Half Time

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Half Time

Post by Keeper » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:28 pm

A sudden gust of wind made the owl veer from its original course and brought it swooping down low over the dark shadowy trees. Its sharp eyes caught the black on black movement as a mouse scurried unwittingly from beneath a clump of scraggy bushes.
The owl slowed its flight, banking right to bring itself into a better position from which to attack. The mouse’s nose twitched slightly but it remained oblivious of the hunter far above. A few ragged looking shrubs were protruding from the thick layer of leaf litter. The mouse recognised these a quite a tasty morsel and scurried its way over to the bluish-green leaves.

Owl judged the distance. Its quarry was close enough to cover for it to be able to escape the owl’s razor sharp talons, but it would have to know the owl was coming.
It didn’t.
The owl folded its wings and began its dive.
The mouse was about to take a bite from the juicy leaf it held in its front paws when the leaf was suddenly wrenched from its grasp.
Bewildered and aware of sudden pain in its side it squeaked frantically and squirmed in the tight grasp of the owl.

Silently and with a few majestic flaps of its wings the owl soared back into the dark night sky, rising above the treetops and arcing around until it could see the glow of a fire reflecting from the branches.

The owl glided through the air ensuring its grip on the mouse remained solid as it circled the glow getting lower all the time until it landed silently upon the curved roof of a travellers caravan.

The firelight mad the shadows on the trees dance in time with the flickering fiery sprites that leapt up from the logs.
A thin trail of grey smoke rose up in swirls to disappear into the darkness of the chilly night sky above.
Niamh Lindenbrook stared trance-like at the flames, the light reflecting in her pale green eyes.
Although there was a conversation going on around her, the Halfling did not hear the words, so deeply was she in thought.
Idly she fiddled with a locket she held in her hands, her thumb tracing over the engraved surface until it finally slid across the clasp, flicking the silver case open.
Slowly her eyes lowered to the locket, but it was too dark to see the minute picture inside. But Niamh didn’t need to see what was there, she knew exactly what the small blond-haired girl pictured inside looked like, with her big brown eyes and slightly mocking expression.

Kaylee was Niamh’s best friend, and more. They had been born two days apart and were as much like sisters as any two girls could be.

A tear glistened in the firelight like a little diamond caught in the corner of Niamh’s eye, before it slid down her cheek to hang from her chin.
“How silly!” she whispered to the unseen picture, wiping the tear away. She missed Kaylee terribly.

A burst of laughter erupted from one of her companions on the opposite side of the fire.
It was the human girl, Geneveve, her laughter high and child-like and innocent, yet Niamh found it incredibly grating, even though she knew she shouldn’t and had no other reason than her overuse of her attractiveness to get what she wanted from the men. She had them running after her like puppies! Especially Dunglebert, Niamh’s brother.
The halfling glanced across at him now as he in turn stared in wide-eyed glee at Geneveve.
Her brother was shorter than her, scrawny almost to the point of emaciated and an unusual diet meant he always looked pale, but there was something about her brother that people found endearing.
Had Dung been the one to solicit the girly laugh from the human woman? That wold explain the gawky look, Niamh thought.

She had seen that love-struck look before….

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Re: Half Time

Post by Keeper » Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:20 am

Dung’s mouth hung open slightly, his eyes in their dark sockets bulging and he was completely motionless, like a tiny statue.
The subject of his awe, Elsie Woodsander, the daughter of the local carpenter, had just come into the school yard.
Elsie was sixteen, well developed and very popular. And she had very recently spent the afternoon talking to Niamh’s brother when they were out on the forest doing a project for their tutor.
Niamh knew that Dunglebert had developed a bit of a fixation on the tall, fair haired, and admittedly pretty Halfling.
She also knew that for some inexplicable reason her best friend, Kaylee, had developed a similar fixation towards Dung. Perhaps it was some sort of age thing? Elsie was sixteen, two years older than Dung, who was two years older than both Kaylee and herself.
A soft, pained whimper from her left told Niamh that Kaylee had seen Dung’s awestruck repose too.
Niamh found her friend’s feelings very hard to understand because Dung was so… so… uncool! He was her annoying, apparently sensible (according to their parents), older brother but because she and Kaylee saw each other as sisters it made it very weird to think that Kaylee could see Dung as anything more than a brother.
“Oh, good grief!” Niamh found herself saying, chastising her friend, but the brunette girl just huffed and strode off towards the scrawny Dung.
Niamh rolled her eyes, her shoulders sagging as she sighed.

