ADS Greater Sea

The Tower of Ice
A glacier shifts to reveal a tower of myth

Legends of the Crystal Tower are rife throughout the lands bordering the Greater Sea, though none knew of its location. But now, a glacier has shifted, and ice has caved from its face into the seas. Where it has fallen stands a tower, perhaps of crystal, perhaps of ice. It rises from the ice as if built upon it, but to each side ice ridges link it to the glacier. Treacherous icebergs grind against each other in the choppy waters and behind it the glacier rises into the overcast sky.

The rangers were enjoying a well-deserved rest when they heard of the tower. Quickly gathering their resources, they arranged the hire of a knorr and sailed south in search of the tower. Now, their small ship rocked in the swell at a safe distance from the walls and boulders of ice. They seemed to be the first to discover the tower but knew there were other adventuring companies coming south to search for the tower.

It seemed impossible to reach the plateau of ice on which the tower stood. Nim, Mobb and Keira, accompanied by two other rangers in the shape of the deva Avenger Ronen and the eladrin Invoker Selaniel, surveyed the sea and ice around them.

Idly cruising up and down the coast for a place to land seemed to waste too much time. Though the icebergs were too tight together for the knorr to sail closer, it was likely the small rowboat onboard may be able to get through a path to one side.

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Islands of Swamp and Mountains
Tall mountains surrounded by swamps?

The four rangers were summoned to the Admiral’s cabin. “The Inverted Isles are out of bounds for a while until we find out where these Venschians have gone. And we’re stretched with the more experienced rangers looking for them and the orc raiders you saw. So we’ve a simpler task. Check out these islands for dragons, will you? The mountains at their centre look ideal for gems and gold, and our minerologists want to have a look. Here’s the requisition for your knorr and three crew.”

He bent back to his paperwork. Kiera, MCU 464890 (Mobb), Hadley and Saleran looked at each other in disbelief. Dragons? The admiral looked up and sighed. “No, I don’t want you fighting the things, just scouting out whather they are there, still, and what they are.”

Wizard’s Hat Island

The island reared from the sea like a wizard’s wilted, wide-brimmed hat. The sea around the island was calm, curbed by the gently shelving sea-floor. Around the edge of the island were flat swamps, turning from salt-water to fresh-water and then to tree-crowded low hills. In the middle of the islands were tall, fractured, snow-capped mountains around which clouds clung like a calf to its mother.

And through the clouds plunged bats with tails.

“How far away do you reckon those mountains are?” asked Mobb (Mobile Combat Unit 4648-90).

Saleran gazed at the mountains for a while. “Nine? Ten? A dozen miles?”

“Then they’re not bats”, said Hadley. “That’s it. I’m off. We’ve got our intel.”

An argument ensued, Saleran and Mobb pointing out that a scouting mission that returned purely with the answer “Yes, we saw dragons” was never going to go down too well with the Admiral. Hadley shrugged. “Let’s go there, then.” He pointed toa range of tree-covered hills that seemed to lead to the mountains across the swamp. “At least they’ll be dry land.”

The knorr neared the hills as they sloped down to the sea and the rangers began to look for a likely mooring-place where they could wade in to start their mission. Around the headland appeared a heavily-lade longship, it’s red sail billowing in the unruly wind. Sunlight glinted off the steel helmets of the ‘crew’. Moments later it slowed, its yard came round, and it turned towards the ranger’s knorr.

“Negotiations anyone?” asked Saleran. He bit back his words as the sail unfolded, revealing a black mark of Gruumsh in the centre of the sail: orc raiders!

The crew panicked. “We must hide in the swamps! We cannot outrun a longship, even one so heavily laden as that.” The rangers set to helping them, and the knorr jibed and headed into safety of the nearby swamps. Saleran pointed out a creek, it’s sides closely reaching over the vessel; Hadley climbed to the masthead and along the yards, pushing off the branches before they could become entangled in the rigging; Mobb grabbed a pair of massive oars and begun rowing quickly as the crew manned the steering-oar and the other pair of oars. Kiera ran to the bows, calling out depths and hazards.

