Sunday, September 12, 2010


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The Encyclopedia of the Long Sun has character information and commentary for the following books by Gene Wolfe:

The Book of Silk: 


The Book of Horn: 


Note: this is an updated database. If you can fill in any of the blanks, post in the comments. If you create an entry worth of the EoTL, we'll credit you with all the tidings of Pas. You can e-mail me at alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com.

SABA: Trivigaunte general. She commands the airship until she is possessed by Mucor. Silk gives it back to her after their trip to Mainframe. She is possibly intimate with Hyacinth on the airship. The other possibility is that she was simply exchanging information with Saba. She appears to have some kind of connection with Oosik.

Saba is described as having a "wide mouth" and may be in her forties. She is described as a massive sow.

SACRIFICES: A custom of Viron, but not necessarily of the other cities in the Whorl. The reason that Pas proscribed animal sacrifices is that he figured out members of his family were hiding in animals. The augur does the sacrificing and then reads the entrails for prophecy. Most if not all of the prophecies come true in The Book of Silk. The meat of the animal is distributed to worshippers after the sacrifice.

Human sacrifice never occurs in The Book of Silk outside of Mint's sacrifice of Sand to get Pas' attention. He is brought back to life by Auk, who is possessed by Pas with the mechanical background to accomplish it.

SAND: A chemical sergeant who Silk meets in the tunnels. He is loyal to the Ayuntamiento, but he is described as a nice person. Mint shoots him with a slug gun to get Pas' attention, with the idea that Incus will fix him later.

SARD: The owner of a pawn shop on Saddle Street. Potentially a chem.

Scale. VBM

Schist. VCM

SCIATHAN: The flier whose group was killed by the Triumvigantes to find out the secret of the fliers. He is tortured before being rescued by Auk. He leads Auk and his friends to Mainframe. After the events of The Book of Silk, Sciathan lives in the calde's palace with Mucor and Maytera Marble.

SCLERODOMA. A Vironese butcher. She also composed a shorter account of the colonists exit from the Long Sun world, which Horn considers issuing as a one-shot. According to Horn, she was an incredibly brave woman, second only to General Mint. She dies in the tunnels going to the lander, and is remembered by her sons as a great woman of Viron.

Scup. VBM

SCYLLA: She founds the Ayuntamiento and is the daughter of Pas and Echidna. She seems an infantile personage, possessing Chenille and ordering Incus and Auk to obey her will. She possesses the Mother on Blue. She possesses Oreb, Chenille, and possibly even Silk himself at points. She desires that Viron return to its charter and inserts Patera Silk as Calde.

SEANETTLE: A yawl Marrow leaves for Silkhorn.

SEAWRACK: The young woman given to Horn by Scylla, who has possessed the Mother. She waits for Horn at Pajarocu. She has only one arm. He has intercourse with her and even rapes her at one point, the intimation is that he is forced to do it. Her song is heard across the whorl by certain people - it is sung in the language of the Vanished People.

SECRET OF THE INHUMI: A great MacGuffin through The Book of Horn, it is simply that if human beings did not kill one another, the inhumi would return to being mindless lizards instead of predators. Silkhorn promises not to betray this secret, because it would essentially be the end of the inhumi.

SERVAL: Called Captain, he is a high ranking member of the rebellion who debriefs General Mint after she escapes from the tunnels and finds the mirror in the sibyl's room of the Prolocutor's palace. Serval is an easter egg from Wolfe's story "The Night Chough", where he rapes a girl in a prank with some of his friends.

SHALE: A chemical soldier who helps Mint out of the tunnels in Sand's squad.

SHAUK: Sinew's son, possibly not a biological son.

SHELL: The young augur who attends to Silk after he is shot by a chem soldier wielding a needler walking with Patera Quetzal. As an acolyte of Patera Jerboa, he is connected to Pas and maybe be there to protect Silk from his captors. He was at the schola with Silk and remembers sitting behind Silk. He is 23.

SHRIKE: Sclerodoma's husband, a butcher.

SIGADA: The Trivigaunte spy in Viron who was also a doctor. See CRANE.

Silah. TBF

SILK: The augur of the Sun Street manteion. All of Urth begins with his enlightenment on the ball court of the Sun Street palaestra by the Outsider. After the landers reach Blue and Green, Silk is forced out of office because he encouraged too many people to take the landers to Blue. He makes a big speech and offers to resign if the people don't want him. Silk is often identified with Moses.

