Literature / Rath And Storm

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The Weatherlight Saga is the most ambitious storyline Magic: The Gathering has ever told. The game was still young and most storylines, while mostly taking place on the same world – Dominaria (with the notable exception of Homelands, which took place on Ulgrotha) – ran through one or two sets at most. The Weatherlight Saga ran for four years and eventually encompassed thirteen sets, while also having links to past storylines. Furthermore, cards in the set depicted many events from the storyline, to the point that it was possible to arrange them into a storyboard. Rath and Storm chronicles the first act of the saga, corresponding to the expansions Weatherlight and those of the Tempest block (Tempest, Stronghold and Exodus).

Gerrard Capshen is the heir to the Legacy, a collection of artifacts he must use to defeat a mysterious evil known as the Lord of the Wastes. After the death of his friend Rofellos, Gerrard turned his back on his destiny, leaving the skyship Weatherlight and its crew behind. However, his former crewmates have come to his home Benalia to get him back. Their captain Sisay has been abducted by Volrath, ruler of the shadowy plane of Rath, and Gerrard is asked to lead her rescue. However, behind Volrath lurks an even greater evil...

This book is somewhat infamous among storyline fans for its constrained structure. It is set up as an anthology, with each chapter written by a different author and told from a different character’s point of view. It also has an insane amount of story to tell, corresponding to four expansions. As such, there are times where it reads more like a summary than an actual novel. Readers are advised to also pick up a copy of the comic Gerrard’s Quest, which covers many of the same events, but goes into more detail about things that Rath and Storm skims over, such as Crovax’s tragic backstory.

Rath and Storm is followed by the Artifacts Cycle (consisting of The Brothers' War, Planeswalker, Time Streams and Bloodlines), a prequel revealing the origin of the Weatherlight, the Legacy and even of Gerrard himself. The storyline then goes back to the present, picking up where Rath and Storm left off in the Masquerade Cycle. Then comes another prequel before the story concludes with the Invasion Cycle.

Tropes in Rath and Storm:

  • Aborted Arc: Lyna and the Soltari were originally meant to have a more important role, but due to creative control changing hands neither ever appeared again after this book.
  • Actual Pacifist: Karn the Silver Golem is one of these, and has it horribly exploited against him by Volrath.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Mogg goblins of Rath, in contrast to the varying types of Dominarian goblins.
  • Ambiguously Brown: The only image of pre-Volrath Vuel is an uncolored sketch, but he was Jamuuran by birth and this man was his father. It's safe to say he qualifies.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Nearly quoted outright by Greven il-Vec after his first mate Vhati's Unfriendly Fire gambit fails:
    Greven: Ambition, Vhati il-Dal, is a meal that oft times bites back.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Subverted with Crovax, at least initially...
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Aboroth, a monster from Tahngarth's Tale.
  • Badass Bookworm: Hanna might be an artificer first and foremost, but when pressed she is capable of going up against an Unstable Shapeshifter and coming out the winner.
  • Bad Boss: Volrath is one to Greven. As this card-only quote puts it:
    Volrath: There's very little that escapes me, Greven. And you will escape very little if you fail.
  • Big Bad: Volrath is the "Evincar" of Rath, which roughly translates to Evil Overlord and makes him the Big Bad by default...
    • Bigger Bad: ... but ultimately he has received all his mileage from his Phyrexian masters, and he rules Rath entirely at their whim.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Spikes, sluglike creatures that were introduced in the Rath cycle and never appeared again after. They get a token mention between chapters, attacking Gerrard and Starke in Volrath's Gardens.
  • Blood Brothers: Gerrard and Vuel are revealed to have matching scars on the back of their hands during a flashback in Starke's Tale. Vuel forcibly mutilates his scar until it is unrecognizable after coming to believe that Gerrard has stolen his birthright.
  • Blood Knight: The book contains three of these:
    • Greven il-Vec, as it is said at one point that he only smiles when he is about to kill someone.
    • Like all Keldon warriors, Maraxus of Keld is one of these.
    • Crovax becomes one of these in the final chapter.
