A Lady's Prerogative: Sanata Claws And His Helves - FINISHED or is it?

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If this were a movie or streaming holiday special, this would be the opening music...

Four Years Ago...

[Thank you for using the Google Holiday Blogger Template. Please Insert An Appropriately Themed Cliché Holiday Story Introduction HERE]

Once upon a time, there were three little girls, each of whom grew up in different homes and under very different circumstances.

There was Nelony.

In a tiny back split, detached home, in suburban London. She was a little blonde-haired girl whose favourite place was the garden greenhouse kept by her successful post-sixties musician parents.

Except for her parents' greenhouse cannabis plot, Nelony would look after the garden balance of the entire ecosystem within, maintaining the harmonious growth of the plants, and the animals who'd often care for the garden in her absence. 

Her parents, though responsible adults, were literally bead loving pot smoking hippies still caught in the delusion of communal life. After all, they'd conceived Nelony in the backseat of their Classic 65' DeSoto in the early nineteen nineties while they were well into their fifties. Their spirit and compassion for life had infected their young daughter and as such, she'd learned to speak with animals even before she could speak with people.

She was also quite literate in plant speak as much so as she could readily hold conversations with the many varieties of their garden. When she was eighteen, she snuck a gram of her parent's cannabis and tried it for herself outside of a high school dance. After reasoning with a particularly scholarly Chipmunk for several hours that night, she agreed never to use the substance again. The Chipmunk agreed to keep her secret for the small price of a few peanuts a day, a deal which Nelony upheld more so out of her own love, than the Chipmunk's criminal capacity for its dastardly extortion scheme.

Unfortunately for the Chipmunk, it would years later perish from the overconsumption of peanuts, preventing it from ever squealing about Nelony's secret. To tell the truth, Nelony cried when she'd heard tell from the gossiping of the community squirrels concerning the plight of the poor creature. Such was the balance of nature, especially concerning criminally extorting rodentia.

Years of nurturing and caring for her parent's garden and its habitat of wild denizens had led Nelony to heartfelt love and protective nature for our world, the Aerth Mother.

Then there was Shaela.

Shaela Sheowellyn on the other hand was a fiery red-headed girl, with confidence and flair matched by few, spurred on by the passing of her father years earlier. Her widowed mother had fallen to depression and disappeared from her life, leaving her at the young age of thirteen to manage a household absent of guardian or custodian. From that young age, she'd raised herself with the companionship of Earl, a derelict cat she'd befriended and housed.

Despite these obstacles, Shaela had managed to rise to the challenge, drawing from her Mother's compassion and her Father's courage to raise and educate herself. Deep within, she harboured ever-growing darkness that often shadowed her capacity for light. 

Yet, she grew to become a beacon of passion and virtue.

Finally, there was Mila.

Several thousand kilometers away, within the cold, igloo infested, and sometimes bitter country of Canada (the country just north of the much more self involved and boisterous sibling country of the United States), Mila Rendebelle, an artistic genius, nurtured by her Naturopathic Healer Japanese mother and her Civil Engineer Austrian father was afforded the love and freedom to pursue her dreams. She'd grown up in a household that embodied the very idea of liberation of the artistic soul. After all, her parents beyond their professional lives had embraced a passion for one another.

Mila despite being an only child had found enjoyment in her solitude, marveling and obsessing over artistic expression and colour. Her sense of empathy rivalled the history of expressionist art itself and upon reaching age, she'd found a secret love of wine, which she kept very well hidden from her parents.

As much so as her parents had kept hidden their not-so-secret love of each other and the many sensual toys they'd employed for the expression and adventure thereof. Thankfully there were no criminally-minded Chipmunks seeking extortion payments for the keeping of such secrets, and the walls being mostly mute, had begrudgingly kept their silence. Mostly.

It was from this household that Mila's passion for art had found purchase in her life and her academia would reflect her purpose.

These three little girls grew up, eventually attending The Sanctum Of The New, a secretive scholastic order of Thaumaturgists (etymologically speaking from the Greek term: Thumos, meaning spirited or magically driven). 

From this point, if you're expecting something like the Charlie's Angels legacy, you might want to leave here and check out The Butterfly Dragon. If you're more of a Scarlet WitchHarry Potter or Doctor Strange fan and don't mind bits pilfered from the discarded plots of rejected episodes of Benny HillDoctor Who and Twin Peaks then you're in the right section. In that case, please do keep reading.

If on the other hand, you're more interested in the posthumous accounts of the criminal exploits of the extortionist Chipmunk, that story is currently being shopped as a series to the CBC. We're trying to get Rick Mercer (as the Chipmunk), Sandra OhDoctor David Suzuki and a genetically cloned version of Pierre Berton (as co-writer) seeing as Paul Gross already turned us down due to prior commitments. 

Think Pulp Fiction meets The Beach Combers meets The Nature Of Things. We think its going to be the next BIG thing on the streaming services. 

Enough shameless self promotion for now.

Lets just take all of that and throw it out because years later, these same women had joined what some would call a coven. Yes, a witch's coven or sorcerer's sojourn, although it would be more appropriately called a school as stated, but J.K. Rowling has that market cornered and likely very well protected with innumerable creative property lawyers. [Writer's note: Damn. I'll find my cash cow. Don't you worry.]

This place, the Sanctum, was... let's just say that it was a place where higher education was given as part of its mandate to protect the Aerth. You read that right. Not the Earth, but the Aerth. The name given to our tiny planet by these practitioners of magic.


That's much farther along in their story than I'm yet ready to tell and considering this story takes place  two years before Mila and Barris have even met, and before these ladies have graduated, I'd prefer just to stop right here and continue with the story I'd intended to tell.

I mean, Yirfir and Jasmer have not yet come to terms with one another, with Jasmer being little more than the sidekick and second fiddle for the Power Lord, Lorr, master of the Norbids and self elected ruler of the planes.

Years later, these two would hatch a plot to overthrow the Sanctum, which would see Jasmer return to the Sanctum and unite with Yirfir where they'd become its saviors. Of course Jasmer will return, taking Yirfir's side in A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity. 

Yirfir (right) and Jasmer.

In a sense my including his image is false advertising as he appears nowhere else in this story. But I was contractually obligated under a clause in our character agreement that any time I mention Yirfir, I must include at least one mention of his character. In fact, you'll find that most of this story is just a prolonged contraction of creative contractual clause dodging.

Mila, Shaela and Nelony were in their early twenties and students of the Sanctum and this particular story is about their encounter with a fantastical and horrific beast of the holiday season.

A beast that arrives within this realm in the winter months between late December, during the solstice and staying throughout the new year until the end of January, divulging its appetite for naughty children, and feisty skeptics.

This beast is called by the Japanese name of...SANATA Claws.

The Holidays

Sato slammed the parallel covers of the book shut as if to accent his final statement.

"What? And you're telling me that Santa is a monster?" Barris exclaimed as if suddenly shocked by Sato's story.

Mishima Sato
"I'm sorry my friend, but this is how the story was told to me." Sato quickly tried to shuffle the book into the shelves.

"By whom?! You mean to tell me that Santa is really a monster of the holidays that eats children to alleviate the debt of parents?" Barris asked in complete shock.

"I'm sorry my friend, but in a small village on the island of Tsushima from where my parents originally heralded before taking us to Honshu and then north to Osaka, that is how the story is told. The holidays are a time of struggle and tragedy. Children everywhere work hard to ensure that they are not a liability for their parents. That doesn't even account for the Elves, horrid little creatures and dire culprits that seek to feed on the spirit of those celebrating. You see, to my parents and their generation, it was like gloating over one's success. Doing as such is sure to bring the ire of the Kami." Sato stood his ground.

"Your parents? So was this back during the time of dinosaurs? Also, you're saying that Elves too are the enemies of humanity?!" Barris challenged.

"No! Only on this eve of the Sanata Claws!" Sato asserted.

"My friend, if I'd truly known what a horrid and tragic upbringing you'd had, I might have spared you the most scathing of my humour." Barris poked at Sato.

"Barris, if your humour was truly scathing, it must have only grazed my senses for I've barely flinched at your worst. Especially around this time of year, with Sanata Claws and all..." Sato reminded Barris.

Young Barris Windsor

Barris smirked having had the best of his humour at Sato's expense brushed aside.

"Well, I guess that I'll have to try harder on this night. After all, it is the Eve of..." Barris began.

"Don't even say his name. It attracts him! And the Elves!" Sato spoke sharply.

"Sanata Claws! Great big jaws! Paws with claws, Sanata Claws! Elves on the shelves, they'll be here at twelve!" Barris mocked him.

