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As is the usual Callisto, Xena and any other characters mentioned from the TV shows of XWP and HTLJ are the property of Universal, Renaissance and anyone else who owns the property. No copyright infringement is intended and this is all in fun. The rest of the characters are mine but if you wish to use them in a story of your own you can on one condition. I would like to hear your ideas for the stories you want to put them in. This story (as is virtually always the case) contains some violence so if you don't like this sort of thing you may want to read something else. It also contains some emotional distress in later passages so if you are sensitive to this same drill. And yes I do know that this is quite close in concept in some areas to the HTLJ two parter Armageddon Now. All I can say is if you didn't like that episode once again read something else. As with most of my stories this is part of an on going narrative that forms the major backbone of the series. If you are jumping in here to start reading the series my advice is go back and start from the beginning.
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Carol Hansen for her encouragement of this series. If it weren't for her I'd have probably lost interest in writing them by now. Thank god I didn't because I am having such a good time writing them. Thanks Carol and I'll keep you posted on updates.
|Redemption||Mortius||The Shadow Riders||Soul, Strength And Faith||Out of Time|
The Legacies of Callisto: Out Of Time
By Michael Stacey
My name is Callisto. In days still to come I slaughtered many men, women and children. Xena, the warrior princess, ended this life. Now, hurled into the past by Zeus, the father of the Gods, I start my life again. I have one last chance to save my soul, one last chance at redemption. And so, my legacies begin.
Prologue: The Fuel Of Hatred
The girl watched as the flames from the roaring funeral pyre licked higher and began to devour the bodies of her family. The smoke stung her eyes but she had no more tears left to ease the pain. She watched the fire crackle and spit as completely enveloped them, roaring louder as the flames took hold of the already burned flesh. She felt a strong hand on her shoulder trying to comfort her. She walked away from it. She didn’t want to be comforted, she wanted to hate. She wanted to hate more strongly than she had ever done so before. Slowly the onlookers began to walk away leaving her alone by the fire. She stood watching the flames for a long time, letting them fuel her anger until the fire in her heart raged uncontrollably. Eventually she turned and ran. She could not stand to watch those flames any more. Her small bare feet pounded the grass of the hillside. Occasionally she would stumble and cut herself on sharp rocks but she didn’t care. Her fury made her oblivious to the pain. The birds had stopped singing and the moon was high in the sky by the time she emerged from the trees onto the summit of the hill. She stood panting heavily and staring down into the still smouldering remains of the village at the base of the valley. How could they all just mope about down there when most of their families had been murdered. How could they not act. Well she would act for them all. She would make her families killer pay with her very soul.
“Death to the warrior woman.” She bellowed. Finally she turned and began to make her way back to the trees. As she left she thought she caught a glimpse of a strange hooded figure wearing a mask that obscured their features shaking its head sadly.
Chapter One: Recurring Dreams
The breeze blew down over mountain sides rustling the branches of trees as it went before continuing on through valleys and cities sending washing billowing up on its lines and cooling the fevered brows of farmers who toiled wearily in their fields. It continued on through forests, skimming streams and tumbling over waterfalls until finally it reached a distant meadow filled with long grass where the sounds of weapons clashing together rang out through the evening air.
Callisto felt the welcome breeze ruffle her long blonde hair and shifted her stance and grip on the sword that she clutched. Sweat streamed down her face but she could not afford the distraction to wipe it away. She could feel her eyes growing sore from a prolonged period without blinking and her wrists ached from being made to remain still so long. An instinctive flex of her grip on the sword was the only opening her opponent needed. Ithius charged the short distance between them and his wooden practice sword met hers with a loud crack. Her momentarily loosened grip was not given time to reassert its self and Callisto could only watch as her wooden bundle of sticks flew into the air. Ithius quickly delivered a sound lash across her chest and Callisto doubled over in pain from the almost whip like effects of the bundled sticks.
"Why can't we just use normal practice swords?" she grunted as Ithius offered her a hand to help her stand up.
"Because with these" he said patting the tied bundle on his open palm. "it provides you with more motivation not to get hit." Callisto flexed her chest muscles and groaned at the dull ache that was setting in.
