[FICATHON] Strong Infection, for [livejournal.com profile] angevin2

Sep. 3rd, 2012 05:41 pm
[identity profile] lareinenoire.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] thisengland
Title: Strong Infection
Author: [livejournal.com profile] speak_me_fair
Play: Richard II
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] angevin2
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Richard/Aumerle, Richard/Henry UST, Richard/Anne (past)
Warnings: AU. Zombie AU. Corpse Imagery. Fire. Tombs. Nightmares. Implied Sex. Richard POV.
Rating: R for imagery.
Notes: Historical age!Isabelle while everyone else really isn't. Sorry...
Summary: When there's an unidentified plague in Europe, shipping over a corpse from Italy just might be the most terrible plan in the history of terrible planning. Then again, who needs a reason to start setting things on fire? In which (mostly) everyone stays alive, brains are a highly prized commodity, Henry looks good in firelight, Richard is Richard, Edward is long-suffering, and no-one wants to know about Hal and the Percies.

Strong Infection

The one thing everyone can agree on is that the whole thing, including, or perhaps especially, the fact that the dead are arising from their sanctified graves, is all Richard's fault.

Which, considering that none of them can be brought to agree on anything else, up to and including how to dispose of re-killed corpses in varying states of decomposition (and in one particularly revolting case, deliquescence, but they don't talk about that particular instance because someone always, always ends up needing to be very sick if they do) this is something of an achievement.

Even Richard admits that it's his fault, and from a man who has shown every sign throughout his life of firmly believing that he was not only ordained by God to be King, but simultaneously ordained to be completely free of all wrong-doing at all times — even, or perhaps especially when right in the middle of said act — this is almost impressive.

It would be even more impressive, as Kate Percy points out in a moment of rare public tactlessness

(that she must be tactless in private is a given, considering the particular specimen of unstoppable ranting that she married)

if his admission hadn't come with the attendant problem of revivified and distinctly aromatic corpses who are constantly starving for living human flesh, but most people are inclined, these days, to take what they can get.

If all that happens to be is Richard's mumbled admission that it was, just possibly, an incredibly stupid idea to have the body of John Hawkwood brought back to England in the middle of Europe's mysterious (until then) plague, then so be it.

"Take what you can get, and don't pretend to be grateful you have to," Harry Percy likes to say, right before someone (usually his wife) hits him very hard with the nearest object. No-one is completely sure whether this is because Kate disagrees, or because she just likes hitting him, and with those two it's generally considered a wiser plan not to ask.

They have a very nasty habit of answering. In detail.

And the fact that Kate now stands at Harry's side in war as well as at court (always one and the same, Edward would have said once, when no-one ever laughed at his humour but Richard. No-one at all would laugh these days, not now that it is so horribly true, not now that Richard's court is the war, the last of it that they know to be standing against what England has become) has only given new spark to her ever-ready verbal tinder.

Kate and Harry Percy, misplaced and self-bastardised children in a glittering court of love, throwbacks to a wild chivalry that Richard suspects never existed, are now become Richard's fierce and midnight captains in his court of death and fire; and are of his own begetting.

They are his own to claim the fathering of, more than if he had been their seeding.

He calls them his with pride, and he gives them the unthinking love he had once thought he would bestow upon his heirs.


"A mercenary," Henry Bolingbroke will sometimes moan. "Of all the people to bring Europe's pestilence here, Richard chooses a damned mercenary. Because we can't have peaceful living dead, who just want to eat us, can we? We have to have a self-perpetuating army of them."

His oldest son tends to point out that it doesn't really make any difference, since army or not, all they seem to want to do is eat people, but it's quite possible that he's just arguing for the hell of it, and to make the little vein on the side of his father's head throb even harder.

Besides, Hal was the one who worked out that fire is a very, very efficient way of re-killing the no-longer-interred. People tend to let a lot slide for that moment of inspiration.

Harry Percy, in particular, will let anything he chooses to do be called a good deed, and for a reason that is among the many things not to be mentioned.

Northumberland was among the first to rise from the numberless dead in London's streets to take his place in the mindless, soulless army of the hungering charnelhouse.

And Hal resorted to fire and arrows and a blind leap of half-ridiculous faith to do what Harry's sword could not, and send Northumberland's body to join his soul.

