Janice Covington smiled to herself as she drove the brand new pick up truck toward home. Argo sat in the passenger seat, head out the window, still amazed by all the new smells of the region. Home. Janice still had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn't dreaming. Everything that had happened in the six weeks since her return from Leesto's island all seemed too good to be true. But there it was as she rounded a now familiar bend in the road. On Franklin street the imposing white mansion, itself a spared relic from the civil war, loomed into view. She parked the car outside the front door as Argo leapt from the passenger window and bounded up the steps to the front door.
Once inside, Janice quickly removed her high heels and pillbox shaped hat. The new dress code was the only nightmarish quality to the new direction her life had taken. The house was warm and inviting, most of the moving boxes having been unpacked. Aside from her books, Janice didn't own much in the way of material possessions. Some research equipment and artifacts from previous digs waited patiently for their unpacking. Until a room in the sprawling mansion was set aside as a study, they were best left in the moving crates. Janice gazed around the entryway. The grand works of art and furnishings were still taking some getting used to. It was not hard to believe Melinda Pappas grew up surrounded by such finery, but to be pampered and adventurous was an unusual combination. "Well, did you get it?" Mel called from the second floor as she hurried down the stairs to join her love.
"Of course I got it." Janice smiled back. "You are looking at the newest faculty member of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill."
"Oh, that's wonderful Janice!" Mel declared, kissing her soundly, then quickly breaking away to look around the room.
"Honestly Mel," Janice laughed, "kissing isn't something 'Dora hasn't seen us do before. Not by a long shot," she added under her breath, "I wouldn't worry about it."
"Yes, well," Mel replied primly as she headed for the stairs, "come upstairs. There is something I want to show you."
Janice followed, grinning from ear to ear. "Is it something I've seen before?" She asked hopefully.
Mel glanced back, her own eyes smiling with promise. "As a matter of fact, no." With a wink she added, "But later, yes. So what will you be teaching?"
"I love it when you say yes." Janice sighed and followed Mel up the stairs. "Starting in the fall I'll be teaching Pre-Myceanian Culture and Customs, Advanced Archeology and a special lecture series on Xena, once we've analyzed the scrolls that is. It's going to be a busy summer." They stopped at a door at the far end of the elegant hallway. "What, I actually get to enter the mysterious room that has been off limits since my arrival?"
"Off limits my eye." Mel objected. "You've been fixated with exploring every facet of the bedroom since you got here."
"Only when you're in it."
Mel ignored the comment and opened the heavy wooden door. Beyond was a large room, comfortably decorated in warm tones of mahogany and leather. A study with two great desks that were positioned face to face at one end of the room. A fireplace and comfortable couches dominating the other. Bookcases recessed in the wall rose to the ceiling near the desks, filled with the books from Janice's former home. Several large windows were behind one of the desks, on the far side from the fire place looking behind the huge house in to the expansive fields beyond. Peach trees dotted the landscape with a spectacular view of the horizon. Bright flowers sat poised in an elegant vase on a small table in front of the fireplace, adding color to the warm coziness of the room.
"It's incredible," Janice gasped, stepping inside. "Did you do this?" She breathed recognizing the familiar book spines instantly.
"Well, 'Dora helped, but I had to do something to keep my mind off my loneliness while you were interviewing at the University." Mel beamed. Janice was as pleasantly surprised as she hoped she'd be.
As Janice moved to the bookcase something caught her eye on the far desk. A hat rested over a coiled bullwhip. "What's this?" She asked, moving to the desk and picking up the hat.
"Try it on." Mel suggested, grinning from ear to ear. Janice complied, beaming as the hat covered her head with the feel of a custom fit. "I was hoping it'd fit," Mel explained. "See, daddy ordered a couple of hats from this European hat maker. It was an extravagant gift when mama was still around. Anyway, of the three he received, one was too small. Daddy never threw anything away, so it's been waiting for you in this study ever since."
Janice grinned too overcome with happiness and emotion to speak. "And the whip?" she finally asked, picking up the expertly made bullwhip. It was well worn but in excellent condition.
"A gift from me and Xena to you. A little 'welcome home' something."
"Mel, you are the best!" Janice exclaimed, her voice tight with emotion as she moved to take the statuesque woman in her arms once more.
"Well you did seem rather attached to your hat," Mel said when their kiss broke.
