Posts Tagged ‘Eloria’

Faith of the Raven Pt. 4

May 19, 2018

The three new companions rode out at dawn. The innkeep would not get up to cook breakfast but allowed them the use of the kitchen. Galath cooked up some eggs and sausage and then packed up some food for the road. Arne had suggested that they just leave as punishment for the lazy innkeep but Galath left a gold piece and Carania approved. While the two finished packing up, Arne swiped the gold piece with nobody the wiser. Now, they were on the path back to the forest with Carania at the lead with Arne and Galath riding side by side. Of course, being a dwarf, Galath was riding a war pony he had purchased a month prior. Arne and Carania each had exotic Kofrani horses. Carania’s had been a gift from the Silverlight family but she wondered how someone as shabbily dressed as Arne could have gotten such an expensive horse. Arne had spent the earlier part of the morning talking softly to his bird, Grimalkin, while Galath and Carania had remained quiet.

Finally, Arne broke the silence. “So, it’s weird to me to see an elf and a dwarf working together. How do you feel about it, fearless leader?”

Carania looked over her shoulder at Arne for a moment and then glanced at Galath before she turned back to watch the road ahead. “It’s true that there exists a long distrust between our peoples,” She said. “but I was brought up differently. I have no problems with dwarves.”

Galath smiled and looked at Arne. “And I have no problem with elves,” he said. “My family was intolerant but we did live underground where all we had were stories and a few unwelcome elven visitors to go by. Once I decided to live above ground, I learned to judge people by the content of their character instead of the pointiness of their ears.”

Carania smiled at that. “That’s a good way of putting it.”

“That is kind of strange, too,” Arne said, turning to look at Galath.

“What’s strange this time?” Galath asked.

“You said that you ‘decided to live above ground’ which is strange already for a dwarf,” Arne said. “On top of that, you are a cleric of Pelor, a sun god, which generally never happens.”

“I recognize that it is strange to worship something a dwarf rarely sees,” Galath said. “However, on a trip to the surface for trading, I was struck by the beauty of the sun that I could not get it out of my mind. I set out on my own and encountered a temple dedicated to Pelor in the first town I encountered.”

“So that’s when you saw the light?” Arne asked with a smirk. Carania groaned pretty audibly at the pun.

Galath just grinned and shrugged. “Yes, I suppose I did. In Overbrook.”

“I can’t understand the religious life,” Arne said. “I rely more on what I can do with my mind.”

“That sounds like a priest of Ioun,” Galath said.

Arne laughed and Grimalkin cawed in an almost laugh. “I am definitely no priest. If I was a priest I would be thrown out of any temple by now.”

“I’m new to the religious thing myself,” Carania said. “This is only my second day as a servant of the Raven Queen.”

Galath and Arne looked at each other and then back at the back of Carania’s head. “The Raven Queen does not have a lot of worshippers, per se. I guess we agreed to help you so quickly that we never heard that story. How did you become a devotee of the Great Spooky One?”

“Don’t mock her,” Galath said.

“I’m not sure if you mean Carania or the Raven Queen but I assure you that both of them can take care of themself,” Arne said.

“Never doubt it,” Carania said as she stroked the hilt of her sword instinctually. “The truth is that the story is strange and it’s still kind of sinking in for me.”

“Well,” Arne said. “Well, ou have to tell the story. It will help pass the time on the way to the battle.”

Carania paused for a moment and thought about the story and suddenly felt a little nervous. “It’s a pretty unbelievable story, I suppose. I’m not sure.”

“Now I’m really curious,” Arne said. “Please tell us. I want to know what I’m dealing with.”

“Tell your story or don’t,” Galath said. “Either way I am with you if your cause is to put an end to an undead threat. Nothing you say can make that cause unworthy.”

“Until the day before yesterday I was a bodyguard for one of the Silverlight daughters. I had trained for the job by training under three diferent sword masters at True Cross.”

“Well,” Arne said. “Being lead by an accomplished and well-trained fighter is definitely a comfort.”

“I’m so glad to comfort you,” Carania said, glancing back to show her sarcasm with a smirk. “I was on my way to a new assignment at the Capital when I was ambushed by a few thugs. I was skewered by an arrow and I fell to the ground and bled out. I died.”

“I can only imagine how horrible that was,” Galath said.

Carania nodded. “The next thing I knew, I was in a strange place talking to a woman who claimed to be the Raven Queen. She offered me my life back as long as I hunted those who would mock the barrier between life and death and the undead horrors they might unleash. It was not much of a choice so here I am.”

“I don’t know which is scarier,” Arne said. “That being real or you being crazy.”

“It’s true,” Carania said. “I don’t know who else would have had that power and would have left this mark on me when I woke up.” She held up her hand with the raven symbol on it.

“I believe it,” Galath said. “I have never directly conversed with Pelor or Lathander but I have felt their presence and the existence of religious visions is known. I’m envious even though I can see the burden she placed on your shoulders.”

“I suppose there are things beyond this world that I have not experienced,” Arne said. “For the record, I think she chose the right person to be her champion but we’ll see if she was right. Won’t we?”

“I suppose we will,” Carania said.

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When It All Ended Pt. 12

May 12, 2018

In the morning, Cassandra was sitting at the table near the kitchen by herself first. She was pretty much the only morning person of the group. She had the jar holding Monela sitting on the table in front of her, next to the eggs and sausage she had summoned from thin air. Galath and William came down the stairs together next. They both eyed the jar warily but sat down and food and drink were put in front of them. None of the three chose to talk just yet. Morgan and Percival came down next and they looked rested and in good spirits. Sensing the mood, even the usually verbose Percy stayed quiet while he started to eat his breakfast.

The group expected Garth last but first Clio glided down the stairs with a big smile on her face. As they all stared in surprise, she walked over to the table and grabbed a handful of eggs and shoved them into her mouth before walking out of the mansion through the front door. Everyone’s gaze was drawn to the top of the stairs where Garth had just awkwardly coughed before descending the stairs. He walked down and sat at the table with everyone and took hold of a magically conjured chalice and drank deeply of the juice it held. There was a very pregnant pause as everyone tried not to stare at him.

Garth started to eat as if nothing had happened but he was the first one to break. “Alright, yes. I shared a night of passion with the faerie woman.”

William grinned. “And how was it? Are you intact?” Many of the group stifled a laugh at that.