"Hush! You have no idea what you're doing!" Sato cursed under his breath.

"What could happen on this holiday evening? Are you saying that Sanata Claws..." Barris began.

"Don't! I'm warning you!" Sato urged him.

"...will show up if not only because I spoke his name? Now, how silly is that? You know, in my parents' tradition, Santa Clause delivers gifts around the world. If he shows up, believe me. It is a good thing. I mean, how good would the holidays be if children were somehow devoured, leaving all of the parents with nothing but peace. Not to mention, they'd only have themselves upon whom to spend their hard earned money! What would they do with all that time and money? Vacation in Acapulco? Ha! I've got you there!" Barris laughed in mockery at Sato, his laughter slowing as he realized he'd argued in Sato's favour.

Somewhere in the distance, a loud thunderous crash broke the sudden silence that had fallen between them.

Barris looked around as if spooked by Sato's story and then rolled his eyes in disbelief.

"You do know that you're way too superstitious friend? I mean you're talking about sorcerous elves and evil bearded spirits masquerading as men and goat-antelopes with magical horns. Have you ever thought maybe that you're overdoing it just a tad?" Barris goaded his friend.

"Superstitious? Me? You're the one who urged me not to put the nutmeg into the glass before the egg nog had been poured and after the rum, which I remind you that I don't even like!" Sato responded, grabbing the broom to sweep the storefront floor.

"That's the thing with rum. Nobody likes it until they're a few to the wind. Besides, I wanted to make sure that you knew how to make a drink for our guests tonight." Barris folded his arms much the same as a breadwinner might do having successfully snared a truckload of groceries.

"Company? Here?" Sato leaned the broom against a shelf.

"Yes. Consider it a holiday date." Barris smiled confidently.

"So you're having a girl here and I'm going to make drinks for you?" Sato confirmed.

"...not exactly. Two girls... er... women. One younger, around my age, she's twenty-one. One older. Around your age of a hundred and sixty." Barris' eyes flashed as he spoke.

"I am not a hundred and sixty," Sato responded.

"Nor is she. She's an older woman though. Someone I'm sure you'll find enticing." Barris smiled assuredly.

"And how exactly did you arrange this?" Sato grilled him.

"Well. It's a bit complicated really. You see, the younger girl is a customer. She has been for some time. You know her." Barris smiled confidently.

"Who?" Sato asked.

"uhhhh... Felicia? You know her. The one who buys all of the history books?" Barris explained to Sato.

Sato momentarily cringed as he recalled her name.

Felicia was an attractive woman. A natural beauty that spent more time cultivating her mind and culture more so than preening herself for vanity's sake. During the years that Sato had kept the shop, she'd become a regular customer, perhaps one of their most frequent. 

Sato had brushed paths with her in the store numerous times, and she'd often tried to corner him and draw him into a conversation. It was during such attempts that he'd observed her efforts at seduction. He'd written it off at first, regarding it as the echoes of an ageing ego crying out for attention. As an older man, he brushed her aside professionally though that had only led to increased attempts on her part, making him evermore nervous and uncomfortable around her.

"Oh... Yes... I know her. A nice girl that one. She'll make a great date for you Barris..." he responded somewhat embarrassed about the situation.

"My friend, she's a real beaut that one, but I would never leave you out. Her single mother has agreed to come as your date for the evening. The resemblance between them is uncanny, and age has held its ravages in her favour certainly. It's been so long since we've been at a social capacity, I figured this year might be the year to make a change. To step into a new social circle..." Barris clasped his hands victoriously.

"And they agreed just like that?" Sato asked.

"Well yes. And in exchange for a three month sixty percent discount on all sales..." Barris cringed slightly.

"Sixty percent? You sold us to our dates?" Sato smirked.

"I had to. I'm not going to spend another holiday alone Sato. This isn't healthy. Even you need to be social too. This will be good for us. Besides, I haven't dated since high school." Barris told him.

"I thought you said you never dated in high school?" Sato confirmed.

"True. But that's beside the point. This is as good a time as any to start. I mean my clock is ticking and I don't know how much longer it will be that I can have children." Barris stood his ground.

"Barris, you're a man. You can pretty much have children whenever you want. Besides, that responsibility isn't exactly yours." Sato reminded Barris.

"Well, my family jewels are getting stale. I mean I've never been in a serious relationship. Well, one, and she was serious when she broke up the day after we'd hooked up." Barris smiled eagerly.

"So you are asking me to be your wingman?" Sato confirmed.

"...Yes. Let's just call it a wing senior." Barris responded.

"Alright. I'll go along with your plan, but you have to clean the customer area of the shop top to bottom every day for three months to pay for their sixty percent discount." Sato told him.

"At six am sharp every day I'll start." Barris agreed.

"We both know that means nine. Deal." Sato replied.

"Good. Felicia and Vanessa..." Barris began.

"Who's Vanessa?" Sato responded.

"Felicia's Mother. They'll be here in an hour." Barris ran a hand through his hair, which was shaved short on one side of his head, where it was dyed a shade of hot pink that went quite well with his nostril piercing.

"Then I suppose we should get the place ready." Sato agreed.

Cavernous Court

Deep inside the magma chamber of a barely active volcano under the crust of the English Channel, steam billowed through porous rock in a cavernous opening. 

There within, upon his throne sat a particularly grouchy and stubborn Kami, by the name of Sanata. His features were much like that of a short and pudgy human being, while his skin was the deepest crimson red. It was sharply contrasted and punctuated by the fibrous head of hair upon his head accompanied by a long white beard that dangled from his chin.

His body was adorned with an ancient red piecemeal armour, similarly shaded in red and white, while his shin and feet were wrapped in a black cloth boot.

"Who dares disturb my winter slumber!?" he asked aloud in uncharacteristically and perfectly eloquated English.

"Sensei. Something has disturbed the equilibrium between heaven and the underworld. Between night and day. Something dire that requires your attention..." an even shorter and much thinner being with green skin approached the throne from the cavern beyond.

"Have the children been making trouble for the parents!?" Sanata sat forward on his throne.

"No. This is something far worse. Something vile and unprincipled has fouled the soil upon which you stride." the Deep Helve answered, its pointy hat no longer erect, instead, it dangled from the side of its head.

"Name it, and it's begun! Slay it, and it will be done! Of whom do you speak?" Sanata demanded from the Deep Helve.

"Why Sensei, its name is Barris. Barris Windsor of Shepperton. He is a lowly jester in the House Of Sato-San." the Deep Helve advised Sanata.

"Did you say Sato-San?" Sanata confirmed with the Deep Helve.

"Sensei, yes. You heard correctly!" the Deep Helve replied shakily.

"Bring me the nine fire steeds and the three finest Deep Helve warriors. We're going hunting tonight..." Sanata demanded, pounding his fist down upon the armrest of his throne.

"Sensei, I should advise you that things have changed upon the Aerth drastically..." the Deep Helve spoke cautiously.

"Oh? How so...?" Sanata demanded.

"Well, for one, when you were awoken from your slumber, I have found that we are no longer ashore of the human island of Tsushima, and we are not dealing with a Tengu fearing rice farming community..." the Deep Helve responded.

"No? Have the people changed that much that they won't cower in terror upon the sight of Sanata and his Claws of a shameful death?" Sanata challenged the Deep Helve.

"Sensei, these times are very different as are these people and this place. I think that it would be wise to..." the Deep Helve's oration was cut short by the sharpened slicing of Sanata's claws, which had extended from the fingernails of his index and middle finger.

With one fell swoop, he'd fricasseed the Deep Helve neatly into three equal slices which fell slumped to the cavern floor and another Deep Helve of similar features and temperament replaced the fallen.

"You heard me. Bring the nine fire steeds and three of your best warriors. We're going on a hunt in the family court of Sato-San! ...and maybe some bad children too..." evil laughter followed by a moment of sporadic coughing found its way from Sanata's lungs, filling the cavernous chamber of his court.

The Sanctum Seers

Mila sat at her desk, a pencil delicately clasped in her hands as she sketched a caricature of a woman. To her left side sat the bookishly astute and blonde-haired Nelony, who nervously followed the lesson as best she could. To Mila's right-hand side, sat a darkly clad young woman whose long red hair reached nearly to her waist. She toyed with a blackened marble, rolling it back and forth on the surface of her desk. These three were women surrounded by others who similarly sat listening astutely or fighting boredom from the meagre safety of their desks.


Xenxi studied her reference material carefully as she followed along with the lesson as best she could. She'd taken an intuitive approach to her schooling, balancing it with practical application. Something she'd learned in Athandra Rithyani's classes that had helped her in other areas of her schooling.

