The Dark Side

Syndicate Log Entry One

I don’t know that this is going to work. The Baatorians have a strange way of organizing things, bring together a group of mostly anti-social sociopaths and have them work together? Each of the people undoubtedly has their own unique skill set, getting them to cooperate would be quite the feat. I don’t know if they’ve accomplished this feat before, so I’ll stick around and see what they do, but I don’t see this going particularly well.

We all arrived at some nowhere spot in the middle of the mountains. It sure didn’t look like any type of citadel that I’ve ever seen. We were left to our own devices when we met up, and wasted time looking around trying to find their citadel. That’s when I noticed the rat, others noticed it as well, and they actually drew their weapons on it. I’m seriously questioning the discipline of some of these people. I have yet to run into anything that looks like a rat that warrants that kind of reaction. The rat then turned into a man, a nervous, frightened man. He claimed to be the Baatorians’ representative here to meet us. It was about time. He was to lead us into their base and get us ‘settled in’. I was beginning to feel as though they didn’t need us as much as the letter had claimed, still it’s not good to make judgments before you get all of the information and patience is a virtue. I wasn’t always one for virtues.

Hagman, the were-rat, led us into their base through an illusion wall of stone. Most of us entered cautiously, most of us are not kenders. The woman, Bet, brought her horse in with her. She seemed to have some difficulty convincing it, but she managed it. I had to give her credit for that, I would have been disappointed if the horse had defeated her. The corridor was narrow and tunneled into the mountain, it was a good place to hide a citadel. Hagman led us to a room with beds for each of us, our new living quarters no doubt. No privacy? That was one way to fuse a group together, or to have them kill one another. Amber, the kender, seemed excited; by this point however, I would have suspected something if she wasn’t. The others had Hagman get us some maps of the place so that we could explore a bit until we were needed.

Everyone split up, I considered investigating the armory or the training hall, but decided to see the mess hall. Eat when you get the chance, you never know when you may not have such options. The food was decent, the staff was a bit peculiar. They seemed to be in a trance, and the other people getting food amused themselves messing with them. Hagman came with word then that it was time to meet with one of the council members.

The man we met was a dwarf, by the name of Torok. By the looks of his decorations, he had been quite the fighter in his day. Now he sat behind a desk shuffling papers. Such a waste. He told us that there was a party of adventurers lurking around the mountain and getting a little to close to an entrance of theirs. We were to deal with them, and find out what they are doing here in the process. Simple enough, a trial run for us I suppose. It was finally something to do.

We rode out and encountered them just before dusk. They had set up camp in a clearing a few yards from the edge of a cliff. I momentarily toyed with the idea of just trying to drive them all over the side, but that wouldn’t get us the information that Torok had requested. The others had another plan. Magic, deception and such. Not one for sneaking around, I stay back behind the tree line while the most of the others moved forward. The kender did make for a good distraction. The group caught on, the battle started and quickly descended into chaos. I hope the Baatorians weren’t watching to closely. In the end we were left with their scout and cleric.

Bet scared the cleric into talking. I was impressed. I think he actually soiled himself, repeatedly. He claimed that they were up here hunting succubi, three of them attacked a village, killed some people and flew off into the mountains. Being the good people that they are, the group decided to hunt them down. The cleric was killed, but some thought the scout may prove useful yet. We went back to the base to report in. After dropping the scout off at the torture chamber, we met with Torok again. He was not pleased to hear about the succubi, they were not welcome here. He dispatched us once more to take care of them.

We rested for the night and headed out the next morning with the scout in tow. She showed us where the village was that had been attacked. ‘Village’ is a very loose term for the settlement we found. More complicated planning happened to try and get something out of these people who, I thought at least, fairly obviously didn’t have anything. We needed information though, so it was easier to let the others do what they want than try to talk them out of it. We found out that the succubi appeared about the same time three sisters vanished. Coincidence? I don’t think so. We went to the sisters’ house, there was not much there until Amber found a staircase hidden in the wardrobe leading down into the ground.

