Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Reread: Chapter Ninety-Four

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Welcome back to the Rhythm of War Reread, my friends, where we have reached one of the most brilliant, frustrating, shocking, exciting, and worrying chapters in the series so far. (At least in my opinion.) This is the week we finally get to talk about the third day of Adolin’s trial, with its many twists and turns, and they are convoluted indeed. Oh, Mayalaran… Come on in and join us!

Reminder: We’ll be discussing spoilers for the entirety of the series up until now. If you haven’t read ALL of the published entries of The Stormlight Archive (this includes Edgedancer and Dawnshard as well as the entirety of Rhythm of War), best to wait to join us until you’re done.

A: My deepest thanks to Lyn and Paige for covering last week so beautifully! (I had a lovely, relaxing vacation and got rather sunburned. Totally worth it.)

Heralds: Vedeledev (Vedel). Edgedancers (Abrasion, Progression). Loving/Healing. Role: Healer.

A: Whether you’re looking at the surface or the depths, Vedel makes perfect sense for this chapter. Mayalaran is a cultivationspren—an Edgedancer spren. There is plenty of abrasion in the emotional and political sense, which might not be exactly what the Surge is about, but it’s there. Progression, in both the everyday sense of “making progress” as well as the magical sense of growth and healing, as Maya does something far, far beyond what anyone thought she could possibly do. (Except maybe Adolin, who has long given her more credit than anyone else.) The connection between Adolin and Maya has also resulted—as we finally see—in tremendous healing for Maya, and I’d say for Adolin as well. So… Healing, Edgedancer, Progression, Abrasion—and of course Loving, because the relationship of the spren and the man is definitely a Philia-type love. Very Vedel.

Icon: The Shardbearer (Adolin).

Epigraph:

Nevertheless, I’m writing answers for you here, because something glimmers deep within me. A fragment of a memory of what I once was.

I was there when Ba-Ado-Mishram was captured. I know the truth of the Radiants, the Recreance, and the Nahel spren.

A: Huh. I’m still not sure who he thinks he’s writing to, partly because we know too much about who is actually trying to kill him and why, and partly because we don’t know how much he knows about it. From this, though, I’d guess he thinks he’s writing to humans, whether Rosharan or off-world I can’t really say. He mentioned his knowledge of Thaidakar last week when talking to Shallan, so that would make some sense. On the other hand, he talks here about what he once was, and as a Herald his specific commitment was to the people of Roshar, so… Huh.

About that second paragraph, it’s clearly placed here because we’re going to learn a revelatory truth about the Recreance in this chapter—that it was a joint decision between the spren and the Knights. Still, I can’t help thinking there’s more in “the truth of the Radiants, the Recreance, and the Nahel spren” than we’ll get here. If nothing else, there’s the question posed by Blended in her final conversation with Adolin: Why was it necessary? If Kelek hadn’t been “indisposed”—i.e. confined by Sekeir and Lusintia—and had been at the trial, he might have been able to expand on Maya’s statement. But he wasn’t, because we can’t have all the answers at once.

Chapter Recap

WHO: Adolin
WHEN: 1175.4.10.4, immediately following Chapter 93
WHERE: Lasting Integrity, Shadesmar

(Note: For the “when” notations, we are using this wonderful timeline provided by the folks at The 17th Shard.)

RECAP: Sekeir presides dictatorially over the final day of Adolin’s trial, calling Maya as The Witness, and then claiming to speak for her since she cannot speak for herself due to the actions of humans. Maya refuses to let him misrepresent her, and speaks for herself, saying that the spren chose their own risks at the Recreance. The honorspren are stunned, and leave the forum in confusion. Blended congratulates Adolin but reminds him that there are now new questions to be asked.

Chapter Chat — The Trials and Triumphs of Adolin Kholin

A: I’ll confess that this is a really difficult chapter to sort out. In one sense, everything belongs here, and in another sense I should parcel it out to multiple units. I chose the former, for the most part, with one lonely bit shifted to another heading. I’ll also confess that it’s really hard not to quote extended passages; this chapter has some real beauties. I’ll try to keep it down. Mostly.

Adolin made no effort to arrive early to the last day of the trial. … Though he didn’t relish facing them, he also couldn’t give up this opportunity. It was his last chance to speak for himself, for his people. He had to believe that some of them were listening.