Janice grinned. "Yeah, I won it in a poker game with a former colleague. It belonged to Henry Jones Junior; Indy, when I was able to call him a friend."
"You're no longer friends?" Mel asked.
Janice shook her head, still grinning. "Nope. He caught me with the daughter of his mentor." She paused a moment thinking, "Marion... Marion Ravenwood, that was her name. He was pretty pissed I'd... um." Janice looked up to see Mel arching her eyebrow knowingly. "Well, you get the picture. He also taught me how to use a bullwhip." She finished, hoping to redirect the conversation.
Mel just smiled. Janice's passionate nature was one of the reasons she loved her. "You are incorrigible you know. Is there any end to the trouble you can get yourself into?"
"Well I've got a specific partner in crime these days..." Janice voice dropped off as Mel turned to gaze out the large window. "What is it? What did I say?" Janice asked, worried.
"It isn't you Janice." Mel smiled. "I'm just having some trouble adjusting to... this." She finished.
"What about... this?" Janice asked, joining Mel by the window, standing close but not touching.
"I think I should say something to 'Dora, explain our situation. But I'm not quite sure what to say."
Janice paused a moment, her brow furrowed in thought. "Mel," she began gently, "I've been here a total of three days. In that time 'Dora has walked in on us making love a total of four times. While I think it surprised her the first two, I think she's gotten over it and has realized that knocking on a door and entering without waiting for an answer first is not a good idea."
Mel's cheeks flushed crimson at the memory. It was true that Janice appeared much less embarrassed by the situation. Walking in on others, or being walked in on were not new experiences for her. In fact the archeologist had seemed perfectly content readjusting a sheet and answering whatever question 'Dora had interrupted them to ask. "I hope you aren't thinking of letting her go?" Janice asked. Since meeting the formidable black woman three days prior, an understanding had been forged between the two. Without words, they had agreed to be partners in the task of looking out for Mel and seeing that she was happy.
"I would never do that," Mel replied. "Pandora started working for my father when I was just a baby, before mother left. She was little more than a child herself at the time. Still, she's always been the closest thing I've had to a mother." Mel turned, her eyes brimming with unshed tears. "Janice, I'm afraid she's going to leave me. Leave us."
Janice shook her head. "Don't be silly Mel. Pandora isn't stupid. She's got a good thing, working for you. The housework is light; you never make a mess. She's only has to cook for two, her children are welcome in your home, as are their friends after school, and she's well paid. You told me yourself that her husband hasn't been able to work since that accident on the railroad. Why would she give all this up? Just because her employer has a female lover?"
"You've said yourself that people have a problem with it. What if 'Dora thinks her children shouldn't come 'round? How many times have you been called names or threatened? On that ship... Silvus..." Mel asked, searching the shorter woman's face.
"Forget Silvus, Mel." Janice countered. "The man is an idiot. As for 'Dora's kids... shit Mel, you are the sweetest, most generous person I've ever met. 'Sides, Pandora's youngest, Thea, is crazy about Argo. Wild horses won't keep her out of your orchard playing tag with Argo." Wrapping her arm's around Mel, she murmured into the taller woman's shoulder. "If you're that concerned, why don't you just talk to 'Dora. Let her tell you you're overreacting if you won't listen to me. I love you Mel. I don't want that to be something that makes you sad."
Returning Janice's warm embrace Mel was afraid she might start crying. "I love you too Janice, and it doesn't make me sad. It's just so complicated. I mean, what about the University?"
"What about them?" Janice asked, pressing her lips to an exposed collar bone.
"What will they think?"
"About me living in the home of Melinda Pappas?" Janice asked stepping away from Mel to look her in the face once more. "I suspect a number of eligible bachelors will be very disappointed, and possibly make some crass remarks. I also know that the board of directors will do everything possible to accommodate my abrasive personality because they want to impress you. They know it was you who paid off Sal Monious since he didn't get any artifacts for his museum. They are ecstatic to have Argo's saddle in their museum's collection. They are willing to finance future expeditions for us and will patiently wait for me to transcribe the Xena Scrolls and publish my findings. Mel, they are more than happy to overlook what I do in bed. They have too much at stake to pretend otherwise. Hell, they even said Argo was welcome on campus and asked if you'd consider joining me at the faculty mixer. They want your money Mel. I'm sorry, but get used to them bending over backwards to impress you, they're going to be at it for a long time."
