Sometimes, the child holds more power than the parent...
GENRES: Fantasy, drama, mythology.
SUMMARY: Sometimes, the child holds more power than the parent...
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2002.
LENGTH: 5200+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mild adult themes.
COPYRIGHT: This story and all characters, unless otherwise stated in the Disclaimers, are copyright © tehuti_88 and may not be used or distributed without permission. The reader is free to print out or download a copy of this story for offline reading as long as the author's copyright information remains upon it. Please do not distribute; if you wish to share this story, send a link to this page.
DISCLAIMERS: Ocryx and his "species" are © the Haunted Theatre of Mackinac Island. Certain characters are from Ojibwa mythology. Although aspects of this story are loosely based on Ojibwa mythology and culture, artistic license has been taken as this is a FANTASY story. Please take note that this story was written around 2002 and that my writing style and understanding of the mythology I created may have changed vastly in the meantime.
ADDITIONAL INFO: NA.
RELATED STORIES: "Manitou Island" (serial), "Return To Manitou Island" (serial), "Escape From Manitou Island" (serial), "Tales From Manitou Island" (short stories)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This short story ties in with the Manitou Island serials listed above; as such, it might not make much sense out of context. This is my "genesis" story for Silver Eagle Feather. Please see "Demon's Seed," "Stranger In A Strange Land," "Rainbowbringer," and "Winter Born" for sequel stories to this, also featuring Silver Eagle Feather.
* * * * *
IT WAS LATE evening, so she was hardly expected in the camp. A few children still chased each other about the main clearing, and they were the ones who spotted her first, coming up a trail through the woods. They stopped their games and ran to find their elders, some seated outside their homes talking, others putting away the things of the day. And so by the time she finally arrived under cover of dusk, her presence was no longer much of a surprise, though the members of the tribe were puzzled by it nonetheless.
Some of them stopped and gathered at the end of the trail, where she was approaching. She didn't seem to notice them. She walked with a heavy, trudging step, as if exhausted; her head hung low so her hair shielded her face. She seemed slightly disheveled and they could tell she'd come a long way. She carried a bundle wrapped in doeskin in her arms and didn't look up at them or address them in any way until they spoke.
"Hai, Sister," one of the braves called as she made her way toward their camp. "Are you lost?"
"Are you hungry?" one of the women asked, and turned to pinch one of the children behind her, sending him running off to fetch some soup before she could even receive an answer. The others crowded around and craned their necks, murmuring with curiosity.
The newcomer finally stopped and lifted her head. There were shadows under her eyes, which themselves were large and glazed, as if she wasn't quite certain where she was or how she had gotten there. She looked around at the others standing in a rough semicircle before speaking, her voice soft and faint.
"What tribe is this?"
The others looked at each other again, raising their eyebrows. The Island was small enough that most tribes knew the locations of the others, as well as their names. It was unusual for someone to arrive and not know which tribe they had located.
"You have come to the Red Leaf Tribe," someone answered from near the back.
"Where have you come from?" the woman asked. Her son came back with a bowl of soup, which she held out toward the newcomer, who looked at it and started to reach for it before remembering the parcel she carried. She brought it back toward herself and refused the bowl.
"The...I came from the Running Water Tribe."
"Running Water?" A few of the men started murmuring. "This is upon the other side of the Island. A long walk for a woman with a burden!"
"We may take it for you," another woman said, holding out her hands. The newcomer seemed to snap to life now, and shrank back, holding the bundle away from her with wide eyes. The woman frowned but let her be. The newcomer glanced at them now, as if having just woken up from sleepwalking.
"I...I would like to speak with your ogimah, the chief."
"He is not with us right now," the first brave responded. "He is visiting with one of our neighbors. Perhaps you would like to speak with one of the medicine men?"
She stared at them for a moment more before nodding shortly. "This will do."
The crowd parted to let her through and she followed the few who went walking in the direction of the medicine man's wigwam. "What is your name, so we may call you properly?" the first woman asked, following them for some distance.
"L...Leaves Falling," the newcomer replied. The others slowed and stopped to watch her go. The boy tugged on his mother's sleeve and pointed at the bundle, saying that he had seen it move, but she tweaked his ear to shush him. It was rude to point at strangers.
