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Ashcroft

The Ashcroft heraldry depicting ash tree leaves set upon yellow and green fields.

The Ashcroft family is an ancient house with a historically varying loyalty; it has played vassal to various kingdoms, most notably the Empire of Arathor and the Kingdom of Azeroth (today's Stormwind). Its wealth, demesne and power has dramatically changed with its notable members and circumstances. However the Ashcroft family has also branched out, and goes by various other names. However, these families all owe their bloodline to the mother house of Ashcroft.

Economically, politically and socially, House Ashcroft is very conservative. It believes in the preservation of tradition, aristocratic power and what it calls 'democracy of the dead'. However, such is the history of the family that they can hardly be seen as a conventionally 'human' house; part-elven heritage, along with a long standing relationship with magic, means that their traditions often are viewed as pagan and heretical. Indeed, it cannot be said that the Ashcroft family has a good history with the Church - until the most recent generation.

HistoryEdit

Written in exile by Knight-Captain and hereditary Baron Richard Ashcroft XVI.

The exact truth of the history of the Ashcroft Family is not easy to ascertain, despite the existence of annals which detail most of its movements, changes and members. The reason for this is that the Ashcrovian Chronicle (the aforementioned annals) is written primarily by Ashcrofts and historians with pockets stuffed with Ashcroft gold. This is particularly clear in passages with such fanciful, and clearly false, claims as the Ashcrofts being "Dragonslayers Of The Moste Highest Calibre" or "The First Magi Of All Human Kind". However, given the advantageous reflection of cross-referencing to other historical resources and other archival attributes, the truth begins to become less obfuscated.

The history I am about to record may, in parts, be questionable. However, there is no other who has done as much in order to stab at the truth of the Ashcroft family in a nebulous dark of years - nay, ages, - gone by. Thus, these records may be reliable in gaining an accurate and fair portrayal of this once great, and now fallen, House.

OriginsEdit

Among the fog shrouded and rain spattered glens of the ancestral highlands (today, Arathi Highlands) lay a set of downs upon which a small tribe pitched their tents. This tribe was unknown to many other humans, including the early Arathi Tribe, but was known to the Amani trolls. The tribe was beleaguered and frightened, with limited weaponry and even less man power. The trolls harassed and harassed, until finally they took the hill upon which the humans had once made their home. It was at this time that their original leader was killed, and a younger human, named 'Ricamand' (the Ashcrovian Chronicle lists him as a "Richard", but other sources suggest that name was not in use at that period; thus, I have given him the name which Thoradin's scribes have given him in their histories) took charge of the disinherited nomads. They traversed the high hills with the trolls on their heels, until they reached a point where their ‘limbs could not give them further carriage; fatigue hath overcome fear. Alas! such a heave of a sigh did they, all impoverished and lost souls, exclaim to the wet air, as the beating drums of afeared hearts were swallowed much by the frightening drums of troll warbands’(1).

Ricamand, fearing for his own life, ran from the straggling camp, who had all but given up on life. On his flight, Ricamand encountered upon a small abandoned croft in the mountain side. The croft, the Chronicle describes, was hung with a foul-smelling air and the crops that the sewn fields had produced were of strange and alien property. With the benefit of magical knowledge and night elven history in our hindsight, we can discern from the text that the croft had been touched by fel energies once, perhaps during the War of the Ancients, and the magic was slowly drifting away: 'Richard I was so shocked he did shout: 'Such evil countenance with which this tree grimaces toward me hither!' Yet about him Richard I felt calmer by moment; 'Wherefore have I been angry?' he breathed contentedly, as the God of the Croft began upon him, and so soothe his worry'(2).

From this, and later Kirin Tor investigations, it is clear that on that day Ricamand heard the voice of a demon struggling to get into Azeroth. The Kirin Tor believe it to have been a strong demon; strong enough to make contact, and much more, through a small portion of corruption - namely, an ash tree. The following events are confused by the Chronicle's general statement, 'Lo! power did the God bestow 'pon the First Magi of All Humankin, Richard I", and the Kirin Tor's evidence that, upon examining the croft, and Ricamand's body (which was preserved in the Croft itself), "the demon's fractured and imperfect possession passed from the ash tree to the human host, Ricamand. From mana samples collected from Ricamand's body, it is clear that the demon was of Nathrezim provenance, and had killed Ricamand in the process of inhabiting his still moving corpse'(3).

