Ugh… I start to awaken, slowly and bleary-eyed. It’s so very bright out right now, it must be close to midday. I squint as I look around the ever so bright room, slowly becoming accustomed to the burning white ceiling, walls, floors, and hung sheets.
I move back onto my elbows and maneuver myself into a seated position. Thinking back to my last memories from the night before, I piece together what had been an exceptionally long night of reading the driest set of history that I’ll have nightmares about.
Looking around, I see him, resting in a chair, he’s asleep, balanced on two legs of the chair against the wall. It’s such a precarious way to sleep, I would have thought he would have taken residence in one of the other empty beds.
We had been up into the very late hours of the night, which never seemed to come with how bright the hall remains at all times. It was amazing how fast he was picking up our language and becoming fluent in it.
The healer, I think her name was Mage Larse, was keeping tabs on us all night, I guess she was taking notes and observing us for the guild master or that other grumpy nutter of a mage. During the night, I had tried to ask him questions, though he insisted that he’d answer questions tomorrow and that he needed to understand “before magic wanes”. I had asked him so many small things and he kept deferring them to today.
He’s so frustrating! Though what was even more frustrating was that he would not even tell me his name. I resolved myself to have my questions answered, he is my familiar, and he could now speak and understand some moderately complex sentences. Truly, it is amazing and a bit unsettling at how fast he picked things up in a very long night.
Ugh… I have a momentary vile taste in the back of my mouth as I just referred to him as my familiar, my possession… That did not seem right at all, though I had this deep sense that we were bound together, our fates at least intertwined. I do not know how, but I can feel it of sorts… If I close my eyes, I can kind of make out a direction towards him, ever so faintly, like a slight pull.
Summing up my courage and looking towards him, I see that he’s already awake and watching me out of the corner of his eye. He gently pushes off the wall to bring the chair down onto all of its legs. He moves slowly, raising a knee and moving to draw it close to his chest as he watches me intently. Looking at him in a new light, he looks no different than most other people and you would be unable to identify that he was indeed a familiar.
He’s still wearing the black leather armor with small purple highlights. Last night, his blue eyes almost glowed like jewels from the sea, however, now that I see his eyes today they are more subdued, a lighter azure blue color, and are still very pretty. I have so many questions and I still do not know how to address him, while he waits patiently for the onslaught of questions that I have for him.
“Excuse me, though can I know your name now?” I ask, still perplexed as to why he continued to differ through the night and refused to answer any questions. Looking at him, he gave a slight quizzical smile before he answers in what seems like a riddle.
“I have been called many things. As I’ve been named by every master before you who has ever sought and bound me. Thus, I have many names and yet no name but the one that you desire to give me.”
Devourer, take him before I hit him! Does he have no name but many names? Just give me one! I’ve never been good with sarcasm or people jesting with me. Probably due to not knowing what is a jest compared to what is meant to be a thinly veiled or overtly veiled barb that is passed off as jest so that the venomous snakes can still seem proper.
I had waited all night… read for what seemed like an eternity, the driest piece of bound pages glued together in the all the kingdoms, to find out who he is and he’s still dodging me! I have a gut feeling that by the end of this I am going to be extremely frustrated if he dodges all my questions. He’s had many names in the past? He does not look that old, though he says he’s had other masters…
“Are you saying that I’m not the first one to have summoned you? You have other masters or people that you are bound and contracted to?” A pang of pain seems to strike a chord deep down inside me at that thought.
“Yes, I’ve had many masters, though I’m no longer... bound... as you say to them. The purpose for which I was summoned was completed and I would be released by the armies that would bind me to them. Thus, you are my current master.” That was curious, that he’s had other masters. However, he’s the first familiar that has been able to communicate that I know of, so maybe it was like that with all familiars, we just do not know it. Or at least that was what I was hoping.
“Requisition constraints? Environment earthquake, tornado, flood army.”
