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Sept 5, 2016 - Vreeah - Dreamt and Lost - Chapter 1-2 (V) - 2,406 words


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And so, here is the first and second chapter of Dreamt and Lost, a story I'm constructing while doing some more research for Jeweled Songbirds.

The magic system in use here is looser than the ones I usually go for, so I'm not too worried about how much I might need to explain.

The first chapter is actually a rewrite to experiment with a cold opening start to the story. I delayed a few detailed descriptions on how to call magic to action in order to speed things along, so I wonder how it will work out.

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Hey Vreeah! Absolutely loved the story! It is a much looser magic system than I am accustomed to reading, but I find myself wanting to know more about it. I feel there are some specifics to its use we don't know yet, and I can't wait to find them out! I also thought the story's pacing, especially in the action scenes, was on-point. The dialogue also had a nice, flowing clip to it. 

I should mention the funny coincidence that yours and Hobbit's MCs both have similar names. I kept reading Ellis as Elias, but that was probably just my brain's very own type of craziness reading it wrong lol

On to a couple of points that can be improved on:

Page 1: Ellis is described as a new sentry. I know later on you explain he is a natural, but right here I was under the impression that he was a novice, with little experience to his name. When he started practically single-handedly destroying the dreams I was quite surprised (not in a good way).

Page 2: Quick note: It may be worthwhile to mention the wolf has a beak in the sentence where it is first introduced, rather than assuming the reader already knows strange things are happening and having the wolf attack with a weapon we didn't know he had. Similarly, you may want to mention Sofia's name when attention is first called to her (maybe "the lance of Ellis's sister, Sofia, ..."

Page 3: "Ellis slammed his hands down." What does this mean? If you mean he slammed them into the ground, how can he reach it if he is standing?

Also, how effective is a "grass blade"?

Page 4: The flaming spider monster didn't seem so scary. They killed it on their first try, and it did absolutely nothing to them besides for causing all the dreams to congregate, allowing them to be quickly and efficiently destroyed, while simultaneously tying off any loose ends... Seems more like a plot requirement.

Page 5: "Ellis heard incoming footsteps and swooshing fabrics, so he looked over to see a lady sitting next to him." This line rings strangely to me, for some reason... Been trying to figure out why, but keep drawing a blank. Sorry :(

Page 6: Trying to stay out of the grammar territory (Robinski will cover that :)), but just wanted to pop in to note some capitalization issues. "Rima sipped a spoonful of red soup. "You didn't come to the cafeteria. Were you not hungry after dealing with the dreams?"

Page 7: Sorry, I promise, this is the last one. "Rima lifted her brows," made me imagine her grabbing them with her hands and pulling them up... It could just be me, but maybe "raised" would be better? Also, I had a little trouble with some of the tags you used, here. I believe that are called said-bookisms, but words that you substitute for "said," and, maybe, "asked," tend to pull the reader out of the story. The two I caught were "Ellis sighed," and "Ellis laughed." The second one actually doesn't even make sense if you think about it. When was the last time you heard someone laugh out their words?

Page 8:


There are only so many chambers with windows leading out of the nursery, and they have to be used as sleeping quarters. You wouldn't want wild dreams roaming inside here, would you?"

But it's alright if they roam outside, terrorizing everyone else?

Overall: The story was really enjoyable, and the magic system seems to have a lot of potential. I haven't read anything that employs a loose magic system in a while, so this will definitely be a refreshing read. Most of my criticisms were nit-picky, and much will probably be explained as the story goes on. I was just trying to throw my first reactions at you, hopefully building the clay ball that you can now mold. Thanks for letting me read this!

Edited by Tariniel
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I liked this a lot more than Jeweled Songbirds.  The looser magic means you can do a lot more with it before people start asking questions.

My main concern was that there were a lot of passive sentences:

pg 2: "A black thorn with a crimson tip, the lance of Ellis's sister"
--I took me a minute to realize you're talking about Sofia, not Ellis.  I thought Ellis was using his sister's spear.