At the head of the room, a woman who appeared to be in her late thirties lectured the class.

Yirfir Lacharme
"...language has always harboured some of the greatest strengths of the weave and every word has a power all its own which changes from situation to situation. This of course is implicit distinctly according to the differences of culture throughout the Aerth..." Yirfir paused looking first to Shaela and then to Mila.

"Is there something about that spheroid you're playing with that's more enticing than this lesson, Shaela?" asked Yirfir.

"Yes. For one thing, I'm having a hard time ignoring it which is more than I can say for this class..." Shaela responded defensively at having been singled out.

Mila's eyebrows raised in shock that Shaela had so brazenly defied the teacher's challenge. To many students, Shaela was their fearless rebellious hero and Yirfir recognized this as she assessed the class's reaction to Shaela's comment.

"Perhaps you'd care to share a better and more interesting lesson would you?" Yirfir challenged her to come to the front of the class.

Shaela Sheowellyn
"I'm a Night Wytch. That would defy our principle of stealth." Shaela stood her ground.

"You're not a Night Wytch yet. You're a prospect as are you all, of your respective schools of the weave." Yirfir reminded the class.

"Except Mila. Nobody wants her in their order." replied one of the other students.

"I'm sure we'll find a suitable place for Mila when the time is right. Isn't that right Mila?" Yirfir supported her student.

"That's right, I hope," Mila responded quickly covering up the caricature she'd been drawing of Yirfir with an accentuated brow line and sharpened pointy nose.

"Very impressive art, but we're focusing on wordcraft here. What some may call the logos. How about we all play a little game. That might be a bit more interesting to you. One of you will start with a word. A word of power to affront my position here as the instructor. I must come up with a word to defend myself, then I will counterattack with a power word of my own. Then one of you will raise your hand, and respond with a defence word. Then the whole cycle will continue again until you, the class or me, your instructor has successfully scored three hits. The first to reach three wins. Sound good? Shaela, you start." Yirfir challenged the class.

Shaela sat quietly for a moment, concentrating.

Nelony Ardbloem

"Pompous," Shaela spoke confidently, sharpening her tongue.

Yirfir barely flinched.

"Confident," she responded with her defence word.

"Alone," Yirfir responded to Shaela.

Shaela felt a deep tug within her stomach. Pain from a wound long left untended.

"Friend!" Nelony quickly raised her hand, blurting out her defence word.

Shaela at once felt a sense of relief, though she kept a hardened stern look on her face and felt a surging anger rise in her.

"Menopause." she blurted out without waiting.

"Celibacy," Yirfir responded unphased.

"Obese." Yirfir looked towards Nelony, striking a delicate cord within her.

Nelony struggled, suddenly fighting her tears.


"Healthy." Xuxu one of the male students defended her, though one of her tears managed to escape.

"Heartless," Mila responded.

"Practical." Yirfir defended.

"Love." Yirfir returned upon her students.

"Barris..." a tiny voice emerged from within the black spheroid with which Shaela had been rolling between her fingers.

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite get that Shaela. Did you say Barris?" Yirfir confirmed what she'd heard.

"What's a Barris? I didn't say it. It wasn't me." Shaela released the black spheroid, letting it roll off the desk and onto the floor.

"Alright class, you did well. You very obviously grasped the lesson and we don't need to pursue this contest any further. Dismissed. Mila, Shaela and Nelony? You're not to leave." Yirfir demanded.

"What did we do?! You're singling us out again!" Shaela challenged.

Yirfir remained silent as the students left the classroom, leaving the four women to themselves.

"What did we do wrong? Is this some kind of punish..." Shaela suddenly stood from her desk.

"No. That sphere you were playing with, where did you get it?" Yirfir asked.

"I summoned it... I didn't know it was dangerous..." Shaela replied.

Yirfir walked over the Shaela's desk and picked the spheroid up from the floor, rolling it in her fingers.

"Shadow Crystal... Very rare. Was this part of an assignment in another class?" asked Yirfir.

"...er No. I tried it myself." Shaela responded honestly.

"Under any other circumstances I'd commend you, but this is serious," Yirfir told Shaela.

"If this is my ability and is something that I can do naturally, why is it wrong?" Shaela asked Yirfir.

"Under very different circumstances, this wouldn't be wrong and technically speaking it's not wrong. It's just very dangerous." Yirfir advised her.

Mila Rendebelle

"Why is it dangerous? I mean if we don't know why then Shaela's not to blame." Mila defended Shaela.

"Shadow Crystal is a very rare and special kind of mineral, not found on this plane. When one brings it into this plane from the Shadow Plane, it becomes what we call an Inverse Memory Mineral. In short, this is the stuff of which the most powerful scrying devices are fabricated. Crystal balls. Energy crystals..." Yirfir explained to them.

"How so? I mean if nature is the most powerful thing, how can Shadow Crystal surpass it?" asked Nelony.

"Because it remembers the future the same way that we remember the past," Yirfir informed them as she examined the tiny ball for herself.

"Are you saying that this Barris thing is from the future?" Mila confirmed with Yirfir.

"It would seem so, though I've never heard tell of any creature or thing called a Barris," Yirfir answered as best she could.

"Maybe it's like a lawyer. Like a Barrister and Solicitor?" Mila asked.

"No, I don't think so. I think that we can safely assume that this isn't an accident chasing attorney at law..." Yirfir replied.

"Maybe we heard it wrong. Maybe it said ferris, like a ferris wheel?" Shaela suggested.

"Possibly," Yirfir replied looking deeply into the ball.

The four women suddenly had a series of collective visions.

The first was that of Mila clasped in an embrace with an odd-looking man. They were lip-locked in a tender kiss.

The second vision seemed to be of the same man, many years earlier. He sported a risque and stylish hair cut, with one side of his hair cut short and dyed hot pink. In his left nostril, he sported a piercing in the form of a stud, though he still seemed very much out of place.

He was standing defensively in front of two women and an elderly Japanese man, as a short red-skinned bearded man approached threateningly.

The third vision was that of the short red-skinned man, his index and middle fingers had sprouted to long and very sharp claws. He swung the claws at the pink-haired man as he defended the women and the Japanese man.

The final vision was that of a cloaked man standing over the fallen and lifeless body of Mila. Yirfir immediately recognized the cloaked man as Lorr, the last Power Lord.

"That is exactly what I'm talking about!" Yirfir responded to her students about the vision.

"What just happened? Did we just live that or was it a memory?" Nelony asked, quickly approaching the point of hyperventilating.

"I recognized that Japanese man. He's a friend of my mother from years ago. That's Mishima Sato." Mila responded.

"We just remembered the future. We have to find this Mishima Sato and speak with him, though we can't let him know about what we've seen. We've been privileged with this vision and we must work together to avert disaster." Yirfir encouraged her students.

"Last I remember he has a knick-knack shop in London. I guess this means a field trip?" Mila asked.

"That it does. You'll need to ready yourselves. We'll be leaving within the half-hour to find this Mishima Sato and warn him." Yirfir replied.

Holiday Date Night

Outside on the streets of London, the snowflakes fell gently, dancing to and fro in their descent, coming to rest on the ground, adding to the accumulation. A pair of footprints pocked the snow, leading all the way to the front door of Sato's shop, where two women, one in her early twenties, and the other in her mid fifties stood at the door. 

The younger of the two ladies pulled a draw-chain of door chimes, and within the shop their sound permeated the air. A light illuminated the storefront and Barris unlatched the door for the guests.

"Thank you for coming! Please do come in and make yourselves comfortable. Age before... before... youth." Barris cringed having failed his first attempt at charm.

He closed the door behind the two ladies as Sato joined them at the store front.

"Hi Sato..." Felicia blushed.

"Felicia, is it? Good to see you again," Sato said nervously as she wrapped herself around him pressing herself hard against his chest.

Sato attempted to withdraw himself from her, and when she resisted, he forced it ever so slightly, bearing an uneasy smile on his face.

"I'm so sorry. How rude of me. This is my mother, Vanessa." Felicia introduced the older woman, who patiently waited at the door mat.

"Pleased to meet you," Sato bowed for Vanessa, whose sense of attention was entirely directed towards Barris.

"Barris, you're so full of charm. Age before youth. How clever," she wrapped her arms around Barris clinging to him much as her daughter had clung to Sato.

Sato: "...are you sisters?"
"I never would have guessed you to be related. Are you sisters?" Sato asked, pouring on the charm.

"Why don't you take us on a tour of the shop, Sato?" Felicia grabbed Sato's hand, pulling him reluctantly along.

