The Tale of Shyllandrus Zulu: Chapter One

A high priestess stumbles into political leadership: A Restive Souls excerpt

As told to eminent historian Emmet Bolo by the high priestess Zulu West.

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Original photo of people worshipping by Luis Quintero via Pexels — photoshopped by the author

This excerpt takes place after the events of Part 1 in the novel, Restive Souls. The British have won the Revolutionary War, which they refer to as the Colonial War. In response to the war, the British have emancipated the slaves, in no small part as punishment to the Colonials. Most of the plantations, ports, and landholdings in the South and parts of the North have been seized by those who were forced to work them in chains. We first meet the Haitian Guillaume Diderot in Part One.

Restive Souls Part 2: Carolina Rising

Zulu’s Tale (1801–1804)


I first met Guillaume Diderot when he was but an alarmed raconteur with a wild mind and a savage heart for justice. He was a boisterous hawk circling his congregation, hoping to use it as a cudgel against the Europeans. And yet, strangely, it had been he who revealed the hidden grace of my inner spirit.

I encountered Diderot when a former slaver from the north attempted to rape a young girl in the back of a store that I tended in Charleston. When I caught the man with his britches down, ready to assault the poor girl, I struck him hard on the back of his head with a fireplace poker. I had found a butcher knife under the bread pantry and readied to finish the knave off when Diderot walked in and said, “You will lose your soul if you cut his life out in this way, ma chérie.”

I asked him why — considering that the man had very nearly taken a girl’s virginity with violence, should he not pay? I was a young priestess with a bad temper. I was not much older than the girl.

“Not in this way. See how his eyes are closed? Your God will ask at the very least that the man can see your wrath as it approaches.”

The man was indeed unconscious from the blow to the head. That seemed more the reason to finish the job.

I reared back with the knife, preparing to plunge it into the man’s stomach, knowing that were he to awaken from the blow to his head, the pain in his stomach would make him wish he hadn’t, but the knife flew out of my hands into Diderot’s.

Diderot looked in amazement at his right hand clutching the blade’s handle. He was nearly blind with silence as his eyes, wide open yet looking nowhere, remained glazed over until I finally asked, “How did you do that?”

He shook his head. “I cannot claim that I did.”

He stared at the blade for what seemed like an eternity until he said, “You are a nanbo. A mother of magic. You must harness your ti-bon-ange and extricate the loa who would have had you kill this knave.”

With that, he left, knife in hand.


My name is Shyllandrus Zulu, but I am also called Zulu West. I am a priestess with the Vanguard of Mary Congregation in Charleston.

My family originated in Carolina by way of a Zulu adventurer caught by slave traders from the House of Kinlaza in Central West Africa, well outside his southern homeland, and brought to British North America. He, like my father, was a man who was killed because he refused to learn the language of the men who were subjugating him.

But not before he sired my father, who embraced the white man’s God but not his religion.

“I have been told,” my father told me as a small child, “that all of nature, all formed things, all creatures exist in and with one another and will again be resolved into their roots because the nature of matter is dissolved into the roots of its nature alone.”

“Who told this to you, father?” I asked.

“Why, our common brother, that is who. He is a brother to all of us. He is the peacemaker. The spirit of understanding who guides us in everything we do.”

Bolo's Notes
As it turned out, her father was quoting the Gospel of Mary almost verbatim, even though its scrolls were not discovered by Antonomy Mkubuku near Luxor, Egypt, until 1809.

I didn’t, of course, understand any of this. But I remembered it.

It was in those years of my father’s bondage that I learned of the importance of the ports on the eastern shores of the lands over which Europeans were claiming lordship.

My father worked the docks for a slaver who shipped lumber to Great Britain from the mills surrounding Philadelphia. His countrymen from Africa, often from African nations he did not know, built the docks and the shipyards that managed the movement of these goods.

One day, he was carted to our home by slave hunters, who claimed he had died escaping. They brought my father to my home naked, his legs broken so severely that the fiends were able to shove a foot into his mouth, which was held in place by a rope wrapped around his neck and head. His grotesquely contorted body was brought to us in a small cart with three small wooden wheels.