Mel shrugged, it was nothing new. She'd learned to spot long ago when people were only interested in her finances. Suddenly a new fear crept to mind, "You don't think that's why they hired you ?"
Janice shook her head. "I'm not that insecure about my work. I know my research is worth it's weight in gold. They want hard cash and credible research. I'm sure they just find the fact that I'm crazy in love with you, a bonus."
The discussion came to an abrupt end when a crisp knock sounded at the door. "Come in," both women replied in unison. Several more moments passed before the door slowly opened.
"I'm not interrupting anything?" Pandora asked, her eyes still averted as she entered the study.
"Honestly 'Dora, we're not going to do it in here." Janice quipped under her breath, "yet."
"Janice!" Mel protested, cheeks flaming once more.
Pandora laughed. The more she got to know the outspoken archeologist the more she liked her. "With a wolf like you Miz Covington, ya never know." She replied.
"Wolf?" Janice repeated, beaming, "I like the sound of that."
"You would." Mel added, then turned to face the newcomer. "'Dora, there is something I'd like to explain about Janice and myself. About the nature of our relationship..."
Pandora was a large woman, fifteen years older than Mel, although she didn't seem it. Her eyes shown with youthful mischief, her body having aged more from giving birth to six children. She shook her head, smiling with her white teeth shining in bright contrast to her dark skin. "I'm not blind Miz Pappas. It's clear to me how y'all feel about each other."
Mel blushed. This was not getting any easier. "Yes, but I'm concerned you..." She floundered, not quite knowing what to say.
"What Mel is trying to say," Janice interjected, "is that she's concerned you might feel differently about her, knowing about me, well us."
The smile faded from Pandora's face as she studied the taller woman. "Is that what you think Miz Pappas?" she softly asked. Mel nodded. "Well then, I didn't teach you as well as I thought I did." She finished sadly.
"It isn't that 'Dora..." Mel tried to explain.
"Don't tell me what it is or it isn't Melinda Pappas. I've taken care of you since before I had any babies of my own, and I've treated y'all the same. Your daddy was a good man, he taught me a lot, things I've tried to teach all my babies. Your daddy never judged anyone by anything other than their deeds. He traveled the world over, and knew people of every stripe. He treated them all with equal respect no matter if they ate monkey for breakfast or wore a lampshade on their head for a hat. Miz Pappas, honey, love is love. It ain't a bad thing, can't be. When all the hate is gone from the world, then maybe we can get picky about love, but not 'till then. Frankly, I don't care what the two of you do in bed, or the bathtub," she added wryly. "Although I wouldn't mind my husband being a fly on the wall, I reckon y'all could teach him a thing or two." She finished with a wink at Janice.
"Six kids 'Dora, I don't think he needs any help." Janice observed.
"I'm not complaining, mind you." 'Dora explained, "it's just that y'all carry on so it sound like y'all havin' sucha good time."
"Does that mean you won't be leaving?" Mel asked hopefully.
"Leave? Never child, not as long as y'all have me. 'Sides, now with Miz Wolf in residence, I gots someone to pick up after."
Relieved, all three women shared a laugh. "What did you want to see us about?" Janice asked, "or was it just to see what we were up to?"
'Dora slapped playfully at Janice's arm, muttering "Damn wolf" under her breath. "I was cleaning the black tuxedo jacket, when I found these in the pocket." She held out her hand, and resting in her large palm were the matching necklaces from the auction.
"That's right." Janice exclaimed, "I saw Xena put them in her pocket when we were in Leesto's study. With everything that happened, I forgot all about them."
Mel took the necklaces from Pandora, studying the intricate detail. The housekeeper was about to leave when Mel looked up as she reached the door. "'Dora, have you seen Argo's pack?"
"Yes ma'am, it's in the barn with a few boxes still needin' to be unpacked."
"Could you get it for me?"
Pandora withdrew with a smile, and quietly closed the study door behind her.
"What was that about?" Janice asked, looking at the artifacts resting in her lover's elegant fingers.
"I brought a couple of things with me when I went to your house. I put them in Argo's pack and forgot all about them. I think it's time I showed you now though." She looked back at the necklaces. "What should we do with them?" She asked.
