And The Tale Is Told

And The Tale Is Told
by Addie Fielding
May 2001

Introduction & Disclaimer

This is cross-over between Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. It’s also a sequel to a previous cross-over story, “Walking Away.”

Warning: NC-17 adult situation – m/m.

Spoilers: None for the Vampire Chronicles, as this is set in the future. For Cal, this is set in the period he was wandering after the “death” of Pell, his lover.

All items contained on these pages are non-profit amateur fiction. The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire and all characters named in those books are the copyright of Storm Constantine and her publishers. All characters named in the Vampire Chronicles, are copyright of Anne Rice and her publishers. No infringement on the copyrights are intended. These stories are for personal enjoyment only and should be reproduced, electronically or otherwise, only for this purpose and never for profit of any sort.

To contact the author, email addief@usermail.com.

And The Tale Is Told

– 1 –

Pellaz sat in the inner sanctum of the temple, talking quietly with the spirit of Thiede. It was something he liked to do every few days. It kept him on the right path, kept him balanced and besides, he just enjoyed chatting with his old mentor. Thiede could be contacted anywhere, at any time of the day or night, but Pell liked this quiet place, with its marble floors, soft cushions and the sweet smell of incense.

Pellaz quite often discussed the business of his Kingdom with him, but also found it a good opportunity to talk about Cal and Rue. If they had both been bothering him, for some inane reason or another, then Thiede had a good pair of ears. He never judged, Pell wouldn’t let him for a start. On this occasion, it was Cal he was ranting about. He told him that he simply wouldn’t open up to him about his travels. Pell wanted to know everything that had happened to him. All the gory details. But Pell knew that he was holding something back.

Cal seemed quite happy to talk about his imprisonment by Thiede, after he had been travelling with Swift and Leef. He mentioned Cobweb briefly, and Pell had made a mental note to look him up again one day. He even talked a little about his adventures with Panthera and this reunion with Zackala. But Pell knew there had been more. Cal insisted that anything else was simply too boring to talk about, or that he had simply forgotten.

“Surely you were watching him all the time, Thiede. What is he holding back?”

“I didn’t watch him all the time, Pell. I did have other things to keep my mind occupied. Like one slightly headstrong Tigron and his equally headstrong Tigrina. Any how, why do you need to know everything that happened to him? He was wandering for 30 odd years. It’s all past, and should be forgotten. All you need to concentrate on now is how you can work together to build a better future.”

“I just get this feeling every now and then, that someone from his past, who was very important, is about to pop up again and disrupt things.”

“I’m sure you will be strong enough to handle any one, Pellaz. Stop worrying.”

But Pell couldn’t help it. Once when they had been snuggled together after a rather strenuous bout of aruna, Cal had called out a strange name. It was garbled, but Cal’s words had been full of passion. Why was he worrying about this one in particular. He knew that Cal had shared his body and his mind with many on his travels. In fact Cal had probably truly forgotten half of them, but this one was different. When Cal awoke some mornings he had an eerie expression on his face, and when questioned would shy away from him.

“Look, Cal.” Pell would say. “I’m not jealous. I’ve heard of your trysts with Cobweb and his hostling Swift. I have even had dealings with Swift and I like him immensely. I’ve met your Panthera, who is extremely happy with Zack. So why can’t you talk about them all? Why can’t you tell me about the one who’s name is on your lips sometimes when you awaken in a sweat?”

“I don’t remember who it is, Pell. Just leave it. It’s not important.”

But Pell wasn’t so sure.

Pell left the temple that evening, feeling annoyed and tired. Cal had been busy with Ashmael for the whole of the day, and Thiede had been unusually quiet on the subject of Cal. Usually he couldn’t stop talking about him. Pell had the feeling that something strange was about to happen. As he walked along the pristine corridors that led between the temple and his private quarters he was sure he was being followed. It was an entirely ridiculous assumption, as he knew these private areas were extremely well protected by guards. In fact the guards were dotted all along the walkway, and nodded to him with respect as he passed. Vaysh, was also with him, and was walking a little way behind, his head buried in some important notes.

Pellaz stopped and looked back, Vaysh not being aware that he had, ran straight into him. “Pell, what’s the matter?”

“Did you hear something?”

Vaysh looked at Pellaz as if he thought his Tigron has lost his mind. “No, Pell. I didn’t hear anything. There is nothing to hear. No one uninvited can enter here. There are guards everywhere. What the problem?”

“It’s just that I have this strange feeling that something is about to happen.”

“Are you saying you have had a premonition?”

‘No, not exactly. I think somewhere is here who shouldn’t be.”

Vaysh put his folder down on a bench and took hold of Pellaz’s shoulders. “You are working too hard. You need to get more rest. Let Cal take over a few of your duties for a while. Come, we’ll have some wine, then you can get an early night.”

Pellaz nodded. Vaysh was always right. His imagination was playing tricks on him. He decided he would do just what Vaysh had suggested and when they reached the door to his rooms, he called upon one of his servants to fetch a tray of food and some wine. He would sit with Vaysh for a while, then turn in early. He could feel his muscles relaxing as he drank and talked to Vaysh, who seemed to be in an unusually talkative mood. After their jug of wine was finished, Vaysh excused himself and Pell moved into his bedroom, to undress for bed.

The night was warm, and his room was a little stuffy, so he opened the windows that led to his balcony. He stood there for a few minutes, completely naked, knowing that no one could see into his little patio that was surrounded by ferns and other exotic plants. He loved feeling the breeze flow over his body. He pulled the tie from his hair and let it tumble down his back, then lifted his face to the moon. Just as he was about to step back inside he saw a shadow flit across the ground.

Concerned for his safety, Pell hid behind one of the ferns and peered out. He couldn’t see or hear anything and with his mind began to scan the area. He didn’t discern anything untoward. Thinking that he was just being paranoid, he stepped out from his hiding place and began to make his way across the patio to his bed, that was just beyond the open doors.

“So he found you?”

Pell spun around at the sound of the soft voice behind him.

“Who are you and how did you get in here?” Pellaz was a little concerned and with his mind called for assistance from his guards.

“No point in doing that,” his visitor informed him. I have blocked your thoughts.

“Really?” Pell answered, unconvinced and began to call again, out loud this time.

“You are just as stubborn as him, aren’t you?” The visitor had moved a little out of the shadows now and Pell stepped back with surprise. The visitor was handsome, in an evil sort of way, with pale skin and shimmering eyes.

