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Great Throne Speech For Canada And Happy Thanksgiving To Those Celebrating...

Happy Thanksgiving To All Those Celebrating In November To all of my readers south of the border, I'd like to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I'm very grateful for your readership and for Canada's American and Mexican neighbours. Please continue to ensure that liberty and freedom of conscience remain at the forefront of your ideals. Our problems in this world are solved via cooperation, not stalking, bullying or forced coercion and any ideology that builds its foundations on that platform will be sure to fail, and more likely devour itself in the absence of those it preys upon. The Speech From The Throne very much reflects my own sentiment, especially with regard to challenges like climate change and sustainability and certainly our future here in Canada. Despite having celebrated Thanksgiving in October (as is our custom), I'm grateful that what I know and love about Canada, America, Mexico and the rest of the world is built on values of free thought, free speec

A Lady's Prerogative For Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields (Finished First Draft: Artwork to come)

This is my yearly Halloween story, though last year I kind of wove the Halloween and Santa Claus story into one if you remember and came up with a funny bit involving Barris and Sato early on in their friendship as they have guests for the seasonal holiday.


This year I'm bringing Halloween and A Lady's Prerogative home to my country of Canada and my home province of Ontario. This story takes place in Ontario, though far north up into territory occupied by far fewer than in the Great Lakes region of Canada (and the United States). I hope that you enjoy it.


As a side note, I recently did a rant post (the Rant-zilla post if you recall as it was the last one) really attacking the problem of harassment, as it has been plaguing me for years in both the online world (very covertly) and the offline world very overtly. Everything I stated in that post I meant with all of my heart and being, and I will not apologize for any of it. This has already gone way too far, and a post of that nature was long overdue.


So, that Rant-zilla post still stands and I won't apologize for it at all. I said exactly what I meant and I won't back down from it either. However, I am fully aware that what vitriol comes from few, does not represent the expression of the whole, though do keep in mind that when you beat an old dog with the same stick for years, chances are they're going to be wary of every stick, even if it is thrown in playful demeanor, as in a game of fetch.


All opinions expressed in this introduction are mine and mine alone and not the responsibility of any other people, institutions or organizations mentioned in this post and the story below.


Brian Joseph Johns


=============================================


Warning: This story deals with some mature situations. Reader discretion is advised.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


All opinions expressed in the text of this work of fiction (from the title below and onwards) are delivered in a fictitious story and fictitious representation of our world. All trademarks are the rights of their respective owners.


This story takes place in the A Lady's Prerogative timeline approximately two and a half months after the events of A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth.


ALP Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields

The Road Stops Here


The backhoe driver stepped up into the canopy of the large vehicle, his coffee still in hand. He expertly balanced himself (still holding the coffee) as he opened the canopy door and slid into his seat. No coffee spilled. After ensuring that his delicate payload was safely in the intended holder on his dashboard, he leaned over and closed the door.


After catching his breath from the climb up into the canopy, the driver grabbed and delicately opened his coffee,  lifting the tab from the lip of the cup and tearing it off, discarding it into a bag he'd set aside for all of his recycling.  It wasn't so much that he cared for the environment as much as it was that he wanted to ensure that he was on the right side of the green fence by the end of the day. He was just dancing like most of his compatriots on the job sight and countless other job sights like this one.


He'd obtained his coffee from the coffee truck only moments ago, for there wasn't a single coffee shop for a hundred kilometers or more. He and his crew were far into the boondocks of northern Ontario and the company had contracted a caterer to ensure that the crews had fresh coffee, donuts and sandwiches ready every morning and lunch hour, care of a coffee truck, that would make the long trip for them.


Ahead of his crew, a logging team had been cutting a path of trees. Their route took them through the arboreal forest along the border of the Algonquin wetlands, territory protected by the Parks And Recreation Act, instated many years ago to preserve the country's natural biomes and wildlife. With a fifty meter berth, twenty five on each side, the driver's crew followed behind the logging crew building a utility road as they went.


The driver, a dark haired burly man in his mid forties, took a sip of his coffee and hit the on button of his digital radio.


"...the morning music of Petawawa. Now here's one that goes back a ways. Here's Bruce Cockburn with If A Tree Falls...on 99.3 SHHP... Petawawa hits FM," the morning DJ of a local Petawawa station introduced his next set as the intro began.


The driver tapped the dash of the backhoe as if it were set of drums as the song played and when it got to the chorus, he started singing and drumming at the same time.


If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear?

Anybody hear the forest fall?

Cut and move on

Cut and move on

Take out trees

Take out wildlife at a rate of species every single day

Take out people who've lived with this for 100, 000 years

Inject a billion burgers worth of beef

Grain eaters methane dispensers


As the song continued, the driver really started getting into it. Singing with all of his heart and drumming with all of his body, though he never truly listened to the lyrics. They were just words to accompany the music much as dialogue in a show or movie were just words that happened between the action sequences.


With his head turned towards the air hi-hat, he failed to see the foreman climbing the side of his vehicle.


The door suddenly swung open, and the foreman began barking at the driver.


"Hey come on! We've got a job site here! Whad' are ya, Phil Collins?" the foreman yelled at the driver.


"More of a Neil Peart actually... I mean my name is Neil Coyger," the driver joked.


"Neil Peart didn't sing... but you might be singing on the streets of Petawawa as a busker if you don't get this machine started!" the foreman shot back at Neil angrily.


"Sorry Chief... I'm on it," Neil responded, immediately turning down the radio and grabbing hold of the ignition key as the foreman jumped down from the vehicle.


The engine on the big rig turned over and idled, sounding to be in good health as the engine warmed up for the day's work. The driver gunned the pedal a few more times in order to speed up the process. He then put the big vehicle into gear, pushing the vehicle forward to the site he'd be preparing for the road.


The vehicle drove forward and made it to the front of the tree line before it suddenly stopped, lurching to a halt as the engine coughed and sputtered before stopping dead.


The driver tried turning the engine over several times with the ignition, but only heard the clicking sound of the starter motor.


ALP Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields

Sabotage


Fifteen minutes later Neil was amongst of a group of the other vehicle and equipment operators outside of the foreman's mobile office camper as the mechanic pushed by and made his way inside.


"What's up? You going to let us know what's going on here?" yelled Tom, a man with greyish blond long hair and a ZZ Top beard and moustache to go with it yelled at the foreman's trailer.


"We better be gettin' paid for this...~!" Charlie, a younger and heavier dark haired man in his thirties added in concert with Tom's verbosity.


A moment later, the door to the camper opened and the foreman stepped out.


"Look guys, we have a bit of a problem. It looks like someone snuck onto the site last night and candy barred the vehicles..." the foreman told his crew.


"They did what?" asked Charlie, adjusting his bifocal glasses on his nose.


"Candy barred the vehicles. Its where a vandal takes candy or a chocolate bar, anything with lots of sugar and puts it directly into the gas tank. As the gas is drawn into the engine, the candy melts and the sugar mixes with the gasoline and gums up the carburetor, fuel intake and engine. We're talking complete seizure of the pistons. Its expensive as hell to fix," Marc, a younger hefty body builder who'd been a driver for all of two years informed the others.


"You know that from being a victim, or a perpetrator of it?" asked Charlie.


"Both. It was mandatory knowledge in the hood where I grew up," responded Marc.


"So our are machines dead?" asked Gerry, a tall thin balding elderly man with bony cheeks who looked too frail to be operating heavy equipment.


All of the men on the crew knew better than to encroach on Gerry though, because his frailty was purely an illusion. The truth was that Gerry could crush any of the men on the crew with his bare hands alone. Gerry had forgotten in life more than most of his fellow coworkers could remember of theirs. Even if their lives were put together.


"For the time being, yes. I've put in a call for replacement machines. They should be here in three days," the foreman told the crew.


"Three days?! What the hell are we supposed to do? Camp?" asked Neil.


"No, just go back to your motel rooms and wait it out. I can't pay you for the time, but I can cover the cost of your rooms and meals. That's the best I can do," the foreman told the crew.


"My son has a school presentation in three days. You already gave me the day off to see it. What's the case with that now?" asked Mac, a clean shaven and clean cut man who looked more like a work clothing model than a machine operator.


"You're going to have to cancel going to your son's presentation. Sorry Mac. That's the way it is," the foreman told the operator.


"Any idea who did it?" asked Bill, an elderly greaser with slicked back hair and bushy sideburns who'd still not gotten over the death of Elvis Presley and Gordon Lightfoot.


"I'll tell you who it was. It was those protesters from the Pikwàkanagàn reserve. They're camped out a kilometer or two from here just off the service road," Randall, the concrete truck driver spoke up.


"Really?" confirmed Alvin, the youngest member of their team, whose clean shaven head and single bushy unibrow was the comedic relief of the crew.


"I saw them when I was leaving the other night. Passed them on the service road. Could see their bonfire from there. They were dancin' and partying from the looks of it," Randall continued stirring the pot.


"I doubt it. I've seen activists in my life. Believe me, I have. These are a tame bunch speaking up for their land," Darci, one of the most skilled drivers and a woman at that spoke in the language of diplomacy.


Darci, being gay had fought for her rights from a young age after having come out. She'd dropped out of school as a result of ill treatment and struggled through her teen years. She'd been arrested and charged with vandalism when she'd spray painted a good portion of the store fronts along Queen Street East in Toronto with artwork supporting the gay community. She was put on probation and worked as a volunteer cleaning graffiti from the city buildings.


One day while she was hanging out on the side of the street in a particularly rough area of the city, a trucker stopped and offered her a job for the day. She'd be paid to work as a casual labourer doing light lifting for the driver.


At first, she thought he was just another one of the pervert drivers looking for hookers, who'd commonly sold themselves for pocket change along that stretch of road in order to support their dependency on certain narcotic substances.


The driver had seemed unphased by Darci's caution, telling her that he could understand her caution. He introduced himself to her as Philip Davies. He then explained to her that he'd just had an operation and could not do any of the lifting or handling of pallets required by his contracts. He'd been an owner of his own truck and business since he was twenty and slowly grew his fleet. 


Going on forty five at that time, he neglected to tell Darci that he actually owned a large fleet of trucks and didn't need to work at all. He just kept doing it because he loved it. He explained to her that he saw a good investment in her, and wanted to give her an opportunity that she'd probably never get standing on a street. He continued, saying that opportunity was hers because she had enough sense not to sell her body at the side of a street.


At that time she didn't put it together that he was the Philip Davies behind PD Transport, a large transportation company that did coast to coast hauling of goods and equipment throughout Canada and the United States. She just saw some guy in his forties with a dumb smile sitting behind the wheel. She reasoned that if he intended her any ill, she could just jump from the truck and have done with him seeing as they were in downtown Toronto.


Darci eventually accepted the driver's invitation and ended up working with the aging man for years before he paid to have her trained as a driver. Mr. Davies' health problems eventually caught up with him, forcing him into retirement from driving to take his place at the head of the boardroom . A fate he'd feared more than death itself.


