Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hallow's Weave: The Alivale Battle - Ladies Versus Men

By Brian Joseph Johns

Recent Note As Of Thursday December 22, 2016 7:14 PM

I went through this mess of a story today attempting to clean up what I'd started. The story is now up to standards as far as the writing goes. The first draft was written a bit hastily and was far below what I'd ever consider releasing publicly and for that I apologize to anyone who took the time to read it. If you've previously read the prior draft of the story I'd suggest you read this once again from the beginning and once again, I apologize.

I've also written a background for the world of A Lady's Prerogative much like I started doing at the beginning of every story for my other project The Butterfly Dragon. Read this is you're new to these stories and books and want to become acquainted with the underlying premise and history of their world. It touches upon important concepts in the story like the Sanctum, The Power Lords, Norbids and the Yearning and the Learning. It also discusses how the main characters from the book come together initially though without giving away any details relevant to the books (I say books as there are two books, both of which will soon be published once again in the near future during the year 2017).

Also please note that the title can be a little misleading as the entire story is written by a guy (me) but I'm very attentive when it comes to writing for my female characters drawing upon a wealth of admiration that I have for them in many ways more than the just the obvious. Don't get me wrong. I'm a guy. I have my own kinky fantasies, some involving dessert topping, hypno-ray gadgetry, a large feather and massage oil: maybe not the same but similar to just about every other human being on the face of this planet. I just happen to appreciate aspects of the opposite sex in ways that aren't always connected to their anatomy but I certainly do appreciate their wonderful curves.

Introduction

I come from a family that is primarily composed of Women. With mostly Aunts and a few Uncles, I've grown up with female heroes my whole life. That doesn't meant that there's not Male heroes in my life because my Uncles are all so as is my Father (the man who raised me) and my Grandfather as well.

Well given that mix and being a big fan of Women heroes my whole life I came up with A Lady's Prerogative. One of the common complaints of A Lady's Prerogative though has been that it's name implies a structure that excludes men. Though that it far from the truth it is fair to say that the name implies as such. I always intended for A Lady's Prerogative to unite Women and Men more so than isolate. So story is an attempt to clarify though A Lady's Prerogative has always meant a strong working relationship and leadership for men and women regardless of sex, sexual orientation and culture. So this story is meant to rectify that situation by a competition that occurs in world of A Lady's Prerogative around the time of what we call Halloween between the magical Women and the Men of the Sanctum to scare or frighten the children of a given area in such a way to instill and instruct courage in said children. The ability to face one's fears. So the goal is not to disable but to empower while encouraging the such children with ability to face their fears. In the Sanctum this is conducted as a battle of the sexes though in nature the competition is not to measure sexes. There is no violence as this battle is only conducted on the basis of perception and overcoming one's fears. It is never conducted to belittle the other sex. It is conducted for another sacred purpose altogether for only those of the Sanctum to know.

Before you go thinking that there are no dream Women remember this. All Women are the dream Women.

The real question is in this case can they outdo the Men of the Sanctum when it comes to Hallow's Eve?

Most importantly - No dirty tricks or dirty playing! Play by your ability and not by your ability to hurt or affect negatively your opponents. Honor and respect is one of the most important virtues of the Sanctum as it is at West Meet East International.

Much more to come and the recommended music and inspiration list will grow over time too.

So let the battle of Women of the Sanctum versus Men Of The Sanctum begin...

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Recommended Music Listening And Viewing For Each Team And This Is Based Upon Uniqueness, Appeal and Virtuosity.

It's best to remember when regarding the inspirations of your life and what moves you to think, be and do that the measure of what inspires you to be that much better and to overcome your own limitations is not so obvious. I might be those who are benevolent and earnest. For yet others it might be someone musical and soulful. For yet others it might be someone whose performances have moved you to feel alive and confident. Yet for others it might be the words on this very page and those written by so many others that move you beyond your own self imposed limits to trust in yourself. After all. You really can do it. Really. In case you think you can't, then you need to see the following people.

If ever there's more of one sex than the other don't regard that as sexism. I mean just because I'm a guy and we're better than Women by leaps and bounds...

;-)

<braces for the impact of multiple projectiles>

...doesn't mean that I'd overcompensate for those reasons. Really it's more likely that I've become so inspired to write that I didn't focus on this part. I'll catch up though. Sometimes I get excited about writing those parts where Shaela's friend, you know the one I mean rips a bunch of baddies to shreds. Or when Barris and Sato get into one of their "discussions", which usually leave both of their egos sliced and diced.

Perhaps one of the fun things about writing because I never know in advance how a character conversation is going to turn out. With characters like Barris and Sato it just seems to happen and most often I'm in tears from laughing by the end of it. The same with Mila, Shaela and Nelony and most certainly with Yirfir and Jasmer. The case is the same with the characters of the Butterfly Dragon. Especially the conversations between Heylyn Yates (Ai Yuanlin Ying aka The Butterfly Dragon) and Weltherwithsp.

So be inspired.

For Women Of The Sanctum:

Most importantly above all to the Women of the Sanctum as Madonna might say: Love yourself

Nobel Prize - Women Who Changed The World
Helen Keller - Tribute Channel On Youtube
Top Ten Archive - Most Influential Women
Portishead - Glory
Veruca - Salt Volcano
Origa - Inner Univese
Norah Jones - Carry On
Lady Gaga - Perfect Illusion
Siouxie And The Banshees - Spellbound
Olivia Newton John - Magic
Heart - Magic Man
Sheila Chandra - Sacred Stones
Propaganda - Duel
Jess Greenburg - Little Wing
Jess Greenburg - Voodoo Child
Top Lady Drummers - 2016
Reina Cottier - Color In Your Life TV Series Behind The Scenes
Helen Reddy - I Am Woman
Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass
Christina Aguilera - Fighter
Sara Bareilles - Brave
7 Year Old Girl - Kankudai Black Belt Kata Demonstration
Michelle Yeoh vs Zhang Ziyi - Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Mila Jojovich - Resident Evil Training


For Men Of The Sanctum:

Success Resources Australia - Terry Fox Marathon Of Hope
Quinnipiac University -
Watch Mojo - Ralph Fiennes
Rush - Closer To The Heart
OMC - How Bizarre
Echo And The Bunnymen - Lips Like Sugar
Right Said Fred - I'm Too Sexy
Gary Glitter - Doctor Who theme
The Hollies - He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother
James Taylor - How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You
Aerosmith - Pink
Reddit - Bruce Campbell: Ask Me Anything
Splatterquadrat - Army Of Darkness Best Quotes
Don Giller - Werner Herzog On David Letterman 1982 (I was 15 years old at that time)
Jimi Hendrix - Little Wing
Ravi Shankar - Monterey Pop (1967)
Jarrod Radnich Virtuosic - Star Wars Fantasy Suite Movement #2
Neil Peart Solo - Rush Live In Frankfurt
Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) - Pretender
NiN - Head Like A Hole
Icicle Works - Hollow Horse
Chick Corea - From The Progressive Jazz Era

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Preface: A Background History For A Lady's Prerogative

A Lady's Prerogative is about an order or Wytches (notice the spelling) and Sorcerers who are part of a group of guardians that watch over the world protectively much like the United Nations. There are many different schools of Wytchcraft within these groups each denoting a different style of Wytchcraft and representing a different cultural ethos. This group is made up of Women and Men from a variety of different backgrounds in roughly equal proportions.

The members of this order themselves reside on our Earth (which they refer to as Aerth) while they operate from a headquarters that is in a completely different plane of existence. Our plane of existence being referred to as the Prime, the Wytch's headquarters is located on another plane called the Midspace. In the Midspace time does not pass (or passes so slowly compared to time of the Prime that it is almost imperceptible). The Midspace is a junction point between all times and all planes hence it's name. Their headquarters in the Midspace are referred to as the Sanctum.

The bearers of the Weave (their term for the ability to craft magic) originate from two "parents" from thousands of years ago though the ability to use the Weave is not genetic. The Father whose name is Lorr believed that the knowledge of the Weave should only be taught to those of their blood line. The Mother whose name is Lyra believed that knowledge of the Weave should be freely shared with all people regardless of their origins. It is from this initial disagreement about how the Weave should be shared that a war erupted between the two sides that has been going on for millennia. Just because it was Lorr who took the blood stance of protecting the Weave from outsiders does not mean that all Men are part of his belief or even "bad" on any scale of morality just as Lyra wanting to share the knowledge of the Weave with all does not mean that all Women of the story line are inherently "good". That measure and compass is drawn by their words and actions.

Lorr still lives his age giving him the appearance of someone in their seventies or eighties though Lorr is still very spry despite his age. During a battle between the forces of Lorr and Lyra on the Midspace, Lyra fell in battle, killed by the twins. The remaining forces of Lyra managed to defeat and expel the forces of Lorr from the Midspace and at that time is when they founded the first Sanctum in roughly the early 1700s in Aerth time. In Aerth years the Sanctum took 300 years to build though to those outside of the Midspace it would have appeared to happen in the blink of an eye. From that point in time the Sanctum had become guardians, protecting the Aerth from the forces of Lorr and the many other dangers existing in other planes that occasionally overlap the Prime.

The fact that there are more Women who follow the teachings of Lyra than those who follow the teachings of Lorr is due to the fact that the followers of the ways of Lorr regard Women as little more than cattle and child bearers. Little regard is given to the liberty of Women by the followers of the ways of Lorr though those who are not of the blood of Lorr are treated much the same regardless of sex. The followers of Lorr do not seek to dominate individuals more so they seek to dominate the entire world under their rule. Those who rule in such a case would always be blood line descendants of Lorr.

Two of the original descendants were twins, a boy and a girl who have been interbred for millennia always yielding offspring twins who too were a boy and a girl. These descended twins are the most powerful practitioners of the Weave and solely the followers of Lorr. They are treated as little more than trinkets and super-weapons by Lorr. As a price for the power of their ability with the Weave, they age normally no matter where they exist and for using their powers of the weave the price is paid by both. For with each magical spell they cast, they both age a certain amount of time dependent upon how powerful the effect is.

The headquarters for followers of Lorr are unknown though many have residences on Aerth while other people of the world are oblivious to their existence. The majority of the world is unaware of the existence of either clan, though the rulers and intelligence communities of many countries have knowledge of them. This knowledge is often denied and kept hidden in the veil of conspiracies and the unknown. The modern day Sanctum actively works with the United Nations to protect the Aerth though keeping their dealings very discreet and top secret. These dealings are often conducted between only those on the Sanctum Allegiance, a group of leaders who oversee the activities of the Sanctum as a whole.

