By Benjamin Rose

From Left: Regis, Lambert, Triss Merigold, Jaskier (Dandelion),  Zoltan Chivay, Geralt, Roach (horse), Ciri, Eskel, Yennefer, Roche, Jonny, and Shani as depicted in CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher: 10th Anniversary video.

The following page is intended as a thorough overview of the background and written source material of TheWitcher’s universe, and will be updated each season as the Netflix series progresses to limit spoilers. This page currently covers the first two Witcher story collections, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, as well as small aspects of the first Witcher novel, Blood of Elves. Key terms are bolded.

Editor’s Note


Set in the fictional world of the Continent, a patchwork of kingdoms settled by humans 1500 years1Counting 1000 years from the arrival of the Aen Seidhe and 500 from that of humans to the Continent. See Blood of Elves 174 and 269-270. after an event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres, the Witcher Saga spans a two decade or so timeline in the life of Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster-hunter and the titular “witcher” of the series. Like any epic fantasy series, with its intricate lore and thousands of pages of source material, it can be daunting for newcomers to get a grasp on quite exactly who is who and what the hell is going on in the “Witcherverse”. Don’t worry though! With this handy yet extensive background guide, we’ve given you your very own Brother Adleberg’s Bestiary 2 A textbook studied by young witchers, mentioned in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. on all things Witcher.

A Brief History of the Continent

Races and Race Relations of the Continent

Set on the western coast of an unnamed Continent, the world of The Witcher was originally ruled by the Aen Seidhe elves before humans arrived in waves five centuries prior to the narrative3Blood of Elves 269-270. During a series of conflicts spanning generations, the kingdoms of the Aen Seidhe were gradually destroyed, and their people subjugated. 

At the start of The Witcher narrative, the elves and other nonhumans, such as dwarves, halfings, and gnomes, live in a state of racial tension with humans that frequently erupts into violent pogroms. Often discriminated against and housed in ghettos, many nonhumans have nonetheless slowly begun to assimilate into and gain a measure of respect from human society. For the elves, who generally consider themselves culturally superior to their human counterparts, this assimilation has come the hardest and is often resisted, though interbreeding between assimilated elves and humans is not unheard of.

 At the start of the main Saga, many young Aen Seidhe, at the instigation of Nilfgaard, join commandos of Scoia’tael, or “Squirrels” in Elder Speech, and begin an insurgency against the kingdoms of the North with the hope of reclaiming their land, supporting the breakaway kingdom of Dol Blathanna, and driving the accursed “dhoine” into the sea. Some readers (including the Editor of this blog) have long interpreted this conflict as an allegory of the decades-long hostilities between the Palestinians and the State of Israel, and neither side is portrayed in admiring terms in the text. For their acts of terrorism the Scoia’tael often suffer hideous torture, exterminations, and execution in response, with assimilated nonhumans caught in the crossfire, demonized as both fift columnists and collaborators by the combatans of either race. Notable Scoia’tael commanders include Toruviel, Filavandrel, Yaevinn, and Faoiltiarna.

Political Geography of the Continent

The majority of the action in The Witcher is set in the independent Northern Realms of the Continent and the South East of the Empire of Nilfgaard. At the Southern border of the Northern realms rule formidable monarchs such as Queen Meve of Lyria and Rivia and Queen Calanthe, called “The Lioness of Cintra”, Ciri’s grandmother. In the center of the North rules King Foltest of Temeria, who employs Geralt to cure his daughter of a curse in the debut short story of the series, 1986’s “The Witcher”. To the west lie several minor kingdoms surrounding Brokilon Forest, the home of the Dryads, led by Lady Eithne. To the Northwest lie also Redania (the realm of King Vizimir, the spymaster Sigismund Dijkstra, and the eminent sorceress Phillipa Eilhart ) as well as  Kovir and Poviss, the richest kingdoms in the North, which were once provinces of Redanian. In the east lie Aedirn, whose capital, Vengerberg, is Yennefer’s home, and the Kingdom of Kaedwen, the home of the witcher stronghold Kaer Morhen.