Silk becomes an aspect of Pas when he visits Mainframe. (He is scanned and uploaded.) As a god Silk has the handle "Silent Silk," because he never manifests himself as a theophany or even darkens a window. He just observes his subjects.

Wolfe has explained where he got the idea for Silk:

The idea of the clergyman hero was very popular back around the 1900s, and has gone completely out of style except for a few clergymen detectives. [Harry Kemelman's] Rabbi Small is the one that comes to mind immediately. G. K. Chesterton did a Catholic priest, Father Brown. But those are exceptions, and I thought that somebody ought to do something with that idea again.

SILKHORN: When Silkhorn is born, Horn's spirit inhabits Silk's body, transporting him to the Whorl where he stands over a dead Hyacinth. He becomes the Rajan of Gaon before fleeing to Blanko with the inhumi in pursuit. In Blanko he is known as Incanto and leads them to victory over Soldo. At the end of The Book of Horn, he returns to the Whorl with Seawrack and Nettle.

SIMULIID: An obese commissioner. Possibly a chemical woman. He dies in the tunnels.

SINEW: Horn's first born son. He seems to have a problem with authority. He follows Horn on his trip to Pajarocu. He goes with Horn on the lander intended for the Whorl that is redirected by the inhumi to Green. He lives in Abanja's village on Green. One of the most mysterious characters in the series.

Sirka. TBF

SIYUF: The commander of the Trivigaunte forces. She has intercourse with Chenille at Ermine's, then with Violet. Tarsier creates a clone of Siyuf to replace the real Siyuf, but it is unclear whether this has an effect on the war. Considering Tarsier's overall competence, it probably does.

SFIDO: A soldier of Blanko. Possibly Rigoglio's head of intelligence. He harbors a strange affection for Silkhorn. He was born in Grandecitta and came to Blue at age fifteen. Silkhorn says that he has "an oily, almost feminine way of speaking."

Skate. VBM

Skin. VBM

Skink. VBM

SLATE: One of the chemical soldiers.

SMOKING: Dan Parmenter observed:

Wolfe's characters variously curse, argue, fight, change clothes, wash, go to the bathroom, drink and take drugs, but the one thing no character in these books does is smoke. No pipes, cigars, chillums or cheroots appear in any of these books. Am I right? I doubt if it means anything, but I can't help but wonder if it was deliberate.

SMOOTHBONE: Horn's father, a shopkeeper of Viron. He remains on the Whorl. 

SOLDO: A town on Blue founded by colonists from Grandecitta.

SPIGHX: She is the goddess of the Trivigauntes. She is an Amazon. She is the patroness of the seventh day of the week. She seems to play a role in the Rani of Trivigauntes actions throughout the conflict.

SPIDER: Potto's director of intelligence. He appears to be in love with General Mint, or perhaps with the goddess in her. A believer, in other words.

SUMAIRE: The leader of the Fliers who are attacked by Trivigaunte troops. She is the smallest, but an incredible fighter. Her lover is Mear.

SWALLOW: The owner of the talus factory. He is a black mechanic, the most enigmatic of the scientists of the Whorl. He portrays himself as a reverent boss and glosses over the many problems with taluses we've seen in the narrative. He describes employment trends over a rather long period and his extensive knowledge about the early days of the Whorl indicates he may be a lot older than he looks, or even a chem like the councillors.

What if the behavior of (some of) the taluses was contracted out to Swallow? We've seen how easy it is for chems to be turned to the whims of their controllers, another puppet allusion in a long line of them. Yet it's equally clear Swallow isn't fond of the Ayuntamiento and may be partly engineering some of the interesting changes in the allegiance of the soldiers to Silk, possibly with Tarsier, who could be his real identity. There is a lot of talk about Silk being a politician and what that entails, and he seems to understand what the point of his order for taluses really is: a polite investment in the midst of a greater agreement.

TAAL: A lawyer in Dorp hired by Beroep to defend Silkhorn.

TALUS:  Silk meets his first talus at Blood's. He gets it fired and returned to Councillor Potto, helping Silk put together the connection between Blood and the Ayuntamiento. Silk later kills this talus in self-defense in the tunnels.