“I am in peak condition,” Garth said. “Ready to face danger.”

“How was it?” Percy asked. Morgan elbowed him in the ribs gently and he gave her an apologetic look.

“Unforgettable,” Garth said. “I’m really not interested in kissing and telling. I know I would normally boast and share all of the gory details but this is a woman who could literally tear out my spine. The good news is that she has agreed to assist us today. She is actually itching to get her hands dirty.”

“Didn’t she do that last night?” Percy asked which earned him another elbow from Morgan but pretty much everybody laughed, even Garth.

“That’s good news,” Morgan said. “We’re welcome to have her and, of course, Cassandra has enlisted the djinn Monela. Thank you, Cassandra, and thank you Monela. You will be released from that jar soon enough. Percival and I also enlisted the assistance of Amien’s wolfpack.”

“And you’re alright with that, Percy?” Galath asked, half-joking and half-concerned.

“We need all hands on deck for this one,” Percy said. “After this, Amien can ride or run off into the sunset and I’ll never have to see him again.”

“Or he could die in battle,” Garth added helpfully.

“Nobody is dying today,” Morgan said. “We are going to take out this dragon together.”

“Agreed,” William said. “I’ve never known a better group of adventurers than Morgan’s Raiders. In truth, I have never known a better group of people.”

“I’d still be alone at the academy if it weren’t for all of you,” Cassandra said.

“I would still be petrified in the middle of the forest,” Galath said.

“I’d still be a mere sellsword,” William said.

“I’d probably be locked up somewhere,” Garth said.

“There’s still time for that,” William said and everybody laughed again.

“And I’d still be puttering around that library,” Percy said. He and Morgan paused for a kiss.

“I’m proud of you all,” Morgan said. “You have saved the day with me several times over. We saved the world together when we barely knew each other. Now that we’re a family, we’re unstoppable. If it was any other group, I don’t think I would be leading them into the capital of my homeland to fight a dragon.”

“So what’s the plan?” Galath asked. Galath had always gotten to the point fairly quickly. One kind of expected a cleric to hold patience as one of their virtues but his directness had saved lives before. Although he was a healer, he never claimed to be a doctor so he was never worried about his bedside manner.

“Right,” Morgan said. “Let’s get to it.” She smiled and mentally composed the bullet points in her head. “The guard, Amien’s pack, Clio, and Monela will go in first and engage the dragon’s hangers-on. If the dragon chooses to engage at that point, then we will spring into action. Otherwise, we will head directly to the palace roof. Hopefully, Princess Cora will lure the dragon to the roof and we will fight it there. If not, we will have to confront it inside the castle which is less than ideal. After we take down the dragon, we help finish off any lizardmen or wyverns left over. This is our show so we’ll start and finish the fight. Any questions?”

“What’s our strategy when fighting the dragon?” Percy asked.

“I’m thinking it’s the same as when we fought that beholder that one time,” Morgan said.

Cassandra had a photographic memory and was a perpetual student so she felt compelled to speak. “William stays in the dragon’s face while you hit it with arrows from a distance. I hang back just in range and hit it with spells and try to disable it. Percy and Galath also hang back to heal and do what they can. Garth will be sneaky and look for openings to attack. If somebody falls, we get them up and keep going.”

“Exactly,” Morgan said. “And this breakfast you just fed us is our hero’s feast, right?”

“Yes,” Cassandra said. “I used my last chalice to summon it.”

“I was wondering why I suddenly felt braver,” Percy said.

“I suppose all that’s left is to go out and greet the day?” Garth asked.

“Yes,” William said. “Which means you’ll have to see your Clio again.”

“She’s not my Clio…,” Garth said as they got up from the table. The table and all of the food vanished as they did and Cassandra grabbed her jar before it could clatter to the floor. Morgan and Percy were last out of the door and they both looked back at their home and then at each other before going out to meet the day.

Faith of the Raven Pt. 3

April 26, 2018

The woods had been infested with the undead and human thugs. Carania knew that with the Raven Queen’s boons she could probably save the day but there was time to be more efficient about it. So, it was time to do a little recruiting. Few things banded people together like dealing with the undead and Carania was counting on that. After examining her map, she decided to head back toward the town of Thorncatch that she had previously just passed through. She found the road again and made her way back to the town limits. Along the way, she discovered her horse Rhiannon wandering on the side of the road. She had thankfully fled when Carania had been shot and killed. Rhiannon was particularly happy when Carania approached.

The two of them stood outside of the gate of the one manor at Thorncatch which Carania assumed housed the Thorncatch family. Most villages and cities in Eloria were built around and named after the noble families that lived there. However, the gate was fastened shut and there was not a bit of movement in the place no matter how long Carania banged on the gate and yelled. Admitting defeat, she headed to the only tavern in town which bore the name of The Grasshopper. Carania pushed her way inside and pulled her hood down and shook her hair free. The first thing she was confronted with was the warmth and smoke from a fire. The second thing she noticed that there was a bird in the rafters and it was a raven.

Carania stared dumbfounded at the bird and it turned its head to stare back at her as it cawed. Strangely, she saw intelligence in the birds’ eyes. Of course, she knew that ravens were intelligent birds in their own right but there was something more in those shiny, obsidian eyes. She looked down at her hand which had the symbol of the raven on it and then back at the actual raven. It was too much to just be a coincidence, right?

“I could draw you a picture,” a voice said. “before she pecks out your eyes for looking at her funny.”

Carania tore her eyes away from the bird and looked toward the source of the voice. “You see it too?” She asked. She thought maybe the Raven Queen had sent the raven as a sign.

“Of course I see it too and she’s a her not an it,” the young man said. “Her name is Grim, short for Grimalkin.”

“Wait,” Carania said. “isn’t that just a generic term for a cat? That’s a bird.” She gestured at Grim as she said it as if it was not an obvious statement.

“Very smart. She is my familiar,” the young man said. “Which means she can change. We all change. She was a cat when I first summoned her but she changed along the way.” Carania sensed there was more meaning here than the words conveyed but she felt it was not the time to probe that particular subject.

“Sorry for assuming so much about tour familiar,” Carania said. “So you must be proficient in magic then? Oh! My name is Carania Garion. What’s your name?”

The young man took a drag off of the herb he had been smoking and smiled. “Sure, why not? My name is Arne and yes I am a wizard.”

“Arne what?” Carania asked.

