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Judea and Gentila
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In a far off land there lived two women. Their names were Judea and Gentila. Judea was a striking beauty with raven-black hair, dark eyes and an olive complexion. But Gentila was fair, with wheat-colored hair and green eyes.
Even though they were lovely to behold their lives were not so desirable. Both lived where there was oppression from Sarlo, an evil man that wanted nothing more than to control the lives around him. He lived in a run-down shack, with Judea at his beck and call. Gentila was homeless but was very aware of how cruelly Judea was treated by Sarlo.
The land was surrounded by a high fence, with all the boards fitting so closely together that it was difficult to look through and see what lie beyond. The wooden fence was constantly kept white-washed by the lower minions of Sarlo.
This day started out as any other day: without hope. Gentila found herself as usual trudging through the scraps outside of the shack where Judea served. She could hear the voice of Sarlo, ranting as usual, obviously directed at Judea. It was certain to the fair one that Judea tried her best to please Sarlo, but to no avail.
Then something extraordinary happened. A man came into the land from out of nowhere it seemed, riding a donkey. Judea even was aware of a difference in the air, even though this man was ordinary in appearance. He could easily be lost in a crowd, and yet he brought something into the land that could not be seen, only sensed.
He boldly went up to the shack and spoke in a way that was both restrained and yet bold, humble and yet confident. Surely, this man was like no other. It was apparent he was displeased with Sarlo, who only mocked every word this man spoke. Even so, he ceased to let up, saying, “Let her go! She belongs to me!” Gentila totally forgot about the food she was seeking in the trash beside the shack. Gentila thought this man was so unique that she could not help but be amazed.
And yet, what was even more astounding was how Sarlo stood up to the man, daring to say that Judea had it good with him. He was so confident that he brought her out, in her everyday rags. Still, she was so beautiful, so regal that even Gentila’s breath stopped. Somehow, Gentila felt a connection with Judea, even though they were so different. Gentila’s mind raced with memories of standing near the scrap heap, watching Judea walk about Sarlo’s homestead.
Judea was then asked, by Sarlo, if she thought she was in a good place, living with him.
Gentila could not believe her ears when she heard Judea say, “Yes”, quietly but surely. This event was something that was so unimaginable that Gentila could only stand and watch. Then things even turned for the worse for the humble man.
Being that there was nothing the man could do to make Judea change her statement, he just stood there, quietly. He had nothing else to say. He just hung his head down low. It was a truly pathetic sight to Gentila. Then Sarlo grabbed a hold of the man and threw him to the ground. He quickly pulled a switch from the bushes nearby and began to beat the man. He just lay there, looking helpless. So violent was the beating that he was almost unrecognizable, it was almost incredible that he did not die from the loss of blood.
The next thing that happened involved Sarlo dragging the man and taking him to a nearby tree. Judea just stood there, looking at the ground. Along the way Sarlo picked up a hammer and some nails. With these he hung the man on the tree. The whole thing was a ghastly sight, with the man screaming in anguish from the pain. It was all Gentila could do just to stand there and watch, wondering what would happen next. But the man hung there, there was nothing more that he could do. It seemed to Gentila that he looked over to Judea with a longing that was hard to imagine with the pain he was obviously going through. Then he spoke:
“I forgive you,” he declared, quietly.
Judea then ran back into the shack. There was no sound coming from within the abode, not even a whimper. The owner just stood back to look at his work, with an air of satisfaction. He then swaggered away, dropping the hammer at the base of the tree. The man hung there for hours before dying.
Then Gentila ran away, sick to her stomach. She had lost her desire to eat.
A few days later, she came back to the shack, because she knew that was where the best scraps were, and she had heard that the body of the man had disappeared…and other things. As she went through the trash she heard quite a violent commotion inside the shack. It seemed Judea wanted Sarlo to leave. All he did was laugh and called for his lower minions to take her away. They came out, with Judea between them, and dragged her off, away from the shack. This would be the last time Gentila would see Judea for a while.
Then Sarlo came out of the house and quickly eyed upon Gentila. “Come here.” He called to her with such a strong tone that she found it difficult to resist. She came to him.
“You will serve me. I have thrown out Judea because I have grown weary of her. She has failed me, to serve me. I will dress you better than I did her and you will be sure to feed me as I wish. My minions will show you what to do, with the kind of meals I enjoy. And if you fail, I have no trouble doing away with you.”
