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The Iron Bull


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Aug 27 2017, 10:38 PM
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<div class="cdlettertemplate"><div class="cdlettertext"><span class="cdbulltext">[/dohtml]Lilura -

It was a pleasure getting the chance to meet you the other day. I regret that we didn't get the chance to finish our conversation, and I'd like to get to know the people I'm going to be working with. If you have time, do you want to grab a drink sometime after our shifts are over? Let me know.

↼The Iron Bull⇀

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the tide rises, the tide falls


but the sea is changeless

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[/doHTML]There was something intrinsically friendly about a handwritten note.

The Iron Bull did not consider himself particularly backwards - Qunari were, technologically speaking, one of the most advanced cultures on Thedas, preferring engineering and ruthless efficiency over magic and superstition. But there was something a little bit... unsatisfying about the cell phones that folks on Kadath seemed to prefer as the primary mode of communication. They were clever, certainly, and he could immediately see the tactical benefits of being able to contact fellow Intelligence officers at any time. Hence why he'd made a point to acquire one. But when it came to information-gathering, clever technology was no substitute for a personal touch.

(That was certainly the reason why he was continuing to write his reports by hand, rather than using the computer that had been provided. Definitely the reason. It had nothing to do with his hands being rather too large for keyboards designed for a human's ergonomic use, nor the two missing fingertips on his off-hand. Nor was he having any sort of culture shock when it came to adjusting to the sheer quantity of new technology and information he'd had to absorb since his arrival. Bull was settling in great.)

The 'personal touch' was what he did best, back home: with his team, he knew... basically everything about everyone. Their preferred drink orders, who was sleeping with whom, hobbies, favorite colors... Not even incriminating stuff, but little inconsequential details. The kinds of things that people noticed and appreciated that you remembered. Morale was important, a part of the equation that was too often ignored in tactical assessments.

Somehow, he didn't think that was how it was gonna work here. Not when it seemed like over half his coworkers had gone full Tevinter: you didn't need a Ben-Hassrath's insight to recognize the nascent web of mind games going on in the Intelligence Department, or to notice that not a goddamn one of them trusted each other. And frankly, Bull didn't trust them, either. It was inevitable: there was no basis for trust, no common ground to begin from. You picked up a pack of strangers from Maker-knows-where, trapped them in an unfamiliar city together, and gave them no clear objective or means to get home. On top of that, the Intelligence Department was the self-selected subset of people who considered themselves clever and dangerous, which meant you got a lot of pleasant smiles over sharpening knives. (Metaphorical knives. Maybe literal knives, in some cases.)

They were supposed to be - more or less - on the same side, that side being Law and Order and Getting The Fuck Home In One Piece. If Intelligence was spending half its resources watching its own backs, that was inefficient. And Bull was still just Qunari enough to disdain inefficiency.

If asked, Bull wouldn't have been able to fully articulate why his first target was Captain Lilura, rather than Mara or Hazama. It was instinct, something in the gut that told him start here. But you didn't need to be able to articulate a hunch in order to act on it, and Bull had made a career of trusting his intuition when it came to people's intent and motives. Also, it didn't hurt that she was Captain of Intelligence. It made her the closest thing this place had to a fellow Ben-Hassrath, and a useful ally to have on his side, if he could wrangle it.

It was early evening, late enough that work was over for the day, but still pre-dusk: the more nocturnal, criminally-inclined parts of the city wouldn't be active for another hour or two yet, so they weren't likely to be called in on any sort of emergency. The Red Moon Tavern was a small but bustling spot in the Central Bazaar district: more modern than the taverns Bull was used to, but not so much as to be wholly unfamiliar. There was something comfortably timeless about the concept of we serve alcohol and maybe food if you're lucky, apparently. It was the sort of place where one could get a private table for two, but the ambient buzz of background conversation made a more effective privacy filter than a locked door or a silence spell. Anyone trying to eavesdrop here would have to get uncomfortably close to pick out one thread of conversation among many, and that was just how Bull liked it.

He nursed his drink, kicked back in his chair, and waited patiently. If he was lucky, Lilura would find his offer intriguing enough to show up. If he wasn't lucky... Well. Could do worse than an evening of people-watching, in a place like Kadath.

<div class="bullTagBox">tag: Lilura Prisca</div>
Aug 26 2017, 06:42 PM
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<div class="blackphoneicons"><img src="" width="13px"> <img src="" width="11px"> 4:15 p.m</div>
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iron bull


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Thias us bull

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Aug 26 2017, 04:58 PM
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as good a place to fall as any

we'll build our altar here

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There was so much he wanted to say.

Kadath was an unknown quantity, a strange place full of stranger people: letting on who Dorian was to him, exactly how much they were to each other, was something they needed to talk about in private. Having Dorian here was a gift, an unexpected blessing - but also a complicated matter. The sort of complicated matter that would be better discussed in private, so that they could come to a mutual informed decision about what and how much of their personal relationship to be open about.

Still, Dorian was a magister's son to the bone, and he was too well-practiced in the politics of Tevinter not to follow Bull's lead. Not so much as a word or a glance needed to be exchanged; each could read the other too well. They walked the streets of Upper Kadath, exchanging meaningless pleasantries, and Bull's hand lingered on the pendant hanging around his neck - two fingers lightly tapping the sending-crystal once. Can't speak openly here. Better to wait until they were alone together.

He ushered Dorian through the door to his apartment first, giving the hallway one last quick check for signs that they were followed. Inside was a small, cozy space - even smaller and cozier, for someone Bull's size - with a certain spartan quality to its simplicity. Some of this was the lingering effects of a Qunari upbringing, pragmatic and austere; even back home, Bull's quarters were neat and unpretentious, with minimal clutter. The rest was simply a lack of time to decorate: he hadn't been on Kadath long enough to accumulate books and knick-knacks and the assorted miscellania of everyday life. There was a writing-desk, a bench with whetstone and polish for maintaining his gear, an oversized and comfortable-looking couch: the bones of a space that Bull was slowly making his own.

