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Trust To Hope

Chapter 18: Chapter Seventeen

by Novedhelion

Trust To Hope - Chapter Seventeen
Author: Novedhelion
Type: FP Het
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Pairing: Éomer/Lothíriel aka Anhuíl
Rating: PG13
Warnings: Slippery goblets.
Beta: Riyallyn
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine, no money to be made...interweaving book and movie...OK, ok. I know...on with it....



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Chapter Seventeen

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"Love won't be tampered with, love won't go away. Push it to one side and it creeps to the other."
Isak Dinesen
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Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
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The White Lady of Rohan entered the dining hall, glancing around the large room. Several guests were already there, eating breakfast. She approached the table where Éothain sat with several other men of the Rohirrim.

“Good morning, my lady,” Éothain said, rising from the table.

“Oh, please, Éothian.” Éowyn shoved him back down. “Sit. I am just looking for my brother.”

“He has gone to the stables already, my lady,” Haleth informed her.

“Thank you, gentlemen.” She strode out of the hall and headed for the stables.

The grass around the stone path was still damp from dew as she walked, holding up her skirts to keep them dry. The stable was huge. Opening the large wooden door, she stepped inside. Horses of all breeds, colors and sizes were lined up in the stalls. She walked quietly speaking softly to some of the animals as she passed.

One stall door was slightly ajar. Peering over the top, she saw her brother beside a beautiful black stallion, checking the horse over. His hand on the bridle, he stroked the horse’s sleek hide, then knelt to check its hooves. Éowyn knew the horse to be a Rohirrim mount, but did not know to whom it belonged.

“Does he belong to one of your men?” she asked, startling him.

Eomer rose suddenly, striking his head on the open gate of the stall. He let out his breath, rubbing his fingers against his scalp. “You continue to do that, dear sister, and my reign as king will be shortened severely.”

His sister laughed. “I am sorry. I did not mean to startle you.”

“In answer to your question, he belonged to Handarion,” Éomer told her, patting the horse’s neck. “This is Olórin.”

“How did he get here?” The king knelt beside the horse, running his hands down the animal’s foreleg.

“I gave him to Anhuíl when I sent her to Minas Tirith.” He turned to face his sister, a small smile crossing his lips. “I guess I have found her.”

“You have found her horse, anyway,” his sister quipped.

“If he is here, she must be. I asked the groom but all he knows is this horse came in with a party from Dol Amroth.” With an exasperated sigh, he stood and walked over to a wooden crate to sit, rubbing his beard thoughtfully.

“Wait until the feast. Surprise her,” she sat beside him on the crate, elbowing him gently. “Women like that.”

He raised his head. “What?”

“Surprises, brother. Have you learned nothing at all about us? Sweep her off her feet. Let her drink too much wine and dance with her all night.” She stood, pulling him to his feet. “You do remember how to dance?”

“Of course, how could I forget?” He proved his point by twirling her elegantly and catching her in his arms. “Hours of insipid lessons forced upon us by Théoden’s court…I would much rather have been out riding.”

“Yes, but tonight you will be glad you know how.” She grinned up at him.

“Once again, the younger sibling giving advice.” Her brother swept her around the barn floor with a few slow steps, the soles of their boots crunching the crisp hay that scattered about the stone floor.

Éowyn chuckled. “You will find your lovely lady tonight. I am sure of it.”

“There is none lovelier than my beautiful betrothed…and I will personally take on the cad who says so.” Lord Faramir’s voice echoed through the stable.

Éomer let his sister’s hand go, and she fell into Faramir’s waiting arms dramatically, chuckling as he dipped her. “Oh, but my big brother would beg to differ.”

Faramir flashed her a charming smile. “Is that so?” He stood her on her feet. “And who is the lucky maiden that has so captured the attention of the King of Rohan, my dear?”

“Éowyn…” Éomer began.

The White Lady grinned at her beloved. “I am sorry, love, but I am sworn to secrecy for now. But should she be there tomorrow night I am certain it will be clear to all in Minas Tirith to whom my brother’s heart belongs.”