Every member of the Sanctum are followers of the teachings of Lyra while those who follow the teachings of Lorr are part of a two groups: the Power Lords and the Norbids. They constantly scheme for ways to enslave and rule all of humanity while attempting to keep the world ignorant of knowledge while the Sanctum and the followers of Lyra protect the Aerth from them and often the liberty of all.

The followers of Lyra believe that all of creation and life is driven by two factors they refer to as the Yearning and the Learning. Every living creature experiences both at different levels and capabilities and this shapes their behavior and moral compass. In the case of every living thing the Yearning is mostly about curiosity and wonder about the world around them while the Learning affects how effectively they do these things and how they progress in their acquiring of knowledge and wisdom. It is from the Yearning and the Learning that knowledge of the Weave emerged.

The characters and cast of A Lady's Prerogative are essentially focused around the life of a Wytch named Mila, who is actually the main character of the first book and the one through which we are introduced to the world of A Lady's Prerogative and the Sanctum. Mila is a young lady by the start of the first book, the daughter of a Japanese Mother and an Icelandic Father who'd met at an artisan's trade show in Europe. Soon after meeting they began dating and a year later they were married. During the two years that followed that they built a life together buying a home and establishing flexibility in their careers so they could have a child. Thus Mila was born to them. At a young age she exhibited an uncanny creative ability turning common household items into elaborate works of art with no training.

Mila was what is known as a natural of the Weave. She was a gifted Wytch even before she'd become aware of Wytchcraft. Mila was by that time a gifted and accomplished artist as well. She'd painted numerous paintings, carved sculptures and gotten her creative hands into any form of art she could conceive of by the age of nineteen. At that time she'd received an offer from a mysterious buyer to acquire one of her paintings for a sum of millions. She accepted the offer and when her and her parents went to collect the payment having to travel across the country to do so, both her parents were killed in a tragic accident.

Shortly after that time she'd been contacted by a mysterious group who'd wanted her to become a member of their "club" as they'd referred to it. After discussing the matter at length with the members of this club she decided to join. The club turned out to be the Sanctum and from that point she was introduced to the world of Wytchcraft. While a student of the Sanctum she developed an entirely new school of magic centered around art and artistic ability. She called this school the Order Of Aetherial Artistry.

Upon her graduation from school is really where the first A Lady's Prerogative book begins. During a yearly dinner that she held for herself and some of her fellow students and friends, one of her lady mentors (Yirfir) was kidnapped forcing three of these graduates to investigate the mystery. Her friends Nelony, a lady who is a Wytch of the world of nature known as the Order Of The Aerth Mother and Shaela, another lady who is a Wytch of the Order Of The Night Wytch accompany her to find their mentor. Along the way, Mila meets an old friend named Sato, a Japanese Martial Arts Master and Magician himself who brings his best friend who is named Barris, a saucy and comedic Welsh poet and lover of art and life in general. From that point their adventure together unfolds.

This story takes place after the events of A Lady's Prerogative I and just before the events of A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth being roughly around the our current time on Aerth.

First The Snare

"Shhhh! Do you want them to hear us!" Mila said keeping her voice low but her sibilance present perhaps purposely.

"We're only trying to scare them, not bore them." Shaela replied weaving her magical scare trap carefully.

"This is really going overboard. I mean it's only Hallow's Eve! I could have summoned a badger. A vulture. Maybe even an owl. But noooo, Shaela has to bring forth a Slemelden from her shadow plane." Nelony responded shaking her head.

"Oh stop badgering me! Can't you see I'm casting here! Besides, the last time you tried to summon a vulture we ended up with a pelican. A pink one at that!" Shaela shot back trying to keep her focus as she drew forth the shadowy figure from a portal she'd divined.

"It was pretty though you have to admit. Wasn't it?" Nelony posed looking first to Shaela then to Mila behind her.

"Yes it was. Until it started whistling the death march hymn." Mila replied.

"Pelicans can whistle?" Shaela asked.

"Only when they don't know the words." Mila replied quickly.

"You have to admit that's much better than any lawn ornament isn't it? You're only bitter because when it saw you it called you Maria. By name." Nelony frowned folding her arms over across her chest.

"Well yes of course I was! Maria is the name of a distant cousin in-law of mine and one I loved dearly. I don't want to talk about it! Besides, Mila sounds like Maria doesn't it?" Mila posed to Nelony.

"I guess if you're a pelican it does. Alright. I'm done." Shaela said as the blackened shapeless figure stepped out of the shadowy portal.

"Very good! Very scary too. This isn't going to hurt anyone is it?" Mila replied looking at the shapeless and shadowy Slemelden.

"No. It won't. That's because thats only it's shadow. In our realm it's shadow is three dimensional. You wouldn't want to see the rest of it. Believe me." Shaela replied to Mila and Nelony.

"That sounds good. And scary too which is what we want if we're going to win this tonight." Mila assured the two other Wytches.

Just as Mila finished her statement Yirfir broke their momentary communion having arrived achieving her task of casting a magical barrier for the area that when crossed would trigger Shaela's Slemelden into action.

"It looks like this is going to be the best one yet. Wait until you see this scare I've concocted. It is sooo good." Yirfir said to them as if she'd never left.

"It probably will because you just damned near scared me to the shadow plane with my Slemelden." Shaela responded to Yirfir's sudden appearance.

"That sounds bad. That's perfect for tonight." Yirfir replied.

"It is. I think it means a three dimensional shadowy thing or... a thing with a three dimensional shadow or something like that..." Nelony said trying to conceive of the horror that Shaela had concocted.

"Well wait until you see what I've set in store for the residents..." Yirfir responded to Nelony rubbing her hands together theatrically like a mad scientist.

"I'd say we've got this competition for certain. They have no chance at all." Mila said smiling, her surprise well hidden and ready for the show.

"I'd have to agree." Rithyani Athandra said as she arrived having finished setting her scare traps for the night.

"Well it looks like we're mostly ready. I've just got a bit more to finish up here." Mila said as she returned to her scare trap making.

...

Some distance away in the township of Alivale, Sato crouched keeping watch while Barris worked feverishly and obsessively setting his scare for the township.

"Ha! Look at that! That's a scare and half I'd say. Mary Jane herself would run screaming for Doctor Who if she'd seen this!" Barris said cockily as he finished the last knot in his paper napkin scarecrow.

The scarecrow was about two and a half inches in height and appeared like a stick figure bore of napkins and twine and generally very unscary. It was bound between the pickets of a fence precariously by more twine.

"Ha!" Barris said as if to accentuate the fright value holding his fingers as extended claws beside his face bearing his teeth like a ferocious hamster might.

Sato turned looking at the napkin and twine figure seeming unamused.

"Yes I could see that being frightening. To a tree! And only from the fact that a lot of other trees were probably ground into pulp and used to make that thing!" Sato responded sarcastically.

"Well it scared me. Kind of. Jasmer said he could make them more scary. I mean don't you see this whole competition as being kind of lopsided? I mean all of those Women are magic. We only have one magician on our side and that's Jasmer." Barris responded to Barris' sarcastic response.

"You need to think creatively. You mentioned Doctor Who. Why couldn't you have turned the street garbage cans into Daleks or something like that? You need to think outside of the box. You forget that both Jasmer and I are magic. Sort of." Sato replied.

"Sort of? You said yourself that a Yōkai had taken your powers as a magician back in 1949 because he'd tricked you." Barris reminded Sato.

"Yes. You are right. Sort of. He took them. Well not all of them. Sort of..." Sato replied trying to keep his reply abrupt.

"Well you picked the best of times to share that with us didn't you!" Barris said sounding a little short of patience himself.

"You would not understand Barris. Well you might but you might not. I mean honor is not so important to you as it is for us." Sato replied.

"Oh give me a break Sato! I'm you're best friend! If you can't trust me then who can you trust?" Barris said turning his attention from his napkin scarecrows to Sato.

"You sicken me sometimes Barris but you're right. You're my best friend and I'll tell you though keep your voice down." Sato responded.

"Why because the Yok-" Sato slapped his hand across Barris mouth before he could finish his sentence.

"-ai. Yes. The Yōkai can hear you. Especially you fool. Though you are my friend you can be a fool. Sometimes more than others but not always. They are drawn to foolishness. I know that for certain because that's how I attracted one to myself. So when I say this to you, I'm not diminishing you. I'm protecting you. You bumbling buffoon!" Sato responded to Barris looking around cautiously.

"So why of all times did you choose to share this with me? Now? When we so much stand the chance of losing this competition to those... Women!" Barris responded slightly frustrated.

"Do you know what night this is? This is Hallow's Eve. It means nothing to me at all. But to you and your ancestors it is a time when the light overcame the darkness. The darkness comes back at this time to test our fear..." Sato responded.

"What's so bad about darkness? I like the night! ...And day too." Barris responded.

"Well you won't like Yōkai. Really you won't. Believe me my friend." Sato replied admiring Barris' handiwork with the napkin Scarecrows.

"I'm back. Well you would not believe the mess I left for the peeps. Really." Jasmer said appearing with a

"Jasmer, knowing that you're a gentleman I have to admit that does not sound too good." Barris responded.

"Well quite honestly Barris the peeps will be running screaming. Believe me." Jasmer replied.

"So you're saying that you've plenty of energy to fix Barris' mess?" Sato asked Jasmer.

"I don't know, that would take a lot of energy." Jasmer said in all seriousness before the crook or a smile appeared on the corner of his mouth.

"I can't believe that you would say that about... my napkin scarecrows." Barris replied to Jasmer unbelieving.

"Don't worry my friend. We'll win this. We're guys after all. We've got this one." Jasmer said smiling cantankerously.

At that moment there was the sound of a whoompf as Xushu appeared before Barris, Sato and Jasmer.

"Ha! And Xenshi didn't even detect me! I told you that my magic was on tune and much better than my sister's." Xenshi appeared upside-down.

Barris looked to Sato who then looked to Jasmer.

"Should the fact that you're inverted make us nervous about whether we should believe what you're saying?" Barris responded in a quavering voice.

"Do you think that even if I was being dishonest, that I'd let it affect our chances of winning this? We're guys! Come on! Have some faith!" Xushu responded sounding slightly offended.

