Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
Ruins of Irnslo
A clang of metal rings through the air; I thrust my arm forward, freeing my blade, and knock him off balance. I kick his stomach and he topples over backward. I dart over him and strike the final blow. He will get no second chance on my watch.
A war cry resounds behind me. I whip around and see a broadsword, being gripped by two green hands, high in the air. He swings the blade at me. I dodge to the left and uppercut him with a swift motion. He drops to the ground lifelessly. The clinking of battle echoes out far to our left. I glance at the soldiers fighting on the frontlines. They’re center stage in this battle. We have something more important to do. This is what I live for. This is why I’m here. I’m so glad we took this job. I hear massive footsteps behind me, and a massive figure blocks out the evening sun. I turn around, to see an Orc towering over me. He raises a club, larger than I am, skyward. The club plummets and I hop out of the way at the last second. The ground quakes at the impact forcing me to struggle to maintain my footing. There’s no surviving a blow like that. The Orc effortlessly lifts the club and swings the club my way. I raise my shield in defense, but the impact sweeps me off my feet and sends me barreling through the air. I crash on the ground next to the body of a headless Goblin. My shield-arm rings in pain. Using the fist of my armed hand, I push myself to a stand. The Orc charges and roars; the club is high over his head. I bend down and ready my sword. I have to strike him before he crushes me. The Orc nears and readies his swing. I take a step forward.
A bolt of lightning soars overhead and zaps the Orc in the face. The electricity seizes the Orc’s muscles and he tumbles to the ground. I take the opening and strike the back of his exposed head. Orcish pride. A weapon to be feared, but also to take advantage of. I turn behind me catching the glimpse of the familiar purple robes behind me, and that leather-bound tome floating next to his head.
“I owe you one, Old man.” I swing the orange ichor off in my blade in a flourish.
“Oh? Shall I add it to the list, then?” Borgier taunts. His hands glow with ethereal yellow energy; he brings his hands together and lightning arcs between his hands. A Goblin wails out behind him. I catch the glimpse of a curved blade, so I dash between the two and catch the blow with my shield. I strike the Goblin with my sword and drop him. I turn my attention to Borgier behind me.
“Nope.” I smirk. I glance about us. “That seems to be the last of them-” The echoes of battle still sing out from the center of the battlefield. “-in our immediate area, anyways.” I continue.
“Then let’s not waste any more time. The Ruins of Irnslo is just ahead.” Borgier points to the stone tower in the distance.
“And that’s where our target lies.” I say and move across the torn battlefield.
I crawl through the thorny brush, keeping a low profile among the trees and shrubs. With that battle going on, no one will suspect an attack from behind. Not that I’d ever align with them, but the kingdom of Ashyra seems to be home to a master tactician. I burst out of the thick bramble. In the distance, across a barren plain, is the entrance to the ruins. Wise of him to set up camp here. He’s close enough to the battle to issue commands, but it’d be a pain for the soldiers to get to. I smirk. Unfortunately for him, we’re not ordinary soldiers. The pale orange stone tower blocks out the moon. The navy sky, speckled with stars, is clear tonight. Perfect for ambushing. Small flames flicker in front of the tower’s entrance. Of course, it wouldn’t be left unguarded.
“Looks like it’s surrounded.” Borgier whispers as he inches up next to me. His, once floating, book now resting in his hands. I count the dancing flames in the distance.
“Four torches. You think it’s eight of them, or six?”
“Most likely six big ones, or eight little ones.” He mumbles.
“Doesn’t answer my question.” I move my attention back to the torches. One is higher up than the other three.
“I think we’re looking at six Goblins and two Orcs. There’s one tall torchlight.” I note.
“Shouldn’t be a problem.” Borgier looks my way. “Time to introduce ourselves?”
“It’d be rude not to.” I reply. Borgier and I move together across the plain. We stay low to the ground. It’d be a shame to ruin the surprise after all.
We’re halfway across the field when the enemy troops come into focus. Two goblins to a torch, along with one large Orc. Our numbers were off but in our favor. The Goblins chatter and bicker with one another. Two are currently fighting over a torch. Taking them by surprise will be no problem. The Orc, however, stands stoic and is blocking the doorway. He may be a problem. The Orc perks up and shifts in place. I halt and lift my hand to Borgier. He stops just behind me. The Orc takes a step forward and continues searching. The Goblins stop their bickering and join in as well. Were we too careless?
