merry, then he was by himself, idly exploring Elrond's House. By the second week, Pippin knew where all the stores of food were kept, and he often visited these secret pantries and hidden kitchens. He knew where everyone's room was, and often, late at night, he would pass Gandalf and Elrond in the great elf-lord's study.
And they would be sitting there, silent, though the wizard's face would sometimes twist into an expression of shock or humor or concentration, so that Pippin wondered just what exactly was going on.
Once they caught him eavesdropping on their silence, and Gandalf had pulled back with a laugh, "Ho! It seems Master Took has come to listen!"
Pippin had blushed furiously, wondering if they were teasing him, for he could hear nothing at all. And he had quickly gone padding down the corridor, slipping into the nearest door which led outside.
Sometimes Pippin would go sit at the Dagorlad camp, as he called it. For Dínendal and Boromir frequently drifted away from the others, usually sitting together outside on one of the many marble benches along the paths leading away from the House. And Pippin would join them, bearing hot tea or cider or apples or simply a joke. And if he was bringing apples, he often amused himself with juggling them as he walked, so that once or twice he had to put aside a bruised apple for himself. And sometimes he would toss them to Dínendal and Boromir with a shouted greeting, though he stopped doing that, for Boromir's shaking hands always fumbled and ended up dropping his apple.
Boromir. Boromir had grown very quiet in Imladris. Pippin saw that he flushed with shame every time he passed Frodo, Sam or Gandalf in the halls, and he would stumble and falter as he spoke. But mostly he murmured and was ever mild and silent. Pippin was no expert, but he could tell the Man wished above all to be ignored. Yet he was far from ignored. Quite the opposite, everyone in Imladris was well-attuned to Boromir's movements, and there was ever an elf keeping an eye on him. He seemed to notice, for he would smile crookedly with eyes lowered, visible chagrin, when they called a greeting to him or offered him food from the kitchens. The elves took very good care of Boromir - Pippin noted - nearly coddling him in his stay. They would insist he rest, eat, drink the herbal tea for his stomach. No one ever spoke of the condition they had found Boromir in - though Elrohir had told Pippin shortly after Boromir's arrival.
Soon enough Pippin realized that Boromir was struggling to forsake the drink. For he was pale and ill-looking and often his hands trembled enough so that Pippin, embarrassed for him, would look away and pretend to study a nearby tree. Yet once Pippin realized what was going on, once he perceived the Man's silent war, he grew positively proud of him. And he too began to take only water with his meals, subconsciously showing his support for Boromir's decision. And he would sit more and more often with Dínendal and Boromir, listening to Dínendal comment on this or that bird, or recount his romance with the elf-maiden, Itarildë. There was no bitterness in the fair elf’s voice; though perhaps nostalgia, and love, and sorrow, and a renewed joy. And Pippin always pulled Boromir back into the conversation with a smile and a joke, for the Man tended to retreat into his own thoughts too often.
They never spoke of Dagorlad, though Dínendal began to tell Pippin, little by little, whenever Boromir was not around, all that had happened. How they had found him, tending the wounds, the duel with First One, Radagast, the Brown Lands, the Easterlings, the death of First One, the final battle right under the Mordor mountains. The moment when Third One was ripped from the ground by a nazgûl, and Boromir had reached out to Dínendal, and their fingers had brushed just as the second nazgûl had swooped in and torn the Man from Dínendal’s sight. And then the arrow, thudding deep –
Dínendal told Pippin enough, so that when Pippin would wander by Boromir's room, late at night, and hear the choked cries and whimpering pleas, Pippin would hurry away, blocking out the sound, for he now knew everything that had happened, and he could not bear to think on it. He could not bear to see the scars now - for he was beginning to understand their origins more and more. And the limp and the stomach and the shoulder…
Once he had considered stopping, and going in, and waking the Man up. But he had cowered from that idea, inexplicably, and so he had hastened away.
One day, Pippin came strolling down the usual path, listening to the crunch of leaves as he walked, humming. He had some walnuts with him, and he was tossing them up, one by one, into the air and catching them in his mouth. He stopped doing that when one went down the wrong pipe, causing him to choke and gag and cough it back up, but he still entertained himself with throwing it up with one hand and catching it in the other. Juggling.