“Who? What are you talking about?”

The visitor sighed deeply. “Ah! He hasn’t told you about me then?”

“I can only assume you mean Cal.”

“Perceptive of you. Oui, Cal is the Har I was talking about. Where is he by the way, I would love to catch up with him?”

“What makes you think he would want to see you?” Pellaz was more angry now than concerned, and was just about to move past the stranger and call for his guards again when he spied some one else lurking in the shadows.

“The guards are asleep Tigron. Slack of them really.” The visitor seemed amused and the smile on his face made him look young and vulnerable. Pell wasn’t convinced, however, that this stranger was benevolent and he was just as unsure of the creature that now showed himself.

“Lestat, you can be so intimidating sometimes. Just introduce yourself and tell him your business. I am Louis du Pointe du Lac, at your service.” The other visitor bowed slightly in a very old fashioned and almost human manner.

“Pleased, I’m sure.” Pell replied sarcastically. “Well now that the introductions are over, are you going to tell me what you are doing here and how you got into my private quarters?”

“Well the second part was easy. You see we can fly…” Lestat halted for a few seconds to allow this revelation to sink in to a slightly shocked Pell. “The first part is simple really. I am just dropping in on an old friend and lover…Calanthe, your other half, I believe.”

As Pell tried to take in all that was being said to him, he realised he was still completely naked, except for the shimmering cover of his long hair. Slightly embarrassed he went to move past them, but Louis pre-empted his need and handed over his robe that had been hanging on the end of his bed. “Is this what you are looking for?” He was smiling now, and Pell stared into his verdant green eyes as he took the robe and hastily put it on.

Pell shivered just slightly as Louis continued to stare with his strange eyes gliding up and down as if assessing him. But for what? As the three of them moved into his lighted bedroom, Pell got a proper look at them and gasped, the sound of his sharp intake of breath, echoing off the walls. “By the Aghama, what are you?”

“Why don’t you sit down, Pellaz, and call upon your consort. I’m sure Calanthe will fill you in, on “what” we are.”

Pell was slightly affronted at the casual use of his name. “I’m Tigron, and you should call me that at all times.”

“Oh, I do apologise, Tigron. Well, do you want to call him, or will I? I think it might be better coming from you though.”

‘Yes, yes, or course.” Pell put rubbed his temple with his fingertips and sent a cryptic message. ::Calanthe, your lost memory has just resurfaced. Would you care to join us?::


– 2 –

Pell lounged back in his overstuffed chair in the corner of the room and tried to calmly assess the situation. He was in awe of and totally intrigued by his two visitors, but just a little wary. Lestat was pacing like a lion, and his friend, Louis, had found himself a seat by the window and was staring at Lestat, then back to Pell. He had a curious expression on his handsome face, and Pell tried several times to work out what he was thinking.

Every now and then Louis would let Pell into his thoughts, but just long enough to confuse him totally. He gleaned images of Cal talking to them both, and an image of Cal lying on the floor, utterly exhausted, with the two of them standing over him. What the hell had they done to him?

Pell hoped his questions would soon be answered when Cal entered the room, barefoot, and with just a towel wrapped around his waist. His hair was soaking wet, and he was cursing softly to himself at being interrupted while taking his bath. He stopped in mid curse however, when he saw the two creatures staring at him from a darkened corner.

“Fuck!” Cal swore as he dropped his towel, then hurriedly bent over to grab it to cover his nakedness.

“That’s not a very nice way to greet an old friend.” Lestat grumbled, and moved towards Cal, took him in his arms and planted a very long and sloppy kiss on his surprised face.

“Fuck!” Cal swore again, when he finally managed to prise himself away from Lestat. He then turned to Pell who had a slightly amused look on his face and swore again.

“Can’t you say anything else, Cal?” Pell questioned him.

“Um..er…Pell, this is Lestat and Louis, two old friends of mine.”

“I gathered that much, Cal. Anything else you would like to tell me about them? Like how you met, what you got up to with them? From what I gather, Calanthe, you were more than just friends for a little while.”

“What gave you that idea, Pell?” Cal tried extremely hard to look innocent, but failed miserably.

Pell looked over to Louis who up until now had remained in the shadows, with his head slightly bowed. He now looked directly at Pell and grinned. Pell felt his knees tremble when he saw Louis’ face light up with that smile. “By the Aghama!” He mumbled softly under his breath.

By this time, Cal had walked passed Lestat, who was now staring at Louis as well, and took Pell into his arms and kissed him chastely on the cheek. “He’s stunning isn’t he?” He whispered into Pell’s ear.

“Whatever you got up to with them, Cal, I certainly don’t blame you.” He whispered back.

“Well! Shall we make ourselves comfortable.” Lestat said loudly pointing to the table by the window. “Come Louis, I think his eminence the Trigron, would like to hear what his eminence The Tigron got up to 30 or so years ago. Would I be right, Tigron?”

The both glared at Lestat and nodded in unison, then did as they were bade and sat down at the table, resting their hands nervously on the top. Cal tried to grab Pell’s hand, but he snatched it away. “Yes, Cal, I would like to hear all about your adventures. But first, would you two please answer my earlier question and tell me what you are?”

Lestat took hold of Louis’ hand, and tried to look serious. “We are vampires, Tigron. The bloodsucking, burn up in the sunlight variety.”

“Tell me they are kidding, Cal?” Pell turned to him, slightly angry now, assuming they were having him on.

“Nope, Pell. They most certainly are what they say. But there’s no need to worry…at least I think there’s no need to worry.” He glanced over at Lestat and Louis.

Lestat nodded, still with a serious expression on his face, but the glint in his eyes belied the seriousness. “Tigron, we are only here to catch up with Cal. We did become quite close for a while.”

“I thought you were dead, Pell.” Cal began his story, with a slightly shaky voice, then continued, with short interruptions from Lestat, who seemed extremely happy to hear the retelling of their short adventure. When Cal had finally finished, Pell clapped his hands together and laughed.

“Why didn’t you tell me before, Cal? What fun you must have had.”

“Fun! Do you think it was fun to be cold and hungry and miserable most of the time?”

“Well, from the sounds of it, you weren’t cold *all* the time.” Pell continued to grin, then spied Louis who was looking at him almost shyly. Then Louis spoke up. “Why don’t you and Cal go for a quiet walk Lestat, have a bit of privacy?”

