The Elder Scrolls Volume One: Unbound - A Fallen Empire

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  • Published: 14 Sep 2017
  • Updated: 19 Sep 2017
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Erende was supposed to be a thief. That's all he ever was. But when a mysterious Guild raids his home and steals a scroll - a scroll of a land Erende had no idea existed - he's thrust into the middle of a deadly fight after a devastating war that wrecked the land of Tamriel. Now, he's part of a mission to find the treasure his scroll holds to save Tamriel - before it's too late.

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11. Chapter Nine

 

 

4E 715

Second Seed

Tirdas

 

An Orc.

 At least, that’s what Khir’schen whispered under her breath in astonishment as the man removed his helmet. Erende had never seen anything like him before. Morag was burly, as big as Bahadur, and maybe even bigger. Two tusks jutted from his bottom lip, the few strands of black hair on the top of his head was tied into a ponytail, while the sides were shaved down. His eyes were black and slanted. The armor he wore now seemed silly to Erende, as this man looked to be wearing skin-tight clothing. Morag bowed his head slightly to the Guild.

 “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” He said. His voice was hard, rough, as if he spent his mornings screaming wildly. Erende bowed back with the indication Morag could rip his arms off and slap him with his own hands if he wasn’t polite.

 “Morag here is also a member of a once anonymous organization known as the Nightingales, servants of the Daedric Lord Nocturnal.”

 Morag must’ve seen the look on Erende’s face, and grinned. Well, grinned as best he could with two tusks.

 “Unlike others of the Princes, our Nocturnal is a gentle grace, she is our patron of many aspects of the Guild,” he said, “as Nightingales, we serve her and protect her shrines. Our organization was brought to light during the war when we found that one of Nocturnals few shrines had been destroyed, so we traveled to Morrowind for safety…even if the war has destroyed the way to her.”

 One of the Nightingales that stood behind him approached the Guild, taking off their hood as well. A scraggly cat, with thick, long furry ears with golden rings hanging from them and piercing gold eyes grinned at them.

 “Do’tesh Vashlina is how Do’tesh will greet you,” she said, her voice soothing, “Lady Taryn had called upon us to escort you to her homeland, as we are a great Guild who has perfected the honorable art of mercenary work, although Do’tesh has taken great amusement in have being informed of your…mishaps.”

 At this, Ori shot a glare towards Erende. He felt his cheeks grow warm. Khir’schen nudged them aside, looking towards Do’tesh.

 “Wait, you are supposed to escort us? To where?”

 “Morrowind.”

 The two Guilds turned. Taryn stared down at them. Her eyes were hard.

 “I have no further knowledge or answers to aid you. What you have been through and what you will go through, I cannot help with. I am sending you to Morrowind, the province east of Skyrim and the ancestor home to the Dunmer, where the Nightingales with guide you to the ruins of Mournhold, where they’ve established the Thieves’ Guild main base. There is a man whom you will need to meet with; his name is known as The Priest. Find him in the center of the ruins, as he will most likely be tending to them, and he will give you the answers you need. In the meantime, rooms will be provided to you in the inn.”

 “Yes, great plan, but what about me?” Ori said, “I’m an Altmer, remember? The most hated race of Tamriel in the current moment, because, well, we almost destroyed it?”

 Taryn didn’t speak, but just motioned to the Nightingales.

The third tall, lanky figure then finally removed his hood. His hair was gold, with the faintest of a red hue glittering in the light. His eyes were a dark emerald, his skin the lightest shade of yellow, and his chin jutted out as he smiled.

 An Altmer.

 “My name is Camoran,” he said in an even voice, “it’s a pleasure to meet you,”

 Ori stuttered. Another Altmer. Erende wondered what was racing through Ori’s head.

 “While it’s nice to see another elf,” Khir’schen started, “our mission was to find the client. This, all of this, from Erende and Steffan hacking our contract to being attacked by a Daedric Prince, none of it is what we are being paid for.”

 Morag stepped towards her.

 “You no longer have a client,” he said roughly. Erende could feel his voice reverberate through the walls, “you have come here, and here, you have learned that what you have, that scroll, is dangerous. It contains some mysteries we have yet to find out, and even if you decide to continue on your mission, you are risking something very, very deadly.”

