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Warriors Series 5.5: Echoes of the War
Book 4: Trail of Ashes
Chapter Twenty Six

     Silentstorm's dreams were dark that night. She didn't dream of StarClan, or of the Dark Forest. Instead, she dreamed of fire, the screams of her Clanmates as she couldn't save them, the cruel laughter of Shade, knowing that she'd won at last. And worst of all, the dying wail of Jayfeather, as she was unable to save him.

     As the warrior whimpered in her sleep, a voice suddenly whispered in her ears. “Peace, Silentstorm.”

     The warrior turned, trying to find the source of the voice, achingly familiar. “Jayfeather,” she gasped.

     “You won't do any cat any good by moping like a useless badger,” sounded the medicine cat's amused snort. Silentstorm couldn't tell where he was, but it was almost like it was sounding in her mind. “Get some rest, Silentstorm. Your Clan still needs you. And I will always be with you.”

     Silentstorm's mind slipped into more peaceful dreams after that, until she finally woke. The she-cat lifted her muzzle from the nest, blinking blearily. She could feel a pelt pressed against hers, but she couldn't tell who was there. She felt oddly groggy, as though something was weighing down her pelt. “What happened?” she murmured groggily. From the warmth on her pelt, it was well into the day, probably around sunhigh.

     The pelt next to her shifted, and suddenly a tongue was rasping across her head. “You slept for a long time,” Cinderheart murmured. “I'm glad you got the rest you needed.”

     “Rest?” Silentstorm repeated, still confused. “Why wo... oh.” The warrior was starting to wake up more, and as her mind began to clear, she had finally remembered. The fire. Blossomfall and Cedarkit. And Jayfeather.

     She slumped back against her nest of ferns, the grief hitting her like a blow. It was finally sinking in that she was never going to see Jayfeather again. She would never be able to walk into the medicine den again and ask for his advice, or hear his grumpy snarl, or have his support when she was scared or sad. He was gone forever.

     Cinderheart seemed to sense her drop in mood. She shifted so that she was curled around Silentstorm as she much as she could be around the larger she-cat, giving soothing licks to her daughter's head. “Do you want to talk about it?” she asked between licks.

     Silentstorm closed her eyes, trying to shut out the memories, but they kept playing her mind over and over. “Not really,” she murmured. Suddenly, she wanted to be anywhere but lying in her nest, with nothing but her mother and her memories. She  rose slowly to standing, the grogginess from the poppy seeds and her wounds making her shaky on her paws, but she managed to stay standing. “Have any cats been hunting since the fire?” she asked.

     Cinderheart stood as well. “A patrol went out some time earlier this morning, but all of that prey is pretty much gone now,” she answered. “The leaders also sent out a patrol to check ThunderClan territory. The fire's been out for a while, so they want to know how the forest fared after the fire, and whether Breeze and his cats are there.”

     Silentstorm felt another pang of grief. She hadn't just lost Jayfeather, she had lost her home as well. Would any of ThunderClan's territory survive after the devastating fire? And even worse, Breeze had probably already claimed it for his own. Would he or one of his followers give Shade a body now? If he did, the world was lost. How can I defeat the darkness now?

     She turned away. “Then I'm going hunting,” she decided firmly. She needed to be moving, doing something to help her Clan, something that would distract her from what she'd lost.

     Cinderheart hesitated, then gave a small nod. “Alright,” she mewed. “Just be careful, and come back and take your herbs again if your wounds hurt too much. I'll leave more poppy seeds and thyme by your nest.” Silentstorm was surprised by how much her mother sounded like a medicine cat in that moment.

     She assured her she would, then took off, padding away from the badger den and the hill and setting off into the woods. The trees were thinner here than she was used to, the undergrowth more sparse. She managed to catch a thrush, but she scared off a mouse when the ferns weren't thick enough to hide her, and most of the rest of the prey seemed to have been scared away by the fire. Her wounds were making stiff and slow, and she wasn't used to hunting in such sparse undergrowth. Silentstorm was starting to lose hope that she would have anything more than her thrush to bring back, when a startled robin flew right past her. Without even thinking, she gave a massive leap and pinned it to the ground, giving it a swift nip to the neck. It fell limp under her paws.

