ISS1102 Glorantha, Introduction to the Hero Wars – Beyond Humanity

Last revision: 15 Dec 2000

Realms other than the center of the world exist. Humans teem in the center, clustered on fragments of continents. But outside of those areas lie other regions which are inimical to mortals, for they are inhabited by demigod races and creatures made of less mortal stuff. Therein often sit the abodes of many lesser deities as well as summer houses, hunting lodges or other temporary residences of the greater deities. 

THE OUTER HERO PLANES

The regions which are dangerous to humanity are called the Hero Planes, and are of two types. 

The first are those places which exist at the edges of the mundane world. They are far outside the center of the world, far beyond the regions inhabited by humans. Four of these regions are known, one lying each of in the cardinal directions. They are Altinela to the north, Theyela to the east, Sakum to the south, and Rausela to the west. 

These regions can be reached by superhuman efforts on the mundane plane. It is possible to sail to any of them, as long as the ship can withstand the forces of supernatural weather, such as the burning waters of the south which surrounds the islands of Sakum. Also, the crew must be able to survive the monsters, voracious raiders, and divine guardians which are there to make the way difficult. And finally, the captain must be able to navigate through terrain whose very geography often changes. 

Altinela, beyond the Glaciers

North of Genertela lies the vast frozen lands of Valind’s Glacier. It is an immense Glacier that covers the entire northwestern quadrant of Glorantha, and whose ice shelf extends far out past the edges of all land. There lies the prehistoric Uz empire of Boztakang’s Land, where the trolls fight off the Ice Demons. Hidden within its vast icy wastes is the Palace of Valind the Winter God.

North of the Ice lies Altinela, surrounded by the Mountains of the Sky, and bordered upon the great River of Sramak. Prince Snodal, a mortal from Fronela, once visited there. He said it was, “built of vibrant stone whose radiant life drove off the cold. A great garden surrounded a tree which bore ten kinds of fruit every day, and from the garden one hundred varieties of vegetables. The towers were numerous, being along the wall and amidst the city buildings; but they were low and squat, to resist the winds which occasionally penetrated defenses and blasted the city. A harbor was enclosed, its occasional ships protected by a wall that was floated into place.”

Of the people there, “They were children of gods, though I never heard their parents’ names except from them. They were tall and handsome, always very strong, and so pale that they sometimes looked translucent. They ate no meat, but used beasts only as sacrifice to their gods who were, they said, the High Gods.”

The Altinae exist to combat the chaos that continually seeks to follow the path of Wakboth into Glorantha. At times the seas north of them mutate into something and across, or through, it appear the latest things to be cast away. They pause at the fortress, whose residents battle them into nonexistence. Such is the duty of the Altinae. 

Some Altinae have been seen in human lands but only Prince Snodal has visited their lands and returned. When he returned, he wrote his experiences down in his journals and these are kept under lock and key in the Royal Archives of Northpoint. Snodal’s great son, King Siglat of Loskalm, was half-Altinae and Seshnegi scholars have wondered whether his famous dream, the vision of Ideal Loskalm, sprang from his childhood memories of Altinela.

Theyela, the Land of Dawn

Past the easternmost islands of Vithela, across the measureless Ferezed Deeps, is the land of Theyela. It has been visited only by a handful of Vithelan mystics. 

It is a vast continent, centered upon the city of light. Buildings are tall bright expanses, lying upon radiating byways and backed by resplendent parks. At its center is a great harbor, and in its center is an island made of gold. In the center of that island is the Gate of Dawn, which springs open every morning with a thunderous clang to release the sun. From it too, with less clamor, rise the other good planets of the Sunpath. The residents are golden-skinned immortals whose voices are pure song, each impersonal and faceless, forever singing to keep the universe alive. 

Sakum, the Burning Regions

The entire central, southern portion of Pamaltela is a huge, lifeless desert some four thousand kilometers across. It is swept by acidic windstorms, blistering heat, and occasional clouds of poison dozens of miles across. Only filthy chaos things, cast-off bits of Vovisibor, live there, feeding upon the poison minerals and each other.