A bronze-plated talus is possessed by Scylla in Lake of the Long Sun, and in the talus factory chapter of Exodus of the Long Sun, Swallow implies this isn't the first time a talus has gone off the rails, and that they issued a quarter refund previously, probably due to its possession by a god. The talus is destroyed in the fighting in the tunnels.

TANSY: Hound's wife in the town of Endroad.

TARSIER. Another chemical member of the Ayuntamiento. He is one of the councillors who burns Mucor for information about Silk. By the time Silk arrives at Blood's villa to negotiate terms with the Ayuntamiento, Tarsier has exited the scene, according to Blood. He later communicates through to Loris through the glass to kill Silk. From this we may infer that he in fact is now and may have always been the brains of the organization, despite never getting a line of dialogue in the entire series. Or does he? See Swallow.

Further, Tarsier is a black mechanic. He's the one who makes chemical bodies for the Ayuntamiento, as we learn from Councillor Potto in the bravura opening to Exodus of the Long Sun. Tarsier is also the one who makes a clone of Siyuf and imprisoned the real one. Amazingly, Tarsier survives the changeover of power and even supervises crews clearing the tunnels of water so that air can circulate through the Whorl.

TARTAROS: The blind son of Pas. He possesses Auk to undermine his mother Echidna. Michael Andre-Driussi has suggested that this may be Severian. Some have offered that he was in control of the Whorl when it overrode the instruction of the first lander and sent it to Blue.

TEASEL: One of Maytera Mint's students in the palaestra.

TERZO: A colonel of Soldo. He is frightened by Silkhorn. It is unclear why he alone is able to hear Seawreck's song. Possibly he was possessed by Scylla at some point during In Green's Jungles. Robert Borski has postulated that he may be an inhumu or even Jugano.

THELXIEPEIA: Echidna's third daughter. Thelxday is for fortune telling, and hunting and trapping animals. She is accompanied by a marmoset in paintings. She is the goddess of learning and witchcraft.

When Silk waits at Ermine's by the pool "under Thelx's mirror" he receives a vision. This is the passage:

THETIS: A minor goddess to whom lost travellers pray. Her name may have been used as a password in the tunnels.

Thyone. PBF

Thyone. DF

TICK: The catachrest Silk doesn't buy in the pet shop. Hyacinth purchases him for Auk to sacrifice. He is sometimes possessed by Sphigx.

Tiger. VBM

TITI: One of Viron's spycatchers.

Trematode. VBM

Trotter. VBM

TUSSAH: The previous Calde of Viron, before Silk. Chenille's father, and Silk's as well in the sense that he commissioned the frozen embryo that became Silk. Silk seems to be more aware of the Calde's life and work than he reveals at several points. He even admits to the Ayunamiento that there may have been a just reason to depose the calde; certainly his scandalous liaisons can't have helped matters.

Hearing about what Tussah had done with Silk through rumors inspired Blood to purchase Mucor.

Silk himself tells the Ayuntamiento that he believes that the story of Tussah getting an embryo was a fiction intended to distract from the existence of Chenille, but this is most ironic. Remora knew Tussah quite well as Quetzal's second-in-command; in Exodus of the Long Sun he claims he misjudged him, calling him a "loud, brawling, vigorous" man. He dies in 310.

PATERA TUSSAH: A member of Incus' circle of black mechanics.  I'd call this a fairly good indication that Tussah himself was also a black mechanic, perhaps even a famous one in those circles.

TYPHON: The last monarch of Urth. He digitized himself and his family and created the starcrosser Whorl. See Pas.

URUS: The thief whose gang Auk, Chenille, Patera Incus and Hammerstone are attacked by in the tunnels. He's one of the most truly 'evil' characters in The Book of Silk. He meets with Abanja and offers to exchange information for money.

URBASECONDUS: A town on Blue. Horn reports that another man, from Urbasecondus,  has written his own version of the colonists' exodus from the Whorl, but he has never read it.

VADSIG: The maid of the house in Dorp where Silkhorn is "confined." She becomes one of his group and gets involved with his son Hide. They are married by Patera Remora when the inhumi attack Silkhorn.

VALICO: A trooper in the horde of Blanko.

