A black cat? What's next, a pointy hat?Familiars are spirits from the Beyond, bound to a magi through a Pact... Although who serves who is sometimes up for debate. With no flesh to call their own, the Familiar spirits must shelter within a corpse made ready for them to inhabit, and from there, they offer power, advice, and always trouble.
Black Cats & Owls
I don't think I'd trust any cat, let alone a talking one.As spirits bound in mortal shells, Familiars have the strengths and weaknesses of both. Even the most bestial spirit is more intelligent and cunning than the average housecat, capable of understanding complex commands - though following them might be another matter. Many have otherworldly powers they can bring to bear through their corpse-shells, ranging from modest to terrifying. Exactly what those are depends on the spirit summoned and bound, with the more powerful spirits always exacting a higher price for their service.
At the same time, Familiars are vulnerable to the same dangers of any other living creature. Their bodies, though capable of functioning through injuries that would cripple and kill a normal animal, can be destroyed to send them screaming back to the Beyond. Wards can keep them at bay, while there are spells and artifacts that specifically target spirits.
The shell of Familiars don't really heal either, so bring out the duct-tape.Usually, when the body of a Familiar is destroyed, the spirit is sent screaming back into the Beyond. Few treated so poorly by the Prime care to repeat the experience, and those who do usually have a chip on their shoulder about the whole affair.
Though animals are the most common form for Familiars to take, it isn't the only one. A rare, blasphemous few have found that human bodies work just as well, and the spirits that prefer them are always trouble.Above all other functions, Familiar functions as a sort of magical anchor for magi. With a Familiar's aid, magic becomes more reliable, more stable, and more powerful - sometimes at the cost of the Familiar's physical form. More than anything, this wears out their corpse-shells if not used with caution. Other spirits have useful knowledge, possess secrets gleaned from past magi, or can act as guides through treacherous parts of the Beyond, or even as Keys to Gates. For every use, it is just a question if a Magi wants to pay the price for it.
Deal with the Devil
Always be careful with what you promise.Acquiring a Familiar is a matter of finding the right spirit and paying the right price. Rites that summon spirits from the Beyond are either dangerous, unpredictable, or both, with more than a few of them taking offense at being called by some upstart mortal at the best of times. As a general rule, the more powerful the entity is, the less inclined it will be to ride around some mangled corpse at the magi's behest. For this reason, most Familiars are made through pacts with lesser spirits. Some Spirits will demand a certain type of body for its earthly manifestation, or very specific modifications to whatever corpse is chosen before it will agree to inhabit it.
There are whispers of Magi attempting to bind too-powerful spirits, only to have the bodies burst open from trying to hold them.
The price paid varies, but least and lesser spirits typically have modest demands. Blood is perhaps the most common physical sacrifice, sometimes from specific sources, while others have more esoteric hungers that need to be sated, ranging from regular worship to stories told to particular food or drinks.
As with all magic, knowledge is power. The more a Magi knows about the Spirit, the better Pact they can bind.Aside from an angry spirit out for revenge, failing to sate the Familiar's demands results in the slow disintegration of its corporeal body. The energies that keep the Familiar's vessel from rotting away unravels piece by piece, and will not restore even if payment is resumed.
Some Familiars result from other, more significant Pacts, where a powerful Beyonder entity might bind a lesser spirit to the Magi making the deal, just to keep an eye on them. The Magi in question is rarely in a position to decline.Binding a Familiar is like any other Pact - part magic, part negotiation, part warring wills. Spirits don't think like humans do, and have perspectives based on their own metaphysical nature. Fire spirits like when things burn, not because they are cruel or destructive, but that's what fires do. Demons, whether indifferent or friendly, will always seek payment in human soul-stuff, for reasons only known to them. As a result, the best summoners are very careful individuals.
PactsPacts are contracts signed with entities of power, usually from the Beyond, where a Magi makes a promise in exchange for some boon. These range from small and fleeting, such as safe passage through a part of the Beyond or the Key to a particular Gate, all the way to immortality and forbidden, blasphemous powers. The price paid rises accordingly, and only fools make such promises lightly.
From the BeyondThe Beyond is a realm of monsters and magic, of wonder and horror, far from the mortal world. Here, spirits, gods, and demons dwell among impossible, myth-shrouded lands. Getting there is difficult, and getting out can be even worse. Nearly every Familiar spirit is called from the Beyond, lured to the Prime with promises to sate whatever alien hunger calls them.
Geographic Location | Jul 3, 2021
The world beyond all other worlds, a place of wonder and horror in equal measure.
Body ModificationBinding spirits into a corpse often requires the Magi to alter the dead. Depending on the rite, runes are carved into bones, organs extracted or replaced, or golden thread woven into flesh. Some magi take a 'might as well if I'm already doing it' approach to further modify the spirit's home in whatever way they fancy, from reinforcing bone with metal to embedding small explosives for a "just in case" scenario.
Others go the other way, crippling the body before it is inhabited to better control the spirit within.