THE DRAGONRIDERS OF AOHU'O

CAPTURING - HATCHING - UP-BRINGING/CARE - SADDLING - RIDING

THE LIVES OF RIDERS - HISTORY

While the creatures the Vale Brownies ride are classified as dracoids, the Aohu'o call the brave young Brownies that ride them "Dragonriders" due to the fact that the name given to these creatures is rrLL (lit. "dragon"). Those that live in the area and have had the opportunity to see these riders commonly call them "Skyriders" or just refer to the beast's original name, skyter. The Brownies have found these beasts to be great companions and a good addition to their settlements. They help in finding food for them and keeping them from becoming a meal for tree cats or wolves.

These riders are located in the Goltherlon Forest where their mounts live. Up until about 1017 a.S. the Brownies of the forest were wary of the skyters as the beasts obviously enjoy tormenting the little people. The first "Dragonrider", Cawrr Dragonrider (last name taken because he was the first able to train one of the dracoids as a mount), was able to show the elders of the Brownie settlement that the beasts could help them the animals were somewhat tolerated. Old fears died hard and back then the torment from the dracoids and occasional loss of a family member stuck in their minds. Nowadays the beasts are celebrated for the differences they have made in the lives of those living around them.

The Skyter Dracoid

View picture in full size  Picture description. A brown Skyter Dracoid in the second stage of life. Image drawn by Sheil.

Capturing. Riders agree that when it comes to living with "dragons", the hardest part comes at the beginning: obtaining an egg. Many potential riders have failed at this point and have returned to their homes empty handed or have not returned at all. Becoming a Dragonrider is a common dream among the children of the Aohu'o and just about anyone has the chance to go after a skyter egg. Each year, a dozen or so, sometimes more, brave young Brownies venture from their homes with the hopes of becoming one of the elite few that are the Dragonriders. On average, the yearly group of Brownie riders ranges from two to four. Some years the group is smaller or bigger and has been nonexistent a few times. Those that fail to be one of the luckily ones that fill the spots either return to their homes to try again if they survived.

While the theft of a little egg doesn't seem to be that difficult to those who have yet to try, all that have ventured to the tree tops or mountain side disagree. The fact that the first Dragonrider, Cawrr, almost dropped his first egg as a protective mother attempted to shake him from the tree, is little known among the Aohu'o, but his journals outlined the best and worst of his experiences. Cawrr spent a good deal of time designing a pouch during the endless hours he spent in the tent waiting for his dragon to hatch. The pouch was made like a pack that would keep the egg safe should the 'thief' have some difficulty reaching the ground.

The Egg Pouch has a straight, leather back, hard enough to keep its basic shape but soft enough to form to the back of its wearer. A leather strip that is about three nailsbreadths wide and seven nailsbreadths long (give a few grains to each measurement to allow a little extra room) is sewn along both sides and the bottom of the straight back. Another flap of leather is sewn to the top and is just long enough to cover the top of the pack once the egg is inside. A leather strip is attached to the flap and has a series of holes that slip through and catch to the buckle that is steadily sewn onto the pouch. The interior is lightly lined with fur, designed to keep the skyter egg warm if the Brownie is too far away to make it home in one day. Two more strips are attached to the top of the other side of the straight back, designed to cross the Brownie's chest, wrap around its waist in the back and cross again before buckling in the front.

When the first attempt of the new season failed after the Brownie accidentally dropped his egg while getting caught on a thorn in the nest, Cawrr brought forward the Egg Pouch that he had created the year before, hoping another potential rider would give it a try. The next and successful attempt was made with the pouch and the design of the straps and size of the egg carrier allowed the Brownie a wide range of movement while still keeping the unborn drake safe. After that, many of the young Brownies that had flocked to the first Dragonrider, asking him to teach them to make the Egg Pouch and it soon became the only method used by potential riders.
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Hatching. Once the egg is taken from the nest, the little Brownie must be prepared to face sleepless nights and the beginning of a life of enslavement. While most enjoy this choice and look forward to the rising of the sun each day, life with one of these dragons is enslavement none the less. This begins with caring for the egg that they had risked their life to win.