“What a great idea.” Lestat boomed. “Come on Cal, show me around this palace of yours.”

Cal looked slightly reluctant as Lestat dragged him out of the room. Pell laughed again when he heard Cal almost whimpering. “But Lestat. All I’ve got on is this towel. Let me at least get dressed first…please.”

As their voices disappeared down the long corridor outside of Pell’s room, Louis moved around the table so that he was sitting next to him. “Tell me about Calanthe. Has he settled down a little? He was a wild one back then.”

Pell looked almost wistful. “Cal will never be completely tamed, Louis, of that you can be sure, but yes he has settled down, and I think he is happy as well. He certainly seems to manage to slip away whenever there is serious work to be done.”

“So you are the serious one, are you, Pellaz? Is it all right if I call you that?”

Pell nodded, and found that he was trembling slightly at being so close to this dark-haired, green-eyed, alluring creature. Louis’ slender hands were on the table-top and seemed to be inching closer and closer to Pell’s. With a polite cough, Pell stood up and asked Louis if he could bring him anything to drink. Then realising his fauxpas immediately, flushed a delicate shade of pink.

“Sorry, of course I gather you don’t eat normal food, do you?”

Louis smiled that endearing smile of his again and grabbed Pell’s hand making him sit down again. “No, not normal food. But I do like to sup occasionally.” Louis’ pale face flushed slightly as well.

They stared at each other for a few seconds, then turned away. The atmosphere in the room was certainly charged, and Pell wondered who would be game enough to make the first move, if indeed a first move was ever made. Pell kept glancing up to see if Cal and Lestat were returning, and Louis’ eyes followed him. When he turned back again, Louis would look down, at his hands or brush the hair back off his face.

“Have you been with Lestat for a long time?”

Louis looked startled for a second, then clasped his hands together neatly. “Lestat and I have been friends on and off for over two hundred years, Pell. More off than on, though. We have only just met up again after an absence of about 10 years or so. We need each other, love each other, but honestly, cannot stand to be together for longer than a few months at most. Then we begin to tear each other’s hair out.”

“I can imagine Lestat having that affect on a person.” Pell mused. “Cal can be a little hard to handle at times as well, you know. But we have certainly not been together for that long. We do have our consort, Rue though. I think he saves us from each other sometimes.”

“Do the three of you…do you…” Louis fumbled over the words, but Pell got his meaning quickly enough.

“Sometimes we share aruna together. More often than not though, it mostly just two of us. Cal or me, or Rue or me… Threesomes can be a little tiring, and sometimes a little confusing as well.”

“Do you ever share this aruna with others, Pell?”

“Not normally.”

Louis sighed.

– 3 –

Pellaz was enjoying Louis’ company a little too much and was beginning to feel guilty. He wished that Cal and Lestat would come back. He rose from the table and walked out onto the balcony, then peered over into the garden. With his mind voice he called for Cal. ::What’s taking you so long?::

::Why don’t you entertain Louis for a little while, Pell? I’m sure you could think of something to do:: Was the only answer he received. Cal said nothing about where he was, what he was doing or how long he would be. Pell was beginning to become suspicious and was about to turn around and head back inside when he bumped into Louis who had been standing right behind him.

“Oh! Sorry Louis. I was just checking up on Cal.”

“Busy is he?” Louis questioned with a small smile on his face.

“Yes, he’s having a tour of the palace.”

“Do you really think so, Pell?”

“What do you mean by that, Louis? Cal is a gentleman. He is Tigron after all.”

“I’m not disputing that fact, Pell. Its just that they did have a rather torrid affair. I wouldn’t put it past Lestat to want to rekindle some of that desire.”

“Is that why you came here?” Pellaz was feeling a little angry now, and standing in such close proximity to Louis was making him feel uncomfortable. “How would that make you feel, Louis. I mean he is your friend, isn’t he?”

“Oui, he is. But he is free to do what he wants. We travel together when we feel like it. We are both happy with the relationship we have with each other. I am also free, Pell.”

Pell sidled away from Louis, turned his back on him and leant over the balcony. “Its very peaceful up here. Its completely walled. No intruders ever get in…well except for you two of course. We sometimes have parties down there in the summer time.”

“Sounds wonderful.” Louis replied, politely, but a with a hint of impatience.

“It reminds me of “Forever.”

“Forever? Have you been there?”

“A few years ago. We stayed with Cobweb, Swift and Seel. They were charming hosts. It was there that Lestat and I learnt about you and Cal. We normally keep to ourselves you see, but I had business to attend to – I was selling my shares in the gold mine I owned. Seel and Swift bought it from me.”

“I must catch up with them again. I am rather fond of that family. I’m surprised they took you into their home though.”

“Really, Pell, and why is that?”

Pell wasn’t quite sure how to put the next question to Louis. He tried to think of a subtle way of asking, but in the end he just blurted it out. “Do you kill hara, Louis?”

Louis was quite taken aback. “Sometimes, Pell. But never anyone I am friends with. I’m not going to hurt you, surely you realise that by now.”

“But…you are a…vampire. You kill for blood…don’t you?”

“I drink blood, oui. I enjoy drinking blood…its very…well it’s a bit like you sharing aruna with someone. But, no. I’m not like a black widow spider who kills its mate. I can drink blood without killing.”

“What’s it like?”

“The best way to find out, Pell, is to try it.”

“Wh…what are you saying…I can’t drink your blood.?”

“Ah! But I can drink yours, and believe me, it is every bit as good for the one who is being drunk from.”

“Would it hurt me?”

“Pell. I like you, Lestat has drunk from Cal and it did him no harm. In fact, I do believe he quite enjoyed it. I wouldn’t do anything to you that would hurt you.”

“How do we go about this then? Should I lie down?”

“Are you saying then, Pell, that you will let me drink from you?”

Pell nodded. “I think so…so long as it’s safe. Should we lie down?”

“We can lie down if you like. It is more comfortable.”

“Do I need to take off my gown? I mean, will I get blood on it.” Pell was stumbling over the words, realising that he was putting himself into a very compromising position by allowing Louis to take advantage of him. But he wanted it. He needed to know what it was like…he wanted to feel Louis’ sensual lips against his throat…or wherever it was that he would sup from him.

Louis had taken his hand now and was leading him towards his large, sumptuous bed. “I promise you, Pell, this experience will be something you will never forget.”