“Simply Arne,” he said with a hard look that said ‘drop the subject’. “What’s your deal, Carania Garion?”

“I’m a paladin of the Raven Queen and I came here to ask the Thorncatch family for help in hunting the necromancer in the woods near here,” Carania said.

There was a silence during which Grim cawed and Arne took another drag from his herb and then he blew the smoke out slowly. “That was pretty direct,” he said. “I like that. It’s refreshingly honest. Unfortunately, Thorncatch Manor is all closed down. Lord and Lady Thorncatch left one day to travel and never came back. Tough luck there.”

“I suppose I could attempt the hunt on my own,” Carania said. “but I was told to get help where I could get it.”

“Told? Is there coin in it then?” Arne asked. “I could be convinced to help for the promise of a challenge and sufficient pay.”

“Well,” Carania said as she thought hard about that. “it is sort of a holy mission but I bet that the necromancer will have some gold that you’re free to have a share of.”

“A holy mission?” Arne asked. “I’m not so sure about all of that. Don’t get me wrong. I am experienced but I am not a holy person and I have never been on a holy mission before.”

A dwarf sitting at a table alone spoke up. “You’ve never been on a holy mission? Truly? It’s a little bit like sailing with the wind at your back. Somebody out there wants you to succeed. My name’s Galath Windham and I’m a cleric of Pelor. I’m definitely available to help you on your quest.”

“Just like that?” Arne asked. “I guess my share just shrank, huh?” He stubbed out the burning herb he had been smoking on the surface of the bar. It was not the most polite thing to do but Carania did not see any member of the staff about to yell at the wizard and Carania was not about to ruin a chance by scolding him herself.

Carania turned back to face Arne. “So you’ve let go of your reservations then? You’ll join me as well?” She smiled at the young man who paused and made a face like he had been tricked.

“Like I said,” Arne said. “I enjoy a good challenge and it’s been a long time since one came along. You came here looking for help and you’re going to get it.”

“Thank you,” Carania said. “I seem to have lucked out in Thorncatch afterall.”

“I take it from your statement that you have taken me up on my offer of help as well?” Galath asked. “Will an elf take help from a dwarf?”

“Hmm,” Carania said. “I suppose I have little choice.” Galath looked a bit disappointed at that but then Carania smiled. “Aside from that, I have no bigotry in my heart. All who oppose undeath are welcome.”

“That’s definitely in my job description,” Galath said. “I’ll fight by your side.”

“And I’ll fight a little behind the both of you where I hopefully won’t get hurt,” Arne said.

“That’s fair enough,” Carania said. “Sleep well because we ride out at dawn.”

Reunion at the New Moon Academy of Wizardry

April 20, 2018

Hollin Bellringer had arrived at the school reunion for the New Moon School of Wizardry a few minutes earlier. He was still tingling a bit hours after stepping out of the teleportation circle. He usually did not use teleportation as a mode of transportation but the invitation to the reunion had included a free round trip to Braddish which was only a long walk or a short ride to the school. He remembered making that trip with his friends late in his school days to eat lunch and try to sneak ale from the more flexible tavern workers. This time, the trip had been a bit shorter since he had hitched a ride with a carriage heading toward the school which had already been weighed down with others headed for the reunion. He had been hesitant about going at all but now that he had arrived, nostalgia had taken over and he found himself smiling.

They decided to hold the reunion outside in the Herald Memorial Courtyard. It was a full moon, of course, but those in attendance were also asked at the door to contribute some sort of light-producing spell for atmosphere. It was a little awkward when a non-magical guest showed up and had to inform the greeters but it was a nice idea all the same. The school could easily light the courtyard as there were magic lanterns already in place for safety and nighttime events. However, when Tritsi Highweather had volunteered to organize the event, the idea had caught on quickly when she suggested it. It was a way to show how much they had all grown from when a simple spell like Light was difficult to conjure. Hollin could see that Tritsi was quite pleased with herself over near the door, chatting away.

There was a tap on his shoulder and Hollin turned around to see Roxen Shadowend standing there in the dim yet festive light. Her floor-length dress showed off her deep blue skin and her hair was braided to highlight her prominent horns. Roxen was a tiefling, a race of humans who mixed their bloodline with dark, infernal or abyssal powers. Some saw tieflings strictly as servants of devils and demons but Hollin had been raised to give everybody a chance. It often paid to have an open mind.

“Roxy,” he said. “It’s been a really long time. How are you holding up?” She held out a long-stemmed glass which looked to be full of Blackwine and Hollin took it.

She smiled brightly, wickedly sharp teeth showing. “Things are great, Holls. I fell in with a monster hunting group a while ago and I have been having a blast.”

“Really?” he asked. “I can’t imagine getting used to all of that traveling. It also sounds like a dangerous line of work.”

“Of course it is,” she said. “but that’s part of the thrill. When you’re facing down a room of skeletons with only a few sellswords in between I just get goosebumps. It’s amazing.”

Hollin eyed her skeptically. “So you sleep in a tent?”

Roxy huffed and practically pouted, knowing where he was going with that question. “When I have to. There are inns all over the place too.”

“Sorry, Rox, I just know what family you come from,” he said, obviously teasing her a bit. “You had high standards back in school. You had a whole bed shipped in if I remember correctly.”

Roxen shrugged. “My parents allowed it so who was I to turn it down? Regardless, I’m made of stronger stuff these days.” She posed, making her right bicep bulge a little. It was not that impressive in general but for a wizard, it was pretty good. “What are you up to, judgy boy?”

Hollin was about to answer when he happened to catch sight of a dwarf making his way through the crowd. His red beard was out of control as usual but his hair was almost as well-braided as Roxen’s. “Thon!” he called out and the dwarf made his way over. “Thon Ironbeard, it’s been ages.”

Thon took a long swig from his pint of ale. “Too long,” he agreed. “I need to stand next to you so I look more handsome.”

Roxen rolled her eyes. “He looks fine,” she said.

“More than fine, I hope,” Hollin said.

“Hollin was just about to tell me what he’s been up to lately,” Roxen said. Both she and Thon looked expectantly. “Go on.”

Hollin nodded and smiled and sipped from his glass the pitch black but sweet liquid. “Well, it’s nothing as exciting as monster hunting. I just set up an enchanting workshop in Overbrook.”

“That’s kind of boring but not really surprising,” Roxen said. “You were always the fastest enchanter in our years there.”