The South of the Continent is dominated by Nilfgaard, ruled for much of the series by its ruthless emperor Emhyr Var Emreis, called “The White Flame Dancing on the Graves of his Foes”, who wages several wars to conquer the North. On the East of Nilfgaard lies the natural boundary of the Korath Desert, called the Frying Pan, to the further East of which lies the exotic steppe lands  of Zerrikania, whose people revere and worship dragons. West of Nilfgaard in the Great Sea lie the Isles of Skellige,  home to a marauding folk based on the Vikings and Celts. Notable Skelligers include King Eist Tuirseach of Cintra and Jarl Crach An Craite. Far across the Sea lie the kingdoms of Ofir and Zangvebar, implied to roughly correspond to the Middle East and Africa.

Witchers, Sorceresses, Sorcerers, and Magic


A witcher is a professional monster hunter, trained since childhood in swordplay and conditioned through a grueling physical regimen to endure a series of mutagenic transformations known as the Trial of the Grasses and the Changes. Though a full-fledged witcher will display strength, speed, reflexes, and stamina far beyond that of the most physically fit human, the combat style of the witchers is acrobatic in nature and emphasizes finesse rather than brute strength in order to prepare them against deadly monsters whose physical prowess far exceeds that of humans. Should you choose to read the books, expect to see the word ‘pirouette’. A lot.

Witchers are capable of casting basic magic through the use of Signs, as well as heightening their senses and reflexes through the consumption of alchemical potions that would prove deadly to normal folk, for along with their greatly increased metabolism, A witcher’s heart beats at ¼ the speed of a normal man.4Sword of Destiny 350 These abilities are hard won however, as only three to four apprentices survive the training process. Further, the inherent danger of their profession means that most witchers eventually die in the line of duty, leading to the aphorism, “No witcher’s ever died in his own bed”5From The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, paraphrasing  a line from Blood of Elves 133. In the universe of The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia is the most famous and, arguably, the most powerful witcher alive, due to the ballads of his deeds spread by the poet Jaskier (Dandelion), and the added mutations he was subjected to due to his exceptional resistance to the Changes. It is stated in “The Voice of Reason” frame story from The Last Wish that of those in his class subjected to additional mutations during the Changes, Geralt was the only young witcher to survive.6The Last Wish 147

 Witchers in theory observe a strict principle of political neutrality, and young witchers are discouraged from “playing knight-errant”7The Last Wish 148. Nonetheless, Geralt often feels compelled to intervene in the problems of ordinary folk, and his firm commitment to an individual code of honor leads him to stand on principle at great personal risk on several occasions. Nonetheless, these decisions seldom end happily for all involved.

 Several common and spiteful misconceptions on the nature of witchers are held among both mages and the general public, including that their mutagenic transformations render them heartless killers stripped of emotion, and that they carry a silver sword for monsters and an iron for humans. The first allegation is patently false, while the second is a simplification:

“As there are monsters who can be struck down only with a silver blade, so there are those for whom iron is lethal.”8The Last Wish, Page 145


Mages in the “Witcherverse” are trained at the schools of Aretuza and Ban Ard on the Isle of Thanedd. Influential power brokers on the Continent, the sorcerers of the North are governed by two bodies of ascending importance, the Chapter and the Council, each numbering five sorcerers or sorceresses9The Time of Contempt 118. Though they created the methods  by which witchers are enhanced by mutation, there exists a professional enmity between witchers and mages with distinct class overtones. Witchers look on mages as treacherous elitists worthy of contempt, an attitude reciprocated in mages’ disdain for witchers’ limited magical abilities.10Sword of Destiny 102-109

 Mages often serve as advisors to monarchs in both the North and Nilfgaard. In the North, both male and female mages alter their appearances magically in order to increase their employment prospects by appealing to gendered conceptions of beauty. Males prefer to halt their aging process in their middle forties in order to confer an appearance of wizened dignity, while females prefer to freeze their appearances in their twenties in order to cultivate an aspect of youth, the better to bend male monarchs to their wills. For female mages, who are typically recruited from unmarriageable girls of the bourgeois and noble classes, magical alteration is often used to enhance sex appeal and remove blemishes and deformities, as described in “The Last Wish”. Geralt makes the following reflections upon this practice in The Last Wish

“The result was pseudo-pretty women with the angry and cold eyes of ugly girls. Girls who couldn’t forget their ugliness had been covered by the mask of magic only for the prestige of their profession.”11The Last Wish 303

Sorceresses in the Witcher are usually, though not always, rendered infetile. Geralt himself was the bastard child of a sorceress, Visenna, who is encountered briefly in the short story “Something More”, and featured in the non-canonical spinoff work “The Road With No Return”. Anguish over her infertility forms a prominent aspect of Yennefer of Vengerberg’s character arc and the instability of her relationship with Geralt.

