The Dragon Lantern: A League of Seven Novel

The Dragon Lantern: A League of Seven Novel

by Alan Gratz


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The Dragon Lantern is the second book in the award-winning, action-packed, steampunk League of Seven series by acclaimed author Alan Gratz.

Archie Dent is convinced that he and his friends Hachi and Fergus are the first three members of a new League of Seven: a group of heroes who come together to fight the Mangleborn whenever the monsters arise to destroy humanity. His belief is put to the test when they are forced to undertake separate missions. Archie and his faithful Tik-Tok servant Mr. Rivets pursue a shapeshifting girl who has stolen the Dragon Lantern, an ancient artifact with mysterious powers. And Hachi and Fergus travel to New Orleans to find Madame Blavatsky, the only person who knows the circumstances surrounding the death of Hachi's father.

In the course of their adventures the three heroes meet potential candidates to join their League. At the same time, they learn deep-rooted secrets that could destroy the League forever. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765338235
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Series: League of Seven Series , #2
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 773,843
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 780L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

ALAN GRATZ is the author of the League of Seven series, Samurai Shortstop, and Prisoner B-3087. He began writing The League of Seven, winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Young Adult Book Award, by listing all the things that ten-year-old Alan would have thought were awesome, including brass goggles, airships, tentacled monsters, brains in jars, windup robots, secret societies, and super powers. (In fact, he still thinks all those things are awesome.) He lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

The Dragon Lantern

A League of Seven Novel

By Alan Gratz

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2015 Alan Gratz
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-3851-2


Archie Dent dangled from a rope twenty thousand feet in the air, watching the blue ribbon of the Mississippi River spin far, far below him. At that moment, he didn't feel scared, or dizzy, or angry.

He felt betrayed.

"Retrieving the Dragon Lantern will be easy for three Leaguers," Philomena Moffett had told him and his friends Hachi and Fergus. "For that's what you are. The first of a new League of Seven."

Easy. That's what the head of the Septemberist Society had called retrieving this lantern thing. Even though it was hidden at the heart of a Septemberist puzzle trap. On top of a giant helium balloon. Twenty thousand feet in the air.

As he hung from his safety line for what had to be the thousandth time in the last three days, all Archie could think was that Philomena Moffett had not been entirely honest with them.

"Haul him up," Hachi said over the wind.

Archie sighed, his warm breath filling the mask that fit over his leather helmet. Fergus had built the helmets special. A breathing mask, which snapped on just below the brass goggles Archie wore, brought fresh oxygen to him from the tank on his back. They needed them — like the heavy, fur-lined coats and the spider's web of ropes and carabiners they wore — to scale the mountain-sized helium kite high up in the thin atmosphere that held Cahokia in the Clouds afloat.

Archie felt a lurch on his line, and then the familiar yank-yank-yank of Fergus' ratchet as he was lifted back up. Soon he was close enough to take Hachi's hand, and she helped him grab hold of the network of ropes that covered the vast canvas of the balloon.

"Archie, you've got to hang on better," Hachi told him.

Archie flushed in embarrassment under his breathing mask. Hachi Emartha hadn't fallen off once in all the time they'd been at this, but that was to be expected. She'd spent the last three years of her life training to be the greatest warrior who ever lived. Everything she did was graceful, from eating her breakfast to killing Manglespawn. But what really embarrassed Archie was that Fergus MacFerguson had only slipped and fallen twice, and Fergus had only one good leg. His other leg, hobbled by a meka-ninja, now had only two settings — loose and useless, or straight and stiff — which he controlled with a knee harness he'd built himself.

"I'm sorry," Archie said. "I wasn't made for this. I'm good at punching and being punched. Not hopping around like a monkey."

"Well, one of these times your safety line's going to give way, and then you'll really be sorry," Hachi told him. "You do not want to test Fergus's backup plan."

"Oy," Fergus said. "The gyrocopters work great. Sure, they're better at going down than up. And they're maybe a little hard to steer. But they're better than falling straight down. Besides, there wasn't room for parachutes in the backpacks with all the oxygen and lamps."

