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Famulus: The Familiar

Chapter One: Preface and Introduction

Famulus is a result of many years’ teaching in private circles.  As it became vogue to hire tutors around the year 1785, powerful members of the community gained a certain prominence, not-insignificant profits, and found themselves wrestling with a great deal of frustration.  This frustration stemmed from the fact that one tutor would teach one thing, which the next tutor would have to correct or account for.  They exchanged correspondence, to find out what had been taught and why, and opened discussions on how things might be done better.

No subject had quite held much importance or drove more heated discussions than the familiar ritual.  A lifelong bond between a human and a spirit, a connection forged between them and fed with power to be made permanent.

The word familiar comes from the Latin famulus, meaning servant.  It came to refer to household and family, and over time, transitioning to the French familier, it came to mean ‘intimate, on a family footing’.  In all of these meanings, description, ritual and word are linked.  The familiar becomes family, the bond is intimate, and there is an implication of servitude.

Even after two hundred years of discussion and refining of this material, several ideologies and approaches stand out.  These details are discussed in separate chapters.  Each chapter that follows is preceded by a set of case studies.

In chapter two, we discuss the familiar itself.  What it is.  The limitations.  The diversity in approaches, which will be expanded on in subsequent chapters.

In chapter three, we discuss the bond.  The key points, early approaches, modern approaches, universal constants in the human-Other relationship, and the shape of the relationship before and after the ritual is enacted.

In chapter four, we look at the social contexts and environment.  Differences in familiars by region, microsocial factors, macrosocial factors, and cultural factors.  Both the practitioner-familiar relationship to the outside world and the outside world’s relationship to the practitioner-familiar relationship will be discussed.

In chapter five, we look at the familiars themselves.  Corporeal and non-corporeal beings, beings from a delineated subtype with a pedigree or subcuture and Others who are unique and standalone.

Case Study for Chapter Two: Annabelle and Tromos, Steed of Enyo.

The penthouse apartment is dark and quiet.  The rain traces streams down the windows, and despite the gloom, neither occupant has made an effort to turn on the lights or ignite one of the lanterns that seem so prevalent in the space.  There are no walls in the apartment, and everything from the bed to the kitchen is visible, decorated in a clear, distinctive style.  In other homes, there are signs of things that don’t fit; gifts that were received which do not match the owner’s style, or things that were bought because they were inexpensive.  Annabelle has made no such concessions, and everything in the space matches, with a motif of wrought iron, crisp linen and very solid oak fixtures for the furniture.  Chains are visible, hanging from the bedframe, and there are various instruments of war mounted on racks and walls, both typical spears and swords, shields, and the less typical meteor hammer, Eastern weapons and a wicked mancatcher that sits just above the chair she has chosen to sit in for our interview.  Viewed under the Sight, every one of these objects vibrate with power.

Annabelle herself is stately and elegant, wearing a simple black dress that wouldn’t be out of place in a business setting, her hair styled upward, but her feet are bare.  As she sits in her chair, Tromos lies under her feet, his head just under one of Annabelle’s bare feet, which moves periodically to stroke him.  The familiar wears the guise of a great black battle-scarred tibetan mastiff, with three different spiked collars ringing its neck.

Interviewer M. Saville (S):  The tape recorder is on.  Good evening.  Thank you for agreeing to this.

Anabelle (A):  Your offering was adequate.

[Note:  The Interviewer brought a Macallan 1949 Single Single highland malt as payment for the hospitality and interview.]

S:  I’m glad.  Shall we start with the basics?  Who are you?  Do you have any focus to your craft?

A:  I am Lord of this city.  Conventional wisdom calls me a Valkyrie.

S:  A shaman, imbuing objects with power and incorporeal Others.

A:  Yes.

S:  And Tromos, Steed of Enyo?  I know who and what you are, but I’d like to have it on the record for the benefit of our readers.