P: And he’s right… some of them are listening. And Maya’s testimony might just sway them.

A: This. They are listening, and there are many hints throughout the chapter that Sekeir is desperate to stop them from listening.

What if the only way to win here was to accept their judgment? To spend years in a cell?

After all, what else are you good for, Adolin? The world needed Radiants, not princes—particularly not ones who had refused the throne. Perhaps the best thing he could do for humanity was become a living testimony of their honor.

A: Aaaaaahhhh. His whole “I’m really kinda useless” attitude continues to drive me up the wall, because he’s anything but useless. I understand why he feels that way, but it’s so untrue.

On the other hand, with a different trial outcome, would that be a service to humanity? We know there are some of the honorspren who think maybe he’s right and their honor demands that they bond with humans and join the war. If the trial were to end with him being condemned, how many of those “young ones” would see him behaving with great honor, and tell Sekeir and Co. to pound sand? It’s a valid consideration, at least. I’d hate to see it, but… that doesn’t make it less valid.

P: I just hate to see Adolin thinking this way. He has so much value, especially to the people he cares about. Renarin, Shallan, Kaladin. He’s important to each of them in some way. And Maya… let’s not forget her because she’s so vital to this chapter and Adolin’s victory in the trial. He’s forging a different kind of bond with a deadeye spren. I can’t wait to see how her healing progresses. We have Adolin to thank for that.

A: Ultimately, I agree—he has far more value in the world than he thinks. There are the immediate connections to family and friends, and because of who those people are, his choices could have ripple effects planet-wide. And possibly beyond.

… he worried about the way Shallan had been acting lately. She wasn’t sitting in her spot, and neither was Pattern. Was she going to skip this most important day of the trial?

A: This is one that I almost put in Relationships, but… it is one of his trials and triumphs. It’s troublesome, because along with his worries about his trial on behalf of all humanity, he’s been distracted by the outworking of Shallan’s inner turmoil. And now he’s going to be worried about her absence.

P: And that’s the Adolin we all know and love. With what he’s facing, he still takes the time to worry about Shallan.

Kelek wasn’t there. Sekeir—the aged honorspren with the long beard—had taken his place.

A: May I just say… yikes? Kelek is flaky enough, but at least he’s not actively hostile. Sekeir has a massive conflict of interest here, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue for honorspren. ::scowls::

P: He really sets a very poor example for the rest of the honorspren.

“The Holy One is indisposed,” Sekeir said. “Your wife went to him in secret and tried to influence the course of the trial.”

Adolin felt a spike of joy. So that was what she’d been up to.

A: Oh, sigh. I hate to admit it, but Sekeir is right: Shallan tried to influence the course of the trial. She started out to “influence” it by killing Kelek and taking his place. And once she decided against that, she did try to bargain with him to favor Adolin in exchange for information. Despite the glorious outcome (and I consider the reintegration of Veil and her memories glorious, no matter how painful it was), it really was a terrible idea all around, even though she never got a chance to do any actual influencing. That said, Adolin’s reaction here is sweet. He’s so relieved to find out that she was just trying to help him! It’s not the whole truth, obviously, but it’s all he can know in this moment—and in this moment, it’s what he needs to bolster him.

P: I love that he felt joy in knowing that she had tried to help him, despite not knowing quite what had happened.

A: His joy in her is… oh, I can’t find the right words, because they’re all overused or sappy-sounding, but that “spike of joy” just makes me happy!

“The trial will continue under my direction. I am a far lesser being, but I will not be as… lax as he was.”

A: Just ugh. Sekeir’s arrogance is infuriating. “I am a far lesser being (well, lesser than he once was, but now I’m much better and stronger and wiser and more reliable, and besides, this way I can be sure of the outcome).” Honestly, I suspect that Sekeir and Lusintia showed up at Kelek’s house already planning to replace him, and Shallan’s presence just gave them an excuse to pin it on her instead of whatever other scheme they’d prepared.

P: Yeah, he’s pretty deplorable, especially for an honorspren. And that’s a pretty good theory, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been planning to sequester Kelek in his quarters for the last day of the trial so that he could take over and secure Adolin’s defeat.