"Yes Sato, why don't you do that while I get their goats - uhhh, I mean coats, and their drinks..." Barris struggled to get away from Vanessa, who only released him after the mention of drinks.

Barris gingerly removed Vanessa's coat, revealing her trim body in a tight fitting holiday top and knee length skirt.

"Oh thank-you Barris. Such a gentleman," she pinched his cheek, and then one of his buttocks.

He was so caught off guard that he barely turned in time to catch Felicia's jacket, which she'd tossed at him from halfway across the storefront.

"Mother, don't forget their gifts," Felicia reminded.

"Oh right! I nearly forgot. We struggled deciding on them. In the end we were forced to flip a coin," Vanessa retrieved two envelopes from her front coat pocket as Barris took them over to the wardrobe and put them on hangers.

"Would you like some nutmeg in your holiday cheer?" asked Barris of Vanessa.

"Oh, you mean spice in our drinks? That's no for me and a yes for my daughter. Make mine a double shot of rum," Vanessa clung perilously to Barris.

"Heh. Will do. Coming right up," Barris led her into Sato's backroom house and found his way to the kitchen.

"Nice place and very well kept too. I'm not much for the décor. It lacks that British charm," Vanessa examined their living space which was very much decorated to Sato's tastes of Japanese minimalism.

"Well Sato is very much attached to his memories of home in Japan, but he's really grown to be become fond of our little Shepperton community. He recently added a book and knick-knack section for us. Its over there, beside the section of Norwegian late Viking era household cleaning utensils. Its kind of barren right now, as the local arts community is just getting under way..." Barris directed her attention to a shelf within the store, upon which a several copies of the book: Words That Rhyme With Shepperton sat.

It was a very, very short book, written by an aspiring Shepperton author.

"It's great to see that so many artists have so much time on their hands. What about you Barris? What do you do for entertainment during your off hours?" Vanessa responded, asking Barris about himself.

"I have my own apartment upstairs. I mostly watch Doctor Who, and occasionally Benny Hill reruns," Barris replied, suddenly feeling as if his life lacked much lustre for a twenty two year old.

"Oh come on, you're far too modest. I'll bet you go out to the shows and to see concerts? I mean Oasis was just here in November at Wembley's, " Vanessa recalled.

"Actually... I spent the night just outside the front door of the shop that night. Out in the cold," Barris winced slightly.

"Oh I'm so sorry to hear," Vanessa spoke, a motherly concern heavy in her voice.

"It's quite alright really. Sato was in Japan visiting family. His puppy, Happiu~isuka just happened to take my keys... and the Oasis tickets... and lock the front door... just as I'd stepped out front to pickup the mail... It was all an accident of course, that harmless little pug wouldn't harm a fly. I ended up waiting a day and a half for a locksmith to arrive and let me in," Barris cursed under his breath, grinding his teeth thinking about the experience.

Over in the corner, Happiu~isuka lay on the floor, his ears perked up upon the mention of his name. Upon seeing that it was Barris that had made such a reference, the little two year old dog barked excitedly, its little tail wagging.

"Oh! What a ghastly and mischievous little creature! Oh I can't stand the little beasts. My daughter loves them. I'm more of a cat person myself," Vanessa said upon seeing the little pug.

Barris chuckled uneasily, handing Vanessa her drink.

Vanessa - "Oh I do sooo love younger men."
"Cheers, honey!" she said, drinking all of it down in one clean swig.

"Please make the next one a single shot of rum, I have to watch my figure," Vanessa said rubbing her thin tummy.

"...You're kidding me? You're so thin! Why I bet you wear your daughter's clothing," Barris said hoping to earn Vanessa's trust so he could get closer to her daughter, instead walking right into Vanessa's craftily laid trap.

"You really think so Barris? Oh I do sooo love younger men. I'll have that second drink now please," Vanessa moved closer to Barris, her perfume thick in his air.

"I'll just take this drink to Felicia and have Sato come make you one," Barris grabbed his own drink and then Felicia's and made a quick exit.

Vanessa made an attempt to follow Barris but was quickly intercepted by Happiu~isuka, who ran up to her and began yipping.

She retreated hastily back into the kitchen where she began making her own drink.

Sato And Felicia

"You're so quiet and modest Sato, I'll bet there's a caged tiger in there just waiting to claw its way out!" Felicia said excitedly still clinging to the older man's hand.

"Oh no, I settled down long ago. I was an adventurous spirit in my youth. After the war, I..." Sato began as Felicia interrupted.

"You were in the war? Really? Oh please do tell!" Felicia presented herself, begging him.

"Yes. It was a long time ago. I was part of the Imperial Light Bomber Wing. I was a tail gunner. I'd actually applied to be an aircraft mechanic, but I was so gifted in combat that they drafted me into the weapons detachment of the air force," Sato explained to her.

Felicia - "So you've flown in actual combat?"
"So you've flown in actual combat?" Felicia asked Sato in amazement.

"Yes. Many times, though war is a vicious thing. It both brings out the worst and the best in humanity," Sato said reflecting upon his time as a tail gunner.

"I wasn't even born when we went to war with the Falklands, but my mother told me sooo much about it," Felicia said grabbing Sato's hand once again.

"Falklands? Oh, you think that I... Oh. No. I was a tail gunner in a Mistubishi A6M Heavy," Sato explained to the young woman.

"You mean a hatch back or two door? You mean they used economy Japanese cars in the Falklands War? How clever! A compact car with tail guns! How cool is that! That's just like sooo Nintendo! I can't wait to tell my friends about this!" Felicia spoke in amazement.

"No. I mean I was in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Mitsubishi was a fighter plane," Sato explained to her.

"Japan was in Falklands War? I bet they were allied with the British, weren't they?!" Felicia was clearly enthusiastic.

Sato - "No Felicia. I was in World War II."
"No, Felicia. I was in World War II about forty-three years ago," Sato clarified.

"Ohhhh, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to bring that up. That was before I was born. I mean I'm twenty one myself, though I'll be twenty-two next week," Felicia spoke trying to make herself sound much older than she was.

"Happy birthday Felicia. Your mother certainly has done a wonderful job in raising you," Sato said admirably.

"She's barely ever home, out shopping most of the time or doing her real estate business. I practically raised myself and I'll be an even older and more sophisticated woman by next week," Felicia said, clearly advertising the merchandise.

Sato's face flushed nervously as he quickly ran out of options for escape. Just as he was about to duck out of the room, Barris arrived with drinks in hand.

"Ahhhh looks like I arrived just in time to rescue a fair maiden," Barris stated, handing Felicia her drink and not realizing that he'd actually rescued Sato.

"Thank you Barris, you arrived just in time..." Sato said desperately, leaning into his friend's ear.

"Vanessa's waiting for you in the senior's room with a fresh glass of prune juice," Barris urged Sato to the kitchen.

"...Yes, I've got some things to attend to in the kitchen, like cooking someone's goose," Sato begrudgingly addressed Barris as he left for the kitchen.

"Do you need help Sato?" asked Felicia.

"No, I'll be fine. You two youngsters have so much to talk about," Sato replied politely as he narrowly escaped.

"So Felicia, I heard from Ewan that you were accepted to Oxford?" Barris asked her enthusiastically.

"Yes, I was. Mother really wants me to go there, but I want to see the world first. Live some life before I get nailed down to six more years of school. I was just going to ask Sato about..." Felicia began as Barris interrupted.

"That's wonderful! Just think, we might be seeing you on one of those science shows on the BBC in twenty years from now. You might be rich or famous or both! Let's drink to your success," Barris encouraged her flirtatiously.

"I want to be man-handled by a real man of worldly experience before I continue with my studies. I need to become familiar with myself as a woman. Can you relate Barris," Felicia stated boldly as Barris choked on his drink in surprise.

"...I'm a worldly man, I mean I've been up north. Almost to Wales. By bus. When I was six. That's pretty far from Shepperton, and out into the world," Barris said trying to recover.

"No, I mean I relate with you Barris. You're so effeminate. I really feel like I'm speaking with one of my other friends, you know? What do you think?" Felicia asked him.

"Well I feel great that you consider me a friend, but there's so much more to me, just like there's so much more about you that I'd like to know," Barris told her.

"Barris, in life if you want something, you go for it. I'm a woman of action, and I know what I want when I see it," Felicia said looking longingly in the direction of the kitchen as Barris drew in closer for the kiss.

Just as his lips were about to find her turned cheek, she stood and made her way towards the kitchen.