My father had warned us. “I will not speak the mother tongue of Britain to their faces,” he said to us in our ancestral language, mirroring his father. “And for that, they will not let me live long enough to sprout my first grey hair. You must remember your roots and your true home, our homeland, after I am gone.”

My mother, who had been sent in chains by coffle to the Carolinas to sire more slaves, eventually escaped with several of her children through a story she never told.

Slave coffle image by Iconographic Collections, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. This part of real American history is so well concealed that, despite extensive documentation of their existence, almost no engravings or other types of images portraying slave coffles (long marches of hundreds of miles in chains) are available. Women were often forced to march hundreds of miles, separated from families and/or husbands, to “breed” slave children.
Slave coffle image by Iconographic Collections, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. This part of real American history is so well concealed that, despite extensive documentation of their existence, almost no engravings or other types of images portraying slave coffles (long marches of hundreds of miles in chains) are available. Even this one depicts one in Africa, not the Americas. Separated from families and/or husbands, to “breed” slave children, women were often forced to march those hundreds of miles.

The look of anguish in her eyes told me to never pursue the details. She and her Carolina progeny found their way back to my auntie’s home, where I had taken residence after my father’s death.

What I remember most about my youth was learning that the ports were ours. And that God, who tells us he will move mountains for us if we speak his divine language, would see to it that the enemy would, in time, experience full awareness of Old Testament retribution.

The ports were ours.

The Europeans did not know this. But it had been whispered among our people for generations. The knowledge was a form of residual energy waiting to burst.

Some of us learned how to train birds to deliver messages to faraway lands. We could speak to them as if we shared a common language. They helped spread the message to our brothers and sisters in chains.

The messages were spread by spoken word from farm to farm, plantation to plantation, dock to mill to iron works to rice field. Songs sung in a rice field in Carolina became the same song sung in a timber mill in Connecticut. These were our songs. Songs whose lyrics used our language to declare, “The ports are ours.

The words were passed from generation to generation at the smallest of homesteads where slaves worked. They were passed to the largest of plantations. The words were simple, direct, without instruction.

The ports are ours.

They were passed to the smallest ranches and farms and kitchens.

When the colonials lost their rebellion, we collectively knew it was time to strike.

But still, we waited.

We waited for Cornwallis to emancipate us.

From a strategic viewpoint, he made a tragic error if his intent was for Britain to hold on to America. But I do not believe that was his intent. He intended to punish the colonials for their rebellion.

As the new colonial governor, even though he gave the Colonials all the demands they had originally made at the start of their revolution, he added our emancipation as one final tax from the crown.

My family and I, like many others from my homeland, migrated to the Carolinas, where our people were already a clear majority. But many others stayed in the Jersey and the York provinces of the north, where many Europeans and First Settlers allied with us to develop an independent nation, despite the colonies’ ties to the crown.

Bolo's Notes
The population of people of African descent in the Province of South Carolina reached 450,000 in 1800 because of mass migration from parts of the West Indies, Africa, and parts of the East Coast.
Photo of historian Emmet Bolo
Emmet Bolo Photograph circa 1830; Christchurch Library, Christchurch, New York; See Notes

We settled in Charleston, which almost overnight became a city of the Igbo and Biafran and the Ewe and Ga-Adangbe and the Hausa, Yoruba, and Ijaw. It became the city of many nations.

We overran the schools and the churches and established congregations to run our affairs. At that time, it is fair to say that I had little love for what I considered to be the white man’s God. The congregations seemed at the time to be a convenient method for organizing and nothing more.

Guillaume Diderot had been a driving force in the establishment of congregational economics. Many of us just went along for the ride, so to speak. Gathering people in churches, fighting in the name of God — these were easy things to rally people around.

Diderot himself claimed to be no man of God. But he found Him to be a great organizer.

Diderot was insistent on the rule of books, so schools appeared under the flimsiest of roofs. For him, the numbers of mathematics were more important than any concept of God.

Bolo's Notes
History reports that James Tagoe, the Seer of the Princeton Synod of the New Lights, was the most vocal evangelizer of education among newly freed slaves. Tagoe knew little English when he helped capture George Washington, but by 1801 he had acquired an advanced university education. Through bands of circuit riders who rode along the east coast, he helped establish an educational foundation at several congregations. Diderot certainly supported his efforts, but Tagoe was the driving force.