“You were too good,” Thon said. “You must be raking it in. Overbrook has plenty of nobles and adventurers and the Guard pass through there all the time.”

Hollin smiled. “I do alright. It can get busy but most days are pretty laid back, the cost of enchanting is pretty limiting for the average person.” The truth was that Hollin had fallen in with the Broken Skull gang. They paid him quite well to enchant for them while he was still free to sell his services to whoever else came in the door. He was also their magic expert in that region and he consulted on a lot of their magical issues and problems. Of course, he would never tell even his oldest friends that.

A woman passed by and the hem of her dress brushed against Hollin’s leg which drew his attention. He watched her walk by, her auburn hair flowing loose and her green eyes sparkling. He knew exactly who she was and that is what surprised him.

“Is that Cassandra Oakspring?” Hollin asked.

“Looks like you don’t need glasses yet,” Thon said and took a big swig of his ale. “That’s her alright.”

Roxen looked around wildly until she spotted her. “Oh man, wow,” she said.

“Yeah,” Hollin said. “I wasn’t sure if she was going to come or not. She killed a dragon. I would have thought she would have better things to do.”

“Yeah but she lives here now,” Roxen said. “She’s definitely the coolest girl in school now.”

Hollin looked away from Cassandra and at Roxen with a smile. “Got a little crush?”

Roxen blushed. “No.”

“I’m thinking maybe she does,” Thon said with a grin. The two guys laughed and Roxen turned slightly away in mock anger.

It was great being back. Hollin found himself smiling brightly, far from his normally complicated life back in Overbrook. Part of him wanted to avoid Cassandra like the plague but another part of him wanted the thrill of talking to an officer of the law while working for one of the biggest thieve’s guilds in the country. This reunion was about to get interesting.

Faith of the Raven Pt. 2

April 19, 2018

Carania took a big gulp of wine as she processed this. The goddess of death was sitting in front of her quite casually. It was unnerving but it all fit. The black on black, the white mask, the feathered dress, the aura of immense power. Carania felt she had probably been impertinent to a goddess and that had to be remedied. “I’m sorry for offending you.”

“Offending me?” The queen said with a laugh. “You have impressed me. As for how I know your name, I am a goddess but you are not unknown in the world. You are Carania, possibly the best with a sword in Silverlight not to mention your proficiency with other weapons. But what interests me most is your name. You were born Cara. Caring Cara, always helping everyone as you grew up. You not only played with other children, you watched over them too. However, when you took your fencing training, you added the ‘nia’ at the end of your name.”

Carania nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I felt like I needed a change at the time. I never tried to hide anything about myself.”

“Ma’am?” the Queen asked and she laughed again. It was an almost musical laugh. “Very cute.” She waved her hand and her mask was suddenly gone and Carania immediately averted her eyes, looking down at her empty glass. There was rich laughter from the other side of the table. “You can look, dear girl. Few are allowed to see the true face of death but I trust you. Death can seem cruel but death is kind, I assure you.”

Carania looked up and saw what looked like a young woman Amela’s age. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Her waist length hair had suddenly gotten shorter and wavier and it was gathered in a stylish bun atop her head. Her face was painted to accentuate her features with striking black lips and heavy black around her eyes. Her skin was actually dark which was a bit surprising compared to the ghostly white of the mask. She looked almost like she was from the deserts to the north but she was a goddess so that could not be.

“It is like you have two names or two parts to your name. It illustrates the two sides of you. Compassion and the Sword. Both tools can be a great asset in what comes next and I need you to have every advantage you can get your hands on. I need you at your best, Carania.”

Carania swallowed the rest of the wine. “You need me? What possible use can the Raven Queen have for a mortal such as me?”

“I cannot walk the material plane as easily as you can,” the Queen said. “I need a champion out there fighting for me. I have many enemies and many things to set right and I need help. I think with your mind, your heart, and your sword, I think you can be exactly who I need.”

Carania blinked. “This is a job offer? I feel silly reminding you but I’m dead.”

“I can send you back,” the Raven Queen said. “As long as you agree to be bound to me.”

“What exactly would I do?” Carania asked.

The Raven Queen leaned forward. “You would be my sheriff. You would roam the world, mostly sending undead back to their graves by force. Undead rise all the time and they are unnatural and should be put down without hesitation.”

Carania nodded. “I’ve never met any undead but I would agree. Am I supposed to do this alone?”

“I would suggest that you partner with other people once you get back. Clergy and paladins of great faith are especially useful for this cause.”

“So, go back, recruit a fighting force and eliminate undead around the world? Is that all?” Carania mimed writing a list on her palm.

The Raven Queen laughed again. “For that, you get your life back and, seeing as how you’re an elf, you have a long way ahead of you. There will be adventures and I’m sure there’s some coin in what I’m asking if riches are your thing.”

“Where would I even start?” Carania asked.

“You would start with revenge.” Suddenly, the Raven Queen was holding up one of the arrows with the black fletching. “This is an insult. Their arrows are not even fletched with raven feathers. These are crow feathers. Fitting since the people who shot you are interfering with my harvest.” Carania looked a little lost. “There is a necromancer using human thugs to kill people for the necromancer to raise later. This necromancer is pathetic but he could become a problem later. I want you to take him and any undead out.”

“There’s plenty of incentive for that first mission,” Carania said. “I can’t pretend that the rest of it isn’t attractive either. You’re right. I do want to protect people and I have heard how nasty the undead can be.”

“Very nasty,” the Raven Queen said. “The unthinking undead such as zombies and ghouls are bad enough but the ones that think are even worse.  Eventually, you will be hunting down wights, vampires, death knights, and even liches. Do you think that you are up to the task?”

“As long as you’re not sending me back in this dress,” Carania said.

The Raven Queen laughed. “You can’t wear your armor all the time, Carania. If you do, it becomes a part of you and it becomes harder to take off when you need to. Figuratively, of course.”

“So, how does this work?” Carania asked. “How do you send me back?”

“Carania Garon, I charge you to purge the land of the undead scourge and to kill those who would unleash that threat on the world. In return, you will be resurrected, you will be harder to kill, and you will be granted special abilities to carry out your mission. In short, you will be a paladin and champion in my name. Do you accept this charge?”

Carania swallowed and nodded but looked at the Raven Queen with a steely gaze. “I do.”