Archie looked down again, but clouds obstructed his view of the ground. I'm higher than the clouds, Archie thought, and then he did feel a twinge of fear creep in.

"Archie doesn't need to worry about falling anyway," Fergus said. "He'll just hit the ground and bounce back up, like he did before."

"That was from only half this height," Hachi reminded him. "And he's not totally invulnerable. We don't know what his limits are, but there's no reason to test them until we have to."

Archie shifted his grip on the rope, trying not to think about his fall from his family's airship during their midair battle with Edison. Trying not to think about the crack in his arm, the one he'd gotten fighting Edison's lektrical robot body.

The crack that showed Archie was made of stone.

The crack that showed he wasn't entirely human.

"Let's just get on with it," Archie said.

"Just a little farther, and then we wait for nightfall," Hachi said.

They were working their way sideways around the broad, gently curved side of the enormous helium balloon on the rope-like rigging that covered it like a giant net. Archie thought of the stuff as "rope-like" because it wasn't really rope — not like the twine rope he knew. It was made of something gray and shiny, like metal, but it stretched and hung like a fiber rope. The gray lines, just like the strange canvas-like material that held the helium trapped inside it, had been invented by Wayland Smith and Daedalus of the Roman League of Seven hundreds of years ago, and the world had yet to rediscover the secrets of their construction.

Fergus ran a hand along the glossy veneer of the canvas. "I can't get over this stuff," he said. "Helium is so small it escapes from almost anything. Anything light enough to float, that is. But not this. It's been hanging up here in the clouds for almost two millennia."

"They had to make sure it wasn't going to fall," Archie said.

"Which you're both going to do if you don't focus," Hachi told them. "Next section. Go."

The ropes-that-weren't-ropes formed a grid of squares on the canvas-that-wasn't-canvas, like the latitude and longitude lines on a globe. They were just tall enough for Hachi and Fergus to stand in a grid square on the bottom rope and hold on to the top rope with their hands, but Archie was younger and shorter than both of them. Where they could crab walk across, he had to lunge.

Fergus shuffled his way across the grid square to the next, his kilt flapping wildly in the freezing, howling wind. He'd at least had the sense to put on long underwear underneath it, even though the baggy red long johns looked silly with his blue tartan kilt.

At last he was across, and it was Archie's turn.

"You can do this," Hachi told him.

Archie focused on the rope at the other side of the grid, took a deep breath of the fresh oxygen pumped into his mask, and dove for it. The wind caught his big coat like a sail and spun him, and he fell. He clawed out blindly with his hands and felt only canvas. Zip! He was sliding down again, falling, soon to be dangling from his safety line again — or worse — when at last his hand felt rope, and he snatched at it. Oof. He slammed into the canvas and hung there, panting, as he got his breath back.

"Better. Next grid," Hachi said, already moving along. "And don't forget to reattach your safety line."

Archie closed his eyes and put his head against the canvas balloon. What was it his mother always said? No rest for the weary.

That they were here at all — three kids on a top secret, super-dangerous mission for the Septemberist Society — was incredible by the looks of it. What kind of adults would throw children into the firebox like so many lumps of coal? And what kind of parents would let them?

But Hachi, the thirteen-year-old Seminole girl, had no parents to ask. She had been on her own ever since their deaths when she was little. Fergus, the fourteen-year-old tinker, was on his own too. He had left his family's farm in North Carolina to apprentice with Thomas Edison, but had run away when his boss had pumped Fergus full of lektric squid blood.

It was Archie's parents who had said no.

"He's too young," his mother had said.

"He's not ready," his father had said.

But then it had been pointed out to them that even though he was just twelve, Archie had the strength of a hundred men. Or so it seemed. And Archie couldn't get sick, couldn't be hurt, and couldn't die. At least, nothing had killed him yet. And by all rights, Archie should have died at least five times already that he knew of.

And then Philomena Moffett had told him that the Dragon Lantern had something to do with where he had really come from. How he had come to be this way. All Archie knew was that he'd been adopted, that the Septemberist Society had found him when he was an infant and placed him with Dalton and Agatha Dent and then studied him, watching and waiting for him to grow into whatever superhuman thing he was to become. Mrs. Moffett didn't know what, exactly, the Dragon Lantern had to do with how he was born, but once they had it, she promised she could tell him more.