Pell lay back on the fluffy pillows and allowed Louis to open his gown revealing his naked body to his cold hands. He shivered when Louis began to caress him slowly, beginning at his nipples and working his way down to between his legs. “I just love what you have down here, its so…erotic.” He crooned into Pell’s ear, then nibbled on it for a few seconds. Pell arched his back at Louis’ touch and moaned loudly.

Pell was overwhelmed by Louis, and overcome by the fact that he was actually allowing this. Ever since he had been Tigron, he had felt the need to act in a proper manner, and laying back and letting this strange creature have his way with him, was certainly not something he could have imagined. He was also slightly afraid that Cal and Lestat would come stumbling back in and catch them at it.

“Don’t worry, Pell. Something tells me that Lestat and Cal will be rather busy themselves for a while.” Louis moved from Pell’s ear and kissed him deeply on the lips. Sharing breath with Louis was like nothing he had ever experienced before. Louis was dark and light, good and evil, soft and hard, all at the same time. He was black and gold with shining slivers of silver thrown in for good measure. Pell moaned out loud again, as Louis moved his now naked body on top of his. Pell had no idea when Louis had disrobed, but he no longer cared about inconsequential trivia. Louis’ lips were on his throat, licking and sucking at his throbbing vein, but he didn’t bite into him there. His lips moved sensuously down to his chest, just over his left nipple.

Gently, and before Pell even knew he had been bitten, he felt a strange sensation, a little like drowning. His senses went into overload as his blood was drained from his body, by the lithe, silky smooth vampire who was moving his whole body up and down his, in time to the pulsating blood. Pell’s whole being succumbed to sensations so intense he thought he might explode at any second. This was akin to aruna at its most magical…its most ethereal.

Pell swooned.

Louis swooned.

Their limbs entwined around each other, as Pell cried out in ecstasy. Louis released him from his sucking and slithered up to his mouth, where he kissed him deeply. Pell could taste his own essence on Louis’ lips. “Pell you are not quite who I thought you were.”

“Wha…what do you mean?” Pell was confused, and his voice came out as a husky mumble.

“You are more than har, aren’t you? There is something unworldly about you, something spiritual…almost terrifying.”

“I terrified you, Louis?” Pell was a little concerned now.

“Non, you didn’t, but you are not a normal hara, are you? There’s something, or someone else within you. I’ve never come across that before.”

“It’s along story, Louis.”

“What’s a long story, Pell?” Cal asked as he entered the room, with Lestat in tow.

– 4 –

Both Pell and Louis jumped and sat upright on the bed, although Pell seemed more concerned than Louis was at the sudden interruption. Lestat was grinning from ear to ear, but Calanthe seemed extremely surprised to see Pell in such a compromising position.

“Cal, back so soon. Did you and Lestat have a nice tour?” Pell was fussing with his gown, trying to cover his naked body. Louis just sat there, completely oblivious to Cal’s cold stare.

“The Palace isn’t that big, Pell.” Cal stormed out of the room and onto the balcony, with Lestat only a pace behind. Pell watched him go, then sighed deeply.

“Perhaps they really did just do a tour, Louis. He’s angry with me. I should go to him.”

“Why don’t you read his mind, Pell? Then you will know for sure.”

“I’m not going to pry. But I think I need to go outside and talk to him. Will you be all right.?”

“Pell, it’s you I’m worried about.” Louis was trying to say. “I have taken a little blood from you…” But Pell wasn’t listening. As he jumped from the bed his legs gave away and he crumpled in a heap on the floor. Louis leapt to his aid, lifting him ungraciously off the floor and depositing him in a heap on the bed.

“Pell…Pell.. I tried to tell you.”

“What the hell have you done to him?” Cal was standing in the doorway with his hands on his hips, his mouth in a grimace and an “if looks could kill” expression in his eyes.

“It looks like my fledgling has been having a little drink.” Lestat answered for Louis. “Does he taste as good as this one?” Lestat gestured towards Cal, who seemed about to explode.

“Pell! How could you?” Cal stormed over to Pell, who was cringing on the bed, and towered over him.

“Cal, I thought that you and Lestat would have been…well…maybe doing more than having a tour.” Pell stammered. “It just happened. Louis is…he’s…”

“Oh Pell! I’m just teasing you, you fool. I don’t blame you. They are rather hard to resist aren’t they? Did he just drink from you…or did you…you know?”

Louis spoke up finally, answering for Pell. “I just had a little sip, Cal. I’m not one for taking advantage of people, not like someone else I could mention.”

Pell, realising he was the brunt of Cal’s joke, sat up again, slowly this time and rested his head against the padded bed-head. “Well, are you going to tell me or not, Cal? Just what were you and Lestat up to?”

“Perhaps I could fill you in.” Caeru his Tigrina, was standing in the doorway, in a full on fluster. His clothes were rumpled, his hair was a mess and he had a stupid expression on his face. “I saw it all, Pell. And quite a show it was too. Such snarling and screaming, I’ve never heard before. They were like wild animals they were.”

“Really, Rue! Tell me more.”

“Well!” He continued, as he sauntered slowly over to the bed, swinging his hips rather suggestively and eyeing a still naked Louis up and down. “I was in the next bathroom when I heard Cal swearing and thumping about. He’s none too quiet when he’s been disturbed. I was curious, so I followed him. But I got dressed first.” Rue shot an accusing look at Cal, who simply grinned inanely at him.

“You didn’t do a very good job, Rue.” Cal said sarcastically, giving Rue a glare back.

Rue looked down at himself and smirked. “Oh well, being a little dishevelled is better than being a little bit naked.”

“Keep going, Rue.” Pell asked. “This is very interesting.” Out of the corner of his eye he could see Louis’ knowing expression. It seemed that nothing could surprise him when it came to Lestat.

“I stood at the doorway to your room, Pell. I couldn’t risk being seen.”

“Now Rue, since when have you been worried about being a snoop?” Cal snapped at him, but Rue didn’t take the bait.

“Hmmmph! I was just making sure that you were all right, Pell.” Rue continued, rather indignantly.

“It’s all right, Rue. Tell me the rest of the story, please.” Pell begged.

“Well, I waited for a while. I could hear voices, but as none of them sounded threatening, I left you alone. Although I did think it strange that your guards weren’t about. I just assumed, that they were playing cards or something down the corridor.” He winked at Pell, who just nodded in resignation.