Then he closed and locked the door, and let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.


He swept Dorian up into his arms, laughing, and spun the mage around in a delighted circle before letting them both fall backwards onto the couch. "I missed you," he said, breathless, arms still wrapped firmly around Dorian as if he could anchor the other man's presence here by force of muscle and will alone. "Got a little worried there that you weren't going to follow me here."

And if Bull admitted he was 'a little worried', that meant... more than that. Probably a great deal more.

He nuzzled Dorian's jaw, careful not to knock him with a horn, breathing in the familiar smell of him: the sandalwood and black embrium attar that Dorian always favored, mingled with the spicy herbal notes of spell and potion components, and the distinctive smoke-and-earth undertone of Dorian's own magic. His kadan. His heart, returned to him.

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Aug 20 2017, 05:58 PM
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the iron bull

forty-two <i class="fa fa-circle" aria-hidden="true"></i>
male <i class="fa fa-circle" aria-hidden="true"></i>
pansexual <i class="fa fa-circle" aria-hidden="true"></i>
intelligence officer <i class="fa fa-circle" aria-hidden="true"></i>
kadath place

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<div class="bullplotheader">Friends</div><div class="bulltextbox2">

Bull is a friendly, easygoing sort of guy. Whenever possible, he's going to aim to make friends, rather than enemies: he's in an unfamiliar location full of potentially hostile people... which means that the best way to survive is to get himself some allies, however tenuous. It's easy to get on his good side: laugh at his jokes, treat him with basic decency, or... y'know, just stand in his vicinity looking lost and sad. Bull has a nigh-terminal case of Mama Bear Syndrome: he <i>will</i> adopt every lost duckling he comes across. Even the grudging ones who don't want to admit they are sad lost ducklings. You stay in Bull's vicinity long enough, you become one of his kids.
On the other hand... it takes a <i>lot</i> to get past the surface with him. Bull is friendly enough, but he keeps layers upon layers of barriers between surface appearances and his real thoughts. His trust is a difficult thing to earn, and will likely take some time and concerted effort.

</div><div class="bullplotheader">Lovers</div><div class="bulltextbox2">

Sorry, folks. Bull is happily taken by one Magister Dorian Pavus, of Minrathous. He flirts like he breathes, but it won't amount to much more than some double entendres and bad jokes.
On the other hand... Bull is nosy, and prone to prying into other people's romantic lives. Have two characters you're potentially interested in shipping, but you're not sure how to kick it off? Enter the Worst Wingman in the World. <i>Bull will help</i>. Mostly he will provide uncomfortably blunt honesty and wild misunderstandings of human romance. Of the "no, it's okay, I've read books about this" variety.

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Where possible, Bull will try not to ruffle feathers. He's not here to complicate his own life by making unnecessary enemies. But he does have a few dealbreakers that will cause him to immediately go for a weapon. One: <b>don't hurt kids</b>. Don't do it. He'll wreck you. Two: stay out of Bull's head. He doesn't truck with psychics, mind control, mind-altering magic, or anything of that nature. Three: don't be a demon. He'll... be a little more willing, as time goes on, to understand that "demon" in other worlds isn't necessarily synonymous with "demon" as he understands the word. He's already had a little practice in dealing with spirits and spooky magic stuff. But at least to begin with, Bull fears and distrusts demons.

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<ul><li>Bull is an Immigration Officer. New arrival? Bull's here to help. Theoretically.</li>
<li>Drinking buddies!</li>
<li>MAYHEM BUDDIES. Come fight some monsters and wreak some mayhem with Bull!</li>
<li>Fellow Intelligence folks! Bull will be around, and will do his best to make himself known to all his new coworkers.</li></ul>

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<b><span class="friend">NAME HERE</span></b> - friend. <i>Thoughts.</i>
<b><span class="enemy">NAME HERE</span></b> - enemy. <i>Thoughts.</i>
<b><span class="love">NAME HERE</span></b> - lover. <i>Thoughts.</i>
<b><span class="neutral">NAME HERE</span></b> - neutral. <i>Thoughts.</i>

Aug 11 2017, 04:19 PM
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djurabeast. pm or discord (djura#1691). est (gmt -5).

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<ul><li style="width: 250px;">lawful neutral</li></ul>

<ul><li style="width: 250px;">intelligence officer</li></ul>

<ul><li style="width: 250px;">dragon age</li>

</ul><ul><li style="width: 250px;">partway through the trespasser DLC</li></ul>

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((FRIENDLY WARNING: this app contains frank discussion of battlefield violence (including violence towards children), eyegore, and spoilers for parts of Dragon Age: Inquisition. Proceed with care.))

Your name is Ashkaari.

You are Qunari, which means you have no true name of your own. The people of the Qun have a curious relationship with names: a name should describe a thing accurately, and if the thing changes, then so does its name. Your name and your role are interchangeable: when you come of age, you will be assigned a rank and role, and that will be the whole of your identity.

But you are still imekari, a child, and that means that the tamassrans who are your teachers and caretakers call you by a nickname, until you are old enough to know your place in the world.

Tama calls you Ashkaari, which means one who thinks. She calls you this because you ask too many questions. When you are being particularly difficult, she tells you it is because you are far too clever for your own good.

At night, in the dormitories, the other imekari gossip over who the tamassrans will choose for what roles. (Speculating on what you want to be when you grow up is, apparently, a children's pastime common to all the cultures of Thedas.) No one has any doubts about you. You were bred for military work, and it shows: you are already a solid head taller than any other child in your year, with a sturdiness of bone that promises future strength.

But what use does the army have for all your questions? It bothers you - enough that you pester Tama about it, one afternoon while you are helping her with chores.

"Asit tal-eb," she tells you. "It is to be. Patience, imekari - the future will be what it will be, and fretting over it will not hasten its arrival. We will make the correct decision, when the time comes."

