From the author: In the late 1930s, an expedition dispatched by Nazi Germany enters the Himalayan Mountains. What is their mysterious objective and can they penetrate the icy peaks that are the domain of the Yeti?
By kind permission of 18th Wall I am able to offer the first chapter of my novella Himalayan Horror here on Curious Fictions as a free sample of the full work. If you like what you read, please consider chasing down the full story.
C. L. Werner
Kulbir Gurung picked his way along the snowy mountainside, unerringly shifting his weight so that he didn't disturb even the smallest pebble or provoke the most miniscule slippage of ice and snow. Had an alert observer been aware of him, they would have marvelled at his progress, amazed that any man could cross such terrain with any measure of speed or silence. A more knowledgable witness would know that there was only one breed of man capable of such feats and quickly classed Gurung as one of Nepal's Gurkhas.
There were no such witnesses, either ignorant or wise. Gurung had been careful to avoid the notice of those he followed. His skill as a tracker as well as his almost instinctive command of the mountain terrain was why Colonel Armitage in Gangtok had tasked him with shadowing the Germans if they left India without permission. The British wanted to know where the Germans went and the stolid Gurkha soldier was their best choice for keeping tabs on them without alerting them to the fact.
It was a solitary mission. Armitage was an overly cautious man and worried that sending more Gurkhas with Gurung would increase the chance of discovery. The colonel's caution had already proven troublesome; the Germans had split up, fragmenting into separate parties as they crossed the frontier into Tibet. Gurung had been forced to choose one party to follow, unable to even send a messenger back to Gangtok to apprise the colonel of the situation. All he could do was trust in the Buddha that he'd chosen the most important group of Germans to pursue into the Himalayas.
From the rocky slope, Gurung could look down on the mountain trail the Germans were travelling. There were twenty in their group, a mixture not only of Germans but of Tibetan guides and Chinese guards. Their baggage was surprisingly light, something Gurung had noticed straight away and which had focused his interest on them rather than the other groups. Either the party had already made arrangements for provisions and equipment to be waiting for them or else at least one of the other groups would be rendezvousing with them later.
Gurung's sharp eyes picked out details from afar that Colonel Armitage would have needed a set of binoculars to pick out. He was impressed that one of the Germans moved with a notable limp yet stubbornly pressed on and disdained the aid of his comrades. He refused to let his infirmity slow down their march. That determination was al the more impressive when Gurung saw that everyone else deferred to the limping German. He was clearly the one in command, yet he didn't use his authority to make things easier for himself. It was Gurung's experience that only two kinds of people displayed such behaviour. There were those whose sense of community had grown to a degree where they became truly selfless. Then there were those whose fanaticism had become so all-consuming that no hardship would keep them from their goal. Which sort of man was this German he was watching?
The Gurkha briefly glanced over the rest of the party. The Tibetans maintained the ambling gait of mountain-folk, little troubled by the increasing cold and changing air pressure. The Germans moved with a stiff precision, the almost mechanical regularity that Gurung had seen many British and Indian soldiers exhibit. The Chinese guards were much more lax in their own march, all except the grey-haired officer who led them. He was every bit as precise and regular as the Germans he worked for.
Waiting until the party was turning around a bend in the trail, Gurung withdrew from his rocky observation point and resumed his climb across the slope. The snow and ice caused him small concern, he'd been climbing similar outcroppings in Nepal almost since he could walk. Only at the higher elevations would he have borrowed some of the colonel's caution. Here, on the lower approaches, there was nothing for him to worry about.
Such, at least, was Gurung's thought as he rounded a craggy outcropping. Glancing below, he could just see the Tibetan guides emerging from the bend in the trail, one of the Germans following close behind them. Then his eyes strayed to the snow at his feet and the Gurkha forgot all about the men he was spying upon.
Splotches of red stained the snow around the outcropping. Gurung drew the sickle-backed kukri knife from his waistband, a new watchfulness stealing over him. Blood in the snow, enough that its source had to be something big. Enough that whatever had bled so much couldn't still be alive. The Gurkha stared out across the splashes of gore, following the pattern as it gradually trailed away, rising still higher up the outcropping. Whatever had been killed had been carried off, borne up the craggy ledges. It was a feat only a madman would attempt. Perhaps a bear or a snow leopard? The thought of a lurking leopard gave Gurung pause. It was just possible it was a tiger and not a leopard that had carried its prey up the rock. Unlike bears and snow leopards, tigers counted man among the prey they would hunt. Gurung didn't want a tiger following him the way he was following the Germans.