"Oh rubbish. I think that you're just excited to be unbound from your sister for the night. I mean come on! You two are like night and day. Though which one of you is day or night I'll never know. I think that you're treating this like a night on the town. Your first free night away from the ties of your own. Xenshi. Your own sister. not to mention floating above her head upside down. You're just happy to be free." Jasmer responded

"We are going to have a Yōkai problem. Tonight. Heed my words." Sato said keeping his calm glancing to Xushu ever so cautiously very obviously agitated by the prospect.

"Sato. I know it was a bad breakfast this morning but honestly you cannot drudge over a broken yolk for your breakfast egg this morning. I mean it's only breakfast. We're already two hours past the supper hour..." Barris began trying to keep everyone focused on their goal.

Sato not being one so easily fooled especially on the ground of linguistic simile.

Barris had at times amazed even Sato when the pressure bore down upon them. This time was no different and Barris had merely sought to tap the resource of levity perhaps to lighten the load upon them all.

"Yōkai are not merely yolk. Or Yocals as you might refer to them in slang you buffoon." Sato responded defensively.

"That's baboon to you my friend." Barris responded thinking on his feet.

"Baboons are far too bright for the likes of you! Not to mention far too agile on their feet and hands and..." Sato responded.

"...and bum. Their multicolored bums." Barris replied standing his ground.

"For one so enamored of poetry your bemusement of it never ceases to make me wonder if you really understand it." Sato's face scrunched into a series of contorted lines set upon by a pronounced frown.

No matter what Sato tried he could not convince his growing team of the threat of the Yōkai. So instead he pleaded to Barris as a last measure. Hoping that in doing so that Barris might take Sato's concern seriously.

"Barris. I need you to keep special watch tonight. You obviously know what I am saying when I say special watch"?" Sato asked Barris appearing somewhat nervous about the situation.

There was a moment of silence as both Xushu and Jasmer looked upon Sato and Barris.

"Are you really that scared?" Barris asked Sato in disbelief.

"You don't understand. This is an ancient folklore. It's a part of my being and history. I've seen this happen before. It is not pleasant. Believe me!" Sato said getting impatient.

"Alright. Alright. I'll keep guard over you. Just tonight though." Barris said trying quickly to finish the subject.


"Don't forget to wear it." Sato reminded Barris.

Barris' face scrunched up into a smirk.

"Wear what?" Barris asked.

"You know? Like last time." Sato told him.

"Are you kidding me? I'm not going to wear that out here. Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind? Maybe this Yōkai thing has arrived here early and has already driven you bonkers!" Barris said defensively to his friend as Xushu and Jasmer both looked down shaking their heads in disbelief.

"Can you two continue your lover's quarrel at another time? We have to get prepared and get our scares going. The streets are already starting to fill with Alivale residents and we're only three quarters finished our set up." Jasmer addressed them both.

There was an awkward silence as Jasmer and Xushu stepped away to finish up the last of the scare traps some distance away.

"I'm not wearing it!" Barris immediately snapped to Sato when he thought Jasmer was out of ear shot.

"I heard that." responded.

Barris turned around and watched Jasmer and Xushu disappear around the corner on the main strip of Alivale before he resumed his discussion with Sato.

"If you don't wear it, I won't be your best man when you ask for Mila's hand in marriage." Sato said folding his arms stubbornly.

"I said I'm not going to... really? You'd do that to me?" Barris asked in complete amazement.

Sato stood his ground not saying a word relaxing his folded arms just slightly.

"Alright. I'll wear it! But this is the last time that I'll do anything like that for you or anyone again! Even if a giant army of three headed five fisted Yōkai show up with fire breathing Yōkais on their shoulders. Not again!" Barris replied the sound of anger rising in his voice.

"And the fish oil too." Sato added calmly.

"You want me to wear fish oil as well? With that... costume... thing... weird creature's head?" Barris asked in disbelief.

"It scares the Yōkai away. Trust me." Sato said curtly.

"It will scare Mila away and probably everyone else I know! She'll never let me into bed with her again! I'll smell like an old sardine for weeks!" Barris said absolutely disgusted with the idea.

"It's that or no best man." Sato said continuing his work on his last scare trap.

"Alright. Fine. And the fish oil. Can I at least wear a little cologne with it to cover it up. Maybe a little bergamot to help hide the smell?" Barris asked Sato.

"No. Not even a drop. Then it will not scare the Yōkai away." Sato said.

"Alright. But you owe me for this in a very large way!" Barris said to him.

"Very well. Wait here and I'll return with the costume and fish oil." Sato said as he stepped away towards the shared accommodation they had rented for the evening.

As the darkness set upon them they'd failed to see something they might have had they been paying attention instead of arguing. Instead it slipped by their intuition altogether into the shadowy dark recesses of Alivale on Hallow's Eve.

Then The Dare

The traps had been set and the night had been met. Dark had fallen upon them alienating quickly the light of day, perhaps chasing it to the edges of the horizon to disappear as the shadows grew. Shaela mused over the possibilities but in the end she held her fingers tight against the temptation of the weave and the lure of it's mystery. Its' wonder. Its' power. A mischievous scare that might have been too early had she done so.

She waited watching as Mila set the final touches for their last set up so patiently with a child's sense of muse and an adult's wisdom. She was none to be fooled and even less so upon Hallow's Eve.

The costumed residents of Alivale appeared one by one as the night set in. Townfolk seeking entertainment in a ritual that dated far into their past. The ritual purpose of Hallow's Eve being for the thrill of the scare. The terror of night's fall and call. A call that according to folklore would draw in the bad spirits seeking to wreak havoc in wake of the season's harvest before winter. Hence the costumes were actually a ward to scare such spirits malevolent spirits away.

The Sanctum had become involved in the Hallow's Eve festivities through Mila, who'd started taking part as a means to contribute to the town and to hone her spell craft. She'd told Yirfir some years earlier and she'd suggested that they use the festival as a training venue much as Mila had been using it to sharpen her skills. Instead what Yirfir proposed was a match between the Women and Men of the Sanctum that benefit both sides in terms of their talents and their ability to deal with the unexpected. To be able to handle fear which was a dangerous threat to any spell caster.

Yirfir's goal was to mentor the Sanctum membership in dealing with it. To be absent of fear one must first experience it. Courage wasn't defined by those who'd never been afraid but by those who'd come to know it personally and face it regardless. Coping with fear was a sure way to guarantee immunity to the many threats from the out planes of existence beyond the Prime. Many of which housed entities that could kill by fear alone.

Had the residents of Alivale known there were Wytches they might have become a danger to Mila. After all Alivale had been the headquarters for the original Wytch hunt more than four hundred years earlier though that knowledge had evaded those of the Sanctum. Even with the powers the weave afforded them at their disposal.

On this night their goal was clear. The Women of the Sanctum were to defeat those of the opposite gender, the Men of the Sanctum in a contest which tested them on their ability to not only scare each other, but to scare the residents of Alivale on that night. The rules were that they had to use the powers of the weave without being detected and no harm was to come to the residents of Alivale.

"Soooo. Are we there yet? Can we get on with this?" Shaela asked anxious to get on with the night.

"That is a question that is likely on the minds of many newborns and as many of the dead. " Rithyani Athandra replied a sarcastic smile stretching across her face.

"That's actually quite funny. I'm impressed Rithyani. Your sense of humor has grown leaps and bounds since first we met." Mila addressed Athandra.

"I didn't think so. Wait. I get it. Har har har." Shaela said dryly.

"You'll have to forgive her. She's a little slower than the rest of us." Nelony said speaking of Shaela.

"You're one to talk bird girl. Speaking of birds I'm sure my shadowy feline friend could use a snack." Shaela responded sharply.

"Speaking birds and cats, can one of you two help us get an update on the situation. Like maybe to be on the lookout for the guys." Mila addressed both Nelony and Shaela.

"What's Barris going to do? I mean I feel sorry for him. It's not like he's a spell caster. How's he going to scare any of us?" Shaela asked the other three.

"I wouldn't under estimate him. He's sneaky and I can tell you that from experience." Mila said sounding a little defensive.

"You're talking about your sex life. We're talking about how to win this competition against them." Shaela replied.

"If we don't keep an eye out soon, we'll be taken by surprise. Surprise is one of the many hiding spaces for fear." Athandra told them all.

"They could be watching us right now." Mila said to Shaela then looked to Nelony.

"Alright. I'm on it." Nelony replied calling upon some of the local fauna for knowledge.

She let out a high pitched squeeking sound while gesturing with her hands. Her hands momentarily glowed an eerie green color and then dimmed returning them to the growing dark.

Most of the squirrels were already fast asleep. The birds were asleep in some of the town trees that were scattered upon and down the Alivale main street. Some heard Nelony's call but few awoke. Finally one did and hastily and answered Nelony's call flying to a nearby treat and chirping happily.

"Alright nature girl. What's up? Do we need to be on guard?" asked Shaela.

"You know I hate it when you call me that you reject from a Siouxie And The Banshees video. Hello? Didn't anyone tell you? Bela Lugosi is dead. Start living in the now shadow breath." Nelony responded in a series of insults drawing a bit of laughter from Mila and Athandra.

The bird chirped in laughter from the tree as Shaela picked up a rock and threw it in the bird's direction. The rock missed the bird and it chirp-laughed again.

"We're supposed to be working together. Not against one another. Put your bickering aside and let's get back to finding out our situation from your little friend." Mila urged them.

"Consider this cease fire a courtesy between a cat person like myself and a bird person like yourself." Shaela said confidently as she sat down awaiting the first customers of Hallow's Eve.

Nelony thought hard before she decided against a response. She'd known Shaela a long time and this was part of their friendship. Shaela had long held a link with an ancient predator from the shadow plane that had been alive since before the sixteen hundreds in Aerth time. Every so often that predator would show its teeth through Shaela but rarely if ever in violence. The price of a strong bond with such a volatile creature as an adult Shadow Cat. In fact Shaela was the first of her school of the Wytch kind to have summoned such a creature from the Shadow Plane. A beast of immense ferocity that possessed the ability through a specialized organ in it's throat to determine the true intent of any living being. It could literally smell the very depth of a person throwing terror and instinct aside to dissect the very soul of those whose intent it deemed in measure.

Only those of virtuous intent lived and often they weren't many. Few who'd seen it's the Shadow Cat's eyes had lived beyond that point. Those that did seldom spoke of their encounter with death itself perhaps to avert tempting fate or the giant cat's retribution. Shaela being it's only true friend beyond the comprehension of any who lived in the Prime. A friend without measure and ally without foes that weren't already in their graves. Yet gentle and even affectionate with those it protected.

The little bird flew down from the tree and took perch upon Nelony's shoulder where it chirped-chuckled a few more times.

