Tales of Shore Blossom

Log I : Day 16
Eucarion's Journal

(OOC: Overdue ny'all.)

I feel as though a great curse has been lifted from my head. But have I chosen well?

Odiri, Naligor, Oranssi, and I began the day by convening at the Gaea Shrine in the temple at Mato's behest. The moment we were inside, all possible exits were shut and we were trapped. We probably should have been plenty more concerned about the situation than we were, but there were 2 yards of ceremonial wine hidden in the wall, so the collective attention was rather occupied. Odiri seemed rather uncomfortable and did not partake. She had yet to get over the incident with the table, and Oranssi had yet to apologize. There was bitterness in the room enough to spoil the wine. Mato entered after some time, explaining that the party had been collected together for the purpose of Oranssi and Odiri making peace. They did, but not before a harsh exchange of words. Only when Oranssi admitted to having been a fool did Odiri accept and relent. Mato presented a second gift by way of explaining that Odiri's festival-won fan once belonged to Lady Hana and would render the user immune to the cries of her banshee spirit. Some sass was exchanged (including some unexpected foul languge from Oranssi!) then Mato opened the door to exit, revealing an eavesdropping Frivolity behind it. That sneak! I wonder how much he heard?

Having been informed of newcomers in town, we went all together to the Rose Shell to scope them out. I noticed that Odiri had indeed taken up employment under Frivolity. She wore his colors. It was not my right by any means to be upset by this, but my passing comment on the matter did, to my great satisfaction, fluster her.

Arriving at the Rose Shell, we were greeted by a rambunctious, near-naked gnome swinging from Albion's horns. Odiri was absolutely furious at her designated seat being usurped. Beside Albion was the other new man to town, a half-elf. A noble, or so I recognized him to be from his insignia. House Faervel. He, rather flamboyantly and with what possibly could've been flirtation, introduced himself as Hok'ee Faervel. I had fought alongside his father in the Goblin War. Great man, though he was put out of service by injury, if I recall correctly. Two sons. One was said to be a fantastic warrior in his own right. So this was the other son. I disliked him from my first good look at him and did not introduce myself by full name or title.

The gnome, Zui, though a drunkard of incredible capacity, was handy with a staff and signed on to our coalition immediately. I inquired if the halfbreed fop had his father's ability. Hok'ee demonstrated with a whirl of weaponry that, yes, indeed, he was just as skilled. I tried not to look too impressed as I motioned for him to sign the charter. While Zui barely skimmed the contract, Hok'ee studied it carefully before putting his name on it. He even took notes on it. Hm. He is nothing to be fucked with. We gathered around the table to fill in our newcomers on the state of things in Shore Blossom and our mission with the Yomi Princes. Zui, a monk of sorts, had spent his whole life studying them for the express purpose of their defeat. A good thing that we found him before anyone else did, then. Armed with Odiri's fan and Naligor's ring, we decided then that the mission for the next day's journey out would be to see to Lady Hana's grove. 

Then, music. Onto the stage at the center of the inn entered a dazzling woman with a vibrant air, dancing expertly and lasciviously. I'll admit that my attention was certainly aroused by the sight of her. Odiri noticed my slack jawed stare from her perch atop Albion and saw it fit to nail me in the head with a goblet. Oranssi commented that she was learning a great deal of tact. If Odiri's sense of tact translates to headaches for me, I'd rather her stay tactless. After her show, the lady came and introduced herself as Elura. My god, really a lovely woman. She had joined the party for previous adventures, and would be doing so again now that she had returned to town. I was certainly glad to have her along, but Odiri was… Well. I certainly made my apologizes to her that evening, which she was more than happy to accept. Though, the wee hours were plagued by nightmares and I did not get much rest from it. Karma, I suppose.

The party breakfasted at the inn before setting off. Frivolity had acquired a horse and cart of his own, as well as a gorgeous starhorse named Lunestra. Mm, I do miss my horse. I think that once I've worked up some funds from my fur trapping, I shall look into acquiring a new one. As we traveled out, Odiri slept like a babe in the back of the cart. Rather cute, really. It was a pity to have to wake her when Albion and I had need of her assistance in marking a path. Apparently, the minotaur can use his horns as a compass of sorts. Bizarre, but useful. We trailblazed 5 miles to the north. Zui gathered herbs as we went. Ah, I knew what he was up to. I'd done my fair share of homebrewing in seclusion. Considering the wiff of that barrel he insists on rolling about with him, I image he's got a talent for this sort of thing. 

By sundown, we came to the edge where the Bamboo Sea met the Jade Forest and made camp. Hok'ee and I got into a bit of spat while stoking up a fire, which really only confirmed my distaste for him. Naligor, Elura, and I stayed the midnight watch. Naligor questioned my handiwork on Odiri's neck, but believed my lie on the matter. Can't believe he did. Elura played at some flirtation with me. I may be a man of weak will and weaker loins, but I did my best to brush her advances. The night's relative peace was broken by an attack of spear-wielding Bullywugs. I killed one immediately as Naligor fried another one in lightning. As everyone was roused from sleep, Elura, clever thing, dropped a sleeping spell on the remaining two creatures with a one-liner. Ah, the entertainment benefits of a battle bard. After tying the two up to a tree, we settled back to sleep to deal with them in the morning.

Come sunrise, a debate was had as to whether or not the bullywugs should be allowed to live. I'd never really questioned my instinct to kill. A soldier's second nature, I suppose, but I rarely stopped to question. If a thing was evil, it deserved death, did it not? Zui silenced all arguments by throwing a rock at Oranssi with a yell. We came to an agreement that the frogs would be tried and intimidated into leaving us alone. Their warrior culture would permit no other option. Oranssi intimated them sufficiently, then asked me to cut them free. "They have a message to deliver". Shivers ran up my spine. There is no way he could have known the circumstances under which I'd heard that phrase before, but it still left me a little shaken to hear it said. I left quickly, hunting a feast of rabbits for the morning. As I sat skinning pelts, I overheard Zui and Naligor discussing their "herbalist" exploits. It's not my place to comment, but I cannot say I approve… We traveled on through Lady Hana's Grove, following Naligor's glowing amber stone, camping there another night among the familiar fields of flowers and lush green. Elura made us all crowns. I accepted mine out of courtesy, but I could see the jealousy and distaste in Odiri's eyes when she was handed hers after.