  • Born Unlucky: Poor Mirri was doomed practically from the word go, as she was born with different-colored eyes that caused her people to see her as an ill omen and cast her out.
  • Break the Haughty: Tahngarth is subjected to this, being captured by Greven and mutated in order to serve as the Predator's new first mate. Being a vain Talruum minotaur, Tahngath does not take this well.
  • Break Them by Talking: The Oracle en-Vec reduces Starke to impotent stuttering with just a few pointed words when he comes to kill her.
  • Broken Ace: Outwardly Mirri is one of the most talented and capable members of the Weatherlight crew. Inwardly she sees herself as a freak and an outcast.
  • Butt-Monkey: Mirri does not get a happy ending in this book or any other for that matter.
    • Ertai is also often made one of these, though it doesn't really kick into high gear for him until Nemesis.
  • Cain and Abel: Volrath is the Cain, Gerrard is the Abel.
  • Cannon Fodder: Mogg goblins are manufactured for this purpose and have the mentality to go with it.
  • Cat Girl: Mirri, Cat Warrior is an archetypal example.
  • Character Narrator: This is the narration style used, though it is used inconsistently: some character's tales are narrated in the first person, some in the third, and tale of Crovax isn't even narrated by Crovax (Orim recounts it, for reasons that don't become fully clear until Nemesis).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Gerrard’s hourglass pendant was supposed to be this, but due to the saga changing creative control, it came to nothing in the end.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Starke suffers from this.
  • Classic Villain: Volrath is one of Magic's first Big Bad characters, and has such he's a lot more stereotypical, especially early on, than the villains that would come after him. Specifically, he is almost a completely stock Evil Overlord archetype, checking off the criteria such as "is a Bad Boss to his Dragon" and "dabbles in Evilutionary Biology on the side" as if scrolling down a list. Ultimately he does gain more depth, particularly in Nemesis, but this is not enough to save him and he ultimately ends up becoming a Disc-One Final Boss.
  • Combat Medic: Orim can fight, though she is not an adept at it and doesn't particularly enjoy it.
  • Cool Airship: The Weatherlight and its Evil Counterpart, The Predator.
  • Corpse Land: The aptly-named Death Pits of Rath, which predictably assails the Weatherlight with Dem Bones.
  • The Corrupter: Starke is this to the young Vuel, taking an angry but principled youth and turning him into an amoral murderer. And that's before he travels to Phyrexia and is transformed into Volrath.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Ertai is interested in magic, and only magic. Neither artifacts nor history nor just about anything else interests him.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: In Karn's Tale, Vuel cuts a Jamuraan blacksmith open, disembowels him and keeps him alive with magic.
  • Curse: Selenia apparently carries one, and passes it to Crovax when he kills her.
  • David vs. Goliath: Gerrard is the David and Greven is the Goliath, though almost anyone fighting Greven would be a David thanks to Evil Is Bigger.
  • Dead Sidekick: Rofellos, who was Gerrard's sidekick before dying several years before the events of the main story. Tragic but perhaps for the best, seeing as his card was a notorious Game-Breaker in its day.
  • Death from Above: At one point Mirri leaps from the Weatherlight to kill a Rathi sentry, a scene which is depicted on the Stronghold card Leap.
  • Destructive Romance: Crovax's obsession with Selenia winds up getting her killed and turning him into a vampire.
  • Dream Sequence: There's two, a brief one between chapters where Gerrard sees visions of his past in Volrath's Dream Halls, and a longer one in Mirri's Tale where she goes on a Vision Quest.
  • Dirty Coward: Vhati il-Dal is said to be one of these. Despite this, he manages to Face Death with Dignity.
  • Disney Death: Gerrard falls off Weatherlight, and seemingly to his death, in Greven's Tale. Being the main hero of the story, he of course survives the fall, unlike the luckless Vhati.
  • Distressed Damsel: Captain Sisay, who is abducted to Rath by Volrath, providing the impetus for the Weatherlight to travel there.