I don’t think he meant armies… Perhaps…
“Oh, you mean forces?”
“I do not know the word, maybe forces is good.”
Maybe it is still not right? I’ll have to come back to that one at some point.
“And each of these masters all gave you a name?”
“It is as you say, master.” He answers simply. So then am I to give him a name? First off, it is a bit offsetting that he just called me master, I’m no lady in waiting or noble of any kind and it just feels so wrong.
“Please, call me Cara,” I say, trying to suppress the warmth of the slight blush that creeps across my face. There’s a bit of a long uncomfortable pause that continues between us. I had so many questions the night before, though none of them seem to be coming to mind right now. I just stare down at the white sheets for a while. It’s funny how you try to tell yourself to remember things and then when the time comes down to it, you seem stuck, unable to recall exactly what it was that you told yourself to remember. The previous night, as the boy started to form some sentences together, I had tried to ask him questions. Though I was interjected every attempt with the word ‘tomorrow’. How I hate the fact that he had learned that word and taunted me with it all night as he clearly improved his understanding by leaps and bounds.
“So... do you have any family?” I ask as I finally look up from the sheets, trying to bury any lingering resentment over his overuse of the word ‘tomorrow’ from last night and possibly the early hours of the morning.
“Any and all ties that I once had are long since deceased.” He responds without much emotion, though now in a darker mood, feeling bad for having asked that.
“What about your home? Where is it and what does it look like?” I try forging on ahead, hoping that it would lighten the mood and that it wouldn’t worsen by him saying that it was completely destroyed or anything.
“My home... is... different from these earth though it would be similar in many ways.” He could obviously see the frustration and confusion that was clearly displayed on my face before he attempts to retry.
“My home is very very far away, beyond any known states, a place maybe not yet discovered by your people.” He tried to explain, I just slowly nodded my head, trying to wrap my mind around the possibility of a ground or states further than the western kingdoms, maybe he meant lands? Perhaps past the oceans, secreted away at some far corner of the world. It sounds mysterious and interesting; some possibly still forgotten and unknown lands.
“Okay, what about how old are you? You look like you are maybe 16 winters old or so?”
I’m rewarded with him giving me a confused expression while he furrows his brow.
“I’m sorry. I don’t understand. The passage of time in the various states I’ve been in are different and always measured differently. I do not know how to answer that.” He says with genuine confusion on his face.
I don’t understand. How can you not understand counting the number of coldest seasons since birth and what does he mean that the passage of time is different in the countries he’s been to? Maybe different customs or maybe it is warm all year round without winter?
The sound of the doors to the hall opening to my right brings my attention in that direction. I can hear my father before I can see him, the crack between the double doors widens to give way to show my father accompanying the guild master, two other young plain men in maroon robes, and that grouch of an old mage, Flow... I can hear my father arguing heatedly with the guild master and am able to catch the trailing end of his rant.
“...Absurd! This is busy work!” My father is yelling while shaking a thick stack of papers.
“It is necessary to justify you being able to be within the guild walls in order to see your daughter,” the guild master attempts to explain. The kind guild master from yesterday looks somewhat exasperated being followed by the colossal shadow of my father.
“It’s busy work! How could you break, warp and melt close to a hundred torch brackets!” He continued to rant while almost visibly throttling the papers in hand.
“necessary... and we expect to be receiving a discount because of your daughter belonging to the guild, we cannot demonstrate blatant favoritism with such contracts.” The guild master follows up while concealing a smile from ear to ear from my father as he comes to a stop at the foot of my bed.
Looking at my father I can see him opening and closing his mouth repeatedly while being at a loss for words before his face went to a deep red color as he ground his teeth before trying to recover his composure as he smiles at me. It was kind of intimidating with the three of them at the foot of my bed, it was also kind of funny as my dad and mage Flow’s faces mirrored each other as they shot withering looks at my familiar.