It was a long passage with a door at the end, we checked it for traps and moved through it. Beyond was a large room, split into four sections by grooves on the floor. Each section had a pillar with a lever on it. There was an open portcullis on our side, and a closed one on the far end. If this wasn’t a setup, I don’t know what one looks like. Very well, I’ll play along. A little experimentation later and we were split up into four groups, one at each lever. I’m still trying to figure out how I got with the kender. By pulling all the levers simultaneously, we activated the room. Spinning blades separated the sections and runes glowed in the middle of each. A monster of some sort appeared in each section which each group of two had to fight and kill. Ours died first. Two of the other beasts died and after a minute or so the blades stopped. We could all help finish off the last one.

Now there is talk of what to do next, proceed or sleep and recover. Some of our more magically inclined seemed unable to ration their power. I am all for pushing ahead, but we may well need everyone at full strength. I am not fond of waiting for others.

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Not so sure about this

So I headed out toward Dwarf country. Never quite ran into any dwarves though. Before I got there, the inclination to keep going turned into an inclination to not keep going. There were a group of others who seemed to be in the same boat even though there was nothing where we ended up. It was just a mountain. We identified ourselves to each other, some giving more information than others. The little one who calls herself a ‘kender’ – Amber, her name is, until I decide what might work better for her – went on and on. It was a little hard to understand her. I consider myself reasonably intelligent, but it takes a special kind of mental agility to follow someone who talks that quickly. I don’t have it. Eventually, I tuned her out as background noise; she seemed like less of a headache that way and I don’t think I missed much.

The others weren’t as willing to offer their life stories, but I at least got a name out of each of them. That’s all I offered, and not even my full name. Just “I’m Bet.” These were all strangers and some of them looked downright unsavory. The less they knew about me the better. Bad enough the Baa people knew as much as they did.

After some time spent fruitlessly searching the area for what we were supposed to be here for, Horse (I claimed I was reasonably intelligent, not creative) tensed beneath me and I noticed that there was a rat amongst our group where there hadn’t been a rat before. Swords were drawn (a bit of a jumpy group I found myself amongst – I generally don’t consider killing rats worth the effort of cleaning the blade afterwards) and then the rodent turned into a ratty little man (on occasion, I do consider myself moderately amusing). My hand was already on Bet’s Blade’s hilt – like I said, unsavory strangers – and so I kept it there, but he urged us to peace. He was the Baa people’s representative.

He brought us to a solid rock and walked right through it. The kender followed immediately and the others followed her with a bit less enthusiasm but a lot more decorum. I tried to get Horse to go through after them, but he was having none of it. I had to back him tail first. I gathered the others were snickering about it behind my back, but I got him inside. We were in an underground corridor, and the ceiling lowered far enough down that I had to dismount. Grabbing hold of his bridle, I pulled Horse along behind me as we were led deeper into the mountain. He didn’t really like the dark narrow space, but he didn’t give me any issues.

I was offered the chance to stable him, but I didn’t take it at first. If I needed to make a fast getaway, I wanted my horse nearby. We were shown to a room that the lot of us would be sharing. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m not the only woman, and I feel confident of my ability to defend myself, even from sleep, but I will not be sleeping well in this company. Even aside from the fact that I trust them all about as far as I can throw Horse, I suspect the kender talks in her sleep, the men probably snore, and one of them has this horrible odor that lingers around him. I am hoping for fast advancement to a single room.

We were provided with maps and told to make ourselves comfortable and explore the place before we met with the boss man. Deciding I didn’t want to lug around all my belongings to the mess hall, but that they weren’t remotely safe in the kender’s company, I brought Horse down to the stable and settled him in with a bag of oats and told him to protect his saddle and saddle bags with his life. So far as I know, he didn’t understand a word of it, but it never hurts to keep stable hands a little nervous about getting too near your horse, and I still wasn’t too comfortable leaving him alone here yet.

But I was hungry, so I ate something, and then went to check out the training room. I like to get in a little sparring whenever I can to keep sharp, and if they’ve got the facilities, there’s no sense in not taking advantage of it. One of the fellows there tried to get on my nerves, but he wasn’t very good at it. Implied I didn’t know how to use a sword, but I knew he was just trying for a reaction, so I didn’t give him one. I’m contrary like that. Used the woman line, too, when that didn’t work and I just raised an eyebrow. Please. Like I haven’t heard that before. If I got upset every time some idiot called me a girl I’d never get any real work done. Once I figure out the hierarchy around here better and know how much trouble I can get in for messing with that guy, I may try to make things difficult for him, but it might be more entertaining to just keep treating him like he’s beneath my notice. That seemed highly effective. He’s probably more used to hot-headed and fragile-egoed elitist fighters who get off on proving themselves. Me, I’m just a professional merc.