"Keep them? Wear them? I don't know," Janice shrugged.
"I don't think we should wear them unless it's a special occasion." Mel considered. "But, the staff and breastplate, I'm sure they'd want us to hold on to them. What about the scrolls, do you plan to keep them?"
Janice shook her head, "I'd like to send them back to Jack Kleinman in New Jersey, when we're done transcribing them. Leesto might still be interested, and I'm sure Jack will be clueless enough to stash them in an attic somewhere and forget about them. If they're in a museum, Leesto will have a goal. If she can't find them..."
Pandora returned to the study carrying Argo's small pack. She handed it to Mel who rummaged through it's contents, withdrawing a small pouch and a scroll case. "What's this?" Janice asked when she was handed the velvet pouch.
"A little something I had made when I parted ways with you in Macedonia. I said I had to get some things in order. I had these made while I was up to it."
Opening the pouch Janice spilled the contents into her hand. Two tiny circles, silver inlaid with gold, each on a thin chain rested in her palm. "Tiny chakrams!" Janice exclaimed.
Mel nodded, "yes one side of each has a pattern from Xena's chakram, the other side is smooth."
"Two halves of the whole." Janice observed as Mel smiled.
"Pick one." She said. Janice made a grand show of closing her eyes and blindly selecting one of the necklaces. Her fingers touched on the necklace with the square pattern as Mel nodded her approval. "Most fitting." She decided, slipping the chain around Janice's neck and hooking the delicate clasp. Janice returned the favor and in moments both women were sporting similar, but not identical, necklaces.
"And you had these made before..." Janice observed.
"I guess I had my hopes up on some level." Mel confided. "I'm glad it worked out this way."
"And what is this?" Janice asked as she picked up the scroll case.
"When Jack drove off in Macedonia, this scroll fell out of the bag. I've already translated it. Gabrielle didn't write it. I think this is the only scroll written by Xena."
"You are amazing Mel" Janice beamed. "This is going to be an incredible summer. Translating the scrolls, doing research for our next dig..."
Mel joined in her lover's happiness. Our next dig, I like the sound of that."
"Of course Mel, we're partners, in every way. I wouldn't dream of an expedition without you. You're as indispensable as Argo!" Mel smiled, knowing she was just paid the highest of compliments. "As long as we're upstairs," Janice continued, "wasn't there something else you wanted to show me?"
"'Dora is right Janice, you are a wolf."
They headed back down the hall toward the bedroom when Pandora intercepted them. "Oh no you don't." She warned, "Miz Covington has a guest, y'all can 'take a nap' later." She said with a conspirital nod toward the bedroom.
"A guest?" Janice asked, surprised. "Who?"
'Dora smiled. "A woman. From the university, long red hair and mighty pretty. She talks funny though. Still, I'd keep an eye on my wolf if I was you Miz Pappas."
Janice laughed, "Pandora, a smart woman like you deserves a raise."
"I won't argue with that." She agreed. "''Specially if I'm going to look after that horse you insist on calling a dog. Thank the lord she'll be with y'all at the university."
"Did you catch our guests name?" Mel asked.
Pandora nodded, "Said her name was Doctor Fiona Cyrene. I showed her into the living room. If y'all can postpone your 'nap' I'll bring some iced tea."
Janice quickly looked down at her bare feet and uncomfortable skirt. "Shit, I gotta change clothes. Can you keep her busy for a few minutes while I change?" she implored.
Mel smiled. "Red head?" she asked Pandora. "Sounds like my cup of tea. Take your time Janice," she teased as she headed down the elegant stairs.
"Christ, I've created a monster." Janice muttered as she dashed for the bedroom door.
"You've created something Miz Covington." Pandora agreed watching Mel descend the stairs.
Janice entered the living room a short time later, dressed in a casual pant suit. To her surprise, it was vacant. Pandora arrived just after her, carrying a large glass of iced tea. "Miz Pappas and Doctor Cyrene are out back." 'Dora said, then added in a hushed voice, "I'd watch that one if I were you Miz Covington. She's got hungry eyes like you. Not quite as love struck when she looks as Melinda, but there is an interest there, same as you."
"Interest in Mel?" Janice wondered aloud, accepting the offered glass.
"In all women." Pandora replied.
"Another wolf?" Janice asked.
"I'd best get to guarding the sheep then hadn't I?" Janice smiled as she headed for the back.