 The Guild exchanged worrying glances. Taryn rolled the scroll up, keeping it tightly bound.

 “You must keep this scroll safe, guard it with your life,” Taryn warned. Erende felt shivers rock his body as Taryn’s red eyes glared through him.

 “But…but the client…” Vala said. Taryn shook her head violently.

 “No. Understand that my suspicions are valid. Whatever client you may have taken this mission from, whatever you may think, I promise you the truth is far different from that,” she pulled Erende forward with her claw-like hands, and shoved the scroll inside Erende’s pack, “take the scroll, hide it, keep it with you. You must not give it up and you must promise me to guarantee that you will bring this to the Priest, and you will not give this to whoever claims to be your client. Your mission is more than finding treasure. Your mission involves the Daedric Princes, I have no doubt, and thus you have become a viable target, for both gods and mortals alike. Keep the scroll. Keep it hidden. If that woman you encountered was truly from one who serves the lord Molag Bal, then this is brewing to become much more than your experience, and this…this is only just the beginning.”

 ---

 Dune had introduced them to the bedrooms beneath the inn. They were well kept, well lit, and each of them were able to have their own private room. They had retrieved Aeria from upstairs, and had placed her in a nursing room with more staff to look after her. Erende was forced to leave as Ori had instructed him to. She wanted to be alone with Aeria, and Erende understood, even if his own worry was eating him up inside.

 As Erende sat down, he reveled in the feeling of a soft bed. Cushions had become almost foreign to him. He was, unfortunately, more used to hay than he was a simple cloth. As he laid his head down onto his pillow, he gazed up at the ceiling. Thoughts raced like lightning in his mind. Erende didn’t quite understand why Taryn had been so adamant on keeping the scroll to themselves. Hell, he had no idea why the scroll was important in the first place.

 That was a lie. It was for the Guild, for the treasure. He had made Steffan join him in retrieving the treasure. But had he made the mistake of dragging him along on a mission that seemed to be leading to something much more dangerous. Erende was completely unfamiliar with everything in this land. He had no idea why, or how, Tamriel had existed without his knowledge. Before when explaining how the Guild had first gotten onto their island, Khir’schen had mentioned the map with his homeland labeled in the middle. Never before had he ever heard of any land besides his, nor did he understand how they could’ve missed each other throughout the eras. But something stuck out to him that he deemed odd.

 If it was a client who asked to retrieve the scroll from Halrain, how exactly did he know if it was there? How could he have given the Guild a map that showed an island that no other map could explain? For Erende, the only thing that could truly make sense to him was that this client was from Halrain, someone who was familiar with the surroundings, someone who was familiar with both Halrain and Tamriel and someone who knew exactly what would be the scroll and where it would be.

 With Erende.

 He closed his eyes, pinching his nose. This had gone much farther than he had anticipated. He wasn’t sure if now Steffan would agree to continue along the journey. Erende wasn’t sure if he himself wanted to continue. The scroll seemed to produce much more trouble, and much more walking, than what it was worth. It had been – what, weeks? Months? – since he left Halrain. Erende missed his mother. His missed the sound of crackling stew in the pot. His missed his old job. If he had never been given the scroll, he would have never known any value to it. Erende sighed.

 If only he could go back in time, and change something. Maybe if he had given up the scroll without a fuss, he wouldn’t be in this mess. Or if Steffan had protested harder or longer so they would’ve missed the Guild leaving the port. Something.

 But who was he really fooling? This was his fault. This damn adventure was his big journey into finding some lost, forsaken treasure. He had no one to blame but himself.

-

 An uneventful rest was a gift that Erende had once taken for granted. Now, as he arose from his bed and stretched, the morning light casting in between the wooden planks of his ceiling blinding him slightly he felt relieved that no omen or ghostly figure had interrupted his sleep. He climbed out of bed, grabbing his pack and opening the door to his private room. A maid stood outside in the hallway, cleaning one of the rooms. Her eyes seemed to bug when she saw him.

 “I-I’m sorry, my lord, I had no knowledge that one of Lady Taryn’s guests was still resting,” she said, bowing slightly to him. Erende waved her off.

 “It’s nothing, I had just woken up – guess I slept in late. Where are the others?”

