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Spare a Messenger

 Spare a Messenger
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Advertisement:propertag.cmd.push(function() { proper_display('tvtropes_mobile_ad_1'); })The opposite of Leave No Witnesses. After a Curb-Stomp Battle, one person (or one vessel in a naval or space battle) is allowed to Bring News Back. Sometimes this is part of a battle plan (for example, the attack is a diversion intended to draw out the enemy forces), or a Trick-and-Follow Ploy. Usually it's just to spread fear and when done by villains often a display of Pragmatic Villainy, but may also be combined with Pet the Dog.
The title is a pun on Shoot the Messenger, which may happen when the escapee reaches their destination.
Compare Sole Survivor and All According to Plan. Contrast Undead Author, where news gets out despite no one being left to deliver it.
 Spare a Messenger
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2020-04-02T11:33:51Z
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2020-04-02T11:33:51Z
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Film: Inglorious Basterds
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TheWordForWorldIsForest
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Zoo
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DBTropes
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In Citadel, this is how Monster got his name. He murdered an entire studio full of people, one by one with a knife, making it extra painful if they tried to fight. Then he gestured for the last survivor to point a camera at him and said:
 Spare a Messenger / int_1104b72b
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Brightly Burning describes the Battle of White Foal Pass, whose invading force was terrified of Lavan Firestorm- but more terrified of their own leaders, who used torture and propaganda to stop them from defecting. Eventually Lavan snapped, revealing his full power and incinerating the Pass down to bedrock. Everyone in the opposing army died...except for one soldier, who was later taken captive. And it was centuries before the country that sent them would attack Valdemar again.
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Spare a Messenger
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Mulan: After they are done with their latest massacre, the Huns capture two Chinese scouts. Shan-Yu decides to let them go to carry a challenge back to the emperor. Then he changes his mind on letting them both leave...
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Spare a Messenger
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Arrow: At the end of "The Offer", Ra's al Ghul plays Costume Copycat by dressing as the Arrow and murdering a group of thugs. He leaves one alive and tells him to go and tell anyone who will listen what he has seen.
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Star Trek: Enterprise. In "In a Mirror, Darkly - Part II", Mirror Universe Archer allows a rebel starship to escape after destroying all the others with the USS Defiant, for the same reason. He destroys a crippled Vulcan ship first, just to Kick the Dog.
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Gotham: In the "Pilot" episode, Falcone kills the men about to execute Gordon and Bullock. He spares Butch so he can take a message back to Fish.
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Spare a Messenger
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In Star Trek: Discovery, after the end of the battle and the retreat of the Starfleet ships that can still fly, T'Kuvma declares that the crippled Federation ships will be spared, so that their surviving crews can tell the tale of the Klingon victory.
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Dawn of War Soulstorm: If the Dark Eldar defeat the Sisters of Battle, they leave a single Sister alive, driven mad by the Dark Eldar's tortures.
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Moby-Dick: Ishmael the mariner ponders being the sole survivor of the doomed whaler Pequod, and concludes that he was spared by the vengeful behemoth precisely to pen the tale as a warning to all others that would think to pursue the Great White Whale.
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Cowboy Bebop: Pierrot le Fou leaves almost no-one alive from his attacks, although the ones that do survive to tell the tale are eventually all hunted down and killed anyway.
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World of Warcraft:
During the Highmountain storyline of the Legion expansion, the player accompanies a group of highmountain warbraves as they confront Dargrul the Underking for the destruction of Riverbend. In response, Dargrul wields the hammer of Khaz'goroth to slay them all - leaving only the player character alive.
In one of the in-game cinematics for Battle For Azeroth shows a Horde caravan carrying supplies through the forests of Darkshore. The caravan is then ambushed by Malfurion Stormrage - who single handedly massacres the lot of them. When Malfurion spots the last survivor, he shoves him against a tree, then leans in close and says "Tell her we are coming." before turning into a bird and flying off.
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The Usual Suspects: One anecdote about Keyser Soze is that, when his wife and children were held hostage, he killed them, and spared one of the kidnappers to spread the word.
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Luke Cage (2016): Diamondback crashes a secret meeting of gangsters discussing the sale of Cottonmouth's assets. Unhappy that they aren't buying his weapons from him or getting them at discount from competitors, he kills all of the bosses save for Domingo Colon and Mariah Dillard. He spares Mariah because he sees she's more worthy as an ally than as a corpse. As for Domingo?