Sanata And The Kami

Outside, just six blocks away on the snow covered streets of West London, a short red-skinned, bearded man and a thin elvish looking creature rode a sleigh pulled by a terrifying deer-like horse with antlers and a fiery red nose. As the sleigh slid by, pedestrians on the sidewalks looked on in amazement and children's eye widened as they witnessed Santa Claus in the flesh.

"Ho! Ho! Mortals! Out of the way lest your skulls be crushed by your master!" Sanata yelled, the reigns firmly in both of his wiry hands.

As the sleigh was pulled quickly down the street, the beared man hauled back on the reigns, bringing the sleigh to a stop.

"There is one of the Kami! Out here in the middle of this mortal village! I must confer with him," Sanata addressed the helve beside him.

"Sensei, this village is not like those back home. You will not be properly respected. I implore you not to deal with them," Erufuandāringu responded.

"If there are Kami here, then these mortals will bow low for us or fall!" Sanata stepped down from the sleigh and approached a much taller man in a similar red suit, though with much less robust armour.

The gangly elderly man stood in front of a box partially filled with change, ringing a bell. A sign beside him read: Givv To Thuh Porr

"Give to the poor in the holiday spirit!" the man recited as Sanata approached.

"Brother! How fares thee? Hast thou subjugated the mortals here for our amusement in the Temple Of Kami Bound Spirits?" Sanata addressed the man sternly.

"Uhhhhh, its not going tooo badly. I've got a bit 'o change. There's some people in the givin' spirit 'ere I guess. It was a bit better last year," the man replied.

"Giving? You mean their will? Their mortal souls? Ha! Us Kami are destined to rule over the mortal planes, and beyond! These hopeless husks will fall to us!" Sanata bowed to his presumed Kami brother.

"Yeah, I know what you mean, mate. I paid for the cleaning on my Santa suit here and it nearly busted me. Didn't even have enough for a bottle," the man replied.

"Who would make a Kami pay for Sake! It is our birth right!" Sanata said clearly enraged that one of his brothers had been cajoled by the mortals.

A couple walking by dropped seventy pence into the man's box and kept walking. Sanata became suddenly enraged.

"Mortals! You there! Halt!" Sanata waved his hands in the air and the couple immediately stopped, frozen in their step.

"You dare appease the gods with your pocket change! You, and all in earshot of my voice will give my brother everything you have, immediately!" Sanata commanded.

The couple first approached the box and began emptying their pockets and dumping the contents into the man's box. They then dropped their wallet and purse and continued, fully disrobing and dropping their clothing in the box as the man watched in amazement. The couple then turned to walk home, fully naked and oblivious of their nudity as if a aircraft on autopilot.

Moments later, more people arrived, some having heard Sanata's voice from home and heeding his call while others in earshot became entranced and immediately obeyed his orders. They all began dumping their belongings one by one into the man's box and soon he bore than he could hope to carry by himself.

"That is the spirit of giving, when you're giving to gods! Go brother and get your Sake! We will rule them soon!" Sanata advised the man.

"Yeah, thanks mate. I really 'preciate the help. You really know how to handle them. You should apply at the mission," the man said as he began gathering his newfound fortune.

"Perhaps you could do me a turn and tell me where I can find Sato-San? Mishima of the Sato clan?" Sanata asked the man.

"Sato... Sato... Hmmmm. I don't know if I... wait, I remember. Sato's Treasures. That knick-knack shop. That's a shop just six or seven blocks that way to the west. Its on the north side of the street on a corner lot. You can't miss it, brother" the man answered Sanata.

"I will return with his head and we shall dine together!" Sanata returned to his sleigh.

The crowd continued dropping their belongings for the man as Sanata mounted the sleigh. The great deer-beast reared and forced the sleigh to move. Sanata continued his search for Sato on the speeding sleight.

"A little odd that one is. He sure knows how to work a crowd though," the man in the Santa suit gathered his riches.

Wytches Arrival

The portal opened in a park just a block away from the shop. The air swirled a bit at first as the mist circled a point in space. It slowly spiraled as if an emptying drain before opening fully as the air pressure balanced between the Sanctum and Shepperton Park. 

From the opening, four ladies emerged, each one in turn stepping out into the winter air.

"Well it looks like we're here. This does look like the Shepperton Park I remember as a little girl," Nelony looked around taking in her surroundings.

A bird flew over to her and perched itself on her shoulder and chirped into her ear.

"That settles it. The bird says we're in the right place," Nelony added.

"How do you know that bird doesn't just agree with everyone?" Shaela replied sarcastically.

"I just know. Birds rarely if ever lie. Most prey animals don't. Its only predators that ever lie," Nelony replied in defense of the bird.

"I'm feeling a little hungry, perhaps a little pidgeon roast might do the trick?" Shaela responded.

"You wouldn't!" Nelony dared her.

"You're right. I lied," Shaela responded.

"Stop bickering you two. We've got to find Sato and warn him," Mila urged her friends.

"It looks like Nelony is already on the trail," Yirfir notified her other two students.

"Tcheetchi (the bird) says Sato sometimes comes here to feed the pidgeons. Tcheetchi will take us there," Nelony said already following the bird out of the park.

"Well done Nelony," Yirfir commended her student.

"Will I get extra marks for this?" Nelony asked.

"No. I'll think of something to reward each of you for this field trip," Yirfir agreed.

"That's if we survive. You said the future's not guaranteed," Shaela asked.

"Close, Shaela. She said the future plays out in ways of which we can't always be sure," Mila corrected Shaela.

The four ladies did their best to keep up with the bird, who flew excitedly past the scattered trees of Shepperton Park through the darkening winter night. When the four of them arrived at the benches that bracketed the park and lined the London sidewalks east to west they found the bird perched atop a postage box.

It chirped several times to get their attention.

"Well it seems that we're in the right place but I don't see it," Nelony said looking around.

"There! The corner lot. See the sign?" Yirfir pointed out to them.

They spied a hand drawn sigh above a storefront with the words Sato's Treasures written in asian script.

"Thank you my little friend," Nelony addressed the little bird, who sat eagerly awaiting them.

It chirped urgently once again, watching them intently cocking its head side to side.

"Oh? Uhhhh..." Nelony checked her pockets.

"I'm sorry but I don't have any bird treats," Nelony replied to the little bird.

The bird quickly took to the air flying above her head where it pooped on her, hitting her left shoulder.

"So much for samaritanism amongst the birds!" Nelony yelled back at the little creature as it flew away.

"It still helped us. It could have been worse. At least it didn't have friends..." Mila noted as she saw a flock of birds arising from the interior of the park.

The flock immediately began towards the ladies.

"Run if you want to avoid a lifetime of dry cleaning bills!" Yirfir screamed at her students as they charged for Sato's Treasures.

Yirfir hit the door first, followed by Shaela, Mila and finally Nelony. The flock flew over the shop, as a cloud of droppings hit the pavement beside them narrowly missing them.

"Note to self. Always have bird seed treats on hand..." Nelony reminded herself.

"Good idea. At least you have twenty-twenty hindsight," Mila agreed.

Yirfir found the buzzer and pressed it urgently several times.

A moment later, a hip looking young man with shaven pink hair on the sides of his head answered the door.

"Can I help you?" he addressed Yirfir, who stood closest to the door.

"Yes. Rather, we have to help you. You're in urgent danger!" Yirfir advised the young man.

"Look, I already told the Towering Watch Society not to come back here. My soul doesn't need saving and..." Barris responded immediately and defensively.

"No, you don't understand. We're not solicitors..." Yirfir corrected him.

Barris saw Shaela, looking at her oddly for a moment before he spoke again.

"Look, the discount vouchers for the Siouxie And The Banshees reunion tour expired three weeks. The same time as that concert. You're a tad bit late, not to mention we're enjoying our holidays. Now if you'll excuse me..." Barris was about to close the door when Mila peeked out from behind Yirfir.

Something suddenly tugged at both Mila's and Barris' heart, and Barris swore his own skipped a beat upon the sight of her. He saw his entire life up until this point play out before him. Like a trashy holiday short story, with all the good bits paraphrased by other characters or simply edited out. He realized that he'd simply not been alive until this moment. It was as if seeing this woman before him had suddenly awakened him from the aimless and directionless meandering of a life without purpose.

"...I'm Barris. Barris Windsor. May I have the pleasure of knowing yours?" Barris introduced himself.

"I'm..." Yirfir's hand quickly covered Nelony's mouth before she could finish her introduction as Mila stepped forward.

"Pleased to meet you, Barris Windsor. I am Mila Rendebelle, student and artist. This is my instructor Yirfir Lacharme and these are my best friends, Nelony Ardbloem and Shaela Sheowellyn. We're in grave danger and we really need your help. May we come in?" Mila spoke compassionately, boldly and lovingly meeting his eyes.

