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The Cursed Kingdom

The backstory of this book is the second invasion of Parthia by Mark Antony following his disastrous campaign that ended with defeat at Phraaspa (as told in the 'Sons of the Citadel'). This second campaign is largely unknown because it was overshadowed by the later Battle of Actium, which was a crushing defeat for Mark Antony and Cleopatra and was to lead to both their suicides. But for Parthia it was far more significant.

Mark Antony has returned to Parthia to wage war against the king of kings. But Parthia has a new hero, a man born of slaves who carries an infamous name and who burns with resentment.

The king of the wild Kingdom of Gordyene desires to arm his best soldiers with swords made from the magical metal from the east. To purchase such precious requires gold and so Spartacus steals it from an Armenian temple, along with a beautiful young novice who is the daughter of Armenia's greatest warlord. Thus is set in motion a series of events that will see King Spartacus lead his army to victory after victory as the 'lion of the north roars' to crush Armenian, Parthian and Roman foes.

The army of Gordyene rises to rival the other great armies in the empire – the Hatrans of King Gafarn and the Durans of King Pacorus. You wish to be a greater warlord than your uncle but King Pacorus respects the immortals. The gods are real Spartacus and they have not forgotten the restraints they placed on the rulers of Gordyene. With every victory and conquest they will take something from you until there is nothing left, and your rage and army will avail you nothing against them.

As Mark Antony forges an unholy alliance with the Parthian King of Media, will you save the empire and lose your family? Or will you heed the advice of one who is a member of an ancient sisterhood and heed the words of the gods? 'The Cursed Kingdom' is the eighth volume in the Parthian Chronicles and follows on from 'Usurper'.

A map of the Parthian Empire can be found on the maps page page of this website.

 

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Usurper

The main focus of historians when it comes to the Parthian Empire has been the clash between Parthia and the Roman world. But this is to ignore what was happening on the eastern frontier of the Parthian Empire where rising powers presented a continuous threat to the autonomous kingdoms of the empire. These included the Kushans, a warlike people who were to become a world power in the ancient world, though few outside India have heard of them. ‘Usurper’ is not only the story of King Pacorus of Dura but also Emperor Kujula, the first leader of the Kushan Empire.

After the defeat of Mark Antony Pacorus has returned to the city of Dura to prepare for a happier campaign: the wedding of his daughter to a prince of a kingdom on the eastern frontier of the Parthian Empire.

Doting father? Man of peace? These things are not you, Pacorus. Have you not heard of the hydra? Cut off one of its heads and two more will replace it. You defeat one enemy and another springs forth to torment you, just as the gods torment you with endless strife.

Pacorus and his family and friends travel to the east to attend the wedding of Princess Isabella, but old scores need to be settled and a new power is rising beyond the Indus that will threaten the empire itself. Can Pacorus and the surviving Companions can save the empire and the reign of the young, duplicitous king of kings from the barbarian hordes in the east?

‘Usurper’ followers on from ‘Sons of the Citadel’. A map of the Parthian Empire can be found on the maps page page of this website.

 

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Deception Tactics in World War II

The Second World War was not won by military might alone. Critical advantage was gained through deception—the projection of power in areas of weakness, camouflage of soldiers and vehicles, manipulation of the enemy’s intelligence agencies, and the canny transmission of false intentions. Deception Tactics of World War II presents the most notable successes, as well as the most daring, sometimes outrageous plans. The book also introduces the cast of personalities behind these efforts. You’ll encounter enigmatic double agents such as Garbo, who established a fictitious network of spies in Britain and then fed Germany a stream of false information. You’ll also meet their occasionally eccentric commanders.

The deceptions featured include:
• In Europe, the Fortitude deception that preceded the Allied invasion of Normandy
• In the USA, the remarkable efforts to disguise an entire wartime industry in California
• In the Pacific, the flawless Japanese plan to conceal an entire fleet on its way to Pearl Harbor
• In North Africa, the British-led efforts to create a fighting force where none in fact existed.