You duck your head, abashed at the gentle reprimand, and she tuts. Calloused hands, strong but gentle, ruffle your short hair, tracing over tender horn-buds that are only just starting to grow. "You are strong, and your mind is sharp. You will solve problems others cannot." There is something... a little sad, about the way she smiles at you. "You want to help, and that is admirable. But for now, concern yourself with how you can help today."

You take her advice to heart. You learn patience: you learn to watch, and to listen. When one of the other children is sick or unhappy, you are the first to know, and the first to alert Tama. When someone isn't getting their fair share, you notice, and you solve it. When schoolyard trouble brews, you defuse small fights; you are large enough to physically place yourself as a shield between others, when need be.

Later, when the world fails you, you will lose much of your gentleness. But you do not stop watching.

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Your name is Hissrad.

It means "keeper of illusions." Or, in the more common vernacular, it means liar.

It's not an insult. Not in your line of work. Your capacity for violence was bred in the bone, but you're far too clever and too independent to be a good soldier: you don't have it in you to just shut up and do as you're told.

You know all about the Ben-Hassrath, of course. Everyone's heard the stories. They're the spies, the secret police. Ben-Hassrath inside of Qunari-controlled territories are enforcers of religious law, keeping watch for anything that threatens to disrupt the natural peace and order of the Qun. When someone strays too far from the path, the Ben-Hassrath re-educators enforce correct thought and correct action. And in hostile foreign territories, the Ben-Hassrath are the eyes and ears of the Qun, observing and reporting back... and when it becomes necessary, they are the hands of the Qun as well, a swift knife in the dark to avert disaster.

It's an honor to be chosen. Your heart feels too big for your broad chest, like it is threatening to beat right out of your ribs. When Tama hugs you farewell - you are moving out of the children's dormitories, and you likely will not see her again - you imagine that this must be what a stone would feel like, if that stone could see the plan that the sculptor has for it.

You are young and new and full of endless possibility. You will make your superiors proud.

When Tama turns away from you, her eyes are bright with unshed tears, and you don't understand why.

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You are eighteen, and you have been stationed on Seheron.

Not the secure, occupied port of Alam, either, where the beresaad send their youngest soldiers to learn patience and vigilance. No, you're a Ben-Hassrath, and that means you're headed straight into contested territory.

For nearly three hundred years, this jungle island has been torn between rival powers; it has changed hands at least three times. Behind you are generations of Qunari, seeking to enforce order and spread the Qun for the benefit of all. Opposing you is Tevinter, a human nation ruled by magic and corruption and built on the backs of slaves, the antithesis of everything that the Qun stands for. The Qunari have a tentative hold on Seheron, but Tevinter is willing to do virtually anything to weaken that hold: they will poison shipments of food, set fires, plant assassins and double agents to sow fear and distrust among the populace.

And - as is always the case where rival powers clash - there are the people who are simply caught in the crossfire. Seheron's native citizens, who you see every day: they are fishmongers and spice merchants and orchard-tenders, with no stake in the war except to survive it. You wish there was more that you could do to protect them. But all you can do is learn their names, pay them fairly for any information they bring you, and do your best to see to the families of any informants you lose. You hope it's enough.

Some of the natives have begun to rebel; they call themselves Fog Warriors, for the deadly clouds of blinding fog that they conjure via some unknown alchemy. Anyone lost in that fog, Tevinter and Qunari alike, will find their throat slit before they can even call for help. You don't say so where your superior officers can hear, but you respect the hell out of the Fog Warriors. Unlike Tevinter, they are careful with their targets: they don't harm innocent bystanders, and they don't poison wells or burn crop-fields just to spite you. And while you aren't stupid enough to ever try to talk to a Fog Warrior (you like your throat un-slit, thanks) you think they respect you in turn. Or at the very least, they're willing to acknowledge that Tevinter is your mutual enemy. More than once, you watch a cocky 'Vint mage vanish in a cloud of choking white fog, right in front of your eyes. Whenever that happens, you are doubly careful to be polite to the village folk for days after.

In time, people come to respect you, in their own way. You may be Qunari, but they know that you will deal with them honestly and fairly. They know that they can come to you for protection from Tevinter, and they trust that you won't try to force conversion to the Qun on their families. (You're not qualified to convert anyone, anyway; you're not that kind of Ben-Hassrath.)

You're not here to hurt people. You're here to try to un-fuck the mess that previous generations left behind. The more you say it, the more people believe it - and the more you believe that you might actually be able to make a difference, here.

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You are twenty-eight, and you are still on Seheron.

Ben-Hassrath policy strongly recommends a two-year maximum on tours of service for agents stationed on Seheron. Any longer than that, and you risk asala-taar, the soul-sickness that claims so many good soldiers. You've seen it happen to agents who've been here half as long as you: they sleep with knives close at hand, and they wake in the night shaking, seeing enemies in every flickering shadow. You can't blame them. After the first time you watch an orphanage burn, all lit up with lurid mage-fire, you don't exactly sleep well either.

But soul-sickness is still a better fate than the ones who turn their backs on the Qun and walk into the jungle, hunting their own deaths. Every time it happens, you hope they find those deaths quickly... not just out of mercy, but because they're a danger to everyone around them. Tal-Vashoth - Qunari who fall from the Qun and succumb to madness - are more of a danger than the enemy, in this war-rotted place. The Tal-Vashoth are little better than rabid animals, scavenging and marauding and burning everything in their wake… except that every single one of them used to be your friends and teammates. And now it's your job to put them down.

You are twenty-eight, and you have been on Seheron for ten years without rest. You are no longer capable of looking at another thinking being without wondering how long it will take for them to try and kill you.

You rise through the ranks with alarming speed, partly on your own merit, but - let's be brutally honest here - mostly because your superior officers keep breaking down or dying. You shouldn't still be here, but the Ben-Hassrath can't afford to lose you: most of your informants refuse to talk to other Qunari, so if you leave, your entire network will collapse. It's a mess, but it's a mess of your own making.

