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Author Topic: Thob Goes to the Surface  (Read 10346 times)

Loam

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Thob Goes to the Surface
« on: April 19, 2020, 10:56:03 pm »


Thob Goes to the Surface



Prologue (see below)
Part I: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4  | 5
Part II: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9
Part III: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |



PROLOGUE:
For hundreds of years destructive wars engulfed the western lands, wreaking constant turmoil and ruin on the human and dwarven kingdoms. Once-proud dwarven fortresses crumbled under endless waves of undead invaders, the dwarves driven ever further underground with each successive attack—until only a handful survived, in the deepest mines. Centuries passed; the memory of wars and kingdoms faded, the things of the surface world forgotten in the unchanging gloom of the caverns, where sun did not shine and seasons never turned…

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Thob Poweraxe was a miner in Lawmined, a dwarven hall deep beneath the Creative Spikes. He was an easy-going, phlegmatic, and unassuming dwarf of seventy-five. When he was a newbeard his parents had inducted him into the “Communion of Saints,” some sort of religion about medicine or something. It sounded nice, but Thob didn’t give it much mind: he wasn’t given to the abstract. If he couldn’t swing a pick at it, it wasn’t worth his time.

For his whole life Thob had dug and toiled in the slate-walled caverns among endless swaths of plump helmets, and he had never strayed far from home. That was about to change.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
A couple weeks ago a strange message had arrived in Lawmined, announcing that one Urvad Whipgem had been made the new King of the Sandaled Key, and was calling all loyal dwarves to the ancient mountainhome of Dawngloves. Thob hadn’t known, until someone had told him, that the Sandaled Key had ever had a king, and as far as he was concerned they got along fine without one. Probably Thob would have forgotten about the whole thing, if not for a second strange and more terrible event.

The so-called “boss” of Lawmined was Nish, a thin, graying engineer. He was a good engineer, too, but as a leader he inspired less confidence. Apparently the fact that he called himself “boss” was enough to get the other dwarves to listen to him. Thob had heard somewhere that dwarves used to have “mayors,” and every year all the dwarves got to pick who they wanted to be mayor in what they called an “election.” But that hadn’t happened in a very long time, longer than Thob’s lifetime, if it had happened at all.
   One day Nish called Thob into his office. “We’ve got a bit of a situation, see, and you’re the only one I can spare.”

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

   Probably Bomrek had walled himself in again while building, and they needed a competent miner to break him out. Thob hefted his pickaxe.
   “Fact is,” Nish continued sheepishly, “the, er… well, the booze has run out.”
   The pickaxe clattered to the floor. “You’re joking, right?”
   “’Fraid not. Found out at breakfast—not a drop left in the barrels, any of them.”
   “How can the booze run out? We grow more plump helmets than we could eat in a year!”
   “See… we don’t have a still—we can’t make any more. All we have is forges.”

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

   This was true. There were many forges in Lawmined, and few smiths—and no stills.
   “What’ll we do?” asked Thob.
   “Ah,” said Nish, “not so much we as… you. Someone needs to run out and bring back some alcohol—er, and a brewer who knows how to put a still together.”
   “Run where?”
   “Well, here’s my plan. Remember that letter we got a few weeks back? Said there was a new king in Dawngloves? I figure anyone calls himself ‘king for the dwarves’ ought to know a good brewer or two, and probably has a stockpile full of extra beer.” He stroked the braid of his beard. “You’ll have to go through the caverns… but I figure being a miner you’re used to that.”
   “I don’t know where Dawngloves is, though.”
   “No fear,” said Nish. “Let me show you. I have a map, you see—a map of all the dwarf holds in the world.” He pointed to a ragged scrap of paper on the wall.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

“We’re here, in the middle,” he said, then “Dawngloves is at the end of that valley to the west.”
   “Where’s the rest of it?” asked Thob.
   “Rest of what?”
   “The world. There’s got to be something more.”
   “That’s all that’s on the map, isn’t it?”
   “But,” said Thob, “how would I get to those volcanoes up there? There’s nothing in between.”
   “What does that matter? You’re not going up there, you’re going to Dawngloves. Stop changing the subject…”