The knorr slid its way silently and slowly through the swamp. Kiera spotted two pairs of eyes resting in the water, which gradually resolved themselves into a single pair and a pair of nostrils some distance away. The creature was huge an dwell-rounded beneath the water. She pointed it out to Saleran. “It’s just a big horse,” said the wizard, “probably adapted to this island.” They skirted round it cautiously, and found it was protecting another, much smaller.

The water changed and they entered an area of reed beds, low trees and bushes clinging to cumps of islands rearing from the water. Mobb continued rowing with mechanical precision whilst the crew collapsed over their own oars. The knorr slid through the reeds, Hadley dropping over the stern and covering up their passage behind them. The knorr slid to a halt and as Mobb scraped off the leeches clinging to Hadley’s body, the crew and rangers unstepped the mast.

The sound of animals in the swamp resumed, interupted only by the sounds of distant argument in a foreign tongue. The rangers had escaped.

Swampe and the Demise of Hadley

Looking around the ranges spotted a ruined wharf on the edge of the swamp. Further along a pair of destroyed coracles were drawn up onto one of the many tiny islands. A strand of smoke could be seen a short distance away, visible even in the breeze. A figure could be glimpsed hiding in the reeds a short distance away. It called out some words in a strange language. After no-one responded it called them out again.

Silence.

Being drawn to investigate, the squad climbed out onto one of the many tiny islands, Saleran to the left, then Kiera, MCU 464890 (Mobb) and Hadley. “Go! Return to your vessel and leave!” cried a voice, this time in Common. The tone was sibilant and high-pitched, vaguely fluting.

Hadley stepped forward. “Why should we?” he asked.

“Leave our home,” came the reply.

The group shrugged, spotting a few creatures hidden in the undergrowth on the edge of the swamp nearby. They made no move to go and stayed to see what happened.

A mistake. Crossbow bolts flew, dropping Saleran to the ground. Moments later small, upright, drake-like beings flitted from cover, jumping from tussock to tussock and letting loose javelins as they ran. Another stepped forward into the clearing ahead, apparently half-crazed, but wearing a suit of armour from laminated scales.

Mobb and Hadley surged forward, leaping across the mire to do so. Keira quickly healed Saleran and summoned her bear-spirit to the fight. But the crossbows sang again and, once more, Saleran dropped to the ground; javelins flew and Mobb and Hadley picked them from their armour. Then another of the creatures stepped from cover and turned into a small dragon.

The battle was bloody, Keira controlling as much as she could with her bear, but she was distracted by Saleran’s vulnerability. Mobb engaged the insane warrior, hoping the others would keep off the skirmishers. Hadley flitted from tussock to tussock to miniature island, trying to get a decent strike. It was all to no avail. Though they struck creature after creature, the rangers could not bring one down, and were getting teh worst of the battle. Hadley fell into the swamp, rose again, but was struck down by a javelin and burbled as he sank beneath the water. Keira used her most precious power, bringing the party back from their injuries, and allowed them to struggle on.

Finally Saleran fought off his attackers and turned his spells to those attacking Mobb; Hadley was nowhere to be seen. With the spirit-bear, Mobb and Saleran all focussing on a few assailants, they were finally driven back, Saleran putting in the final strikes with a few well-placed magic missiles. Feigning to crow over their victory, the survivors searched for Hadley and found him, face-down beneath the waters of the swamp.

They had little time to mourn. Smoke rose from nearby, and sounds could be heard of something approaching wailing. One of the sailors jumped from the ship, his face red as he helped them carry Hadley’s body aboard. “I should have helped,” he said. “Let me take his place.”

The grime-covered survivors looked at each other, wearily, and nodded.

“Very well.”

Woods, a Dead Dragon and Saleran’s Bane

The villagers were found cowering amongst the undergrowth a short distance away. The group were threatened by wizened wyrmkin with spears. So they retreated, searched through the ruins of the burnt-out of village and retreieved anything they could find, and returned with any younglings toys and useful implements they could use to break the ice. Discussion was difficult, but soon the party settled on draconic, teh only language the wyrmkin seemed ot understand.

The orcs, it seemed, had arrived recently and slain many of the warriors and hunters. A party had then left, going further inland, and the wyrmkin expressed relief that their “lord” would soon deal with them. Discussion soon showed that “Lord” meant “Dragon”.