As far as Richard knows, Hal has never been thanked for his actions by the man to whom they meant the most.

But then, they never speak of it in his hearing, and probably never will. It touches too closely on the things none of them want discussed.

And besides, there are things he knows he should remain unaware of, must remain unaware of, for as long as he wants to play the part of their monarch with any success — and their moments of frailty, of fragility; their armour-cracks, their burgeoning places of metal-corrosion, are among them.


Take what you can get, and don't pretend to be grateful.

Richard sometimes thinks they should have it as their new motto.

He is privately convinced that Harry Percy has already got it embroidered on a banner somewhere, ready for the day they can use banners again.

Richard can't see that day coming any time soon.

They can have fires (of course) so there is hot food and hot water and reasonably defrosted stone rooms, but there are no bright colours any more, and there's no metal that isn't a weapon or armour, and there's no music to fill the moments of exhausted silence which isn't some camp song or, more rarely, someone trying very badly to play one of the abandoned instruments.

(Richard could play better than any of them, but there are some things, still, he cannot be seen to do in public — never mind what 'public' has become. Some barriers are too ingrained.)

Because the undead, the walking corpses, the plague-ridden? They absolutely love things that are bright or shiny or eye-catching or loud in any way — and above all, they love those things to be cold.

Jewels, as several people have learned to their cost, are a really, appallingly bad idea.

If it weren't for the spectacularly useful nature of armour and mail, such as teeth breaking on it, Richard would probably have been forced to ban those too. As it is, things that break teeth are accepted by all as a wonderful plan, and are embraced accordingly.

"Gages," Harry Percy says, almost peaceful in his approval. "Hit 'em in the face."

"With your fist, yes, please do get that close to them deliberately, we could all do with the laugh," Edward responds in the same tones.

No-one would ever guess, looking at them, that they are only a few hours and several wine-flasks away from having done the one thing neither Henry or Richard could bring themselves to manage, and beheading the dying Gaunt before burning his corpse.

His ashes will go to the Abbey — when it can be reached. For now, they sit in an urn on the table, carefully not-looked at or acknowledged.

They've all forgotten how mourning should be done. No-one wants to submit to ceremony any longer, not when it means thinking of the dead to whom that ceremony had once been given, and to whom now nothing remains but the mercy of fire.

"But you should try it first," Harry says, slurred and earnest, and Edward sighs.

"Oh, do tell me why..."

"Because that would make me laugh —"

"Yes, I can't think why that wasn't my primary concern..."

Six months ago, Richard would have been waiting for the bickering to descend into something more, something he had to stop. Now their voices still grate, their never quite-discarded antagonism still makes his skin prickle; but there's those six months there, six months of fighting together against the animate dead, and it's a comfort to hear their worn tongue-and-groove exchanges; the touch of it against the air has become familiar and almost soft, like old linen.

Richard has become acquainted with old linen, too, of recent times, and its surprising softness. Lawn and silks don't last, under metal.

Nothing lasts, any more, except the metal, and one day even that will corrode.

But then he had known that long before he brought Hawkwood, and the plague that was already stirring in his coffin, over to the country he had sworn to protect.

Nothing lasts.


Of them all, it is Richard who is the least horrified when they discover just what Europe's plague is; that the word in the dispatch which should have been used was not raging but rather ravenous; that he himself had ordered it to be brought to his realm; that the havoc death wreaks upon those loved and honoured and buried is in fact unspeakable.

He has always known, after all, that to die shriven is of benefit only to the soul departing, and no comfort at all to those left behind. All the White Death (for that is what they call it, a strange homage to Hawkwood's old Company, an odd acceptance of how it came to devastate England) proves is that he was right.

There are greater horrors he can imagine (has imagined, will forever imagine) than that of the mindless dead seeking the flesh of the living; there is a particular personal guilt he might have been forced to carry in a way that no admission of error on his part could ever assuage.

He might have followed through with Henry Bolingbroke's order of banishment.

And if he had — if he had, if he had followed the advice of Henry's own father and made his word a command — if he had done that, then it might have been Henry who brought the White Death to their shores — no, it would have been Henry, for living or dead, nothing could have kept him from England for long, and Richard knows it.