* * * * *
Leaves Falling sat upon a small stool while the tribe's medicine man poked about the room, seeking something. She stared at the small fire as if entranced and it took him a moment to gain her attention. He could hear shuffling noises outside, a few of the others listening at his door, yet ignored them. He approached the woman and examined her face and eyes and mouth.
"How long since you have last eaten?" he asked, concerned by her haggard look.
"I do not remember," she replied.
"I understand if you are not hungry, yet you must eat. I can hardly believe you walked all this way in your condition." He looked around the room again before going toward the fire. He heated another bowl of soup and handed it to her; she let the bundle lie upon her lap as she accepted it and took a small sip, not seeming very interested in eating. He sat down opposite her and watched her drink.
"You say you are from the Running Water Tribe?" he said. "This, to my last knowledge, is far over on the other side of the Island, near the point. Why is it you have come all this way?"
"I merely walked...until I found a tribe." She lowered the bowl but didn't meet his eyes. "My own...I am not welcome to return to my own."
"Welcome?" He frowned. "You have committed some offense?"
She nodded slightly.
"What was the nature of it? If it is small, perhaps I may accompany you back and speak with the elders. If it is big, I will have to speak with our own, so there is no trouble with you being here." He paused. "I assume that you came here to stay. At least for a short while. I assume too much?"
She shook her head and took another sip. "No...you do not." She looked up at him and he could finally see her eyes, beneath the strands of her hair. "You speak as if you have some experience with this...?"
The medicine man lowered his own eyes. "I do...in a way. The Red Leaf Tribe has not always been my home. My own tribe was destroyed by the demon of the lake, long ago."
Leaves Falling's eyes widened. He grew puzzled at the look on her face--she seemed to be afraid of something--when the bundle she held upon her lap moved just a bit, and he heard a noise, like a small murmur. He jumped up with a gasp even as she held it more closely to her.
Stick-In-The-Dirt moved to crouch down beside her, and gently took the front flap of the bundle and pulled it down. A tiny face peered out, eyes closed and mouth working. A hand, just as tiny, poked its way free and flexed its little fingers at the air. It made a few more murmuring sounds and Stick-In-The-Dirt hastened about the room again, looking for a way to feed it.
"I...I may take care of her," Leaves Falling called out, and started working at the fastenings on her top. Stick-In-The-Dirt halted and watched as she started feeding the child, before letting out a sigh and lowering the bowl he'd been carrying.
"This is just as well, since I don't think I have any means by which to feed her myself!"
A slight, passing smile crossed the woman's face, almost as quickly vanishing. He resumed his seat and stared at the child with a puzzled look.
"You fled your tribe with a young babe in your arms? I'm surprised you still have any milk left for her, what with how poorly you yourself are looking." He paused. "I do not mean to sound cruel...but there was no one, no relative, you could have left her with...?"
"She is the reason," Leaves Falling murmured.
Stick-In-The-Dirt frowned. "She is the reason you left?"
Leaves Falling nodded and fell silent. After a moment the child finished suckling and yawned, her small hands stretching at the air. Stick-In-The-Dirt forgot his confusion and stepped forward to take a look at her. He touched his finger to her hand and her own fingers curled around it.
"You have a child of your own...?" Leaves Falling asked.
"Three daughters. They are still outside running about. I still remember when my eldest looked just like this." He smiled when the baby opened and closed her mouth soundlessly, then she blinked open her eyes. His own grew wide and he jumped back again, nearly toppling into the fire. He had to kick a log away before it could singe his foot, one hand going to wrap around the protective totem he wore around his neck. Leaves Falling looked up at him.
"Wh...what is she?" he whispered, shaking.
Leaves Falling bit her lip and rose. The child waved her arms and giggled, her bright green eyes surveying the room. "I hadn't known--when I came here--that any of you would have known also..." She trailed off, then said, "I will leave if it brings your tribe peace. I'm sorry I disrupted you so."
She turned toward the door, the shuffling noises departing hastily. Stick-In-The-Dirt hurried forward. "Wait!" He held out his hand and she stopped, looking back over her shoulder. He pushed forward the stool with one foot and gestured at it. "Please. Please sit? I wish to hear your story before I decide whether you are welcome here or not."
