The Familiar

 

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The sorcerer Hieronymous stood by an interior window, considering from the parapet the angry mob advancing on his Bavarian castle, his black cat, Bane, perched on his shoulder. It was a standard group of irate townspeople bearing torches, pitchforks, and assorted agricultural cutting implements. They jabbered excitedly among themselves, moving quickly as a group up the long, winding pathway in the dark.

“Why can’t they leave us alone, Bane?,” the wizard asked rhetorically. “Why do they persecute and seek to destroy that which they don’t understand? — Well, we’ll prepare a reception for them, yes we will indeed!”

Hieronymous hurried to his book of black magic, the cat retreating unconcernedly to a comfortable small pile of straw in a corner of the stone floor. Ancient pages of text in arcane languages flew under his fingertips as he researched a spell, quickly targeting one. “Hah, Bane!,” exulted the sorcerer. “Let’s see how they like this! ” The wizard raced to his window, holding aloft his bony arms and gesturing while he uttered mysterious, guttural phrases in Babylonian. Dark clouds gathered, and rained stones down on the villagers. They cursed, shielded their heads with clothing, and hastened their advance.

The sorcerer’s expression darkened as he retreated to his book of black arts, again rifling through its pages while Bane the cat yawned and stretched. “I’ve used this one before!,” he exulted as he hit upon one encantation. Sparks flew from the fingertips of Hieronymous as he gestured and chanted at a broomstick, which clattered to the ground, sprouted wooden arms and legs, and stood upright before multiplying to two, four, eight, and sixteen ambulatory figures. Hieronymous hurried to equip each broomstick with a flask of acid or foul-smelling substances before sending his inhuman army through the door to confront the legion of townspeople. The broomsticks flung their odious fluids upon the villagers, who shrieked their protest but met the wooden abominations with axes and firebrands, splintering and burning them until they were immobile and moved no more.

Hieronymous switched his efforts to reinforcing the heavy oaken door which barricaded his workshop, dragging benches and ironwork racks to buttress it. The villagers, however, had reached this perimeter, and smashed a heavy log against the door as others of their number applied axes to the heavy planking, the noise causing Bane to shift and open his eyes as if irritated. Knowing that even the massive door would eventually yield to the assault, Hieronymous prepared his final defense; a powerful confounding spell. As the thick door groaned and splintered, Hieronymous shouted in demonic languages, weaving a rich tapestry of magical incantation that almost seemed to hover in the air before descending upon the townsfolk in a miasma-like haze. The local folk, however, apparently lacked much in the way of minds to confound, and the spell seemed to have little influence upon them.

You shall not suffer a witch to live!,” cried the apparent leader of the invading group as his followers raised their cutting instruments to strike Hieronymous dead. The sorcerer made a move to dash to his cloak of invisibility, thinking to elude his tormentors. It was then that a powerful and commanding voice came into his head, a telepathic communication.

Stand aside!,” ordered the voice. ” I’LL handle this! ” The black cat, Bane, vaulted from his bed of straw, moving towards the angry mob. A kind of blue effluvium surrounded the cat, who reared onto his hind legs, his form stretching and expanding as he underwent an incredible transformation into a Smilodon, commonly called a sabre-toothed tiger. The former housecat flashed his seven-inch long maxillary canines at the now cowering humans and roared, the deafening sound reverberating in the enclosed area.

“Hello, boys!,” grinned Bane. “Let’s party!, ” he proclaimed, gaping his jaws ninety degrees and flinging himself at the humans like an avenging wraith. Ripping wounds were swiftly inflicted on human flesh by canines and claws as the Smilodon fatalis brought a swift end to the invasion of his lair, the few villagers surviving beating a hasty retreat from the castle.

His rout of the villagers complete, Bane morphed back to the form of a harmless housecat. “Forgive me, mau, beseeched Hieronymous, employing the Egyptian term for cat meaning seer. “I have failed you, and disgraced the black arts!”

Bane looked at his apprentice patiently. “You have practiced the magical arts for a mere three hundred years,” he noted. “You cannot be expected to have the abilities that will come with maturity.” With that, the cat settled on his bed of straw, leaving his apprentice to clean up the mess of blood and body parts…for rank has its privileges, and it can sometimes be difficult in the world of magic to determine who is the master, and who the disciple…

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The Last Diablero

coyoteThey say that the last diablero, a type of evil male witch, was killed in 1942 after having killed dozens of villagers with his sorcery.  This could not be tolerated, and so the villagers acting as a group took the sorcerer by surprise one evening, binding him and burning him alive.  Although the stake he was tied to was made of fresh wood, there were no ashes, and nothing was left following the burning except for a large pool of black grease.  The locals say that it is best not to speak of such things, and discuss it only reluctantly in hushed voices…

Wandering in rural parts of Mexico at night to learn more of such mysteries and whether diableros still walked among men, I came across a large, black dog that appeared to be strangely transparent.  Looking at the creature, I could see clusters of stars and even galaxies swirling within him, an entire universe in miniature. The dog froze and stared at me for a few minutes, then appeared to lose resolution and fade away into the night.  I shuddered and turned towards home, pondering the meaning of what I had seen. 

I slept deeply that night, and the morning was well-advanced before I awoke.  Emerging into the dazzling sunlight, I squinted and went in search of one of the village elders to see if he could make sense of what I had seen.  When I found one of the old men, he took me into his abode, listened to the story of my strange encounter, nodded knowingly, and gave me a concoction to consume which contained peyote. 

“Your journey is far from over,” the viejo or “old one” advised me.  “You must wander further in the desert for the answers which you seek.  I believe it is there that you will begin to understand,” he advised me.

I thanked the old man and embraced him.  As day wore on into night, I prepared a small pack and began my journey, my perceptions strangely altered by the peyote which I had ingested.  Advancing into the desert, I saw a number of coyotes, and somehow was able both to understand and converse with them.  Crows perched at various locations at my steps progressed, and seemed to be watching me.  Somehow, I seemed to share a kinship with all life that I encountered, and feel at one with it.

As dusk approached, I beheld a luminous coyote who was much larger than any of the others that I had seen that day.  He emitted a self-generated light which seemed to pulse and intensify as I followed him to the edge of a cliff, stopping in the darkness just in time before I fell fell from the precipice. 

“Be not afraid,” the coyote said from within my head.  “You know what you must do!,” he admonished, glowing brightly.  “Take the leap of faith!”

Trembling in the presence of this supernatural being, I closed my eyes at the brink, extended my arms, and fell forward.  The air rushed against my face as I fell towards certain death; the fall would certainly not be survivable.  Miraculously, however, I did not not fall far, for I opened my eyes to discover that my arms were now wings, and covered with black feathers!  I had transformed into a crow!  Exuberant, I soared effortlessly through the air, and could see for miles around me.

I descended to the ground surface, and by force of will shape-shifted into a coyote.  On four legs I returned to the village to greet the new day, shifting back to human form so as not to alarm the villagers with my approach.  They were sleepily going about their early tasks of the new day, but I could see all of their auras now; they appeared as glowing eggs of varying intensity with slender tentacles of light extending from them. 

I knew then that I was the last diablero, and embraced my destiny.  I would live long, see far, and know much.  And although my powers came from a dark place, they were not who I was, and did not define me.  I smiled at the villagers as they unknowingly moved about, eager to explore both my animal and my divine natures…this incarnation would be different!