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2020 Malazan Re-read: Return of the Crimson Guard Starts July 1st

#1 User is offline   Aptorian 

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 12:47 PM

2020 MALAZAN RE-READ: RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD

Book description for Return of the Crimson Guard:

Quote

The return of the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard, could not have come at a worse time for a Malazan Empire exhausted by warfare and weakened by betrayals and rivalries. Indeed, there are those who wonder whether the Empress Laseen might not be losing her grip on power as she faces increasing unrest as conquered kingdoms and principalities sense freedom once more.

Into the seething cauldron of Quon Tali - the Empire's heartland - marches the Guard. With their return comes the memory of the Empire - and yet all is not well with the Guard itself. Elements within its elite, the Avowed, have set their sights on far greater power. There are ancient entities who also seek to further their own arcane ends. And what of the swordsman called Traveller who, with his companion Ereko, has gone in search of a confrontation from which none have ever returned?

As the Guard prepares to wage war, so Laseen's own generals and mages, the "Old Hands," grow impatient at what they see as her mismanagement of the Empire. But could Laseen have outwitted them all? Could she be using the uprisings to draw out and finally eliminate these last irksome survivors from the days of her illustrious predecessor, Kellanved?


January 1st we began the re-read of the main series of the Malazan books. The plan being to read one book a month. We've now added additional Erikson and Esslemont publications to the schedule, to be read roughly according to the publication order.

Quote

2020
January: Gardens of the Moon
February: Deadhouse Gates
March: Memories of Ice
April: House of Chains
May: Midnight Tides
June Night of Knives & The Bonehunters
July: Return of the Crimson Guard
August: Reaper's Gale
September: Stonewielder
October: Toll the Hounds
November: Orb Sceptre Throne
December: Dust of Dreams

2021
January: The Crippled God
February: Blood and Bone
March: Assail
April: Forge of Darkness
May: Fall of Light


You can read our thoughts from earlier months in these threads:

2020 Malazan Re-read: Gardens of the Moon

2020 Malazan Re-read: Deadhouse Gates

2020 Malazan Re-read: Memories of Ice

2020 Malazan Re-read: House of Chains

2020 Malazan Re-read: Midnight Tides

2020 Malazan Re-read: Night of Knives

2020 Malazan Re-read: Bonehunters

July 1st we begin the re-read of Return of the Crimson Guard, the first (or is it second?) book of Esslemont's Empire series.

There will be spoilers for all published books. So beware. Spoiler blocks are not mandatory but if people want to use boxes for the latest Kharkanas books or the Path to Ascendance books for example, I'd personally appreciate it.

Are you ready? What do you remember about Return of the Crimson Guard?

I'm not overly thrilled to restart Esslemont's Empire series. Each book improved in some way I thought but none of them made me particularly satisfied. Solid fantasy books, no doubt, but not up to the standard of especially the early books by Erikson.

I barely remember anything from this book. Greymane is there I think. Doing cool Greymane things (Anybody remember Abyss' old forum posts about Graymane facts?)

I remember Osserc wakes up after a weird millenia long pseudo nap.

I think there was something about Dassem and his Tel Akai buddy getting up to stuff. I remember Dassem utterly fucking up two whole ships of soldiers, which was badass.

Laseen kicks a lot of ass and then bad stuff happens.

Did Tayscren get lost?

Clearly this book didn't leave a big impression.
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#2 User is offline   Aptorian 

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 01:02 PM

The Dramatis Personae

Quote

In Unta

Imperial High Command
Laseen, Empress
High Fist Anand, commander, 4th Malazan Army (Quon Tali)
Havva Gulen, new Imperial High Mage
Korbolo Dom, High Fist and Sword of the Empire
Possum, Master of the Claw (the Imperial assassins)
Mallick Rel, Councillor and Assembly Representative

Unta Harbour Guard
Atelen Tinsmith, sergeant of squad
Rigit Hands, corporal of squad
Nait, squad saboteur
Heuk, a cadre mage
Honey Boy, soldier
Least, half-Barghast soldier

Others in Unta
Coil, a Clawleader
Lady Batevari, a Seeress / Fortuneteller from Darujhistan
Oryan, a Seven Cities mage, bodyguard to Mallick Rel
Taya Radok, a dancing girl / assassin from Darujhistan

In Li Heng

Malazan Army
Harmin Els D'Shil, a captain of the garrison
Gujran, a captain of the garrison
Banath, a sergeant of the garrison
Fallow, a healer of the garrison
Storo Matash's Squad
Storo Matash, captain of a saboteur company, 3rd veteran
Shaky, ranking saboteur
Hurl, saboteur
Sunny, saboteur
Silk, squad corporal and cadre mage
Jalor, a Seven Cities recruit
Rell, a Genabackan recruit

