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'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' Role Playing Game.

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Paris, 1480.

"Ball"
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Clopin

 Making his painful way to Abigail's tent, he attempted to sort through his memories of the previous night. It had started out with some concocted fete---gypsies are good at nothing if not inventing elaborate reasons to celebrate---and then there had been a humiliating incident involving Cosette---no, never mind, he had no desire to remember the details of that part of the evening---and then they'd brought the girl in. He could remember little about her except that she seemed to be a gypsy, and there had been an arrow in her shoulder. Then the others carried her down to the court. From there into Abigail's tent. And then he'd romped off to indulge himself yet again, and then he'd woken up.

All in all, a notorious succession of hours. 

He found a quiet corner to give himself a moment's rest. A dingy bucket of water sat abandoned, and he absently tugged off a glove and doused his face with the brackish water. It was time to think some quiet, logical thoughts.

Well, if there was a girl who'd been shot at, there were several possibilities. The first was that some homicidal idiot had mistaken her for somebody else. Some hazy-brained soldier in the mood to target anything suspicious that moved.

Unlikely. As much as his respect for the guards was at a healthy minimum, he doubted that an error of such gravity would be committed. Not with a bow and arrow, at least. He could see the girl with a dagger in her ribs, or catching a blow to the head; but not such an elaborate weapon.

Another possibility: some madman was loosing volleys of arrows at anything that moved. Or anything female that moved. Or anything gypsy that moved. 

That could be easily discounted. If it were true, reports of other such random skewerings would have reached him---or at least, he liked ot think they would have reached him. 

And, lastly: that this girl had done something that merited her being shot at. Whether it had been a mistaken offense, or an outright crime was the uncertainty. She might, he mused, have broken a dish---or she might have beheaded an infant.

He detested how graphic his imagination became whenever he was hungover.

Clopin sighed and pulled the glove back on, feeling the water dry on his hot face. He stood up slowly, his vision fuzzing.

Well, there was no more to be done. He would contact some of the better spies and set them on the notion. In the meantime---perhaps a man in the tent. No, Abigail wouldn't allow it, and he had no desire to confront Abigail again anytime soon. Very well then---a man outside the tent. He needn't be obvious---just a strong, capable sentry within a few yards of the door, and within a few inches of a sharp knife. And he would warn Herlikin, Abigail, and Tshaliba to take care. The girl couldn't do much with a speared shoulder--- perhaps not ever again, if the wound was bad. 

There was time enough to sort these things out. In the meantime...

"How are you feeling, Clopin Trouillefou?" a firm, reedy voice said. He winced and found himself gazing at a sturdy pair of feet, which he traced up to the body of Tshaliba. She made a gesture of apology, her dark face tightening with an amused smile. "I'll talk more softly," she whispered.

"Clearly you know very well how I'm doing," Clopin muttered mournfully back. 

"Do you feel up to paying our guest a visit? She's alive and about, and I suspect that she and Herlikin are serving to make each other uneasy. You might settle things down." Tshaliba pressed back an already neat diklo and smiled wryly.

"Well," Clopin said, extending his arm to the younger awenydd. "Anything for a lady." 

Tshaliba nodded cordially and patted his wrist. "We'll find something for that head of yours, too," she hummed, and they started slowly and evenly towards Abigail's tent. 

He prayed that he would arrive in the tent to find three equally civilized creatures.

Jehan & Imerald

 Jehan paired himself up with a younger man a bit skinnier than he, with blue eyes and sandy blonde hair. Jehan mounted Animus and followed the Lieutenant, holding his head high and looking around at the commoners.

Imerald had walked to the village to get some breakfast, finding that she had no money. She came upon a small cart selling fresh bread, "I could easily get some if I wanted to...", She thought. She looked around to see if anyone else was watching her.

Jehan and the Fox Patrol had just round a corner, coming upon a small bread cart it looked like just in front of the Boulangerie. He couldn't see anyone from where he was in the line, but he spotted a large dog walking out from the alley.

Imerald suddenly dashed across the street, not noticing the horse patrol rounding the corner, she grabbed a loaf of bread and then back down the alleyway.

Jade put his nose to the cobblestone street, smelling the horses he looked up and started to bark. He ran upon the horses, biting at their heels. The horses retaliated and get spooked. They jumped up, three of them throwing their riders and galloping off...