After eating the last one, he began to hear Dínendal’s voice amidst the trees. The soft cadence, the musical laughter. And there was another elven voice as well. Pippin recognized it immediately as Elladan, son of Elrond.
Indeed, when he came into the clearing, he saw that Dínendal and Elladan were speaking in the Common Tongue, gesturing animatedly, while Boromir seemed to be only half-listening. However, once the Man spotted Pippin walking down the path, his eyes warmed. Pippin smiled.
"Hi! What's this?" Pippin cried.
Dínendal and Elladan looked up.
"Ah, Master Took joins us today," Dínendal grinned.
Pippin arrived, plopped down at Boromir's side on the bench. He unbuttoned his outer coat, leaned back. "Aye. Just came from the Shire Camp up in Bilbo's room. It was getting a bit drafty in there."
Elladan chuckled. "So you chose to come outside instead?"
Pippin shrugged. "No sense in catching half a cold. It's like the Old Took said: 'either everything or nothing at all!'"
Dínendal and Elladan laughed at this, and even Boromir grinned as well.
And so they talked for a little while more, for the elves had been discussing the lands above the Iron Mountains, and what it was like there, and so Pippin listened and sometimes commented on this or that. Mostly oh and really? and that sounds quite cold. Boromir said nothing, though he would smile slightly, wanly, if one of the elves or Pippin teased him into the conversation. But apart from a rumbling retort, Boromir did not join their talk.
Eventually, Pippin pulled out his pipe. The cold weather, nipping at his ears and nose, made him itch for a good, long drag of Southfarthing’s finest – which thankfully Elrond’s House had provided in great barrels. We leave it to you hobbits and Gandalf to smoke all of this, Master Took, Elrond had said, for we elves take no delight in such pleasures. What joy! Pippin could not have conceived of a happier task!
Both Elladan and Dínendal arched an eyebrow and cleared their throats mildly when they saw the pipe, and so Pippin rolled his eyes and, resigning, stood.
“Well, then I’ll go for a walk, my intolerant elf friends,” he sighed. “Want to come, Boromir?”
Boromir looked up, for he had been leaning forward, elbows on knees, staring at his hands. He shrugged slightly, stood.
After bidding the elves farewell, the two of them began to take one of the winding wooded paths which led deep into the forests around the gentle springs and waterfall. The trees stood tall and dry, the sky was grey. The ground was slippery with mud and melting frost. For a long while, they just walked, Pippin smoking contentedly, Boromir strolling. The only sound was the occasional lilt of music carried with the wind, or the soft drag of the pipe, or the shrill caw of a winter bird, or the crunch of their feet as they walked along the narrow, winding path. They did not speak.
The days had become remarkably colder since their arrival in Rivendell, and Pippin began to feel his eyes watering and his ears and hands aching with the cold. Boromir must have noticed the hobbit’s shivering.
“Pippin, are you cold?”
Pippin took a drag of his pipe, exhaled with a laugh, teeth chattering. “Aye, just a t – t – touch.”
Immediately, Boromir began to unfasten the clasps of his fur-lined cloak. Pippin made to protest, but the Man hastened and simply dumped the huge, heavy garment on him in one swift motion, so that Pippin staggered under the weight. Boromir then busied himself with arranging the cloak around the hobbit, tucking it in as a father would to his child, until Pippin found himself wrapped several times over in heavy fur, with part of it pulled over his head like a hood. Boromir slapped his arms a few times and then smiled quickly, eyes laughing, shivering from the cold.
Pippin struggled to find an opening, and then promptly pushed out the hand which still held the smoldering pipe.
“Thank you,” he said shortly, and Boromir laughed out loud.
“Can’t have chilled halflings, can we?”
“Nay, of course not. But what about you?”
In response, Boromir straightened, ruffled the hobbit’s hair. Yet he stopped abruptly, and pulled his hand away with a pained expression, as if burnt. Awkward, he gave an embarrassed smile and turned around, moving to walk again along the path. Pippin hurried after him.
“Hi! Ho, wait, what was that all about then?” Pippin asked.
Boromir looked down at him, clearly taken off-guard by the question, but he made a face, shrugged. “What was what about?”