He'd settled into his new position and his trucking empire continued to flourish. When he expanded into construction equipment and rental, he hired Darci as the senior driver shortly after her marriage to Fran, another woman she'd met at PD Transport. From that point, she'd been handling everything to do with the construction of the road, where it involved the other drivers. Being one of the most experienced, she could do any seven point turn in the same truck in three. She could also back a truck into just about any tight spot, which often led to many sexual innuendos at her expense despite the fact that she was openly gay and married.


The other drivers got along good with Darci and knew better than to have fun at her expense. All of them except for Randall. He'd somehow always been a thorn in her side. Unfortunately he had an uncanny ability to avert discipline when the time came to cash in. This situation was no different, for he'd immediately seen an opportunity to raise a little hell against Darci's sensibility.


"Damned Injuns! All they ever do is drink, use crack and draw money from the tax payers without lifting a damned finger...!" Randall, the concrete truck driver shouted.


"Oh they lift a finger alright. Their middle finger. At us!" Alvin gave Randall the middle finger bird salute.


"I'd see no difference if you put a unibrow on that finger there, slim! As for you Randall, I suggest you tuck that crap into your trousers if you want to work here again," responded Darci.


"Listen to me. Nobody is going near that camp site or the reserve. The company that hired us for this gig is already up to their armpits in public relations issues. If you do, and I get word that you did, you're fired from here and I'll make sure you don't get work with any of the crews anywhere else along this route. That includes when they're building the pipeline that's a package deal with this road. Do I make myself clear?!" the foreman asserted himself.


"Alright. But if there's any other interruptions, we're going to deal with this the way they used to in the old school. Am I right boys?" Randall checked with his brothers on the crew.


"Damn right!" the rest of the crew shouted in support of him.


"If it comes to that, make sure you pack your bags here before you do anything, because you won't have a job with us. Now get back to your hotel rooms, have a good meal, get drunk and watch pornos on the motel channel all on us. No long distance calls will be covered and you each have a cap of no more than a hundred and fifty a day at the motel until the machines arrive. Now get lost and give my mechanic here the room he needs to get these repairs started!" the foreman ordered his crew from the site.


Within fifteen minutes, the construction camp headquarters was empty except for the foreman, one of his labourers and the mechanic.


"What a frickin' mess!" both the mechanic and the foreman said in unison as they got back to work.


ALP Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields

The Big Man


The crew had settled into their rooms for the day, spending most of it running their errands, making sure their bills and expenses were paid and that they'd be ready when the replacement machines arrived.


That night, Neil had convinced them that they should spend some bonding time at the Petawawa Five Star General, a roadhouse restaurant and bar popular in the area practically within walking distance of their motel.


"I thought you said that you don't drink, Mac?" asked Randall skeptically of Mac who sat across the table from Randall.


"I didn't say that. I said that I generally don't go on drinking outings with my coworkers. It can make for some complicated situations. Besides, I'm in here in Petawawa to work. Not to party. I've got a family to support and four kids to raise," Mac thanked the waitress for his beer.


"He's a family man. On his turf, parties are called barbecues," Neil clanked glasses with Mac.


"Well you're going to party tonight. We aren't working and all of us got our business rounded up today. We've got three days of nothing but vacation. Sure, we aren't paid for vacation, but our vacation is paid for..." Randall grinned, clanking glasses with Charlie and Alvin who sat next to him.


"I'll drink to the that," Marc lifted his mug with a large, muscular hand, taking a swig of his ale.


"We could go to that comedy club next door. Five Star Comedy. Its under the same ownership as this bar and pretty popular at that, all considered. I'd be willing to bet we'd have something to take our mind off the day's loss?" Mac suggested.


"If we want comedy, we just have to take a look at Alvin's cue ball unibrow face," Randall joked at Alvin's expense, rousing a round of laughter at the table.


"Haha! That's a good one! Haha...! Hey, wait... you were talkin' about me!" Alvin suddenly clued in.


Away from the tables, Bill sat at the bar beside Gerry, talking of old times with his long time friend and driver.


"These young fellers gotta learn themselves to cool down a bit. They're too ready for a conflict or startin' one where none need be," Gerry remarked to Bill as he took a sip of whiskey.


"Remember when we were workin' that freight company together back in the seventies?" asked Bill.


"Yeah, how could I forget?" asked Gerry.


"Remember how you got all hot under the collar when they told us that someone had slashed the tires on the trucks? How quick you were to take it out on Felder?" asked Bill.


"Well I knew it was Felder. He told me he did it," Gerry responded.


"That's not the point. The point is that it was the company's problem, but you were ready to make it yer own by handin' out knuckle courtroom justice," Bill responded.


"A man's got to eat and I'm not up to beggin'," Gerry responded.


"But it ain't doing you a world of good to go gettin' yerself arrested, is it?" Bill asked Gerry.


"I s'pose yer right. My point with the same issue here," Gerry pointed out.


"We just gotta sit tight for the night, and then two more, and assuming that there's no more interruptions, we'll be back to earnin' just like we were," Bill clanked glasses with Gerry.


"Use the gas pedal on the way up the hill and let gravity coast ya down the other side," Gerry agreed.


"I'll drink to that," Bill agreed.


The two older men drank down the rest of their drink as Darci joined them.


"You gents alright my company?" Darci asked them.


"You're more than welcome here. How are ya tonight?" asked Bill.


"Had a good nap and a shower. A bit of take out. Just looking to join the party," Darci remarked as she signaled the bar tender and ordered her drink.


"I'll get that," Bill offered.


"I'm a married woman. To another woman at that," Darci reminded Bill.


"I'm a widower and I'm not lookin' for that kind of party," Bill agreed with Darci.


"Thank you, buddy," Darci smiled at the older man.


Another man from the bar had approached Bill from behind and tapped him on the shoulder.


Bill turned around non-chalantly and greeted the man.


"What can I do ya for partner?" he asked in a friendly manner.


"You ripped me off for twenty grand. Back in ninety three. Remember?" the man looked Bill in eyes firmly with the look of a killer in his eyes.


"Whoa! Hold on a second there. Let's back things up. You think I'm who?" asked Bill, as both Gerry and Darci turned to face the new arrival.


He was a tall man, taller than Gerry and with a thick build. The kind of build you get from working long hours in a mine. A long scar from the side of his left eye down to his jaw, marred his face. His cheeks were pocked with the scars of acne, decades gone.


"You're Bill though some call you Will, something you're going to be needin' real soon. You ripped me off for twenty grand, and I want thirty grand right now or you're not leavin' here on your own two feet," the man demanded of Bill.


"You've got the right name, but the wrong person..." Bill began as he stood, holding his hands up before him defensively.


The man suddenly threw a punch at Bill, connecting solidly and sending him backwards a few steps as Darci caught him.


Marc at the other table had seen the altercation unfolding and stood, coming to Bill's defense.


"Where's my cash. I said I want it now!" the man demanded stepping over to face Bill again.


"This is clearly a case of mistaken identity, because I don't owe you or anyone thirty grand. Now why don't we just come to our senses before this becomes a problem for both of us," Bill encouraged the man.


"Look, back off or I'll be taking a piece of you," Marc came in on the man's flank.


"Tony!" a man from the corner of the bar yelled the man's name.


It was as if all activity in the bar stopped at once. All the music stopped. All the talking stopped. Everything stopped at once upon the man in the corner raising his voice.


The waitresses looked over to the man in the corner, perhaps even frightened of the man. Tony, the man who'd punched Bill turned to face the man in the corner.


"Big Man. This man owes me a lot of money. Was just collecting on a..." Tony began justifying his actions to the man in the corner.


"Silence Tony! If he is the man that owes you money, does he have the same name?" asked the Big Man.


"Yes, he does. He even admitted it," Tony responded.


"First and last?" asked the Big Man, whose features were still shrouded in mystery.


"First! He has the same first name!" Tony agreed.


"Well then ask him his last name. If its the same, then we'll have something to go on and I'll help you get your money. If it isn't, then you're going to be in serious debt to me, and I'll repay this man for you, given the damages you've already caused in my town!" the Big Man told Tony.


"You heard the Big Man. What is your last name?" asked Tony.


"I'm Bill. William Walmer," Bill pulled his driver's license from his pocket, showing Tony.


"Is that the man?!" asked the Big Man.


There was a moment of silence as Tony realized he'd been mistaken.


"No! It's not him," Tony's rage suddenly disappeared only to be replaced by a look of sheer and utter terror.


"I'm so sorry... Really... I am... I'm so sorry..." Tony's face turned to Bill, and then back to the Big Man several times as if he was looking for a reprieve.


"Its alright. No harm done. Just be a bit more careful next time you go throwing something like that around," Bill urged the man.


"See Big Man? He's ok," Tony looked to the Big Man.


"I'll deal with you later, Tony. First, I'd like to offer our guest and his friends a free night at the bar," the Big Man offered Bill.


"Thank you kindly, but our company is already covering our tab. Thank you anyway," Bill responded to the Big Man.


"You don't understand. Tony, my compatriot and underling here in the Five Star General did you a great disservice and publicly humiliated you. Worse, he humiliated me by his poor treatment of you. Before this night is done, I will find a way to repay you and to shore up this debt. I'm a man of principle, and principle is all there really is. Everything else, especially man, is as fleeting as time and will wither away to nothing if not kept. Time is something with which I'm sure you're acquainted, William Walmer," the Big Man asserted himself and none spoke.


"I've lived a little in my life if that's what you mean. I don't think there's anything here that you could offer that I'm in need of, but my friends might feel a bit differently. If any of them can think of something, I'll take that and call it even," Bill assured the Big Man.


"Very well. Please everyone, resume your night," the Big Man spoke.


He'd barely finished his sentence before the music was back on and the night progressed as it had before. Tony had disappeared through a door into the back office of the bar, shortly before two large men from the Big Man's corner had followed him.


"I'm only guessing, but I think Tony's night is just beginning," Bill remarked as he returned to the bar with Darci and Gerry.


"I'd be guessing you're right. Nothing like a case of mistaken identity to get you acquainted with a friendly reminder of how fragile life can be," Gerry smirked at the door behind which Tony had disappeared.


ALP Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields

Into The Night


Three hours on into the night and two hours before closing time saw Darci and Bill retiring for the night. Gerry, the honorary keeper of Bill's debt had joined the table where Mac (the family man), Alvin (unibrow cue ball), Randall (Darci's nemesis), Tom (ZZ Top beard), Charlie (heavy and middle aged), Marc (body builder) and Neil (air drummer and vocalist) were seated.


"You sure can put them back without so much as a budge, Gerry," Randall remarked to Gerry.


"I'm pacing myself. You don't get to as old as I am by running the hare's race," Gerry remarked, taking a sip of his whiskey and maple syrup.


"The night's still young and us single guys have got to get it on, right Marc!" Alvin stood holding his hand up for a high five.


"You're not my type," Marc responded dryly.


"Oh man, that's not what I meant. I mean we have to..." Alvin barely finished his sentence when one of the large men from the Big Man's table approached and addressed the table.


"The Big Man requests your presence at his table. If you're as smart as I think you are, you'll oblige, though I'm not the best judge of character," the large man spoke his piece and returned to the Big Man's corner.


