Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien. I am merely keeping Haldir alive at Helm's Deep.
Authors Note: I do not know too much about Éomer so I am going to make some stuff up.
A Mortal Love
Part 13 - Blood
Haldir ran down the corridor, closely followed by Rumil and Orophin. Seeing Gamling near the doorway, he came to a stop and grabbed the steward's shoulder. "Where is he?"
Gamling frowned deeply. "Éomer?"
Haldir impatiently nodded his head. "Who else? Do you know where he is?" He couldn't explain this ominous feeling sweeping through him, but he did know that he had to locate Éomer. His Elven senses told him his mate was in severe danger! "He left a few minutes ago. Where did he go?"
"He told me to prepare rooms for our guests," said Gamling thoughtfully. "He seemed to head for the stables, but..." Gamling's voice trailed off. "He probably headed for the tower."
"Tower?" Shivers ran down Haldir's spine, urging him on. "Show me the way!"
Gamling nodded and marched onto the courtyard. "The tower is where Lord Elrond found Éomer a few nights ago."
"Why would he go there?" asked Haldir, signaling for his brothers to follow.
"When he was a child he hid there from Grima." Anger lit Gamling's eyes. "Grima never searched for him in the tower. Éomer feels safe there." His gaze drifted to Rumil and Orophin, who were looking at him curiously. He felt uncomfortable beneath their stares, and stepped aside to let Haldir enter the staircase that circled up the tower.
Haldir immediately climbed the stairs, reached the top, and came to a halt, seeing the tower deserted. Éomer was nowhere in sight. "Where else could he go?" Haldir turned to face Gamling, who had now joined him as well.
Gamling panted softly due to the quick pace Rumil and Orophin had set; the two Elves had forced him to nearly run up the stairs. "He must be here," said Gamling, studying his surroundings. "There is the one spot where he used to hide as a child."
Rumil raised an eyebrow; Haldir's apparent concern for Éomer still puzzled him. He walked up to his elder brother and rested a hand on Haldir's shoulder. "Calm yourself, brother. We will find him." He read tension and distress on Haldir's face and he hoped they would locate Éomer quickly. He disliked seeing Haldir in this state. Only a few weeks ago he would have instantly dismissed the notion of Haldir being worried about a Man!
Orophin's gaze followed Gamling as the steward moved forward, searching the dark shadows beneath the leaking roof. He blinked, seeing dark blond locks beneath a pile of rags and wood. "I see him," he said softly. Haldir released a strangled yelp at hearing his words and Orophin quickly stepped aside to let Haldir pass.
Haldir had detected his mate the moment Orophin did and he sat on his heels, slowly removing the dirty rags, uncovering Éomer, who was shaking violently. "Éomer? Voronwer, say something!" His voice trembled with emotion and he sucked in his breath, shocked, seeing deep, bloody gashes running across Éomer's face. The hazel eyes were emotionless and stared straight through him.
"By Elbereth, why did he hurt himself?" Rumil couldn't help but worry, seeing Éomer huddled in that dark corner.
Haldir reached for Éomer and pulled his mate into his arms. "Why indeed?" He cradled Éomer's hands in his, studying them. "He did not do this to himself. There is no blood beneath his nails." Éomer felt icy cold and Haldir looked at Rumil, saying, "Give me your cloak; he is freezing."
Rumil unclasped his long cloak and joined Haldir, helping his brother to wrap the fabric around the Man's form. Meeting Éomer's empty gaze, he shivered, sensing something evil was at work here. "If he did not do this, then who did?"
"I do not know that, but I will find out," said Haldir in a menacing tone, which promised punishment for Éomer's attacker. "Orophin, help me get him up." Éomer was a dead weight in his arms and his brother helped him lift the Man from the cold stone floor. Éomer was back on his feet, but swayed, seemingly unaware of his surroundings. "This won't do," whispered Haldir, wishing he could carry his mate personally, but his back hadn't yet completely healed, and so he looked to his brother for help. "Orophin?"
Orophin understood and slowly lifted Éomer, cradling the Man against his chest. Éomer's hazel eyes stared at the heavens and Orophin quickly followed Gamling as the steward guided them back to Éomer's private rooms.