Speaking of which, the immediate rewards are not awesome. When we went to talk to Boss Man, we were sent after a group of questing adventurers who were encroaching on Baa territory. No compensation except what we looted off of them. Granted, it was just a trial run, more to earn membership than a real job, but I spent all my money replacing the potions I had to use. Net zero. On the other hand, Boss did dangle out a sweet magical item incentive. Not just any magic items, but the ones best suited to each of us individually. Good ones. Ones that make little enchantments like what I’ve got on Bet’s Blade look like child’s play. I’m intrigued enough to stick around long enough to get that.

In the mean time, the number of potions I’m going through is going to greatly hinder my ability to save up for that keen enchantment I want to put on my Blade. Now, we’re out on another job, this one hunting succubi, and I’ve already used up the potions I bought and we haven’t even found the succubi yet. Frankly, it’s not promising.

Worse, the people I’m with are a little deranged. These are the sort of people the guards come after with prejudice. Now, I’m not a nice person. I like to pretend I’m good, but I’m not even close. But I’m downright cuddly next to some of these guys. I was contemplating a mercy killing for our prisoner during the first skirmish we had – when the rest would be distracted and she could conceivably be killed by the enemy – but she took care of the problem herself and committed suicide as soon as her keepers were otherwise engaged. I respect her for that. It was by far the best option available to her.

And I thought I was intimidating before I knew what these guys did to people. I bet I can make our next prisoner beg for death even faster than I made that cleric piss his pants while we were finding out what that first adventuring party was doing in Baa’s territory. At that time, I was still under the illusion that death was the worst thing that could happen to a person and the phrase ‘make you wish for death’ was more of a melodramatic threat than an actual truth. I’ve always been a good bluffer, so I guess I made the cleric believe it, but now that I do, I think I can do even better.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not squeamish. I’m not against killing and slashing people to make a point. I’m a mercenary. I’ll do whatever my employer pays me to do. But the fact is, we’re not getting paid to torture anyone, and the way that Ghauntree elf guy was eying up the prisoner just gave me the creeps. I’m not going to shed a tear if one of the succubi get to that one. Not that I’ve shed a tear in recent memory. Let’s rephrase that. I won’t pretend to say a prayer over his soul to a god I don’t believe in if that one gets the life sucked out of him by a succubus.

Rhom, on the other hand, would get that service. I’d probably address it to the god of Death. Rhom seems to like Death. He certainly smells like it. He also delivered Death to the arrow demon that would very likely have killed me if it got one more shot off. As a rule, I like people who save my life regardless of what they smell like. Likewise, the fellow with the healing spells (I should figure out what his name is), also, would get the courtesy. I might even feel a little sad on his behalf if he passed on – he’s been doing a fair job of patching me up and keeping me from spending an even bigger fortune on healing potions than I already am.

The rest, I’m still undecided about. Norris seems fairly professional. Amber seems excitable but capable. I’m still working on putting names to faces on the others. But none of them have yet earned my respect as Rhom and Healer Guy have.

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First Day on the Job

After walking days the pull began to decrease. Eventually it ceased altogether as I entered a small depression. Looking around I saw that there were seven other “people” there. All of us seemed slightly confused and seemed to notice each other at about the same time. After a round of introductions we realized that none of us had an idea of what to do besides waiting. Amber the kender and I looked around for hidden doors but no luck. Though the kender found a with which she seemed immensely interested. In fact it went on and on about it for so long that I thought about silencing her.

Soon after we finished the unfruitful search, a rat appeared in the middle of the group. Jericho and I quickly drew on it. After all a rat doesn’t just appear. Before either of us actually dispatched it though, it transformed into a human named Hagman. He was to be our handler with BAA and escorted us through an invisible door. The kender charged right through it without a second thought. The rest of us were a bit more cautious and went through slowly.