That sealed it. There was no way Archie was staying home for this mission. In the end, his parents had to let him go.

Not that they were really his parents.

Archie jumped and almost missed the next rope. It took Hachi and Fergus both hauling him back up to keep him from falling again.

"Focus," Hachi told him.

"I'm trying," Archie said.

"No you're not," Hachi said. "Your mind is somewhere else. I can see it in your eyes. You're thinking about how you're not a real boy. You're always thinking about how you're not a real boy. So stop and focus on where you are and what you're doing. You know what happens when you lose focus."

Archie's face burned hot under his mask again. None of them needed any reminder about what happened when Archie lost his head.

Hachi stared at him until he met her eyes. She was hard and demanding, but she also knew what it was to be so angry it consumed you. So angry it ate you up and swallowed you whole, and you let it because deep down you wanted it to.

Archie nodded. "I'm okay. I'll be okay."

Hachi gave a curt nod back. "Tell us the nursery rhyme again while we climb."

Archie sagged. He'd repeated the rhyme a thousand times in the past two days as they'd tried to climb the balloon, but he knew what she was doing. She was trying to get him to say it like a mantra, to focus on the here and now.

"Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder what you are," he said, falling into the singsong of the rhyme. "Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky."

Most nursery rhymes, it turned out, were codes. Riddles that, when unlocked, held the secrets to navigating the complicated puzzle traps previous Leagues had used to imprison the Mangleborn. Sometimes too the puzzle traps were used to hide powerful artifacts, like this lantern.

Archie focused on the next jump and made it. Not gracefully, but he made it.

"Well, 'up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky' can't be anything but Cahokia in the Clouds," Fergus said.

Cahokia in the Clouds. A city in the sky, hanging from a giant, kite-shaped helium balloon tethered at the edge of Illini territory, near the abandoned Francia town of St. Louis. The city had been built by people who had no idea why the balloon was there to begin with. If only they really understood ... But that was the job of the Septemberist Society: to keep the true horrors of the world hidden and buried. Or, in this case, hidden and floating.

The nursery rhyme clearly meant the kite-shaped balloon above Cahokia in the Clouds, and the twinkling star had to be the lantern they were after.

Lóngdeng. The Dragon Lantern. An artifact from the Mu civilization, which existed long before Atlantis fell and Rome rose from its ashes. Archie had no idea what the lantern was, or what it did. All Philomena Moffett had told him was that it held the answer to the secret of how he became whatever he was. That was enough to send him to the top of Cahokia in the Clouds to get it.

How I wonder what you are ... Archie thought.

"You're losing focus again," Hachi told him.

Archie shook himself and nodded.

"Tell us the next part," she said.

Archie was the one who had all the nursery rhymes memorized. His Septemberist parents had made a point of drilling them into him as a boy.

"When the blazing sun is gone, when he nothing shines upon, then you show your little light, twinkle, twinkle, all the night," Archie sang.

This was where they had gone wrong for the past two days. Or so they now thought. Both times, they had attempted to scale the rope net during daylight. And why not? It was hard enough when you could actually see where you were going. But there were traps — dangerous traps — and they hadn't yet been able to find a way around them. Not by day. So they'd gone back to the rhyme. When the blazing sun is gone, when he nothing shines upon, then you show your little light, twinkle, twinkle, all the night. Now it seemed obvious: They were supposed to wait until dark.

Archie made one last leap, slipping and falling off the rope at his feet. He caught it as he fell and pulled himself up with a few choice comments into his oxygen mask. Fergus snickered.

"Okay. This is where the traps start," Hachi said. Above them and to the right, Archie saw the ropes they had tried to climb. The ropes that had come loose as soon as their weight was on them and sent them spilling off the balloon. Traps set to keep the curious out. If not for their safety lines, they would all be dead.

All but Archie.

"And ... it's just about nightfall," Hachi said.