Unpeteburbed, the group grabbed some canoes and followed the orcs path into the swamp. Only a short distance further on they found a river which led into firmer ground and woods. At a bend in the river paths led into the woods and, alongone of these paths, a pair of orcs stood, apparently on guard. The party rapidly disembarked, and set themselves up in the small clearing where they landed. The orcs shouted, and from the woods came answering cries. Orcs were everywhere!

The fight was tough, and perhaps a veil should be drawn across it as the focus shifted constantly and too many of the orcs were able to continue fighting the party. An Orc shaman, berserker, several raiders… a tough squad. It finished with a dead wizard, Saleran Coldhearth, who tried to push away a group of orcs with his Thunderwave to rescue Mobb, but was fatally backhanded by an orc berserker into the river.

At last the orcs were vanquished, one escaping, and the group looked at what they had found. It was a nest of a young dragon, now dead amidst the bodies of many orcs. Some items of interest were recovered, but the group returned to the boat in a sombre mood.

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The Inverted Keep
The Venschians are discovered

Keira and Nim were called into the admiral’s cabin for another Ranger mission. Sitting round the briefing table were two dwarves and a human. Introductions were quick: Telaric Sunder, a dwarven artificer; Urrak Darral, a dwarf who’s intense allegiance to Moradin was plainly evident, and who had all the signs of an avenger; and Dorian, a strong human dressed in little more than hide (a Warden).

The briefing itself was short: the scouts had discovered a range of fractured lands, but it seemed as if the lands had broken up into islands, all of which were upside-down. The group was to be given a larger ship, a caravel, this time, and asked to have a look at the islands, see what had happened, see if anyone survived and, perhaps, even rescue them. The rangers were soon on their way.

Our rangers found that what the scouts were reported was true. There were numerous islands floating on the sea, held there upside down, apparently, by whatever the tallest thing on the fragment originally was. Flotsam and jetsam littred the sea: branches, dust, plants, the remnants of hovels – even a makeshift and dilapidated raft drifted by.

Our explorers checked a number of these islands. What beaches there found were empty, the sand and shingle having fallen into the sea. But many of the islands were of inland locations. The plants were dying off due to the salt and lack of light, perhaps denied light for as long as two weeks in some cases. Many of the lsands are merely floating “turtles” in the sea, whilst others were suspended high over the swell by tall trees. One island was suspended high in the air on a keep, and it was towards this the group quickly sailed.

The keep was solid and well-built. There were some shuttered windows, arrow-slits, and a second-level entry now high in the air in the darkened underside of the inverted land. Without exploring further, our explorers tried to lever open the nearest shuttered window, only to find the water splashing up from the lesser waves have seized it shut (and for Telarik to fall into the water and to be slightly crushed by the swell driving the caravel against the keep). It was the intrepid Urrak who dived under water to find if the trap door atop (beneath) the tower to the fighting platform at its top was unlocked. When Dorian joined him, and showed his own impressive endurance, they managed to lever it open. Inside, the keep was a mess, whatever was on the floor being on the ceiling underfoot (dubbed the fleiling, now).

Ropes led up to stairwells; the doors in the rich partitions inside were open, though around nine feet in the air, of course. From them all hung knotted sheets, ropes, and even knotted clothes, as if those trapped inside had escaped. The pair clambered over the doorways into a room the closest to one of the shuttered windows (a master’s bedroom) and forced open the shutters from the inside. The gangplank was dropped – into the water. So, whilst the crew of the caravel kept it steady, the rest rigged up a line over which they could walk. A few more accidents later and the group were inside.

The other rooms on this level of the keep were explored. In one, apparently a day room for the ladies of a court, was found bolts of cloth, dyed wool, and some armbands being made. These were red with an intricate white sigil. The group thought everything but the bands worthless, remembered the bands on the orcs of Sendtown Island.

A cautious climb up through the wooden stairwell to the next level and the group discovered an administrative area, to one side of which was another partitioned area, some of the panels of which were marked with the same sigil they had just discovered. Most interested was a pile of partially-burned papers fallen from a grate (now overhead, of course)... these appread to be accounts, some of which appeared to show that someone called “the lawkeeper” was being watched and waylaid. Interesting… so they kept it.