No, he was not a man of God. But he understood God. And God understood me. I had always possessed a deep hunger for righting wrongs. For justice. Where else does that desire come from if not from God?

I would later learn that harnessing the desire for truth was not satisfying if offered on a platter of vengeance. I needed to learn how to access what Diderot called my ti-bon-ange — my soul spirit, from the vantage point of God’s love.

I found myself influenced by First Settler women who had found interest in Christianity and brought its ways, nurtured by their better instincts, into some of their sanctuaries, often becoming priestesses to their people.

I began to work as a deacon in the chapel hall of The All Saints Congregation’s largest church in Charleston at a young age. That does sound impressive, doesn’t it? But in truth, the largest church in Charleston was not much more than a big house. Many of the churches and praise houses in Charleston had been razed by angry colonials after the war.

The churches burned because Colonial rebels knew we would be seeking refuge in our places of worship. This became truer after emancipation, when Charleston, like many coastal cities, became a battleground between newly freed slaves and their former captors.

Anger swelled. British and loyalists became targets of vicious retribution. Freed slaves much more so.

Nevertheless, we found sanctuary in our growing congregations, which were made of people, not buildings, and which quickly established militias to offer protection.

I had no patience for many of the men in the All Saints Congregation. Diderot, the congregational leader in spirit if not by name, was an exception, but his influence was slow to wear off on others. So, I changed the sign on our chapel to read, Vanguard of Mary Congregation.

The men in charge of the All Saints Congregation were not interested in a brawl with an upstart young woman in a dilapidated chapel hall with few parishioners and even less money. So, they let me be.

My first inclination was to ban all men from the congregation. But Diderot, who seemed to be always everywhere at once, told me of a musician named Boree, a man known for playing a stringed instrument with his hands and fingers and singing “wild hymnals” born of the toils of our people. Boree had formed a band of fellow musicians that performed in the streets of Charleston.

Boree, being a man, would need a congregational home, and ours seemed fitting, so he became the first reason for me to change my mind.

I secured a supply of tents and tables to set up outside our chapel, where I served alcoholic beverages and convinced Boree and his fellows to perform on weekend nights. It didn’t take long for money to come pouring into the congregation. In less than one year, our humble Vanguard of Mary Congregation began to challenge the All Saints Congregation as the dominant congregation in Charleston.

Diderot was pleased. “We have room for a hundred more congregations in this city,” he said one day. “And all their deacons will have a better relationship with God than I will ever have.”

I knew better about his relationship with God than he did. My instincts were proven correct after the same fellow I had caught with his britches down was again apprehended two years later while assaulting another young woman.

He had beaten her badly, but he was a stupid man, and her screams attracted a small army of men, who flushed the man out of the back of a school room.

The young woman, Kerala Heights, was a teacher, but barely twenty years old, for we couldn’t at that time demand the kind of prerequisites of our instructors that Europeans could.

The poor woman’s clothes were gashed, as was her left thigh, from the man’s long blade. When the men came upon him, they would probably have murdered him there, but he escaped long enough to make his way to a street market, where he pleaded for his life.

Some of the men were having none of it and kicked him as he crawled along the busy market stalls.

Bystanders and shoppers stepped aside.

Finally, the thinnest of the men within the crowd wrestled his way through the rest as he pulled the man up to his feet and declared to his assailants, “He must face trial for his action. Let us not act like those from whom we have escaped.”

The man was Diderot. He took the perpetrator by the hand and led him to the street and pushed him into another thin-boned man named Romsay, who, wearing a canvas-colored, hooded cloak that extended to his ankles, guided him to sit. There the two of them sat, Romsay with his eyes closed, the man’s assailants watching and jeering but doing nothing to intervene.

Bolo's Notes
Romsay, aka The Sire of Romuald, was the founder of the Camaldoli Congregation in Charleston, and later, the founder of The Savannah Camaldoli Congregation, both of which were namesakes of an Italian monastic order started by the Italian monk Saint Romuald.

Priests and priestesses of the Savannah Camaldoli Congregation bore tattoos on their foreheads with the initials SCC and followed a strict code of isolation from the rest of the congregational community (much more so than in Charleston).