Sekeir started the trial by calling for silence, something Kelek had never bothered to do. Apparently the hush that fell over the crowd wasn’t enough, for Sekeir had three different spren ejected for whispering to one another.

A: Pompous ass. Any bets on which way those three spren leaned regarding the trial? Bah. He even has a spren ready to restrain and gag Adolin, and as he notes, it looks like she’s just itching for the opportunity to humiliate him if she can. Self-important twit.

P: That infuriated me! Snapping that gag at him. Grrr!

… Sekeir, at long last, finished his speech and called for the final witness to be revealed.

It was Maya.

A: I have no idea how many times I’ve read this chapter. Ten? Twenty? And every time, I’m outraged again at the presumptuousness of this approach. Trying to use Maya against him. Claiming to speak for her. Claiming to interpret her struggles to be free and to speak as accusations against Adolin. It’s… infuriating doesn’t even come close. I could chew nails and spit tacks every time I read this section.

P: And for a people who claim to take care of deadeyes, this was the exact opposite of doing that. And yeah, the way he claimed to speak for her just makes me want to pound someone.

A: The hypocrisy is astounding.

They hadn’t otherwise allowed him to interact with her, claiming deadeyes did best when it was quiet.

If so, why were they dragging her into the middle of a crowd? …

They placed Maya on her podium, and she turned and seemed to notice Adolin, for she cocked her head. Then, as if only now aware of it, she regarded the crowded audience. She shrank down. …

Damnation. Adolin hadn’t hated the honorspren, despite their tricks, but this started him seething. How dare they use Maya as part of their spectacle?

A: GAAAAH. #%$^! How dare they, indeed!! What’s worse, Sekeir accuses Adolin of treating her as a slave and a tool rather than a friend—and then proceeds to abuse her, making her his tool and slave, in front of the entire crowd. He torments her to not only make the point of “human-caused” damage, but deliberately to make it as painful as possible for Adolin to watch.

P: And we all know that Sekeir has to know that Adolin has visited Maya every day to exercise with her. And to check on her and make sure she’s well. He has to know how close Adolin is with her, and this just shows his callous disregard for the deadeyes in general, and Maya in particular.

“Your point is made,” Adolin said more softly. “Let Maya go. Pass your judgment.”

Sekeir stepped up to him, meeting his eyes. … “You want this to be easy, do you?” Sekeir asked Adolin, speaking in a softer voice. “You don’t deserve easy. I had this fortress working in an orderly, organized manner before you arrived. You have no idea the frustration you have caused me, human.”

A: It’s actually one of the things that trips Sekeir up (so I guess that’s good): He’s so busy trying to make Adolin suffer that he makes it completely obvious to the watching spren that he really couldn’t care less about Maya’s pain. He’s mad about Adolin messing with his little dictatorship. He had all the dissenters silenced and more or less shoved into line with his agenda, and then this human prince dared to come along and remind them of what honor actually looks like.

And meanwhile, Adolin—bless his beautiful soul—is willing to accept unjust condemnation if they’ll only let Maya go and quit tormenting her.

P: Adolin really is the best boy. He would take a judgment against him rather than see Maya suffer.

A: ::sobs quietly::

Maya began to thrash, a low growl rising in her throat. She did not like being constrained.

“This is a trial by witness!” Adolin shouted at Sekeir. “You are interfering, and go too far.”

Blended nodded, and other honorspren in the crowd had stood up at the objection. They agreed. Whatever the law was, Sekeir was stretching it here.

A: Well done Adolin! And Sekeir keeps pushing, the fool, even though his behavior is starting to turn the crowd against him. I guess as a people, they do care about the deadeyes; it’s just Sekeir that doesn’t.

P: As painful as it is to see Maya suffer, it’s what gets her to speak out against Sekeir.

A: I have to admit, having Sekeir (mis)interpreting her every move would be some pretty strong incentive!

“Well, I can read her emotions. That thrashing? It is the pain of someone who remembers what was done to her. She condemns you, Adolin Kholin.”

Maya’s cries grew louder. … They were the pained anguish of someone who had forgotten how to speak, but still needed to give voice to her agony. …

Maya’s shouts grew louder and more raw. … Adolin had heard that scream before, the time he’d tried to summon her as a Blade while in Shadesmar.