  • The Dragon: Greven il-Vec, to Volrath.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Used in Karn's Tale, with Gerrard as the Emotional and Karn as the Stoic.
  • Enigmatic Minion: Maraxus of Keld is this thanks to the book paying him only the most obligatory of attentions.
  • Entitled Bastard: Volrath is not a bastard in the classical sense, but he is most certainly one for the purposes of this trope. His entire turn to villainy occurs because he believes that Gerrard's Legacy is rightfully is and that Gerrard usurped his rightful role as heir to Sidar Kondo.
  • Evil Albino: Lord Kastan, a Benalish assassin from Gerrard's Tale. He's noteworthy for being one of the few characters in the book who has no presence at all in the card game.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Seems to be a recurring theme on Rath.
    • The Predator is almost twice as large a ship as the Weatherlight. Unfortunately it later succumbs to Villain Forgot to Level Grind.
    • Commander Greven il-Vec, the captain of Predator, is nearly seven feet tall, outfitted from head to toe in Phyrexian exoskeletal armor, and if his card is an accurate depiction of his strength, has a strength surpassing his master Volrath, any of the Weatherlight's heroes, and even the legendary dragons that show up in the Invasion Cycle.
  • Evil Minions: Moggs are literally manufactured "like maggots" for this purpose.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: A very major part of the story. The fact that the second set of the Tempest block is called Stronghold might clue you in.
  • Eye Scream: Starke is blinded with a sword by his daughter Takara. Or rather, Volrath disguised as Takara.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Selenia and eventually Crovax.
    • Face–Monster Turn: Selenia is this, though exactly how it happens is unknown. She callously lets Vhati il-Dal fall to his death, leads the Phyrexians to the Weatherlight and attacks the heroes in the Stronghold, but at the last she shows notable reluctance, crying as she fights Crovax.
  • Fallen Angel: Selenia, the angel who is bound to Crovax. Flavor text from the cards reveals she was actually a warrior from Serra's Realm before falling to the Phyrexians and finding her way from there into the service of Crovax's family.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Inverted with Barrin, who is estranged from his daughter Hanna because she is more interested in the hard science of artifice than the wizardly magic that is his forte.
  • Flaw Exploitation: In Tahngarth's Tale, Gerrard creates a flaw to exploit in the aboroth by turning it into an artifact with the Than Forge.
  • Fog of Doom: The Fog Elemental, a monster from Ertai's Tale.
  • Foreshadowing: Greven has a brief encounter with the wizard Ertai in Greven's Tale. The two characters will get to know each other much better come Nemesis.
  • Framing Device: A very awkward one, taking place in a library at an undefined point in the future. An aging librarian tells the story to a young boy who has never heard of Gerrard. However, the finale of the saga is so devastating that it leaves Dominaria a post-apocalyptic wasteland, making it very unlikely that he wouldn’t know about it. The librarian is also hinted to be more than he seems, but after this book neither of these characters never appear again.
  • Freudian Excuse: Volrath's is that he was cast out of his clan after failing a rite of passage (which was actually sabotaged by his future mentor Starke).
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Hanna of Tolaria, who is the Weatherlight's navigator.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Greven's Tale and character card were both written very specifically to avert this, as revealed by Mark Rosewater in a 2003 article.
  • Garden of Evil: Volrath's Gardens fit the bill admirably.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: And Maraxus of Keld needs his followers just like a god needs their prayer, as like all Keldon warlords he draws strength from the number of soldiers that believe in him.
  • Good Needs Evil: Referenced between chapters late in the book, where the boy Ilcaster wonders if Volrath was actually doing Gerrard a favor by giving him a challenge to overcome so he could become a hero. The librarian narrator agrees with him.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Vuel, the young Volrath, is described as "obsessively jealous" of his hated stepbrother Gerrard.
  • Gerrard, I Am Your Brother: Somewhat unusually, the reader is told up front that Volrath is Gerrard’s stepbrother, although Gerrard doesn’t find out until very late in the book.