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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: This is Salazar's schtick while he and his accursed crew are trapped in the Devil's Triangle; kill everyone on every ship that comes in... save for one survivor so they can talk about it. When he discovers that Henry Turner is looking for Captain Jack Sparrow, he specifically leaves a message for the pirate captain.
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Sholan Alliance: The commander of the Khalossa tells his crew to allow one enemy ship to leave the Kiess system to inform their homeworld that this colony world is now under new management.
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In Fallout: New Vegas, the player character wanders into the scene of a particularly brutal massacre. The perpetrators, the Caesar's Legion, decide to let the Courier go for this purpose, to tell everyone (especially their enemies the New Californian Republic) what happened there. They also spared two other witnesses to the event: The winner of their Lottery of Doom gets away scot-free, while the runner-up gets his legs broken but is allowed to live. However, the former is such an idiot that he immediately runs into a radscorpion nest, inevitably dying after telling no one but the Courier (and in very unclear terms).
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In Grand Theft Auto III, you fail the mission where you kill Kenji Kasen if you kill everybody else since you need someone alive to report that the assassination was carried out by the Colombian Cartel. Interestingly, the victim previously gave you a mission where you do something similar and you fail if you DO leave someone alive.
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Schlock Mercenary. As shown in the final panel.
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Wing Commander Academy. In "The Last One Left", Blair is captured by a renegade group of ex-Confed and Kilrathi Space Pirates who are eventually wiped out by the Kilrathi forces. Assuming Blair is one of the renegades, Prince Thrakhath allows him to live so he can tell others that anyone who defies the Kilrathi WILL DIE!
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Earthdawn. Whenever the monsters known as Bog Gobs attack sapient creatures, they will always leave some survivors. They do this because they enjoy the tales spread about them among the Namegiver races.
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Dungeons & Dragons: It's mentioned that whenever Red Dragons attack a town (either for treasure or just for the hell of it) they would often leave a survivor or two to spread word about their power.
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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In "The Changing Face of Evil", after Starfeet suffers a major defeat the female Founder countermands an order to destroy the Escape Pods, saying the frightened survivors will return home and spread their fear, demoralizing the enemies of the Dominion.
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Kung Fu Panda.
After his One-Man Army rampage through the thousand guards of his Tailor-Made Prison, Tai Lung encounters the Sole Survivor, a duck messenger sent by Master Shifu, seizes him by the neck and...in the smooth, cultured rumble of Ian McShane, tells the duck to fly back to his master and inform him the real Dragon Warrior is coming home.
Tai Lung immobilizes the Furious Five with his unstoppable nerve-strike, but allows Crane to fly them back to the Valley of Peace in order to intimidate the Dragon Warrior. Po is already scared as it happens, but not deterred.
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In The Flash (2014), it is stated that Zoom once set a trap for the police to show that they couldn't stop him. Killed 14 officers, one was spared to tell what he saw. Next night, that officer was murdered by Zoom in his own house to complete the message.
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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: You can kill an entire army of Uruks and then dominate the sole survivor to tell some Uruk Captain that you're coming for them next. This is also practical because Talion can be attacked while dominating someone.
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In Heart of Ashes, while taking refuge in Emyn Muil, Smaug attacks a caravan of Dale's merchants. A teen boy survives, and Smaug uses on him the Dragon-spell, instructing him to inform the rulers of Dale and Erebor that the dragon they believe to be dead shall return. The boy's encountered and freed of the enchantment by Gandalf, prompting him to tell Smaug's message to the wizard and Elrond.
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Watership Down. When General Woundwort leads an expedition to attack the warren, Hazel goes alone to meet him in an attempt to find a peaceful solution. Woundwort isn't interested, but (unaware that he's actually talking to the Chief Rabbit of the warren) he allows Hazel to return with his so-called terms (surrender or die) rather than ordering Captain Campion to kill him.
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The Blacklist:
In "Lord Baltimore", Berlin takes Naomi and massacres all of Baltimore's men but leaves one barely alive so he could give Reddington an address.
In "Mr. Gregory Devry", an assassin hired by Marcus kills Mr. Kaplan's cleaners with the exception of the boss in order to tell Reddington that his employer knows about his informant status with the FBI.
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In The Bible, Book of Job, bad things constantly happen to Job, and each time there is one survivor who seems to have survived only so Job knows what's going on.
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In The Executioner series, Mack Bolan often does this as a Trick-and-Follow Ploy.