"Shining strips were released from the incinerated weeds and sucked up by the metal spider"
"When the snacks were taken out of the pitcher"

End of ch 1:  they defeated the spider very easily. I Would have liked to  see more challenge for them.  It's a great chance to show us Sofia and Ellis' personalities under duress and show why these nightmares are such a big deal.

pg 6: "primal school"
--primary? or wild?  I see what you're doing, but the word choice makes me think the latter definition.

pg 7: I assume Sofia is sitting next to Ellis, but she sort of disappeared from the conversation .  What's her reaction to Rima, or is she involved with the children?

I also thought it strange that it's better for the dreams to rampage around outside rather than be contained in the school.  I like Ernei's suggestion of waking the children in groups. Obviously we don't know much about the world yet, but so far it doesn't seem to hard to be a sentinel.

I was a little concerned we were getting into fridging territory when Sofia got attacked by the snake.  I'm sure kaisa will probably have something to say, but why is Sofia the one endangered?  She seemed to be more competent in battle.  Seemed very much like the brother going to rescue the weaker sister.  The chapter ending is a little abrupt, so I',m
interested to see what happens next.

In all, good start to a story.  Currently I'm more interested in this one than Songbirds.

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Ah good. Excited to see how this turned out!


I think it is coming along nicely! You've skewed heavy to battle in chapter one, which is fine, but now you need to put a bit of character building back in so we are invested in what the characters are doing. Other than that I think it's a great start. I love the concept. I don't have fridge warnings yet, as I'm not clear at all what is happening with the sister, but just remember that it's not that we don't want to see females injured or killed, it just becomes a problem when the character exists solely to move a male character forward. So if this is a greater plot point that helps Sofia, excellent. If it's to showcase magic or plot elements, you can probably squeak by. If Ellis is going to use his sister's damage to fuel him into some berserker rage that helps him defeat this giant snake thing that has stopped two women, then you'll be hearing from me. :) 

As I go

- Opening line - was actually hoping for that exact sentence I flagged in your earlier draft. That was a dynamic sentence. This one is ho-hum. Maybe try something like: The bells chimed, the shutters opened, and in complete synchronization, two hundred and fifty children awoke. Their dreams tumbled from their heads, bled across crumbled sheets and tossed clothes, and crashed through the windows to the sentry guards outside. 

- page one: you could introduce Ellis with a lot more flare if you wanted. Ellis, his first day on the job and wide eyed with terror/wonder/anticipation...

- page two: you could add a quick aside here after the A black thorn paragraph to introduce Sofia. Something like Her movements were more fluid than his, likely from the two years she had on him in training. She'd always been better at vaulting anyway, Ellis mused. He'd made fun of her for it in childhood. Now, however...

- page three: I think we need more foreshadowing that Boss Dream is coming. When the people 'kill' a dream, it'd be nice to note wisps of fog or something circling near one area. You can do long battle scenes like this if you are clearly building to something larger. Otherwise, they just seem random.

- page four, final paragraph, is another chance to add in bits of character development 

- page four: the boss takedown was unfortunately quick. Would like to see more build up to it then some neat take down stuff that involves character building. I want to get invested! Also, I do first page crits sometimes for Twitter contests, and what I've always been taught and what I tell people is that in that first page preferably, but at least the first chapter we need clearly defined stakes and motivation. This usually includes (but not necessarily) protag introductions, although certainly there are ways around this. In your chapter one we do get some tension and some stakes, but the reader has no real idea of why Ellis fights. It doesn't have to be some long exposition. A few snippets tagged in here and there would be enough.

- page five: 'gross foods' should really be explained better. Use more words!

- page eight: and we have our romance arc established it would seem. Bad puns included!

- page nine: you're in danger of overwhelming me with names. Rima works, Cornias I might remember. You do another and it will go right out of my head,


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Hello again, Vreeah!  I think the other reviews covered my reactions pretty well.  I really enjoyed these two chapters, especially the vivid, dynamic magic system.  It's fun to spend mental time in a world where it seems like anything is possible!