“I must talk to them about that.” Pell said, then he waved his hands about impatiently. “Come on Rue…I know what happened in my room. I want to know what happened when they were having their little tour.”

Rue shot a glance at Cal, who was now sitting uncomfortably on a straight backed chair, looking rather annoyed and a little embarrassed. Lestat simply thought the whole thing was amusing and was checking out the paintings adorning the walls. His hands were behind his back and he kept muttering to himself, completely oblivious to Pell and Louis, who were hanging onto Rue’s every word.

Rue continued:- “I hid behind that big fern down the end of the corridor when I saw Cal and…actually I don’t know his name.” He shook his thumb in the direction of Lestat.

“That’s the Vampire Lestat, Caeru, and I’m Louis.” Louis had finally grabbed his trousers and was elegantly dressing himself. Rue’s eyes never left his body. “Thanks, Louis, nice to make your aquaintance.”

Pell shouted into Rue’s mind. ::Keep your eyes off him:: Rue glared at Pell this time and tried to look away but it wasn’t possible. Louis was now slipping into his shirt, and slowly doing up the buttons. He was performing an unconscious striptease in reverse. ::And stop drooling, Rue, you’re embarrassing me::

Rue mouthed the word “sorry” to Pell, and attempted to continue his story, but Louis was now bending over to put on his shoes. Rue was leaning over the bed to get a better view of his firm backside, lost his balance and fell on top of Pell.

“Shit! Rue. Control yourself.” Pell growled and pushed him away, albeit a little ineffectually as he was still weak. But Rue got the message, blushed bright red and stood up quickly. Louis did up his shoe laces, then faced them, seemingly oblivious to the chaos he has just caused.

“Did I miss something?”

Rue coughed and turned away, while Rue began to shake, trying to hold in his amusement. Louis began to grin. “Sorry Rue. Please keep going with your eye witness account. I do love a good voyeuristic story.”

Rue hmmmphed, again, then sat down on the edge of the bed. “Well, as I was saying. I saw Lestat and Cal leaving and had to make a decision in a hurry. I peeked in here, saw you two,” he gestured to Pell and Louis, “just sitting having a very polite conversation, so my mind was made up. Cal’s misdemeanours are usually must more interesting.”

“I have to agree with you there, Rue.” Pell had managed to hold in his mirth, except for one errant tear that was running down his cheek. He swiped it away.

“At first Cal was actually giving Lestat a tour, showing him the temple, our new library, then headed towards his bedroom. It was too much…I couldn’t not follow them, could I?” Rue looked over towards Cal, who had leant forward and was leaning his head on his hands. Lestat was still completely engrossed in checking out the art work.

Rue shook his head. “I knew they were up to no good. They were both touching each other intimately, and Lestat was nibbling Cal on the neck. It was more than a nibble, so I discovered later.”

“And just how did you manage to spy on us, Rue?” Cal had his hands on his knees now and looked as if he were about to leap up at any second and give Rue a good shaking.

“Well….” Rue looked about to make sure everyone was listening to him. “I ran outside, and climbed the tree overlooking your window.”

“Well at least that explains why your hair is so tangled, Rue.” Pell said.

“Oh, no. It didn’t get tangled climbing the tree. It got tangled when I fell out of it.”

This time, even Lestat burst out laughing.

– 5 –

Cal was on the floor, his knees brought up to his chest and tears of mirth were running down his face. Lestat was kneeling down next to him, poking him in the ribs. Rue had his hands on his hips and was trying desperately to look indignant and Pell had brought the quilt up over his face, and all that could be seen was a shaking blob beneath it. Louis had gone over to the window and his whole body was trembling.

“It’s not that damn funny.” Rue shouted over the giggles and guffaws.

“Yes…it…is.” Cal chortled. “Rue, you could have been hurt, that tree is huge.”

“Well I wasn’t…so there.” He hmmmphed. “Don’t you want to know what I saw?”

“Oh I can imagine what you saw, Rue,” a muffled voice from beneath the quilt answered.

“It was incredible.” Rue continued. “They didn’t even make the bed. I think I blinked once and Lestat was naked. Cal never did get anything on besides that towel.” Rue drew in a deep breath, trying to stop himself from laughing as well. He didn’t succeed, and found himself in a heap on the floor, hiccupping and coughing. But somehow he managed to continue –

“They clawed at each other, and growled. At first I thought they were fighting, but then Cal laid over on his back and…”

“That’s enough, Rue.” Cal shouted, in between snickers. “I think everyone gets the picture.”

“Don’t you want to know how they managed to stand up while they were doing it? Then moved to the other side of the room, still joined together…then?”

Pell pulled the quilt off his face and glared at Rue. This time his expression was serious, except for a tiny twitch in the corner of his eye. “SHUT-UP RUE!”

Rue’s mouth twisted and with his hands pushed himself up into a kneeling position. “But it was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not even when you and Cal…oops!”

“What did you say, Rue? Have you be spying on us?”

“Um…no…” But Rue’s flush told Pell different.

“Rue, I really do think the moment has come for you to stop telling tales.” Pell had puffed out his chest and was trying to look powerful, but the fact that his hair was a complete mess, his lips were bruised, and his gown kept falling apart, ruined his attempt.

Lestat walked slowly over to the bed, bringing Cal, who was bent over at the waist, with him. “Oui, I think we have had our fun for a while. I’m afraid we didn’t entirely tell the truth however, about our visit.”

Louis had turned around now as well and was wiping away his blood tears on a pristine white handkerchief. He composed himself and joined Lestat at Pell’s bed-side.

Suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed, and all their faces turned to Lestat, waiting for him to confess. “I am very happy to have had a chance to catch up with Cal, and to meet you, Pellaz and Rue. It has been quite enjoyable so far.”

Cal gasped loudly and tried to stand up straight.

“Enjoyable…is that all it was?” Cal stared at Lestat, but Lestat waved away his question and continued.

“There are not that many of us left now. Several of the ancients have disappeared and we believe they have buried themselves. Many of the younger ones have gone into the sun or burnt up in fires. And as we have strict rules…not that I entirely abide by them -” at this last comment Lestat grinned sheepishly. “to not create any more fledglings. We are almost extinct.”

Cal was leaning on the side of the bed now, resting his back against Pell’s knees. Pell was massaging his shoulders. Rue was sitting on the other side, massaging Pell’s back. Louis had taken hold of Lestat’s hand.