If Richard had done that —

If he had enforced that command —

If he had, if he had, and the world had still descended into hell, then Hal would have discovered the power of fire against his own father's living corpse, and the Hotspur of the North would have left for his own lands before the Death arrived on its doomed ship, and Edward would have been left isolated with him in Westminster —

If he had, then the first time Hal found fire and pitch and destruction would have been the last he ever created in Richard's name.

If he had obeyed what he knew to be true, and duty, and right, and not heeded his own misgivings, if he had sent Henry away to become the stuff of hitherto unknown nightmares, then the worst would still have come; and when the army of the ravening dead had still taken everything from them, if there had been no-one left then who knew anything of a war not held in the tiltyard to stand with him, for him, to do what he could not —

He will not think of what Henry and Edward did for him that night amidst the dead of Westminster, now or ever, he will not think of it, he will not think of Edward attempting that alone, he will not think of that night and doors that would have been unwatched by Harry and Kate, and a gallery above them all without the burning presence of Hal and his pitch-flaming arrows, he will not think of it.

He will not think of Anne. He cannot.

There is a queen to share his throne, a queen young (so young, too young, but he had thought they would have time, he had thought to buy time with her youth, time for them both; time for her safety from the predators of Europe, time for his own mourning to run its course) and alive and breathing and alive, alive, alive, his heart beats out sometimes when he sees her with Henry's children, young themselves, soldiers all, with playthings of metal.

He cannot think of Anne mindless, of the body he loved rotting and moving and moved by some obscene force — and in the end, burned.

He cannot, and he will not.

It is too close to his imaginings.

(he remembers the next morning, the morning after the Abbey, he remembers Henry's grey pallor, remembers the way Edward would not come to his bed, remembers Harry and Kate looking rarely young, their hands clinging together when they thought no-one could see, remembers the purple-dark stains of a tired child under Hal's eyes and the darker shadows within them, but he will not think about it)

Richard will not think of what did happen, nor of what did not, nor of what could have, he will not think if I had, if I had, he will not think worse than all the worst that has come and will come

He will not think about or contemplate errors greater than any he has yet committed.

He knows only this, that if he had acted then as he was told by Gaunt that a true king should, and committed himself wholly and utterly to the power of his given word, he would have unleashed more horror upon the world, upon his little world (which is all that is left, now) than he can safely think of.

He has become more expert than Hal's arrows are at finding their mark, more precise than the honed edge of the Percies' swords, at not thinking of things.


The one thing the unfortunately-still-moving-dead are not very good at is scaling walls. They have problems with ladders, spatial recognition, and understanding the concept of handholds (or at least handholds that don't leave the hand in the holding place and try to carry on without it).

Besides, there's always the fact that when they try, Hal's men tend to enjoy the chance of a little fire-arrow practise, so it never becomes too much of a problem.

Going outside, therefore, is never really something which causes anyone to worry, especially given the number of fires in any given yard at any given time, and Richard likes to take full advantage of the fact, even at night.

Perhaps more than ever at night, when there should be more to fear. Daylight seems like trickery these days.

It does not surprise him when he is joined by Henry.

Shadow and firelight suit him, always have; they make his hard face softer and more angled at once; they turn what can look blockish and sullen in the direct light of candles or sun into something more detailed, a chiaroscuro of subtlety that reflects the man himself more than the openness of the day ever manages.

Henry in a firelit courtyard is the man few are ever privileged to see, the man they all know exists because of what he does and how he acts, and who is never, if he can help it, shown to the world.

Shadows and movement give Richard a mask — he knows this and plays upon it; bereft now of glitter and beauty to cast their illusions for him, he must resort to cruder methods. But Henry is stripped of his concealment, as though what is usually mere outline is shaded in rather than blotted out. All Richard can see of him properly now is the faint lines of his mouth; the hollows of his eyes, the dip in his chin.

It should reduce him to a skull, make him indistinguishable from the dead beyond the walls. Instead he looks more alive than ever, even planed down as he is to a few touches of light and the hollowed shades between.

"You are going to win this war for me," Richard says at last, and Henry says simply, "Yes, I know."

Their children play with weapons or have become forged into ones themselves, and while it is Richard who loves their worth, it is Henry who knows best how to use and control that same power.

Henry, who has more to lose now than Richard, who has only his dead kingdom and his empty title and his hollow crown to fight for.

Henry's family is real, alive, and still vulnerable, not born of fire and death and made harder than the metal they wear, not yet and perhaps not ever.