Further south is Sakum, the land of fire and living fire that dances upon sand and stone. Only divine plants, each of which is named and glorified with dances, live there. The beasts, each fiery by nature, are as powerful as demigods. The people most common there are the Agitorani, made of dry earth. They chose immortality over Pamalt’s gift of making children. In the center of the Agitorani lands are the holy Enmal Mountains, and amidst them is Um, where the most ancient gods of Pamaltela live. The Bomoni, beings of pure flame, live here. 

The fires of Sakum move and sweep back and forth, changing the lands and its elements by fiery whim. It includes the Boiling Swamp the Sea of Fire, so hot that it is sometimes the Sea of Steam, all shifting and turning into each other. No boat has sailed here since the Artmali Empire was destroyed in the Gods War. The burning water is carried counterclockwise by Sramak’s River and enters the fringes of human land as the boiling Togaro Ocean. 

Luathela, the Land of the Sunset

Luathela is in the Far West and surrounds the blood-red Gates of Dusk where the Sun sets. All worshippers of gods, shamanic worshippers, and mystics see this as the Gates of Death, leading to the Underworld. When they arrive they are quickly escorted by the Luathans to the Underworld Gates, which can never let anyone out. They all see Luathela to be a land of monsters, mad spirits, and noble but aloof Luatha natives. 

The Malkioni know otherwise. Here, according to their scriptures, was the Black Pit of Introspection where Zzabur’s first human students underwent their final test to become purified enough to know the Invisible God. They see that the sun and planets daily sweep the heavens of worldly dross and then shed them here. These energies become the dreams that plague madmen and poets. However, whoever transcended their introspection was able to unite with the Invisible God. Malkion taught all to venerate the Invisible God, so now those ordinary people also go to the Black Pit at death, but if they were faithful then they pass out of the world to Solace. 

The Luatha are violet-skinned demigods, five meters tall, well formed and graceful. Most wear beautifully decorated clothing and armor, and sing rather than speak to strangers. They are utterly silent among themselves, and even perform their powerful sorcery without words. They are extremely hostile to outsiders, and philosophers speculate that their choleric nature results from their failure to rid themselves of their impure emotions and reach Solace.

OTHER HERO PLANES

Other worlds exist which do not correspond to the material world of Glorantha. Although they are connected to the material world each also has a vast existence outside of it. Those three worlds each contain within themselves a Hero Plane, or the equivalent of a Hero Plane. 

ABOVE THE WORLD

Looking up from the human world are several apparent layers of phenomena. First is the Air and its attendant weather. Beyond that is the visible sky. And past that is the Sky World. 

Very little difference can be determined of their perception of the Lowest World. All are agreed that this is a place of horrible, unspeakably evil things. To use magic from this world is wicked diabolism and against morality in most places – but not against the law in most ‘civilized’ places.

Weather

The Realm of Air or Storm was created by the god Umath who separated the primeval Sky and Earth to make a home for him and his sons. Umath was powerful and turbulent, and though he was destroyed by Shargash his sons rule this realm, which is turbulent and unpredictable even when the general pattern is known.

The Great Storm

The God Learners discovered the Great Storm. After decades of study they determined that Glorantha’s weather could be explained as one vast circular storm that sweeps through the world every year. 

This storm, often termed by them Worlath’s Storm, is weakest at its center, which are known to sailors as the Doldrums. The winds grow stronger and stronger as one moves farther from the center until the great hurricane winds rage at the edge of the world. The winds move in a clockwise motion, spinning from north to east to south to west to north again. Local winds can change this at any time, of course, but these are general trends. 

The doldrums are easiest to track. They appear at the Stillburst at the beginning of the year, south of Magasta’s Pool. They moves counterclockwise, sweeping over and becalming Teleos, passes along southern of Genertela and is over Luathela at the year’s end. There the God Learners believed, but could not prove, that the Storm descended into the Underworld, following the Lightbringers Quest, before emerging out of Magasta’s Pool in the New Year. Most winds, they showed, were caused by clockwise winds blowing around the Storm’s center. 

The God Learners noted other storms that did not obey Worlath’s Pattern. The most important winds of this kind are the unpleasant dry Storm Bull Winds that blow out from the Wastelands. This is the Praxians Storm Bull blowing to cleanse his blighted lands of all chaos. The Vithelan Veldru winds are another powerful storm which regularly disarms the typhoons which would otherwise constantly cover them for long seasons. 