Monsters, Magic, and The Power

Magic in the witcher is the product of a natural force known as the “Power”, which is channeled through the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire. Of these elements, fire is by far the most powerful and volatile, and possesses the ability to drive its wielder mad12The Time of Contempt 281-284 and Blood of Elves 381. The nature of magic as Art, Science, and Chaos is described at length by Yennefer in a monologue in Blood of Elves Chapter Seven. The practice of magic is considered and elite discipline, and guarded jealously by the sorcerers and sorceresses of the North.13Sword of Destiny, “A Shard of Ice”, and Blood of Elves 366-3368

1500 years prior to the events of the story, and event known as the Conjunction of the Spheres stranded monsters in the world of the continent, leading to the creation of the witcher caste as a countermeasure. Yet not all “monsters” are inherently harmful, and many, such as the higher vampire Emil Regis Rohellec-Terzieff Godefroy, first introduced in Baptism of Fire and referred to simply as ‘Regis’, are not only sentient, but benign. Several times throughout the series Geralt is criticized or ridiculed, usually by Jaskier, for excessive scrupulousness in his refusal to hunt benign monsters for a living.14Notably, at Sword of Destiny 190

Major Characters of the Witcher

Note: This section is currently updated through Chapter 3 of Blood of Elves and contains spoilers for Season 1.

Geralt of Rivia

The bastard son of the sorceress Visenna, Geralt is the titular Witcher of the franchise, a consummate professional whose idiosyncratic code of honor leads him to intervene on the side of the downtrodden despite his pose of neutrality. Sensitive but emotionally repressed, Geralt’s facade of stoicism conceals an injured romantic spirit plagued by alienation and lingering doubts of whether the Trial of the Grasses and the Changes stripped him of humanity. Geralt’s psyche is haunted by the ubiquity of death in his experience, having lost many friends and slain many foes, and a reluctance to believe in his inexorable destiny. After initially rejecting her pleas to be trained as a witcher, Geralt evolves into a father figure and mentor to Ciri following the Massacre of Cintra. He maintains a fraught relationship with the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg, with whom his life and death are inexorably tied after the events of “The Last Wish”. Geralt is identifiable by his signature white hair, the result of pigmentation bleaching from the additional  Changes he was subjected to as an adolescent Witcher candidate. In Netflix’s The Witcher, he is portrayed by Henry Cavill.

Cirilla Ellen Fiona Riannon (“Ciri”)

 A princess of Cintra bound by destiny to Geralt under the Law of Surprise, Ciri is the daughter of the deceased prince and princess Duny and Pavetta, who drowned in a storm off the coast of Skellige. Naive but headstrong, Ciri first encountered Geralt in Brokilon Forest after running away from home to escape an arranged marriage. Rescued from death by Geralt and the dryad Braenn, Ciri was taken to the dryads’ capital to be transformed into a dryad herself, but the process failed. After leaving Brokilon, Ciri was left with Mousesack and returned to Cintra by Geralt, who wished to spare her from the darkness of his destiny.

Some years later, Geralt rode to Cintra at Yennefer’s behest to claim Ciri for the School of the Wolf, but arrived to learn that Cintra had been devastated by the empire of Nilfgaard. Believing her dead, Geralt later encountered Ciri by chance and took her to Kaer Morhen to train as a witcher. She had survived the Massacre of Cintra by the intervention of Cahir, a Nilfgaardian intelligence officer who was sent by Emhyr Var Emreis to retrieve her from the city. She later survived on her own in the ravaged Cintran countryside before being taken in by peasants. Some months later, she had her fateful encounter with Geralt and rode for Kaer Morhen.

