The Butterfly Dragon: The Way Of The Warrior (July 15, 2024 9:30 PM EST: Another New Chapter)

Reader discretion is highly advised. Also, this story contains references to tobacco in a historical context and in relation to Indigenous tradition. No other substances of a narcotic or contraband nature are referenced or insinuated in any way, though alcohol may be present in parts of the story.


New chapters added since August 18, 2023

  • Gift Of The Bourbon Kings (August 18, 2023 6:30 PM EST)

  • A Way With Words (August 19, 2023 3:30 PM EST)

  • The Known And The Obscured (Started July 15, 2024 9:30 PM EST)



The Words Of Poet Thomas Gray: Elegy, Written In A Country Churchyard

THE EPITAPH

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose)
The bosom of his Father and his God.

Gentliles, I would rather have written those lines than take Quebec tomorrow.

Major General James Wolfe,
September 12, 1759
South of Quebec, (Pre-Dominion Of Canada)


You see what a victory costs. The blood of our enemies is still the blood of men. The true glory is to spare it.

Louis XV of France
Paris, France


In West View, what lays at the end of the hedge-maze is law. If the law is light, then justice is its shadow.

Meregrith Theearin,
1757, Haven,
The Colonies Of North America (Pre-Dominion Of Canada)


There is no adversity in the colours of nature. Within them you will only find welcome or warning.

Nelony Theearin
1653, The Haven
The Colonies Of North America (Pre-Dominion Of Canada)


To live life with the full embrace of love, and the eventuality of death is to live as a warrior. 

Aikiko Tanaka
1759,
The Plains Of Abraham...


Two hundred and fifty years from now, are we truly just fighting the same war?

Monique Defleur
1759,
The Plains Of Abraham...


Shhhh! Digital Media Presents


This content is produced artists indicated on the site, and by me, Brian Joseph Johns.


I, under no circumstance will trade, barter or otherwise swap my own identity for that of another person and I protect the same right for those who've contributed their artwork to the various projects under my management at Shhhh! Digital Media, my own company. These rights are protected by law under the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms under section 7.


If you enjoy reading the content on this website, then please consider making a donation to one of the following charities, or buying merchandise on our shop at https://shop.shhhhdigital.com.

Support Charity



Please support education and information access where you can in addition to these charities:


Sick Kids Foundation
Help research that provides cures and support treatment for sick children.


Creating a world of possibility for kids and youth with disabilities.


The Cancer Research Institute
The Princess Margaret Foundation
Cancer Research organizations that combine the expertise of many different research firms and Universities to find innovative treatments and cures for Cancer.


United Nations Fund
United Way Worldwide
Two organizations whose contribution of expertise, human and financial resources and volunteer efforts provide humanitarian solutions to real world problems the entire world over. These charities operate worldwide. The United Nations Fund supports the various programs part of the United Nations' global mandate, as much a foundation as it is a roof around the world.


World Veterans Federation
The World Veterans Federation is a humanitarian organisation, a charity and a peace activist movement. The WVF maintains its consultative status with the United Nations since 1951 and was conferred the title of “Peace Messenger” in 1987.


I'd like to point out that it was the incredible Gary Sinese Foundation that brought the issue of Veteran's rights to my attention. I've always had little respect for those who'd forget the great contribution made by those who've risked life and limb to defend those values that so many of us espouse. Perhaps the true measure of one's principles are by that for which they'd risk their life.

"None can speak more eloquently for peace than those who have fought in war."

Ralph Bunche, Nobel Peace Prize 1950



The Reeve Foundation provides programs for research, uniting Scientists and Specialists from many different fields to find treatments for spinal cord injury translating them into therapies and support programs.


For over 60 years, Heart & Stroke has been dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Our work has saved thousands of lives and improved the lives of millions of others.


The ALS Society Of BC
ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed. The ALS society provides a variety of programs to combat this disease and help those with it to survive.


Muscular Dystrophy Canada
Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s mission is to enhance the lives of those affected by neuromuscular disorders by continually working to provide ongoing support and resources while relentlessly searching for a cure through well-funded research.


Humane Society International
The Humane Society protects the health, lives and rights of animals the world over, ensuring that they too have a voice in this world. We are interdependent upon the complex web of life this entire planet over for our mutual survival. This is a world wide charity.


The Global Foodbanking Network
Ensuring that people the world over have enough food day to day in order to survive and lead healthy lives. In this challenging day and age services like this are becoming more and more essential. This is a world wide charity.


The Edgar Allan Poe Museum
Because Barris told me to put it here. If I didn't, he said he'd walk. Geez. Stardom really gets to some people's heads. Maybe I could kill him and bury his heart beneath the floor boards! Or I could encase him in behind a brick and mortar wall, for shaming my family name of Amantillado

In all truth, there's a good chance that thanks to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Herbert George Wells, Jules Verne, Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Pierre Burton (for The Secret World Of Og and his ground breaking interview of Bruce Lee) that all of us are literate. Actually that goes back much farther to the Phoenecians and their first 22 character system of symbols. Literacy is important. Really it is. Literally. It allows us to approach our employer at the end of the week (with a big club) and ask: where my money?! Math important too. It help us count our thirteen fingers and toes.


Wikipedia
The model for what may become the Encyclopedia Galactica, a complete reference and record of history, events and knowledge of humanity and its journey beyond. It is the encyclopedia of all that we know, what we surmise that we've known and will learn in the future. Yes, Wikipedia is a charitable organization of great importance. If you enjoy what I am doing here then please take the time to donate to Wikipedia. Surprisingly only 1% of Wikipedia's users donate yet the site serves pages to millions every day.


Humble Bundle
A video gaming storefront benefiting a vast variety of different Charities in the United States and United Kingdom (hopefully soon to be expanded to include other areas of the world?). By software their software bundles and choose which Charity your money benefits and how much of your money benefits that Charity. See? Gamers can do their part too.


Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative disease currently affecting an estimated 2.3 million world wide. By donating you are contributing to effective research in finding a cure and tipping the scales of MS research to change lives forever.


If you're a resident of Ontario then please consider supporting Building Better Schools.


Other Ways To Help Using Your Computer

Donate your idle computer time to science! Join the World Community Grid by clicking on one of the links below and follow the instructions for how to participate:



Thank you for your support

Shhhh! Digital Media
Brian Joseph Johns



Disclaimer: Although much research went into authenticating the validity of the words and language used within this story, as an author and in some circumstances I was forced to take liberties when it came to the Huron language. Its unfortunate that there is so little reference material and literature that accurately records the culture and language of these aspects of our history and heritage. Perhaps in the near future, there will be the means put forth by Government to gather this information and ensure that it is maintained for future generations to peruse. Perhaps I will attend to this need myself at some point and address the appropriate representatives of the Government to do so. Until then, I can only hope that I have not infringed upon Indigenous culture by concocting words and concepts related to their history. 

Those words that are fully authentic, I will italicize like this. Those that are not, I will italicize and make bold like this.


Whenever there is a reference made to Heylyn Yates, it is assumed that the reader already knows that Heylyn Yates is also Ai Yuanlin Ying also known as the Butterfly Dragon. The reason that Ai Yuanlin Ying has the name Heylyn Yates, is that when her family migrated from China to Canada in the 1990s, her Architectural Engineer father decided that it would be more appropriate for their daughter to have a North American western name, so as to lessen the attention and pressure upon her while growing up. Hence, she was given the legal name, Heylyn Yates after one of her father's favourite western poets.


A Quick But Important Observation


Though this story is NOT related to the incredible movie Prey, perhaps the best movie of the Predator franchise beside the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that began it all. There's something about having Arnie and Jessie the body Ventura in the same action movie that just strikes all the right notes in the riff, from a guy's perspective. The only thing missing from the original Predator was Rowdy Roddie Piper. However, I'm here to talk about Prey, which alongside the original Predator, are the best films of the franchise, though Predators was pretty darn good too. There's something about having a Yakuza Lieutenant defeat a Predator with nothing but a Katana that just rocks.


The movie Prey, was cast with a relatively unknown female lead. Amber Midthunder, who essentially alongside her excellent cast mates, carry that film for its entirety. Now given that this film was released at the height of audience interest in exploring indigenous culture, there are a few questions I have related to this topic. However, I'll clean the slate by stating that Fox truly produced a movie worthy of the franchise without cashing in on or exploiting the cultural or historical connection in the movie.


My point in this "observation" is that when actors are cast as part of a social statement that employs the use of their culture, I'd personally like to see Amber Midthunder in more headline projects, that don't frontline her culture or exploit it. Given the success of Prey and the fact that its one of the best movies I've seen for a long time (I actually watched it three months after its release thanks to Disney Plus, to which I recently re-suscribed and watched it again). 


Why aren't we seeing Amber cast in more roles? What about other actors who were also cast as part of this new awakened sense of film making and audience? I could see her alongside the veterans of film, and perhaps that is the best way to put it, rather than to see these performers sidelined after their big, one off performance that essentially sells the artform and importance of storytelling itself.


If you recall, all of the education our ancestors received came to them by stories told to them around a fire. Our knowledge was passed on by those means and eventually became the basis for all education. These storytellers, and the actors whom present this wisdom are an important part of the progression of society. No actor should be discarded after a socially pertinent message has been presented, exploiting an element of their cultural history. Let's see some more of these important performers and thespians.


Some Notes About This Story

I've had this story bouncing around secretly, top secretly in fact, for about four years. I did my absolutely best to keep it hidden, as it is something I've wanted to write since 2016, a year after finishing another book (What Different Eyes See).

Recently, thanks to the character arc of Aikiko Tanaka in The Two Butterflies, the opportunity arrived at the same time as Canada Day. So here we are, on the road to another moderately lengthy adventure. Readers of my other books will be sure to enjoy this one thoroughly. Especially if you enjoyed A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth (hint, hint).


Brian Joseph Johns


The Butterfly Dragon: The Way Of The Warrior


Migration

1759
East of Lake Huron, The Continent of the Northern Americas.



The setting sun crested the Great Lake, rays of light glistening on the surface of its rippling waters as the sun slowly dipped behind the trees. A solitary loon somewhere in the distance sang its final song of the day as the darkness of night crept forward upon the land.


Fires burned, a rather large one in the center of the village fiercely so, its peak more than twice the height of the tallest hunter of the Wendat village of Saundustee. Cochise, whose very name meant: one who feeds the village pyre, yipped loudly into the wind in victory as he fed a large log he'd cut earlier into the interior of the fire without collapsing the pinnacle.


Amidst Cochise's victorious and audible display, one of the scouts, Doba, stood up suddenly from his perch around the fire, letting out a single but pronounced shrill.


Cochise immediately stopped and looked to his best friend.


"Are you sure?" he asked Doba.


"Yes. A single horse. light footed. A scout maybe?" Doba responded.


A minute passed before one of the village warriors, Tibone, approached the two men, having been suddenly roused from his tee-pee mid intercourse with his wife.


"What's the emergency?" Tibone asked Doba.


"No emergency. Just a scout approaching. A single horse," Doba replied.


"I can't hear a thing!" Tibone responded impatiently.


"Nor can I," Cochise added, selectively backing the tribe member with the higher status.


"Are you saying that I speak of things that simply aren't?" asked Doba tactfully.


Cochise looked to Tibone, perhaps waiting for the one of them with more authority to defend their stance.


"No, but you might have heard the voice of the wind. Gitchi Manitou speaks in many ways!" Tibone reminded them both.


They stood silently contemplating Tibone's words amidst the roaring fire when the distant sound of hooves upon hard dirt interrupted their thought.


"That's a scout, not a warhorse. I'll be leaving you now," Tibone responded, very eager to return to his tee-pee, and even more so to his wife.


Cochise followed him for a short distance before Tibone turned to confront him.


"There's a fire needing you! Get your own principles and you'll soon have a wife of your own, fire maker!" Tibone turned to face Cochise, who nodded agreeably before turning to return to his duty at the fire.


Back at the fire, Cochise circled the fire once before taking a seat beside his best friend.


"How do you do it?" asked Cochise.


"What?" responded Doba in question.


"Get it right?" asked Cochise.


"By being me. By doing what I do, and trying my best to do it well,"  Doba replied.


"You don't like my fire?" asked Cochise, metaphorically.


"No my friend. I don't like your lack of self confidence," replied Doba as the galloping hooves overpowered filled the air.


A scout horse suddenly whisked by the fire, stopping just short of the Village Council tee-pee. The rider leapt from the back of the horse, lifting his leg over the horse and sliding off the grunting animal's back onto the dirt. He then proceeded into the tee-pee. 


"Chief Shuman, I bring word that the village band Chiefs have agreed to your migration request. They agree that the land is tired, and can no longer support us. They await your response before we move," the scout reported to the Chief, who was in the midst of his sweat lodge.


"Be seated, young scout. Beside me in our council. You rode long and hard. Take the pipe, for you will carry my words, and the weight of Saundustee can be burdensome for a young scout and his horse to bear. You will smoke with us. You will dine on our best deer meat, and your horse will have the best feed. Then you will ride. You will tell the band Chiefs that we will move together, like the wind, before the quarter moon," Chief Shuman assured the young scout, who gratefully accepted the pipe from the Chief.


As the sun dipped below the horizon and the lake darkened enough to reflect the starlight, that same loon cried its same lonely song one last time before the morning.


The Wolfe

1759
Île d’Orléans, Saint Lawrence River, The Continent of the Northern Americas.


Remington sat, leaning against one of the improvised battlements that lined the shores of the tiny Island, his brothers of the Wolfe's Warriors regiment keeping watch as did he along the northern shore front.


Watford beside him, admired Remington's skill as he expertly cleaned and filed the carbon deposits from his musket acquired from the recent battle of Louisburg.


"How many?" asked Watford of his recently acquired friend.


"What?" responded Remington as he carefully hand-filed the machined breech block of his musket.


"How many did you... you know. How many..." Watford asked Remington tactfully.


"What, kill you mean?  How many did I kill?" confirmed Remington.


"Yes. I mean you seem to be quite enamored of your machine for doing as much, so how many is it?" asked Watford.


"What, you think I like killing or something?" asked Remington, turning his attention to Watford.


"Well you seem quite interested in your instrument for doing so," Watford replied.


"I'm not tuning my instrument for killing you lush. I'm protecting myself and my own!" Remington replied, checking the barrel of his musket carefully against the same sunlight that illuminated the ride of a scout some distance to the west.


"Your name?" aske Watford.


"Remington, like a King of the same name. And yours?" Remington replied, inquiring about his peer's name.


"Manny. Manny Watford. At your service, " Watford responded graciously.


"Manny uh. Sound's French to me," Remington replied accusingly, though more jokingly than anything.


"French?  No. Welsh, yes," Watford replied as he spotted what appeared to be a small  river born vessel approaching their encampment.


"There we go. Fit and fickle as we used to say in the country..." Remington checked his musket once more after having assembled it.


"The country? So you're from outside of London? I had you pegged as a Londoner given your accent," Watford responded to his compatriot.


"South east of London actually. Sheldwich. I grew up on a farm," Remington replied.


"A farmer who worships his musket?" confirmed Watford.


"I'm not a farmer. I'm a warrior," Remington glared at Watford.


"So you're a warrior are you?" asked Watford as he spied the seaborne vessel approaching the shoreline.


"In my family line. My great-great Grand dad, Evan Edwards trained the Cavalry in the English Civil War. A bit of a wuss he was though. Wanted to protect the crown even though he fought for the Orange or some nonsense like. So they stationed him somewhere west of here at a settlement along the river. Westview I think it was. He was branded a hero for stopping an anti-witch uprising back in the mid 1600s. Saved a lot of women. A lot of people from superstition, or something like that. Me. I'm here to do my duty for my people and country," Remington checked the machining on his musket.


"Holy Ca! Why didn't you say something?!" asked Remington suddenly, having spotted the approaching vessel upon the Island.


"Because I wanted you to get the medal, not me, you dormus of a family line of warriors," Watford replied.


The small boat arrived upon the shore of the Island, and a solitary messenger ran up towards the command center.


Within the command building, and looking over a map, stood James Wolfe, General of the British expeditionary forces into the Northern Americas.  There he stood looking over a map.


"Sir! We have new intelligence  that is very relevant to our campaign here," reported the senior intelligence officer.


"We're planning a war here, Lieutenant. What intelligence might be so important that it requires interrupting as much?" asked General James Wolfe.


"Sir, a large scale movement of indigenous units north-east towards the Quebec region of an unlisted  Wendat tribe. As many as twenty thousand. They might be supporting Montcalm's forces," the scout reported.


Wolfe turned to his senior advisor.


"All intelligence of the region indicates that the Wendat were pushed south of the great lakes  region and into American territory by the Iroquois," the advisor reported.


"...However, if elements of Mi'kmaq frieldly forces were moving to reinforce Montcalm's forces, it might greatly affect the outcome of our campaign here..." the advisor continued.


"I see. Pay the man for this intelligence. Twice over. It is valuable. Put together a flanking force, several battalions, enough to flank them from the south if need be. Have a separate scouting force grab and interrogate any stragglers. We can't afford any losses in the upcoming campaign,"  Wolfe replied to his commanding staff.


Moments later, the orders filtered down the ranks, and Remington and Watford both had a new tasking.


"I'm a horrible rider," said Watford as he gathered his gear, preparing for their new assignment.


"Don't worry. I've got your back. Its in my family. My Great-Great Grand Dad Evan trained the Ironsides Cavalry, but he never once rode against the crown. I'll show you a thing or two that will get you riding like a champ in no time," Remington assured his new friend.


"How many of us will there be?" asked Watford of Remington.


"Twelve of us including the Commanding Officer. Small enough so that we can move quickly. This is definitely a scouting mission. That boat must have been carrying the message that resulted in our tasking I'd bet," Remington told Watford, as the two grabbed the rest of their kit and made their way to the south dock.


Before the late afternoon sun had dipped to three quarters of the horizon, their Corvette, the HMS Wickerford left the docks with its own crew, a cargo of twelve men, twelve draft horses, and supplies for the aforementioned. Their destination: The colony town of West View.


These Dreams

Somewhere outside of time and space
The Field...


Aikiko's dress fluttered in the wind as she walked behind Ai, both of them in the flower filled field under a star spirited sky.


The light of the moon shone upon them and the other flowers of the field as they walked in the twilight of darkness and light.


"Where are we going?" asked Aikiko.


"I think that its time that you met someone..." Ai replied, also wearing a similar dress as she walked in her bare feet ahead of Aikiko.


"What is this place?" asked Aikiko.


"Its the field. This is the place of my dreams. Where when I was a little girl, my destiny was revealed to me," Ai responded.


"Why are you even showing me this?" asked Aikiko.


"Because. It is your destiny too," Ai responded.


"And what destiny is that?" asked Aikiko.


"Within you each, there is a butterfly, meandering a path seemingly at random, as if by chance. Hidden along side, there is a dragon of old, its' ferocious stance. Within your lives, this is the dance. A way of life as you advance..." Weltherwithsp's thunderous voice broke the peace and silence around them as the serpentine dragon descended from the heavens on golden wings to land before them.


Aikiko stepped forward to take her place beside Ai Yuanlin Ying.


"Its been a long time..." Ai addressed her old friend.


"That it has, and as if by chance, I choose to speak before I prance," Weltherwithsp replied poetically.


Aikiko bowed low before the dragon and when she returned her gaze to the serpent, it too was bowing just as low to her.


"Ai told me that we are here to know our destiny. What is my destiny, elder dragon?" asked Aikiko.


"Your destiny? You already know that in your heart as you've always known it from the start. There is a Gem within your midst. A child. A little girl. She needs you both. She needs you all, butterflies and dragons alike. She needs you to become what you are destined to be," Weltherwithsp told them both.


"And what is that," asked Aikiko anxiously.


"...warriors..." it's voice fizzled as Aikiko returned from her memory of last night's dream.


Present Day
Hoon "Tiger" Kwang's Temple, Dojang and Dojo.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada



She stood now before her opponent, her Bokken firmly held in her grasp.


In front of her, Ai gripped her bamboo Jian, a finely crafted wooden sword recently made by a local Master Carpenter and Craftsman in Toronto.


"I betcha Heylyn's got this one," Monique addressed her friend beside her.