"So you keep saying but look at you." She said waving distractedly in his direction. "It's been a month since Athelis and I freed you from your bond to the cult and since then you've been teaching me more and more about how to wield a sword but you still haven't got a mark on you. Me on the other hand," she looked down at her bare midriff that was covered in a series of welts and bruises. Most were almost healed but a few throbbed. They were fresh.
"You're getting better though. In that month you've learned more than most people can in a year. When it comes to the sword Callisto, you're gifted."
"Tell me about it." She sighed miserably.
"It's just that, well, the sword is just about my only talent. I'd like to be able to do something else." Ithius laughed.
"Oh I don't know. Xena could sing, Gabrielle could tell stories and then there's me. You could write a list of my talents on the back of a Dinar and still have room to write all the Gods names."
"Callisto, I can only offer you this advice. Be content with the cards you've been dealt. The art of the sword is your gift so use it. Very few people have one so useful
"Or deadly." Callisto said raising an eyebrow at him. Ithius sighed
"Yeah that too." At the far end of the meadow a figure appeared from the small copse of trees looked truly out of place in these low lying areas.
"Oh great!" Ithius groaned. "Here comes the circus." Callisto had to hold back a grin. Ithius and Athelis hadn't liked each other since day one and often tried to find ways to irritate one another. Sometimes it was funny and others it was just plain annoying.
"Now be nice." She said wagging a finger at the hulking warrior. Ithius shook his head resignedly and turned his back to the approaching figure as he bent to pick up his gear. Callisto chuckled to her self and turned to address Athelis. The young man with the scar that ran down the left side of his face smiled at her as he approached
"Hi Athelis." Said Callisto warmly.
"Callisto, it's gett..." his voice trailed off as he saw Ithius with his back to him.
"What's wrong with him?" he sneered. Callisto rolled her eyes.
"What do you think! Now what were you saying." Athelis turned to look at her again.
"Oh yeah. I was just coming to say that it's getting late and maybe we should think about finding somewhere a bit less open to camp for the night." Callisto shook her head.
"I'm too tired to go anywhere right now Athelis. If could you just go back to our stuff we'll camp here tonight."
"Okay." He said and turned to go back the way he had just come. When he was out of earshot she turned to face Ithius who was still bumbling about in the long grass.
"You can look up now, he's gone." She said watching as the noble warrior turned to face her with the expression of a petulant child stretched across his face. She grinned. The relationship between Ithius and Athelis was so childish that sometimes she felt like bending both their ears and beating some sense into them. The fact that both men were a good foot taller than her made the mental image she was forming all the more comical. Suddenly she remembered the whole reason she had asked for the training session to be held away from Athelis today.
"Ithius. Can I ask you something?"
"What?" he said as he buckled his armour back on over his baggy white shirt.
"Do you ever have nightmares?"
"That's not what I asked." Callisto said as she pulled her own sword over her back and began to fasten the sheath to her armour. "Do you have nightmares?"
"Yes." Ithius sighed.
"What are they about?" Ithius began to walk back in the direction Athelis had gone.
"They're about my past mostly." He said
"So you're haunted by it as well."
"Uh huh." He grunted. Suddenly he turned to look at her as they walked across the meadow side by side. "What about your nightmares?" he said. Callisto had been hoping the conversation would head in this direction.
"I've only been having one recently." She said. "But I just can't seem to stop having it. It's beginning to scare me." Ithius suddenly looked concerned.
"What's this dream about?" he asked.
"Well it starts out with me at my families funeral." Ithius clicked his fingers together.
"Right after Xena burned your village." Callisto nodded. The image of Cirra in flames still hit her like a swift punch to the gut even after all these years.
"Is this why you didn't want to talk in front of Athelis?" She nodded again.
"He's got enough on his plate at the moment without finding out that one of his travelling companions is a reformed murderous psychopath."
"I can see how that might be a little bit much for him to deal with at the moment." Ithius grinned and for a moment Callisto could have sworn he was toying with the idea of telling Athelis just as a way of tormenting the poor soul. It was time to switch the subject away from Athelis.
"Anyway I was talking about my dream..." Ithius suddenly snapped out of his daydream.
"Oh yeah, the dream. Go ahead."
