Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,

Tabula Avatar Chapter 43

Here is another chapter of ‘Tabula Avatar’, 4,855 words, rating R. Previous chapters are HERE.

Summary: AU from some point during Tabula Rasa, when the crystal doesn’t get broken, but instead falls into the hands of The Trio who insert the trapped memories into the computer game ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’. Events bearing some similarities to those in kallysten and kantayra’s excellent story Tabula Rasa Ad Aeternum took place off-screen during the earlier chapters of this story.

Tabula Avatar

Chapter Forty-Three

“I do not see Valygar,” the apprentice reported from the window. “Another reconnaissance trip, therefore.”

“In such panoply of force?” The second apprentice shook his head. A smile flickered on his lips as he saw an opportunity to score points against his colleague in the eyes of their master. “This is the real thing. Valygar must be invisible, and probably shielded by a spell of non-detection as well.” He tilted his head slightly to one side and frowned as another possibility occurred to him. “Or else they have a sample of his blood with them. That might work. Had we thought of that possibility earlier then Valygar might have been willing to co-operate.”

“He would not.” Tolgerias raised his gaze from his crystal ball. “He fears, quite correctly, that we would ally with Lavok instead of destroying him. I certainly would accept such an alliance, if the terms were favorable enough, however his destruction shall serve me well enough. All the better if it is carried out by the Perfect Warrior and her associates. They can take all the risks and I shall reap the rewards.”

“They are a formidable force,” the first apprentice remarked, as he left the window and took up his position at the table. “Disposing of them, after they have cleared the Sphere for us, might be a difficult undertaking.”

“You are worried? About the danger posed by a bunch of meat-headed sword swingers?” Tolgerias raised one eyebrow. “Do you doubt my prowess? I am a mage of the twenty-first rank. They pose no threat to me.”

“Not to you, of course, master,” the apprentice hastened to agree, “but remember that we are of but the tenth rank. Our rejoicing at your inevitable victory will be somewhat diminished if we have perished in the conflict.”

Tolgerias uttered a short guttural laugh. “If you wish to share in the rewards you must share in the risks. You have wands and summoning scrolls, have you not? Use them skillfully and stay alive. I shall take care of the Perfect Warrior and the Vampire Slayer.”

“And their witch? By all accounts she is skilled in the arcane arts.”

The laugh was repeated. “Skilled? Of the fifteenth rank, or perhaps some small degree higher, I would judge. Far above you, perhaps, but to me? An insect to be crushed beneath my feet.”

“An insect that is one of a swarm,” the apprentice reminded his master, “and not the only one with a sharp sting. Have we not heard that Sir Xander has a Holy Sword?”

“True,” Tolgerias conceded, “but against the power of my spells it will be of little avail. Still, their numbers are great, and I accept that your concerns are genuine. Fear not. I have made plans for all contingencies and have hired meat-headed sword swingers of my own. They, plus our summonings, shall keep the swarm at bay while I cast the spells that shall destroy them.” He frowned briefly. “They really should have been here by now. Still, there is no immediate urgency, and warriors are known for their muscles and not for their intelligence or punctuality. Focus your attention on scrying.”

- - - - -

Minsc walked into an apparently empty space and collided with an invisible form. Willow staggered aside and yelped as she crashed into the solid steel wall of the corridor.

“Willow! I am sorry.” Minsc reached out a helping hand in Willow’s approximate direction. It made contact with her right boob and he snatched back his hand as soon as he realized what he had touched. “It was clumsy of me. Are you hurt?”

“No, I’m okay,” Willow told him. “Don’t worry about it. I guess it’s kinda tricky moving around in a small space like this when you can’t see everybody.”

“I am supposed to protect a witch, not to trample one under my big feet,” Minsc said. “Boo says that I should be more careful.”

“No, I’m fine,” Willow assured him. “Hey, I totally understand the problem.” She looked at Valygar, or at least at the space where she guessed the invisible ranger to be, and her forehead developed an unseen crease. “I just hope all this Invisible Girl stuff is worth it and we managed to sneak in under those wizards’ radar.”

“Their what?” Minsc’s blank frown was matched by similar expressions on the faces of all the other Faerûnian members of the party within Willow’s line of sight.