Haldir remained close, worried that Éomer was more severely wounded than he had detected at first sight. Suddenly Rumil's hand descended onto his shoulder and the trusting expression in his brother's eyes calmed him. "I knew he was in danger," whispered Haldir. "I do not know who hurt him, but someone will pay." Was Grima involved in this?
"You were right; the Man is a target and we should be more careful in future," said Rumil reassuringly, entering Éomer's private rooms.
Haldir nodded thankfully and hurried over to his mate's side when Orophin laid Éomer down. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, his hands moved over Éomer's face, trying to determine how deep the gashes were. "I need warm water and clean cloths to bathe the wounds." He had to remove the dirt that had slipped into the gashes.
"I will get it for you," said Gamling as he hurried into the corridor.
Haldir looked up at his brothers, and at seeing the confusion on their faces he said, "We cannot let him out of our sight until we caught his assailant."
Rumil frowned. "Haldir, do you know who attacked him?"
"Perhaps," said Haldir, whilst brushing curls away from Éomer's face. "One of Saruman's puppets had great influence at this court, but Théoden banished Grima Wormtongue. I am afraid the snake found a way to get back at Éomer."
"Get back?" asked Rumil.
"Éomer..." Haldir paused, deciding against telling his brothers just yet. "Éomer opposed and challenged Grima before the snake was banished. Grima's spies are still hiding inside the keep, and it was probably one of them who did this to Éomer."
"But why is he this... distant?" Rumil etched closer, studying Éomer's expression. "His eyes are empty."
Haldir shivered. "I do now know what happened, but whatever it was, Éomer chose to retreat from it." Éomer had hinted that he had acted like this before when he was a child.
Gamling returned with a bowl filled with water, clean cloths, and towels. He put them on the floor next to Haldir and then stepped back. He sighed, distressed, recognizing the vacant look in Éomer's eyes. "I will tell the Rohirrim to search the keep again! We will find the one who did this!"
Haldir nodded absentmindedly, concentrating on Éomer instead. He immersed the cloth in the tepid water and began to clean the wounds. "Sharp fingernails did this." He checked Éomer's fingers again, but there was not a trace of blood beneath the nails. Fury burned his soul and he was determined to guard Éomer better. No one would ever get the chance to hurt his mate again! He had already failed Éomer once!
Rumil and Orophin exchanged a look. Both realized Haldir was holding back, but they also knew their brother well enough to know that Haldir had good reasons for doing so. Rumil walked up to the bed and eyed his brother closely. "How much danger is he in?"
"A lot," said Haldir softly, cleaning another gash. He cringed; would these scratches leave Éomer's face scarred? "And there is something else I noticed..."
"What is it? Anything the guards should know?" asked Gamling at once. The guards would be more alert now.
"I noticed a shadow hovering above him," said Haldir thoughtfully. "At first I thought the candles were playing a trick on me, but I have seen it a few times now." He finished cleaning the last gash and disposed of the now bloody cloth. Haldir sat watching Éomer silently.
"A shadow?" Gamling shivered. "That reeks of sorcery. It reeks of Grima."
Orophin drew in a deep breath and let his Elven senses reach out. "The Man is right; I sense evil as well, and it is closing in on us." He shivered as the evil drew closer. "We should be alert."
Rumil stared at the door and his eyes narrowed, seeing a shadow slither into the room. "There it is."
But Éomer now sensed the dark presence as well; waking up, his hazel eyes filled with panic. Abruptly, he sat upright and he started to shake like a leaf whilst his eyes searched out Haldir's. Finding the Elf close, he released a deep sigh. He forced himself to calm down, but the stinging sensation on his face made him pant softly in remembered pain. Raising his right hand, he carefully touched the gashes. "What happened?"
Haldir kept one close eye on the advancing shadow whilst reaching for his mate's hand. "What do you remember?"
Orophin and Rumil stepped in front of the bed as the shadow crept across the floor, advancing on them. Rumil cocked his head; how could they stop the shadow from reaching Éomer?
Haldir realized the danger as well and quickly pulled Éomer into an embrace. That way his mate wouldn't have to face evil alone. "Try to remember."
Éomer frowned, but hissed at the pain it caused. "I instructed Gamling to prepare the rooms and -- the next thing I remember is waking up here." Confused, he locked eyes with Haldir. "Why does my face hurt?"