Civilians in Li Heng
Magistrate Ehrlann, member of the Ruling Council of Magistrates
Jamaer, Ehrlann's servant
Magistrate Plengyllen, member of the Ruling Council of Magistrates
Liss, a city mage
Ahl, a city mage (with brothers Thal and Lar) Eye-open

In Cawn
Nevall Od' Orr, Chief Factor of Cawn
Groten, Nevall's bodyguard
On the Seti Plains
Toc the Elder, Seti Warlord and Malazan 'Old Guard'
Wildman, Seti champion, also known as 'the Boar', Sweetgrass
Imotan, shaman of the Jackal warrior society
Hipal, shaman of the Ferret warrior society
Captain Moss, Malazan cavalry captain
Redden Brokeleg, Ataman (chieftain) of the Plains Lion Assembly
Ortal, ataman (chieftain) of the Black Ferret Assembly

On the Wickan Frontier

Malazan Army
Rillish Jal Keth, lieutenant of the Malazan 4th Army
Chord, company sergeant
Talia, Malazan veteran

Wickans
Clearwater, a Wickan shaman
Nil, a Wickan warlock and veteran of the Seven Cities campaigns
Nether, a Wickan witch and veteran of the Seven Cities campaigns
Mane, a young Wickan warrior
Udep, a Wickan hetman (chieftain)

In the Pit
Ho (Hothalar), a Li Heng mage
Yathengar 'ul Amal, a Seven Cities priest ('Faladan')
Sessin, Yathengar's bodyguard
Grief, a new prisoner
Treat, a new prisoner
Devaleth, a Korelan sea-witch and new prisoner
Su, a Wickan witch

In Quon Tali Province
Ghelel Rhik Tayliin, Duchess, and last surviving member of the Tayliin family line
Amaron, Malazan 'Old Guard', once commander of the Talons Eye-open
Choss, Malazan 'Old Guard', once High Fist
Marquis Jhardin, commander of the Marchland Sentries
Prevost Razala, a cavalry captain
Molk, an agent of Amaron's

The Crimson Guard

Surviving Named Avowed
K'azz D'Avore, commander, known by various titles

First Company
Skinner, Captain
Mara, company mage
Gwynn, company mage
Petal, company mage
Kalt, lieutenant
Farese
Hist
Shijel
Black the Lesser

Second Company
Shimmer, captain
Cowl, High Mage and Master of Assassins, 'Veils'
Stoop, siegemaster of the Guard
Smoky, company mage
Shellarr, 'Shell', company mage
Blues, company mage and swordmaster
Fingers, company mage
Opal, company mage
Isha, company assassin, 'Veil'
Keitil, company assassin, 'Veil'
Cole
Treat
Dim
Reed
Amatt Eye-open
Sept
Lazar
Halfdan
Lean
Inese
Turgal

Third Company
Tarkhan, captain and company assassin, 'Veil'
Lor-sinn, company mage
Sour, company mage
Toby, company mage
Balkin, company mage
Lacy, company assassin, 'Veil'
Black
Baker
Janeth
Slate
Bower
Lucky

Fourth Company
Cal-Brinn, captain and company mage
Iron Bars
Jup Alat
Among the First Induction (recruitment)
Sergeant Trench
Corlo
Voss
Ambrose Eye-open
Palla

Among the Second Induction
Lurgman Parsell, 'Twisty'
Jaris
Pilgrim
Ogilvy
Bakar
Tolt
Meek
Harman
Grere
Geddin
Boll

Among the Third Induction
Stalker
Badlands
Coots
Kyle

Of the Talian League
Urko Crust, commander of Falaran forces, 'Old Guard', also known as 'Shatterer'
V'thell, commander of Gold Moranth forces
Choss, commander of Talian forces, 'Old Guard'
Toc the Elder, Seti Warlord, 'Old Guard'
Amaron, chief of intelligence, 'Old Guard'
Ullen Khadeve, Urko's lieutenant-commander and chief of staff, 'Old Guard'
Bala Jesselt, cadre mage, 'Old Guard'
Eselen Tonley, a captain of Falaran cavalry
Orlat Kepten, a captain of Talian forces, 'Old Guard'