And so it was that Thob Midorlibash, with only the clothes on his back and a pick in his hand, set out on the dark cavern road to Dawngloves in search of booze. Little did he know how far that search would take him…
« Last Edit: August 03, 2020, 02:42:27 pm by Loam »
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Superdorf

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2020, 11:41:37 pm »

Is this what you made that dwarf-picture for! Delightful-- and I'm grinning already at the prose. Looking forward to this one.  :D
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NJW2000

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2020, 03:51:31 am »

This looks great! Posting to watch.
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Loam

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2020, 08:29:31 pm »

Is this what you made that dwarf-picture for! Delightful-- and I'm grinning already at the prose. Looking forward to this one.  :D
Yeah, helps me visualize the character. (And improve my art, which has been sorely neglected)

This looks great! Posting to watch.
Thanks! Hope it delivers. I have several updates played already, and Thob has been in some interesting situations...
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Imic

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2020, 05:23:14 am »

Posting to watch.
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King Zultan

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2020, 06:32:37 am »

I'm gonna also post to watch.
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Loam

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2020, 08:24:48 pm »

In Search of Lost Wine

As Nish had said, Thob was used to extended trips through the caverns: when Lawmined needed ore or stone, he was the one to go out and get it. But that didn’t mean he took the caverns lightly. For Nish it was simple: draw a line between two points on a map and follow it. Thob knew better—he knew of the maze-like passages, spider dens, troll nests, precipitous drops, and dwarf-drowning pools. Even the ancient and long-unused roads that crisscrossed through the caves could lead one astray, as evidently the ancient dwarves hadn’t heard of signs. There would be no “This way to Dawngloves” for Thob… maybe not even a road to Dawngloves.

But Nish was right about one thing: they needed alcohol, and Dawngloves was their best bet, and all things considered Thob was probably the most qualified dwarf to go get it.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The plump helmet fields continued a long way out from Lawmined. They were overgrown and essentially wild now, but you could tell they had once been cultivated. Thob watched a pack of troglodytes gleaning the purple caps and munching them brutishly. The creatures left Thob alone, and he certainly stayed clear of them.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The muddy, stagnant cavern pools were, as far as Thob was concerned, nothing but a blight on dwarfkind, undoubtedly the creations of Zagith, meant for misery.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Water itself was a weak, tasteless sort of liquid that barely registered on the liver; what was more, the water here was full of mud, dead plants, and dead animals, not to mention the waste of living animals (dwarves included). Doc Lokum said it was “necessary for cleaning wounds,” but alcohol was clearly much more sanitary. He also said that sick dwarves should only drink water, which was pure nonsense. Furthermore, nothing good lived in water: they were either clammy limp-tasting cave fish, or something that wanted to eat you—like that cave crocodile.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Some miles south of Lawmined, Thob reached the crossroads. Probably there were more crossroads, but this was the only one he knew. It was also the farthest he’d ever been from the mountain hall.

Thob leaned on his pick as he considered the next move. Nothing in the dark caverns beyond, west, east, or south, suggested where each road went. Judging by Nish’s map Dawngloves could be either west or south, but for all Thob knew the eastward road curled around and headed for the fortress, while the other two ways led straight into magma pipes.

But Nish’s map was all he had to go on. And the way west smelled fresher, somehow. Thob hefted the pick and trudged on. Hours passed in the blackness. The road wound on. He came to a long bridge over a pool, when a grunt startled him into wariness.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
A hairy troll stood on the bridge before him. Thob began moving more quietly, but the beast didn’t seem to have seen him yet. He glanced at the white tusks and horns that could separate a dwarf’s insides from the rest of his body, and probably would if the thing spotted him. The bridge was too narrow and too open for him to sneak past unseen. Thob gulped. He saw only one way through. Carefully, cautiously, he eased himself over the bridge and into the fetid pool below.