The congregation in time devolved into a strict form of Christian governance with little tolerance for a wide variety of transgressions. Even though it had mostly died out by the 1830s, it is generally accepted to be the precursor to the Southern White Baptist Congregation, which was Baptist in name only.

The history of the Camaldoli congregations on the East Coast was significantly different than The Big Sur New Camaldoli Hermitage, where Romsay received his original faith teachings. The Big Sur New Camaldoli Hermitage became famous for a different form of strict adherence — to one of peace and prosperity. It became a leading anti-war voice in the modern era.

Romsay sat in the middle of the street with the man for a long time as carriages and horses moved past them. He seemed oblivious to the dust and dirt clouds the passing horses kicked up. At first, the criminal’s eyes darted around as if hunting for an escape route. But his pursuers had no intention of leaving, and he eventually closed his eyes, as well.

“Empty yourself completely,” said Romsay, to which one of the criminal’s pursuers bellowed, “He wants you to piss in the street, fool!”

“Sit waiting,” continued Romsay, ignoring the hecklers. “Your body is no longer yours to command. Submit yourself to God and wait.” After that, the two men remained silent, their eyes closed, for an hour. It was the strangest thing I’d seen in quite some time that didn’t involve violence.

From there, the man, whose name was Roland Chastain, eventually went to trial. But it would be a trial unlike those held by Europeans.

Diderot had established a Congregational Judicial Council at the All Saints Congregation to handle criminals, but it had not been put to a sturdy test. This case was made more difficult when the man claimed no congregation, so jurisdiction came into question.

“One of the congregations must claim him,” Diderot said to me while we had an early tea the morning after the man was apprehended.

“Well,” I smiled, “he is being held in your safe house. I propose that the All Saints Congregation claim him.”

“Yet Romsay is of a third congregation. Perhaps since he saved the man from certain death, his congregation has the claim.”

Romsay was a member of a small congregation called the Guidance of Light. He was one of three priests in that outfit, which operated out of a small home off Broad Street. It had few business interests that I was aware of.

Bolo's Notes
In the early days of South Carolina’s congregational governance, criminal liability and jurisprudence were no small matters. Most people joined a congregation because it was the clearest path to gainful employment, camaraderie, companionship, and faith. But no judicial institutions existed within them. Crimes were usually handled by a local sheriff or constable, usually in some type of coordination with the South Carolina province’s provost marshal. But the system was in extreme disarray after the Colonial Rebellion.

The watchhouses on Broad and East Bay Street and along the Ashley River had been destroyed by freed slaves. Several provost marshals had been killed by angry mobs.

The South Carolina Commons House of Assembly made several attempts to establish an iron-fisted approach to keeping freed slaves under control, but the attempts were furiously resisted within Charleston. Whenever a provost marshal attempted to claim jurisdiction, he was inevitably run out of town.

By 1810, congregational militias were the primary law enforcement and military units of the low country, Georgia, and most of southern New England, as well as such major cities as Philadelphia and New York.

“What might happen,” I pondered out loud to Diderot, “if we were to use the process of a trial, as it were, through your Congregational Judicial Council, to hold a healing session rather than a criminal trial bent on revenge?”

Diderot looked pensive. He remained silent for several moments before he took a deep breath with his nose. I could feel the salt air in mine as we sat outside in the portico of the All Saints Congregation House. “This place was a prison and a slave trader’s exchange just a few years ago,” he said, looking across the massive interior.

I smiled at that. “Yes, but a British prison that housed colonial rebels,” I said.

“And a slavers’ exchange before that.”

This slave auction held in 1854 in front of the Exchange never happens in the world of Restive Souls. Image by Eyre Crowe, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I continued my smile. “For a brief time.”

“We have turned the basement prison into a wine cellar,” Diderot laughed. “We confiscated several French wines after some skirmishes with colonials and their French friends in upper New York a time ago.”

Bolo's Notes

“And you brought them here? That’s a long trek for a bit of wine.”

“Eventually, some bottles found their way into the cellar. Those the Hessians did not drink,” he replied.

The large building was completed in 1771. It had served many uses, from hosting important government dinners and festivals to, as Diderot mentioned, acting as a place of incarceration. It had also briefly served as a slave auction house.

