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He had been guarding the object for a very long time. Long enough, and deep enough, down deep below the groaning, shifting plates of the earth, where the ground beneath his feet was warm to the touch, this hollowed out nest of ash and ancient whispers, he had stood, he had waited. His knuckles had grown large and nobbled, his knees creaked a little more and moved a little less easily. His beard, long since white and wiry, hung in intricate braids, braids knotted with the patience and shaking of arthritic hands, made beautiful by time and only time, this never ending amount of time, that kept him here, withered face flushed with the heat of it, the earth rumbling above and below him as though the angels and the demons were minutes away from all consuming war.

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