Therefore, the scientific evidence of the Kirin Tor leads to the conclusion that, instead of a great 'Richard I' leading the early tribe to victory, it was a demon. A demon that the tribe would later come to worship as the 'God of the Croft'. Nevertheless, this demon saved the tribe by using magics the trolls had not witnessed before - scaring the Amani away. However, albeit powerful the demon might have been, history tells us that he overcompensated for his magical strength. In desperation, the demon asked for various sacrifices from his tribe; human sacrifices. The Ashcrovian Chronicle glances over this quite nicely; '"Thus must I ask you a Great Wickerman, my precious flock!

Wickerman

The Wickerman, packed with human sacrifices.

... Alight this so we may all dance around it with much merriment, and sing to remember the Immolation of the Trolls!'"(4).

The actual truth is recorded with the Arathi Tribe, who were ever willing to damn the tribe in its practices, long after Ricamand, and the demon, had left Azeroth. 'It was among the High Hills to the East where, in our most Holy and Imperial Enterprise, did we meet the wild Ricamand, styled the IV, dancing 'kin to a frenzied troll around a fire of burning Arathimen. My company paused in our disgust, and prayed to the Light.'(5) From this we can gain a plethora of conclusions: One, the tribe burned humans alive on their Wickermen. Two, Ricamand and the demon had left behind a legacy and tradition of burning sacrifices to fuel an absent demon's power pointlessly. Three, the Arathi planned to assimilate what they called the "Ashcroft" (the name taken from the ash tree which the tribe worshiped) tribe into their growing empire.

Now, we may safely make the leap between this period, and the next; Arathor.

Footnotes:

1. 'Ashcrovian Chronicle', 1:2

2. 'Ashcrovian Chronicle', 1:3

3. 'Kirin Tor Investigations Into Early Demon Presence in Humanity' by Archmage Aralmus, chapter 3 'The Croft', page 265.

4. 'Ashcrovian Chronicle', 1:3

5. 'Eastern Expeditions' by Warlord Tundand, chapter 5 'The Ashcroft Tribe', page 467.

Arathor

Humanity developed prosperity quickly, and amassed large armies under warlords and former chieftains, who were then subordinated to client rulers under King Thoradin. Such was the fate of Ricamand V, who bowed where his father did not. Perhaps lucky that Thoradin had a keen interest in upholding the traditional families of tribes and clans, Ricamand V was able to cling to power despite his father's resistance of Arathi Imperialism. Again, the Ashcrovian Chronicle has a differing version of events, and suggests that Ricamand IV (their Richard IV) was able to fight off the Arathi warbands, but was killed by an untimely placed arrow to the eye. Maddened by grief, Ricamand V (Richard V) allowed the Arathimen in, and solemnly agreed to be a client ruler. However the generally accepted version of events is the Arathi Tribe's from evidence gained at the site of the battle:

‘Under strain the wild Ashmen howled; their shield wall was broken under our knights' charge! 'HUZZAH!' was the great call from the north, for hidden behind the hillocks was another client tribe of Our Great King. The Ashmen knew themselves to be defeated, yet when our blows were pulled, so that we might meet their commander on peaceable terms, their chieftain Ricamand the Pagan denied his own and ours armistice! But what happened then surprised us all! Ricamand's son loosed an arrow from his bow, to pierce his father's eye! In a flash, and gout of blood and bodily humor, another tribe was made vassal to Our King.’(1)

Despite his betrayal and deferrence to the Arathi Crown, Thoradin doubted much of Ricamand V's actions - as both a pagan and a disloyal son. So Ricamand V was summoned to the capital, Strom. And there, the Chroncile lists the events fairly accurately:

‘Richard V grieved overmuch for his father, and in his most worrisome mourning, fell to the ghastly deception of the Strom nobles. 'Come thou,' they spake, 'come thou, give flight to Strom for thou art swallowed by thy resent. Come, and we shall receive thee with happy countenances and welcoming arms, and convey thee to thy feast which we have laid in our good grace.' So did Richard V come thither, and come to a feast for guileful vultures! Richard's party was murdered, and he was held at ransom: 'Convert to the Holy Light or die within the city's gates!' they commanded him on his fateful sojourn in the capital. Duplicitous were they, for the Great King Thoradin did not discover their lawless actions in his city.’(2)