Ciri is a child of the Aen Hen Ichaer, commonly translated as the Elder Blood or Blood of Elves, making her a magical Source of potentially tremendous power. According to Ithlinne’s Prophecy, from the line of the Elder Blood will come a messianic king who will conquer the world and end the threat of the White Frost. Ciri is widely believed to be the future mother of such a king, and is sought by the rulers of the continent in order to be impregnated and bear the promised “Seed that will not be sown, but burst into flame.”15The Time of Contempt 155-156 She is portrayed by Freya Allan in Netflix’s The Witcher. Ciri is described as having “mousy”, “ashen”, or “flaxen” colored hair and huge emerald eyes. Her signature facial scar from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not received till late in the written series, where it is described as significantly more disfiguring than its counterpart in the game.

Yennefer of Vengerberg 

Among the most powerful magicians on the Continent and the youngest member of the governing body of Northern mages, Yennefer is a wealthy, refined, but caustic sorceress whose abrasive personality and cold civility wins her few friends. “The ultimate survivor”, in the words of Anya Chalottra, Yennefer endured vicious abuse as a child on account of being born with multiple deformities, including a prominent hunchback.16The Last Wish 341-342, The Tower of the Swallow 319-320 At 74 years old by the start of the series, Yennefer maintains a jaded, cynical, and imperious demeanor to mask her many insecurities and anguish over her infertility. She maintains a fraught relationship with Geralt after the events of her introductory short story, “The Last Wish”, characterized by domineering behavior, sexual jealousy, and occasional flashes of infidelity and physical abuse. 

For many years, Yennefer carries on an affair with her childhood lover, the sorcerer Istredd, before her relationship with both him and Geralt collapses in indecision. At the conclusion of Sword of Destiny, Yennefer beseeches Geralt to return to Cintra in order to claim Ciri, stating that their relationship can never prosper while she remains childless, and eventually becomes a mother figure and mentor to Ciri when Geralt seeks her out to help Ciri manage her magical abilities.17Blood of Elves Chapters Three and Seven Yennefer’s physical appearance is defined by several distinguishing traits, including violet eyes, a tempest of black curls, a tendency to dress in black and white, and a choker necklace inset with diamonds and an obsidian star. She is often noted to wear perfume scented with lilac and gooseberries.18The Last Wish 289 being the first of innumerable instances. She is portrayed by Chalottra.


Known to English-speaking audiences as Dandelion (Though his nickname actually translates to “Buttercup” from the Polish), Julian Alfred Pancratz, Viscount de Lettenhove, is Geralt of Rivia’s closest friend and traveling companion. Bumbling, sardonic, lecherous, and irreverent, Jaskier is the source of many  misadventures in the travels of Geralt of Rivia. Despite his adolescent personality and tendency to beclown himself, Jaskier acts as a pragmatic foil to Geralt, frequently accusing the latter of self-righteous pomposity and excessive philosophizing, accusations not entirely devoid of truth. By the start of the main saga of novels, Jaskier is in his forties but looks ten years younger, and is often mistaken for an elf19Blood of Elves 250, Baptism of Fire 50. Much of Geralt’s uncommon renown as a witcher is due to Jaskier’s romanticization of Geralt’s life and exploits in his ballads20Blood of Elves Chapter One. In Netflix’s The Witcher, he is portrayed by Joey Batey.21


An exiled princess of Creyden  born under the Curse of the Black Sun (said to render its victims malevolent sociopaths)  Renfri was a bandit who pursued her former tormenter, Stregobor, to the town of Blaviken. After Geralt declined to accept a contract on Renfri’s head, she seduced Geralt and duped him into believing she had renounced her quest for vengeance. When Geralt realized he had been conned and Renfri intended to massacre hostages until Stregobor delivered himself into her hands, Geralt slew Renfri and her accomplices in the market square, earning the hate of the terrified townspeople and the contemptuous sobriquet “The Butcher of Blaviken”22The Last Wish 149. Renfri inspired Syanna of Toussaint in CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Blood and Wine.23This is clear based on references to Renfri and the Curse of the Black Sun in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Blood and Wine The events of her short story, “The Lesser Evil” are depicted in the pilot of the Netflix adaptation, where she is portrayed by Emma Appelton.24

Queen Calanthe, “The Lioness of Cintra”

See article, 

 Mother of Princess Paveta and grandmother of Ciri, Calanthe is the iron-willed and acid-tongued queen of Cintra. After hiring Geralt to kill the Urcheon of Erlenwald during a feast arranging the betrothal of Pavetta, Calanthe reluctantly allows Duny, the formerly cursed Urcheon, to marry Pavetta, and Geralt to claim Pavetta’s unborn child as his future apprentice.

