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A Meeting At Dawn
"For every answer they sought, a dozen new questions arose around them."

As the sun creeps over the horizon in the east, Omar as-Sahab gathers his coterie together in their sunken hovel on the outskirts of Salzburg. The only light visible inside is a scattered few candles whose flames seem ready to be devoured at any moment by the forboding darkness around it. The sweet aromas of incense mixes with the foul stench of the Tzimisce workshop, resulting in a putrid essence frightening enough to insure no mortals will interrupt their meeting.

Omar, dressed in his finest black silks, seats his comrades around a long, wooden table and stands at the head of it. From his cloak, he produces a tattered scroll and unfurls it onto the table, revealing to the others a map of Europe. Several blood spatters stain the document, falling strangely enough exactly where the cities and capitals would be.

“In the name of Haqim, most wise and aged, we have much to do, Kindred.”

He looks around the table and locks eyes with Ostvel.

“Sir Ostvel, lord of Finstergr√ľn,” Omar closes his eyes and bows his head slightly with inhuman precision. “As we speak, your army makes its way toward Innsbruck, trampling the fields and forests underfoot much the way our enemies will soon be trampled. However, the safety of your ward is paramount, lest our campaign be held hostage to petty blackmail…or mourning.”

Omar turns to Jozef, cocking his head to one side.

Jozef de Veuster, servant of the mortal prophet,” he says, pausing a moment to let the heresy hang in the air.

The insult of Omar’s words were about as subtle as the effects of his blood-boiling dagger. Jozef’s calm demeanor flickered imperceptibly, his expression twice-hidden behind the ravages of leprosy and the blighted nature of his clan.

An instant of anger was quickly quelled as Jozef recalled the words of the disciple Matthew-

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

-and he was much comforted.

Omar continues, “Your fraternal order is under siege by the violent radicalism and blind zealotry of the Inquisition. We must reclaim St. Sebastien’s and return it to its mission of peace and mercy, or the fanatics in Rome will turn your superstitious flock into a stampeding herd no Cainite could hope to control.”

Jozef pushed the heresy aside for the moment, aware that there was precious little time to afford any thought to such wanton blasphemy. The Inquisition, the mysterious red salts, the remaining fragments of Foust’s damnable book; For every answer they sought, a dozen new questions arose around them. But seeking out answers was Jozef’s forte, and besides, as Balzac would say, the winter nights were long…

“What’s more,” Omar added, “Alamut has taken a special interest in your cult. Your colleagues are in contact with the Order of the Crescent Moon, who serve a similar aim to the Inquisition under the skies of Shatt al-Arab. They must be eradicated alongside the Roman terrorists to prevent any further collaboration which might taint our own herds with their foul human mysticism.”

“As I have served and fought along side you all, so I shall continue,” said Jozef, pulling his lips back in what no sane person could recognize as a smile. In the back of his mind he wondered if his mortal correspondents would be up to the challenge of the tasks ahead.

Omar’s eyes dart to Hanz, and an eerie, alien smile creeps across his lips.

Hanz Freud, slayer of Garou and Roman terrorists…where might we be without your mastery of the forests and hinterlands, or the inescapable death grip of your predator’s talons? With the aid of your noble brothers in Clan Gangrel guarding our armies and supply routes, we, your loyal packmates, will ensure that the majestic swaths of land you wander remain forever in Cainite hands.”

As he turns to Victor, Omar’s smile disappears, and a cold, blank stare washes over the elder Kindred’s face.

Victor Foust. Usurper.”

Victor returns his gaze, narrowing his eyes and raising his chin just slightly. “Lord Omar,” he says cautiously.

In an almost imperceptible motion, Omar leans in, putting his hands forward and resting his fingertips on the table. “The knowledge contained in your book will be our greatest adversary. The kine now have our most basic secrets in their posession, and they will use it to wipe our existence from this earth. It must be recovered, with or without the help of your forsaken bloodline.”

Victor rubs his chin a moment, eyes still locked with Omar’s. “Sondheim will be consumed, and the family will no longer be able to ignore my power.” He answers Omar’s gesture with his own slight bow of the head.