It is much debated whether King Thoradin did know of the nobles' murders, but it is sure that he did order Ricamand V converted. Indeed, upon his conversion Ricamand V became the more Lightborn name ‘Richard Ashcroft’. Officially, he was listed as Earl Richard Ashcroft I of the High Hills, but in the Chronicle he is listed as Prince Richard Ashcroft V of East Arathi. However, the Chronicle is not regarded as official by modern regimes or the Ashcrofts themselves, and every Richard is counted from Ricamand V thenceforth; Ricamand V becoming Richard I.

Nevertheless, Richard I returned home converted, with a new retinue, consisting of priests and Imperial emissaries: It was important for all of Thoradin's realms to be subservient to Strom in this time, and the High Hills were one of the gateways for the Amani; the Troll Wars were nigh. Perhaps Richard I's timidity and lack of courage would have helped him against his own kind in keeping power, but the trolls would not allow him or any of his people to survive, if he gave in or not. So with a trembling voice, he gave the uneasy command to arm the population of his fief. Thus, the High Hills' peasantry, housemen and men-at-arms were all called to the Valley of the Downs, where the people of the Croft had been expelled in four generations passed.

The only credit able to be passed to Richard I was that he was able to resist the advice of the Arathorian knights, and have the courage to make his stand at the bottom of the hill. This positioning made escape nigh on impossible, and victory even more so. Such was the madness and sheer idiocy of this tactic, that even the Chronicle recorded the events accurately, lest the whole text be completely discredited at the time: ‘By the deep craze with which Richard V was inflicted, the Prince commended Good Men to Hell, and evil trolls to the feast: Lo! their thunderclap rent the air, and their bears struck as lightning! but what of rain? Ay, their spears descended from lofty heights as rain does, and the men below fell - all slaughtered, all lost. So crippling was the strike, that Our Mad Prince broke free of his madness, and wept for the loss of his men, 'Cruel Light, cruel Light!' he cried. The Vengeance of the Croft God was spent when Richard V was cut down himself, and ended was his retribution. Thus, did the survivors hear 'Ye hath been forgiven, thy lives be given to thee faithful,' uttered by the lips of the skies.’(3)

It is believed that the amount of blood shed that day fertilised the ground for centuries after, and it took the trolls three days to gather the loot of all the dead. Of course, there's some room for exaggeration in rumours and folk tales of this disaster, which is why I have chosen to employ true Imperial Census figures (I have highlighted the great disasters in the 'Death Toll' section):

‘Standing Forces

Imperial Forces (approx.):

5,000 arms in total.

(of these:)

400 Strom knights

600 housemen ('huscarls')

1,200 men-at-arms & mercenaries (incl. pikemen)

1,000 free men & yeomen (incl. 800 archers)

1,800 levied peasantry

Amani Horde (approx.):

3,000 arms in total.

(of these:)

1,000 javelin berserkers

600 bear mounted berserkers

1,200 assorted warriors

200 witch trolls (pagan magi)

Death Toll

Imperial Forces' losses (approx.):

4,150 losses in total

(incl. death of Earl Richard I & Warlord Arathmus)

200 Strom knights (of these, 40 taken prisoner)

600 housemen (of these, 100 taken prisoner)

800 men-at-arms & mercenaries

750 free men & yeomen (of these, 300 archers)

'1,800 levied peasantry (of these, *unknown prisoner count)

Amani Horde's losses (approx.):

500 losses in total

0 javelin berserkers

300 bear mounted berserkers

200 assorted warriors

0 witch trolls’(4)
2

The casualties were so great, mass graves were dug.

We can see from these figures that the hearsay was not so unrealistic; it was a genuine disaster, and few managed to flee - without cutting themselves out of the valley. The catastrophe can only be put down to Earl Richard I; his leadership could have been nothing other than abysmal. His own people, and the wider Arathorian populace, had not trusted in his hegemony for a variety of reasons: In the wider Arathor Empire, he was regarded as a ‘cowardly and scheming pagan 'Prince', who does not have one True or Good thought to share.’(5) Whereas in Richard I's own fief, he was very much the scapegoat for all their problems; he had killed their original leader in what could only be seen as a cowardly act, and he had converted them to a religion which had so far condemned 1,800 peasants to death.