In the morning, we arrived at the crypt. "We should stealth!," suggested Frivolity, the least stealthy member of our party. Going further through than we had gone before, we came to a domed building in the eastern part of the enclosure. Odiri tried to take point, but I pushed her back and went ahead. There was absolutely no way I was letting her walk headfirst into danger. Beyond a hallway, we came to a room to the north. Zui dismantled the falling block trap that awaited us there, allowing us to access a shrine in a hallway ahead. It seemed to have been recently cleaned. Someone, or something, was upkeeping this place. A number of us left small offerings, myself included, though Odiri's contribution to this surprised me. She didn't seem the type to care. 

As we made our way back to the north room, we were attacked by 8 animated sets of armor, 4 tall and 4 short. Human and dwarven, perhaps. Naligor dropped the first before transforming into a dragon wyrmling. That was new! Elura threw a patch of grease in the path of the constructs, resulting in a grease ballet of them, Charka, and Xiao. Albion shattered one, then another, with terrifying barbarian strength, but also became one with the grease, gleefully making angels in it. Zui jumped on his staff, stabbing one of them, then vaulted over another. I had not yet seen him in proper battle, but the skill of this little man is great. When the armor was at last defeated, though not before a few more greasy fumbles, Elura melted it down.

Odiri's fan, functioning as a guide for magical items within the crypt, led us quickly through the maze of halls until we came upon a massive room with a beautiful spiral of green stonework for floor. It had once functioned as a part of Lady Hana's wedding present, a giant go board, but it was now marred. This place had once been her palace of pleasures, and now, her tomb. A morbid thought. As we approached the adjacent hall, we heard the sounds of chanting. If the intent of it, regardless of the source, was to keep Lady Hana at rest, we quickly found that it had not worked. Not one bit.

In the next chamber, we were met with Hana's banshee, two wights, and ten spectres, all keen to kill. Charka and Xiao were unable to move in their terror. We all cut in with rapid attacks. Albion felled the two wights alone, slashing them both to dust. The banshee wailed, dropping Charka, Oranssi, and Zui. The sound of it, the agony. Haunting, really. In a flash of silver and moonlight, Hok'ee went for the banshee. Thought his attack missed, he managed to distract the banshee enough to drag Zui out of harm's way. I quickly healed Charka, getting her back on her feet. Suddenly, a spectre attacked Albion, black wounds and the unmistakable pallor of death overtaking him. The battle pressed on until Naligor, still a dragon, bit the banshee. The spectres disappeared in a flash of light as a beautiful golden glow enveloped the room, transforming the banshee into the holy spirit of Lady Hana. She thanked Odiri and Naligor and warned that the Yomi Princes must be destroyed. They had done this to her, and would not stop their torment of the earth until they were dead. Naligor's stone returned to her ring, then the ring came back whole to Naligor. Lady Hana allowed us all the spoils of her ruin, and was gone, dissipated into light. Odiri absolutely broke down, bawling as I held her comfortingly in my arms. I was shaken, yes, but not nearly to the degree that she was. This mission was much closer a thing to her, but something must have struck her deep for this sort of a reaction. Hok'ee asked if monsters normally thanked us for killing them. No. No, they didn't. 

We continued on, as the fan indicated that there was still one magic item in the ruins. It was not an item, however, but a place. A glowing, enchanted pool of water. Around it, the inscription that it would grant beauty in exchange for the sacrifice of a magic object, "but only once".

Before I could even open my mouth to speak, the entire party erupted in discussion that, obviously, I should be the one to use the pool, but what magic item should be given up?  As considerate (or offensive? I still cannot decide how to feel about their assumption), they acted as thought I had not the opinion or consent to disagree! Not my best moment, but I roared at them all in a fit of rage. What if I didn't want to change? They had no right to choose for me! This quieted them down enough that I could hear myself think, until they each began to voice their own thoughts. Odiri encouraged me, citing that without my scars, I could begin to heal. She knew my nightmares and maybe, just maybe, this would help me sleep at night. Oranssi argued that I had been changed by my scars, and I would be sure to change again without them, not necessarily for the better. The two of them argued, until Elura stepped in. Casting a spell, she transformed herself into a mirror of my form, though unscathed. As unsettling as the experience of facing my own double was, she did impart on me the wisdom that visible scars or not, I would always bear them on my soul. Even Hok'ee chimed in, asking if the sacrifice would bring me any peace. I did not know why I listened to his words, but my mind was desperate and he did have a point. Odiri pressed her fan into my hand, granting it as mine to choose what to do with. I remembered our night, her hands taking mine , the warmth of her chest. God, I would trust her with anything.

Our keys began to glow in defiance, forcing time. My chest tightened. My heart raced. It was then or never.  These scars were mine. They always would be. But this way, at least, I would not have to wear them open wounded. I threw the fan into the water. The pool dissolved it, and when I looked over to my own reflection, all the scars faded away and left me face to face with my old self. I could feel that it had not taken the ones on my body, but the return of my lost face was enough. I was too shaken by the sight to weep with the gratitude of my soul at that moment, but I surely would have. The keys lit up again, and we were all transported back to the gates. 

It is too soon to say what this has done. But, at the very least, I can stand to meet my own eyes in the mirror. That alone is worth something.  

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Letters from Odiri - Pt. 9
Adventure 15 - Sunblade Success

My Dear Eucarion,

I have returned from yet another adventure. I really wish I could convince you to leave the temple for more than just an evening visit. These outings are just not the same without you.

Syd was determined to get back to Ashiko’s Haven to retrieve the Sun Blade so I decided to join her along with Kodu, Frivolity and Adi. Our travels to Ashiko’s Haven were mostly unfettered except for a particularly intense attack against us at the waystation. The Goblin Queen is getting bolder and sent the Silver Demons against us. We had to dispatch a Goblin Boss and his Warg, a Hobgoblin Warlord, a Bugbear Chief and a pair of their feral wolves. Adi gathered any missives on their persons to review with the council but, I don’t think they truly care. They are so focused on the inside of the wall that they willingly choose to be blind to what is going on behind it. Elder Yen made that perfectly clear after the Summer Festival.