"I don't know. It looks like Aikiko really has the gist of this. I mean Heylyn is a tough cookie, but this seems to be Aikiko's domain," Alicia replied to Monique.


"I'm just grateful its not my turn yet," Monique admitted.


"Me too, Monique. Me too," Alicia agreed.


There was silence as Heylyn and Aikiko circled each other, each looking for an opening.


Both Monique and Alicia could feel it as the moment approached, neither of them breathing in anticipation as the tension grew.


Then, in a sudden flurry of blurred motion, the two warriors clashed.


Their wooden swords struck one another, several times within a second, like a high speed game of chess. One would attack, the other would block and then counter, repeating the whole process several times over before they ceased, each reformulating their strategy.


And then, it occurred to Aikiko what she'd been missing all along.


Aim for the opponent, not for their defense.


She struck swiftly, thinking more about her goal than opponent's weapon.


She found the opening she needed and thrust with her Bokken at Heylyn's abdomen.


Heylyn quickly swept Aikiko's Bokken aside with her Jian, and took the advantage, quickly sweeping Aikiko off of her feet, and onto the mat, Heylyn's Jian at her throat.


Not a second passed before Heylyn's hand was extended, helping her opponent to her feet again.


Aikiko enthusiastically accepted it, barely out of breath.


"One more," Aikiko said, overly joyed by the progress she'd suddenly made.


"Alright, and then we'll pair off with Monique and Alicia. They've got to get more time with learning this too," Heylyn agreed.


Heylyn readied her Jian and Aikiko levied her Bokken as the two faced off one last time.


As they stood facing one another, they were suddenly shaken by the sound of thunder from behind the closed door of Hanshi's dojo. A separate space from Hoon Kwang's Dojang, the two rooms connected by a door.


"What was that?" asked Monique, getting to her feet.


"Is there somebody here today? Hanshi maybe?" asked Alicia.


"Not that I'm aware of," Heylyn replied.


"That pesky devil. This is another one of his tests," Aikiko said, recalling the last time he'd schemed something of this nature just to keep her on her toes.


She sheathed her Bokken, approaching the door to Hanshi's Dojo.


When she went to open the door, she yelped in pain upon touching the door knob.


"Don't touch it! It's hot!" she exclaimed to her friends.


Through the tiny window on the door, they could see nothing but pitch black darkness.


"This is the trickiest one he's done yet! I'm going to get him!" Aikiko exclaimed, using part of her Gi to handle the door knob.


She threw the jacket part of her Gi on the floor, discarding it altogether 


She opened the door, and yelled into the darkness.


"Hanshi! Enough of this! We know you're in here!" Aikiko yelled into the pitch black.


"I don't think he's convinced," Monique said mischievously.


"Alright. I'll fix that," Aikiko responded, fearlessly stepping forward into the darkness.


"I like her. She doesn't take guff," Monique smiled.


"It's awfully dark in there..." Alicia observed.


"Aikiko?" Heylyn hollered into the darkness.


"Alright. I'll get her," Heylyn agreed, despite every instinct in her body telling her not to.


She stepped forward into the darkness and disappeared.


"And then there were two..." Monique looked to Alicia.


"What if they're hurt? We can't just leave them?" Alicia exclaimed.


"Alright. We go together. Holding hands," Monique held her hand out to Alicia.


Alicia accepted it.


"On three. One. Two..." Alicia counted.


Upon reaching three, the two of them jumped into the mystery of the darkness.


The Pristine Village

1759
South-Eastern Ontario, Canada


Three horses, each with a rider, trotted the last stretch of the dirt road, arriving at the front gate of what appeared to be a small fort. The village itself was surrounded by a wooden wall, built from hardwood trunks driven a quarter of their height into the dirt, and bound with gravel and stone mortar. They were greased with fire retarding tar, which protected them from the frequent skirmishes that occurred in the corridor of war. A span of land between the west end of Ontario (which referred to the great lake to as it was named in the Wendat language), through eastward towards Mount Royal (or as it was known in French, Montreal). From there, the corridor of war continued through to Quebec City itself. The French and British locked in an enduring feud over the ownership of their claim of colonial North America.


Throughout this corridor and between the Niagara escarpment, and the bustling city of Quebec, there existed a number of settlements along the way. Some of them were nomadic and belonged to the various tribes that had thrived on the land for millennia, such as the Wendat (Huron), their rivals the Iroquois, the Algonquin, the Shawnee, the Ojibwa. Long before the first European explorers had first arrived, these tribes had been warring over the land and their hunting and foraging rights. Upon the arrival of the colonials, semi-permanent trading posts and permanent settlements sprung up. Quickly growing with the vested European interest in the region and its resources. This walled village was just such another settlement, it too with its own history.


Of the three riders that approached the gate, the one in the middle had both of his hands bound behind his back, his horse's reins tied to the  saddle of the one ahead.


A small hardwood door opened from the tower battlements of the gate and a solitary guard stepped out. When he saw the three riders, he turned to his supporting troops and yelled to them.


"Its Komi's search party. They have Garvanne in their custody," he hollered down to the town guards.


The big gates slowly moved, their cast iron hinges creaking as the an opening enough for their horses appeared.


The first rider coaxed his horse into motion, and the other three followed.


"''Twas a good huntin' this day, wain't it?" asked one of the guards of the first rider.


"That it was. And a sly beast I felled too,"  Komi replied, still wearing his three warrior's feathers, each of them given him by his father.


His clothing was a mish-mash of his mixed Indigenous roots and that of the British roots of his grand parents.


Behind him, Garvanne's face was reddened with the burn of the midday sun, the rest of his face and exposed skin only protected by his beard and long hair.


The last horse's rider, Segwa, was a pureblood Wendat, his great-great grand parents having fought in the war outside the gates. A time at which they'd fled their tribe to protect them, and become citizens in the only settlement that would accept them.


"It was my arrow's flight that found him! Like a great bird who hunts when the early light comes," Segwa was quick to point out.


"An arrow that was fired from my bow," Komi added, in response to Segwa's remark.


"Then let us share the reward for this hunt," Segwa spoke with the wisdom of his ancestors.


The three riders continued along, following a path that wound through the village. Each wooden home was perfectly cared for. Each a flowery bed in front, bordering a perfectly maintained natural grass turf. Two perfectly crafted chairs (both empty) on each perfectly crafted veranda. To the eye it was the perfect painting. Not a flaw to be found as they rode onward to the center of town.


After they'd passed the residential community, they entered into the hedgerow. A large thistle and thorn filled path that meandered through a wall of nine foot high hedges. Tall enough to obscure even the  sight of the tallest riders. They followed the path they'd learnt when they were young, for they were chosen at then, for their role as hunters. The protectors of the free. Of the few who knew the path through the hedges, they were amongst the most familiar. Anyone else who ventured inward, seldom returned.


Komi led them through the path, whose underbrush grew so quickly that it covered their path behind them as they tread. Segwa knew the path too, for this was the path to justice. To where those who'd infract upon it would face their judgement. A decision handed down to them by a Goddess, a woman descended directly from the founder of the settlement. And like her ancestors, a Wytch.


Komi pulled out of the hedge first, arriving just forty paces from the great throne, a veil of darkness keeping it hidden from the light of day.


Komi was down from his horse, tying it to the post put there for the hunters. Segwa lifted his right leg over the horse's back and slid down his horse's left side, landing on his feet.


Komi went to grab Garvanne from his horse, when Garvanne suddenly kicked him in the face, thowing him to the dirt. Garvanne quickly jumped from the horse, his hands still bound. He turned towards the opening of the hedges and ran, mumbling the directions he'd remembered aloud as he did.


When he reached the opening, a fierce, dark visage approached him, snarling.


It appeared as a large dog, perhaps a hunting breed of some kind. Like a large Pit Bull, for certain for it bore the distinct shoulders and medium snout. Muscular and with short hair, though it was not corporeal like a real dog. It was as if this dog was a shadow. Its eyes glowed red, even bright enough to pierce the afternoon sun.


Garvanne ran as fast as he could, taking the left path, still mumbling the directions he'd committed to memory. As he commenced forward, yet another shadowy dog confronted him, exactly like the first, though this one's snout was longer and its jawline more pronounced. It growled deeply at him, and then advanced, shimmering against the backdrop of thorn hedges that trapped them. Garvanne turned and jumped deftly over the first dog, running this time down the path to the right. There, he confronted a third dog, this one much the same, though only slightly smaller, but certainly what it lacked in size, it made up for in density. Its muscles solid and curved enough to make quick work of any man when powering its teeth.


"And the three heads of Hades' hound snarled at them fiercely, for in transgression of the law, there is only hell for the transgressor. And these three heads, they were the justice of hell: Grymr, Kerberos and Cerebrus. The Argos upon seeing them, chose the court of Hades..." a female voice from within the veil of darkness surrounding the throne spoke.


Garvanne stood, his knees trembling as he struggled not to faulter. The three shadow hounds surrounding him.


"Now the question is Garvanne, which court do you choose, theirs or mine?" asked the woman.


Garvanne began to shake, falling to his knees as the shadow dogs closed in on him.


"I was only ensuring that my family were fed... it is the law to ensure so!" Garvanne spoke as tears streamed down his face.


"Then plead your case before my court," the woman's voice reached his ears one again.


"Oh please have mercy in candid words, for truth can be bore no aught way! I will yield to thy court!" Garvanne responded, almost fallen to his face.


"Komi. Segwa. Bring thy prisoner to me, and I shall reveal my face to him," the woman spoke to the hunters.


Komi and Segwa each took one of Garvanne's shoulders, looping their arms beneath his armpits and hefting him onto his feet. They then dragged him before the throne, dropping him back to his knees to face judgement as they had with so many others.


The veil of shadows around the throne lifted, and darkness dispersing to mist and then to nothing until a thin, beautiful woman sat upon the throne before them.


"Garvanne, I am thy Queen of Justice. I am bore of the family line from whence this place, this Haven came into being. Born from the Mother Of Nature and the Wild. Of the Land and the Aerth. Of those who first fled from the hunt, to seek solace in the storm of sedition. And yet the line of Nelony Theearin, though it is light, justice must also have a dark. And so, from this call I arise to fill a void. When you look into my eyes, you're seeing the line of Theearin. The line of the Aerth Mother. The line of its shadow," Meregrith Theearin addressed Garvanne as he struggled to maintain his balance on his knees before her.


Garvanne struggled to keep his tears contained, but failed. Instead, he fell forward onto his face, his hands still bound behind his back.


"I stole the food to feed my family! Yet in your hypocrisy, to fail in both are crimes!" Garvanne pleaded his case with a mouthful of dirt.


"The defendant blames justice, and not his own action. This failure to reflect upon one's own imperfection in the presence of the perfect is the very downfall of humanity! Of the chains that bind humanity to the nature of sin!" Meregrith responded to Garvanne.


"Your ancestors would turn in thy're graves, should they behold what has become of thy'rs! The circle, thy're the true rulers, feeding you prisoners as sacrifice. They who wain't become to their rules, become an example to thy cruelty. Rules that are set about to fool you even thy! I work in the growing gardens, and yet thy subjects take my work, and its proceeds! The circle and yours is nothing but becoming corrupt!" Garvanne pleaded, though Meregrith's interests seemed elsewhere.


"Then no names of this circle you will offer me?" Meregrith asked him.


"If the justice was less than death, then shall I! But naught whilst your justice is nothing more than sacrifice!" Garvanne spat the dirt caked both to his lips and his tongue.


"If such a way were the true of the land, then wain't the powers of the land find this and expel it? Yet no such saviours have arrived, therefore justice must be in this form as the right of the land!" Meregrith smiled, leaning to one side, waiting for Garvanne's response.


"Then thy'ne ancestors are truly in their graves to bare thy crimes upon their ideals!" Garvanne  replied.


"Komi. Segwa. It suffers me, though this one must be the food of the shadows..." Meregrith leaned forward, pronouncing her judgement.


"As you wish, Meregrith Theearin. May the true be the light of justice..." Komi spoke as Segwa grabbed Garvanne's other side.


They dragged him to the entrance of the maze, releasing him there, leaving him bound.


"Lest thy flee, mine arrows peak will find thy'ne back!"  Komi pronounced, drawing the bow from over his shoulders and handing it, to aim at Garvanne.


Garvanne failed to move at first, but when the first arrow landed a hand span left of his torso, he struggled to his feet and began to run. Fleeing into the maze.


A few moments later, his screams could be heard, filling the air. Filling the town, and throughout the gardens. Into the pristine residential district, the turf and their bordering wall of flowers and out beyond the walls. His screams filled the daylight, and nightmares of every resident's sleepless night. For they were the True of the Haven. Descended from the persecuted. Those who ran from the first hunters. The  Wytch Hunters of West View. They had been the hunted Wytches of 1654. Before the war of the gates. Now they had become the justice of their land. From the outside, picture perfect. From within, the horrors of their conscience bore gaping holes. Invisible holes. 


So quiet. 


Yet, so perfect.


Imperfect Landing

1759
Wild Lands Of The Bluffs
Lake Ontario


Somewhere during their trip, Alicia's and Monique's hands lost their grip. As if time and space had defied them from such a union.


Their grip broke as they spun through the psychedelic space of the darkness they'd so courageously thrown themselves within. Momentum and direction lost all meaning as they spun. Their inner ear suddenly pained with pressure, and despite their amazing abilities, they suddenly felt truly lost in a way they hadn't experienced since they were each sixteen.


Alicia found herself spinning, unhanded from Monique's grip. Lost in a timeless space. She fell until...


Monique concentrated as she fell, trying her best to alter her form. To become light as she had many times over, but the laws of physics were strict, and for whatever reason, they defied her and she simply fell.


Alicia felt the impact of the first branch, and then the others as she crashed through the limbs of a healthy and tall pine, overlooking the western shores of Lake Ontario. She bounced from branch to branch until she hit the forest floor with a thud. Lengthwise along her left side, where she lay still and unmoving.


Monique landed flat in a clear field on the soft dry grass of a meadow, no trees or brush to break her fall. Surprisingly, the impact was like that of landing on a soft pile of hay from a jump of twenty meters up. She was cushioned, and when the actual impact came, it was relatively soft. Enough to remove her breath, but not much more.


Dizzy and winded, Monique got to her feet and was greeted with the most fresh and clean breath of air she'd ever tasted. There was something immensely different about it. The feel of the wind and the humidity. It was such a change that she couldn't help but noticing. She inhaled deeply one last time, before she heard the yelling and screaming of angry voices to either side of her.


[Give your weapons to the dirt at your feet!]
"Nohnt onhwentsa’ yatsihsta’ a’enda’!" yelled a man with long hair, bound in leather and feathers as he aimed a bow and arrow across the field.


[Drop your weapons and you will live!]
"Laissez tomber vos armes et vous vivrez!" yelled another man armed with an arquebus, standing beside the man with the bow.


Monique was suddenly startled, recognizing the man's French so clearly, she had to remind herself that she was a stranger in a strange land.


Across the other side of the field, she heard other men, who were also scream back in reply. Their words were in a strange form of English. Perhaps the English of old.


"At yer feet, put thy weapons and you will be spared!" yelled one of the men, Monique clearly hearing him when she focused upon him.


"My lads here be the best at thar aim when it to distance is held! Surrender immediately!" he yelled, wearing a similar red coated jacket and an accompanying uniform.


On each side, there were at least twenty men, each with a ranged weapon in their hands. All of them screaming at the other side in this stand-off of unyielding words and actions.


As was the case with many battles, one of them became lax with their trigger finger. Enough so that  their weapon misfired. Regardless of the fact that the shot was neither well aimed or placed, it was irrelevant, for the others had already interpreted it as an attack. Despite which side fired first. Neither would ever know, thinking themselves the owner of the Casus Belli in their advantage.


Monique ducked as the arrows and bullets flew just over her head. She lay still in the field, well hidden in the grass when the sound of gunfire suddenly stopped, while the flight of arrows continued. Monique ckecked the English side of the lines, to find they were still reloading as the arrows of the five archers on the other side were still firing and quickly.


She watched as one of the arrows hit the shoulder of the men in red coats reloading their arms. He winced in pain but did nought so much as delay in his effort to reload. Nor did he attempt to pull the arrow as he'd been trained not to, for they would tear the muscle and flesh upon doing so. Instead, he leveled his loaded arquebus and aimed well at the bowman he'd suspected of landing the shot on him.


He pulled the trigger and fired, connecting full on to the chest of the Wendat bowman. Monique watched as the poor Wendat grabbed his chest, and collapsed to his knees, screaming in an unfamiliar language.


The rest of the line of the red coats were loaded, and all at once, all eighteen of them fired.  A volley of well aimed shots flew across the field and mowed the lines of the opposition quickly, dropping at least six of them, with one of them an immediate and instant kill.


The three remaining Wendat bowmen fired as their French brethren reloaded their weapons, lacking the experience and training of their British opponents.


Three arrows flew the span and one hit its mark, connecting to the man's right leg just to the left of his groin. The British man screamed in pain, grasping at the arrow as his life ebbed from him. The arrow had punctured his carotid artery, and he fell to the grass as his blood pressure suddenly dropped. Another moment and he was gratefully unconscious before he died.


The French lines then fired their response, all thirteen of them. Thirteen lead shells flew across the field, connecting with two of their targets amongst the British lines. One of them fell, struggling to breath as the slug had lodged itself in his trachea. The other merely winced at the sudden pain in his lower abdomen, for he'd previously been shot three times, and was very familiar with the experience.


The red coats leveled their sixteen remaining hand artillery lines, firing a volley back.


This time, eight of the French lines and one additional Wendat fell to the ground. Most were severely injured, the remaining had fallen dead.


The remaining French arquebus line immediately raised their hands, removing their stained white shirts and waving them in the international signal of surrender.


The two Wendat warriors looked to their French counterparts, feeling somewhat betrayed by them. Instead of surrendering, they instead fled on foot into the forest. Their immense knowledge of the land and how to evade trackers making them essentially invisible to any who tried to follow them.


Monique stood upon seeing her French comrades celebrating their victory.  They'd already removed their shirts and  were waving them in glorious victory.


She smiled as she stood, happy for them.


[I am so happy for your victory my friends! Peace be with you!]
"Je suis si heureux pour votre victoire mes amis! Que la paix soit avec vous!" Monique exclaimed in her best Quebecois French.


"Get the girl! She's a French spy!" yelled one of the red coats, pointing in Monique's direction. 


[Me? I'm just a spectator. I mean you're just playing, aren't you? This is a war game is it not? One from history?]
"Moi? Je ne suis qu'un spectateur. Je veux dire que vous ne faites que jouer, n'est-ce pas? C'est un jeu de guerre, n'est-ce pas? Un de l'histoire?"


[Get down girl! They'll shoot you dead!]
"Descendez fille! Ils vont vous abattre!" those of the surrendering French arquebus line who remained standing to hear Monique, yelled back to her protectively.


"Drop to your knees, lady! Your hands up! We're not brutes! You'll receive your due!" one of the British Officers commanded her.


Monique concentrated with all of her will in her attempt to transform into her light form, to no avail. She simply could not change.  It was as if her unique abilities had abandoned her entirely.


When she found that she could not change to her light form, she tried becoming as the darkness. The absence of light, and found very much the same. She simply had lost her abilities since arriving in this strange war game.


"I can speak English too! I give up! I'll play along with your game!" Monique suddenly blurted out, raising her hands.


"Private! Get that girl bound at once! Squad, cover us while we commit our prisoners on the terms of our War with the French!" the commanding officer of the force revealed himself, barking orders to obtain control of this battlefield.


As the Private approached Monique, a solitary woman in a Shotokan Gi rose from the grass where she'd been hiding. She quickly brought her Bokken down upon the back of the Private, who immediately fell unconscious in the grass, unseen by the main British force.


Monique immediately recognized her saviour.


It was Aikiko Tanaka. The Dragon Butterfly, though without her tattoos.


Aikiko pursed her lips, holding her index finger over them.


"Shhhh!" she eloquated to Monique.


Monique nodded affirmatively, unsure if that meant the same thing in Japan as it did in North America.


The British commanding officer returned his gaze to Monique, finding no sign of the Private he'd sent to bind the girl.