The disaster caused problems outside of the Troll Wars too; not only did the Arathorian Empire lose control of an important pass into the Highlands, the High Hills now lacked a legitimate leader. Richard I had no sons, and only one daughter, Matilda. Before Richard I fell in combat, he had assured Matilda succession. This was uncommon for the time, but not quite unheard of. So it was that Matilda inherited, at the age of nineteen, a weak and defeated fief. With her resources, Lady Matilda would be unable to combat the trolls. She was left a meagre force of the remaining peasants, and a few household troops: ‘My father's wealth, all that he promised me; a band of ragged peasants with loathing eyes and loyal lies. For they spoke words of fealty, but in their stares and crossed fingers I saw the truth of their hearts - and they lay not with the Ashcroft Family.’(6)

Yet the trolls would come, and Matilda appeared to be on the precipice of damnation. For all the woe that had betided her, she was still able to hold on to the meagre power she inherited. It was not often that a woman was able to gain popularity as a leader, but for some vague reasons, she dramatically turned a beaten and defeatist people into one of resistance and perseverance. Some accounts suggest it was because of her beauty, which was ‘comparable to a blooming white orchid from the Hinterlands,’(7) and some because of the fact she was an incredibly humble and charitable Lady. ‘From those fair palms did we see many golds, silvers and coppers flow in the great name of maternal altruism. Ne'er would she let a poor man starve, or a landless farmer go without shelter. We were all accounted for in the lands of Ashcroft.’(8)

Whether it was because she was humble or she was beautiful, Matilda I managed to gain - what appeared to be - a popular census with her remaining people. Perhaps events in the Troll Wars had also turned in her favour; she had been given a reprieve of three years, for the trolls had been halted in Alterac, and their main horde was on the retreat. In this time she might have been able to rebuild some of her father's losses, but the damage he had done was near irreversible. Such was this damage that it even drew the attention of the Warlord Ignaeus (Thoradin's right hand). Instead of sending his much needed knights, he dispatched a magister with a group of about forty elven magi. Though the High Elves of Quel'Thalas were figures of great suspicion to humans, especially post-tribal humans such as the people of the High Hills, their help was greatly appreciated by Matilda I.

So it was that magic, once again, helped to fight the trolls in the High Hills - guaranteeing the Ashcrofts their power albeit until the end of the Troll Wars. If anything good had come of the original massacre for the humans, it was that it made the trolls complacent; they did not foresee a group of shabby men headed by a woman (of all things) to be a threat. Now, for those of you who have not studied troll culture, to have a woman in a position of power, especially in military leadership, was and (for the Amani and other, more traditional trolls) is unheard of. It is said that, such was the original arrogance of the trolls that, ‘once upon the battlefield, the large green savages shook back their manes of hair, lifted their heads and bellowed laughter into the air at the sight of me (Matilda) in armour.’(9) But there was subterfuge in Matilda's plan. Trolls knew the sight of elves meant magic, and she relied on the tactic of surprise; she disguised the elves in her household guard's armour, and so, made them act as her knights.

Tumblr m74jo7Nkxl1rt0kevo1 500

Matilda in her suit of armour, praying to the Light.

Indeed, the trolls were in for the surprise. The battle was now fought across the slope, so that neither side had the advantage of the hill. For whatever equality this could have offered Matilda, she was still outnumbered. Matilda had made a vast gamble that day; she placed quite a bit of trust in the new disguised magi and the Strom knights she had left. They were the only army to meet the trolls on the battlefield that day, and were outnumbered by at least 1,000 more trolls. She, like her father ironically, had ignored the advice of the new Arathorian Warlord. Instead of making a blithering error, however, she had chosen to split her army so the yeomen were able to travel the High Hills. Effectively, she had placed her archers and levies in the mountain pass to anticipate the retreat of the troll horde. It is much debated whether she knew of the full potential of magic, and the devastating impact it had on trolls, but what's for certain is that her choice to split the army was not an accident.