Hachi had timed it perfectly. Hachi, their warrior. The one who always had a plan. It was still too light to see the stars, but the first of them would appear in minutes. In the meantime, Fergus, their tinker, the one who could make anything, lit the oil lamps he had mounted on the shoulder straps of their backpacks.

"Try not to get the lamps near your oxygen masks," Fergus said. "That would be bad."

"Bad how?" Archie asked.

"Boom bad," Fergus said.

"Good to know," Archie said.

The last of the red-orange sky drained away beneath the clouds, and their skyworld became the blue-black of night. There was a metaphor for Archie's new life in that, he thought. Waiting for the light to go away so he could work in the dark. But Hachi had told him to focus, so he put it away.

"All right," Archie said. "The 'blazing sun is gone.' Now what?"

They shined their lamps around, trying to see anything different about the rope maze around them, but it all looked the same.

"Wait a minute," Fergus said. He reached up and turned off his shoulder lamp.

"What are you doing?" Hachi said.

"Oh, brass! You've got to see this," Fergus said. "Switch off your lamps."

"Turn them off? But how are we supposed to see?" Archie asked.

Archie and Hachi did it anyway, and gasped. All around them, the rope net glowed like the tail end of a firefly.

"Phospholuminescence!" Fergus said. "Blinking brilliant! All day it absorbs the sun's light, and then it glows all night. We don't need lanterns at all!"

"But we still don't know which way to go," Hachi said.

For the past two days, they had made guesses. Bad ones, with painful results. But interpreting the second verse correctly had borne fruit, so Archie recited the third.

"Then the traveler in the dark, thanks you for your tiny spark. He could not see which way to go, if you did not twinkle so."

"So we follow the twinkling star?" Fergus asked.

They all looked to the sky. It was filled with twinkling stars.

"They're all twinkling," Archie said miserably.

"Not that one," Hachi said.

Archie and Fergus followed her finger to where it was pointing. Below them, almost at the edge of the balloon's curve, was a single, small white light.

A tiny spark!

"Let's try something," Hachi said. "We've gone up from here, and we've gone sideways, but we've never gone down."

With practiced ease, Hachi released the catch on her safety line and rappelled down one place in the rope grid. As she landed on the rope below, the light beneath them went out.

"It's gone!" Archie said.

"Nae, it's not. It's just moved," Fergus said. "Look."

He was right. Among all the twinkling stars, there was only one that didn't twinkle — a tiny pinprick of light at the far edge of the balloon, directly to the right of Hachi. She slid across her grid with the grace of a tightrope walker, her brown dress flapping underneath her fur coat, and stepped into the next one. The light stayed on, but shifted one grid farther away.

"Then the traveler in the dark, thanks you for your tiny spark," Archie said. "He could not see which way to go, if you did not twinkle so. We need the stars to twinkle so we can follow the one that doesn't!"

"Come on," Hachi told them. "I'll stay one square ahead."

Archie and Fergus followed her, and Hachi waited for them to catch up each time she moved ahead. Right again, then up, up, and up, then left, then up again, and slowly they made their way through the maze toward the top.

"What's the rest of it?" Hachi asked.

"The rest of what?"

"The rest of the nursery rhyme. Let's hear it again."

"Oh," Archie said, focusing on his feet. "Let's see. Um, 'In the dark blue sky you keep, and often through my curtains peep, for you never shut your eye, till the sun is in the sky.' Then the rest of it is kind of the same. 'As your bright and tiny spark, lights the traveler in the dark, though I know not what you are, twinkle, twinkle, little star.' Then the last stanzas are the first one over again."

"You never shut your eye till the sun is in the sky. So we've got until sunup to get there. No problem," Fergus said.

"We've got until sunup to get there and back again," Hachi reminded him.

"Oh. Aye. Moving right along then."

"Twinkle, twinkle, little star," Archie said. "Why do they twinkle?"