"Damned fool! Taken by a woman! Go bind her, the two of you!" the commanding officer sent two more of his remaining troops to deal with Monique, this time careful to keep his eyes on both the party dealing with the French line, and those dealing with the girl.


"It wasn't me!" Monique kept her hands in the air, still under the impression that it was all part of a game.


The two soldiers advanced, one of them keeping his arquebus leveled at her while the other readied his leather bindings.


When they passed Aikiko, who was cleverly hidden in the grass, she rose from her refuge, and immediately struck with her Bokken, quietly and swiftly.


She quickly brought the Bokken out with a forced push draw, drawing the Bokken from her scabbard  and forcing the pommel into the face of her foe. Essentially pushing him backwards and then punching him with the grip of the Bokken.


He fell to the ground, quickly stunned as the other spun quickly with his arquebus. Aikiko brought the Bokken around in a swinging motion, forcing the arquebus towards the dirt. It dry fired, as the soldier had forgotten to load a slug package into the barrel. The stench of burnt firing powder filled Aikiko's lungs and she coughed, doing her best to keep herself together.


The soldier immediately wielded his arquebus like a battering weapon, attempting to use the blunt of the stalk to rend her unconscious. She easily side stepped his advance, kicking him to force him to the ground. From there she quickly stuck the top of his bare head with her Bokken. The soldier fell quickly unconscious as the second one rose to his feet, drawing his saber from his scabbard to challenge her.


"My fair lady, you have dishonoured me and my ancestry! I challenge ye a duel!" he declared, holding the saber in a guarding position, pointed straight out. The length of the blade was almost a full foot longer than Aikiko's Bokken.


She furrowed her brows upon hearing the word dishonour. She frowned at her opponent.


"Yield now, and I will respect your honour. Fail to do so and I will fell you as I did your friends," she addressed him in her best English, her native Japanese accent pronounced with her words.


By that time, the squad had gathered the French prisoners and were advancing to where Monique and Aikiko held vigil.


The remainders of the line leveled their weapons at Aikiko.


"Hold your powder shot! Thy're witnessing a battle of honour! A duel, be it protected under British Law!" the commanding officer declared, immediately recognizing the soldier's stance with his saber.


"Sir, she's fowl Squa!" one of the soldiers declared her of the Wendat nation.


"Might she be?! In all Regard, she's bound to British law. The law of the duel holds high court! Observe and do as none!" the commanding officer stood his earlier pronouncement.


They stood facing each other, Aikiko slowly stepping in a large circle to her right, trying to measure her opponent's handedness while maintaining her ha no naga-sa no kyori.


The soldier suddenly struck forward, in an attempt to pierce her left guard, just off of her left breast.


In a single motion, Aikiko brought her Bokken up, hooking his saber and throwing his aim wide and to her left. With his shoulder exposed and his blade's momentum in the opposite direction, she struck him twice. Once on the shoulder of the hand wielding his saber, and then a second time, across the side of his ribs, breaking two of them cleanly with a single strike of her Bokken.


She brought her guard to her right, ready in case he rebounded against her strike after having ceased her blade's momentum in a technique called kyōsei-tekina ikioi. She forced him so far out of her protective circle, that he'd be forced to apply a great deal of momentum to return his blade towards her, making all his actions thereupon very predictable. 


In fact, she'd trained for all three of his only options, but he only knew about two of them, and he chose the second of the two thinking he was being crafty.


Instead of trying to stop the momentum she'd created, he instead continued through with it, using it to help him spin completely around and come at her from the opposite side she'd be protecting against.


His blade was fast moving, despite his broken ribs, but Aikiko's response was faster and much more solidified in her regimen of practice and reptition. When his blade came around to her open side, she merely performed Uekemi, a forward momentum stroked roll, her Bokken parallel to the direction of her motion. As the blade passed over her, she continued on up to her feet ready again, ready to strike his now open back.


Rather than strike a man's back during a duel for honour, she instead waited until he'd completed his turn, striking the arm wielding the saber. She sprained his wrist, as she showed some restraint, for she knew she was acting against an inferior opponent. One not so well practiced as was she. She'd already delivered the honourable blow to his ribs. He'd be rewarded with a week's stay in the field hospital with nurses tending him for his heroics despite the truth of the matter involving him attempting to challenge a woman to a duel he assumed he could win because she was a woman


Now disarmed, he backed away from Aikiko, falling to the dirt unable to use either of his hands to defend himself.


She held the tip of her Bokken to his throat.


"I yield! I yield!" he screamed.


Aikiko sheathed her Bokken, and bowed to her fallen opponent honourably.


"You are both hereby prisoners of the British Armed Forces under the provision of King George II. By his authority, we command that you yield to our superior force at once!" the commanding officer requested quite calmly despite the earlier battle.


"I will yield to no man!" Aikiko declared, standing firmly by her beliefs and family honour, mostly scoffing in the face of her father, who'd sold his own daughter to pay for a gambling debt.


There were none on the battlefield who could understand Aikiko so well as her best friend, Monique.


Monique, still under the impression that she was witnessing a grand  war game staging the War of 1812, or something of its like, played her part innocently.


"Aikiko! Please! We're caught! Just play along!" Monique smiled playfully over the whole ordeal.


"Never. Not in reality, never in jest," Aikiko stood her ground.


A single shot from one of the auquebus was fired, clipping Monique's left arm below the elbow.


She winced in pain, falling to the dirt as the wound in her arm screamed in the language of pain.


"You mean this was real?!" she suddenly exclaimed, having suddenly been awakened from her disillusion.


Aikiko by that time had drawn her Bokken, advancing upon the man who'd fired upon his friend.


"Cease at once! Or we will be forced to end ye!" the commanding officer screamed.


Aikiko ignored him, instead hefting the Bokken high above her head and letting out a battle-cry of such vigorous terror, it sent chills down the spines of every standing solider on the field.


As she was about to reach them, Monique suddenly jumped in front of her protectively.


"We surrender! My friend is deaf. She was made deaf by the blast of a cannon. She can't hear you, though she pretends to. She's been through a lot. Really!" Monique yelled to the commanding officer.


"Stand aside Monique, so I can rout each one of them!" Aikiko said fiercely, not willing to back down.


"See! She can't even hear me!" Monique exclaimed, using every ounce of her strength to stop her friend.


"Men! Stow yer canons," the commanding officer ordered, clearly understanding the situation far beyond what most might have.


Aikiko looked upon her opponents, who'd suddenly withheld their stance of attack. She scoffed at them, even spitting on the dirt before them before sheathing her Bokken.


The soldiers quickly surrounded Aikiko and Monique, disarming and binding their hands behind their back.


"Ready them for the march. We've a ny'er hundred mile march, ten days feast at best with foraging. Prisoners, stay thy near or fall died. Sole warning. March ye afore! Hut one two hut three..." the commanding officer ordered them into a marching line, and they began their long trek forward to allied Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.


They marched in the rain, and under the hot sun. In bindings which kept them confined to each other, for the worst prison of all was the compromise of one's solitude, for everyone had sought it with fervor at some point in their life. To lose it was hell.


That is why all prisoners are bound to each other.




Another Time - Another Place

1759,
Outskirts of modern day Kingston, Ontario


Alicia had been a jumper. In fact, for her whole life.


She recalled as the air flew by her face through whatever lost space she'd inherited after losing her grip from Monique's hand.


She was a little girl. Perhaps only a foot tall. Standing atop of the family dinner table, after she'd crawled up onto it to get at her father's uneaten desert. She crawled across the table on her hands and knees, and devoured his cake with a smile on her.


Then, without any fear, she made her way back to her high-chair, seeing the edge of the table as she ventured. She paused in amazement as she looked over the edge, her parents only mere feet away, both of them getting all the cleaning done before they got Alicia ready for bed.


Alicia looked over the edge of the table, a big smile stretched across her face as she looked off on to the distance of the floor, more than two and a half feet beneath her. With all of the effort she could muster, she struggled to her feet, standing on the edge of the table, sizing up the jump. Swaying back and forth uneasily. No fear, just wonder.


Then, she stepped awkwardly forward, trying to jump out into the air, and her parent's radar hit both her mother and her father at the same time. Alicia's short yellow hair was barely enough to cover her soft little head, and yet both her mother and father dove for her when she leapt. Her hair barely moving in the two and a half foot distance as her father caught her in his chest. Not so much as a cry from her upon landing, for most of that pain and worry was theirs.


They'd debated a few times, reasoning that maybe her distance vision wasn't good enough to perceive the actual distance of a fall. And yet, Alicia was just finding a new challenge from which to jump, just a little higher than the one before.


More than two decades later, Alicia stood atop First Canadian Place in her Night Style costume, the very one that Heylyn had personally fashioned for her. She weighed the jump, in much the same way she had as a young child from the dinner table in her parent's home. Then, much the same, it hit her. The sudden thrill of the risk. From the top of the two hundred and ninety eight meter tower, she extended her leg and was off into the space of a freefall. In the arms of gravity entirely. That was until she extended her hand at the exact right moment and caught an instrument vane, one she'd been aware of being a scientist. She knew that it was strong enough to hold the force she'd excerpt upon it as she spun once again skyward from the momentum.


Then she caught the ledge of the building which she'd thrust herself towards carefully figuring the physics of her body. She caught the ledge, and with the immense strength in her arms, she flung herself up onto the ledge and ran along the ledge once again diving off into the wind on trust of her ability alone.


She caught the ledge of another neighboring building, flipping herself up onto the lip of the building, leaning over like a gargoyle of the night. Then, upon seeing the ground twenty stories beneath her, she leapt yet again, and this time without her mother or father to catch her.


She fell for what seemed an eternity, laughing with the thrill of passing air. And then when she suddenly realized she had no safety net: nothing to grab to slow her fall. Nothing to stop her descent to death, she flailed with her arms, reaching out like a lost baby jumping from her parent's dining room table.


That's when the Butterfly Dragon swooped in, catching Alicia suddenly as if from nowhere. Like she'd been watching and protecting her best friend all along.


The best part was that the Butterfly Dragon landed, dropping Alicia off as if they'd planned the whole maneuver.


Alicia landed, immediately inferring herself into a situation where the responding Police unit had been cornered, as an onslaught of gunmen pursued them to their corners until they were out of ammunition. Trapped, they protected the people the gunmen were truly after, some of them risking it all.


When one Officer chose to charge against the opposition with no ammunition whatsoever, firing his  empty gun at them, more so as a symbol than anything, hoping he'd at least push them back enough to create an opening, that was when the Butterfly Dragon release Alicia upon them, rolling forward with no loss of momentum as leapt at the first gunman,  slamming him down hard on the cement. Enough so that he'd have a bad day and not much more. 


Monique had come from another direction at the speed of light, or very close thereto, suddenly flash blinding the gunman. She then grabbed his firearm from his hand, along with the guns of three other of his compatriots, when the cream of the crop opened up on her an Alicia.


Monique, immediately seeing the threat flew over to Alicia, grabbing her out of the path of one of the bullets already fired at her. Monique dropped her in a safe place and was ready with Alicia to advance, when they  saw that the Butterfly Dragon already had it covered.


Heylyn's wings opened up first upon the foremost gunman, knocking him backwards as she flew forward in a spinning kick, connecting with the second gunman's chest. He fell quickly and flat as Heylyn continued her momentum, grabbing onto the SMG of the third man in mid kick, twisting him off balance until he was on the floor, and his gun was in Butterfly Dragon's hands.


Heylyn (Butterfly Dragon) simply threw the SMG as if it were a weapon itself, it hit their sniper dead in the chest, throwing him into a wall from which he bounced back unconscious. She then spun into a kick that connected with the three remaining assailants, each of whom fell by the time she'd landed.


By that point, she was at the site of the commanding officer, offering assistance.


"Look Butterfly... You'd best leave, but thanks for your help. We're rooting for you as long as you're rooting for us," the CO told Heylyn.


"What can I say? Ditto? We have your back as long as you have ours," Butterfly Dragon leapt into the air, flying off into the night sky.


Monique quickly grabbed Alicia, and the two of them were off faster than light itself.


Memories, Alicia thought as she fell faster and faster towards the oncoming green of the land advanced.


Alicia looked around her, and saw that there was no table. No building ledge. Nothing against which to gauge the height of her jump. No mother. No father. Just the height of the fall. Just the ground beneath her. Just her end.


The one true silence before her life impacted her from below.


Like her first jump from the table. 


Leaping from the First Canadian Place headlong into the wind.


The land sped toward her as she braced for impact, and then, once again, the Butterfly caught her.


It was the last thing she could do.


The last thing that had saved her life. Her career. Her requirements for becoming the success that she did.


Before Alicia hit the groung, the Butterfly Dragon once again, perhaps for the last time, caught her before she impacted the earth.


Instead, Alicia rolled as she'd learned from years of hard practice. The Butterfly had once again caught her, and then it was done.


They were both done, for there was no more wind beneath their wings.


Alicia rolled for ten feet before she came to rest. By that time, the Butterfly's wings had closed and concealed Heylyn amidst the brush, wrapping around her like a cocoon, lost in the field.


Alicia felt the petals of a flower delicately upon her face as she emerged from her momentary loss of consciousness.


She rolled over onto her back, but when she tried to lean forward to get up, she felt a sharp pain in her side.


"Oh no.... what could that be?" she leaned back and lay still on the ground, giving her body enough time to heal before she tried again.


When she tried again, the pain had receded much but it was still there.


"Must have cracked a rib. Heylyn?" Alicia spoke to herself aloud at first, and then to her best friend.


"I've had better landings. How are you?" Heylyn joked as checked up on Alicia.


"Some minor contusions and possibly a notoriously difficult cracked rib that doesn't seem to want to heal. Other than that, I'm doing pretty good all considered," Alicia said as she got to her feet.


Heylyn's wings disappeared into her back, fading as they did and she got to her feet and brushed herself off.


"At least the our clothing seemed to have weathered the impact well," Heylyn said, checking herself over to make sure she didn't have any rips or tears.


"Good, I guess we're in good enough shape to find a transit stop and make our way back home," Alicia suggested.


"Must be a park or something just outside of Toronto because I don't see or sense anything nearby," Heylyn said, taking a look around to find that they were bordered on all sides but one, by trees.


The side that lacked trees, instead had a body of water: a small lake with an equally small river wandering into the distance. By the lake, they spotted several people, possibly bathing or just muttering about in the water.


"Let's go check it out. Maybe we could ask for directions?" asked Alicia.


"Let's. Its such a nice day for this too. Just missing my sunglasses," Heylyn agreed, using her bamboo Jian as a walking stick as they began making their way through the field towards the lake.


"We'll have to stop by Hoon Kwang's Dojang on the way home and pickup our purses and gear," Alicia reminded Heylyn.


"How are we going to pay for carfare?" asked Heylyn.


"I've got my credit card number memorized if we can find a bank or store that will let me draw cash with it," Alicia suggested.


"Sounds like a plan. At least your noggin's still in tact," Heylyn joked with her.


"Do you notice something different about those people by the water?" asked Alicia, squinting a bit to see through the bright sun.


"Come to think of it I do. They're dressed in what looks like traditional Indigenous garments. I think what they're wearing is Huron. Maybe there's a reserve nearby?" suggested Heylyn.


"There certainly aren't any reserves near Toronto. Did we really fall that far?" asked Alicia.


"With Weltherwithsp, you never know what kind of mischief that Chromatic Serpentine Dragon is up to," Heylyn assumed the ancient dragon to be the source of their current dilemma.


It made perfect sense, as Heylyn recalled a similar situation that occurred during the Western Delegation's planned flight to Ho Chi Minh City, which Weltherwithsp derailed by forcing the aircraft they were flying on to land in Hanoi, as part of a scheme that saw them meet Ms. Huệ Vân for the first time.


"I'm curious, how can you tell their clothing is Huron?" asked Alicia of Heylyn.


"In Fashion Design School, we did an entire module that focused on the various traditional Indigenous clothing designs found in North America. My project garments were a tribal bachelorette's outfit and a hunter's outfit of the Wendat tribe, with a colourful modern twist. I later found out the Wendat tribe were actually a Huron tribe," Heylyn explained to her friend.


"Heylyn, you certainly are full of refreshing surprises," Alicia complimented her best friend.


"Not as surprising as seeing a bunch of people actually wearing these garments in an Ontario Provincial Park," Heylyn noted as they got closer.


By the time they'd arrived close to the shore of the lake, the people appeared to have noticed their approach. It became obvious that there was panic in the air as a result of their arrival. One of the people immediately bolted on foot, running like a world class sprinter towards the nearby forest, yelling in a high pitched wail that could be likely heard for kilometers.


The women quickly collected a variety of items neither Alicia or Heylyn could make out, and had withdrawn as the men took up a stance out front, a row of six of them dropping to one knee, drawing bows from their back and each loading an arrow.


There was the sound of panicked yelling from the men in another language that neither Alicia nor Heylyn could recognize.


"Raise our hands maybe? Its the international sign of surrender. It can't hurt..." Alicia suggested.


"Sound reasoning," Heylyn agreed, raising her hands above her head as if surrendering.


Alicia did the same, but it seemed to further agitate them, and one of them fired an arrow.


The arrow flew through the air, passing closest to Alicia, though clearly intending to miss her. She deftly caught the arrow in flight, not necessarily using her unique abilities, but more as a result of the dexterity she'd developed through years of using her body at peak performance.


"Good catch!" Heylyn remarked, slowly lowering her hands.


"They might appreciate it if I give it back to them," Alicia suggested.


"Hopefully by hand," Heylyn suggested.


"That's the idea," Alicia agreed.


The yelling continued while Alicia and Heylyn held their ground, doing their best to appear non-threatening.


A few moments later, the runner returned, another man, a bit older, following him.


There seemed to be a discussion between the runner, one of the men with the bows, and the older man, which quickly became heated when the man with the bow described how Alicia had caught the arrow in mid-flight.


The man telling the story about Alicia pointed in their direction once again, then making a gesture as if pushing them away, his words and demeanor matching very much his own body language.


The older man who'd returned with the runner then walked in the direction of Alicia and Heylyn, passing the remaining line of bowmen as he did.




"Givin' m'pardon good ladies, but ye seems tuh have startled their's," the old man began.


"Uhhh. Ok. Could you give this back to him, the one on the far left from here. I think he fired it," Alicia replied, the older man seeming a little bit confused by her speech and accent.


"Fer'give m'pardon ladies, but named I am as Tarso, of Nuno thy family, of Portegual. I travel and am as an exploratator. Mentor'd in English at Oxford, I alumni art before ye," Tarso introduced himself to Alicia and Heylyn.


Both Alicia and Heylyn picked through his introduction, extracting what they could from it that was legible in their terms.


"Pleased to meet you. I'm Alicia Westin, from Toronto..." Alicia began, and Tarso's eyes widened upon the mention of the word Toronto.


"Ni Hao Ma. I am Heylyn Yates, but my family name is Ai Yuanlin Ying, as I am originally Chinese, and speak Mandarin in addition to several other regional languages fluently. I was raised in Toronto, and its been my home since I was four years old," Heylyn explained to Tarso.


"Ahhh... Tor'on'to? Speaketh thy Wyi'and'oit does thyne?" asked Tarso, confirming their response in the local Huron language.


"Toronto? The city?" confirmed Alicia.


"Thy cite? Grande? Importante?" confirmed Tarso.


"Yes. Big city! Very big!" Alicia extended her arms to indicate big, immediately recognizing the Latin derived terminology Tarso had used.


"Tor'on'to?" Tarso looked over to the bowmen, who'd long ago lowered their bows due to their boredom with the sudden conversation and tired arms.


"Tor'on'to? The same elaborate story teller bowman that had earlier pointed to Alicia to describe how she'd caught the arrow, now gestured with both his hands, mimicking two stick people walking towards each other and bumping into one another. 


He then raised his right hand exclaiming: "Hao" (which excited Heylyn because to her, his word sounded Mandarin Chinese, in which the term Hao meant good).


He then stepped to the other side, perhaps impersonating the second party who had bumped into one another. He then raised his right hand again and spoke the word: "Hao" once again.


"That's two people having a good meeting!" Heylyn exclaimed, jumping up and down clapping her hands as she loved the game charades.


Alicia turned and grabbed Heylyn, hugging her as they began jumping up and down excitedly in triumph as if winners on a popular television game show.