Celestial Factors

Each year the whole visible dome of the sky tilts on its Dawngate-Duskgate axis. In the Golden Age it was motionless, but Umath broke the northern pillar to set it in motion. Two gods now annually tilt it back and forth to balance it. Kalikos is the key deity of then north, while Erindamus is the southern god. When the sky is tilting to the south it spills some of its celestial waters upon the lands of Sakum. This causes a general cooling of the sky and subsequently the world, replenishing the Burning Sea and warming the southern lands.

Coincidentally, this is also the time when the sun is weakest, being pale yellow and cool instead of bright gold and hot. 

The Visible Sky

The visible sky of Glorantha appears to be one vast dome. Once it was all bright, like starlight, but from the War of the Gods it was flooded out, cast down, or hidden away to be what we see now. Dayzatar is the sky. 

In the daytime, Yelm the Sun rules the bright blue sky. The only other visible bodies are Rufelza the motionless Red Moon, and irregular Shargash. When Yelm descends to the underworld then Xentha, Goddess of Night, pours out with her black cloak. At night can be seen thousands of stars as well as a number of planets. 

The stars are holes in the sky through which Dayzatar’s light leaks through, becoming visible as pinpricks of light in the night. They are fixed in place and appear to move only because the whole sky dome moves. Thousands dot the sky; many are clustered into constellations. Some constellations are recognized across the whole world while others are only recognized locally. 

The Starseers of Yuthuppa have provided Glorantha with the most information about the Heavens, so we use their nomenclature here. 

Constellations

The night time sky is divided into five regions: City, River, Fields, Forest and Desert.

In the center of the Sky is the City. Here reside the three brightest stars of the sky – Polaris, Arraz and Ourania. Dayzatar thought Polaris into existence to be the center of the Heavens about which the other stars revolve. He is the only motionless star in the sky, at the hub of rotation. Arraz is the King of the Sky People. Ourania also sprang from Dayzatar’s mind as the Virginal Queen of Heaven. She is the most easily contacted of the City Stars for from her right eye comes the Goddess Sulpa, that hears all prayers born on wings of tears while from the left eye comes the Goddess Musa, who brings the light of wisdom directly into the minds of the Inspired. Many other City Stars are collectively known as the servants.

From one end of the sky to the other, the Celestial River arches overhead. This undulating swatch of light has the greatest concentration of stars and constellations. In the Gods War the Celestial River flooded the Sky Dome so it is blue now, and not gold as it was during the Golden Age. However, Polaris, Ourania and Dayzatar released their divine powers and would have destroyed the river, except that it transformed to be able to exist in the Sky World. Thus this water is now fiery, as the God Learners demonstrated when they summoned it to destroy the Waertagi during the Imperial Age.

Lorion is the first constellation found in the River. The Starseers say Lorion the Water Serpent invaded the Sky in an attempt to devour Dayzatar but was wounded and released its waters across the sky. At the other end of the River is the Throne of the planet Lightfore. At the very start of spring, Lightfore rises from the Throne precisely and Starseers believe this action sparks the regeneration of the Cosmos.

The Dragon is the most prominent constellation within the River and lies in pieces near the City. This was the mighty Sky Dragon that stalked the world before being slain by Yelm, Orlanth or another, who left its corpse in the River. Orlanth slew the Dragon for its green head star is now found adorning Orlanth’s ring.

Half the sky is dead, called the Desert. It is nearly devoid of stars in part because of the Sword, known to the Orlanthi as Humakt. During the Gods War, he cut the rim of the sky loose from its bindings to make it turn. Then he went across the Sky, striking down whoever displeased him and leaving behind only Desert. When Lightfore reappeared in the Sky after the Gods War, he bound the Sword to its current location. 

The other half of the sky has many stars. The quarter farthest from the Desert is called the Forest for it is fairly dense with stars, mostly too small to be fairly recognizable and named. The most prominent constellation here is the Celestial Hunter. When monsters roamed the heavens during the Gods War, he hunted them down and slew most of them. The rest fled into the forest and can be seen there hiding from the Hunter. 

Between the Forest and the are the Fields. A moderate number of stars appear here, irregularly placed. 