VANISHED PEOPLE: The aboriginal race of the Short Sun system. They have left the system, but astral-travel back to it. They are tall, eight-legged arthropods. Their hands are bristly. One of their forms is as trees. We know that in astral travel organisms travel as true representations of themselves, so perhaps the image we have of the Vanished People resembles not at all what they really look like. They enslaved the inhumi, but in doing so created monsters.

Much of what we know about the Vanished People is summarized during three passages of In Green's Jungles.

Again, I glanced behind me. "Your… Never mind. The inhumi preyed upon the Vanished People once. You must know it. That was one of the reasons that they left these whorls, and it may even have been the principal one. When the inhumi prey upon us, they are like us. I won't be more specific now, but you must know what I mean. What do you suppose the inhumi were like when they were preying upon the Vanished People?"

"I've wondered about that. It must have been marvelous. Miraculous… For them, I mean."

"I agree. Let us suppose that some small trace of that remained behind, passed from generation to generation in some fashion. Do you see what I'm getting at?"

"I think so."


In other words, many of the traits of the inhumi are actually traits of the Vanished People. The ability to astral travel would be one example. There is another conversation with Vadsig that reveals more:

"You might put it so, though they were sensible enough to find out a good deal about us-and infect us with inhumi-"

"Bad thing!"

"Before they ventured to greet even a few of us."

"Bad it was," Vadsig agreed with Oreb.

"To leave inhumi among us?" I shook my head. "It was a small price to pay for two whorls, and it enabled the Neighbors to gauge much more accurately the differences between our race and their own."

This seems to explain Quetzal's presence on the whorl. He was a representative of the Vanished People. He told the colonists to direct the ship to Green because it is his home base, and as Silk says, Green really isn't any worse than Blue.  Then there is the final long conversation in that book about what happened with the Vanished People and the inhumi:
"Think of the two whorls as they were thousand and thousands of years ago. The Vanished People were here on Blue, the inhumi on Green, where they preyed upon the great beasts in its jungles. They exterminated the Vanished People, Hide, or very nearly-that's why they vanished. Why didn't they exterminate the beasts on Green long before?"

"They wouldn't have had anything to eat."

"True. Did they have the intelligence to think of that? Without human beings to imitate?"

"I see. They were just animals, too. Big flying leeches. You're smiling again. You know, I like it."

"So do I. Eventually the Vanished People found some means of crossing the abyss to Green. Perhaps they built landers of their own-I believe that they must have. They went there, and the inhumi, too, became both powerful and wise, so powerful and so knowing that they hunted the Vanished People almost to extinction. The strengths of the Vanished People became their enemies' strengths, you see. They tried in their desperation to become stronger still, to know more and more and more, and succeeded, and were doomed by that success."

I thought then of the bestial men I had been shown in the Bear Tower, men who had surrendered their humanity, haunted by guilt or despair. Our omophagist had been caged with them; and when he had seen them, and understood what they were, he had striven to speak.


"Yes, my son?"

"Could they, the inhumi, wipe us out too?"

"Of course."

"Then we should have killed Jahlee."

I shook my head to clear it of the cages and the stench. "That would not prevent it."

"It would help!"

"It would not. If anything, it would do more harm. Never forget, Hide, that what we are the inhumi quickly become. Jahlee was an ally in Gaon, and a friend at the farmhouse. She had fought for me and slain my foes, and learned their secrets too, so that she might meet me with them in the garden or whisper them at the window of my bedroom. Suppose that I were to wait until her back was to me, draw the long sharp blade I have not got, and plunge it into her back."

"I wish you had!"

"You would not, if you had seen and heard it. Her terrible scream ringing over this silent, desolate marsh. The hideous, misshapen thing writhing and bleeding at your feet that just a moment before had appeared to be a lovely woman. Try to imagine all that. Can you?"

He said nothing.

"You would have battered her head with the butt of your slug gun then, trying to end her agony. Her wig would have fallen from her head, and her eyes-her eyes, Hide-would roll up to you while she begged for her life, saying please, oh, please, Hide. Mercy for your mother's sake. Mercy! We were friends, I would have lain with you in the Bear Tower if only you had come to me. You know it's true! Spare my life, Hide!"

"No talk!" Oreb commanded.

