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Azure Heart
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The Scriptures of Weeping Triumph 3 (Dark Side of Playtime)

28 Nov 2006, 16:41

In this next installment, I tried taking a walk on the dark side a little. Remembering the horrors of the playground inspired me. That should concern and worry you. It does me. Please enjoy the ongoing chronicle of Weeping Triumph, known as Sekli when she was a child.
“Power is the ultimate authority, and violence is the ultimate means to take and keep that authority.”
--The Autumn Ruin, explaining her (perhaps narrow) personal philosophy

"Demons eat little girls-- even when they are hiding from the monsters. So, you might as well look them in the eye, because at least that way you can save your soul."
--Sesus Alon Sekli, aka Weeping Triumph
 
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The Scriptures of WT

28 Nov 2006, 16:43

Sekli gazed towards the other end of the courtyard to where her cousins were dicing tiny, child-sized fortunes of jade scrip away. Sekli had watched her elder cousins play in this way for many months, but had not been invited to play. She had learned the rules by observation, and knew she wanted a piece of the action.

The playmates her own age no longer held much interest for Sekli. At the ripening age of six, she had grown weary of the tiresome games of throwing and running, and she had grown bored of the endless strategic possibilities of Gateway with her agemates. Her independent exploration of Spirit-Frog more than satisfied her craving for challenging puzzles. She wanted to experience the games of hierarchy and social strength that the eldest children played at. She knew that the dice and the chips and the tiles were just the outward manifestation of the political maneuverings that Dynasts learned at the earliest ages.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Sekli. Am I boring you?” asked Decher sarcastically.

Sekli shrugged, but said, “No, brother, the history of spirit courts bores me. The only reason I can stand it at all is because of your exquisite pedagogy techniques.”

Decher smirked, “Now that we’ve established that you’re lying, what is actually captivating your attention?”

Sekli nodded her head, indicating the other end of the courtyard. Decher politely closed the book and came around to peer out from behind the stone columns with his young sister.

“Ah, the cousins,” Decher said with mischievous delight. “How they do enjoy their gambling.”

“I wish I could play with them.”

“Fancy your luck is better than theirs?”

“No, brother.”

Decher frowned, “Surely you don’t want to usurp leadership from Lekoa. She’s almost ten and just as cutthroat as her father.”

“Not that either, brother. You know my mind about politics.”

Decher nodded. He recalled his sister’s observation that their mother’s political skills would always outmatch their own, and that therefore any victory over their mother’s desires must occur on some other battlefield. At the time, he had agreed with her and told her that that was one reason he had wanted to study Sorcery at the Heptagram.

“If not dominance, then what do you seek?”

“Courage, I guess. I’m not really sure,” shrugged Sekli.

“Try to explain.” Decher had learned that his sister’s precocious understanding of the world should be encouraged, because she often only needed prompting before realizing important truths all on her own.

“Um,” she stalled, biting at the webbing between her thumb and forefinger thoughtfully.

“Go on. Something about courage?”

“Well, they’re older and bigger. Smarter.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not. You want to show them you’re just as good even though you’re younger?”

“Not really, no. Just… if I can face someone bigger than me, then maybe I can face anything.”

“Even demons,” suggested Decher.

“Maybe,” Sekli frowned uncertainly.

“Well, nine and ten year-old Sesus cousins are hardly any fairer or more pleasant than most demons I’ve met. Sounds like you’ve got an ambition. What are you going to do about it?”

Sekli looked at Decher with widened eyes. Was he giving her permission?

“I think you’ve learned as much about the Court of Seasons as you’re going to. This season, anyway. I declare a half-hour recess. Then I’ll expect you back inside to practice your tea ceremony.”

Sekli jumped to her feet excitedly, bowing, “Yes, brother Alon Decher. It will be my pleasure to join you for tea,” she said formally.

“Go on,” he said to the girl who had already started off, “And Sekli?”

Sekli turned to glance at her brother’s wry expression.

“Good luck!”

Sekli grinned and darted off across the courtyard.

