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F is for Familiar - a Catkin Ficlet

(With apologies to people who are waiting to see the E entry. This one comes next.)

The offer of hospitality, which included meat pastries, cookies, and milk, settled Jeri a bit, but left her no less baffled.

The human, Tom, verbally accepted the milk and a cookie, but left them sitting in front of him, untouched. “I—I don’t understand,” he said.

The old woman took a bite of one of her own meat pastries. “No, I don’t suppose you do, Thomas.”

His eyes widened. “How do you know my name?”

“You told us your name, or at least that you are Tom, while you danced.”

He blushed. “Yeah, or at least, I tried to tell Jeri.” Then his eyes narrowed, and he frowned. “But how did I know her name?”

The old woman took another bite of her food without answering him. “The two of you have a decision to make, and you should make it before you touch. The connection is already quite strong.”

“What connection?” Jeri thought the question, but the human spoke it aloud.

The old woman turned to Jeri. “You must have been searching, lately. One doesn’t come uncalled.”

Suddenly, Jeri understood. She nodded. “I sent out a call at the new moon.” The ceremony had been peaceful, lit by candles in colors signifying the qualities she hoped for in a companion.

“A call for who?” The man looked from her to the old woman.

“Not who, exactly.” Jeri looked more closely at the human. Here, inside, she could see his eyes were hazel, green and grey with flecks of gold. His skin was well-tanned and he wore a t-shirt sporting an image of a wizard with an owl on his shoulder. She shook her head. “I would have been less surprised by an owl,” she muttered.

“An owl?” He followed the line of her gaze to his own shirt. “You—me—an owl? You’re saying you were looking for a familiar? For real?” He didn’t look shocked, merely skeptical.

Jeri nodded. Now that she thought about it, she could feel the pull of her own spell. She could feel that they were a good match, magically speaking. “It’s—it’s not settled, you know. My spell only identifies a possible match. You can say no—or I can.” Jeri realized she didn’t want to say no. The spell pulled her to him, even though the obligation to support one’s familiar could be much more complex, and expensive, if she accepted a sentient being in that position.

“Having a human as a familiar is complicated in a lot of ways, for both the mage and the familiar.” The old woman poured herself more milk. “Unless one of you wants to bow out immediately, I suggest a temporary agreement. The traditional term is a year and a day, but you could also choose a moon phase, or a season.

“A year and a—are you talking about a handfasting?” The man frowned.

Jeri crossed her arms protectively. They weren't talking about any form of marriage—but she resented the implication that it would be so terrible to be handfasted to her.

“No.” The old woman shook her head. “Magically potent time periods are appropriate to a variety of different situations.” Then she cocked her head, as if reconsidering. “You know, normally I’d strongly recommend against even considering a romantic relationship—but you, young Tom, showed up at the courting dance. I don’t think that’s merely the coincidence of your given name.”

Jeri frowned. She wasn't about to be pushed into a relationship by the old queen, her own magic, or anyone or any thing else. “I’m not looking for a marriage-like relationship,” she said, very firmly. “Just for a familiar.”

The old woman nodded. “So, what other terms do you want to set?” She looked at Tom. “That question is for you too, young man. If you want to consider the position at all.”

Jeri leaned forward, “I will support you, as is traditional, if you say yes.”

Tom shook his head, and her heart dropped. “I can support myself, thank you.”

“So, you’re not interested?”

“I didn’t say that. But I can't really say if this is something I'd want, though I'm curious. I propose instead that we date—for a season, you said?” He turned his head toward the old woman again.

The old woman nodded. “That’s one of the options.”

“Then for a season. After that we can decide, if we want to continue, to continue as friends or as more.”

“Don’t get your hopes up.” Jeri frowned.

He laughed. “Too late. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the magical side of the world. And you're pretty." He saw the expression on her face and stopped. After a moment, he said, "Look—my friends will understand me dating a pretty new woman. I can’t tell them I’m no more than—than an owl or a black cat to you. That might go over with magical folks, I don't know. I'm betting if I'm to somehow aide you magically we'll be seeing a lot of each other, so..." He fell silent, then finished lamely, "This will let us get to know each other, right?”

“You make it sound so logical.” Jeri still felt the magical pull, but was almost certain this was a mistake.

He smiled, a much nicer look on his face than confusion or his earlier frowns. "Isn’t that what you wanted?”

The man was irritating, but if she turned this familiar down without even a fair trial period, she’d have to wait at least a year to try again. “All right, then. Let’s discuss other terms.”


With thanks to kelkyag for the prompt.

P.S. I could still use a couple of prompts, over here.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2014 11:45 pm (UTC)
Excellent twist. Much more interesting way to take the story, than I was expecting.

In the twelve paragraph, I was confused as to which "she" was studying Tom. I had to look back a paragraph and re-read to decide for sure it was Jeri. Might be me being dense. It happens.
Apr. 10th, 2014 03:41 am (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback. I changed it!

I'm glad you like it so far.
Apr. 10th, 2014 10:58 am (UTC)
Looking forward to the rest.
Apr. 10th, 2014 12:58 am (UTC)
Great twist!
Apr. 10th, 2014 03:39 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Apr. 10th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC)
Yup, definitely interesting. More, please?
Apr. 10th, 2014 03:39 am (UTC)
And it's your fault!
Apr. 10th, 2014 03:58 am (UTC)
<fails to look guilty>
Apr. 10th, 2014 03:26 pm (UTC)
Oooh very interesting.
Apr. 12th, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
That's interesting. A guy as a familar.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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