“Hey, Dung!” Kaylee called cheerfully as she almost skipped over to where the boy stood.
He seemed not to notice her and remained statue-like, only the faintest of movements from his eyes as they followed Elsie through the yard gave any indication that he was in fact a living person.
“Dung?” Kaylee said, trying not to appear crestfallen.
Niamh silently stepped up alongside her friend and gently took her arm. “Let’s go,” she said softly.
Keylee resisted the tugging and couldn’t help feeling angry at both Dung and Niamh as she watched Elsie saunter over to a group of the popular, and older, lads who were playing with a ball over near the school building.
It wasn’t Elsie’s overly swaying hips, or her obvious appeal to those boys that angered her, it was the pained gasp that came from Dung.
“Dung!” Kaylee called loudly.
The halfling boy finally moved, flinching as Kaylee barked his name.
He turned towards the two girls slightly, still gazing over his shoulder and not really paying attention to his two ‘sisters’.
“Huh?” he managed.
“We’re going over to the brook and we’re going to pick apples from Farmer Clegg’s orchard on the way. You coming?” Kaylee couldn’t keep the disapproval from her voice.
“Err… no…” Dung said, his attention still elsewhere until it dawned on him what had been said.
“What?” he suddenly bellowed, turning on the two girls. “No I am not, and nor are you! Those apples should be left to fall on their own. The trees don’t like it when you steal their apples, so nor do I!”
Dung had never shouted at Kaylee before and her face turned beetroot and her lip quivered but she turned and ran off before anyone could see her cry.
Niamh gave her brother a scolding look, her hands on her hips in a manner that rather unnervingly reminded Dung of their mother when she was telling them off.
“You really are a prat!” Niamh chastised, her own voice raised now.
“What?” Dung protested sulkily. “They don’t like it! They told me!”
Niamh cast him one of their mother’s withering looks, she had been practicing them on Kaylee and she was getting quite good!
She was about to turn after her friend when she noticed someone watching them more intently than the rest of the chuckling onlookers.
Hal Catchpole was the same age as Dung and was in all probability the best looking boy at school; fit, strong, tall, handsome in a rugged way and pretty good with a sword by all accounts.
He was stood with the group of boys who were now fawning over Elsie, but he wasn’t paying them any heed.
Niamh was about to send one of her mother’s looks his way when she noticed that it wasn’t her he was looking at. Following his gaze she saw that he was watching Kaylee as she ran up the hill towards home. Hal’s face bore a mixture of concern and disappointment. Then, as Kaylee finally disappeared over the brow of the hill, Hal turned a scowl on Niamh and her brother.
Niamh’s own expression slowly transformed from indignant to the surprised look of someone who has just come to a sudden realisation.
Hal noticed the look and his face flushed but he didn’t shy away from her stare.
Without saying anything Niamh’s eyebrows arched further, her expression alone asking, “Really? Kaylee?”
A tiny smirk tugged at the corners of Hal’s mouth, a lone brow twitched upwards and the faintest of shrugs replied voicelessly back to her, “Yeah? So?”
Niamh grinned in delight and she wondered why she should be so surprised? Kaylee was a lovely looking girl and very friendly, why wouldn’t the hottest boys fancy her?
Hal returned the grin but accompanied it with narrowed eyes. You’re going to tell her?
Niamh leaned her head to one side and shrugged. Of course.
A mischievous look crossed Hal’s face then, and he nodded towards Draggo Deepwater, one of his friends, then nodded back at Niamh.
Niamh knitted her brows together as she looked at the back of Draggo’s head, then again looked surprised as she stabbed her finger into her own chest. Me?
Hal smiled as he nodded. Oh yeah!
Niamh bit her bottom lip and giggled, rolling her eyes at Hal and shrugging. Well, of course, why wouldn’t he?
Hal closed his eyes, looking down as he shook his head in mock disapproval.
Again Niamh giggled, winking at Hal and jerking her head towards the hill. I’d better go and find Kaylee!
Hal laughed aloud, making the group of boys look in his direction.
Elsie turned to see what Hal was laughing at and saw the beautiful Niamh Lindenbrook and her strange brother standing a little way off. She smiled at the two of them and waved, managing to keep a straight face as Dung blushed and scurried away towards the huge oak in the corner of the yard.
Niamh frowned as she saw Dung blush but smiled at Elsie and returned the wave.
Elsie’s eyes flashed at her in a way that made her stop dead. No way! Her face flushed like her brothers and she gave another quick wave, this time saying goodbye and walked quickly towards the gate. O-M-G!!!