"There you have it. We've been invited by the local Five Star General around here," Gerry stood and started walking in the direction of the Big Man's corner.


"I don't know, there's something creepy about that guy," Marc responded, looking momentarily in the direction of the corner.


"What? Gerry? He's fine man. He's one of us. Don't let the old guy routine fool ya," Tom smirked at Marc.


"No man. I meant, the Big Man. There's just something about that guy. I'm going to turn in for the night. I'm just not liking this situation," Marc responded, relying on his intuiting more so than his sense of adventure.


"Come on Randall. Don't be such a wuss. We've got the day off tomorrow, and there isn't a gym for at least a hundred kilometers. Remember what happened last time you turned in early?" Randall reminded Marc of a night that happened a little over a year ago.


"I remember. You guys won a three thousand bucks in a poker game with a drunk millionaire," Marc recalled their story.


"It was four, and we beat him fair and square. Four grand is enough to cover our unpaid time. Maybe this guy is a gambler? Maybe he'll give us money for Bill's debt? Who knows? Are you going to turn up that kind of an opportunity just to get a few hours extra shut eye?" Randall encouraged Marc.


Marc thought about it and eventually agreed.


"That's better Marc. But remember, if things go south, you're our Big Man," Alvin tried the high five again and got an unenthusiastic slap of Marc's hand.


"That's better," Alvin said as he started for the Big Man's corner.


"I'm in for one more drink and then I'm definitely off to bed. I've got to call my wife in the morning and wish her a good day," Mac responded.


"Mac, you're a regular Ken doll," Charlie remarked.


"Thanks but doesn't Ken have blond hair?" asked Mac.


"Yeah, I guess he does. That and you missed the point," Charlie joined Mac and Tom as they headed over to the Big Man's corner while Randall made up the book end of their caravan.


...


The Big Man's corner was dark, and lit by candle light in the form of wall ornaments lining the walls. His space in the corner was more like its own self contained lounge, where he occupied the corner of a booth seat and was surrounded by a woman on each side, who in turn were surrounded by a mixture of men and women.


Across from the booth seating was another table the Big Man had the staff bring to accommodate his guests. The music was just barely audible and the table was easily within speaking distance of the Big Man himself.


"Kasper, tell the waitress to bring a round of drinks for my guests," the Big Man ordered one of his body guards.


"Right away sir," the body guard obliged and moments later a line of drinks stood before his guests.


"Thank you sir," Gerry nodded to the Big Man, who simply nodded back.


"How's your friend William Walmer?" asked the Big Man as he began carefully building a house of cards with a deck he had sitting beside him.


"He turned in for the night. I'm handling his affairs in his absence," Gerry assured the Big Man.


"Tony is a funny guy. Quirky. Unpredictable sometimes. When he was getting his discipline in the back there, he let it spill that you guys work for PD Transport. Am I right?" asked the Big Man as he added several more cards to the already precariously balanced house.


"That would be correct," Gerry answered.


"I've been on for almost three years now, but I lost my license. I'm a labourer you see..." Alvin began speaking with the Big Man like he was an old friend before Marc's enormous hand covered the smaller man's mouth.


"I also got news that your vehicles were sabotaged at great expense to your company. Am I correct?" asked the Big Man.


"We don't know the accounting, but yeah, the vehicles were sabotaged and we all lost three days work as a result," Gerry confirmed for the Big Man.


"I see. That makes this situation very different. You see, I look after the interests of many in this region of the country. I'm sort of a peace keeper and a diplomat, while at the same time, an economist and even a general. I do business with everyone around here, and its all connected to me in some way. When something happens to disrupt the flow of money, its a big problem, because there is no such thing as having a stack of it. Money has no loyalty and is always in motion. So you never have a chunk of it. You only have your hands on the flood gates. You see, some are starving for it - for that reason, some are bathing in it. Its all just knowing how to use the valves. To keep it coming in at a rate greater than its going out," the Big Man explained to the drivers at the guest table as he ever so carefully placed another card on the fifth tier of his deck composed house.


"Its a bit of a balancing act and it takes a while to get things just right. When you have it that way, you can practically take your hands away and watch the money coming and going. Seeing that the workers are getting paid. That the services are still running and making money. The infrastructure. The emergency services. The luxuries. The crime. All of it. And then something happens, like a gust of wind and..." the Big Man blew with his mouth ever so slightly and the house of cards collapsed to the table.


There was silence at the guest's table as they looked at the Big Man like they were talking with the devil himself.


"...You see, Tony is a mess, but he's our mess and had you never happened in here at this time on this night, he'd have never laid eyes on William Walmer and mistaken him for William Balsam. A man who apparently owes Tony a fair bit of money. Tony's mistaken identity cost me a bit, but the sabotage of your vehicles cost me even more," the Big Man looked firmly at Gerry, and then to Marc, who shuddered at the man's gaze.


"I do a great deal of business with the Pikwàkanagàn reserve and they got their own rules and laws. Like a separate country from the rest of Canada," the Big Man reminded his guests.


"Like you're my guests here in this establishment, we're their guests on their land in this country, the way I see it," the Big Man told them.


"When I was a kid, I was a rebel too. I went to protests in the post hippy generation. I threw a lot a rocks and got hit by a few in my life. But there was always a line that you didn't cross and all of us seemed to know it without having to be told. Those who crossed that line usually didn't last too long. They either up and left on their own, or they were chased away," the Big Man told them as he gathered the cards and began organizing them and shuffling them like an expert.


"Now we have an Algonquin encampment of protestors I'm told on the old service road leading up to your job site. Am I right?" asked the Big Man.


"That's what we heard too," Gerry agreed with the Big Man.


"It appears they've become a problem for both you and I. So here's what I'm proposing. I have connections around here. Sure, I could have them intimidated but it would bring nothing but unrest. Recently, one my contacts was able to procure some specialized equipment from a nearby military center, namely Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. It would seem that my contact was able to acquire some grenades, gas grenades," the Big Man told the guests at his table.


"Oh, like tear gas? That stuff is cool! I've used it before! On Rainbow Six: Siege and Call Of Duty... I've got an X-Box and a Playstation..." Anvil started on about his video gaming.


"No. This isn't the usual CS Tear Gas cannisters used commonly by the Tactical Enforcement Officers. This is something very, very different. Apparently this is a weapon that cannot be deployed by the Canadian Forces as it violates both the NATO Pact and the Geneva Convention. They have it purely as a training tool for overcoming environments where it is used..." the Big Man told them.


"Is it deadly? What does it do?" Anvil asked, already drooling and pulling on his leash.


"It isn't lethal and causes no permanent damage, but it is one of the most potent hallucinogens ever created by humankind," the Big Man told them as their stomachs turned.


"Why are you telling us this?" Randall asked enthusiastically.


"The Algonquins are a determined folk and will not be turned away by simply intimidation. However, they are superstitious and with the right elements, they could be encouraged to vacate their camp," the Big Man pointed up to a part of the wall near the ceiling that none of them had noticed.


Above them, just below the second floor railing were a line of heads. The heads of animals that had been hunted in the region.


"Each of those heads is actually a part of the Algonquin Totem. A bear, a deer and a hawk. Not only are they the prize trophies of hunters, but they're also masks, specially made by a local Medicine Man from the reserve. After procuring these special grenades a year ago, I took it upon myself to have gas masks fitted to these masks, in case I ever needed to coax or prod the Algonquin on any of our business dealings," the Big Man told them.


"You want us to put these masks on, throw some of the grenades at the the protestor's camp and scare them off with their own superstition? I love it!" Randall stood, as one of the Big Man's henchmen stood and pushed him back down into his seat.


"Discretely, Mr. Randall Eberaned," the Big Man reminded him.


"If we do?" asked Gerry.


"You'll have your revenge for the loss of three days work, and no more interruptions for the entire road and pipeline, because word travels fast between reserves. Not only that, but I'll every man that takes part in this the pay they've lost for the sabotage," the Big Man assured them placing a stack of cash on the table before them.


"If one of you opts out, the rest divide that man's pay," the Big Man told them.


"I have to say that I'm certain that Bill wouldn't go for this," Gerry stood, ready to dismiss himself.


"William Walmer's issue is now separate from this one," the Big Man told Gerry.


"Well I don't think Bill would want any part of this, so I'm just going to call it a night. If my coworkers here choose to go along with your scheme, that's their choice. Thank you for your hospitality," Gerry said as he dismissed himself.


"I advised you not to leave this issue beyond this day, and you like William Walmer went against my advice. Go, and I will deal with you later," the Big Man told Gerry, who kept his composure and left the table.


"I'm with Gerry. I can't go along with this. I'm a family man and my wife's expecting my call in the morning. Thank you for everything, but I've got to go," Mac got up and left the table.


"Me too. This is just way beyond me," Tom stood and left the table, leaving only Randall, Alvin, Marc, Charlie and Neil.


"Come on Charlie, lets get out of here. This just isn't my kind of thing," Neil agreed with Tom, urging Charlie to join him.


"I'm with Neil on this..." Charlie stood and thanked the Big Man before shuffling off.


"There's a big pot now because you three are getting all of their three days pay. Not only that, but there's three masks, one for each of you," the Big Man signaled to the balcony above them and three of the men upstairs grabbed the masks, each brandishing one.


Marc received the bear mask.


Randall received the hawk mask.


Alvin received the deer mask.


"Hey! I wanted to be the hawk!" Alvin remarked reaching for it from Randall.


"Hands off little man, its mine!" Randall said, dismounting it from the plaque.


Marc looked at the mask, and then to the money.


"Why not," Marc remarked, removing the large mask from the plaque and putting it in his lap.


"I'll have one of my men drive you to the encampment, where you'll put the plan into action. The grenades are simple devices. They're cannisters. When you pull the pin and release the handle, it triggers a fuse in the grenade that takes about six to eight seconds. Make sure that you're wearing the masks when they go off. Allow it a few minutes to affect the people at the camp and then scare them as if you're those animals yourself," the Big Man's eyes became wild as a cruel smile crossed his face, revealing several gold teeth in his mouth.


ALP Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields

Algonquin Camp

{2021-10-24 Author's Note: Changes will occur to this chapter specifically as I check facts, especially regarding certain Native Canadian rituals. I expect that this fact checking will be done by the end of this month, in time for Hallow's Eve. }


"I told you this would be a good way to get some fresh air and do something for a good cause too," Nelony sat on a log beside Mila, the two of them sitting before a campfire.


"I was doing good at home. Just not this kind of good, and remember, I came out here because my home is nearby at two hundred kilometers from here in South Eastern Ontario," Mila replied, still struggling with the loss of Barris months earlier.


"I thought their Fire Pit Dance was pretty spectacular and in all honesty and in all of the planes, I've never seen anything like that," Shaela responded as she sat on Mila's other side.


"Another marshmallow please," Nelony asked and Mila offered her the bag.


She retrieved one and popped it on the end of her stick, then holding it near the heat of the campfire keeping it away from the flames.


"Where do you suppose Sato has gotten to?" asked Mila of Barris' best friend.