Richard's family was chosen for him by a plague that brought corpses from the ground, it was forged rather than born, and he knows he would not exchange them, not for the world, neither the old world of joy nor the new one of grim survival. But Henry's was born of love and the sweetness of a good marriage, it was God-given, bestowed, a natural result of continuing life.

There was a chasm between them before, one of beliefs and rights and actions neither understood, but Richard thinks now that perhaps they could have crossed it, given time.

This one, newly opened within this time when their understanding of one another is complete, will always lie between them, even if they survive — the chasm that lies in knowing that while Henry gave England new lives to foster and nourish, Richard brought only a living death.

And they cannot unknow this.

Even if they win, even if they survive the winning, even if Richard sees Isabelle grow to maturity and become his wife in fact as well as name, his queen in truth, there will always be this time lying behind them, barren and festering, the knowledge of what, at the last and in the worst of times, they each brought to their country.

Even if they win, the rot-tainted abyss will lie between them.

Even, if what they tell each other is true and not mere hope, even when they win, it will still lie there.

"There's something... pure, in what we're doing," Henry says, as though contradicting what Richard has never said aloud, but Richard only smiles, and tastes the smoke in the cold air as he breathes it in, and makes no reply.

There are too many things he will not allow to escape his thoughts or his tongue, and so he does not speak. And they stand amidst stone walls, in night and shadow and firelight, and are silent.

I could have loved you more than them all, says Richard's silence.

I love you more than those to whom I should give it all, says Henry's.

But the chasm remains.


The hall is rarely empty, even at midday, when most people sleep away the hours in which the dead retreat, but at night it is more full than when Richard held his Christmas court with Anne at his side. King of a dead land he may well be, but his people still live, and are more fiercely, vibrantly aware of their life and its flame than they have ever been.

Hal and Kate play a strange combination of dice and queeks, Harry watching them with heavy-lidded amusement on his face and filthy-worded encouragement in his mouth, and Richard tries not to notice that they are using knives instead of counters when they throw in, or that Kate's hair is now cropped above her ears in an identical manner to Hal's.

From the back, she looks more of a boy than he — the last months of constant armour-wearing have broadened Hal's shoulders into manhood, and his mail shirt hangs from them much like Harry's does. Kate, with her curves flattened and concealed by the weight of her own chainmail, could be a new squire, a child not even at his full height as yet.

It is only when she moves that the illusion is destroyed, the quicksilver gesture of hand and wrist and arm flashing outward sharper than the poniard she holds.

Harry's eyes might be shadowed by their lids, but Richard knows very well that the look in them is one of desire, that Kate plays this game not to entertain the easily-bored Hal, but to draw out the other game that belongs to her and Harry alone — though in recent times, Richard has become unsure of that last, and added it to his list of things he cannot know, and cannot hint at suspecting, and above all, cannot even consider asking.

They are too far away, after all, for him to know which of them Harry's look has fixed upon, or whether it truly goes between them with the progress of the game.

Edward and Isabelle sit together, heads bent over Edward's vihuela as his blunt-tipped fingers place her small white hands over the strings. He touches her as though she were made of glass, fine-blown and easily broken, and there is a kind of clumsy delicacy to his correcting movements.

The effort it takes her to pluck at the strings can clearly be seen in her strained face, though the smile she is wearing shows more than ever how beautiful she will be in years to come.

Richard knows the melody well, halting and mangled though it is by the efforts of two players, one of whom cannot hold the vihuela steady, even with her full arm, and play at the same time, and the other hampered by his attempts to guide her toward the right notes and keep instrument and girl upright at the same time.

They are both laughing a little, Isabelle flushed with effort and pleasure and delight, Edward with embarrassment at being forced to teach something he is so very bad at himself in the full view of others.

Appalling though their efforts are at accompanying the song, their voices are strangely suited, Isabelle's sweet high voice, without timbre or emphasis, carrying over Edward's half-muttered rumble.

"Mia irmana fremosa, treides comigo
a la igreja de Vigo u é o mar salido
e miraremos las ondas..."

My sweet sister,
Richard thinks, half amused and half moved, and wonders if Edward chose this deliberately, not for the simplicity of its melody, but for the words. Come with me and look at the waves.