Barbarian Stars

These don’t follow the regular pattern of the other stars. They don’t circle the sky on the dome at all. They are the Stars of Summer and Winter. In Summer, the fiery seasonal stars rise from the south, energized by the Burning Sea. Most prominent of these stars is Pamalt’s Spear that is tallest at the height of summer, pushing the Sky Dome to its northward summer tilt. In Winter the icy stars rise in the north, empowered by Valind’s Glacier. The best-known constellation here is the Ice Palace that grows continually brighter as it rises into the sky until it is the brightest object there until its light is overcome by Kalikos, after which it starts to fall below the horizon.

Planets and Other Bodies

Many celestial bodies are not attached firmly to the Sky Dome. The most prominent bodies of this kind are the Planets. Most planets travel from east to west along one of two pathways, the Sun Path and the Southpath. 

Sunpath Planets

The Sunpath is defined as precisely the path that the Sun traverses in his daily travels. Almost every race and nation honors the sun as a life-giving force. To the Pelorians, it is their Emperor Yelm, to the Orlanthi it is Elmal, and to the Vithelans Maluraya, the Viceroy of Day. The Malkioni merely consider the sun to be a natural body and know that a great wizard, Ehilm, learned the secrets of its brilliance but refused to share these secrets with others, and so was absorbed by it.

The beginnings of the Sunpath can be discerned some time before Yelm rises by the appearance of the Dawn Star, Theya, rising from the Gates of Dawn. The end of the Sunpath can likewise be discerned after Yelm sets by the descent of the Evening Star, Rausa, towards the Gates of Dusk in Luathela. The length of the day varies from summer to winter, as does Yelm’s appearance. In the height of summer, he is a bright blinding gold that blazes high in the Sky. In the depths of winter, Yelm is a sickly pale yellow that hangs low and limps across the sky. On a few frightening occasions in historical times he has been so dim that stars were visible in the daytime. 

When Yelm sets, he traverses the Land of the Dead to rise again the next day. Many people fear that he may not make this dangerous trip and so offer nightly prayers to the planet Lightfore, a prominent yellow body that follows Yelm’s daily path every night, rising when he sets and setting when he rises. Because of this, the travel of the “little sun” is believed by the Starseers to mark out Yelm’s passage through the Land of the Dead.

Blue Uleria crosses the sky in a third of a day and them promptly rises again in the east. The Starseers thought it to be so full of life energy that it was incapable of entering the Land of the Dead. Many Pelorians worship her in orgies to stave off the approach of death. But the Orlanthi claimed this planet to be Mastakos, their god of motion, and could duplicate to a lesser degree his Great Leap from west to east.

White Dendara is widely recognized as being the wife of Yelm. It travels much lower in the sky than does other planets and is worshipped by the Pelorians to control the weather. Dendara can eclipse her husband on occasion, although most recognize this as an appearance of her most horrible sister Gorgorma and make great wailings and pleadings with her not to eat up the Sun.

Pale Lokarnos used to be the timekeeper of the heavens by his surefooted appearances. However the abuses of the Cosmos wrought by humans has aged Lokarnos greatly and he now wheezes and staggers across the Sky, taking much longer than he used to. His time to cross the sky has changed several times since history began. 

Southpath Planets

The Southpath is a regular, but highly mobile, pathway across the sky. Its eastern end, unmarked by any clear constellations is called the Eastern Mouth while the western place where the planets set is called the Dodging Gate. Both these gates move back and forth along the horizon in different patterns and at different rates. For centuries even the Starseers did not know the pattern of these. 

The Southpath planets are different from the Sunpath in a significant way. The Sunpath are celestial bodies which travel into the Underworld. The Southpath bodies are underworld bodies which travel into the Upperworld. 

The most notable of the Southpath Planets is blood red Shargash. He is large and is quite discernible even in the day. Many fear him as a god of destruction although some perversely worship him as a blood-drenched fertility god. The greatest place to dare to profess his worship is hellish Alkoth within the Lunar Empire; and Melib and Trowjang where he is known as Tolat. The Starseers make propitiatory sacrifices to keep Shargash asleep for he can destroy the world. 

The other Southpath planets are less well known because the irregular nature of the Southpath makes them very difficult to study. Artia is a tiny red light that is viewed as a destructive goddess. The Crimson Bat, the Steed of the Goddess, is traditionally re-summoned from this planet whenever it has been killed in battle. 

The yellowish-white Twinstars travel close together and are very obscure although the Lunar Empire and the Sable Riders do worship them. 