“Yes, lord.” She knew she dare not stand up to him, not only because of what had happened to the dark woman but because Gentila knew she would be off the roads and living in a house, as dilapidated as it was. So she moved in there and then. She had nothing to move in, for all she had was what she wore.
Gentila quickly learned how impossibly demanding Sarlo was. He would wake her in the early hours from her mat by the front door to begin his breakfast. There was never a time when he did not yell to make his demands known. He was a harsh taskmaster. In time, it was like Gentila was chained to his cast-iron stove.
There were rare moments when she would be out in the sun again. Where once she would do whatever she could when she was homeless to find shade, this time she was glad to be out in the open, even if it was to go to the fields and pick the vegetables Sarlo was satiating for. At this moment she was picking tomatoes, near where the high white-washed fence stood. After a few moments, she heard something, as if someone was whispering.
She stopped. Believing the heat was playing tricks on her, she continued. She did not want to have to face Sarlo’s wrath.
She looked up again. She was not sure but it seemed the voice was coming from the other side of the fence. Then she noticed a knothole down about waist-high to Gentila. There was an eye peeking through, and it startled her. She quickly became aware without mentally noting, how clear the eye seemed to be.
“Who are you?”
“I am Estrello. I know you. You are Gentila.”
“How do you know my name? And what are you doing speaking to me through a hole in the big fence?”
“Oh, I know everything about you. I remember you from a few days ago. But I have even known you before that.”
“A few days ago? Nothing has happened in the last few days but…” She stopped, with shock. Her mind went to the incident with the man that was whipped and hung.
“I thought I was the only one standing there watching. Where were you? I didn’t think anyone else lived nearby.”
“I am the one you saw hung.”
“Then the stories were true! I had heard from travelers that traded with Sarlo’s minions that your body had disappeared. Then there were the stories of seeing you talk to others. I thought it was all a joke! You came for Judea, to take her away. I couldn’t believe how she betrayed you.”
“I am sad about what happened to Judea. I know what happened to her. I had warned her before about what would happen, but she chose to go her own way. I am, however, glad to see you are okay. I just wish you were not living with Sarlo.”
Then Gentila stopped. She realized she was talking to the fence, to a knothole in the fence. Then she realized that Sarlo had been waiting too long for his dinner.
“I’ve got to go! My master will be very angry!”
“Okay. Come back tomorrow. I will be here waiting for you!”
“I’ll try. Bye!”
Gentila came to the shack with the sound of Sarlo’s usual ranting. She ran in and quickly went to work, making his dinner. She had to contend with his belittling her, wondering why he took her off the road to have to wait for her, how she was lucky to be no longer homeless and in his house. Then there were the endless epithets he threw at her. These words will not be shared here, and we will not go into what else Sarlo did with Gentila.
So, she fought back the tears with thoughts of Estrello.
She did not go back to the fence again until it was time to gather more vegetables. She found herself desiring so but was afraid of what her master would do. So when she was directed to fetch for more vegetables, she was quick to comply. She could not understand her actions, being she hardly knew anything about Estrello except what she heard and what she had heard from him. How could he have survived what Sarlo had done to him?
Then she recalled, Wait...I saw him die!
Just the same, she went to pick more tomatoes, near the fence. She was a little more hesitant to go to that part of the field, but she knew she had no choice. Sarlo wanted stew. Right then, one of the yard-minions was slaughtering one of the cows for the meat that would be needed.
It was long after she had started picking when she heard the Estrello’s voice again, from the other side of the fence, calling to her specifically. She looked around herself, making sure no one could see her talking.
“Estrello! I’m sorry for not showing up when I said I would. There was just no way I could come to the fence and talk with you. My master is a very difficult man. He would be angry to find me distracted from my chores. But I have been thinking. I have a question.”
“I was expecting that. Go ahead and ask me. I have nothing to hide.”
“Well, my first question begins with something I want to say to you.” She hesitated. “I saw you die on the tree! How did you…I mean…where did you…uh,…what happened?”
“Your eyes did not deceive you. You saw rightly.”
There was silence. Then she ran away, back to the shack.
Days passed. She barely had the presence of mind to remember the tomatoes, after hearing what Estrello had said. Was it possible?