“She’s in pain!” Adolin shouted, lunging forward. … “Let her go, you bastard! Your point is made!”

“My point cannot be made strongly enough,” Sekeir shouted. “It must be repeated over and over.”

A: Oh, the brutal idiot. He’s so focused on hurting Adolin he doesn’t care about hurting a deadeye cultivationspren, and it’s about to bite him. Big time. But it’s so painful to read Maya’s growing distress.

P: It is painful. This section is so hard to read because she’s suffering so much.

Maya’s voice grew louder, gasping breaths punctuated by ragged howls. And in that moment, Adolin… felt her pain somehow. A deep agony. And… anger?

Anger at the honorspren.

… Yes, Adolin could feel that agony as if it were his own. He didn’t know how, but he could.

A: Oh, my. They’ve had moments before, but this… their connection is somehow being deepened by the stress, and it just gets more beautiful from here. And I’m going to have to do some extended quotes…

P: It’s really exciting to see their connection, to see it grow and change. And the next bit, oh my.

Maya’s howls came to a crescendo of anguish, then she fell silent, gasping for breath. Weak. Too weak.

Take it, Adolin thought to her. Take some of my strength.

She looked right at him, and despite her scratched-out eyes, she saw him. Adolin felt something, a warmth deep within him. Maya drew in air, filling her lungs. Her expression livid as she gathered all of her strength, she prepared to shout again. Adolin braced himself for the screech. Her mouth opened.

And she spoke.

We! CHOSE!”

A: Oh. My. Heart. In spite of all my years of believing that Adolin would somehow “revive” his Shardblade, this was such a glorious and stunning moment. “And she spoke.” Again, despite my years of insisting that the spren were most likely involved in the decision to break the bonds, this confirmation was almost lost in the sheer emotion of the moment, the agonizing cries rising to this incredible breakthrough. She spoke. And everyone else was stunned into silence.

Yup. I read this chapter three times today, and that moment still brought me to tears. Again.

P: This is definitely one of my stand up and cheer moments in this series. And Adolin willing her to take some of his strength, you precious, precious prince.

A: Wasn’t that just gorgeous? And that it worked—that it did strengthen her… Oh, my heart. I can’t help thinking it’s significant that he felt “a warmth deep within him” at the moment she drew strength from him. Thoughts, anyone? Mine are too incoherent.

Adolin pulled free and crossed the stage. … She clung to him, stumbling as she struggled to remain upright.

Even as she did, however, she whispered it again. “We chose,” she said, her voice ragged as if she had been shouting for hours. “Adolin, we chose.”

“Blood of my fathers…” Adolin whispered.

A: I’m not sure which thrills me more when I read this: Adolin’s reaction to her revelation, or that she calls him by name. He doesn’t seem to really notice it, but for some reason it strikes me as profoundly significant. So far she’s said two words, repeated several times. The third word she speaks is his name. (I went back to look at something in the beta spreadsheet and found a comment I’d made: “She spoke his name. Oh, you beautiful, beautiful darling. I will never not cry when I read this scene, no matter how many rereads I do.” How very prophetic of me. I’m crying again this morning as I’m proofreading the post.)

P: I know I was thrilled when she said his name! That was such an exciting moment, as exciting to me as her shouting that they chose.

“What is this?” Sekeir said. “What have you done to her? The sight of you has caused her to rave in madness and—”

He cut off as Maya pointed at him and released a terrifying screech, her jaw lowering farther than it should. Sekeir put his hand to his chest, eyes wide as her screech transformed into words.

“You. Cannot. Have. My. SACRIFICE!” she shouted. “Mine. My sacrifice. Not yours.” She pointed at the crowd. “Not theirs.” She pointed at Adolin. “Not his. Mine. MY SACRIFICE.

A: Chills. Chills and more chills.

Beta readers were divided on our reactions to the parallel with Dalinar’s “You cannot have my pain.” For myself, I loved it, because I love the theme of claiming personal responsibility, and the refusal to let your past decisions—right or wrong—be used to further someone else’s agenda.