Other Celestial Bodies

Rufelza, the Red Moon never moves, day or night, from its place in the northwestern sky. Day and night the visible face of the moon wanes from full moon to new moon and then waxes again to full moon. When the Moon is full, it is completely bright red and visible day and night. When black, the moon is visible in the daytime but not at night. The Moon takes a week to cycle through the phases, when one place is experiencing a Crescent, another sees the Black Phase. Most Genertelans usually recognize the Moon as a manifestation of the Lunar goddess, whose initiates can visit the moon and learn much wisdom. 

Orlanth’s Ring is a constellation, although with an unusual path. It appears dramatically well above the horizon like a flash of lightning, although Starseers have claimed that it comes out of a tiny flaw in the sky that they call Stormgate. The Ring takes a week to travel slowly upwards into the Celestial City causing much havoc before disappearing for another week. Because it travels upwards as the Sky turns, it traces out the Storm Rune in the heavens. The Ring has seven orange stars and one prominent green star called the Dragon’s Head. The Starseers say this used to be the planet Umatum before Shargash shattered it in defense of Yelm’s Empire.

The Blue Moon is normally invisible to the Starseers but its movement can be inferred from the effect on the tides. When the tides slowly creep up over a period of one to six days, the Blue Moon is believed to be climbing along the Sky Dome from Hell to the Celestial City. As it reaches the Polestar, it plummets rapidly through it down through to Magasta’s Pool and is visible as the Blue Streak, the tides also dropping precipitously to their lowest point. The Moon then travels through the Underworld to the eastern sky and begins the ascent again. During the Gods War, the Blue Moon was a much more prominent body and its inhabitants even conquered much of Pamaltela.

Kalikos rises and sets in the north every night and generally wars against the Winter Stars when they are visible. It is worshipped by many northern peoples and widely credited with ending the Great Winter and halting Valind’s Glacier. Since the Lunar Empire began sponsoring its worship, winter in Peloria has become much more mild.

THE SKY WORLD

The Sky World is often called Heaven. It is the celestial realm where divine and semi-divine entities live. It is the world which is beyond the visible sky. Its normal area is like the Hero Plane, but amidst it are the realms of the gods and high gods as well. It is the realm of celestial archetypes. 

The sun never passes overhead in the Sky world, for the realm is too pure for any god who descends into the Underworld nightly. He has a palace, of course, which he visits. Furthermore, the planets never pass through here either, though they all have a palace too. It is the realm of the stars, the sky gods, and of the Sky People.

Dayzatar rules the Sky World, and presence is visible as the constant source of light. Another sky is also visible far up and above the Sky World, being the Sky of the Sky, or Aetheric Dome. It is never dark or blue, but the pure color of light. 

The geography of the Sky World is like that of the sky dome. A single great city stands in its center, while a winding river of light divides a sparse desert from the fertile fields and forests. 

The stars can be seen to be the homes of various deities, either high or low. The constellations are collections of divine sites, such as the Hunter constellation locating his hunting lodges in the sky world. 

The Sky People are the ordinary denizens of the world. They are much like humans, but they are made of light and fire instead of all the elements. 

BELOW THE WORLD

Inside the Earth

Glorantha’s main earthen body is a gigantic cube measuring thousands of miles along each edge. This once perfect cube was shattered in the Gods War, but pulled back together through the efforts of the Great Compromise. Now its surface is over washed in places by salty seas, but much of it is inhabited by humans and known as the Surface world. 

Under the Surface World are other realms. The Most Shallow is anyplace that can be reached by digging, even including the incredibly deep dwarf mines that are miles beneath the surface. Extensive caves and tunnels are still in the Shallow Earth. 

Gamataler is the name of the Hero Plane inside the earth. In this region live the demigods of the earth, often in caverns so large they are like kingdoms. Those Hero Planes can provide access to the Gods World of the earth deities. The race of beings which live here are the Likiti, who are much like humans, except they are made entirely of earth instead of mixed elements. 

The Underwaters

The waters of Glorantha which cover its surface are shallow compared to the waters which lie around and especially beneath the earth. 

The Underworlds

A large number of realms are under the earth and waters. Collectively, they are the Underworld, but a tremendous variety of places exists there, many of which are mutually exclusive and even hostile to each other. Most of the realms simply do not have any contact with each other. Some of these are Hero Planes, where the demigod rulers lord over their petty domains. Others are the residences of gods and even great gods.