“My blood magic will always be a part of this coterie, as well as the resources of my knowledge,” Victor says as he looks around at the other Kindred. “We must do what must be done to put an end to all of this, whether it be by blade…or by fang.” A small outline stretches across his face as he ponders on his idea yet again.

The coterie glances around nervously at this comment, but the cruel smile returns to Omar’s face. “Very good, Foust.”

Omar straightens and looks at the entire group seated before him. “As I said, we have a long road ahead of us. With such an uncertain future, I would suggest that our first destination be the court of the old Prince. Perhaps the revelations of the mirror we found there might tell us something about the fate of our mission.”

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Return of Camigwen

The Coterie, having reaffirmed their shared purpose, are now deep in the bowels of an Inquisition-held castle overlooking Salzburg. They came to rescue Lord Ostvel’s daughter, only to find that she was removed to the local nunnery.

Deciding to make good use of their time in the castle, they begin murdering inquisitors in ways that suggest vampiric infiltration. Then, they use the blood to mark the lintel and posts of the non-Inquisition barracks and castle wings, as though an angel of death has passed over. Hopefully, the inquisitors who learn of this night will turn against each other in paranoia. The Coterie also continues their search for the flaming sword, learning that it is currently in Innsbruck. Soon, they have finished their bloody work, and assured their place in Inquisition legend, as the night the Angel of Death killed 60-some inquisitors, and seemingly walked through the front gate, leaving burning footprints behind.

The next night, the group spreads out on their own business. Omar and Jozef set out to quietly remove the curfew proclamations. Lord Ostvel and Ibrahim travel to the nunnery in hopes of finding Camigwen. They are successful, and manage to remove the kind mother superior’s memory of their faces. Returning to the knight’s town-house, Ibrahim recognizes that Camigwen, in her moments of madness, is speaking in Greek. Questioning this strange woman, Ibrahim learns that she is seeking Aquilon the Eagle, and talking about a dark place.

It is possible that she is somehow connected to this so-called “Helen of Troy” that the Coterie discovered not far from Finstergrun.

Ibrahim leaves Lord Ostvel to be alone with his daughter, and attempts to find the Jewish section of the city. Unfortunately, he is spotted by inquisitors, and might have been taken had Omar and Jozef not heard the commotion and come to his aid. From this point on, Ibrahim is determined to always have at least a knife on his person, so that he may defend himself.

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Like Nesting Dolls

Decided to set out for Innsbruck, to check on the army’s progress. To gain an edge in the coming battle, the coterie needed to pick up explosives from Lord Rustung, necessitating a trip back to Finstergrun.

While traveling, they took Stefan with them, to serve as a translator for Camigwen, as his Greek origins might allow him to better understand her imperious other personality. Upon introducing the man to Camigwen, he is able to discern that there is some external magic acting upon her. He agrees to accompany us to better treat her.

Along the way, the Coterie stops by the strange cave, and prepares to sleep for the day. The next night, they descend into the cavern, and find their way past the wards placed throughout, arriving at the side of the sarcophagus. Nothing seems to have changed since their last visit. Camigwen is made to drink an alchemical concoction that will make her more pliable, and is brought up to the sarcophagus by Victor’s levitation. Stefan begins an exorcism rite, and a mist appears to leave her body and enter into a space beneath the sarcophagus. Hans crassly tosses the corpse out onto the floor, then uproots the bottom paneling to reveal yet another sarcophagus. Within it is a body that is far better preserved, and appears to aura sight to be laden with spirit.

Taking both corpses with them, the coterie arrives at Finstergrun, where they meet with Lord Rustung and discuss strategy. Lord Rustung informs them of further rumors regarding the Inquisition, such as the existence of a shadow organization made up of specially trained clergy, knights, peasants and nobles. He also provides further information on the army, and suggests plans for the impending siege.

Their business with Rustung concluded, the traveling party completed their trip back to Salzburg with little trouble and dropped the bodies off with Otto. The coterie then boarded a ship to Innsbruck, where Hans and Omar soon found themselves embroiled in combat.

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A Comedy of Errors

Omar and Hans sought a suitable place for the coterie to spend their days, but instead stumbled into what appears to be an Inquisition chapter house. They killed a knight then escaped, but not without some injury.