Anger is your constant companion, your shadow. You wake in the morning with it already roiling under your skin, and you go to sleep with it clawing at your guts. But you push it down and put on a smile, because so many lives are depending on you. They need to trust you: the version of you that they know, the one who is kind and trustworthy and an endless rock of assurance. You wear this version of yourself like a second skin, over top of the anger, and you learn how to live like this.

Until you can't, anymore.

It starts when a merchant poisons half your men. It was your fault. The merchant was one of your most trusted friends; Tevinter coerced him into poisoning your food, and you didn't catch it in time. You saw the terror in his eyes, just in time to save yourself, but not quick enough to stop those who'd already eaten from dying.

It ends when that same poison is used to kill an entire school full of children. You have always had a weak spot for children.

You don't wait for orders. You storm into the jungle, ready to kill those responsible. The surviving remnants of your squad go with you, because they trust you. This, too, is your fault.

Vasaad goes down first. Vasaad, who has always been too quick, too impulsive; he has never learned to swallow his anger the way you learned to swallow yours. He hurts from the memory of all those tiny bodies, just as you do, but that hurt blinds him to the ambush until an arrow opens his throat in a spray of red.

Everything else goes red for you, after that.

You return to yourself, hours later, to find the bodies of your assailants lying all around you. Most are butchered, hacked to pieces, but after your axe broke, you killed the last few with your bare hands. You assess this fact with the same impassive eye that you have assessed a hundred similar massacres. It doesn't look like your doing. It looks like something a Tal-Vashoth would do.

When the survivors of your unit return with medics for you, you request that they turn you over to the re-educators for assessment.

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The most frightening thing about what the Ben-Hassrath do is how simple it is. You need no blood magic, no drugs or poisons, no specialized equipment to irrevocably change a man's mind.

All you need is a dark room with a door that locks, and patience.

Keep a man awake long enough, starve him for long enough, deprive him of light and sound and basic dignity. Provide these basic needs only conditionally, as rewards for correct answers. Ask the right questions in the right way, revisit memories again and again until the subject no longer remembers which version of events is true. Memories are malleable; they will change, when pressed. Under a re-educator's deft hand, correct thought can be carved from even the most damaged mind, like a sculpture emerging from rough stone.

You tried to keep track of the days, at first - to get a sense of the order and schedule that has grounded you, all the days of your life. But there are no windows in your cell, and your perception of the passage of time is rapidly distorting.

Breathe. Don't panic. Try to think.

Remember why you're here. You are here voluntarily. You turned yourself in. This is an authorized procedure, not torture. It hurts, but in the same way that cleaning out any infected wound hurts: when it's over, you will heal, and you will be right again.


Asit tal-eb - it is to be. The tide rises, the tide falls. Mountains crumble into the ocean, one grain of sand at a time. But the sea remains. Be the sea, not the mountain. Don't struggle. Let it happen. Let the professionals do their work.

We're all a lot more fragile than we'd like to believe, they told you in training. But the Qunari don't abandon a valued tool just because it breaks. Not if they can still make use of the pieces.

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Your name is still Hissrad, when they are done.

Years later, you will speak freely of your time with the re-educators, with no trace of remorse or rancor. It was necessary: you did the right thing by turning yourself in when you did, and they did their jobs well.

It's fine. You're fine now.

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Your name is still Hissrad, but you go by The Iron Bull.

It is part of your new cover. The Ben-Hassrath have given you a new assignment: you are to head south, posing as a Tal-Vashoth mercenary. You will travel through foreign lands, taking jobs for foreign nobles, reporting back to the Qun with any useful or actionable intelligence you dig up.

Passive intelligence gathering. It's a soft, cushy job, one for agents no longer suitable for more strenuous fieldwork. Your pride rankles at that, a bit. There's nothing wrong with you. Sure, that round of re-education is a black mark on your record. And yeah, okay, you've accumulated your share of scars; you wear a brace on your twice-broken ankle so it doesn't give out on you, and even then it twinges in the cold. And you're pretty sure that after the shit you saw on Seheron, you're going to have nightmares about the smell of smoke and sea-air for the rest of your life.

You are still a good agent, dammit.

But if this is what the Qun wants from you, then you're going to be the best damn Tal-Vashoth mercenary you can be. You throw yourself wholeheartedly into the role: drinking, fucking, learning tavern-songs in every language native to this part of Thedas. (Would a devout follower of the Qun know all the words to the Nug Song? Even the dirty verses?) You learn how to hide your native intellect and cunning behind a veneer of genial, meatheaded cheer; you have always been good at getting people to trust you, and it is even easier down here in the South. Most of these people have never seen a Qunari before: they see the muscles and the horns and the cheerful grin, and they assume you are as simpleminded as your size suggests.

You'd never get away with half this shit on Seheron. Folks back home know better than to underestimate the intelligence and tenacity of the Qunari. But down here? So long as you can keep a smile plastered on your face while they call you big brute and oxman, you can be everybody's friend.

You're on the southern border of Tevinter, nearly into Nevarra, when a tavern-brawl interrupts a previously uneventful dinner. A dozen men, wearing the distinctive armor of a Tevinter tribune, have cornered one smaller man. Two of them have his arms pinned, and one of them is advancing, wielding a flail. Bunch of fucking cowards.

You don't actually remember making the conscious decision to leave your seat. But you put yourself between the smaller man and his assailant, taking the blow on your own sturdy hide. You are built to take hits for others; this is what you are for. "Qunari scum!" spits the man with the flail, jerking his hand back; the weapon swings wildly, uncontrolled, and you are too far off-balance to react in time. Three of the spiked tips tear raw, hot lines across your face, and half your vision goes dark in a very permanent-feeling sort of way.

Well, shit. You roar a bellowing war-cry that sends the rest of the tribune scrambling for their weapons, and in the process they let go of the little guy they were after. Bad move, on their part. He's pissed-off, and he's scrappy, and he covers your newly-blind side during the quick, brutal brawl that ensues.