Although the Congregation House was technically only two stories tall, those stories rose like a holy masonry leviathan into the Charleston sky, crowned by a hipped roof and cupola.

The deep basement extended above ground, where a gabled center recessed into three arches that served as open doorways to further reaches of the structure.

Four massive Doric columns supporting a portico where Diderot and I sat welcomed visitors to the building’s second floor, where many of the city’s great events took place.

On the exterior frontage, a tall set of marble stairs, surrounded on each side by statues of Afriker men and women linked together by broken chains, led to the second floor.

Diderot and I sat outside a café in front of a Palladian window overlooking a balustrade consisting of refurbished sculptured sandstone columns under its rail that each bore the likeness of an Ashanti king in the center. I wondered how long it took for artisans to recraft the balustrade from its former colonial shape.

“This would be a grand venue for the healing,” I said.

Diderot raised an eyebrow. “Mais oui, but under whose authority?”

“All three congregations,” I replied quickly, firmly.

“And who shall have final authority over the prisoner?”

“He will decide which congregation to join, and that congregation will rehabilitate his wretched soul.”

“A prison isn’t a garden. He has no hope of rehabilitation, even at the behest of the finest of our congregations. And Romsay’s congregation is tiny. I would have doubts over its resources in such a task.”

“He won’t be in a prison,” I answered.

“I see. Exiled then.”

I shook my head. “No. Rehabilitated.”

“A correction to the Iwa,” said Diderot.

“An unfamiliar term for me,” I replied.

“You have the gift of eyes, Shyllandrus Zulu. You will be able to identify the man’s Iwa and ask what it wants. You will be able to redirect the man to his Iwa in a proper way.”

“His spirit, you mean.”

Diderot shrugged. “As a sort.”

“These things you speak of. Such is the talk of your caribe cousins. But you are a Christian man, are you not?”

“As a sort,” he repeated. “I find your Christ as the master of all Iwa. I don’t know if my theology is correct.”

“It is,” I said firmly.

“As our congregations grow, you cannot administer to every criminal.”

“You have said that I have the gift of eyes. And you have said to me that I am nanbo, mother of magic. But we are all these things, each of us, together and individually. Nobody can hold all the keys to God’s magic. These things require participation from everyone in the congregation. No one human is special. We are all unique, but not one is special. This belief in specialness, a very European trait, is the catalyst to war and oppression.”

“What you are suggesting is not done among nations,” said Diderot.

“Among the European nations. Yes, true enough. Even you, fighting the Europeans these many years, find yourself bound to their tradition. The tradition of monarchs. There are nations from the African homeland and First Settler nations who have done these things, are there not? We must not be limited to the barbaric contrivances of European men. Incarceration is a lazy escape from spiritual healing.”

I found myself speaking these words as if they were not my own. They seemed ushered forth by a power far beyond me — as if the Holy Spirit himself was dictating and I was merely reporting the words to Diderot.

“Am I to picture, then, a crowd of loving congregants laying their hands of healing on someone who has stolen from them, who has perhaps taken the life of one of their family members?” asked Diderot.

“Our congregational economics have already demonstrated a reduction in thievery,” I replied. “Our communal societies, as they grow, if indeed they become sufficiently nourished before they are usurped by European mercantilism, will only serve to eliminate the kind of human want that promotes theft.

“And of murderers? If only we could take the bottle of distilled grain out of a man’s hands, even those numbers would fall by nature. And once the murder has happened? I grant you the argument that his peers will show little interest in mercy.”

“Tis a fool who tries to take a man’s ale,” replied Diderot.

“True that. But there are other ways to encourage men to gather. And we must be sure, Guillaume, that our congregations do not become victims of their success. Sometimes, my friend, your All Saints Congregation reminds me more of Britain’s East India Company than a community of God. Strengthen the spirituality, and the desire for drink will subside.”

Bolo's Notes
The East India Company was a British-based joint stock company established in the 1600s to manage trade with people in the Indian Ocean region. It has been estimated by some economists to be responsible for half the world’s trade during the time of the Colonial Rebellion and shortly after. By the early 1800s, the East India company had by proxy become the de facto ruler of India, raising company armies and establishing governing entities within India (often through Indian proxies).