Tarso seemed very amused by their display, and the Indigenous story teller seemed to think that they were applauding his story telling performance.


"Tor'on'to!" Tarso spoke upon hearing the mention of the word meet, because the word Tor'on'to in Wendat, which was derived from its Huron origins as meaning: meeting place.


"Toronto! Hao!" Heylyn exclaimed, raising her hand and speaking the word good in Mandarin Chinese.


Tarso and the story teller heard it as meeting place of good greeting


"We greet here! Now! Meet!" Tarso seemed greatly joyed by this.


The story teller too heard it much the same, and he raised his hand again to greet them.


"Tor'on'to! Hao!" he smiled as he spoke, and the rest of the bowmen followed his example, doing the same and laughing happily.


"Now we're getting somewhere!" Heylyn responded excitedly, turning to Alicia and then back to Tarso, the story teller and his friends.


"Tor'on'to! To meet is too good here!" Tarso nodded happily, his Portuguese accent thick.


"Ha ha! Tor'on'to! Tor'on'to!" the story teller laughed again as he spoke the word several times and nodded to Alicia and Heylyn.


"So... uhhh Toronto? How do we get there from here?" asked Alicia, thinking they were all merely praising the city where both Heylyn and herself currently lived and were raised.


"Get whyre?" confirmed Tarso, by her use of terms, a look of confusion and perhaps embarrassment suddenly upon his face.


Heylyn stepped up, very much enjoying their earlier charades. She held up her hand, much like the Storyteller had earlier. She then mimicked a stickman walking with her two fingers.


"Walk. Travel. To Toronto...." she mimicked the walking stick figure with her right hand numerous times until the Storyteller had a sudden breakthrough.


"iayenhch... Tor'on'to..." the Storyteller paused, waiting for Tarso's thoughts on  the matter.


"Ye voyage to meet some parsons?!" Tarso suddenly realized the correct translation.


"In Toronto! Yes. Uhhh. Aye! We are meeting some parsons in Toronto!" Heylyn looked to Alicia, who despite her knowledge of Latin and other subjects, could not help in this instance.


"Meet at a meet?" asked Tarso again, still confused.


At that point, Heylyn suddenly understood.


"They're mixing up the definition of the word Toronto, with the city Toronto," Heylyn exclaimed, turning to the Storyteller, then Tarso and then Alicia.


"What's Latin for a place of a specific name Alicia?" asked Heylyn, Alicia quickly catching on to the linguistic solution to their communications obstacle.


Alicia turned to Tarso, doing her best to speak a language she'd studied as part of her Doctorate nearly a decade and a half ago.

[Toronto is a place of a specific name]
"Tor'on'to... est locus... cuiusdam nominis!" Alicia spoke carefully she recalled the terms.


Both Heylyn and Alicia paused, waiting for their possible interpretation.


[A place... a city?]
"En cite?" confirmed Tarso, looking to both Alicia and then Heylyn, then returning his glance to the Storyteller and his fellows.


"Yes! Yes! A city! A big one!" Alicia answered excitedly.


"Ney. I ney have heard tell of such a grande cite," to Alicia's amazement, Tarso shook his head side to side to indicate no.


"The body language between us and them is somewhat similar but not entirely. We should be careful about how we gesture," Alicia advised Heylyn quietly.


"So Tarso is saying that he doesn't know where Toronto is?" confirmed Heylyn.


"Precisely. He simply doesn't know. Nor do they," Alicia told Heylyn.


"Where's north?" Heylyn asked Tarso.


"Nord? Ahhhh. North..." Tarso barely took a moment to look at the sky and then pointed in the exact direction of north with his hand extended.


"Alright. That's a start," Heylyn replied gratefully.


"What about Kingston? Do you know where that is?" asked Alicia of Tarso.


"Ney. Cite Kingston ney," Tarso replied.


"Peterborough?" asked Heylyn.


"Ney," Tarso replied.


"Montreal?" asked Alicia.


"Ney," Tarso looked back to Alicia.


"Quebec?" asked Heylyn.


"Quebec? Quebec! Yea. Nouveau France. Quebec. Quebec! Cite grande!" Tarso responded, pointing in the direction of Quebec from where they were.


"So if north is that way, and Quebec is that way, that must mean that Toronto is that way," Alicia reasoned, quickly triangulating the directions.


"You're the scientist. I'll buy that," Heylyn responded with a smile now that they finally knew where they were and what direction they had to travel in order to get home.


"Thank you Tarso. Thank you  all," Alicia thanked Tarso, the Storyteller and the archers.


"Tiawenhk," the Storyteller said to them.


"You travel? Non chevalier?" Tarso asked them.


Alicia looked confounded by the word.


"I know that one. With Monique living next door to me, I know that one! Just give me a minute..." Heylyn was about to put her hand up to stop them, but stopped herself remembering Alicia's earlier remark about being careful with their body language.


"...almost! Its caught in my throat..." Heylyn responded doing her best to remember the word.


And then it came to her.


"Horse! A horse!" Heylyn announced excitedly, and this time Alicia grabbed her and they began jumping up and down in celebration again to the amusement of the archers.


"Uhhhh. Ney horses. We don't have horses," Alicia responded to Tarso.


Tarso turned and began conferring with the Storyteller, who listened intensely. Their conversation went on for a bit and then Storyteller ran off in the direction from which he'd come.


"Where'd he travel to?" asked Alicia.


"Chevalier... we trade," Tarso explained to them.


"Trade? We don't have anything to trade for a horse, let alone know how to care for them!" Alicia was suddenly shocked by Tarso's proposal.


A few awkward moments later, Storyteller returned, leading a pair of horses, each bound in a primitive tack and harness.


"Atenhndinon?" Storyteller asked Alicia and Heylyn.


"He you trade," Tarso translated for them.


"We have nothing to trade!" Alicia responded.


Storyteller lay the reigns on the ground and the horses remained still as if they were pinned there. He then approached Alicia and began examining her purse.


"Aken’se?" Storyteller asked her.


"He seeks to examine your pack," Tarso translated once again.


"Uhhh.. take a look if you'd like but I don't think you'll find anything in there worth a horse..." Alicia replied as Storyteller removed her purse.


He then sat on the ground and dumped the contents before him, as the archers gathered around him excitedly to see what she had.


Storyteller was amazed by the perfect quality of the contents of her bag, when something wrapped in a papery package caught his eye. He picked it up and opened it, unwrapping the rectangular package and a pile of smaller rectangles fell out, each of them also wrapped in the highest quality of paper he'd ever seen.


He and one of the archers each picked up one of the smaller rectangles, putting it to their nose. They sniffed it for a second and withdrew it from their senses, an excited look on their face.


"Otsikhe’ta’!" Storyteller exclaimed.


"He say it like sweet flower," Tarso told Alicia.


Storyteller unwrapped the rectangle and smelled the powdery rubber substance he pulled from the paper again. Then, he popped it into his mouth and began chewing it.


"Ahhhh! Ahhhhh! Otsikhe’ta’! Otsikhe’ta’!" he exclaimed, yipping several times as he chewed it.


The archer followed his example and did the same, chewing it a few times and then immediately swallowing it.


"Otsikhe’ta’!" the archer smiled.


Storyteller stopped the others from taking any.


"Atenhndinon!" Storyteller exclaimed to the archers.


He gathered up the paper wrapped sweet flowers and put them aside. He then picked up a cylindrical device made of the hardest and shiniest wood he'd ever seen. Even stranger, this wood was transparent, and within it was a long wet stick of something red.


Storyteller turned it over in his fingers a few times, before he figured out that it was actually two pieces tightly held together. He took it apart and touched the shiny red stick in the middle. His fingertips became red as well.


"Ahhhh! Ahhhh! Ahsohkwa’!" Storyteller said excitedly.


He immediately took the shiny red stick and began etching two long lines under each of his eyes. Despite having no pond through which to see himself, the lines were remarkably straight.


"Ahrony!" Storyteller stood up, looking around dramatically and spinning once as he yipped loudly into the air.


He then sat down again and figured out how to put the two pieces together again. When he had, he put that in the pile with the sweet flowers.


When Storyteller found a package of Alicia's ladys' products, she quickly grabbed the package from him.


"I'll take those! Ney Atenhndinon!" Alicia quickly added.


Storyteller looked a bit shocked for a moment, but he nodded in agreement and his attention quickly returned to the remaining items.


He spent the next few minutes going through the remainder of her makeup and another package of mints  and gum, which he rejected simply because he did not like the smell. When he came to her water bottle, he examined it amazed by the quality of her canteen, but knowing she'd need water for the journey, he returned it to her. He examined a few of her enegy bars, which had no smell at all and were too soft to be worth anything so he returned them to her. When he got to her purse, he was very amused by all the zippers, playing with them for nearly two minutes before he'd come to a decision.


"Atenhndinon. Otsikhe’ta. Ahsohkwa’. Nonhten ayohchiatenhk," Storyteller first pointed to the pile of makeup and gum he'd taken from Alicia's purse, and then to the two horses.


"He says he trade for two horse," Tarso translated.


"It must be a long way, otherwise they wouldn't insist," Heylyn reasoned.


"I have a bit of training, I rode horses when I was a child at my uncle's farm, but that was like fifteen years ago. How are we going to care for them? Where will we put them?" asked Alicia.


"We can figure that out when we get to the city. We can call someone and make sure they're safe. From what they're saying, I don't think that we should travel without them. I don't think I can butterfly into the air if you know what I mean. Something is... different. I feel different..." Heylyn explained to Alicia, who put her hand to her face where she'd been bruised by her landing.


She felt a bit of pain in the bruise, which meant that she wasn't healing as fast as she usually did. Something truly was off.


"Alright. We'll take the horses, at least until you can butterfly us home, but we have to make sure they're alright no matter what," Alicia agreed.


"I can promise you that I'll do everything to make sure of that," Heylyn assured her best friend.


"Alright. We'll... atenhndinon," Alicia agreed to the trade.


Storyteller picked up the reigns to the horses and handed them both to Alicia.


"Should I put there in here?" asked Heylyn, referring to putting Alicia's bottle of water and her energy bars into a small saddle bag on the horse's tack.


"They be alright there, though if you want to keep the water cool and those energy bars from melting, its probably not the best place.


I might be able to fit them into my belt pouch, now that you don't have a purse.


"Fine. I don't even know if these horses are trained the same. I mean there's many different systems of training a horse and every culture has their own way," Alicia noted, doing her best to recall how to ride in the first place.


"Well, I've never ridden in my life, so once again, you're my tutor but this time instead of math and science, you're teaching me about riding one of these fellas," Heylyn smiled, a bit perturbed by the challenge.


"Tiawenhk," Storyteller said to Alicia and Heylyn, gathering up his goods in the purse and slinging it over his shoulder.


"Tiawenhk," Heylyn replied, gesturing carefully to the two horses.


"I travel to small cite. Wendat cite. I am grateful for Toronto," Tarso spoke, using the term Toronto to refer to their meeting.


"Rihon’weskwen Toronto. Wahst önenh," Storyteller, Tarso and the archers began walking back in the direction of their village, leaving Alicia to instruct Heylyn on how to ride a horse.


"Alright. Lets see how this goes..." Alicia said, putting her foot into what she assumed was the stirrup. 


When she put her weight down upon it to lift herself onto the horse, the tack shifted and the horse began winnying as if laughing. Alicia hung on and managed to pull herself up and onto the horse's back, even though the saddle was now crooked on the horse's back.


The horse began to move forward, even while she didn't have her hands on the reigns (both of which were dangling over the horse's neck). Alicia clamped her legs as tightly as she could to hang on, causing the horse to pick up its pace immensely. The horse broke out into a bouncy trot first, and then into a full gallop as Alicia struggled to grab the reigns.


Eventually she bounced further and further back on the horse's rump until she slip off, trying to grab the animal's tail as she hit the ground. Heylyn, who was watching and in laughter the whole time ran over to her friend to make sure she was alright.


When she arrived, she found Alicia sitting in a pile of mud, which thankfully had broken her fall.


Heylyn offered her hand to her friend and pulled her up to her feet.


Alicia brushed herself off but her pants were soiled in dirt and mud.


She stopped and sighed.


"This is going to be a long ride," she shook her head as they went to retrieve both of their horses.


Camp

1759,
South Of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
Disputed New France/Dominion Of Canada


"Lieutenant James Hasting," Aikiko said to Monique quietly as she ate her food.


"Who?" Monique asked, covering her mouth as she chewed her's.


"Their commanding officer. If he's only a Lieutenant, then they must be a small force. Possibly separated from their main battalion, or on a mission for their regiment's commanding officer," Aikiko explained to Monique as she continued eating.


"How do you even know all of this?" asked Monique, tired and sore after their day's march.


"In my family dojo, before my family sold it all and me, it was imperative to learn about the military history of our family. From the time I was six, I studied history and philosophy both at day school and at my family dojo. So much time studying. So much time working, I barely had a childhood. But in return, and in this situation, I can be very useful," Aikiko pointed out to Monique, putting down the  empty wooden plate before her.


"Why are they keeping us separate from the other prisoners?" asked Monique.


"I don't know. Maybe because we're ladies?" Aikiko suggested.


"Maybe," Monique looked around the camp to take in her surroundings for the first time since they'd stopped.


Perhaps twenty meters away from them, and also in bonds were seated the remaining five male prisoners, all of whom were French as the Indigenous fellows they'd seen earlier that had not fallen, had all managed to escape into the forest a good ways back.


Between them and in the center of the camp, a group of the remaining British soldiers sat around a fire eating their food, while three soldiers stood keeping watch over the prisoners.


"I guess we're going to be sleeping under the night sky tonight. They only gave me one blanket," Monique said, rubbing her arms to keep warm.


"Shhhh," Aikiko held her index finger to her lips and handed Monique another blanket.


"Where'd you get it?" asked Monique.


"I took it from one of the soldiers when we were getting our food. Two blankets. That should keep you warm," Aikiko smiled, suddenly missing the feelings she'd felt since having been liberated from the grip of Dragon Butterfly, her alter ego.


This situation had thrust her head first towards facing the fact that whenever she became comfortable to  simply be herself, a woman in the modern world during her coming of age, she was suddenly forced backwards to return to her basest emotions. To force her return to the grasp of the Dragon Butterfly.


Hanshi's teachings had been geared towards liberating her, by taking control of her own life. He'd subdued Dragon Butterfly in order to free Aikiko, but even subduction did not last forever and there was no telling how long Hanshi could maintain his role as Sama over Dragon Butterfly.


A soldier walked over to Aikiko and Monique, stopping just out of reach of Aikiko.


"I's been instructed to bring ye to speak with the commanding officer. You will accompany me without trouble," the soldier addressed them in a thick south London accent as he unlatched them from pike that had been driven into the ground to keep them.


"I guess that means we've gotta follow him," Monique stood up first.


"And I was just getting comfortable," Aikiko responded, getting to her feet.


They walked for a short distance to the nearby fire, where the Lieutenant sat, just having finished his own bowl of food. When they arrived, he stood for them.


"We don't oft have ladies here. Please forgive the manners of my men and myself if you'd dare. Have a seat by the fire for there are matters about which I'd like to speak," the Lieutenant presented them each with a place to sit, which they accepted without question.


The Lieutenant sat down after they'd taken their seats.


"There are hard inner workings in this new land, and thanks to a decree by certain peoples in the world of politics and power, my men and I are here, fighting to take this new world from the people's of France, when I am certain that there is nowhere 'pon this Earth that my men would rather be than home in their own beds so they can ply their own trade by day, and kiss their wives at night," the Lieutenant began.


"That's nice to know," Monique replied, batting her eyelashes at him.


"That fact however, does little to help us unfortunately. However, our efforts here might be greatly accelerated if you were to divulge information about France's plans? Perhaps troop strengths? Their placement? Your level of supplies and when you expect to receive more," the Lieutenant asked Monique, though looking to them both.


"Honestly, I don't know anything like that. I'm really a model by day you see. I'm more concerned with presence than say... weapons and supplies," Monique replied doing her best to remain naïve.


"Perhaps I'm not being persuasive enough. I could give you much if you were to divulge this information to my person. I could see fit to arrange for your pardon, averting a lengthy sentence in the English Military courts. You might even come out of it with an arranged marriage as well. Women of your... presence as you stated, hold a high value in a man's arms and the living provided by an officer in His Majesty's Military can be quite illustrious for some. There are few women who'd turn down such a generous offer," the Lieutenant said sincerely, thinking that the deal he offered them was far too good to be denied.


"There's one problem with your offer, Mr...?" asked Monique.


"Kindly refer to me as Sir. That will be fine," the Lieutenant was cautious enough to keep his name.


"Alright Mr. Sir. You're dealing with a liberated woman," Monique began.


"Women!" Aikiko added.


"Women. Not to mention, I'm proud to be French, for French men are absolutely gentlemen, and would never so much touch a woman against her wishes, or take a woman as their property or for the sake of posterity!" Monique responded bitterly.


"I am the property of no man," Aikiko agreed with Monique's statement.


"That pains me a great deal, but I must thank you for putting my conscience to rest. Take them and bind them with the other prisoners. It will make our efforts to keep watch over them easier from a logistics perspective," the Lieutenant ordered his men.


"Right away Sir. You heard him, get up and join the other prisoners!" the soldier ordered Monique and Aikiko, though he was cautious enough to keep more than an arm's length from the latter.


When they arrived with the prisoners, Monique and Aikiko both were overwhelmed with the stench of their body odour. These were men who had spent the previous week in the wild without any means of wash, and for whom cleanliness was not the highest priority.


The soldier fastened their bonds to the same chain which held the other prisoners together.


"Here you go men. Have some fun," the soldier said as he left them.


Monique quickly got behind Aikiko, who immediately scowled at the first of the men eyeing them.


"Don't even look in our direction!" Aikiko said viciously.


[It looks like we have company to keep us warm on this night, and a buxom upon which to lay our weary heads. Amongst other treats upon a woman's body.]
"Il semble que nous ayons de la compagnie pour nous garder au chaud cette nuit, et une poitrine généreuse sur laquelle reposer nos têtes fatiguées. Entre autres friandises sur le corps d'une femme," one of them spoke aloud.


"What did he say?" Aikiko asked Monique.


"You don't want to know," Monique replied, sparing her friend the agony of the man's words.


...


The sun crept up over the horizon and just above the tree canopy, slowly warming the cool and misty dampness of morning. Monique lay silent, two blankets covering her entirely while Aikiko (who had her back to Monique) was happily wrapped in one. A few feet away at the end of an overly extended hemp rope were tied the remaining five prisoners. Three of them had various bruises and black eyes they'd incurred upon themselves while attempting to man-handle Monique and Aikiko the night before. The other two who remained unscathed, had learnt from the others' mistakes rather quickly.


Aikiko awoke suddenly, her stomach grumbling and roused upon the scent of cooking food. The air was filled with the smell of a salted venison, and what might have been tea.


"Morning calls! Upon your feet at once!" a soldier yelled at the prisoners, who quickly got to their feet.


Monique by some miracle had slept through the entire delivery of the soldier's wake-up call, and lay still as the soldier approached her. By that point, Aikiko was already on her feet and stretching.


The soldier kept his distance from Aikiko, approaching as close as he could to Monique while still out of Aikiko's reach.


"That means you, my fair lady! Upon your feet at once!" he yelled at Monique, who suddenly awoke and was up and on her feet wiping her eyes.


"I can't even check my face!" Monique pouted, for they'd taken her purse the day before.


"Silence! You'll be given one small meal, a cup of tea and some water. That must last you 'til the day's end!" the soldier informed them.


"What about us?" asked Monique, as the soldier had addressed the male prisoners specifically.


The soldier then proceeded to unbind Monique and Aikiko from the others and for that moment, it took every ounce of constraint for Aikiko to resist the impulse to dispatch the soldier, take his saber and then proceed to gut everyone in the entire camp with it. She knew there was a sixty percent chance she could succeed before they brought their hand cannons to bear upon her. She also knew from the moment that thought had entered her mind, that the Dragon Butterfly was nearby and getting anxious to solve their problems for them.