Jehan kicked at the dog and then yelled at Phoebus, "What are we doing Lieutenant?!" He glared at Phoebus behind his back, still wandering how the hell this nitwit got his job. 

Herlikin, Clopin & Isabella

Herlikin had always believed very strongly that she and her husband shared a very powerful bond, a soul interwoven that kept them alert to the other's thoughts, needs, and mischiefs. So Herlikin wasn't terribly surprised when a hacking cough from a throat dehydrated by over-indulgence the night previous heralded her husband's arrival at the tent. She merely raised a smug eyebrow, hid a dimple in the curve of her cheek and continued to grind the herbs as Abigail had instructed, for idle hands were not allowed in the awenydd's home. Barely five minutes had passed since Abigail and herself had agreed that Clopin speaking with the girl was imperative to her continued presence in the Court, and then other activities had been pursued so as to set the injured girl at ease, both women sitting quietly at either side of her. Abigail was busy heating her revered broth for Isabella, good for queasy stomachs, the sniffles, hang overs, cramps and almost any other mild affliction and also the only one of her remedies Herlikin staunchly refused to partake of: a key ingredient was beef, and this was a meat Herlikin would rather have her lips sliced from her face than eat. She avoided at all costs serving to her family, except when Clopin noticed its absence from his diet and demanded it. She found the eating of other meats equally distasteful, but beef in particular was an insult to her very nature. It was also the one thing Herlikin and her surrogate mother were continually at odds with each other over; Abigail reasoned a devotion to living beasts was still possible in combination with the partaking of their flesh, but to Herlikin the very idea was repulsive and an abhorrence. As the broth had begun to bubble over the small fire-orange stove, she'd made a point of pulling nauseated faces and grimacing, only to receive sharp, stinging glances from the coal black eyes which glimmered out at her from Abigail's lined features. A silent war had ensued over Isabella's dazed head, and Herlikin's hands were stained green from the powdered herbs spilling over the pestle as her concentration wandered from them.

Then there was the cough, followed by the scraping of weary boots, and another, deliberate and polite, cough, from just beyond the tent flap.

Herlikin snickered a little as Abigail had thrown back "Come in" in her soft, calm voice and then there was the whisper of canvas, and a pair of lanky, lovely legs had pulled their bedraggled owner in.
Herlikin dared a peek from a curtain of hair, and then turned to face her husband front on, greeting his bleary features with two amusedly incredulous eyebrows. He looked like Death scooped up from an abandoned hearth and warmed but slightly over a dismal stove. He'd not come home until the Court was well and truly sleeping, herself included, and when he had he had awoken her with his stumblings and then finally fallen asleep with himself half strewn over her body, hands looking to fondle even in that inebriated state.

She hated it when he binged like that, a habit which had been scarce in his youth, but becoming more frequent in his later years. He was a man who did nothing by halves and it had put him in no small amount of danger throughout the years. He was almost forty now and she was concerned the excessive drinking he could shake off with a shrug of the shoulders when he was twenty five would now be problematic in more ways than one. He was leaning heavily against Abigail's old chair in a posture that was intended to look casual, nonchalant, sociable, and perhaps the outsider would be fooled. But Herlikin could see the strained muscles in his shoulders, the unease in his gut. Punish him a little....but then take him home and make coffee, rub his temples and convince him to sleep awhile longer. She regretted her earlier defamations.

"As they say, speak of Shaitan and he'll come knocking on your doorstep" she commented out, keeping her voice dry. "Nice of you to join us, love. Is there a chance you remember Isabella?" with a slight gesture of curled fingers at the injured guest.

"Ball"

"Yes, chere," Clopin answered, squinting to see in the relative dark of the tent. "I don't easily forget such things."

Herli snorted quietly and turning away, ferociously crushing the mortal and pestle. After a few moments of searching his eyes at last hit upon Isabella's form. He gave a cautious look at Abigail, who gave the vaguest nod of assent. He turned back towards Isabella. With grim speed he folded his arms and took a sloping step towards her.

The girl tensed, and then grimaced and fingered her shoulder.