Tromos, Steed of Enyo (T):  You may call me Tromos, we can do without the title to hurry this along.  I was the steed of a goddess of war and ruin.  The gods I served, fought beside, and fought against have grown weaker in recent years.  While my gods withered and grew small, their worshipers few, I turned to creating dreams of utter terror, and I have survived the centuries.

A:  Conventional wisdom would call my Tromos a Nightmare.

S:  How did you meet?

A:  An enemy of mine sent him against me, to deny me sleep and weaken my position before negotiations.  It worked.  An unfamiliar battlefield, a powerful foe.  Terror dreams so bad that they gave me nightmares for weeks after the fact.  My enemy took the upper hand.  They decided to use Tromos again.  I suspect to weaken my position, because I was a contender at the time for Lord of the city.

S: And?

A: It worked the second time, but I held my seat.  On the third time… you do know the rule of three, don’t you?  Third time’s a charm, so to speak.  There’s a bit more power in it.  That third victory matters more than the first two put together.

S: In some areas.  It has power because we give it power.

A: My opponent gave it power, then.  On the third attempt, I beat Tromos, and there was an advantage in that, more than I might have had if I’d won on the first or second time.  I turned Tromos against the one who set him on me, then I turned him on the co-conspirators, and I directed him to a handful of the people who tried to take advantage of my diminished faculties.  We came to like each other.

T:  She has something of the poise of the gods I used to serve.  She was ruthless in dealing with her enemies, which is good.  When she showed that she could become Lord by her own merit, I accepted the deal.

S:  Can I ask what the balance of power is between you?

A:  I take power from Tromos.  He shores up my weaknesses, as I’m focused on physical applications.  Objects I can hold.  His power lies in emotion, in dreams, and he is a divine being.  When I need strength against something I can’t chain down or impale with a spear, I borrow power from my familiar.  He herds the spirits so I might bind them into objects.  Through my connection to him, everything I do and touch conveys a trace of fear to others.

S: What does Tromos get out of the bargain?

T:  Were I to ask you if you could take four years without having to eat, if you did not feel like it?  Four years where you did not suffer any if you did not sleep?  That is what this is to me.  I am anchored in this world.  So long as I am bound to her, I will not degrade, I will not hunger.  Any power I take can make me stronger, and so long as she does not fritter it away, which she will not, I will be in a better place than I was before.

S:  What happens after?  Annabelle isn’t immortal, I presume.

A:  We’ve talked about that.

T:  I enjoy her company.  If she is strong enough, she will join me in the dreams.  When I visit nightmares unto others, I ride them down.  The great black wolf, the bull, the horse, the brutish man.  They flee, tripping and injuring themselves, climbing to their feet, only to trip again, until they are too battered to stand.  Or they run out of strength and hear my footfalls as they lie there, panting, and then they feel the injuries.  They feel pain, they know terror.  I could see Annabelle there.  A rider astride me, a taunting voice, someone to trip them up one final time, to bar their way.  When we were not riding down our prey, we might roam, visit realms, domains and demesnes freely open to Others.

A:  That sounds like a fun way to spend a few decades or centuries.

S:  She would be subordinate to you, then, Tromos?  A passenger you carry with you through the world of dreams?

A:  As much as Tromos is subordinate to me now, by which I mean not at all, not in practice.

T:  I would not have it.

S:  Regrets?  Things you didn’t expect?

T:  You learn a great deal about humans, being mortal, spending so much time around them.  I’ve grown better at what I do.  Knowing the physical responses, what it feels like to have a heart thudding in the chests.

A:  It opened up a whole world for me.  Dream, fear, a bit of the divine.  I’ve taken a more old-school path, Valkyrie-wise, with a little bit of worship in there.

S: No regrets, then?

A:  None worth speaking of.  I mean, I probably won’t ever marry.  Or have friends.  Anyone who interacts with me too much has bad dreams.  But I’m at peace with that.

S:  Anything else to add?

A:  We’re wrapping up already?  No.  Nothing else.

Implementum

Chapter Five: Symbol of Office

This chapter, like previous chapters, has a dual purpose.  The first is on a new subject: the effects on personal presentation and the status afforded by one’s implement.  Second, by examining the role of the implement on a symbolic, social level, we can review the major elements of the implement covered already in this text and view these things in another light.