The BAA had a whole base set up inside the mountain. It had everything a city would have – stables, infirmary, mess hall, barracks, magic store, torture chamber, etc. I could really get used to working out of here. Hagman showed us to our room and handed out some maps of the place. The kender was immensely amused and kept going on about how cool they were. That kender may have to be silenced at some point before we all go insane. Hagman gave us a chance to look around and said he would take use to see the head guy soon. The kender kept going on about a pillow fort but I was more interested in checking out the dungeon / torture chamber.

The head jailer was a half-fiend named Garral. He showed me around and said that I could watch but could only help out on my own interrogations. The place was nice and had everything I could every possibly want. I should definitely be able to offer Lolth some nice sacrifices using this setup but I would prefer a bit more privacy for some of my “offerings.”

I was the first one back to the barracks. The kender had been busy. She had moved all of the beds together and built a large pillow fort. I did the only reasonable thing – I ran and jumped onto top of it. Amber was not amused. I couldn’t tell if she was going to cry or scream. I was impressed though as she managed to keep it together and not actually break down or start screaming. The best part was that she didn’t utter a single word.

About that time, everyone else and Hagman arrived. It was time for us to meet the people in charge. Hagman took us to a meet a dwarf named Torok. Looking around his office Torok was either an accomplished warrior or had an interior decorator that went to a lot of trouble to make him look like one. Torok had a test lined up for us. There was a group of adventures nosing around near the mountain. Our job was to find out what they were up to and get rid of them.

We came across the party about one mile from the mountain. There were six of them around a fire. Myself, Jericho, and Bet were turned invisible by the gnome and started trying to flank the group. Amber went straight down the middle and started to engage them in conversation. Unfortunately we weren’t as quite as we should have been and the Scout noticed us. Our illusionist conjured an ogre to distract them. Once we got within 30’ I took a shot at the scout. There must have been something wrong with the bow though as I missed. Then all hell broke lose and it was a good old fashioned fight.

At the end the scout and the cleric were the only ones left. We bound them and stripped everyone. We brought the two of them over to the cliff edge and started the interrogation. Bet was good at intimidation. She went after the cleric and had him soiling myself in no time. He started blathering on trying to tell us anything that would keep him alive. I was all set to slash his throat when I thought he had told us everything useful but Jericho wanted to ask more questions. He asked a couple more questions and then took his head off with his great sword. He then spun around and kicked the corpse over the edge. At least he grabbed the rope as the cleric went over so Betalina Wittenberg didn’t have to get a new one. I wasn’t overly happy at this. I had planned to sacrifice the cleric but no Jericho took care of him. Now all I have left is the scout. She was quite shapely in her small clothes and would make a very nice “offering.”

The scout was willing to do anything to keep from joining her former party mates. The party had heard of some murders in a small town and had gone to investigate. While at the tavern another murder happened and they caught site of three succubi leaving the scene. They trailed them up into the mountains but lost them. She agreed to take us to the small town. So we took her back and handed her over to Garral. We then went to Torok to inform him of our findings. He was not very happy about succubi in the area and we were tasked to find and remove them ASAP.

It was late so we all took care of what we needed to do and settled in for the night. Jericho went to visit the scout. I followed without anyone noticing and watched. Just wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to harm my “offering.” He talked to her but otherwise left her unharmed.

The next day we set off with the scout leading us. It took a couple days but we eventually came to the village. It was barely deserving of the title, little more than a tavern and few run down shacks. We needed someway to get information but we couldn’t go marching in their with the scout. Jericho and Rhomus Bohrel agreed to watch her. We left her with them though I had my doubts about my future offering in Jericho’s hands.

The gnome magicked up a fake succubi head and we headed for the tavern. He plunked the head down on the bar and asked for a reward. That was when we found out just how poor the town was. All they could offer up was a round of drinks and free room and board. Given the looks of the place I would rather sleep outside in the cold then inside and get whatever bugs were living here. Talking with the locals though we found out that the three succubi showed up and vanished at the same time as three local sisters. They went to their house but found nothing. The sisters vanishing when the succubi showed up were too much of a coincidence so we decided to investigate.

We gathered everyone up again and set off for the house. It was a one room shack and at first didn’t look all the promising. Amber looked around though and found a hidden door in the closet. We opened it and saw a stone staircase leading down. So of course we followed it.