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Re: Half Time

Post by Keeper » Sat Mar 16, 2013 9:13 pm

Kaylee was sitting on the swing that hung from the huge elm in her parent’s back yard when Niamh caught her up.
“Your brother is such a jerk!” Kaylee pouted making Niamh pull up short.
“But he’s a lovely jerk!” Niamh didn’t know why she was defending her brother.
Kaylee didn’t reply but just sat there rocking gently backwards and forwards sulkily.
“Come on honey, let’s go for a swim,” Niamh said.
There was a moment of silence before Kaylee huffed, sighed and let a grin creep onto her face. Springing up from the swing she grabbed Niamh’s hand, giggling and the two ran full pelt across the field that adjoined their neighbouring homes.

The brook gurgled noisily as it coursed between and over rocks to pour several feet into a deep pool, where the large surrounding rocks acted as a sun-trap, reflecting the late afternoon heat.
Niamh and Kaylee stripped down unabashed and spent the remaining hours of the afternoon swimming, sunbathing and playing in the water.
Finally as the gradually setting sun turned the turned the leaves on the distant trees orange, they began to feel the cold and got dressed.
“Your brother’s very strange,” Kaylee suddenly announced; Niamh had so far been careful to steer clear of the subject of boys.
“Duh! Yeah, have you only just noticed?” Niamh gave her friend an odd look.
“Well no,” Kaylee admitted with a frown, “but he’s a nice boy who’s always looked out for me. Strange, yes, but nice.”
Niamh chuckled. “Never mind Dung. I’ll tell you who is nice; Hal Catchpole!”
Kaylee rolled her eyes dreamily. “Yeah! He’s nice too,” she giggled.
“You think so?”
“Yeah, why are you wanting him to court you?”
Niamh smirked, “Aren’t you?”
Kaylee shrugged. “Of course, but he’s not interested so I won’t waste my time.”
“Pity,” Niamh said with the air of someone who knows something about something.
Kaylee paused as she pulled on her boots. “Why?” she asked suspisciously.
“Cos he’s interested.”
“What in?”
“You!” Niamh said incredulously. “Must be your cute nose or something, cos it can’t be cos you’re bright or nothin’!”
“Oi!” Kaylee made to smack Niamh’s shoulder but her friend dodged aside.
“Ha! Kaylee and Hal, sitting in a tree…” Niamh began singing the well-known rhyme.
“Right!” Kaylee fumed, grabbing Niamh’s arm and holding on while she kicked her friends arse.
“Ow!” Niamh protested, though she wasn’t really hurt.
“Take it back, Niamh” Kaylee warned giggling as Niamh fought against her grasp.
Niamh laughed at her friend’s angry face. “K-I-S-S-I-N….”
Suddenly Niamh shrieked as her foot caught on a small rock and she fell backwards into the pool with a resounding splash.
Kaylee gasped, horrified, her hands to her face hiding her open mouth. “Niamh!”
Niamh surfaced, gulped down air amidst harsh gasps. She swam to the pools edge, climbing out and standing in front of Kaylee stiffly, as though her position would keep the cold sodden clothes from touching her, which of course, it didn’t.
Her bottom lip started to quiver as she shivered.
Kaylee remained still, a horrified expression etched upon her face and her hands pressed to her own cheeks as she watched her friend.
In fact, Niamh thought Kaylee looked so beside herself with remorse that she couldn’t help but laugh and after a few moments Kaylee’s terrified expression melted away as she too laughed.
It took several moments for them to regain their composure, Kaylee hugging a shivering Niamh as they giggled.
Then Kaylee gaspedas she noticed Niamh’s bow slide majestically over the far edge of the pool. “Your bow!” she shrieked, scrambling down the bank.
Niamh hadn’t realised it had come off her shoulder and her heart leaped into her throat. She’d begged her father to make her a new bow and promised she’d look after it. She took off after Kaylee.