 

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The Ice March

My interest in the Russian Civil War came about when I purchased a second-hand book on the topic entitled ‘The White Generals’, which is now nearly 50 years old. The accounts of the campaigns of the various White commanders resembled a tragi-comedy, none more so than the so-called ‘Ice March’ in early 1918. But no account of the Russian Civil War would be complete without an understanding of what Imperial Russia, and specifically its Imperial Army, suffered in World War I. Huge losses, incompetent leadership and privations on the home front swept the old order away and led to violent revolution and civil war. It is a story worth telling, not least because the millions of Russians who died in World War I and the civil war deserve to be remembered.

Set against the backdrop of World War I and the Russian Revolution, ‘The Ice March’ is the story of Mikhail Petrov, an impoverished peasant who is drafted into the Russian Imperial Army in 1914. He is soon caught up in tumultuous events as the Imperial Army suffers defeats, retreats and huge losses on the Eastern Front.

But Mikhail’s star rises as Russia’s falls and soon his fate is entwined with that of a young, beautiful princess. In the drama of the Russian Revolution both flee Moscow to seek sanctuary in the Cossack lands to the south. There Mikhail joins the Whites and their tiny Volunteer Army. But the Bolsheviks are determined to wipe out the ‘counter-revolutionaries’ and thousands of Red Guards are soon marching against them. The scene is set for a campaign that will determine whether Mikhail and the Whites will survive or perish on the icy steppe of the Kuban.    

Maps of the Eastern Front in World War I and the Russian Civil War can be found on the maps page page of this website.

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Sons of the Citadel

I believed ‘Companions’ would be my last visit to Parthia and the adventures of Pacorus. But the atrocities committed in Hatra and Palmyra by religious fanatics so incensed me that I decided to write another book in the Parthian Chronicles series in an effort to keep alive the memory of those places that have been so foully desecrated. And a small tribute to the brave archaeologists who tried to defend the treasures of Palmyra and who paid with their lives. 

Did you think the gods would leave you alone, Pacorus? Did you truly believe the Romans would forget the humiliation of Carrhae and not rest until they had won back their lost eagles?

Pacorus had believed the defeat of Crassus would signal the end of Roman interest in Parthia and for many years his kingdom knew peace and prosperity. But the vindictiveness of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt draws him and the Parthians into a new war, one in which they would be fighting for their very existence when her husband Mark Antony invades the empire at the head of over one hundred thousand men.

At first the new high king of the Parthian Empire refuses the assistance of Pacorus and his famed army, but as disaster follows disaster only Dura’s soldiers can save the empire from being swallowed whole by the Romans. An older, wiser Pacorus is forced to take the field against the might of Rome once more in a war that will be a turning point for him, the empire and his family.

A map of the Parthian Empire at the time of Pacorus (the 1st Century BC) can be found on the maps page page of this website.

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100 Events that Shaped World War II

This was an enjoyable project to work on and was commissioned by Quid Books, a great little company based in Brighton. It is so nice to work with honest, straightforward people who tell it like it is. And they pay their invoices in a timely fashion! The bloodiest conflict in human history was not decided by the actions of an enlightened few. Instead, it played out as countless acts of heroism, on battlefields across the planet, in events whose outcomes were anything but certain. Within this history of individual sacrifice, it is possible to identify landmark events that shifted the momentum of World War II, from the early gains of Hitler's Axis powers to the growing Allied might of the later years. One Hundred Events that Shaped World War II tells the story of the war. Taking into account social, economic, technological and political factors, it presents the people involved and identifies the strategic masterstrokes, as well as blunders, that determined the ultimate course of victory.

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As Dust to the Wind

For Conrad and me it has been a long and eventful road. I moved house halfway through writing this book, which interrupted the schedule considerably. More dreadful was losing our beloved bulldog Nelson at the start of the project, which cast a long shadow over our lives. Life goes on I suppose but six months down the line his loss still haunts us. Farewell Nelson and farewell Conrad ­ the end of an era in so many ways.