"I heard that. Meeeeow." Shaela responded imitating a cat licking it's chomps.

The bird chirped in Nelony's ear and then took flight disappearing above the streets of Alivale.

"My little friend said that it hadn't seen our other friends, though it had heard from some other birds that there were a group of unsightly people things like us tinkering about in the bushes near the main street." Nelony reported.

"That's them for sure." Mila responded a little amused.

"So let's get ready. We'll wait for Yirfir to get back and make our way to the main street. Let's see if we can't win this." Shaela said in a slightly edgy voice.

So the Ladies waited in the shadows for Yirfir's return.

But Please Beware

Somewhere on the outskirts of town two strangers strode on foot along a highway road. This road stretched for hundreds of miles through the brush and country outback meeting civilization at a few key points along it's path. It found it's way to Alivale and then back out on the other end of town being the only road to and from the small town with a population of a little over twenty five thousand in the surrounding area.

Being a small town most everyone knew of the comings and goings of their neighbors and when strangers would arrived, they'd be met by a mixture of skepticism and enthusiasm. Generally those who did not live in the town center area took the former approach while the business owners and central town residents took the latter. After all, tourism was an important part of their survival and Alivale's mystique and hidden history had often drawn many different people. Some of them quiet and quaint while some of them more a bit strange.

Only four hundred years earlier Alivale had been the headquarters of a local madness that had become known as the great hunt. A group of settlers had arrived in West View which by no coincidence was to the west of Alivale after passing through the town of Sharlesbury by horse path. These settlers had arrived bringing with them both a tradition and a scourge that would become the roots of the great hunt: a Wytch Hunt. The lives and property of a great many people whom most often were Women was taken and their wealth redistributed amongst the hunters. Any who resisted the hunt would often become victims of it shortly thereafter. Alivale itself had become the headquarters for the great hunt and this secret had been kept ever since even long after the madness had died. Perhaps it was no coincidence in this end that a young prospective Wytch named Mila Rendebelle would choose to buy a home upon the outskirts of Alivale after her parent's death.

Alivale had attracted its share of strangeness and tonight was certainly no different though these strangers hardly thought themselves strange at all. They appeared as hitchhikers looking to travel the country and explore the hidden gems there within and for all intense purposes they were. The exception to that impression being that they'd travelled much farther than a few hundred miles to be in Alivale in that night for they'd had unsettled ancestral business with certain elderly Japanese man named Sato.

A car flashed it's brights and slowed as it passed and pulled over on the road ahead of them. An older man stuck his head out through the window of his vehicle and spoke.

"I'd hardly expect to see anyone walking out here at this time. 'Specially on Hallow's Eve. You two need a ride into town? If you do we might get you in there in time to take part in the yearly festivities." he said in a friendly demeanor.

The two hikers looked at each other and then back to the driver of the car.

"You'd do that for us? That's might kind of you. We'll accept your ride graciously." one of them replied while the other one hissed quietly under earshot of the driver.

"Well get in. I've got a new tree that's shackled in the seatbelt in the front here beside me so you'll have to get in the back." the driver said to them.

The two hikers stepped up to either door and got into the back of the vehicle which accelerated away towards Alivale.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude. I'm Ed." the driver said to them looking in the rear view mirror as he spoke.

"Nice to meet you Ed. I'm Cold Patch Crushing Dream Smile and my friend here is Drained Life Burnt Happy Dance." the first hiker spoke again while the other hissed quietly.

"That's quite the names. Are you from the Native reserve?" asked Ed a little unsettled.

"No. We're from across the great dark ocean far from Aerth." Cold replied while Burnt hissed.

"I'm sorry I'm not familiar with that area. I haven't been far from Alivale for a long time. So what brings you to Alivale on this night. Hallow's Eve?" Ed asked the two trying quickly to remedy the solemn mood by changing the subject.

"Yes. The Hallow's Eve. We're here for the Hallow's Eve. We're not from around here. We have an old friend in Alivale. Yes. A very old friend with an old family too." Cold replied over top of the hissing.

"Really? I've been a resident for my whole life. I was born here actually. I might know the friend or at least their family. I could drive you right to them if you'd like?" Ed said overly eager to help.

"You've already been too kind Ed. Kindness deserves a reward you know. We like kindness don't we Burnt?" Cold confirmed with Burnt who continued hissing as he responded.

"Kindness is like the sting of a poisonous insect. It infects everything and makes one sick! It's a contagious disease!" Burnt hissed as he drooled.

"It's alright Fro..zen. I'm not doing this for a reward. I'm just being a good neighbor. Honest. Sally wouldn't have it any other way rest her soul. My lost wife you know. She died fifteen years ago. I'd give anything for her to be here again." Ed said starting to feel very nervous about his passengers.

"We are very saddened by your loss. But for your kindness we will reward you by granting you your wish." Cold said as Burnt hiss-laughed beside him.

"I said I don't want a..." Ed paused as he looked in the seat beside him.

There sat his lost wife exactly as he'd remembered her. Wearing the exact outfit she'd been wearing the day he'd brought her into the hospital. A long beige dress which had kept her heavier frame in a rounded shape much to his appeal.

"Sally... I... My dear lord..." Ed spoke in complete disbelief as tears streamed down his face.

In the back seat Burnt laughed and hissed, his voice becoming louder as he did.

In that moment Sally'a form took on the appearance of a half rotten body sitting in the seat beside Ed.

"Do you still love me Ed? Do you?" she asked him the smell overwhelming him.

She leaned over to kiss him and that was when he lost control of the car which spun off the road headlong into a tree. The sound of Burnt's laughter rising in climax with the impact.

Ed woke up and there was a much different smell. The smell of gasoline which had been leaking from the ruptured gas tank of his car. He attempted to twist his body to check on his passengers but when he did his ribs cried out in pain.

Burnt looked at him as he stood on the outside of the car looking in.

"We thank you for your kindness but we must leave you to your fate. It was a nice ride on this Hallow's Eve. Goodbye Ed." Cold spoke to Ed from the other side of the car as Burnt hissed and cursed Ed.

"Take your kindness with you to the depths..." Burnt hissed one last time as he spat at the car.

The globule of spittle impacted at the rupture point of the gas tank and brightly sparked as it did. The car was quickly engulfed in flames as Ed screamed and writhed in pain.

Cold and Burnt walked away from the scene at an even pace. The car did not explode and Ed's cries continued for eight more minutes before they ceased.

Their forms had changed and were visible under the light of the fire and the starry night sky.

Cold had become like a slimy and scaly frog with teeth ear to ear while Burnt had become a hairy fox like creature with several fissures upon hairless patches of open skin where a fluid like magma oozed.

"We on this night will find the Mishima Sato-San. To pay the price of his ancestors." Cold said to Burnt.

"Yes. Here it will be done in Alivale. On Hallow's Eve." Burnt hissed and laughed as the strange pair marched through the brush of the woods towards Alivale.

The Hallow's Eve Scare

"*I said* I can hardly see a thing in this costume!" Barris' muffled voice emerged from beneath the turtle like mask.

"Don't worry. This time it's going to be a little different. We're going to augment the costume a bit. To make it more convincing to the Yōkai." Sato assured Barris.

"With what? Turtle sauce and Sushi? I'm already covered in fish oil and smell like a tuna cannery. Next you'll be asking me to jump onto a plate to be served as part of a dinner party in Osaka. Maybe with a little Sake? So what's next? How are you going to augment this even more?" Barris voice emerged from beneath the costume.

"You are not going to just wear a costume but you will become the costume." Sato answered him as he read from a verse:

Sora kara no namida 
sheru ni kowareta 
detekuru kokoro

[translation:
tears from sky
broken upon a shell
out comes the heart]

There was a silent moment as Barris' stomach felt queasy. His entire body began to tingle and then in an instant he was different. Very different.

"Alright. What have you done to me?" Barris' webbed foot tapped impatiently on the ground.

"You are now very convincing to any Yōkai that might show up." Sato replied rolling up the rice paper upon which the verse was scribed.

"When you say convincing why am I detecting a slight hesitation. As if there's something you're keeping from me?" Barris asked putting his three fingered hands onto his turtle waist.

"Barris that has to be the best costume I've seen in a long time. You're going to win this for us aren't you?" Jasmer commented having returned with Xushu.

"I'll say. That's the best turtle suit I've ever seen." Xushu said enthusiastically.

"That's because he is a turtle. Or a form of turtle known as a Kekkai. A magical protector." Sato responded.

"Wait! You're telling me that I'm no longer myself? That you've gone and turned me into... Gamera?" Barris replied sarcastically.

"You're too small for that. But you could pass for a Ninja Turtle." Jasmer replied amused about Barris' situation.

"No. He's a bit too slimy looking for that. I mean look at his neck skin. Its sinewy and slimy just like a real turtle." Xushu said getting in close for an examination.

"Get away from my neck Xushu! Sato! You've gone and turned me into a circus freak! I can't believe this!" Barris responded excitedly almost at the point of mania.

Some distance away there was the sound of a blood curdling scream.

At that moment Barris' hands, feet and head tucked themselves into his shell and he fell onto his back on the ground.

"It's started. Let's get out there and use our abilities as Men to get the job done. We're going to scare them into hiding until next year." Jasmer said to his peers.

"What about... Barris?" Xushu asked.

"I'm fine. Just give me a moment to think this through. I have to admit this is the most comfortable feeling I've had in a long time." Barris replied.

"Good. Sato, you stick by Barris and wait until he comes out of his shell. Xushu and I will go rally the reinforcements and get started with our scares. We'll rendezvous with you here again or just outside the old warehouse where Mila... uhhhh sorry guys... where us Men stood down the last Power Lord in a legendary battle. With a little help from the Women of course..." Jasmer said leaving after he'd received Sato's acknowledgement Xushu following behind.

"Well that wasn't so bad. Wait! I can't get off my back! Help! I'm stuck!" Barris said panicking as he emerged from his shell.

...

Mila had been watching from one of the side streets as a modest group of party goers strode down the street. A few tipsy having had an early start to the festivities laughed as they meandered down the street. Mila made her way to her first scare trap deciding to set it off manually as they approached.

There was a small explosion as a plume of harmless smoke and ground fog covered the area through which they walked. Two of the Women screamed startled clasping onto each other. One of the Men cowered behind them while another stepped forward protectively.

"Whose trick is this? We know you're there!" the protective male said defiantly rising for his opportunity to prove his worthiness to his friends.