"It's the atmosphere," Fergus said. "The light from the stars gets all wonky when it comes through the air, making our eyes see it as a flicker. Doesn't work the same way for planets. They're closer, so they don't —"


Excerpted from The Dragon Lantern by Alan Gratz. Copyright © 2015 Alan Gratz. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

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The research and writing activities below correlate to the following Common Core State Standards: (L.4-8.4) (RL.5-8.4) (RL.5-6.5) (RL.6-8.6) (RL.4-8.7) (SL.4-8.1, 3) (W.4-8.2, 7) (WHST 6-8.6)


Go to the library or online to learn more about the literary subgenre of steampunk. Find at least three sources for your information. Use your research to create an informative poster that includes a definition of steampunk, a short history of the origin of the genre, and a list of some famous steampunk novels and/or movies.


In steampunk novels, famous historical figures often interact with fictional characters. The Dragon Lantern features General George Custer. Learn more about Custer’s life and times, then write a short essay explaining why you think author Alan Gratz chose to use this character to tell the story of Archie and his friends’ pursuit of the Dragon Lantern.


Several Native American tribes are referenced in the novel, as they are in the first League of Seven book. In real American history, these tribes had tragic relocation experiences as the American government set them on the “Trail of Tears.” Research the “Trail of Tears” and then create an annotated map (with dates) showing how at least five tribes were affected by the “Trail of Tears.”



Go to the library or online to find a definition of “Colossus.” Learn about things that have been named Colossus through history, such as the Colossus of Rhodes, the Colossus computer, or the Colossus character in the Marvel Comics universe. Use PowerPoint or other multi-media software to create a presentation entitled, “Colussus: Ideas, Images, and History” to share with friends or classmates.


Using pencils, pen-and-ink, or even 3-dimensional arts media, create a drawing or model of Colossus based on details found in the novel.



Many characters whom Hachi and Fergus meet in Louisiana are true figures from history. Go to the library or online and use research skills to identify at least three characters from the Louisiana-based chapters of the novel who were not simply invented by the author. If desired, continue your search for real historical figures in the story. Keep track of them in a notebook.


Use your research as the base for a card game: Write each character name on a separate index card. On the reverse side, write “F” for fictional or “R” for real historical figure along with 2-3 facts about this individual. Take turns holding up cards to see if friends or classmates can tell the fictional from the real and what they know about the real people.


In the character of Kitsune, write at least four journal entries, including one recounting your transformation into a fox girl, one explaining your complicated behavior toward Archie and his friends, one describing your decision to join forces with Archie, and one exploring your feelings toward “Mrs. Moffett” and what you may understand about her that the other League members do not.


Create a chart comparing Buster, Mr. Rivets, Philomena Moffett, and Kistune in terms of their machine, human, spirit, and animal qualities. Based on your chart, write a MANIFESTO (a declaration of your guidelines and goals) explaining how all creatures of the earth should be treated. Read your manifesto aloud to friends or classmates.


Create an illustrated booklet entitled, “A Reader’s Guide to the Heroes of the League of Seven.” Make a page for each League member, noting his or her physical appearance, what you know of their history and powers, and how they contribute to the group. Leave two blank pages for future League members to be discovered in novels-to-come!


Role-play a conversation between Archie, Hachi, Fergus, Clyde, and Kitsune in which each discusses why he or she agreed to be part of the League of Seven and their feelings about the group.


Help Archie and his friends find their next League member by creating an early chapter for the next League of Seven novel. Select your favorite historical time and place and then research at least two real people, events, or important objects from this time to include in your chapter. Invent and name a new fictional League member and decide what abilities he or she will have. Write a 3-6 page chapter in which Archie or Hachi meets this new League member.


In the last century, philosopher and essayist George Santayana (1863-1952) wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” How does this relate to Archie’s observation that people sometimes “want to forget” horrible experiences? Is forgetting dangerous? Write an essay explaining how Santayana’s quotation can be understood in terms of the novel.

Lexile: 780L

AR Level: 5.1 MG

AR Points: 13.0

AR Quiz #: 175174 EN

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Writing & Discussion Activities

The pre-reading activities below correlate to the following Common Core State Standards: W.4-8.3; SL.4-8.1, 3


Ask each student to reflect on a skill or talent they possess. Are they proud of this ability? Why or why not? How does this ability affect the student’s daily life, friendships, future plans, and dreams? After reflection, ask each student to write a short essay describing a quality or talent he or she would like to have and why.