"Brother, get him away from the bed. Evil approaches." Rumil's gaze shifted to the large window, which was partly hidden behind curtains. "Orophin, open the curtains." Sunlight might force the shadow to a halt or retreat.
Orophin hurried to the window, opened the curtains and checked on the shadow again. "It is gone." There was no trace left of it. "I no longer sense an evil presence."
"It worked," said Rumil, pleased. "But what will happen when night comes?" Rumil turned to check on Haldir and Éomer, and found the Man staring at him in puzzlement. "Haldir, brother, you should tell him."
"Tell me what?" Éomer locked eyes with Haldir, momentarily forgetting about the others' presence. "What happened to my face, and what is this talk about a shadow?"
Haldir cleared his throat and allowed Éomer to free himself of the embrace, realizing that his mate probably felt uncomfortable with Rumil and Orophin staring at him. "We found you in the tower; your face was covered in blood. Sharp fingernails left deep gashes across your face." Éomer's hand checked on his injuries and Haldir caught his mate's hand before the Man could accidentally re-open the wounds. "Leave them be. They need to heal."
Éomer frowned, trying to remember what had happened. "I recall telling Gamling to prepare rooms for your brothers, and then I headed for the stables..."
"You ended up in the tower. We found you hidden beneath a pile of rags," said Gamling in a concerned tone. "You have no recollection of who did this to you?"
Éomer shook his head. "I do not even remember heading for the tower."
Haldir clasped his fingers around his mate's hand and waited for Éomer to make eye contact with him. "Gamling caught two of Grima's spies, and we suspect more are hiding within the keep. One of them might have attacked you."
"Then why do I not remember that assault?" asked Éomer, troubled. "I do not like this. What if it happens again?"
"We will guard you closely," said Haldir, and his gaze shifted from Éomer to his brothers. "I can count on you?"
Orophin nodded and Rumil said," Always, brother." Rumil eyed Éomer closely; distress and worry were obvious in the Man's eyes. Haldir seemed equally troubled, and the fact that his brother's life depended on keeping Éomer safe, urged Rumil to look out for Éomer as well. "We will take turns guarding him."
Éomer looked up sharply at hearing Rumil's words. "I do not need supervision. Now that I know what to expect I will make sure it won't happen again." He might trust Haldir, but that didn't apply to his brothers yet. He still remembered their arrogant tone when they had first met.
Haldir gently squeezed Éomer's hand, and when his mate looked at him, he said, "They mean well. Give them a chance to prove themselves. I trust them completely and we might need their help in fighting this shadow."
"Shadow? You mentioned a shadow before." Éomer hid the physical discomfort he felt when frowning. He still had a hard time believing that his face had been scratched open. Who would do this to him? Grima had left Edoras... had he not? Shivers ran down his spine, imagining the worst possible scenario.
Haldir caught the alarmed expression in Éomer's eyes. "What is it?" His mate's hand shook in his and he soothingly rubbed the knuckles, trying to calm and reassure Éomer.
Éomer shook his head, shocked at his line of thought. "What if Grima never left? Théoden kicked him out, but -- he could have sneaked back in."
Rumil and Orophin exchanged a look; Haldir had mentioned that name as well. "Is this Grima a sorcerer?" asked Rumil curiously. What was Haldir keeping from them?
"After a fashion," replied Gamling, thoughtfully. "Grima is in league with Saruman. Who knows what powers the white wizard gave him?"
Orophin walked over to the window and looked at the sun. The three of them had sensed evil when it had slithered inside in the form of a shadow; one of them should remain at Éomer's side at all times. "You are safe as long as the sun warms Arda, but Grima might make his move at night, using the cover of darkness."
"Did you really see a shadow?" Éomer asked Haldir, recalling the Elf's words.
"We did," replied Haldir. "We Elves can sense it."
Haldir’s words distressed Éomer and the Man unexpectedly collapsed against him. Haldir wrapped an arm around him. "At least one of us will stay with you at all times," decided Haldir. "You must trust us in this."
"Us?" Éomer's expression saddened and his voice became barely audible, meant for Haldir's ears only. "Your brothers do not like me. Why burden them with this?"