He hated water, but at least he could keep his head above the surface. Giving the bridge a wide berth he paddled slowly around, like a damn cave fish, through the half-submerged nether-caps and bloodthorns, ever certain that any moment some awful thing would grab his foot and drag him under. He seemed to spend hours in the frigid stagnation before finding the opposite shore and hauling himself up onto the muddy bank, dripping and miserable—but uneviscerated, thank Egesh. He found the road again and struck out. He must be getting close.

Thob was just about over his encounter with the water when the hair on his neck started to prickle up. He was in a tunnel cut through the rock, nothing in sight ahead or behind… but when he took a few more steps something touched him—and then a sharp bite!

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Without even trying to see where the spider was, Thob ran. He ran as fast as he could, not looking back, not even trying to be stealthy. If he could run far enough fast enough the eight-legged demon of the deep might lose interest. But he knew he could only run for so long. Breath became labored, sweat poured from his already-soaked skin, leg muscles grew weary. Thob barreled through a pack of naked mole dogs crossing the road and hurled himself around a corner and stopped, panting.

He listened, heard nothing, waited for the sudden pinch of the invisible mandibles… but it did not come. After a few minutes, his breathing mostly normal again, Thob stealthily resumed his treacherous march.

Please, let Dawngloves be nearby…
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Loam

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2020, 05:10:21 pm »

The cavern air began to grow fresher, and a little warmer too. Thob felt he must be getting close.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Turning a corner, Thob saw the caverns open up before him, widening into a large cavity carved in the rock salt—the remains of an ancient magma chamber, he thought, now dry. The road ran into the center of the chamber, where a great staircase spiraled up into the roof of the cavern. This must be Dawngloves. Up above Thob thought he could hear faint sounds echoing down… voices maybe, and footsteps, but it was hard to tell. Relieved, he marched up to the stairs and began to ascend.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
At the top of the stairs was a huge chamber, mostly empty, with the shadowy shapes of a few buildings at the edges. A wooden platform lay nearby, laden with various goods and the sleeping shapes of a few dwarves—some kind of dormitory, maybe? Thob himself was rather tired from his journey, and figured sleeping on a platform would at least be better than sleeping on the ground. He found a bare spot, pulled a sack of plump helmets under his head, and soon began to sleep.

When he woke up he noticed two things. First, it was extremely bright in the cave: not the hot angry gleam of magma nor the soft luminescence of cavern fungi, but some light at once clearer and harsher than anything he knew. Second, there was a very spooky sort of dwarf standing over him, staring at him.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

“I don’t know you,” said the old dwarf. “Who are you?”
“Name’s Thob. Thob Poweraxe. I’m from Lawmined, out to the… well, far away somewhere.” He rose. “And um… who are you?”
The old dwarf raised a white eyebrow. “I?” he said, and he stood tall and lifted his head a little and looked down his nose at Thob. “I am Urvad Whipgem—King of the Sandaled Key.”

“Oh, you’re the king!” said Thob. “That’s great! I was lookin’ for you. See we’ve got a problem back a Lawmined—ran clean out of booze! Silly, I know, but ah… you wouldn’t happen to have some kegs to spare, and maybe a good brewer too? Or even a middling brewer, so long as he knows how to build a still. We’ve got all the plump helmets we need, but no still! Imagine that! Oh, and some dwarfpower to haul everything back, and maybe a guard or two—it’s a dangerous trip, let me tell you…”

All this time the king’s brow had been lowering and lowering until Thob could barely see his eyes anymore. Finally he cut Thob off with an impatient bark…
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
…and left, without answering any of Thob’s questions.



Short one this time, had to focus on other stuff for a while there. Things are quieting down, and I'll be able to get more updates out.
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Th4DwArfY1

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2020, 02:45:38 am »

Ptw
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Loam

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2020, 09:15:23 am »

Thob’s encounter with the so-called “king” had been disappointing, to say the least. But he wasn’t going to let it stop him: someone else here would know where the drink stockpile was. He decided to take a look around the fort.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
An old temple stood in the corner of the big chamber, a crumbling piece of architecture that had dropped some of its floor stones into a storeroom below. It clearly hadn’t been used in ages. Thob looked at some of the carvings and statues. Most seemed to be images of the temple’s priests, devotees of Doren, goddess of wealth. Maybe that’s why it stood over the hoard?