The smoke coalesced forming a solid figure that approached the group, it's eyes glowing a charged white and blue. The walking column of smoke screeched at the group before dissipating into the night.

"You prick! You'd let us be harmed?" one of the Women asked sharply the man who'd hid behind them.

There was a moment of argument before laughter finally broke out and the group continued their trek to the party.

Mila considered the outcome noting that the protective male had likely been around during the past on Hallow's Eve and had learned to face his fears while the others had never experienced it so closely. She hoped they'd mark it up to experience and learn from their encounter. She suspected the night would likely turn out much better for the protective male as he'd been their hero risking all to protect them. She considered that one of the two women or even the fearful male might be next year's hero. Such was the nature of experience and learning to face that which you fear. However sometimes the stakes also had be experienced so that it could be a solidly defined risk. It's much more courageous to face something knowing that you could die rather than facing something and knowing that you won't.

"I see you've learned something important tonight?" Yirfir appeared almost as if out of nowhere.

"It's never any less inspiring to see someone facing their mortality so courageously. Even when you know it's a trick." Mila replied to Yirfir.

"But if they think there's no risk, then they'd take such risks every time. So courage is not just being able to take risks..." Yirfir began.

"It's being able to take risks when you believe and know there is something at stake that may be a potential loss. Especially when that loss is your own health in protection of someone else's." Mila finished Yirfir's statement.

"Then maybe they'll live to be next year's heroes." Mila said having grasped a bit more of the purpose of the competition.

"Maybe. Let's hope the Men are having success but not as much this learned night." Yirfir said to Mila.

"Oh I have a feeling they're probably doing alright." Mila said smiling coyly.

...

"Nelony! Here comes a couple!" Shaela said doing her best to run in her long sleek black dress.

"I'm ready." Nelony replied from the shadows readying her trap.

The couple in their mid twenties walked hand in hand along the sidewalk up the street towards a small village pub. They stopped to observe a row of birds who'd planted themselves on the rails of a fence that ran the length of the sidewalk all the way to the pub.

"Look at this honey. Aren't they sweet?" the lady said admiring the birds.

"Don't you mean tweet?" he said to her prompting her to give him a love tap on his bum.

The birds began to chirp louder and louder as they looked on and more began to perch on the fence. Before long there were hundreds of little birds tweeting and chirping causing the couple to grasp at their ears from the volume.

They looked up to see that the sky had become filled with the small little creatures who flew in a perfect circle about them blocking all moon and starlight alike.

"Run for it!" the man yelled trying to make haste for the pub.

The lady held fast to his hand urging him to stop.

"Wait, Eric! Stop! The snacks we have. Drop a few on the ground for the poor little things. Maybe they're starving." she said resisting the weight of his attempts to flee.

He quickly stopped.

"Right. Let's see what we have here." he said as he fished out a large bag of pita chips from inside of his jacket.

He began scattering them on the ground and the birds slowly converged on the offerings their dire appearance and numbers diminishing altogether. They watched as the original flock of birds who'd line the fence happily gorged themselves on pita chips.

"My hero." said the lady to the man.

"Oh honey. It was your idea. Let's get to the pub before they change their minds." the man stated.

"Not before I get a kiss." she said to him.

They stood under the moonlight embraced in a passionate kiss before continuing on their journey to the pub for the Hallow's Eve celebration.

"Bye then." the lady said to the birds as they left.

"That was beautiful." Nelony said as she wiped a tear from her cheek.

"Oh nonsense. I was hoping for a little more Alfred Hitchcock than John Hughes." Shaela responded looking sorely disappointed.

"Well sparrows aren't carnivorous you know." Nelony said sniffling still moved by the couple's display of affection.

"Well they could have smashed a couple of those little pests you know." Shaela said purposely trying to play with Nelony's strings.

Nelony laughed immediately seeing through Shaela's ploy.

"Alright. I'd say that was a success then. I mean they faced their fears and she even came up with the impromptu idea of feeding them! I'd say that's another victory for the Women." Shaela said triumphantly.

"Looking after nature when they knew it was safe to rather than fearing it. I'd go along with that. So let's get to one of yours." Nelony replied.

"Soon enough. I'd rather keep the big scare for the finale if you know what I mean." Shaela replied to Nelony.

"A little bit over confident about shadow whiskers aren't you?" Nelony came back.

"I wasn't thinking about the Shadow Cat. Besides I think that it would be far too dangerous to summon here during Hallow's Eve. Too many people. It might smell one's soul and devour them before I could stop it. So I'll hold off for now. I was thinking about the Slemelden. A much safer scare." Shaela replied honestly.

"Well then lets get to it." Nelony responded.

The two of them ventured back to their original array of scare traps never aware that they were followed by two strange hikers.

"I smell the stench of Mishima Sato-San coming from the two lady wisp weavers." Burnt hissed a drool of hot magma flowing out of the corner of his mouth.

"There's something sweet too. Tasty a stench to their air. An art weaver. I can smell her ancestors. She's bound to one of the elder clans of the Honshu south. A lady art weaver. Very sweet and tasty." Cold spoke.

"Kindness?" Burnt frothed and hissed spewing a spray of misty magma.

"Yes. Kindness my Ani [translation: brother]." Cold replied.

"Then ripe kill maim kiss them we will tonight." Burnt spat at the dirt from which erupted a small fire.


From Tree or Brook

Xushu watched as a lone pedestrian strode along the sidewalk on her way to join the festivities on the Alivale main street. Jasmer sat beside him overseeing the situation himself. Just across the street a young man (younger than Jasmer that is) sat with his friends having a mug of Hallow's Eve mead on their porch. The young man admired the woman and as she passed, she threw him a first glance and then a second smile as she returned her attention to her path.

The young man observed her a growing smile on her face as he blushed. It was then that he'd noticed that a large tree across the street had appeared to have a broken trunk. As if some giant had come along and snapped it like a twig. The tree still stood in its' place however even the light evening breeze was causing it to sway too and fro directly onto the path of the woman. The young man dropped his mead to the porch and began running full tilt for the lady.

"This looks promising. This might be a future scare prospect." he said to Xushu.

"The future? There's no better time than the present." Xushu replied to Jasmer

Xushu opened his clenched fist and the tree began to fall full tilt towards the lady pedestrian. She screamed as the tree came crashing down nearly crushing her as the young man leapt and caught her throwing her clear taking the full brunt of the tree himself in her place.

She picked herself up from the grass lawn that had cushioned her fall to find the man who'd saved her. As she approached the tree, it disappeared revealing him to her. She knelt down beside him gently touching his face on the sidewalk as he lay there apparently unconscious. A moment later he opened his eyes amazed.

"Hey! I'm still alive!" he replied overjoyed.

"Not only that but you're coming with me tonight. To a Hallow's Eve party just on the Alivale strip." she responded to him.

"I am?" he replied in disbelief.

"You are." she replied affirmatively before continuing.

"I'm certainly not letting you get away." she said carpe diem.

"Oh right. Yes, I'm coming to the party. Certainly. I'd love to." he replied suddenly becoming aware of her beauty.

Just a short distance away Jasmer put his hands into Xushu's for a congratulatory shake.

"Well done my friend. I'd say we just notched ourselves up on the score board considerably." Jasmer said admiring Xushu's handiwork.

They watched as the Woman and the young man walked together towards the main strip. After half a block their hands joined and remained clasped tightly. Almost as tightly as they themselves would remain for the rest of their lives with a family to join them for the journey.

A short distance away from them on the other side of the Alivale main street Sato walked the street towards the Alivale main street as Barris stay from sight behind a bush.

"There's nobody around. I already told you Barris. Besides most people will just think it's a convincing costume." Sato said stopping on the sidewalk to wait for his friend to emerge.

Barris peeked up from behind the bush as he looked around. His eye sight was strangely more potent while he was in Keikko form. He could see at much greater detail even in the dark of night however this did not help him to cope with the self consciousness he felt in regard to his unusual appearance. After all, he'd become scaly like a reptile a little bit hunched over with a large shell that covered his abdomen protectively. In essence he appeared a like an upright walking turtle.

"Are you still sore from Jasmer's and Xushu's levity?" Sato asked Barris.

"Levity?! Are you kidding? They jumped in tooth and nail making fun of me! Didn't you hear them?" Barris exclaimed finding no pity even from his best friend Sato.

"I only need to think about the opportunity that you'd take on their misfortune if your situations were reversed. You'd likely have made them the object of every witty remark you had for the evening." Sato suggested to Barris.

Barris emerged from the bushes and considered what his friend had said as he joined him on the sidewalk.

"True. You're right. I would have. And it would have been very funny too. I'll bet that even you would have laughed at what I had to say if that was the case. Like what do you get when you cross a geriatric wizard with a turtle den? Jasmer. Or how many turtle wizards does it take to change a light bulb. Two. One to change the bulb and another to retreat into it's shell when the light suddenly comes on! Well you catch my drift. They'd likely had been much better if our situations were reversed. Why when you asked me to consider this did you use the word misfortune?" Barris asked Sato suddenly aware of his wording.

"It might have been a benefit while in the hands of Jasmer or Xushu. But in your hands you've made it into misfortune. The only difference being between the two of you is how you would look at the situation." Sato replied to Barris.

"Hmmmm. I see. It's how I look at the situation really. So you're saying that for me, the glass... er shell is half empty." Barris thought about Sato's point.

"Precisely. Now instead you could consider this an opportunity and an honor to protect your elderly best friend from Japan from the impending doom brought about by a nasty demon. A Yokai." Sato replied.

"You're right friend. That's precisely the way that I'll look at it from now on." Barris said boldly standing tall.

From a distance on the main street there were a series of terrified screams and an explosion.

"I'm out of here!" Barris said quickly disappearing into his shell.

"Barris. I urge you to join me. We are obviously needed somewhere. There might be people in danger. Mila might be in danger!" Sato said to Barris shaking his shell.

A moment later Barris emerged and found his way back onto his feet.

"Alright. Let's do this. After all. I'm not just any turtle. I'm a Kekkai! And I can kick a... bum!" Barris said joining Sato as they ran for the Alivale main strip.

From Crown Or Crook

Shaela and Nelony arrived on the busy strip. It was filled with patrons in costumes of all varieties of shapes and sizes while roughly half of the party goers chose not to wear any costumes at all. The party goers of course were the adults and young adults of Alivale for this was a festive time of year for them and their history. There was eerie music and sound effects to accompany the spectacle of lights and smoke for effect.

"Reminds me a bit of the going to the fair with my parents when I was little." Shaela remarked to Nelony who stayed close by.