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Re: Half Time

Post by Keeper » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:19 pm

It was as though the will of some evil god sped the bow along, and every time it looked as though either Niamh or Kaylee would pluck it out of the stream it swirled out of reach.
Once, Niamh had thrown herself bodily into the water trying to grab it, only to find herself winded against a submerged rock.
The light was already beginning to fade as the girls reached the edge of Cargreen forest and they pulled up short. Neither had been in the forest without an adult before, and certainly not this part of it.
“Come on, Niamh,” Kaylee said as she strode onto the dark, foreboding wood.
“We aren’t meant to,” Niamh hesitated but the thought of her father’s face when she told him she’d lost the bow spurred her on and she ran after her friend.

“There it is!” Kaylee yelled as they splashed a stream that met the brook.
In the oppressive gloom Niamh was just able to make out the curving shape of her bow, the light coloured wood almost seeming to glow in contrast to the dark waters.
The brook narrowed now and the water surged ahead, carrying the bow swiftly with it.
Both girls rushed along beside the growing stream, unable to get to the bow and unwilling to lose sight of it.
“The weather’s turning,” Niamh suddenly warned.
“Hey? How’d ya know that?” Kaylee asked breathlessly as she scrambled over the gnarled roots of a tree.
“I can hear the wind in the leaves rustling.”
Kaylee stopped, cocking her head to one side listening. Her eyed widened in terror. “That’s not wind, it’s water!” she almost screamed the words and tore off along the edge of the stream, Niamh in her wake feeling ever more depressed with every step.

The two young halfling girls came to an abrupt halt as the trees suddenly thinned at the edge of a fast flowing, rocky river. The now quite substantial brook joined it just to their left.

Bobbing and bouncing the bow swirled in the current, a whirling ballerina that danced out into the main flow and skipped away into the gloom.
“Noooo!” Niamh cried despairingly as she saw her father’s disappointed face.
Throwing off the quiver that went with the bow she dashed forward leaping recklessly into the frothing mealstrom.
“Niamh!” Kaylee screamed in terror as her friend disappeared beneath the dark water.

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Re: Half Time

Post by Keeper » Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:01 pm

Niamh gasped, gulping down air as she finally kicked her way to the surface, only to be pulled back under by the powerful current.
again Niamh pushed against the pull of the water, managing to glimpse the ebbing daylight like a beacon in the night and guide herself up, breaking the surface and almost screaming as she sucked in air.
Then, once more she was under, swirling, tumbling, lost in a maelstrom of foaming bone chilling darkness.
She didn't know how long she'd been under but she knew she was drowning. she hadn't actually started breathing water yet, but surely it was only a matter of time.
How she wished she'd been a better daughter and not been so mean to Dung and not done some of the things she shouldn't have. to have a clean slate when she enters the Halls of the Gods would have been nice.
Niamh felt the turmoil around her drift away, her senses and her body obviously numbing to it, she reasoned knowing her life was slipping away.
Finally she could hold her breath no longer. opening her mouth she exhaled the spent, stale air in her lungs and nature forced her to suck in the cold turbulent water.
Even that she could hardy comprehend now, expecting the cold sensation of the liquid in her mouth, her lungs burning as the fluid entered, her heaving in spasm as she tried to expel what shouldn't be there, but she noticed none of that.
She'd always thought drowning would be less... serene.
Relaxing, the sounds of the rapids fading away too so that she was left feeling weightless, deprived of all senses, peaceful in the cold embrace of death.
Feeling cold fingers grasping for her, reaching to pull her into the abyss she tensed, uneasy and suddenly unwilling to release her mortal coil.