Gripping his kukri in his teeth, Gurung began to climb the rocky ledges, ascending to the outcropping's summit. A few specks of blood here and there told him he was on the right track. When he reached the top, he found that the summit was flattened like a small plateau. His gaze was drawn to a dark object lying sprawled in the snow.
Making his climb, Gurung had expected the victim was a goat or a deer. Instead he found himself looking at the hairy carcass of a full-grown yak. Killing such a large animal and carrying it up onto the outcropping was beyond the ability of any bear or leopard Gurung had seen. He doubted if even a tiger was equal to such effort. Yet there was no denying that something had killed the animal and carried it up here. The Gurkha removed the knife from between his teeth, holding it at the ready as he cast his gaze about the summit. There were no holes or caves in which a predator might be lurking, no boulders behind which a tiger might be hiding. But Gurung no longer believed it was a tiger that had done this. His mind was turning back to the legends told in his Nepalese village.
The Gurkhas were a fierce race of warriors, indomitable in battle and fearless in combat. Yet Gurung felt his heart pounding in his chest as he stared across the summit. There was nothing to see or hear or smell, but some inner sense was shouting at him that he wasn't alone. His every nerve was shivering with agitation, afire with primordial alarm. It was the innate antipathy of all things natural for those things which weren't natural. The things that dwell on the hinterlands of what man perceives as reality.
Gurung felt the urge to flee, to hurry down from the outcropping and to thank the Buddha that he'd escaped with his life. That he hadn't seen what he might see. The very temptation enraged the Gurkha and stiffened his resolve. He was still afraid, but he refused to let that fear disgrace him. Tightening his grip on the kukri, he took a step towards the dead yak, noting as he did the way the animal's neck had been broken. It hadn't merely been snapped, it had been twisted, wrenched completely around in a manner impossible for the jaws of tiger or bear. Something with hands had done that. Hands and an unspeakable strength.
The seconds stretched into minutes, the only sound reaching Gurung's ears was the howling of the mountain wind. The urge to flee steadily mounted. The Gurkha's pulse quickened, his mouth went dry even as sweat poured down his forehead. Still he refused to run, refused to shame the proud warrior tradition of his people. With every instinct goading him to retreat, he stood his ground.
It was then that the menace Gurung felt was so near suddenly appeared. There was no rock behind which it could have been hidden, no hole from which it could have emerged. Its advent was as abrupt as a thunderclap, uncanny in its impossibility. The Gurkha reeled in shock as his senses were smashed by the beast standing only a few feet from him.
The thing was built in the semblance of man, towering upright on two legs, great arms dangling from broad shoulders. Thick brown hair covered the creature's body, only absent from its big feet and enormous hands. From a squat stump of neck a massive head jutted forwards, the skull tapering to a narrow peak. The face that leered down at Gurung was utterly inhuman, a squashed nose with flaring nostrils splashed above an outthrust jaw with yellowed fangs. In the shadow of a heavy brow, beady red eyes glared at him, exhibiting a malignance far deeper than the hostility of a simple animal.
Tears welled up in Gurung's eyes as the rancid stench of the creature filled his nose. He could hear the beast's deep, tremulous breathing, could feel the warmth of its exhalations against his face. Terror pounded through his heart, but he wouldn't submit to it even now. Like a cobra, Gurung's kukri was in motion, slashing out at the hulking brute.
Gurung had gutted a springing panther with his knife while in the jungles of Bengal. His reflexes were reckoned remarkable even among the Gurkhas and his skill with the kukri unquestioned. Yet as he slashed at the man-beast, the hand that held the blade was caught in a torturing grip. Impossibly, the creature's paw intercepted his thrust, reacting with terrifying swiftness. It seemed to Gurung that his knife was drawn to the punishing grasp, directed away from the beast's belly and into its paw.
Bones of wrist and fingers shattered under the brutal clutch. Gurung felt the beast's sharp nails rip into his flesh. Through his pain, his free hand darted from the Webley pistol tucked under his belt. Before he could reach the gun, the creature brought its fist crashing down, pounding Gurung's skull with a hammer-like blow.