No man can escape his destiny, not even the famed Conrad Wolff whose named is revered and feared in equal measure throughout the Baltic following nearly thirty years of bloodshed. 

Conrad and the Sword Brothers are now masters of all they survey. The crusader state they have created by the sword is strong and prospering but peace is only temporary, a cruel illusion. The riches of Novgorod, now threatened and weakened by the Mongols, is an irresistible target for Bishop Hermann and the Papacy, leading to a new and bloody crusade against the Russians.

For Conrad the appearance of an enemy from his past will reawaken old wounds and a thirst for revenge. But his actions will have a catastrophic effect on the Sword Brothers and will set in train a sequence of events that will lead to a final confrontation between East and West on the frozen surface of Lake Peipus. This battle will be a defining moment not only for Conrad Wolff and the Sword Brothers but also for European history.

This, the final volume in the Crusader Chronicles series, sees Conrad and the Army of the Wolf embark upon their final, fateful campaign.

Maps of Livonia and northern Russia in the thirteenth century, the Lithuanian kingdoms and the tribal lands of Estonia can be found on the maps page page of this website.

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Schism

As the thirteenth century progressed the military orders were often embroiled in the struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors. The Popes, the spiritual leaders of Christendom, demanded obedience from the rulers of Europe, which was seldom granted. Indeed emperors such as Frederick II, a man of great learning and ambition, was frequently at odds with the Papacy and was not above making war against Pope Gregory IX when pressed. For his sedition he was excommunicated four times.

It was inevitable that the Sword Brothers, who had created their own kingdom in the Baltic and were far from Rome, should be drawn into this rivalry because the Pope was eager to ensure that his military orders gave him unquestioning loyalty. For the castellans of the Sword Brothers, men who were not courtiers but warlords, this often proved difficult, especially when the Pope sent ambassadors to interfere in their affairs.

A new Papal Legate has come to Livonia but he is no friend of Conrad Wolff or the Sword Brothers. Grave charges are levelled against the commander of the Army of the Wolf, leading to a series of events that threatens to rip apart the crusader state in the Baltic.

For Conrad these are strange times as former enemies become allies and erstwhile allies seek to take advantage of Livonia’s weaknesses to further their own ends. This, the penultimate volume in the Crusader Chronicles series, sees Conrad fighting for his life and the Sword Brothers battling for their very existence against a backdrop of intrigue, international politics and betrayal.

Maps of Livonia in the thirteenth century, the Lithuanian kingdoms and the tribal lands of Estonia can be found on the maps page.

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Master of Mayhem

Lithuania was always an alluring target for the Sword Brothers and, later, the Teutonic Knights. But Lithuania was vast, its people resilient and the wars waged against its dukes were long and bloody. After the Sword Brothers had conquered Livonia and Estonia they turned their gaze towards the endless forests of Lithuania, expecting another glorious crusade against the pagans.

After the fall of Dorpat to the Sword Brothers in 1224 and the cessation of hostilities with Novgorod, Bishop Albert had established peace throughout Livonia and Estonia. His crusader kingdom had expanded to cover an area from the River Dvina north to the gates of Reval. But that place was still under Danish control and there was a festering resentment between the Danes and the Sword Brothers.

Estonia may be at peace but Conrad Wolff, now a master of the Sword Brothers, seethes with anger against a wrong committed against him and his friends. The aftermath will lead to Livonia and Estonia being dragged into international politics as the Papacy intervenes in the affairs of the Sword Brothers and Livonia.

Meanwhile a frustrating war continues against the pagan Lithuanians in the south, a conflict that puts a severe strain on the resources of the Sword Brothers. But it is in the north where a crisis suddenly develops, resulting in Conrad and his order facing annihilation in the freezing wastes. Against this dire backdrop Conrad is forced to make a decision that will have major ramifications for both him and the Sword Brothers. And in the aftermath of that decision a giant of the crusader kingdom in the Baltic leaves the stage.