“Uh, something we have in our world,” Willow explained, as the party reached the end of the corridor and emerged into a more spacious chamber. “Like, a kind of mechanical scrying for spotting flying machines and ships in the dark.”

“I guess we’ll find out if it worked eventually,” Tara said. “Either that Tolgerias guy will turn up, or else he won’t.”

“There’s a spell to detect scrying,” Willow said, “but I haven’t found it yet. Hey, if this Lavok character is such a great wizard, maybe he might have it.”

“Lavok is a creature of the vilest evil,” Valygar put in. “His spells will be accursed black magic. Touch them not.”

“It’s not the magic that’s good or evil, it’s the person using it,” Willow stated. Valygar snorted but made no other reply.

Those at the front of the group had been checking out the room. “Two locked doors and one unlocked,” Yoshimo reported. “I can open one of the locked ones, I am sure, but the central one seems to be short an essential part of the mechanism.”

“It may open at Valygar’s touch, as did the Sphere itself,” Sorkatani suggested, “but in any event we should investigate the unlocked door first.”

“In case something comes out of it behind us while we’re busy with the others,” agreed Buffy. She advanced to the door and threw it open. It led, not to another room, but to a short length of narrow corridor with another door beyond it. “Crap. Just about wide enough for two but not if we have to swing swords. Who’s gonna take point?”

“Spike,” Sorkatani suggested. “He is the best fighter other than ourselves and he has great skill in spotting traps.”

Buffy nodded. “Although he can’t defuse them worth a damn.”

“Hey, heard that, Slayer,” said Spike. “I do all right. ‘S just that Yoshi, Anya and Dawn are better, is all.”

“Yeah, well, if you spot any just back off and leave them to the experts.” Buffy stood back and made way for Spike. “We’re kinda cramped in here with a group this size,” she commented to Sorkatani.

“Perhaps there will be more space once we are inside the Sphere proper,” Sorkatani said. She followed behind Spike. Jaheira, whose spear made it possible for her to fight unhindered from past a comrade, fell into place behind Sorkatani. Buffy clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth but made no objection to the eminently sound tactical positioning.

“No traps,” Spike reported. “Not locked.” He turned a steel handle and pushed. The door swung open. A circular chamber lay beyond it, with metal pipes visible on the walls, and a mixture of sleek metal storage units and wooden boxes stacked on the floor. Beside the boxes stood a tall and broad figure, dull brown in color, and shaped like a crude parody of a human.

A clay golem. It reacted instantly to the door’s opening and charged for Spike. He uttered one brief exclamation of “Bugger!” and then was fully occupied in defending himself. His sword was almost useless against the construct and all he could do was use it to parry the golem’s punches. He kicked it solidly in the mid-section but to little effect. Jaheira thrust past his head with her Spear of the Unicorn and made a small puncture in the clay body. It caused almost no damage to the non-living being. Then Sorkatani put a hand on Spike’s shoulder, vaulted up until her head almost touched the corridor’s ceiling, and brought Celestial Fury whistling down.

She chose to strike with the back of the blade rather than the edge but achieved the intended result. Energy crackled from the enchanted blade and the sub-sonic boom of its shocking effect made Spike’s teeth vibrate in their sockets. The golem froze in its tracks. “Everybody back up!” Sorkatani commanded. “We must have room to fight this thing.”

The party retreated with all haste and formed a semi-circle in the larger room. When the stunning effect wore off and the golem pursued it was immediately set upon from all sides. Hammers, maces, and flails crashed against its clay torso. It landed one blow on Minsc, causing him to spin around, topple forwards, and crash into Willow once more; and then the golem shattered into a dozen pieces.

Willow lost her grip upon the Staff of the Magi and was suddenly visible; or rather partially visible, as most of her was hidden by the ranger lying on top of her. “We so have to stop meeting like this,” she gasped out.

Minsc scrambled to his feet. “Again I am sorry,” he said, holding out his hand to Willow. She took it and allowed him to pull her to her feet. “Woe is Minsc, for he has flattened the one who he wishes to be his witch.”

“You okay, sweetie?” Tara asked.