     "Nice catch!" She spun around, surprised, as two cats padded towards her. Lightfoot was the cat who had spoken, while Finchwing was walking silently beside him. "We tried to catch it, but it got away from us."

     Silentstorm forced her fur to lie flat. "I think the hunting's harder here, in general," she mewed. "I was lucky to catch it at all. It can be your catch, if you want."

     Lightfoot shook his head. "You caught it," he murmured. "You could help us catch another, though, maybe?" Finchwing said nothing, just flicking his tail in acknowledgment.

     Silentstorm hesitated. She hadn't exactly wanted company. But the more she thought about it, she didn't mind the idea of hunting with Lightfoot all that much. "Sure, why not?" she mewed.

     The three cats set off together, Lightfoot and Silentstorm chatting lightly about things that didn't matter, like how long it would be until leafbare, and how Silvershine's kits had finally opened their eyes. But Finchwing was still silent.

     "Are you okay?" Silentstorm finally asked. Lightfoot was usually the quietest tom in the Clan; she hasn't heard Finchwing this quiet since he'd been an apprentice.

     "Hmm?" Finchwing gave a quick shake of his head, as though she'd broken him out of deep thought. "Oh, yeah, I'm fine." He flicked his tail, still seeming thoughtful. "Listen, you two go on without me. I think I need to go back and talk to Leafpool."

      Silentstorm's ears perked in surprise. "Are your wounds still bothering you?" she asked. Leafpool was a warrior, but it was well-known that she still had all of the skills of a medicine cat. With Jayfeather gone, as little as Silentstorm wanted to think about it, she had to wonder whether Leafpool would take her old position back. She knew the lies she had told had deep implications, but the Clan needed a medicine cat.

     Finchwing hesitated. "Something like that," he mewed. "I'll meet you back at the badger den." He padded away, leaving Silentstorm alone with Lightfoot.

     An uneasy silence stretched out. Before, Finchwing had been there as a buffer, even though he hadn't been speaking. But now Silentstorm was alone with the tom who probably had feelings for her, and who she didn't know how she felt about.

     Finally, Lightfoot broke the silence. "I'm sorry about Jayfeather," he murmured. Silentstorm stiffened, her pelt prickling. "I know how much you cared about him." He hesitated, starting to sound uncertain. "If you want to talk about it, I mean, we can. Or not. Whatever you want."

     Silentstorm felt the grief sitting heavy in her chest again. She'd come out here specifically to avoid thinking about losing Jayfeather. But now, with the grief setting back in, she couldn't keep quiet anymore.

     "I couldn't save him." The words came quickly, as though bursting from a dam. Silentstorm could feel herself starting to shake again. "I found Breeze killing him. But I was so focused on hurting Breeze that I didn't help him until it was too late. I should have helped him."

     Lightfoot was silent for a few moments. "You were facing the Clan's biggest enemy right now," he pointed out quietly. "It makes sense that you'd pay more attention to him than who he was attacking."

     Silentstorm ducked her head, tail quivering. "I don't know what I'm going to do without him," she murmured. "He was always there for me, and I couldn't protect him."

     The tom murmured, "I don't know much about StarClan. But I know that Jayfeather loved you, and I know how stubborn he was. I don't think he'd let death stand between him and helping you."

     "I guess," Silentstorm mewed. "But it still hurts."

     "I know." Lightfoot hesitated, then reached out a paw, laying it comfortingly over Silentstorm's.

     Silentstorm blinked. The gentle touch was enough to surprise her out of her grief-filled haze. Lightfoot was notoriously shy, and was usually awkward around his Clanmates. He had never been so forward before. But it felt good, especially knowing how much it must be taking from Lightfoot to make that step.

     Carefully, slowly, she took a step toward Lightfoot. He stiffened in surprise, but didn't pull away. She waited until she was a whisker's length in front of him, then brushed her muzzle against his neck, drawing comfort from the warmth of his pelt. She could feel a startled purr rumbling in his throat, growing louder as she stayed where she was, settling her haunches onto the ground as she sat. He leaned his cheek against her head and neck, sitting as well.

