Familiars Species in Shedim | World Anvil

Familiars

A black cat? What's next, a pointy hat?  
— Amelia Korp, Walker
  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.  
— Amelia Korp, Walker
  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.  
by Pixabay
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.
by Rawpixel.com (Freepik)
 
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.

Pacts

Pacts 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.  
Pacts
Condition | Jul 8, 2021

Making a deal with a devil, and its consequences.

   

From the Beyond

The 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.  
The Beyond
Geographic Location | Jul 3, 2021

The world beyond all other worlds, a place of wonder and horror in equal measure.

 
by Rawpixel.com (Freepik)
   

Body Modification

Binding 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.
 

The Martezi Family

Experts in Pacts, the Martezi is either a venerable line of knowledgable magi, a masterful scam, or maybe both, depending on who you ask. The Martezi barter their expertise in spirits and pacts to any who will pay their exorbitant prices, saving Magi the trouble of doing anything but pay two entities; the spirit, and the family.   Exactly what the Martezi do with their treasure trove is anyone's guess, and that guess is 'nothing good'.  
The Martezi Family
Ethnicity | Jul 8, 2021

Experts in dealing with demons, sealing pacts, and getting paid for it.

And always, there's a question of finding the right body.
 

Polite Society

With that kind of Familiar, you know he's not one to mess with.
  Familiars occupy a complicated place in magical society. They're useful, but unpleasant - corpses made to move again and now hiding an alien intellect with its own agenda. Only a fool trusts a spirit beyond the boundaries of their agreement, and usually never for long. Even benign spirits are strange, with inhuman motives. The more blatant and powerful the Familiar, the more it says about the lengths its master is willing to go and the sacrifices they are ready to make. Depending on the Pact they've made, feeding the Familiar their due can lead a Magi to be ostracized, if not outright hunted.  
There's also the physical maintenance of the spirit's shell that takes both time and effort on the Magi's part. Nobody likes to pet a cat to be riddled with fleas or maggots.
  As a result, most Magi don't bring their Familiar out into polite society unless they have to. They often become open secrets, the devil on the shoulder, the ace in the sleeve that everyone knows about but few talk about. Other, more radical parts of the Shadow's society, take the opposite approach and flaunt their Familiars as symbols of power and knowledge.   Of course, letting everyone know exactly what they can do and what kind of asshole they might be can backfire too.  
In the present, Familiars are entering new, unknown territory. There are whispers of Technomagicians who have locked spirits within mechanical shells or forms of code, creating drones or AI with a spirit at the helm. Given the difficulties of Technomagic in general, many doubt the stories are true, but not so much that they aren't investigating it.
 
visnezh - base - kopia.jpg
by Visnezh (Freepik)


Cover image: by Unsplash

Comments

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Jul 3, 2021 14:03 by R. Dylon Elder

Really cool take on the idea! Its morbid butni really like how they are bound to a corpse. Kinda crazy to think they dont heal either.

Jul 4, 2021 07:25

Thank you :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 3, 2021 15:01 by Annie Stein

I'm super impressed, your articles don't feel like they were made in response to a prompt at all, but like the natural next thing to write. This article is very thorough, and so immersive. I feel like I'm really starting to get a sense for what Shedim is like, and that's just off of two articles!   The little blurb about the technomagicians at the end too, ah! So excited to see more of this world.

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 4, 2021 07:26

Aw, thank you very much :D   Maybe Technomagic will be good for one ot the other prompts... Now that's something I have to think about! :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 3, 2021 15:26 by Sloqush

With the way that they work and are described, I can't help but feel like they are a crossover between Area and the Necro-Industrial Complex (and maybe a hint of Megacropolis with the Tech-Familiars) ^_^

Author of Cenorad ; a bleak-dark sandbox of creativity.
Jul 4, 2021 07:28

Ahahaha


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 3, 2021 18:50

Just a comment, "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" I think the 's' in Spirits should not be capitalized.