“A little squashed,” Willow told her, “but not enough to matter. You okay, Minsc? You took a hard hit there.” She noticed a bruise starting to appear on the ranger’s cheek and she noticed also, rather to her surprise, that Minsc was blushing.

“I think Minsc will be fine if he just has a cold shower,” Tara said, her tone uncharacteristically sharp.

“Huh?” Willow’s brow furrowed as her gaze swung to Tara and then back to Minsc. She looked down from Minsc’s face and then her cheeks colored. It seemed that Minsc’s long-ago comment about regarding Willow as a sister was no longer accurate – unless they did things very differently in Rashemen – if lying on top of her so briefly could have this much of an effect upon him.

“Uh, I guess we can, uh, check out that room now,” Willow said, averting her eyes. She was simultaneously embarrassed and flattered. Minsc’s bedmate Oranna, she of the spectacular pair of boobies, hadn’t inspired anything like as big a reaction from him as far as Willow knew. Presumably Minsc had been the hunted rather than the hunter in that relationship. Willow looked back to Tara and saw that her lips were a tight line and her brows were low over her eyes.

This lasted only for a moment and then Tara’s lips twitched, turned up at the corners, and a smile spread over her face. “All of us, not just you and Minsc,” she said. “That might not be the best idea right now.”

“I shall join Sorkatani,” Minsc announced, his cheeks still crimson, and he hastened off towards where his leader was already investigating the store-room accompanied by Spike and Yoshimo.

“So,” Tara commented, “our cuddly ranger friend still has a thing for his witch.”

“I, uh, it’s nothing that I did,” Willow assured her. “You’re not, uh, jealous, are you?”

“A little,” Tara admitted. “Why don’t I affect him like that?”

Willow’s jaw dropped. “Huh?”

Tara’s smile grew broader. “Just teasing, hon.” She turned and walked after Minsc.

Willow stood still for a moment, watching Tara walk away, and her brows furrowed. Was Tara really just teasing? There had been that thing with Tazok, and hey, Minsc was one whole lot cuter than the half-ogre, and if Tara was gay on account of meeting only the wrong kind of guy when she was starting out on dating, well, Minsc was about as nice a guy as you could meet in two worlds, and just maybe… Willow’s thoughts wandered into unfamiliar territory. Suddenly she felt her cheeks flaming with heat, knew that she had turned as red as the late and unlamented Firkraag, and she ducked quickly down to snatch up the Staff of the Magi and seek sanctuary in invisibility.

- - - - -

Tolgerias nodded as he stared into his crystal ball. “That store-room will do very well, once they have moved deeper into the sphere. Have you fixed it in your minds?” He heard the apprentices voice their confirmation and then he raised his eyes from the globe. “Where in the hells are my mercenaries? We may not have much time. Now that Valygar has entered the Sphere Lavok could decide to depart from this world as soon as he detects his descendant’s presence. They were supposed to be here before sunset and that was almost an hour ago.”

“As you said, master, warriors are known for their muscles and not their punctuality,” an apprentice remarked. “We cannot make our move until Sorkatani’s people have pressed on further into the Sphere and away from our chosen landing spot. There is yet time.”

“They had better hurry up,” Tolgerias grumbled. “Without the mercenaries I shall have to rely upon summoned demons and that carries risks of its own.”

“I think I hear someone at the door now,” the other apprentice announced.

“About time,” Tolgerias said. He returned his attention to the crystal ball and watched as Sorkatani’s party completed their looting of the store-room and returned to the chamber closest to the entrance.

The door of the wizard’s room opened and a brawny figure in armor stepped through. He was followed by a leather-clad man, wiry and thin, with a bandolier of throwing knives slung across his chest. Another man in plate armor completed the roster of the mercenaries hired by Tolgerias.

“So you are here at last,” the wizard snapped. “I trust that you are…” Tolgerias stopped in mid-sentence as more figures entered the room. “Who are you? I hired only these three. If you wish to be employed on the same terms, well, that is certainly possible, but we have little time to discuss the matter.”