Invite students to define the word “hero.” Do they know any heroes in their school or community? Can they list some heroes from history, fiction, film, and/or television? What qualities make these people heroes? Are heroes all good or all bad? What kinds of heroes does the world need today?

Writing & Discussion Activities

The discussion questions below correlate to the following Common Core State Standards: (SL.4-8.1, 3, 4) (SL.6-8.2, 3) (RL.4-8.1, 2, 3) (RH.4-8.6)


The first words of The Dragon Lantern are “Archie Dent dangled from a rope…” What ideas or images does this line bring to your mind? In what ways is Archie dangling both physically and emotionally?


What is the relationship between Fergus and Hachi? How does Archie feel about this relationship?


Who is Cahokia Man? What is a Mangleborn? Who or what are “Mangleborn,” “Manglespawn,” the “Septemberist Society,” and the “League of Seven,” and how do these groups relate to each other?


Throughout the novel, Archie is struggling to adjust to some difficult truths about his identity. What are these truths? How does this make him feel less connected to Fergus and Hachi and, possibly, more empathetic toward Cahokia Man?


Early in the novel, Archie reflects on the story of Cahokia Man, noting “The story of course, like most stories…had been rewritten over the centuries, in part because people forgot, and in part because people wanted to forget.” (p. 20) Why do people want to forget? Have you ever had an experience you wanted to forget? Do you think it is right to try to do so? Explain your answer.


On page 68, Clyde gives Archie some advice about being different: “Whatever it is you’re embarrassed about, whatever it is you wish was normal, embrace it. Own it. Because that’s what makes you special. And being special is way better than being normal, no matter what the cost.” What does it mean to be special? Do you agree or disagree with Clyde’s statement? Why or why not?


Why does Archie part ways with Hachi and Fergus? Do you think this is a good decision? Is it a necessary decision?


Compare Archie’s main objective with Hachi’s? In what ways are these objectives similar? What are both characters really seeking?


Describe the Voodoo world Hachi and Fergus encounter in Louisiana. How is this similar to, and different from, the wild western.


What is “gris-gris”? How does Marie Laveau react when Fergus declines to call his building abilities magic?


Name at least three ways in which it is important that Hachi is now head of the Emartha Machine Man Company.


What is a FreeTok? What changes does Archie see in Mr. Rivets when they are reunited in Chapter 16? Do you think the outlaw Tok Jesse James is right to compare the lives of Tik Toks to lives of slaves? Explain your answer.


What roles does “lektricity” play in the story?


What does Sings-in-the-Night, the bird girl, reveal about the use of the Dragon Lantern? About the League of Seven? Whose frightening true identity does she reveal in Chapter 20?


As the dangers mount, in what ways do Archie, Hachi, and Fergus wish they were still together as a team? How do they defeat their foes nonetheless?


On page 228, Sings-in-the-Night bemoans her strange body, and Archie comforts her saying, “Having bird legs or stone skin doesn’t make you a monster…. It’s what you do that makes you good or bad.” How does Archie struggle to believe his own statement as he continues his quest for the Dragon Lantern?


In Chapter 29, what persuasions does Mrs. Moffett use to convince Archie and his friends to join her Shadow League? How does Archie feel the darkness to which Mrs. Moffett refers as the Mangleborn beneath Alcatraz awakens? How do Clyde and Kitsune react to Archie’s behavior?


What is the relationship between the Daimyo of Ametokai and the Daimyo Under the City? Compare this relationship to the relationship between Archie and the Jandal a Haad.


How does the Dragon Lantern work? Should it ever be used?


How was Archie made? How does this connect Mrs. Moffett to Madame Blavatsky? What do these discoveries lead Hachi and Archie to realize? In the final chapters of the novel, which characters ask for forgiveness? Which characters need or want forgiveness? Explain your answers.


What is a human being?


Can The Dragon Lantern be read as a story about how people face the reality of who they really are—and how they can separate their history and origins from the person they are today? If so, what lessons might this novel offer readers about identity?

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