Faramir laughed. “Very well, I suppose I shall wait and see.”

“Shall we go and eat? I passed on breakfast to come down here and tease my brother.” Éomer chuckled at her. “Now I am famished. You may have to carry me.” She pretended to faint, falling into his arms again. Faramir and the Lady of Rohan left the stable, arm in arm. Éomer smiled and shook his head. They did indeed make a lovely pair.

He turned his attention back to the horse, running his hands over its sleek hide. He had knelt beside the animal when he heard the sound of someone clearing their throat. Looking up, he saw a tall, dark haired man watching him intently. He stared questioningly at the man, who said nothing. Ignoring him, Éomer lifted the horse’s hoof, scrutinizing the shoe.

“May I inquire as to what you are doing?”

“Are you asking what I am doing or asking permission to ask what I am doing?” Éomer responded facetiously, not looking up, scrutinizing the shoe on the horse's right front hoof.

“I am asking, sir, what you are doing with that horse.”

“So now you no longer want my permission to ask, you are inquiring.”

“Are you going to answer?” Mardil huffed.

The king looked up again. The young man was looking at him expectantly, or rather, looking down on him. “I am checking—“

“It is not your horse,” he stated rudely.

Éomer held the gaze of the man leaning on the gate to the stall. “I am trying to help this animal. He is walking with a limp.” Frowning down at the horse’s hoof, he pulled out a small knife, and began scraping at the horse’s shoe.

“I will tell you again, sir, this is not your horse.”

“I am aware of that.” He continued probing the shoe, frowning.

“Sir, if there is some problem with the horse, the grooms should be able to handle it.”

“I do not think the owner of this animal would begrudge me removing a rock from his shoe.” With that, he popped the rock out of the shoe with the small knife and dropped the horse’s hoof back to the ground. Standing, he patted the horse’s neck and reached for the reins.

“What do you think you are doing?”

“I am going to have one of these boys take him to the farrier. Now, if you will please excuse me,” Éomer answered, trying to pass Fenwick.

“You cannot just come in here and take this horse,” Mardil stammered, moving in front of them. “It is not yours.”

Éomer cringed. “IT is a HE. And HE needs a new shoe.” He led the horse out of the stall, toward the barn door. “Now, unless you wish to take him and have him shod yourself, I would ask you to step aside.”

With a haughty look, Mardil relented, stepping back. Éomer led the horse to the doorway of the stable. He turned and looked back at Fenwick to say something, then thought better of it, deciding it was not worth the trouble. Shaking his head, he handed off the reins with instructions to a stable hand, and headed across the field.

Mardil approached the young man holding the reins. “Who was that, anyway?” he asked, his disdain apparent.

“Him?” the lad answered, pointing toward Éomer’s disappearing back. Mardil nodded. “Um...he is Éomer King, of Rohan, sir,” the boy responded haltingly. “He knows more about horses than anyone I have ever met. Just last night I was having a problem with that grey-“

“Thank you.” Cutting the boy off with a dismissive wave, Fenwick stared after Éomer. King, indeed. He flipped his dark hair back, stomping off to the Citadel.

**************
Training Field
Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
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“You call it,” the princess stated calmly, bow dangling at her side.

“Twenty arrows at ten paces,” Cam answered decidedly. “You first.”

“Very well,” Anhuil acceded, stepping forward to the line drawn in the sand. Taking a deep breath, she nocked the first arrow and let it fly, the others following in rapid succession.

The sound of arrows whizzing through the early morning stillness ended with the last soft thwap! Cam shaded her cerulean gaze with a hand, peering at the target. Most of the arrows clustered near the center, only a few were outside the bullseye range. “Nice shooting,” she offered casually, casting a wry look sideways at her friend, “for a princess.”

Anhuil backed up, gesturing with a flourish for Cam to step forward. “After you lose this match,” the princess said with a chuckle, “I would like to get some breakfast and change, and maybe go into the city.”

“Who says I am going to lose?” An eyebrow arched above sparkling blue eyes.

“Ha! When have you ever beaten me? You win, and you decide how we spend this afternoon. I win, I decide.”