Climbing to the top of a door, the group found a chapel, it’s well-ordered inside now a mess. Smashed pews littered the floor; statues to warriors lay broken avarywhere; even the red-fronted altar lay smashed, standing around it four ornamental suits of armour.

Whilst the others clambered up and over, Urrak’s religious inquisitive nature got the better of him and he began to examine the wreckage of the altar. Who was this god? As soon as he touched it, the suits of armour sprang to life: constructs! Before he could defend himself, he was laid out by these protectors and it was only Dorian who was close enough to come to his defense.

The fight in the cramped and cluttered space of the chapel was difficult. Some of the party, including Keira were still outside, so Hofmeister, her bear, failed to appear for a while. Dorian, though, jumped down and rushed to support Urrak; Telaric began throwing some of his devices, trying to weaken the constructs as they became focussed on Dorian. But it was almsot too late as Dorian became badly savaged by the lethal first strikes of the Guardians.

Finally, Hofmeister appeared, and Urrak began to recover from regeneration; Nim jumped down and began shooting off his spells; and Telaric began dealing out more damage to the apparently lethal guardians. With the ‘squishies’ all on track, all picking on a Guardian at a time, Urrak rolled out from the combat and irately challenged the closest guardian to himself. Dorian proved himself a lethal wonder, keeping the constructs occupied and away from the ‘soft ones’ who were huddling in a corner of the chapel.

Nim fired off a pair of magic missiles that destroyed the penultimate construct and seriously weakened the last, and it ended as quickly as it began.

Recovering, exploring and searching this partitioned-off area, the Rangers found a few red vestments in the vestry, all of which were emblazoned with the symbol they had discovered. One of the Guardian’s was more effective than the others and it transpired he was wearing some enchanted armour of use to Dorian. Urrak found a worship book, which he could not understand, and of most interest to Telaric was a damaged book he discovered underneath the bookstand; this held pictures of constructs. Nim cast a comprehend languages ritual and, a few minutes later, explained the books to his fellows.

The first was a worship book, outlining important rites to a god of dominance, B’tar of the Venschian race. The second was, for now, more interesting, being a description of many of the constructs the Venschian were seemingly capable of building. The chapel guardians were shown, along with some simpler combat constructs, as well as some door guardians, a cage-trap, and a massive, flying construct apparently intended as a transport.

The Rangers began to wonder if they’d found how the occupants of the keep had fled.

The exploration of the other levels was more cautious, and simpler as the group found a winding stair, up the roof of which they could clamber. In turn, the group discovered a barracks level, in which all the partitions were apparently destroyed by the troops trying to escape; a well-fitted kitchen level, but on which most of the goods had been ruined or taken (bar a crate of cheeses, partly-smashed); and a Great Hall, at the end of which was the main door.

This level, the group met with caution. At the end stood two guardians, and on the roof it seemed a cage-trap had been sprung from the inversion of the keep. Telaric thumbed thorugh his beloved construct ‘all-trumps’ picture-book, and found the guardians; Keira looked closely at the sprung trap, and noticed it appeared to be clinging to the ceiling. Telaric thumbed through his book again, and found a description of a cage-construct, one made from numerous, bar-like micro-constructs. The group backed away, deciding to leave these constructs to their work: why would the group want to go outside anyway, they questioned? It only led to an upside-down, empty courtyard…

Gainging pace now, the Rangers clambered up to the next level, a set of low, arched storerooms more similar to a crypt. After having a quick look round this, almost stripped, area they finally twigged that there was almost no metal left in the keep except for the constructs. Where had it all gone?

A set of stairs led from here up (it once was down) to what appeared to be a cell area – the dungeon at the top of the inverted keep! The guard station was cleared, bar an upturned storage chest, and a hole in the wall led up to the outside air: the occupants had tunneled their way out! More distracting were the calls from prisoners, still in the cells. “Water! Food!”

Telaric explored outside: a massive circle of arcane symbols were inscribed on the ground. He couldn’t be sure but, looking at his book, the symbols seemed to match that on the picture of the giant, flying transport. The others, meanwhile, were exploring the chest and questioning the prisoners.

The first was a mad old man, stinking, in decaying clothes. To their surprise, he spoke common. After draining a skin of water, this Bevan explained the other prisoner was dangerous, a real “bad’un”, though he didn’t know why. it transpired he had been in the area, on his raft, when the inverted islands appeared, and just wanted his raft back. After being promised to be given it back (the group suspecting the raft they had seen had been his), he was satisfied and ambled outside, picking up his skin bag from amongst the ruined items in the chest.