Clopin smiled gently and settled back on his heels. Yes, in this case, it was best to take on as unthreatening an air as he could. For now. "Allow me to introduce myself, mam'selle. I'm Clopin Trouillefou. There is a rumor around these parts that I'm in charge." He shrugged his shoulders playfully, and the girl's eyes began to lose their wary edge. "I'm afraid I can't substantiate them, but until they're proven wrong, you shall have to answer to me."

He smiled again, waiting for the girl's reaction. She looked small and rumpled in the dim light, a fine jawline hidden beneath an unruly tangle of hair. 
 

She stared back at him with large black eyes that were at once both frightened and amused. It was clear that one emotion had to win out over the other and it was not difficult for an observant eye to trace the battle being fought across her troubled features. The corners of her pale chapped lips twitched upwards a half second before her brow furrowed, bending the near smile to a slight frown. The frown was no more permitted than the smile though and it faded as she calmly inhaled. Blinking deliberately, her brow relaxed, tension visibly draining from the muscles in her arms and face. Her left hand that had till then been protectively clutching at the bandages on her shoulder, slowly dropped to her side.

Sensing a sort of acceptance in this movement, he leaned slightly forward - not much at all - only a matter of inches but before he had a chance to say anything she was scrambling backwards in a awkward flurry of terrified motion. She only managed to retreat few feet before her back hit an old wooden chest stuffed in the corner of the tent. With a muffled gasp she wrapped her arms around her legs and clutched them against her body. Still breathing hard she pressed her forehead against her knees, her tangled net of hair veiling her face and curling around her ankles. Herli and Abigail froze - perfect statues where they stood, the old awenydd's wooden spoon still hovering barely inches above the boiling broth. Momentarily stunned, Clopin had not even inhaled. In the tent - only fire, broth and animals seemed yet alive. 

A moment passed and the girl seemed to sense rather than see the attention focused on her. Raising her head gradually, she looked up. A clump of raven hair hung limply over her left eye - obscuring half her face but she would not unwrap an arm from her shins to push it back. Her right eye darted nervously between the three faces that watched her intently. She pressed her lips together forcing them into something that might have been meant to pass as a smile but ended up as more of a grimace. She swallowed hard. "I'm sorry...I don't know what..." Her voice wavered horsely then trailed off, unable to finish. 

Phoebus, Jehan, Eilis & Gael

Achilles backed up, tossing his head and threatening to rear. Hooves clacked on the the cobblestones as panicked horses skittered right and left, knocking pedestrians aside like tenpins. Cursing, Phoebus wheeled Achilles in a circle to keep him from bolting. Three soldiers down, one horse tangled in a vegetable cart, numerous damage to civilians; his quick eyes took stock of the situation at a glance, while his mind had already turned to the real problem at hand.

"Jehan, come with me!" he yelled, and kicked his horse into a handgallop - heading in a completely different direction from that taken by the gypsy. 

He knew he was taking a chance, bolting down this alley, but if memory served correctly ... yes. With a screeching of iron on stone, they wheeled out of the narrow alley and ground to a halt at the mouth of the very alley the thief had run down. And there she was, bolting towards them, stopping in horror at the sight of them, caught between them, and the soldiers in the street she'd left behind.

"Ball"

CLANK, went the metal bottom of the tankard which the man near the door slammed back to the table surface. He raised one heavy, scarred hand to wipe away fragments of foamy head that clung to his mustache, and leaned across the table to speak to his woman companion.

What he said could not be written in French, or English, because of course it was neither. The words were long, whispering ones, softly rolling off the tongue without the broad, fleshy sounds of French; a beautiful language. Spoken by this man, it was still beautiful, but it sounded rather more like the hissing of a snake: dry and threatening as the rasp of salt-burned driftwood over steel.

Broadly translated, what he said could be written as this:

"I've been meaning to speak to you."

The woman shifted uncomfortably in her chair, and answered in the same. Her eyes remained locked on the surface of the table, as though the grain of the wood was deeply fascinating. 

"What about? What have I done this time, brother?"

The man's hand twitched, as though he longed to slap her, just for that tiny fragment of insolence, but did not quite dare.

"That depends," he hissed, sounding more and more snakelike, for the baring of his teeth and the flickering of his ice-blue eyes. "Fergus has been boasting that he's bedded you. What's the truth of it? And don't you dare lie to me."