Isabelle, who has gained a family too, amidst a horror she could never have imagined even from the worst of her nurse's tales. Edward's sweet sister, good God, who could have ever thought that this —!

"A la igreja de Vigo u é o mar levado
e verrá i mia madre e o meu amado
e miraremos las ondas."

Strange how Isabelle's voice renders the meaning obsolete, the purity of it removing all hidden messages.

My mother and my lover will come, and we will look at the waves.

Is this her choice, then, after all, rather than Edward's?

But Edward glances up, and his eyes are dark and deliberate when he looks at Richard, and his smile is a half-hidden curve, and very private.

Whoever had chosen it originally, the reason Edward is joining Isabelle in his own approximation of song is suddenly very clear.

"Will we go to Vigo?" Isabelle asks, letting her hands fall, and Edward stops smiling. "Will you take me? Take us? One day?"

"I am not sure where it is," Edward says, startled and laughing. "But yes. One day."

"When you find it," Isabelle says, and giggles. "On a map. You do know maps?"

"Yes, you horrible child," Edward says, Edward who forgets about formality these days as they all do, except to Richard, and never sees how those sole moments of remembering give him away, "I do indeed know maps. I am quite sure the King will lend me one."

"He'll lend you the look at one," Richard corrects him, coming over to them. "If I give it over to your not-so-tender care, even for an hour, you'll lose it or drop ink on it or feed it to your dogs. But I'll let you look at one."

"You are too kind, sire," Edward says, and his eyes are as heavy-lidded as Harry's were, watching Kate and Hal with the knives and dice and the drawn-out chequerboard.

Isabelle looks between them for a moment, and then shrugs. "You're ridiculous," she says to them both in her clear, carrying voice, and slides off the bench, straightening her skirts before making her way over to where a beleaguered-looking Henry is trying to play peacemaker between Humphrey and Blanche.

"A lost cause," Edward says, looking at them, and Henry's exasperated expression.

"You could always demonstrate how you excel at those," Richard points out.

"Ah, but not until the sun rises."

"No, not until then."

Neither of them smile. Night has become their day, and day their night, and the world has reversed itself too many times for even Edward to find humour in it any longer.

Richard sometimes thinks that of all the losses the White Death has forced upon him, it is that secretive amusement, half-hidden like Edward's smile, which he misses the most.


Late morning, now, and not the night, is when secrets are played out.

In days before, Richard only ever had one daylight lover, and that his wife, and had gloried in seeing her lit by sun, Anne wrapped in morning light as though it were the finest of gauzed silks, the long brown-gold of her hair like a cloak of fallen leaves over her back and shoulders; Anne at evening, reflecting the glow of sunset as though she had become a beech tree in autumn, her skin holding gold and red and strange bright russets, a patchwork of reflection.

He lost the colours of the world long before the demands of the dead made the dullness into a forced action for them all.

Edward holds no reflected colours in his tanned skin. He is too much, still, of the hunter, the tiltyard knight, the man of a midday sun and old red-brown scorching, to have that rarified reflective pallor to any parts of him.

He is no finely-made thing of joy, no vessel of delight, and the laughter that always shimmered under his dull surface, his hidden light, has long since left him; he is thick-set and heavy and his hands are square and wide, they are blunt-tipped and calloused and rough, no matter how gentle he tries to make his touch.

Henry in the firelight and shadows is more a thing of beauty, more pleasing to the eye, than Edward will ever be.

And yet it is Edward whom Richard chooses to have as his bedfellow, it is Edward whom Richard sleeps beside under the blaze of noon, it is Edward, who wears roughened skin even on his shoulders from years of jousting armour and its rubbing edges, who is the daylight lover now.

His hands are always warm, even though the skin is hard; he will never convey cool comfort with a touch, but only an earthbound steadiness.

His blood does not run through him with feverish desire or chilled fear, he is as he is, whatever he may be thinking or feeling — and oh, but he can feel joy, Richard has seen it, and grief and fear too, it is only that his body never betrays him, never reveals even what he might wish to show.

Richard feels sometimes that to kiss him is to press his mouth to sun-warmed earth, the deep richness of it hidden beneath a dry and faintly summer-scented surface, all the layers of what it contains burned away at the very top of it to leave an almost bland exterior.