"I'm not sure. He was here a few moments ago," Shaela looked around not seeing the elderly man anywhere.


A distance off, in the camp Chieftain's tent, Sato sat, his legs crossed amidst a room full of Algonquin braves. 


All were much younger than him with the exception of two. The camp Chieftain, who was acting as a representative of the Chief of the Pikwàkanagàn reserve, and Askuwheteau, the Sanctum's representative for the Order Of The Great Totem.


They sat in a circle surrounding a ceremonial point in the center about which were placed several items of significance to the men in the tent. One from each of them. Before the Chieftain lay a pipe. He chanted for a moment in the old language, older than the ears of any man present and in the verse common to the spirit world.


Askuwheteau nodded to Sato who nodded back from across the tent on the other side of the ceremonial offerings.


The Chieftain then picked up the pipe, a long instrument adorned with innate carvings from which a variety of feathers hung, each having a significance to the ceremony taking place. 


The Chieftain thanked the Gitchi-Manitou for the tobacco and the plentiful year their people had enjoyed. He  then filled the pipe's cup with fresh tobacco that had been dried earlier in the season, set aside especially for this ceremony.


Then, with a smoldering branch he'd kept in front of him in a soap stone cauldron, he lit the pipe. He took  in several deep breaths, the embers getting brighter as he did. Then when the pipe was sufficiently glowing, he passed it to Sato, his honorary guest.


Sato accepted the pipe, bowing reflexively and holding his head low to the Chieftain. He then looked to Askuwheteau, who gestured with his hands indicating that Sato should inhale from the pipe.


Sato nodded, and then made an attempt at his contribution to the ritual, keeping in mind that he'd not smoked a single pipe, cigar or cigarette in his entire life.


He placed the pipe upon his lips and began to inhale as the braves around him began chanting. His first instinct was to cough and gag at the fumes that he'd introduced to his lungs. Instead, he managed to hold it and for a considerable amount of time as the chanting grew louder. Then, when his eyeballs were completely red except for his brown irises, he exploded, letting out a ghast of smoky air amidst the laughter of the braves.


He then passed the pipe to the next brave, and the process continued until the pipe had made an entire round of everyone in the tent.


The Chieftain leaned over to Askuwheteau and said something into his ear. Askuwheteau leaned back to his cross legged position across from Sato and spoke.


"He says you did good. You did not spit out the breath of such fine tobacco and have honoured us all with your presence," Askuwheteau offered his Japanese compatriot and friend.


The Chieftain smiled at Sato and then Askuwheteau. He then spoke in Ojibwe to Askuwheteau, gesturing as he did.


"He says that your head looked like a bubble, ready to burst," Askuwheteau said as the braves laughed.


"It is a great honour to have been welcomed by you," Sato told the Chieftain through Askuwheteau as his eyes burned and stung.


The men sat within the smoky air of the tent for another five minutes before they exited back to the fire pit. Sato made his way over to the campfire and sat beside Nelony.


"We were just asking about you. Where have you been?" asked Nelony of Sato.


"I welcomed by the Chieftain in a ceremony while you gluttons were out here fattening yourselves with marshmallows," Sato responded lacking none of the sharpness or wit for for which he'd become known.


"Ouch! I guess that means that you're not getting any," Mila took the bag, holding it away from Sato.


Shaela then grabbed it, extracting another one from inside.


"Don't tell anyone," she said dryly behind her black dress, gothic makeup and striking red hair.


"It must be getting late. I suppose we should turn in for the night," Mila suggested.


"I'm loving this fresh night air. I could go for a while more myself," Shaela said feeling energized by the darkness.


"Me too," Nelony responded.


"Alright, I guess we'll stay up. However, we haven't had a night like this together for a long time. At least since the sixteen hundreds and the Haven Of The True. So I brought some of my own home made wine. Would you like a glass cup?" asked Mila who pulled the bottle from her rucksack nearby.


"I'm game for that," Shaela agreed already holding out her cup.


"Good timing Mila," Nelony agreed.


"What about the rest of the camp?" asked Sato.


"When we arrived at the Pikwàkanagàn before we left for the camp, I gifted the tribe twenty bottles of the best wine I've ever made. They kept it there for a ceremony in our honour when we get back," Mila told her friends.


"Alright. If that's the case and we've already shared it, I guess I'm in," Sato agreed, still dizzy from the tobacco smoke.


Mila was about to open the bottle when Askuwheteau arrived, having run from the fire pit to their campfire.


"Sato, Mila, Nelony and Shaela. I must warn you that we are being approached by a threat to the camp. One of our scouts just returned with word that several drunken men from a local bar got out a vehicle just south of camp and were headed this way. It could be trouble," Askuwheteau warned the his friends and peers from the Sanctum.


"Three drunken men? I think we could handle that," Shaela said not even worried in the slightest.


"We could probably charm our way out of that," Nelony responded.


"Its better to err on the side of caution I say," Mila looked to her friends as she stood up and walked back from the camp twenty meters and began weaving her artistic magic.


With her manipulation of light and space, she crafted a huge camouflage barrier that hid the entire camp when viewed from one side, while they could see anything coming from the camp side.


"That should do the trick," Mila said, admiring her creation as she returned to her seat at the campfire.


"Thank you Mila. Nelony, if there's any trouble please signal us with the call of the owl," Askuwheteau returned to the fire pit where they were preparing signs for the next protest outing to come in the day ahead. 


"Well that settles that. Now lets get back to our bonding over this bottle of wine, shall we my fellow Wytch friends?" asked Mila.


"Lets," Nelony agreed.


"Why am I getting a bad feeling about this," Sato responded.


"I'm getting the impression that sarcasm is hereditary in your family," Shaela asked Sato.


ALP Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields

Sabateurs Lost


Randall led the three men forward as they walked up hill in the direction indicated by the Big Man's henchman in search of the camp. The three had been walking for twenty minutes and could see nothing except the darkness of the tree line ahead.


"We should be able to see it by now. They said it was like a five minute walk from where they dropped us off," Marc commented, clearly agitated that he'd agreed to go along with these shenanigans.


"We'll find it, we'll find it. Trust me. Just think about how you're going to spend that money. I mean, because all the other guys dropped out, its practically like three days of triple pay," Randall reminded Marc.


"No need to tell me, I'm already spending it in my mind," Alvin remarked, the hawk mask dangling over his shoulder.


"Yeah, I guess I could get that skirt for my Mustang. The one I've had my eye on for the last little while," Marc smiled when he thought about it on his car.


"I'm going to get the latest Battlefield game, 2042 for Playstation, and a new headset so I can troll guys as I'm blowin' their head off! Haha! I'm also going to get an E-bike. One of those fancy ones. I hear you don't need a license to drive those." Alvin was jumping around excited to be spending the money before it was even in his hands.


"You can only drive those in the city and besides, that won't last long. You'll just go around driving like a maniac again and end up in court and lose the right to own one. What's wrong with you, drivin' like a nut like that anyway?!" Marc scoffed at Alvin.


"I feel the need for speed! I love drivin'," Alvin came back at Marc.


"Well it obviously doesn't love you. Why don't you just do yourself a favour and spend your money on something that keeps the rest of us on the roads safe from you. Like a bus pass or something," Marc smirked at Alvin, becoming more frustrated by the minute.


"Alvin here is my protege. Isn't that right Alvin?" Randall came to Alvin's defense.


"Yeah, that's right," Alvin smiled looking back at Marc as he walked backwards through Mila's barrier.


Alvin turned around and saw the camp before him.


"Hey guys!" he yelled, though from their perspective neither Marc nor Randall could see him.


"Who was that?" asked Mila, suddenly becoming aware that someone had breached her barrier.


"Looks like the drunks are here," Shaela stood, spotting Alvin thirty meters away at the edge of the campfire's brightness.


Alvin panicked when he saw the women, especially the one with the fiery red hair.


He reached into his pocket and pulled the cannister grenade. He then pulled the pin and lobbed it in the direction of the campfire, forgetting entirely to don his mask.


On the other side of the barrier, Marc and Randall looked for Alvin who'd suddenly vanished as if into thin air.


"Incoming!" Sato yelled, pushing the three women to the dirt and covering them as best he could upon seeing the flying cannister grenade.


Alvin ran in circles, looking for cover to hide from the camp, finding a tree nearby and much closer to the campfire.


"Aren't I forgetting something?" he asked himself as the cannister grenade went off.


There was no explosion, but rather, the grenade began to hiss like a snake, flushing forth clouds of sinister green smoke into the air around the camp. As there was no wind, the smoke clung to the area like leaves to a tree.


"Oh no," Sato said when he realized what was happening.


"What is this stuff?" asked Nelony who coughed, having inhaled a lung full of the gas.


"Smells like a mix between mint bubble gum and washing detergent," Shaela said as she inhaled.


"I hate rabbits. I hate rabbits. I hate rabbits," Mila began chanting ritualistically something she'd learned from childhood to keep smoke away.


However, she'd already inhaled several generous breaths of the gas.


"Where the hell did that cue ball headed unibrow idiot get to," Randall spat at the ground.


"Maybe he fell? He's around here somewhere. I mean we just lost him... do you smell that? Smells like bubble gum or something..." Marc said as he inhaled a dose of the gas.


"Heck even tastes like bubble gum. Better not get any on our shoes..." Randall joked with Marc.


The smoke spread throughout the entire camp, engulfing everyone and every living thing within a hundred meters of the point of detonation.


"Mila, this is not good! I'm seeing a giant squirrel that's a dead ringer for the singer Michael Buble, holding a sign telling us to eat gravel through our tear ducts," Nelony said as she rolled over from out of under Sato's protective grip, not realizing that she was seeing Mila's rucksack against the flickering light of the fire.


Sato got up and started running at full tilt, diving for cover behind a stack of cut wood, screaming as he leapt.


"Get them off of me! Get them off of me!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, believing he was reliving world war two as if it were fought against an enemy nation of Meercats.


Shaela managed to get to her feet and began the summoning ritual for her great protector. She watched her own hands as they formed trails during the ritual, throwing her incantation off. Altering it ever so slightly.


When the portal to the shadow plane opened before her, she realized that she'd botched the incantation but by that time, it was already too late.


"HQ, its Gunny Sato reporting in, we're surrounded by enemy forces," Sato spoke into an imaginary radio, peeking ever so slightly over the stack of wood.


He spied a platoon's worth of Meercats, simply standing their scouting on their hind legs with their front paws sticking out as if they were useless. Sato knew better than to under estimate a Meercat. Especially an entire platoon of Meercats, for they were cunning beasts and experts at psychological warfare. 


Sure, they look cute and cuddly, Sato thought to himself, but he knew the truth of their ways. That cuteness  was meerly camouflage, he thought, pun intended. They were out for one thing. World domination. Just like all other cute and cuddly animals, they had to be handled with care. More importantly, they had to be watched just to ensure they weren't secretly trying to take over the world.


"HQ, I think they've spotted me," he suddenly got up from behind the pile of wood and ran to the only nearby cover he could see, a tree on the other side of the campfire.