The children gathered around a dusty mosaic whose pattern was a convenient divider of player spaces for their dice and card games. Most of them were just a year or two off from primary school and none wanted to be left behind by socially skilled peers. And so, they practiced back-stabbing and power-mongering amongst each other. And Lekoa usually won. But what she taught them by winning would serve them well in their own rise to power when they attended the Illicar Academy, or one of the other prestigious schools funded directly by the Deliberative.

“Look, it’s little Alon Sekli,” whispered an observant child as Sekli approached.

Everyone looked to Lekoa for her reaction. She ignored Sekli, and therefore so did the rest.

For her part, Sekli knelt behind and a polite distance off from the rest. She waited until the current hand was finished.

While the dealer shuffled the tiles, Sekli rose and approached. “Please deal me in,” Sekli declared firmly, but respectfully.

Lekoa glanced back, “You’re too young to play. You don’t even know the rules.”

“I’m old enough to know that if you’d advanced your silver tiles sooner, you’d probably have won,” Sekli smiled, trying to impress them.

The other children paled. One gasped. Lekoa’s composed face betrayed only a slight blush as evidence of her rage. It was enough that everyone suddenly found the clouds, the courtyard, or anything else vastly more interesting to occupy their attention for a few moments.

“How dare you?” whispered Lekoa.

Sekli grasped that she had offended her cousin. “I apologize for questioning your tactics, Lekoa. I am now certain that you had a much longer goal that you were accomplishing and that I simply do not understand enough yet about the game to appreciate your long-sightedness. Please teach me, Chenow Lekoa,” Sekli bowed respectfully.

With only tightened lips and a slight head movement, she rallied her allies. One of the cousins threw a chip at Sekli. She stepped back, startled, and tripped over a flower planter and fell into the herbs.

“Get out of the garden!” shouted a Sesus major domo from an upstairs window overlooking the courtyard. No one had seen her there.

Sekli stumbled out, brushing dirt from her hair and trying not to crush any more plants. She glanced at Lekoa, who smiled sweetly at the younger cousin who was now in a good amount of minor trouble. Lekoa experienced her power and dominance and reveled in it as much as any older Dynast socialite would.

Sekli met Lekoa’s gaze, miserable at the prospects of punishment, yet determined. Sekli imagined that her own intentions would be rather alien to Lekoa, who could only see Sekli through her own eyes. Eyes that saw a younger cousin trying to gain an early political advantage before Lekoa was sent off to school.

Lekoa turned her head away as though Sekli suddenly ceased to exist. She and her friends picked up their game pieces and went on their way while Sekli awaited the major domo for assignation of punishment.

The next day, Sekli and her cousins young and old were gathered together early in the morning for calisthenics. After stretching and warming up with the instructor, a Sesus legion soldier on leave that season, they were given an entire courtyard built as an obstacle course to roam and play in. With ladders and jumps and foot-race tracks, and things to climb on (or under, or through), and various objects to throw, catch, bounce, and maneuver, the courtyard was an active child’s delight.

Sekli enjoyed the exercise period well enough, but she ran short of breath much sooner than did all but the smallest children. Ever since her illness, she just could not keep up with the kids her own age. Thankfully, there was no one to monitor her efforts or to demand greater performance from the children. Adults correctly assumed that children would enjoy the play for its own sake. Although casually supervised by the legionnaire, the Sesus children of all the nearby households also used this opportunity to mingle, exchange gossip, and otherwise be the children they were. Many brought their own toys to use when they grew bored with the equipment built-in to the exercise field.

“I like that kite,” said Lekoa from behind Sekli.

Sekli turned her head to see that the older girl was standing nearby and had come alone. Sekli looked up again to the kite. It was built of feathersteel and a kind of treated silk, painted with the colors and images of Mela, the Immaculate Dragon of Air. Decher had given it to her as a birthday present last winter and it continued to be her favorite toy.

Sekli smiled as she glanced sidelong to Chenow Lekoa, “Thank you, I like it too.”

The two girls watched the dancing movements of the kite for a few minutes as Sekli manipulated the strings to guide its soaring motion.

“Might I have a turn?” asked Lekoa quietly, respectfully.

Sekli wondered for a few moments, but happily passed the hand instruments to the older girl. The young girl believed that the other regretted her hasty actions the day before. Maybe she was willing to make a new friend, but Sekli was also wary of political machinations. She would not be anyone’s minion.