The dragon egg must be kept warm from the time it is laid to the time it hatches.
Brownies have enough time to retrieve the egg and take it back to their homes before having to return it to the warmth since mothers must leave the nest to feed every now and then, the fur lining of the Egg Pouch giving as much, if not more warmth, than the 'blanket' of moss the mother drapes over her eggs until she returns. The first rider found many unique ways to solve this problem. The very first egg was hatched in a tent made from tanned rabbit hide. He wove a nest of twigs and vines, large enough for the egg to comfortably lie on its side. This first nest was placed inside the tent, near a medium sized fire pit and lined with moss, leaves, and animal fur.

Cawrr stayed in the tent for many days, watching the egg and turning it every three hours or so, so that all sides of the egg would catch the warmth radiating from the small flames. This was also so one side would not be directly facing the flames for very long as Cawrr didn't know what too much heat could do to the unborn dragon within the egg. He only left in the early hours of the morning each day to get food, water, wood, and any other necessities before returning to study the egg. The only opening in the tent for the most of those days was a small opening in the roof to allow smoke to escape. After his egg hatched he figured there must be a better way and worked on the idea in his spare time.

By the time the next egg laying season (a year later) came around, others had started out in search of their own drakes. His skyter was big enough to need shelter so he worked on a large wooden building that would house his beast. When the others came back with eggs he had extended the building, adding in an open area where the eggs could be kept. This didn't work out so well as the building rather large by that time and a larger fire had needed to be built up, and Cawrr's golden wasn't too fond of the constant heat during that time. A plan for the next hatching season was already being made.

Throughout the next year, the building, that housed the dragons, had grown and was being called a "Dragon Barn". Knowing they wouldn't be able to hatch the new eggs in the barn for another year Cawrr Dragonrider had gathered volunteers to help him build another structure, one he had worked to design over the last year. This new building was rather small with a high ceiling that was almost a palmspan above the head of the average Brownie. The four walls were lined with animal furs and in the center of the building was a medium sized fire pit. In the ceiling had a series of small slits that worked as vents to remove the smoke from the room. The room was just big enough to hold six egg nests and their Brownies, even though there were rarely even five eggs a season. This room was separate, but close to the barn, leaving only a small alley between the two wooden walls.

The room became known as the Hatching Room and turned out to be a success. A sturdy structure that would last years if it was kept up was ideal for the developing of eggs. With the arrival of the first egg of the season, the fire would be lit and the future Dragonrider would build a twig and vine nest before setting off in search of the egg. Those that didn't return with an egg would surrender their nest to the riders, who would use them for lining for dragon stalls. When a Brownie didn't return after a week they were declared dead, the family was told, and the nest was taken for lining by the Brownies.

Those that returned with an egg would take turns keeping the fire going and watching the eggs, allowing the others to sleep every now and then. Even those that got the chance to sleep found that they couldn't do so for very long and spent a lot of time just watching their egg and caring for it. This new system worked out rather well as the small room allowed the fire to warm it quicker with less fuel and the growing dragons don't have to suffer through the heat that the eggs need to develop.

Near the end of the hatching process, the usually dark egg shell will start to lighten, and more than once a Brownie has claimed to see shadows within the egg when the light hits it just right. After nights of little sleep and days of just sitting and watching, the first part of a life with dragons is finished and the real work begins.
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Up-bringing/Care. Once a Brownie acquires an egg, their life is no longer their own. Each day they must think of the needs of their dragon before themselves. During the first four months of a dragon's life they need to be continually watched and feed every five to six hours. About a month and a half after the hatching of the skyter, they are moved to a small part of the Dragon Barn with their nests. The heat of the Hatching Room can be tolerated until the hatchling is old enough to be moved with minimal problems. Late hatchers tend to be the easiest to deal with as they can stay in the Hatching Room a while longer and the fire can be put out.

The first part is possibly the most difficult of the growth of the skyter. Their Brownie riders must take the time each day to hunt, kill, and mash up worms. These slimy little creatures are crushed and feed to the dragons in an attempt to simulate the regurgitated meat that their mothers feed them at that age. Worms are easiest to turn into edible bits and water can be added once or twice a day to the meal to provide all the food and water the creature needs. Once they hit the yearling phase of their life, feeding the skyter becomes easier.