When addressing the relationship between the implement and the context we find it in, we aren’t interested in the implement that just so happens to be found in a particular context.  Rather, we are concerned with how implements of a particular type form trends and patterns as they find their ways to certain types of individual, and the status and ideas they present to others.

To these ends, we will be using some of the twenty-one example implements we used in previous chapters to illustrate.

The Stone is, of course, not an implement anyone would choose.  It is empty, base, simple and unrefined.  However, as in previous chapters, the stone can serve to introduce and illustrate ideas.  Fitting, perhaps, given the stone’s already stated nature as the ‘zero’ of implements.

What is the stone’s relation to others?  There are three dimensions we can study:

The Declarative.  What does the stone convey to others, in terms of what it is and what it says about you?  In every case, every obvious aspect about the object itself will say something about the wielder.  If the stone is rough, it may convey the wielder is rough.  An ornate object might convey the wielder has a certain prestige.  When you read the second chapter and imagined the type of individual who might wield a stone as an implement, did you think of a cave man or thug?  Someone earthy?  Someone crude?  Someone stupid?  Certainly possible, if the stone is so heavy it cannot be readily carried, and the practitioner still chose it.  This is the implement’s declarative aspect.  From the manner that the object must be transported or carried, displayed or hidden, we can determine certain things about a practitioner.

The Authoritative.  What does the stone convey to others when it is used?  In chapter three, we discussed the effect of the implement on the practice.  This is a related element, but our concern is on others, and others will find the stone and any workings utilizing the stone to be blunt, direct, unrefined, and hard to ignore once it comes to bear.

Socio-cultural. What groups use this implement?  Why?  What is their focus?  From here, we draw statistics from communities around the world where implements are used.  We don’t have hard data on who might have used the stone as an implement or where, as it isn’t in common or uncommon use.

The remainder of the implements, Declarative, Authoritative and Socio-Cultural:

The Wand

Declarative – The wand is not in common use in the world, barring stage shows.  However, it is easily hidden, indicating a balance between the two worlds.  It can easily be decorated or high quality, and is distinctly of practitioners and the practice.  As such, the wielder can be assumed to be focused on practitioners and their workings.  The result might be an ease with altering or adjusting the work of others, defense against workings, and especially offense against workings (see the notes on the Authoritative, below).

Authoritative – The Wand is short and readily hidden.  It is adroit, easily flourished, stylish and not without some small versatility.  It lends itself to creativity and movement, but is phallic and direct in demeanor, implying conviction and a more aggressive nature when brandished in seriousness.

Socio-Cultural – The Wand is predominantly used in London, with a surveyed sixty-three percent of practitioners carrying wands there.  In the practitioner schools in the United Kingdom, wands are provided to the students by default, for their convenience, easy portability, and a prevailing sentiment that the wand is the strongest implement of choice for practitioner dealings against hostile practitioners.

The Talisman

Declarative – The talisman indicates an idea or object of importance to the wearer.  It can be readily worn in plain sight, but indicates a manner of symbolism and power that isn’t evident at first sight.  The wearer might be assumed to be more intuitive than direct, more wise or focused on the abstract than brash or real.  The nature of the talisman, once it is recognized as an implement, might indicate a great deal about the wearer, leading to fast conclusions.

Authoritative.  The talisman is subtle and readily hidden, but unlike the wand or knife, it isn’t inherently threatening.  The emphasis might be on symbols and depictions, secrets and bindings, but not necessarily traps, as well as elements of larger fixtures.  As something worn, it tends to relate to the practitioner and their being, and to the practitioner and things they can touch or touch the talisman to.

Socio-Cultural.  Talismans used to be worn by sects in what would become Ireland, but they have fallen out of favor, given their naturally passive nature.  It is interesting to note the recurring rise and fall of talismans as implements in sisterhoods, with some appearing in small covens, even in modern times.