"We used to go to one too. I always used to love the..." Nelony started.

"No wait. Let me guess. You used to love the petting zoo?" Shaela said interrupting her.

"How'd you guess? Are you Wytch? You must be psychic or something." Nelony said to her joining her in the joke.

"I'll let that one pass. Besides we fit in just fine on this night. You don't see Mila or the others anywhere do you? I'd love to know our score." Shaela asked Nelony.

"Wait... I see... Yes. It's Mila. She's with Athandra and Yirfir." Nelony said grabbing Shaela's hand and dragging her through the crowd to their friends.

"Well, well, well? Dipping into the sauce a little early I see." Shaela said to Mila and Yirfir while nodding in acknowledgement to Athandra.

"Us? No. We agreed not until after ten." Mila replied.

"Well get a move on girl, it's ten fifteen now. What's our score?" asked Shaela of Yirfir.

"We're a couple points ahead of the men the last time I checked. That was half and hour ago." Yirfir replied.

"Well check again. We just nailed another great scare. Got a quick thinker out of it too. One of the women of course." Shaela said triumphantly.

"Well they did walk away hand in hand laughing. So I'd say it was an even score for both women and men." Nelony corrected Shaela.

"Oh come on girl. We're trying to win this." Shaela said urging team spirit.

"We'll let the score speak for us." Athandra said bringing perspective back to nest.

"Do you think Jexelen and Lannay are watching from the Sanctum?" Nelony asked Yirfir.

"Two years ago and nobody was interested. Last year we had the entire wing of elementalists watching the whole thing. The Order of the Light Well has always been watching. You know them. It's like reality television to them. I'd be willing to bet that on this Hallow's Eve most of the Sanctum is likely watching. Except for the midspace guard of course." Yirfir replied helping herself to a glass of the traditional Hallow's Eve mead.

"Well good. We'd better win this then." Shaela said grabbing a glass of the mead for herself.

At that moment the music and sound effects ceased as the Mayor of Alivale took to a makeshift podium to address the party goers.

"Citizens of Alivale. My fellow neighbors and friends. I hope that you're all enjoying this year's festivities to celebrate the traditional late season harvest. The same harvest that has kept this small town on its feet for more than three hundred years!" the Mayor spoke choosing his words carefully from a prepared speech.

"This year is no different from any of the prior years. Our annual financial growth is up I and I might add by a staggering six point two percent! We can thank both our farming community and Alivale tourism for those numbers. This celebration has long been a hallmark of our prosperity and symbolizes the efforts our ancestors made to protect our crops from the evils they perceived around them in the form of ghosts and goblins and all forms of mystery. Let's not let our superstition get the best of us on this night. Remember to treat your neighbors with common courtesy and respect. I presume that the threat of demons and witches has long been dealt with by our ancestors. So let the festivities begin and please do remember that we want this to be safe for everyone. The local motels even have extra rooms available at reduced cost. Some as much as half price. So if you need to travel consider getting a room for the night." the Mayor said addressing the party goers on the strip.

...

The two strangers listened to the Mayor's speech, one of them smelling the air still seeking the lost trail of their quarry.

"There are many weave killers here. I smell them. Their ancestors still froth from the grave with hatred for the wisp weavers. Mishima Sato-San too is here too. Close but not too close. So is the artful wisp weaver lady. Close by she is. Ssssoooo close...." Burnt hissed as a cool breath of came from Cold's mouth.

"Then it is with them that they bring the kindness. Isn't it?" Cold asked of Burnt.

"There has been much here and though the wisp weave killers still are numerous, the kindness and destroyers of ignorance are growing in strength. Courage has even found foot hold in some. I taste the sickly air of noble virtue and selflessness!" Burnt spit at the pavement causing a small pocket of asphalt to melt and bubble into magma.

"Well then it is time we educated these people as to their misguided steps. For if they were to continue on such a path then someday there might be none to suffer it." Cold spoke drawing the attention of some of the party goers.

A few people turned to look at the strangers marveling at their seemingly incredible costumes. Both walked upright on their rear legs. One appeared as a slimy frost ridden lizard while the other appeared a charred and burnt canine, with hot magma sores erupting from bare patches on it's hide.

"We hide nothing from you for the night you celebrate is on its turn as are the tides in favor of the forces you seek to smite. Let your costumes be your cages and and the harbingers of your own doom! Be dead you that oppose us. There is but one solution and that is you will bring us Mishima Sato-San and the lady wisp weaver known as Mila!" Burnt spoke waving his clawed hands through the air.

The Mayor continued speaking oblivious of what was transpiring just a block down from him on the podium. It began slowly at first appearing to the Mayor like a small ruckus from a rowdy part of the crowd until it grew into a wave from the south end of the street spreading like wild fire. It appeared that some of the crowd, the costumed party goers were viciously attacking those without costumes. As if the costumed citizens of Alivale had taken on the personality of that which their costume represented.

"...I wonder if the Police can see this? We've got a situation on our hands. Again, I'm urging everyone else to remain calm and wait until our fine Officers can get this situation under control..." as the Mayor spoke one of the costumed attackers leapt onto the Mayor from the audience and began hammering at him with its hands.

The Mayor fell screaming collapsing under the weight of the costumed monster. That was when full panic broke out and the main strip of Alivale had become complete chaos.

"I can't see what's going on!" Mila exclaimed to Yirfir who stood on a table trying to get a better look.

"There's a riot. Some of the crowd have become like wild animals. We've got to help them." Yirfir said jumping down from the table and into the fray.

Mila wasted no time immediately conjuring a a tall glowing fence to separate the rioting citizens from the rest. Nelony hands sprung into action as she gestured towards a small fern bush on the exterior of one of the patios. The fern quickly grew into a series of tendrils each seeking a different target for immobilization. Just as one attacker had perched itself upon the chest of a victim, one of the tendrils grabbed at the attacker's arms holding him in place as the victim escaped.

Athandra stepped into the middle of the street holding her hands at arms length as she cleared the space around her. She closed her hands together so that her palms met and spoke.

"Chamatkaarik haathee uddhaarakarta." her words broke the chaos around her as an elephant appeared clad in golden armor, a solitary jewel encrusted gem on it's forehead.

It's snout lowered lifting her onto it's back.

"Mila! Open the fence!" Athandra shouted as the elephant approached Mila's construct.

"I'm on it!" Mila's hands worked their magic and the fence opened allowing the golden elephant passage.

Athandra made her way through the riot as the golden elephant lifted some of the endangered citizens onto its back or to safety elsewhere.

Near the south end of the street Cold and Burnt spied what was transpiring.

"It would seem that the lady art wisp weaver has shown her dire face. Let us deal with it in the most kind way." Cold said calmly while Burnt hissed and cussed.

Burnt spit at the gas cap of a parked car in the midst of the rioters. The gas cap melted exposing the raw fumes to the intense heat of Burnt's spittle. There was a moment of silence as time stood still. The fumes outside of the car combusted cascading down through the gas port into the gas tank. As soon as the fire had consumed the oxygen on the interior, it created enormous air pressure causing the gas tank to inhale an enormous amount of air from the outside. As the air rushed into the tank it mixed with the gas causing it all to be consumed as fuel in one giant fireball explosion.

The blast threw twenty of the Alivale residents into the air in various directions while immersing another twelve in burning gasoline.

Burnt broke out in hideous laughter screaming in joy and pleasure while Cold looked on in passive calm.

Athandra coaxed the elephant towards the burning wreckage attempting to douse crush the small fires underfoot.

"This is way out of hand! Yirfir! We need backup! I'm going to..." Shaela exclaimed.

"Wait! I'm already on it! Let us get a few more people clear before you do!" Yirfir replied.

"Pray they're clear when I'm done." Shaela began her summoning ritual as the dark portal between the shadow plane and the Aerth opened.

"What's the situation?" Jasmer asked above the turbulence.

"Something's gone wrong. A riot maybe? We're not sure! It just broke out! Get in there and help the wounded!" Yirfir said as she channeled a link between herself and the Sanctum.

"Yes Ma'am!" Jasmer said acknowledging her.

Xushu appeared extinguishing some of the burning Alivale residents with a magical spray from his hands. He grabbed two of them on his shoulders, dragging another two with his free hands to through Mila's opening in the glowing fence as Jasmer ran into the fray.

"We've got a situation in Alivale." Yirfir addressed the assembly hall which was empty except for four patrons.

"Hmmm? What?" Tolgrath awoke.

"Where's Jexelen? Lannay?" Yirfir asked Tolgrath.

"They're on the other end of the hall in a meeting." Tolgrath replied.

"Get them! Now!" Yirfir yelled causing Tolgrath to jump up and to life.

A few feet away Shaela's shadowy portal momentarily became pitch black as the giant shadow cat emerged a trail of dark aether following it as it did. It paused a moment and took in a breath of air sniffing the people around it. Shaela crossed her fingers.

Instead of devouring the nearby residents, it leapt across Mila's fence and towards the south end of the street and the source of the disaster.

Shaela's form too had changed, her skin becoming a pale ghostly white in contrast to her long black dress and bright red hair and lipstick. As she stepped forward, a volume of shadow followed her and spread out from her eventually concealing her completely. She continued onward in the direction her great shadow cat had proceeded moments earlier.

"What is it Yirfir?" Jexelen shot back already angry their meeting had been interrupted.

"We have a problem in Alivale. The festival has gotten out of hand. We fear there may have been casualties. We need help!" Yirfir demanded of Jexelen.

Jexelen looked to Lannay whose eyebrows rose.

"This wouldn't have anything to do with the Hallow's Eve competition. I mean I wouldn't want to find out that it involved the Sanctum or any misconduct." Lannay suggested.

"Forget the bureaucracy for a moment Lannay! Jexelen! Perhaps if you two had to spend a few years in the field you might be bit more receptive! There are people who need us here! We need some assistance!" Yirfir demanded.

There was a moment of chatter before Jexelen returned with a reply.

"We're sending a few residents from the Order Of The Life Well. As well we'll send Totem and Tolgrath to assist you with any tactical suppression. Protect the civilians of that town at all costs. Jasmer and I will deal with this later." Jexelen told Yirfir.

"He's here already! He's busy saving lives!" Yirfir informed her.

"Help will be there soon! Now go!" Jexelen closed the link and Yirfir was thrust back to reality.

"Mila! We're going to find the source of this trouble. Nelony! You and Xushu help and assist any of the residents. Concentrate on saving lives first!" Yirfir ordered them as she and Mila proceeded to the south end of the street.