Pippin realized he may have looked somewhat silly, hooded and wrapped in an enormous cloak, dragging it behind him, but he frowned up at the Man. Serious. Boromir feigned ignorance. In truth, the Man looked just as silly, for he was wearing only his doublet and surcoat with his thick, leather gloves.
“We’re friends, Boromir, like we've always been,” Pippin said. “Nothing’s changed. You don’t need to… treat me formally or anything.”
Boromir nodded absently. “Aye, I know.”
“And you have nothing to be ashamed of,” Pippin continued. “So stop acting like you do.”
And here Boromir stopped, shifted his weight, sighed. He crossed his arms, looked off. Pippin watched – studied the scowling profile he knew so well – and waited. Small clouds of breath, fast evaporating. Boromir stood rigid for a moment, and he did not meet Pippin’s eyes when he spoke.
“Aye, there is shame. And much to regret, as well.” The Man turned to meet Pippin’s gaze. “I know you would forget all of it, little one… but you are too forgiving.”
Pippin opened his mouth – already prepared to cry out I am not! – but there was movement up ahead, followed by a booming exclamation, interrupting them:
“Ho! So I find you at last!”
Both Man and hobbit turned, maybe too startled. Up ahead, further along the grey forest path, a figure in brown robes, gnarled staff and a pointed hat was striding along. An owl, hovering overhead.
And although Pippin had never seen him before, he guessed immediately that this was Radagast the Brown – for the wizard’s clothes were a mess of twigs and fur, dangling lines of teeth – and his white-brown beard was frazzled and curled and it looked as if he was housing several small nests in it. He had a spring to his step which Gandalf did not – at least, not Gandalf the White – and a certain humorous expression which both Saruman and Gandalf lacked.
“Radagast?” Boromir asked, high-pitched, bewildered.
The wizard approached, ignoring Pippin altogether, and swiftly grabbed Boromir by the jaw. He tilted the Man’s head, first to the right, then to the left, studying him, finally poked him in the stomach with his staff so that Boromir doubled over, hissing in pain.
“Ah! So you are Boromir the Man, indeed!” Radagast exclaimed. “Forgive me, I was not entirely convinced it was you… my, you are looking as fit as Ragwing the Robin! And that is giving you a compliment.”
Pippin snorted inadvertently, catching Radagast’s attention. The wizard turned.
“And you have a hobbit with you!” He smiled, gave Boromir’s shoulder an affectionate pat. The Man was still hunched over, hugging his torso. “Come, Boromir, the introductions.”
With a pained swallow, Boromir straightened a little, motioned with one hand. “Peregrin, son of Paladin, this is Radagast the Brown, wizard of Mirkwood – ”
“Eryn Lasgalen,” Radagast corrected.
“Eryn Lasgalen,” Boromir sighed. “Radagast, this is Peregrin Took of the Shire.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, little Peregrin!” Radagast said, bending down and grasping the hobbit’s hand.
“Oh, the pleasure’s mine!” Pippin laughed, shaking the wizard’s hand. Still smiling, he glanced at Boromir. “Who’s Ragwing the Robin?”
“A bird-friend of Radagast’s,” Boromir explained. “I am surprised you did not send him ahead with a message heralding your arrival.”
“Oh, I couldn’t,” Radagast said. “He’s dead, I’m afraid. Poor fellow. Died last August.”
“Well, there’s no reason to stare, Boromir,” Radagast continued, huffing. “Wretched creature was well past his due, you know that. He rests in peace now.”
“I am more shocked that you compared me to a dead bird, I suppose…” Boromir muttered, scowling.
“What, what? You are shocked? Why, I am the one who is shocked! The birds and the bees have been telling me all manner of wild tales coming out of your White City – all summer long – and I tell you, I could not believe them! I thought they jested with me, or had some quarrel with you to mar your name so,” Radagast huffed. He straightened, raised his staff, poked Boromir again in the stomach. The Man yelped, pulled away. “But I see that it is true then – for you have that pasty look of the drunkard that I hear you’ve become. And what’s this about Boromir the Mad?”
At this, Boromir looked genuinely pained, and he averted his eyes, keeping an arm curled protectively around his stomach. Pippin thought for a moment to intervene, but decided against it when Radagast’s expression softened. The wizard gave Boromir’s shoulder another rough pat.