Closer to the campfire, Mila had gotten to her feet and was struck with the sudden inspiration to create art with anything and everything around her. The world around her had become both her palette and canvas, and nothing was offside in Mila's attempt to craft art. Nothing.


With a few somatic gestures with her hands, she'd transformed the campfire into an illusional illustrious fountain, of crystal and marble, adorned with maple leafs, mooses, beavers spewing forth cinnamon pumpkin spice latte. Perhaps her own seasonal gesture and ode to Hallow's Eve as much so to her home itself.


Nelony was sitting beside Mila's rucksack still thinking that it was a giant Michael Buble shaped squirrel. She was telling him (it) how long she'd wanted to meet him (again, it) and if she could have his (its) autograph. In the case he didn't sign autographs, if she could have a peanut and be done with it.


The rucksack simply did what most rucksacks would do in the same situation and remained motionless, saying nothing that would imply it heard her at all. After all, if it was later questioned about their conversation, it would have an alibi, ie it didn't hear a thing or it wasn't listening. The logic that seemed to permeate the universe with regard to most other seemingly inanimate objects.


"Why aren't you answering me?" Nelony pleaded with the Buble shaped giant squirrel rucksack.


"Ohhhh my poor Nelony... Its about time you had a change... something to lift your spirits," Mila strode by, her hands stretched to her sides as she spun, much like Sarah Brightman on stage at one of her concerts.


"Michael Buble won't answer me..." Nelony sat beside the rucksack on the ground as Mila's hands began altering her reality.


Mila sang a short sweet melody as she worked the weave upon Nelony. She then stepped away, resuming her spinning dancing frolick off in another direction. The artistic nymph of the night.


Nelony stood, fully naked with the exception of her several meters long hair which was now platinum blonde. It was entwined throughout her body and covering her privates.


Nelony looked at herself and upon realizing she was naked, she began running and screaming across the camp ground, covering herself with her hands. What most other people, including her own best friends didn't know about Nelony was that she'd suffered from Gymnophobia all of her life. The fear of nudity and being naked.


The gas they'd inhaled had exacerbated her phobia as it had her anxiety. For all of the Wytches who'd ingested it that night, the danger was in their aetheric weave sensitive connection to magic. The gas itself posed no harm other than induced hallucinations, but hallucinations presented to Wytches under its influence could prove to be catastrophic, for they had the power to move mountains.


Nelony upon seeing Shaela, ran in the direction of her friend, unaware that Shaela was dealing with her own crisis at the moment.


Alvin meanwhile, was desperately trying to remember why they were there at all when he came to the conclusion that it must have been for the babes he'd seen earlier. It was a night club, and they were going there to pick-up chicks, he thought.


"I remember. I came over to this tree to take a leak... but I don't have to go now. I'd better find those guys so we can get out there and into the meat market..." Alvin said aloud, imaging himself in his best duds.


His head started bopping side to side to the illusory music he heard in his mind. As he stepped out from behind the tree, another bald man charged at him, an elderly Japanese gentleman, running at full tilt collided with Alvin. They both fell in opposite directions, rebounding off of each other onto their backs. They then sat up and upon seeing each other's face, they started to scream!


"The Meercat army have dopplegangers!" Sato yelled as he jumped onto his feet with remarkable dexterity for an older man and began running in the direction of the camp.


"Arrrrhhhhhgh!" Alvin screamed, getting up and running in the direction of Mila's barrier which was slowly  wavering in and out of existence, revealing the camp to Randall and Marc.


"Whoa man. That's a camp! Where'd that come from?" Marc remarked as he looked around, amazed by the fact that the trees had become like the spectators at a ball game.


"We're being watched by trees. Did you know that? Look, they're even doing the wave..." Marc pointed at the tree line as he spied them row after row, standing up and then sitting down in a concentric circle along the edge of the forest.


"What was that about a camp? I'm seeing the brightest headlights from the baddest rig I've ever seen... Its my dream rig man!" Randall started in the direction of a pair of lights he spied coming from the camp ahead of them.


"Maybe the trees were cheering on the rig. Whoa, that's heavy," Marc held his hands in front of his face and then removed them to see if the headlights from the approaching truck were still there.


"Yep. I guess the trees were cheering the rig," Marc agreed as he followed Randall.


Alvin ran at full tilt towards them, screaming and muttering something incoherently.


"Is that a gnome?" asked Marc.


"A what?" asked Randall.


"A gnome. Bald little fellas that grant you wishes if you catch them..." Marc explained to Randall.


"That's no gnome. That's Alvin!" Randall realized at the last moment as Alvin ran squarely into him and his family jewels.


They both fell on the ground, Randall rolling and hanging onto his package, unable to breath while Alvin got up quickly onto his feet continuing his rant.


"I just saw myself as an old man! And it was sick! Big eye brows and a weird moustache!" Alvin began muttering first to Randall, who was preoccupied with his jewels. 


So Alvin turned to Marc and continued.


"He was almost the same size as me and was wearing strange clothing man. Like he was from one of those karate movies from the seventies!" Alvin began ranting like a madman.


"Hey... You're in the way of rig, man. You might want to step aside and let royalty have its way?" Marc said pointing in the direction of the two headlights they'd seen.


"What? Royalty? Here?" Alvin looked in the direction of the headlights as it got close enough to become visible under the moonlight.


The headlights weren't lights at all, but two enormous glowing eyes. Its body was composed almost entirely of a shadowy substance that wavered in the night air like an oasis in the heat. It was a large lumbering beast, wisps of fur flowing from it like columns of black fire.


"That's no rig man. That's a Mugga-Wumpus!" Alvin screamed as he began running directly away from the oncoming beast.


"A what?" Marc asked as he lifted Randall onto his feet and began running.


"A Mugga-Wumpus! Don't you remember? When you were a kid? If you lost a tooth, you hid your tooth under the pillow and the tooth fairy would come. If you didn't, the Mugga-Wumpus would come!" Alvin yelled back to them as he accelerated on sheer terror alone.


"Man, your parents taught you some weird stuff, Alvin," Marc yelled as he helped Randall to keep up.


Randall looked back wondering what happened to the rig. When he saw it, he screamed too and began running as fast as he could.


"Holy crap man! Its a friggin' Mugga-Wumpus!" he yelled, pulling himself away from Marc, full sprint.


...


A distance away in a pickup truck just off the side of the service road, two of the Big Man's employees sat waiting.


"Gin. I beat ya again." Mick showed his cards to Patrick, the older man.


"That's the fifth time. What, do you got some cards up your sleeve?" Patrick responded, not letting the younger man know he was letting him win.


"I guess its just my night," Mick smiled, gathering up the cards and shuffling them for the next hand.


"Well deal them cards and we'll see," urged Patrick.


"Did you hear that?" Mick said, cocking his head slightly.


"Hear what?" asked Patrick of Mick, who was already rolling down the passenger side window.


"There they are. They're running. Quick. Real quick," Mick said as he squinted to see the silhouette of the men running down the hill in the distance.


"Is that a truck behind then?" asked Patrick, adjusting his glasses.


"There's no road out there, Patrick. Can't be a truck. Gotta be a four wheeler. One of them buggies. They must have been caught," Mick said as Patrick quickly started the pickup truck.


"You remembered to remove the plates didn't you?" Patrick asked Mick.


"Sure did. Flash the lights for them," Mick agreed.


Patrick flashed the high-beams and honked the horn a few times for them.


"They're getting close and they ain't slowin'. Can they even see us?" asked Mick.


"They oughtta be able to unless they're blind," Patrick flicked the lights again and the horn for good measure.


Both Mick and Patrick could see Alvin taking up the lead, with Randall and Marc not too far behind. All three of them running for their lives and not slowing for anything.


"They're going to hit us!" Mick said urgently to Patrick.


"Well we're bigger. We got the right of way," Patrick observed as the three men got closer.


All three slammed into the side of the truck and bounced off of it falling flat on their backs, winded but unbroken.


The four wheeler they'd seen earlier now appeared much larger than they'd anticipated. In fact, much larger than their pickup truck.


"...by Old Macdonald himself, that's no four wheeler..." Patrick's jaw dropped as the large beast ran at the vehicle.


"...that's a Mugga-Wumpus!" yelled Mick as the mighty beast leapt right over the truck and kept going.


"It's gone. In the direction of the Five Star General... Quick, get them into the back of the truck. We've got to get back and warn them!" Patrick urged Mick, who was already out and lifting the three men onto their feet.


The three men jumped into the back of the pickup as Mick jumped back in the passenger side. Patrick then gunned the pedal to the floor and the truck took off, headlights blazing into the night.


ALP Hallow's Eve: What Superstition Wields

Scents And Sensibility


Askuwheteau was busy painting the last of his signs for the protest to come when the strange cloud had set upon them at the fire pit.


"Do you smell it brother?" Tec'cou, one of the braves, warriors who'd passed the tribe's rite of ascension observed the strange sweet smell in the air, wiping the paint from his hands onto his jeans.


"Smells like maple syrup... and chemicals... Not natural..." Askuwheteau took a whiff of the air.


"It feels strange. Like a spirit walk. Vision quest," Tec'cou looked around him noticing the vivid colours of the camp under the light of the fire pit.


"That's exactly what it is. Its a mist bringing the spirit world to us. But it is not natural and we did not quest for it. It was brought to us by artificial means," Askuwheteau looked around to see the rest of his First Nations sisters and brothers responding to the smell in the air.


"Tec'cou, we'll meet with acting Chief Pum'Seh in the sweat lodge tent and speak with him of this. Get his widsom and the ancestor's advice. Come, let's go brother," Askuwheteau and Tec'cou strode to the tent where a half an hour earlier they'd welcomed Sato.


Upon gaining his audience, Tec'cou and Askuwheteau sat cross legged on either side of Chief Pum'Seh.


"Little Chief Pum'Seh. There is a strange air about in the camp. It is bringing with it the spirit world. It follows the strange air like the night follows the moon," Tec'cou began.


"It is an unnatural smell. It is made by men in factories. Not by shaman or medicine man," Askuwheteau added to Tec'cou's account.


Chief Pum'Seh sat silently pondering the mystery, drawing upon his own wisdom and the wisdom of his ancestors before he spoke.


"We here at the camp are in know of the spirit world. We all of us each have been. We've seen the spirits. We've seen the great bear. The deer. The hawk. The corn. Whether in or out of the spirit world, it is a part of us and our knowing. Therefore, we cannot be harmed by what we know and are familiar with. However, we are not alone at this camp and there are those who know not of the spirits or their world. That brings up another point. How far has this spread?" asked Chief Pum'Seh.


"We haven't checked up on our guests, and we haven't left camp, so we do not know," Askuwheteau pointed out.


"Then it makes sense that you scout the situation and let us know. We will act once we have the knowledge we need to proceed," Chief Pum'Seh dismissed Askuwheteau to investigate the situation while Tec'cou remained seated.


"You will check our camp and fire pit to ensure that everyone is healthy and safe. Return when you are done and we will commit ourselves further to action," Chief Pum'Seh sent Tec'cou on his way behind Askuwheteau.