None of them realized that to where they proceeded so many had dared. In the centuries none had lived to tell for their nemeses' names were written across the history and folklore of Honshu as it had been written in the devil's tales by far and to the west. Under many different names and languages. Most had been too busy warring between each other to notice that their enemies were one and the same.

Save Wytch's Weave

Shaela moved from within the dark cloud which covered the street from side to side making it nearly impossible for any within to see. She could see perfectly, aware of every thing within the cloud whether it moved or lay immobile. She was aware of her predatory cat which moved with the silence of a feline more than a tenth of it's size. No small feat for this cat was a head bigger than even the elephant. It had grown in a world far more hostile than any person could ever imagine and for a lifetime few could dream of for it was over four hundred years old and only just entering into it's early adulthood.

The majority of rioters had been subdued and the ones that remained fled in terror upon seeing the giant cat and the elephant. All except for two. For these two in their entire history had never fled from any battle big or small and they'd seen their share of both. On the fields of battle against the most battle hardened Samurai and the most fierce warriors the crusades had bred on all sides, they'd seen even the most battle capable warriors fall. They knew no enemy for time was their friend and death and ally. Acquaintances who'd deliver their quarry right into their hands whether they'd avoided it or not. Those who'd hadn't managed to escape ceased to be, while those who had had never known that such an adversary sought them remained oblivious. All except for Mishima Sato and the Sato-clan.

His family and ancestors had been the bane of the Yokai. Keeping them at bay since the Edo period and from there forward. None had known the secrets of how they'd learned to defeat the Yokai or even escape them for that knowledge could not be taught. It could only be learned and learned by real experience.

It had taken the Yokai centuries to figure out what had happened for they too were unaware and they could not teach each other about this threat. They too could only learn by real experience. It was by this experience that they had learned that something the Sato-clan had done was different than all the other clans for in the annals of their collected souls, there were far fewer members of the Sato-clan than any others yet there were at least as many of the Sato-clan upon Honshu. It was upon this realization that two of the Yokai, Cold and Burnt each named for the death they brought to their prey went on a multi-generation journey to find the living ancestors of the Sato-clan and extinguish them before others could learn of their knowledge.

The Yokai watched as the fog rolled in around them though they were unimpressed.

"It seems the lady shadow cat weaver is amongst them. Be careful for a similar beast took the soul of another Yokai four centuries ago. We must be cautious or no longer be at all." Cold advised Burnt who again sputtered and hissed.

"You know not with whom you deal demons. You're out of your league with us." Shaela spoke from one end of the fog her voice emerging from another location in the fog.

The two Yokai stood back to back so as to avoid surprise.

Mila, Yirfir and Nelony all could see perfectly through the fog as if it had no effect upon them at all. In fact their senses were even heightened by it.

"Remind me never to aggravate Shaela again." Mila said jokingly.

"It's not her you want to worry about. It's her cat." Yirfir reminded them.

"Shush! I can see them." Nelony said startled.

"Don't worry. They can't hear you unless you want them to. We can hear them but they can't hear or see us in the fog. We can hear and see each other though." Shaela advised them.

Shaela approached trying to come up between the two Yokai. She moved ever so slowly advancing towards them keeping herself on the peripheral of their vision. When she was close enough to grasp one of them she shadow-rooted their feet.

Burnt attempted to turn finding himself rooted to the spot. Cold struggled against the spell as Burnt's feet exploded into a fiery blaze breaking the spell. Burnt's claws heated as he struck at Shaela. She dodged as quickly as the demon Yokai could strike at her. Backing up she tripped and fell backwards as Burnt leapt to take advantage of her disposition.

The air suddenly moved in volumes as the giant cat pounced catching Burnt in mid-flight in it's jaws. The cat had been watching silently from the darkness waiting for the best moment to strike. Burnt flailed at it's snout trying to free himself only to be caught under the giant cat's paw. The cat held him in place while it contended with the other Yokai who was still rooted.

The cat's enormous paw crushed down on Cold who too struggled against it. The cat screamed as Burnt's heated claws struck at the paw that pinned him. The cat shifted itself momentarily licking it's tender paw then resuming its focus upon its prey. Burnt hissed at the cat who roared and hissed back. Burnt cast a column of fire at the cat just as the golden elephant ploughed into him.

It's trunk wrapped around his body beating him to the ground rapidly as he struggled against the beast. The cat took the opportunity to extinguish it's whiskers which had taken a bit of Burnt's flame. Mila helped Shaela to her feet as Yirfir and Nelony covered for her.

Cold finally having broken the shadow root holding him in place extended his hands emitting a blizzard of icy wind at the Women. Mila tried to erect a barrier but was quickly overwhelmed by the force of the wind and ice. A moment later all four were frozen solid, icy statues become Cold's trophies. Their souls to be consumed by the Yokai for eternity.

Athandra saw this and leapt from the elephant leaving it to cover her as she attempted to free them from their icy prison. She began casting from a healing ritual as Cold caught sight of her. He leveled his hands in her direction and once again let fire the wrath of cold weather at his disposal. The elephant stepped between her and Cold taking the full brunt of the attack in her place freezing the poor beast solid.

Cold smiled but barely had a second to enjoy his victory before the shadow cat's enormous mouth closed around his mid-section tearing him in two. The cat threw the other half of Cold's body a distance away as it concentrated on Burnt, the cat now in a predatorial focus few could fathom except perhaps for some common house cats. If Shaela were conscious she'd have been impressed by her cat's bravado and display of sheer hunting ability though fire was a dangerous prey.

The cat dodged as Burnt threw a fireball and leapt behind Burnt who spun just barely grazing the cat with a flame. The cat's shadow form shielded it from further fire damage for the cat was only corporeal when it needed to be. It was almost always a giant shadow. It toyed with Burnt a bit more bouncing Burnt between it's paws before clamping down with it's full weight pinning Burnt once again. It extended it's claws which pierced his abdomen puncturing him through to his back. He sputtered as he gave one final effort to break free of the shadow cat's grip. Just as the cat was about to bare down on Burnt, it was frozen in place by a snow storm. Cold had managed to crawl to the other half of his body and merge with it once again becoming whole.

Cold helped his fellow Yokai to his feet and together they quickly healed for their next challenge. To find Mishima Sato-san.

...

By the time Sato and Barris had arrived upon the main street, it was desolate as the night after a party or even the remnants of a battle fought leaving no survivors. The air held a strange chill while the ground was foggy concealed in a blue mist.

"See? We're too late! Let's go find somewhere safe to stay!" Barris suggested upon seeing the devastation.

"You're obviously letting your turtle nature get the best of you. We need to find the source of this mess and deal with it."

As they proceeded the temperature itself had dropped suddenly. Barris found himself shivering while Sato cupped his hands blowing warm air between them.

"This is not a good sign." Sato stated looking around carefully.

"What? The fact that there is nobody around. At all? I don't think its a sign. I'd just call that common sense. Maybe a hunch that something is up?" Barris said looking very nervous as he stepped.

Even for a turtle and especially for a Kekkai.

"Wait! What are those? Are those... elephant tracks?" Barris said absolutely startled.

"It would appear so my friend." Sato said calmly keeping himself focused on his surroundings.

"Doesn't something about this strike you as being just a bit off? I mean we're in North America towards the west coast not that it should make a difference. Last time I checked there were no indigenous elephants in North America." Barris explained appealing to Sato for an explanation.

"My friend. You ask this of me in the form of a walking turtle seeking a band of magically endowed Women and Men who only an hour ago were scheming with magical traps to outdo one another in a contest of skill and wisdom and you are trying to appeal to me on the grounds of logic?" Sato reminded Barris.

"Point well made. So I guess I should be thankful that its elephant tracks and not a giant carnivorous... wait. Is that giant cat tracks?" Barris stopped ready to turtle.

"Easy my friend. You need to find your spine. No need to hide. It's probably Shaela's cat tracks." Sato said reassuringly.

Barris' tension eased for a moment then returned twice in strength.

"Wait! What would they be fighting in the middle of a crowded street that would require the help of an elephant and a giant cat from another world?" Barris once again fought the urge to disappear into his shell.

"Dare I say my friend?" Sato replied.

"Dare you say Sato-san." responded Cold as Burnt hissed and spat.

Barris disappeared into his shell falling harmlessly to the ground.


On Hallow's Eve

"It would appear that I've been found." Sato-san responded to Cold.

"It would. Here and so far from your native Honshu. From the blood soaked grounds of your ancestors." Cold spoke, Burnt cussing under his breath.

"So you would take me, an old and worn out husk of a Man? You can do nothing to me that time has not already done even more effectively." Sato-san addressed the two Yokai.

"We would take you. Or we would take your friends and this village. All who've tread foot here tonight. The choice is yours." Cold spoke an eerie calm in his voice while beside him Burnt seethered and hissed.

"There is no choice in your proposal." Sato-san responded.

"And that is why we always succeed. Even time and death are..." Cold began and as Burnt spat Sato interrupted them.

"...your friends. Are they really? The wind blows in the sails of many ships who'd never call a storm their friend. Yet often winds and storms work together hand in hand. Such friends a sailor knows will not always walk with you and at least as often against you." Sato-san spoke.

"You've spent yours here well. Time. Would it not make sense to struggle against it no further and surrender yourself to us? For the sake of your friends?" Cold reasoned with Sato-san as Burnt clenched his clawed hands fuming.

"For that reason alone I'd surrender to you but none other. Release them and return to life all of the lives you've caused to be extinguished on this night." Sato-san demanded of the two demons.

"So be it. You've agreed to our terms and so it shall be done." Cold spoke while Burnt remained quiet and in sheer ecstasy.

Sato stepped forward surrendering himself into the hands of Cold and Burnt. The two Yokai who'd been seeking those of his ancestry for five hundred years. As he joined them Barris suddenly emerged from his shell.

"I cannot let you do that. Your deal is not possible. I am his Kekkai and his soul is under my protection. He has no voice through which to approve your deal for his soul is mine." Barris said defiantly of the Yokai.

"And who are you? A man in a costume?" Burnt turned and spat at Barris chest.

The spittle flew through the air hitting an invisible barrier where it stopped and fell harmlessly to the ground.

"I am no man! I am Kekkai Barris! Wait. That didn't quite come out right... What I meant was..." Barris stumbled struggling to keep his verbal momentum.

"You are an imposter!" Cold accused as Burnt's claws and hands became consumed in fire.