"Is that why you took all the skin off his back last night," the woman sounded utterly unconcerned with the fate of this supposed lover. "He lies, Gael. I know what's good for me." Two silver bracelets slid down her arm to her wrist, clinking gently. Her eyes switched their scrutiny to them, as if still she did not dare to look her brother in the eye. 

"Ball"

Jehan's head snapped towards the voice, he reeled Animus around, following the golden haired Captain into the alleyway. "What in the bloody hell does he think he's doing?" Jehan muttered under his breath.

He pulled Animus to a stop and looked down the alley, seeing the blonde woman scramble towards them, looking over her shoulder as she did so...

Jehan looked at Phoebus and almost laughed aloud as the stupid thief had not even noticed the two soldiers before her. He put his hand on the butt of his sword, ready to dismount at any second.

"Ball"

Imerald ran as fast as she could, looking over her shoulder and whistling for the dog. She turned to see where she was going and a look of horror crossed her face. She saw the two soldiers standing before her. She wondered if she could run past them..."No..their horses are too big..", she thought. She stopped in front of them and smiled sheepishly at them, gasping for her breath, looking around like a wild animal trying to find a way to escape. She turned around ready to head the other way, seeing that the other soldiers had steadied their horses and were blocking that way. She had no other way to get out but up...She looked up, seeing there was no way out. She sighed and put the bread down, knowing that she was defeated. She glanced over at Phoebus and then Jehan, making eye contact with both of them for the first time.

Her blue eyes burned through Jehan, he had never seen eyes like that ever in his life. The woman was tall, she looked about 20, her long blonde hair was nothing like that of a normal gypsy for most of them he had seen were dark headed. He refrained himself from smiling at her, for she was a gorgeous woman, prettier than the ones at the military balls he had attended.

He jumped off of Animus and grabbed her by the wrist, then grabbing her other arm, pulling them behind her back. "What shall I do with her Captain?", he said looking at Phoebus.

Imerald sighed, dropping the bread as the soldier grabbed her wrist. She would struggle, but she knew that she couldn't get away...this was hopeless.....

"Ball"

Phoebus' eyes widened in shock at the sight of this thief. She was gorgeous. It was too bad, really, her choice of occupation ...

"Cloiron!" he yelled, bringing forth the skinny soldier Jehan had ridden beside. "Take her back to the Palace of Justice and tell the Captain what happened. Unless you'd like to take her, Frollo?" He smirked good-naturedly at Jehan, arching an eyebrow at the gentle grip he had on the gypsy girl's wrists, and the stunned look that lingered on his face.

"Ball"

"Soldiers!" hissed a serving wench at the door of the Bells and Motley. "They're coming here!"

Like magic, half the custom disappeared discreetly into the back room, and thus out the rear door into the alley back of the tavern.

The strange man Gael and his sister, however, stayed exactly where they were. 

"Why aren't we leaving, Gael? You can see the rest of the criminals sneaking out the back way," said the woman snidely. Gael slammed his fist on the table and leaned towards her. His teeth were bared.

"Hold your poisoned tongue, woman, or I'll cut it out! You'll make some man a better wife mute." And there was not one doubt that he meant it. His sister's quick eyes, though, caught the subtle shifting of his position, so that his sword was effectively concealed in the shadow of the doorjamb.

"I will then," she said, quietly enough, but her eyes flashed, badly concealed rage dancing in their depths. 

Clopin, Isabella & Herlikin

"Mam'selle," he said softly. "Let me first assure you that so long as you are under my care, I shall do the best to see that you come to no harm---and there are few places in my little domain so safe as this tent. There are no others allowed in this tent besides my wife and our awenydds." He gestured to each woman in turn. " I in turn need your word that you shall not act against the members of my Court, as it were. We expect our charity to be returned in-kind. It's clear that at the moment you're hardly in condition to pose a threat, but nevertheless...do you understand?" Isabella gulped once more, her visible right eye transfixed on Clopin intently, slim wrists clutched together over her legs in a posture of defense, shielding her inner self from the probing eyes of the people surrounding her. 