She thought about Hanshi, and his lesson of discipline with regard to taming one's own mind. The quieting of mind chatter, a near constant barrage of thoughts and doubts which most people had neither the tools nor the experience with which to deal. Her first few lessons with Hanshi had seen half the class spent on developing solid technique of the first three Kyu of his system, while the other half of class was spent learning meditation. To quiet the mind chatter. In Aikiko's case however, the source of that babble in her head was the Dragon Butterfly.


"The ladies are to follow me," the soldier said somewhat more calmly than he'd spoken before.


The soldier led Monique and Aikiko back over to the firepit where the Lieutenant sat waiting for the last of his men to be fed. When the ladies arrived, he bid them to be seated as they had been the night before. He stood for them first and then had his seat only when they were seated.


"I fear that we may had arrived at a foul beginning the night just past. I understand from what my men have spoken that you kept the other prisoners at the peril of your vigil. In fact, they've marks on their face that aptly tell the tale," the Lieutenant addressed them.


"We did what we had to. I've since re-evaluated my stance with regard to certain men," Monique admitted, not willing to look in the direction of the Lieutenant.


"It was at their own peril that their wounds were received deservingly," the Lieutenant replied.


"But it was you who knowingly tied us up with them. By my accounting, you should have a few marks on your face too," Aikiko was quick to reply.


"Perhaps that might be just, but I am willing to make reparations, for I distinctly misjudged each of you. You each have a certain bravado and quality that many women in public would dare to never display, except under certain circumstances when addressing honestly a husband who was a good man and had an ear for them no matter their concern. Those women who did would certainly find swift persecution for upending the ways of the society and likely their days would end in much grief and despair," the Lieutenant remarked, perhaps commenting upon a state of society he'd observed over the years on his approach to his ripe age of forty.


"Those words are from the tiger's mouth who wears the sheep's skin. Words spoken by a warrior who chooses to snuff out the life of his prey from a safe distance," Aikiko observed about the man.


"I did not invite you here before me to endure a war of wits, but rather to undo my mistake of the previous night. You see, I've come to an idea by happenstance that will be mutually beneficial, while sparing either of you the need to betray the other side," the Lieutenant explained to them.


"Betray? We hardly know where we are let alone what is going on," Aikiko replied.


"I won't be played as a fool for your court, but I am a patient man and I understand that some women are not as aware of current events as others, so I'm willing to explain. You see, years earlier as far back thrice that many, an important alliance that had established and kept peace for a time back in the lands overseas, collapsed. Long standing allies were soon at each other's throats, while former enemies found bed partners in each other. By the time the storms of this diplomatic crisis had calmed, our Majesty King George the II had negotiated alliances to ensure that Britain and all of her interests were preserved, both at home and abroad, while protecting the interests of those with whom she allied herself. Namely, Prussia and the Electorate of Hanover. That vicious Bourbonite of France, King Louis XV has bore his teeth towards our King and land one too many a time, and all while the wounds of the Jacobite uprising are still fresh on our good land," the Lieutenant began educating Monique and Aikiko about the recent history that had transpired.


"King George? King Louis?" Monique confirmed that she was hearing correctly.


"It is impressive that a woman shows concern for the throne, but we are not about to discuss issues beyond our position. Let us say that in the interest of ensuring that our enemy across the channel nay gain the upper hand, the powers that be have decided that the interests of France in the Americas coincide with our own, and that should we choose to better preserve ourselves, presently and on towards what is to come, we must establish ourselves here, in what will become our new Dominion. With the gracious assistance of our allies, despite that there are some who abhor these men risking their lives as being nothing more than brutish savages. The Picts of another continent. Having fought alongside many of my Iroquois allies myself, I tend to hold those of such opinion in disdain. To state things in a palpable manner for your ears, we are currently at war with the French, the Spanish, the Austrians, the Swedes and the Russians. However, our warfare 'pon this land is solely to route the French and the Spaniards from the land, and to take up that land for our good King and allies," the Lieutenant, being an informed and educated man himself did his very best to explain their circumstances to Monique and Aikiko, whose faces became pale with shock.


"When are we?" asked Aikiko.


"When are we what? Going to resume our journey?" confirmed the Lieutenant that he'd understood her correctly.


"No, she means what is the date?" asked Monique for the both of them.


"I am overjoyed to see that your friend's hearing has recovered so fully, though I'm skeptical that she is of full facility. Perhaps that cannon shell that deafened her might have given her the malady of a concussion?" asked the Lieutenant of Monique.


"No. We're lost. We were separated from our friends and we found ourselves here, in the middle of nowhere. I can't remember the date, so we both need to know," Monique pressed the issue with the Lieutenant.


"Very well. By accounts of my own logbook, it is the day of Tuesday during the month of July on the King's year of seventeen fifty-nine," the Lieutenant declared.


The Lieutenant was greeted with sudden silence.


"So this isn't a war game re-creation of the battle of Old Fort Henry or something?" confirmed Monique.


"Old Fort who?" the Lieutenant confirmed with Monique.


"Oh," Monique responded in realization that to this man, Old Fort Henry simply did not exist.


Yet.


"My lady, I must assure you that this is not a game, and that the lead that flies from our hand cannons and guns has been death for far too many thus far. However, that is not why I had you brought here. You see, as I earlier stated, I wish to make reparations for my poor decision of the night previous. You see, you possess a skill that is of short abundance for us here. A land where so many hold us to be hostile invaders upending the peace. Yet if we could speak to our enemies and understand them, we might overcome this propensity for violence and establish the grounds for their surrender and a lasting peace. You, can give us these means, simply by acting in our service to translate our words to theirs and theirs to our own. What say you to this offer?" the Lieutenant asked Monique with a voice of interest and concern.


"It sounds very one sided to me. What do we get? What about my friend? What are you going to do with her?" asked Monique, willing to hear out the full offer.


"You will both be relieved of your status as prisoners and considered more as allies of our cause. Much like our Iroquois allies. However, you will be watched closely and you will be defied from bearing arms of any kind. Your friend will have the same privilege as do you. You will eat different food. The very same that soothes the bellies of myself and my own men. You will be protected from threats that graven our chances at success here, and should you succeed in these endeavors assisting our cause, you will be greatly rewarded, each of you. There is a plate of food for you each, which you can eat right now should you accept these terms. If not, then we shall no further speak, and you will rejoin the remaining prisoners and inhabit a cell with them upon our return. Your friend and protector may be capable, but sooner or later her strength will wane and weaken, and the two of you may finish your lives as pets for other prisoners. My offer is the only offer that gives you solace, freedom and hope. The choice is however, yours alone," the Lieutenant negotiated his terms expertly, taking full advantage of their position.


Monique looked to Aikiko, whose lips narrowed momentarily in distrust of the man.


Monique's eyebrows rose, perhaps trying to encourage Aikiko to soften up.


"I know this is difficult Aikiko. You were so close to being free of that other side to your life. You still are, you just have to give it a chance. Don't throw away what you know because its already saved us a few times as it is. We just need to get that lady who lost out on so much of her life back in the driver's seat," Monique spoke to Aikiko like a true sister.


"Hanshi couldn't have put it better. That girl, that lady is still here and very much me..." Aikiko put her hand to her heart.


"...but we need the strength of the other to protect us both," Aikiko replied, wiping a tear from beneath her eye.


"That strength isn't her. Its you," Monique encouraged her friend.


"Very well. We'll agree to their terms, and I'll be what I need to be, when we need it," Aikiko agreed.


Monique smiled once, and then returned her eyes to the Lieutenant.


"Very well. We agree to your terms, and be sure to hold true to them or every man here under your charge will know the failure of your honour," Monique nodded to the Lieutenant's terms.


"We are bound to this agreement. You may now refer to me as Lieutenant James Hasting of the King's Rangers. You have found us while absent of our horses, as they were stolen during another French/Wendat attack upon our numbers. Other aspects of our tasking I shall keep until you've proven yourselves trustworthy. Should you try to run, my sharpshooters will bring you down before you can carry any useful information back to our enemies. Now, enjoy your breakfast for we leave before the sun is a fifth of the way high," the Lieutenant stood and made his way to his kit, while another man brought them each a full plate of food.


A few moments later a couple of soldiers returned from a nearby stream carrying two large bowls of water, one each for Monique and Aikiko and placed them in front of where they were seated.


"We use one for a mirror, and the other to wash," Aikiko suggested, recalling having done the same thing many times in a pond by her family home as a little girl.


They both hungrily began consuming their breakfast, not even slightly aware of what it might be. It smelled wonderful and tasted even better.


"What is this anyway?" asked Monique of the soldier who had brought them their food and was now guarding them.


"The Iroquois call it Peh'meh'can. Its venison, quail and any other kind of small vermin meat they can catch. Its cooked and seasoned with salt, berries and other spices and then pressed dry. Its quite good and lasts us for longer than a month from the time it is prepared," the soldier explained to them.


"Here are your packs, though they're a bit tiny to be of any use. The sharp shiny bits I found in them have been removed for our safety and certainly yours. I must say that the wood craft of some of these things in your possession is beyond artisanship alone," the Lieutenant placed their purses beside their water in front of them.


"I think things are beginning to look up for us!" Monique turned to Aikiko, who smiled back in agreement still chewing her food.


The Children Within The Walls


The Haven was fully alive with the rising morning sun. Those who resided within the tiny homes that populated the interior of the walls had already eaten and were now out and working in their gardens. Not because they chose to do so, although it was a wonderful morning for as much, but because those were the rules:


With water through the lips and a belly full, 
shall you till the land until the day is through.


Most were eager to work on their own plots rather than being chosen for the work maintaining the nearby farm and grove. For one, neither the farm nor the grove were within the confines of the wall, a wall that had already protected them from several nearby skirmishes between the local Indigenous of the land and the colonizers, both of English and French origins.


The sound of rows of arquebus firing, with the unmistakable sound of lead piercing cloth a short moment later, and there were few who ever sought to leave the safety of the walls of the Haven. However, if one was found not to be actively developing their own  home plot after breakfast, they were consequently volunteered for the duty of the farm and grove. A twelve hour day's worth of grueling, back-breaking work that went on all through the spring, summer and autumn of every year.


The only exception to this rule were the children. Those whose age was less than ten years. Those older than nine would most often quickly learn that unless they were busy helping their family with their own plot, they'd be conscripted by the village guard for farm and grove duty beyond the walls.


"Alright, be settled and seated. You know the rules," the teacher, Miss Erelia announced to her class of fifteen children.


The children almost at once settled down, for they knew the consequences if they didn't.


"I'd like you all to open your notes from yesterday, including your homework assignment. Now, can anybody tell me why the curfew comes when the sun does fall?" asked Miss Erelia of the class.


A young lady raised her hand and quietly waited for the teacher's response.


"Yes, Missie Terlie?" asked the teacher, pointing to the girl.


"Because the night is dark and our eyes can't see. So we'd best park ourselves to bed until morn early," Missie Terlie replied, recanting the poetic reason for the curfew.


"Who can tell me what else is dark and often cannot see?" asked Miss Eerelia of the class.


One of the boys put up his hand and waited patiently.


"What's your answer Timmy?" Miss Erelia addressed the little boy.


"Justice. Justice is the dark, while law is the light. That is why most justice happens only at night," Timmy responded, reading from his notes.


"Very good Timmy," Miss Erelia took the time to walk over first to Missie Terlie, and then to Timmy, placing a biscuit on each of their desks.


Neither of them attempted to eat the biscuits, for there was a specific time for learning and for eating and neither should coincide.


"Now, here's the big question for the big biscuit. The one with all of the best fruit upon it. Who can tell me where the light and the dark came from?" asked Miss Erelia of the class.


Three students raised their hands simultaneously, none of them willing to withdraw for the others.


"We have three with the answer. Then we'll settle this as we always do. Now Carlie, let's have your answer first," Miss Erelia addressed the little girl of the three first.


"We have light and dark because Nelony Theearin made the Haven to save the people from the Wytch hunt. She was the first light, the light of the Haven. When she left us to defeat the great peril, her next in line, Thelysia became the leader of the True at fourteen years old. She became the second light, the light of law for when she saw everyone living lives of waste, doing nothing to maintain the Haven and ignoring Nelony's first rules which started leading to shortages of food and goods, she knew that something must be done. She made new, more strict rules. Rules that would ensure that everything needed for the Haven to survive would get done, but nobody would carry out the punishments against anyone breaking the rules. Before long, the people once again ignored everything Nelony and then Thelysia had done to create and maintain the Haven. People began to go hungry, soon fighting over food and the things they needed to survive. That's when Meregrith, Thelysia's sister came forward with an answer. She had become a Wytch of the shadows, and understood that the law needs justice as much so as the light needs darkness. So Meregrith became justice. She built the hedge-row maze so that those who were brought to justice could not escape. At the end of the maze, they would have to face justice alone, where both the light of Thelysia and the dark of Meregrith would decide," Carlie finished reading from her notes.


"Now, Emmett can you tell me why she's wrong?" asked Miss Erelia.


"My father says that's not what happened. He said that Thelysia and Meregrith each had their own following, and that the Haven couldn't decide which one was right to rule after Nelony Theearin left to fight the great peril, so the Haven split into two, down the middle, each side fighting over the food and resources. Thelysia and Meregrith both believed that a peace could be forged between the two of them and that they could work together, but the people on either side wanted everything for themselves and didn't want to make concessions or deals with the other side. They were already starving because they didn't want to do what was necessary to keep the Haven alive. So one night, the followers of Meregrith attacked the followers of Thelysia, killing many of them. They then captured Thelysia and banished her to the wilderness, none of them ceasing from enforcing that fate even against the cries of Meregrith who wanted no such thing for her sister. Meregrith was so stricken with grief and anger over what the village did, that she created her own justice. The hedge-row maze and what lay in wait at the end. Any that opposed her would disappear forever. From that point, everyone followed the rules for fear of losing their lives at the hands of justice, while Meregrith only emerges from the maze to deal with those who break the rules," Emmett half recited and half improvised for the rest of his missing homework.


The truth was that his father had told him many times over what truly had happened during those days, as it had been passed to his father by his grandmother from Thelysia's side, one of the few who'd managed to survive.


"A very intriguing tale, and perhaps a bit imaginative? We'll deal with that later however," Miss Eleria responded to Emmett's explanation.


"Finally, do you have any idea why these two are wrong? What is your answer Gregoire?" asked Miss Eleria of the third student vying for the big biscuit.


"Because Miss Eleria, the sides were in conflict trying to solve the problems of the Haven, but it was Meregrith who came up with the solution. Thelysia was jealous of Meregrith's power, and the fact that she came up with the hedge-row maze to solve the problem of people slacking in their efforts to keep the Haven prosperous. Thelysia was so jealous of Meregrith that she formulated a plan to kill her sister, and to take over from Meregrith at the center of the maze. One night, Thelysia offered Meregrith a cup of herbal tea she'd concocted and when Meregrith drank it, it killed her instantly. Thelysia disposed of her sister's body with her Wytch powers, and took over. She's still at the center of the maze and running things secretly until this day," Gregoire explained to the class, reading from his own notes.


"Very inventive and certainly a terrifying prospect, but there can't be three right answers, can there?" asked Miss Eleria of the class.


"No Miss Eleria,"  they all replied in unison.


"A show of hands. How many of you believe Emmett's history?" asked Miss Eleria of the class.


Emmett and one other child put up their hands.


"Alright. Two votes for Emmett. How many of you believe Gregoire's history?" asked Miss Eleria again.


This time, three students put up their hands, aside from Gregoire.


"Four votes. Impressive. Now, how many of you believe Carlie's history?" asked Miss Eleria.


Nearly everyone in the classroom put up their hands.


"Last chance, anyone want to change their minds?" asked Miss Eleria of the classroom.


The students that had previously sided with Emmett and Gregoire put their hands up for Carlie's history.


"It looks like Carlie's history wins!" Miss Eleria walked over the Carlie's table and placed the big biscuit on her desk.


"Alright class. Tomorrow's assignment is all about how we till and farm the land beyond the walls. Don't forget your notes, and we'll see all of you, except for Emmett and Gregoire tomorrow. Emmett, Gregoire? I need you to stay behind for a bit," Miss Elerie dismissed her students, keeping both Emmett and Gregoire behind.


Miss Eleria walked with her students to the door and saw the children out of the classroom. When they'd gone, she walked out of the door and over to the two scouts.


"You know the parents of Emmett and Gregoire from my class don't you?" Miss Eleria asked Komi and Segwa.


"I know them. Yes," Komi replied.


"I'm going to need you to bring them here, and then take them, Emmett and Gregoire into the maze for breaking the rule about the distortion of history. Can you do that for me?" asked Miss Eleria of them.


Komi looked to Segwa, who looked back reluctantly.


"We can do that," Komi kept his feelings well hidden.


"Then go and do it," Miss Eleria ordered the two scouts to carry out the task she'd requested and then returned to the classroom where Emmett and Rober sat nervously.


"I'm feeling a bit generous today. So I'm going to give you each a biscuit to eat while we think about what you did wrong," Miss Eleria did as she told them she would.


Before their parents arrived at the school, both Emmett and Gregoire had finished the biscuits and were now at the edge of tears, for by that time they'd both realized what they'd done wrong.


Journey Into Truth


Alicia awoke suddenly, slightly shivering with the cool morning air. A few feet away, her horse stood close by a bush, her snout playing with the leaves in the wind.


Heylyn was already awake, and stood about twenty meters away where she stretched, loosening up the muscles that had become tight as a result of her horseback riding experience thus far.


"Morning! I forgot to tell you about that!" Alicia yelled over to Heylyn as she got to her feet.


"About what?" asked Heylyn, still bent over and stretching her thighs.


"About the sore tendons you'll have after riding for a couple of hours," Alicia told Heylyn, as she walked with a bit of a funny step over to where she was stretching.


"No biggie. I usually try to stretch every day, and exercise every other day, so this isn't too bad, but I am a little sore. Takes a lot to ride, doesn't it?" Heylyn asked Alicia.


"I've only done it three times in my life, all before I was twenty, so I'm not exactly an expert," Alicia admitted.


"Compared to me you are. I don't think I could have done it without you," Heylyn said gratefully.


"We definitely rode for hours, but we don't seem any closer to civilization. At all. That's kind of startling. No roads. No towns. No gas stations. Nothing," Alicia said, attempting to stretch herself, only getting down about three quarters of the way.


Why don't we try riding for another few hours and take it from there if we don't see anything? It wouldn't hurt," Heylyn suggested, now standing fully upright, limber and ready for the day.


"I suppose we have no choice. Want an energy bar? I have four left," Alicia asked Heylyn as she headed over to a nearby stream where she'd stashed them under the water to keep them cool.


"Sure. We should start rationing them just in case. Eat half now and half for dinner tonight?" suggested Heylyn.


"I'm hoping that it doesn't come to that, but that's probably a good idea," Alicia returned with the energy bars, throwing one to Heylyn.


They began walking back to their horses when they noticed that neither of the animals were there.


"Where'd they go?!" asked Alicia, suddenly anxious about the situation.


Alicia ran to where they'd been tied for the night, finding no sign of them except for a few broken branches nearby, the ground covered mostly in leaves and brush.


Alicia tried whistling for her horse, though it didn't quite come out loud enough at first. Her second try was much better though it yielded the same result.


A distance away, deeper into the brush and a nearby forest, they both heard the sound of a whistle, almost as if it was mimicking Alicia's attempt to call the horses.


"Come on! It came from that way!" Heylyn said as she took off running in the direction of the whistle.


Alicia sprinted after Heylyn as best she could, and did remarkably well despite her lost abilities. Although she seemingly lacked the benefits afforded her years earlier by the SY349A formula she'd administered to herself, she hadn't lost her primed physique. She may have been missing her Night Style alter ego, but she wasn't missing the benefits of her health.


Alicia suddenly felt tinges of pain in her abdomen, followed by the growing sensation of nausea. She suddenly fell to her knees, and began gagging. Heylyn who was a distance ahead of her suddenly stopped when she realized Alicia had fallen. She ran to her friend to ensure she was alright.


"What happened? Are you..." Heylyn dropped to the ground beside her friend as she leaned over, gagging reflexively.


"I don't know what came over me. I just feel... sick. Must be heat exhaustion," Alicia explained, drawing upon her medical knowledge to cover for the truth.


Alicia gagged a few more times, struggling to keep the energy bar she'd consumed earlier down.