The Gurkha collapsed, skull and spine broken by the savage impact. As he spilled to the ground, Gurung's eyes stared up at the man-beast. His last thought as life shivered from his body was one of superstitious dread. There were some things even the bravest man must never see. He, Kulbir Gurung, had the misfortune to see one of them.
He had seen the yeti.
Mist rolled down into the narrows lanes that wound their way between the squat stone buildings of the village. Sluggish trickles of frigid water dripped from the tile roofs, pattering the ancient pavement of the road. A few stocky, wire-haired goats perched themselves on rock walls and craned their necks upwards so they might lap up the icy condensation. A couple of black-feathered birds soared in and out of the fog, scrutinizing the habitations below in search of any rodents in the thatch that roofed the smaller huts and sheds.
Helmut Wexler pulled his camel-hide coat closer, feeling the chill of the mist reaching out for him. All the years he'd spent climbing the Tyrolean Alps hadn't prepared him for this kind of cold. He'd always boasted that he came from a hardy stock, that his father had been in the Alpenkorps and his mother was an ibex. But this, this kind of cold was something entirely different. He felt as out of place as a native from the sweltering veldt of Togoland. He clapped a gloved hand to the wool cap he wore and the Edelweiss badge pinned to it. His father would have been disappointed if he could see him now.
A scowl that had nothing to do with the cold gripped Helmut's features. There was much over the last seven years he'd done that would have disappointed his father. Things that had felt important and right, once upon a time. Things that now made him feel ashamed. A man could try to atone for his past, but he could never escape from it. That was something he'd been forced to learn the hard way.
“They will be waiting for us in the lamasery, Mr. Wexler.” The words came with just the edge of a shiver to them, distorting the Chinese inflections just enough to give Wexler trouble. He'd spent four years in China, but hardly considered himself fluent in the language. Chi Lung appeared to notice his difficulty and tried again in German. The result was only a little better. Chi Lung's command of German was based upon the strictures of drill and battlefield tactics, not the versatility of broader communication. He was a product of the New Army trained by General Hans von Seeckt to bolster the Nationalist government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek. The New Army that had been thrown piecemeal at the Imperial Japanese at Nanking and Shanghai, squandered in hopeless fights against overwhelming odds.
Chi Lung still wore remnants of the New Army uniform, though the blue-and-white sun insignia of the Kuomintang was notably absent and the coarse goat-skin jacket he wore would have never passed inspection in the old days. The steel helmet that hung from his belt was of German pattern while the pistols holstered at his sides were a mismatched set of British and Soviet manufacture. The rifle slung over his shoulder was Chinese, manufactured in the style of the German Gewehr 88. There was a huge dao sword tied across his back as well, a weapon Wexler always thought more fitting to bandits than modern soldiers. Then, after deserting the Nationalists and turning mercenary, Chi Lung and his comrades were already in that borderland between soldier and brigand.
The thought only intensified Wexler's scowl. If these men had sunk so low, then what did it say about how far he'd fallen? Only four years ago he'd felt such pride and determination, he'd truly believed he was helping to build a new world. A new Germany. From the chaos and confusion of the decadent Weimar government they were going to reclaim purpose and prestige, rise up from the ashes of humiliation and betrayal. Germany, the mighty nation whose armies had gone undefeated in the Great War, overwhelmed in the end not by the enemy on the battlefield but the enemy at home. A treasonous peace sold by corrupt politicians and the industrialists who owned them. The victorious Allies imposed onerous reparations on the disgraced German people, a burden that brought with it rampant hunger and poverty. Wexler's father had been a victim of that distress, throwing himself in front of a street trolley a few days after pawning his war medals to buy bread for his sons.
Helmut and his older brother Karl had gone to live with an aunt in Munich. They were there when Eugene Levine and his communists seized control of the city and declared a Bavarian Soviet Republic. Karl was shot by the communists when they came to seize property from their aunt's house. The sight of the red-garbed thugs laughing over his dying brother's body was an image that remained as fresh and vivid to Helmut as the moment it happened. When loyal German soldiers entered Munich a month later and overthrew Levine's government, Helmut had been there to spit on the executed Reds as they were dragged through the streets. From that moment on, hatred of the communists became his guiding light.