Once we arrived to Ashiko’s Haven we retraced what steps we knew of and happened upon a beast I have only heard of before. They told me it was called an Umber Hulk. This thing was massive with clamping jaws and slashing claws. I was surprised to see Kodu has gained some proficiency with elemental magicks and used them to our advantage that day. I have little memory of this fight as I seemed to have be under this creatures mental control. It all seemed to go dark and in a moment I was in an entirely different hall with Xiao nosing my hand trying to snap me out of my daze. It was terrifying knowing my body was manipulated without my control to move, walk, speak, who knows what I did in the blank spaces of memory.

When I made my way back through a maze of halls to the action I was just in time to witness Adi cast an illusion of several members of the charter pretending to attack the Umber Hulk and running away. That mad magick fellow realized we could use the brute force of the monstrosity to crash through the wall into the chamber we knew held the Sun Blade. Lords and Ladies you should have seen it! The Umber Hulk smashed in to reveal a room filled with eight legged horrors, seven in total.

It was a mess of fire between Kodu and Adi then Frivolity cast a field of darkness to distract the Umber Hulk. So much happened at once it was hard to keep track but eventually Syd captured her goal. The Sun Blade was hers and it looked like it belonged in her hand all along. The one concern I have from this outing was not Syd but Kodu. His demeanor has changed. I can’t put my finger on it but he is different. I think we all felt it.

We were met with one last challenge before the key brought me home. Seven Urk. Emblazoned with the Goblin Queen’s mark. We took them down with little effort between Syd’s new toy and Kodu’s growing abilities, but it makes me anxious to the pit of my stomach that her hoards are spread so far and wide and with such force. I fear she will be the death of me. It would do me a world of good to see your face tonight.

Lovingly,

Odiri

PS – I’ve taken residence in Frivolity’s new manor but we can talk about that later. Use the back gate my room is in the south west corner of the back of the house and the staff is under direct instruction not to harass you.

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Fuck This Town
Hok'ee's musings.

So, whatever fresh Hell has opened between  Mom and Dad I suspect that the wisest thing I could do is stay out of it, for all that I can't actually do that.  Mom's opening a new business in Port Shore Blossom, as if our trade interests weren't enough to occupy her, and she's decided she's taking me and the Faervel Moonblade with her.  Ever the dutiful son, I follow, even though this sounds to me precariously like the beginnings of a divorce.  

As soon as I got there, I made friends… sort of.  I ended up splitting drinks with this endlessly diverting naked gnome and a jolly minotaur who were engaging in improptu gymnastics together at the tavern.  Shortly after that, I also had the company of an extremely grizzled elf along with his halfling …friend?  And some kind of aristocratic tiefling deviant who I'll have to keep an eye on.  

"Grizzly Elven" seems to have some kind of bug up his ass about my breeding, as if the Vanyr and human aristocracy haven't been gleefully fucking one another back and forth across national borders throughout all of known history.  The last thing I need is someone else who's decided to blame me for being alive after Othanar died, so fuck 'im.  

Either way, I've made yet another inadvisable pact, this one binding myself to the "Brotherhood of the Carved Table" or whatever they're calling themselves at the moment.  After having to prove my worth by smashing bottles, I was permitted to sign on to the charter, which also included an unstated mission to defeat the Seven Yomi Princes, some kind of highfalutin' demon generals or something.  Seemed like a good cause, and also one "noble" enough to earn Faerval House favor, so I'm still in.  

Our first mission together was to hunt down the tormented ghost of a famous half-elven hero, destroy her, and plunder her tomb.  Heroics and economics rarely mix well, but right now it's the only game in town, so I'm going to do my best.  

There was a lot of yelling and a lot of personal drama, in between cutting a trail through forest and swamp, directly to the banshee's tomb.  The first night we camped, we were attacked by spear-wielding frogs.  By the time I woke up the fight was already over, but the debate over whether frog people count as people had just begun.  Eventually the priest let them off with a warning, and we went on our way.  

Once we got to the tomb, the halfling scout used some king of magic fan to lead us to the banshee, though we had to fight through some living armor and some other crap first, though the quick thinking of the bard kept that relatively low-casualty.  

The Banshee nearly killed half of us with her scream (I'd have been dead were it not for the Armor of Winter), and the nameless host of ghosts and corpses she had with her didn't help, but we put them down eventually, thanks in large part to that guy who can turn into a dragon. 

Anyhow, we destroyed the banshee and then she thanked us for killing her, and bequeathed all of her stuff to us… which neatly circumvents the ethical quandaries of tomb-robbing.  Let's hope that all of our missions shake out so neatly.

Then we found out that there was a magic fountain in the tomb that would grant "beauty" to one person who sacrificed a magic item to it.  Which of course started off a whole new shouting match, with everyone eventually deciding that Racist McElflord should be the one to use it because we can't be having people with scars breaking up the scenery… without bothering to ask him if that would be something he wanted.  

After much more shouting and hand-wringing, and arguments going back and forth, eventually he did.  

And that's when I learned that this city has fucking branded me.  Key-shaped scar on my left hand, definitely wasn't there before, but matching keys borne by everyone else, which began to glow and yanked us all back into this city. 
Can it do that at any time?
How does it choose when?
Are we now trapped in this city forever? 

Man, fuck this town.  

On the up-side, at least the Faervel Moonblade seems more or less satisfied with me for the moment.

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The Master and Apprentice
A lesson in locks

"Do they hurt?"

 

"No. They itched as they broke skin, but no longer."

 

"You're doing it wrong. Here… level your hand so you feel all the pins across the rod", Syd rotates the lock so the monk can see. "Like this." The monk grabs the lock and makes a second attempt.

 

"So what’s up with the shiny bits? Is that normal? Why can you shoot fire from your hands like Soveliss?" She asks. 

 

Kodu smiles, "Aion has ignited my spark. This has not happened to a non-dragonborn in decades. The last human this happened to in the order was a woman by the name of Nevarene, a descendant of Kovakaru the Founder.  All in my order hail from dragon blood, yet this is rare. I have found the favor of the First Dragon. "

 

"Yeeeah… that sounds cool and all, but what about the shooty things?"

 

"As a child, they were just katas to hone my focus. I am just discovering that they were more than that. Now when I repeat the motions, say the words and my blood burns then fire or ice can emerge from my hands. I have not discovered the extent yet, but I'm leary of this kind of power. Nevarene the Reckless' tale does not end well. Her ambitions in sorcery accidentally killed many of the order.” The lock clicks, Kodu smiles and meets the urchin's eyes. 