“Just go back to standing there, Pork-Chop.” Borgier whispers. The Orc stops, turns to the left and right, lets out a low grunt, and returns to his position. The Goblins follow suit and return to their respective posts.
“There’s a good pig.” He continues, but we remain motionless.
“Think you can hit him from here?” I ask as I turn towards him.
“I might be able to. Lightning will be drawn to his armor, so I can almost guarantee a hit, but that might not be effective. If I try with fire-” He holds his chin, but keeps his eye on target. “I think he’s too far away for that.”
“Better a hit than a miss.”
“You sure? We’re pretty far out.”
“More time for you to pick them off as they come our way, right?”
“That’s assuming they need to come to us.”
“Just do it.”
“I’d say: “your funeral” but it might be mine too.” He complains. He opens the leather tome and flips through the pages. He opens the book wide to a large rune covering both sheets of paper. He places his palm on the open book. The rune flashes yellow, then the light travels into his palm. He releases the book, and it closes on its own as it floats up by his head. He pulls a curled hand close to his chest. Lightning crawls over his fingertips. He thrusts his hand forward. A bolt of lightning tears across the field, emanating a monstrous roar and strikes the Orc in his breastplate. The Orc blasts into the door behind him, shattering it to pieces. The Goblins stand tall and look our way.
“Nothing like kicking the hornet’s nest, eh?” Borgier slowly rises to a stand. “Why am I crossing a field crouched at my age?” He grumbles as I hop to my feet. The Goblins yell fierce battle cries and charge.
“Here we go.” I reach behind me and draw my sword. Borgier’s hands crackle with electricity. A rush of footsteps covers the field as the Goblins approach. Lightning darts forth and strikes a Goblin down. Five left. Borgier lets another bolt fly and electrocutes a second Goblin.
“You’ve got this, old man.” I cheer him on.
“Keep calling me old and you’ll get the next one!” He retorts as he casts a third bolt into the dwindling forces. The bolt sails to the left of a Goblin, but bends and strikes his metal blade. The goblin seizes up and trips. The two remaining goblins are right in front of us.
My turn. The Goblins raise their blades skyward. I hop in front of Borgier and catch one blade with my shield and the other with my sword. I flick my sword arm forwards, and knock the Goblin off balance. I then shove the second Goblin off my shield. The Goblin to my right swings his blade at me, so I catch it with my own. The second Goblin roars and strikes his sword downward at me. I move out of the way, still locked in parry, and let him strike the blade in the dirt. I lift my foot and kick his hands off the blade. I place my shield behind my blade and, with both arms; I thrust the first Goblin off me. I whip around, blade first, and slash the unarmed Goblin down. I turn back to the first Goblin, lying on his back in the dirt, and run him through.
The Goblin who tripped is all that’s left. I turn my attention to him, and see he’s returned to his feet. He turns in fear and runs back for the safety of the tower.
“Borgier, if you’d be so kind.” I gesture to the terrified Goblin.
“Surely that’s not necessary, is it Agna?”
“Not this again.” I sigh.
“There’s no harm in letting one live.” I turn back to the fleeing Goblin, almost back to the tower.
“That one will turn into fifty if we leave him alone.” I retort and face him. How many times must we go over this?
“I’m sure it’ll be-” Borgier begins, but the slick whiff of an arrow rocketing by our heads interrupts our conversation; seconds after, the Goblin’s screeches in pain. I turn to the Goblin and find it laying face first in the dirt, with an arrow in the back of his neck. It came from behind us? I raise my shield and stand behind of Borgier, facing the trees that once hid us.
“Who’s there?” I call out but get no reply.
The bushes rustle and sticks crack among the dark trees. I catch a glimpse of movement, but I can’t make it out. A figure, clad in dark leather, steps out from the forest and into the field. A mask covers the figure’s face. Bow to the side, but a quiver full over arrows. We wouldn’t be standing if this person wanted us dead.
“Who are you?” I ask from behind my shield.
“I could ask the same of you.” A soft voice replies.
“Are you also a mercenary sent by the Kingdom of Ashyra?” Borgier questions.