It took a long time for Wexler to appreciate that his guiding light was also a blinding one. Though Levine's movement had been crushed, other communist parties continued to gain ground in the confusion of Germany's political scene. Ernst Thaelmann's Red Front brought many of these disparate groups into a single union. While their agitators spouted propaganda to the distressed and disenfranchised, their uniformed thugs roamed the streets to bully and beat those who opposed their platform. When another political force rose and began to give Thaelmann's thugs a sampling of their own brutality, Wexler was immediately drawn to them. He didn't look to closely at the positions espoused by the National Socialists – it was enough for him that the Nazis were the enemy of the communists. Soon, however, any reservations he had were subdued by the mesmeric force Adolf Hitler's oratory. He'd joined the Nazis looking for revenge. The words of Hitler had given him something more – the promise of a better tomorrow.
Wexler felt the fool for believing in Hitler. His promises of social reform, of public assistance for Germany's downtrodden, his vows to protect the dignity of the working man, all of these grand ideals that held out hope for a public that had suffered so much after the war, all of these faded away after the Nazis gained sufficient political power to be drawn into a coalition with General von Hindenburg's government. Chancellor Hitler forgot his promises to the worker and the citizen once the influence of the old aristocracy and the coffers of the industrialists began to finance his hunger for still greater power. The social reforms were abandoned and the old fighters who believed in them were sidelined in favour of the March violets who joined the Nazis after the 1932 election, the more intransigent reformers like the Strasser brothers were expulsed from the Party. Only the Storm Troopers, the SA of Ernst Roehm remained as a force demanding revolution. Wexler had participated in the Stennes Revolt staged in protest against Hitler's changing policies. After Walter Stennes was expelled from the SA and fled the country, Wexler had remained, still convinced that despite everything it wasn't Hitler but the corruption of his advisors and inner circle that had derailed their revolution.
Even Wexler's failing idealism couldn't persist when the Night of the Long Knives struck against all those in the Nazi Party who advocated a second revolution that would sweep away the corruption, exploitation, and lingering vestiges of Imperial aristocracy. Gregor Strasser was murdered, Otto Strasser chased into exile, Ernst Roehm and hundreds of SA officers arrested. Roehm and scores of others were executed as traitors. Wexler was more fortunate, a friend on the Munich police force arranging that his cell door should be left unlocked the night before the SS was due to take custody of him.
The betrayal of his Fuehrer left Wexler a man without a country. He'd followed Stennes to China, acting as a military advisor to the Nationalists. He'd been with the von Seeckt and New Army forces when they successfully smashed the Chiang-hsi Soviet and drove Mao Tse-tung's communists into retreat. When the Imperial Japanese Army launched a general invasion of Nationalist China after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Wexler's criticism of the ineffectual response by Chiang Kai-Shek saw him again out of political favour. It was his old SA comrade Stennes who made it possible for him to leave China ahead of the Generalissimo's ire.
So it was that Wexler had ended up in India when he learned of the Schaefer Expedition. Low on funds and reasoning that his experience as a mountaineer as well as his being a fellow German would stand him in good stead with Ernst Schaefer, he'd offered his services to what was publicly a privately-funded scientific survey of Tibet. It didn't take Wexler long to recognize the reality. The Schaefer Expedition wasn't a civilian enterprise but rather an SS operation. By then, however, it was too late to extricate himself. If British authorities in India had been duped about the expedition's nature then the last thing the SS would risk was someone alerting them. He'd thought he was through with the Nazis, but it seemed the Nazis weren't through with him.
Motion from the narrow street ahead of him snapped Wexler from his reverie. Instinctively his hand ducked under his coat and closed about the grip of his Luger. Behind him he could hear Chi Lung and the other Chinese reacting with similar wariness. The long trek up from the bandit-infested Kashmir wasn't the sort of thing to make any of them relaxed.
The shape that moved towards Wexler and his companions was soon distinct enough to pick out from the fog around it. Despite the heavy coat, Wexler could tell the approaching figure was slight of build and a bit shorter than his Chinese companions. A thick wool scarf obscured the face, but he recognized the battered hat that peaked out from beneath the coat's hood.
“Hello, Tai-Yu,” Wexler called out in greeting. He withdrew his hand from under his coat and pointed at the village. “It seems you got here ahead of us.”