Jozef has encountered a strange creature at a tower by the river, where one of his contacts was being preyed upon by a vampire. Though never able to get a good look at the aquatic beast, the monk was severely wounded while attempting to kill it. He then summoned a nun to take the poor man away for convalescence, and the monk retreated to heal.

Victor and Ibrahim head out to locate the Jewish section of town, for Ibrahim is quite hungry. On the way, they rewrite the memories of a man in the hopes that he will be nicer to the Chosen People in future.

Eventually, the coterie meets back up and locates Omar, who has taken shelter in the house next to the Inquisitors. The adults have all been murdered to sate the Assamite’s thirst, but Ibrahim takes the children and alters their memories to make them believe that it was the work of Inquisitors. Thankfully, Uncle Ibrahim and his friends have arrived to protect these innocents from the evil witch-hunters.

The next evening, it is decided that Jozef’s attacker will be dealt with in force. However, Hans arrives to find that the vampire has already gone into torpor due to the damage Jozef inflicted. The body is brought up to the top, and is identified as the monk who had inhabited the tower before Offenbach did. His faith is no match for Omar’s fangs, however.

After searching through the tower, several secret compartments are found, including one that contains an odd skull. Jozef touched it and was so overwhelmed with information that he began to convulse. Ostvel broke the monk free of the skull, and Hans tested it by pouring some blood in. The skull soaked it all in, so the Coterie decided that this was not a safe object unless they could learn its purpose. Ibrahim made one last attempt, praying over the artifact, begging for divine guidance. He received a vision of two paths in a dark wood, one marked by a child, the other by a ferocious beast. He also can’t stop glowing, so was left behind at the tower with Victor.

The rest of the coterie began seeking their army. Hans transformed into a bat and was able to locate the soldiers near a burning village.

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Victories of Body and Mind

While Ibrahim sits alone in the tower, writing a letter and waiting for the glowing to stop, the rest of the coterie finds the army. Commander Shreeva reports that the wolves are keeping the soldiers on their toes, but that casualties have been relatively light. Camigwen is walked through the camp, so that the soldiers can see her and begin to circulate rumors of her presence.

The coterie then leaves the camp to investigate the woods, seeking out the werewolves and Gangrels to determine if there is indeed an alliance. It is not difficult to find their target, and they are soon engaged in a pitched battle with a number of werewolves. Hanz faces off against one in a duel, but is quickly defeated. Victor sets fire to the back of the beast’s head as a distraction, and Jozef heroically leads the majority of the pack off into the woods. Lord Ostvel claims another head, and wounds the monster holding the unconscious body of Hanz. Omar dives in as well, attempting several daring maneuvers that fail to bring the werewolf down, before going for broke and solidifying the blood in its veins.

Back in the city, Ibrahim leads the simple young man back to the townhouse. The man seems unusually alert, and able to sense Ibrahim’s concern about the impending sunrise. Further, he becomes agitated when walking past the Inquisition chapter-house. An aura reading reveals that his spirit is particularly bright, but Ibrahim fails to learn anything more.

The coterie regroups just as the sun rises, and dives into the basement for cover. Hanz is badly injured, the claws and teeth of the wolf-men having left deep wounds that take copious amounts of blood to heal. He is left to recuperate while the coterie leaves to find an Elysium and acquire more sustenance for their friend. Omar arrives just in time to enter a conversation on Sonndheim’s faults, and make a complete fool of Indus Mouhnar, one of Sonndheim’s supporters. However, this display of argumentative acumen impresses Aurelia, the most vocal of the prince’s detractors.

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The Laying of Plans

After some discussion, the coterie realizes that they have not fully planned out the siege, or how they will overcome the numerical superiority of Sondheim’s army. Ibrahim calls upon his knowledge of history and logistics, and then seeks out the advice of the crusader Lord Ostvel. It is decided that the coterie must learn as much as possible about Sondheim’s army, in order to find its weaknesses. Victor and Ostvel will scout the area around the castle, seeking a terrain advantage. Jozef and Ibrahim will determine where the army gets its food, with the hope of somehow tainting it. Omar will try to locate other Cainites in the city who are also opposed to Sondheim. And finally, Hans will lay in the basement and scare the children.