"...Its the holiday season. Please do come in and quick if you're truly in danger," Barris urged the four ladies.

Barris closed and locked the door behind them.

"May I take your coats at least?" Barris asked as would any good host.

"Ohhhh Barris, where did you get tooo? Things were just getting sooo interesting..." Vanessa came dashing out of the backroom of the shop slightly tipsy, her drink in hand.

"Barris? I think I need your help..." Sato arrived shortly thereafter followed by Felicia.

"Sato, you're so full of energy for an older, worldly man," Felicia spoke, trying her best to keep up with him.

Nelony's jaw dropped, as did Shaela's.

"I see you already have guests?" Mila felt a slight pain in her heart.

"Uhhhh... Yes! We do have guests! Two of them! Our best customers!" Barris explained as Nelony's and Shaela's jaws opened even wider.

"...Barris, I don't think that we can handle any more customers... er guests right now..." Sato said looking to the four arrivals.

"Did that shadow stone prophecy thingy say anything about them running a brothel?" Nelony spoke in utter shock.

"Oh? You think we're...? Noooo!" Vanessa answered them in shock.

"We were just getting the party started when you arrived," Felicia responded.

"You see, this is my daughter!" Vanessa addressed the women.

"Barris my dear, I'm in urgent need of a chair..." Mila pleaded with her host as her legs buckled in disbelief.

"Ohhhh? Ohhh... You think that we were... Ohhhh no. Not us. We were enjoying a holiday drink between neighbours in the Shepperton community," Sato assured the newly arrived ladies.

Sato suddenly jumped, letting out a yip as Felicia pinched his bottom. He quickly side-stepped leaving an arm's length between himself and Felicia as Barris watched in shock.

"Please come in. We'll discuss everything in the kitchen," Barris urged the guests to follow him.

"See! What did I tell you, Shaela! Every party always converges on the kitchen eventually," Nelony suddenly spoke, breaking the tension.

"Sorry Nelony, I'm still dealing with the brothel issue myself," Shaela spoke firmly.

As the group followed Barris and Sato into the back room of the shop, the front door suddenly flew open, flying off of its hinges and through the air as a large projectile. Shaela managed to pull Felicia and herself to the floor as the door slammed into the wall beside them.

Yirfir and Mila turned to face the source of this destruction, only finding a small short chubby bearded man with red skin, in a suit resembling that of Santa Claus.

"Sato-San! I will have your head and the head of your Jester, Barris-San before this night is through!" Sanata the Kami asserted himself as he stepped through the shop's shattered doorway.

"...You fool! What did I tell you Barris! These traditions are not to be trifled with!" Sato cursed aloud.

"Traditions? Trifled? I've said worse about my own sister! I hardly said a thing about this foolish oaf of a small chubby Kami or Tengu or whatever you called it! Besides, he looks like he escaped from the drawing boards of the next Mario Brothers game..." Barris defended his earlier goading of Sato on the tradition of Kami.

Sanata's fiery blood boiled in his veins and plumes of smoke erupted from his ears spiraling upwards towards the ceiling.

"For that you will pay with an eternity of deaths!" Sanata walked forward to confront his quarry.

Mila stepped forward pointing towards the Kami's feet.

"Is that a painting of the Big Ben you're standing on?" Mila asked the Tengu Kami.

Sanata paused for a moment, looking down at the floor and seeing that he was indeed standing upon a painting that had somehow fallen off Sato's walls in the commotion.

"Is that some kind of great time piece? I mean who would be so foolish to put a Sundial on a tower?" Sanata asked in curiosity.

"I don't know, why don't you have a closer look!" Mila suggested as her hands worked the weave.

The painting began to glow beneath his feet and Sanata became incapable of pulling his eyes away from it. Mila's work with her hands ended when she pushed forward, palms out. A wave struck Sanata and he was suddenly drawn into the painting.

Many kilometres away, he reappeared precariously balancing on the ledge of the Big Ben itself. He turned quickly and grasped at the hour hand, barely missing it instead grabbing purchase of the minutes hand. He clung onto the time piece, adjusting his stance with its motion for Sanata was terrified of heights.

Explanation And Circumstance

"Good thinking Mila!" Shaela responded to Mila's improvisation.

"Impressive and impromptu, Mila. I really think we're failing to recognize your potential at the Sanctum. Perhaps this is a clue to where your future will lead?" Yirfir said pondering the initiative her student had taken.

"We do this as a team. I'm grateful that I had a chance to contribute something. We've got much bigger issues to resolve here because I suspect that... Santa thing will be back and soon," Mila responded.

"Is that... Rudolf?" Barris pointed at the doorway, as his eyes began to tear up.

"You will pay for what you did to Sensei!" a thin, pointy eared being had taken up position beside Rudolf.

"Barris you idiot! That is not the Rudolf you know!" Sato barked.

"I think he's much closer than having suggested Rudolf Nureyev, don't you think?" Mila challenged Sato.

"...and its the Dentist Elf too!" Barris said completely gushing.

"Now he's pushing it. Yirfir, this is the man of my dreams?" Mila confirmed she'd heard correctly.

"These are Kami! They are dangerous demons from deep within the Aerth. They feed upon the development of human culture and often appear in mockery of it, attempting to enslave us! Sanata is a manifestation of popular holiday season mythos, though as a Tengu, a special kind of Kami, he's dedicated himself to devouring the children of humanity. Many decades ago, when I was a child, Sanata tried to devour me. I tricked him and he's been plotting ever since to get me," Sato advised the wytches in his presence.

"Well that's far cry from the Canadian holiday season that I'm used to and my own mother is from Japan, though we live in North Eastern Ontario in Canada... Why have I never seen a Kami or this Tengu for that matter?" Mila asked Sato.

"Uhhhh... I think Rudolf is getting upset about the lack of attention he's being paid..." Nelony interrupted their discussion.

"What in the daylights is going on! I mean this isn't possible! My father is Santa Claus!" Felicia corrected them.

"Yes Felicia, he very much was before he ran off with his Secretary," Vanessa corrected her daughter.

"He did NOT run off with his Secretary, mother! You chased him off!" Felicia challenged her mother.

"I don't think that this is the best time for a family discussion?" Sato suggested as the deer looking Kami wandered further into the shop.

"Wait! Sato, didn't you say they appear in mockery of human culture?" Nelony confirmed with Sato.

"Absolutely! To them our endeavors are a blasphemy to that for which they stand," Sato assured her.

"Do you have any apples?" Nelony asked, taking position between the group and the approaching Reindeer/Kami/Demon.

"Barris! Snap out of it and grab some apples from the fridge!" Sato commanded.

"I'm on it," Barris responded running into the kitchen as Nelony kept the Reindeer at bay.

Barris returned in moments with a bag full of apples. He quickly ripped a hole in the bag and handed Nelony the bag.

She extracted one from it, and offered it to the Reindeer with fire coming out of its nose.

The Reindeer sniffed carefully at the apple and then licked it once.

"That's a good little demon... errr... Reindeer. Very goooood..." Nelony kept the apple before the Reindeer's snout.

The Reindeer Kami once again licked the apple, and then devoured it whole.

"Very good! See? You can be such a good little Reindeer! So full of love and..." Nelony encouraged the Reindeer in a nurturing voice.

The Reindeer suddenly paused as its eyes widened, and then bulged. It coughed several times and thick green and purple fluid erupted from its mouth and nostrils before it collapsed on the floor, very obviously dead.

"She just killed Rudolf!" Barris' tears began to flow once again.

"Oh grow up man-boy!" Shaela snarled.

"I think that we can conclude from this little lesson that Demon-Reindeer are allergic to apples," Yirfir observed.

"Sensei will not be pleased! You have killed his prized Spirit Kami! He will eviscerate you all!" the elf responded.

"Well it appears that you're alone and our only threat, elf. Dentist too?" Barris suddenly found courage after Shaela's encouragement.

"Yes... I am a Dentist. I specialize in extractions!" the skinny elf engaged Barris in hand to hand combat.

Barris towered above the tiny thin creature and yet it struck out at him and hit him squarely in the jaw. One of Barris' teeth plopped out onto the floor.

"See?! Perhaps your girlfriend has some unwanted teeth too?" the elf responded.

The elf turned and attacked Mila. It swung with all of its force, catching Mila by surprise.

Barris suddenly found the agility to move and much faster than he'd considered himself able. His arm blocked the oncoming attack the elf offered Mila. Barris caught the elf's hand and the two struggled with each other, walzing in circles.