This is (obviously) where the chapter title came from, and it’s such a perfect one. They couldn’t use “We Chose” because that would spoil the reveal, but “Sacrifice” has such a lovely portentous ring to it. Worrying, too, because the first time you see it you kind of assume that either Adolin or Shallan becomes a “sacrifice” of some sort.

P: I don’t recall my reaction in the Beta, but I loved the parallel with Dalinar’s words.

“You knew what was going to happen when the Radiants broke their oaths,” Adolin said. “They didn’t murder you. You decided together.”

She nodded vigorously.

“All this time,” Adolin said, his voice louder—for the audience. “Everyone assumed you were victims. We didn’t accept that you were partners with the Radiants.”

A: I had long wondered how anyone really believed that thousands of Radiants could plan a massive, simultaneous shindig like that without their spren knowing. There are a couple of mitigating factors I can see. Some of it can be put down to learned history; even though we all know that the Vorin church did a lot of rewriting, you have to accept some things as basically true, and this “fact” was so completely accepted that no one questioned it. Along with that, no humans and very few spren knew anything about how the bonds actually work and what kinds of things might or might not be possible. And I suppose it’s possible that some people realized the spren had to know it was coming, and assumed they were merely powerless to stop it.

Adolin didn’t speak, but he dared them to continue condemning him. … He let them mull it over. He let them think.

Then they began to trail away. Haunted, perhaps confused, the honorspren began to leave.

A: Anyone familiar with the Bible will probably be reminded of something: “‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’ … Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one…” As I’m reasonably sure Sanderson is familiar with that story, I’m also reasonably sure the similarity is not an accident. “Neither do I condemn you.”

P: I like to think that the honorspren were humbled by Maya’s words, as well as by the very fact that she spoke. Not only did she speak, but she was understandable and flatly renounced Sekeir and his use of her anguish to persecute Adolin.

A: Renouncing Sekeir is really the cherry on top. It’s not the main point, but oh, I love that she could do it. He really needed to be taken down a few pegs, didn’t he?

She seemed stronger than before, though her eyes were still scratched out. He could feel her curiosity, her… awareness. She looked up at him and nodded.

He nodded back. “Thank you.”

“Stren…” she whispered. “Stren. Be…”

“Strength before weakness.”

She nodded again, then turned her scratched-out gaze toward the ground, exhausted.

A: Awwww. So who’s bonding whom? Sort of a reverse Radiant bond? Whatever it turns out to be, I’m here for it.

Also… did y’all notice how many times her scratched-out eyes are mentioned in this chapter? Five times. Seems a bit… emphatic. On a bet, we’ll see that changing in the next book—perhaps for both Maya and Testament. Watch for it!

P: I am really looking forward to seeing her whole and I’m confident now that we will.

“Still scratched out…” she said. “Though a bond between you is.

“I’m… no Radiant,” Adolin said.

“No. That is certain.” Maya met Blended’s gaze. “But something is happening.”

A: What is happening, though? I’m mildly amused by Adolin’s emphatic denial of being a Radiant, and even more by Blended’s confirmation, but… what is it? Sigh. There’s always another secret.

P: Storming secrets!

“If what she said is true,” Adolin said, “then you have no further excuse for refusing humankind the bonds they need.”

“Don’t we?” Blended asked. “For centuries, my kind told ourselves an easy lie, yes. That humans had been selfish. That humans had murdered. But easy answers so often are, so we can be excused.

“This truth, though, means a greater problem is. Thousands of spren chose death instead of letting the Radiants continue. Does this not worry you more?”

A: Every answer raises more questions. This is where I really, really wished Kelek had been here (though of course he couldn’t be, for narrative necessity). He was there at the Recreance. He certainly knew that the spren were part of the decision, though for some reason he apparently never bothered to tell the current spren about it. It’s quite possible, though, that he also knows a lot more than anyone here about what led them to that decision. Presumably Maya will be able to remember and articulate their rationale… eventually… but Kelek might be able to explain it now. If he were willing. He hints at it in the epigraph, but all that does is tease us. Sigh.

P: Yeah, it would have been helpful had he been more forthcoming with information.

“Did you and your Radiants know that you would become deadeyes?”

Adolin felt Maya searching deep . … Eventually, she shook her head and whispered, “Pain. Yes. Death? No. Maybe.”

… “Why, Maya? Why were you willing to do it?”