Scout terrain between Sondheim’s castle and Innsbruck.

The river has been diverted to form a moat, with a single stone bridge to cross it.
Gargoyles patrol around the castle, periodically fighting with werewolves.
Ostvel and Victor hear a duel, and move in to determine who is doing the fighting.
It seems that a Lupine was fighting a Gangrel, who sought to impose its will upon the beast, but ends up killing it. When Ostvel goes to confront the vampire, Victor levitates the Gangrel to prevent escape
Unfortunately, it seems that a gargoyle spotted the kindred, and seizes the Tremere’s face.
Ostvel strikes the Gangrel down, and it melds with the dirt to avoid further injury.
Hearing Victor’s call for aid, Ostvel hurls his sword up at the retreating gargoyle, striking it and causing it to drop the Tremere, who crashes through the trees and onto the snow.

Determine logistics of Sondheim’s army.

Several large bakeries and slaughterhouses.
It seems that they all send their shipments out using whatever warm bodies are on hand. The largest bakery, for example, has two children named Fritz and Johan, who are paid in bread-crusts.
Indus Mouhnar is following Ibrahim, and Jozef drops back to tail Indus, who seems to be taking notes on Ibrahim’s movements.
Ibrahim “accidentally” runs into Indus, and begins making himself look like a scatterbrained newcomer to the city. His hope is to convince Indus that he is not a problem, and perhaps insinuate himself into Sondheim’s supporters.
Indus seems mistrustful, but possibly willing to accept Ibrahim’s explanation. Heleads Ibrahim back to his laboratory, for it seems he is a Tremere, and needs several ingredients for his research. These include niter, several types of blood, and minerals like the Red Salt from Salzburg.
His work, which seems based around tamed lightning, also takes the form of a Thaumaturgy Path, and the backstabber reaches around to shock Ibrahim unawares.
Jozef catches the bastard’s arm with the cat o’ nine tails, and the battle is joined.
After nearly being ashed by the lightning, Jozef and Ibrahim manage to stake the sorcerer, then stash him under the water outside the mill.

Meanwhile, Omar is searching for more vampires to recruit to our side of the coming fight.

He follows a group to a municipal building and slips in behind them, relying on Obfuscate to stay hidden. They are unhappy that some item is not where they though it was, and they must now find it before they can deliver it. They are suspicious if Sondheim has this item, but also consider that it may have been taken from Innsbruck already.
Omar introduces himself, offering help looking for the Codex Gigas, which he correctly guessed that they were seeking. Their names are Rambaud (possible Toreador), Estrix (Nosferatu), Johan Inchmann, Georg, Stevron.
Omar arranges a drop point so that this new coterie can reach him, then returns to the safe house. On the way, he notices the Inquisitors next door are gearing up to leave the city.

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What, more burning?

The coterie takes a moment to recover from the previous night’s exertions, and Ibrahim goes to check on Hans and the mortals they have taken under their collective wing. Hans has been tormenting the simple man from the tower, and as Ibrahim tries to stop the Gangrel, the simpleton begins to glow with holy light, searing both vampires. He leaps upon Hans’ back and burns a cross into the Gangrel’s head, and then returns to his corner as though nothing had happened. Ibrahim begins kicking Hans in the ribs, shouting at him. “I was nearly burned to ash last night, and now you incite someone to burn us in our own haven!?” It is only with great effort that he does not frenzy and attempt to drain the Gangrel dry. Still, this has been an interesting discovery, and this holy simpleton might yet prove useful.

Ostvel, Omar, Victor, and Ibrahim travel to the Elysium, while Jozef checks in on Auffenbach’s tower. He manages to catch a messenger pigeon being released by an unknown monk, discovering a report that Auffenbach is recovering well, but Sister Mathilda and the boy are missing. The sender is named as Brother Matthew. Back at the Elysium, Omar overhears a group of werewolf hunters, wearing black armbands and wolf pelts, and learns that they are meeting at the West Gate at midnight. The rest of the coterie are notified that the Assamite will meet them at the gates later, and they choose to pass that time by investigating Indus’ laboratory.