Lekoa took over control of the kite and began experimenting with its motions. She seemed to catch on quickly, Sekli thought. Then, young Sekli felt a sinking sensation as Lekoa’s friends came over and started remarking and delighting in Lekoa’s expertise.

“You’re much better at that than the little brat,” said one.

“Yeah, good thing she turned it over to you. I was worried she would let it fall and harm somebody,” remarked another.

Lekoa smiled angelically, “Yes, thank you Alon Sekli. I do appreciate your gesture.”

Sekli frowned, “What gesture.”

“Your gift. Thank you, I accept it. I will always consider it a token of your high esteem for me,” Lekoa said calmly, dangerously.

“I didn’t give it to you!” Sekli cried out, alarmed.

“I wouldn’t say that too loudly,” Lekoa commented.

Just then somebody’s foot reached out and tripped Sekli, who tumbled to the cobblestone courtyard. She sat there miserably before getting up and wiping the blood from her knees. By then Lekoa and her friends had moved on, taking the kite with them.

Sekli remembered her vow and shed no tears. But she almost did, from the mild pain and great frustration.

The next day during the exercise period, Lekoa and her friends had the kite and were enjoying flying it all about. One of the other cousins asked Sekli if she had given it to Lekoa. Knowing the consequences of ‘betrayal’, Sekli said that she had. She was afraid of the older children and their willingness to hurt others. Her knees were still rubbed raw.

Despite her submission, Lekoa’s friends pestered Sekli when they grew bored of other activities. She became very afraid of their bullying, and dreaded the exercise period for the next week. The fear would have encouraged Sekli to quietly give up and go about other activities, forgetting the kite and forgetting her desire to game with the older children, had they not continued to torment her. Fear was not protecting her, so instead, she decided some action was necessary.

“Brother, I have a problem,” Sekli told Decher over a game of gateway they shared late one night.

“How is that possible? You’re already better at Spirit-Frog than I am, surely this isn’t much more difficult.”

“No, not about the game, about something else,” she said impatiently.

“Oh, alright. Tell me what’s going on?”

“I can’t say too much. Just that somebody took something from me and I’m not in a position to take it back. I don’t have the resources they do.”

“One of the cousins?”

Sekli nodded.

“Hmm… those are difficult situations. I’d say cut your losses and back out.”

“I can’t. They won’t let me.”

“My, my, Sekli. What have I let you get yourself into? I knew it’d be trouble for you to get involved with Chenow Lekoa,” he clucked his tongue.

“I know. Are you going to help me, or criticize me?”

“I can’t help too directly, you know that. I’m a grownup, now.”

Sekli sighed and nodded.

“But let’s talk strategy. What characterizes the power dominance she has over you?”

“She can take things from me and I have to go along with it, or else they make things hard for me.”

He thought for a few minutes while staring at the gateway board. He grinned at last, “I’d like to remind you of the Greedy God pattern.”

“Forget Spirit-Frog, these are big kids we’re talking about.”

“Just listen. Remember that board? The god desires your pieces. The god piece hunts all your pieces down one by one, starting with your best piece and working down. If you try to escape, it only delays the inevitable. If you try to sacrifice lesser pieces, it just bypasses them, until it comes for them later. The god piece continues until you have nothing left. The principle of consumption.”

Sekli nodded with rapt attention.

“I see this as the same problem. Once you’ve figured out that board, you’ll have figured out the answer, here,” said Decher as he moved his piece and won the gateway game.

Sekli wasn’t even paying to the game anymore, “But brother, I’ve already solved that board.”

“Oh. Then you don’t need me to tell you what to do, do you? Good night, sister,” he grinned as he rumpled her hair. He rose and left her to think.

Sekli pondered the Greedy God board. The answer was simple: instead of attempting to escape, the solution was to give the greedy god everything it wants until it was overwhelmed by generosity. It perishes from its greed. What her brother probably meant was that she should endear herself with meekness towards Lekoa until Lekoa had no choice but to accept the fawning follower as one of her own, and protect Sekli.

But Sekli admired the simplicity of the solution. It gave her a different plan.