Eventually, she went back, when she could. She had to. There was so much she wanted to ask Estrello. When she did, it quickly became apparent he had been waiting for her, and her questions. They talked whenever she could get away from Sarlo.
In time she learned what he had said was true. She was asked by him to come up to the knothole to look at his wounds, the fresh scars that were in his wrists, and the scars on his back. Still she had a hard time seeing the rest of Estrello through the small hole. The fence was just a huge hindrance with who stood on the other side.
She learned of how Estrello had known Judea for quite some time. How he had promised her family that he would come for her, to tell her to be ready for him. She obviously did not listen. She had gotten used to the life that Sarlo had for her and had settled for it. What was remarkable was how Estrello talked as if he still cared for her, even when he talked about he was not surprised by what Judea had done in betraying him. He still wanted her.
Then there were the things he had told Gentila, for herself.
“Let me tell you of my father’s home, a grand mansion, with many rooms. There’s so much space. In fact, I’m inviting you to come and live with me. Then we would then come back for Judea.” It all seemed amazingly unreal.
“I don’t know. I don’t think I could ever get away from Sarlo! How could I ever leave?”
“Just leave that to me,” said Estrello, very simply.
“Well, I will just have to see, I guess.”
“Gentila! Who are you talking to?” It was Sarlo.
She quickly grew quiet. She grew very afraid, knowing Sarlo would be outraged over who she was talking to.
“Come here! Now!”
She crept back, like a whipped pup. She kept her head down, fearing what the expression her master had.
“You’ve been talking to him, haven’t you? I knew it! I knew it would be a matter of time before he would come around again. Get into the house, you sow!”
She ran in. She was trembling so that her basket tipped as she tried to set it on the table. Instead, it let the vegetables fall out. She then hurried to the cast-iron stove, and began a fire. The stove quickly became hot, and it made her think of Sarlo’s rage.
One of the tomatoes from the basket rolled on the table, and fell to the floor with a splatter. Just then Sarlo came in.
“Well, look at that! What a stupid sow you are! I know what you’re thinking of. You’re thinking of him, aren’t you? Well we’ll see about that!”
Her master then went to the stove. With a potholder he picked up one of the hot plates and threw it at her. The last thing she felt was the searing heat and the electric bolts shooting through her cheek and face. Gentila was knocked unconscious.
When she came to, the first thing she felt was the burning pain on her face. She began to weep. She was then aware of cold compresses placed upon her skin. She looked through the fingers of the one attending her and saw that it was one of the minions of Sarlo. He looked back, responding to his master’s voice.
“Well, is she dead? If not, is she going to be able to cook for me?”
“I’m afraid not, lord, not for a while. She will need to stay here and let the wound heal.”
“Then you will have to cook for me!”
She fell back into unconsciousness.
“For a while” turned out to be for the day, because of the minion’s poor cooking skills. The next morning, Sarlo kicked Gentila to consciousness and off of the mat. She dragged herself over to the stove and began a fire. The heat of the flames only intensified the pain of the burn on her face.
Once she had cleaned up after Sarlo, who had stepped out onto the porch, she made her way to the mirror in the main room. Immediately, she pulled back the bandages she began to weep at the sight of herself.
The wound was backed by bruises that went from deep black and to a pale purple. These would eventually fade. But the burn scar was another matter. There were blisters running from mid-temple to just below her cheekbone. Some had burst leaving the skin raw. There was also a gash that ran through the midst of the burn, the minion had done a poor job of stitching the wound closed. She knew there was nothing she could do for herself, and convulsed.
In time the pain had gone away, leaving only the depression she felt over her unchangeable state. Depression gave way to the drudgery of the every day life of serving Sarlo, who resorted to further taunting her over her the appearance of her face. She knew deep down inside this was the way of her life. She was helpless to change any of it.
The gash Sarlo left in her face left that side of her face paralyzed. The right side of her mouth drooped with a seeming mockery of any happiness she would never know again.
After the bandages and stitches were removed she grew into the habit of keeping the right side of her face away from anyone who could see, especially Sarlo. She walked hunched over, hiding the scars as best she can. Also hidden were the fear and contempt she had for Sarlo, along with the smile she had grown accustomed to when she talked with Estrello. That was to end, for in her mind she could never face him again. Where once she was quick to go to the field, and to the fence, she now did everything she could to keep herself from going near to where they shared in conversation.