The Ashcrovian Chronicle lathers on the detail of this great victory:



Those same lofty heights were crowned now by both Evil Troll and Good Human alike! "Thy army lies athwart the trollish horde, My Lady," sayeth the elf, the Magister of Silvermoon, awkward in his overlarge armour. It is said that he sayeth his words with a smirk 'pon his countenance, for he knew of Our Lady's plan: Fair Matilda descended from her horse, and announced with a voice that churned the clouds to rain! Ay, such was the solemnity with which Our Fair Matilda spoke that the heavens did weep for her plea; "May not one of ye, the last and the brave, die for no purpose other than victory! and may we be granted that victory for our families and children, who, without our protectorate, would surely be witness and victim to crimes unimaginable at the hands of the trollish pestilence! Begone from Our Lands, trolls, and Begone from All Realms! For I am not the She-Demon whose evil is so great that I would wish you on another's lands!" With a Great Roar did the Good Men cheer, drowning out the cynical laughs of the trolls 'pon the slope. Ne'er was such a grander feeling felt in mens' hearts when the knights charged, for before them, as planned by the Magister and Lady, a great wave of fire crashed against the trolls' shore of flesh! Lo! did troll flesh sear and did their eyes squint so hard as to not see the oncoming charge? They had seen no elves, but they would soon see humans: Knights rushed in with cold steel to calm the hot magicks, and was ever such a brutal balance of heat and cold wrought upon an army before this day? Ay, the troll general was wroth! Alas, such a stunning move could not break the horde entirely. The knights on foot now advanced slowly, for the knights on their valiant steeds now pulled clean of the bulk horde. Matilda shouted battlecries even then, and so stirr adoring men as to war. They advanced, and then formed a bulwark wall for the trolls so savage to break themselves on. Such was the rabble of the trolls, that the rabid berserkers, that churned violently in their Unholy thirst for the blood of men, pushed dazed and confused and broken trolls forward onto pikes. With blinding rage spent, the trolls began to run craven and cur from the returning knights ahorse. "AFTER! AFTER!" the knights shouted - with jubilation and triumph in their hearts; for behind those pleasant and green hills lay the peasant levies hungry for revenge and the archers ready to prick troll skins. The levies became the anvil, and the pursuing knights the hammer. Thus ended the Battle of Elfslope. (10)

So it was that the fabled Troll Wars ended, albeit some months after, when the most decisive victories were made. However, the Battle of the Elfslope (for the area was, thenceforth, known for the elves that had aided the humans) had pulled the trolls firmly off of the backs of the High Hills. To some extent, the battle had given the Ashcroft family a renewed wind of support behind their formerly floundering sail. It also made many converts for the Holy Light, which was seen to have scorned the trolls from their lands. Matilda was decorated by Thoradin, though there were limits to the gratitudes he was willing to afford her; she was a woman, and the daughter of a weak leader after all. Nevertheless, if only by title, she was granted the graces of Duchess.

The Duchy of the East Hills was now the Ashcroft fief, though Thoradin made sure that it was the baron lords (despite being lower in title) that had firm control over the territories: So it is that the red robed lords come to me, one by one, as I sit atop a throne of pretence, to report their actions in my name. What injustices have they committed and committed to? They shall wipe the blood of their hands on my name; a towel of a title, made to relinquish the blame of oppression from the oppressor.'(11)

In spite of this, Duchess Matilda still held a lot of control over her original Earldom. This, in itself, attracted many suitors, but she was also a beautiful woman who had a lot of charisma. This undoubtedly intrigued many men, but none so much as the Magister who had helped her against the trolls in the recent war. Of course, humans were primitive beasts to the elves, perhaps just a more clean and sociable version of trolls. This is perhaps why the Magister was so intrigued by an extraordinary example of one of these "beasts", and how clever they could truly be. His villainous and lustful infatuation(12) appeared to be unnoticed by the Duchess; she took his open advances as merely a sign of good friendship between not only her and the Magister, but her people to his. Perhaps her duty to uphold the alliance between humanity and elvenkind was the reasons she did not spurn the open and incredibly uncouth and inappropriate sexual advances; most unexpected of a man of supposed nobility(13).

For the Magister, it appears his arrogance may have caused him to assume that her lack of repudiation equated to an acception of his designs. Whether or not this confusion was made, the act the Magister performed engendered a dark period in Ashcroft history, and damned the family to a long period of diaspora and chaos - from which, it is argued, they have never fully returned.

Footnotes:

1. 'The Unifications, Book III' by Warlord Clovis, chapter 11, page 455.