“How many of you are left, do you have any idea?” Cal questioned, all hint of his previous amusement disappearing rapidly.

“Less than 100, at last count.” Louis replied. “We have been sending messages to each other over the last few years. There are a few small covens scattered about and some lone vampires. There may be more, but if there are they don’t want to be found.”

“Why is it happening, Lestat?” Cal asked.

“Some of them can’t drink your blood. It makes the younger ones ill. Some of the older ones are merely stubborn and insist on drinking only human blood. We are also being hunted by several rather ferocious nomadic tribes. As they can read our thoughts, they can find our hiding places and tear open our coffins during the day. If we are overwhelmed by dozens of them, even our natural self preservation reflexes aren’t enough to save us.”

“Lestat killed ten of them in his death sleep one night.” Louis piped in. “If that had happened to a younger vampire, he wouldn’t have had a chance.”

“Are you after our protection?” Pell asked. “Because if you are, you are welcome to say here with us. But we could not completely guarantee to keep you safe 24 hours a day.”

“That’s very kind of you Tigron.” Lestat answered. “But we actually have something else in mind all together.”

– 6 –

Pellaz was a figure of contemplation as he sat with his elbows resting on the table, and his fingers forming a steeple in front of his face. His eyes were shut and he was concentrating on the question Lestat had posed a few minutes earlier. Calanthe and Caeru were sitting either side of him opposite Lestat and Louis. All had serious expressions on their faces. Well all except for Rue, who’s mouth kept twitching every so often.

They were all finally suitable attired and Rue had brushed out the twigs and tangles from his hair and was looking reasonable tidy. Louis kept glancing at him out of the corner of his eye, as Pell kicked Rue under the table, causing him to jump. ::Be serious, Rue:: But he just kicked him back and continued to make eyes at Louis.

“Will you at least consider our request, Pell?” Lestat was tapping his fingers on the table as he asked. “It’s probably the last thing I expected, Lestat. I’m not sure if it can be done, or even if it should be done. Although I don’t exactly know if it would be breaking any rules. Are you sure you have thought this through?”

“What’s the worse that could happen?” Lestat questioned the three of them.

“You could die.” Calanthe suggested. “Horribly!” Rue added.

“Could it be any worse than being burnt alive?” Louis said, still glancing every now and then at Rue.

“I think at one stage in my life I would have gladly gone into the fire.” Pell mused, dropping his hands now and opening his eyes to stare at the two vampires. “But we won’t go into that now. All I can say is, we have no idea if this would work or not. What we really need to be discussing, however, is why you have thought of this solution. Surely you can block your thoughts, to stop from being discovered by these nomadic tribes.”

“I can, and to some extent so can Louis. But there are those of us who are not very advanced in this area and they are prone to mind probing.”

“Well, we Gelaming are very powerful at mind control. We would be willing to stop these tribes from seeking out your young ones. Maybe we could even arrange for them to be taken to some of the few human colonies that still exist.”

“They are both good possibilities, Pell, and maybe one of them might be the ultimate solution to our problem. But this is something that Louis and I have discussed at length. Once I actually became human again for a while.” Lestat stopped talking for a few seconds as he recollected that particular adventure. He shuddered.

“This would be different, Pell. I have watched your race for decades now. You are healthy and strong, you don’t age…you are one sex. The power you control, Pell, is awesome. The way you can become one with the elements…your sex is amazing. I could live in the sun again. It could be a way for us to evolve as well. Hell we could end up better than you.” Lestat was becoming excited now, and stood up to pace up and down. Louis tried in vein to get him to sit down again.

“What if it doesn’t work that way? What if you just become a hermaphrodite vampire, who still needs to drink blood to survive and sleep during the day? I can’t give you that hope.” Pell was pleading to them now with open palms.

“We are willing to take that chance, Pell.” Lestat waved his arms about, ignoring Louis’ futile attempts to calm him. “We will be the guinea pigs for those of us that are left. If it works, then the rest can follow us if they want. Wouldn’t you rather we changed than continue to kill your people?”

“I can’t make this decision. I don’t think I can even ask Cal and Rue to help me on this. It needs to go to a meeting of the Hegemony.”

“Then let us convince them, Pell. I’m sure we can bring them around.”

“You won’t be at the meeting.” Pell declared. He stood up and raised his hands to Lestat who was standing up also. “No Lestat. The three of us will take your request, you cannot be part of it.”

Lestat opened his mouth to protest. “Why? What harm could it do if we were present? I mean it’s our request.” Pell glared at him, and was about to speak when Cal butted in…”Lestat, there is no use making a fuss. We will take this request to the meeting for you, that’s all we can do.”

“But…that’s not fair.”

Pell didn’t answer him again, but simply walked away. Lestat tried to follow but Louis held him back.

“Wise move, Louis.” Rue said softly. “We will be back…and I’m sure the news will be good.”

– Four Hours Later –

Louis was sitting by the open window staring at the vista below of winding paths, verdant green lawns, marble statues and garden beds filled with red and white roses. He took a deep breath and turned to chide Lestat again. Ever since Pellaz, Calanthe and Caeru had left for their meeting, Lestat had been pacing up and down and cursing under his breath. Louis felt exhausted just watching him.

“What-ever the answer is, Lestat, we have to accept it.”

“Why…that’s what I can’t understand? Why couldn’t one of them just do it? I mean why did they have to take it to this stupid Hegemony meeting? They are probably a bunch of old bores, who probably won’t even believe we exist. I mean it’s ridiculous, Louis.”

“Well, it’s their Palace and their Kingdom. They are rather in the majority here.”

“Louis, Louis…Louis. Do you always have to be so obliging?”

“No not always…in fact I’m still reeling at the fact that you talked me into considering this. But if it means I won’t have to kill for blood any more, then its got to be worth it.”

“How damn long are they going to be?” Lestat moaned once more.

“No longer, Lestat. A decision has been made.” Pell walked through the doorway first, with Cal and Rue following closely behind.

– 7 –

“NO! What the hell do you mean, no?” Lestat was screaming at the top of his voice and all three hara put their hands over their ears. “Give me one good reason.”

“I can give you more than one if you would like Lestat.” Pell announced. “It was almost a unanimous vote. Firstly they considered it would be risky, they don’t want to taint our blood.”