“Take my hand, Carania,” the Raven Queen said. When Carania reached out to shake the Raven Queen’s hand, there was an incredible feeling just from her touch. It was cold but there was an odd tingling energy as well. The Raven Queen bent down and kissed Carania’s hand and Carania felt some of that power enter her body. She realized at that moment that she had been comfortably numb and now she felt everything again and it was exhilarating. “Goodbye for now. See you in your dreams.”

Carania suddenly woke up on the forest floor and stumbled to her feet. There was still blood everywhere but there was not even a single hole in her armor. She looked at her right hand and there was an imprint of the Raven Queen’s lips. The imprint slowly blossomed into the image of a raven with its wings spread. Carania looked out into the forest. It was time to go hunting.

The Faith of the Raven

April 6, 2018

Carania lay on the cold, wet ground of the Hernon forest. The ground was cold and wet from the melting frost of an early spring morning. The sun was just rising to burn the cold away and the morning was still in that middling period between cold night and warm day. There was also a decent fog going which is the excuse Carania was giving herself for why she had not seen the arrows heading in her direction. Three of them had hit her and one of those three was currently buried deep in her gut. It had been like this for quite a while but Carania no longer had the strength to move. She was powerless to do anything but watch her blood mingle with the wetness of the grass beneath her. She suspected some sort of paralyzing agent or enchantment. Either way, she was definitely going to bleed out and it would not be long.

She wished she had seen who had shot her. It would not have helped her situation any but it would have lessened her confusion as her life dripped out of her and fed the grass. She could see the fletching on one of the arrows and there were some greasy black feathers sticking out. The work was crude but it had obviously done well enough to end her life. That was the only real evidence she had of her murderers. She had not been expecting trouble. In fact, she had merely been looking for a shortcut as she traveled toward a gig in Silverlight. She had been a bodyguard for a niece of the Silverlight family for years but the family had gotten her a more prestigious job in the Capital. She hated to say goodbye to Amela but she could not turn down an offer to walk the streets of the capital. Of course, now that was definitely not going to happen.

As her vision started to grow dark, she wondered if the Silverlight family would have her resurrected. She doubted they would ever find her body to perform the ritual and somewhere in her heart, she doubted their professed loyalty to her even in return for her years of loyalty. She had given up a normal life and more specifically any chance of romance for years of service. Now, she would die and it would not even be in the defense of a client or for any good cause. Her heart began to hurt and she was not sure if it was literally hurting or if it had broken from thinking these thoughts. She realized at that point that she could not see anymore and in the darkness, she tried to reach out but her arms still could not move. She tried to cry out but she made no sound although she wondered if she could even hear anymore. Then there was nothing.

Then her eyes were blinking open and there was black tile beneath her. She was in exactly the same position on her side she had been on the grass of the clearing but there was tile instead. Carania was intensely confused. She slowly moved her eyes toward her stomach and she could not see the arrow anymore. This was even more confusing. She stayed there on the floor for some time and nothing changed. She felt weak and helpless for the first time since she was a little girl. She never wanted to feel this way again. She used that desire as power.

“Help,” she called out but it sounded weak, her voice cracking. “Please help.” A little stronger but not by much.

“Oh, are you going to lie on the floor any longer?” A feminine voice called out. “Feel free but I am getting bored over here.”

“I got shot,” Carania said. “I can’t move. Some sort of poison or magic. Sorry for boring you.” She sounded annoyed. The woman was not being nearly sympathetic about the situation as she should be.

“Do you not remember what happened after you were shot?” The woman asked. “You’re dead. You don’t have to act hurt after you’re dead. Especially in my domain.”

It was as if a spell was cast and suddenly Carania could move and she realized that she felt no pain. She was not even breathing. She rolled onto her hands and knees and, from there, she pushed herself to her feet. She realized her armor was gone and she was in a dress that had previously been shoved to the bottom of her pack which was also missing. It was a pretty dress that she had been forced to wear at formal occasions that Amela attended. She hated it now just as much as she hated it then. She looked around the room. The floor was matte black tile and there was jet black wallpaper with dull silver detail. There was a spindly onyx chandelier hanging above with blue-flamed candles that somehow cast the perfect amount of light. Black on black on black was an interesting style choice.

She turned toward where it sounded like the woman had been. There was a young woman sitting at a table. She had long black hair but her face was covered by what looked like an expressionless porcelain mask. Carania blinked twice and the mask was now smiling. A laugh came from behind that mask as if it was not there and the effect was a little disturbing.

“Welcome to the Outer Planes and my home,” the woman said. “At least, this is one of the more stable parts of it. Do you like the decor? It’s easy to keep changing it when reality is so… subjective.”

All Carania could do was make a confused, hopeless noise as she just stared at the woman. This was not what she had been expecting from the afterlife at all.

“Sit down, Carania,” the woman said. “We have much to discuss.  I also have tea.” There were two steaming cups of tea sitting on the table. Had they been there before?

Carania slowly, cautiously lowered herself into a chair. “I don’t really like tea.”

“Wine? Ale?”

“Wine? It’s not even noon yet,” Carania said with disapproval.

“You are dead,” the woman said. “I think the rules don’t apply to you anymore.”

There was suddenly a glass of dark black wine in front of Carania and she decided to sip it. It was surprisingly sweet. It reminded Carania a little of the one glass of wine Amela had convinced her to drink back in Silverlight. “Who are you? Where am I? How do you know my name.”

“You haven’t guessed?” The woman asked. “I am the Raven Queen and I wanted to meet you.”

 

When It All Ended Pt. 11

March 31, 2018

Garth Whispernight walked into his room and then he shut the door firmly and locked it and threw the deadbolt. He looked around the room, leaning back against the door. The mansion had responded to Percy’s desires to be a home to the Raiders by growing and evolving based on all of their subconscious desires. Garth’s room was pretty straightforward and was not as decorated as some of the other rooms. The main feature was some facsimiles of some of the objects that Garth had stolen over his career. It was none of the jewels or coin but was instead a few singular and unique trinkets from particularly memorable heists. In the middle of it all, there was something that he wished he had stolen and he would have if he had had the time.

