Astragali Teacup Travels


Astragali

Great Aunt Lizzie tells the story of Lokesh and the Adventure of the Astragali. In Greece, Lokesh meets a pie maker who tells him what you can make from leftover bones.


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Transcript


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Here they come.

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My two intrepid explorers.

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Charlotte and Lokesh.

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I'm their Great Aunt Lizzie, you see,

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and I wonder which one is coming to see me today.

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Ah, so it's Lokesh.

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-Hello, Great Aunt Lizzie.

-Hello, Lokesh!

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Once upon a time, I travelled the world discovering treasures

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from long ago and far away and no end of stories to remind me.

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But my most precious possession of all

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is my extraordinary collection of teacups.

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Here we are.

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No time to count the clouds.

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Let's have a nice cup of tea and a story.

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But first we need the teacup.

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But which one?

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That one.

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Ah, the astragali.

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-Astragali?

-We call them jacks.

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The Ancient Greeks made them out of old bones and called them astragali.

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Do you roll them like dice?

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Well, let me see, I think I have some here.

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No. Only these.

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But why don't I tell you the story of Lokesh

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-and the adventure of the astragali instead?

-Yes, please.

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It all began long ago in a world of thinkers and scholars,

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where even thousands of years ago, they had libraries and schools

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and some of the first theatres the world had ever seen.

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It was spring in the greatest Greek city of all - Athens.

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The city was barely awake when Lokesh happened upon

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a man called Jason, the pie maker.

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All ready to make a mountain of pies.

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Ah, pies, pies.

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Who needs theatre?

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Except the flies had found him first.

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What is the best thing the Greeks ever gave to the world?

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Philosophy? No!

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Democracy? Who needs the government? No.

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I vote for the best Greek invention of all time - pies.

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Pies, pies, pies. Pies for everybody!

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Mm-mm!

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And while he looked like the happiest pie maker in all of Greece,

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Lokesh thought he'd be even happier if he had some help with the flies.

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Out, fly!

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My pies are meat pies, not fly pies!

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JASON SPITS

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Excuse me, I could waft them away from you and let you

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concentrate on making the pies if you like.

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Well, if that is an offer, then I accept.

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Jason filled the pies by the dozen...

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..until there was neither a scrap of meat nor pastry left.

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Nothing, in fact, but a mighty pile of bones.

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What will you do with all of these?

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Oh, the rag and bone woman will come and take them

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-before they start to smell.

-The rag and bone woman?

-Yes, Penelope.

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She takes all the stuff that people don't want.

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Worn out old clothes, old bones, that sort of thing.

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She takes them to her workshop in Piraeus first thing in the morning,

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it keeps the city smelling beautiful. Lovely lady. Very nice.

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But why would she want bones?

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Well, old bones make good handles, but not many people know this,

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the rag and bone lady of Athens is also the games maker of Piraeus.

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She makes games? From bones?

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Yes, she polishes these bones into astragali or jacks.

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I've never really played that game.

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The best of what's Greek, right here.

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Food, fun and friendship, all in this little bone.

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But, I must get these fellows into the oven before she gets here.

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Now, come back in an hour and a half and I'll give you some pies.

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And so, thinking about all the new things he'd discovered,

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Lokesh strode off deeper into the wakening city of Athens.

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And in the vast open space of an empty theatre, he stumbled across

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a sister and brother called Ila and Cadmus.

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When do we get the tickets?

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Cadmus, how long?

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-Three days?

-We're three days early?

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-I thought the tickets might sell out.

-They're not even on sale yet.

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Why am I cursed with such an annoying little brother?

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Oh, I don't know if I can last three days sitting here with just

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you for company and I'm starving. Where's the bread?

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-I didn't bring any.

-So I'm going to be bored and hungry?

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No fun, no friendship and no food either?

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Excuse me, I know where you can get fresh pies. He's not far that way,

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and when I left him, he was just putting some in the oven.

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They'll be ready soon. If you tell him I sent you, he'll give you some.

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Will you go? At least that will stop you being bored for a while.

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It's not going to take me three days to buy a pie.

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Which was when Lokesh remembered about the little astragali bones.

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Maybe if you played a game.

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Games are good when you're bored and there's a game maker in Piraeus.

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BOTH: Games? THEY LAUGH

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I really think we've grown out of all that.

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Right, you stay right here, I'm going to get pies. Do not move.

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-I'm not going anywhere.

-What was Lokesh to do?