At the gate, Omar signaled down one of the gargoyles on patrol over the city, warning it that there was an imminent attack on the city. If the gargoyle would go warn Sondheim, Omar would gladly turn himself in as a sign of loyalty. It is his hope to insinuate himself into Sondheim’s court.

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Farewell to Indus

The coterie (sans Omar) travels out into the woods, pursuing the werewolf hunters, but then decides to escape.

Omar waits atop a tower for the gargoyle’s return, and is directed to meet with Sondheim tomorrow night, and to bring Victor and Rook.

The plan right now is to find out what is going on with Gangrel and werewolves in the woods, as that is the most immediate threat to the army.

The army’s morale is slipping, and they will need to march to war soon or else face mass desertion and rebellion. Ibrahim will help to arrange a shipment of food, claiming to be acquiring victuals for a Jewish holiday feast. This food and drink will then be quietly loaded onto a barge and sent downriver, so they can be unloaded outside the city.

Jozef and Omar, meanwhile, follow a mysterious observer down into a cave. Located somewhere between the army’s encampment and the town, the cave features a number of seeming wards. Once past the wards, the obfuscated vampires discover approximately 40 people split into two factions, one large and hairy, the other smaller and less so. They are arguing in German.

The werewolves want to destroy Innsbruck, while the Gangrel seem to have made agreements with Sondheim. Finally, one of them declares that he shall open the way for the rest, for in three days’ time, the agreement with Sondheim will not matter, for none shall live in Innsbruck. Immediately after, the horde descends upon a mostly-abandoned village, and swarms through it, slaughtering what inhabitants remain.

Upon visiting the Elysium to obtain more blood for Hans, the coterie learns that Peter, sire of Illana, has been staked to the mountain, apparently provoked into violence by Indus. Either Indus has broken free, or someone else has taken his form.

The coterie will split up. Some will go to retrieve Victor’s book, some will check on Indus. Omar, in a fit of genius, leaves a note for the C-team coterie to rescue Peter if they want the best thief in Germany to aid them.

Some careful forgery and fast fingers allow Jozef and Omar to secure the book from Saint Jakobsdom, in the old city.

At Indus’ mill, Hans, Ibrahim, Ostvel, and Victor pull a water-logged Indus Mouhnar out from the stream. Clearly, the man who provoked Peter was an imposter. The staked vampire is tied down in his own laboratory, and the stake is removed. He proves uncooperative, even attempting to kill the coterie, and is staked one last time. Ibrahim, sensing Victor’s intent, leaves the room feeling an odd mixture of triumph and guilt as Indus is diablerized.

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Farewell to Aurelia

Jozef, Hans, and Ibrahim go out for blood, and find the C-team telling stories in the Elysium. They also spot Otto, their old friend, sitting in the back. He was sent to check in on Auffenbach, and the coterie happily informs him that he need not worry about the monk.

Victor is unable to convince Rook to meet with Sondheim, resulting in Omar dismissing the Tremere back to the safe house. Omar continues to wait on the tower, planning what he will say when the gargoyle asks where Rook is. The gargoyle is displeased, and takes Omar to meet Sondheim. During the flight, Omar witnesses a herd of lupines and gangrel assaulting a village.

Jozef, Victor, and Ibrahim meet with Stefan to discuss poisons. They steal a large quantity from two herbalists in the city, then taint the supplies of food, beer, and bread that will be shipped to the castle in the morning. They take great care that the urchins who drive the carts will not attempt to eat the poisoned food, leaving fresh victuals for them and implanting a mental command against stealing from the carts tomorrow.

Back at the castle, Omar engages in verbal sparring with Sondheim, trying to convince him that the werewolves and Gangrel are plotting against him. He also claims that Drahn Mohr is the one who murdered Indus, attempting to frame Ibrahim for the crime. The news surprises Sondheim, who is at first unwilling to believe that Indus is dead. Sondheim agrees to investigate the matter, and will act appropriately once he knows more. Omar, attempting to signal to any observers with reflected light from his dagger, offers one of the blades to Sondheim to inspect. Sondheim is fascinated, and when he moves to hand it back, Omar sees the wily wizard motion to one of his gargoyles. In an instant, the other blade is pointed at the attacker, and the assassin’s free hand is held out to receive his property. Sondheim is impressed, and calls off his beast before returning the blade to Omar and allowing him to leave peaceably.