A few days later, she was out in the field, as far as she could be from the fence. This did not prevent her, though, from hearing the sound of weeping on the other side. The cry seemed be calling her, and she found it hard to ignore, let alone heed.
Still, she resisted.
With the unending abuse of Sarlo, Gentila found herself needing to return outdoors, nonetheless. It was the only way she knew to get away from his ruthless voice and ways. She would just make sure not to go near the fence. She saw herself as so unwanted and lonely, and the ache within was unbearable on many days. As much as she did not want to, she knew she would have to live with it, with the scars without, for the rest of her life.
She was soon outside again, picking Sarlo’s vegetables. She was picking the last of the tomatoes, to make ready for the coming cold. Fall was nearing.
She had just picked the last one, when a strong breeze came up, and a small branch fell from a tree beyond the fence and knocked the tomato from her hand. It rolled to the base of the fence.
Her heart dropped. Immediately she was aware of dread within. Yet, as much as she wanted to run, she had to go for the last tomato that Sarlo would have to enjoy until the following spring. She slowly stepped up to the fence.
“Gentila!” It was Estrello. The voice was all too familiar to her. She dropped quickly to pick up the tomato, with the intention of moving away from the fence as best she could. Then she looked up at the knothole. She did not know why, but she was compelled to look into it. His one visible eye drew her into him, it seemed. She then knew she would not walk away so quickly.
Gentila smiled. Then the paralysis in her face, with the scar, made her mindful of the desire to keep her left side to the fence.
“I have been waiting for you, Gentila. I am glad you are here. I have missed you,” he chimed. “How are you? Tell me what has been happening to you.”
She just stood there quiet. She did not have the heart to tell him what had transpired since the last time they talked. She fought back the tears.
“You are awful quiet. Do you feel well? Are you sick or hurting?”
She began to weep.
“I don’t think I can come back again, to see you,” she whimpered, “I don’t want you to call me again, please.” That was the one thing she did not want to say.
“Okay. Are you sure?”
Hesitantly, she answered, “Yes…I’m sure.”
“Okay. But before I go, I have to tell you I am coming back. I am coming back for you. I want you to wait for me, right where you are.”
“No! Don’t come looking for me.” Her sobs grew.
She did not answer.
“You will find this strange, but I love you. I always have and I always will.”
“How could you? You don’t know me, or what I’ve done! You don’t know what happens to me in my master’s shack! If you did, you would even want to talk to me!”
“I know more than you think. I even know what he did to you. I know about the scar. You need not be ashamed of me, and you need not fear me.”
“Who do you think you are?”
“Gentila, I’m the Lord of this whole land. This all belongs to me; all that is in it belongs to me. It is all here because of what I and my father wanted. You are here because I want you in this world. So I know all that transpires.”
“So you’re responsible for this?” She pointed to her scars.
“No, but I can change all of that. Remember, I was wounded, as well. Sarlo is responsible for what he did to you and I will hold him responsible. Do you remember hearing me weeping a few days after he hurt you? Yes, that was me! Look through the knothole and see me, please.”
Something in his request beckoned her to comply. So she kneeled, near the hole, and peered in. Estrello then leaned near the hole, showing the right side of his face. He bore the same scars.
“You see, sweetheart. I took what happened to you very personally. You are the apple of my eye, as Judea is. When he hurt you, it hurt me! It is my joy to be so involved in your life, because I am the reason you are here. I love all that I have chosen to live in what I have made for them.”
Gentila, kneeling and leaning against the wall, wept, and yet her weeping had comfort in it. There was a sense in her that this was what she needed to hear. All that happened up to now made sense to her.
“Gentila, I know you hear me. I do know your pain and what you went through. I also know this was because of your choice to serve Sarlo. But that no longer matters to me. I want you to hear me in this: I want you to be mine! I have a plan that I wish to include you in. You can be a part of all that I do, but you must commit yourself to me, and be on my side. Sarlo’s time is short and he knows it. He is like a mad man, thinking he can overcome me. But I have overcome him. You can share in that; this is my promise to you. Will you be mine, Gentila?”
Gentila leaned harder against the fence. How she longed that it was not in the way, between her and Estrello.