The other prisoner, an actual Venschian called Tameran, proved more of an problem. He was apparently trapped in a cell with bocks that pulsed and shimmered. From the markings, Nim and Keira deduced the blocks prevented him accessing the divine powers of his god, and fearing retribution, they interrogated him in his cell, Nim using the book of rites as a translation medium once he recast his comprehend languages.

The talk turned out to be fruitful in several ways: Tameran was a law enforcer of some kind, a Lawkeeper, and was imprisoned by those he had come to ensure were staying on the right path. He was irate, asking for help in bringing the Venschians of the keep to justice. The Rangers tried to make him an ally, promising they would take him back to their superiors on the condition he not harm them in any way, that they be considered allies, but it turned out that the book of rites had no word for ally: all other races and peoples were referred to under a generic term that had connotations of ‘farmstock’. Even the commission from the Lords of the Greater Sea proved useful: it was a statement of law to which Tameran could instantly relate, and he demanded to see the Lords so they could assist him in his task to bring the Venschians to justice. Fearful of his motives and his power, the group left Tameran in his cell, but with plentiful food, informing him they would return to their masters and send more effective help (that is, they would ask for much tougher Rangers to escort Tameran).

Returning to the fleet, the Rangers reported to the admiral, reluctantly giving him Tameran’s possesions and the book of B’tar rites, and Telaric even more reluctantly handing over his book of constructs. They explained their fears: that the construct-using Venschian were a race who believed they had the B’tar-given right to dominate – and farm – others. They explained about the Lawkeepers and the danger they feared from Tameran: that the Venschians of the keep were possibly outlawed by the lawkeepers. But who could be trusted?

Lessons: Up is the new down. Check things out first. Let your minds roam free on skill challenges: some demand a core skill, but it, and many others, can be used in so many different ways. Can any Venschian be trusted?

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Ravage of Sendtown Island
The first sign of problems

Part 1 – A deserted town

It was a motley group of characters from the sea rangers who were sent to Sendtown island. A scout caravel had discovered an apparently abandoned fishing town on a large island. A small group of scouts were sent to investigate.

Who were they? Led by Keira, a dwarven shaman, the group included Nim (the magnificent), a gnome wizard, Origine, a Deva paladin of Pelor, Hadley ‘Useful’, a human rogue, and Aurkhan Willowfriend, a rather slow goliath warden.

They were cautious, docking at the end of an abandoned pier and slowly moving into the town. Nim and Aurkhan, aka ‘Little and Large’ quickly struck it off, Nim promising to protect the giant oaf if he’d just stick with Nim. The pair led the group into the town, talking together and discussing the delights of nature.

Hadley, a very independent human, was particularly cautious, running from one side of the pier to the other. After the group spied an abandoned dockside tavern, he was sent in to investigate whilst the others whiled away the time…

It was abandoned, stripped of everything. Drink, food, people. Though it looked as if things had been rough at one time, and recently, the door was partly repaired. What had happened in the empty town?

Wind whistled along the street as the group headed towards the town centre. They rounded a corner and there, ahead of them, were a group of orcs playing dice. After some lengthy discussion, Nim and Aurkhan just decided to wander up an alley to one side, whilst Hadley ran round the other. Origine and Keira quickly followed, but by now it was becoming obvious there was no real leadership…

Origine stepped on a cat, and the fall in his armour alerted the orcs. Too late, the group spotted that there were a larger group of orcs around the sides of the square, and all had the drop on our scouts (bar Hadley, of course). Orc bombadiers through flame, setting fire to Nim; orc soldiers rushed to the attack; Hadley found himself squared off to two enormous, axe-wielding dwarves.

All our heroes bar Hadley were stuck in an alleyway. Nim and Keira rushed to one side, Keira summoning her spirit companion (a great bear) to help heal her diminutive cohort, whilst Aurkhan rushed forward and, some time later, Origine lumbered to support him. The fight was tough, the bombadiers throwing their grenades again before rushing into the fight with their axes. Suffice to say, it was Aurkhan’ stalwart defense that saved the day, coupled with heroic Hadley’s lethal, dancing skills. Nim? He almost died, and the others were struggling before the orcs were finally brought under control.