“I’m here to kill the Elf wizard Caolan Reid.” The figure answers. “So, you are a mercenary. I figured we would’ve been enough for this job.” I smirk. “But, unfortunately for you, we aren’t fans of sharing. That money is ours.”
The figure breathes a heavy sigh. “I am no mercenary. And I do not care about money. I’m just here to kill Caolan.”
“In that case, it sounds like we could work together.” Borgier pipes up.
“I do not intend to work alongside a group that would make the upcoming battles more difficult.” The figure states, looking passed us to the Goblin with an arrow in its neck. “If you let one escape, that will lead to rallied troops. Did you intend on fighting an army alone?” The figure finishes and gives us a cold stare. I say nothing and turn, briefly, to Borgier with a smug look.
“I agree. I was just explaining that to my friend here, when you saved us the trouble. So, thanks for that.” I lower my shield.
“If you aren’t here as a mercenary, then why do you want to kill Caolan?” Borgier asks. The figure is silent for a second.
“Would the answer “revenge” suffice?” The figure responds.
“I ...suppose so. Again, it seems we have a common goal. Why not go after him together?” Borgier coaxes. The figure is quiet for a moment.
“Very well.” The figure answers, and walks passed us without another word. I look at Borgier and shrug my shoulders. We turn and follow behind the leather-clad archer.
“D-Do you have a name?” Borgier stammers.
“You don’t need it.” The Archer responds practically cutting Borgier off.
“I disagree. What am I supposed to call out in the middle of a battle, then?” I retort. The Archer wordlessly strides across the field with us in tow. “Alright, how about this- We’ll start, okay? My name is Agna.” I press on.
“I am Borgier.” He adds.
“We’re the mercenary team “Broken Regiment”. Maybe you’ve heard of us.”
“Nope.” The Archer answers.
“What? Oh, come on. You must have. What about the team who single-handedly killed four ogres with a storm of lightning from the heavens?” I ask, but The Archer ignores me, and continues forth to the tower.
“The number grows each time you ask that.” Borgier mumbles.
“Or...or- What about the group that decimated an army of Goblins by causing an avalanche? You haven’t heard of that either?” I go on, but The Archer is still silent.
“An army? More like-” Borgier begins. I face him as we move.
“Borgier...Shh.” I exasperatedly shush him. I turn back to The Archer ahead of us. “Fine, but I know you’ve heard about-”
The Archer holds up one finger as we approach the steps of the Tower. “Do you plan on swooning over the Goblins and Orcs with your tales of heroics?” Without waiting for an answer, The Archer continues. “If not, then keep quiet.” The Archer ascends the steps of the tower.
“I mean, if you think it’d work...” I murmur and follow behind.
The Archer walks beyond the shattered remains of the door and steps over the Orc. I hop over it as well and notice that his iron chest plate is charred in the center.
“Nice shot.” I whisper to Borgier as he clambers over the Orc. The back of the tower has deteriorated; moonlight shines through a gaping hole on the far wall.
“Next time, we take that entrance.” I say in a hushed tone to Borgier. I take a step forward. The frail, gray, wooden boards creak and buckle beneath my feet. This place isn’t as sturdy as we were told.
The Archer scans the empty room. Defense seems a little lax, but then that makes our jobs easier. A spiral staircase climbs the intact wall leading up to the floor above. If he’s not here, then he must be on the floor above. The Archer moves towards the staircase. I don’t know who that is, but I’ll give credit where it’s due. Anyone willing to scale those stairs either has a death wish, or fears nothing. Though the two may not be mutually exclusive. I follow behind The Archer. I ascend the first step and feel a hand placed on my shoulder. I turn and see Borgier shaking his head. Can’t say this development surprises me. I glance back to The Archer already halfway up the staircase. I face Borgier and point to The Archer, and press on. The further I climb, the more the wooden steps feel firm and do not give under my weight. The stairs become darker and less worn the higher I go. I look to the ceiling above, and see that the bottom of the boards too is a dark, chocolate-like color. Interesting. Subtle footsteps behind me let me know Borgier is following. Good. I don’t like fighting wizards without him. The Archer crouches down at the peak of the staircase, staring into the room above. Turning towards us, The Archer points towards the room, and nods. It’s about time to say hello. I walk up to The Archer, and squat down. I gesture to my shield and move to the front. Borgier takes the rear. This formation should work nicely.