Lands of the Dead

When mortals are stripped of their material body their spirit usually goes to one of many lands of the dead. Different cultures have their own versions of these worlds, but in general those of the underworld are gloomy and the inhabitants are faceless, ruled over and protected by the various gods and goddess of death. Most humans know the Underworld as their Land of the Dead. At its center are the Courts of Silence where resides Daka Fal, Judge of the Dead and the First Human to Die. Every soul will stand before him to be judged – the virtuous receive the support of their gods, the wicked stand alone. Daka Fal determines where the soul will spend the rest of its sojourn – some are destined to spend their time in feasting halls or paradises of various kinds while others are hunted by demons. Eventually the soul will be reborn to the world of life although very few will ever remember their previous lives. 

No Malkioni are ever found in Hell or summoned from there for Solace lies elsewhere. This has not stopped pagan sages from using their non-existence in hell as proof that the Malkioni way destroys men’s souls.

Lands of Monsters

Many cold and shadowy creatures live in the underworlds. Sometimes the gods are indiscernible from the monsters. Some of these realms are inhabited by races of creatures which can be summoned to the world for evil intentions. 

Underworld Gods Planes

Gods live in and rule the Underworld. The biggest and probably best known is Lodril, whose command extends through parts of all of the Underworld planes. However, other deities who are less powerful overall are nearly invulnerable in their own lands. Thus Deshkorgos, though defeated by Lodril, is still commander of his own realm.

Hell

Hell refers to palaces of torment. Many such places exist, for almost all mortal races are troubled with those who would do ill to their own folk. For them torments are made.

Some Hells are the heavens of others. Thus evil trolls are sent to the sky world, a place of light and fire which is torture to them. Other hells are those where people and souls are trapped, often unfairly, by chaos or darkness deities. 

THE HIGHER WORLDS

The Higher Worlds are those of transcendence. They are important in the magic of many Gloranthans but their perception of these places depends entirely upon their magics. Worshippers of gods like the Orlanthi and Pelorians perceive the Higher Worlds as the homes of increasingly powerful gods and demigods until the land of the ineffable High Gods is reached. The Malkioni understand these Worlds as being increasingly abstracted worlds in which all difference and individuality is gradually erased until one arrives in the Joy of the Invisible God. The Kralori know that these places are temptations to be ignored or refuted before one can truly understand reality. Since the highest worlds have no contact with each other, each of these can be proved to be True. Nonetheless, each are mutually exclusive.

High Gods

High Gods are those which are in contact with the highest spiritual ideals and powers, usually manifested as controlling the powers of life and death, the Great Mystery or some other ultimate secret. Many High Gods have these secrets, although they are usually incompatible with each other. Thus Orlanth and Ernalda have the Secret of Life and Death, as does Yelm, but they have different religions to express their secrets. The realms of the High Gods are considered to be worlds, but no one ever goes there and comes back sane.

Solace

Solace is the Afterlife of the Malkioni who believe in the Invisible God. It is unique in that souls which go there can not be reached by anyone, either necromancers or holy men. The promises of Malkion the Prophet claim this is the Solace which they claim through their loyal veneration of their God. Even Saints, who are venerated almost to the point of worship, can not be reached directly after their deaths. Instead their commands and teachings provide magic for their followers, In many places relics of the saints provide even more power for their worshippers, and provide impetus to a thriving market of fake relics. 

Great Self

One popular form of mysticism strives to unite the entire world into one’s own self. Different schools and methodologies for this exist, and all of them provide incredibly difficult tests and methods to achieve the unity. These individuals often become incredibly powerful, but mythologies are full of stories of people who sought this and failed, always becoming terrible demigods of destruction and evil as a result. 

Dura Pradur

The mystics of Vithela claim the ultimate is an unknown and non-manifest reality which they call Dura Pradur, or a number of other names and descriptions. Such mystics are generally orthodox in their meditation and seek to avoid or refute the world which ordinary people take to be real. They provide a region of great calm when successful, and are even capable of canceling out the magics around them. 

Dura Pradur is not a realm, however, which is known, knowable, or even reachable by any normal means. Furthermore, once accomplished it is of no common value, and ordinary people consider its pursuit to be a waste of time.

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