I spoke again anyway. "You would have struck all the harder, smashing her toothless, blood-drinking mouth with the butt of your slug gun; but you would never be able to forget those eyes, which would return to stare at you-and at me, as well-in the small hours of many nights. When you were as old as I am, you would still see her eyes."

Reluctantly, he nodded.

"And a hundred years from now, every inhumi in the whorl would be a little harder, a little more cruel and proud, because of what we did here tonight. Remember-what we are, they must become."

"All right."

"When the war in Gaon was just about over, I freed my inhumi from their service – Jahlee among them. Why do you think I did that?"

He shrugged uncomfortably. "You didn't need them anymore."

"I could have found a great many uses for them. Believe me, I thought of many. I could have conquered the towns downriver and founded an empire. I could have used them to consolidate my hold on Han, and to tighten my grip upon Gaon. Nettle sent you and your twin to look for me, not so long ago?"

Hide nodded.

"I could have sent my inhumi to fetch all three of you to Gaon, where we would have become the ruling family, the sort of thing that Inclito's family is clearly becoming in Blanko; and when I died, you and your brother would have fought to the death for my throne.

"I rejected those possibilities and surrendered the throne the people of Gaon had given me instead, in part because I know what happened to the Neighbors, or believe I do-because I know that their towers still stretch to the damp skies of Green, when their cities here have crumbled into nameless hills."

I waited for him to speak; he only stared at me, open mouthed but wordless.

"On Green, the Vanished People had done what I had done in Gaon, Hide. They had made the inhumi serve them; and as time passed they had become more and more dependent upon their servants, servants whom they permitted to come here to feed, and perhaps carried here to feed. I myself had allowed my own inhumi to feed upon the blood of the people of Han, you see. It was war, I told myself, and the Man of Han would surely have done the same to us; but I had set my foot upon that path, and I was determined to leave it."

"What happened when all the Vanished People here were dead?" Hide asked in a strangled voice.

"I'm not sure it ever occurred," I told him. "A very few may have survived; a very few may survive here still. But a time came-I doubt that it was more than a few hundred years in coming-when it was no longer worthwhile for the inhumi to come here."

"What happened then?"

"I think you know," I told him, and wished him a good night.

So the Vanished People of Green permit the inhumi to hunt Blue - and thus on Blue, their buildings are crumbling.

VENT: A lawyer of Dorp. He is Silkhorn's advocate.

VERBANA: One of Merl's daughters.

VIOLET: A whore at Orchid's. Chenille calls for her to occupy Siyuf when she has to leave Ermine's.

VOLANTA: A woman of Blanko, married to Atteno.

VULPES.  A lawyer of Limna. After being arrested by soldiers in the tunnels, Silk names him as his advocate. Possibly an alias of Quetzal or one of his informants.

WHORL: The spaceship that Typhon takes to colonize other worlds in the year 32. It is piloted by a group of scientists in Mainframe. After its long flight, the Whorl experiences problems cooling the ship through its air tunnels. It turns off the sun to release this excess energy. It also encourages the inhabitants to the leave the Whorl so more people can survive.

WIJZER: A boatman of Dorp. He gives Horn advice about how to get to Pajarocu. In Dorp he is said to have "extensive connections among the sailors and boat owners." Silkhorn describes him as "He is larger than most men, solid-looking, with a big, red face." He detects that Jahlee is an inhumu, and he also may not be all that he appears.  The fact that Oreb seems extremely kindly disposed towards Wijzer, and the fact that Scylla also detests the inhumi, along with the very fact of Wijzer's occupation indicates he is an agent for Scalding Scylla.

WILLET: Real name is Hossaan. At the beginning of Nightside the Long Sun, he is the second-highest ranking Trivigaunte spy in Viron, if Doctor Crane's explanation in the hotel room above the Rusty Lantern in Lake of the Long Sun is any indication. Hossaan, as a male in Trivigaunte, seems to sympathize with Silk and it's unclear where his loyalties lay. He also seems eager to use his relationship to Silk to rise in the Trivigaunte intelligence network, since he tells Silk that soon enough Abanja will know who he is.

WINDCLOUD: A Vanished Person. He appears in court to testify on behalf of Silkhorn. Here is his scene:

"Mysire Windcloud, my life to our law I have devoted, but never one of you in court I have seen. Why have you come?"

"How could I not?"

Hamer snapped, "Questions you may not ask, mysire," which I think very brave of him.