  • The Heart: This is Hanna's real value to the Weatherlight according to Mirri.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mirri dies in battle with Crovax to protect Gerrard.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Tolaria is populated by wizards, not elves, but it still counts as this as it is warded with mystic enchantments that make it nearly impossible for any non-natives to find (and even the native-born Hanna has trouble finding her way back).
  • Hive Queen: The Sliver Queen, which like Maraxus is disappointingly only encountered off-page.
  • Honor Before Reason: The young Vuel had this attitude, being furious at having his life saved by Gerrard because he considered dying preferable to living with disgrace. As Volrath, he trades it out for Revenge Before Reason.
  • Hope Spot: Vhati il-Dal has one of these when the angel Selenia appears before him during his fall — only for her to laugh at him and fly away because she's a Fallen Angel now.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: At one point Gerrard has to fight a mind-controlled Sisay. It's another of those irritating recounted-between-chapters scenes.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Mirri.
  • Informed Ability: Sisay is hyped in Gerrard's Tale as being a very capable warrior, to the point of one-upping him in a knife-throwing contest. Unfortunately for her she spends most of this book playing the Distressed Damsel, and when she is rescued, is too weak from months of captivity to really be much of a factor. Later installments would see Sisay firmly kick this trope to the curb, but here it fits.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Ertai manages the somewhat impressive feat of offending nearly every member of the Weatherlight crew without meaning to.
  • Insufferable Teen Genius: Ertai is the brightest wizard of his generation and is not particularly shy about letting people know.
  • It Won't Turn Off: Inverted with the Touchstone, a Legacy artifact that can activate or deactivate any other artifact — including the sentient golem Karn.
  • Jerk Jock: Pre-Volrath Vuel gives off this vibe, being described as athletic and having a haughty bearing.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ertai can really put the insufferable in Insufferable Genius, but his intentions are good, and while you have to go to All There in the Manual for it, he is ultimately the reason the Weatherlight is able to escape Rath.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In Karn's Tale, Vuel tells Karn that "greatness cannot be handed to a man" and that one who is handed greatness will "denigrate and despise it." Vuel is a thief who has stolen the greatness he refers to, but he also has a point here: Gerrard does view his Legacy as more burden than responsibility, at least at the time.
    • There's also Keilic the brash cat warrior from Mirri's Tale, who chides Gerrard for not treating Mirri with the respect she deserves.
  • Just Friends: Mirri's Tale reveals that Gerrard feels this way about Mirri, feeling that they are Like Brother and Sister and that he cannot reciprocate their love because they are too different.
  • Klingon Promotion: Volrath tells readers in Starke's Tale that he had to challenge Rath's previous evincar and "prevailed, though at great cost" to become the new evincar.
  • Killed Offscreen: Maraxus gets the literary version of this, as his entire story, including his death, is recounted between chapters, which is very disappointing to those who wanted to learn more about him.
  • Lack of Empathy: Selenia's corruption seems to have had this effect on her.
  • The Lancer: Tahngarth to Gerrard.
  • Left Hanging: The book is so much this that it almost is a case of No Ending, concluding with the Weatherlight's escape from Rath, and that's it. No word of where it is going, no word of what happens to Ertai and Crovax (who are both left behind on Rath), no word on where the real Volrath is or how the impending invasion can possibly be thwarted. It's even considered a weak ending in-universe.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Furnace of Rath, which is so hot that the Weatherlight catches fire in midair just from flying through it.
  • Like Father Unlike Daughter: Barrin of Tolaria is a master wizard, while his daughter Hanna is an artificer.
  • Literal-Minded: True to his nature as an artificial being, Karn can sometimes fall prey to this.
  • Living Statue: Karn spends years as one of these, as revealed in Karn's Tale.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The Dream Halls can be this for weak minds.
  • Lovable Coward: Squee is supposed to be this, though how "lovable" he is can vary from reader to reader.
  • Love Martyr: Mirri learns during her Vision Quest that Gerrard can only love her "after his fashion" and that it will never be what she needs, but she decides to stay by him anyway.