‘Master of Mayhem’ is the fourth volume of the Crusader Chronicles and continues the story of Conrad Wolff and the Baltic Crusade in the first half of the thirteenth century.

Maps of Livonia in the thirteenth century, the Lithuanian kingdoms and the tribal lands of Estonia can be found on the maps page.

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Castellan

As the Sword Brothers achieved military success against the pagans in what is now Latvia and Estonia, they consolidated not only the crusader state of Livonia but also their own reputation. By 1220 they had become a major force in the Baltic and Riga was on the way to being a great trading city. But King Valdemar of Denmark was determined to conquer Estonia, which put him on a collision course with the Sword Brothers. The latter were determined that they should rule from the Dvina to the Gulf of Finland and were not averse to backing up their claims with military force. The actual number of brother knights in the Sword Brothers was always relatively small, but they were a military élite that were among the finest soldiers in the whole of Europe. This made them dangerous and resourceful foes, which Valdemar and others would discover to their cost.

Outraged by the behaviour of the Sword Brothers, King Valdemar has placed a blockade on the whole of Livonia. With the Danes having a stranglehold over Livonia the crusader state is slowly dying, made worse by an outbreak of pestilence at Riga. But when the Danish king invades the island of Oesel the wheel of fate turns and Valdemar finds himself at the mercy of the Sword Brothers and Conrad Wolff, the man he wanted to have executed.

The Sword Brothers and Conrad’s Army of the Wolf save King Valdemar who lifts the blockade, thus saving Livonia. But Conrad has many enemies and an act of wickedness causes conflict to flare up on Livonia’s eastern borders that will threaten not only the crusader state but also the life of Conrad himself.

And south of the River Dvina, among the Lithuanian kingdoms, a great power arises that will have grave consequences for not only Conrad but also for the whole order of Sword Brothers.

This, the third volume of the Crusader Chronicles, continues the story of Conrad Wolff and the Baltic Crusade in the first quarter of the thirteenth century.

Maps of Livonia in the thirteenth century, the Lithuanian kingdoms and the tribal lands of Estonia can be found on the maps page.

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Companions

When I finished ‘Carrhae’ I realised that although I had written about the Parthian Empire, I had omitted to pen anything about gladiators. Ever since I saw Kirk Douglas and Jean Simmons in ‘Spartacus’ when I was a small boy, a film that made a lasting impression on me (or perhaps it was just the delightful Jean Simmons that did that), I was fascinated by the idea of men fighting to the death in an arena before thousands of paying customers. So I began thinking of how I could combine this interest with the Parthian series that I had just completed, both as a way of paying homage to Spartacus and revisiting Pacorus and the Kingdom of Dura.

I was fortunate in that in my efforts to span the period between the Spartacus slave revolt (73–71BC) and the Battle of Carrhae (53BC), I was forced to leave a three-year gap between the end of ‘Parthian Dawn’ and the beginning of ‘Parthian Vengeance’. So I decided to write a story that took place in that period and that had at its core not only Pacorus but also the gladiatorial games that were held annually at the city of Ephesus in present-day western Turkey. 

I have to confess that it was good revisiting my old friends Pacorus, Domitus, Dobbai, Surena and Gallia, as well as finally being able to write about gladiators and their bizarre, horrific and unique world. I hope people like the result.

A map of the eastern Mediterranean in the 1st century BC can be found on the maps page.

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Army of the Wolf

The crusade in the Baltic never enjoyed the fame and glamour of its equivalent in the Holy Land, not least because crusading in the swamps and forests of Estonia and Livonia paled beside the attraction of fighting in the land where Christ himself had lived and preached. This second volume in the Crusader Chronicles has as its backdrop the problems the Bishop of Riga faced recruiting crusaders following the defeat and death of Lembit at the Battle of St Matthew’s Day in 1217. Desperate, the bishop made a fateful error in asking for the help of King Valdemar of Denmark, at the time the most powerful monarch in northern Europe. The subsequent Danish presence in Estonia would cause the Sword Brothers many problems, which they were not averse to settling with violence. And Riga also started to interfere in Lithuanian affairs, which would prove to be equally fateful for the Sword Brothers. This, then, is the setting for the ‘Army of the Wolf’…