Leaves Falling stared at him a moment before sighing and turning away from the door. She sat back down, and Stick-In-The-Dirt followed suit, poking at the disturbed fire. She cradled the now-murmuring child to her, bouncing her up and down slightly.
"She," Stick-In-The-Dirt said, nodding at the child with the strange eyes. "She is the reason you left? As you said?"
The woman nodded. "I did not have to tell the others what she was. They knew. I did not bother to speak with them of it. Such things have happened before, and those they have happened to always leave."
"Before...?" His face grew pale. "You are not the first one to bear a child like this?"
"The first that I know of to bear a child...yes. But not the first it has happened to."
"I fear I do not understand. The father, you did not even speak with him before you departed?"
She stared at him with a curious look before shaking her head. "No...you must not understand. Her father. This is the reason I left. You...really do not know?"
Stick-In-The-Dirt remained silent. A moment or two passed and his gaze drifted down to the young child again, then up, back to Leaves Falling's face. His eyes grew uneasy.
"You cannot mean..."
"This is why I asked if I should leave. As you have met him in your own way, yourself."
The medicine man drew back in on himself a bit, not quite able to suppress the wrinkle that came to his nose, as if he smelled something unpleasant. "You mean...the demon...she...?"
Leaves Falling looked down at the child, who had closed her eyes and apparently gone back to sleep. She cradled her close and her hair slipped forward to shield her face again.
"I was in the woods. He came upon me there...I do not know how you have not heard of this yet, but I know I was not the first. That was how I knew who he was, though he wore a different form. I...will not tell you the shape he took, to spare you the thought in your mind. But it was not an expected shape. I tried to run from him, but he was faster...and so then I tried to fight him. But he was stronger. I had heard of what happened to the other women he sought out...I did not want it to happen to me.
"I am surprised I can even remember it this clearly now...as it did happen, in the end...eventually I was not afraid of him anymore. I wanted to be with him, even. No matter what his shape or what he was...they told me before that this is what he does, confuses the mind, so those who feared him desire him instead. They say it is a bad medicine of his, but it works. Even now, I am fighting every urge to walk to his lake and set foot within it, I want to be with him again so badly."
Stick-In-The-Dirt looked at the baby. Leaves Falling tucked the skin around her more closely.
"I wandered...for a long while. I returned to my tribe for a time, but not for long. I do not remember most of that time. My mind was dazed. They say this is part of what he does. Takes away our fear, but makes us forget as well. When I knew I was with her I left them again and bore her by myself. I have not returned to them since. They knew I was carrying her, and what had happened to me. The others it has happened to are no longer welcome among their tribes. Perhaps they will bring his wrath down upon them, so this is why they are cast out...who knows. I am the first one I am aware of to bear his child." She paused. "Though it is obvious you can tell who her true father is."
Stick-In-The-Dirt bit the inside of his cheek and sat back, frowning at the floor. "You are certain?" he asked, hoping she wasn't. "You are absolutely certain that the demon is her father?"
Leaves Falling nodded. "I have been with no other, before or since."
The medicine man's look grew tense. "He...did he hurt you, badly...?"
"What...?" Leaves Falling lifted her head and blinked once or twice, then shook it. "No. He did not. I..." She flushed and lowered her head again. "As I already mentioned, I enjoyed being with him, after a while..."
"You said that you have wandered, then. What is the purpose? Where do you think you will go, if your tribe does not welcome you?"
"I...this was what I could not answer." Leaves Falling tucked the baby away and brushed back a strand of hair. "I continue to hope there will be a tribe that will welcome me, though I know none will. I have...I have been considering two different choices."
Stick-In-The-Dirt sat forward.
"There are many caves upon the Island," Leaves Falling said. "I could always seek one out, clean it, and move within. It may offer shelter as good as a wigwam, then I need only learn how to hunt and gather enough food for us both."
The medicine man furrowed his brow. "Surely you cannot do this? The winter will be much too harsh for you, with a child to care for. What was your other choice?"
Leaves Falling stared at the floor. She didn't lift her head, but he could still see the pain entering her eyes.
"I had...I had thought perhaps, that if I am not welcome, perhaps someone would take her in for me...and then I would go back to where I do feel welcome."
"The lake. I would go to the lake."
Stick-In-The-Dirt's face went gray. Leaves Falling turned her head the other way, as if trying to escape his stare.