I move my attention to the room. I finally get to see our target. The room is well furnished. Bookshelves line the walls and are filled to the brim with tomes and scrolls. A large wooden table, with legs like an hourglass, is buried in papers and books. At the far corner of the table sits a glowing red gem in a circular iron pedestal. I’ll have to ask Borgier what it is. It’ll have new owners after today. The room is vacant, save for one person. Staring out the window across the room is a figure in a black robe. The figure has dark red hair peppered with gray. The figure holds a cane, and is missing his right leg. This is Caolan Reid? The leader of an army of Orcs and Goblins?
“Are you just going to stay sneaking in the stairway?” The figure pipes up without turning away. I suppose we didn’t make the stealthiest entry. I sigh, stand, and walk into the room.
“You must be Caolan Reid.”
“Did you really have to break the door? You could’ve just knocked.” He nonchalantly responds, still gazing out the window to the cool night sky.
“Well, we may have tried that, if your security were more inviting.” I retort and raise my shield. Caolan lets out a brief chuckle, but doesn’t move. Footsteps trod up the stairs behind me. “We’re Broken Regiment. We’ve been hired by the kingdom of Ashyra to kill you.”
“Ah. Mercenaries. Clever Ashyra.” He states, and then hangs his head. “I was so close.” He whispers, but has yet to look towards us. I’m not a fan of opportunity attacks, but I’m certainly not above them. “Broken Regiment, you said? I’m afraid I haven’t heard of you. To think I’m going to be killed by nobodies.”
“N-Nobodies? We are the best mercenary squad out there! Our two-man team has finished countless jobs!”
“Two-man? But there are three of you.” He notes, pointing out the window. He was watching us? That was careless of me. But it’s not as though we posed as friendlies. Why didn’t he just attack then?
“Well... technically that one isn’t with us. That person’s just here because we share a common goal.”
“Ah, so the “best mercenary squad” has to team up with others to take out a one-legged, old man?” He taunts with a chuckle.
“Hey! I’ll have you know-” I begin, but The Archer walks in front of me.
“Caolan.” The Archer calls out.
“Oh, that voice...” Caolan turns from the window. Smiling. “Who knew you had such skill with the bow Elenna?”
Elenna? That would explain the soft voice.
“I did not come here to talk. I came because-“ Her voice breaks, but she presses on. “You know why I am here, don’t you Caolan?” She pulls down her mask.
“To think, my murderer can’t bring herself to even say the words.” Caolan’s face turns dejected and he returns to the window. “If you can’t do that much you should leave now. You don’t have the resolve.” He sighs.
“You’re wrong, Caolan. I do have the resolve.” She averts her gaze to the floor. “I’m sure you understand why this is hard for me.”
“If it’s this hard for you, don’t do it. It won’t be easy for me either.” He states. I look behind me to Borgier. He crosses his arms and tilts his head. He moves his attention to me, so I shrug my shoulders. Elenna clenches her fist. “Elenna. We don’t have to do this. Just come back. Stay here, with me.” He continues.
“You know why I can’t do that! Am I just supposed to let their deaths be in vain?”
“Their deaths are not yet in vain, but they will be if you go through with this!”
“You trapped their souls in a rock! Am I just supposed to be okay with that?”
“Elenna, you don’t understa-”
“My friends are in there! My family is in there! My father is in there!” She rants. “My real one.” She adds, in a softer tone. Caolan is quiet. He turns and staggers over to the table. His cane clicks against the ground as he moves. My own foul memories creep in my mind. I push them back and move my attention back to Elenna. If she’s anything like me, this will be torture for her.
Caolan gazes to the red gem sitting on the pedestal.
“I should’ve only told you when you were ready.” He mutters and drags his free hand against the gem.
“How could anyone ever be ready to hear about something so inhuman?”
“Elenna, please-” Caolan begins and turns to her, but cuts himself off upon seeing Elenna’s raised bow, and knocked arrow.
“The day I left, I promised you, that I would kill you.” She pulls the string back. “Today, I keep that promise.” She lets the arrow fly. Caolan retreats a step, but falls backward; the arrow sails mere inches above his head. Caolan sits on the dark wooden floor in front of us. The red gem is firm in his grip. Elenna readies another arrow from her quiver. “I won’t miss again.” She says a draws the bowstring back. Caolan places both arms in front of him, each of which is still occupied. He lifts his cane and places his weight on it, and kneels on his single knee. Using the cane, he sticks his good leg outwards and forces himself upright.