"Well as I was saying it starts out with me at my parents funeral. After the funeral I ran up this hill that overlooked my village. I used to sit there when I was little and watch the day go by. It was there that I vowed to destroy Xena and get revenge for my family. The dream runs exactly the same only now when I turn to leave I see a single hooded figure stood in among the trees that surround me. I can't see who's inside because the shadows cast by the hood stop me." Ithius looked thoughtful.
"Could it be Mortius. From the description it sure sounds like him." Callisto shook her head instantly dismissing the proposition.
"I don't think so." She said. "For starters I don't think the person is tall enough and whenever I look at Mortius I get this cold dread in the pit of my stomach. He terrifies me." Ithius nodded as if in agreement.
"H has that effect on everyone, even other members of the Triad" He said. Callisto decided to continue with her explanation.
"This person doesn't make me feel like that. When those eyes that I can't see fix on me I just feel," she paused not knowing what to say. "I just feel ashamed. Its like when you're a child, you do something bad and your parents find out. You just know from the way they look at you that they're disappointed in you."
"Is that the entire dream?" asked Ithius. He sounded very thoughtful although Callisto couldn't figure out why.
"Yeah. I just can't figure out why I keep having it. I'm sure it's got something to do with the hooded figure in the trees."
"Why?" said Ithius.
"Because I don’t remember ever seeing that before." Ithius smiled comfortingly and patted her gently on the shoulder.
"I'm sure you'll work out what the dream is about one day." He said. Callisto smiled at him weakly. She didn't know what she had wanted to hear but that wasn't it.
"I hope that day is soon." She said. "I don't know how much longer I can cope with this thing bouncing around inside my head."
Chapter Two: Disobedience
Mortius was furious. There was no other word for it and furious itself barely sufficed. His master refused to acknowledge the simple truth that Callisto was a threat to his plans and the ultimate goal of the cult, primarily the freedom of their master and the taking of his rightful seat atop Mount Olympus. Instead he continued to go along with his own plans of having Mortius capture the warrior woman and bring her back to face him. Mortius had tried his best to have her killed or turn his masters feelings about the woman to ones that would make him want her dead, all to know avail. His master had seen right through every one of his schemes and also recognised the perpetrator. Now Mortius found himself in danger of losing his standing as most powerful of the ruling Triad, who thanks to Callisto and her mysterious benefactor were now only a duo. He pulled back his hood and ran a hand down over his pale white face and let out a groan of frustration. His master would no longer permit him anywhere near the warrior woman. The Dead God had threatened that if he were to go even within five miles of her he would find himself cast out of the cult and mortal again before he could even draw breath. Slowly he gazed around the room at the plain stone walls trying to think of someway to get rid of her. The thought of actually obeying his master's orders had never occurred to him, he was just trying to find a way around them. Frustratedly he waved his long fingers over the pool of water that lay before him. The water rippled and suddenly there was an image in it of the young woman and her travelling companions. They were seated around a campfire enjoying an evening meal. At the edge of the firelight beautiful black stallion was grazing on the long grasses that filled the meadow where they were camped.
"A motley bunch." He muttered glaring at the tall muscular man who was busy sharpening a sword. Mortius smiled cruely. Even free of his master's will Ithius still bore the soul of a warrior. His amusement quickly faded as his thoughts turned the catastrophe of the last time he and Callisto had met. If only she was the old Callisto who had seen her village burn and still harboured hatred so fierce that it drove her to commit such terrible acts of butchery then maybe she would be of use to his master. Suddenly it clicked. The village! That was the key to defeating the blonde bitch. Her heart and soul lay with that place. Mortius smiled again. It was time to make sure that the village of Cirra was paid a little visit.