Slowly, so slowly it was a moment before the movement became recognisable, Isabella nodded her head, indicating she understood. "Good," he murmured. "Then that is the most important thing. And next, mam'selle...you must forgive me if it's a disturbing topic, but I would have it dealt with now, sooner than later. I must ask you if the one or ones who have put that impressive hole in your arm might intend to seek you out again and do further damage. And if so..." he took a breath and folded his arms behind his back. "If so, how we might know them." 

A shudder ran over Isabella's shoulders, and she turned her face back down to her knees, her hair falling as a mantle about her, shielding her face entirely from the three who watched.I....I can't. I cannot tell you. I don't know...everything is ...a haze...confused. I don't know what to tell you. I don't know that I could if I did...." Her hands clutched her shins tighter, the whites of her knuckles gleaming in the semi light. To the side, Herlikin frowned and threw a glare at her husband who continued to observe the newcomer with a slight crease on his brow. Isabella took a deep breath and continued, her face still downwards. "I'll stay here only a few days..then I will go..." 

It was enough for Herlikin, who slapped the mortar and pestle down and exclaimed. "Oh very well, then! And in the meantime your friends might hunt you down, and bring trouble and destruction to the Court. Those who have about piercing a young girls' shoulder will surely care not for those in their way" 

Clopin turned swiftly to face Herlikin, and then snapped his gaze to Abigail. The awenydd frowned darkly and then released a dry cough. "Herlikin," she said sharply. "I would be grateful if you were to fetch me a new set of bandages from Bethan, and no doubt you husband would appreciate a less crowded audience with la jeune fille." 

Herlikin blinked twice, as though astonished, and then her brows snapped back into force. "I'm not leaving!" she declared indignantly."I have a right to know if my children are in danger!" 

"Herlikin," Clopin snapped, and he sensed a jolt of nervous movement from behind him. "It behooves us all to heed the advice of our elders." 

Herlikin's bosom puffed high with the indignant breath she took in. She cast Isabella a glance from the corner of her eye, wondering how far she should go and if she should dare to answer her husband back in front of a stranger. Returning her attention to Clopin, she said carefully. "The girl might very well appreciate the company and comfort of a woman near her own age."

 "She might also very well appreciate fresh bandages, and unless I am mistaken, the mam'selle is considerably your junior, besides. Now go, woman, before I must push you out the door myself." With that, Clopin folded his arms violently, and set his jaw at a hard angle. 

Herlikin rose from her chair, eyes flashing angrily and gritting her teeth beneath her cheeks. Stung by the publicly administered reprimand, her cheeks flushed and she strode sedately toward the flap where she turned around with a venomous sneer and informed her husband: "You can fetch the bandages yourself. I have other matters to attend to." Then turned on her heel and left, not daring to look at Abigail. 

Clopin stood, unmoving, for a long moment. Abigail, without word, swiftly followed after Herlikin, giving a last look at the girl before leaving. The material of Clopin's gloves stretched with the stress of clenched fists. Then, with a graceful motion, all the tension fled from his limbs and he turned serenely back to the girl.

 "My apologies for my wife's behavior. She is...easily unsettled by alarming events. I assure you she shall become more hospitable as the situation is made more clear." The girl did not react, still huddled in her corner. He sighed and ran a hand through his uneven hair. "You may take your time to reacquire your senses. I would beg of you not to rush from our company. But the moment you feel then I will not ask you, for now at least, what motivation they might have had for this piece of midnight archery. That will be settled when you are more fully well, or when your assailants present themselves with a formal case. Until then," he spread his arms once more, "consider yourself protected, at home, and under watch." A dim smile creased his face. "However standoffish my wife would have herself seem." 

Isballa finally dared to lift her head from her knees, releasing a low, slow sigh of relief as she did so, glancing up at Clopin gratefully. "Thank you m'sieu" the voice was still hoarse. "I do appreciate it." 

He nodded warmly, then rubbed his bleary eyes. "Well then, I shall leave you in Tshaliba's capable hands. I have a wife and an awenydd to retrieve, and more duties besides." He gave the girl a last glance---too thin, he decided, and far too nervous. There was something in her face (or what he could see of it) that reminded him of Harlena's---the tilt of the head, or the set of the mouth.Or perhaps simply that she seemed to be a scared child, and that he was, in his nature, a concerned father.

 With a gentle bow of the head, he turned to leave the tent. Tshaliba gave him an encouraging smile as he left, her strong hand brushing his shoulder. 