It was a painting from his native Kofrain. The painting was on a ceramic surface and it was simple geometric shapes and colors. It was not really supposed to be anything. It was also most likely not worth anything as its style did not speak of any great skill in creating it. Still, it was important to Garth. The real one hung in the School for Thieves in the slums of Karaisar. Garth had stopped and looked at that painting every day since he was a little kid. For some reason, it had calmed him when the going got tough. It reminded him of simpler days before he had pissed off both the authorities and the guild by stealing from Lord Abdellah. That had been against the unspoken truce of the city. Garth had been the only one brave enough (or foolish enough) to pull it off.

He had been finally forced to flee but he had gotten his revenge and he gladly left even though it still made him sad to think of those he had left behind. He had carved a swath of destruction through the lands between Kofrain and Eloria. Garth liked to claim that he had joined Morgan’s Raiders because they caught him red-handed but the truth was that he had been ready for a change. What had started as a new challenge had eventually become a true calling. He liked playing hero with his new friends. He owed a lot to them. They had literally saved his life over and over but more than that, they had made his life worth living. They had also made him a better man which is exactly what real friends are supposed to do. Now, it was his turn to repay them.

He had been very careful not to say her name. He had been told that true names had a lot of power in the fairy world, especially with the ones residing in the feywild. This is also why he had never used his own true name while in the feywild. Of course, he had never used it anywhere else but that was a different story altogether. Now, it was time to break a rule.

“Lady Cliodhna, I would have words with you!” He called out into the air. He was not exactly sure what he expected to happen but the sudden appearance of the archfey on his bed was definitely not it. He blinked and backed up, nearly up against the opposite wall. This drew a laugh from the impossibly lovely woman.

“Surprised, Thief?” She asked. Outside of the wild beauty of the feywild, she looked even more beautiful. “I had not thought that you could be surprised.”

“I think I kind of expected that we would talk at a distance,” Garth said.

“Like your wizardess does?” Clio asked with a bright shining smile. “The two of us on either side of the great divide? What would be the fun of that?”

“How did you get here then?” Garth asked.

“How did I pass two planar barriers do you mean?” Clio asked. “I told you that all you had to do was call. I gave you great power through the use of my name and you finally gave in.”

“I did,” Garth said. “I feared you for a long time.”

“You still fear me,” Clio said with a toothy grin. “I can smell it on you.”

Those words and that one look made Garth’s heart pound all the faster. “Is that what you want? Me afraid? Is that like seasoning for the meat?”

Clio laughed again, this time a good long laugh. “Do you really think I want to eat you?”

“Don’t you?” Garth asked. “You always have a hungry look in your eyes when you look at me.”

“Eating a halfling is such an uncouth and mundane thing to do with one’s mouth,” Clio said. “There are much more enjoyable things to do with one’s mouth and other parts.” Her smile at that was so wicked that Garth found himself smiling back, a shiver going up and down his spine.

“I have never met a woman who matched my appetites,” Garth said gently. He was not sure if he fully believed the fey but he was definitely curious. The thrill of the game was a siren call, probably literally in this case. The possible reward was definitely worth the risk to him.

“And the thought that I may be your match thrills you,” Clio said. “Are you then afraid that I may exceed your appetites?”

“Not exactly,” Garth said. “I’m definitely excited.”

“I can tell,” Clio said with a musical little chuckle. Garth could hardly believe he was entertaining the thought that he was entertaining. In his wildest dreams, he could never have predicted this. Well, looking back, he should have seen this possibility during their first meeting.

Garth suddenly shook his head, shaking off that feeling for the moment. “This isn’t why I called you. I wanted to talk business.”

“Business?” Clio asked. “What business could possibly be more important than what is about to happen here and now?”

“Outside of this plane, there is a dragon in the Royal House of Eloria,” Garth said. “We intend to face it tomorrow and we intend to kill it. Frankly, we could use your help.”

“My help?” Clio asked. Her curiosity had clearly been piqued.

“There are lizard people in the city,” Garth said. “I would love it if you could help take care of them.”

“Is that all?” Clio asked. “A paltry thing. It has been far too long since I have felt blood trickling across my skin anyway. Name your deal.”

“Deal?” Garth asked. “I ask you to fight on our side against the dragon and its forces tomorrow and until the battle is over. I also request that you leave me in fighting shape tonight.”

“Easily done, I have great healing powers,” Clio said with a smile. “In return, I will dine with Elorian royalty, you will give me a tour, and then you and your friend will let me explore this realm on my own.”

Garth thought about it for a moment. “Do you intend to hurt the people of this land during this vacation?”

“That is not my intention,” she said.

Garth knew that the fey were compelled to speak the truth but they could come close enough to a lie to be deceptive and manipulative. “Alright, we have a deal.”

Cliodha patted the bed beside her. “Then come and let us seal it.”

When it All Ended Pt. 10

March 24, 2018

“What are you all talking about?” Cassandra asked from the top of the stairs. She had left the flask containing the djinn on her bedside table. She would release her in the morning when it was marginally safer. Besides, she had a feeling the djinn would either wreck the mansion or get them all drunk if given the chance. Messing about with spirits was dangerous but unleashing mischief onto the world definitely topped the dragon making the capital of Eloria its lair.

“We were just talking allies, Ms. Oakspring,” Galath said. “Even after all our travels the allies we can call on are running short.”

“Once again, Galath,” Cassandra said. “You can call us by our first names. I think you’ve earned being informal with us.”

“I think I am just more comfortable calling you by your surnames,” Galath said. “I suppose I like knowing that you are all somehow linked to my past.”

“Go on and speak how you will speak, Galath,” William said. “Either way, you stand by our side and that’s all that matters to me.” Garth and Cassandra both nodded and each agreed with that sentiment. Cassandra stepped behind the bar, amidst the unseen servants and sat facing the three men.

“Speaking of allies,” Garth said. “How did things go on your end?”

“I spoke to Princess Cora briefly and she is keeping the dragon busy for now,” Cassandra said. “I don’t know how long she’ll last.”

“As far as I know,” William said. “the Royal family does not have as much prowess when it comes to battle. It must be hard to be helpless against a dragon in your home.”

“Only mostly helpless,” Cassandra said. “I kind of know the Princess. I met her once back at New Moon. She showed signs of magical ability but if she pursued that, it was with private tutors.”

“Besides that,” Garth said. “I’ve heard that the royals are actually pretty smart and capable.”

“Oh Pelor,” Galath said. “did you case the royal palace at one point?”

“I will neither confirm or deny it,” Garth said, looking side to side. “I will say that they do have a lot of nice things and even one artifact would probably set me up for life.”