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He was sure playing games would be better then being bored and arguing.

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It wasn't even past breakfast, so how had it got so complicated?

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Bad luck, I win.

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LOKESH SIGHS

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-Another game?

-Mm-hmm.

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I hope I don't stop playing when I grow up.

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I doubt that'll happen, Lokesh.

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You're too good. You love playing.

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Only when you let me win.

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-Lokesh!

-Just saying.

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What kind of game would it be if I let you win?

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SHE LAUGHS

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You don't think you're too old to play games.

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Well, nobody's ever too old.

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Perhaps Ila and Cadmus have just forgotten how much fun it is.

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-But they'll never remember until they play again.

-Exactly.

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You couldn't go back without seeing the games maker first, could you?

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Off went Lokesh in his hat, bag and boots...

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..through poppies and almond groves...

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and up to the pine-covered crags.

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Until, when he was almost out of breath...

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..the path ran out!

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Lokesh took a deep breath.

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Set against the shining Aegean Sea

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was the old port of Piraeus.

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But as dazzling as it was, Lokesh had to find Penelope,

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the games maker.

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In a dark, narrow alley, where the sun split the shadows,

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there was a cart stacked with rags, and a wrinkly pile of bones.

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LOKESH GASPS

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Excuse me.

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My name is Lokesh, and I'm looking for Penelope,

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the games maker.

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Well, you've found her.

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What can I do for you, young man?

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Well, I was helping Jason, the pie maker,

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and he said you made astragali out of bones.

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The fly wafter.

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He told me about you this morning.

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Come on in, Mr Lokesh.

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The back of the shop was dark as night,

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except for a single ray that cut through the hole

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in the ceiling and lit the table so bright it was like a fire.

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Well, pick them up. Let's see what you can do.

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I'm not sure I remember quite how.

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Well, let's see. Twosies. See if you can do twosies.

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I throw one in the air, pick two up, and catch the first before it lands.

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Like that.

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The little piece of bone was so much lighter than he expected.

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Playing astragali was going to be tricky.

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Throw one in the air, pick two up, and catch it before it lands.

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Yes!

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Did he say anything about me, by any chance?

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-Mr Jason, the pie maker?

-He said you make the city smell beautiful,

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-and you're a lovely lady.

-He did, did he?

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Mmm.

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I'll tell you what, if you can do foursies first time off,

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I'll give you all of these free of charge.

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-Bone from the pies you made this morning.

-Oh!

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Lokesh picked one up and concentrated hard.

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Yes! I don't think I could do that again!

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Beginner's luck, eh?

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-It has been a pleasure to meet you, Mr Lokesh.

-And me you.

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-You made my day.

-Thank you. Bye!

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Back came Lokesh,

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in his hat, bag and boots...

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..to the theatre, where Ila and Cadmus had just finished dinner.

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Look what I've got!

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Oh, astragali?

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Lokesh never expected them to be grateful,

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but he had gone an awfully long way.

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He pressed on.

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Oh!

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-Did you always hate playing games?

-Of course not.

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-We used to love playing games.

-It's just, we're grown-up now.

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-We go to the theatre for entertainment, these days.

-Ohh!

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Let me.

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-Yes!

-Oh, twosies - is that the best you can do?

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Honestly. You're supposed to be showing our friend how to play.

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-Give them to me.

-Uh-uh. Best out of three.

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-Oh!

-Ohh! Unlucky. My shot, my shot.

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-Whoa!

-Oh!

-Yes!

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And so it turned out that Cadmus and Isla had never really

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grown out of playing games, after all.

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May I?

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And that was that. Game, set and match to Lokesh and the astragali.

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I thought if Lokesh couldn't play well, it wouldn't convince them.

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That wasn't important, it was just for the fun of it.

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Winning doesn't matter?

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If you want to know how good you are, you have to play to win.

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If it wasn't so late, we could play another game. Come on.

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Time to get you going.

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Now, how did those get there?

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Home time now, Lokesh.

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-Thanks, Great Aunt Lizzie!

-Cheery-bye, Lokesh!

-Bye!

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Great Aunt Lizzie tells the story of Lokesh and the Adventure of the Astragali. When Lokesh arrives in ancient Greece he meets a pie maker who tells him all the fascinating things you can make from leftover bones! It looks like the perfect answer for a brother and sister who are stuck with nothing to do. Lokesh sets off to find the Games Maker of Piraeus in the hope she might help him find a solution.


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