Pandora shook her head. "She only has eyes for her wolf Miz Covington." She said before Janice was out of earshot.
Janice quietly walked the length of the porch attached to the back of the huge house. Mel and their guest were engaged in conversation at the far end, looking off towards the peach trees. Argo sat with them until she saw her mistress approach, then quickly bounded over to receive some attention behind the ears. "Janice," Mel said warmly as she approached, "I'd like you to meet Doctor Fiona Cyrene, your new officemate."
Janice and Fiona shook hands warmly. "Doctor Cyrene, the Irish archeologist?" Janice asked.
"One and the same, Doctor Covington, but I'd thank you to call me Fi, all my friends do." Fioana smiled, which set her freckles dancing across her cheeks. She was the same height as Janice with slightly shorter hair. It was a wavy and deep red that Janice noticed that kept Mel's attention riveted. Appearing several years older than Mel, she spoke with a thick Irish brouge, her blue-gray eyes sparkling.
Janice smiled."Only if you call me Janice."
"Very well Janice. Melinda was just showing me the orchard. You've a lovely home here." Fiona smiled at Mel as well as Janice as she spoke. Her words could be taken a number of ways, but Janice agreed with Pandora, this woman was a charmer.
"Yes, yes I do." Janice agreed, smiling at Mel. "Shall we go inside?" She suggested, leading the way to the living room.
"I heard you were interviewing at the university. I was on campus this morning and found out just after you'd left that you accepted the position." Fiona explained as they entered the grand living room. "It will be nice to have another 'foreigner' in the department."
Janice laughed. "You're right, I've been introduced as the 'yankee professor' more than once today."
"Yes, were your research on Xena not so outstanding, you'd find your office in the basement. As it is, you'll be rooming with the other archeologist no one can understand instead. Is this Xena's?" Fiona asked as she walked to the brick fireplace. Mounted above were the bronze breastplate and a restored fighting staff.
"Yes," Mel explained, joining the archeologist, "the breastplate was Xena's and the staff belonged to Gabrielle."
"Gabrielle the bard?" Fiona asked.
"You've heard of her." Janice's eyes widened in appreciation. She was impressed.
"Oh, yes. My... research assistant is quite the follower of your research Janice." Janice watched the Irish woman's eyes quickly take in the chakram necklaces that she and Mel were wearing. "She said she spoke to you after your lecture at Stanford."
"Really." Janice replied, surprised and a little concerned as she watched Mel's eyes narrow.
Fioana nodded, "Yes, her name is Flora Gates."
"Really!" Mel said brightening.
"Yes," Fiona smiled at Mel, confidant that they were speaking the same unspoken language. "She just got her degree. I was quite impressed by her thesis. She's been doing some research for me since she arrived six weeks ago."
"Does she live on campus?" Mel asked, quite delighted Flora Gates was out of circulation.
Fiona shook her head shyly, "We share a house near the University."
"Well then, you will have to bring her 'round for dinner some evening. Wouldn't that be nice Janice?"
Janice smiled, Mel was indeed getting the hang of it. "Yes that would be nice."
"So," Fiona asked as she took a seat on one of the comfortable living room couches, "now that you've recovered the scrolls, what's next?"
Shrugging Janice sipped her tea. "This summer we will be going through the scrolls, translating them. I think the next task would be to find the lost city of Amphipolis. I'd like to see for myself where Xena came from."
"Did she die there?" Fi asked, eyes sparkling with interest.
Mel nodded, "I think so. I believe Xena wrote one of the scrolls. It suggests as much."
"You're a Xena expert as well Melinda?" The Irish archeologist asked, intrigued.
Janice grinned, "Mel is quite the expert on ancient syntax. She also has some unique insight when it comes to interpreting artifacts. While it isn't the most scientific of methods, I don't think she's been wrong yet."
"So you're... partners then?" Fiona asked, worried she might have mistakenly read too much into their relationship, as she gazed at Mel once more.
"Oh yes!" Mel stated emphatically, smiling at Janice. "As a matter of fact I just found out that I'm as helpful on an expedition as the dog."
Janice blushed, "I meant that in a nice way Mel."
Fiona laughed as she stood up. "Well I really should be going. I had strict instructions not to overstay my welcome. It was very nice meeting you both. I look forward to that dinner, and will be seeing you on campus Janice."