“I’m sorry it’s come to this Elenna.” He murmurs and tosses the cane out of his right hand to the open room. He moves the crystal to his, now empty, hand.
“I am too. But you had to know this would happen one day.” She says in an unwavering voice. Caolan reaches behind the table with his left hand a pulls out a large, sickly gray sword. The sword has a round indent in the center of the blade. “Put it down, Caolan. You can’t fight like that.”
“Am I to just wait for my death, then?” Caolan says, barely maintaining balance. “No. If you mean to kill me, then you’ll have to work for it.” He finishes and places the gem in the socket on his sword.
“What do you think you’re doing with that?” She barks; bow still ready to fire. Caolan doesn’t respond. He places a fist over the gem and sticks out his thumb, index, and middle fingers. The gem changes hue and turns brown. Elenna drops her aim and fires at his hand. The arrow whips through the air; Caolan pulls his hand back, and the arrow bounces off the gem.
“Dear girl, you must watch your aim. We don’t want that to break.” The crystal glows in brown light, and Caolan lifts his sword skyward. A pillar of rock strikes upward beneath his missing leg. The rock pillar thins out in the center, yet expands at the top end. It alters shape and takes the form of a leg.
How is he casting magic? He isn’t using a tome like Borgier does. I turn behind me. Borgier looks pale.
“That is not possible...” Borgier’s voice fades.
“Caolan! Stop!” Elenna pleads.
“You struck first, girl. Their deaths are not on me!” He places his hand back over the gem. He covers the tips of his middle and ring fingers with his thumb but lets the remaining fingers extend free. The gem changes color to a golden yellow and begins to shine bright.
“No!” Eleanna cries, but remains motionless. I don’t know what he’s going to try, but I won’t just sit here. I rush in front of her, shield first. Caolan winds up a swing. What is he thinking? The sword isn’t that long. He slashes the sword through the air, and a wave of lightning crackles off the blade. As the wave of electricity hurtles towards us, I remember the scorch marks on the armor of Orc below us. I hope his lightning isn’t as strong.
The lightning pulls far to our left and distorts into a bolt like shape. The bolt streaks behind us. I follow it as it passes and see Borgier’s hand absorb the electricity.
“I don’t know how you’re doing that, but it looks like the basic principles still apply.” Borgier says book floating by his head, and fist arcing in electricity.
“Ah yes. There was a lightning caster among you. Then allow me to use something else...” Caolan places an open hand over the gem.
“True, lightning doesn’t work well against rock, but I’ve beat plenty of casters while at a type disadvantage before.” Borgier smirks. The gem turns a pale blue.
“I’m not limited to only two types!” Caolan thrusts the sword at Borgier. A frigid blast emanates from the tip of the blade. Icy wind wafts by us, and floors Borgier. The book droops to his head’s new height.
“That’s...not possible.” Borgier groans as he struggles to get up.
“Caolan!” Elenna shouts. She draws the bowstring, and fires an arrow above my head. Caolan points the sword to the ground in front of him, and lifts it upwards. A wall of ice climbs out of the floor. The arrow strikes the wall and shatters it. “Stop using them! They are not energy to consume!” She continues.
“I have no choice, girl! It’s three against one, and I cannot let myself be beaten now!” Caolan strikes the sword towards us. A frigid cloud barrels towards us. I secure my footing, bracing for impact.
A wave of fire strikes the cloud long before it reaches us. Cool steam billows through the room.
“So, you’re a fire user too?” Caolan states. I can’t just stand here and do nothing. But, unfortunately for me, getting close to mages can be difficult. But there’s always an opening, eventually. Borgier casts a ball of flame towards Caolan and Elenna lets another arrow fly from behind me. At least I’m useful as cover. Caolan forms another ice wall, but thicker this time. The arrow sticks in the wall; the ball of fire strikes it and melts part of the wall. Caolan pelts the wall with the flat of his sword and the wall flies towards Elenna and I. No getting around it this time. I place my free hand against my shield, and stand firm. The wall slams into the shield and knocks me backwards. Ice shards scatter all around us, but I take the blow and remain standing.
“Borgier. Elenna. Make an opening!” I call out as I draw my sword.