Tai-Yu laughed behind her scarf. “We were able to explain ourselves to the British if they found us.” She waved at the string of camels that plodded along after Chi Lung and his soldiers. “You had to avoid them. If they looked at what you were transporting, no explanation would satisfy them.” A sombre note crept into her voice. “That would have disappointed my father greatly.”
Wexler stared into Tai-Yu's eyes. “Would you have been disappointed?” When she answered, Wexler could imagine that infuriatingly teasing smile grinning at him from behind the scarf.
“I am a dutiful daughter. Whatever disappoints my father disappoints me as well.” Tai-Yu clapped her gloved hands together and issued rapid orders to Chi Lung's men. Then her eyes were back on Wexler. “Father is with the Germans. He wanted me to bring you to them the moment you arrived.”
Tai-Yu turned to lead Wexler up the street. He laid his hand on her shoulder. “Did you learn anything?” he asked her.
The woman shook her head. “Your countrymen aren't like you, Helmut. They consider it beneath them to talk to those they consider beneath their station unless there's something to be gained by it.” She shook her head again. “No, perhaps that is unfair. The one they call professor, I think he is too afraid of the others to talk to anyone.”
“But what is he afraid of?” Wexler wondered. He'd only exchanged the briefest pleasantries with Dr. Artur Beisswenger when they'd met in India. When Schaefer divided his party into groups when striking out for the Indian frontier before British authorities could stop his expedition, Beisswenger had been relegated to the small party headed by Dr. Otto von Krieglitz. Some of the more thuggish members of that party drew a sadistic enjoyment from referring to him as ‘professor’, a term that never failed to provoke a depressing effect on Beisswenger. If there was one person in Krieglitz's party who might open up to Wexler, it would be Beisswenger.
Tai-Yu guided Wexler through the narrow streets. Only a few Tibetans stirred from their huts, dusky-hewed people dressed in heavy coats of yak-hide and goat-skin, their faces always averted from the foreigners as they passed. Wexler could feel their eyes on him just the same. Tibet was an almost legendary land, a holy kingdom built on the roof of the world. Few were the outsiders who ventured here and fewer still the trespassers who did so without the consent of the lamas. Even the Nazis were pragmatic enough to forget their arrogance and seek that consent before penetrating farther into the hermit nation.
Higher and still higher the streets wound. Wexler could feel the icy fog stabbing at him with its persistent attentions. Soon though, out from the haze of mist, there loomed a sight that made him forget about his discomfort. Rising above the village was a rocky hill and built upon and into the face of that hill was an immense structure. In dimensions it reminded Wexler of nothing so much as the medieval fortresses of Hungary and Romania. Colossal walls stretched out from the hill, a dull yellow plaster covering the massive stone blocks. Turrets rose from every quarter, ornaments of bronze adorning their tile roofs. The central keep was a multi-levelled tower with many windows and ornamentation that was far in excess of that which graced the lesser turrets. The keep reminded Wexler of the pagodas of Nanking and Shaghai. As he gazed up at it, he heard a dull booming note sound from deep inside the structure – the tolling of some mighty bell to welcome the burgeoning dawn.
This then was the Kuenlun Lamasery, the destination towards which the Germans had expended so much effort, expense, and risk to reach. As Wexler looked up at it, he again wondered at the purpose of the Schaefer Expedition and particularly the small offshoot led by von Krieglitz. Schaefer had claimed in India that their objectives were purely scientific, what he'd termed holism – a complete geological, biological and anthropological survey of this still little known land.
After the hazardous trip through a region infested with Moslem bandits, Wexler doubted that Schaefer's scholarly ambitions represented the whole of the German mission. Twenty camels laden down with guns of the latest military pattern and cases of ammunition were hardly the sort of equipment a man would need to study rocks and Tibetan skull structure.
There was something else behind it all and Wexler was determined to find out what.
Through the ornate gates that yawned in the lamasery walls, Wexler stepped into a wide courtyard. The rough stones that paved the courtyard might have been in their settings for a thousand years, so smooth and worn had they become. A pair of enormous bestial statues glared at him from either side of the entrance, fabulous creatures that were equal parts dog and lion, their jaws gaping in silent snarls. Across the yard, a group of yellow-robed monks jogged into view led by a lama adorned with a crimson sash, his hand closed about the prayer wheel he bore. The instrument beat a dull tattoo for the monks to keep pace with as they made a circuit of the pagoda-like tower.