 The widow of King Roegner of Cintra, much of Calanthe’s life is spent securing her power against opponents within the Cintran aristocracy and furthering the power of her kingdom. She is an accomplished warrior and military commander, and refuses marriage until she can establish a union with Eist Tuirseach of Skellige that leaves her in control of the mechanisms of state, as Cintrian law prohibits the rule of queens regnant, posing a persistent existential threat to her power. 

 Calanthe leads the Cintrians in a doomed stand against the invading Nilfgaardians at the start of the main saga. Mortally wounded during the Battle of Marnadal, she dies by suicide during the massacre of the Cintrian nobility, her legacy carried on as a rallying cry by Cintrian refugees eager to avenge her death and reclaim their homeland. She is portrayed by Jodhi May in Netflix’s The Witcher. For an in-depth analysis of Calanthe, see Ellie Sullum’s article, “Calanthe: Lioness of Cintra” above.25Blood of Elves 279-281

Lady Eithne

The queen of the dryads of Brokilon Forest, Eithne leads the dryads in their age-old defense of their land against the encroaching human kingdoms. By her command, the dryads of Brokilon slay any human who ventures into the forest and abduct human girls to turn them into dryads through magic. She recognizes no human authority and considers cleared areas of the Forest her demesne, leading to frequent border skirmishes. Nonetheless, she respects Geralt of Rivia and tolerates his presence in her forest, having granted  him safe passage to Duen Canell, the capital of her kingdom, on several occasions. Eithne attempts to turn Ciri into a dryad, but relents when the waters meant to wipe her memory fail. Against Geralt’s admonition that “something is ending” and the dryads must make their peace with human supremacy before they are wiped out, Eithne maintains that while a single dryad and a single tree remain in Brokilon, they will fight to the death.26Sword of Destiny 247-313, “The Sword of Destiny”

Mousesack (“Ermion”)

 A druid employed by Queen Calanthe, Mousesack is present at the feast where the power of Pavetta’s Elder Blood is first demonstrated and her unborn daughter pledged to Geralt of Rivia. He later retrieves Ciri from Geralt after they leave Brokilon Forest. Sometime earlier, Clanthe had ordered him to kill Ciri to prevent her being claimed by Geralt, but relented at the last minute. Mousesack attempts to persuade Geralt to train Ciri as a witcher at the end of the short story “Sword of Destiny”, but is rebuffed by Geralt, who wishes to spare her from such a  life. A comparatively minor character, Mousesacks role is expanded in The Witcher 3:Wild Hunt, where he has become chief druid of Skellige and feuds with Yennefer in her attempts to find Ciri. In the game his name is changed to “Ermion”. He is portrayed by Adam Levy in the Netflix adaptation.27The Last Wish, “A Question of Price”; Sword of Destiny, “The Sword of Destiny” and “Something More”.

Triss Merigold

Well-known to CD Projekt Red fans as Geralt’s chief love interest in the CD PRojekt Red Trilogy, Triss is a supporting but important character whose personality and appearance differs in the books. Having seduced Geralt on one occasion during an interregnum in his relationship with Yennefer, Triss falls hopelessly in love with Geralt, an affection he is incapable of returning. Though first mention in “The Last Wish” and mistakenly stated to have died during the Battle of Sodden in “Something More” from the second story collection, Sword of Destiny, Triss first appears on page at the start of Blood of Elves, after being summoned by the witchers of Kaer Morhen to interpret a series of prophetic visions afflicting Ciri, among which is a vague prophecy of Geralt and the witcher Coen’s deaths. She is portrayed by Anna Shaffer in the Netflix adaptation.28The Last Wish 294; Sword of Destiny 358-359; Blood of Elves Chapters Two and Three.