"I'm better. We've got to find those horses..." Alicia struggled to her feet with Heylyn's help.


Alicia lifted her head when they heard another whistle, once again mocking Alicia's earlier attempt.


This time it was Alicia who started to run in the direction of the whistling, while Heylyn did her best to catch up.


Alicia ran across a small clearing which ceased at the edge of a large deciduous forest. She looked into the trees beyond the canopy, beneath which seemed as dark as night itself.


She resumed her sprint, running into and beyond the edge of the forest, catching what she thought was a glimpse of one of the horses. Heylyn followed behind her, slowly catching up as the two of them proceeded into the darkness of the forest.


Alicia did her best to navigate the suddenly thick brush between trees until she found a foot path. She quickly detoured onto it and continued her sprint, certain that she could see the horses just ahead.


Suddenly her right foot hit a snag, and she found herself flying forward towards the dirt. She braced for impact and then intuitively, she remembered how Night Style used to roll in such a situation. She braced her fall with her arms without stopping her momentum but rather redirecting it. She rolled off her shoulders curved around her back and flung herself up onto her feet again just in time to deal with her assailants.


There were three of them. All men and they were dressed much like the Storyteller and archers they'd earlier encountered. One of them advanced, trying to grab her arms by her wrists. She quickly swept him off of his feet, laying him quickly to the ground as the second charged at her.


By that time Heylyn had arrived and using her momentum she launched herself into a flying kick. She struck Alicia's second assailant in his back, knocking him quickly to the forest floor with a hollow thump.


By that time the third assailant had hold of the line which was now wrapped around Alicia's ankle unbeknownst to her. He gave it a forceful yank, pulling her off of her foot and onto her back. By that time Heylyn had landed on her feet and quickly spun to deal with Alicia's third assailant. Heylyn saw the line in his hands and grabbed the end closest to Alicia's foot. She yanked it as hard as she could, pulling the man off of his balance and directly at her. She then caught his hand and allowed his energy to follow through, over her leg forcing him to the ground where he slid for almost two meters.


Alicia had managed to get the line off of her ankle and was now back up and on her feet, taking her place back to back with Heylyn.


The three assailants backed away quickly from Heylyn and Alicia, who now had the upper hand. The first two got to their feet and helped the third up. All three of them backed away from the duo.


"Enough!" a hollow whispery female voice echoed through the forest and from the darkness into which they were headed, emerged a light.


"Atia’trawIa’tahrenhwi!" the voice spoke in the same language they'd earlier heard the Storyteller use.


"Look, we don't want any trouble. We just want our horses back," Heylyn spoke, addressing the silhouette of a lady against a halo of light.


"Your horses are safe. Are either of you injured?" the lady asked them both compassionately.


"I'm fine if Heylyn's fine," responded Alicia.


"I'm fine Alicia," Heylyn replied.


"We should talk. There is much about which you are in the dark, and I would be the one who gives you the light if you'd allow," the lady spoke calmly.


"Where are our horses?" asked Alicia.


"They are safe back in my abode. They had much to say about you. You'd be surprised what a horse learns about a person who rides upon their back," the lady replied.


Alicia and Heylyn looked at each other and then in the direction of the lady of light.


"Follow me back to my abode. No harm will come to you, and you might find my cooking quite enjoyable," the lady spoke as she turned and began walking into the darkness, illuminating the trees around her.


The three men who'd attacked them shrunk before them humbly.


"They're very sorry. They thought you to be poachers. They are very protective of me and the wildlife around here and I applaud them for it," the lady spoke as Alicia and Heylyn followed.


They walked for a short time through the forest, the trees seemingly getting bigger and bigger while the forest around them became darker and darker.


"There are few who venture this far into the woods without a capable Wendat guide. That is why I chose this place as my own. It is safe from the ills beyond the edge, and far from the madness of civilization. Civilized! Ha! And yet they are drawing plans to lay siege upon other civilized people. Me, I live here alone and in peace," the lady arrived at what appeared to be an enormous hollowed out stump. She tapped the stump with her knuckle, and a door appeared.


She opened the door and welcomed Alicia and Heylyn into what she'd earlier called her abode.


"Why do I get the feeling that we should have left a trail of bread crumbs?" Heylyn remarked sarcastically.


"Don't you worry about the birds. I make sure they're fed quite well when I can, but its awfully nice to see those who care about the life in the wilds," the lady led them further into her home, incapable of recognizing Heylyn's anachronism referring to Grimm's Tales


Inside, the lady of light led them to a table where she bid them to take a seat.


"M'aam. I'm Alicia. Alicia Westin and this is my best friend Heylyn Yates," Alicia introduced them.


"Actually my family name is Ai Yuanlin Ying, but that's a long story..." Heylyn added.


"So it is," the lady poured them each a cup of hot water, which was poured over a herbal infusion.


She then turned around with a cup in each hand, placing them on the table before Alicia and Heylyn.


"And who may you be, if I may ask?" asked Alicia.


"Don't worry about it. Its tea. My own special infusion. Not only will it, heal you, but it will give you a little pep in your step," the lady replied returning to her kitchen area and a wood stove, where she stirred a pot.


"This is a nice place you have... in a tree stump in the forest kind of way," Heylyn remarked, looking around her home.

"It has been my home for a long time. So many years since... Oh! My name. I almost forgot," the lady stopped stirring the pot and turned to face her guests.


"I am Thelysia Theearin, daughter of Nelony Theearin, and the bringer of light," the lady introduced herself formally.


A Change Of Heart


Emmett and Gregoire's parents accompanied their children down the wooden stairs of the school where they were greeted by Komi and Segwa.


"We need you to follow us so that justice may be done," Komi said coldly to the two families.


"I'm sorry mom, dad," Emmett said to his parents, bearing the weight of his mistake upon his frail little body.


"That's alright son. I'm sure the only crime you committed was telling the truth," Emmett's father said to him, putting his hand on his son's back and rubbing it reassuringly.


"We'll go through the maze together as a family," Emmett's mother took her son's other side, taking his hand.


Gregoire's parents followed suit, certain that there were no crimes in either of their son's homework, but all knew that they were being made to pay the price for Emmett's speaking of the truth.


Komi took the lead, and Segwa walked behind them, ensuring that none of them tried to run.


Komi walked the streets of the village, passing many homes as eyes peered out through windows to get their last glimpse of Emmett's and Gregoire's families. Emmett's father knew there was no justice in what was about to happen to them. They were simply being made an example of so that none of the others would dare violate rules that forbid them from speaking of the truth.


Komi approached the entrance to the maze, stepping into it as he had many times before. Leading the unjust to their ultimate judgement. He entered the maze, followed by the two families, who were now huddled close together in what they knew would be their final moments. None of them had ever seen the inside of the maze, and they became terrified at the sight of the thorns amongst the hedges. Hedges nearly twice the height of a man.


Komi led them as they turned a corner, walking for a bit before turning another. Finally, they came upon a final stretch and Komi took them the distance until they arrived at another opening about half way. He then stepped through the opening in the maze, leading the two families to a part of the walls they'd never seen before.


"When you get to the other side, keep going for half a day in the same direction. You will find help there. Never ever speak of this or utter words about it ever. Do you understand?" asked Komi as Segwa struggled to remove a large block that had been cut away from he wall.


"We're free?" asked Emmett's father in amazement.


"That's a matter of perspective. You are beyond the walls and the reach of the justice within," Komi replied to Emmett's father.


"We'll never forget this, ever," Emmett's mother said to Komi and Segwa gratefully.


"You'd better, for everyone's safety," Komi nodded to her assuringly.


Segwa placed the large block quietly on the dirt beside the wall. Emmett's father barely fit through the opening. On the other side, he helped his wife through and then Emmett. Gregoire's family followed shortly thereafter.


Komi leaned through the hole once more and spoke.


"Use the daylight well and make haste in that direction," Komi pulled himself back in behind the walls and helped Segwa to replace the large wooden block.


Emmett and Gregoire's family did as Komi and Segwa instructed. They ventured forth into the wilderness in search of their new life together, while Komi and Segwa returned, bearing the weight of the greatest secret of the Haven upon their souls.


The Great Divide


The HMS Wickerford had long since departed the township of West View, and was river bound on its voyage up the Saint Lawrence and back to Île d’Orléans and battalion headquarters.


Twelve men just beyond the port facility, stood next to their horses. Each of them inspected their trusty steeds from mane to hoof, for the safety of their most trusted allies and for their own well being. The beasts endured this inspection, which to them was a minor annoyance that sometimes led to a tasty snack.


"It appears this mission is an expedition for the purposes of seeing sights," joked Private Everett.


Watford, who was mid inspection of his horse simply ignored their banter.


"That it is mate," responded Private Buckley, whose eyes had fallen upon the figure of a lady by the port who currently directed a group of men unloading a cargo container into her horse drawn carriage.


One of the men assisting the woman in unloading the container took a moment to squeeze her rump,  rather aggressively though in doing so at all, he'd already proven his disregard for women. The woman however, being confident and upstanding gave him a hard slap to the face in response.


"That simply isn't right," Lance Corporal Remington responded when he'd seen how the man had treated the woman, then looking to the Lieutenant for permission to intervene.


"Wesley?" the Lance Corporal repeated himself, enough so to directly address his commanding officer.


"Its a privilege to serve with this elite unit Corporal. Treat it as such," Lieutenant Barrett Wesley responded to Corporal Remington as he finalized his inspection of his horse.


"Apologies Sir. I meant to address you as Lieutenant Wesley. Our leader here sir, so lead!" responded the Lance Corporal.
 

She pushed the man away, who in response then punched her, full force in the face, knocking her sobbing to the wooden floor of the dock.


Remington clenched his fists, ready to act. He looked to his commanding officer.


Another man on the dock, a French man who'd been assisting the woman in unloading the cargo container was the only person present who'd turned to confront the man who'd assaulted her.


[Why not pick on someone who can return what you give?]
"Pourquoi ne pas choisir quelqu'un qui peut rendre ce que vous donnez?" the man challenged her assailant.


"My suspicions be finded, you disgusting Frenchite!" the woman's assailant responded to the French man's challenge.


The French man then threw a long arced hook punch at the man's face, perhaps trying to come in under the radar so to speak. Unfortunately the target  detected the ploy quickly, for he had been a professional pub brawler and pugilist back in London. He easily blocked the punch, and returned twice that delivered directly into the face of the only man with enough courage to confront him. The French man fell to the wooden dock, stunned as he compressed his nose to stop the sudden stream of blood flowing from it.


"Lance Corporal Remington!" the Lieutenant barked at his second in command.


"Sir?" Corporal Remington responded.


"Could you please deal with that wretch of a discredit to the peoples of England?" ordered Lieutenant Wesley.


"With pleasure sir!" Corporal Remington immediately began walking over to the man who'd struck the woman.


"Oi, you want some mate?" the pugilist turned to face Remington.


Remington simply ignored him and first helped the woman, and then the French man to their feet before turning to face the pugilist.


Remington didn't say a thing to the man but rather faced him, unmoving and eye to eye.


"Back home I used to wash the pub floors with the blood of pretty boys like you!" he confronted Remington.


Remington remained unmoved by his statement, already knowing everything he needed to know about his opponent. He then reached up to adjust his regimental headwear, which as he already knew it would, triggered his opponent to attack, for his opponent was truly a coward, taking such opportunity upon the weak and disadvantaged when they were distracted.


Remington quickly blocked his punch and returned directly one of his own, backed by fifteen years of hard labour working on his family farm back home in the outskirts of the township of Canterbury.


The man who'd assaulted the woman and the French man, simply folded, already unconscious before he even hit the wood of the dock.


Remington then turned to the woman and addressed her.


"Milady, should ye need medical assistance, our medic is willing to assist," Remington gestured over to Kinsley, their unit's medical specialist.


"No sir, though I thank thee. Men as his such should nay be spared their quarter," she replied to him.


Remington then turned to the French man, who nodded respectfully to Remington.


"Should ye require medical assistance, we can provide..." Remington began addressing the French man only to be interrupted. 


[Thank you, but I must decline. I must admit that it is refreshing to the future to know that there are men on the English lines as principled as a French man like myself. Your parents are very proud of you I'm sure.]

"Merci, mais je dois refuser. Je dois admettre que c'est rafraîchissant pour l'avenir de savoir qu'il y a des hommes sur les lignes anglaises qui ont autant de principes qu'un Français comme moi. Tes parents sont très fiers de toi j'en suis sûr," the man responded to Remington, cutting him off mid-sentence.


"If ye seek wealth, then let us fill your pockets in the trade of tell. Have ye any seen the Americans, perhaps scouts on their path in t'wards the Canadas? In West View, for supply and reconnoitering?" asked Remington.



[No Americans. We've not seen them for more than a half season. Wendats have been here frequently. Buying supplies. Preparing for a journey.]
"Pas d'Américains. Nous ne les avons pas vus depuis plus d'une demi-saison. Les Wendats sont souvent venus ici. Achat de fournitures. Préparation d'un voyage," the French man explained.


Lance Corporal Remington looked to Lieutenant Wesley, who nodded affirmatively to confirm that he'd heard the intelligence dispensed by the French man.


"Merci beaucoups," Remington responded to the man, handing him an English coin of considerable worth.


"Men, look ye 'pon Lance Corporal Remington, and look well, for there the living embodiment officer's candidate lays well," Lieutenant Wesley turned from his horse only long enough to greet his Lance Corporal.


When he returned, he addressed his commanding officer.


"Mission accomplished sir!. Awaiting orders," he addressed Wesley.


"At ease Corporal. Tend to your horse, for as your great-great grandfather Evan Edwards would have told you, beside your wife, she's your only true friend here in the wilds of the Canadas. As you were," Lieutenant Wesley told his second in command.


Remington returned to his horse, but before he took his first step, the Lieutenant spoke directly and quietly into his ear.


"And that is why you are Lance Corporal, the bearer of the Regimental insignia. Its diplomat at its every step and hoof. Continue as so and you'll be the best officer of the English cavalry," Lieutenant Wesley spoke quietly as he made his way over to his horse.


"Right men. Mount, and ride. Line formation, three horse spacing!' Lieutenant Wesley ordered his elite ranger unit into action and they literally rode off into into the midday sun.


Their mission was of the utmost importance to the upcoming operation into the fortress city of Quebec  and the surrounding Planes of Abraham, for they were tracking one of the largest migrations of Indigenous people in history. Where those migrating chose to go would influence the events of history in ways that few understood.


Few, with the exception of Lieutenant Barrett Wesley.


Within the hour, they had left the only port facility this far inland of the Great Lakes along the Saint Lawrence River and were traveling westward, in towards what now is called Southern Ontario. An Ontario very different from the one of this day, for it was almost completely undeveloped.


The beauty of the life and land was free, as was every vine to climb the height of every tree. From the backs of their horses, it was an illustrious sight to behold as their horses set hoof upon lands untouched by humanity with the exception of the Indigenous tribes, who'd lived and worked it for countless centuries before them.


During their first day's travel, they made it far enough inland so as to setup camp just north of the east bottleneck of Lake Ontario. They'd picked the edge of a small forest whose border to the surrounding plains they chose to lay their fire.


They dug a pit, perhaps four feet deep into the ground, while six by six feet on either side. Within this pit, they drew their fire from the land so that it was nearly concealed from sight. The smell of cooking food and smoke were the only indicators that they had been there at all.


"Lieutenant, if I may say, is this mission so secret that nay can we speak word of it?" asked Watford.


"I'm with Watford. We've already ridden many King's miles inland, absent of any clue as to why," Buckly added.


Lance Corporal Remington looked to Lieutenant Wesley, whose eyes remained transfixed to the fire.


After a few moments of awkward silence, he spoke.


"Brutes. Gentiles. Where ever your nature may lay, nearly a Month previous to this day, General James Wolfe received intelligence relating to the membership of the Wendats, that they were laying the plans to one of the largest Indigenous migrations in recorded history," the Lieutenant began and then remained silent, hoping that at least some of his men might pick up and follow the trail to the answer based upon what they'd already known about the current war effort in the Canadas.


Watford, who had already figured it out simply remained silent, though he considered the fact that those who knew little of the war could easily miss the trail of clues the Lieutenant had left.


"How does the movement of a bunch of Squaw and their cattle affect us?!" asked Buckly, still in the dark about the situation.


Wesley looked to Remington, who simply nodded.


"The migration to which our astute Lieutenant refers, isn't a small handful. He speaks of thousands upon thousands of Natives, Wendats, Hurons, more men than are stationed on Île d’Orléans by twenty-fold, and nearly enough to confront the entirety of the Six Nations Of the Iroquois. Our only allies in this harsh land. Should this migration suddenly happen upon the great Plains of Abraham and into French controlled Quebec territory into their alliance, our operation into the Canadas will very quickly be put to a halt, and likely, all further such task force operations for the foreseeable future. The Canadas might  entirely fall to the French, or even become the property of the Americans in due time," Remington quipped after he'd explained the seriousness of the situation.


The men roused a good laughter at Remington's joke, though he himself much like the Lieutenant knew this to be a serious matter and possibility.


"Then why'd they send twelve men? Are we going to stop them?" asked Buckly, still not entirely on board with the matter at hand.


"You were all briefed before our elite unit accepted this mission. We are not to engage the enemy, nor their allies at all costs. We are to reconnoiter and observe. That is all," Lieutenant Wesley backed his second in command.


"Sir, there isn't anywhere for the Squaw nation to go. These massive lakes and the river keep them from moving south, which means they're traveling east in all likely being. The war is over, we're done here. Let's go back to headquarters and return home so me and the boys can get back to keeping the English Ale Breweries in business!" Buckly spoke with a wide grin on his face.


Most of the men in their unit burst out laughing at his remark, including Remington, whose mind was already back home, and looking into the eyes of his long haired bride to be.


"Men. I want you - no, I need you to take a step back from the fire," Lieutenant Wesley suddenly got up, stepping back and away from the light of the fire.


"Come on. The lot of you. Do it!" he ordered them all.


All twelve of them stepped away from the fire, backing until they were engulfed by the darkness surrounding them.


"Now, lay on your back," Lieutenant Wesley ordered.


"On the ground?" asked Buckly.


"Do it!" Lieutenant Wesley quickly ordered them.


They followed suit and did as the Lieutenant had asked.


They all lay on the chilly ground, beneath a dark sky to which their eyes slowly adjusted.


When the light of the fire had left the memory of their eyes, another light emerged from the darkness. The light of countless specks of light. A billion points speckled the vast distance of the sky around around them, while a swath of brilliant white paint spanned the sky from from east to west. The stars were countless in number and immensely moving in their presence. It was a sight they'd share with countless generations in the same place from every corner of the world.


"You see that sky and its brilliance? This is the same sky that the French see. The Spanish. The Dutch. The Americans. The Portuguese. The Huns. The Austrians. The Russians. The Wendats too. The Iroqois. The Metis. The Algonquin. The Cree. They all see it. Generations from now, our ancestors will look at this same sky, in a country they can call their own, with their sisters and brothers like us. The French. The Wendats. The Iroquois and the English will all look up together and live by the same name, in the same place. That's why we're here and the why of our mission," Lieutenant Wesley assured them.


"Somewhere right now, somewhere else, there's probably the French, the Wendats and the Iroqois doing and saying the same thing," Remington added.


"I so do hope, Remington. I so do hope," Lieutenant Wesley said as they looked off into the vastness of the night sky.


Gift Of The Bourbon Kings


The horseman had already ridden for nearly six hours that day, and with only one break along the way. The strain was much upon the rider, but not nearly so much as it was for the horse. However, this was no ordinary horse.


Since its birth nine years earlier in the stables of the Royal Alcazar of Madrid, it had been bred for its stamina and its swiftness. It was raised and trained by expert handlers, the best in fact that the Spanish Empire had to offer, for each of these equestrians were of the most important of diplomatic offerings to Spain and her allies.


She had been given the name Fada, which when translated to English from Spanish, meant spirit of the forest or Fey, and spirited she was. She had been one of the most energetic of the foals to be born that year, in late May of 1750, and she quickly rose to the top of her class.


When she had reached maturity eight years later, she and a group of similar Andalusian horses were gifted to Louis XV, King of France, as a show of support for their formal alliance and for the peace they'd forged since the Treaties of Utrecht. Though their Kingdoms lived in peace now, it had not always been the same.