 “Upstairs, my lord,” she said, still bowing, “they are readying the horses for departure.”

 Erende grinned to her, “great, thank you. And you don’t need to bow so low. You’ll hurt your back.”

  Upstairs, Erende navigated his way through multiple maids and servers cleaning up from the ruckus of the night before. He stepped over spilled containers of mead, and grimaced as he saw a rat chewing through half a loaf of bread.

 “It’s a waste, isn’t it?”

 Erende looked up. Khir’schen smiled at him from behind a few maids. Erende returned the smile, and weaved through the crowd to get to her.

 “Good morning, you seem well rested,” she said. Erende shrugged.

 “I got the best rest that I could, you?”

 “As well, though you slept about two hours longer than everyone else,” she nodded her head towards the door, “come. I had been sent to fetch you. We are almost ready to leave.”

 He followed Khir’schen outside and down the stone path to where the stables were. There, he saw multiple horses stamping and snorting as several others adjusted the harnesses on them. Orianer rode atop a cognac-coated horse with a thick white mane. As the horse reared, Orianer laughed.

 “Such a beauty of the Gods, my word, you are a steed,” she said. She spied Erende looking her way, and grinned.

 “Jealous?” She said with a cocked eyebrow, “his name is Keller, Morag lent him to me so I wouldn’t have to share Isolde with you.”

 Erende found Isolde behind the two, scratching the ground with her hoof.

 “Not particularly jealous, I am fonder of Isolde.” He said, walking to her and taking off his backpack. Isolde didn’t protest as he secured it to her saddle, and slowly, he hoisted himself up. Isolde turned her huge head to him, and he patted her mane. She seemed satisfied that he had picked her.

 “Ah, you’re up. Finally.”

 Steffan approached him on a dark gray horse with a smile, “meet Ashland, from the Nightingales. Very sturdy horse, he is. If it wasn’t for his daily feeding of milk at exactly at dawn, we would have left without you.”

 Erende snorted.

 “No, you wouldn’t. You love me too much.”

 “I guess you’re right. I was about to go in there myself and drag you by that mop of hair of yours.”

 “Why would you do that?” Erende mockingly cried, touching his hair, “it’s beautiful, work of the gods themselves.”

 “Your gods must have a funny sense of humor then.”

 The two looked to see Aeria on Toro. She wore a black cloak covering her body, but Erende couldn’t see any signs of the bandages that she had previously worn. Aeria winked down to Steffan.

 “I look better now, don’t I?” She joked. Steffan didn’t respond. Erende nudged him with the tip of his boot.

 “Y-y-yes, of course you do.” Steffan stuttered, his cheeks pinking. Erende had to clench his teeth from laughing. Aeria rolled her eyes before motioning Toro to walk ahead.

 “Your hair looks good, Erende.” She called behind her. As she left, Erende looked down to Steffan. His cheeks were still pink.

 “What the hell was that?” He asked, bursting into laughter. Steffan glared at him as he wheezed.

 “You act as if you’re a lad! You act as if you aren’t a full grown man!” Erende cried. Steffan waited until Erende had calmed down enough, wiping the tears from his face as he sniffled.

 “You like her, don’t you?” Erende said. Steffan shrugged.

 “She’s nice.”

 “But you like her.”

 “Erende.”

 “Just tell me.”

 “Erende, this is moronic. We are about to embark on a complicated, serious, and-“

 “-lovestruck-“

 “ERENDE.”

 “LADS.”

 They turned. The Nightingales sat on three large horses before them. Morag glared in their direction.

 “We are ready to leave, are you prepared?”

 “Yes, sir.” They responded simultaneously.

 “Good, now,” he focused his attention to the rest of the Guild, “I would like to inform you that the travel time to the ruins of Mournhold can range from a few days to a few months. We will be entering Morrowind, where dust storms, revears, werebears, ash storms, ash monsters, regular monsters and any other type of obstacle that you can think of can and will attack us. You must stay within the circle that I, Do’tesh and Camoran will form around you. We will protect you, but you must trust us. Now, let’s go. We don’t have much time.”

---

In total, Erende had suspected that the trip would take much longer than just a week. It had already been two days since they crossed from the Riften Slums and had entered a land of frozen ash that cracked under the horses’ hooves. Boredom had practically turned Erende into a slumping zombie. His eyes blinked slowly.

