Mark of the Familiar

Ellis followed his new guardian from the cell; the padded shoes were silent on the hard floors as they traveled down to the outside. It was brighter than it had seemed through the gray windows of his cell. Ellis squinted, trying to block it with his hand. A few steps later, he was led into a horseless carriage, blinking again at the sudden darkness.

The man helped him get settled before seating himself, and a woman in the front turned around and asked, "All set, James?"

"Ready," the man said.

Ellis stared at the man, curious, and was given a smile in return. "If you wish to know, then ask. I know you're capable of speech."

He wiggled his nose and lips, and then licked the tasteless air before sighing. "You are James?"

"Yes. I am the founder of the Sui Generis Protection Agency. We handle cases where magical beings such as yourself are in conflict with humankind or are in need of assistance. We provide the care, therapy, and help necessary for you to return to a normal life."

Ellis nodded, clasping his hands together and dropping his eyes to the artful black strokes that swirled down his fingers.

James chuckled, leaned forward to pat his shoulder, but then stopped just short of it. "I know it seems unlikely, but most people are more accepting of your differences than you previously have encountered, I promise you. Not everyone will treat a Familiar as their own personal toy. Some even go on to live independent lives."

Ellis nodded again, not sure why a Familiar would want to. He brushed his fingers over the necklace he'd been given. "What does this do?"

"The ward merely restrains magic so you cannot currently use it, nor can it be used on you. My son will remove it once we are on our property; he is a skilled Wardsman. There would be no danger in any of us removing it, but it is best if he does it."

Once more, Ellis nodded, folding his hands together. The carriage lapsed into silence, and Ellis let his senses, stuffed with cotton as they were, touch the magic around him. He could sense James, who glowed with a faint Natural magic. The older man most likely couldn't tap into it, but it would explain why he hesitated to touch Ellis. Even with the protective necklace, a bond could form if James was Ellis' True Master, and it seemed the man did not wish Ellis to think he had rescued him only to enslave him again.

Ellis wasn't worried. He would know his True Master when he saw them or smelled them or heard them. The beasts inside him would call out and demand to be heard, to serve, to appease. That wasn't magic, that was life, and no collar could dim that need, no more than it could dim his heart's beating.

"Here we are," James announced when the carriage stopped. Ellis jumped to his feet, his skin buzzing to be outside. James opened the door with a smile.

The city smelled the same as it did everywhere, although, outside this building were more pleasant aromas. There was a bakery nearby, and the smell of ripe fruits and blooming flowers assaulted his nose from the building's gardens. He twitched a smile. The building was standard metal and brick, surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence, but life blossomed around it, bringing magic to the dead things, weaving their energies into a protective womb.

The clink of the gate stirred him from the alluring aromas, and he followed James' lead into the house-like building. He had been saying something about the room they were in or what would happen next, but Ellis wasn't listening.

The smell. By Ferra, it was amazing. Ellis darted down a hall and up a flight of stairs, blind to everything but what his nose told him. His body trembled in anticipation as he crashed through a door, startling the man inside, and dropped to the ground. Settling on his haunches, Ellis stretched his arms out, palms against the floor, and tucked his head as low as it would go.

"Father!" the man shouted, and when James appeared in the doorway, added, "What's going on here?"

"William, this is the new Familiar I told you about..." he trailed as he studied Ellis. "What's going on?"

Ellis peered up with wide, blue eyes, and William growled as he backed away. "Father, you didn't tell me he was a WardBearer."

"We didn't know," James said. "That's not what they were using him for." He crouched beside Ellis, carefully taking him by the shoulders and standing him up. "Come, Ellis, let's leave William alone, okay? I'll show you the rest of the house."

"Master?" Ellis crooned at William, who twitched and turned his back. James tightened his grip on Ellis' shoulders.

"Come now."

After one longing glance behind, Ellis followed. His nose flared, filling with that delicious scent. Home and warmth and yearning, if they had scents, would be what William smelled like. His beasts clawed at his insides, struggling to escape, to curl around their Master, but he was being told to go. So instead of tangling his body around William, he sought to absorb every fragment of light reflected off that beautiful body. Although he moved along willingly enough, James had to bodily guide him from the room and back the way he came.

"Why did he not claim me?" he murmured.

"I'll explain," James said, "but first, let me show you to your room."

He followed to the room, what was now his room, but had no interest in the drawers that could hold clothing he didn't own or where the toilets were. He feigned attention as James went over everything, and then he sat on the bed.

James sat beside him, patting his shoulder. "It's nothing personal Ellis, I assure you. My son... well, let me start by saying his mother is a Succubus. Most children born of a union such as ours would have been boringly human. But, we think because of my latent magical abilities, William came out special. Not only is he magical, but he has an innate draw. All creatures with a sexual instinct are attracted to him. He gets offers such as yours every time he leaves the house.

"Because you're a Familiar with a Ward specialty, you must be exceptionally sensitive to the attraction. But don't worry; as you adjust to life here, your desire toward him will subside. Just leave him be is all I ask. He does not appreciate the attention."