When they are not hunting and/or crushing food for their hatchlings, the Aohu'o rider spends most of their time with the creature. Most of the young
dragons are kept in a small room attached to the Dragon Barn. They are kept in the nests they hatched in and are kept covered with blankets of moss or small rodent fur. From a few hours before dawn until nightfall, multiple, thick blankets are kept over them. The rest of the time, all but one blanket is removed. This is an attempt to keep with the daily schedule of a wild skyter.

Once they reach the yearling stage they really start to grow (as skyters only gain a few grains in size for the first four months of life) and the little room attached to the Dragon Barn begins to be too small for the group of riders and their
dragons. One by one the skyters are moved from the smaller room, into large stalls in the barn. Most years, the number of new riders is about the same as the number of dragons that die, though sometimes there are more stalls than beasts to fill them. Due to this, there are usually plenty of stalls, but every once in a while more need to be built. The floor of the barn is trampled dirt, but the floor of the stalls is covered with grass, moss, leaves, and some soft dirt.

When they aren't feeding and hunting for the
dragons and the settlement, they spend their time in the barn, caring for their companion. Once the dragons are settled and they have done their daily tasks the riders will usually relax in the Rider's Quarters and spend time talking, joking, and gaming with the other riders. Their quarters and common room is in the Dragon Barn so they can easily get to their mount if they need to. The more they are around their mount, the closer the bond between rider and mount is and the more loyal the beast is likely to be.

A rider that spends most of his free time tending to his mount, cleaning out their stall, and collecting more materials to pad the floor is clearly closer to the skyter than a rider that spends as little time as possible with the beast. Without this bond, the beast is more likely to desert their rider. More than once, the older Dragonriders have made a decision to take a skyter from an inattentive rider. The
dragons hatched and raised among the Aohu'o won't have the skills and knowledge they need to survive in the wild, but one whose rider was deemed neglectful or one whose rider died are released back into the wild. Due to the fact that these beasts only take one rider leaves the others with little choice as these beasts eat a lot and they are no longer any help to the settlement. Though, if a dragon had served their rider faithfully and for some reason they were unable to continue riding or died, the others of the dead riders unit might work together to continue feeding the beast. Some of the other riders have attempted to teach the animal to hunt on its own before setting it free, but none know if the beasts lived or died.

These
dragons need a good deal of care and attention. Their soft fur is always getting matted and leaves, grass, and dirt often get tangled in the mats. Unlike wild drakes, they don't have parents or a mate that will tend to the mates so they rely on their Brownie rider. Small, thick brush of sturdy, cut branches are used to pull through the matted parts of fur and coax out bits of dirt and grass. With that, most riders also have a softer brush that is made twigs and sturdy, stronger animal fur, to just keep the fur from acquiring difficult mats. This second softer brush also seems to be favoured by both rider and dragons as some riders will brush out the fur even if it doesn't need it as a way to pass time. These dragons are a rather mischievous lot in the wild and tame ones seem to be more so. Riders will commonly end up with missing brushes and/or riding gear due to their skyters playful attitude, only to find them under piles of the dragon's stall lining when they clean out the stalls.

The cleaning of the stall pretty much becomes a full time job when the dragons get older. There are always claw marks in the packed dirt that need to be filled in and sometimes scars in the wood that can cause problems at a later date. To avoid these scars in the wood, the riders usually get tough animal pelts to line one wall, because the
dragons have been seen purposely scratching the wall so that they can have the ridges to rub the sides of their heads again. The first time their quills grow in can be slightly painful and odd for the young dragon and they will use anything they can to attempt to scratch those parts. The thick, tough fur seems to solve that problem as it seems to be good enough for them to scratch on most of the time.
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Training. At a year and a half of age is the best time to begin training a skyter for flight. Before that age they are taught behavioral basics though for the most part there is very little training. Mostly they form a bond with the rider and are slowly introduced to the other Brownies in the Riding Camp. There are mixed feelings on the best way to train these creatures and even the first rider tried many different things. While there are different ways, older riders pass on the way that they were taught and the consistently successful way is the most commonly taught.