 “How long until we get there?” He moaned, resting his forehead on Isolde’s neck.

 “You’ve asked that many times,” Khir’schen sighed, “we have another day until we reach the border. Morag has said this more than once.”

 “I know. It doesn’t mean I’m not dying of complete boredom.”

 “You are a child,” Do’tesh laughed slightly. She rode atop a beige coated horse with a black mane, slowly swaying as the horse walked beside Erende.

 “It makes Do’tesh wonder if you are able to handle such a mission as this.”

 Erende scoffed, “of course I am,”

 “That is debatable.”

 Erende frowned as Steffan cocked a sly smile, and shrugged.

 “Just saying, back on Halrain during the contracts, you always seemed to screw one thing up. It never failed to amuse me but you did happen to get into quite a bit of trouble.”
 “I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of yourself,” Erende snapped back, and from what I remember, you were the one who always complained about the contracts; you didn’t like this, you hated that, you wouldn’t do whatever, and you were so damn difficult to work with.”

 “And now Do’tesh believes you have proven her theory of immaturity,” the cat muttered.

 “Shut up,” both boys said at the same time.

 “If anything, it’s amusing to see you two bicker like so,” Khir’schen piped up. Erende rolled his eyes.

 “We use to always do this back home,” he said, “it’s practically a tradition to argue,”

 “Quite,” Steffan agreed.

 It was Orianer who cracked her neck, yawning before turning to Erende.

 “Well, I suppose arguing is almost like bringing a piece if Halrain back here, even though I’ve had my fill of that island and its inhabitants.”

 “You’re rude.” Erende muttered.

 “Oh, Halrain was nice. It was quite pretty.” Vala said with a smile. Ori sighed.

 “We saw it at night.”

 “Well, it was still pretty,”

 “Really?” Morag said. He hadn’t spoken for a while and Erende assumed he had been waiting for an opening in the conversation.

 “What was Halrain like?”

 “Mostly cold. We usually had snow almost everywhere, it covered everything.”

 “And I didn’t have to wear my stupid hood to cover my face because nobody hated the Altmer.”

 Orianer said. Erende looked to her.

 “No one cares.”

 “I care.”

 “We don’t.”

 “Didn’t you mention before your lack of religion?” Bahadur interrupted. He glared to the side at Ori, who muttered but didn’t say anything else.

 “Well,” Erende shared a look to Steffan, “we don’t worship gods and such, as you all seem to do. We have more of a…a…”

 “We have one god and that is NaTracy, the omen of Logic. If a water pot begins to boil, the logical explanation is that there is a fire underneath.” Steffan said, “it doesn’t mean we are not open to new ideas, it’s just that we have a different way of thinking.”

 “How…mature of you, both of you to think that way,” Khir’schen said. Erende saw a smile play on her lips.

 “What? Logic also means that if I believe in one thing, it’s only probable that someone wouldn’t believe that and believe something else.”

 “Khir’schen is right,” Do’tesh said with a snake-like grin, “Do’tesh would not put it past you to be immature, as you have already demonstrated.”

 “I’ll demonstrate a kick to your face if you keep on saying that kind of stuff.”

 “Of course,”

 “Hush.”

 The group stopped. Morag had his hand up, fist clenched. His gloves rubbed against each other as he grabbed the reins of his horse and pulled.

 “Up ahead,”

 Erende saw the lights before he saw the wall. It stood above the ground in a mass of ash and sand that piled in dunes across the bricks. Clouds of dust obscured his vision mostly, but he could spy the faint movement of black figures walking across the wall.

 “Change of plans, we need to find a way around,” Camoran whispered. Erende blinked.

 “Why?”

 Morag stepped off his horse, his feet crunching under ash-coated grass.

 “Those are the Vivec Madison Guards, part of the Morrowind and Vvardenfell militia House Vivec Madison. They banded during the war to keep out both Imperial and Dominion armies. When we had answered Taryn’s request for a meeting, it was about four months ago, and during that time I will safely assume they erected this wall in our absence.”

 “And the phrase ‘same one another, stick together’ does not mean much to them,” Camoran said, pulling his hood tighter over his head, “Ori, cover your face. They’ll kill us on sight if they know we are High Elves.”