     The two cats sat like that for a while, not moving closer or farther from each other, just leaning into each other's touch and not saying anything. Silentstorm was still trembling a little from grief, but there was something enormously comforting about being this close to Lightfoot, and him letting her get that close without shying away or acting uncomfortable. He was keeping up a steady purr as they sat together, a soothing rhythm that made Silentstorm feel warm.

     Finally, after what felt like moons, Silentstorm pulled back. She was surprised how much more at ease she felt now. Grief for Jayfeather was still there, but she could push it away enough to feel happy in the moment. "Well, I should probably get some hunting done before we get back to the others," she meowed aloud. "I could really chase a mouse or two right now."

     "Alright," Lightfoot said, his mew oddly strained. Silentstorm heard him stand, shaking his pelt out briefly. "Well, I can leave you to that, if you want." There was a note of hope in his tone, but also hesitation. Fear, perhaps, that she had just wanted comfort for her grief and would now chase him away.

     "No," Silentstorm mewed quickly. Lightfoot's ears perked. "I mean, I'd like to hunt with you. If that's alright."

     Lightfoot gave a low purr. "That's fine by me."


     The sun was starting to set again by the time they returned to camp, a reasonable catch in tow. Silentstorm had actually managed to have a mostly pleasant day, but as they neared the badger den again, her heart began to sink. Jayfeather was still dead, and the Clans were still homeless.

     She and Lightfoot set their prey on the steadily-growing pile just outside of the badger den, then Lightfoot took a step away. "I promised Rosepetal I'd help find something more comfortable for her nest," he mewed quietly.

     Silentstorm nodded. "That's alright. I think I'll go check on Finchwing - he seemed pretty out of it when we were hunting."

     With a final mew of goodbye, the two cats set off on their separate ways. Silentstorm knew she wasn't imagining the twinge of sadness when she heard Lightfoot passing away. But she ignored it, setting off towards the ThunderClan group of cats.

      Before she could get very hard, she heard someone call, "Silentstorm!" The warrior turned, flicking her ears towards the cat who'd spoken before padding over.

     "Hey, Ivypool," she greeted quietly. The queen was resting on a nest of moss just outside of the badger den, her three kits nursing in the curve of her belly. Silentstorm could hear them mewling quietly, which sparked a sudden memory. "Oh StarClan, I forgot to ask! Did Shadowpaw get Yewkit out alright?"

     Ivypool purred. "Yewkit is just fine. As for your apprentice - why don't you ask him yourself?"

     Silentstorm's ears swiveled to catch the sound of approaching pawsteps. "Silentstorm?" She turned to face the cat who'd spoken, giving a weary flick of her tail in greeting.

     "Shadowpaw," she mewed quietly, touching her nose to Shadowpaw's ear. She sniffed his pelt curiously. "Were you alright getting Yewkit out of the fire yesterday?"

     The apprentice nodded. "Once I took Yewkit away from the Dark Forest cats, we didn't run into any more of them, and we got out of the fire and found the others soon after that."

     "Thank you, both of you, for looking after my daughter," Ivypool murmured, reaching out her muzzle to brush it against Silentstorm's. "I knew I could trust you." Silentstorm dipped her head to her old mentor in response.

     Shadowpaw pressed against Silentstorm's side, his pelt trembling. "It was horrible, watching Blossomfall and Cedarkit die yesterday," he murmured. "And then, when you told me to take Yewkit and run, there were so many Dark Forest cats. I thought I was leaving you to die." A shudder ran through the tom's pelt. "I was so scared. I knew I had to keep Yewkit safe, so I left, but I hated myself for leaving you to be killed. And then, when Dovewing brought you back, I didn't get to see you, I didn't know how badly hurt you were..."

     Silentstorm felt a rush of guilt. She hadn't meant to worry her apprentice. But Yewkit had to be protected, and she couldn't have protected her while having to fight that many cats. And after Jayfeather had died, she'd been so miserable and stunned that she hadn't been able to talk to anyone.

     She gave Shadowpaw a swift lick between the ears, mewing, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you worry. But you did very well taking Yewkit to safety, and leading me around in the fire. I'm very proud of you."