Once the dragon is first moved from the small room and into their stall, the riders begin to watch and wait for them to being stretching their wings within their area. That is the sign that they are ready to be in the air and that time, mothers in the wild would give them more freedom. Shortly after the first time they appear restless, riders get a hold of a long rope and made a loop to fit around the beast's neck. With that, they take turns letting one dragon out for a certain amount of time a day. Before they begin their training the dragons are allowed out every other day or so, giving them time to fly on their own before they are burdened with saddles and later riders.

After they begin their training they will be in the air more. The first thing they do is size the dragon and find one of the training saddles and strap it on their back loosely. Throughout the years they have made a good number of training saddles in different sizes so that the riders don't have to wait until the dragon is fully grown to saddle it or make a new one every time it grows. For the first couple months they are just saddled once a week, then twice a week, then every other day, until they can saddle the dragon for an hour to two each day without them fighting against the straps. During this time they are kept on the ground, mostly in their stalls, though they will be let out to walk around every once in a while.

Once the dragon stops fighting the saddle on the ground they are introduced into the air again, with the saddle on their backs this time. They also introduce reins as soon as they begin flying with a saddle, which come in the form of a slender leather strap that goes around the bottom jaw. It sits just behind the teeth so that they cannot bite through it.The bit is made of two strips, long enough to fit snuggly around the lower jaw. The reins are basically two strips of leather, connected by wooden rings at either end.

Both rings were caved out of solid chunks of wood. The ends of both strips of leather are looped through one ring and sewn carefully so that it will not come apart. On the other hand, the other ring only has one of the two leather strips attached. The other strip is left unattached. The end of the strap has thin vertical strip that a horizontal, rectangle shaped button will slip through to firmly attach the last strap. Each ring has a third strap connected that extends behind the dragon's head, long enough for the rider to grab the straps with a fair amount of slack. All of the pieces are firmly connected and made out of the best materials that the riders can get their hands on.

The dragons will fight this at first, but will slowly get used to the feel of the strap and will soon forget it is there. During this time they are allowed to fly outside with the saddle and reins, while on a long rope. Most dragons get used to the bit within a month and a few months after that they get used to being in the air with the saddle.

As they grow the saddle must be switched every so often and the same with the reins (which have also been made in different sizes for growing drakes), and each time they change the dragon needs a period of time to get used to the weight of the saddle without a rider. In the first saddle they are still too small to ride so Brownies will pack extra weight on the saddle slowly so they can get used to carrying weight on their backs. This continues when they switch to a second saddle, giving them time to get used to the new fit before adding on the extra weight. When the dragon is big enough to ride, the Brownies will give it a shot.

On the first ride, they allow the young dragon will follow two older dragons and riders up into a tree. The new rider will climb up to the limb and strap themselves into the saddle, preparing for the first flight. When they take off, the other two trained drakes will take off as well, watching both dragon and rider during their first flight. At this point, many disagree on ways of starting. Some believe that the rider should mount in the air by riding with another rider for a ways. Others think that they should start from the ground as they take off from the ground instead of trees most of the time. The first way seems to be working and older riders teach the original way.

It takes a couple dozen rides for the dragon gets used to the feel of a rider on its back. Things get less complicated at this point. After the dragon get used to the rider, they will take the beasts out once a day at least, letting them stretch their wings and learn to respond to their riders instructions. With the help of the older riders, the new ones learn how to steer and control their mounts. Once they get basic commands (mainly tugs from the reins, but some had trained them to respond to voice commands as well) down they are taught aerial stunts and other tricks that will help to keep them alive.
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Saddling. The saddles of these animals are made from a few different things but the majority of it is made up of leather. The original piece of the seat is an oval of leather, made long enough to fit the full grown dragon. The seat is made up of various hides, sewn together two at a time and situated to make a dip in the middle of it. The back is layered and raised slightly to reach the Brownie's lower back while the front is layered and raised between the legs to prevent the rider from moving too far forward. This piece is situated on the lower neck of the dragon, right in front of the wing joints. When placed on the animal, the sides hang down, allowing a third of a circle on either side of the dragon's neck while the seat is settled on the lower neck and shoulder area.

Long, thin (but strong) straps of leather, connected to either side of the front of the seat, wrap around the dragon's neck then cross over the chest. The pieces are long enough to continue back up to connect behind the wing joints, in the middle of the dragon's back with a strong, wooden buckle. More straps, this time sewn onto the sides of the saddle that hang down, connect beneath the animal's neck with another wooden buckle.