The Scepter

Declarative.  The scepter is bold, brilliant, almost always dramatic in appearance, and is impossible to ignore.  It is not readily hidden, and with its natural link to presence, station, and organization, suggests a kind of personal power and aspiration on the part of the wielder.  Despite the phallic shape, the scepter is rarely pointed, but is instead held, prominent and visible.

Authoritative.  The focus of the scepter is not necessarily on striking, nor does it flourish so well as the wand.  The scepter is focused, instead, on presentation.  The wielder of a classic scepter might be more focused on the manner of things, not alteration, but on granting and lending effects to things.  As the king wields a scepter to represent the royal family, the scepter wielder’s reach may also extend to their organization or family.

Socio-Cultural.  Few organizations make use of scepters en masse.  Instead, the scepter is chosen in isolated cases as a statement, a subtle challenge that indicates a desire for power or station in some form, or one’s representation of their family.  The largest group that might be said to make regular use of the scepter would be the Anglo-influenced Japanese families of practitioners, who have taken on the Western traditions of choosing implement, familiar, and demesnes for their personal power.  The proposed head of a household of practitioners bears a symbol of office that resembles the scepter in execution, though it is typically a blade that never leaves its sheath.

The Sword

Declarative.  Few implements are so obvious as the sword in their declarative purpose.  Phallic in every respect, direct, obvious, impossible to hide, it is a declaration of war while drawn and implies a readiness for battle while kept on one’s person.

Authoritative.  The sword is used to attack above all else, and can puncture all but the strongest defenses, and it lends the same to the workings its practitioner uses.  Better at deflecting than defending, the sword remains predominantly concerned with war and offensive and defensive uses.

Socio-cultural.  In the United States and England, the Sword as an implement has an unfortunate tendency to come about when young men decide what their implement will be.  At this time in their lives, their hormones are at the highest point and their ‘maleness’ is most pronounced.  Nearly nine percent of male practitioners under the age of eighteen pick the sword, only to find it serves less of a purpose as they reach adulthood.  Some have suggested that this is linked to the same trend where youths are introduced to the practice and largely abandon it later in life.

The Chalice

Declarative.  The chalice is a hard item to carry about day to day, though it can be kept in a purse or bag.  At the same time, it is not explicitly out of place in the world.  More often, however, the chalice is ornamental, found in a home or on a table or desk rather than outside that home or room.  The chalice is explicitly female, in shape (note the profile of the chalice itself), in the link to water and wine, and the passive, receptive nature of the piece.  The chalice is not the province of women alone any more than the sword belongs to men alone, but a man wielding a chalice might be viewed in a light very similar to a woman holding a sword, especially by the more traditional.  As a drink is rarely taken alone, the chalice might be declare something on a social level.

Authoritative.  The chalice is a container, and as such, can be used to hoard a measure of power, but unlike the box, it does not contain or store it long-term.  Many will use the chalice to hold blood from a sacrificed individual or being, and as such it becomes a battery for power.  As the chalice holds liquid, the implement allows the wielder to hold or sustain effects, using the aforementioned battery.

Socio-Cultural.  The use of the chalice wanes in almost perfect accordance with the rise of women’s rights and female independence.  Once a traditional and even expected implement for woman practitioners, the chalice is being replaced by things more personal, dropping from a fifty-nine percent usage in Europe to an eleven percent usage at the time of this text’s publication.

Exercises for the Novice

Take time to consider how the other fifteen iconic implements might be viewed and exercised in a declarative, authoritative or socio-cultural light:  Tome, Ring, Chakram, Plate, Staff, Coin, Emblem, Chain, Skull, Knife, Standard, Lens, Mask, Lantern, Trumpet, and Coffer.

Demesnes

Chapter Nine: First Steps in one’s Place of Power

In chapter nine, we introduce a new example.  Fionna is one of the Draoidh, a priestess, alone.  She has blood, family and the woman as her personal totems, a drinking vessel crafted of her brother’s freely given skull as her implement, and no familiar.