Rumil caught the words as well. Looking at Orophin he sensed that his brother felt guilty for misjudging Éomer as well. "No burden," said Rumil, thoughtfully. "You saved our brother and gave us the chance to spend time with him before Mandos will claim him again. We did not even express our gratitude at what you did for him. Our hearts weep, knowing Haldir will die shortly --for what is fifty years to an Elf?-- but we will make the best of the time left to us."
Orophin nodded at hearing Rumil's words. He left the window and came to a halt in front of the bed. "Rumil is right. We should rejoice that Haldir is still alive." They had been so shocked at finding their beloved brother bound to a Man that they hadn't realized the sacrifice Éomer had made. "Thank you for returning our brother to us."
Rumil's eyes swam, fully realizing for the very first time that Haldir had died and that only Éomer's life force had brought their brother back. "You traveled to Mandos to retrieve him. That requires courage and determination."
Éomer nearly blushed, hearing those words; Rumil and Orophin had surprised him. "It was nothing." Haldir suddenly stroked his hair, and he looked up at the Elf, seeing a remarkable soft expression in the dark eyes. "I could not let you die."
Haldir nodded once. "Voronwer, you brought me back and your deepening love now aids my recovery. Let us do this for you in return. We will keep the shadow at bay and find Grima and his spies. In the meantime, I want you to be cautious and alert; one of us will always be close."
Éomer gave in, realizing Haldir truly worried about him. "I do not want to be a burden," he whispered slowly.
"You are not burden," replied Rumil, feeling the need to make things up to the Man. "You belong to our family now that Haldir accepted you as his mate. You are as a brother to us."
Haldir gave Rumil a thankful look. "Brother, it means a lot to me that you accept Éomer as part of our little family." Rumil and Orophin would defend Éomer in case of another attack. "You make me proud."
Rumil and Orophin beamed at hearing Haldir's words. "We will stop the evil at work here," said Orophin. He didn't know yet how to stop Grima, but together they would find a way.
Éomer had listened in silence and exhaustion came over him. His eyes began to close. The experience in the tower had drained him. Slowly, he dozed off, his fingers curled around Haldir's.
"He is asleep," whispered Haldir, laying Éomer down on the bed. He covered his mate with warm blankets and then looked up at his brothers and Gamling, who stood awaiting his instructions. "Rest for a few hours. I will need you when night falls."
Rumil and Orophin nodded. "We will join you at sunset," said Rumil. "One of us will stay with Éomer, whilst the others search the keep for Grima and his associates."
"Finding them should be our first priority," agreed Gamling. "I will intensify our search and warn Éomer's personal guards to watch out for the shadow."
Rumil, Orophin and Gamling headed for the doorway, giving them some privacy whilst sunlight still kept them safe. When they returned later tonight they would be ready to face Grima's shadow.
Haldir slipped beneath the blankets, spooned behind Éomer, and pulled his mate close. Sleep wouldn't come for him; he had to guard his mate and make sure no evil touched him.
Gimli had watched Legolas closely for some time now and wondered about the looks being exchanged between Aragorn and the Elf. They had always been intense, but now a new emotion had been added to them. The expression in Legolas' azure orbs had changed, had turned even more intense. Unable to keep quiet any longer he asked, "Elf, what have you been up to?"
Legolas looked over his shoulder at the Dwarf seated behind him on Arod. "Master Dwarf, is something wrong?" He hoped he hadn't given himself away, knowing he stared at Aragorn when he thought no one was watching him.
"Your eyes never leave Aragorn's form. I know you are good friends, but something has changed and it vexes me." Gimli raised an eyebrow, seeing Legolas grow pale. "What happened at Edoras?"
Legolas now looked straight ahead and stared right into Aragorn's eyes, who was looking at him. Aragorn and he hadn't discussed their future yet; they were too busy surviving the next battle. He had no idea if Aragorn wanted to keep their love a secret and would let the Man decide. "We fought at Edoras," replied Legolas playfully, hiding his real feelings, "My last count was forty-one!"
Gimli beamed with pride. "And mine was forty-two! Victory is mine!" He realized that Legolas was trying to distract him and had to admit it almost worked. "But we were talking about Aragorn."
"Aragorn? When did that topic come up?" Legolas stared at the ground, unwilling to make eye contact with Aragorn. Gimli would easily read their expressions and figure everything out.