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Re: Half Time

Post by Keeper » Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:55 pm

Her head thumped against something hard and Niamh reflexively said "Ow!"
The words resounded around inside her own head as though she was speaking with her fingers in her ears, her own voice loud and clear.
"Sorry!" she heard a muted, distant reply.

Why would Death apologize to her? Come to think of it... why was Death's voice so girly?
Her eyes were shut, clamped tight.
Niamh forced them open. She just had to see Death before he (or she?) delivered her to the next life.
There were trees towering above her and a deep grey-blue sky showing in the gaps between the branches.
Suddenly her back scraped against something and water splashed across her face, stinging her eyes entering her mouth and making her choke.
She coughed, her lungs rejecting the liquid in favour of something far less tangible.
Then she was scraping over pebbles and Niamh became aware of someone gripping her wrist tightly, tugging viciously at her arm until eventually Niamh's head rested on soft mossy grass.
Whoever had pulled her from the river slumped back with a whimper, exhausted.

After a long while where the two lay puffing and panting and staring disbelievingly at the Niamh finally managed to crawl across and hug her friend. Neither knew how long they remained like that.

The girls looked around themselves but were surrounded by almost complete darkness, the trees merely darker shadows amongst the blackness.
Kaylee gripped Niamh’s arm tightly. “Niamh, I think we’re lost.”
Niamh silently gulped. Talk about understatement, she thought! “We’ll be okay,” she said confidently. “We’ll just have to stay here, then make our way home when it gets lighter.”
She noticed Kaylee’s grip getting tighter. “You mean stay here all night?"
NIamh nodded then added, "I thinks so."
"Niamh, I can't stay here. My parents will kill me. That's if something here doesn't do it for them."
Looking around herself Niamh's shoulders sagged as she realised the inevitable impossibility of them trying to find their way our of here in this darkness. But Kaylee would fret and fret until she couldn't take it any more, then she'd start back, on her own if Niamh didn't go with her. And there was no way Niamh was going to leave Kaylee alone in the forest.
"Alright, Kay," the young halfling girl said patiently, "we'll try and follow the river back to the brook. We jus need to keep the water on our right."
Kaylee's vice-like grip loosened slightly.
"I can't get on very well with you holding on to me like that, Kay!" Niamh smiled in the darkness hoping that the smile had conveyed to her voice.
Kaylee let go.

Slowly, labouriously, the girls picked their way over and around the rocks, following the water back upstream.
Several times they sliped or fell, grazing knees and shins and elbows but they carried on, sticking to the edge of the water where moonlight allowed them to see a little.
Kaylee had said that it was easier going away from the river's edge, but Niamh was worried that they might lose their way in the almost utter darkness it they couldn't see the river.

"We are going to be in so much trouble whenwe get home!" Kaylee whispered, a touch of humour tinging her soft voice.
"I don't even want to think about that right now!" Niamh replied. "Can you imagine Jolay Midgewater's face? She'll be so smug."
Niamh's voice became higher, squeaky and nasal at the same time as she did her impression of Jolay. “I can’t believe you got lost in the forest. My dad’s a hunter and he takes me into the forest all the time, I’d never get lost. You two are such losers!”
The girls giggled but their laughter was cut short as they heard a sound in the darkness off to their left.
“Kay!” Niamh whispered, placing a cautionary hand on her friends shoulder.
“What is it?” Kaylee whispered, frozen rigid as though any movement at all could bring disaster down upon them.
“Don’t know,” Niamh replied peering uselessly into the darkness. Did she just see a shape nearby, something big moving in the trees?