She bought the building her apartment is in, made her claim, fought for the property, and won it.  After weeks of effort and days of challenges, she has a place of power.

For so many practitioners, the question is simple: ‘now what’?

It is easy to be caught up in the hectic and thought-consuming task of staking one’s claim, making the claim and dealing with the challengers.  In Fionna’s case, she incurred several debts, but lost nothing of substance in negotiating matters when the challenge was lost.

In the quiet that follows the storm, it is easy to make the simple, damning mistake of thinking one must maintain that pace.  Practitioners must remember that once the final challenge is past, they have a lifetime to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Fionna forces herself to step away from the demesne for a time, to better ensure her perspective is fresh and unsullied by recent events.  She sees to the small debts she can in the practitioner community, works at her day job as a nurse in obstetrics, and takes the time to meet with friends she has neglected while seeing to her side project.

Remember that the demesne is a reflection and an extension of the self.  The practitioner should remind themselves of who they are and reacquaint themselves with forgotten interests, hobbies, connections, and matters of taste and style.

When Fionna does return to her place of power, she finds herself disappointed.  There is little doubt this is her place of power, but the effect is minor at best.  The spirits and entities that have not been driven away by the challenge are few in number, and she finds herself less powerful in her domain than she is elsewhere.

After the monumental investment in time and effort, and the debts incurred, initial reactions can be devastating.  This, in itself, can be damaging, because one’s mood and ideas can influence the demesne, and the demesne at this point in time is in a fledgling state.

Fionna is more or less at ease, thanks in large part to the time she took to herself.  She focuses on the details.  She sees how the very air in her demesne cooperates.  It tastes cleaner, it does not bar her movement, but buoys her.  The ground accommodates her footfalls.  She tries to manipulate the environment, by combinations of touch, word, and will, and finds it easy.  The aesthetics are the easiest part of it to change, and she takes her time altering her surroundings.

Fionna makes wall and floor into flesh, the place of power becoming a womb of sorts.  All things in her place of power are moist, and the ticking of a clock becomes the dull, distant thud of a heart.  Veins on every surface throb in time with the sound.

There are no wrong answers with how one customizes their place of power, but one should keep in mind that they may want to invite another into the area, and make the necessary arrangements.

The area is very easy to influence, and this can prove problematic, if one has other power sources in play.  The biggest and most obvious issue is when the familiar enters the picture.  As an extension of the practitioner, they have a claim to some of the place of power.  If the practitioner and familiar are in accord, the issue is a minor one.  If they are not, it can be a source of friction that compromises the demesne. In any event, the familiar’s nature, background, mentality and power will affect the demesne.

In other cases, the practitioner may be drawing personal power from another source.  To use a metaphor, this may add a dollop of color to the paintbrush, leaving streaks on the demesne as the practitioner paints.  If they draw power from death and decay, they might find these elements alter the surroundings.

A typical solution is to focus this power.  If the familiar cannot be reconciled with, the practitioner can focus this other power into an area.  The familiar can be given a dedicated space, so that their power does not bleed throughout the remainder of the demesne.  These hypothetical powers of death and decay could be focused into a single ornament or object decorating the area.

The draoidh briefly laments the mess caused by the blood in her demesne, pools of sanguine humor and warm trickles from the roof.  As she cleans, she discovers that she can remove the mess while retaining the blood.  A small contradiction, but possible nonetheless.

With testing, she finds she can alter the other rules of her surroundings.  Even a small demesne can be larger inside than it was on the outside.  Laws of gravity, physics, rules of magic and more can be bent or broken entirely.

Any rule can theoretically be broken within the demesne.  Should every rule be broken?  No.  Everything in moderation.

Stories abound of practitioners who never left their demesnes.  A place that is entirely theirs, where they are a step below a god, and a place where they are safe.  The issue arises when the practitioner loses their connection to the outside world.  With nothing tying them to people or things, they stagnate, growing weaker, and as they grow weaker, so does the place of power.