Mila struck down upon the elf's head with blunt instrument, rending the beast immediately unconscious on the floor of Sato's shop.

"Nobody dances with my future husband but me!" Mila blared out with fury over the fallen body of the elf.

"I had no idea you were so skilled with Viking Cleaning Utensils Mila..." Yirfir observed that Mila had grabbed an instrument from one of the shelves.

"It appears that we're in the clear. Now would be a good time to organize and discuss what is going on?" Sato suggested.

"Agreed. Lets get the shop sealed first and back to the way it was before that Demon... Kami ruined it..." Yirfir waved her hand and several aetherial beings appeared, each working on repairing the shop with expert skill and endless purpose.

"How is this possible? How are they doing this?" Felicia asked her mother.

"This is the power you've yielded by your way of life, though what you do and what we do are both required in balance to maintain life and organized civilization for us all," Yirfir assured both Felicia and Vanessa.

"There are wonders in this world that are well hidden. It takes a commitment that few are willing to make to preserve the Aerth. Ignorance really is bliss for many, but it is also a prison for the few who cannot unsee the wonders they've come to know. So do you choose to live in a stable ingorance or in an unstable wonder?" Shaela asked Felicia and Vanessa.

"That's directly quoted from our mentor's one-oh-one class speech by the way," Mila told Felicia and Vanessa.

"Now that we're settled in here, how are you Mila?" asked Sato.

"I'm good. Its good to see an old friend like yourself," Mila replied politely.

"Mila is a family friend. Her mother has long been connected with the Sato Clan of Japan," Sato told Barris.

"You're Japanese?" Barris asked Mila.

"Yes and no. I'm Canadian. My mother is from Japan. My father is Austrian. She met my father during the late nineteen seventies, early eighties in Osaka during a construction project. My father is a construction engineer. He even worked on Expo 67. Anyway, they married and moved to Canada, where they had me. As for the rest of my relatives, some live in British Columbia and others, well they live in the United States. Some in California. Some in Texas. Others in New York," Mila confessed to Barris.

"I live in a Villa in France just outside of Paris, though I spend most of my time away from home," Yirfir told Barris.

"I'm from the other side of London, Barris and I'm just a few blocks from Shaela here. Mila, I've got a doozie of a question for you. How do we deal with this unconscious elf?" Nelony asked Mila.

"With Viking Cleaning Utensils? Seemed to work for Mila," Barris observed correctly.

"We'll banish him. All Kami can be banished," Sato assured Nelony.

"I take it that you're a specialist?" Yirfir confirmed with Sato.

"No. I have to admit that I'm an amateur as far as banishing Kami or Tengu goes. But I'm probably better at it than most residents of Shepperton," Sato informed Yirfir.

"Agreed. Then that duty shall fall squarely in your lap," Yirfir turned her attention to Mila.

"How long before we can expect our little red friend to return?" asked Yirfir.

"That depends. If I landed him on the tower, then he'll probably need to climb down manually. If I landed him outside of the Big Ben, then he'll just have to travel here by whatever means are at his disposal. Teleportation. Folding space or time. I mean these are things you know about more so than I..." Mila became nervous at Yirfir's questions of her abilities.

"Mila, I'll be honest with you. I've never seen anyone weave with art work before, Mila. Your abilities are entirely a new area to myself and the Sanctum for that matter," Yirfir told Mila, who became puzzled by the prospect that something she'd found so natural could be so foreign to such experts of thaumaturgy.

"As they are to me, though I remain at your service," Mila replied humbly.

"I'm presuming that you came to warn us and possibly to protect us?" Sato asked Mila.

"That and a visit to say hi," Mila admitted honestly.

"I heard you say something about me being your future husband. Is this true?" Barris asked Mila, a perplexed but optimistic look on his face.

"How can I honestly answer that?" Mila returned with her own look of confusion.

"You can't, truth be told. These are things of which none of us should be aware. Knowing of the future so intimately can alter how it plays out, possibly even averting it. That is why the Sanctum is so cautious about the art of scrying. Peering into people's lives. Their past and more importantly, their future. We have strict rules about it," Yirfir reminded Mila.

"Then the answer to your question is that we do become involved somehow, years from now when I'm supposed to officially meet you," Mila answered Barris as best she could.

"That's good to know, I mean I certainly felt something upon seeing you. Something very strong. A tug at my heart. Butterflies in my stomach. A feeling unlike anything I've ever felt," Barris explained to Mila who sighed.

"I don't even know you and yet I felt the exact same thing. Like I've known you all along. You've been with me from day one without my even being aware," Mila replied as they drew closer.

"We're dealing with one of the most profound and strong forces in the universe. Romantic love. When two people experience it, they become connected temporally in ways we have yet to understand. In a sense, you two already know each other. You've always known each other and always will despite the outcome of our challenges here," Yirfir explained to them.

"...wait a second, he was supposed to be my date! Now this two bit magic casting hussie shows up and they're suddenly in love?" Felicia responded.

Barris looked over to Felicia uneasily and then back to Mila innocently and then back again to Felicia when he spoke.

"And that's precisely why you were all over Sato this evening, wasn't it? You were to be my date, yet you were drooling all over my flatmate, Felicia! I mean he's twice your..." Barris began confronting his holiday date as Sato cringed, holding up three fingers.

"...errr three times your age. I was trying my best to get your attention. To be a good date but nooo, you had to go for your Emo-fantasy of bagging an older Japanese man! Didn't you!" Barris addressed their issue boldly.

"I was trying to get my mother's attention! To let her know that I am here! I mean she practically treats me like I don't exist since my father left! She wasn't there for my school play! She wasn't there for my grade school graduation! She doesn't even know about the fact that I've been accepted into Oxford! You talk about my Emo-fantasy of bagging an older Japanese man! What about her cajoling around the neighbourhood with every young man she can find! When my friends see me, they say: Look, there's Felicia. How's your Sugar Momma Momma, Momma?" Felicia raised her voice as Sato cringed uneasily with every syllable.

"How dare you speak about me like that! I am your mother! I knew that you were accepted into University but I had no idea it was Oxford." Vanessa shot back at her daughter.

"Well if you'd take a little time away from your real estate and sacking every horny twenty something, you might have noticed!" Felicia returned.

"There's nothing wrong with being with an older woman. You're older than me, aren't you?" Barris challenged Felicia and then turned to confirm Mila's age.

"...by two years..." Mila answered.

"I don't think the issue has anything to do with who Vanessa is dating. I think this is about her not spending time with her daughter," Sato observed.

"You shut-up and stay out of this! Felicia, you apologize at once!" Vanessa scalded Sato and then addressed her daughter.

There was crash of thunder in the non existent front doorway of the store and Sanata appeared.


"It appears there are naughty children here that don't appreciate their parents! Not only that but I have to some revenge to exact!" Claws extended from Sanata's fingers as he charged at Felicia.

Vanessa stepped in front of her daughter and screamed.

"You stay away from my daughter!" she stood her ground against the Kami.

As Sanata reached Vanessa, Shaela jumped into action, summoning a shadow wall between Sanata and his prey. Sanata slammed into the wall full force, several of his claws breaking in the process.

"Looks like you need a manicure..." Barris remarked.

"I think you need to cool down," Yirfir said as she channeled a stream of ice from her finger-tips, which entrapped Sanata's feet and held him in place.

"Gotta love elementalism," Nelony backed her instructor.

Sanata's anger peaked as fiery energy exploded from his skin. The shock wave broke his bindings and knocked everyone with the exception of Sanata to the floor.

By the time they were on their feet again, they were shocked to see that the store was filled with multiple Sanatas. Perhaps thirty of them in all. They spoke in unison, addressing their quarry.

"Now I will relieve each of you of your worthless heads. Then I will dine on your brains, using your skulls as bowls for my feast!" the Sanatas closed in on their prey.

Mila responded immediately, grabbing hold of a tiny figurine, the kind you used to find in packages of tea. She then began a weave, casting the figurine onto the floor before the approaching Kami.

In flash of smoke, there appeared a rotund man about five foot ten inches tall. His belly jiggled like a bowl full of jelly. His beard and moustache as white as cotton bracketed two rosy cheeks and plump nose.

"Oh ho ho ho! Sanata Claws, you have been a very naughty, naughty little boy!" the jolly man addressed the oncoming Kami.

"I have? But I was simply doing what I do," Sanata challenged the man in the red suit.

"And sooo am I... Ho ho ho!" Santa Claus responded.

"I'm inevitable!" Sanata replied challenging Santa Claus.