As the last of the tribune flee, you do your best to assess the damage: the eye's gone, for sure. No sense worrying about it now, and nothing to be done except keep it clean until it scars over. Your new friend coughs, with a pained rasp that suggests a broken rib or two. Fuckers. Nobody decent hits an unarmed man with a weapon. He - she? - the clothes and the stance say man, but the shape of the body under the torn gambeson say woman - looks up at you, wary and hopeful all at the same time.

He's aqun-athlok, maybe. The Qun has provisions for those whose body doesn't match the soul, but Tevinter's backwards. And they make all kinds of stink about women serving in the military. You'll figure out a tactful way to ask later, when you're not both bleeding. For now, you've gotta make tracks before the tribune come back with reinforcements. "You're safe now," you say, even though this isn't going to be true until you're both across the border. You're still a damn good liar. "I'm Iron Bull. What do you want me to call you?"

The kid - he can't be older than twenty - straightens his back. "Cremisius Aclassi," he says, in the same stiff way that all 'Vint soldiers give their poncy names. "Krem," he amends after a beat, seeing your expression.

"Krem. Okay. C'mon, let's get outta here."

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Your name is The Iron Bull. You like using the article; it makes you sound like not really a person, a dangerous thing, a mindless weapon of destruction. It reminds you of what you aren't, everything you fought so hard not to become.

Lately, though, you've been finding it harder to be Bull and Hissrad simultaneously. It's like you're living two lives in parallel: one man who is completely, unswervingly loyal to the Qun, and one man who lives a carefree life doing what he loves, surrounded by people who care about him.

It's a pretty weird feeling.

Krem is the first, but he isn't the last - not by a long shot. There's Rocky, your sapper and explosive specialist, a dwarf exile who may have gotten booted from his homeland for blowing up something important and historic. Skinner, an Orlesian city elf who you rescued from a murder charge; you're pretty sure she actually did kill the guy, but you're equally pretty sure that it was self-defense, and the Orlesian courts aren't likely to see it that way. Stitches, the company healer, who you "liberated" from another mercenary company who were way less competent than you. Grim, who doesn't talk much about himself... or much at all, really... you think he might be the prince of some ancient Avvar tribe or something?

Then there's Dalish, the mage... or "archer". It's sort of an in-joke: everyone in the company knows how Qunari feel about magic (it's all weird, spooky, and liable to explode into demons at a moment's notice). And with public sentiment against mages nearly at the breaking point, Dalish is understandably reluctant to flaunt her talents. So her mage's staff becomes an unstrung bow; the arcane focus at the tip is an "elven aiming crystal". Sure. Whatever works.

And you are the Bull, leader of the Bull's Chargers, one of the foremost mercenary companies in all of Thedas. You're a small company: less than fifty members at any given time, because you have no desire to lead a standing army, but you have higher morale and fewer deaths than any other major company on the continent.

All your boys know you're Ben-Hassrath. But they don't care who you report to, so long as they get paid and the contracts are good... and you are good at picking contracts. Talents that you once bent towards assessing threats and interrogating double agents, you now turn towards judging which jobs will be worthwhile and which are a crock of wyvern shit. You fight bandits, other mercenaries, wyverns, giants, spiders, giant spiders, and - on one memorable occasion - magic trees. You also sleep with half the noblewomen of Orlais, all of whom are very grateful that you chased all those bandits off their husbands' lands, and all of whom seem to have read the same half-dozen books of wildly inaccurate Qunari erotica. You don't mind, though - it's amazing what people will let slip during pillowtalk, and your monthly reports to the Ben-Hassrath are loaded with helpful blackmail material on every major noble house.

Things are going pretty well for you, right up until some ancient Tevinter asshole tries to rip the sky open.

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It's Krem's idea, at first, to join the Inquisition. You don't want anything to do with it. There's a hole in reality, and demons keep pouring out of it, and the Inquisition are the hastily-organized bunch of lunatics who decided it's their job to fix said hole. You're glad that someone is trying to do something, but that doesn't mean that someone has to be you, this time.

Because... demons. You hate demons. Demons get in your head, fuck with your thoughts - you can't kill something that worms its way inside your own skull. You cope much better these days, but there's too much crap rattling around inside your head that you don't want anyone digging up, ever again.

But then you get orders from home. The Qunari have concerns. Serious concerns. This is exactly the kind of potentially world-ending event that could make them decide it's time to launch a full-scale invasion of the continent, to restore order. The tone of the missive is impassive as always, but you can practically hear the swords sharpening behind every logogram. The Qun hates magic, even under the best of circumstances: magic is chaotic, inherently uncontrollable, full of insidious opportunities for spirits to slip across the veil and possess the unwary wielder. And this rift in the sky is a physical incarnation of every reason why the Qun mistrusts magic: it is magic run rampant, threatening the safety and stability of every nation. No one wants a war, but if the alternative is letting the whole continent fall...

Your bosses want you to join the Inquisition, and report back with your impression of whether they can handle the threat without outside intervention. Unspoken is the weight behind the command: we are deciding how militant our response needs to be.

Despite yourself, you... kind of like the Inquisition. Your new teammates remind you a lot of your boys, inasmuch as they're a ragtag bunch: a lost Seeker whose faith was shaken, a clanless apostate elf, a loyalist Circle mage fighting for an organization that no longer exists, a solitary Grey Warden who apparently spent the last five years living alone in the woods... Misfits and renegades and would-be heroes, the lot of them. Shit, your new boss used to be an enforcer for the dwarven mob, before she fell through the hole in reality and people started calling her some kind of prophet of the Maker.

You don't necessarily trust all of them. They've got secrets of their own. But you are transparent as glass - or so you let them believe. There's only so long you could work for an organization called the Inquisition before you got rumbled anyway, and the spymaster's reputation precedes her. Better to tell your new friends upfront that you're Ben-Hassrath, and watch them scramble to figure out an appropriate reaction to the Qunari spy admitting he's a spy. The admission costs you nothing, tactically speaking: your goals align entirely with the Inquisition's. You want the hole in the sky fixed, so that it stops shitting demons everywhere. The Inquisition wants this. Your bosses back home also want this. Nobody wants them to decide they need to show up and handle it themselves. Therefore, it is in everyone's best interests for your reports of the Inquisition to be nothing but complimentary.