Though without Keira’s bear (who has no name, it seems), the group would have been wiped out by the exploding bombadiers.

Part 2 – The woods

Tracks were found leading out of town, up over the central hill or towards a nearby forest. Aurkhan was hopeful, and it was this desire to see some more trees that prehaps persuaded his friends. Once more he set off with his friend Nim, the others rushing to catch up and form some form of sensible scouting arrangement.

The tracks led into the trees. Hadley whispered on ahead to carry out some preliminary scout: a group of orcs in a clearing, with guard dogs, apparently forcing some human prisoners to fill in a large pit. He tip-toed back to his fellows and reported his findings.

This time a more sensible plan was formed. Hadley was to sneak up the left through the undergrowth; Keira and Origine along the track, and Nim decided to flit from tree to tree up the right. Aurkhan? Well, he remembered the trees of his youth and swung from bough to bough, making much noise to be sure. The idea was for Origine to negotiate…

Hadley quickly charged into the orcs on the left of the clearing, finding they were tougher than he thought. The others had little choice, Origine running forward to face the dog-handler and Keira staying towards the rear and bringing in her bear-spirit. Nim flitted in and out of the trees, loosing an early spell that turned the ground to ice, hampering the orcs. Aurkhan eventually dropped out of the trees, his presence relieving the patient Origine of her workload and helping Hadley who, once more, had bitten off more than he could chew. In between them flitted Keira’s bear-spirit, invigorating those who needed help.

The human captives ran, pursued by two of their captors, but Nim and Keira made short work of the orc guards before turning their attention back to their friends. But now Hadley had his friends in support, he was able to do what he was capable of doing best – bringing down the pre-occupied foe.

The pit? A mass grave, at the bottom of which were most of teh town guard.

Part 3 – The beach

After healing themselves, and questioning the townsfolk they had rescued, the group took stock. Some of their daily abilities were lost, and a restful sleep may be in order. Most, though, felt it more important to go forward to find any more of the raiding orcs. The fact that some of teh orcs wore a red armband with a black sigil upon it was a significant omen. What was it? Or who did it represent?

The other tracks led over the island to a long beach. Carefully sneaking up towards it, the group found a single remaining orcish ocean-going vessel, it’s crew preparing to leave. Along the beach were the marks of other ships, none now in sight. A path led down to the beach. Yet another plan was hatched: Hadley was to swim out to the boat undetected, remove its caulking so it became unseaworthy, and then the remainder were to take on the orcs. The problem was, one appeared to be a one-eyed shaman, perhaps one of the fabled, evil, Eyes of Gruumsh.

Hadley removed the caulking as planned, the others carefully sneaked up to the lip of the cliff to see how far he had gone. This time it was Nim who roused the orcs attention, slipping on the edge. Quickly, Hadley grabbed a nearby rope and catapulted himself up onto the deack of the beached ship; Aurkhan scrambled down teh cliff and, in a heroic surge, charged into the middle of the orcs, startling them all and pinning them down. Origine charged down the path, launching into the other side of the orcs, whilst Nim and Keira stayed atop the cliffs, using their powers to distract those below.

It was a tough fight. Hadley took on the Eye and his bodyguard, a berserk. Once more, he found he had picked on more than he could chew. Meanwhile, Aurkhan and Origine were slowly pulling down the orcs, but were desperately looking for support.

These orcs were canny, constantly attacking Keira’s spirit-bear, and flanking the lumbering defenders. Nim, though, was erratic, sometimes striking well with his spells, othertimes wondering where his effects had gone. It was the Eye of Gruumsh who was the most powerful, constantly bringing down the parties effectiveness with his spells. Hadley was forced off the boat to save his own skin. The group was struggling, many bloodied and wondering whether they would survive. But after coordinating his attacks with the stalwart Origine and Aurkhan, Hadley was finally able to to resume his effectiveness, bring down one orc after another.

After taking what items they found, the group returned to the town and then to the fleet, wondering why or who these raiders were.

The lesson? Co-ordination is key.

Treasure parcels used: level 1, numbers 1,3,6,8. XP: 440 each

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