On both sides of the raised area at the front of the saddle, there is a strip leather that is sewn into the under part of the last layer and comes up from a slit. It then disappears into another slit, creating a loop, before appearing again, slightly in the front and middle of the loop, so that a Brownie could easily slip its wrists through the loop and grab the strip, tightening the hold, when it needs to crouch low for speed or during an attack.

The next piece that keeps the Brownie on the beast's back would be the legs. Long pieces of leather drape down on either side of the saddle. The soft, but sturdy leather goes from the bottom of the foot to the knee, a long strip of leather on either side is wide enough to wrap around the rider's leg. The bottom of the strip is sturdy wood, carved to resemble the size of the brownies foot and wrapped in leather. The strips on either side are pulled around the lower leg and buckled so that the rider cannot fall out. The straps and buckles, five going up the leg, and one across the top of the foot are fairly easy to reach and the ride could do it on their own. Riders have also been known to line the inside of the leg straps with fur to keep their legs warm when during the harsher months of the year or further north.
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Riding. Riding was a fairly easy process after the training was complete. After they had adapted to having the rider on their back they were trained to respond to the pull of the reins and sometimes verbal commands. They learned this by following an experienced rider. The rider would put their dragon into different maneuver and situations and the new rider would follow, using the rein signals when the first dragon did something, to teach it what signal meant what. The most common signals were:

The basic commands are commonly associated with words as well but this depended on the rider and their word selection. Aside from common directions there were also various stunts that the dragons could perform in the air. These were usually not taught until the dragon was older as the animal learns to understand its rider's movements and what it means. Throughout years, the common signals might change as the dragon adapts to its movements and body language. The more difficult tricks include spirals, flips, and quick maneuvers that are learned with time and each rider and mount might have different signals for each maneuver.

The Lives of Riders. The rider's life can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. They get to spend every day around the creature they have come to love, strengthening the bond between Brownie and beast, but at the cost of the bond between Brownie and family. This might be the most difficult part of taking on the title of Dragonrider. Riders have one day each week, when they are allowed to spend time with their families. Most of the riders range between twenty-five and eighteen years of age and are still close to their families and their choice tears themselves away from their family.

The other days are spent tending to their dragons, working around the barn and camp, and flying with their unit. Each unit has a chance to get in the air every other day or so and are sent off to do various tasks, such as: hunting, scouting, hauling materials, removing dangers, and other such tasks. They are also one of the main lines of defense if they are under attack. The Dragonriders are somewhat like the military of the Goltherlon and are seen as the protectors of the Aohu'o. While the tasks take up most of a rider's time, they find time to worship the spirits they believe in daily.

Life isn't always so strict and the riders are always up to something or other. Along with their mischief and fun-findings, they enjoy camp wide events. Once or twice a month, the camp will come together for a variety of contests, and often these events draw spectators from the trees. One of the most common and the favourite of the crowd and riders is a relay race. A unit will be matched up with another unit of equal numbers, and will prepare to fly the course, which includes flying around the settlement.

The first rider will take off from a tree branch, and once a rider and dragon circles the settlement, the next rider on the team will take off from the ground. The third rider will coax their dragon into climbing up the trunk of a tree and take off from a branch before flying around the borders of the settlement. If there are more than three riders in a unit, the cycle will repeat until all members of the group have gone, and the first of the final riders to complete the course is the winning team. Other events include aerial stunts, mount command, hunting prowess, and any other contest that they feel is worth the attempt. Many a event has been tried and dismissed over the years, but the main four seem to be a favourite of those that come to watch and the riders.

History. The first rider, Cawrr Dragonrider (ca. 1000-1050 a.S.), started out as an exiled brownie from the vale. During his wandering, he heard rumors from a woodsman that was heading south, that little 'sprites' haunted the Goltherlon Forest and the grey fruit of a bittersweet tree would fall on him when he wasn't even around one of the trees. This caught Cawrr's interest. Having nowhere else to go, he stowed away on a wagon after wagon that was heading north until he reached Elsreth, which was somewhat near the Goltherlon from what he heard. After being stuck in the sea-side city for a month, he found a peasant with a small cart and donkey heading further north toward the forest and caught around ride.