“WHAT!?” Lestat’s facial features had turned into a scowl and even Cal backed away. “Taint it! How could we taint it?”

“Please calm down, Lestat.” Pell continued. “They don’t want to take the risk that you might become blood drinkers and wraeththu combined. What if you made more?”

“God! You sound like Marius now…” Lestat snarled.

“Who’s Marius?” Cal asked.

“Another pompous bore like you guys.”

“They are just being cautious, Lestat. Just put yourselves in our place.” Pell continued.

“What are the other reasons?” Louis asked calmly, trying to make Lestat sit down.

“The inception could go wrong…you could be damaged in some way, perhaps mentally. Then we would have deranged half vampire half hara rampaging about the place.”

“Some might say Lestat is already deranged.” Rue whispered to Cal, behind Pell’s back.

“I HEARD THAT!.” Lestat screamed again. Rue cowered behind Cal.

Louis finally managed to push Lestat down onto a chair and grabbed his hands. “Lestat calm down. We tried, that’s all we could do. We can’t force them to do it. It doesn’t matter, we will survive. Let’s just move on…please, Lestat.”

Lestat was seething and gnashing his teeth together.

Louis tried again. “Lestat, please, stop this. Let’s just go.”

“Lestat, if it’s any consolation, I voted in your favour.” Cal had stepped forward now, leaving a shivering Rue hiding behind thin air, and stood beside Louis.

“What about you?” Lestat stared directly at Pell. “How I voted is none of your business.” Pell snapped.

“Ah! So you didn’t want to do it. I understand…we are beneath you…let’s go Louis.” Lestat clutched onto Louis’ hands, digging his nails into his palms, causing him to wince, and dragged him out of the room. They were charging down the corridor, when Louis heard someone calling his name.

“Pssst! Louis!”

“Lestat, stop, someone just called me.”

“Shut-up, Louis. We’re leaving.” Louis managed to bring Lestat to a halt, however, and walked into the dark space behind a very large potted palm. Rue was standing there, with a sheepish grin on his face. “Rue, how did you get here, I thought you were still in Pell’s room?”

“I crept out while Lestat was ranting. I have a proposition for you.”

“What’s going on, Louis?” Lestat had followed him into the darkness. “Stop talking to him, Louis. The decision has been made.”

“Shut-up and listen for once in your life, Lestat. Rue is offering us something.”

Lestat did listen and followed Rue and Louis to the end of the corridor, along a covered walkway, through a few reception halls, past a dozen or more rooms until Rue stopped at a double pair of etched glass doors. “These are my apartments.” He said with a sigh.

“Why are you so far away from Pell and Cal?” Louis questioned.

“Wouldn’t you want to be?” Rue replied, with a wry grin on his face.

Louis smiled back and all three of them entered. Rue flicked on the lights and told them to make themselves comfortable. “I won’t turn into a vampire, will I?” Rue sat on a chair opposite Louis and Lestat who were next to each other on the couch.

“Why would you ask that?” Louis asked him. “Unless of course you are offering to incept us.”

“Well I might. I voted yes by the way…but I wouldn’t want to become one of you.”

“You would only become a vampire if one of us drained your blood completely then fed you ours. Is an exchange of blood involved, Rue? Is that one of the reasons why the Hegemony wouldn’t let us try it?”

“I have to give you my blood, then it can take up to three days to work. Although with you, it might take less time, it might not take at all…or…”

“It could kill us or send us insane…I know.” Lestat replied. “I promise that you won’t become a vampire, Rue. Now will you do it or not?”

“Is he right, Louis?” Rue looked at Louis now who was staring at something across the other side of the room. Both Rue and Lestat looked to where Louis was staring, then back to each other.

Lestat shrugged. “He does that sometimes. Snap out of it Louis.” Lestat clapped his hands in front of Louis’ face. “I’ll go first, Louis. If that’s what you are worried about.”

Louis’ eyes came back into focus and he jumped slightly. “No, Lestat. We do it together, or not at all.”

– 8 –

“Shit, shit, shit…” Rue was pacing the room frantically, wiping his brow every couple of seconds then swearing again. “No, no, no…this can’t be happening” He wailed, then turned to Lestat and began to pummell his chest with his fists.

“You’ve turned me into a fucking vampire…” He screeched at the top of his voice, and Lestat had to cover Rue’s mouth with his hand, to try and shut him up.

“Rue, calm down. I can’t have…you haven’t had any of my blood.”

“But you bit me…”

“Yeah, and you tasted delicious.” Lestat smirked.

“But…isn’t that how you turn us into vampires?” Rue was desperate now and was staring at himself in the mirror, trying to discover any subtle changes in his appearance.

“No, you have to drink our blood – you’re not a vampire, OK, never will be.”

“Are you sure?”

Both Louis and Lestat nodded.

“I don’t think you are wraeththu either,” Rue said softly, “it couldn’t have worked, you aren’t in any pain.”

“Do we need to be in pain?” Louis asked.

“Well, after the injection of my blood, you should have fallen into a stupor…even lost consciousness for a while. It can’t have worked.”

“Well we’ve drunk your blood before, perhaps it’s no different. Perhaps we can’t become wraeththu after all. Do you feel any different Louis?”

“A little tingly, and slightly dizzy, but I certainly don’t feel like I am about to pass out.”

“The injection straight into your vein should have done the trick.” Rue mused. “But maybe your vampire blood is too strong, perhaps it over-rode my blood.”

“Shall we wait and see?” Louis suggested, but just as he said the last word his eyes became glazed, he clutched his head and fell backwards onto the couch.

“It’s working, it’s working,” Rue shouted with glee. “My first inception…” He began to dance about, waving his arms in the air and singing.

“I don’t feel anything.” Lestat said a little despondently. “Did you forget to do something, Rue…?”

“Well, when humans are incepted, they go through a spritual cleansing and a ritual, but I believe that is just for show. It’s the blood that does all the work. I gave you enough of my blood to incept half a dozen humans.” Rue stopped suddenly and looked at Lestat. “Is something happening?”

“Ooooh! yes I think it is, I feel a little strange…in fact…” He didn’t manage to get out the last word as he had joined Louis on the couch.

Rue crouched down beside them, whispered a little prayer then covered them both with a blanket. He was nervous and feeling very guilty about going against the Hegemony. He hoped they wouldn’t be too angry.