“Fair enough,” Camwethrin agreed.

“Get on with it, then.” The princess grinned, backing up to sit on the railing behind them.

The blonde did so. The target was replaced by one of the liveried servants. Standing tall, she drew the string of her longbow back and one after the other, fired all twenty of her arrows.

Both women walked to the other end of the training field, examining the targets. One of the field captains of the armory stood beside them, inspecting the results. “It is very close to call, my ladies,” he said nervously. “Perhaps a tie breaking match is in order?”

Exchanging glances, the girls shrugged, and moved back to their line. “You call it this time, princess,” the blonde said.

“Hmm...only ten arrows, make it twenty five paces, closest to a hundred points wins. You first, this time.”

The target was replaced quickly. Blowing out a deep breath, Cam let her arrows fly.

********
Strolling through the Citadel grounds, Éomer walked alongside Éothain and Gamling, headed for yet another meeting with King Elessar’s councils. Passing the training field, the laughter of the two women in the distance caught their attention.

“It seems women of the Mark are not the only ones interested in learning to wield a weapon,” Gamling observed.

“I am certain that much of what has transpired in the last months has caused many to pick up sword and bow that had not before,” Éothain agreed.

Pausing at the wall alongside the field, they watched the match that ensued. The women were at the far end of the field, one blonde and tall, the other short with braided dark hair. Their target was close to the end where the men stood, although still some distance away. Éomer watched with surprise as the field captain picked up the target and moved it further back, at least a hundred and fifty spans from the women.

“No woman can hit a target from that far,” Gamling muttered.

“I know one who probably could,” Éomer disagreed, watching with interest.

The blonde finished her round and stepped back. More than half the arrows she had fired were within the bulls eye range of the target, only one had gone wild and missed entirely.

The dark haired woman stepped up and drew her bow, and in rapid succession fired ten arrows, all neatly centered in the inner circles of the target.

“Bloody nice shooting,” Éothain muttered.

“Both of them,” Gamling agreed.

Éomer nodded, squinting in the sunlight, trying to get a better look at the women, but they were too far away for him to make out their faces. Both were wearing riding habits, leggings with long tunics over them, and boots. There was something familiar about the way the dark-haired one had stood to fire her bow.

Waving to the field captain, he called him over.

“Is there some way I may be of assistance, my lord?” he asked, bowing politely. The king glanced back to where the two women were gathering up their equipment.

“Those two women...”

“Ah, yes. Odd for women to be dallying at such things, but they are both actually quite good. You should see them at swordplay.” He chuckled, shaking his head.

“Who are they?” he asked idly, trying to sound somewhat disinterested.

Another glance showed the women had left the field. The captain inclined his head in the direction they had gone. “The blonde is the daughter of Admiral Merric of the Swan Fleet, and the dark-haired one is Princess Lothíriel, the daughter of Prince Imrahil.”

Imrahil has a daughter? Éomer’s heart sank slightly. Lothíriel, not Anhuil. “Thank you,” he said politely, stepping back from the wall to rejoin his men.

*******

Swinging their bows as they walked, the two women made their way back to the Citadel to change.

“I must say, Ani, that was very nicely done,” the blonde commented as they walked.

“It was a close match,” the princess agreed. “You nearly beat me that time.”

“Please, I was nowhere close. Your skill has improved.”

Anhuil chortled softly. “Those targets are easy to hit. Try hitting an Orc on the back of a Warg. You cannot say to them, ‘Please sit still, Master Orc, so I may nail you in the throat with my little arrows.’”

Camwethrin grinned. “I still cannot believe you actually took part in a battle.”

“Neither can I. If Ada knew, he would have my hide.”

“Your brothers would be proud,” Cam said.

“Oh, I am certain they would, considering my lack of judgment nearly got me killed!” she answered sarcastically. “No, thank you, I do to not wish to entertain the ribbing I would receive for that!”

They walked in silence a few moments before Cam spoke again. “Ani...you know the King of Rohan’s party arrived last evening.”

“I had heard,” she answered, her eyes straight ahead on the path.