At the bottom of the stairs there was a short corridor heading to a door. Beyond the door was a large room with an open portcullis on our end and a closed one at the other. There were slots in the room diving it into quarters with a pillar in the corner of each one. We looked into the slots but couldn’t find see anything in them. Each pillar had a handle and crude drawing on it. As we found out later the pictures were of an arrow demon, abyssal ravager, jovak, and a babau. We tried pulling the handles one at a time but nothing happened.

We guessed that they had to be pulled all at the same time so we split into four groups: Betalina Wittenberg and Rhomus Bohrel took the arrow demon; Norris and Amber the abyssal ravager; Jericho and the gnome took the jovak; and little blue guy on the ape and I took the babau. We pulled the levers at once and spinning blades came out of the floor. Then runes started glowing in the center of the room and the pictured monsters appeared. Normally these would have been easy battles but two one was not quite as easy as eight on four would have been. We didn’t have the correct people against the correct demons so things didn’t go well.

First the scout panicked and tried to jump through the blades. Not a good idea. She was sliced and diced. Such a waste of a good “offering.” It took a while but most of us were able to take our demons down. Though we went through quite a few potions. Jericho and the gnome though couldn’t seem to touch theirs. Finally though the blades came down and we all could help out. That finished the jovak off quite quickly.

Now we just have to see what is beyond the next portcullis. Hopefully the succubi. Some of the group wants to turn back and rest. They are whining about being out of spells. I want to push on and finish off the succubi. After all they would make lovely offerings.

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A New Way to Favor?

It had been 5 years since Ghauntree had emerged from the cave and offered his first “sacrifice” to Lolth (backstory). Over the first few weeks after emerging from the cave he had tried to win Lolth’s favor by offering as many sacrifices as possible. At first he gave himself over fully to his desire to please Lolth. His “sacrifices” became more violent and depraved as he tried harder and harder to earn Lolth’s favor. It got to the point that what happened at that first homestead looked like a children’s bedtime story by comparison.

His fervor was such that rumors started to spread of a demon stalking the countryside. Ghauntree though began to believe the stories of his own prowess and grew sloppy. At one “sacrifice” one of the victims actually escaped and made it to the local town, Kotanku. A party was raised and Ghauntree found himself on the run. He managed to escape them but the chase made him think that perhaps he was gaining Lolth’s favor was not quite so straight forward. It also made him decide it was a change of scenery. The surface could be just as dangerous as the underdark if you were completely on your own.

He eventually wound up in Centauri. He had offered many “sacrifices” to Lolth but still hadn’t earned the favor he so desired. His offerings though had become less less reckless and passion fueled over time as he realized that it could be a long time before he earned his favor. He was in fact beginning to settle in rather nicely to life on the surface. One of the first things he had figured out was that no one seemed to know what a drow was. When he had lived on the surface as a child everyone had known and feared the drow. Here no one did. They just seemed to think he was a weird southern elf with strange hair. Wherever this Taeryth was it was certainly a long way from Faerun. Though this did not bode well for him ever finding his way back to Dusklyngh it did make his life easier.

Ghauntree had been living off contract and the occasional just for fun jobs (i.e. sacrifices). Tonight he found himself in the room of some small time crime boss. His rival had hired Ghauntree to remove him. Ghauntree had slipped into the room and sliced the man’s throat without even disturbing the female elf lying next to him. He was wondering if he should bother with her, she was rather shapely and it had been a while since he had ever had any fun, when he noticed the note on the man’s pillow.

it was form some group called the United Baatotrians offering the man a place in their organization. As son as he read it the note the words vanished and he felt drawn to someplace south of the city. Well the man wasn’t going to be able to make the meeting anymore and this organization should give Ghauntree a more consistent income and offering stream.

Just then then woman stirred as the man’s blood finally ran onto her arm. Without missing a beat Ghauntree rendered her unconscious with his dagger hilt. He was about to leave when he looked over and saw that the sheets had moved revealing her in the moonlight. She really was rather shapely and it had been quite a while….