 

"Oh, hey! Congrats! Now for something not so infantile.” She smirks as she reaches into her bag and produces another lock. 

 

"Have you been practicing with the blade?"

 

Syd shrugs, "The balance is way different than what I'm used to. I guess that makes sense… there's no blade."

 

The monk chuckles and looks up from the lock, "This is why we practice. Last thing you need is to burn your own arm off; the blade is longer than that with which you are familiar."

 

"I know, I know. You're not my mom; she’s dead and I’m older than you."

 

Kodu smirks at her unending pragmatism and lack of fear for gallows humor, "That she is and that you are, Syd Streetwalker, that you are. How goes the search for Olma? Anyone at the docks see her board a ship?"

 

Syd goes quiet, losing her tough exterior for a split second, "She’s a fighter. She's ok; I know it. I just wish I didn't leave things the way I did. Go figure she'd leave right before I could come back with enough money to make hers and my dream happen."

 

The lock pops open and the priest hands it over triumphantly, "Now let's go get tea before putting up more signs. I'll talk to the farmers in the morning to see if she went out that way. If she's within the walls, she won't be missing for long"

 

                                                                                   *

 

The last week had been long. The monk hadn't made himself available for his standard services to the town on account of the molting. Never had he encountered such an odd experience; the constant itch, the flaking skin and the concern that this might be some serious affliction acquired from one of the many unnatural things beyond the wall. It wasn't until the silver scales had broken the surface of his skin had he begun to realize what was happening. Then came the joy; Kodu always believed his dragonspark was faint and would never actually receive Aion's blessing. Even though this wasn't a trueblood transformation, he relished in every sleepless, itchy night and focused his meditations more intently. During a traditional form exercise with Mato in the garden,  Kodu transitioned into Strike of The Golden Fury only to release a bolt of fire into a tree in the garden. It was embarrassing, but Mato was his usual calm self; he even made a joke about being glad they weren't inside. The priest of the First Dragon had tried similar katas and found Silver Waits Patiently, Cacophony of the Repelling Wing and Defense of the Towering Mountain all had effects associated with them. To prevent the danger of practicing those specific katas, Elder Yen also taught Kodu a couple less dangerous parlor tricks to help him hone his focus in channelling primal energies as well. 

 

 Then came the next excursion of the Beyonders. Syd had a message sent to Kodu at the shrine asking him to go beyond the wall to fulfill his promise of procuring the Sun Blade. Although he hadn't finished his transition, he was honor bound to this task. He liked the time he spent with her. She was a good teacher and an even better friend. Although she did not cling to a code, her heart was in the right place and she was quickly teaching him so much more than how to open locks. Her lessons included speaking a type of language learned on the streets (this had helped his understanding of idioms more than Eucarion's explanations of the metaphors being made), tricks to noticing details that others would miss and, perhaps most importantly, the natural balance of chaos and law by offering a starkly contrasting point of view on things the monk had thought resolute. Needless to say, his training would have to wait so he could help his friend. 

 

Going beyond the wall was met with the normalcy that all of the Beyonders had come to expect. He smirked to himself at how not more than three moons prior, the town had thought the idea foreign and suicidal. Adi's ability to summon a force mound made camping far less dangerous and efficiently reduced the amount of downtime by cutting out an entire guard shift.

 

Then came the attack in the morning. Goblins from the Goblin Queen's elite forces. They proved to be negligible, but the priest's suspicions were confirmed that they evils beyond were beginning to send more significant threats closer to the town was unnerving. The next nine days weren't as exciting. Odiri the Little was able to conjure berries to eat. Syd and Odiri's tracking ability steered the group away from most threats. All and all a fairly eventless journey to the temple.

 

The temple of Artimestia on the other hand? Dangerous as expected; Adi's brilliance won the day. Things were as the group had left them. More candles burned in the primary chamber. The room with the zombie ogres was still empty. The next room, however, had the largest insect Kodu had ever seen, this was also the only insect he had ever seen walk upright. The battle was a blur, He remembered using Strike of the Golden Fury, but that's about all. One blink after, he had teleported to the first room. As the monk rejoined the battle, Adi had tricked the creature into breaking through the wall into the room with Syd's prize. There were spiders… big ones. The room was covered in webs with markings to Atropos. A Strike of the Golden Fury cleared the webbing, but this temple was desecrated and needed to be cleansed (no longer was this temple his promise to Syd, but a promise to the gods to restore the sanctity of the grounds). Syd  was quick to rush in through the confusion and grab the Sun Blade. The rest of the battle was easy enough. The others tried to run after Frivolity put a large black darkness on the insect's head (apparently there was something about its eyes), but Kodu knew victory would come. He pressed the attack and felled the creature. The spiders were easy enough to clear out after that. Now Syd had her blade. 

 

Continuing on through the temple was simple enough. A group of urk heretics didn't put up any sort of fight. The keys interrupted the charge of an Urk Chief. The Beyonders were home again. The work of the temple being unfinished. Another project for another day. 

 

 

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Have You Seen Me?
The Elephant Not In The Room

I can't find Olma. I know everyone she talks to. I know everywhere she would hide. I can't find her. The last time we spoke, the night of the festival, we weren't exactly at our best. When that tentacle literally almost killed me on our first outing, it figuratively almost killed her. I tried to talk her down, but she knew all my tricks. 

"You can't get me to feel otherwise. You're not leaving these walls again." she said, "Not with me anyway. I won't watch you die. It's stupid."

"And you would know stupid." I shot back.

"Do what you want, Syd. I know you will. Let's see how well you do without me there to protect you." 

"Like you did from that Water Weird?" I sneered.

"Go." she said quietly. 

"That's it?! Just 'go'?? After everything we've b-"

I barely had time to dodge her hammer. She splintered the door with it. The door we built together for the hovel we had shared for years. 