 “Hey! Hey!”

 Erende heard one of the guards call from the wall. Immediately he saw Do’tesh unsheathe a greatsword. Morag hung his hand over the handle of a mace.

 “Stay. Calm.” He said through gritted teeth.

 Through the fog, Erende could see three other figures marching towards them. At first, he could only see the outline of jagged armor. As they came into view, he noticed the odd armor they wore. It was a disgusting yellow, like fermented bile, and the making of the armor was thick and chunky. Pauldrons stuck out and so did their greaves. One of the guards already had their helmet off. It was a Dunmer, with red eyes and purple skin. He glared at them.

 “Morag.” He gruffed. Morag didn’t move.

 “Almexi. Good to see you.”

 “It is not returned.” Almexi’s red eyes scanned the party. Erende felt a shiver go down his spine as his eyes landed on his.

 “What are you all doing here? This is Dunmer territory, no outsiders are permitted.”

 “We are just escorting these outlanders to the docking territory in Mournhold,” Do’tesh said in her cracking voice, hand still hovering on her sword, “they’re headed to the recovery island in Vvardenfell, so if you would please move, we would like to get this done.”

 “I can’t allow that,” Almexi said as he folded his arms. Erende tensed. Do’tesh had circled her claws around the handle of the sword.

 “Almexi, I should recall that this wall is in violation of our standard agreement,” Morag said. His eyes never left Almexi’s face, which tensed at the Orc’s voice.

 “You were absented for an undocumented period of time,” The Dunmer inquired, “along with our contract, the presence of your specific being is required, so you and the rest of your…” he frowned, “club, are considered outsiders. Leave.

 “Sir,” Erende jumped in, acutely aware of the two other soldiers standing behind Almexi that had grabbed their own weapons. Almexi narrowed his eyes.

 “What, outlander?”

 “Sir, I just need to inform you that we are the Red Vale Guild. We’re mercenaries, and we are currently delivering a scroll to-”

 Almexi unsheathed a battle-axe from his back.

 “I don’t care, boy. Outlanders are not permitted in the territory of the Vivec Madison House. Turn and leave, and we will not have to use force.”

 Silence engulfed them, Erende feeling the tension grow thicker with each passing moment. Suddenly, a bolt of electricity zapped past him, slamming Almexi in the face. His body racked with shivers as bolts of electricity coursed through his body. As he slumped to the ground, the bolt jumped from him to the two remaining guards. As they spazzed and fell to their knees, Erende looked over his shoulder, his eyes and mouth wide. Vala stood before him, her hand glowing bright blue. As the electricity sizzled out, the roar of war cries echoed from the wall. Morag sighed.

 “Nice job, now we fight an army,” he said, brandishing two broad swords. Vala winced.

 “I’m sorry, he’s was just so threatening, and…”

 Morag silenced her. Erende eyed Morag, seeing the cracks in his swords, and the blood stained on the handle, and gripped his dagger firmly in his glove.

 “I thought that’s what we needed to do?” Steffan asked, pulling out his own sword. Morag stared ahead. Numerous figures cloaked with dust rushed towards them.

 “We did, although I was aiming for a stealthier approach.”

 Orianer snapped his fingers, her hands engulfing in a fiery ball of orange flames.

 “That isn’t going to happen now, so I suggest you all step back a little bit.”

 Erende was about to protest, but Bahadur grabbed him by the arm and dragged him back. He watched as the roaring army drew closer. Orianer was outlined in an orange and reddish hue. Her golden hair began to dance like flames. As one of the guards raised his axe above his head, Orianer grinned, raising her hands as well and bringing down a defaming blast. Fire exploded out from her, turning the guards to burning husks. Erende gaped as the explosion reached high into the air. A plume of ash and dust blew out in all directions.

 “Now!” Bahadur screamed, his greatsword clanking as he unsheathed it from his back. The Guild rushed into the cloud of ash, using it as cover as they made their way toward the border wall. Erende’s ears were deaf with screams and war call. His eyes stung as the ash burned through his pupils. He could only make out the dark outline of multiple figures, and was wary about attacking them in case that they might be one of the Guild. The horses neighed wildly in the distance. Erende kept pushing forward, avoiding the sounds of metal on metal or the sickening sounds of wet splatters until he ran face first into something hard. He grimaced, holding his nose. As he pulled his hand away, he could see blood. Then, Erende looked up. It was the wall. It was cracked, and ash had begun seeping into numerous thick holes. Erende peered through one of them. On the other side, he saw hundreds of other soldiers rushing towards him.