Others
Liossercal, Ascendant, titled 'Son of Light,' also known as Osserc, Osric
Anomandaris, Ascendant, titled 'Son of Darkness' Eye-open
Jhest Golanjar, Jacuruku mage
Shen, a warlock
Tayschrenn, Imperial High Mage
D'Ebbin, Malazan Commander, 4th Army, 'Fist'
Braven Tooth, Malazan Command Master Sergeant
Temp, Malazan Master Sergeant
Blossom, Moranth Gold officer
Tourmaline, Moranth Gold infantry sergeant
Cartharon Crust, captain of the Ragstopper, rumoured 'Old Guard'
Denuth, an Elder, among the Firstborn to Mother Earth
Draconus, an Elder God
Ereko, an ancient wanderer
Greymane, once a Malazan Fist, now outlawed
Lim Tal, ex-private guard of Untan noble
Traveller, a wanderer of mixed Dal Hon and Quon descent
Ragman / Tatterdemalion, a wanderer of the Imperial Warren

This post has been edited by Aptorian: 22 June 2020 - 01:24 PM

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 09:27 PM

Kyle.....


I don't recall greymane in this?

But yeah, I was excited for RotCG when it came out, I enjoyed the quick pace of NoK and expected more of the same. Man I just recall being so disappointed by the book, and indeed Im not massively pumped for a Cam reread, but still looking forward to it more than going over TtH, DoD and TCG

I'm really struggling to remember the plot of this one, do they try unleash Rhyl?
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#4 User is offline   Traveller 

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 09:35 PM

I don't even remember that much about it. I just recall that it was a bit of a slog with some quite significant events occurring towards the end.

I'm a few chapters in, and so far there have been a couple of interesting flashbacks to older days, some crimson guard action, and some Mallick Rel.

The CG stuff, considering the book is named after them, is the weakest stuff so far. I can't seem to remember what they're doing when I'm not actually reading it; it's hard to go back to. The characters are just names, nothing distinctive to grab any sort of attention. And literally everything Kyle sees is new to him even though he's in the squad. He just sticks out like a writers tool to tell the story from the perspective of an outsider. He doesn't need to be there.

I'm going to go read a bit shortly, but until I pick it up I can't tell you where I am or what's happening. The only interest so far is with vorcans daughter and Rel, and that's only because of what goes down later.

This post has been edited by Traveller: 22 June 2020 - 09:41 PM

So that's the story. And what was the real lesson? Don't leave things in the fridge.
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#5 User is offline   Traveller 

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Posted 23 June 2020 - 11:22 AM

Ok so this was interesting...


‘Do not lie to your High Priest, Mael. It is only through the rituals of Jhistal that you yet have a presence here in the world.’ The water stilled, smoothing to glass. A bulge rose swelling to a broad pillar of water. It wavered, fighting to lean forward towards the seated man, then burst in a great rushing crash. ‘And so the bindings hold,’ came the voice again. ‘Rituals so awful, Mallick, even Kellanved was revolted. Regrettable that some of you escaped.’"

Good to see the disaccociation of Mallick by Mael/Bugg. First hint that 'Jhistal' is something more than the worship of Mael and actually seems to protect Mallick from him, possibly even binding him to an extent?
So that's the story. And what was the real lesson? Don't leave things in the fridge.
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#6 User is offline   Aptorian 

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Posted 23 June 2020 - 11:29 AM

I wonder if mael wouldn't prefer to just fade away like K'rul. The Bugg version we meet in Midnight Tides seems like a duty bound and benevolent being, namely when things enter into his area of interest, mostly Tehol and letheras, but not one that actually cares about the wider world.

I guess that Jhistal book by Esslemont will be interesting. I assume we there see what the Malazan Empire did to the Jhistal in the past.

This post has been edited by Aptorian: 23 June 2020 - 11:30 AM

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#7 User is offline   Traveller 

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Posted 23 June 2020 - 12:40 PM

Well in gotm K'rull is woken by the spilled blood in his temple - and here Mallick is indicating that the blood from their rituals are what is keeping Mael going... whether he wants it or not.

At the end of MTs Bugg tells Tehol he has found more meaning in living alongside him than he ever did dealing with all his worshippers; so maybe the Jhistal rituals keep Mael from fading, and enforce a degree of contact, but can't compel him any more than that.
So that's the story. And what was the real lesson? Don't leave things in the fridge.
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Posted 25 June 2020 - 02:07 AM

I'll be skipping this one since I've read it recently, but I'll follow along with the thread and join you guys again in August
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Posted 26 June 2020 - 11:49 AM

Ok so I'm sort of getting into this now. It still has chapters that are fairly forgettable (some of the malazan groups are quite interchangeable) but I'm far more into the rise of Mallick Rel; I think on a first read I just wanted him to get killed horribly and was disappointed constantly - a reread shows just how well he's playing everyone.