I went, and I went beyond wall. Three times I left without her; three times I came back alive. I wasn't just alive, I was living. There was excitement. Treasure. Friends. Purpose. When I returned from my last adventure, I finally had what I felt to be sufficient evidence to convince her that this was right for us, that I knew what I was doing… aaaand to rub it in her face. I love a good "I told you so." I donned my new armor, filled my pockets with my new wealth and, humming the song Elura wrote in my name, went off to find her. She was gone. If she left… if she shipped out… she took nothing but her hammer. All of her other stuff was left untouched. I asked everyone she talks to. I went everywhere she would hide. I can't find Olma.

                                                       * * *

I made missing person posters. I put them up everywhere. I titled it "Have you seen me?" and drew her as best I could. I know I did it only to comfort myself; if anybody knew anything, I would know it by now. My only hope is if some outsider saw her board a ship or something. I don't understand. She's so big, how could anyone miss her? Then again… I miss her. Alot. Olma, wherever you are… I'm sorry.

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Sempur: The Tale of Step and the Word of Water, Part 2
pt. 2

"… For the wise leaser of the O'Aes'Sidhe, Hasani, had learned the Akashic word of "Water" when she was a only a child. That word, carried in her heart, was a secret that helped the O'Aes'Sidhe in their travels… for you see the Moshan Wastes are an unforgiving land. Long cursed by Moshan the Deceiver to divide the lands of Great Asoka and the lands of Solomon the Lesser, his friend and rival."

Or so the storytellers would have you believe. The truth was a bit murkier, for Moshan was a ruler in his own right. His people had discovered a way to conjure demons to this world and quickly used that power to subjugate nearby territories. Solomon the First and the Young Asoka joined together in a several year crusade against that new-formed kingdom. Eventually the walls fell and, in a last ditch effort, Moshan attempted a dark and potent ritual as a final . The ritual failed, or was stopped, or was successful in a strange way depending on the storyteller… but in all stories the city turned to sand and the lands nearby were desiccated by the energies released.

"For in the desert lands Water and Shade are life. A blessing of either is a sign of true compassion in those lands. So you can imagine the surprised reaction of young Step when he realized that he had accidentally swigged down the ancient word of Water when he stole Hasani's drinking gourd…"

"Now the travelers of the caravan were baffled how to get the word back. Certainly they would have to open up the child's belly to retrieve the word, for they could not allow such a sacred thing to pass through the young man in full fashion."
He gestured and hopped as one does when they need to pee, earning a laugh from the crowd gathered around him.

"Others of wandering folk argued that the boy should be given sour cactus to make him to spew the word back up."

"But Hasani, wise in her many years, simply took the boy to where water was needed most. Another youth had grown weary from heat and dehydration. She spoke in nonsense and the light-voice of those under the sway of Moshan's vengeance, a condition known here as Heat Stroke. The idea of losing his friend because of his own folly was too much to take and the youngster, Step, began to cry."

He motioned out the story as he continued, drawing the crowd in with a softer voice.

"Wise Hasani, swift even in her great years, put a vial to the first fallen tear and reclaimed what had been lost to her. The word of Water was then put back into the drinking gourd where it belonged."

"And so the word of Water remains with the O'Aes'Sidhe to this very day and we are left with some importants lessons as well. Who here can tell me what we've learned from this tale?"

Mr. Sempur takes some time collecting answers from the youngsters mixed into the crowd and then gathers up the loose bits of copper tossed to him for his efforts. There are many lessons to be learned from that tale, but the hidden lesson was one that Sempur had recently begun to question…

Arcane majick has long been a thing feared and reviled among his people. Known as the Majicks of Book, Bargain, and Blood they are taboo throughout Asoka. Even the witches, the Wu-Jen, find themselves on the fringes of society for this fear is so pervasive and their practices are sometimes mistaken for Majick.

Sempur had recently met both a practitioner of Blood majick and a practitioner of Book majick. Niether had seemed as monstrous as the depictions of Moshan's ilk. They had used Moshan's own fires to battle many dark creatures. The Weretigers, the Banshee, and the Undead Beholder would all have been very difficult to harm without such power…

He then shakes his head and reprimands himself, thinking in the tone Hasani used to employ. "You have left old walls behind, old notions, old preconceived ideas. Go, experience, and learn. Find truths in your journey and return with wisdom.

"Thank you all for coming. My next tale will be of Step and the Green Wall. A story that introduces the first great city of Asoka, Rehoboam."

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Story Time with Odiri - Pt. 8
Adventure 13 - Spooky Places

(OOC – Collaboratively written in part. CW – Implied nudity, Gross lovey dovey shit)

Odiri stares at the man sitting on the end of her bed fishing his boots out from under it, mapping his chest and back’s every scar illuminated by the early morning light in her mind. Despite their recent bouts of intimacy, she had yet to muster the courage to ask Eucarion about them. “Do you really have to leave so soon? I feel like you just got here” she pouts as she gathers the sheets over her chest with a curious modesty that only seems to afflict those the morning after.

“Because. I’m sure Mato has something new for me to be doing today.” He scoffs. “Well, after he makes me scrub the floors. Penance, for a night away.” Odiri laughs quietly, “I would think those floors would have already been scrubbed within an inch of their lives last week if that is Mato’s response to you staying out all night. I’m surprised I was not relegated to the same fate when Shei scolded me for the fountain water mess our clothes left.” Odiri’s eyes were mischievous and bright as Eucarion snorts “Hah, well, he’s still going to make me do it again. I don’t mind it as much as you think I might.” Between finding the first boot and lacing it closed Eucarion asks “What have you been up to the past week anyhow? Beyond the Wall again?”

Odiri scoots up to sit against her headboard yanking the sheets out from under Eucarion to retain the only shred of modesty she had left. “Yeah, we went out. Adi and his press for more information regarding these ancient places suggested we finally make our way back to the Thousand Sage Temple.” The moment Odiri casually mentions the haunted temple, Eucarion drops the second boot he had just recovered in shock. “You did what now?! Odiri, good gods” She tilts her head and smiles at him,” I came back to you did I not? I would not have agreed to go if I did not feel like I would be safe enough to return to you.” Odiri leans over the opposite edge of the bed to snatch Eucarion’s shirt from the floor and tosses it over her own head. She was swimming in the fabric in a comical way but she knew this would delay his departure as he would not leave without his shirt.