"I told you...every day I feel as if I should start walking until I end up upon its shore. You may think I have grown tired from wandering and from little food, but the truth is I have grown tired from fighting my desire to go there. I keep feeling...perhaps once I set my foot within the water, he will come up to greet me...and then I will find somewhere I belong."
Stick-In-The-Dirt shook his head slowly. "No...this you cannot do! He is a monster! He attacked you, and countless others, from what you've told me; he has killed dozens of us as well, my wife and tribe among them! It was only by sheer luck that my daughters escaped--and now with what you say, I only fear he may go after them in another manner entirely! You have no way of knowing whether he will welcome you or not--from what little I know of him, I must beg you not to take the chance. You must not deprive what little he has left you with of a mother!"
"I have already deprived her." Leaves Falling's voice was soft and faraway. "Every day I think more of going to the lake, and less of her. I do not know if it is he who does it, or my own mind...but sooner or later I shall go there anyway, whatever he may decide to do to me. If he shall take me as his mate, or if he shall kill me, I will no longer care. Just as long as he does not turn me away." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "She will be safe with others, if I can find them..."
Stick-In-The-Dirt rose and then knelt before her. He took her hand, surprising her, and squeezed it in his own.
"Please," he pleaded, "please, will you not do this? There must be another choice, if we can only find it."
She didn't meet his eyes. "I have thought long, but can think of nothing. Even if I were to take her to the caves, I fear I would one day simply leave her behind...who is to say how strong his power is? I may end up leaving her without even knowing it." She finally lifted her head and gave him a pleading look. "Would you risk this with your daughters?"
The medicine man winced, as if struck; then said, "I would not, but neither would I abandon..."
"If you thought the demon might come after them, would you leave them with another and sacrifice yourself to the lake? To stop him?"
Stick-In-The-Dirt was silent for a moment. "Do you then believe he will come for her? Someday?"
Leaves Falling closed her eyes. "I cannot know. But perhaps he will. She is his daughter, also. I know little of him, but from what I have heard, he always desires payment."
Stick-In-The-Dirt chewed on his lip. He stared at the baby for a moment, then looked back up at Leaves Falling. They both had the same look in their eyes, but they also both knew the truth.
"When are you going to go to him?" he whispered.
Leaves Falling lifted one shoulder. "I do not know..."
"I know...of someone who might be willing to take her. At least for now. Please. Come with me."
They both rose and went for the doorway. Stick-In-The-Dirt pushed the flap aside and shooed away the children standing outside the wigwam, Leaves Falling following him, ignoring their stares.
* * * * *
He led her to the other side of the camp, near the far edge of the woods. There was a wigwam here that was slightly larger than most of the others, with the exception of the chief's and the medicine lodge. A blanket with an owl design hung from the door; Stick-In-The-Dirt pulled it to the side and rapped his knuckles against the wooden frame. He turned to Leaves Falling as he did so.
"When I came, they already had their own medicine man here. Yet they did not turn me away. Perhaps because I had a family to care for. I don't know...but maybe he will help you."
Leaves Falling nodded, though he could tell she was wondering why he had brought her to this particular home. After a moment a rustling noise came and the door opened, an old man peering out.
"Stick?" he said. "You know very well I'm getting my bed ready at this time of the night, what are..."
He turned his head and noticed Leaves Falling now, and his look grew curious. Stick-In-The-Dirt bowed his head respectfully.
"Grandfather, I ask that we please be allowed in."
The old medicine man stared at them both for a moment, then nodded and gestured them inside.
"I am sorry for bothering you so late at night," Stick-In-The-Dirt said as the old man found a seat for the woman. "But it's an important matter; I hope you may help us."
"Us?" The old medicine man looked at them both again, then held a hand up to his mouth and whispered loudly, as if she couldn't hear, "I thought it was about time you take a new wife, boy, but one with another cub to care for? You already have three of your own..."
Stick-In-The-Dirt's face went red. "This isn't why I brought her here. Two Owls! Must you try to match me up with everyone!"
Two Owls shrugged but sat down. "Eh, fine, but people will begin to wonder..."
The younger medicine man interrupted him before he could continue, telling him the story Leaves Falling had told him. Throughout it, the look on the old man's face changed constantly, from puzzlement to surprise to suspicion and back to puzzlement again. He seemed just as confused as Leaves Falling was.