“I won’t let you!” Caolan shouts back. He sticks a fist in front of the gem again, and changes the color to brown. So, we’re about to see more rocks? He strikes the flat of his blade against the floor and a ripple of rock travels across the floor. I charge towards him and bound over the ripple. I leave my sword low, as I move. Caolan raises his sword defensively. A bolt of fire rockets passed my head. Caolan steps out of its way. I cut upwards with my blade, but am halted as my sword collides with his. I force my blade against his, and try to knock him off balance. The gem glows in brown light, and rocks climb out of the sword. The weight of his sword increases, and he pushes me down. I struggle to maintain my footing.
“You’ll have to do better than that, boy.” He taunts. My hand aches as I try to keep the heavy blade at bay. Caolan, using the grapple as a balance, raises his earthen foot, and moves to kick with it. I can’t move my legs. I need them planted to keep the sword away, but if he kicks me, I’ll be knocked off balance. An arrow whips passed me, and pierces his stone foot, breaking it off at the rocky ankle. Caolan looses balance from the arrows impact. He moves to return his foot to the floor. This is my chance. Caolan slips, on his now uneven, footing. I strike the sword away as he falls, and the blade sails out of his hands and across the room. The remainder of his rocky leg crumbles to dust, as he drops on his back. I aim my sword at him, and he raises his hands.
“So, this truly is my end?” He turns his attention to the table behind us. “I was so close.” He sighs. I feel a hand on my shoulder. Surely, Borgier isn’t planning to spare this one, is he? I turn and trace the arm back to not Borgier, but Elenna.
“Allow me.” She says softly, looking to Caolan on the floor. If she’s like me, then I can’t stop her at this stage. I’d only turn her against me. I nod in silence, and sheathe my blade, and give them some space. I’m still not entirely sure what’s happening, but it’s obviously personal. It reminds me of my own suffering. Hopefully that was the right choice.
Elenna kneels on the floor next to Caolan, and sets her bow on the floor.
“Elenna. Let them do this. They are killers. Don’t burden yourself with my death.” He coaxes and turns his head towards her.
“I have to. I promised myself I would and, as the sole survivor of my village, it’s my duty to.” Her voice shakes as she speaks. Caolan faces the ceiling.
“The village of Yvini... I had no choice...” He sighs. “It was all I could do.”
“What are you talking about?! We were happy there! Nobody asked you to come decimate the town!” Elenna snaps.
“Dear girl, you don’t-” Caolan begins, but the ring of a blade being drawn interrupts him. Caolan looks to the blade, and his eyes widen. In Elenna’s hands is a small dagger, identical in appearance to the sword Caolan used moments ago. “After all these years... you kept that?”
“This is the end, Caolan.” Elenna speaks, hands trembling. Either due to rage or sadness I can’t tell; perhaps a mixture of the two. She raises the dagger high and plunges it into his chest, piercing his heart. Caolan grunts in pain, and a single tear drops from Elenna’s cheek. Caolan lets out a deep breath, and goes silent. The job was his death. Nothing said we had to be the one’s to do it. Elenna removes the dagger, and places it in his hands. She shuts his eyes, and takes a deep breath. She fixes her mask, grabs her bow, and stands up. She faces us, and her eyes are brimming with anger. Though given the circumstances, it could be pain.
“Job’s over. Go get your blood money.” She snarls, and walks passed us to the stairwell.
“Elenna, wait.” I call out, but she doesn’t stop. Borgier waves his hands back and forth, telling me to abort. “I know that couldn’t have been easy.” I continue. Elenna halts and whips around.
“How could you possibly understand any of this?” She roars, and the room is silent. She storms off to the stairs.
“I told you our name right? We’re not called “Broken Regiment” because the regiment is broken.” I call out, and she freezes. I walk forward and place a hand on Borgier’s shoulder. “It’s because we are.” I continue. “Borgier and I, we made a place to belong; doing all we know how to do. Fight.” I go on. Borgier’s tome gently descends into his open hands. “I-If you’d like- you could have a spot to belong too.” I stammer, and silence permeates the room. Elenna stands still. She’s listening at least. “I-I’m sure you’d need to time to work things out for yourself, but we’re set up in Capital City, if you’re interested.” I finish. Elenna faces me, eyes flooding. She nods in thanks and then rushes down the steps.