The effect is a cyclical one, prompting some desperate practitioners to devote more time and attention to rescuing their domain, failing to see the problem at the root of the issue.  In other cases, the practitioner is so attached to their demesne that they become a part of it.  When it fades from the world, so do they.

When the practitioner’s demise coincides with that of their place of power, the end result is typically a ghost, and/or a location saturated with power.

When Fionna leaves her domain, she finds more time than expected has passed.

This is a typical thing.  Intentionally or instinctively, a practitioner often manipulates time within their realm.  When they leave, however, time hurries to catch up with them.  The end result is often not intuitive, and can lead to some confusion.  Adapting to this eventuality is a part of learning to use one’s place of power.

Whilst outside of her place of power, Fionna finds the connection to the location remains strong, wherever she is.  She can deposit power there and rest assured it is untouched.  She can also use the location to transmute power, turning personal power into karmic assets, draw from one kind of power to better influence a connection.

As one can determine the rules within their realm, they can use the place as a form of esoteric moneychanger, changing one kind of power for another.  Some find that they can draw on their continual connection to their place of power to access it from remote locations.  This typically requires a fair amount of power, and may be rooted in certain rules or restrictions.  One might use a key in any appropriate lock to access their demesne, for example.  Others might draw a door in chalk, or step through a pool of blood left around a slain enemy.

As she’s made her place her own, Fionna finds that she can use power more readily in the area.  She notes, in a matter of fact way, that simply holding a demesne generates good karma, bettering her position in the world so long as she tends to the space.  The problem, however, remains, she isn’t stronger there than she is in the outside world.

Having driven away spirits in the course of the challenge, our example case finds that the spirits and beings that remain are conciliatory.  How, then, does the practitioner build up a power base?

Fionna finds that as she draws and manipulates power in and around the demesne, its power extends into the real world and vice versa.  Spirits in alignment with her draw like spirits with them, and on a more complicated level, intelligent beings who visit her demesne and find it to their liking may contact others.  Word of mouth spreads, for lack of a better term.

Herein lies the heart of the demesne dilemma.  The greater the claim, the greater the power that is reaped.  But an area where there are no beings to challenge the practitioner will have few beings of any import occupying or neighboring it, almost strictly by definition.  It proves useless to the practitioner.  Worse, it is stagnant, refusing to grow, for one needs power to gain power, and such spaces have no inherent power to start with.

It is a canvas to be painted, but nothing more.

She settles into her new role as ruler of this demesne.  As she forms contacts with Others, the demesne becomes a meeting place and even a home to some beings, who give her tribute in turn, by way of power, gifts, or service.

A subject that leads us into our next chapter, on the rules and dealings of others within the demesne.

Famulus: The Familiar

Case Study for Chapter Two: Lacey and Vic.

Vic is clearly nervous.  He fidgets, and in the minute before the interview begins, downs a beer, gets up to get another, and nearly downs the second.  His clothes have stains that indicate they haven’t been washed in some time, and his beard growth and the state of his hair suggest the same.  His hygiene and condition excepted, the only remarkable trait about him is his height.

Lacey, by contrast, is motionless, staring at the interviewer.  She wears only a sleeveless t-shirt and underwear as she sits beside Vic on the couch.  Her hand never leaves her weapon.  An engraved gun.

The house is very similar to the couple that own it.  As they haven’t taken much care of themselves, they’ve let the house languor.  The front yard is overgrown, mess litters every surface inside, and bottles are predominant in that clutter.  There are children’s toys, but no sound or sign of a child in the house.

Interviewer U. Roike (R):  You’re sure this is alright?  You don’t look very at ease.

Lacey (L):  We’re never at ease.  You have that?

R:  Yes.  I’ll give it to you when the interview is done.

L:  Fine.  Then get us started.

R:  You’re the practitioner.  Vic is the Familiar?

L:  That’s right.

R:  We decided the interview questions in advance, so we could compare and contrast for the book.  If we deviate, it’s only going to be a little.  Can I ask?  Who are you?  What’s your background?