Tai-Yu turned Wexler away from the keep, directing him instead towards a long, narrow building that crouched against the inside of the perimeter wall. “These are the quarters the high lama has given us.” As she spoke, a door opened and a stocky, rough-featured man emerged. Though he wore the dull brown of civilian mountaineering garb and had a Tyrolean hat perched jauntily over his close-cropped blonde hair, there was no mistaking the stamp of an SS man. Something about that cruel turn of the mouth and the fanatical glower that smouldered in the depths of his blue eyes.
“We expected you two days ago,” the German announced, darting a threatening look at Tai-Yu. “It is good that you made it, Herr Wexler.”
Wexler noted the shudder that passed through Tai-Yu. The reason why she and her father had been compelled to accompany the main body of the expedition was obvious enough. They'd been hostages to ensure that Wexler and the other Chinese arrived in Kuenlun. Looking at Guenther Mahrun, it seemed he was disappointed that he wouldn't be allowed to carry out the threats made against Shen Kai-Shun.
“It wasn't easy going,” Wexler reported. “But we're here now, captain.”
Mahrun's face reddened at the address. “Hauptsturmfuehrer,” he snapped. Like many of his ilk, he considered the SS an elite far superior to the regular army and resented being referred to by military rather than SS rank. He gestured with his thumb at the doorway behind him. “Make your report to the Standartenfuehrer.”
Mahrun stood in the doorway as Wexler and Tai-Yu moved to go inside. The SS officer continued to glower at them, his face twisting into a sneer. He continued to block the way, enjoying the irritation he provoked from the exile. “Any time you want to try me,” Mahrun hissed. “I'll be happy to show you what it means to stay true to the New Order.”
“Krieglitz wants to see me,” Wexler reminded him. “Or do you think he likes waiting while you play games?”
Grudgingly, Mahrun stepped aside just enough to let Wexler and Tai-Yu brush past. They entered a long room, its walls draped in animal skins and its floor covered in straw. The smell of butter-oil filled the chamber, but not quite enough to blot out a musky, earthy smell. A set of lamps fastened to the low ceiling illuminated the hall, revealing a long table and several narrow benches. Doors set into the back wall indicated several rooms branching off from the main one.
A handful of men were seated around the table. Most of them were German, cut from similar mould as Mahrun. One was Chinese, wearing a uniform similar to that of Chi Lung. Unlike his subordinate, however, Captain Shen Kai-Shun had retained the insignia of the Kuomintang, the white sunburst upon a field of blue. Despite all that had happened, the deep betrayal he'd felt at Shanghai, Shen Kai-Shun still felt a deep loyalty to his homeland. Circumstances had driven him to become a mercenary, but he prayed that fate would yet allow him to serve his nation.
The Chinese sat apart from the Germans, perusing a yellow-bound book while the SS men near him engaged in a game of checkers. When Shen Kai-Shun looked up and saw his daughter leading Wexler inside, the relief that rushed into his face was unmistakable. The fatalism to which Shen Kai-Shun subscribed might allow him to accept his own plight, but not a threat hovering over his only child.
“Helmut, it is good fortune you bring with you,” Shen Kai-Shun greeted Wexler. “Your countrymen were growing anxious for your safety. In their mounting concern, they may have taken rash and unwise action.”
Wexler looked across the faces of the other Germans. If they'd had any concern about him, they were certainly doing a good job of hiding it.
“Go down into the village and unload the camels,” Mahrun's voice called out from the doorway. On the officer's command, the other Germans rose from the benches. Pausing only to put on their coats, they filed out into the courtyard. Mahrun didn't follow them. Instead he marched across the hall and to one of the doors on the other side. A quick rap of his knuckles and he pushed it open. Wexler heard a muffled exchange, then Mahrun turned towards him.
“Make your report, Herr Wexler.”
A novella in 18th Wall's Cryptid Clash series, this story finds a German expedition to the Himalayas seeking the mysterious occult power of a hermit hidden far in the snowy wilderness. Supported by a band of fierce Chinese mercenaries, the expedition presses on even when their hunt rouses the wrath of the yeti. But an even more menacing threat lurks within the mind of the Nazi leading the expedition, a specter of the war-torn past called the Hound of Mons.
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