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In The Dark Elf Trilogy: Homeland, a drow patrol which includes Drizzt wipes out a svirfneblin group which was mining minerals too close to their city. However, since the leader treated Drizzt well when he was briefly captured, Drizzt wants to spare him. Aware that his kin won't understand mercy (and far less tolerate any suggestion of it from a mere cadet), he points out that someone needs to return and tell the gnomes about the drow's strength and the folly of approaching Menzoberranzan. The other drow then cut off the gnome leader's hands and send him off.
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Beowulf (2007). After defeating a Fresian raiding party, Beowulf orders that the Sole Survivor be given a gold piece and sent back home to add to his legend. "He has a story to tell."
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Game of Thrones:
At the start of the series (and at the beginning of Season Three) the White Walkers allow a member of the Night Watch to escape a massacre unharmed for reasons unknown (presumably to spread fear).
Robb Stark spares a Lannister scout he's captured, just so he can pass on a Badass Boast that 20,000 Northerners are coming for Lord Tywin Lannister. Actually it's a Batman Gambit — only 2000 men will be attacking Tywin's forces, with the rest hitting elsewhere.
Thenns attack south of the wall and eradicate a village. One of them slaughters a peasant couple, then tells their child to run to Castle Black and tell the Night's Watch. As with the Robb Stark example, it's meant to be a distraction to draw away enemy forces, but this time it doesn't work (for one thing, the Nights Watch don't have the men to spare on forays).
After Queen Daenerys and her dragons turn the tide against their invasion fleet, Grey Worm kills two out of the three Masters. Tryion Lannister tells the last Master to return to his people and tell them what happens to those who try to mess with the Dragon Queen.
In "Dragonstone", Arya Stark (wearing a glamor that makes her appear as their liege lord Walder Frey) poisons the Freys responsible for the Red Wedding massacre. However she stops Walder's wife from drinking the poisoned wine; partly because she's an innocent, but also to deliver the following Badass Boast.
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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: When the Fantom raids the Bank of England in the Action Prologue, he orders his men to machine-gun the British bobbies responding, but to leave one alive to tell the tale.
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In For a Few Dollars More, after Big Bad El Indio gets freed from prison, he has all guards killed except for one who he tells to go out and tell everyone what happened.
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Warhammer 40,000: The Dark Eldar are known to do this, both because it allows their reputation to grow, but other times so they can follow the survivor to his camp and destroy it (sometimes leaving him alive), just to show they can.
The Adeptus Astartes has this as a battle policy at times against certain foes they intend to scare into submission. They kill all but one in battle and let the messenger go off so he can tell his fellows what happened to his own unit. It has tremendous psychological effect to the point whole regiments surrender without a fight.
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In Natural Born Killers, Mickey and Mallory always leave one survivor at the scenes of their killing sprees... Until the very end, when they shoot the journalist that was with them because he unfortunately had a camera which documented everything, serving as a means of telling their story.
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Warhammer: Two renowned characters, Gorthor the Beastlord and Vlad von Carstein did this during their respective wars against the Empire. In the former's case it was to allow his reputation to grow and spread fear while the latter did it just to spread fear.
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Spare a Messenger / int_bff01809
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Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_c01688c8
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Batman (1989). Two muggers are counting their loot on a rooftop. Batman appears and kicks one of them through a door. He takes the other one to the edge of the roof, holds him over the long drop below and talks to him.
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1.0
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 Batman (1989)
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Spare a Messenger / int_c01688c8
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Spare a Messenger
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Into the Badlands. In "Tiger Pushes Mountain", the Widow plows her way through Jade's bodyguards all by herself, in a brutal and terrifying sequence featuring the Widow slowly advancing up a staircase, hacking up Clippers and fixing Jade with a wicked Slasher Smile each time they make eye contact. When it's finally down to just the two of them, the Widow takes down Jade with absolutely no effort...and leaves her alive to deliver a message to Ryder: She's Back, and the oil fields are hers.
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1.0
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Spare a Messenger / int_c260a00d
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type
Spare a Messenger
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In Braveheart William Wallace invades the local English garrison, has the English lord killed and burns it to the ground at the start of the Scottish rebellion, but spares the rest of the garrison's soldiers to send word back to England.
 Spare a Messenger / int_c59abec0
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1.0
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Spare a Messenger / int_c59abec0
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Spare a Messenger
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Star Wars Rebels: In "The Holocrons of Fate", Kanan and Ezra find a rebel transport that was attacked by Maul, who left one technician injured but alive to tell them that the ship was attacked by a "red blade" who wanted information on the whereabouts of the Ghost. When Kanan and Ezra contact the ship, they find that Maul's already gotten there and taken Hera, Sabine, Zeb and Chopper hostage.