“You may have returned this time, but next time you may not.” Eucarion responds while pulling on his second boot. “Who else went with? I would hope a group of decent size given the danger of the challenge.” Odiri leans back in her new garment and slides the long sleeves up her small arms. “We had a decent group. Adi, of course. Then there was Naligor, Kodu and Soveliss. Oh and the new one I wrote to you about Mr. Sempur. And we scooped up Frivolity on the way to the wall at his new home. It’s beautiful. Huge! Two stories, ten rooms. Massive entertainment rooms. I should mention he offered Adi, Kodu and I a room for free in return for our services. I am sorely tempted. Free board for some guard work does not seem too bad. I plan to talk to him further on his conditions.” She smirks at Eucarion. “I think the privacy in a large house would be a little easier to obtain than living in this place.” she gestures vaguely to the room.

Eucarion responds while focusing on lacing his second boot "Hm hm, well, the privacy would certainly be appreciated. Walls certainly are thin here, and it's not as though you can join me at the temple. Mato would have a fit. But that does sound like a solid group. You headed to the Wall after?" Odiri shakes her head at the laughable concept of her ever setting foot into the Temple of Stars regardless of it being the home to her object of affection. “Our way to the wall was easy and rather fast as we had Adi’s cart and now Frivolity’s cart. To my surprise that one Sempur is quite like Syd in the way he can navigate the city. Our trip to the waystation was unfettered but we were dismayed by a lovely note left by those kobold shits thanking us for the meal. They had eaten nearly half the stored provisions so we’ll need to re-stock and protect that damn place. The rest of the travel time over the next 4 days was completely boring and uneventful, aside from the occasional snide remark from the boys about your…gifts. We did a quick loop of the temple to see if anything had changed. Heavens forbid more kobold tribes make their mark on the clearing, we have enough of them to deal with.” Odiri slides up on her knees behind Eucarion and uses her small hands to comb through his thick silver streaked hair gently as she speaks. Every so often she would let a finger slide against the edge of his ear knowing his sensitive reaction to it.

"Mm, that's a shame about the provisions. Could Adi cast some sort of spell on the waystation, you think? To protect it, or hide it. I've seen him do all sort of insanity. I’m sure her could do something for it." Eucarion enjoyed her attention with a soft hum "I expected some sort of commentary to the matter of my…" Eurcarion trailed off, a little at a loss for what to call his marked affections. He turned around some to face her. "You know; I've still never been inside the temple."

With practiced precision Odiri starts at his left temple and plaits Eucarion's hair up and over his ear while continuing "I believe Adi was distracted with his goal to get to the temple but I shall speak with him on the matter when I see him next. As for the temple, none of us had set foot in it till then. We examined my copy of the map and decided to enter from the southeast entrance. Though it was clear any entrance of the four would do. The first room was a grisly visage of carpet of bone shards and a message scrawled across the north wall stating ‘death is the only exit’ but otherwise empty. I was unsettling yes but I knew it was nothing but a fear tactic from those kobold idiots. The following room was not so empty as we were greeted by five Specters. I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the poor bastards. Doomed to the earth by whom I assume was Blood Spattered Snow Bitch with no way to ascend to planes beyond.” She pauses her story to kiss his left shoulder on the thick scar that carved him from his collarbone to his shoulder blade then shifts to the right side of him to mirror the braid starting at his temple.

Eucarion shivers as she kisses on his scar. Finishing donning his boots, he remains sitting on the bedside. "I do quite like this 'Blood Spattered Snow Bitch' thing. So, you dispatched with the spectres I assume, and then what?" As Odiri continues to braid the hair on the right side of his head she explains “The specters were surprisingly easy to fell with the new arrows in the case. Soveliss lit up the entire room with fire that miraculously avoided our party and between Naligor turning into a massive white bear and Kodu doing his whole…choppy, kicky shit we took down all five specters without a scratch! That room had another circle of standing stones like the ones we found in the caves under the Dwarven ruins and a a stone dais that was unfortunately trapped with arrows. Poor Mr. Sempur was hit fairly bad but oddly refused healing from any of us. Once we disarmed the trap we were rewarded with a decent bounty of coins and gems by a chest hidden below it.” As she finishes the second braid Odiri runs her fingers tenderly over the two small scars on Eucarion’s upper arm and sets to work bringing the two smaller side braids together into one larger braid down the back 

Eucarion sits patiently, waiting for Odiri to finish her work, enjoying her light touches. Since they had begun seeing one another in earnest, he'd gotten a lot more comfortable with the unfortunate condition of his body. With her, at least. "This Mr. Semper seems an interesting fellow. I imagine I'll be meeting him at some point. Did you go any further in?"

“He is very interesting. I dare say he tells a better story than I. We came to the second room down a hallway. It was very odd because the door to the room had no handle. So of course Kodu, being Kodu, kicked it in….after a few tries” Odiri titters at the memory of it as her hands methodically make their way down, passing strands of hair over and under each other. “Well! That room was sealed off for a reason. Because inside was a fucking wight and six zombies. All seem to have been dwarves in life but sadly just like the specters they were doomed to this sad undead way of things. This fight was especially frustrating because the hallway was so tight that Xiao was stuck in the back where we had taken post for most of the journey. But between the fire majicks of those who posses the talent, my bow and Kodu’s staff we were able to reduce those monsters to ash without my sweet boy’s help” Odiri smiles up from her braiding to glance at the door knowing Xiao is waiting politely on the other side as he had been all night. She turns back to her work on taming Eucarion’s hair. “Xiao is still very sorry for the whole cold nose thing last week.”

Eucarion blushes a bright scarlet to the tips of his ears at the memory. "Well, it's gonna take a minute for me to forgive him for that one." He grumbles out, "In any case, sorry he wasn't of much use to you. Wights are the worst." As she finishes the thick braid she realizes the leather thong he had it tied with was nowhere to be seen so she passes the tip of the braid over Eucarion’s shoulder and asks ”hold this?” before pulling up the sheets and lifting the pillows searching for the missing scrap. With a resigned sigh Odiri slips off the bed and shuffles barefoot with Eucarions top hitting her knees. Eucarion takes the braid in his fingers, peeking at her handiwork with a hum of satisfaction as he does. He watches her stumble about the room in his shirt, smiling in amusement. "Did you go any further than that? Into the temple, I mean." She digs through a pile of her own leather armor and pouches to recover a sturdy strip of navy blue dyed leather.”Uhuh! Ohh, found it!” She slides back to stand in front of Eucarion and takes the braid from his hand tying it off with the navy leather.