 The leader of a small community of elves slowly dying of hunger in “The Edge of the World”, Filavandrel kidnaps and prepares to execute Geralt and Jaskier for sabotaging his syphoning of supplies from a local human community on the edge of Dol Blathanna. He disdains humans and engages in a bitter dialogue with Geralt over the civilization warfare between elves and humans, resolving to “look for you, Gwenbleidd” on the day the elves descend from the mountains to die honorably in battle. He is dissuaded from killing Geralt and Jaskier by the intervention of Dana Meadbh, the Queen of the Fields, a chthonic deity who disguises herself as a teenage wisewoman named Lylle amongst the local villagers. In later works, he becomes an advisor to Francesca Findabair, queen of the Free Elves of Dol Blathanna.He is portrayed by Tom Canton in the Netflix adaptation.29The Last Wish, “The Edge of the World”, and The Time of Contempt 232-234

Villentretenmerth/Borch Three-Jackdaws

A golden dragon capable of shape shifting(much like Saskia the Dragonslayer from The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings) Villentretenmerth travels the world in disguise as the knight-errant Borch Three-Jackdaws, accompanied by his Zerrikanian bodyguards and sex partners Téa and Véa. Of a philosophical disposition, Borch drinks with Geralt after the completion of a basilisk contract, discussing the eternal conflict between order and chaos. Later, he joins Geralt, Jaskier, and Yennefer on a hunting expedition for a green dragon and, revealing his true form, saves the trio from a band of mercenaries known as the Reavers.30Sword of Destiny, “The Bounds of Reason”


A childhood friend of Yennefer, Istredd becomes Geralt’s rival in the story “A Shard of Ice”. He denigrates Geralt as an emotionless mutant before challenging him to a duel to the death over Yennefer, knowing the survivor will earn nothing but Yennefer’s hate. When Yennefer abandons them both, Geralt refuses Istredd’s challenge in disgust for the sorcerer, telling him to hang himself in a stable from his reins. Istredd is not seen again in the books, though he is mentioned briefly in Baptism of Fire. In the show, he is portrayed by Royce Pierrson, and his early relationship with Yen depicted on screen, where he is also shown to have been a pupil of Stregobor during his apprenticeship.31Sword of Destiny, “A Shard of Ice”, and

The Witcher Saga Reading Guide

The following is a simple guide to the chronological order of The Witcher series. It is written to eschew major spoilers and will be updated prior to each season. Note that as The Last Wish ( 1993) replaced The Witcher (1990) as the first anthology of short stories, it is chronologically prior to Sword of Destiny, which was published in Poland a year earlier. New readers often mistake Blood of Elves for the first book, as it is the first book in the main “Saga” of novels, but it is actually the third in the series overall. The Witcher originated as a series of twelve short stories written over a six year period between 1986 and 1992. Between 1994 and 1997, Sapkowski wrote the main Witcher Saga at the rate of a novel a year before taking two years to compose the final Witcher novel, The Lady Of The Lake, published in 1999. In 2012, Sapkowski published a so-called “sidequel” set during the timeline of The Last Wish called Season of Storms. The series was not completely translated into English until 2018, and Sapkowski has hinted at publishing a ninth Witcher work in the future. It should also be noted that The Tower of the Swallow’s title is mistranslated as The Tower of Swallows in Orbit’s U.S. editions of The Witcher series.32;

The Last Wish

The Last Wish comprises the first six stories featuring Geralt of Rivia, told out of chronological order (which remains largely unspecified), and introduces the basic themes of the series, as well as major recurring characters such as Jaskier and Yennefer. Ciri’s role in the series is foreshadowed.

Sword of Destiny

Sword of Destiny establishes Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer as the main trio of the subsequent saga, deepening the characterization of Geralt and Yennefer in the process as well as setting up the events of the main saga in its final story, “Something More”.

Blood of Elves

Blood of Elves begins the main Witcher Saga. Ciri becomes a major character in her own right as she is trained as a witcher and sorceress, while Nilfgaard recovers from its defeat at Sodden Hill and a race begins to locate Queen Calanthe’s heir, Child of the Elder Blood and the Lion Cub of Cintra. Antagonists such as Vilgefortz of Roggeveen and Emhyr Var Emreis are introduced.

The Time of Contempt

Baptism of Fire

The Tower of the Swallow

The Lady of the Lake

Season of Storms

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