I'll agree with the other reviews and start by saying that the initial battle scene got too long for me. The awesome dream monsters and cool armor/weapons carried my interest and attention to the top of page 3.  After that, I felt satiated, and I was ready for more world-building information and/or character development.  I think just focusing the battle on building for the spider wouldn't quite do it for me here, though I'm sure it would be awesome.  You've got my attention - now I want to know some why's and who's!

A smaller thing:  I was also kind of confused by the second paragraph in your second chapter.  Do the kids watch the sentries fight?  Do they usually swarm the sentries that they think are cool?  And what does it take to impress these kids?  Because I thought the fight sounded pretty impressive.  And I hadn't realized that Ellis was trying to play it safe until you said so here.

On 9/7/2016 at 8:55 AM, Ernei said:

The end of the chapter is a nice cliffhanger at first glance, but I don't have any particular feelings about it. I don't care for Ellis yet, and I care for his sister even less. Nameless children I won't even count. I feel like it would have much more impact if you had let the character grow on the reader more. 

I felt similar at the end.  I would like to feel more invested in the school, or the characters, or the kids, or all three before the attack.  I think you can easily build this in with another revision, though - there's a lot of opportunities to show off Ellis's character.

Overall I really enjoyed it!  I hope we get to know more about this world, because it sounds really interesting!

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First read impressions:

This was a fun introduction to your story.  You hop into the action straight off.   You have a steep learning curve.  Your initial chapter is filled with wondrous battles using strange powers.  Your magic uses conventional things in unusual ways.   I think steep learning curves are fine. They help establish what you are going to offer  and they can also intimidate some readers.  Just be aware of it.

I could visualize your fight scene.  Your language was descriptive without becoming over detailed.  At times though your word choice seemed off:

“Air trembled and ground shook.” 

I don’t think air trembles.  I’d reconsider the word.

Your magic is a bit of a mystery right now, and I’m curious about how it works.  Besides the physical exertion, I’m not sure if I can see any tangible costs to its use.  I know it’s early in the story, and you don’t have to establish that yet, but it might help to plant a seed. J


Ellis comes across as competent, likeable and active.  It was fun to read, but that combination has me wondering if this is going to be a story about how awesome he is.  My gut tells me no, so I might make him a little less capable in chapter 1, or a little less likeable in chapter 2.

You make an effort to describe your setting, and the creatures well. I think you could probably have cut out one of the smaller monsters and attacked the huge creature a little quicker without losing anything as far as establishing your magic or characters though.

What do Ellis and his sister look like?  You take some time to describe their robes, and how long they got them but I don’t really know what they look like. How old are they?  Are they strong, tall, short or fat?  You mention that Sofia’s thorn lance grew to the size of a cottage. That is big. Does her magic give her strength? 

I read the final scene with the fat snake over a few times.  I didn't get that Sofia was closer to him than the snake was.  I think you should read it over and see if it works for you. It may be that I'm just overtired.  


A few lines I noticed:

Ellis heard incoming footsteps and swooshing fabrics, so he looked over to see a lady sitting next to him.

I think you should replace ‘so’ with ‘and’. 

A white wolf slipped past the vanguard and leapt at Ellis.


The lance continued on until it dug onto the ground, allowing Sofia to vault overhead and land inside a cluster of glossy figurines.

Into the ground


Ellis summoned a handful of seeds and threw them at the eel. As the seeds struck, they burst into a clump of roots and sprouts, dragging the eel down till it crashed and vaporized.

I’d refer to the ell differently the second time.

Strong heat washed over the atmosphere. Swathes of misty wisps—the remnants of broken dreams—were drawn into a single creature. One of the children dreamt something strong enough to feast.

Repetition of the word ‘strong’.

The tips of its parts grinded together, resulting in metallic screeches that resounded from its twisted body.

Grinded should be ‘ground’.

They panted and watched their quarry aerify into a huge wisp, then grinned at each other.

‘An enormous wasp’ sounds better.

Sofia fared better, but the crowd of children currently gathered around her weren't there because of how she did during the midmorning awakening.

You should change weren’t to wasn’t.


When the snacks were taken out of the pitcher, they were covered by crunchy crystals.

Taken isn’t the best word choice.


Ellis smiled. "Oh, you know, keeping busy so that I'm not too worried about dying. It's very nice and relaxing."