His own hands are more forceful in their bed than they have ever been before, he digs his fingers into Edward's skin as though he were that soil indeed, and Richard could reach down to find its secrets, could press through that toughened layer to where darkness nourishes roots.

Edward is kind, and the bulk and strength of his flesh is hard as bone at times beneath Richard's fingers, and he is unyielding in his kindness, it is a force all its own, a bedrock that does not falter, it is almost frightening in the way Richard cannot make it relent and give in to sharp lust and half-cruel demand.

(He will never make Edward into Robert, and in a strange way that is a relief, for Edward will never leave or have to be sent away to save them both.)

There is nothing beautiful to Edward, in light or shade, except his love — and that, if nothing else, is a reflection of the skies' glory that Richard knows, one that needs neither sunset nor a pale and silvered spider-web morning to illuminate, for he has seen it before, and has courage enough to recognise it, even if he is not sure he can ever return it in full, as it deserves.

In a world of cold metal and empty stone streets and the walking, burning dead, Edward is all warmth and life and untainted by nightmare, a steady glow rather than a burning flame. There is nothing of sun-on-water in his composition, he cannot be blinded by some swift and all-possessing emotion. He endures, he is durable, he is as much the bedrock of Richard's broken world as his strange kindness is of his own nature.

He gives Richard a strange equality, behind the curtains of the canopied bed, he will bruise or be bruised and never call either possession, and his desire for Richard's body is as constant as his heart.

Nothing lasts, and Richard knows this.

But sometimes he thinks, as he gasps for air against Edward's mouth, and imagines he draws it free from Edward's lungs into his own, as his hands grip tightly enough to meet bone through the strong muscles that lie over Edward's ribs, that for something to last for now might be enough, might suffice.

It lasts long enough, after all, to give him peace and comfort enough that he can find sleep, and fear only dreams and not his own could-have-been, might-have-been deeds.


Hal leads raids into London, and the graveyards burn.

Kate's hair stays short, and they have all almost forgotten there was a time when she wore jewels and silks and made all men wonder why it should be word-slurring, graceless Harry who won her, Harry who burns with a wildfire all his own, untouchable and incomprehensible even now.

Henry commands the living, and Richard rules them, and Edward and Isabelle are more family to one another, now, than ever Henry's quarrelling brood might manage.

The walls stand firm, and the fires never die out, and Hal raids for more than burning, these days, would-be gamekeeper turned expert poacher, Hal the daylight thief.

The dead begin to lie still in their burning tombs, and Richard kneels in the wreckage of the Abbey and prays to the only saint he has ever admitted into his philosophy, and lets himself think of what happened on that one terrible night, and is grateful he never saw it, and grateful to those who ensured he was kept safe from those images and that knowledge.

Edward protects his body, and Henry encompasses his heart, and perhaps that is not the end of days, nor an impassable chasm, but only a new widening of the broken world, the world that is moving out beyond the streets of London, beyond the walls of Westminster, the world that will soon be reached, in the places that may have yet remained as they have done.

And as dawn begins to touch their midday night, and Richard sits amidst his warlord captains and talks of sending messengers soon, Harry Percy looks up with the old flame in his eyes, the steady burning of belief that Richard has not seen without the taint of near-insanity for so very long, and says —

"We should send to Scotland, then. When we — when we can. When we can, we could — I could write."

"No you can't," Hal says cheerfully, and Kate, predictably, hits him.

"What in the name of God is left in Scotland?" asks a disbelieving Henry, and Blanche and Isabelle laugh, girls with a secret, girls growing up, children so very alive and so very knowing, who listen at doors and know more than the spies from the time before.

But it is Kate who answers, and her voice is soft with joy.

"The Douglas," she says, and her hand is curled into Harry's, and Hal's eyes are wide with gleeful delight, and Henry is saying "Good God, and I had forgotten—"

And Edward smiles, the old half-hidden curve, and murmurs, tasteless and irreverent and irrelevant, "Why Harry, I never knew you to favour a style of cloak before—"

And Richard laughs, is the only one to laugh, as he always was, as he always will be at Edward's terrible humour, and for one brief moment, his world is made not of dull metal, but of sheer and gold-glimmering delight.

Henry had been right, in the firelit courtyard and the despairing shadows, right and yet wrong, too.

They are not winning the war begun by Hawkwood's body.

They have already won it.
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geeking out on shakespeare's histories

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