“Are you not curious to know if he is among them?”

Anhuil stopped, turning to look at her friend. “Whether he is here or not is irrelevant.”

“How can you say that? You were so happy to find out he was alive!”

“Pleased to know he is alive, yes. But I doubt Ada would even consider the idea of me marrying a soldier, officer or no. I am already betrothed to Mardil. It is a binding contract, Cam. You do not break betrothals on a whim.”

“Perhaps if you spoke to your father, explained to him-“

“What? That his daughter, the Princess of Dol Amroth, wants to marry a soldier of the Rohirrim? Become nothing more than the wife of a soldier, one who tends home and hearth and prays for the safe return of her husband? Leave the courts of Gondor behind, and all that has prepared me for a life of political onus? I am to fulfill my duty to the courts of Dol Amroth, to my father, and to our people. For what other design have the Valar put me here?” She chuckled bitterly. “It is my responsibility. Marry for love? Banish the thought. That never was my destiny, Camwethrin. I will marry, bear children, and most likely die all for the good of Dol Amroth.”

The Admiral’s daughter sighed heavily. “I cannot believe I am hearing you speak this, Ani. What about Éomer? What if he does come looking for you? What if he does find you?”

The princess turned away, looking down at the stone walkway. “It does not matter if he does. I cannot even entertain the idea.”

“That is easy to say now, when he is not here,” her friend pointed out. “I doubt those words will come so easily to your lips when you are looking into those dark eyes you spoke of.”

“That is why I cannot risk him finding me, Cam. He will forget me, if he has not already. For all I know it was naught but coquetry to him. Believe me, he will have no trouble finding another to swoon over him.” She kicked a stone on the path with the toe of her boot. “Come on. I need to change. You owe me an afternoon of shopping,” she said, the unsteadiness in her voice belying the lightness of her words.

Camwethrin cast her a sideways glance, her heart aching for her friend’s predicament. “All right. Shopping it is. After we eat, of course. I am starving.”

“Of course,” the princess responded. “I would not want you taking a swoon in the streets of Minas Tirith.” She smiled a feeble smile as they continued toward their quarters at the Citadel.

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Minas Tirith
18 Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
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Éomer sat in the chair in the corner, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers. Éowyn flitted around the room, pulling out different articles of clothing, holding them up, discarding them. The bed was littered with choices she had already rejected. He had refused to try anything else on.

She was giving him such a headache he didn’t think he’d make it to dinner.

“Hmm…” she moved some things around on the bed, trying different combinations. “Something regal, something that befitting a king, but so much of this is just too frilly for you, Éomer. Who picked this wardrobe?”

Éomer shrugged. “I do not know.” He watched her hold up yet another tunic, shaking her head. “Éowyn, tell me again why I cannot just wear this?” He gestured to the plain white tunic he was wearing and the brown leggings. “It is clean, and I did take a bath.”

She frowned. “One thing you are going to have to understand is that kings do not dress like stable boys.” She dug into the trunk again, pulling out an elegant dark green tunic. “Ooh, now this has potential.” She held it up to him. It was a simple design, deep green with gold and burgundy embroidery, the ornate threads forming shapes of horses. “This is perfect. Regal, and masculine enough for you, dear brother.” She tossed it to him. “Now somewhere I saw a pair of black trousers…” Digging through the pile of discarded clothing, she pulled them out.

“Perfect.” She announced. “Put this on.” His sister handed him the clothing. Then she saw his boots.

“When is the last time you polished these?” she asked, eyeing the dusty leather with disdain.

He began counting on his fingers.

“Very funny. These are atrocious!”

“I have been at war, sister.”

“And you have had three months since to polish your boots! I can guarantee your sword was not so neglected.” She pulled it out, sharp and shining. “See?” She swung it around a time or two, then placed it back in the sheath.

“Swords rust if not cleaned. Boots do not. This is just…ridiculous.”

“No, it is not. You are the King of Rohan. You need to look like a king. Please humor me.” She put her hands on her hips, cocking her blonde head to one side. He sighed resignedly. “Good. You get dressed, and I will polish these boots.” She slipped into the adjoining sitting room. “Call me when you are done. I will braid your hair. And trim your beard.”