"Well. It's been quite a while since I raised a cub of my own, you know that, don't you, Stick?" he said when the younger man had finished. "I'm hardly certain I could keep up with another young one on my own."
"The women could help you. Your daughter and her husband do still live at the other side of the camp, do they not?"
"Well, true...but why do you not take the cub to them, then? Ah, and there is always Shore Pebble. She has been pining to have a child for months! Do you not think you could do her a favor this once, since your medicine obviously isn't working any wonders?"
Stick-In-The-Dirt ran his hand over his face. Leaves Falling glanced from one of them to the other, again jogging the baby slightly as she murmured in her sleep. "GRANDFATHER! Shore Pebble might have more luck--if she had a husband. This is not what I came here to discuss! I thought I should bring her to you because of...well...because of what she is."
Two Owls leaned forward when his voice lowered into a whisper on these last three words. He cupped his hand to his ear. "Eh? Speak up, boy! She followed you here, I hardly think she needs to be left out now!"
"The demon, Grandfather, remember? He has medicine. Lots of it. I hate to think of the things he could do, should he try. What if he passes this on to his offspring? The child could..." He trailed off, glancing at the baby with a look of unease, before speaking up again. "The child might have more power than her father, even."
Two Owls and Leaves Falling stared at him, then down at the child. She still slept, but the looks they gave her weren't peaceful ones. Two Owls frowned.
"You think she'll turn out like the demon...?"
"No," Leaves Falling blurted out. She hugged the child to her. "She cannot turn out like him. Look at her! If she were of his kind, I would take her with me. I must leave her with you because she is one of our kind!"
Two Owls shook his head. "I'm afraid this isn't so...she is half us...and half his kind. Or else she is neither...but this hardly matters. Even manitous pass on medicine to their young; who's to say the demon doesn't do the same?"
"You cannot know this," Leaves Falling insisted, her eyes watering.
"We must take precautions," Stick-In-The-Dirt said, trying to calm her down. "There was one time when I believed there was nothing harmful within that lake--and it was my carelessness that led to the death of my wife and my tribe! And the carelessness of another led to the freedom of the other demon! You sensed how your own tribe reacted. You said they did not want her. Why will any tribe be any different? If you leave her with us, who is to say she will not be reviled here, as well?"
"I thought you were going to help me," Leaves Falling cried. The tears started streaming down her face; the child awoke and blinked up at her, murmuring more loudly. "Now you sound as if you wish to toss her away as a demon herself!"
"We will do no such thing. No one will touch her while she is under my roof," Two Owls said. "All right, very well, Stick. She may stay here. My daughter will help me should I need it. I'll do everything I can for her."
He stood and reached out for the baby. Leaves Falling cringed back, then shot a look at Stick-In-The-Dirt.
"You! You have children. Why do you not take her--?"
Stick-In-The-Dirt winced. "You do not understand. I cannot raise her. She will have a powerful medicine, I know it."
"I am older, nearing the end of my years," Two Owls interrupted. "And so I may raise her, and teach her properly."
Leaves Falling's defenses lowered slightly, but she still looked confused. "Teach...?"
"Of course." Two Owls nodded. "Surely you don't think we will just sit back and let her grow up without discipline! If Stick is right, and I feel he is, what on earth will she ever do with that power once she gets older and stronger? Without teaching she really might end up like her father. If I teach her, maybe I can get her to control it...hopefully."
Leaves Falling blinked. She turned to Stick-In-The-Dirt.
"I have a while to go yet," he said quietly. "A medicine man may not release his student on their own into the world until he is dead."
The woman stared at him for a moment more. Understanding seemed to dawn in her eyes, and eventually she lowered her head and nodded.
She said nothing more, though both of the men sensed she wished to. Instead she stood and held out the bundle to Two Owls, who received it and wiggled his gnarled finger in the child's face. She cooed and grabbed hold of it as Leaves Falling started to turn for the door.
"You will not stay with us for the night?" Stick-In-The-Dirt called with surprise. "It's grown dark outside! You've been walking all day!"
"I must go." Her voice was faint and weary. "I will find someplace to sleep...but I must leave here now. Before I can change my mind." She looked back at the child and the medicine man could see her eyes were still wet. His heart twisted for her, yet he could say nothing.