The lady smiled back. "Sounds like the usual thing for soldiers," she said. "My name is Rima, nice to meet you."

Repetition of the word ‘nice’.


I hope you find this feedback helpful.  I’m new to this and would appreciate your feedback. Would you tell me what parts of this critique did you find useful and which parts you could do without?

Thank you kindly,



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Hey Vreeah, just wanted to mention that I read your submission the other night and didn't get a chance to post my reaction at the time. Honestly, I don't have much more to add here. I'm with a lot of folks who've posted already, that I enjoyed these chapters and want to see more. I liked it from start to finish, I think. It is a great introduction to this world and I am interested in seeing what kind of plot you're going to bring in and how the characters grow on me. After the big battle of baby dreams in chapter 1, the title of chapter 2 made me laugh out loud. Loved it.

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Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! It was a pleasure to hear from you all, and I now have a much better idea of how to improve.



I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Huh, didn't expect such similar names. Once I have the time, I still need to hit up Hobbit's story before I move on to this week's submissions.

Pg1 - I get what you're saying. I'll probably tone down Ellis's part in the melee, though it is important that I emphasize Sofia.

Pg 2 - Good points, pun intended.

Pg 3 - Admittedly, the hand slam was more of a focus-switching sentence than a strictly needed action. Lazy writing on my part, there's likely a much better way to do it.

Pg 4 - Hm, noted as a place of failed conveyance. The only dreams that were absorbed at this point were supposed to be the broken remnants.

Pg 5 - Awkwardness also noted.

Pg 6 - Alrighty.

Pg 7 - Gotcha. Hm, I am aware of said bookisms. I'll proofread for unnecessary ones.

Pg 8 - Ah, right. I cut a dialogue bit that mentioned safety rooms to do the cold opening, but didn't introduce the information later.

O - Very helpful!



I'll put that down as a plus for the cold open, good to know!

Mm, spending more time on introducing characters might do me some good.

Sounds like a good reader question to answer as early as I can. I'll make the reveal for the mass-awakening justification a higher priority.

You know, I never got the hang of how to immediately convey target demographics. Maybe I need to wound an inexperienced sentry, possibly Ellis since he's so squishy, but probably someone else so that I don't spend too much time on the wounds after the opening.

A mistake I suspect I've made is to develop a friendship before giving more information on the main characters, even though the dialogue was originally intended as character development. I need more chapters before I introduce one of the overarching conflicts.

Noted. Sounds reasonable.

Will do. Extra chapters inbound.

And yes, this weak empathy is probably the result of badly paced transitions. Good calls.



Agreed. My pile of reference material is also shorter, which is nice.

Must destroy unnecessarily passive sentences at all costs. Well, most costs.

Pg 2 - Whoops. I'll imply the character entrance before that part.

End of ch 1 - Fair. I didn't truly need the spider at this moment, I just needed to introduce a few powers I'll be putting to use later. I'll reorganize.

Pg 6 - That's actually pretty in line with the impression I wanted to give.

Pg 7 - Ah, nope, I have messed up describing their positioning. I'll make the distance between the siblings clearer.

It's not hard to be a sentry, but it's probably being shown as easier than I intended. Will attempt to fix that impression.

Sofia's fine. Just a flesh wound, as some knights might say, though Sofia can say it with more honesty. It does look like Ellis is coming to the rescue, though, which I hadn't intended. Need to rewrite this part.

Then I'm on a better track. I'll start reinforcing it some more.



So many thanks for all your help so far! Those LBLs are enormously useful.

O - I'll actually need to tone down the battle. I was using it to introduce devices for later, but I stretched it more than I needed to. Character building is definitely lacking. I missed that mark by quite a bit.

Ellis and Sofia are my precious co-protagonists. Refrigerators/ice houses are solely for their food.

Opening - Drats, will revise this for more immersive effect.

Pg 1 & 2 - Noted, will retake the missed character introduction opportunities.

Pg 3 - Going to cut the spider, actually. I'll have other moments to show off the extent of dreams.