I cant remember how the veteran 'rebellion' pans out. I don't think Toc the Elder survives it though. Just found out that the whole point of making the Malazan Empire look like its teetering on the brink of collapse is so that a certain someone can take over at the right moment, and regain control after Laseen has been deemed the cause of its fall. She's being set up as the scapegoat; which is why I guess Mallick instigated the whole reworking of the Seven Cities history- it's all in his favour. Still no idea why she has been so powerless to see this though, maybe she really is incompetent.
So that's the story. And what was the real lesson? Don't leave things in the fridge.
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Posted 28 June 2020 - 05:35 PM

Just started Return of the Crimson Guard. It's not a good thing when the very first sentence stumps the reader.

What the hell does this mean?

Quote

This, the first of wars, paroxysmed for time unmeasured.


I googled paroxysmed. Google doesn't recognize this as an English word. Paroxysm is hard for Google as well but according to Webster it means this:

Quote

paroxysm noun

par·​ox·​ysm | \ ˈper-ək-ˌsi-zəm , ˈpa-rək- also pə-ˈräk- \
Definition of paroxysm
1: a fit, attack, or sudden increase or recurrence of symptoms (as of a disease) : CONVULSION
a paroxysm of coughing
convulsed … in the paroxysms of an epileptic seizure
— Thomas Hardy
2: a sudden violent emotion or action : OUTBURST
a paroxysm of rage
a paroxysm of laughter


So the first war convulsed or suddenly had attacks for time unmeasurable? Most likely meaning it was a series of minor and major clashes and skirmishes.

Like I get the sort of writing he's trying to emulate here but come on.

This post has been edited by Aptorian: 28 June 2020 - 06:04 PM

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 07:31 PM

Finished the prologue and the first chapter. Great introduction of the Crimson Guard and an interesting presentation of Osserc, both the ancient version and the awakened version is so much different from Anomander Rake.
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Posted 29 June 2020 - 12:42 PM

Starting this today
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Posted 29 June 2020 - 01:04 PM

View PostTraveller, on 26 June 2020 - 11:49 AM, said:

Ok so I'm sort of getting into this now. It still has chapters that are fairly forgettable (some of the malazan groups are quite interchangeable) but I'm far more into the rise of Mallick Rel; I think on a first read I just wanted him to get killed horribly and was disappointed constantly - a reread shows just how well he's playing everyone.


It's weird how Esslemont does a pretty good job of expanding on Erikson's bit-characters, but then his own new characters are... rough. Not looking forward to the Ghelel parts.


View PostTraveller, on 22 June 2020 - 09:35 PM, said:

The CG stuff, considering the book is named after them, is the weakest stuff so far. I can't seem to remember what they're doing when I'm not actually reading it; it's hard to go back to. The characters are just names, nothing distinctive to grab any sort of attention. And literally everything Kyle sees is new to him even though he's in the squad. He just sticks out like a writers tool to tell the story from the perspective of an outsider. He doesn't need to be there.


I like the idea of seeing the Avowed through the lens of a regular Guardsman like Kyle and the Avowed's abilities being so far beyond a regular human plus them having a closed off mentality that it's hard for the regular guardsmen to keep up/follow... but it goes pretty overkill here to the point of even the reader being confused about what the heck is going on half the time. IIRC it gets a lot better though once they actually reach Quon Tali. (Except K'azz, he's super boring)



View PostAptorian, on 28 June 2020 - 05:35 PM, said:

Just started Return of the Crimson Guard. It's not a good thing when the very first sentence stumps the reader.

What the hell does this mean?

Quote

This, the first of wars, paroxysmed for time unmeasured.


I googled paroxysmed. Google doesn't recognize this as an English word. Paroxysm is hard for Google as well but according to Webster it means this:

Quote

paroxysm noun

par·​ox·​ysm | \ ˈper-ək-ˌsi-zəm , ˈpa-rək- also pə-ˈräk- \
Definition of paroxysm
1: a fit, attack, or sudden increase or recurrence of symptoms (as of a disease) : CONVULSION
a paroxysm of coughing
convulsed … in the paroxysms of an epileptic seizure
— Thomas Hardy
2: a sudden violent emotion or action : OUTBURST
a paroxysm of rage
a paroxysm of laughter


So the first war convulsed or suddenly had attacks for time unmeasurable? Most likely meaning it was a series of minor and major clashes and skirmishes.

Like I get the sort of writing he's trying to emulate here but come on.


Isn't this the "cyclopean columns" book, too?