The spymaster, Leliana - to her credit, she gets it. She catches on real quick, and integrates her network with yours. It's a tidy little partnership: you share intelligence, she reads everything you send out, and her agents start collaborating with Ben-Hassrath agents all over Thedas. You subvert enemy intelligence, sabotage supply lines, counter assassination attempts, and generally wreak havoc on everyone who seeks to do the Inquisition harm.

Eventually, everyone just sort of... forgets, that you're a spy. Everyone except the Tevinter mage, anyway.

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His name is Dorian Pavus.

Despite all assumptions to the contrary, you don't have a problem with the Inquisition recruiting a mage from dread Tevinter. Dorian was never on Seheron; he never burned down an orphanage or poisoned any of your men or held a blade to an elderly fisherman's throat. So far as you know, anyway, and your gut instincts are better than most people: Dorian has the kind of bleeding-heart softness that doesn't last longer than a month on Seheron. Sure, he tries to hide it: he's all sharpness and cutting words and bluster, swimming with the sharks and trying to pretend that he's one of them. He's not bad at it, but you aren't fooled.

That doesn't mean you've got him all figured out, though. He's hard to read, even for you. Out of all the Inquisition, he gives you the sharpest scrutiny, and you return the favor. (Unsurprising, given where he grew up; most of the South seem to treat Qunari as a kind of exotic novelty from distant lands, whereas Tevinter at least acknowledges you as the terrifying military power that you are.)

Things about him just don't add up, though. Sometimes he defends his homeland vociferously; other times, his criticism of Tevinter is even more incisive than yours, given that he grew up there and thus is intimately familiar with parts you never even got to see. It's personal, for him. And for all that he struts and preens like any well-bred 'Vint peacock, he seems to have shown up at the Inquisition with nothing more than a weapon, the shirt on his back, and a charming smile. Slowly, you start to form a better picture: the once-favored son of a noble house, now a pariah. Turned on his own countrymen when he couldn't abide what they were doing anymore. Admirable of him; you're not sure you could do the same, in his place. There's... something else going on, some piece you're still missing, but the shape of the puzzle is all falling together.

Oh, and he keeps checking out your ass when he thinks you're not looking.

The third or fourth time you catch him staring, you flex deliberately. Then you make eye contact and wink, as best you can with your solitary good eye. Dorian blushes scarlet beneath that pretty Tevinter complexion of his.

"I will never understand why Qunari warriors spend half their time running around bare-chested," he snaps.

"Thought you'd appreciate that." You can make anything sound dirty, with the right kind of inflection, and this isn't even hard.

"It's stupid. They should wear armor."

You laugh. "You see a member of the Beresaad in full armor, you run, because it's war."

"They should wear armor all the time!"

"Then they'd have to invade everyone! You're so bloodthirsty." You're grinning now, a huge shit-eating grin, and Dorian throws up his hands and growls in disgust. He stalks off to go talk to someone else, and doesn't speak to you again until you make camp.

The game of constant mock-flirting, mock-fighting continues for the entirety of the journey. You're never entirely certain where the lines are, with this sort of thing, and you overstep them several times while you're still figuring him out. It's all part of the elaborate do-I-don't-I-want-this dance: it fucking bothers you, the way that Chantry puritanism about sexuality can fuck people up and tie them into knots until they can't even admit to wanting what they want. It's not like this back home, where everything is open and sex isn't something to shame anyone over. If someone tells you no, then you stop. But Dorian keeps carefully not telling you no, at the same time that he's calling you a brute and a lout and every shred of his body language tells you keep pushing.

"I'm just saying, Dorian," you say, while wrenching your axe out of the sixth or seventh giant spider that tried to ambush you in the past hour alone. "You have this picture of the Qunari in your mind - like you see us as this forbidden, terrible thing. And you're inclined to do the forbidden."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," says Dorian, while literally everything about his expression screams I am a terrible liar.

"All I'm saying is, you ever want to explore that, my door's always open." Except when your door is not, in fact, a door, because it is a tent. But the metaphorical door is open. You're Qunari; you're good with metaphors.

"You are impossible," sputters Dorian, like this is the most offensive offer he has ever received in his life. "This is... ugh!" He stalks away again, probably to immolate some more spiders with fire magic.

"I like that energy," you call after his retreating back. "Stoke those fires, big guy!"

The night after you get back to Skyhold, Dorian shows up in your quarters, artfully disheveled. He's had a whiskey or two, enough that you can taste it on his tongue when he kisses you (and enough that he can blame the whiskey for his decisions, come tomorrow morning) but sober enough to know exactly what he's doing. You give him everything he needs, but is too afraid to ask for.

The next night, he comes back again. And the night after.

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Your alliance with the Inquisition is a success on every conceivable level. The problem with succeeding, however, is that people will want you to do more of it.

It starts with a letter from back home. Not the usual kind of letter - this is the Very Official kind, straight from the top. That, in and of itself, is ominous; your mission is critical, but the Ben-Hassrath have their own network, and if the bosses are skipping the chain of command to correspond with you directly, then something either went very wrong or very right. Or both.

The letter is a formal offer of alliance between the Qun and the Inquisition. This is... literally unprecedented. The Qun has no diplomats. The Qun is uninterested in negotiating with non-Qunari. You're not even certain what an alliance with the Qun would look like: would they expect the entire Inquisition to convert? Everyone seems to expect you to have answers that you simply don't have, for a contingency you never considered.

Beyond that, the thought is... disquieting. You've gotten used to the Qun being part of your life, but a distant one, an ocean away; you are still as loyal as you ever were, but the thought of having to provide an accounting of the past ten years of your life to the priests is...

They won't understand why the bonds of trust you've built are so important to you. They might even send you back to re-education, on the grounds of over-familiarity with a Tevinter mage.