“No stealing while we’re there tomorrow,” Cassandra said. “Anyway, the Princess will try to get the beast up onto the roof. It’s big and flat and will give us more space to face the dragon.” All three men started to think of what they could do and what they had to do on that roof, strategizing based on their abilities.

“And what of the djinn,” Galath asked. “Will she help us?”

“She has agreed to help us,” Cassandra said. “I know it’s foolish to fully trust a djinn but I feel like it’s worth the risk and Morgan and Percy agreed.”

“Well, I trust you,” William said. “That’s all that matters.”

“Yes,” Galath said. “I have complete faith in you.”

Garth shrugged. “Sometimes you have to work with a trickster.” He grinned.

Cassandra smiled in thanks.

“Well,” William said. “I hardly think we need the help. We’re a great fighting force. We’re Moonglow’s Raiders and I have never seen anybody as powerful as we are.”

Cassandra had a sudden thought. “Hey trickster,” she said. “I just thought of somebody that you could possibly contact.”

“Me?” Garth asked. “All my old friends are back in Kofrain and, besides you all, I have nothing but enemies in Eloria.” He paused and thought for a moment. “And Shura and Treles and Ascines and I really carved a path, didn’t I? I’m really drawing a blank here Cassandra. You’re going to have to give me a hint at least.”

“Well,” she said. “The ally wouldn’t be in any of those places. The ally would be in the feywild.”

“Oh no,” Garth said. “Not her.” He slid off of his stool and started to walk away.

They all turned to watch him. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Garth,” Cassandra said. “but tomorrow is going to be really hard on everyone. I want all of us to survive. I want as much of the Guard as possible to survive.”

“We need all hands on deck, Garth,” William said with all seriousness in his eyes. “She wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

“I know,” Garth said without turning around. His shoulders slumped and he sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“What are you afraid of?” Cassandra asked. If it had not been her who asked, if it had been William, the question might have made him angry. Cassandra was just so good at reading people, like the books she was so fond of.

“She is a being of the feywild,” Garth said. “they’re not like us. They’re dangerous.”

“It’s not like she wants to eat you,” Galath said. William and Cassandra laughed a little at that.

“She might,” Garth said and that ended the laughter. “I just don’t know. I know that she had a hungry look in her eyes and I just don’t know what she was hungry for. With other girls, I had an idea before I pulled them close. This is uncharted territory.”

“We will not force you, my friend,” William said. “It is enough to have you by our side in the battle tomorrow.”

Garth sighed. “I hate that I’m not the fearless force that you all know and love.”

“Love is a little strong,” William said but it was said calmly. “There is a very clear line between bravery and foolishness.”

“I was just teasing you about you know who,” Cassandra said. “You have a good point. She could be very dangerous. She is Fey, not mortal like us.”

There was a long silence. “I think I’ll turn in,” Garth said. “We have a big day ahead of us and you know how I get if I drink too much.”

William smiled. “Drink too much? I’ve never seen it happen myself.”

“I’m very good at hiding,” Garth said with a smile and he headed up the stairs. The three remaining looked at each other worriedly.

When It All Ended Pt. 9

March 17, 2018

William Havelock and Garth Whispernight were sitting at the bar downstairs. During his exile from his homeland, William had learned to really enjoy a good tavern. There was usually fellowship, decent ale, and there was the possibility of a good brawl breaking out. William had earned his title when he was knighted. He did not come from nobility but he had instead made a name for himself in the tourneys all over Shera. He had fought threats to the land alongside prissy rich boys and girls and gained fame through hard work and bravery. However, it was not until he had officially become a full-time adventurer that he had downtime to discover the simple joys of drinking with friends. Of course, there was a time when it looked like William and Garth would never be friends.

Garth had come a long way himself, even farther than Shera. He had fled Kofrain himself when the desert had figuratively gotten too hot. When he had joined the party he would have been the first to admit that he was a scoundrel. He was proud of it. He called himself the world’s greatest thief but he had always done it for fun and not riches. William and Cass had been the ones to finally catch him and Morgan was the one who convinced him to join the group. What started as reluctant do-gooding turned into an exciting thrill ride which in turn led to him being as addicted to saving the day as the others were. The war of words between him and William had grown from animosity to petty fun and finally to real friendship. Garth had turned over a new leaf and while he still did not follow the laws of the land, he definitely used those powers for good.

“You are very quiet over there, Whisper,” William said, setting his mug down. “You also look a little green. You’re not scared are you?”

“Scared?” Garth asked with an incredulous look that had indeed been a look of dread a moment before. “Unlike you, I will never even be seen by the dragon. It won’t know what hit it when I get the killing blow.”

William laughed. “You? I’m sure you meant to say that it will be me who scores the killing blow and I will do it as I look that dragon in the eye. It will know who ended its life.”

“Will you two ever stop arguing?” Galath asked as he walked up and climbed up onto a stool. The older dwarf man had taken off his customary mail and cloak and he looked a lot more casual as a result. The party was used to him being so formal.

“I’m afraid not,” William said. “You and Morgan just might be stuck watching over us forever, old man.” He and Garth smiled at each other, they would be done sniping at each other for a while.

“True,” Galath said. “It’s not as if we’ve been able to unload either of you along the line.”

“We’re hard to get rid of,” Garth said proudly. “But who would want to get rid of a crack thief like me?”

“All of the nobles of Eloria for starters,” Galath said. “Usually I find your bravado a bit tiresome but we need your legendary confidence tomorrow, Whispernight.”

“I keep racking my brain for any more allies we could call on but I am separated from the Knights of Shera and most of the friends I personally made during our adventures are on the front lines,” William said. He reflexively looked over at the sword he carried with its hawk head pommel. He felt a brief guilt that he was not with his fellows in Shera or in the thick of battle with the brave Guard of Eloria. Then he remembered that if he had been, he would not be here to face the dragon and that was strangely comforting.

“Yes,” Galath agreed. “I too have been searching my heart for allies but to no avail.”

“What about Carania, Galath?” Garth asked.

Galath flinched at that. It was not a negative thing but just proof of how much that name affected him. “She would be very effective here but last I heard from her, she was dealing with a problem in the Underdark. Even if she was not down there, she would be on the front lines dealing with the undead that are rumored to be fighting in the war.”

“That’s a shame,” William said. “She really would be helpful even if this kind of strays from her mission from the goddess of death.”