“Ah, and now you have the look of a wounded deer,” Radagast rumbled, smiling sadly. “Apparently I have been brusque, once again. Forgive me.” He turned to Pippin. “I have had very little dealings with Men, you know, and they are quite a sensitive and proud race. Very difficult to interpret. Worse than the tortoises.”
“Tortoises are difficult to interpret?” Pippin asked, momentarily distracted from the rather grim turn of conversation.
“Very,” Radagast said.
Inexplicably, Pippin smiled. He liked Radagast already. But when he caught Boromir’s eye to confirm this fondness, he found the Man glaring at the ground. Radagast, however, seemed unfazed.
“And I hear Second One is here as well?” he asked.
“Aye,” Boromir mumbled. “Dínendal is he called.”
“Dínendal! Aye, of course!” Radagast nearly slapped his forehead. “And the other two – what was it? – Amdír and Golradir, aye?”
Boromir winced. “Aye.”
Radagast turned to Boromir now, grasped him by the shoulders, smiling broadly. “Indeed I am glad to see you… come, take me to Dínendal. We shall discuss much of the adraefan, and though it grieve us, I would have you tell us all that passed between you and Amdír after the two of you left us on Dagor – ”
“There is nothing to tell!” Boromir barked. He pulled away, rough. “And what manner of speech is this? You disrespect their memory by – by speaking so lightly of them!”
“Now, Boromir, there is no need to be snappish,” Radagast frowned. “And you know I would never disrespect their memory intentionally.”
“Well, you speak as if their deaths were mere trifles!”
“I do not.”
“Boromir…” Pippin interrupted.
At Pippin’s voice, the Man flinched, startled. But then with chest heaving and a trembling hand against his brow, he nodded, eyes closed. Radagast was watching him closely.
“Nay…” Boromir muttered through clenched teeth. “Nay… I did not mean that. Forgive me, Radagast.”
“’Tis nothing, friend,” Radagast said slowly.
“Come… shall we to Elrond’s House?”
And so Boromir nodded, once, a jerking nod, and turned, walking back along the path. Radagast and Pippin exchanged a look before following.
“Ha! Radagast the Brown, my old friend!”
“And what is it now? Gandalf the White?”
“Indeed. I see your bird-spies are everywhere these days.”
“Bah! Only to provide gossip for an old fool.”
“Ah, well I am sure you have had ample of that.”
“Aye, particularly from the White City.”
The White Wizard’s expression darkened.
“You speak of Boromir?”
They were in Lord Elrond’s study: Radagast, Gandalf, Elrond and Thranduil. Outside, already the early darkening of a winter evening. A fire burning in the hearth. A kettle of tea, which everyone except Radagast had politely declined.
They had come straight from dinner to the study, for Gandalf had muttered in Radagast’s ear that there were many matters to discuss, and Radagast had replied likewise. Of course, the Brown Wizard had means to learn almost all that went on in Middle-earth, if only with a fair amount of delay since most birds were loath to travel north in the cold months, and most insects could not survive the trip. Deer could be trusted – well-meaning if ignorant creatures – but they usually misunderstood messages. And foxes usually spread the news sooner to all the forest before telling Radagast himself – if they were not shot first by wandering archers.
And so Radagast was ready to be updated.
“Indeed, I do,” he said. “The last I had heard, he had become a public disgrace! They told me he was being called Boromir the Mad in Minas Tirith.”
Gandalf sighed, nodded. “Indeed, he was. And still is, I would presume.” The White Wizard clucked his tongue. “Barad-dûr has ruined him.”
“Though where it has ruined one, others have gained,” Thranduil added. “The surviving edledhron goes West.”
“I do not think it is so much one losing and another gaining, as different paths and different ends,” Gandalf said. “They are not so comparable, Thranduil.”
“Aye, but had it not been for Boromir, Golradir, Amdír and Dínendal would still be wandering the lands to this day, and until the ending of the world. He spared them many years of shame, and torment.”
“Unknowingly,” Gandalf said shortly. “And Barad-dûr regardless.”
Silence. Gandalf and Radagast were seated, while Thranduil paced and Elrond leaned against the window. Radagast leaned forward, frowned.
“And they tell me young Amdír met his end there?”
“Nay…” Gandalf shook his head solemnly. “The Third One died of his wounds later. In Minas Tirith.”