  • Love Triangle: Type 4. Mirri LOVES Gerrard but he likes her as a friend. Hanna likes Gerrard, a feeling which is reciprocated. What makes it all worse is that Gerrard doesn't know Mirri LOVES him (he learns it in a dream state, but forgets it immediately after).
  • Magic Versus Science: The source of tension between Ertai and Hanna. Ertai believes in the supremacy of magic, and Hanna of science. Her relationship with her father Barrin is strained for the same reason.
  • Master Poisoner: Starke "has some familiarity" with drugs and poisons, and sabotages Vuel's rite of passage by lacing his war paint with bitterleaf and thoughtsease.
  • Mechanical Evolution: Hinted at in Hanna's Tale, when Hanna remarks that the Weatherlight "seems as if it's changing beneath our feet sometimes". Later installments would reveal that she was more right than she knew.
  • The Medic: Orim fills this role on the Weatherlight's crew. Being a member of the Samite Healers, this role comes naturally to her.
  • Messianic Archetype: Oracle en-Vec believes that Gerrard is one of these, the prophesied "Korvecdal" who is so named because he is supposed to unite the Kor, Vec and Dal tribes of Rath.
  • My Greatest Failure: Karn feels this way about the time he accidentally slew an innocent Jamuraan villager.
  • Nanomachines: Flowstone, an artificial substance which is manufactured on the plane of Rath, is made up of these. We learn more about the particulars of it in Nemesis.
  • Nature Heroine: Mirri is one of these, being a cat warrior who has spent the past several years training in the forests of Llanowar.
  • No Social Skills: Ertai of Tolaria is this in spades.
  • No Water Proofing In The Future: Played with — Karn is hollow and fills up with water when he strides through a lake, but as a magical construct it doesn't slow him down one whit.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Rath's Skyshroud Elves aren't better than Dominarian elves, but they can be said to be more martial owing to their more hostile environment.
  • The Paranoiac: Due to being a self-aware Double Agent, Starke is this.
  • Pervert Dad: Despite Starke's love for his daughter Takara supposedly being his one redeeming feature, there's a skin-crawling line in Starke's Tale where he thinks of her as "so beautiful, like her mother."
  • Playing Both Sides: This is Starke's specialty.
  • Plot Coupon: The Legacy artifacts serve this purpose, and in proud Plot Coupon tradition both the heroes and the villains Gotta Catch Them All.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Squee, the goblin cabin boy and ship's "cook".
  • Princely Young Man: Crovax is a dark take on this trope, being a young nobleman from Urborg.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Tahngath the Minotaur is one of these.
  • The Quisling: Volrath was once Vuel of Jamuura before betraying his people and his world to the Phyrexians in pursuit of power.
  • Red Shirts: Indirectly referenced in Greven's Tale, where Greven thinks of Weatherlight's unnamed crew as "silly, screaming humans in shirts the color of their own spilling blood".
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: Rath's skies are pretty much red 24/7.
  • Refusal of the Call: A point of tension between Gerrard and Sisay in the backstory, as well as the reason why he abandoned the Weatherlight to serve in the Benalish military. Unfortunately for him The Call Knows Where You Live and he is convinced to return in order to save Sisay.
  • "Save the World" Climax: Saving the world doesn't happen until a couple of cycles later, but partway through this book, Gerrard already finds out that his homeworld is in danger.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Before he became Volrath, Vuel killed his own father Sidar Kondo.
  • Series Continuity Error: Hanna's mother is briefly mentioned as being dead, however we find out in Prophecy that she's quite alive. Unfortunately, she dies in the same book.
    • During one of the interludes Tolaria is mentioned to still exist, however in the Invasion Cycle Barrin destroyed the island with the Oblierate spell.
  • Shape Shifter Showdown: Played with late in the book with the final battle of Exodus, which is seemingly Gerrard vs Volrath and Starke vs a mind-controlled Takara. "Volrath" is actually a shapeshifting stunt double, while "Takara" is actually the real Volrath in disguise.
  • Shock Collar: Greven has a shock spine, courtesy of Volrath.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: In Mirri's Tale, Crovax swaps his "usual foppish clothes" for a midnight blue robe as a sign of his impending Face–Heel Turn.