“Oh and apparently Naligor can turn into an octopus now? That was new. Well we finally moved on when we dismantled every last one of them we noticed the warning written on the east wall that said ‘look to the ceiling’ I was expecting some hideous monster to drop from above as a cruel joke but there was nothing not even a cobweb. Then that ungodly unsettling wind chime noise we heard back in the Kami Mine again. Ugh” She shivers off the thought of the ethereal noise. “We passed on to the next room after Kodu bruted his way through the door and were greeted with another empty room. Our progress seemed to have come to a dead halt when we encountered and iron door that could not fall victim to Kodu’s limbs. I was sure our keys would glow at any moment but to my surprise Soveliss came through with a spell of acid to melt down the door at its seams. That brought us to a massive, yet mostly empty room. It seems to have been maybe a training room at one point as there were empty stone weapons racks along the walls. In the last room we made it to before the keys brought us home was a funeral preparation area of some sort. What we thought were two corpse at first ended up being zombies! I've heard so many terrible stories of the curses that zombies could inflict so our group dispatched those undead fucks the best we knew how. Fire and brute force. I am so proud of Xiao because he landed the killing blow on the 2nd of the two. Once we were safe we found a variety of decorative jars and trinkets to pass off to Elder yen and… Poof… back home.” Odiri crawls into Eucarion’s lap and kisses the scar through his left eyebrow and smirks at him impishly “and..well, you know the story from there.”

Eucarion chuckles, putting a hand to Odiri's hair, ruffling it and kissing the top of her head. "Hmm, yes, I most certainly do." He sighs, rubbing his hands along Odiri's arms lovingly. "You gonna give me my shirt back, miss adventurer?" Odiri’s lips curl in a mischievous grin "why would I do that? If I don't give it back you have to stay for breakfast" With both cunning and coddling Eucarion won his shirt back and stood to leave.  "Send word for me?" he asks standing at the door.

Odiri hops off the bed to follow him to the door and pulls his hand hard enough to make him lean down. "Kiss me proper and maybe I will. You wouldn't want your last kiss to me one on the cheek if I die beyond the wall without you." He obliges her, taking a knee and gently kissing her lips. Pulling back after a tender moment, he smiles. "I suppose I'll just have to come with you then." Odiri smiles warmly after getting exactly what she was looking for. "I look forward to the day that I have you at my back in battle once more." She hesitates glancing at the floor and back up at him. "I love you Eucarion…"

"It may be sooner than you think." Eucarion rises to his feet, looking down at her and feeling only light. "I love you too, Odiri." Not opening the door any more than he has to for her modesty, he gives a last glance back, slipping out and away.

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A Conversation in the Temple Kitchen
Takes Place Post Chapter 12

(OOC: Written in collaboration.)

It was late in the afternoon by the time Eucarion finished patching up one of the temple walls. A novice had put an elbow through a thin bit of it, or so Mato had explained. In a matter of a week, Eucarion's temple life had fallen into a comfortable routine, there constantly being work in need of completion. Curiously, he thought as returned to his modest quarters, he had hardly encountered Oranssi since he arrived. Turning a corridor, Eucarion found he was greeted with… armor? A shrine? A shrine in a way, but built out of personal items. Chainmail hung up with an accruement of weapons staggering down the armor, with a torn and tattered banner of the Goblin Queen presented over the weapons.

Eucarion recognized the heraldry, and the sight of it with the amalgamation of weaponry left a hollow feeling in his gut. He'd rather not see that banner at all, but seeing it so thoroughly trashed did bring him a degree of satisfaction. This had to be Oranssi's, buy why would he construct a shrine for the unburied dead? It certainly must have been one, based on everything he could discern from its construction. Everyone had their demons, Eucarion supposed…

Just then, the ring of a prayer bell from the shrine in the main hall. Oranssi, having returned from a journey, enters the hall, kneeling down and praying. He is dressed in his elven soldier's uniform.

Eucarion notices his entry through the viewlines between the columns. He approaches quietly, but stops at a respectful distance, not wanting to disturb Oranssi's prayers.

Oranssi finishes, opens his eyes half way, and speaks, not moving any other part of his body. "Eucarion, you are very much a being of rumor. I was informed you had left Shore Blossom."

The suddenness of Oranssi's voice startles Eucarion a bit, but he makes no show of it. "I've always been the subject of rumor, Oranssi." He approaches, standing just within the other elf's periphery. "Whoever told you was certainly mistaken. I have taken up residency here. Many welcomes on your return from beyond the Wall. I suppose this is why I have not seen you around the temple?

Oranssi rises and faces Eucarion. "Ah, you must be in the south wing. And yes, we have just returned. Sadly, while our party grows, it has become more divided than ever. I do not see us winning this war."

Eucarion crosses his arms high on his chest. "Hm. So there have been some developments to the situation?"

"Some, but, I must say, I am hungry. Meals have been less then welcoming." As Oranssi leads Eucarion to the kitchen hall, he adds, "I must ask, does your attraction to Odiri have anything to do with her plucking finger?" 

"A meal does sound good right about now." Eucarion nods and follows after Oranssi, walking beside him. He is palpably uncomfortable at the subject of Odiri. "Why? Has she been particularly… out of line? I know she has been denying your healing, which I have told her is entirety foolish.""

"Just her projections, and the timing of her outbursts." As they enter the kitchen Oranssi grabs a pan off a wall hook. "What would you like?"

Eucarion gives a vague motion of his hand. "I'm not picky. Honestly, everything I've eaten in this town, your expertise included, has been a welcome change from whatever mess I was cooking myself in the woods." He finds a nice spot to lean on and observe, cracking his back as he settles in. "As for Odiri, I'm sure you can understand where her anger may be your doing and not necessarily mine."

Oranssi cracks a smile. "Not everything is about you." He conjures up an assortment of ingredients and begins his preparation. " I knew my actions would have consequences. I just wish that the others were not so blind to both the tyranny and creature comforts that Shore Blossom has presented." Oranssi places a plate of grilled mixed greens with a nut paste gyro in front of Eucarion. "Oh how I wish I had this spell ages ago. Sadly, it leaves me weaker of hunger then I was before."