Radagast nodded. A scowl.
“Such were their ends…” he muttered. “And yet still I grieve. And still do I secretly wish I had ne’er urged them to follow Boromir.”
Gandalf shrugged. “Well, it is the same with Frodo and I then.”
“But nonetheless it needed to be done,” Elrond spoke from the window, his back turned to them. “For reasons beyond us, such were their fates… and such will our fates be, whatever they are, when they come to it. The exiles merely delayed the inevitable, whereas Frodo’s destiny has just come to fruition. And though these fates may be painful, they must come to pass, sooner or later.”
Pippin walked down the darkened corridor. He had nearly finished packing, he just needed to find his one scarf. He had left it in the kitchens – at least, he hoped he had left it in the kitchens. His older sister Pimpernel had knitted it for him, and if it should have survived the first journey to Rivendell, an embittered and malevolent tree, a demon in the dwarf-mines and all the other numerous near-death experiences with the Fellowship, an orc kidnapping and an Ent rescue, followed by an Ent battle which led to more journeying and eventually tarrying in a burning White City while Mordor pounded at the gates, or rescuing wounded sons from crazed fath – no, do not think on that. Well… if it had survived all of Pippin’s adventures only to be forgotten on a bench in a Rivendell kitchen – his sister would not be pleased.
And so he took the stairs leading down to the floor level, and he found a door leading outside and crossed the open courtyard – skipping, because it was cold and he was only wearing his vest – before slipping into the antechamber leading to the kitchens. The torches were spent, no one was about. Pippin walked up to the door, pulled at the latch. Slowly, heavily, groaning, it opened.
The kitchen. Dark. Long, wooden tables. Abandoned cauldrons, kettles, pots and pans. It was cold, the fire was out. Pippin went to the bench where he thought he left it – it was not there.
“Oh, no…” Pippin groaned.
He looked under the bench. Nothing. Under the table. On the other bench, where Merry had sat. On all the other benches, and under all the other tables. Nothing. Behind the stoves, near the hearth, in all the cauldrons. At one point, he saw something dark and possibly green catch his eye in the corner, by the wine barrels, but it was just a trick of light. He kept searching. On the windowsill, outside in the bushes under the windows. Back in the kitchen – Pippin looked around, shoulders slumped, dismal.
He had lost his sister’s scarf.
How would he explain this? He did not have the heart to lie – to say an orc had snatched it from him and gagged him with it when he and Merry had been captured – or perhaps he had used it to flag down Legolas and Gimli when they were in Lothlórien – or he could have also lost it while trying to fan out the flames on a wounded Faramir’s side while his father – nay, nay, nay. How many times must you think on it? Regardless, Pippin could not tell Pimpernel that he had lost it on an adventure. He would simply have to admit that he had misplaced it in Rivendell, only a few weeks before he could have returned home with it.
Dejected, Pippin left the kitchen, crossed the courtyard, found the door inside and took the stairs back up to the floor where his room was.
Hullo, Nellie. Oh, yes, the scarf? I’m sorry – unfortunately I misplaced it in Rivendell on my way back. You know, where the elves are. Very kind, the elves. They promised to send it along as soon as they found it. No, no, I won’t need another one, thank you.
Or would that be rude?
Oh yes, thank you, I’d love another one. Though only if it’s no trouble to you. It was really quite silly of me – considering all the places I had visited – to lose it in Rivendell. It was quite a nice scarf. So… did you hear about Frodo?
He was just passing the library on his right, when, at the end of the corridor, coming from the bedroom there, muffled by the closed door, he heard the familiar cries. Boromir.
Pippin hesitated. He stopped in his tracks, locked, frozen. He was still quite far from the room itself, but he knew that he would not be able to pass it. Not when the Man was yelling like that. And so he decided to wait. He would wait until there was a pause in the Man’s nightmares, just a brief moment of silence, and then he would go dodging down the corridor, closing his ears and blinking back the tears.
And so he waited. He put his fingers in his ears – though it did nothing to mute the sound – and waited. All the while, his chest aching and his insides twisting.
Finally, when it seemed like it was not getting any better, Pippin decided to just move. He looked a fool, standing there in the hallway only because he was too frightened to walk past the door and hear the screams. It was better to just force himself past it and go.