     Shadowpaw gave a quiet purr at his mentor's praise. After a moment, though, he became somber again. "I'm sorry about Jayfeather," he mewed quietly.

     A fierce rush of grief came over Silentstorm again, but she did her best to push it away. "Thanks. And I'm sorry for you too - I know he was your brother."

     Shadowpaw shrugged. "He was older, so it was different. Plus there were all the lies with Squirrelflight not being their mother. But yeah, he was always there for me." He sighed, leaning against his mentor. "I'll miss him."

     Silentstorm touched her nose to his ear, trying to fight back a wave of grief. "Me too."

     Suddenly, a nearby yowl sounded. "Let all cats of all Clans join here for a meeting!" Silentstorm's ears perked in surprise. Why was Bramblestar calling a meeting?

     She and Shadow approached the call, joining the cats gathering around a small tree stump a few fox-lengths away from the badger den. Bramblestar was standing on the stump beside Sedgewhisker, Mistystar and Tigerstar standing on one side of it, as a crowd gathered around them. Silentstorm sat towards the middle, Shadowpaw leaving to join his littermates. After a few moments, Darkbreeze pushed through the crowd to sit beside Silentstorm. She touched her nose to Silentstorm's ear in an unusually somber greeting, murmuring, "I'm so sorry." Silentstorm just gave a small nod in reply.

     Once every cat was gathered, Bramblestar began. "We have some announcements to make. First, the patrol we sent into ThunderClan territory returned. They say that the forest is pretty badly burned, and that some of Breeze's rogues were patrolling there. Our patrol managed not to be seen, but the rogues were fairly close to the border, and they were looking for us. I don't think it would be wise to return to ThunderClan territory at the moment."

     That set off a chorus of worried cries. Bramblestar cut them off with a wave of his tail. "We need to discuss where we're going to go next. We're not safe here - it's too exposed, and we're too close to rogue territory. But first, I have an announcement to make."

     He paused, taking a moment to collect himself before continuing, "As you all know, ThunderClan is without a medicine cat. But that ends now. Leafpool is taking back her place as ThunderClan's medicine cat." Silentstorm could hear Leafpool sitting beside the tree stump, her tail twitching anxiously.

     His announcement was mostly met with murmurs of approval, and a few calls of congratulations. But there were a few dark murmurs in the crowd. Silentstorm heard Ratscar of ShadowClan call out, "But she lied about her kits. She broke the warrior code."

     Bramblestar gave a stiff nod in the tom's direction. "And no cat knows that better than me," he rumbled. "Leafpool stepped down from being our medicine cats because of her lies. But all of this was seasons ago, and she has since proved her loyalty again and been forgiven."

     "How are we supposed to trust a medicine cat who lied?" Yarrowleaf grumbled from his spot in the crowd.

     Minnowtail, who sat beside Yarrowleaf hissed, "Hush! Can't you see she's already suffered enough?" Silentstorm couldn't see Leafpool's expression, but she couldn't imagine that becoming medicine cat again due to her son's death had brought her much joy. The poor she-cat had now had to watch two of her kits die.

     "That's not all," Bramblestar continued. "Leafpool and I have spoken, and she has decided to take on an apprentice." Silentstorm's ears flew forward in shock as he announced, "Finchwing will be the new medicine cat apprentice of ThunderClan."

     Silentstorm blinked. Finchwing? She was still stunned as Finchwing stood and padded from the inner edge of the crowd, coming to sit beside his new mentor. The rest of the crowd seemed surprised as well, but quickly picked up the cheer of "Finchwing! Finchwing! Finchwing!"

     As the cheers died down, Leafpool and Finchwing left the stump behind, rejoining the crowd. To Silentstorm's surprise, Finchwing came to stand beside her. "Can I sit here?" he asked.

     Silentstorm hesitated, then nodded. "Sure."