“We all go above and beyond what we are asked to do, Mr. Havelock,” Galath said. “Also, I’ll remind you that she is no grim reaper but is as much a defender of life as she is a defender of death.”

“True,” William said. “I’m sorry for implying anything wrong with the lady. She has done right by us a couple of times now and I just wish she could be here now.”

“So do I,” Galath said. “But I’m sure that we will see her again.”

“I bet you will,” Garth said with an elbow to the dwarf’s ribs. “If you know what I mean.”

Galath coughed and shook his head. “I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.” The dwarf took a long sip of his tea, so much that the cup refilled as soon as he set it down. It was a bit of an irregularity for a dwarf to not be a drinker but Galath always wanted a clear head and sometimes drinking just reminded him of the friends he had lost when he had been petrified. He looked around and realized that all three of them were men separated from their original homes. While they were not the same, that thread had tied them together in the midst of a party of adventurers. “You know, maybe you two can go home after this.”

“Maybe I don’t want to go home,” Garth said. “Maybe there’s no real home to go back to.”

“Surely your home did not crumble to dust like mine did,” Galath said. “It is probably still there.”

“Not the structure, Galath,” Garth said. “Maybe I like it here better and maybe this is sort of my family now.”

“Has the thief grown a heart?” William asked with a smirk.

“No!” Garth yelled and then there was an intense silence. “I always had one, I guess.”

“Of course you did,” Galath said. “and I know how you feel. I will never forget the bond we have forged together.”

“Neither will I,” William said. “It is as strong as the vows I took as a knight. Maybe stronger.”

The three men drank to that.

When It All Ended Pt. 8

March 3, 2018

Morgan went to the chest in the bathroom and pulled out her pack and placed it on the bureau before she started to go through it. It was a small bag since they had a bag of holding for the majority of the items the team had picked up in their travels. Her personal bag was full of items she used regularly and personal mementos of their journeys. It was all carefully and efficiently packed so she did not have to paw through it too much to find what she needed. After only a moment, she found the side pocket with a smooth stone with runes scratched into its surface. According to Cassandra, the enchantments were very rare. The meaning of that was not lost on Morgan. She had to continue to be clear that she did not want anything romantic to do with Amien.

“Do me a favor?” Percy asked. “Tie your robe a little tighter? Maybe get your armor back on?”

“Sylvanus save me,” Morgan said but she was grinning and shaking her head. “You are really jealous, hmm?”

“Insanely,” he said with a smile. “I trust you. I just don’t want him getting the wrong idea.”

“Believe me, if I could have somebody else do this I would,” she said. “Here goes nothing.”

She took up the stone in her fist and focused her will into it. Thankfully, the stone did all of the work as Morgan did not have a great aptitude for spellcasting. The stone reached out to connect with its twin stone in the possession of Amien, a one time ally of their adventuring party. She had never used the stone before but she imagined or at least hoped that it would alert Amien in some way that a call was incoming so that he could make the connection. She half-wished that he would ignore it because dealing with romantic drama was not something she enjoyed.

After a moment, the air shimmered in front of Morgan and the lean, muscular form of Amien appeared, shirtless as always. At least, the upper half of him showed up, floating like an apparition in front of her. She could only assume that only the top half of her was showing up for Amien. She was definitely alright with that arrangement.

“The stupid thing doesn’t even work,” Percy said impatiently.

“Shh,” Morgan said. “It’s working fine.”

“Whoever is with you cannot see me,” Amien said. “The artifact projects my image into your mind and nobody else’s.”

“Understood,” Morgan said. Keeping things in a military tone felt like the right thing to do. “I guess you must be wondering why I am contacting you.”

“The thought had crossed my mind,” Amien said. “I left this line of communication open for you but you made it clear that it would only be used for business purposes. Did you run into something you cannot handle?” He grinned at her.

The teasing only made her bolder. “Hardly. We can take on a Green Dragon easily. We just would appreciate help with crowd control.”

“A green dragon?” Amien asked. “You are still as bold and brave as I remember. I feel that your team will have no problems but I would be happy to commit my family to your cause. What do you mean by crowd control?”

“We have a plan for the wyverns in the air but how are you with lizardmen?” she asked.

Amien laughed a deep yet feral laugh. “I have a pair of boots I made from a lizardman,” he said. “They are no match for our kind. Where is this happening and when?”

“We will be fighting at the Capital of Eloria, you will be fighting lizardmen in the shadow of the Royal Palace,” Morgan said. “The battle is set for tomorrow. I know you’re not exactly a city wolf.”

“I have never set foot on those or any other streets,” Amien said. “I grew up in a small town before the change came over me.”

“I didn’t know that,” she said. “But I suppose that there’s a lot I don’t know about you.”

“Indeed,” Amien said. “Our time together was brief. We will travel before dawn and we will assist you.”

“The crown will be grateful for your assistance,” she said.

“Will you be grateful for my assistance?” Amien asked. His ice blue eyes seemed to look right through her to the core of her being.

She swallowed. She was in a relationship, not dead. “I will and so will my team. Do you want to say hello to Percival?”

Amien snorted but then he smiled. “You’ve made your point. I will see him tomorrow, I imagine. I will see you too. May we meet again after that when the battlefield is decorated with the blood of our enemy.”

“Very vivid imagery,” she said. “I will see you in the morning then.”

“Yes,” he said and then his image flickered away and he was gone. Morgan hurriedly put the stone back in her bag in case he changed his mind and came back. She took a deep breath.

“Well? Percy asked. “What did he say?”

“He’s willing to help us out,” she answered with a smile. “We’re going to have a lot easier time if we don’t have to worry about getting stabbed in the back by a lizardman.”

“Or a lizardwoman,” he said. “Though, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a lizardwoman.”

“I’m sure we’ll see plenty tomorrow,” she said.

“Do you really think we stand a chance tomorrow?” he asked. He wrapped his arms around her again.

“I think we can do anything as long as we stick together,” she said. “We’ve been through so much and somehow we’re still standing.”

“I think so too,” he said. “It’s your determination that leads us. None of us would be here if it weren’t for you.”

“I’m not sure if you should be thanking me then,” she said with a smile. “At least not until the fight is over tomorrow.”

“Oh, I have plenty to thank you for,” he said. “Shall I thank you all night?”

“Unfortunately, we have to get at least some sleep,” she said with a smirk.


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