The Sword Brothers have won a great victory and the implacable enemy of their order is dead. There is now nothing to stop the Bishop of Riga from marching north and seizing the whole of Estonia. But in the moment of triumph the seeds of future difficulties have been sown, for the bishop’s German crusaders believe that the fight against the pagans has been won and thus there is no reason for them to stay in Livonia. Faced with a lack of holy warriors to complete his task, the bishop is forced to beg the ambitious King Valdemar of Denmark for military aid, a request that will have disastrous consequences.

While he is away Conrad Wolff, now a veteran brother knight of the Sword Brothers, his reputation high among pagans and crusaders alike, is sent to Ungannia whose ruler Kalju is an ally of the Sword Brothers. There a trivial incident escalates into a full-scale war that results in a great barbarian horde sweeping into Livonia and threatening the very existence of the crusader state.

Conrad is sent on a desperate mission to raise a ragtag army to delay the invaders long enough so Riga can summon crusader knights from Germany. Conrad and his companions soon find themselves battling Cumans, Russians, Lithuanians and Danes as their motley force – the Army of the Wolf – takes the field against the many enemies of Livonia.

This, the second volume of the Crusader Chronicles, continues the story of Conrad Wolff and the Baltic Crusade in the first quarter of the thirteenth century.

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The Sword Brothers

The crusades in the medieval period have always fascinated me, none more so than the campaigns of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia and Livonia. But the more I researched the exploits of these German warrior monks I became aware that before they began crusading in the Baltic there was another, smaller military order that has been largely overshadowed by the more famous Teutonic Brethren. This now almost forgotten military order was the Sword Brothers, established by the Bishop of Riga at the beginning of the thirteenth century.

Many of the battles and campaigns of the Sword Brothers were recorded in ‘The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia’, a tome written by a priest who served Bishop Albert, lived in Livonia in the thirteenth century and undoubtedly talked with members of the Sword Brothers about their crusading exploits. His vivid recollections inspired me to write this book that will hopefully help to shine a light on the exploits of the Sword Brothers in what is modern-day Latvia and Estonia.

The main character, Conrad Wolff, travels to Livonia in 1210 and thereafter becomes involved in the order’s battles and campaigns to spread the word of God to the indigenous pagan population. But as the power of the Sword Brothers grows the order comes into conflict with the Russians in the east, the Lithuanians in the south as well as the Estonian tribes in the north, who have united under the warlord Lembit.
This is the first volume of the story of Conrad Wolff, the Sword Brothers and the Northern Crusade in the first half of the thirteenth century.

For ease of reference there are a number of maps on this site that show the location of places referred to in the text as well as the location of the tribal kingdoms in Estonia and Lithuania.

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Carrhae

'Carrhae' is the fourth and final instalment in the Parthian Chronicles, the adventures of King Pacorus of Dura, and follows on from 'Parthian Vengeance'. The journey that took Pacorus from Parthia to Italy to fight by the side of Spartacus and then back to Parthia again reaches its conclusion with him again meeting Marcus Licinius Crassus.

The great Parthian Civil War is over, leaving behind an empire exhausted by years of bloodshed. After the murderous Battle of Susa Pacorus has returned to Dura with a heavy heart, hoping that Parthia can at last look forward to peace and a united empire under King of Kings Orodes. But no sooner have hostilities ended than Armenia, the client state of Rome, declares war on the empire and its king, Tigranes, unleashes his army against Parthia. In reply Pacorus must march north to defend Hatra, the city of his birth, against the Armenians. But before he can do so he is forced to deal with another enemy army threatening Dura's western frontier as the Romans seek to seize the caravan city of Palmyra.