But you don't simply turn down the once-in-a-lifetime chance for an unprecedented peace offering from the most militant nation on Thedas. So you ride out to the Storm Coast with your boys to meet with the Qunari representative, a sinking feeling weighing you down the whole way. You've learned to listen to your gut over the years, and your gut is telling you that this is a trap. Whether it's a trap for you, or the Inquisition, or something else entirely, you're not certain. The suspicion doesn't abate when you realize you recognize their representative.

The first time you saw Gatt, he was a child: a skinny, terrified elven slave, trapped in the bowels of a Tevinter magister's ship. (You don't even want to contemplate why someone would bring a child slave to a war zone, fucking slavers.) You were still spattered in the blood of his former owner when he ran to your arms and refused to let go. You brought him home with you, where you could at least guarantee he would be safe and properly fed and cared for. Years later, he would join your unit on Seheron, as one of your most loyal soldiers. You've been picking up surrogate kids for a long, long time, apparently.

But now Gatt stands on the rain-lashed shore, a grown man, and he looks at you like he barely recognizes you. He despises your new friends, and distrusts the Chargers; he needles you about everything, from your loyalty to the Qun, to the softness encroaching around your waist with good food and middle age. You kind of want to pull him aside and pull him up short: you know me. You trust me. These are my people, and I vouch for them. Don't fuck this up for me.

But you don't, because you don't know where the two of you stand anymore. It's been years, and the common ground that was once bedrock beneath you is more precarious than you thought.

You have adapted too well to your role as pretend-Tal-Vashoth. The Qun is perfect, it has its own beautiful, internally consistent logic… but the world's an ugly, messy place full of complicated people and complicated scenarios. Beauty and logic don't map neatly onto humanity; everyone under the Qun fits perfectly together, but not everyone fits into the Qun. To bring about a world without suffering, the current world must first come to an end, and you can accept this without wanting to actually see it firsthand.

None of your friends would make good Qunari, and you know this. Only the Qun is truth... but there is a gap between truth and reality, and this is where you live. You've always assumed that your fellow Ben-Hassrath understand, that they too occupy that liminal space. But now you aren't so sure.

No one wants a war. You believed this, intrinsically. But you were wrong. The Qun has no wants; it has demands. If the Qun demands war, then war will come.

You have some difficult decisions to make about who are your people, and who are your people.

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Hissrad dies on that lonely, storm-wracked coast. His soul is dust, forfeit from the instant he turned his back on the Qun. The Iron Bull rides back to Skyhold.

Or… maybe it's not so simple as that. Maybe Hissrad was a deeply unhappy man who died a long time ago, back on Seheron, and you've been carrying his weight on your back ever since, trying to be someone you just aren't anymore. Maybe it's better to let the dead rest.

You feel kind of guilty for not feeling guiltier. You just abandoned your race, your entire culture, the fundamental system of morality that underpinned every aspect of your worldview. You betrayed every ideal you once stood for, and condemned yourself to inevitable madness and death. You are a fortress with foundations of quicksand: you should be crumbling in on yourself with every step.

But Rocky leans in and says something to Dalish that makes her laugh, bright and uproarious, and even Skinner cracks a smile. Krem stays close on your left side, covering your blind spot in that quiet way he does when he's worried about you but doesn't want to press the issue. Up ahead, Dorian's arguing good-naturedly with the boss about something, and the two of them keep sneaking glances back at you, when they think you're not paying attention.

You are still part of something larger than yourself.

Structure is important: you're a creature of habit, and some habits get hammered in deep and die slow. You keep writing reports to send to no one; eventually, the Inquisition's spymaster starts picking them up and reading them. They contain no information that she doesn't already have, since you two are on the same side, but she likes having your insight. When you fear that the Tal-Vashoth madness is encroaching (which is often, in the first few months) you silently recite excerpts from the Body Canto to yourself, taking comfort in the familiar cadences of Qunlat that you will never hear again.

Dorian pretends that he keeps ending up in your bed by accident. You choose to indulge him.

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Your name is Bull, but Dorian never uses it anymore.

He calls you amatus, which means "beloved" in Tevene. You call him kadan, which means "my heart" in Qunlat. It is exactly as disgustingly schmoopy as it sounds. You have become the awful old married couple you swore you'd never be, and you should be ashamed of yourself, but you aren't.

You have long talks about your feelings. The Chargers tease you about it, endlessly and at great length.

(The Qun has a lot of strong opinions about love. Love is blind, and selfish, and dangerous. Love drives people to do stupid, irrational things: the jilted lover who poisons a rival, the lovestruck king who bends nations to please a paramour, the desperate father who makes deals with a demon to save his only son. Love will destroy you. But you don't follow the Qun anymore; you owe them nothing. Your soul may be dust, but your heart is yours to give freely.)

You cannot be together, not the way you'd once hoped. Dorian has a corrupt government to overthrow, back home in Tevinter. And you have to think of what's best for your boys. While your kadan is busy playing at politics and intrigue in the gilded streets of Minrathous, you have an ever-growing family of rowdy mercenaries to wrangle. It's not so bad: Dorian smuggled you a sending-crystal, a clever bit of magic that allows the two of you to talk over long distances, even when he is back home in Tevinter and you are hundreds of miles away.

Still, you are excited when they call an Exalted Council in Orlais, and Dorian tells you he will be in attendance. It'll be the first time that you've been in the same place for… shit, years. You've got a lot to catch up on.

The excitement stays with you, right up until they find the body of a Qunari foot soldier where no Qunari except you should be.

Well, vashedan.

It's just like old times all over again: no time for catching up with your handsome boy, because you've got to go investigate some spooky magic shit and save the world. You wish that you knew what your old bosses were up to - except you don't, because if you did, you'd be in on it, and the dead Qunari probably would've been you. But you hate not knowing.

You're all prepared to step through the magic portal that'll take you straight into Demon Town. But something's not quite right. The air is wrong: the colors are too bright, and there's an unfamiliar voice singing in your ears.