Pg 4 - I'm going to need to make a list of all these targets I didn't shoot character arrows at.

Pg 5 - I think a cat dream roamed through my head and sat on my mental dictionary. Will add more relevant words and make the descriptions more immersive.

Pg 8 - Did not actually mean for that to seem romantic. Hm, I need more friendship modifiers, whatever those are.

Pg 9 - Got it.



Hi Hobbit!

Aye, I need to move on from the violence and step into the peace in better ways.

Yeah, the kids wake up and either interact with the dream, interact with the internal sentries killing any risky indoor dreams, or look out their window and watch what's going on. I can't express that whole thought from Ellis's viewpoint, but I'll get some snippets in and tone down his fighting activity.

I'll focus on Ellis, Sofia, and Rima for their characters. The overarching conflict can wait a bit as I establish all this stuff, though I'll drop a hint of it in the first chapter so that the plot doesn't take too long to get people moving.



I'm going to do this backwards, just to make sure you get your feedback first. It was indeed helpful.

First impressions are always great. I believe it's the closest representation to what potential readers are going through, so it's something I focus a lot on when I'm considering any revisions I need to prioritize.

I'm fine with the vocabulary and grammar help, but I'd say it's the least useful of the list. At this early stage, I tend to make big changes in response to notable points. Those changes sometimes overshadow the single sentences or words that are brought up.

True to this group's origins, I see you have a foundation of your feedback based on Writing Excuses. I see Brandon's three character sliders, and it was a good reminder. I seemed to have dialed Ellis's competence up too much. I focused entirely on the battle he took part in, and didn't describe the ways other sentries outclassed him. I still might not include the other sentries, since they aren't immediately vital, but I can tone down Ellis's apparent skill at his new job.

A belated welcome, by the way. I look forward to seeing your work in this forum.



Hi Coop!

Haha, yes, I am a bit in love with my own titles. I don't think it's healthy, but it works. Hearing that you've enjoyed the submission is a big boost to morale, and I hope to continue to trend.

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Sorry this is so late. Just doing a little light catching up, I hope that these comments are helpful. I'm intrigued to read this after your first submission.

As usual, comments based on MRK’s ABCD method, yaddah, yaddah, (A) = Awesome; (B) = Boring; (C) = Confusing; and (D) = Disbelief (-inducing), plus (G) Grammar/typo.

Detailed comments below, but overall, I enjoyed the tone and the vibrant descriptions. I think there could have been a bit more in terms of colours, but maybe I'm quibbling. The first chapter is a short and punchy, exactly the kind of thing that I like to capture my attention at the start of a story. It has an arc of its own and a moment at the end to catch breath, as the characters do. Nicely done. I'm full of question about what is going on as I got into Chapter 2.

I like the scene-sequel feeling of this chapter, allowing me to learn about the setting and more about the people. I feel like it’s good form to have this quiet contemplation of what happened. I'm still engaged. Then , things ramp up quite suddenly at the end, which is good. The children are being take and there are some big stakes to get engaged with. One issue I have with the sudden build up is that I would have liked it to feel different from the children’s dreams. The tone could have been darker, conveying danger instead of childish exuberance. Make it clear that this is much more serious. Also, I would have liked to see something of the children being taken, rather can just being told by Sofia.

In summary though, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I certainly think it’s more convincing and entertaining than Jewelled Songbirds, which I think needed more work and seemed to have a less sympathetic main character.

Good work!

Best, <R>


Chapter 1

(C) – “the nursery's white stone walls” – Visualisation issue. Is the stone white, like chalk (seems unlikely for building purposes!) or marble (also unlikely for a nursery due to the cost), or is it painted with whitewash or similar?

(AAA) – “tore forcibly into the collage of childhood make-believe” – this is a superb line.

(G) – “but couldn't pierce through the hardened leaf” – ‘pierce’ means going through something.

(G) – “Ellis felt the impact push him back” – I’ve just mentioned this in another review. I used to do this too. Consider this sentence against “The impact pushed Ellis back.” You're telling us what he felt instead of simply showing us the outcome. Your phrasing is much less direct than it could be and therefore less effective, imho.