"To the Whorl."

"Why not?"

Taal explained, "Contrary to our law it is, mysire."

"Then I will ask no more until Dorp's law is altered, though Dorp will lose by it. We have come because honor compels us."

"Because accused your friend here stands?"

"Because the people of your town do."

"Who accuses us?"

Hamer rapped on his desk. "To the case before us yourself you must confine, Mysire Taal."

A large picture crashed to the floor, and about half the onlookers sprang to their feet.

Taal asked softly, "That you did, Mysire Windcloud?"


Judge Hamer leaned toward him, pointing with the mace of office. "Speak you must, mysire! It who did?"

"You." There was something in the single flat word that frightened even the judge, and which I myself found terrifying.

Taal addressed the court. "Mysire Rechtor, what we do here dangerous it is. Question Mysire Windcloud I must, but not you need. With all honor to the court, this I suggest."

I felt the building tremble as he spoke; and Hamer nodded, his face pale.

"My client, Mysire Horn. Him how long have you known?"

"Since I gave him my cup." Windcloud's face turned toward me, and though I could not see his eyes-I have never seen the eyes of any of them-I felt his glance.

"In days and years you cannot say, mysire?"


"An honest man he is?"

"Too much so."

"You he serves?"

"Yes, he does." That surprised me, I confess; I am still thinking about it.

"A traitor to our breed he is?"

"No." There was amusement in the word, I believe.

"To this case alone address myself I must, mysire. This you understand. That this whorl to us you have given, not relevant it is. About that, not I may ask. About your knowledge of men's characters I may inquire, if Mysire Rechtor permits. A man as here 'a man' we say, not you are?"

"I am not, but a man of my own race."

"Many men, however, you have known, mysire? Men such as I am and as Mysire Rechtor is?"

"Yes. I was one of those who boarded your whorl when it neared our sun. In the Whorl, I made the acquaintance of many of your race, and I have known others since, on both the whorls we once called ours."

"Of these, my client Mysire Horn one is?"

"Yes. We became better acquainted when he was living in my house, some distance from here. I have found him to be an honorable man, devoted to your kind."

"If to our kind devoted he is, to yours a foe he must be, mysire. That do you deny?"

"I do. You spoke of your breed. You breed your own foes, who are our foes as well, those who would destroy others for gain and rob them for power." Here Windcloud paused-I shall never forget it, and I doubt that anyone who was present will-and turned his shadowed face, very slowly, toward Hamer.

"Your guest Mysire Horn was. This you have said. Invite him you did?"

"No. Another `man' who was living in my house brought him. He was not afraid of me, as the others were."

"This you did, though living in your house without your permission he was?"

"Soon it will be spring. The white fishcatchers will return, booming, and darkening your sky which was ours in their mating flight. Two will nest upon your chimney, though you will not invite them."

Windcloud's shadowed gaze had been upon Hamer, although he had addressed Taal; at this point he directed it to Nat. "You say he has harmed you, yet I see you whole, fat, and free, while another stands beside him with a sword."

Windcloud is amused because they still think Horn not a member of the Vanished People. Which house does he mean? Which of Horn's residences qualify as Windcloud's house? This is answered during In Green's Jungles while Hide and Silkhorn talk on Urth. It's Lizard Island:

"When we were talking about the trees growing out of the walls, you said the Vanished People built better than we do."

"Better than we do thus far, at least."

"Then the place on that island must have been empty, a long long time."

A larger question might be, who was Windcloud in The Book of Silk? There are many candidates, including Tarsier, Pas, and Quetzal. Perhaps more than one of them. Robert Borski writes

Wo-man. RF (human)

WOOD: One of Patera Jerboa's sibyls.

Wool. VBM

XIPHIAS. A Vironese fighting master.

Yapok. VBM

YSKIN: The traveler who robs Sinew.

ZITTA: Inclito's dead wife. She perished on the journey from the Whorl to Blue.

ZORIL: She is a "lank woman of forty" with ginger hair that Mint believes is dead. Potentially Quetzal's spy in the rebellion, and she cannily clears up the fine points around what Echidna told them to do. Potentially an inhumu.

All material in The Encyclopedia of the Long Sun is copyrighted. Please do not reproduce without express written consent. The character format and list for the Book of Silk is by Sean Whalen.

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