Jul 4, 2021 07:28

Thanks, I'll fix that :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 3, 2021 20:51 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Kitty!   Great article :D I love the spirit cat not bothering obeying, that suits them well :p Those spirit riding human corpse sounds very interesting... and I imagine they are only the most powerful ones too! Must really be nice to meet one of them :p   And body customisation and explosive XD   Can I have a kitty? I promise to worship it appropriately!

To see what I am up to: World Ember 2023 list of articles.
Jul 4, 2021 07:34

Human bodies definitely make great conduits, and the spirits that prefer them tend to not be particularly nice ones, no. XD   And you can! A kitty-familiar :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 3, 2021 21:22 by Michael Holt

Wonderfully creative take on familiars that really sets a tone for the magical society. The push and pull between the power the familiar exerts through its bargaining and desires vs the magi's intellect and preparation with "just-in-case" planning in very much on display. Great work!

My Summer Camp 2021 Hub and Article List
Jul 4, 2021 07:31

Thank you very much :D   I wasn't sure what to do for a working animal, since it is a contemporary setting, so I decided to do something weird with it!


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 4, 2021 07:13

That was a fun & creepy take on familiars! I loved in particular those body modifications (both for improved familiars or for easier to control ones). Question: do they smell like rotting corpses? Or are they in a state of suspended decay and this halts the smells?

Jul 4, 2021 07:21

Thank you!! :D   It depends entirely on the state of the body when the spirit inhabits it. I wanted to add it somewhere, but it was getting a bit long already, ahaha..   The spirit's energy suspends further decay, so it's kind of stuck where it is. If it was rotting, it'll be perpetually in a state of rotting. Best to douse them with perfume, in that case :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 4, 2021 07:59

Uff yeah... I think if I was a magi in your world I'd kill an animal and then use that corpse immediately!

Jul 4, 2021 13:40 by Michael Holt

Or could use use one that's been taxidermied? Might be better as it'd be less prone to rot and potentially could toughen it in the process? Would glass eyes work for the familiar?

My Summer Camp 2021 Hub and Article List
Aug 2, 2021 12:24

All good ideas! I'll have to think about it :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 5, 2021 16:49 by Stormbril

Oh man, having familiars being essentially reanimated corpses... What an excellent dark twist! I love all the details in here.   "embedding small explosives for a "just in case" scenario. " 10/10

Jul 6, 2021 21:50

Gotta put that Q spin on things ;D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 6, 2021 22:02 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Ooo familiars riding around in corpse shells. That's a very Q twist. I love it. Really interesting exploration of the idea in this article. :D

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Jul 8, 2021 14:17

Thanks :D I wanted to make it weird (because of course I did)


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 16, 2021 14:42 by AS Lindsey (Pan)

Techno-necro-familiars sound great, and I know ‘shell’ doesn’t necessarily mean, well, a shell, but I can’t help imagining a tortoise that’s more duct tape than reptile

Jul 16, 2021 15:35

That's definitely gonna be one mage's familiar now :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 20, 2021 09:47 by AS Lindsey (Pan)

I know there's a pun in there somewhere... Terrorpin? Mortoise? Nosferaturtle? I'll keep thinking.

Jul 29, 2021 01:53 by Chris L

Running through my notifications now that I have some time and this is one of the favorites I've read today. Such a great take on familiars! Shedim is so creepy and so well thought out, like all your stuff.


See WorldEmber 2023 Hub for my WorldEmber progress.

Check out my challenge winning article: Ghost Boy.

Jul 29, 2021 07:27

Thank you <3


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Aug 11, 2021 21:37

Great article! I love your take on familiars of actually using a corpse instead of manifesting in some form of their own. It is also pretty interesting that magi modify the bodies even further to match their needs even more.   Those famliars in humans sound creepy :o

Feel free to check my new world Terra Occidentalis if you want to see what I am up to!
Aug 12, 2021 06:54

Thanks! :D   And of course, creepy things are more interesting :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.