The unexpected arrivals were three in number. A tall man, pale of complexion, who bulged with muscle but carried no visible weapon. A slim but curvaceous young woman who wore the diaphanous silk skirt of a Calimshite harem girl, skin-tight blue pants, and a short sleeveless jacket that was partially open at the front to display an impressive cleavage. The last to enter was another attractive female but her pointed ears indicated that she was of the elven race. Her garb of black leather appeared to have been designed for show rather than practicality. It exposed a great deal of skin, the pallor of which suggested that she was a Moon Elf, and the centre of her chest and the lower part of her breasts were the only parts of her torso that were adequately protected.

It was she who spoke. “I am no mercenary, wizard. I have a proposition for you.” Her voice was deep and sultry but with an arrogance in her tone that took away any seductive effect.

Tolgerias stared at her and his eyes narrowed. He snapped his fingers to activate a spell trigger and in an instant he was covered with a protective Stoneskin. A second gesture activated Spell Turning. “Who are you and what do you want?”

The woman stretched out a pale hand and gestured in the direction of her companions. “This is Lassal,” she introduced the man, “and Tanova.” The curvaceous woman bowed towards the wizards. Her jacket gaped even wider and one of the apprentices swallowed hard. The elf girl lowered her hand, ran her tongue over full red lips, and continued. “My name is Bodhi. I wish to talk.”

- - - - -

An imp flapped across the room, flew over the huge round table, and spat out a scalding jet of steam at Spike. He grimaced, although he was well protected against fire and the heat had scarcely hurt him, and slashed at it with his sword. It changed course abruptly and managed to dodge the blow, although barely, but Celestial Fury slashed through the air and the little creature lost a wing. It spiraled to the ground and Spike stamped on it. “Hate those buggers,” he growled. The imp gave a muffled squeak from under Spike’s foot. He rolled his eyes, moved his foot aside, and stabbed down with his sword. The squeak was cut off short and Spike flipped the little corpse away into the space under the table.

Sorkatani had already sheathed Celestial Fury and was staring at the scene displayed on the table’s surface. “That is Athkatla,” she said. “All laid out before us with this Sphere at the center.”

“Indeed,” Jaheira agreed. Her eyebrows arched upwards as she moved to stand beside Sorkatani. She rested the butt of her spear against her foot and leaned against the table.

Giles joined her a moment later, as the entire party trooped into the room, and he stood beside Jaheira and laid his hand on her back just above her buttocks. “An impressive effect,” he commented. “Remarkable.”

“Camera Obscura, innit?” said Spike. “Seen them before, back in the day.”

“This is a rather larger example than the one that I have visited at Clifton Down,” Giles said. He glanced upwards at the ceiling and then back down at the table. “Clearer, too, despite it being darker outside than it is in here. I wonder how it works.”

“A magic mirror, I think,” Willow put in. “Hey, this is cool. You can even see the people walking in the streets.”

“They don’t show up big enough to be recognizable,” Buffy said. She lost interest after one cursory glance and turned away to examine the rest of the room. Anomen followed at her heels.

“Looks like we’re missing out on some fun,” Spike said. He pointed at the image of a building that lay between the Copper Coronet and the Planar Sphere. “Saw some geezer just get chucked out of a window there.”

“There’s no point in us going back out there just to join in some random brawl,” Buffy said. “Hey, there doesn’t seem to be anything else in this room. I think it’s time to check out door number three.”

- - - - -

Tolgerias narrowed his eyes and stared at the elf woman. “You are a vampire,” he said.

Bodhi opened her eyes very wide. “I am? Ah, that explains a lot. The thirst for blood, and the sensitivity to sunlight, and the insatiable sexual appetite. Actually scratch that last point. I’ve always had that.”

Tolgerias permitted himself a brief half-smile. “A vampire with a sense of humor. Remarkable.” He raised his voice slightly and snapped out a command to his apprentices and mercenaries. “Don’t look at their eyes!”

“Fear not, wizard, your minions have not taken their eyes from Tanova’s chest since we entered,” Bodhi told him.

“They are young,” Tolgerias said. His forehead furrowed. “It is rare for an elf to become a vampire. I have not heard of it happening within the last five centuries. Usually an elven victim of a vampire attack simply dies.” He did not bother to ask how the vampires had gained admission to the house. It was not his own property, having been only rented on a short term basis to serve as an observation point overlooking the Planar Sphere entrance, and without an owner-occupier the prohibition against a vampire entering a dwelling uninvited did not apply.