Unknown to Mortius, hidden eyes watched him from the shadows of his chambers while strange and dark powers probed his mind slowly unveiling the scheme of the hooded killer to his unseen observer. The scheme was interesting and had it been anyone else that it was designed to stop the observer may have let it pass but the matter of Callisto was too important to go unnoticed. The mysterious observer was about to reach into the mind of Mortius and pluck the scheme straight from his memory when suddenly the cloaked figure lifted his hands over his head and around him the air began to shimmer as if a heat haze surrounded him. The unseen eyes watched as frantic attempts were made to dispel the powers being woven all about him but before the counter measures were completed there was a bright flash that flung back the shadows of the room revealing for a split second the phantom outline of a tall man visible in the corner of the chamber. Quickly the observer called on the shadows of the room to overcome their fear and cloak him in their dark embrace. The shadows obeyed their master with diligence and in less than a moment they swamped over the phantom visage and had hidden it from view once more. As the light subsided the observer stared on at the chambers. Mortius was gone and all that remained where he had stood mere moments before were a pair of singed footprints. The Dead God roared in fury at his failure and the walls of the room shook fiercely throwing great waves of dust to the tiled floor. If he had been free of his prison then his powers would have easily stopped Mortius but entombed in Tartarus as he was there had been no way he could have stopped the cloaked assassin from carrying out his plan. There was only one course of action he could now take and it was one he did not like. He had not planned to reveal himself to Callisto this early but now he had no choice. Mortius would pay for his disobedience, that he would make sure of. With a brief thought the shadows scattered from the room allowing light to penetrate the farthest corners.
"Fly my messengers." Whispered the Dead God in his soft menacing voice. "Seek out the warrior woman and bring me to her."
Chapter Three: The Evil Angel
The glowing orange lights of the small village flickered in the distance as the war band trudged forward through the long damp grass from the earlier days rainfall. Riding toward the front of the party was a young woman with dark brown hair that cascaded down her back and piercing blue eyes that seemed forever weary of her surroundings. She wore a leather bodice decorated with golden armour and her knee high leather boots were laced tightly so as not to risk loosening in the midst of battle. A sword hung at her hip in a sheath made from the same leather as the rest of her clothes. She scratched at her neck agitatedly before pulling tight on the horses reigns and drawing it up so that it stood stock-still. The war band reigned in their horses or simply stopped moving if they were unfortunate enough to remain on foot. The woman twisted in her saddle to face the foul looking warrior with filthy teeth and a long scar who sat next to her.
"There it is Darphus." She said. "Fresh land to conquer." She turned around in her saddle to address the men who sat expectantly behind her.
"My warriors," she said speaking loudly so all could hear. "Before us lies a village that has been a thorn in my side for many a day now. Tonight we will pull that thorn out."
"When do we attack great Warrior Princess?" shouted an anxious soldier. The woman flinched. She had never liked that title.
"Soon." Was her simple reply. She turned back to Darphus.
"When the battle begins I want you to tell Menos and Tasiun to burn the hay stores." She whispered. Darphus frowned and the scar pulled at his nerves resulting in a twitch under his left eye.
"Why?" he said cautiously. "This village is stronger than most. I do not believe a single attack will result in their defeat. With their food stores burned they will not be able to resist us for as long."
"Why not just burn the village?" Darphus asked. The dark haired warrior woman reacted like a coiled spring that has just been released. Her hand shot from the horses reigns and grabbed Darphus by the throat. Darphus looked down at her hand and his eyes widened in horror as her knuckles began to whiten.
"Understand this Darphus." She growled threateningly and tightened her grip further. "I will not kill innocent people for defending their homes. If I learn that you or any of your little lapdogs have caused unessersary harm I shall be very..." she paused as if searching for a suitable description, "displeased." Her hand opened allowing Darphus to suck in great lungfulls of air. Slowly the ugly warrior reached up and massaged his throat.
"Do you understand me?" she asked.
"Yes." He croaked, then added quickly "Great Xena.” Xena grinned and Darphus suddenly couldn't get the image of a shark out of his head.
"I'm glad we understand each other." She said still smiling, "Now go and give Menos and Tasiun their orders." Darphus wheeled his horse and trotted backwards along the ranks of soldiers still rubbing at his throat. He glanced backward at the woman who was sat staring down into the village. She didn't want the village burning? He would make sure she was disapointed.
"One day," he muttered under his breath, "One day I'm going to have Xena the Warrior Bitch under my boot heel." He pulled the horse's reigns bringing the beast to a stop next to two bedraggled soldiers, one of whom wore a muddy coloured eyepatch.
"Menos, Tasiun, I have orders from the Warrior Princess. When battle commences you are to set light to the village and make sure it burns." Menos smiled revealing row upon row of large blackened teeth.
"As you command." He hissed and tugged at his eyepatch. "May I say that it is about bloody time." He added. Darphus leaned closer.
"You may so long as you do not tell her." Tasiun looked confused but Menos understood completely.