(D) – “beaked wolf” – This sounds awfully like the trollocs in Wheel of Time.

(A) – There are some nice images on the opening page and I feel a sense of exuberance and energy in the description. It’s nicely done. Wee bit of tidying here and there, typos and such, but I was nicely engaged.

(G) – “squeezing them until their shapes collapsed” – again, directness of language, why not just say ‘until they collapsed’?

(C) – “jutted into view and punctured the beaked wolf” – disconnect here, what was wolf doing when he was dealing with three other dreams?

(A) – “She lashed out with the thin white needle in her left hand, shredding the figurines” – I'm really enjoying the description, it’s fun. I feel like everything here is in miniature, that she’s wielding an actual needle and her mantle is a leaf.

(G) – “Strong heat washed over the atmosphere” – Not keen on this phrasing. I would think the heat is part of the atmosphere, rather than separate. Also, the phrasing could be more direct, the heat washing over Ellis, rather than it reading like he is removed from it, separated from the heat by the atmosphere.

(AAA) – “drawn into a single creature... ...a silver spider, woven together from metal eating utensils, all of which were aflame” – excellent image, it was great before it was aflame!

(A) – “Bait it, and I'll punch through!” – I like this snappy dialogue in a fight. People don’t have time to talk ‘properly’ in the heat of the action, but this clipped dialogue still conveys to me what she is asking.

(G) – “The tips of its parts grinded ground together”

(D) – “Her lance was the size of a cottage” – I don’t like this phrase. A lance is slender, a cottage is blocky – one if these things is not like the other!!

(G) – “watched their quarry aerify” – I’ve got no issue with made-up words, but there is a ‘proper’ words for this, I feel. Depending on what process is at work here, something like sublimate (solid to gas) or vapourise (liquid to gas) or evaporate (liquid to gas) or disperse (gas to... nothing).

Chapter 2

(G) – “the crowd of children currently gathered around her weren't wasn’t there” – it refers to the crowd, not the children, ‘the crowd wasn’t there...’

(A) – “dipping their food in the nectar. When the snacks were taken out of the pitcher, they were covered by crunchy crystals” – Again, nice imagery, I'm feeling comfortably absorbed into this (seeming) faerie world.

(A) – “Sofia told them she can sugar-coat anything” – Lol. I like your dialogue; it has the ring of things that people actually might say which, in fiction, isn’t always the case. For example, “That's Sofia's philosophy, not mine.” I think one of things I'm enjoying about the dialogue is that it is not over elaborate.

(G) – “then picked up her biscuit and stood from her seat” – Obvious and therefore unnecessary.

(A) – “Uh," Ellis looked from Rima to the wooden tray. "Okay, then” – Another dialogue example. You show Ellis’s puzzlement at Rima’s demanding tone without telling.

(B) – “He heard their footsteps echo as they strode on” – Having said that, here is an example that sounds like indirect telling, compared to, say, ‘Their footsteps echoed...’

(A) – “You wouldn't want wild dreams roaming inside here, would you?” – Excellent!

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On 07/09/2016 at 0:01 PM, Tariniel said:

Hey Vreeah! Absolutely loved the story! It is a much looser magic system than I am accustomed to reading, but I find myself wanting to know more about it

I would suggest not going all Sandersonian on the magic system. There's nothing wrong with have magic that just works, and if you use it in a consistent way, you don't have to have a great big rule book behind it. As you show through examples of its use how powerful it if, and don't suddenly introduce something new to solve problems, I would be perfectly happy to accept it without huge explanation and exposition. One caveat in that, you probably need to explain where the magic comes from, deity, ethereal essence, whatever.

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On 08/09/2016 at 1:00 PM, kaisa said:

- page four: the boss takedown was unfortunately quick

For me, the spider is still the product of children's dreams, so I don't think you want it to be too difficult. It looks imposing on first inspection, then it's dealt with. As I noted, I think the issue is actually that the snake at the end is not bad, dark, nasty enough compared to the spider. I think while 'we' were maybe just a bit impressed with the spider, we should be quaking at the description of the snake, imho.


Edited by Robinski
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