“I’m a special case,” Bodhi said. “I note that you are not avoiding my gaze yourself, wizard.”

“Your charms can have no effect upon a mage of my rank,” Tolgerias said. His half-smile returned. “Or at least your magical charms. I am not blind to your physical attractions and your wit has impressed me.” The smile disappeared again and his voice sharpened. “We have little time to talk, for I have a mission that can not wait, but it is possible that we can do business. Tell me what you want, lady, but make it quick.”

“You are going to attack Sorkatani once she has dealt with whatever perils lurk within that iron sphere,” Bodhi stated. “I can’t let you do that.”

“Oh?” Tolgerias raised his eyebrows. “You seek to protect her? Why? Are you connected to the most unusual vampire who travels with her?”

Bodhi shook her head. “No. Sorkatani has something that my brother needs. She has to stay alive for a little while longer.”

Tolgerias sucked in his cheeks. “I have no interest in her as such. She is merely an unwitting tool. Yet the treasures that lie within the Planar Sphere are of great interest to me and I have invested much time and effort in this project. If you wish me to stay my hand, and to allow Sorkatani to walk off with my prize, you must pay me well to do so.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Bodhi said. Her lips curled back enough to reveal her fangs. “If you don’t back off I’ll just kill you.”

“You cannot threaten a mage of the twenty-first rank,” Tolgerias growled. “Have a care, vampire. You are outnumbered two to one.”

“Wrong,” Bodhi informed him. “It is you that are outnumbered. The men that you hired work for me.” Her smile widened. “I grow tired of this. Kill them.”

The three mercenaries drew weapons and fell on one of the apprentices. Blows rained down and the young mage collapsed to the ground in a welter of blood. Lassal pounced upon the other mage but he was able to utter a summoning spell before Lassal managed to seize him. A seven-foot ogre materialized in the room and struck the vampire with its club. The apprentice wriggled free of Lassal’s grasp and backed away, quarterstaff raised, and began to chant another spell.

Tolgerias drew a symbol in the air. The mercenaries froze in place with their swords half raised. Tanova chanted a counter-spell and the symbol disappeared. The mercenaries swayed, shook their heads, and then began to advance towards the remaining apprentice once more. He was now Hasted and was able to fend them off with his staff.

The ogre charged for Bodhi and struck out. She reached up, caught the creature’s club as it fell, and brought the weapon to a halt. She twisted the club from the ogre’s grasp and tossed it aside. She followed up by lashing out with the back of her hand with such force that the ogre was knocked from his feet and crashed down upon the table that had supported the scrying crystals. The wood shattered and the magical orbs rolled upon the floor.

Tolgerias spoke one word and the leading mercenary dropped dead in his tracks. The wizard raised his hand and a ray of force shot out from a ring. It struck Lassal and sent the vampire shooting back across the room. He crashed into the window and toppled out into the street. Next Tolgerias unleashed a spell of Disintegrate upon Tanova. The vampire mage was shielded against the spell and she retaliated with a spell of her own, Ruby Ray of Reversal, to strip away the Spell Turning that shielded Tolgerias. He grimaced and cast the same spell upon her.

The surviving apprentice had now summoned up a giant spider in addition to the ogre. It sank its fangs into the leather-clad mercenary’s leg. The man’s comrade struck the spider a heavy blow with his longsword and green arachnid blood gushed from the wound.

The ogre began to clamber to its feet. Bodhi seized it around the neck and propelled it towards the apprentice mage. He had been forced into a corner and had no room to maneuver. She rammed the ogre into him like a living battering ram and caved in his chest. With its summoner slain the ogre vanished. The spider disappeared too and the injured thief was able to withdraw a potion of antidote from his pouch and gulp it down.

The magical duel between Tolgerias and Tanova was at a stalemate. His magical ability surpassed hers, and his repertoire of spells was wider, but he had been expecting to fight in steel rooms against a party almost exclusively consisting of humans. His most deadly spells were useless against a member of the Undead and his fire spells could not be used in this confined, and inflammable, space. He might still have won in the end, had all other factors been equal, but now he was faced with the two remaining mercenary warriors and both of the vampire girls. A sword blow glanced from his Stoneskin. Tanova cast another spell that disrupted the Abi-Dazim’s Horrid Wilting that Tolgerias had been about to unleash. Lassal, who had recovered from his fall, re-appeared in the doorway.