“Éowyn…” he began.

She turned and shot him a look that brooked no argument. “I will not sit at dinner tonight with my brother looking like one of the hill men of Dunland,” she quipped.

He raised his hands in surrender. “Alright. I will call you.” He closed the door that separated the two rooms. She sat down and began working on the boots.

A few minutes later, he opened the door, stepping out. Éowyn drew in her breath. The dark green tunic fit him perfectly, draping over his broad shoulders, tapering in at the waist. The black pants were a perfect compliment to the dark green. “That is perfect, Éomer. Oh, that is perfect. You make my knees weak, and I am your sister! Wait till she sees you. Come here, and sit. Your boots are as clean as they are going to be. Remind me to have some new ones made for you. Come here, let me braid your hair.”

“Is all of this really necessary?” he complained, but sat down anyway.

Éowyn took a comb and began combing through his still damp locks. “Yes, it is. You might as well get used to it, dear brother. You are king now. You will always have someone dressing you and braiding your hair and picking out your clothes…”

“I understand, but I just imagined it to be something my wife would do,” he responded.

“That would require you finding one, Lord Éomer,” his sister pointed out, “which means you will have to put up with me for tonight anyway. Now, hold still.” She braided the sides of his hair, pulling them back into one braid. Reaching for the razor, she used the sharp edge to trim his beard. She stepped back, admiring her handiwork.

He ran his hand across his chin. “Are you quite finished?” The king was becoming impatient. “Do you not need to get ready yourself? Is Faramir not looking for you? Should you not see if he needs your assistance?”

“If I did not know better I would swear you were trying to get rid of me.” Éowyn placed her hand over her heart, a pathetic look on her face. He laughed. She tossed him the boots, and he pulled them on.

“Let me see.” The king stood, turning to face her. “Éomer, she will faint when she sees you. So will every other woman there. Oh, wait.” She lifted his cloak from back of the chair, tossing it to him. He draped it casually around his shoulders.

Éowyn sighed. “She does not stand a chance.”

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Merethond, the Great Hall of the Citadel
Minas Tirith
18Cerveth, 3019 T.A.
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“...and in the end, somehow it was still my fault!” Gimli growled, picking up his mug and taking a long draught.

In the great hall of Merethond, Éomer sat at a large round table, chuckling into his wine at the dwarf’s tale. Éowyn and Faramir also joined them, her blue eyes merry with laughter at the amusing tales of the lively group. Watching the two together sent a wave of mixed emotions crashing over the king, his joy at his sister’s happiness only emphasizing his own loneliness. Leaning back in his chair, he caught a whiff of a familiar scent.

Whipping his head around, he scanned the crowd, his momentary hope dashed almost immediately when he did not spot her. She cannot be the only woman in Minas Tirith who wears that scent, you dolt, he thought to himself. He had not seen any sign of her since his arrival in Minas Tirith and had not yet had time to speak to Prince Imrahil. The aroma of lavender still clinging to the air around him, he inhaled deeply as he searched the room for the prince.

Imrahil stood across the hall with his sons and a few other guests, one of whom was a young woman, her back to him. Dark curls falling just to her shoulders, her petite stature, even the curve of her waist accentuated by the green brocade satin dress she wore somehow seemed familiar to him, but he could not see her face. Beside her stood a tall, dark haired man, his hand protectively at the small of her back.

Gods, man! You are going to get yourself in serious trouble leering at the wives of other men, king or no.

“If you do not believe me, ask my brother,” he heard his sister say, turning toward him. Faramir chuckled and cast the king a questioning gaze.

Éomer’s head spun round. “Do not drag me into it, dear sister. If I wanted to be involved in marital spats I would find a wife,” he quipped.

“I thought that was your intent,” she responded tartly. “And I am not married yet.” She shot Faramir a teasing look. “I may never be if my betrothed insists upon tormenting me this way.”

“I do nothing of the sort,” Faramir replied indignantly, leaning closer to Éowyn. “The mere thought of causing you grief pains me.”