A short time later Ghauntree slipped out of the window with a satisfied look on his face and leaving two corpses behind. he then hurried home, grabbed up his few possessions and headed south. He wondered what sorts of jobs this group had in mind. So long as he got enough money to get by and got offer lots of sacrifices to Lolth (eventually she would have to be pleased enough to notice him) he would be happy.

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A Welcome Invitation

Norris looked over the blank page for the hundredth time since he had found it setting next to him when he awoke a week ago. As before, the page hinted at nothing. The script that had been written on it was gone, and nothing had replaced it. He had been certain that more writing would appear and show him how to meet these people. He folded the paper up, tucked it away and goaded his mount onward.

The United Baatorians, he hadn’t heard of them before. That didn’t really surprise him, whoever they were, they were very good at what they did. It was the ones that you never heard about that were truly strong, not the ones that you heard tales about. Norris did not seek fame either, he sought strength. Perhaps these people would show him the true path, their letter had been convincing. Somehow they had managed to find him out in the wilderness when they’d left him the letter. He’d been out keeping a rogue and wizard safe as they dug through some ruins looking for a cursed artifact. At the time Norris had thought it was worth the trouble, after he got the letter, he left them to their fate. The rogue had been on watch and the wizard had set up protections, neither were alerted, nor could they explain how a letter appeared for Norris. The Baatorians were stronger, he would find them. As he left the wizard and rogue’s camp, he could hear screaming and shouts of anguish. His only thought was “The weaklings must have found their artifact.”

Pulling his attention back to his surroundings Norris noticed that he had been getting rather deep into the mountains, south of Centauri if he had to guess. It was a bit of an odd location, why had he come this way? He could feel it though, there was an urging moving him onward. The Baartorians were very good at what they did. He stopped his mount, if they could do this without him knowing, what else might they be able to urge him to do? There was only one way to find out, he would test their strength.

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One Bet too many around here

Squanamongonic is getting too small. Since Vorrutyer became Count, there’s been work enough, and the town guard have been more willing to be friendly – at a price – than they were under Count Vorkosigan, but I’m just getting that sense that it’s time to move on. Too many people recognize me on sight, and some are even starting to be able to find me when they want to instead of when I want them to. Call me paranoid, but that’s a recipe for arrest sooner rather than later.

So the letter on my pillow that morning (aside from being terrifying in that I didn’t wake up when it was delivered) seemed like a deliverance. I was just thinking I wanted to get out and here was this invitation to join something called the United Baatorians. I hadn’t gotten to the point where I’d figured out where I was going aside from away, and this comes. If I believed in a God, I very well may have taken it as a Sign. Heck, maybe there really is a patron deity of thieves and murderers who actually does look after my sort.

Or, more likely, these guys who were watching me were starting to get the same sense I was that Squanamongonic was shrinking. If they’ve been spying on me as long as they say they have, the place is probably getting a little too familiar to them, too.

I didn’t have a lot of loose ends to tie up, and those I did were already half sorted already. I finished up my preparations for a journey, figuring it would take about a week to get there, and waited. Nothing came, but after a few days, I just wanted to travel a bit northwest, toward the Dwarf lands. Now, I like being tall. I’m five eleven, which is a goodly impressive height for a woman in human lands, but I get a back ache looking down at too many dwarves for too long a time. I ain’t never felt an urge to go visit a whole kingdom full of Dwarves before. This was downright unnatural.

So I went. Saddled up my horse, pointed him a bit south of Centauri, and started riding out. Figured this was the instructions I was waiting for since it obviously wasn’t an impulse I would have had myself. Magic of some sort, no doubt, telling me where to go. Now, I ain’t one of them sorts that would normally blindly follow some mysterious group because they can cast some cryptic magic message, but I was willing to give these United Baa people the benefit of the doubt this once. ‘Sides, they’d been spying on me and seemed to know who I was and what all I did. Seemed only fair to figure out the same of them.

If I didn’t like their offer, I could just leave, like I just left Squanamongonic. And if they weren’t inclined to allow that, well, that’s what Bet’s Blade was for. They’d said my talents were good. I’d just have to prove them right.

But I could recognize a lucrative job offer at twenty paces and that’s what this sounded like. I didn’t doubt for a moment that the money was going to be good, and there is very little I won’t do for a large enough pouch of gold. I expected I was going to like the offer.

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