“Yes!” There was barely any hesitation in her words. She felt the fence move against her. It was there she realized he was leaning back against her. For a moment, things in her world stood still, and her heart swooned.
Oh, my! I’m loved by a prince, she thought, leaning against the fence. Who could’ve ever thought he would love me?
“But I do, Gentila. With all that I know, I love you!”
It was then apparent how much he knew about her. Things inside of Gentila seemed to fall away.
“Will you wait for me, sweetheart? I will be over soon, you will see.”
“Yes, I’ll wait. But why can’t you come now? You could come now if you want.”
“Gentila, I promise I know what I am doing. I have my father who will tell me when to come over, but not now. Your part is to wait. You can always come to the fence and then we can talk. I want to talk with you as much as we want. I am always here when you want me, when you need me.”
“Okay. I have to go. But I will be back, Lord. I can leave now knowing I can find you where you’re always to be.”
“Yes, Gentila, I will be here, when you want. Bye, my dear.”
“Bye.” She stood up feeling stronger, lighter. She seemed to feel herself enchanted by the whole event. She was different and will remain so from here on out.
She returned to the shack, and to Sarlo. As usual, he was ranting and raving, only now his words seemed so far and distant to Gentila. She even found herself looking back at him with a smile. It seemed to have disarmed him. For a time, he was quiet.
The days went on, as before, but there was light in the land. It seemed to Gentila that the difference Estrello had brought before, seeking the freedom of Judea, was now in her. In this she felt a part of him, and it made way for the lightness to continue in her. What also helped was her being reminded by Estrello of what he had promised her, of his return. She found she could not let a day go by without hearing that from him.
All of this was so great to her. She could barely keep it to herself, and so found herself telling many of the wayfarers that passed by about Estrello. Some were drawn, while many more saw her as a silly little slave girl, full of a young girl’s fantasies. While, for a moment, it saddened her, she still remembered Estrello, and the talks they had. She knew the truth, against all that surrounded her and against anything she felt inside.
Years passed by, and struggles came. She was amazed at how she was able to continue living where she was, with Sarlo. If it were not for Estrello, Sarlo probably would have thrown her out. But she endured. She received many beatings but soon recalled the wounds Estrello carried. She knew she was not alone, anymore.
There was a time when Gentila and Estrello talked, when Sarlo stepped outside to call for her. Fearing Sarlo’s wrath, Gentila asked Estrello for help. When she did a wind came up, causing some dust to blow into Sarlo’s eyes. Wincing and falling back, he went back into the house, and the two continued their conversation. She remembered the wind that caused a tomato to fall from her hand, and led her back to the fence and the conversation that started it all for her. She realized she could ask Estrello for anything, when it came to whatever would get in the way of their relationship.
There were even times Sarlo’s abuse lightened some, as if he had grown weary. There were many days when he was silent, as she made his meals. These were times of rest for her, even as she worked because Estrello told her to think of her serving him when she served Sarlo. She also remembered that the days were about to come to an end.
Gentila felt so much anticipation. Then one day she realized that, with all that Estrello seemed to know, he probably knew of her desire to be with him, without the fence and its hindrance. Still, she only desired, all the more, to be completely near him.
Her thoughts went to Judea, remembering how Estrello had promised her family that he would come for her. Wondering what had happened to her and where did Sarlo leave her, Gentila dared not let her thoughts go too far. She remembered Judea’s beauty and felt in herself desiring for Judea’s peace as well. If Estrello had promised her to come for her, then maybe he would come for Judea as well, which would mean Judea was still alive. Gentila then felt a kind of kinship in her heart for Judea. It was then she realized that she had always felt this when she saw Judea.
One day, everything was going on as before. Sarlo howled as Gentila picked vegetables and cooked. The minions went on whitewashing the fence, repairing any boards as they were found. Gentila managed to find time to talk with Estrello, while Estrello made sure that Sarlo would not interrupt. Then the sky grew quickly dark, as thunderheads came in from the East.
“I need to go,” declared Estrello.
“Go? What’s happening? Why do you have to leave, now, when this storm is coming in? Why, when I need you most?”
“Do not worry, Gentila! I will be back. I must go see my father!”
Gentila’s heart quickened at the sight of the rage above her. She stood for a while, wondering at the storm. While there had been many storms in the land before, this one was quite different in intensity. There was something unnatural about what loomed overhead. While she was awestruck, she felt in her a sense of things about to change, forever.