Even Dura's mighty army cannot stave off a series of defeats as the enemies of Parthia circle the empire like hungry wolves. And Pacorus knows that Marcus Licinius Crassus is also marching east to extend Rome's rule from the Euphrates to the Indus and enslave the whole of Parthia.

The scene is set for a final showdown on the battlefield of Carrhae, a clash that will decide the destinies of two empires and two men.

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Parthian Vengeance

‘Parthian Vengeance’ is the third instalment in the Parthian Chronicles, the adventures of King Pacorus of Dura, and follows on from ‘Parthian Dawn’.

The brooding peace that hangs over Parthia is shattered by a murder that triggers the final confrontation that will decide who rules the empire. Pacorus leads his veteran army east to destroy once and for all the forces of his implacable enemies, Mithridates and Narses. But his foes have been waiting for this moment and what Pacorus believes will be a short campaign will turn into a long war that will culminate in the bloodiest battle in the history of the Parthian Empire.

Once again Pacorus gathers his faithful companions around him for the life-or-death struggle with the treacherous Mithridates and the ambitious Narses – Domitus, the ex-Roman centurion and now general of Dura’s army; Gallia, his fierce warrior queen; Orodes, the landless prince; Prince Malik of the Agraci; and Surena, destined to become one of the greatest Parthian commanders of all time.

And while Parthia tears itself apart the Armenians begin to covet the empire’s lands, while to the west the black cloud of Roman power envelops Syria and Judea and edges ever close to the kingdom of Dura itself.

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Parthian Dawn

This is a sequel to 'The Parthian' and is set in the time after the Spartacus slave revolt. When I was approaching the end of 'The Parthian' I realised that I did not want to kill off the lead character, Prince Pacorus, so I had him and his band of followers escape from Italy and make it back to Parthia.

'Parthian Dawn' continues the story of Pacorus and his new wife Gallia, the Gallic woman he fell in love with during his time with Spartacus. The backdrop to the story is the civil war that breaks out in the Parthian Empire in the aftermath of the death of the aged King of Kings, the man who ruled the other kings of the empire. The Parthian Empire was one of the two superpowers of the ancient world, the other being Rome, but surprisingly little is known about Parthia, which at its height occupied an area from the River Euphrates in modern-day Iraq to the foothills of the Himalayas.

 

"This book carries on where the first left off – Prince Parcorus is back in his homeland, now made a king with his very own kingdom. His time in Italy, fighting alongside Spartacus, has clearly paid dividends as he puts his foes to the sword with alarming regularity. Juggling a double enemy of the dastardly Romans and the treacherous rival Parthian kings, this book again bowls along at a cracking pace.

"There is sufficient military detail in the book to make the reader feel that Darman has done his homework well whilst recognising that this is a work of fiction based on an ancient civilisation away from the epicentre of the Roman Empire."

 British Army Rumour Service review, February 2012

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The Parthian


My interest in Spartacus and his slave revolt began when I was a boy and watched Kirk Douglas and Jean Simmons in Stanley Kubrick's film Spartacus. It was, and still is, one of my favourite films. The years passed and my interest in Spartacus grew. I wanted to write a book about the man and his heroic uprising that shook the Roman Republic and whose name lives on over 2000 years later. The result is 'The Parthian', my first novel and indeed my first ebook. The tale of Spartacus is told through the eyes of Pacorus, a Parthian who is captured fighting the Romans and sent to Italy in chains. Thereafter he is freed by Spartacus and his escaped gladiators on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and joins the slave revolt. What follows is a saga of war, honour, blood and loyalty as the might of Rome closes in on Spartacus and his companions.

 

"Darman has researched this novel extremely well, as one would expect with his military non-fiction background. This detail is meshed with great story telling which flows along with great gusto. Less for the fact that this book is about a Parthian rather than a Roman, I would describe it as a 'Roman Sharpe'. Darman's style is similar to and as good as Bernard Cornwell's, one of my favourite authors."

British Army Rumour Service review, June 2011

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'The Parthian' to be published by Eksmo, one of Russia's largest publishing houses, in December 2015

 


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