The next morning before breakfast, Sekli organized her belongings. Most of what she owned was gifts that would be noticed if they went missing. However, she had a beautiful emerald and diamond necklace that had once belonged to an aunt, who had died a few years ago. Sekli’s mother had been given the jewelry but, since green was not her color, it had been given to Sekli. Sekli loved the piece, but decided to make this sacrifice.

The young scion of Sesus instructed a business-savvy servant to sell the necklace and use the proceeds to acquire several materials according to specific proportions. The servant hesitated but at last humored the young girl’s wishes.

That evening, after enduring studies and tests and another humiliating exercise period, Sekli gathered up the components she had purchased and brought them to the kitchen.

“Wake up, Rube,” she said to the small jade-and-steel box sitting on a stool.

The box chirped and unfolded its metallic skeleton until it stood upright. It leaned forward to view the young girl that it towered over. In its deferential mechanical voice the Folding Servant asked, “What is your desire, daughter of my Master?”

Sekli imparted her instructions and left it to work all night.

The next day Sekli took Decher aside before they began her language lessons. She led him to a household supply closet that was barely used and opened the door.

“What have you done, Sekli?” he asked in bewilderment.

“Only what you suggested.”

“I didn’t think you’d take me so literally. I meant-“

“I know what you meant,” Sekli interrupted, “But I wanted to make a statement. Now I just can’t figure out how to carry the statement out.”

“Oh, Sekli,” he said, his voice crackling with humor. “This is too good, if we can finish it.”

“We?” she said hopefully.

Decher just grinned. “You know, just last week I finally was sent my Summoning License. I’ve been meaning to test it out. I think we’ll have to supplement our discussion of spirits and elementals today. Let’s summon one.”

Sekli cheered and embraced her brother, who swung her around and around.

At exercise that day, Sekli endured the torment of the older children. The younger kids had all shunned Sekli by that point, fearing the blight of association with the current pariah. There was no one to protect Sekli, and the legionnaire considered bullying a valid form of exercise.

So, Sekli kept asking Lekoa what she wanted from her, over and over again, no matter how much the other children pushed her around or covered her mouth. Lekoa grew frustrated by the little girl’s persistent questions, and shouted, “I want you to shut up, bitch!”

Sekli shouted, “No, you wanted my kite! And now you have it. I don’t want it back, I want you to have it. May my generosity flourish in abundance until you wither from it!” she screamed.

At that point, the legionnaire took Sekli away to punish her for being so disruptive to the others’ exercise period. Nonetheless, all the children now knew what had happened.

Late that night, Decher performed the complex thaumaturgy required to summon an air elemental. Sekli looked on quietly, filled with the fear and loathing that the Dynastic houses often inspired in their youngest members. Her eyes pierced the elemental, willing it to carry out her vengeance. And with the proper sacrifice of incense, several birds, and the leftover feathersteel, the air elemental sped away to do exactly that.

The next morning when Lekoa awoke, she found her entire room filled with Sekli’s kite. Dozens and dozens were stacked up to the ceiling haphazardly, like a jumbled pile of sticks. Air from an open window made the painted silk sheets flutter and rustle hollowly.

When the servants arrived to present the young Dynast with her breakfast, they found her screaming and crying, trying unsuccessfully to wade through the mess of steel bars. When her father arrived to extract the young girl, Sesus Chenow was very displeased. Although he was unable to extract an explanation for how it happened, Chenow wringed the truth about the situation from his daughter.

Sekli was informed that all the kites were unfortunately destroyed when Chenow broke them apart to fetch Lekoa from her feathersteel prison. That was okay with Sekli, who had already derived her satisfaction from her brother’s gift. He had given her a better gift.

From that time on, Sekli was allowed to dice and gamble with the older children, who had new respect for the girl. From her fallen position, Lekoa was unable to oppose.

One night the next week, Decher arrived at his mother’s room. Bowing, “Summoned, I come, Mother.”

“How are your studies with young Sekli progressing?”

“They proceed well, Mother. She’s taken to Old Realm well. Only practice and further exposure to vocabulary stand between her and mastery.”

“Good. You will continue those lessons. But you will no longer instruct her in other matters. The time has come to prepare her for primary school. Her growth and readiness has only recently been demonstrated to me.”