“Er-hem,” the guild master clears his throat to try and gain the attention of everyone. Turning to face me and my familiar, the guild master addresses us.
“Cara, I’m glad to see that you’ve made a quick recovery and I do believe you will be released from the healer’s hall soon. I also hear that your familiar has picked up our language astoundingly quickly...” He said as he turned to my familiar beside me. I did not know if he was expecting him to respond in any way to that, though all he got was my familiar slowly blinking with an uninterested look on his face.
“Or he’s a spy from another country or dark guild and did something during the ritual to show up! It could have been pretending to be unable to speak.” Jeremiah spits on the ground at the mention of a dark guild.
“That’s enough Jeremiah.”
“You can’t prove he’s not a dark guild spy.”
“Shut up! You cannot disprove a negative, hell we cannot prove you are not a dark guild spy better than that a toddler is not one, so shut the fuck up mage Flow.” The guild master just berates the grouchy nutter beside him for his insinuations.
“Sorry, I apologize on his behalf, it has been a stressful couple of days. I do have quite a few questions for you and I would like to know first off; how you managed to disappear while being monitored and confined by two mages?” The guild master gestures to the two plain mages in maroon robes behind the three of them who look a bit ashamed or embarrassed for supposedly losing track of their charge.
However, the guild master’s question was met with nothing but a prolonged silence. I can see mage Flow fuming beside the guild master. Before he is about to take a step forward to vent his opinion, I quickly turn to my familiar to plead, while the guild master holds up a hand to interrupt mage Flow and to allow me to proceed.
“Please, could you answer their questions?” I plead, not wanting to indirectly cause conflicts. My familiar looks at me for a second before turning to respond to the guild master.
“My master, Cara’s life was no longer in danger and I decided to find some reading material to research your culture and history during... a lapse... in attention by those two.” He responds, hesitantly identifying the other two mages. However, at this mage Flow scoffed and retorted.
“See!? It is as I told you, he can speak our language and it was a ruse. There is no way anyone or thing could possibly learn a language overnight! He’s lying and we should hand him over to the royals to be dealt with.” He pronounced while pointing at my familiar, who was simply smiling back at mage Flow, which is an odd reaction I think, given the accusations. The guild master gave a slight sigh before continuing.
“Your great escape aside, you mentioned that Cara was no longer in danger. What was she in danger from? How did you know it had passed and what was the magic that you used while trying to read all those books?” He asked though I could hear a slight scoff come from grumpy. I nod to my familiar for him to continue with the answers.
“Please answer their questions.”
“My Master, Cara, her body was trying to cope with the flooding of my magical reserves, now that our magic reserves are joined.” He said before my father interrupts immediately.
“Wait! So you were the one that was poisoning her!?” he bellows as he becomes visibly angry and starts to crush the papers in his hands.
“For a lack of a better understanding, yes, I am poisoning her, though also I am the antidote to heal.” My father’s face scrunches up as he shakes his head slightly and grinds his teeth.
“As for the other questions, I simply knew once I helped my master...”
“Just Cara! Only Cara!” I shot back in a harsh whisper.
“...once I helped Cara get passed the worst of it. As for what magic was used with the books, that is difficult to answer, as you would not fully grasp...” He was cut off as grumpy now goes drama grumpy as he theatrically tosses his hands up into the air and turns around to pace a few steps away while barking.
“HA! You would insult us saying that a group of GOLD mages and the guild master would not fully grasp! Fully grasp some concept of magic that we’ve trained and refined for the past several hundred winters!!” He’s livid as he returns to the guild master’s side, loathing and contempt on his face as though we fed his favorite thing personally to the devourer. I can only look down at the sheets of the bed, unable to look at him in the face.
“Yes, exactly...” I hear my familiar goad drama grump. Looking over at him I can see a smirk as though he’s enjoying antagonizing the UNSTABLE FIRE MAGE. A dangerous spark of joy at the reactions he’s getting out of Mr. Drama Grump.