Rolling her eyes, Éowyn laughed softly. Éomer shook his head.

“Good to see you, my friend,” Imrahil said with a smile, coming up behind the king.

Rising to his feet, Éomer grasped his hand. “And you, Lord Imrahil. All is well in the south?”

Imrahil shook his head. “If only I could say yes. We are still battling the remnants of the Umbarians. But we are not here to discuss our troubles, are we? If I may borrow your for a moment, there is someone I would like you to meet.”

The king glanced at his sister, who waved dismissively. “Go on,” she said, smiling. “I am in very good hands here.”

Playfully narrowing his eyes at Faramir, her brother pointed a finger at him. “Just you be certain those hands remain on the table,” he cautioned jokingly, “and we will have no cause for discord, Prince.”

Laughing, the Prince of Ithilien bowed his head. “As you wish, Your Majesty. I dare not behave unseemly toward the sister of a man who could off my head in a single stroke of his blade.”

“Best you remember that,” Eomer laughed, turning to Imrahil.

“Shall we?” Prince Imrahil asked.

Nodding his assent, Éomer followed the prince across the crowded hall, still carrying his goblet of wine. Imrahil’s grey eyes darted over the guests. The hall was huge, but filled almost to capacity with nobles and royalty from all over Gondor and Rohan. Spying one of his sons, the prince caught him by the arm. “Erchirion, where is your sister?”

The young man appeared to Éomer to be at least three sheets to the wind, if not closer to four. Grinning down at the pretty red head on his arm, he snickered. “I do not know, Ada. Last I saw she was talking to Cam and trying to ignore Fenwick.”

Imrahil rolled his eyes. “Where, Erchirion?”

“That way,” he said, gesturing with his cup in hand, before strolling off, the red head giggling at something he whispered.

“That boy is incorrigible,” Imrahil muttered, shaking his head. Making their way through the thick forest of guests, the prince continued talking. “Where is that girl?”

“I was not aware you had a daughter, Imrahil,” Éomer commented as they made their way through the masses. “I saw her this morning on the training field, although she left before I was fortunate enough to make her acquaintance.”

“Yes,” the prince answered with a sigh, scanning heads again. “Lothíriel...the light of my life most days,” he turned to smile broadly at Éomer, “and the bane of my existence on not a few. Where is that girl? Ah, there she is.”

How the prince spotted anyone in this throng, Éomer could not say, but he let Imrahil lead him across the room, still somewhat surprised at the way the guests stepped aside to let him through. He caught his reflection in a pane of window glass as they passed it. The image startled him. His hair neatly braided back, the deep green tunic embroidered with gold and burgundy, his velvet cloak thrown across his shoulders, he looked every inch a king.

Turning away from the window with a frown, he caught up with the prince just as he reached a small coterie of guests who where speaking among themselves. The petite woman he had noticed earlier was among them, her back still to him as he approached. The tall, dark haired man stood possessively by her side. Éomer’s brow furrowed as he recognized him as the man from the stables the previous morning.

Bloody hell, he scolded himself silently. You certainly know how to dig a deep hole. Insulting a member of Prince Imrahil’s party...

“Lothíriel, there you are! I have searched the room over for you,” Imrahil chided good-naturedly, his grey eyes sparkling. “There is someone I would like to introduce to you.” He took his daughter’s arm and turned her to face the king, her gaze level with his broad chest. It briefly crossed her mind as her eyes traveled up over the tunic elegantly embroidered with a gold and burgundy horse motif that he must be the King of Rohan.

Imrahil beamed. “My friend, Lord of the Mark, may I present my daughter, Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth.”

Anhuil ducked her head in a polite curtsy. “An honor to meet you, Your Maj--“ her breath caught mid-sentence as she lifted her eyes to his. Dark brown eyes met deep green, both wide with recognition. Two silver chalices hit the intricately tiled floor in clattering unison.

************
"Three things can't be hidden: coughing, poverty, and love."
Yiddish proverb
***********

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Chapter Seventeen
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09 Mar 2004
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09 Mar 2004
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