In the other corner were the remains of a tavern. Thob looked in each of the big stone casks lining the wall, but alas—all empty.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The upper chambers seemed very rudely carved: the walls were stone but the floor was covered in red sand. Maybe these used to be farms.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
There were several dwarves in these chambers, all dressed in fine garments. They all seemed to be moving around sort of aimlessly, as if they had nothing to do, chit-chatting with each other about nothing in particular. None of them looked like brewers, either.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
There were two reptile women in the fort as well. They spoke in strange hisses and were generally friendly, but seemed not to know much about the fort’s goings-on.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
In the lower story was the old great hall, lined on one side with display cases and loaded at the end with treasures of ancient dwarven craft. Thob reasoned it would be imprudent to take from the king’s own treasury without asking, but there was one item that caught his attention: a little roll of paper with writing on it. The symbols were old, and Thob had to try hard to figure out what they meant:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Wasted effort, that. But it did make Thob wonder: what’s an elf?

Thob looked all around but found no drinks. Finally he called to one of the dwarves.
“H’lo there. My name’s Thob.”
“Ah, hello,” she replied. “I am Osmod Reasonchurch.”
“So, what do you do around here?”
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
“But what does an abbot do?”
“Well… the king says I run a monastery nearby. Of course I’ve never been there. No one has. Been abandoned for centuries.”
“The king made you an abbot?”
“Who else?” said the dwarf. “He made us all something: abbots, barons, generals, diplomats…‘nobles’ he calls us.”
“And nobles just… walk around and hobnob?”
“Well… so far, yes. There’s not much else to do. We’re still getting everything set up.”
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
“Set up?” asked Thob. “I thought this was the dwarven capital.”
“Oh, it was,” said Osmod. “Hundreds of years ago. And it will be again, that’s what King Urvad says!”
“Uh-huh. How’s he plan to do that with a dozen dwarves?” A dozen useless dwarves, he thought.
“Well, I don’t know the details, but he says we’ve got to ‘reclaim our heritage.’ He’s found some of our ancient artifacts and wants someone to go reclaim them.”
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
“Stoneclapsed? Is that another fortress?”
“Yes. About a day and a half to the northeast, across the desert. But it’s a dangerous trip—none of us are suited for it.”

Thob spoke with some of the other “nobles” of Dawngloves. All of them wanted this or that artifact returned; not one knew where brew or brewer could be found. Still, they were polite enough. Thob was chatting with one so-called baroness, Rîsen, when he let slip some of his more controversial opinions:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The baroness was getting visibly distressed as Thob continued arguing. Hoping to save the conversation Thob tried to lighten the mood a little. He thought for a second, then made the best joke he could think of:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
It turned out Rîsen really liked jokes:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Either that, or Thob was a gifted comedian. Soon the baroness was cheerful again, and Thob felt he had learned a thing or two about getting along with nobility.

But he couldn’t stand around talking all day. He had a mission: if there was no booze in Dawngloves, he needed to look somewhere else. Another fortress might have a few casks left. He would set out for Stoneclasped.



There'll be more adventure and a lot less plot-buildup (if you can call it plot) in the following episodes: I just needed a rationale for Thob to start his quest. I also hope to get these out a little quicker, now that I'm officially done with school. I'll try to do more illustrations.
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Loam

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2020, 10:59:45 am »

The Great Outdoors

The clear, harsh light Thob had seen upon waking up was even brighter now; it spilled into the upper cavern from a single wide opening in the wall. Thob couldn’t see anything beyond the opening because of the light, but he knew that must be the way out of Dawngloves, out onto the surface. Pick in hand, he stepped from the dimness of the caverns into the light; he had to shut his eyes against the glare, and squint for a long time, but when his eyes adjusted Thob caught his first glimpse of the world above:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
A narrow green valley stretched north between two lines of high rock walls. Through the middle of the valley a stream of water flowed, clearer than any cavern water he had seen and glinting in the light. And over all loomed a bright blue dome, stretching to all edges of the visible world and set near its peak with something so bright Thob couldn’t look at it without his eyes hurting.