Then the ichor swallows you up, and you drown.
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Bull's name - his real name, Hissrad - means liar in his native tongue. It's an apt descriptor, but also a perfect example of how he operates: he is disarmingly straightforward, so that his opponents won't realize how many levels he's operating on. He's an expert in providing just enough honesty and transparency to inspire trust, so that he can leverage that trust to his advantage later. It's an unexpectedly slick game from someone who seems to spend most of his time drinking, flirting, chasing dragons, and generally goofing off... but if people underestimate him, he can leverage that, too. He's a Ben-Hassrath. When in doubt, assume everything is a weapon in his arsenal.

Ben-Hassrath training includes, among other things: interrogation (including resistance against most common interrogation techniques), intelligence and counterintelligence, conflict mediation, combat and weapons training, and situational awareness. Given that Bull was stationed on Seheron, in the midst of a civil war, he was also trained in guerrilla warfare tactics and counterinsurgency.

Bull specializes in heavy weapons, specifically two-handed melee weapons like battle-axes and warhammers. This means that he doesn't hit fast, but he does hit hard. He doesn't wear much in the way of armor (like most Qunari, he tends to walk around shirtless whenever feasible) but that's not an impediment: Bull's fighting style bears close resemblance to a group of warriors called Reavers, who gain strength and ferocity the more they are injured. This blood-rage is not mindless, and Bull is unlikely to mistake friend from foe, but it does make for a pretty scary intimidation factor to see an opponent get stronger the more they bleed. Still, as might be expected, this kind of fighting style is a double-edged sword: Bull is tough as nails, but he's also more vulnerable than a more heavily-armored fighter would be. He relies on being able to either take down or scare off an enemy before he keels over.

Emotional stability is another strength: his go-to response to stress and trauma is to compartmentalize, shunting unwanted emotions aside until they can be unpacked and dealt with safely. It's maybe not the most healthy thing in the world for him, but it means that Bull will invariably be a steady rock in a crisis. He'll get the job done first, and see to his own needs after he's sure that any bystanders are safe.

On the physical side of things, Bull is big. He's eight feet tall and built like a brick wall: he most likely weighs upward of 350lbs. His strength is likewise proportional to an adult man of his size at peak combat training; he's not supernaturally strong, just really really big. He's also got over two decades of extensive combat experience under his belt, with the hypervigilance to go with it: assume, in general, that it will be extremely difficult to catch Bull off-guard.

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Bull wasn't gearing up for a fight when he was unexpectedly snatched away to Kadath; he was preparing for a diplomacy mission. That means he's not kitted out in the badass custom-made dragonslayer armor that he saved the world in. His armor is functional, because Bull wouldn't tolerate ceremonial armor that wouldn't at least stand up to an assassin's blade, but it's not enchanted or otherwise augmented.

He's also carrying his dawnstone greatsword: a gift from the Inquisitor, who knew his fondness for things that overlap "pretty" with "murder." The greatsword is a two-handed weapon scaled to someone of Bull's size, which means that most humans will struggle to wield it at all; it is wickedly serrated, and inlaid with runes to ward against demons. The blade is forged from dawnstone, which has a visibly pink sheen. Unfortunately, it's also more brittle than standard steel, making the sword more of a sentimental piece than an everyday weapon.

Bull wears a sending-crystal on a chain around his neck at all times. (Yes, even when sleeping.) The sending-crystal is a clever bit of magic: it is paired with another crystal, currently in Dorian Pavus' possession. If/when Dorian shows up on Kadath with the other half of the pair, the two crystals can be used for two-way voice communication. Not as sophisticated as a cell phone, maybe, but also not dependent on cell signal: sending-crystals will work at any range, and they never lose charge at inconvenient times.

He also carries the Necklace of Kadan, a pendant consisting of half a dragon's tooth, inlaid with precious metals. It is a perfect match for Dorian's, being two halves of the same fang, taken from a slain Abyssal High Dragon. It has no particular magical effects, but it has great emotional significance for Bull.

<div style="color: #461D00; font: 15px 'kite one'; font-weight: 900; text-transform: uppercase; text-align: left; background: -webkit-linear-gradient(left, #461D00, #BDA986); -webkit-background-clip: text; -webkit-text-fill-color: transparent">WEAKNESSES</div>
First off, qunari are mortal, which means that all ordinary human weaknesses apply: they succumb to hunger, thirst, exhaustion, etc. same as anyone else. Qunari are a bit hardier than humans: a thicker skin (both literally and metaphorically - there's a certain culturally-ingrained stoicism) can make them seem preternaturally tough. But they're not magically or technologically augmented, nor do they have comic-book-style invulnerability or regeneration. They're just really big and pretty sturdy.

Bull, as a former spy and mercenary, has seen his share of wear and tear. He's getting older, in a profession that does not typically see its practitioners live to retirement age. He's riddled with old scars: missing an eye, as well as the last knuckles of his ring and pinky fingers on his left hand, and he wears a leg-brace on his left boot to support the joint and help manage chronic pain. He's very good at masking any disadvantage from old injuries, but that doesn't mean that none exists. In particular, feinting on his blind side can leave him open to counterattack.

Bull is a bruiser, not a quick and agile fighter. His reflexes are faster than might be expected, but he wields a heavy two-handed weapon, and he aims for intimidation, not surgical precision. An opponent with supernatural speed could easily get the better of him. He also has relatively few defenses against magic; Qunari fear and distrust magic of all kinds, believing it to be too dangerous to be controlled. Long exposure to friendly mages has tempered some of this distrust in Bull, but he still doesn't have any anti-magic strategies more effective than "hit them before they can cast."

On the psychological side, Bull fears madness. Deep down, he doesn't trust himself: he's lost control once before, and he's seen firsthand how horrifying the consequences can be when Qunari lose their way. In particular, he will respond with violent prejudice to (for example) demons, possession, any kind of mind-controlling magic or technology, or anything that is otherwise intended to make someone lose control of themselves. Don't mention you're a demon in Bull's presence, unless you would like to be hit repeatedly with a greatsword. It's kind of a sensitive point.



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