“I can instruct her, Mother.”

“No. You have been teaching her how to think, how to react, how to problem-solve. To gain admittance to the schools, she needs to recite the Texts, perform music adequately, and demonstrate her understanding of formal etiquette. You spend far too much time on philosophy.”

“I apologize mother, I will do better,” insisted Decher.

“You will not have that opportunity. I dislike the influence you’ve had. It has caused Sekli to think strange behaviors are acceptable. It is not proper. The only reason you will continue having any contact with her at all is because she will rebel completely if she is not allowed to see you again.”

Decher visibly struggled with his emotions, but he maintained his polite restraint, “As you wish, Mother.”

Alon nodded approvingly, “Remember your place, son. Your place is now to confer with Sekli’s tutor and ask permission for an hour of Sekli’s time. When an hour can be spared. You will not see her if her other studies suffer, because she will need further practice with the important matters. Do you understand?”

‘All too well’, he thought, but said, “Of course, Mother.”

“Good. I’d hate for your Thaumaturgy License to be revoked. You’d have few enjoyable career opportunities left to you. I am only concerned for your best interests, son. You may go.”

“Yes, Mother. Hesiesh bless you.”

As Decher returned to his room, he fumed with the same fiery rage with which his mother’s Essence burned. He resolved not to lose contact with Sekli. Already, the cousins and everyone else were trying to beat her spirit down. Like they had his. He would not let them. Not even his mother.
“Power is the ultimate authority, and violence is the ultimate means to take and keep that authority.”

--The Autumn Ruin, explaining her (perhaps narrow) personal philosophy



"Demons eat little girls-- even when they are hiding from the monsters. So, you might as well look them in the eye, because at least that way you can save your soul."

--Sesus Alon Sekli, aka Weeping Triumph
 
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Rules

28 Nov 2006, 17:20

Here are a few notes for gaming mechanics that I have devised:

Kites:

Flying a kite is an action requiring a roll of Dexterity + (either Thrown or Athletics). Difficulty is generally one, but can be higher with strong wind, or too little wind. No wind makes the action impossible (without Charms and/or rapid motion). Tricks and stunts are generally at a set difficulty to complete. Any failure to fly a kite usually results in its crashing. A botch might land the toy in a kite-eating tree.

Spirit-Frog:

A derivative of Gateway using the same board, Spirit-Frog is an odd one-player version. It is often used to teach simple allegorical and religious messages. However, it potentially has no limit to the philosophical, meta-physical, or even spiritual meaning it can convey through its symbolic representations. It might even be feasible for Charms and Sorceries to be represented by a board. There are many possible games, called 'boards' that set up many possible stories, or symbolic meanings, that the designer of each particular board wanted to tell. Each board is generally shown by an initial setup, the ending configuration, and a list of the pieces used and their specific movement rules for that board. Depending upon the board, one of these steps might be left out, but that would dramatically increase its difficulty, since the player would not know either how to begin, how to end, or how to move the pieces.

Similar to Gateway, the game of Spirit-Frog requires an Intelligence + Lore roll to successfully complete each individual board. Once completed, the solution is known thereafter. The difficulty to complete a board tends to be relatively low for boards intended to instruct children, but can easily be built to be very high. A threshold of five or even much higher is quite common. Using pure strategic intelligence is rarely enough due to the high number of successes required. An exceptionally strategic mind coulud complete the board, but even then its story is not necessarily known. Solving the strategy first grants the roll to understand the board bonus dice equal to the successes achieved beyond the threshold.

Understanding the story, or meaning, of the board requires a roll of (the highest of Perception or Wits) + Lore. Perceptive players generally use wisdom to solve the meaning, while witty players use intuition or inspired 'aha' moments. The difficulty of this roll is set by the storyteller depending upon the difficulty of the concept (1 or 2 for simple religious instruction for children, 4 or 5 for advanced philosophical concepts, perhaps as high as 10 to instruct on new ways of channeling Essence). With a success, the player receives a number of automatic successes to solve the strategy of the board equal to any extra successes beyond the threshold to understand the board + the player's permanent Essence.