When they arrived outside, Askuwheteau immediately made his way over to Mila's camp where he quickly ascertained that the situation was nearing the point of calamity.


Flower petals were falling like rain from the sky, while small fauna like rabbits and deer had gathered around the camp borders almost as if a story book romance had come to life. Sato was busying trying to scoop imaginary pumpkin spice latte from the campfire with his bare hands, while Shaela sat on the ground whimpering something about having lost her cat forever. Mila was dancing about the campfire, slowly transforming the world around then into one of her secret fantasies. There was no sign of Nelony.


Askuwheteau quickly determined that they'd been affected by the strange smell, some more adversely than others. He quickly reached up and plucked a single hair from his head. He then took one of the feathers from his necklace, wrapping the feather in the strand of hair. He then tossed the wrapped feather into the campfire as he chanted.


A gust of wind blew through the camp, bringing with it fresh and cleansing air. Mila's illusionary world started to dissipate as she came to her senses. She stopped her spinning dance and looked around as someone had placed her there while she was sleeping.


"Where am I?" she asked.


"Where'd the pumpkin spice latte fountain go?" asked Sato, who observed that his hands were completely barren of any bodily hair, all of it having burnt.


"You are here, at a Pikwàkanagàn camp for an environmental protest. Something happened and you were affected by a strange air that brought the spirit world upon you. You are not used to the spirit world, so you were lost like a child in the great forest, alone... with nothing but potential and possibility... you were subject to your greatest fears and your deepest desires..." Askuwheteau looked to Shaela, then to Sato and finally Mila.


"I'm sorry but pumpkin spice latte is neither my greatest fear nor my deepest desire..." Sato responded to Askuwheteau's explanation.


"Ok. That, and other stuff..." Askuwheteau replied quickly.


"I'm not sure whether to thank you or to strangle you. I was having such a great time and Barris was about to..." Mila began.


"The spirit world can change very quickly from desire to terror and the same backwards. You'd have been at your greatest heights and then thrust into your darkest depths. All can face their greatest desire, but few can face their greatest darkness and live," Askuwheteau explained to Mila how her fantasy could have potentially harmed her.


"Where's Nelony?" asked Sato, noticing that she was nowhere to be seen.


"I think I changed her somehow... but my other illusions seem to have expired. Won't that one?" asked Mila.


"Your other illusions affected things that are not like us. Things that do not move or speak. Nelony is alive, moves and speaks, therefore the illusions you wove are a part of her until you undo them," Askuwheteau assured Mila.


"Isn't Nelony gymnophobic?" Mila asked.


"Gymno-what?" asked Sato.


"Gymnophobic. Afraid of being naked. She's deathly afraid of it. Ever since her experience being captured by the Armed Regiment of the Strangers back during the Wytch hunt of sixteen fifty four. She was naked when she was captured, and their treatment of her traumatized her. Fortunately they didn't violate her, or so Nelony says, but maybe she's too scarred to deal with it. Regardless, she's terrified of being naked and nudity in general. Whenever she visits my home, I have hide my Rembrandt and Van Gogh collection so it doesn't trigger an episode..." Mila explained to them.


"We have to find her then. This is serious," Sato stood, dusting off his hands and clothing.


"Shaela? What's the matter? Are you alright?" asked Mila who saw that Shaela was still laying on the ground whimpering.


"Its my cat... its gone..." Shaela wiped her face as she gained her composure.


"I think they fled in the direction of town. Towards one of the main strips. In the direction of that bar I always hear about," Mila told them, having remembered the place from one of her visits this direction with Barris years ago.


"Why would Nelony flee to a crowded place? If she'd afraid of being seen, wouldn't she flee to the wilderness where she's perfectly at home?" asked Mila.


"She's not cleared of the effects of whatever put us into the spirit world so she's not thinking on her feet. She's in the height of anxiety and in the grip of her worst fear. She might have gone in the direction of town to find clothing, not even realizing that she could create it for herself with the weave..." Shaela told Mila and the others.


"You mean nature girl clothing... out of leaves, twigs and berries..." Sato added sarcastically.


"Errrr... exactly. But what's worse is that whatever leapt out of my portal ran as fast as it could in the direction of town," Shaela responded to Sato's sarcasm and told them of the calamity that had occurred when she'd summoned a shadow portal.


"Then we must get to town. Quickly," Askuwheteau held out his hand and let out call.


A moment later a small bird landed on his extended fingers. He whispered to it in the old language as the bird listened to him speak. The bird then flew off in the direction of Little Chief Pem'Seh's tent.


"The bird will let the Chief know about what we've discovered," Askuwheteau explained.


"Hmmm. Love is in the air. I think he's the bachelor I'd vote for in line for a date with Nelony. They already have something in common. They both can have polite conversations with birds," Sato observed the similarity between the two of his friends bringing about giggling laughter from Mila.


"No comment," Askuwheteau's face became stern as he whistled once soft and twice loud with his fingers.


A portal opened up a few feet away from Askuwheteau and Otaa Dabun, his horse stepped through into their plane and strode over to Askuwheteau, whinnying.


He leapt deftly up onto the horse's back, offering Mila a hand up.


"What about us?" asked Sato referring to Shaela and himself.


"Get your own horse, brother," Askuwheteau smirked at Sato, still sensitive about the joke.


"Hang on tight," Askuwheteau told Mila as he coaxed the horse forward.


Another portal opened before them and they rode together on horse back into its depths, leaving Shaela and Sato by themselves.


"I'm guessing that Askuwheteau still isn't used to our brand of humour. Soooo. I don't suppose you know the portal trick do you?" asked Sato.


"You mean your sense of humour and yes, I do. And if I didn't, I'd learn it real quick because I wouldn't want to be your horse," Shaela smirked at Sato, whose mouth flattened.


"I see. I'll just be over in my corner when you get that portal going. Hollar if you need me for anything," Sato responded glumly as he waltzed back over to the campfire and stuck a marshmallow onto a stick, holding it over the fire.


By the time it was cooked, Shaela had summoned a portal for them.


"That marshmallow better be mine or your staying here," Shaela remarked.


"Cooked exactly as you like it," Sato handed her the stick, covering for the fact he'd actually cooked it for himself. 


She grabbed the stick from his hands and retrieved the marshmallow, eating it in front of him with a scornful look on her face. When she finished, she tossed the stick to the ground.


"Age before beauty," Shaela directed Sato into the portal.


"Why ever do I feel so strangely turned on by you..." the older man quipped.


"Watch it, or you'll be spending your last moments in my Shadow Cat's kitty litter..." Shaela remarked.


"I'm gone," Sato stepped into the portal and was twisted and contorted through time and space, landing in a grocery store parking lot just down the street from their intended target. As Sato got to his feet, still nauseous from the effects of dimensional travel, Shaela stepped through the portal non-chalantly, as if it were nothing to her.


From the other end of the parking lot, Otaa Dabun's spirit hoofs could be heard on the asphalt as Mila and Askuwheteau rode the beast over to Shaela and Sato. Askuwheteau staid atop of the horse, holding onto Mila as she dismounted. He then easily lifted his leg over the horse's neck and was off in one motion, sliding down its side. Another portal opened and Otaa Dabun reared up on her hind legs, steam billowing forth from her nostrils. When she was on four legs again, she charged through the portal, which closed behind her, sucking in a portion of the air around them.


"When do I get mine? Errr... forget I asked..." Sato asked.


"Soon, maybe soon," Askuwheteau slapped his hand on Sato's back and winked at him.


"I think that was how in his humour he says never," Shaela slapped her hand on his back.


"Whatever happened to common courtesy and respect for the elderly?" asked Sato.


"Don't worry Sato. I still love you Sato. Let's go," Mila grabbed Sato's hand and urged him to follow.


Shaela led the way, using her keen awareness of the shadow plane to detect the shadow beast. They quickly walked to sidewalk, weaving by the occasional car as they did. When they arrived on the sidewalk, they could see a small crowd of people standing outside of the Five Star General.


Shaela stepped to the side against the wall and the others followed her suit.


"Shhhh! I think that's one of the drunken men from the camp..." Shaela pointed down the street towards a bald man whose arms were waving frantically as he explained everything to several others surrounding him.


"Wait! I remember him! That's my doppleganger! You mean he wasn't an illusion?" Sato brows furrowed as he pondered the implications.


"He's just another bald guy that looks a bit similar to you. Remember, you had that experience while under the influence of the spirit world," Mila reminded him.


"Is that what you call it these days?" Sato confirmed with Mila.


"If the shadow beast isn't here, then where could it be?" Mila asked Shaela.


"I'm not sure. It sure did run in this direction in a hurry. If it were hunting anyone around here, I'd have seen it by now," Shaela looked in the area surrounding them with her keen weave aided senses and saw no trail of the beast.


"When the clues don't come to you, it is wise to go to them..." Askuwheteau said as he stepped out onto the sidewalk and began towards the bald man and the crowd.


"I'm guessing we should follow," Mila grabbed Sato's hand again and they strode out onto the sidewalk together, Shaela remaining just behind them, using them as cover.


Askuwheteau strode up to the crowd as the bald man continued his story. 


"...and then this ginormous truck looking thing comes running at us from nowhere, eyes glowing... So I told my friends to get behind me because I have experience dealing with things like that..." Alvin continued his tall tale.


"You are still within the spirit realm... I can hear it in your voice," Askuwheteau told Alvin, not waiting for him to finish his story.


"...look man, I don't know who you are, but I'm telling these nice people what happened to my friends and I tonight... so just get in the bar and get drunk like you usually do..." Alvin remarked to Askuwheteau who seemed unaffected by the comment, observing that Alvin had been mostly directing his tale at the women.


Askuwheteau chanted a phrase and then once again addressed Alvin.


"You need to adjust your attitude..." Askuwheteau said calmly.


"Look, I thought I told you to..." Alvin turned around to see that he was facing a man with the head and face of a wolf.


"Arrrgh...!" Alvin screamed, pushing the women out of the way to get in through the doors of the Five Star General.


He pushed through the crowd that had gathered for last call, finding his way back to the Big Man, where Randall and Marc were already seated.


"...I don't know how to explain it but it was big whatever it was..." Randall told everything to the Big Man.


"Bigger than a hippopotamus..." Marc confirmed Randall's story.


"Did either of you put the masks on when you threw your grenades at the camp?" the Big Man asked them.


"No. We didn't even find the camp until much later. It suddenly appeared out of nowhere..." Randall told the Big Man with a wild look in his eyes.


"Other than alcohol, you haven't been into anything else tonight?" asked the Big Man.


"No. Honest. Not tonight. I might pop the occasional amphetamine on a long day, but nothing tonight," Randall told the Big Man.


"Same here... I don't mess with my body that way... but like my friend Randall here, I might take an amphetamine on a long shift..." Marc confessed to the Big Man.


"This isn't a Church, but I'll let you know that I find out everything that goes on around here sooner or later, whether you're a sinner or a saint..." the Big Man had just finished his sentence when Alvin tripped as he ran for a seat beside his friends, sliding over the table and into the Big Man's snacking food, spilling drinks on the women beside him.