"Hold, child!" Two Owls shouted when she started to slip outside. "She has no name! The father will not name her...obviously...so have you any idea?"
Leaves Falling stopped in the doorway with the flap partly lifted. She didn't look back at them again.
"I had a dream," she said softly, "after he had come to me. When I knew that she was with me. At first I was afraid to bear her. I was standing in the dark and in the wind and I was the only one there. The demon had left me, and my tribe didn't want me.
"At first the wind and the dark frightened me also, but then they changed into a breeze and a shadow. I could feel something sweeping past me and then it was gone. I was not the only one there, while I had her within me. I felt like something had wrapped its wings around me. Wings. He had wings, but I do not know if this had anything to do with it."
She paused for a moment, then her head lowered a little.
"And then I found something lying before my feet and it was lighting my way. A feather, a long feather the color of the moon shining on the water at night. I picked it up and I didn't feel so afraid anymore. At least, not of her. I am afraid again of being alone, but anything is better than taking away what she needs." She finally looked back at them once more, eyes brimming. "Please care for her. If she ever asks after me, tell her I loved her, but I was afraid of her being on her own. I would never have given her up if I had not felt it was the only choice I had."
Two Owls nodded. Stick-In-The-Dirt watched after her as she lifted the flap and disappeared outside. He followed and looked out, to see her walk past the watching children, across the camp, to slowly vanish into the woods. Part of him felt sorrow, as if he should be howling in grief at the air. Yet another part of him felt relieved. Which one was right?
He heard Two Owls murmuring to himself, and turned to see him carrying the child toward the back of the wigwam. "Will have to fetch you a cradleboard, little one," he said. "And someone to feed you right--and a toy or two. And what is this hiding behind your ear?" He reached behind the child's ear and as if by magic pulled out a glimmering feather. The child laughed and waved her hands at it. He placed it between her fingers and she waved it about like a tiny banner, giggling and gurgling.
"Hmph," Two Owls said, nodding his head at Stick-In-The-Dirt to gain his attention. "Owls are usually of women, and eagles are usually of men, but I'm guessing that tonight, everything here is reversed."
"What do you mean?" Stick-In-The-Dirt inquired.
"Well, her name, fool. Since I am her father now, it's only fitting I give it to her. I see it!" He snapped his fingers. "I will make a prophecy!"
Stick-In-The-Dirt rolled his eyes. "You are as good with prophecies as I supposedly am with birth medicine! What could you possibly have to predict now?"
"Only the truth! Dumb pup! You yourself said you sensed it. She'll be as wise as an owl, because of the teaching I will give her, yet as strong as an eagle, because of her father. The best of both worlds! I have merely to keep her in check so she doesn't turn out exactly like him." He pursed his lips and glanced at the baby, still waving the feather. "Well...I took her in...I guess the woman has my word now! Little Eagle Feather. This is what I'll call you. How does that sound? Eh?"
"That name isn't right," Stick-In-The-Dirt replied.
Two Owls made a scoffing noise. "And what better could you do? One of your daughters is named after a plant, one after a bird, and one after a hoofed animal! What's worse, they are all WHITE! What better name could you possibly give, Man-Who-Is-Not-Her-Father?"
"Your name is fine!" the younger medicine man returned in an offended tone. "It's simply that it needs modifying if it's to suit the dream! Are you deaf and blind?"
"Cut the disrespect," Two Owls growled. "Just give me the name and we'll call it even!"
"Silver," Stick-In-The-Dirt blurted out, then flushed. "You forgot merely the 'Silver.' Like the moon upon the water at night. Remember?"
"Ahh...so it is...you are right, I forgot." Two Owls waved dismissively. "Very well. Go on back to your home. I'll have to feed her and then get us both to bed."
Stick-In-The-Dirt bowed his head again before leaving. As he stepped out the door and into the chilly air, he heard Two Owls still mumbling behind him, perhaps to himself, perhaps to the little girl as well.
"Very well then, little one; did you hear that? You have a name now. Wise like the owl, strong like the eagle. And beautiful as the moon shining on water. Silver Eagle Feather. Once you are grown, the men will be knocking down a path to your door, they will."
Stick-In-The-Dirt turned from the wigwam with the owl upon its door and made his way back out into the dark.
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