That night, Ibrahim and Victor talk about Indus. Both feel some regret over how the arrogant warlock met his end: Victor for the diablerie, and Ibrahim for allowing it to happen. Still, the Jew counsels his Gentile friend that Indus did have to die, and that diablerie, though abhorrent, at least ensures that the man’s research will not be lost. And when the two of them have perfected this man-made lightning, they will present the findings with Indus’ name inscribed just beneath their own. Probably in smaller font.

The next evening, Omar and Hans travel to the Elysium and find an argument between Aurelia and the now-dead Indus. The imposter is inciting her to frenzy, and Illana informs Omar that this is exactly what happened to her sire. Sure enough, Aurelia launches herself at the imposter, and is quickly apprehended by the local enforcer. Omar conceals his identity behind a Mask of a Thousand Faces, and goes to the side of the Indus-impersonator, insinuating himself as an ally. Meanwhile, Hans follows Aurelia in the hopes of freeing her.

Hans summons up a small army of birds, wolves, and deer and prepares to cause a stampede when the guard locates him and throws a sword through the Gangrel’s face, pinning him to the tree in which he was hiding. Hans pulls free, and drops to the ground below, where he melds with the earth and considers his options. He rises from the ground and launches his assault against the man in armor, but is defeated and forced to return to the earth.

Back in the city, Omar meets with not-Indus at the barn, and realizes that the imposter believes him to be a fellow conspirator, and Hans for one named Caspar. The barn conceals a laboratory similar to the one at the mill, and the imposter suggests that Omar should be leading a werewolf-hunt to draw attention to the West Gate. Whoever these people are, they are not a happy band of friends so much as they are a bickering bunch of conspirators.

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A Meeting In Samarrah

Jozef and Ibrahim set off to locate the missing Gangrel, Hanz, and succeed in reviving him. As he is severely drained of blood, Hanz opens the vial of blood. It is revealed upon drinking to be the blood of a Salubri, opening a tell-tale third eye upon the Gangrel’s brow. Suddenly, his aura perception is clearer than ever before, and he can apparently see the lifeforce of every person nearby. His first idea for this power is to carefully observe the simple boy back at the safehouse. The boy glows golden with life and energy, but no other knowledge is gleaned.

Omar takes Faust and Ostvel to go retrieve Rook, and spots the Indus imposter headed for the Elysium. However, they must meet with Sondheim, so the group travels to the castle via gargoyle. They are led through torture chambers and libraries to meet with the cruel Tremere.

Sonndheim uses the conversation to imply that Lord Rustung is dead, and to gently gloat over the security of his position. He attempts to lure Victor into his service, which Omar quietly encourages. As soon as Faust has left the room on a simple errand, Sonndheim reaches for the bird, which Omar hands over. Rook, once on the mad magus’ hand, bursts into flame and emits a horrifying shriek in a voice none present have heard before.

Despite the murder of Victor’s companion, Sonndheim attempts to make small talk afterwards, and seems mildly surprised that the coterie is upset about Rook’s death. Still, they maintain composure and accept a tour of their host’s laboratory. In it, they find proof of Rustung’s death, though it is possible that all the disparate pieces might be put back together to restore the whole.

Sonndheim betrays Omar and has the gargoyles carry him to the western mountains, to be chained down for the sun. The coterie races to find the Assamite, managing to spot him mere minutes before sunrise. Three gargoyles guard him, and a pitched battle erupts on the mountain’s mighty face.

By the battle’s end, the sun is rising, Ostvel has fallen down the mountainside, Jozef and Victor have taken cover beneath heavy bearskin cloaks, and Hanz has nearly been incinerated before being wrapped in the wings of a hostile gargoyle. And all the while, Ibrahim prays for the Assamite’s salvation as sunlight covers them all…

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