She ran inside the shack, but she stayed near one of the windows. What she saw next made the storm pale in comparison.
The fence was falling!
To Gentila, it seemed almost hilarious, how the minions fought to keep the fence, failing to do so. They all then stood back and watched in defeat. Then they ran off, leaving Sarlo’s land.
Gentila then looked around, realizing Sarlo was nowhere to be found. She walked around the place, finding him cowering behind his own bed. She had never seen him like this before. While there was rage in his eyes, there was also fear.
Is this the man that has taunted me for so long?
She felt she had to go back to the window, and to the fallen fence. Off in the distance, she could see a small white patch, upon a hill. As the patch came closer she realized it was a horse and rider. The horse was moving at a full gallop.
It was Estrello! He was keeping his promise. Gentila’s heart seemed to skip a beat.
Then Gentila remembered Sarlo. It occurred to her that Sarlo knew what was happening, because of the ongoing feud between him and Estrello. For some reason, she became excited, in addition to what she felt when she saw Estrello. By this time, he was near the shack, so she stepped out. What she was presently aware of was an apparent sense of freedom she was feeling seeing that Sarlo was hiding in his bedroom.
Estrello stood outside, looking radiant, even with the scars she had come to know. Especially radiant was his countenance, the joy that was evident on his face. Her own heart shined, as if in response. He looked so gallant and so majestic, despite the fact he only wore a plain linen robe.
“It is time. Gentila, would you like to get on behind me?” The question almost seemed a formality. She began to run to him, even as he first spoke.
They rode off.
When they passed the point where the fence once stood, she saw how green and lavish the fields were beyond that point. She had not noticed when she saw Estrello on the summit of the hill, but now that she was with him, she looked all around. There were trees, so full and lush, unlike the land she had left behind. There were also lakes and rivers, unlike anything else she had known. The air also seemed fresh and fragrant as well. Then she looked upon Estrello’s face. All the scars she had come to know were closer for her to examine. It was very apparent of all that he had gone through on that one day she first saw him. She reached up to her own face, finding her scars had disappeared.
“Gentila, look! Home!”
She looked up. With a gasp, she saw a large mansion. All the walls were so white, it almost seemed they should threaten her eyesight. But she was able to keep her gaze, which she did as best she could, for she wanted to take everything in. She could not count the number of stories this palace had. The expanse of the mansion extended over the horizon, each way it seemed.
“This is my father’s home. This is where we will live from here on. You will love him, for I am much like him.”
They got off the horse as servants approached to take the steed. They went inside and she met Estrello’s father. It was more than what Estrello had said; she had grown so endearing of the way he seemed to understate himself. This was only because of the limitations of the language, because nothing could describe what, or who, she was seeing
Days later, Gentila stood out on one of the balconies. There was great activity, more fervent around the mansion than ever before. This did not feel much different than when she was back at the shack, before Estrello appeared. She heard a great noise rising up from the roofs of the mansion, and looked up. Flying overhead were balls of fire, heading toward the land Sarlo had under his control. It seemed like a war was beginning.
Estrello walked over to her, “In a few hours, we are going back.”
“We are? Why?”
“We have unfinished business, you and I. Remember what I said about you being a part of my plan? This is the fruition of it. All those who live there must come to learn what it is like for me to reign over what is mine. They will see all I had intended in my realm, how it was meant to be.”
Eventually, Gentila was out in the courtyard of the mansion, waiting for her prince. Estrello’s servants brought out two horses. Then Estrello came out. He was decked out in battle armor. He was so handsome, and the scars only made him more endearing to her. In his hands he had brought out battle array for her, and helped her into it.
“Now is the time for me to reign, Gentila, and you will reign with me. We will then go and find your sister…”
“Sister! I have a sister? You never told me about her.”
Estrello laughed. “Oh, you know about her. Judea is your sister.”
It was then that Gentila understood the connection she had with Judea. Beyond the beauty and the sense of understanding Gentila had for Judea, was sisterhood. Things even seem to come closer together for her. Without hesitation, she got on her horse.
“Now what do you say? Shall we go for Judea? I know where she is.”
“Oh, please,” Gentila wept, “let’s go!”
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