     The large tom settled in beside her. As the leaders began discussing something else, Finchwing murmured to her, "I wanted to let you know I'm not trying to take Jayfeather's place." Silentstorm stiffened, but stayed silent as he continued. "I know you took his death hard, so I just wanted to tell you myself. But I've been thinking about this for a while - for a long time, actually - and I know this is the right path for me. I don't want to defend my Clan by hurting cats, I want to defend it by helping them heal." He ducked his head. "Then maybe I can help keep my Clanmates from knowing the kind of loss that I have."

     Silentstorm was silent for a few moments. It would be hard to see Finchwing in all the places Jayfeather had been, healing his Clanmates and sharing dreams with StarClan when Jayfeather no longer could. But after her initial surprise, the idea of Finchwing as a medicine cat felt more and more right. He always had been a gentle sort of cat, compassionate to others who were hurting, and he had always seemed unsure of himself after losing his sister and father. Silentstorm could see the compassion and patience of a healer in him, and the determination to never let his Clanmates suffer losses like he had.

     "You don't have to apologize for anything," she murmured back. "I'm happy for you, now that you've found what you're meant to be. You'll be a great medicine cat."

     Finchwing purred, sounding happier than he had in moons. "Thank you."

     While they'd been speaking, the leaders had been discussing options for where the Clans could go. "We could go back to the old territories?" Silentstorm heard Sedgewhisker suggest as she and Finchwing fell silent. "It's been seasons, maybe the twolegs left -"

     "The twolegs completely destroyed the old territory," Mistystar cut her off firmly. "I saw it with my own eyes. There's nowhere left for cats to live there." She flicked her tail thoughtfully. "What about the mountains? We could ask the Tribe of Rushing Water to shelter us for a while."

     Bramblestar was shaking his head. "The mountains can't support four Clans, the Tribe, and the rogues who settled there. Things are tense enough with the rogues for them. And besides, we didn't leave in the best paw with them, at least not with the old Stoneteller." He sighed. "This is the place that StarClan meant for us to make our home. I made the sun-drown journey, I know that this is where StarClan meant for us to be. We need to stay somewhere far and hidden enough that Breeze won't find us, but somewhere close enough for us to come back when we find a way to take back our home."

     For several moments, no cat spoke. Silentstorm was starting to feel hopeless again. The forest was destroyed; everything Silentstorm had ever known was in ashes. The Clans had done everything to protect their home, the home they had believe to the roots of their pelts that they belonged in, and they had failed. Everything they had believed in and staked their faith in had been nothing but a trail of ashes waiting to crumble under their paws. And now, they had nowhere to go, and nothing left to fight for.

     For as long as Silentstorm had been listening, Tigerstar had been oddly silent, letting his fellow leaders carry the conversation. But now, finally, the ShadowClan leader spoke.

     "I know where we can go."

COVER: link


Well, we're finally here. The end of Trail of Ashes. Wow, weird to think that I've already finished four full-length books in this series.

So, a fair bit happens in this chapter. We get some bonding between Silentstorm and Lightfoot, as well as Silentstorm and Shadowpaw. Leafpool gets re-instated as ThunderClan's medicine cat and, the big surprise I've been waiting for ages to reveal, Finchwing is her new apprentice. Yeah, remember how I said I was really happy to see Finchwing finally become a warrior. Well, I was, because I knew it wouldn't last long, and it was nice to see while it lasted. But I've been planning this for a while, and this is who Finchwing was always meant to be. I hope you enjoyed this bit, and seeing this part of Finchwing's character arc.

We also get a little cliffhanger about where the Clans might go next. It'll probably be revealed when I post the cover (which might take a few days), but we'll see.

I really enjoyed writing TOA. Sorry it took so long to finish, but I hope y'all liked it. It's called Trail of Ashes for multiple reasons - first, Ashstar dies in this book, and that's really the first big bad thing to happen to the Clans in this book before it all goes downhill, so everything bad that happens is in the trail of Ash's demise (I know, stretching a bit). Second, the forest actually catches on fire and leaves everything destroyed and in ashes (which is what the cover is kind of mean to depict, by the by). Third, this book is about the Clan's core beliefs failing them, everything that they thought was certain sort of crumbling from under their paws, which I though ash was a good metaphor for that.