L:  I’m [insert pause] I don’t know.  A girl.  A woman, I guess, even if I don’t feel like a grown-up, and I’m almost thirty.  Grew up in the next town over.  Went to school, had friends.  I guess the only thing that set me apart was that my mom and dad knew some of this magic stuff.  They taught me it, told me they wanted me to gain an edge.

R:  Did you?

L:  Yes.  Popular, did okay in my classes.  Cheated every step of the way, using the tricks I’d been taught, but yeah.  Someone made a problem for me, I’d put them down hard.  Ended up on top of the heap.  Dated the captain of the local basketball team.

[Note:  Lacey pauses to indicate Vic, beside her.]

R:  And you, Vic?  Who are you?

Vic (V):  I was on top of the heap, like Lacey, but I didn’t cheat to get there.  Natural talent and hard work.  Met Lacey, she introduced me to this stuff.

R:  You’re getting ahead of me.  Can I confirm?  You’re human?

V:  Am I?  I was.

R:  You were human when you met Lacey.

V:  Yes.

R:  Alright.  You were telling me how you two met.

V:  She was there.  At a party.  I said hi, she said hi back.  The longest we’ve been apart since is when we slept.  Phone calls, meetings before school, meeting between classes, meeting after school.  Parties.  She was there for the games.

R:  You were successful?

V:  Yes.  I mean, not like I was going to be going to the top school in the country on a sports scholarship, but there was a damn good chance a college was going to invite me to play for them, you know?

R:  You use the past tense.

V:  It’s an old story, isn’t it?  Stupid kid starts using performance enhancers, only it goes bad.  Side effects take over.  Except they weren’t drugs.  Not steroids or any of that.  Lacey had another way.  Warpaint, a few words.  Some of the other guys on the team got into it.

L:  My mom always called it riding.

R:  Possession.

L:  Controlled possession.  A spirit of something fierce, to make him move a little faster, make him a little stronger, give him that edge he needs to spook the other guys for a second when he looks them in the eye.  Surface deep stuff.  Stuff that can be explained away by placebo effect and some cosmetic stuff for the team.

R:  What happened?  It went wrong?

V:  We’re not sure what happened.  The stars aligned wrong, or it was a full moon, or whatever it was got a foothold somewhere along the way.  I put on the war paint and I wasn’t me anymore.  I came to, and I was violently ill, soaked in blood.  Someone else’s.  Adam Chelt.  Kid we’d picked on in school.  While I was out of it, I’d gone after him.  Ate my fill of him, threw up, ate more, woke up while throwing up.  I slip in and out, now.  The wind blows the wrong way, and I’m not me.  Even when the wind isn’t blowing, though, I’m not the me I used to be.  I breathe different.  React different when stressed.  I don’t get sick, barely eat.

L:  It’s a nature spirit.  A predatory one.  The hawk, the wolf, the fox, the wild cat, all bundled up into one thing.  I baited it, I leashed it, and I contained it.  There was no way it should have become as strong as it was.  No way the boundary between Vic and the spirit should have broken down like it did.  But they’re one and the same, now.

R: I note that Vic wears human form.

L:  Most deals allow familiars to go back to their regular form.  Human form is Vic’s regular shape.  We modified the deal, so there wouldn’t be any changing one way or another.  Way we figured it, we’re trying to get Vic to be less like a spirit and more like a person.  Turning him into a mouse or cat or whatever doesn’t help things on that end.

R:  Taking a small form helps to conserve power, but I suppose that wasn’t a concern.  No reason to believe he is slowly losing power?

L: No.  Maybe he is, but not like that.  No.  Stuff like his eyes and hair change back and forth day by day, depending on how much of a hold the spirit has.  His behavior too.  The bond stabilizes things, anchors it all in place, but the spirit is still getting more leverage.  Creeping in around the edges.

R:  Which gives me an excuse to get back on topic.  You say it stabilized him.  Was that the reasoning behind forming the bond in the first place?

L:  No.  We didn’t even realize it was a problem, back then.  We did know he was a little more Other than he should be, which gave us the idea.