Eucarion gives a little snort of amusement, but he brushes the comment off as Oranssi hands him the food. "Oranssi, thank you, but please, eat first. I have been here all day while you've been off doing god knows what." He pushes the plate back in Oranssi's direction. Taking a more serious tone, he adds, "Part of the reason Im here at all is to step away from all this madness that our company has gotten caught up in. Your actions might have been rash, but I'm glad that you at least see that something must be done here in the name of self-preservation."

"And Kodu would agree with you on that."

"Ha. At least we would agree on something at all."

Oranssi takes the plate, pausing a moment. "Eucarion, do you feel the guards would survive in their present state?"

Eucarion props his head up on his arm, elbow on the counter. "I doubt any of the guards here have ever seen real combat. If there is to be an invasion or even an attack of any serious magnitude, they'd be of little help."

"My thoughts exactly. And honestly, if we were not in proximity of that dragon, I fear the Wall may have chosen them." He brings over a glass of grape wine to Eucarion. "I hope I have your support, but I have begun a training regimen with the guards. They may have not seen battle, but at least they can be prepared for it."

"I am trying to lay off the drink, but I suppose wine doesn't count. Thank you." Eucarion takes the glass. "You absolutely have my support, and I'm perfectly willing to instruct them." He laughs bitterly, swirling the wine around. "I was a high commander once, you know."

"Exactly why I ask. On my examination of the this city, and with Naligor's input, we," Oranssi gestures with his finger back and forth between the two of then, "are the only factions of military here. There is the council, but they are figure heads." Sipping his own cup of blessed wine, he adds, "They can be more dangerous than we could ever be…"

"This council hides much. Unsurprising. It's just what governments do." He pauses a touch too long with the memory of disquieting thought, but he shakes his head and continues. "Frankly, Mato is the only one I trust among them. At least he is willing to part with any sort of information. But still. The lack of a standing army is a concerning indicator of how things run around here. No military means very few in the city have any kind of martial skill. The guards hardly count. Makes a population easy to control, no?" A thought strikes him rather suddenly. "Huh. Perhaps it is exactly because we can fight that the Wall chose us to champion it. Same with the last group."

"And that is why I blessed the table. In some form or another, we adventurers left a mark on that table. Have you noticed that none of the townsfolk sit there? Just us. It's a contract that we unwittingly signed." Oranssi takes a deep, steadying breath, his anger rising quickly as the memories of betrayal came flooding in.

Eucarion reached out, placing a hand on Oranssi's shoulder to ground him. "It just as easily could have been our first going beyond the Wall as it could have been that table. In any case, I do not think there is anything to be done for it now. Madam Saru lied, whatever her reasons for it, but now we must find how to live with this curse."

Oranssi sighs. "Is it just our fate then, to be toys of war?"

"My god, what a way to say it." Eucarion quickly downs the rest of his wine. "Yes, Oranssi. I've concluded it's fucking inescapable."

A somber silence overtakes the kitchen as they both consider this. A sobering notion that no amount of wine, blessed or otherwise, can clear from the mind. Eucarion sighs deeply, drawing his gaze away from Oranssi. A glimmer catches the corner of his eye. Oh? A set of beautiful silver daggers strapped to Oranssi's belt. How hadn't he noticed those before? An idea strikes him.

He motions with his head towards the daggers. "Are those dragon bone?" Oranssi nods. Eucarion smirks, eyes bright with an uncharacteristic glee. "Wanna spar?" 

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A Crumpled Letter

A crumpled ball of parchment lays on the edge of the fountain in the center of market square. Upon inspection it is a letter. Unsealed. Unsent. Forgotten.

It reads:

"Dear Mum,

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write. The past few months have gone by so quickly. I am so sorry I missed Tomb-Sweeping Day. I miss my brother in every waking moment and I know you and father do too.

I have settled in a quiet but beautiful port town. You will be proud to know that I have found employment at a small clothier here. While being a shop girl may not be that exciting it is a safe profession like you always wanted for me. You will be sure to tell father of my employment as I know he is worried I will follow in Orryn’s footsteps. The only adventures I go on are trips to the market in the evenings to spend time with a handsome young gentleman (a halfling of course) who has been courting me proper like. Flowers and all.

Please send my regrets again to Gerrik for canceling the wedding but you know full well, we were not meant for each other. I have faith he will find someone that makes him as happy as my gentleman makes me. I promise to write more now that I am settled.

Your Loving Daughter,

Odiri Reed Olividae

PS – Please don’t try to trace this letter. You can’t."

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Sempur: The Tale of Step and the Word of Water
pt. 1

"Gather 'round and open ears. For today I begin the adventures of a young hero from a far away land."

With a small stick he begins to draw in the dirt.

"Our tale begins, as many do, atop a camel. A camel in the Goshan Wastes."

He finishes the outline drawing of a camel, a man, and the sun.

"A hard land of sand, sun, and dangerous creatures… it is also the land of the O'Aes'Sidhe, the traveling folk of the desert lands. And our hero starts his life as one of them."

"Now the Traveling folk are a mysterious group of dwellers in that land. It is said that in their far roamings under the sun they have unearthed a few of the secret words of the world. Our hero, who we will call Step, is no different. For at a young age he found the words of "here" and "there"… but that is a tale for another day. Today we speak about the desert and water. For water means everything in the hot lands. It means life or death…"

Sempur leaned into the crowd with a flourish. His performance didn't really rely on his charm. He couldn't compare to the local Expression workers, the ones people call Bards, but he did well enough to earn some coin and curiosity. More than good enough for his needs.

"Now Step was a bright child, full of wonder and curiosity, but I'll start his tale as many do… with how his curiosity got him in trouble…"

The crowds here were easy to impress. The ate up truths and lies about his home country with equal fervor. That was well enough. Too much truth would start rumors and eventually leave a trail that could be followed. However it was still nice to tell a story somewhat close to his own.

He continued the tale of how "Step and the Word of Water", but as a few familiar faces passed through the crowd he reflected on his recent journey beyond the wall.

He had arrived in this town weekend freedom in the undiscovered. Surely the Awakened could not find him somewhere they did not know about. The people here were odd and he still had not come up with a decent lie to cover his own talents. He could not pretend to know the majick of this land. He was no Wu Jen with their arcane mysteries. Perhaps he could avoid using his talents. That would be for the best…

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