The largest of the Big Man's guards immediately picked up Alvin with one hand, by his ankle, hoisting him in the air and dropping him on the floor like a sack of potatoes. As soon as he'd become still on the floor, he rolled over and was onto his feet, blathering something about the wolf man.


"...I was talking to these chicks outside and then this native dude comes up to me and says something bizarre... I told him to beat it and he turned into a werewolf right in front of me! Not a word of a lie!" Alvin spoke at hundred words a minute.


"...and I suppose that this man here isn't under the effects of anything other than alcohol? Perhaps amphetamines? I am seldom fooled by a scam, and there are no scams that escape my justice... I do believe that you've scammed me tonight and at the expense of a peaceful Algonquin camp!" the Big Man's face contorted into one of anger and disgust.


Askuwheteau came walking into the bar and immediately strode through the crowd over to the Big Man's corner.


Upon seeing his face again, Alvin began to scream, writhing and falling onto his rump, trying to slide away from Askuwheteau with his feet.


"Is there a problem here?" Askuwheteau confronted Alvin.


"See! See! He's a wolf! A talking wolf!" Alvin pointed at Askuwheteau's face in terror.


"Get this man into the back room and hold him until the Police arrive..." the Big Man told one of his guards.


"As for you, do you have anything you'd like to get off your chest?" the Big Man addressed Randall and Marc.


"Look, I grew up in a rough hood, but I'm mostly clean. I don't get involved with any scams and I just try to make an honest living, keep myself buff and soup up my 'Stang. Honest," Marc held up his hands, sliding his chair away from the table.


"You?" the Big Man looked directly into Randall's eyes, as if he were looking into his soul.


Randall looked back and forth between the Big Man and Marc.


"He sabotaged the trucks! It was all his idea!" Randall pointed at Marc, screaming as he panicked, still under the influence of the gas grenade.


"What the heck are you talking about?! You back stabbin' sack of... You're going down!" Marc stood ready to deliver blows to Randall who was close to the level of Alvin's hysterics.


From the other side of the wall behind the Big Man, there was a crashing sound as if something large had collided with the outside wall of the Five Star Comedy Club.


"Get some men and see what that was!" the Big Man ordered his guards.


Askuwheteau moved quickly, running for the door of the bar and out in the direction of the calamity where Mila and Shaela were already in pursuit of whatever caused it.


...


A few minutes earlier, a short chubby comedian was leaving the stage as the audience applauded  for him. The host of the show, Rick Mercator then stepped on stage, taking the microphone as the audience died down.


"Give another warm round of applause to our own Russell Macguinty from here in Petawawa," the host gestured towards the comedian, who bowed for them, doing a little victory dance as the audience subsided.


"Now we've got someone special here for you tonight, all the way from Vancouver, British Columbia and no, I don't mean the rainy season," the host got a little laughter.


"Put your hands together for the one and only Yumi K-" the host's words were cut short as the front walls of the Five Star Comedy Club came crashing in, the debris miraculously not hitting anyone except for the coat-check, who was simply buried under three coat racks of clothing.


Rick Mercator looked on beyond the dust to see the source of the destruction. His jaw dropped as he saw the beast before them stepping through the dust.


"Is that a...?!"


The beast a very large one, whose shoulders were nearly seven meters off the ground, seemed suddenly confused. As if whatever it had been seeking had suddenly vanished. It turned several times, its body knocking over walls as it did.


The audience inside of the club began to scatter for the back exit. At first calmly and then in complete panic.


Out front, Sato caught up with Mila and Shaela, who'd spied the beast running before it impacted with the walls of the Comedy Club. Askuwheteau joined them only a second thereafter.


"We found it!" Mila informed the men.


"Oh really? You mean that wasn't someone bringing the house down?" Sato responded.


"And there's sooo many comedians out of work..." Shaela stepped forward looking for the beast that had caused the destruction.


Sato stepped around her, moving stealthily along the rubble and into the dust cloud as Mila and Askuwheteau followed when the beast came into view.


It had turned to face their direction and was looking right at them.


"I can't believe it. That's not my Shadow Cat! That's a - SHADOW MOOSE!" Shaela immediately recognized the beast once the dust had cleared.


Its antlers were large and visible above the roof of the now nearly demolished comedy club. It seemed to be lost and confused. Unsure of what to do or where to go.


"Something's changed... There's a reason that this... Shadow Moose(?) charged here so quickly..." Shaela evaluated her options.


"Seems a little confused..." Mila noted.


"Perhaps it is looking for its young?" Askuwheteau suggested going on his own experiences with the smaller, less shadowy Canadian variety.


"No. There's something else..." Mila watched the creature, careful not to alert it.


"It came here for a reason and that reason is now gone, but what could have left so quickly that it was gone as soon as it arrived?" Shaela asked her friends.


"A riddle of nature this would seem..." Askuwheteau pondered.


"It was last call. Maybe the alcohol?" suggested Askuwheteau.


"No. Why would a giant Shadow Moose run several kilometers in the middle of the night to get to a bar for alcohol?" Shaela rationalized.


"For sure! How un-Canadian would that be?" Mila joked.


"Noise?" Sato suggested.


"Exactly! Cheering! Clapping! Applause! That's it!" Shaela agreed with Sato.


"Glad I could help," Sato responded.


"Don't get too cocky, Sato," Shaela stepped away from her friends out onto the street as people ran in all directions away from the confused beast and the wreckage.


She then began whistling, cheering and clapping.


The Shadow Moose suddenly craned its antler burdened head towards Shaela, sniffing the air, stomping its front right cleft hoof down on the ground several times as if warning her.


"Shaela, be careful..." Askuwheteau warned the Night Wytch, having recognized the moose's signal that it was getting agitated and ready to charge.


"I think its working..." Shaela looked at the Shadow Moose and continued her cacophony of solo applause.


The Shadow Moose then let out a honking call that echoed off the walls of the surrounding buildings and into the night. It stomped its right hoof again three times, and then it charged. At her.


The ground rumbled at the enormous beast lowered its antlers attempting to gore Shaela, who was tiny by comparison. Shaela dodged between the beast's legs just barely escaping being crushed as the momentum carried the huge beast into a small park across the road from the Five Star Comedy Club.


Its antlers crashed through one of the trees, snagging the Shadow Moose for a moment as it struggled to get free. Its enormous shoulder muscles flexed, hefting the tree, root and all from the ground, throwing it a hundred meters into the air where it came crashing down on a parking meter down the street.


"Somebody's getting a freebie tonight," Sato remarked as they watched intently ensuring Shaela's safety.


"So I think we can assume that it wasn't the applause..." Then what else could have disappeared when it arrived?" Shaela ran back to her friends as the Shadow Moose turned attempting to get its bearings.


"The light? Maybe it was like a moth flying to the light?" Askuwheteau reasoned once again.


"That doesn't make sense, there's still lots of light... it would be literally chasing down every source of light," Shaela responded to Askuwheteau's suggestion.


In the distance, they heard the sound of sirens.


"Quick! We have to figure this out!" Mila urged her friends.


"Barris' Cookie Surprise!" Mila suddenly spurted out.


"What?" a smile crossed Sato's face as she recalled a distant memory.


Mila and Sato looked at each other. Both began to giggle and laugh. The Shadow Moose immediately turned its attention to them, its face lighting up as if it had found what it had lost.


"That's it! Its laughter! I mean the laughter disappeared as soon as the Shadow Moose arrived and it became lost, confused...!" Mila reasoned to her friends.


As soon as the laughter stopped, the Shadow Moose charged at them, full force.


"We should split up! I'm going to open a portal. We have to trick it through if we're going to get rid of this beast and put it safely back to where it came from..." Shaela ran in one direction away from their location out to the middle of the road.


Sato in the mean time climbed up the side of the building using the edge of the broken wall against which to brace himself as he climbed.


Askuwheteau ran in the other direction away from Shaela, laughing out loud as he did.


Mila found herself trapped backing into the building wall and rubble, unable to escape the charging Shadow Moose.


As it closed in on her, it focused on Askuwheteau's laughing, which almost sounded maniacal as he'd never forced a laugh in his life. The Shadow Moose turned ever so slightly to face Askuwheteau as it closed in on Mila.


Meanwhile Shaela, opposite to Askuwheteau had begun the Shadow Plane portal summoning ritual. The air crackled and warped as she melded the Prime dimension with that of the shadows.


Sato found himself unable to climb any higher in retreat as the Shadow Moose closed in their position.


As the antlers impacted the wall, Sato jumped, leaping the distance and landing first on the beast's head and then on its back. As it was about to crush Mila, the Shadow Moose became entempered by the rider on its back and began bucking against him.


"Whoaaaaa!" Sato screamed as the Shadow Moose tried to throw him from its back.


"Alright! I've got the portal opened! Hahaha hahaha! Ha ha!" Shaela stood in front of the opened shadow plane portal and began laughing.


Mila got to her feet and ran over to take her place by Shaela's side, laughing and giggling as loud as she could.


"Mila!" they heard a familiar voice from across the street.


"Nelony?!" Shaela and Mila responded, looking over to see Nelony hiding behind a postal box.


"Sooo... you're not laughing at me? My nudity? My body I assume?" she asked ever so delicately.


"Don't be silly! We'd never laugh at you you, unless you were being funny..." Mila pleaded with her friend.


Despite the torment through which the beast was putting Sato, he heard the women yelling to one another.


"If its any consolation to you, we love your body... don't we Askuwheteau?" Sato yelled from the top of the Shadow Moose as the beast spun in circles bucking in an attempt to throw him from its back.


"...Yeah! That's right. We love your body, Nelony!" Askuwheteau yelled as he tried to dodge the Shadow Moose and get around to where Mila and Shaela were holding the vigil by the shadow plane portal.


"Not to be a party pooper or anything but could you join them and laugh so I can get off of this beast before I'm in a neck brace for the rest of my life...?" Sato urged Nelony, yelling to them as the beast buckled.


Nelony ran out from behind the postal box, still slightly crouching though her hair, lengthened by Mila's spell wrapped and covered her privates ever so carefully. 


In fact, to any mortal man that walked the face of the Aerth, and to many the many Deities of the universe, she'd have appeared much like a goddess. Alluring. Seductive. Yet in retention of her innocence and still able to look at the worst of the world with a sense of optimism. If beauty were these qualities, then true ugliness would be defined as those who attempted by provocation or force to bring out the worst in others. 


Nelony possessed no true ugliness in this sense whatsoever. Just a delicate lack of confidence in moments where she needn't be sensitive to it at all. 


As a poet once said: 

if in the truest sense of love you could see yourself through my eyes, 

you'd truly know your own alluring beauty and never fear your body or yourself again...


The eyes of a lover are subjective, but when the beloved sees themselves through those eyes, they experience the truest love of themselves, for they see those two sides of themselves as one.


Perhaps one day Nelony would find those eyes gazing upon her, knowing that she nay need fear her own body again. 