“From what I’ve read, this is your first encounter with a person being summoned as a familiar, your first occurrence of the use of... blood runes... and the manipulation and suspension of objects in such a manner. With so many new things, you still cling to the idea that you know everything about your craft? That is nothing short of the naïve thinking of a child.”
The guild master interrupts mage Flow from exploding and had him stand there infuriated, staring down the target of his rage.
“Please, stop...” I could barely manage to whisper to my familiar.
This is a dangerous situation, and I have only just succeeded in breaking my family’s curse. I do not want to get thrown out of the guild before my first day. However, it is the calmness of the guild master’s response that catches me off guard.
“You bring up a few good points in that perhaps we are too rigid with our way of thinking. Though understandably, our knowledge has sufficed for many many thousands of winters. You have certainly given us some more to contemplate over. That aside, your clothing is very foreign... Do all familiars of your kind wear armor like this or is there some other significance?” He asks in a calm and inviting tone.
“My armor is the normal garb of Queen Teramina Eshrow’s royal guard of the states Vibaa. She was my former master before being summoned here.”
It takes me a second to absorb the magnitude of what was just said now. He had previously been bound to another mage, a queen on top of that, and now... with me... he’s bound with someone of no important status at all. My mind raced at the difference he must be experiencing, I pictured him standing proud beside a beautiful young queen, maybe the queen had a king and he was treated more like a son or maybe he and the beautiful queen of my imagination were amorous towards each other, a forbidden type of love and affection... I blush at the thought, as I return to reality with what feels like a heavy lump in my stomach, he must hate me for having summoned him away from some beautiful queen.
It was mage Flow who then addressed the guild master, shaking his head with still a sour look on his face.
“Never heard of that queen and her territory, even if he says it is very far away, we should still have some knowledge of such a monarch... unless it is too small of a territory to bother with or a minor noble playing queen...”
Looking over to my familiar, I can see another bemused smile on his face as if there was something funny about what mage Flow had just pointed out.
“The origin of your previous master is perhaps a subject for another time. What I’m most interested in is that you are the first instance of a person being summoned and you do seem to understand that you are a familiar. Can you or are you serving two masters or did you abandon your previous master to come to Cara’s side?” The guild master asks, glancing at me every so often.
“No and no. A contract that is formed through blood is tied to the person’s very essence. I can only be contracted to the person who summons me. The contract is concluded when the purpose is fulfilled or the death of the contractor, whichever comes first. Cara was the one to summon me after the previous contract ceased.”
“Ceased? ... and how did your contract with Queen Eshrow come to its completion?”
“Both, the contract was fulfilled and she was killed shortly thereafter.” He said unfazed and unblinking.
There is a short silence that goes through the room, I pull my legs in and wrap my arms around them, curling up into a ball. Killed… Does this mean I’m going to die? What was my contract? I don’t remember or recall what it would have been... When did we? I feel a large toughen hand on my shoulder. I looked up and my dad is giving me his kind smile that he reserves only for me, his eyes telling me that he’d protect me.
“What was your previous contract and for what purpose or what are the conditions of your current contract with Miss Cara?” The guild master asks, breaking the silence after a bit.
“I cannot discuss the past in detail, though despite the form that the summoning rituals take, there is always one thing that is common between all of them; the summoner who wishes to seek the contract has a strong desire for something. It is a desire in its purest form that makes the connection and binds the contract.”
“I’ve only ever been summoned and bound for one of three reasons.” He holds up one finger.
“The desire of greed forms some of the contracts in the past, where greed and the desire to ‘obtain’ wealth, riches and material things would be the reason why I was summoned to help in that endeavor.” He raises a second finger.
“Or for those who desire and seek power, to rule over other lands and become their sovereign by any means necessary...” He left the last bit of what he said to hang in the air, which sounded almost like a threat directed partially at grumpy.