"Aye, Aragorn. The way you are watching each other..." Gimli's voice trailed off, finally realizing what those looks really meant. /They are in love, and I bet my axe they confessed their feelings to each other. Why does this not surprise me? Maybe because it was there all along, but Aragorn did not act on it before./ He felt happy for his friends, but this was too good not to tease Legolas with and he was going to use this knowledge well. "Master Elf, it seems to me that you fancy the Man."
Legolas' eyes widened, and he was rather relieved that Gimli couldn't see his expression, but Aragorn did. The Man inclined his head questioningly and Legolas averted his eyes, uncertain how to react to Gimli's teasing. "His heart belongs to Arwen," he said eventually.
"He no longer wears the pendant," Gimli pointed out. Legolas tensed in front of him and he grinned smugly. "Did you think I would not notice? A Dwarf's eyes are sharp."
"Ai' atar, your eyes might be deceiving you." Legolas didn't feel comfortable lying to Gimli and finally locked eyes with Aragorn.
Aragorn had overheard their conversation and realized Legolas' dilemma. Guiding Brego closer to Arod, he leaned in closer and whispered into Gimli's ear, "Your eyes are much too sharp, Master Dwarf."
"Ah, it is true then," rumbled Gimli. "My old eyes did not deceive me after all." He rested a hand on Legolas' shoulder, and when the Elf turned to face him, he said, "It is beyond me why you felt you could not confide in me. I would have kept your secret, but do you realize how transparent you are? Both of you? Love is in your eyes and you can do little to hide it."
Aragorn smiled warmly. "I am glad you approve, Gimli, for it is true; I lost my heart to this fair Elf and I do not intend to hide my feelings for him."
Legolas blushed weakly at hearing Aragorn's words. Still looking over his shoulder, he saw the expression in Elrond's eyes, which sparkled with amusement. Was everyone happy for them?
Aragorn caught Legolas' gaze when the Elf turned to look at him. "We will not hide our love. I regret not telling you earlier, but using the seeing stone exhausted me and later--," Aragorn grinned wickedly, "later, I was not thinking that clearly. You have that effect on me, beloved."
A bright light illuminated Legolas' face, hearing Aragorn's admission. Staring at his love, he nearly lost himself in the Man's passionate expression.
Gimli smiled, amused at seeing his friends this deeply in love. /We will need their strength, warmth and love when we set foot on the Paths of the Dead. Seeing them bathe in their love will give us courage and the will to carry on./
Aragorn bestowed a quick caress on his lover's face and then returned to his position at the head of the group, regretting he had to leave Legolas behind. He could only hope Gimli wouldn't tease Legolas too much. Seeing Legolas blush had made his desire grow stronger. /I love him and I will never let him go. Now that I caught him, he is mine./
Éomer woke when a beam of sunshine slipped beneath his eyelids, teasing them open. As his eyes slowly opened, they feasted on the brilliant sight in front of him. Haldir's hair shone like liquid silver and his hand involuntarily moved through the fair tresses, caressing them. Haldir suddenly raised a hand and cupped his cheek in its palm. Éomer leaned into the touch, nuzzling Haldir's hand.
Haldir held his breath, seeing the tender expression in his mate's eyes. It amazed him that Éomer could still feel passionately about another man after what had happened to him as a child, and he wondered about the amount of trust between them.
"Be careful, Voronwer, your face has not yet healed completely." Haldir's hand settled at the back of Éomer's neck, slowly rubbing the skin there. "I never before felt this passionate, and I am at a loss at what to do with my feelings. I want to kiss you, feel you, touch you, but the expression in your eyes tells me we should wait before taking the next step."
Éomer moistened his lips. The desire and affection was palpable in Haldir's brown eyes and he wished he could give his love what he wanted most. "You are right; I am not ready yet, but one day I will be. Please be patient with me." Éomer's fingertips trailed down Haldir's skin, gently caressing the elegantly curved neck. "But do not hesitate to kiss me, for I desire it as well."
"But I do feel hesitant, Voronwer, for my kiss brought back dark memories and I do not want to make the same mistake twice."
Éomer pushed himself up onto his elbows and looked at Haldir, burying his hand in a sea of silver silk. Leaning in closer, he touched his lips to Haldir's. His tongue teased against the Elf's lips, nudging them open.