She took her place by her friends and they all began laughing. The change was almost immediate. In their sense of being and certainly for the Shadow Moose, but mostly for Sato who'd been nearing the endurance of his own grip.


The Shadow Moose looked at the group of laughing friends, its face alight with joy. So much so that it wanted nothing more than to be one with them. And so, with Sato on its back, the Shadow Moose charged at them.


The irony was that the friends together had been so into their laughter, that they'd almost forgotten to move as the giant beast neared them.


They all dove at the last minute, each in their own direction as if in slow motion, while from atop the Shadow Moose's shoulders, Sato leapt diving through the air gracefully as an aging man could, bracing for the impact to come. Miraculously, his training and experience in martial arts and acrobatics hadn't eluded him yet, and the flat of his arm found the asphalt as his body rolled in a somersault, not once but thrice, at which time his momentum carried him onto his feet to see the Shadow Moose disappear into the portal.


As the sirens closed in on them, Shaela quickly closed it. Sealing the mysterious Shadow Moose in the Shadow Plane, where it would no longer find laughter. However, it would never stop searching for it and certainly one day it would find its way back into our world.


By that time, one could only hope that we'd found more ways to make each other laugh than to make each other cry.


Epilogue


Alvin

Alvin cried in the back of the Police Cruiser, though by the time he'd arrived, he was told that the Pikwàkanagàn Algonquins had dropped the charges against him, as had Mila, Shaela, Nelony and Sato.


He took it as an opportunity to turn his life around, which he did. He started his own used video game business, first dealing in Cartridge, CD and DVD games for the major consoles, then opening an online market where gamers could sell and trade their digitally licensed games, allowing them to transfer ownership to and from other people. The business did so well that Alvin eventually bought his own million dollar home and married a fellow video gamer girl of his dreams. They then went on to have video gaming children and one or two video gaming pets.


Marc

Marc, who'd eventually admitted his part in the plot to undermine the protest campaign run by the Pikwàkanagàn Algonquins, who'd protested to protect the natural habitats and biomes through which the road and pipeline would pass, was charged under the law and sentenced to six months in a low security range in prison. When he got out, he went on to study law and became a consultant representing activists throughout Canada. He eventually bought another Mustang and fitted with his favourite bra, skirt and exhaust system. On Sundays, he can be seen driving in northern Ontario.


Randall

Randall confessed to dealing with a criminal representative of a local gang that had been hired by a representative of the company that owned the pipeline to undermine the activists. In exchange for his cooperation in building a case against the gang and the company rep that had hired them, he was handed a lighter sentence of two years in prison. Upon his release, he was hired by a local transport company and currently works as a short haul driver.


Darci

Darci, finally free of her nemesis Randall, managed to pay a visit to the Pikwàkanagàn Algonquins and helped to procure some of their requests with regard to the goals of their protests. As the road and pipeline was constructed, she regularly visited First Nation sites to address their concerns and to work with the company to ensure that they met the challenges of the preservation of the existing environment. She still lives in Petawawa with her wife and two dogs.


Neil And Mac

Upon the discovery that the sabotage of the company vehicles was part of a plot, the foreman broke down and allowed Mac to see his daughter's school presentation. Neil eventually bought his own truck and still drives long distance runs between Canada and the United States. He even bought his own set of drums and put them in his garage but he still prefers to play his dashboard.


Bill And Gerry

Bill and Gerry both continued to drive for PD Transport. Gerry retired early, at age of sixty three due to Colon Cancer, though he survived his battle and lives happily in his home in Beaverton, Ontario. After the events of that strange Hallow's Eve in Petawawa, Bill continued to drive transport however was killed in an accident involving a drunk driver. He was recognized as a hero for having managed to steer his truck evasively after being cut off by the drunk driver, missing a pregnant woman and her two year old daughter driving home in their SUV. After saving their lives with his sacrifice, his truck collided with a cement support under a bridge and he was killed instantly.


The Big Man

The Big Man eventually retired, leaving everything in the hands of his twenty three year old humanitarian daughter. She used her new found resources to make many positive changes in the region, including a newly paved strip for downtown Petawawa where the Five Star General and the Five Star Comedy Club still operate to this day (on Aerth).


CFB Petawawa

The Canadian Forces Base Petawawa launched an investigation into the activities of their Quartermaster, finding several infringements of Military Law and Policy, resulting in his discharge. The chemical component of the NBC Training program for which the gas grenades existed was replaced with a training program led by First Nations Shamans, familiarizing Canadian Special Operations Personnel with the Spirit World. As a result, Canadian Forces Special Operations Units reported a significant improvement in dealing with training crises involving hallucinogenic chemical compounds as part of their Nuclear, Biological and Chemical counterinsurgency operations.


Nelony

Nelony returned to her home in North East London, and for the first time in her life actually tried sunbathing in the nude in the backyard of her backsplit bungalow. Unfortunately in all of the excitement, she locked herself outside of her own house, having left her clothing indoors. One of the rules of the Sanctum is that the weave is never to be used on a casual basis, especially in public places on the Aerth unless in absolute emergency. Hence, after a long involved conversation with one of the neighbourhood's Eastern Gray Squirrels, she managed to explain to the confused creature how to operate the lever-style door handle on the interior of her back door.


The squirrel managed to climb in through an air duct atop of the house and shimmied down through the duct work itself until it arrived at a vent. After mucking about with the vent cover for seven minutes, it eventually scuttled the obstacle after which it spent another three minutes trying to remember why it was trying to get through the vent in the first place. Upon its emergence from the vent, Nelony observed it through one of the back bay windows into the solarium.


She signaled the poor beast many times until it eventually recalled that it was ultimately in the human dwelling to operate a strange device indicated by a human woman in order to create an opening through which this human woman could habitate said environment. The squirrel was perfectly on track until it spied bag of shelled peanuts upon her counter space. Not so much that the plan unraveled there, but it certainly didn't help that a rival Western Gray Squirrel had followed the Eastern Gray Squirrel into the house as part of its claim for territory and that they were bitter rival species.


Nelony watched as the two squirrels circled each other tensely, fighting for this new found turf. In fact, one of the squirrels had schemed to name it that: Newfoundturf (in squirrel-ese), had it won. The two continued their conflict of circularity, which involved much as described by the name, their circling each other, alternating direction every so often, bushing up their tails to make themselves appear bigger. Eventually, their standoff broke and one of them ran for the duct, shimmying back out onto the roof. By that point, Nelony had lost track of who was who.


Eventually the victor approached the window to which her face was pressed ever so desperately. Nelony, using no knowledge of the weave, but only her extensive knowledge of squirrel-ese language once again tried to explain her plight to the little creature, unsure of which squirrel it was. The East Gray Squirrel, or the West Gray Squirrel. After describing the process of operating the lever door knob to the squirrel several times, it looked at her enthusiastically as if it had comprehended what she'd described. It leapt up on a nearby corner table and from there, to the lever knob itself. After jumping on the knob several times, it gained sight of the shelled peanuts the other squirrel had noticed when it had become distracted from the goal.


Nelony, against the glass, pleaded with the squirrel to ignore the nuts and continue to working on the lever knob, explaining that she'd give the squirrel all the nuts he'd ever desire for the rest of its life. The squirrel grasped everything up until desire, and then it became enamored of the bag of nuts, having no concept of desire or any time other than now. Tears slowly gathered in her eyes as she watched the squirrel consume the nuts one by one, after which it simply shimmied back up the duct and out through the roof, having forgotten everything Nelony had explained.


At that point, Nelony simply grabbed a large log from her backyard and broke the bay window, chipping away all the glass, until she could re-enter her own home without injury. Later that same week, she paid a few hundred GBP to have her window replaced and installed.


From that point on, she stopped leaving any packaging or nuts in plain sight. That, and she always kept a spare change of clothing in her shed. From that point, Nudity had become one of Nelony's closest friends. The same East Gray Squirrel returned a few days later and apologized for having botched Nelony's request. She gave the little creature a few nuts and sent it on its way.


Shaela

Shaela, on the other hand had dressed her house cats up as moose and even spent a great deal of time studying the species in hopes that she might one day venture into the shadow plane to find the laughter seeking Shadow Moose. Her house cats, not appreciating the fact that she'd adorned them with antlers eventually called for a mutiny. 


The mutiny itself didn't go particularly well, seeing as house cats spend roughly eighteen to twenty hours a day sleeping, leaving a little under six hours to organize any such effort. They instead allowed Shaela to sacrifice their sense of dignity for her mild amusement and research of the Shadow Moose.


Sato

Sato returned to his shop, Sato's Treasures And Curios where he placed an honourary plaque hand crafted for him by the Pikwàkanagàn Algonquins and Askuwheteau, calling him One Who Rides The Great Moose. He often jokes with Askuwheteau, saying: it looks like I got my horse after all.


Askuwheteau

Askuwheteau left the Pikwàkanagàn Algonquins after the protest, committing his time to his duties with the Sanctum Secularum. Though he is bound to protecting the entire Aerth, his heart always rests in his home of Canada like his many First Nation sisters and brothers across the country. Despite his duties as the Chief of the Order Of The Great Totem (which encompasses First Nations from across North America), his land is always with him and within him. Askuwheteau will return in future A Lady's Prerogative stories.


Pikwàkanagàn Algonquins

Though the Pikwàkanagàn Algonquins didn't prevent or stop the building of the pipeline or the road, they did manage to procure legislation that requires regular inspections of the road and pipeline in the presence of Pikwàkanagàn representatives for any damage to the surrounding biomes. In the event of any environmental harm to the land or species within, the company is required to pay for the restoration and maintenance of the land and its biomes until it passes a similar inspection. This legislation has been mandated for all current and future projects throughout the country of Canada (on the Aerth). The Pikwàkanagàn Algonquins continue their efforts to protect the land and species there upon.


Mila

Mila returned home to Alivale, the township in south eastern Ontario in Canada where until his untimely demise, she lived with her fiance and husband to be, Barris Windsor.


As an artist and the first Wytch ever to wield art as the main element of her magical weave, she spends most of her time alone, painting, sculpting and crafting anything and everything in her mind's eye. In her loneliness she most often cries, thinking about Barris and what might have been. On some days though, she thinks back to that Hallow's Eve and she giggles at first. And then she laughs.


Truly laughs with all her heart.


The preceding story takes place in the A Lady's Prerogative timeline approximately two and a half months after the events of A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth. In terms of the timing of its writing, next to Athandra And Manfred - Then And Now, its the most recent stand alone A Lady's Prerogative story as of 2021-10-26.


Artwork to come.


The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons coming soon. Stories From The End updates are coming soon as well. Updates to A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity are coming as well (I'm swamped).


Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastly, Brian Joseph Johns

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3D, Tender Loving Care...


Reference And Bibliography

1. Algonquins Of Golden Lake (Spoken Language Reference)

2. The Following Topics From Wikipedia:

Algonquins Of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation

Algonquin People

Algonquin Language


Brian Joseph Johns

https://www.shhhhdigital.ca

https://www.twitter.com/MediaShhhh

These stories are written at 200 Sherbourne Street in apartment 701 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by Brian Joseph Johns.


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