“To save… save…” She sagged and shook her head.

“To save us from something worse,” Adolin said.

A: Bah. He’s assuming things again. To save, yes, but to save “us”? Not necessarily. I guess poor Adolin doesn’t know he’s merely a character in the hands of a master manipulator, but I won’t be at all surprised if we find out that the Recreance was to save the Dawnshard from being discovered, or to lock humans down to avoid discovering the listeners once all the singers were deprived of thought, or something else that has pretty much nothing to do with saving humans from “something worse.” Sanderson doesn’t usually make things quite that obvious.

P: I also feel that Adolin is assuming a lot by trying to finish her statement.

A: Yeah. Sigh.

“The true trial—the one you’ve been engaging in for the last few years: the test for this spren’s loyalty. She was the only judge who ever mattered, and today was her chance to offer judgment.” Blended leaned forward. “You passed.”

A: Awwww. Happiness.

P: He did always respect her and thank her for her service when he used her. Thinking back to his duels, he always spoke to her. That helped with their strange bond.

She wasn’t healed, but she was better. And when he had needed her, she had been willing to struggle through death itself to speak for him.

No, he thought. She spoke for herself. Don’t make the same mistake again.

A: Well done, my man. Well done.

P: THE BEST BOY!

Maybe the honorspren would swallow their pride and help. Maybe they would, as Blended said, find other reasons to fear.

Either way, he suspected the Radiant relationship would never be the same again.

A: This is something that tends to get lost in the Avalanche that moves us toward the Contest of Champions, but which I certainly hope will be as important a part of the next book as that contest. We need to know why the spren and the Radiants took such drastic measures, and I’d really rather not wait until the back five to find out!

P: Same! I’m chomping at the bit to see if we find out in 5!

Spren and Shadesmar

Not all of them, he reminded himself, reading the mood of the crowd. Some sat quietly, others whispered. And more than a few near the top wore stormy expressions. No, they didn’t care for this move either.

A: This is so good. There are numerous references in this chapter to what Kelek called the “little war of ideologies” last week. Obviously I’d be on the side of those who agree with Adolin anyway, but when the other side is represented by that overblown twit Sekeir, I love seeing his people disagree with him.

P: It is great to see some spren who don’t agree with the status quo.

“I wanted to know if a truth exists—the one you said to me.”

Adolin frowned, trying to remember.

“That she spoke,” Blended reminded him. “To you. That friendship exists between you. I sought proof, and found that her name—recorded in old documents of spren treaties—is as you said. A curious fact to find. Indeed.”

A: Like Adolin, I’m kind of appalled that Blended suggested Maya as the final witness and told the honorspren about the legalese that allowed them to “speak for her.” On the other hand, I’m kind of impressed that she put in the effort to search the records and find Mayalaran’s name in old documents. Not that it’s needed now, but that is another kind of proof that he’s been telling the truth all along.

P: The fact that she took the time to find that treaty with Maya’s name showed that she believed Adolin to an extent. And perhaps she suggested Maya as a witness because she understood the bond that they have, or are forming, and perhaps thought that it might actually help Adolin in the end.

A: That could be. I still can’t quite figure her out, but… she’s intriguing. Very pragmatic, but she reminds me of Wit in some ways. She’ll do what’s best for her own goals, but if she can help someone else along the way and she finds them interesting enough to bother, she just might do it.

Just adding in here, without copying further quotations from above… it must have been absolutely mind-blowing to every spren in that forum when Maya spoke. Adolin at least had heard her speak one word in his mind, and he knew she wasn’t as dead as the spren thought her. Blended had discovered that Adolin’s claim was true, but she still had a lot of skepticism about what that meant. For everyone else, though… centuries upon centuries of seeing the deadeye spren as mindless, helpless, pitiful beings just got turned upside down. The implications will have Shadesmar in a turmoil for a while, I’m thinking.

 

We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Next week, we’ll be back with chapter 95, in which Venli faces the fact that she’s always and only been a coward.

Alice lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two kids (except that one of them is off at college). She has cut back the overachieving cucumber vine, and is now moving on to the overachieving tomatoes. Salsa!

Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. But the race for October is on and her heart is in the Bronx. Go, Yankees! Links to her other writing are available in her profile.

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