A short distance away he could make out a few low mounds standing in a wide field; nearby, on the eastern edge of the valley, were a cluster of boxy stone structures. He set out for the mounds.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The surface was covered with a weird spiky green moss, and here and there grew large fungi with very hard stems. Their branches sprouted green flaps, and they looked like big quarry bushes. Everything up here was green; it was honestly a little monotonous, lacking the variety of color the caverns afforded.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
When he reached the mounds he had seen, Thob realized they were apparently some sort of earthen dwellings: at least they had doors and floor hatches for entry. There was nobody within, but there was a statue nearby, clearly of dwarf make and recognizably Mingtuth, an important dwarf deity:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Thob wondered about these tumuli: had dwarves once lived on the surface, among these alien fungi and under the awful glare of that bright thing overhead? Even just thinking about that ghastly light made Thob uneasy, even… somewhat sick. His head spun. He placed a hand on his belly…
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
This went on for some time.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Maybe he could walk it off. He started towards the stone structures to the east, tortuously treading and heaving with every step.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Whatever had gone on here before, there was nothing here now. There was a room full of tables, one of beds, and in one corner a small temple: a sign beside it read “The Church of Wealth.” There were several smaller shrines as well, although questionably decorated:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Maybe it was a cautionary tale. Thob steered clear of the shrine, just in case.

The nausea hadn’t subsided yet, so Thob kept pacing the grounds. Beyond the farther buildings he saw a copse of woody fungi and a pool of water—and a horrible shape squatting beside it!
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The thing looked about like a dwarf with big bat-like wings and wrinkly gray skin, but the worst part was its face: it had no eyes! Some blind cave creature, come from the depths, like himself? But no, Thob knew all the beasts of the underground. This was a surface-dweller: no doubt it had no eyes so it wouldn’t be disgusted by the dreadful light. What a strange and grotesque world he had come to!

Then the thing turned its head to face Thob. It must know he was there! But it made no move to attack, or run away, as another beast would have. Thob waited to see what it would do, but it only sat. Finally, after a while of standing in silence, Thob eased forward. It looked vaguely like a dwarf: maybe it could speak? He spoke calmingly to it:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
At least it could speak. Maybe if he got on its good side it could tell him about the area? He tried asking how it felt, as though he cared for its health—but the thing rebuffed him haughtily:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Then Thob remembered his talk with the baroness: perhaps the creature liked…
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
This was encouraging—but ultimately fruitless. The creature still wouldn’t talk to him, though it grudgingly laughed at his jokes. After a while Thob gave it up: he left the weird thing to itself, on the bank of its muddy pool, alone. Maybe that’s all it wanted.

On the plus side, his nausea seemed to have passed for good. The light was irritating but sufferable. He continued on his journey.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The greenery began to fade away on either side of the valley, turning into fields of dry white. He passed through another cluster of empty mounds, then saw another group of stone buildings nearby. The ground here was coarse white sand and rock only sparsely vegetated.

As before, all the buildings were empty, but Thob found one altar with a silver divination die left on it. He hadn’t much use for gods before, but in this new world he felt it might be good to have someone above at his back—just for insurance. Standing before the statue of Doren, he made himself as reverent as he could, took up the die, and rolled.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
Should’ve known better. That’s what he got for messing with gods.
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TheFlame52

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2020, 04:28:39 pm »

I know it's just a bit of trim-and-paste, but your photo editing is excellent. So is your storytelling.

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I laughed.

Superdorf

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2020, 04:34:43 pm »

Ditto-- and scared-miner-behind-tree is downright adorable. :))
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King Zultan

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2020, 03:44:42 am »

I'm liking the story so far.
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mightymushroom

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Re: Thob Goes to the Surface
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2020, 10:54:21 am »

I'm enjoying Thob's tale. A sane dwarf navigating an insane intricately generated world is in some ways the essence of the game.
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