"As you command." he said again and watched as Darphus turned the horse and trotted back to the front of the ranks. Menos was dangerous. Not only did he have some skill with the sword but he also possessed the gift of moderate intelligence, a combination to be wary of. Darphus would have to make sure the little weasel didn't survive the night.
Xena was sat considering the best way into the village when she felt the breath of Darphus on her back. The man was a troll but he also understood the soldiers and helped keep them in line. The respect he commanded among them was the only reason she hadn't slit his throat along time ago. Reluctantly she turned to face his undeniably ugly features.
"Are the orders given?" Darphus nodded. "Then it is time." She drew her sword and thrust it aloft.
"CHARGE!" she yelled and spurred her horse toward the village.
Mortius stood on a nearby hilltop and watched as the army surged forward like a great tide of flesh and steel. The night breeze caught his heavy black cloak and pulled it tight against his body. He watched the Warrior Princess urge her men forward and smiled. She had skill this one and would have made and excellent addition to the masters forces but unfortunately his master had no interest in her. Mortius sighed.
"A pity." He muttered and let his gaze wander from the army that was bearing down on the village to fix upon two men who were circling round by a distance of about a kilometre on the armies left flank. So the warlord who called himself Darphus wanted these two dead did he? Mortius would take a great deal of pleasure in accommodating him. He turned on his heel and strode toward the long shadow cast by a lone tree atop the hill. As he moved a red flash of light emanated from his hand and suddenly he was holding a long halberd with blood red blades at either end, which glowed cruely in the darkness. With a hand gesture too fast for the mortal eye to see the shadows opened to him and he stepped inside to emerge moments later at the foot of the hill and to the rear of the village, next to the hay barn. The two men he had observed earlier crept round the corner with all the stealth and poise of a constipated elephant. One of them was carrying a flaming torch. The moment they caught sight of him they froze.
"Who in Tartarus are you?" hissed the one with the eyepatch. Mortius didn't speak. He saw no need to. Instead he simply hefted his halberd and swung it out at arms length. The one with the eyepatch and foul breath dodged the blow very narrowly but his friend wasn't so lucky. The halberd sliced cleanly across his chest before Mortius pulled it back then thrust forward with the top blade piercing the mans abdomen. He leapt forward toward the survivor pulling the halberd free as he moved and swung out to catch him across the throat. The man with the eyepatch stumbled forward clutching at his neck before he tumbled forward into the dirt. Mortius watched coldly from beneath his hood as the man rolled over onto his back and stared up into his face.
"Who...are...you?" He hissed slowly as his life bled away from between his fingers.
"Some would call me a guardian angel." Mortius said. He turned and walked back into the shadows. The village was saved and Xena would soon be driven back leaving Cirra intact. He had won. His master would never remember Callisto and the current Callisto would never exist. Everything was done. It was time to leave.
Chapter Four: Out Of Time
Callisto awoke from the same dream about the funeral with a start and found herself staring up at the stars that glittered above her. She shook her head trying to drive the images of the funeral pyre and the hooded figure from her head but they refused to leave having taken deep root in the very depths of both her conscious and subconscious mind. She propped herself up on her elbows and looked slowly around the camp. There was no sign of Ithius but that did not worry Callisto unduly. He often vanished at night so as to go hunt any local wildlife. He claimed it helped him stay focused and allowed him to keep his hand eye co-ordination sharp. Athelis lay in an uncomfortable looking heap that made Callisto think he was trying to eat his own foot and without much success. She grinned at the thought and watched as the light breeze of dawn began to ruffle his long hair that was now untied and lay in a long black wave down his back. He murmured quietly, as if in pain and reached up to touch the headband that covered the crescent moon symbol that was branded into his flesh. Callisto pulled herself out from under her bedroll and touched him gently on the shoulder. Athelis murmured again and seemed to instantly settle at the light touch of the blonde warrior. She smiled slowly before clambering to her feet and creeping over to Lazarus who stood bound to a tree and munching on the feed in his nosebag. She patted him gently on the neck and he whinnied when suddenly a wave of nausea swept over her. She clutched at her stomach and leaned heavily on the horse finding it more difficult to keep her footing with each passing second. Callisto's vision span as she fell backwards and just before she hit the floor she saw the form of Ithius emerging the from the trees.
Callisto came too to find herself staring into the concerned faces of Athelis and Ithius who were both leaning over her.