And so he walked. Slow, jerking steps. He wanted to run, but his body was not responding to his commands as it should have been. And he stared at the door as he walked – listening to the screams as they became louder, clearer; Pippin began to recognize places, names – and then he recognized one name, which forced him to stop:
“No – no… no… Merry! Pippin! No! Run!”
Another strangled wail. Pippin’s heart – thundering in his chest. He guessed the nightmare, some Amon Hen scene, probably shifted and surreal and worse and – aye, he had had those dreams as well. Sometimes Boromir was in them, where the Man had dull, unseeing eyes and yellow-green dead-looking skin, dragging along with bleeding wounds and the arrows – Pippin hated those dreams. He hated dreaming of the others – dreaming of Merry, Sam, Frodo, Boromir, the Shire – all of them, in danger, dying, slipping away from him.
Tentatively, he knocked.
Babbled pleas, screams through the wood. Pippin swallowed, turned the knob, pushed.
He could just barely see the thrashing figure in bed. The shutters had been pulled, blocking the moonlight. But Pippin saw Boromir there, twisting, throwing his head back. A vivid reminder of the days in the Houses of Healing.
“Boromir,” Pippin called. He walked forward, clenching his fists, kneading a corner of his vest in one hand. “Boromir, wake up.”
Nothing. The Man nearly pulled away from the voice with a mangled cry. Finally, Pippin placed a hand – fearful – on the Man’s shoulder – the wounded shoulder, it was closest in the dark – and squeezed.
Immediately, Boromir came awake with a snort. The screams, disappearing into the night. Pippin’s hand was still on his shoulder.
“Bad dream,” he said.
Boromir stared at him, breathing hard. In the dim light, Pippin could just see the faint silhouette, could hear the Man’s gasps, feel the twitching muscle underneath his palm. He pulled his hand away.
I know what it’s like, Pippin wanted to say. Don’t worry about it. Things will be better in the morning, they always are. Maybe you should talk to Elrond, he might have something to help you sleep better.
I’m sorry about the elves, Boromir. I’m sorry about Third One, and how you heard him in Barad-dûr, and how you still hear him.
But when I think about things like that, and people I miss, and people that… when I think about Denethor, and that day, sometimes I like to imagine that he can see what Minas Tirith has become, and that he sees you and Faramir and all of his loved ones and maybe me, too, and that he’s at peace and happy and he’s sorry about how it ended and everything that happened. So maybe you could think about Third One that way. Maybe. If it helps. It might, you could try.
But instead, all Pippin did was mutter, “Sorry.”
He turned to leave. And he walked a few steps, hastening to leave, before stopping abruptly, and turning back. He returned to the side of the bed.
“You didn’t happen to see my green scarf lying around, did you?”
The departure from Imladris. The first of November, a frigid blue dawn. Everyone was bundled up, their exhalations crystallizing in tiny clouds. Bilbo had come down to see them off, and the hobbits all crowded around him, saying their goodbyes. Radagast would be traveling with them until the Old Forest at least, where he intended to visit Tom Bombadil. The Brown Wizard stood by his horse now, whispering to it, complaining about the cold.
Boromir and Dínendal stood by their horses. Boromir clapped his gloved hands together, frowned, squinted. He hated mornings, if only because they felt like a perennial recovery from his months of drinking, and every morning he awoke to a throbbing head and nausea. Dínendal stood by, speaking with Elrohir and Elladan, laughing quietly.
Pippin walked back from the hobbit group. He was smiling. Boromir grimaced. How the hobbit could be so chipper on a freezing November morning was inconceivable.
Pippin tugged at the dark green scarf around his neck.
“Found my scarf. I had already packed it. Ha!”
He gave Boromir a quick laugh and rolled his eyes before trudging off to his pony. Boromir shook his head. They should be saying Pippin the Mad, not Boromir the Mad.
“Valar, would that I had a drink right now…” he muttered to no one in particular.
After nodding and bowing to the twin sons of Elrond, Dínendal returned to his horse. He mounted. Boromir walked to the side of his own steed, paused for a moment to allow his knees time to accustom themselves to the idea of riding for the next few days. One, two, and –
Once saddled, Dínendal smiled at him.
“Do try to be less merry in the mornings, Boromir. You shall sprain something if you carry on like that.”
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