Years earlier, between 1701 and 1715, the Catholic nations of France and Spain had fought a war over the leadership of Spain, when Charles II, King of Spain, had died, leaving no heirs to his throne. The resulting lapse of leadership triggered a European war that encompassed the only claiming heirs: Philip of Anjou and Charles of Austria. They became the competing proxies through which the ambitions of the great powers of Europe would become manifest. The ambitions of the French, the Dutch, the Austrians, the British and of course the Spanish themselves, each seeking to take up the power of Spain as their own.


After fourteen years of war, the treaties were signed by both parties (France and Spain) in the Dutch city of Utrecht, hence putting an end to the Spanish War of Succession, citing that no single leader should ever rule both the Kingdoms of France and Spain. A treaty that would ultimately lead to their undoing in their competition for their mutual stake in the lucrative global trade and the conquest of the Americas that had started nearly three centuries earlier.


The treaty itself was quickly taken advantage of by the British, who started to overcome both France and Spain in terms of trade and colonization on the global stage. Their growing power and immense wealth attracted those seeking assistance in Europe. The predominantly Catholic nation of Austria, had pressed her former ally, the recently reformed nation of Britain (who was now under the influence of Protestantism), for assistance in reclaiming Silesia and dealing with Prussia's growing threat to Europe's peace. As the tension grew, the British refused her requests, instead entering into the Treaty of Westminster in support of Prussia and its Protestant King Frederick. They gained an ally and one through whom they could realize their ambitions on the European soil across the English Channel from their own land.


Now faced with the threat of a British backed Prussia, Maria Theresa had sent Georg Adam, Prince of Starhemberg to gain France's support in containing Prussia's aggression, which in turn led to the first Treaty of Versailles between Austria, its Habsburg dominions and France. The stage was now set for a conflict of nearly global scale. On the continent of Europe, the Andalusian gifts of the Spanish Bourbon King would prove crucial for diplomacy and the dispatching of intelligence and news to the key players in the brewing war as much so as for esteem. The Andalusians were one of the crucial threads binding their alliance.


Fada, was one such Andalusian, simply playing her role the only way she knew. Louis XV, King Of France had gifted Fada for use as a member of Austria's diplomatic and messenger corps. Since the first aggression of Prussia during the Seven Years war, she'd been a crucial asset for Austria, and a proven carrier of battlefield intel.


She herself had survived nearly seven battles thus far, while she'd had three riders during that time. The first two had been killed in the line of duty, the first by a stray round fired from an enemy arquebus, the second by falling from Fada's back during a high speed long distance run carrying battlefield reports for the commanders. Even without her rider, Fada continued on to the commander's battlement, and was subsequently awarded the Cross for Valourous Duty.


Her third rider, the man upon her back now had been a very cautious fellow. A fellow who seldom sought bravado or action near the battlefield. A man of more practical whims, who wanted to keep both himself and Fada alive and to complete their missions. His name was Nenad.


During his time in the diplomatic corps and as a messenger for the armed service, he'd seldom gone on missions longer than a week. So far, this mission had taken fifteen days (they were on their way to their sixteenth now), and it was the most strenuous and straining of missions he'd ever undertaken.  Perhaps amongst one of the most important as well.


They had already entered into the outskirts of the surrounding Paris countryside as the afternoon sun shone upon the land. Nenad did not slow Fada, for any reason, and if an obstacle had found itself in his path, he'd have had Fada go around it, over it, or in the worst case: through it. Fortunately no such test of his character emerged and he continued on as the buildings around him went from farm houses and tracts of fertile land, to the residential districts of the poor, to the buildings of various labours and trades, to the theatres and wine houses of the Aristocrats and then finally to Versaille itself.


Fada was stopped by the palace guard, who then let her and her rider pass when they recognized the war hero. She galloped proudly as she caught her breath, sweat dripping from her muscular form as Nenad pulled trotted her over to the Royal Stables.


Nenad was quickly off of Fada's back, and routing through her saddle bags for a series of scribed messages. The handlers took Fada into their care, immediately taking her for a short walk to wind down and stretch her muscles, before they brushed her and washed her. When she was relaxed and there were no signs of cramping in her muscles, they gave her water, and three apples. A snack before her dinner and bedtime.


Meanwhile, Nenad had found his way to the Ambassador's office within the Palace, and when asked for it, he showed them his seal and answered their security question. He was then let into the office where he was greeted by a clerk.


"May I be of help to ye?" asked the clerk.


"I'm with the corp. I have important news for the Ambassador," Nenad explained, showing the messages he'd brought with him.


The clerk reached for them, and Nenad withdrew them from his reach.


"Only for the Ambassador's eyes," Nenad said protectively.


"I am said eyes," the clerk answered, when another office door opened and a man in the attire of a noble stepped out.


"You're dismissed for the day Monsieur Cerves," the man addressed the clerk.


"But I've much to do..." Monsieur Cerves responded.


"There's tomorrow Monsieur. There are other matters at hand. Adieu," the man dismissed Monsieur Cerves.


The clerk reluctantly grabbed his pack and left through the same door which Nenad had entered.


"He's a good one, but sometimes a bit presumptuous. I take it those are for my person?" asked the man.


"When you can produce the seal and respond correctly to my question, they are as you stated," Nenad challenged the man.


"Very well. You can never be too sure, can you?" asked the man, who presented his seal and crest to Nenad, who examined both very carefully.


"Where do the oceans, lakes and rives come from?" asked Nenad of the man.


"Why they come from the night's tears of course, for the Moon and the Sun so seldom can they ever see each other, that their tears filled the world with water," the man answered.


"Ambassador?" Nenad handed the messages to the man.


"Merci beaucoup as they say in France," Ambassador Gustav Henri thanked Nenad.


"T'was my duty. If I am not being rude, I will eat and turn in for the night. I will return before I leave by tomorrow's light to collect any messages bound for Austria," Nenad said, preferring not to draw attention.


"Not at all. You know where your quarters are, I'll send for a servant to bring you your meal and have a maiden give you a bath. You've earned it. Good day to you," the Ambassador dismissed Nenad, who immediately left and made his way to his quarters.


The Ambassador returned to his office and sat behind his desk, and began reading the messages one by one. When he was finished, he spoke aloud to himself.


"I'm going to need an audience with the King," he said solemnly, standing from his chair and preparing himself for such an affair.


...


The walk between the Ambassador's office and the King's Court was long one, at nearly half a kilometer, but it was a walk that the Ambassador of Austria had done on many occasions over the last two and a half years.


The walk would take him through some of the most magnificent architecture and artisanship there was to be seen, and even in Europe it was a marvel to behold. In the time he'd held his office as the Austrian Ambassador to France, it never seemed to diminish to his senses.


There was much activity throughout the palace, as an entire industry thrived within. It had its own little micro-economy. Its own social dynamics, all centered around the one who occupied the throne. There were cliques and power struggles amongst each of them, as much so as they each tried to gain the bias of the King by hook or crook. Sometimes they'd compete to get their way individually, other times they'd work together in order to get their way collectively. 


There were those who steered clear of these politics, preferring to deal rationally with the challenges that came to the attention of the palace and ultimately the King. Finally, there were those who thrived in it all, simply enjoying their dance amidst the chaos of Palace life. Ambassador Henri had come to know this of the Palace of Versailles, for he'd seen similar dynamics at his other posts. This was merely the life of a leader, and the bizarre circus that seemed to form around them. When he'd got to thinking about this fact, his trip through the Palace on his way to the King's Court had gone that much quicker.


When he'd finally arrived at the Throne Room and the King's Court, he presented himself to the Royal Guard, and requested an audience with the King.


After a short wait, one of the King's vassals came and fetched him, and brought him before the King.


[Your Royal Majesty, I bring before you the esteemed Gustav Henri, Ambassador of Austria.]
"Votre Royale Majesté, je vous présente le très estimé Gustav Henri, Ambassadeur d'Autriche," the vassal proclaimed to the King.


[Audience granted. What matters do you bring forth to my attention?]
"Audience accordée. Quelles questions portez-vous à mon attention ?" King Louis XV addressed Ambassador Henri.


[Your Majesty, If this has not already come to your attention, I bring word from our diplomatic corps that King Ferdinand VI of Spain has passed away, not only sixteen days ago, and that his successor King Charles III has been proclaimed King of Spain.]
"Votre Majesté, Si cela n'a pas déjà été porté à votre connaissance, je signale à notre corps diplomatique que le roi Ferdinand VI d'Espagne est décédé, il n'y a pas seulement seize jours, et que son successeur, le roi Charles III, a été proclamé roi d'Espagne." Ambassador Henri informed the King.


[I received word of this a few days past. I have sent official condolences on behalf of the peoples of France, and have sent a letter to King Charles III in hopes of fostering a prosperous relationship between Spain and France, but I thank thee for ensuring that I was made aware of such a crucial matter. Is there anything else?]
"J'en ai été informé il y a quelques jours. J'ai envoyé des condoléances officielles au nom des peuples de France et j'ai envoyé une lettre au roi Charles III dans l'espoir de favoriser une relation prospère entre l'Espagne et la France, mais je vous remercie d'avoir veillé à ce que j'aie été mis au courant d'une question aussi cruciale. . Y a-t-il autre chose?" asked the King.


[Your Majesty, I've also received word from Kunersdorf that the Austrian and Russian forces have defeated Old Fritz in a battle that saw an estimated ten to twenty thousand allied casualties. However, it is also estimated that King Frederick lost as many as thirty thousand men during the battle. The victory was the result of the attention to strategic detail paid by Pyotr Saltykov and Field Marshall Ernst Gideon von Laudon, and their collective forces.
"Votre Majesté, j'ai aussi appris de Kunersdorf que les forces autrichiennes et russes ont vaincu Old Fritz dans une bataille qui a fait environ dix à vingt mille victimes alliées. Cependant, on estime également que le roi Frédéric a perdu jusqu'à trente mille hommes au cours de la bataille. La victoire était le résultat de l'attention portée aux détails stratégiques par Piotr Saltykov et le maréchal Ernst Gideon von Laudon, et leurs forces collectives." Ambassador Henri announced to King Louis XV.


[That is news worthy of a celebration in their honour! For years that swine Old Fritz has been a thorn in our side, and perhaps the greatest instigator of conflict since his first conquest began. Most of Europe's longest standing allegiances were broken in the midst of his actions against Silesia and Saxony. It is a fine day when we can hang a crushing defeat upon him. Perhaps his men, might they now question the validity of his claim to the throne? He's a wolf, not a diplomat, in a time when Europe needs more who deal in words than cannon balls. I thank thee for this news. Are there any other matters?]
"Voilà une nouvelle digne d'une célébration en leur honneur ! Pendant des années, ce porc Old Fritz a été une épine dans notre pied, et peut-être le plus grand instigateur de conflit depuis le début de sa première conquête. La plupart des allégeances les plus anciennes d'Europe ont été brisées au milieu de ses actions contre la Silésie et la Saxe. C'est un beau jour où nous pouvons lui imposer une défaite écrasante. Peut-être que ses hommes pourraient-ils maintenant remettre en question la validité de sa prétention au trône ? C'est un loup, pas un diplomate, à une époque où l'Europe a besoin de plus de mots que de boulets de canon. Je te remercie pour cette nouvelle. Y a-t-il d'autres questions?" asked the King, a lasting grin on his face.


[There are no more matters concerning Austria or the front here in Europe, but I might ask how our forces are faring in the Americas? If I may so ask, as much so that I may return the same good news we received here in my aforementioned message?
"Il n'y a plus de questions concernant l'Autriche ou le front ici en Europe, mais je pourrais demander comment se portent nos forces dans les Amériques ? Si je puis me permettre de le demander, autant pour que je puisse renvoyer les mêmes bonnes nouvelles que nous avons reçues ici dans mon message susmentionné ?" asked Ambassador Henri.


[Quebec is safe, and despite the enemy's cruel and unusual tactics and their questionable methods in gaining support from the Indigenous, our forces have had years to fortify their positions. This also includes the fact that we've had the support of one of the oldest Indigenous Nations present on that land since our first feet blessed the soil. I've received reports that we've had difficulties with some of our interests in the Americas and Canadas, and the distance makes communications and reinforcements an issue for even our greatest military thinkers. In the end, I believe that we shall find victory, if not from our capable armed services, then from the spirit of the French people. Your good tidings are a sign of things to come.]


"Le Québec est sûr, et malgré les tactiques cruelles et inhabituelles de l'ennemi et ses méthodes douteuses pour obtenir le soutien des Autochtones, nos forces ont eu des années pour fortifier leurs positions. Cela inclut également le fait que nous avons eu le soutien de l'une des plus anciennes nations autochtones présentes sur cette terre depuis que nos premiers pieds ont béni le sol. J'ai reçu des rapports selon lesquels nous avons eu des difficultés avec certains de nos intérêts dans les Amériques et au Canada, et la distance fait des communications et des renforts un problème même pour nos plus grands penseurs militaires. En fin de compte, je crois que nous trouverons la victoire, sinon dans nos forces armées compétentes, du moins dans l'esprit du peuple français. Vos bonnes nouvelles sont un signe des choses à venir." the King responded.


[Your Majesty, that is reassuring, and I am certain that Maria Theresa will be joyed by your encouraging words. If I am not required your Majesty, I will take my leave and begin my letter to her right away.]
"Votre Majesté, c'est rassurant, et je suis certain que Marie-Thérèse se réjouira de vos paroles encourageantes. Si je ne suis pas requis Votre Majesté, je vais prendre congé et commencer ma lettre tout de suite." Ambassador Henri requested of the King.


[I thank you for your tidings Ambassador. You may leave.]
"Je vous remercie pour vos nouvelles Ambassadeur. Vous pouvez partir." the King dismissed Ambassador Henri from his presence.


Ambassador Henri made his way back to his office, from where he began writing a letter to Maria Theresa. Outside in the Palace, preparations were made for a feast and party to celebrate the Austrian-Russian victory over the Prussians.


Nenad, lay in a hot bath as a maiden scrubbed him with sea sponge and scented oils, imported from the Americas.


Fada, had finished her meal and was now setting in for the night with the sun still so high in the sky.


As fate would have it that night, the Moon cried in her longing to seeing the Sun, and replenished the waters of the land. But perhaps she was truly crying over the events that were yet to come.


The rain fell until the first light of the following day, making for a hot and damp morning. When Nenad had awaken that day, he'd found the Ambassador's diplomatic correspondence for Austria waiting for him.


Soon after devouring an entire loaf of bread with cheese and washing it down with a decanter of wine, Nenad left Versailles on the back of Fada, the Andalusian gift of the Bourbon Kings.


A Way With Words


The sun was now nearly a sixth of the way up, the air as Monique walked beside Aikiko, each of them free of their bonds. The British war party continued en route back East as they closed in on the St. Lawrence and towards Île d’Orléans.


Directly ahead of the two women, walked four British soldiers who accompanied the Lieutenant. Ahead of him a distance was a British scout, who occasionally communicated with the main party via hand signals and whistles.


Behind Monique and Aikiko were the remainder of the British soldiers, who led the five French prisoners (all of whom were male), each of them tied to the one ahead of them.


They were filthy from head to toe, and smelled worse than they appeared from Monique's perspective. She was not used to the idea that such states of being were possible, for she came from a very different time. A time where most of her needs as much so as those of the rest of the populace were looked after in one way or another. Those needs that weren't, were of her concern to take care of for herself and she and Aikiko did as much by their employ as fashion models working for West Meet East International.


Appearance was everything in Monique's line of work, as much so as it was Aikiko's, though each of them had discovered themselves during the most trying moments of their life. For Monique, it was when she left home to challenge her parent's authority and to assert her own in defense of her future. For Aikiko it was when she was given up by her father to pay a gambling debt to a dangerous gangster in the prefecture of Osaka, Japan.


Each of them had learned to see life from a perspective that most often took for granted. Hence, when through serendipity the opportunity finally found them to join West Meet East International as fashion models, they had a well rounded and down to earth understanding of life, while having earned a sense of confidence and dignity that one only gets when theirs is challenged by those who'd undermine the same.


Monique didn't look down upon the prisoners, but she did feel pity for them, though it was more the result of her nature rather than their actually deserving it. From their perspective, they were unclean, but not that far from the standard of clean for that day and age. For them it was survival, and living in the wilderness as part of a reconnaissance party who'd been captured by the enemy, in the 1750s, this wasn't that far from the norm.


There simply was no deodorant to be had from a nearby drug store because neither existed in this time. This was simply life, and such pleasantries as cleanliness and scentedness were luxuries afforded to Women, Officers, Gentiles, Nobles and Aristocrats. Soldiers, and certainly much more so, prisoners, were simply not part and parcel to this social pressure of appearance and first impressions, except perhaps when inspected by a commanding officer.


Cleanliness was a common thing is civilization, but here in the wild, it was fleeting.


The irony was that from the perspective of the men who'd captured Monique and Aikiko, they were as  clean and untouched as Angels of the heavens themselves. Their appearance was to them, that of Goddesses. They were pale, yet full of vibrant colour and sparkling eyes. Their hair was as soft as velvet and flowed like water through one's fingers. They smelled fragrant, like the most delicate of flowers, and the clean air of the sea. The Lieutenant was certain that if they weren't so capable of protecting themselves, that they'd likely have been violated many times by the prisoners already.


The Lieutenant knew there was something more about them. For one, he'd noticed that they were both very clever. They had access to knowledge and education that simply wasn't available to those without money. What they lacked in common sense for the time, they more than made up for in their ability to quickly learn and their innate knowledge of so many things foreign to his men. 


Yet, they did not seem so well read, noted the Lieutenant as he thought about the matter, though he suspected that the foreigner, Aikiko, was likely very literate. She'd had education in something that went far beyond normal schooling, while Monique had seemed very intelligent, but not intellectual. She was more a woman of the heart, and he guessed that Monique had a very strong sense of intuition and was an astute observer.


It was Monique who'd figured out that Aikiko was in grave danger lest she surrendered, and as a friend, she certainly risked her life to prevent Aikiko from making the grave mistake of a frontal assault on their party. Aikiko most likely would have been able to dispatch them all, one by one, but not as a group and while they were armed, even with their crude firearms of the time. And yet, under their current arrange, with Monique now employed as their French interpreter and Aikiko as her body guard, they were quite civil. More so perhaps even than was he.


The Lieutenant was jostled from his thought by the wound of a quick short whistle.


The Lieutenant put his right hand up, clenched in a fist and the entire party dropped to half prone position, while Monique and Aikiko looked around trying to figure out what had happened.


"The scout must have spotted something," Aikiko noticed him in the distance, using hand signals to communicate something to the Lieutenant and his Warrant Officer.


"Four men... two horses, all men on foot. Two men armed. Approaching to contact..." the Lieutenant said aloud.


The Lieutenant gave a signal, and their party quickly got into position for an ambush with orders to hold their fire. The scout in the meantime had disappeared and would likely remain hidden until after contact.


Monique and Aikiko both lay prone on the ground, trying to see between the tall blades of grass towards the edge of a small outcropping of trees from where the scout had seen the men.


"Look. There," Aikiko tapped Monique's shoulder, pointing her in the direction of the trees as a group of four men emerged,  walking two horses beside them.


On the back of one of the horses was a stack of animal hide, though Monique could not tell what kind. They continued directly towards their ambush, completely unaware that they'd been sighted and made by a larger force. As they got closer, Monique heard one of the men singing the words to an old French song:


[Your beauties and your grace
And your divine words
Have warmed the ice
Which froze my bones,
And filled my heart
With loving ardour.]

"Tes beautés et ta grâce
Et tes divins propos
Ont échauffé la glace
Qui me gelait les os,
Et ont rempli mon cœur
D'une amoureuse ardeur." one of the men, a slightly plump fellow sang as he wiped the sweat from his brow.


When the four men had closed into the target area for the ambush, the armed party rose to their feet at once, each man aiming his loaded arquebus at one of the four men.


"Halt! Raise your hands and away from your weapons keep them!" yelled one of the British soldiers.


The men looked puzzled at the British soldier.


"Interpreter!" yelled the Lieutenant.