"Are you alright?" they chorused then glared at one another. Callisto gave a mental groan. She had only just come around and already they were at it.
"I'd be fine if one of you two would help me up." She said realising what an undignified position she was in. They might not have realised but right under the base of her spine she could feel an uncomfortable squishy warmth. If she guessed right then she was lying prone on Lazarus' droppings. The black stallion chose that moment to whiny as if he were laughing at her. Callisto shot him a quick glance which neither Ithius or Athelis noticed. Lazarus did though and immediately buried his head in his nosebag again. Athelis grabbed her arm and heaved her to her feet with a suppressed grunt. Ithius shook his head at that and Callisto had to hide her smirk behind a false coughing fit. Athelis didn't notice and just repeated the question.
"Are you alright?" Callisto nodded.
"I'm fine now." Ithius was suddenly stood in front of her virtually elbowing Athelis straight out of view.
"What happened?" he asked with more concern in his voice than was necessary. Callisto shook her head.
"It was nothing. I just got a little dizzy that's all. Probably a head blow from one of your training sessions. It'll pass don't worry."
"You are wrong Callisto. It will only get worse." The new voice echoed deeply around the clearing and it was one Callisto recognised all too well.
"Come on out Zeus. I know it's you." The King of the Gods strode confidently out from among the trees with a satisfied grin on his face.
"So you recognise my voice this time. When we first met you even thought I was Hades." He looked her up and down with a pleased grin. "How time can change a person." He said, "I am very proud of what you have become Callisto. Most would not have the strength to resist their inner desires for so long." A strange look had entered the Gods eyes as he stared at her almost dreamily.
"Umm," said Athelis sounding confused but what did you mean when you said it would only get worse." Zeus snapped out of his day dream at that.
"I beg your pardo... Oh that, well I feel it only right to warn Callisto that her very existence is in danger thanks to the harebrained scheme of one hooded maniac."
"Mortius." Ithius hissed. "what's he doing now." Zeus waggled a knarled finger.
"Not doing, already done my warrior friend." Callisto gave an exasperated sigh. She had known Oracles get to the point faster than Zeus. The old God really did love to keep people guessing for as long as he could. It seemed to amuse him to watch them flounder their way through a conversation.
"What has he done Zeus?" she said trying to keep her patience, which was never easy. It was something she had never quite got the hang of.
"He has managed to change time so that you never became what you are now." Callisto frowned. Had the weird old god hit himself with one of his own thunderbolts by accident? Athelis appeared to be thinking the same thing.
"What do you mean?" he said "If that's true she shouldn't exist." Callisto panicked. It looked like her past was about to be laid bare before Athelis and as she had told Ithius she didn't want that to happen.
"Athelis, could you go and get some fresh feed for Lazarus?" Athelis rounded on her.
"What!" Callisto turned to face him.
"Can you just do it. I want to be gone soon and I'd like Lazarus to be properly fed." Athelis muttered something under his breath, probably a curse, turned and stormed off over the other side of the campsite. Callisto leaned over and whispered to Zeus.
"Keep your voice down and tell me what the hell is going on." Ithius leaned closer and listened in as well while Athelis banged about nearby seeming to be trying to make as much noise as he could. Making his own voice a whisper Zeus began to speak again.
"I don't know precisely what he has done but he has made sure that the insane, vengeance seeking Callisto never surfaced."
"Then why am I here?" Zeus smiled weakly.
"Thanks to a little godly intervention and the fact that you aren't in the correct time anyway I have managed to protect you from the changes in the timeline. I cannot do so forever though. The nausea you felt was due to a slip in my protection." Callisto looked at him and felt something deep inside her stir. The longing to see her family. She had not felt it for months now. Not since she had arrived in this time in fact. She sighed sadly.
"So you want me to travel back to Cirra and make sure that my family and everyone I ever cared about die, am I right?" Zeus looked at her, pity seeming to spread across his face.
"In a nutshell, yes." Callisto closed her eyes and felt a lone tear trickle slowly down her face. It rolled down her cheek until it reached her chin where it hung for a single moment before tumbling away through the air. It splashed to the ground and separated into hundreds of minute droplets that flashed briefly in the firelight before the soil soaked them up.
"When do we leave?" she said.
To Be Continued...
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