"and I am Santa Claus!" Santa Claus said as he snapped the fingers on his right hand.

Beside the Kami appeared a much large woman in a similar red suit of armour as his own.

"Sanata!" the woman addressed the smaller Kami.

"Mother? What are you doing here?" Sanata turned to face this new threat.

"You've been a very bad boy! Mommy's going to take you home!" Sanata's mother spoke firmly to her son.

"But mom! I was just playing with my friends... honest! Tell her. That's what we were doing, right?" Sanata turned to the others in the shop, pleading for their help.

"You're lying! You're grounded young man! For two millennia!" Sanata's mother grabbed his hand.

The copies of Sanata all simultaneously disappeared as Sanata's mother dragged him out of the store. They slowly floated upwards and disappeared into the night sky.


Felicia turned to her mother.

"Mother, I'm sooo sorry. I just wanted you to notice me. To see that I'm here and that I'm your daughter," Felicia wrapped her arms around her mother.

"There, there. I would never let anything happen to you. You're the world to me," Vanessa returned her daughter's embrace as Nelony's eyes began to stream tears.

"This is so much better than daytime soaps..." Nelony remarked wiping tears from her cheek with a kerchief.

"Then treat me that way..." Felicia asked her mother.

"Anything for my daughter," Vanessa rubbed her daughter's back as they embraced.

"Whew! That's a relief..." Sato wiped his forehead gratefully for the prospect that he'd no longer have to Felicia-dodge.

"Well I guess that leaves one thing unattended," Barris spoke aloud, looking to Mila who returned his glance longingly.

Mila smirked as Barris' head continued turning until his eyes locked on Santa Claus. Then Barris spoke.

"So was I a good boy this year? What am I getting?" Barris asked the jolly man in the red suit.

"Ho ho ho! Barris, I have something very special for you..." the jolly man produced a large red sack from which he pulled a book absent of any text on its covers.

There was no indication of what the book was or what it contained.

Santa Claus handed it to Barris, who accepted it gratefully and with a smile.

"Enjoy the time you have now and don't open it until midnight..." Santa advised Barris.

"Thank you Santa!" Barris said, barely able to restrain himself.

With that, Santa bounded for the door and disappeared out into the night.

The door and the previous damage had all been repaired by Yirfir's spell and she also used it to clean up the bodies of the dead Kami Reindeer and the elf, leaving nothing to chance. In all essence, the store was as it had been before their arrival.

"Now that we have some peace would you like to stay for some holiday cheer?" Sato invited his guests.

"I think that we could manage that, though it is ultimately up to my students," Yirfir replied to Sato.

"I'd like to," Nelony said still wiping her face of tears.

"I could use a drink," Shaela responded blandly.

"I'd certainly like that..." Mila said looking dreamily into Barris' eyes.

"Barris is my date!" Vanessa challenged Mila.

"Not on your life!" Mila responded.

"Ladies, can we just enjoy this evening together? Peacefully?" Sato suggested.

"I think we could do that," Felicia left her mother's side and returned to Sato, pinching his bottom.

Vanessa followed her daughter, taking Sato's other side, pinching his other cheek.

"Oh boy..." Sato responded looking seriously stressed.

"Nelony. Shaela. Mila. I'd like to suggest a reward for the three of you for your effort and dedication in helping to resolve this crisis," Yirfir addressed the three wytches.

"And what might that be?" Shaela asked.

"Absolutely! What can we expect as I'm quite curious?" Nelony inquired.

"Me too," Mila responded to Yirfir's suggestion.

"Should you all do well throughout the year, I propose that upon the schoo year's end that we have a special dinner. Just the four of us," Yirfir suggested.

"What? You mean like a dinner party?" asked Nelony.

"Precisely," Yirfir addressed them.

"With wine and drinks too?" Shaela asked.

"Absolutely," Yirfir agreed.

"Women only?" Mila confirmed.

"Just for these dinners. They're strictly for us Wytches. For us four alone, unless we expand our circle of friends," Yirfir explained to them.

"You mean like a lady's prerogative?" Mila asked.

"I couldn't have said it better. Are we in agreement?" Yirfir agreed with Mila's observation.

"Agreed." Shaela nodded.

"Me too. I agree," Nelony added.

"We can have the first one at my place," Mila confirmed.

They all retired to the living space and lined the couches of Sato's den. They sat together and enjoyed the evening over good food and drinks tendered by their hosts. They enjoyed the evening in the spirit of holiday cheer and short stories lacking enough of a strong narrative to keep them going past their already exhausted plot.

Barris and Mila got to know each other and before their night was done, their lips locked in a wet and passionate kiss. 

Their first kiss ever.

Barris had left the book Santa had given him on the kitchen counter, and upon a run to refill his guests' drinks, he no longer could restrain his immense curiosity. He put the empty drink glasses on the counter, ready for the next round he'd make and picked up the book carefully examining the cover.

"Well here goes nothing..." Barris said as he opened the book.

He suddenly awoke on the morning of the twenty fifth with no recollection of Yirfir, Nelony or Shaela. With no memory of having met his one true love, Mila. His only memory of that night was the failed date he'd had with Felicia and her flirtatious mother, Vanessa.

"Strange, I don't remember going to bed?" Barris remarked to himself as he looked around his room.

It was then that he caught the scent of a wondrous perfume that filled his body with tingles. He tested the air a few times, finding that the scent was coming from his pillow. He puzzled for a moment knowing that it wasn't Felicia's perfume or even Vanessa's.

"I guess I'll just have to wait and see who's perfume that is..." Barris remarked as he lay back on the pillow and fell into a deep and comforting holiday slumber.

In the end he did have to wait nearly seven years, but when he met the woman whose perfume adorned his pillow that night, he had instant recall and very suddenly, he remembered everything. 

Especially his once lost memory of their first night together.

The End...

of is it?

Four Years Later... (After The Events Of Singularity)

The portal flared slightly, steam emerging from its edges as the first of the guests arrived.

Jasmer stepped from the portal first, as early portal summoners had often mistakenly emerged in other dimensions and planes. Many of those planes full of danger.

As much so as it was considered chivalrous to walk curbside for a woman, or to sample the wine first in the case of a poisonous batch, so was it to step first through the portal. It was chivalry as much so a custom.

Jasmer turned and gave his hand to Yirfir as she followed him. Stepping safely onto the tiled floor of a room illuminated by a variety of coloured lights.

"Very impressive Mila," Yirfir said as she stepped into the room.

"It was Barris' idea really. I just embellished it with... the weave..." Mila responded to her mentor's compliment.

"Well you both have good taste. Are we the first?" asked Yirfir.

"Most graciously so," Mila replied.

"Somebody has to be first my dear," Jasmer responded.

"Well if there's music, there's so few to dance," Yirfir replied. 

"I'll dance with you, though my step might be slightly off..." Jasmer replied, wrapping his arm around his wife's waist.

"There's a buffet, bar and dance floor down stairs. Its yours for the taking if you wish, being the first," Mila informed them.

"We can't do wrong by that offer. Let's us go down there and warm up that dance floor," Yirfir pulled Jasmer toward the stairs.

"Why don't you come with us Mila?" asked Jasmer.

"I've got to greet guests, the RSVPs, and I won't be leaving this post until they're all here safely," Mila replied.

"We're holding you to at least one dance though. Barris too," Yirfir stopped long enough to address her former student.

"Go have fun you two! You don't need to worry about Barris and I having fun. We have..." Mila stopped as she heard the clolups of a horse's hooves.

A muscular Palomar horse emerged from the portal, running towards the far corner of the room, standing firm in the corner where her vision was cut off.

"Who would come through with a horse?" Mila asked, approaching the beast carefully.

"Are you in the company of Askuwheteau?" asked Mila, patting the beast's rump.

The beast remained silent, keeping its focus upon the corner.

"Caere do be full thay for!" a voice exclaimed from behind Mila, barely understandable.

Mila turned to see a man clad in a red uniform, a large brimmed hat atop his head.

"I'm sorry, do I know you?" asked Mila standing ready to unleash a nightmare upon him should he prove hazardous.

"Mila thay do be? What be this unforsaken light? A day nought have I seen with this sun!" the man spake to Mila.

"Caere should ye take!" the man spoke upon seeing Mila approaching the hind legs of the horse.

Mila turned to face the now corner blinded beast.

"She's a kicker! She'll send you and then some, bless that beast!" the man addressed Mila.

"Evan?" asked Mila, suddenly recognizing the man under his wide brimmed hat.

"...Mila? Then you must be with Shaela?" asked the man in response.

To be continued in A Lady's Prerogative: A Tale Of The Holiday Season