Notably, the Carolina Union’s formal relationship with the crown began to deteriorate in 1840 when, under Ecclesiastical Tribune Shyllandrus Zulu, the nation formed a formal alliance with the Kingdom of Kongo under Henrique III Mpanzu a Nsindi a Nimi a Lukeni of the Kinlaza House. Both nations subsequently applied considerable pressure on Britain to relinquish control over India.

“It is why I must continue to avoid the pressures I face to become tribune through official title. We need someone of God to manage the affairs of congregations. Someone from a priestly order. I am a trader and a soldier. I am not a man of God. I stumbled into the tribuneship of All Saints quite by accident. It is not a formality.”

“An accident created by a set of profound accomplishments,” I corrected.

“Your Vanguard of Mary Congregation has enjoyed economic success, but remains of the highest spiritual order under your guidance.”

“You underestimate your kinship with the Lord. And overestimate mine, I’m afraid. But you need to also let him guide you further in congregational matters. When the world of human material instead of God dictates your congregation’s next move, that is when you will find yourself stumbling.”

“Every day feels like a stumbling error to me during some of my moments, thanks to the dictates of our world” Diderot smiled.

“You’ve accomplished much.”

“I’m persuasive. Others do my bidding,” he chuckled.

I nodded at that, for he had a point. Diderot could talk an army of rats into a tank of boiling water. He had also invented a new form of economics, one that allowed poor, unmoneyed laborers to share the economic fruits of their labors fully with their congregation.

Diderot had called it “owning the means to production. Each farmer, each smith, each cooper, all with a stake in the congregation. Nobody gets rich, but we all get rich.”

In that sense, his All Saints Congregation had become, in just the two decades after the rebellion, much akin to the East India Company and European companies like it.

The difference was that everything was self-financed by the congregants, who divvied up the revenue streams in the congregation’s various industries and interests equally among themselves, with a percentage going to the congregation itself for a variety of administrative purposes.

Adding law enforcement and militia costs to a congregation’s expenses would inevitably result in the congregation needing to take a larger cut of the congregation’s overall income.

I feared that congregations would become fiefdoms or regional nations of their own. The success of my own Vanguard of Mary Congregation enhanced those fears.

Bolo's Notes
The Congregational Homestead Act of 1811 explicitly forbade the establishment of formal borders by any congregation.

But for now, I knew, I’d have to focus on one problem at a time.

My current problem involved achieving justice — justice for Kerala Heights, and for God, who had lost Kerala’s attacker Roland Chastain to the braying demons of the underworld.

Sometimes it seemed as though Diderot could read my thoughts. “There are stories in the Caribe of those who lose their souls trying to save others,” he said, sipping a newly poured hot tea. I looked at him with interest.

He gestured with his hands lifting off the thick, cratered wooden table. “I don’t know much, your grace. They are stories. Told and retold, they have lost much detail and truth. But the war between good and evil — it is fought by angels and demons, non? Is it our place? Do we frolic with danger if we attempt to linger on their battle plains?”

In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew chapter twenty-two, verse thirty. You see, Monsieur Diderot, we are already like the angels who serve us. They are thrilled to have our help. And… we are linked to them with an eternal bond. We are of the same family.”

“An angel threw that knife into my hands those two years ago.”

“You saw this?”

“I did not. But I know this.”

This made my eyes well up.

“We honor her by doing what you say.”

I laughed. “You didn’t see her, but now you know her to be a her!”

“Ah, I somewhat doubt there is much gender recognition in the heavens.”

“The earliest translations of the Bible agree. God became a man through the transcriptions of patriarchal societies.”

“And Jesus himself?”

“He had to choose a side, didn’t he? And a sound choice it was. She would have been killed much earlier for her teachings had she been a woman.”

Diderot was silent again for some time. He looked at his cup and saucer before sliding them to the middle of the table.

“We have some particulars to sort out, but I believe we agree on how to proceed with the criminal Roland Chastain. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you have convinced me of the merits of your argument.”

I smiled warmly at Diderot. “Now the real work begins.”

Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5.1
Chapter 5.2
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12.1
Chapter 12.2

Original Photo of Emmet Bolo is from a photo by Clem Onojeghuo from It was Photoshopped for this story.

The paragraphs are reformatted to allow for more white space than the original text from the novel.

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