Panic flared in the wizard’s eyes. The situation was desperate but he still had one avenue of escape open to him. If he teleported to the store-room in the Planar Sphere...

Bodhi seized Tolgerias by the neck. Her other hand clamped over his face and her fingers closed on his nose. She pinched his nostrils shut and jammed the heel of her hand into his mouth. Tolgerias struggled for breath, tried to pry away her hand but to no avail, and then rotated his hand to aim his ring at Bodhi. Tanova caught his wrist and twisted it around. The force beam missed its target and blasted a hole in the ceiling.

“I like you,” Bodhi told the struggling wizard. “I don’t think I’ll kill you after all. Well, not permanently. You can become a member of our little family. Won’t that be nice? You’ll even get to fuck me.” She put her face against his neck and licked along the line of his carotid artery. “Get rid of that Stoneskin, Tanova. I want to feed.”

- - - - -

The central door on the innermost side of the chamber was operated by a heavy metal wheel. It reminded Spike of the doors inside the German U-boat on which he had taken an involuntary trip in 1943. Valygar took hold of the wheel and attempted to turn it. It didn’t move. He had become visible during the fight against the clay golem and the others saw his failure. Sorkatani took his place, with no greater success, and then Buffy tried. The wheel still refused to turn.

“I guess there’s something else we need to do,” Buffy said. She poked at the control panel that was set into the door below the wheel. “Will? Can you make any sense of this?”

“It looks like there’s a piece missing,” Willow deduced. “There was a kinda lever thing in that store-room. I think it fits here.”

“I knew it had to be important,” Anya said. She produced the lever from her pack and handed it to Willow, who had abandoned her own invisibility for the time being.

“Yep, it fits,” Willow confirmed. She rotated the lever through ninety degrees and then pulled it downwards. A metal bar moved away from the wheel. “That should do it.” She heaved on the wheel and managed to rotate it through quarter of a turn. “It’s kinda stiff.”

“Where strength is needed, call for Minsc,” the ranger boomed, ignoring the fact that three of the party members were stronger than him. He stepped up and took hold of the wheel. It turned easily in his hands. “With Willow’s brains and Minsc’s strength we have solved the problem.”

The door swung open. Another long metal-walled corridor was revealed behind it. “A confined space again,” Sorkatani said. “The same formation as before?” She sheathed the scimitar that was her current left-hand weapon and pulled out a mace in its place. “I think it likely that we shall face more golems,” she explained. “Such servants do not need food and Lavok will have crewed this ship with them.”

“Or the Undead,” Buffy said, “but yeah, the golem things are the likeliest.” She returned the Blade of Roses to its scabbard and drew a small war-hammer. Anomen hefted a larger hammer and stood at her side.

Spike stepped through the door and advanced slowly along the corridor. Sorkatani followed him, then Jaheira, then Tara and Willow, and they moved on until everyone had passed through the doorway. As Xander, who was bringing up the rear, set foot on the metal gangway the door behind him swung shut. A loud clang reverberated through the corridor and there was a grating noise as the wheel turned by itself.

“Uh-oh, kinda ominous,” said Xander.

“What did you do? What did you do?” Anya exclaimed.

“Hey, I didn’t touch anything!” Xander protested.

A disembodied voice spoke. “Planar travel has been initiated. You will not be able to leave the sphere until we have reached our next destination. Please remember that the outer door cannot be opened unless the inner chamber door is shut.”

“Hey! Where are we going?” Buffy shouted.

The voice supplied an answer but, as it spoke again before Buffy had finished posing her question, probably only by coincidence rather than as a direct reply. “We shall be arriving in the Abyss in approximately seven hours. Thank you for traveling by Lavok’s Planar Sphere.”


Disclaimer: the characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (c) 2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. I don’t know who currently owns the copyright to Bioware’s game ‘Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn’, what with all the changes that have taken place in the companies involved, but it isn’t me; and characters and dialogue extracts are used without permission and with no intent to profit from their use.

Tags: fic, tabula_avatar
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