View Postworrywort, on 14 September 2012 - 08:07 PM, said:

I kinda love it when D'rek unleashes her nerd wrath, as I knew she would here. Sorry innocent bystanders, but someone's gotta be the kindling.
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Posted 29 June 2020 - 10:15 PM

About 1/3 in.

This book is just so flat, if anything it's frustrating me more this time, the new characters are..... Blegh.
Bland as can be.

Laseens total incompetence continues to astound and just too many narratives at once. I know it's his first doorstopper, but RotCG is symptomatic of all of the problems I have with cams bigger books.

Too many disjointed and disparate storylines, with forgettable characters. Which is a shame because NoK is a fairly tight narrative, and it worked well for cams style.
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Posted 30 June 2020 - 07:28 AM

When I pick it up, every time I have to backtrack a bit to remind myself what's going on - and try to put a face to the name of whoever that chapter is starting with. There are a lot of interchangeable characters. It's getting better, to be fair; some individuals do stand out, but there is still a decent crowd that don't have enough to grab the attention.

I'm about half way through now. The arrival of the CG in Unta (no one remembers who they are) was quite nice.
Also Rillish, the Wickans, and the Mallick Rel arcs are keeping me reading. Also Ereko and Traveller.

The Yath stuff, Ghelel, other random malazans I draw a blank on could have been missed out and the book wouldn't be worse for it.

(Another interesting line... Ereko 'his voice so intense as to seem febrile.'
How does one sound like they have fever?)

This post has been edited by Traveller: 30 June 2020 - 07:35 AM

So that's the story. And what was the real lesson? Don't leave things in the fridge.
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#16 User is offline   Aptorian 

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Posted 30 June 2020 - 01:47 PM

I'm only a hundred pages in but I'm enjoying it.

The thing about Esslemont's books is that it was never the writing that was a problem for me. If anything I came to enjoy it more than Erikson's, since at this point in the publication order, Erikson starts to get more philosphical and romantic in his writing. The plot and structure of Esslemont's books is fine (Well, Assail's structure was highly repetitive but...) the problem I always had was that I never liked where Esslemont went with the story being told and how he wrapped up the books.

So far I'm enjoying seeing the Guard through Kyle's eyes. They seem damn supernatural compared to regular soldiers. The Dassem and Ereko stuff is great as well. Ereko, an ancient being of great power, being down right frightened of Dassem is fun. And I'm loving these small passages where one Old Guard member from the past gets reintroduced, one after another. Urko, Choss, Amaron, it's pure fan pleasing if you ask me and I'm loving it.
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Posted 30 June 2020 - 09:57 PM

I got the buzz from the Old Guard all resurfacing and meeting up - it's what happens/doesn't happen with them that I'm worried about. I honestly can't remember the ending of this book, but so far the 'old guard' have got themselves mired in a messy siege and haven't achieved.. anything that you'd expect from the Emperor's best.

Kallor cameo. Get to learn a bit more about Traveller's motivations. Also Ereko - just lots more questions left.

It's flowing quite well now.

This post has been edited by Traveller: 30 June 2020 - 09:58 PM

So that's the story. And what was the real lesson? Don't leave things in the fridge.
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Posted 01 July 2020 - 08:29 AM

That escape by the Crimson Guard p. 106-111 is badass. Before this book was there ever any inclination that the CG were this powerful?
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Posted 01 July 2020 - 10:10 AM

Hell yeah. In GotM, it's the CG that effortlessly blindside Korlat when she's hunting Crokus, and leave her weapons by her side. Also Iron Bars kills Rhulad without even breaking stride, and doesn't even notice anything special about him.

Or did you mean the regulars, not just the Avowed? Iron Bars also kills B'Nagga and takes on the Seragahl.

This post has been edited by Traveller: 01 July 2020 - 10:32 AM

So that's the story. And what was the real lesson? Don't leave things in the fridge.
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#20 User is offline   Cyphon 

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Posted 01 July 2020 - 10:34 AM

Started yesterday and it's an enjoyable romp.

Janelle dying to try and mindfuck Possum and Laseen is as funny as it is stupid.

I thought the intro to CG was okay. If Kyle has been stuck scouting and in a siege for a year he probably doesnt really understand what's going on.

There is a bit of tell dont show here. And then an annoying nod of explanation of, oh you're brethren so you wouldn't know, let me tell you.'

Got to Ghelel meeting the old guard. So far so standard trope.

This post has been edited by Cyphon: 01 July 2020 - 10:38 AM

Para todos todo, para nosotros nada.

MottI'd always pegged you as more of an Ublala
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