Janice smiled shaking the older woman's hand warmly. "I look forward to it Fi."
Later that night Janice lay awake watching clouds move in front of the moon outside the bedroom window. Mel was curled up at her side, dark tresses spilling over her shoulder, warm breath against her breast. Argo lay on the floor next to the bed sleeping soundly. She thought briefly about her father, and how his life's work sat secure on two desks in their study. She didn't have to wonder if he would have been proud, she knew he was. She did wonder though if he knew or suspected, he was the descendant of Gabrielle. The Bard. It probably wouldn't have made much difference to him if he'd known, she decided. It did make a difference to her though. Xena's words at the auction about the necklaces haunted her. Even though the deed had been done centuries ago, someone had disturbed the final rest of the Warrior Princess and her love. That angered Janice, and she was determined to find out who and why. Not so she could set things right, but to at least understand what had happened.
Melinda sighed in her sleep shifting the course of the archeologist's thoughts. For so long her family had consisted of one dog and a few poker buddies, the dog being the only one she could trust. That had changed so dramatically in the space of a few weeks. The mere sight of Melinda made her heart sing, the presence of Pandora and her children were immeasurably comforting. She had a place she belonged to now, and while she still thought about the adventure of travel, the thought of home and hearth had even more appeal.
Janice looked down as she felt Mel's breathing shift and her lover's eyes open. Mel smiled as she drew a warm hand up Janice's nude torso, stopping as it cupped around a soft breast. "Can't sleep?" she inquired sleepily.
"I'm too happy." Janice admitted. "I don't want to miss a second of holding you." Janice snuggled Mel tighter, tracing lazy patterns across her lover's exquisite back with a gentle finger. "What woke you up?" she finally asked.
Mel shrugged, her own hands beginning casual exploration. "I don't know. It's odd though, I wasn't dreaming. Do you realize I haven't had any dreams about Xena since aboard the The Gauntlet?"
As Mel propped herself up on her elbows, Janice considered her words. She had heard about the vivid nature of her lover's dreams and having seen the possessions for herself, was hoping the details they provided would aid in her research. If she could prove her findings scientifically at a later date, how she got the ideas in the first place wouldn't be an issue. "Maybe Xena told you all you needed to know. Or perhaps she's taking a break."
Shaking her head, Mel smiled as Janice's body twitched, tickled by her long hair. "I don't think so. I think she's gone. Still, I don't mind. I mean, I'll miss her and all, but she deserves the rest."
"Mighty generous of you Mel." Janice quipped.
"I can be merciful." Mel smiled, "Still there is someone else I can think of who doesn't deserve any rest at all." Azure eyes burned with need as she leaned down for a soulful kiss. The kiss was followed by another, then more until the moon was no longer visible in the bedroom window.
Finally collapsing in happy exhaustion Janice rested her head against Mel's breast. She smiled as her lover's breathing slowed then deepened with blissful sleep. Knowing she was headed there herself, she was lulled to sleep by the now familiar heartbeat and breathing that thrummed in harmony with her own.
...I didn't take the task of documenting Xena's deeds lightly. I well knew that the world would have been happy to keep alive the memory of the old Xena, people are so fond of villains. But Xena changed, and like it or not, the world would have to change too. From that day a once-warlord saved a group of girls from Poteidaia I knew on some level it was my destiny to be with her. Later, I realized it was to preserve her deeds for posterity. Later still, I realized it was to be her friend. To teach her things she'd never had time or the luxury of adolescence to learn. With all she'd been through, all she'd done, Xena did not know how to love, really love without reservation. I taught her that. What I didn't expect though, was that she'd teach me the same lesson. It was after a well lived life with my warrior princess that I realized where our legacy really lay. The written word would take hold in local folk lore or it wouldn't. The only history I could be certain of passing down was to our children. Even so, I guess it didn't really matter. Xena never really cared what strangers thought of her. I knew the truth, as did everyone else who loved her, and was loved by her in return. When the time finally came for me to put down my pen for the last time, I looked forward with girlish giddiness to the reunion that would await me on the other side. I was not disappointed. How could I be. I knew I was her soul and she was mine, there is simply no end to love like that.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It all started that day Draco's men arrived. I'd gone with Lila and the others to the stream to do laundry...
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