“The third type and which is yours and Cara’s?” The guild master asks, becoming sterner in his tone.
“Revenge,” He said in a much dark tone and the guild master gives a quick glance between us, but says nothing. Maybe the guild master thinks that I want revenge on the town for how I’ve been treated these past dozen winters.
“The desire for revenge against those whom the contractor has thought to have been wronged by. A wrong written in blood and that can only be sealed by more blood. As for my contract with Cara, this is the first time I’ve ever been summoned for something of this form.”
“And what form is it?”
“This is a first and the other contracts are easy to understand. However, M-...Cara summoned me for the pursuit of knowledge and growth at the risk of her life.” He responded.
Now it was my father’s turn, “Yes, we understand that you almost killed her after that big spectacle.”
“That’s not it father... I think he means the family curse... I wanted to break that at any cost.” I whispered. My father’s face went pale as he stuttered for words but just decided to remain quiet with a pained expression, perhaps blaming himself as he’s done many times, that he pushed me to maybe do something so dangerous.
The guild master clears his throat before trying to ask his next question gently.
“Your contract with Cara, does this mean that when it completes her life will be in danger? Or do the two conclusions to the contract not take effect at the same time?”
“That is up to her.” He replied.
“All previous forms of contracts that I have been bound to have used my power, their own and their life force itself to obtain their goals. This is the first where the goal was… so vast...”
“Okay, so her life maybe is not endangered by the contract. Cara, you will be released shortly from the healers' hall. There will be affinity tests that will be starting later this afternoon, to determine what disposition you have for initial training, why don’t you head down with Miss Perdu at that time.” The guild master responded.
While Cara spoke with Jessica in idle banter about how terrible it was reading the history book that enabled them to communicate. Cara was holding Jessica and her father’s hands while trying to stop the latter from frowning so much at her familiar.
I took mage Flow aside while we left the healers hall and told him in a hushed tone so that nobody else would hear.
“Please watch where they end up, as this is all a first, and we’ll need to document everything. When the royals hear of this, we’ll need to ensure that everything is in order on our side. I’ll try delaying, as long as possible, before I send in a report as to our new roster of mages.”
“Also, Jeremiah, I don’t want you to interfere. I want you to be as hands-off as possible to not affect anything.”
“And what if they end up in my fire wing? Hands off still?” he replies with a sour look.
“I don’t know. Just act as if you have a royal watchdog always in a corner of the room. If they come and question people, we need the inquiry to show no favoritism or neglect. Especially if they send another guild branch to investigate us.” I say with a sigh.
I know that the appearance of these two will potentially cause a lot of grief for myself and the guild possibly down the road with the palace and royalty. The stuck up royalty has always liked to collect rare things and what’s rarer than the first of its kind?
I need to distance myself from this and not risk the ire of the royals, else I’d risk receiving more infractions from the royals to our guild. The accumulation of infractions against stupid royal decrees or random whims of roaming stuck up royal brood could force the guild down a path of no return.
The risk of having the guild disbanded and being labeled dark for not following the palace’s decrees or some sick royal’s whims could push us to the edge…
I must protect all of my branch’s mages, as if they were my own children, even if I must sacrifice one or two to the whims of royals. As I return back to my office, upon seeing that my stacks of paperwork have been breeding in my absence and increased yet again into multiple stacks, the size of several books each. A lone page sits right in front of my seat on the desk. The lone page on my desk is the roster where I have to describe all new entrants that were admitted to the guild. There is also a demand to fill in what their artifacts or familiars were. Skimming through the document, I come to the final name, ‘Cara Tess Foregess ♦ Artifact/Familiar: _________’.
Picking up the page, I gingerly place it on the furthest corner of my desk and pick up the largest pile of papers on the far end of my desk and place them on top of this document.
“Phew! That was a tough stint of work, I need a break.” I say to myself and leave my office to go do some rounds to maybe sneak a peek at how the dead weights will sort themselves this season.