Studying a particular board can increase knowledge of it. Uncovering a bit of its meaning can lead to greater skill at solving the strategy, which can lead to a more complete understanding of the meaning, which can lead... and so on, and so on. A streamlined solution of any Spirit-Frog board is both elegant and enlightened, and might be considered to be achieved once the player has acheived double the successes of each of the base difficulties for both understanding the board, and solving its strategy.

Whole books of Spirit-Frog boards can be purchased in places where Gateway is popular. Spirit-Frog is rarely popular due to its subtle, non-competitive nature, but tournaments are still held every year on the Blessed Isle. Some savants enjoy the challenge of solving boards, or creating new ones. Theoretically, any meaningful concept could be conveyed through a Spirit-Frog board. Constructing a board requires an Intelligence + Lore equal to the difficulty of the concept to convey (i.e. the difficulty of the story to be solved by the player on their Perception or Wits + Lore roll). Intentionally increasing the difficulty of the strategic part of the board to challenge players is generally a Perception + War roll.

As a final note, some Spirit-Frog boards do not always use the Lore ability for the two solution rolls (to understand the meaning, and then solve the board). More strategically or militarily aligned boards might use the War ability for the solution rolls. Boards that have more to do with supernatural creatures, Essence manipulation, or other such esoteric matters might use the Occult ability for the solution rolls.

There is some indication that the game of Spirit-Frog is older than the Gateway board, given its varied use of pieces and movement rules. Conceivably, any board or pieces could be adapted to use with Spirit-Frog (but would require creating an entirely differing board specific to that gameboard). It is likely that the Gateway board was simply adapted for use with Spirit-Frog after the rise of Gateway's popularity.
“Power is the ultimate authority, and violence is the ultimate means to take and keep that authority.”

--The Autumn Ruin, explaining her (perhaps narrow) personal philosophy



"Demons eat little girls-- even when they are hiding from the monsters. So, you might as well look them in the eye, because at least that way you can save your soul."

--Sesus Alon Sekli, aka Weeping Triumph
 
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Re: Rules

28 Nov 2006, 17:29

Azure Heart wrote:
A botch might land the toy in a kite-eating tree.


Someone else reads Peanuts, I see. XD;
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29 Nov 2006, 18:46

Bro, you continue to amaze.

Though at the rate we both have a weekend free, you might finish her entire backstory before you get a chance to play her. :P

You write children well, I think. Better than I know how to do, anyway. Also, you write the dimensions of a child's world very well.

Nicely done.
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30 Nov 2006, 15:10

Kailan wrote:
Someone else reads Peanuts, I see. XD;


Indeed. Who doesn't? And seriously, there probably are trees that consume things somewhere in Exalted.

fallstavia wrote:
You write children well, I think. Better than I know how to do, anyway. Also, you write the dimensions of a child's world very well.


Thanks, bro. I appreciate the compliment. I'm trying to follow the guidelines in the Dragon-Blooded books as closely as I can/feel like. Especially how the Dynastic scions are not children like we think of children because of the expectations they are held to, and all. I've actually been quite surprised that there's more in the First Edition DB book about the life of a Dynast than in 2nd Ed. DB book, or even in the Compass of Celestial Directions: Blessed Isle. Of course, the newer books have more expanded information about other topics.

Anyway, I appreciate knowing people are reading, and would appreciate any feedback that anyone has for me. I can't promise anything, but I'd definitely consider experimenting with new styles or whatever-- if people would like to see certain things, or whatever. Thanks for reading :)
“Power is the ultimate authority, and violence is the ultimate means to take and keep that authority.”

--The Autumn Ruin, explaining her (perhaps narrow) personal philosophy



"Demons eat little girls-- even when they are hiding from the monsters. So, you might as well look them in the eye, because at least that way you can save your soul."

--Sesus Alon Sekli, aka Weeping Triumph
 
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02 Dec 2006, 15:30

Actually, one bit of praise.

I've noticed you've transitioned from denser, thicker paragraphs into a more spaced manner of writing. I think that's an excellent move. It helps with readability and concept flow quite a bit. Contrast to Chen's original story that you wrote, or the Savage Grace/Chen work you did later, both of which were fewer, thicker paragraphs.

I just want to encourage you to keep writing as you're writing now. :)
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