When he emerged from the tent, the task of finding revealed itself to be an easy one: had she left a trail of bangles and scarves her path could not have been more clear. He simply followed the strands of tittering women and glowering men shaking their heads in mournful remembrance of the age of true patriarchs. 

Herlikin was sitting by one of the large fires in the Court center, broodingly sulking into its crackling depths, shoulder slumped over and lower lip protruding in an obstinate pout. Her hands lay limp in her lap, and the indignation dancing in her eyes mirrored that of the flames which licked about the kindling before her. She did not look up as her husband approached her, though inwardly she steeled herself for a scolding, obstinately refusing to cringe or cast an apologetic look, certain she had been wronged. It was her right after all - any who could be willing to shoot a young girl would be willing to shoot another. She had the right to know. 

"Herli," Clopin said, looking into the fire. "Your concerns are reasonable, but you know full well that a better time and place could've been chosen for you to voice them." 

"You didn't have to dismiss me like that, brute." she threw back petulantly after a moment. 

"For the sake of that girl's already shattered nerves, I did," he answered slowly. 

Herlikin did not answer , propping her chin up on her hand, frowning crossly and wriggling her toes in agitation. "Its' excusable to dismiss your wife? You could not have just said 'perhaps we should wait a time, Herli until she feels better'? Or did giving me the heave-ho help you to assert your power?" She chewed on her lower lip, brows furrowing inwards, turning her body slightly away from her husband. 

A ring began to rise up in his eardrums, and he pressed his palms against his temples. "Yes, it IS excusable to dismiss my wife when she behaves in an inappropriate manner. I apologize for it, but it seemed necessary." 

He sighed. "And if I recall correctly, my dear, it was Abigail who asked you to leave." 

"Oh it's always necessary to you." she spat out."Push me away quickly, before I cause any embarrassment. Nevermind you came home as drunk as a sailor on shore leave last night." 

The ring became a hammering, and he grimaced. "For that, I am truly sorry. It was..." he leaned forward, the heat of the fire baking his face. "...irresponsible of me. Or, in the least, inconsiderate." 

"Very inconsiderate." she pouted. "You owe me some form of compensation. For that AND the slur on my age." she tilted her nose toward the sky. 

He laughed flatly. "And what form might such a compensation take, mm?" She linked her fingers together, turning her head away to the side so that he might not see her smile, her toes no longer fidgeting, but dancing, and the bangles which decorated her arms clanking together softly. "Use your imagination", she suggested.

 "Hm," he muttered. "Very well, then. Although you must allow me some time to come up with a satisfactory compensation, you understand. And to rid myself of this damned ache in my skull." 

Her shoulders sank down again and the smile vanished. "Of course." she muttered. "Well, I'll leave you to it, in that case." 

"Ah ah," he said, a finger springing up above his sunken head. "You must first allow some preliminary experimentation." 

She finally turned to look at him, an inquisitive eyebrow raised. "Such as?" 

A lanky arm snatched out at her bright shock of hair and yanked her face down and towards his own. "This," he replied, and he kissed her soundly. "Now away with you, and give your poor penitent husband his peace." 

"Just the one?" she demanded. "Plonked down as though you were dropping that accursed hat over my head? Sir, if that kiss was any indication of what is to come, I would prefer to remain uncompensated." 

"Given my current state, I should think it rather a superior kiss," he muttered through his arms. THe heat of the fire quietly tugged him towards sleep once more. "But," he sighed, "if you find it beneath you to accept..." 

"Do forget it." she declared, waving an imperious hand about. "I can see you'd much rather be in bed." 

Clopin did not reply---and after a moment of investigation, Herli concluded that his silence was due to the accuracy of her perceptions. Having received one too many perceived insults for the day, Herlikin rose to her feet grandly, dusting her hands off and tossing her hair over her shoulder. "WELL. What a lovely day this has been so far. Charming, very much so. Go to bed then, you ungrateful, inconsiderate brute. I shall continue to clean your home, cook your meals and look after your children without so much as a kiss with a drop of love within it, while you snore contentedly on the bed made up fresh for you by myself." 

Clopin began to lightly snore, and with a snort of contempt, she abandoned him. 

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