I don't have my iPad with me while on vacation, so I can't draw the new cover yet, but I'm going home tomorrow, so I'll get to it soon. I have some chapter planning to do, and the allegiances I already wrote out need some tweaking, but hopefully none of that will take too long. I still can't believe I'm about to start on book five already. Yikes!

See you all there!
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KeenTigerClaw Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I..Don’t know how, or why, but..Whenever I think of Jay’s death, I think of the fight scene in Black Panther of, ‘IS THIS YOUR KING?’ H e l p. 
Jayie-The-Hufflepuff Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Interesting comparison. XD
KeenTigerClaw Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
XD IDK Why, it’s odd. Honestly, when (Slight Spoliers for comment browsers:)

That when Breeze says, ‘Is this your three? Even they couldn’t protect you.’ I seriously think of that scene- That and Infinity War has been on my mind, MAYBE THATS IT. *claps loudly before running off*
Jayie-The-Hufflepuff Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Oooh, that does make sense, nice conncetion! :D
Devinital Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Man, the feels from this book. Just man.
I'd like how you write romance in all honesty, even though I know you don't feel the most comfortable doing so. I did not see Lightfoot and Silentstorm becoming a couple or Ambertalon and Blazeheart and yet they feel compatable. To be able to write a couple that feels natural together but still not make it something I saw coming the minute the two started talking, that takes skill.
I also like that Finchwing becoming a medicine cat also felt like a natural conclusion without it being too obvious.
Finally, I like its Tigerstar who will "lead the clans to safety". The fact this was something written about earlier but I really not put a huge emphasis on is really cool. And I also like how this will likely link back to "Sushi's Society" in some way. Breeze may have unknowingly pushed them into finding a new ally. ;P
Just super hyped for the next book really but no pressure on getting it up or out. I know school comes first. Might go back and re-read the last few books in the mean time, been itching to look back on the journey thus far.

Also keep an eye on your email, been really motivated into finishing something on my end before the week is out if you know what I mean. c:
Jayie-The-Hufflepuff Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016  Hobbyist Writer

Thanks! :D It's definitely a challenge writing romance, but I'm definitely pleased with how the Amber/Blaze stuff turned out, and the Light/Silent stuff is actually going alright as well. ^^ Aw thank you. :D

I always felt like Finchwing would work best as a medicine cat. I'm really happy with how his character development and story arc have gone, and how everything has led up to this. I'm kind of surprised no one guessed it after he helped Ivypool give birth - I was so sure that was going to give away that he was meant to be a healer rather than a fighter (though I did let him beat on Mapleshade to try and balance it out).

Haha, I didn't exactly think of that with Tigerstar being the one saving them, but it definitely works. ^^

Perhaps. ^^

Yeah, I have a bit of summer left, but I have to get ahead on my reading and I have to pack, so we'll see how much I get done before I go back. And after I go back, we'll see.

Ooo, I shall definitely do that. :D
squishygecko Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016  Student Digital Artist
First of all, I wanted to say I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten Silent storm is blind when I'm reading her chapters, your writting is just that good 👏 And Finchwing as med cat is one hundred percent my favorite moment in the series
Jayie-The-Hufflepuff Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Haha, I forget too at times, but it's always interesting to try and balance how well she navigates her environment and figures out what her Clanmates are doing without using visual aids. And thanks. :D

Yeah, I've been waiting to reveal that bit for a while now, and I'm really happy with it, Finchwing is just such a good fit as a medicine cat, I think. D
Tigerfangz Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I can't wait for the next book this had me crying at parts and aww Lightfoot and Silentstorm so cute together and Leafpool must be heart broken yes she is a med cat again but at the cost of her son the second kit of hers she had lost and Finchwing I saw him more med cat then warrior after he helped Ivypool with her kittening. Its okay was worth the wait  
Jayie-The-Hufflepuff Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
I just posted the cover for the new book, and I shall try to get started on the rest soon. :D

Thanks. :D Lightfoot is pretty adorable, and I think he's good with Silentstorm. And definitely poor Leafpool.

I thought that bit might give away that he was going to end up as a medicine cat. ^^ He definitely fits best as a medicine cat.
Tigerfangz Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Okay I check it out and yeah he is and yeah it was abit
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August 18, 2016


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