2. 'Ashcrovian Chronicle' 3:2

3. 'Ashcrovian Chronicle' 3:5

4. 'Imperial Census, Troll Wars', page 251.

5. 'Brave New Lords: A Satire' by Marcel Hallien

6. Matilda's diaries and memoirs.

7. Account of Magister Valtherias.

8. 'The Woman of the Hills' by Father Martin of East Esher, chapter 3, page 140.

9. Matilda's diaries and memoirs.

10. 'Ashcrovian Chronicle' 4:2

11. Matilda's diaries and memoirs.

12. 'Ashcrovian Chronicle' 4:5

13. 'Ashcrovian Chronicle' 4:5

DiasporaEdit

Veranase-feast.people-web1

The fateful banquet.

The feast was prepared by Matilda I's vassals and was designed to find her a suitor. Matilda was a charismatic beauty but that was not what attracted most men; her title of Duchess was very valuable in the Empire during this time. Matilda was wracked by indecision, and felt affection for no one apart for her cousin, Reuben was the only man I had ever thought about on the subject of marriage; we had grown up together, and it would have been so simple.'(1) The noble and pious Reuben was far too aware of the reputation of incest, and would have never succumbed to his desires. Nevertheless, the cold and sour man, burning gold of hair and freezing gold of soul'(2) freely discouraged his childhood sweetheart from any suitor who approached her.

This Reuben fitzHenry (named because he was a bastard of Richard I's brother, Henry) was an interesting character given to equestrian sports and religious duties. He is also noted as being a fantastic writer, and ambidextrous. He is most famed for writing the 'The Tragedie of Richard I', several hymns, poems and perhaps the most starkly honest contributor to the Ashcrovian Chronicle. On top of these literary achievements, Reuben fought as a knight in several battles - though perhaps not Elfslope. In many writings by Arathorian Chroniclers, Reuben had always been noted fighting in Alterac and perhaps the more dramatic and decisive victories for the Imperial forces. This suggests a certain calibre within the 'Reuben Bastard' pertaining to the art of war, and furthermore, an absence from Matilda's side for a prolonged amount of time.

Nevertheless, Reuben had been at the banquet, and, much to his chagrin, bore witness to several bachelors attempting courtship upon his cousin. Perhaps that is what had discouraged Matilda from choosing any suitor; the frustration I feel at the one I love! Woe betide him and his passive pious passion. Every man that approaches he scorns, and yet, does not deign to be mine, as is his true wont.(3) Quite clearly, Reuben, for all his protestation, did indeed love his cousin. This clearly annoyed Matilda, as at the very feast she asked Reuben to leave. He did so after a drunken and bitter argument which left both sides fuming with both anger and spite. It is suggested that Reuben's unhealthy and unfriendly departure was what caused Matilda's subsequent actions, which the Ashcrovian Chronicle condemns as a large folly on her part.

From accounts of the nobles at the feast, Matilda and the resident Magister Valtherias (who had lingered since the Troll Wars) had flirted relentlessly, many lashes were battered at one another that eve, for as beautiful elves are, one cannot help but judge them as women.(4). Though jealous nobles are often very judgemental - especially of women - even Matilda admits to have acted more amorously during the banquet. In a great mix of emotions, further churned by alcohol, the discourse of conversation between Matilda and the Magister turned towards the bedroom. Matilda writes that, despite denying his assertions on a number of occasions, she had finally agreed to allow him to come to her chamber.

What transpired in the chamber is a figure of great controversy, though more so with humans than the elves. Matilda's account suggests that Valtherias forced himself upon her, and in actual fact, raped her: I allowed him in my bed chamber, and we shared conversation for a time. I had sobered since, and I missed Reuben. Yet, after I had suggested that he leave, the Magister lingered and found interest in things that disturbed me. Closer he crept towards me, and I protested when I could feel his breath on my neck. I pulled away, but he caught my arm and turned me to the bed in force. Gentle and sweet darkness helps me forget what happened next, and yet, the darkness does not stifle my tears...(5).

1 (1)

The Magister dismembered by horses, or what is known as 'disruption'.

Matilda would then, in revenge, have the elf seized the following morning. In front of the freshly woken banquet guests the naked magister was executed by disruption (upon hearing news of the rape and subsequent execution, Reuben was said to have wept).

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