  • Spanner in the Works: Despite being a very minor character in the Weatherlight Saga, all of Dominaria owes a debt to Vhati il-Dal. If he hadn't betrayed Greven, the Predator could have finished off the Weatherlight and its crew, ending the strongest resistance against the coming Phyrexian invasion before it even launched. But because Vhati did betray Greven, the Weatherlight was able to escape into the Skyshroud Forest, allowing the rest of the story's events to unfold the way they do.
  • Squishy Wizard: Ertai can cast all manner of powerful spells, but at the end of the day he's not very physically impressive.
  • The Starscream: Vhati il-Dal, an ambitious Rathi warrior from Greven's Tale who attempts to off said Greven via Unfriendly Fire. It doesn't work out for him.
  • The Stinger: The very last pages recount the literary example of one, with the only librarian reading the scene depicted on the card Mind Over Matter (which was The Stinger for the card set too) where Lyna is shown observing the Weatherlight's escape with Urza. This was a huge deal at the time, as Urza had hitherto been a prerevisionist character that was almost a complete cipher. He would go on to become arguably the main character of the Weatherlight Saga.
  • The Stoic: Karn is one of these, not because he believes his lack of emotion makes him superior, but because he is afraid of what emotion may compel him to do. This book doesn't explain why, but the Artifact Cycle books do.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: The between chapters scene right before Mirri's Tale all but says outright that Mirri had to die in order for Gerrard to "shed" her and become a hero, so not only playing this trope as straight as possible but even referencing it in-universe.
  • Super Senses: Being a Cat Girl, Mirri has these.
  • Super Strength: Crovax has this, as seen in Hanna's Tale where he effortlessly flings aside a heavy branch several of the crew's Red Shirts are unable to lift.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Crovax gets these in Mirri's Tale.
  • The Swarm: Slivers, which we see in Starke's Tale. They check off all the criteria, having a Hive Mind and attacking the Weatherlight via Zerg Rush.
  • The Symbiote: All Slivers are mutual symbiotes, as they get stronger in each other's presence and there are several different varieties.
  • That Man Is Dead: "There is no Vuel. That man died with a stolen destiny."
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: At one point Crovax has to fight a shapeshifter, and he goes rather a bit overhead with it, a scene which is depicted on the Stronghold card Amok.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: After accidentally killing a villager in the past, Karn the Golem has sworn to this. Unfortunately for him he is in a setting that is not very kind to pacifists...
  • Token Evil Teammate: Either Starke or Crovax qualify for this role. The former is a treacherous Rathi who volunteers to guide the Weatherlight crew through Rath (for motives of his own, surprise surprise); while the latter is an unstable Doom Magnet obsessed with the angel Selenia.
  • Torture Technician: Volrath is one of these as a side hobby, and he is so good at it that he even figures out a way to torture a golem with the ability to Feel No Pain (no physical pain is the catch, of course).
  • Trapped In Another Dimension: Three entire races (the Dauthi, Soltari, and Thalakos) are this, though their impact on the story is minimal since we only meet a single named character from any of the three races: Lyna, Soltari Emissary.
  • Undying Loyalty: Tragically subverted, as Mirri does in fact die for her loyalty to Gerrard.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Mirri again. This girl is not having a good day.
  • Unstoppable Rage: This is more or less Crovax's fighting style.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: One of the Legacy artifacts, the Thran Forge, is capable of this, though the effect is only temporary.
  • Use Your Head: Mogg goblins are said to be able to kill mountain goats when the two bump head to head.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Volrath is both capable of this himself and has shapeshifting monsters in his employ.
  • Vision Quest: Mirri takes one of these in a flashback.
  • Volcano Lair: Volrath’s Stronghold, further solidifying the former's Evil Overlord cred.
  • We Can Rule Together: Crovax tells Mirri she could have joined him in Mirri's Tale.
  • Your Magic's No Good Here: Mana is much less plentiful on Rath than it is on Dominaria, and consequently magic is weaker. The importance of this is later revealed in Nemesis.
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