This is an excerpt (first 20 pages) of a completed screenplay.

"Dragonskin" - screenplay by Derek Paterson. FADE IN: EXT. WELSH BOG - DAY Two ancient armies come together in a deafening orgy of blood- lust and screaming agony! Welsh TRIBESMEN hurl themselves against the massed shields of ROMAN SOLDIERS. The Roman shield wall holds against the Welsh charge. Javelins and arrows shower the Welsh, inflicting terrible casualties. A trumpet BLARES and the Romans advance, killing everyone in their path. The Welsh at the front are cut down by Roman swords. Others die as Roman javelins and arrows rain down. The tribesmen fall back. It's the beginning of a rout. CAEDMOR, a boy of 15 with a distinctive streak in his hair, sees the shield wall advancing on him. He panics, throws away his bow and flees for his life. Tribesmen fall around him, pierced by Roman arrows. Caedmor runs and leaps across the bog like a gazelle, thinking of nothing except his own safety. Elsewhere on the battlefield a huge Welsh WARRIOR waves a banner depicting a snarling dragon, and tries to rally the fleeing tribesmen. He shouts at them, curses them, grabs them -- demands they stand and fight. It's no good, the battle's lost, nothing can stop the rout. WHAP! An arrow hits the Warrior in the chest. WHAP! Another one. He falls to his knees, dying. He looks up at the dragon banner, fluttering in the wind. He holds it aloft, as high as he can. Then he pitches forward onto his face, dead. The banner falls into the bog and is trampled by fleeing tribesmen who don't even notice it. And then it's trampled by Roman sandals as the Legion advances. FADE TO BLACK: TITLE: "Roman-occupied Wales, 97 A.D." FADE IN: INT. WELSH HUT - DAY Early morning. A cockerel CROWS the dawn. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2. Caedmor, older now, 20s and more rugged but still with that distinctive streak in his hair, wakes out of a nightmare, sweating and gasping. GWYN, beside him, wakes up. GWYN Your demons haunt you again? CAEDMOR Go back to sleep. She does. Caedmor gets up and gets dressed. He opens the hut door and is just about to exit when... EXT. WELSH VILLAGE - DAY Roman SOLDIERS enter the still-sleeping village and move quickly from hut to hut, searching. SHOUTS and SCREAMS from the villagers inside the huts as they're rudely awakened. INT. WELSH HUT - DAY Caedmor slams the door shut and heads for the back window. Gwyn sits up in bed, puzzled. EXT. WELSH VILLAGE - DAY Roman Centurion AURELUS, 30s, and his Sergeant, PAULINUS, a tough veteran, watch as soldiers drag villagers from their huts. The villagers, all ages, stand in a frightened circle in the village "square," an open area between the huts. Gwyn is dragged out of her hut and made to join the others. She looks around, bewildered and afraid. Aurelus steps forward. All eyes are on him. AURELUS The tracker, Caedmor. Where is he? The villagers glance at each other. Many look at Gwyn, who wishes the ground would open up and swallow her. Aurelus sees the looks. He moves to stand in front of her. AURELUS (CONT'D) Where is Caedmor? Gwyn stares at the ground. Aurelus lifts her chin and looks into her eyes. Gwyn shakes with fear but doesn't talk. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. AURELUS (CONT'D) You know that name, don't you? A ROMAN SOLDIER catches a glimpse of Caedmor fleeing beyond the village perimeter. ROMAN SOLDIER Halt! Several soldiers give chase. Aurelus follows them. Paulinus grins savagely at the frightened villagers. EXT. RIVER BANK - DAY Caedmor slides down the embankment and hides among tall reeds. He ducks as Roman soldiers move along the river bank. He snaps off a long reed and slips under water. Aurelus directs his men up and down the river bank. EXT. UNDER WATER - DAY Caedmor breathes through the reed. CAEDMOR'S POV: shadows move around on the river bank above. They move away from the bank. Soon no Romans are visible. Suddenly Caedmor chokes, unable to breath. He has no choice but to kick for the surface. EXT. RIVERSIDE - DAY Caedmor erupts out of the river, coughing and choking. Aurelus pinched the reed so he couldn't breathe! Caedmor glares at laughing Roman soldiers who line the river bank. Aurelus grins as he holds his shortsword to Caedmor's throat. AURELUS And you must be the tracker. EXT. WELSH VILLAGE - DAY The Romans pull out, taking their wet prisoner with them. Paulinus steps up to Aurelus. He holds a burning torch. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4. PAULINUS Do you want the village burned, sir? AURELUS We've got what we came for. PAULINUS And the villagers, sir? Aurelus looks back at the villagers. They're frightened, expecting punishment from the merciless Romans. Aurelus takes the burning torch from Paulinus, turns it over and douses it on the ground. The villagers can't believe it. Neither can Paulinus. AURELUS Lead the way, Sergeant. Paulinus moves to the head of the Roman force and leads the way. Aurelus turns his back on the villagers and exits after his men. EXT. ROMAN FORT - DAY A square-walled fort surrounded by a deep ditch. Sentries patrol the walls. Wooden huts offer protection against heavy rain that reduces visibility to fifty paces. INT. AURELUS' HUT - DAY A fire burns in a stone grate, warming the hut. Aurelus stands by a window, looking out. His aide OCTAVUS, 20s, sits at a table writing on a parchment scroll. AURELUS Rain. Always rain. Why does it rain so much, Octavus? Octavus doesn't even look up from his writing. OCTAVUS To slow us down, sir. Otherwise conquering this land would be all too easy. The gods decided to handicap us with weather. AURELUS I suspect there's more than a grain of truth in your words. Britannia! Never have I seen a country that has so much water. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5. SENTRY (O.S.) Patrol coming in! AURELUS He's here. Aurelus grabs his helmet and puts it on. He wraps his cloak about his shoulders and hurries out into the rain. EXT. ROMAN FORT - DAY Sentries open the gates and GENERAL ROMULUS, 60s, rides in. He's followed by TEN Roman foot soldiers armed with spears and shields. They're soaked to the skin, but still the toughest fighters of the ancient world. Octavus catches up with Aurelus. Octavus steps forward and takes the horse's reins as Romulus dismounts. Aurelus slaps his fist against his leather chest armor, the Roman salute. AURELUS Hail, Gaius Romulus! We're honored, sir. GENERAL ROMULUS Don't be. Centurion or no, it's fifty lashes for you unless you have the tracker under lock and key, as I ordered. Romulus walks past Aurelus without waiting to hear his answer. He climbs the steps and enters the hut. Octavus looks at Aurelus, plainly worried. AURELUS The Iron General's in a fine mood today. Get rid of the horse, see these men are taken care of, then join us. Aurelus follows Romulus into the hut. INT. AURELUS' HUT - DAY Romulus warms his hands at the fire. He's taken off his helmet and cloak. Aurelus enters. GENERAL ROMULUS Well? AURELUS Some wine, sir? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6. GENERAL ROMULUS First, your report. AURELUS Very well, sir. Upon receiving your message I led a patrol to the tracker's village. The villagers refused to reveal his whereabouts. GENERAL ROMULUS Then you've earned yourself fifty lashes. AURELUS That would most certainly be the case, sir, if we hadn't caught him before he crossed the river. GENERAL ROMULUS Then you have him? AURELUS If I didn't, sir, I would already be tied to the punishment post awaiting your arrival. A ghost of a smile plays over Romulus' lips. Octavus enters and stands to attention. Romulus gestures for him to relax. GENERAL ROMULUS This tracker. What's he like? AURELUS He seems little different from the rest of the locals. Surly, resentful and uncooperative. GENERAL ROMULUS You ordered your men to beat it out of him, I hope? AURELUS On the contrary, General. Your message was explicit. We haven't harmed a single hair on his head. GENERAL ROMULUS Good. Then I'll see him now. I'll need a translator. AURELUS All arranged, sir. Octavus, fetch the slave girl. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7. Octavus salutes and exits. GENERAL ROMULUS I assume you burned his village and put its inhabitants to the sword? AURELUS I considered doing so. Romulus considers Aurelus for a moment. GENERAL ROMULUS My throat's dry. I will have that wine after all. Aurelus fetches a jug and pours a cup. Romulus drinks. GENERAL ROMULUS (CONT'D) Sicily? AURELUS From my family's own vineyard. GENERAL ROMULUS It's strange that your father sits in the Senate but you're only a centurion. AURELUS Yes, sir. GENERAL ROMULUS You've refused promotion twice. What are you afraid of? AURELUS I'm where I want to be, sir. GENERAL ROMULUS Second Legion has earned more than its share of battle honors. But Brittania is a backwater populated by savages, not worth a single drop of Roman blood. A soldier with your abilities would suit the Praetorian well. You'd make a fine officer. AURELUS Wouldn't some consider that dangerous, sir? The son of a Senator, an officer in the Praetorian Guard? GENERAL ROMULUS Why didn't you kill the villagers? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 8. AURELUS I saw no reason to. GENERAL ROMULUS It would have taught others to fear us. AURELUS The Cymrii already fear Rome. If you want the village burned to the ground, say the word. It will be done before nightfall. GENERAL ROMULUS Do you feel these people have value? AURELUS If they didn't there would be little point in our being here. What interest does Rome have in empty lands? It's the people who make the land valuable, and unique. GENERAL ROMULUS I disagree. It's the resources that matter. The Cymrii -- what does Rome care about them? They're savages who worship unclean gods. AURELUS We've educated savages before. Turned them into good Romans. Octavus enters with a Welsh girl, HYWEA, 20. Her beauty makes Romulus look twice. GENERAL ROMULUS You said she's a slave girl? AURELUS Captured in a raid on a rebel village. GENERAL ROMULUS How did you know it was a rebel village? AURELUS We didn't, until we found Roman armor and weapons buried under one of the huts. Serial markings indicated they belonged to Ninth Legion. GENERAL ROMULUS And the villagers? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 9. AURELUS Crucified as per regulations. GENERAL ROMULUS But not this one. AURELUS She and a dozen others of pleasing appearance became property of the Legion. GENERAL ROMULUS How is it she speaks Latin? AURELUS (to Hywea) Explain how you speak the tongue of Rome. HYWEA My father was a Roman. Before he died, we lived in one of your towns. GENERAL ROMULUS (to Aurelus) Evidently she reverted to savagery upon her father's death. HYWEA We were cast out. We had no choice but to go back to our own people. AURELUS Be silent until you are spoken to. HYWEA It was harder for my mother than it was for me. The Druids branded her harlot for marrying a Roman. GENERAL ROMULUS Hold your tongue or you'll taste the lash! HYWEA I've already tasted it. Do your worst, Roman. An awkward moment... then Romulus throws back his head and laughs. Aurelus and Octavus exchange glances. Not the reaction they expected from the Iron General. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10. GENERAL ROMULUS (to Aurelus) Let's go and see this tracker of yours. AURELUS Sir, may I ask why...? GENERAL ROMULUS In good time, Centurion. Everything in good time. INT. PRISON HUT - DAY Caedmor sits uncomfortably on the straw-covered floor. He's chained to the wall. An empty bowl and jug lie nearby. FOOTSTEPS clump outside the door... then the door opens and Paulinus sticks his head in. He makes sure all is well before he allows Romulus and Aurelus to enter. Hywea and Octavus bring up the rear. Caedmor studies his visitors. They study him. Romulus speaks to Hywea in Latin, she translates for Caedmor. HYWEA The great Roman asks if you are the tracker known as Caedmor. CAEDMOR How is it you are Cymrii, but you speak the tongue of these invaders? HYWEA My father was a Roman. Answer, lest the great Roman becomes angry. CAEDMOR Are you Roman, or are you a slave? HYWEA I am a slave, as are you. CAEDMOR I am no slave. I am a free man. Hywea looks pointedly at his chains. HYWEA Is your name Caedmor, free man? CAEDMOR Perhaps. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11. GENERAL ROMULUS (to Hywea) What did he say? HYWEA He said yes, he is Caedmor. Romulus delivers a vicious backhand slap that brings Hywea to her knees. GENERAL ROMULUS Stand up. Hywea stands up, puts her hand to her face. Doesn't look at Romulus. GENERAL ROMULUS (CONT'D) You will translate everything he says. If I suspect you are lying, or holding anything back, I'll see you burn slowly. Tell me you understand. HYWEA I understand very well. Caedmor doesn't know what the words mean but he understands, too. Romulus speaks to Hywea, she translates for Caedmor. HYWEA (CONT'D) The great Roman knows you are a tracker. But he asks, just how good are you? CAEDMOR I know my business. Translate that any way you like. Hywea translates for Romulus. Romulus speaks to Hywea, she translates for Caedmor. HYWEA The great Roman says... CAEDMOR Who is this "great" Roman? HYWEA He is General Gaius Romulus. Romulus speaks to Hywea in Latin. His words shock her. She takes a moment to recover, then translates for Caedmor. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 12. HYWEA (CONT'D) The great Roman says you will answer questions, not ask them. It's said you know where dragons can be found. CAEDMOR Who says I do? Whoever told him this is a liar. She translates for Romulus. Romulus glares at Caedmor, then turns abruptly and exits. Aurelus gives Caedmor an appraising look, then exits after Romulus. Octavus goes with him, leaving Hywea alone with Caedmor. CAEDMOR (CONT'D) What is your name? HYWEA Hywea. CAEDMOR Hywea. A lovely name. What do the invaders want with me, Hywea? HYWEA I don't know. But I fear it has to do with the dragons. CAEDMOR There are no dragons left, girl. They are all gone. Paulinus sticks his head through the door and beckons to Hywea. She gives Caedmor a thoughtful look, and exits. Paulinus slams the door shut. Caedmor is left alone to ponder events. INT. AURELUS' HUT - DAY Romulus sits down and waves Aurelus into another chair. Octavus stands nearby with Hywea. GENERAL ROMULUS Is there any more of that excellent wine? Aurelus gestures to Hywea. She pours a cup and presents it to Romulus. He takes the wine but doesn't acknowledge her presence. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 13. GENERAL ROMULUS (CONT'D) What do you think of the tracker? AURELUS He's lying. He knows where to find dragons, all right. The question is, will he take us to them? GENERAL ROMULUS Oh, he'll take us to them. If he doesn't, he'll die horribly. AURELUS May I ask the reason, sir? Aurelus watches Hywea. She lowers her gaze to the floor. GENERAL ROMULUS Reason? AURELUS I'm curious as to why you would wish to obtain a dragon. They're so rare that they're a thing of legend now, unseen by any living Roman. But they also have a ferocious reputation. It's said that male dragons can carry off grown men. GENERAL ROMULUS (to Octavus) Leave us. Take the slave with you. Octavus exits with Hywea. GENERAL ROMULUS (CONT'D) You're aware that our Emperor arrives next month for his inspection of the Outer Provinces? AURELUS Yes, sir. The entire Legion is looking forward to the visit. GENERAL ROMULUS I intend to present him with a special gift to mark the occasion. Aurelus wants to ask, but has to wait. GENERAL ROMULUS (CONT'D) You knew my predecessor, didn't you? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 14. AURELUS Yes, sir, I had the privilege of serving under General Flavius. GENERAL ROMULUS Flavius is a good soldier, but he made the mistake of assuming these Cymrii could be allowed to worship their gods. He holds up a hand, forestalling any argument. GENERAL ROMULUS (CONT'D) Yes, I know it is Roman policy to permit conquered natives to retain their religions. But that's a dangerous policy when the local gods are as warlike as those of the Cymrii. Their Druids preach that death in battle assures immortality. They insist the stars in the heavens are the souls of dead Cymrii warriors. That kind of thinking is dangerous, to us and to Rome. AURELUS You intend to move against the Druids, sir? GENERAL ROMULUS That's always been my intention. Which brings us to the dragon. The Druid religion centers around this beast. It's said that Cymrii kings and princes wear armor fashioned from the skins of dragons. It occurs to me that seeing our divine Emperor clad in such armor would strike a blow against their faith and dispel their myths. Thus they will already be weakened when I order Second Legion to seek out the Druids' secret lairs and destroy them, once and for all. Aurelus thinks this over. AURELUS I'll admit there's sense in what you're saying, sir, but part of me doubts whether Cymrii rebels will lay down their spears and accept Roman rule because of a piece of skin, be it dragon or otherwise. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 15. GENERAL ROMULUS You have until tomorrow morning to convince the tracker to find a dragon. If necessary, round up hostages from his village and torture them before his eyes. If they are relatives or friends of his, so much the better. Romulus stands up and puts on his cloak. Aurelus fetches Romulus his helmet. GENERAL ROMULUS (CONT'D) I'm returning to Caerleon now. I'll meet you on the road tomorrow at dawn with ten of your best. Don't fail me, Centurion. Aurelus salutes as Romulus exits. EXT. ROMAN FORT - DAY Romulus mounts his horse and heads for the gates. Sentries open the gates. Romulus stops to talk to Paulinus. During the conversation Paulinus glances at Aurelus' hut. INT. AURELUS' HUT - DAY Aurelus watches. Octavus joins him. OCTAVUS He's leaving? AURELUS We'll see him again soon enough. At least I will. EXT. ROMAN FORT - DAY Paulinus salutes Romulus. Romulus and his escort exit the fort. Sentries close and bar the gates. Paulinus stares at the gates... then heads for one of the other huts. INT. AURELUS' HUT - DAY OCTAVUS What was that all about? AURELUS The Iron General proposes we hunt dragons. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 16. OCTAVUS Is he mad? AURELUS Such talk may earn you fifty lashes. OCTAVUS Dispensed no doubt by the strong arm of Sergeant Paulinus. AURELUS Why don't you like Paulinus? Is it because he was a gladiator before he became a soldier? OCTAVUS I've nothing against gladiators. AURELUS Tell me. OCTAVUS The Cymrii slave girl's village. AURELUS What about it? OCTAVUS You don't know what happened? EXT. HYWEA'S VILLAGE - NIGHT (FLASHBACK) Roman SOLDIERS attack and kill all MALE VILLAGERS on sight. WOMEN AND CHILDREN are herded into the village square. Hywea is among them, with her MOTHER. Soldiers pile wood in the middle of the village. Hywea is separated from her mother and forced to join a group of younger women. Her wrists are bound with rope. The soldiers march the younger women out of the village. Hywea looks back, frightened. Paulinus thrusts a burning torch into the pile of wood. It catches immediately, the wood becomes a roaring bonfire. Paulinus orders the older women villagers thrown into the blazing fire. Thank God the roaring flames hide their final agonized moments. Hywea's mother reaches toward Hywea before she's cast into the fire and consumed by flame. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 17. Hywea falls to her knees, weeping. A soldier pulls her to her feet and pushes her after the other young women. Paulinus laughs like a madman, framed by the fire. BACK TO SCENE: AURELUS I didn't know. OCTAVUS No reason why you should. What's one more village? AURELUS Can you bring yourself to tell Paulinus to have ten Legionaries ready to march an hour before dawn? OCTAVUS You're going somewhere? AURELUS That's up to the tracker. That's why the Iron General wants him. It's said he knows where the dragons dwell. OCTAVUS And does he? AURELUS May the gods help us if he doesn't. Aurelus claps Octavus on the shoulder. AURELUS (CONT'D) The privilege of command, Octavus! Remember this moment when you next consider applying for promotion. Where's that slave girl? I'm going to talk to our prisoner again. INT. PRISON HUT - DAY Caedmor looks up as Aurelus enters with Hywea. Aurelus speaks, Hywea translates for Caedmor. HYWEA The Centurion says that if you swear an oath on your honor not to try to escape, he will have the chains struck from your wrists. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 18. CAEDMOR What does a Roman know of honor? HYWEA It is unlikely you could escape anyway. The Romans are too vigilant. The choice is yours... continue to wear the chains, or be free of them. CAEDMOR Tell him I give my oath. I will not try to escape. Hywea translates for Aurelus. HYWEA He gives his oath. AURELUS Do you trust him to keep it? HYWEA I cannot say. Aurelus considers Caedmor... ...And Caedmor considers Aurelus. DISSOLVE TO: CLANG! A hammer strikes the chains from Caedmor's wrists. Caedmor rubs his wrists. The BLACKSMITH takes his hammer and exits. AURELUS What do you know of dragons? Hywea turns to Caedmor to translate, but Aurelus stops her. AURELUS (CONT'D) Not him. You. HYWEA I know nothing of dragons, Centurion. AURELUS There are harsh penalties for defying your Roman masters. I could have you whipped, or put to death. HYWEA That is your right. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 19. AURELUS And you have no rights. You are a slave, property of the Legion. HYWEA You need not remind me. AURELUS Do you wish to die in pain? Hywea stares at the floor. Aurelus lifts her chin and looks into her eyes. AURELUS (CONT'D) What's so important about these dragons that you would give your life to protect them? HYWEA You would never understand. AURELUS We Romans have our gods, too. HYWEA The dragons are not gods. AURELUS But they are sacred to you. Hywea hesitates... then nods, yes. AURELUS (CONT'D) Tell him his village will suffer if he does not obey. Hywea stares at Aurelus... then translates for Caedmor. AURELUS (CONT'D) His family, his friends, will be tortured... and then executed... unless he does as I say. Hywea translates while Aurelus watches Caedmor. Caedmor bows his head and mumbles something. Hywea stares at Caedmor. He looks up, sees her stare and lowers his eyes. AURELUS (CONT'D) What did he say? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 20. HYWEA He said, "I will take you to where the dragons dwell." Aurelus nods, satisfied. AURELUS Bring him to my hut. He turns and exits. Hywea continues to stare at Caedmor. CAEDMOR And what choice do I have, girl? HYWEA None. None at all. Come. She exits. EXT. PRISON HUT - DAY Caedmor steps out of the hut. He shields his eyes from the bright daylight. Hywea waits for him at the steps of Aurelus' hut. Caedmor walks to join her. ROMAN SENTRIES watch Caedmor. PAULINUS watches too, from the barracks hut. Caedmor and Hywea enter Aurelus' hut. EXT. AURELUS' HUT - DAY Octavus spreads a map on a table. Aurelus invites Caedmor to step forward and examine it. THE MAP depicts several Roman forts and villages surrounded by mountain peaks and rivers. AURELUS Ask him if he knows how to read a Roman map. Hywea translates for Caedmor. HYWEA The Centurion says-- Caedmor stabs a finger at one of the Roman forts. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 21. AURELUS So you know where we are. Good. Show me where the dragons can be found. Hywea opens her mouth to translate but Caedmor shakes his head. He understands perfectly well. He points to a group of mountains some distance from the Roman fort. A wide strip of green forest lies between the fort and the mountains. AURELUS (CONT'D) Now that he has shown me... ask him why I still need him. Hywea translates for Caedmor. He replies in Welsh. Hywea translates for Aurelus. HYWEA There are no roads through the forest, only secret ways known to the Cymrii. And you will never find a path through the mountains. AURELUS We Romans are good at finding roads. And where there are none, we make them. HYWEA These mountains are as old as the world. They will watch you blunt your tools, and they will slowly laugh at your foolishness. AURELUS Fetch me a cup of wine. Hywea pours a cup, offers it to Aurelus. He smashes it out of her hand. It breaks on the floor. AURELUS (CONT'D) You are that cup. Beware, slave, lest you anger me. Now clean it up. Hywea kneels down and picks up the pieces. She HISSES as a sharp edge cuts her hand. Caedmor kneels down beside her and helps her. Octavus looks at Aurelus. Aurelus shrugs. Caedmor and Hywea stand up. AURELUS (CONT'D) Take him to the slave hut. Bed him if you wish but you both must be ready to leave when dawn comes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 22. HYWEA Both of us? AURELUS He's of no use to me without a translator. Hywea bows. Caedmor's unsure but he bows too when Hywea pushes him down. Hywea retreats to the door, pulling him after her. They exit. OCTAVUS That went easier than I expected. AURELUS I want you to follow us. Not so close that they'll see you. But close enough to catch them if they take flight. Octavus grins. Aurelus notices. OCTAVUS I feared I would be left behind. Aurelus claps him on the shoulder. AURELUS You know better than that. Pick four men and keep your eyes open for Cymrii. They're not defeated yet. End of excerpt.

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