Suddenly Xenshi appeared behind the two Yokai, her long hair flowing behind her. She tapped them both on the head and they struggled to stay on their feet. A moment later they shook their heads suddenly aware they'd been startled.

"What have you done with my brother?" Xenshi demanded of the two Yokai.

"iakoY fo sgnilaed eht ni erefretni ot serad taht uoy era ohW?" Cold spoke seemingly unintelligibly as Burnt dessih.

"Thank you Xenshi! It sounds like you've befuddled them, or should I say you've delddufeb them?" Barris said to Xenshi gratefully.

Burnt attacked first spitting at the propane tank of a nearby barbecue. The spittle hit the tank and shattered into little ice droplets to Burnt's amazement.

"rehtona ro yaw eno siht rof yap ll'uoY! su ot enod uoy evah tahW?" Burnt exclaimed incoherently.

Cold extended a hand in attempt to freeze Xenshi. Instead his arm caught fire quickly consuming his entire body. He screamed and writhed until Burnt figured out how to extinguish the blaze.

"Sato and my friends are under my protection. Their souls are mine as are the people that you've caused harm or even death here tonight. You must undo this malice for you too are bound. We will release you from this but you must agree to release them after we undo this." Barris said to them and then nodded to Xenshi.

"Very well." Xenshi responded tapping both of their heads.

"Well? Release them. Bring everyone back and undo all the damage you've done on this night." Barris demanded of them.

"You have no command over our domain you pitiful creature. For your insolence we are taking Sato-san and your friends with us and everyone of this village. You'll never see any again!" Cold said trying to keep calm as Burnt hissed.

"Then you will not leave here again." Tolgrath declared.

Cold and Burnt immediately reconized Tolgrath as being an elementalist. They both attacked simultaneously directing cold and hot at Tolgrath. Tolgrath attempted to shield himself with a layer of ice only for it to be pierced by Burnt's fire. He struggled against their combined force before he fell frozen to the ground. Cold walked over to his frozen body, reaching through the ice to latch onto Tolgrath's soul. Cold clenched it yanking it from him out like a discarded layer of skin.

"Is this what you did with Mila?" Barris asked in utter shock and anger.

"She screamed as we pulled her soul from her body. She cried your name last!" Burnt hissed.

Barris' heart broke yet at the same time he became empowered as if by something the Yokai had revealed. He approached the Yokai reaching into them clenching their souls, for even demons had them. He then yanked them from their bodies and held their essences in his very palms tempted to crush and exinguish them both forever. That was when the ground exploded in front of them and an enormous horned creature erupted from the bowels of the Aerth.

"Return them both!" it spoke in a thunderous voice.

"Their souls are mine fair and square for I am Kekkai." Barris stood his ground before the enormous demon.

"What would it take for you to return them?" the enormous demon looking creature asked of Barris.

"The safe return of everyone here. My friends and everyone who lived here whose harm was caused by the presence of these two. If you do that I will give you their souls." Barris responded in negotiation.

"And if I choose to take them from you, you could not stop me petty mortal." the demon screeched attempting to frighten Barris.

"But I could..." spoke the heavenly voice of a lady, her visage stretching across the milky way and the heavens itself.



"You have no business here Aerth Mother." the demon spoke to her carefully and calculatingly.

"Yes I do. Your two Yokai souls have broken two deals here. One in the past and one in the present." the Aerth Mother spoke.

"I can see that they broke their deal with the one you call Barris, but how did they break their deal of the past?" the demon asked the Aerth Mother.

"When years ago during the Edo period in Japan, the Sato-clan was asked to defend the one of the Emperor's cities against an impending attack. The Sato-clan gave an oath that they'd defend this city for their lives were the lives of the Emperor at that time by sworn allegiance. The Sato-clan fought at the battle as the opposing forces attacked. All of the defending forces were wiped clean except those of the Sato-clan. That is when your two Yokai arrived to make a deal with the Sato-clan. The city would remain in the Emperor's hands if they'd give up their souls to the Yokai. The Yokai made this deal not with the Emperor but with the Sato-clan themselves knowing full well that their souls belonged to the Emperor. That was only the first betrayal for the same Yokai made a similar deal with the attacking force that if they gave rule of the city of a Shogun with whom the Yokai were allies, they would forego their deal with the Sato-clan. So they first preyed upon the Sato-clan's promise to the Emperor and then preyed upon the attacking force's want of that city. Dealing both for and against the Emperor and the Sato-clan. In such a way that it benefited them and no others for when the ruling Shogun of that city went against the Yokai's wishes, the Yokai slayed the Shogun giving control to another competing clan." the Aerth Mother proclaimed.

"If this is true, then much of history is fraught with errors because of this lie and deceit." the demon considered perhaps even laughing inside.

"The only living remnants of the Sato-clan kept this secret because they did not want to bring the wrath of the Yokai upon the Emperor. Instead they kept this secret for more than five hundred years bearing the weight themselves while the Yokai hunted them." the Aerth Mother explained.

"That cannot be true because the Yokai would have found them sooner. None can escape the vision or senses of the Yokai. None." the demon declared.

"Not true. The Sato-clan is the holder of one of the secrets of the biggest weakness of the Yokai. The Yokai cannot sense those whose intent is good. Those who do not seek to gain by the intent to harm and those who seek to better the world. Those who do literally disappear to those who don't and especially the Yokai. That is why the Yokai could not find them for five hundred years. Because they're sincere, their intent is good and their hearts pure." the Aerth Mother summed up her defense of Barris and Sato.

"Five hundred years is a lot of time to undo in history. That would change things far beyond even our expectations and risk throwing the resulting time into turmoil. What do you propose that we do to remedy the injustices that resulted from this?" the demon asked the Aerth Mother.

"First of all, I propose that the Sato-clan are never to be hunted by the Yokai ever again for the rest of eternity by the Yokai. They've carried the burden far too long and unjustfully all while being pursued by your evil Yokai who ignored their own rules to cheat them." the Aerth Mother started.

"Yes, they are marvelous aren't they. Do go on?" the demon smiled mischievously.

"We reset the time and their awareness to the moments before their first encounter upon their arrival at Alivale. We return everyone from that point forward and let things progress from there. None are to remember what happened in this time line." the Aerth Mother proposed.

"And...?" the demon asked knowing there was more.

"Barris, Xenshi or their families may never become targets of your demons again for their courage and bravery in standing up to your two Yokai to rescue his friends.

"May I add one more thing?" Barris asked the two deities.

"What is that mortal?" the demon squinted looking to him as if he didn't even exist.

"That from here on in that all living turtles the world over become protection against the ilk of your kind forever more for their courage against the Yokai." Barris suggested even stepping forward towards the demon.

"That's acceptable. After all, rather than hide in his shell he emerged to take on the both of them without any magical powers of his own. In the form of a turtle I might add." the Aerth Mother urged the demon to accept the terms.

"I accept those terms but none other than that." the demon stated and as if at once everything disappeared and went back to the beginning.

Epilogue

Mila sat at her easel, a brush in hand as she splashed color to the canvas beneath her favorite apple tree on her orchard on the outskirts of Alivale. The spring sun was still high above the horizon though drawing closer to the late afternoon by every moment's step. She took advantage of the light which allowed her to see an entirely different palette if only for a half an hour of time. It was enough for her to put what she saw, what she imagined she saw and what she imagined to the canvas.

She didn't hear her friends arrive nor their approach as they walked up the long driveway towards her backyard. When they spoke they'd startled her.

"Whatcha doin out here?" Nelony asked her.

Mila turned to see Nelony and Shaela both smiling and looking healthy.

"It's good to see you!" she got up from her stool and gave them each a hug and kiss on the cheek.

"It's good to see you. You're looking a lot better than the last time we saw you." Shaela responded.

"Yeah well it took me about a week to get over the cold you know. I mean I wasn't expecting your Slemelden to turn on us." Mila said still bitter about the experience.

"Are you ever going to let me live that down?" Shaela asked Mila.

"No." Mila replied honestly.

"Guess it was a good thing that Slemelden can't swim or even go near the water. Quick thinking on your part Mila." Nelony said trying to keep optimistic.

"I had no idea that they couldn't swim. It was just luck really. That and Barris pushed me into the water fountain..." she said begrudgingly.

"Well at least we beat them. The guys I mean." Shaela said trying to follow Nelony's example.

"We didn't actually. We tied. It was really close too. If we didn't get that last scare, we'd have lost for sure. I heard that the couple that met that night as result of our scare have already been married. Just last week." Mila informed the two of them returning to her canvas briefly.

"See. There's still hope yet for all of us." Nelony said to them both cheerfully.

"Some of us. Anyway I'm going to see if I can help your Mother and Father with anything. That table isn't going to set itself." Shaela said as she walked towards Mila's house.

"That's a great idea. I think I'll join you." Nelony walked back quickly catching up with Shaela.

"Did manage to?" Nelony asked Shaela.

"I sure did." Shaela responded.

As they arrived at the house they spied Barris stepping outside to meet them.

"Hello my sisters! How are you?" Barris said looking comfortably spiffy.

The each gave him a kiss on the cheek which made him blush slightly.

"Look, Mila needs your help. She asked us to come find you." Shaela told him.

"Right away. I'll be back momentarily. Help yourself to a drink in the kitchen." Barris said as he started towards Mila in the orchard.

As he approached he noticed one of the boughs on the big apple tree snap. It broke off nearly the size of a tree itself and descended directly at Mila. He ran as fast as he could diving to rescue her from the three hundred pound weight branch. They both fell clear of the branch with her landing on top of him.

"What happened?" Mila said looking around seeing the branch had landed where she was sitting a moment ago.

"My hero!" she continued giving Barris a long and passionate kiss that seemed to last for days.

A distance away from them in the brush nearby sat Yirfir, Jasmer and Sato who'd just triggered the scare trap causing the illusionary branch to fall from the tree.

"Another job well done. You see, there's hope for all of us." Yirfir said to Jasmer and Sato.

"I'll say. Just like the rhyme says:" Jasmer replied putting his arms around them both as he recited it for them.

"First the snare
Then the dare
But please beware
The Hallow's Eve scare

From tree or brook
From crown or crook
Save Wytch's weave
On Hallow's Eve"

The End

...

"If it is true that Men are better than Women because they are stronger, why aren't our sumo wrestlers in the Government?"

Kishido Toshiko

...

"Wrestling is ballet with violence."

Jesse Ventura (aka Jesse "The Body" Ventura)

...

Brian Joseph Johns
Copyright © 2016 Brian Joseph Johns

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