Haldir parted his teeth, allowing Éomer to enter. His arms came up behind his mate's back and he pulled the Man on top of him. Éomer now straddled him and their tongues chased each other in an ancient and primitive dance. He surrendered to the kiss, letting Éomer control their sensual encounter. As passion surfaced in Éomer's eyes, he carefully nurtured it, letting his fingertips slide through the dark blond curls, not pressuring or pushing Éomer. Leaning back, he enjoyed the kiss. Éomer's eyes darkened to black and Haldir sighed blissfully into his mate's mouth. Although he was trying to stay in control of his feelings, he was growing aroused. Uncertain how Éomer would react to finding him erect, he shifted beneath the Man, hoping Éomer no longer felt his erection.
"Don't," said Éomer thoughtfully, releasing Haldir's lips and pulling back to watch the Elf. "I need to know you want me in that way."
Haldir's expression turned puzzled. "But --"
Éomer silenced him with another kiss, growing bolder now that Haldir was allowing him to stay in control. "I never wanted you to find out about Grima. I wanted to keep it from you, but now that you do know, I feel relieved. It is important to me that you still want me."
Haldir thought he understood. "Your past is a part of you and it made you into the man you are today. And I do crave you, Voronwer, never doubt that. It gives me great pleasure and joy to see you take the initiative like this."
Éomer eyed Haldir closely, and a puzzled expression appeared in his eyes. "You surprised me by letting me control this situation. I expected you take control the moment we kissed."
"The possessiveness of my kiss made you remember things that should have remained hidden and I am more than happy to let you take charge." Never before had he enjoyed being the receiver instead of the giver, but with Éomer atop of him, he craved more of his lover's sweet kisses, hoping they would become more demanding in time.
"You amaze me," whispered Éomer mystified. "You are nothing like I thought you would be." Leaning in closer, he claimed Haldir's lips again. His tongue pushed past his lover's teeth, inviting his mate to follow and explore his mouth in turn.
Haldir greedily accepted the invitation. Arching his back, he deepened the kiss and brought his arms up behind Éomer's back, carefully enveloping him in a hug. "You are like a wild fire, burning bright and then dying, only to rise from its ashes again. There is light inside you, and pain and pleasure. I hope you will learn to share that with me."
Éomer smiled warmly. "I think I love you, Haldir. I never before felt this warm inside."
Haldir realized Éomer had wanted to add something, but his mate had stopped short for some reason. "Please speak freely."
"I have felt perpetually cold since..." Éomer paused, searching for the truth whilst staring into Haldir's eyes. "I have felt so cold for so long. When I was a child a chill settled in my heart, but now your love chased it away. For the first time in my life I feel -warm-."
Haldir raised a hand and caressed Éomer's face, marveling at the stubble that teased his fingertips. Seeing an unreadable expression in Éomer's eyes, he opted for distraction. "I never kissed someone with this much facial hair. It tickles." His remark instantly brought a smile to Éomer's face and he basked in its glow.
Growing serious again Haldir added his own admission. "When I neared the Halls of Waiting cold enfolded me, but then you appeared, pulling me back and wrapping me in warmth. The cold fled for your light. It shone brightly within my heart. I regret that it took me so long to admit the truth; I was annoyed at finding myself bound to you. Only now I realize what a privilege that is." To his amazement tears escaped Éomer's eyes, and they dripped onto the back of his hand. Haldir licked off the salty liquid and then wiped away the tears from his mate's eyes. "Amin mela lle, Voronwer. Never doubt I love you."
Éomer briefly closed his eyes, hearing the honesty in Haldir's voice. "I love you too, Haldir," whispered he, opening his eyes again and locking gazes with the Elf. "I have never before loved anyone as much as I love you, and my heart rejoices at hearing that you love me as well." Éomer swallowed hard. "I vow to face my fears, Haldir, but I will need your help."
"You have it, melamin." Haldir's fingers tangled in wild curls and he guided Éomer's lips closer to his once more. "My heart belongs to you and I will never desert you."
A tear flowed down Éomer's face, hearing Haldir's admission. His entire life he had sought for true love and now he had finally found it in Haldir's arms. "You are my silver moon; you give me direction and purpose... I love you."
Melamin = my love
Amin mela lle = I love you.
Voronwer = loyal one.
Ai' atar = little father (An adult male Dwarf)
Beta read by Ilye, thanks!
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