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Re: Half Time

Post by Keeper » Sat Jan 25, 2014 4:32 pm

Hunt-Master Silverclaw paced impatiently around the gloomy clearing. The light had all but gone out of the sky when hunters of the Stone Fingers clan had come down from their rocky den in search of food.
Alpha Margarh had kept the hunters close to the den all day to boost the numbers of his war-pack, expecting an attack by Redbeard One-Ear and the River’s Fork Clan.
Margarh and Redbeard had been at each other’s throats for years, the disputed Foam Roarer Island forever a cause for conflict.
Silverclaw was young for a Hunt-Master, a mere four summers, but he had proven himself to be worthy of legend within the clan.
He wore a dark, sleek coat, almost black and his eyes were a pale blue, like a frosty morning sky. Unlike the Alpha’s broad, short nose, Silverclaw’s was long and sleek, matching the rest of him. He wasn’t ever going to be the strongest in the clan, but he already held the reputation for being the fastest, and what he lacked in strength he more than made up for in ferocity and cunning.
All day Silverclaw and his loyal hunting-pack had been eager to leave the den and scour the forest for deer.
One of his scouts, reassigned by Margarh to patrol the borders of Foam River Island had talked about a herd passing through, maybe twenty strong. The hunt-pack, known amongst the clan as the ‘Silver Legion’ had drooled at the thought, but Margarh had kept them confined.
But now the sun had gone and even brash Redbeard One-Ear wasn’t foolish enough to attack the Stone Finger den at night.

Silverclaw stopped his pacing as he heard a low growl from one of his sentries.
“Bess,” the sentry announced quietly.
Silverclaw grunted and gave an irritated bark, calling the young scout from the darkness of the wood and into the semi-darkness of the glade.
“You are back early,” Silverclaw growled quietly, “you have found sign of the herd then?”
He wanted to go looking for the herd’s trail himself but the herd was a big quarry, easy to follow even with a half-day lead. It would do his younger hunters, like the grey coated Bess good to practice their skills without his expertise to fall back on.
“No, I have seen nothing of the herd, Master Silverclaw, though I caught their scent and was tracking it,” Bess hissed.
Silverclaw felt the rage rise and had to fight it back down. So many of his kin gave in to the anger and let it overtake them, losing all control.
That might be good for Margarh’s warmongers in the heat of battle, but no good for an organised hunt-pack and certainly not for him as this hunt-pack’s leader.
“Then you had better explain yourself, pup,” Silverclaw said calmly fixing Bess with a steely gaze.
Bess gave a curt nod before beginning. “I was scouting along the river and got as far as the Island. There I found Redbeard’s war-band. I stopped looking for the herd and returned here to report my discovery to you immediately.”
Siverclaw’s brows dipped into a suspiscious frown. “Redbeard? He leads the war-band?”
Bess nodded her sleek head.
“They are staying on the Island? They must intend to attack us when the sun rises.”
“No, they are coming sooner,” Bess declared.
Silverclaw eyed the young hunter. “How do you know this?”
The corners of Bess’ mouth curled up to form a wry smile.
“Do you remember when you led the Silver Legion against Urgal the Great Bear? You used the river to mask your scent so that you could pass the bear unnoticed and slow him down in time for Margarh’s war-band to catch up.
Silverclaw grunted appreciatively at the memory.
“Redbeard and his pack-leaders were near the shore, staring into our territory. I used the river to mask my eavesdropping.” Bess told the tale with a degree of pride.
Rightly so, Silverclaw thought, it was a clever and brave move.
“Very good Bess,” Silverclaw said appreciatively. “Very good indeed. Whitetail?” he called the name summoning the pack’s second in command.
“You need me, my lord?” Whitetail inquired when he arrived.
“Yes… send someone to the echo-stone, sound the recall. Young Bess here has discovered Redbeard on our lands.”
Whitetal bristled at the news and growled an acknowledgement but before he could turn to leave Bess said for him to wait.
“There is something else,” she said turning her attention back to Silverclaw. “As I was returning here I discovered something very unusual. So small I nearly missed them. Two of the little-folk, youngling bitches no less. Near the river’s edge, not far from the Island. I know you are fond of one of these creatures, though I do not know if it is one of the ones I saw. They will make a tasty snack for Redbeard’s band if they are discovered.”
Silverclaw turned his long sleek head in the direction of the Island, as though peering into the darkness he could see the situation, even from here.
“Indeed they would, and for our side too if they are found when our war-band arrives. Whitetail, do not sound the recall. Get runners to go for our scouts as fast as they can. Then I need you to go to Margarh and tell him what occurs here.”
Whitetail nodded briskly and dashed away, barking orders as he went.
“Come Bess,” Silverclaw said, “You had best show me where you saw those halflings.”
With that the two wolves turned away from the rest of the hunt-pack and sprinted into the darkness of the forest.

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