::And why would they be angry, Rue?:: A loud voice penetrated his thoughts…Rue broke out in a cold sweat and spun around to see Cal standing in the doorway.

“Have you been a naughty har then?”

“Cal, you startled me.” Rue tried to stand in front of the two vampires lying on the couch…but to no avail.

“And who have we here?” Cal asked, pushing Rue aside and looking down at Lestat and Louis. “What is Pell going to say?”

“Um…er…I hope he’s not going to say anything…you see, I will hide these two then they will be on their way.”

“Do you really think you can hide this from Pell, Rue? Now honestly…”

“I was hoping to.”

“I won’t tell him, Rue, but he will find out eventually. You will be in trouble with the Hegemony, you know that.”

“But Cal, they are sick of being vampires, and I do like Louis…rather a lot actually.”

“Oh I see,” Cal smirked, patted Rue on the back, took one long lingering look at Lestat then walked towards the door. “Let me know when you have some news please?”

Rue grinned at him, then nodded.

– Four Hours Later –

“Oh God, I remember this feeling.” Lestat groaned as he slipped from the couch and knelt up on the floor. “I’ve got a fucking hangover that you wouldn’t believe.”

Rue had been slumbering in a chair and jumped up quickly. “What! What are you doing awake so soon? How do you feel?”

‘Like shit.” Lestat growled. “How long am I going to feel like this?”

“Well…normally it can take up to three days.”

“THREE DAYS!” Lestat screamed. “I can’t feel like this for three days.”

“You wanted to become a har.” Rue reminded him. “You might just have to put up with a bit of discomfort.”

“But it only takes a few hours to become a vampire…after we have shit ourselves stupid. Oh God!” He groaned again. Louis began to stir and holding his head, prised open his eyes and glared at Rue.

“Is he always such a pain?” Rue asked him.

“Who…what…oh you mean Lestat. Oh oui, you should have heard him when he was a human for a while. Moan, moan, moan.” Then Louis grabbed his head again and fell back against the cushions of the couch.

– Another Few Hours Later –

Lestat had managed to crawl to his knees and was licking the side of Louis’ face. “Come on Lou, wake up, I want to see if we have one of those strange thingys between our legs yet. I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.”

“Go away Lestat.” Louis swapped Lestat’s face away with his hand. “I’m not ready yet.”

“Come on, Louis. It’s not everyday we get to change…please…wake up.” He began to shake Louis back and forth until he opened his eyes and grumbled at Lestat.

“All right, all right. If you will stop shaking me I’ll let you look.”

Slowly Lestat lifted Louis into a sitting position. Rue had moved over next to them and was wringing his hands together. Lestat began to lower Louis’ trousers gently, over his hips…

– 9 –

“By the Aghama, what is going on here?” Pell growled as he entered Rue’s apartment, then stormed over to where Lestat was just stripping Louis from the waist down.

Louis grabbed his trousers and pulled them back up to his waist again. “For God’s sake, can’t we have some privacy?”

“No, not here you can’t. You are supposed to be gone.” He turned to Rue. “What have you done?”

Rue was trying desperately to hide behind Lestat’s back, but Lestat kept trying to push him around to face the music. Well, to face one very irate Tigron. “Nothing Pell, they were just leaving, weren’t you?” Rue said rapidly to Lestat who was now trying to pull Louis’ trousers down again. Lestat and Louis were slapping each other and Louis was trying to squirm away from him.

“Stop acting like harlings, you two.” Pell barked at the two vampires who were now on the floor, one trying to pull his trousers up, the other trying to pull them down.

Pell gave Rue an exasperated look. “Why are they doing that?”

“Because…I…want…to see what he has between his legs.” Lestat grumbled, as Louis pushed him away again.

“Look between your own bloody legs.” Louis snapped back.

“But I want to look at yours.” Lestat moaned, then fell backwards on the floor laughing. Louis fell on top of him and began to giggle as well.

“Are they drunk, Rue?” Pell asked him.

Rue just shook his head, unable to answer for a second as he was trying to catch his breath. “I…I don’t think so…just insane.”

“Stand up, you two.” Pell shouted loudly, loud enough to bring Cal running in from where-ever he had been for the last few hours.

“Oh shit, what are you doing here, Pell?”

“Not a lot so far, Cal. It seems to me, though, that Rue has been going behind my back.” He turned and glared at Rue again, who was trying to get Lestat and Louis to stand up.

Rue turned to look at Pell. “I’m sorry…yes I have…but I couldn’t see the problem. I mean…I think they are all right. We don’t even know yet if I could change them. That’s why Lestat was trying to look between Louis’ legs.”

Pellaz threw his hands in the air and slumped down onto the couch. “I give up…does no one listen to me any more? All right, let’s see if they are Wraeththu. But I will kill you, Rue if you have mucked up and turned them into mutants”

“I heard that…” bellowed Lestat. “Pell, we forced him into it, OK! Rue didn’t do it of his own volition.”

Rue stared at Lestat for a few seconds, shaking his head from side to side. Lestat stared back and blasted into his head. ::It’s OK, Rue. I’ll take the blame…what can he do to me any way?::

::You don’t have to Lestat::

::I already have:: Lestat answered back, then grinned at Rue, who was now looking embarrassed.

“What’s going on between you two?” Pell demanded.

“Nothing…nothing at all, Pell. Now let’s see if this worked or not, shall we.”

– – –

Louis sat by the window, watching the sun rising fully for the first time in over 200 years. Tears were streaming down his face. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it Rue?”

“Yes and so are you, Louis.” Rue crooned as he moved closer to Louis and put his arms around his naked body.

“Do you think Pell will accept us eventually, Rue? I mean he was livid when he left last night.”

“Cal will bring him around, Louis, and I think that crazy Lestat of yours will help.”

“What do you think they are up to, Rue?” Louis questioned.

With a very cheeky grin, Rue began to laugh. “Well, Louis, you know that tree I climbed the other night…the one I fell out of?”

“Oui?”

“Well I got a ladder this time.”

“When did you do that? We’ve been together the whole night.”

“Not the whole night, Louis. You went to sleep for a little while, after I had shown you the intricacies of aruna for the third time…or was it the fourth?”

“Fourth!” Louis grinned as well this time, and leant into Rue for another delicious sharing of breath. “Four wonderful times, Rue. What did you see from that ladder of yours?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know, Louis?” Rue grinned.

The End

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