"He means you!" Aikiko said to Monique, getting to her feet.


Monique shakily got to her feet, feeling her first encounter with stage fright that she'd felt since her first fashion show.

[Uhhhh... Halt! Raise your hands and away from your weapons keep them!]
"Uhhhh... Arrêt! Levez les mains et loin de vos armes gardez-les !" Monique shouted at the four men, and their hands instantly shot above their heads.


The Warrant Officer, a large lurking man came over and quickly grabbed Monique's arm, dragging her over to where the men stood. Aikiko had to struggle to resist every urge to break the Warrant Officer into a lump of flesh and broken bones upon seeing him man-handle Monique. She instead followed behind them, watching the Warrant Officer for any sign that he might try to harm Monique.


"Who are you and what are you doing out here?" asked the Warrant Officer, having released Monique.


Aikiko inserted herself between the Warrant Officer and Monique protectively.


[Who are you and what are you doing out here?!]
"Qui es-tu et que fais-tu ici ?" asked Monique of the men, who were no confused as to whether they should direct their answer at the Warrant Officer, or Monique.


[We're hunters. Trappers in the winter. We're taking these hides to market.]
"Nous sommes des chasseurs. Trappeurs en hiver. Nous apportons ces peaux au marché." they responded, looking first to the Warrant Officer and then to Monique.


"He says that they're hunters and trappers. They're taking the animal skins to a market somewhere..." Monique informed the Warrant Officer.


"Trappers? Where are your traps?!" asked the Warrant Officer, examining their kit carefully.


[If you are trappers, where are your traps?]
"Si vous êtes des trappeurs, où sont vos pièges ?" asked Monique of the four men.


[I said we only trap in the winter. Up by the Sweet Sea. Mostly beaver, fox, sometimes mink too. They're quite valuable. During the spring and summer, we hunt. Mostly deer, like these hides here.]
"J'ai dit que nous trappons seulement en hiver. Au bord de la douce mer. Surtout des castors, des renards, parfois aussi des visons. Ils sont assez précieux. Au printemps et en été, nous chassons. Surtout des cerfs, comme ces peaux ici." The one who'd been singing responded this time.


"He says they only trap in the winter. He says they do this by the Sweet Sea, whatever that is. During the summer they hunt deer, like their hides there," Monique pointed out to the Warrant Officer.


"If you hunted these animals, then where is all the meat?!" asked the Warrant Officer impatiently.


[Where is all the meat from the animals you hunted?]
"Où est toute la viande des animaux que vous chassiez ?" translated Monique.


[We ate much of it. We cooked a lot of it for our supplies. You can check our saddle bags. The rest we sold to an Iroquois scouting party. Actually, they took most of it from us. Fortunately they left us with the hides.]
"Nous en avons mangé beaucoup. Nous en cuisinions beaucoup pour nos provisions. Vous pouvez consulter nos sacoches. Nous avons vendu le reste à un groupe d'éclaireurs iroquois. En fait, ils nous en ont pris la majeure partie. Heureusement, ils nous ont laissé les peaux." one of the other men out of the four responded.


"He says they ate a lot of it and have some of it cooked in their saddle bags. They claim that an Iroquois scouting party took a lot of it from them, but left them with the deer hides," Monique told the Warrant Officer.


"Where are you going to sell these hides?!" asked the Warrant Officer.


[Where's the market that you're taking these hides to?]
"Où est le marché où vous apportez ces peaux ?" asked Monique of the hunters.



[Its in a small town called West View, just on the river of Saint Lawrence. A mostly British settlement if I'm not mistaken.]
"C'est dans une petite ville appelée West View, juste sur le fleuve Saint-Laurent. Une colonie principalement britannique si je ne me trompe pas." the man who'd done the singing earlier answered this time.


"He says he's taking it to a place called West View. He says they're mostly British there," Monique reported to the Warrant Officer.


"One last question. One of you was smoking Native tobacco. I can smell it. Where did you get it?" asked the Warrant Officer, stepping forward to inspect the men more closely.


[Where did you get the Native tobacco that you were smoking?]
"Où avez-vous obtenu le tabac autochtone que vous fumiez?" asked Monique, translating for the Warrant Officer.


[We got it from the same Iroquois who took our meat. They said it would anger their Manitou if they left us with nothing. So they left us with some meat, and some tobacco to appease their gods.]
"Nous l'avons obtenu du même Iroquois qui a pris notre viande. Ils ont dit que cela irriterait leur Manitou s'ils nous laissaient sans rien. Alors ils nous laissèrent de la viande et du tabac pour apaiser leurs dieux."



"He says they got it from the same Iroquois that took their meat. Its a custom for them give tobacco when they have nothing to trade," Monique told the Warrant Officer who looked to her conspicuously for a moment.


He then returned his glance to the man who'd been singing. Around his neck was a pipe, tied there by a piece of cured hide twine. He examined the pipe, and being able to read, he quickly saw the Romanized letters spelling the word Wyandat, which he sounded out loud.


"Wendat. Read this! What does this say, interpreter?!" the Warrant Officer ripped the pipe off the man's neck, breaking the cured hide twine.


He then tossed Monique the elaborately ornate pipe. She barely caught it, startled by the man's sudden throw.


She nervously examined it, finding the words carved into the side of the pipe as the Warrant Officer had indicated.


She squinted trying to make out the words. They read:


From my friends the Wendat tribe of Sweet Sea. 


"Interpreter! What do they say?!" the Warrant Officer gave her a chilling look.


She hesitated to speak of anything she'd read, suddenly understanding that if she had, that the lives of these men might be at risk. She had to tell him something though, and with that thought she did.


"It says, From my friends, the enemies of the Wendat," Monique lied to the Warrant Officer.


The Warrant Officer walked over to her slowly, keeping his eyes on her. He then ripped the pipe from her hands, and gave it back to the man from whom he'd taken it.


"Good job interpreter!" he said to her, placing his large hand on her shoulder as if to commend her.


She sighed with relief, and the man whose pipe it was looked to her, a look of eternal gratitude on his face.


Aikiko could not understand French at all, but she quickly picked up on what had just happened between them. She knew her friend well, and knew even more so that she was a woman worth protecting with her own life, for not only had she protected Aikiko's life, she'd just put her own life at risk to protect a group of complete strangers.


"You're free to go to West View. Give them our regards," the Warrant Officer told them.


The four men simply stood there, looking on in amazement.


"I said go! Before I change my mind!" the Warrant Officer raised his voice.


[He said go! Quickly!]
"Il a dit allez ! Rapidement!" Monique too raised her voice at the men. 


When she spoke, they immediately began moving, continuing their journey towards West View.


"I am very proud to have a friend such as you Monique. I don't know what I would have done if I were in the same position, but I do know that you are a friend indeed as much so as a friend in need," Aikiko said to her quietly, almost poetically as they watched the four man party leave on their way to West View.


Behind them, the Lieutenant approached.


"Very impressive. I am quite happy to see my investment in the two of you yield such a return. That situation in the absence of communication might have gone much differently. They might be dead. We might have lost a man or two. In communication there is understanding, and in understanding, there is opportunity. Don't waste this opportunity or betray it," the Lieutenant said to Monique and Aikiko, getting between them and placing a hand on each of their shoulders.


"Now men! We'll continue for another 'bout, 'til the sun is just past and above us. We shall stop for sustenance and then continue on towards sunset. Back in line formation. Scout, maintain a fifty yard lead! Eyes and ears! Do it now!" the Lieutenant yelled, ordering his men into action.


"Monique, Aikiko. You're behind the Warrant Officer and I. Don't throw this opportunity away, as I'd never give my enemies my back," the Lieutenant reminded them.


"I think we just moved up again," Aikiko leaned over and spoke quietly into Monique's ear.


"I think we did too," Monique replied, referring to her earlier choice of translation.

The Known And The Obscured


Thelysia described the contents of her own library to them as they each sat in front of their cup of steaming herbal tea. A fragrant yet pungent smell had arrived at Alicia's nose as she sat at the table, and her face contorted humourously in reaction.

"There are a few traders that pass through from time to time, and every once in a while, my friend Jean-Paul arrives with a book of quality, fresh from the press overseas. I especially adore the books about the wild. The trees and flowers and the fauna, but he also brings me the works of mystics and philosophers as well... Like Rene Des Cartes... That Shakespeare fellow too..." Thelysia continued about her books.

"I used to love reading too when I was younger. Just not enough time for it now I guess..." Alicia explained to Thelysia, reminiscing about her days before University of Waterloo.

"How's your tea?" Thelysia asked them.

Heylyn, having drank many different kinds of herbal tea in her life, finally broke down and took a sip. By the time her cup was under her nose, the smell was so mercilessly pungent that she felt dizzy inhaling the steam. She took a sip and upon the liquid touching her tongue, she felt numb as if a jolt of lightning had spanned the entirety of her nervous system.

Earlier in the day, their landing upon first arriving had left them with bruises and twisted joints, which had even over the course of the day thus far, not yet healed and even with their accelerated healing factor. The tea that Heylyn had just consumed however, had immediately opened up the majority of her dantians, allowing for her Chi to flow, and to circulate so as to facilitate her healing. Not a few moments after she'd taken her first sip of the tea, she felt absolutely great, through and through. Her muscles felt energized and her pains had become soothed. There was also another effect that was not unlike that of red Ginseng. She felt a heightened sense of awareness and wakefulness, as if she'd just drank a really good cup of sugar-free medium roast coffee.

Thelysia looked to Heylyn, who smiled and nodded gratefully.

"The tea is very good, thank you," Heylyn responded, as Alicia just out of Thelysia's sight nodded her head negatively, as if to say no.


"Why don't you give it a try?" Thelysia turned to Alicia, whose face immediately donned a friendly if not rehearsed smile.

"Yeah, Alicia. Why don't you try it?" Heylyn coaxed her friend.

"I was just going to..." Alicia did her best to delay the inevitable.

"Alright, here goes..." Alicia grabbed hold of the furnaced clay handle of the cup.

She then held it up to her lips, and took a healthy sip of it as if it were a shot of Jaegermeister.

She too experienced a similar sensation as to what Heylyn had felt, bu much, much more pronounced, for though Alicia had drank herbal tea before, she hadn't drank this herbal tea or anything quite so close to it as had Heylyn.

For a moment, she felt as if her spine had melted and that she'd become an involuntary invertebrate. The feeling was so suddenly relaxing, that she almost slipped out of her chair.

Then, all at once, it was as if her entire nervous system had rebooted, and she felt tingles in every one of her limbic extremities. By that time, the Ginseng effect had hit her, and she felt wide awake, as if her own mouth was too slow to deal with her increased cortex activity.

"I'm sorry but I have to say that I've never felt this energetic before in my life do you grow this tea yourself or did you buy it somewhere because I'd bet a lot of people would benefit from this did you feel the same Heylyn?" her words were spoken as one run-on sentence.

"She's a Doctor," Heylyn said to Thelysia.

"Oh? Really? Not a lot of women are..." Thelysia responded.

"You said you're the daughter of Nelony Theearin I don't know anyone with the last name Theearin but I do recall meeting someone named Nelony Ardbloem does that name ring a bell to you?" asked Alicia, once again in a single breath of conjunctive sentences.

Thelysia's smile slowly disappeared, as she recalled the name of the woman that had taken her mother away.

"You've a way with words. I've heard so many bells in my life. They welcome some of life's greatest joys and are harbingers of some of its most disheartening tragedies. The fact that you'd refer to bells, while speaking that name holds much in the way of the hidden weave," Thelysia recalled the pain of finding out that her mother would no longer be coming home.

That her mother had left on that fateful day, while Thelysia, still a very young girl, had hid with the rest of the families in a cave a distance from the Haven Of The True to escape a pending siege by an Army of the Strangers. The Wytch hunters who'd attempted to overtake the three colonies. Thelysia had found out from the Wyandat scouts that her mother had left with a woman who bore her same first name. She'd been gone from that day, and though Thelysia and Meregrith had waited for her to return, she never did.

Those left to continue the Haven Of The True were doing so without the woman who'd given meaning and life to it. Of those people, there were many who'd spent a great deal of time with Nelony Theearin, and yet there were no others of Wytch kind at all. None to carry on the tradition and to maintain the ways of the Haven. There were only those whose lives had been saved by Nelony Theearin, their mother, and not one of those people knew what to do about Thelysia or Meregrith. In all truth, none had been concerned about them until that first incident. The incident that had changed their mind and sparked them to come up with a solution to deal with Nelony's children, while maintaining their ever tightening control over the Haven.

"The weave? What do you mean by that?" asked Heylyn, who though she suspected that she might have a better chance of understanding it, she actually had less life experience than Alicia with those who wielded it.

"The way of nature is a mysterious one. It yields its secrets to us in a hidden language, but only to those who are ready, and only when they're ready to learn. My mother, she was gone by the time we were very young, my sister and I. Saved the future and the Aerth Mother from what we were told. There's so many ways to break two little girl's hearts, but none so painful as to tell them that their mother will never return," Thelysia replied to Heylyn, though giving them both of her words.

"You have a sister?" asked Alicia with interest, an only child herself.

"Meregrith Theearin. Such a lovely woman, with fiery hair and piercingly brown eyes. My own sister she is... though I must tell you, and as much as this grieves me, that if there is a light, and I became as much, then there must be a darkness as she now is, and the Haven along with it..." Thelysia replied, her mind in a distant place that clearly had etched pain upon her soul.

"What is the this Haven you're referring to?" Heylyn asked Thelysia, taking another sip of her tea.

"Many years ago, before the land had been arrived at by the armies of Europe, there were only three towns that lay this deep into the Great (St. Lawrence) River. They were Alivale, Sharlesbury and finally, West View, the township furthest in and far beyond the Manitouana: the Garden of the Great Spirit, the thousands of islands there. That was all that was here when I was the first born of my mother," Thelysia told them the story of the land before the war.

"The three towns had lived in peace with the Wyandat and the Iroquois, until a group of privately funded settlers arrived, and set about enacting a dire plan to abscond with the leadership of the towns, and cast bounties upon anyone who opposed them, persecuting them as Wytches, and using such charges to take everything from them. At first, there was opposition to their effort, but as more learned just how profitable it could be, more people joined these Strangers, whose power and support in the three towns grew until it was nearly unstoppable. When all hope was lost, one woman, the only real, true Wytch, one who wielded the power of nature as her ally, openly opposed the Wytch hunters, she herself hunting them down until they grew to fear her. More and more outcasts and pariahs escaped the persectution from the Strangers of the three towns, until there were many of them. When they'd lost all hope, the Wytch along with assistance from the Wyandat and Iroquois, built the Haven of the True. A safe place where the persecuted could run and find safety amongst others similarly persecuted. My mother, Nelony Theearin of the True started all of this herself, saving the lives of many people. She created the first laws, and guided them to victory against the Strangers of Lorr, that is, until one day she left this world with another Wytch of nature, to save the Aerth, and she never returned..." Thelysia told them the story of the three towns and her mother.

"Is your sister there? At this Haven?" asked Alicia asked Thelysia.

"She is and has been, as had I until... You see, when the people come to learn of two children, one who they've cast as the light of day, and the other as the darkness of a moonless sky, cruelty can etch a path and future for such children, though no plan was ever drawn up for them to arrive at such a destiny. With I as light, I was treated with such reverence and joy. People were always happy to see me, and this treatment would often reflect itself in natural ways that confirmed their treatment of me. Flowers would bloom and grow, birds would sing and chipmunks played. People were joyous, projecting their vision of a symbol onto my person, so much so that I became that.... The light of goodness..." Thelysia explained, her eyes full of weariness and sorrow.

"And your sister?" asked Heylyn, already knowing much simply by her understanding of Yin Yang.

"...If the light is treated with love... then its shadow is where they lay their darkness. The bits of their soul from which they'd spare their family. Meregrith would become such a vessel for their pain and ire. For all the things they'd spared me, she'd bare their weight and often. As much so as plants would bloom and life would glow in my presence? In hers, they withered and died. The people would stay away from her unless it was to scold her for something they'd done themselves. Growing up, I was far too young to understand that we were cast into these roles without knowing. I was so good simply because I was so good. She was so bad in much the same reasoning. It was in this dichotomy that those who raised us, those who'd never known tell of a Wytch's might, learned of the true power of nature within the two of us. However, such power is never as one imagines it to be, for it never reflects the way our hearts are endeared to some things, and eschew others..." Thelysia shook her head, recalling her sister begging her not to ask her anything, for the poor girl was so fearful that what had fallen upon her might infect Thelysia.

"Can't you liberate her from the Haven? Bring her here, where you'd both be safe?" asked Alicia.

"If it were so simple, I'd have done it decades ago with the help of numerous Wyandat and Iroquois warriors. But you see, when a people become dedicated to their corruption, there is little in the way of power that can stop them. They became dedicated not to my mother's ways, but to their own plan. Not in the interests of keeping their colony going strong and bearing a future, but in the interest of grabbing hold of power, and not letting go of it at the cost of their integrity. It began with their understanding that it isn't love that fuels the powers that be, but the disparity between it and its opposite. As lovingly as they treated me, their treatment of Meregrith became more and more sinister over time, until I realized that it wasn't me that was the loving one, for I'd never once been admonished for anything in my life. It was all flowers, blooms, butterflies and brilliant summer days. There was never a moment of any glum faces or frowns. Nothing dire. It was all something I'd never once earned, whereas Meregrith, every day she'd kept it all bottled up inside of her, she'd been protecting me all along. But then one day, they learned the truth about Meregrith's immense power, and that it wasn't her's at all, for by this time they'd learnt that they could puppeteer Meregrith, and direct her knowledge of the shadow arts at anything that opposed them. She became justice, their puppet on the end of a string, while they banished me so that none could use me to counter their hold over her. Meanwhile, they'd told everyone that it was Meregrith and I at the center of the maze, and that we'd be the only justice they'd ever know. Honest, fair and truthful, everything I represented as the light, but I was cast out, and they were left with the shadow of justice. Meregrith on a string, whose only use is to protect their stranglehold over everyone there. The schools indoctrinate students, while the students are rooted out, those whose ideas stray from their teachings. Those citizens who defy them are sent into the maze. Those who speak of truth, are sent into the maze. Those who seek to liberate others in the Haven are sent into the maze, and there are few who've gone in that have ever come out alive," Thelysia's voice had risen to intensity, drawing them in deeper and deeper to the tale.

Thelysia then began to cry. It started out quietly as she struggled to contain it, and then when it had breached her restraint, it left her in protracted gasps of silence.

Alicia and Heylyn looked to each other, suddenly realizing that they too were there for a purpose. It was Heylyn who got up, and walked over to a corner table covered in a large black satin cloth atop of which sat a framed painting of a woman dressed in black. Heylyn picked up the painting, and then removed the table cloth from the table and returned to Thelysia, handing her the painting.

Thelysia accepted it, looking at it silently for a moment as Heylyn draped the tablecloth over Thelysia's white gown, leaving her in a black and white outfit for the first time in her life. Heylyn tapped the black tablecloth, rubbing Thelysia's shoulders in a calming manner before returning to her seat.

Alicia looked over to her best friend, once again reminded just how good a friend she had in Heylyn, Ai Yuanlin Ying. The Butterfly Dragon.

"She'd have done the same thing for us," Heylyn said to Alicia.

"Well, I'd have done the same thing for you," Alicia responded.

"I know," Heylyn replied.

"I guess this means we're going to be here for a bit longer...?" asked Alicia of Heylyn.

"I guess it does," Heylyn replied.

"Just think about how good we'll be at horseback riding when we get back," Alicia joked.


To be continued...


Credits and attribution:


Thank you first and foremost to Daz3D, whose tools make much of this artwork possible.

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastly, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...

Special thanks to John Paul Young and the Cardboard Brains, whom you can now visit at https://www.ermiescub.com

Reference And Bibliography:  Coming soon...


Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3DBlender, Borderline Obsession...



Included as part of the forthcoming bibliography...

The Words Of Poet Thomas Gray: Elegy, Written In A Country Churchyard

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimm'ring landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If Mem'ry o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where thro' the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or wak'd to ecstasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who mindful of th' unhonour'd Dead
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
"Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

"There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

"Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or craz'd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

"One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath and near his fav'rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

"The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow thro' the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."