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Spare a Messenger / int_c72c2d06
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Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_c73f511c
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Boardwalk Empire. A young Meyer Lansky is captured with two other mooks. The Defiant to the End mooks insult or threaten their captors and are killed for it. Lansky (who tried to negotiate his way out) thinks he's next, but he's just untied and let go, with instructions to tell his boss what he saw happen to the others.
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Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_c75d67d
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Person of Interest.
In "Witness", Elias looks like he's going to shoot the gangster son of The Mafiya boss, but kneecaps him instead, saying his father should get out of Brighton Beach. The boss is shown being murdered in the end montage, so he clearly ignored the warning.
In "C.O.D.", Detective Fusco has been forced to take part in a hit by HR on a mob boss, as part of a deal with Elias. However it turns out to be a trap, and Fusco's life (but not the other assassin) is spared to carry back a message that Elias has no interest in dealing with HR.
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Spare a Messenger / int_c75d67d
 Spare a Messenger / int_d7c9f170
type
Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_d7c9f170
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The Matrix Reloaded. After Persephone kills one of the two programs guarding the Keymaker, she spares the other one and tells him to go tell the Merovingian what she has done. She does this so the Merovingian will show up and she can tell him to his face why she did it.
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Spare a Messenger / int_d7c9f170
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Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_e293455a
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Becoming, Part One" Buffy tells a henchvamp to deliver a message to Angelus that she wants him to stop with his Criminal Mind Games and fight her. When the vampire attacks her again, she stakes him. "Fine, I'll tell him myself."
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Spare a Messenger / int_e293455a
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Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_e5c5bc22
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GURPS Fantasy supplement Harkwood. The part of Caithness named Blythe was once raided by a band of two dozen lizard men from the desert. The Blythe militia trapped the band and killed almost all of them, deliberately letting three of them escape to let the other lizard men know of their defeat. Since that day, the lizard men have not attacked Blythe.
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Spare a Messenger / int_e5c5bc22
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Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_ea4f62db
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Family Guy: In a Cutaway Gag, Peter, dressed as an Army Ranger, sneaks up behind Yogi Bear and stabs him with a knife. He then tells the shocked Boo-Boo to spread the word to the other bears.
 Spare a Messenger / int_ea4f62db
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1.0
 Spare a Messenger / int_ea4f62db
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Spare a Messenger / int_ea4f62db
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Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_f01be35d
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In Blood Brothers of Gor after a war between fantasy counterpart American Indians and cowboys, three "cowboy" privates chosen by drawing lots are allowed to go back home to bring word of the defeat while the others are reduced to slavery.
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Spare a Messenger / int_f01be35d
 Spare a Messenger / int_fa20c4b1
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Spare a Messenger
 Spare a Messenger / int_fa20c4b1
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A tactic used by the Byzantines in I Am Skantarios: they let the shattered remnants of an army regroup and run away, following them until they reach a city. Usually the city refuses to open its gates to let the survivors in, leaving them to be slaughtered by the Byzantines until they are conquered as well (helped by the severe morale drop caused by the survivors' deaths).
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 Spare a Messenger / int_fa20c4b1
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The following is a list of statements referring to the current page from other pages.

 Berserk (2016) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Cowboy Bebop / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Bianca Little Lost Lamb (Comic Book) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Mulan / Disney / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Nymeria's War (Fanfic) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 The Heart Trilogy (Fanfic) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Batman / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Batman (1989) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Braveheart / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Captain Marvel (2019) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Inglourious Basterds / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Kill Bill / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Natural Born Killers / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 ILLUMINATED / int_e60aad64
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Spare a Messenger
 Moby-Dick / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 The Dark Elf Trilogy / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 CDT Adventure (Roleplay) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 The Flash (2014) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Zoo / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger
 Chzo Mythos (Video Game) / int_e60aad64
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Spare a Messenger
 Dawn of War (Video Game) / int_e60aad64
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Spare a Messenger
 Oglaf (Webcomic) / int_e60aad64
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Spare a Messenger
 Kung Fu Panda / int_e60aad64
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Spare a Messenger
 Mulan / int_e60aad64
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Spare a Messenger
 Earthdawn (Tabletop Game) / int_e60aad64
type
Spare a Messenger