V:  I went to court.  I mean, I’d murdered someone, and nobody was backing me up.  Lacey went to the local practitioners, but they told her I was shit outta luck.  Police said it was drugs, and I couldn’t argue, not without saying something that’d get me sent to a psychiatric hospital.

L:  He got out on bail, which kind of didn’t surprise me.  Local sports star, you know?  We tried to remove the spirit, might have succeeded if he hadn’t spent the days and night he did in jail, in the meantime.  Too long, too much chance for the spirit to get its claws in.  Came down to it, and we decided we needed to resort to other means.

V:  Getting ourselves in deeper.

L:  The thing with familiars, it’s like, you’ve got a cord between you and the familiar.  A tether, or a channel with stuff flowing both ways.  And you’ve locked it in.  You always know where the familiar is, and they know where you are.  It’s a hard thing to break.  Your familiar won’t die like they otherwise might, but they might borrow a chunk from you to keep themselves going, if they want.  Part of any connection between things is proximity.  Not many situations where a master is going to get separated from their familiar.  So we did the bond, sealed it, whole shebang.  That bond’s a leash, tying him to me and vice versa.  But if you keep a grip on things, that leash isn’t going to stretch any.  The distance between us is set.  No way he was going off to prison if I didn’t.  We’re one unit, right?

V: One unit.

[note: at this point, Victor leaves to get another beer.]

L:  Once we had the bond, the system couldn’t get hooks into him.  It tried.  People pointed fingers at me, but since we weren’t going to be going to the same prison, that didn’t get much traction.  There was a pregnancy scare.  I imagine the world was contriving to put me in some shitty hick town just outside the prison, regular visits.  I dunno.  Once I fixed that, things settled down.  Probation.  We moved in together.  So it worked, I guess.

R:  What is the balance of power is between you two?

L:  What do you mean?

V:  She wants to know who wears the pants in this relationship.

R:  More nuanced than that.

L:  Yeah, no, I get it.  Thing is, it isn’t just us two.  You’ve got the spirit in there.  You want to know who wears the pants?  It’s the spirit.  It’s the spirit that makes Vic restless, so he can’t be in a car or a city without feeling like he’s in the wrong place.  Spirit that’s made it so he can’t touch metal without it hurting him somehow.  Knives go out of their way to cut him, scuffed patches on metal catch at his skin to make him bleed, cars won’t start if he’s inside.  So we’re here.  Middle of fuck all nowhere.  Fifteen minute drive to the nearest shitty convenience store where I can buy cigarettes, beer, and bread.

R:  In terms of power, do you draw power from him?

L:  Nah.  No, I tried.  Tried to siphon as much as I could, every way I thought I could.  See if I couldn’t weaken the spirit so he could beat it.

V:  Like radiation, shrinking a tumor before surgery.

L:  He was always clever like that.  Yeah.  Like radiation.  Except radiation’s bad for you, right?  We pushed, the spirit pushed back, and the spirit won in the end.  That’s when we had to move out of the city.  It got a foothold in there, and he’s restless all the time, now.  So I back him up.  He takes power from me.  Because he is losing his Self, in a way.  Capital S.  Takes a chunk out of me, but I try to back him up, so he stays Vic and doesn’t become something halfway between Vic and the spirit.

V:  Or the spirit eats me.  Because that’s what predators do.  They tear chunks out of their prey and they eat them.

R:  I suppose that answers my question.  What happens after.

L:  Been a long, long time since I gave any thought to ‘after’.

[Note: Victor nods at this.]

R:  Were there any elements you didn’t expect?  Regrets?

L:  What kind of question is that?

R:  The last question, before I give you the talisman.  Same question we’re asking all of the interviewees we’re considering for this chapter.

L:  Do I have to answer?  Will you not give us the talisman if I don’t want to respond?

R:  I think you’ve already answered.  Thank you for your time.

L:  Not like we’re going anywhere.

[Note:  The talisman, intended to help Vic manage his control over his Other half, was given to the couple, and the interview ended there].

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