When he finally reached the forest he wandered for a time before he stumbled upon the man's so called 'sprites'. The little, mischievous people he spoke of were actually a band of Brownies that called themselves the Aohu'o. He stayed with them as he no where else to go and learned their ways. When spring had come around that year five months had past and Cawrr had watched the dragons of the forest swooping through the air. When wandering one day he found what appeared to be a gem on the ground. He studied it for a while because it was unlike anything he had every seen before, but seemed oddly familiar.

He brought the gem back to the Brownie camp and showed them, only to find out it was one of the dragon's eggs. A week later he watched the beast's movements and found a nest. He climbed to the top of the tree and waited with the nest in sight, for the mother to leave. When it had flown off, Cawrr snuck into the nest and grabbed one of the eggs. As he climbed down he nearly dropped his egg, a fact few Brownies of the Aohu'o knew about at the time. At first he was completely unsure what to do with the thing, but after recalling how birds needed to keep their eggs warm, he started the first stage of the hatching process.

Throughout the years, Cawrr, learned how to deal with the beasts through trial and error, finding out what worked and what didn't. For the first year he worked with some of the friends he had made to hide the animal, hoping to be able to convince the elders that the dragons can be helpful. When the next year came around the friends that helped him hide the beasts went in search of their own eggs. Seven went into the woods in search of dragon eggs. Three returned with eggs of their own, three returned empty handed, and the seventh searcher never returned at all. The three dragons were brown, green, and blue while Cawrr had got a golden dragon, leaving only one of the five colorings missing from the first unit.

At that time it was too difficult to hide four dragons after they had hatched and started to grow. Cawrr's gold was now big enough to ride and during one of their first flights after training they ran into one of the tree cats that plagued the Aohu'o that lived in the forest. The young dragon was startled by the new creature and too frightened to respond to the reigns it plowed into the beast. Dragon, rider, and the young herín fell, but the gold was able to pull up before hitting the ground. The cat wasn't so lucky. Cawrr camped in the area that night, too tired to attempt to make it back. While he watched the broken body of the cat he throught. If the dragons could be used to help the brownies find food and keep from becoming food.

When he returned to the others he brought the dragon and a bit of the cats hide before the elders. Even though his kill was an accident he explained how the dragons could help. He also explained how he had been part of a Clan that worked training animals, leaving out the part where he was exiled, but telling them that he had worked with animals near the size and more ferocious than the dragons before. It was mostly true as he had had a harder time working with a fox than his gold dragon. Many were cautious and a few called for the beasts to be destroyed before they could grow to full size, but the eldest allowed Cawrr to continue raising the animals and should they prove dangerous they would be killed.

While the other dragons grew, the first rider worked on a way to take down the larger herín that roamed the forest. In the end he came up with a net that had rocks tied to each end. Three or four dragons would carry the rocks and drop the net over the beast while it sat on a tree branch. Another would fly beneath and quickly tie off the net so that the animal couldn't escape. Once it was subdued, they would kill it. It became common after that for the hides to be used in the making of homes to disquise the brownie's territory. The dragons became a success and yearly, a dozen or so potental riders would go out into the forest, hoping to capture a dragon egg.

Cawrr stayed with the Aohu'o for a while, keeping of journal of the things that happened and teaching the others the styles he developed for caring, riding, saddling, and more. When his dragon had reached adulthood he headed back for the Vale. For a while he was an outsider again. While his reason for exile had almost been forgotten, he was still different. Life among the Aohu'o had changed him and it took him a few months to revert back to the language of those in the Vale. It took nearly a half a year to be accepted again, but slowly and surely he was able to return. The knowledge of other Brownies and possibilities of trade had worked in his favour.

A few years after his actual return, he took a wife and raised a family. His son returned to the Aohu'o to learn more about the drakes. After he failed to capture and egg two years in a row, he continued to live with the Brownies and their drakes and learn more about the care and everyday dealings of these drakes. When he grew older he returned to the Vale, reporting all that he had learned. His wife and children stayed in the Goltherlon. Now descendant of Cawrr Dragonrider live among the dragons as a rider or helper, learning what they can before they make their journey to the Vale, following the footsteps of their fathers.
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 Date of last edit 24th Sleeping Dreameress 1668 a.S.

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