 Reinforcements.

 “Damn,” he muttered, pulling back. They couldn’t fight off an entire army. He had to find a way around the wall, and fast, if they wanted to survive. Erende raced along it, using his hand as a guide as the smoke became denser. He felt dips in the brick, weak spots. He realized that if they could use a destructive force, a spell or something, they could break through the wall. All he had to do was remember where the weak spots were.

 Erende begun marking the dips with a quick slash of his dagger, leaving black X’s trailing behind him. When he felt that he had marked enough, he turned, and followed the sound of war. The ash had begun to dissipate. Erende recognized the armor of the soldiers, and unsheathed his dagger. Suddenly, an axe came hurtling his way. He threw himself to the ground, the sharp shing of the blade barely missing his head. A heavy iron boot crashed next to his face, and he rolled to the side. As he blinked to rid the dust and dirt from his eyes, he saw a bloodied soldier glaring down at him. Her helmet had been cracked to the point Erende could see her burning eye and scowling mouth. Blood dripped from a wound on her forehead and down her armor, staining the yellow. Erende tightened the grip on his dagger. 

 “Any last words?” She seethed. Erende blinked.

 “Just that you have the loveliest face.” He said with a small grin, “take off your helmet so I can see it better.”

 The soldier roared, swinging her axe again toward Erende. He rolled again, missing the axe as it dug into the ash. He swept the dagger across the soldier’s legs, the metal scraping across her armor. She tossed her arm down to Erende, elbowing him in the face. Pain erupted through his already bloody nose. As his eyes teared up, he could only see her blurred figure dislodge her axe. Erende lunged forward, using his weight to knock her sideways, and cut across the broken area of her helmet, digger the blade of his dagger into her exposed area. She screamed, punching him away. He stumbled and regained some balance. The soldier struggled to stand. Her axe lay next to her. Erende grabbed it, breathing deeply. Without a second thought, he lifted it over his head, and plunged it into her chest. Her body writhed for a moment, and slowly began to stop.

 Erende breathed. Sweat had begun to seep into his wounds, and the sting made his eyes water. For a moment, he stared at the body of the soldier. The blood had already seeped into the ash. Before he could stop it, the bile had already entered his throat and into his mouth. Erende kneeled, spitting the foul substance onto the ground. He coughed, more bile erupting from his stomach.

 It was then a hand latched onto his collar, heaving him up. Two wild eyes glared into his.

 “Erende, what are you doing?!” Khir’schen cried, tugging him forward, “this is no time to get sick, we need to get past the wall!”

 Erende tried to lift his head, to tell her where he had marked the weak points, but exhaustion had left his body racked. He fought against it, gritting his teeth as acid burned through his tongue.

 “The wall, black marks,” he seethed, “the black marks,”

 Khir’schen looked bewildered before turning to the wall. The air was clearer now, and Erende could see the places where he had used his dagger to create the X’s.

 “The black marks,” Khir’schen repeated. She dropped Erende. Her hands had already begun to glow in that familiar light, morphing into a ball. Erende covered his ears. Khir’schen hurled the ball of green magick. It exploded against the wall, shattering the bricks and lobbed shrapnel and screaming soldiers into the air. Khir’schen didn’t hesitate forming another ball. She continued throwing them, the wall collapsing, people screaming. Erende stood to his feet, and was suddenly grabbed by another hand. This time, it was Steffan. His face was covered in soot, his wounds oozing blood. His mouth was in a grimace.

 “Come on, we gotta get through the wall! Hurry!”

 Erende nodded, blindly following Steffan as they raced through even more plumes of ash, smoke and dust. He tried to avoid looking at the broken bodies of the soldiers, his eyes locked on Steffan who was just barely ahead of him. His ears rang, his heart raced. Erende kept running. Even as the ash beneath him slowly grew into grass, the shouts began to disappear, the ash blew away to expose the night sky, he still ran. To where, he didn’t know, but in his mind, he was running home. 

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