Inter-Familiar Relations

Those readers who follow the (mis)adventures of the mages, magic workers, and assorted normal people who populate the Familiars world probably wonder exactly how the Familiars know so much about each other, and how they relate to each other.

Short answer: they’re not telling, and generally pretty well. Generally. Not always.

As series readers know, one of the running jokes among some of the mages is that there is a “” communication site where the Familiars exchange information, gossip, pass on rumors, and so on. In some cases, they even know in advance if a Familiar is about to find a mage, which can be good, or “Oh Lordy, everybody run,” as Tay grumbles in “Familiar Sorrows.” (Rich . . . makes Rodney look mellow, laid-back, and well-adjusted.)

How do they do this? Magic. Seriously, magic, and something else, but I don’t know what. It is not instantaneous, not telepathy. Tay and Rodney, or Tay and Smiley, can’t go mind-to-mind unless their mages help, and then it is a case of mage to Familiar to Familiar to mage. The effort leaves all of them flat, and very, very few mage-Familiar pairs are strong enough to do it. Heike and Walburga can’t, for example. Neither can F. X. and Magnolia. Most inter-Familiar communication happens when their mages are not around, and the Familiars are sleeping.

Familiars are not supposed to hold back important information from each other. If (when) they do, it causes a lot of unhappiness, and the party who was less than forthcoming had better have very, very good reasons why.  “Because I assumed everyone already knew,” or “I couldn’t be bothered” are not good reasons. That sort of thing leads to the other Familiars ganging up to remind their associate of Things That Are Not Done. “I was in the hospital with backlash burns” is a good reason not to pass along information, although by that point, everyone already knows that something bad has happened. Ditto when a mage-Familiar pair breaks apart, or a Familiar is killed.

Yes, Familiars can and do leave their mages. Rosie Jones is the best known recent case. Usually the Familiar can tell trouble’s brewing, has warned the other Familiars in advance, and then bolts before they get hurt. Rosie . . . couldn’t read the signs and stayed too long. She will probably always have certain problem areas from now on, or she might not. Even Tay has some trouble spots, as Lelia has observed.

Tay’s also experienced enough to know when to worry about his mage, and when to be cool (or at least act it). If Rosie saw Lelia snap into a killing rage, as Lelia can do, the poor skunk would flee in sheer, pure, undiluted terror. Tay figures either his mage will get herself under control, or he’ll get to give that lecture, once the sheetrock dust, sawdust, or smoke clears. Given the age of the duplex, the mess would be . . . impressively messy. Plaster and lathe + enraged Lelia = more than just the broom and dustpan will take care of.

And Tay would tell the other Familiars, once the situation is under control. And those in close proximity (Smiley, Rosie, Cinders, Isabeau, the ferrets Schmidt, Dog, Hamster Junior, Blackwell, Flutterbug [Dog’s twin], Magnolia) would let their mages know. Depending on when the event happened, Rodney might also know first hand. And his mage would be looking at the mess, and at Lelia, and making a mental note 1. not to forget important dates and 2. to teach her about control and power-deflection. And to call Merddyn Jones to get a repair estimate, because you can’t just slap up new sheet-rock and call it good when you are dealing with that kind of wall.

Tay and Angus do not get along well. They can, if they need to, and most of their arguments are superficial. They have some serious personality differences, and probably would find ways to argue even if they shared the same (public) theological feelings. Rodney will needle Tay, Tay will irk Rodney, they also have some disputes since Rodney is more academic than Tay appears to be, and Tay prefers to work from outside any one faith tradition. As I’ve blogged before, Rodney will shut Tay down, but it would have to be a very, very serious situation, and Tay would have to give at least partial consent. All the other Familiars defer to Tay when it comes down to cases, which would give a lot of mages pause if they knew.

18 thoughts on “Inter-Familiar Relations

  1. Lathe, or lath? I expect it will be board lath, maybe with wire nailed over it.

    Real plaster gives much nicer acoustics.

  2. Can a Familiar survive the death of his Mage?

    From what Tay has said/implied, Lelia isn’t his first Mage.

    • It depends on how the mage dies. If mage and Familiar go down fighting, then usually no. Old age, chronic illness? Possibly to probably, depending on the pair. Mundane accident? Possible to probable.

  3. Lath and plaster, with wire or horsehair as the binder. It takes at least a journeyman to repair it. We had some students astonished by their repair bill, because some breaks needed a real plasterer to repair and resurface.

    Thanks for the additional world notes on Familiars and how they interact. The thought of Dean Tay leading the College of Familiars … scaaary.

  4. Nice job of filling in the blanks! And Tay as a leader is… scary… Re lath and plaster, agree with PK. Having helped restore a house that had that, I HATE horsehair…

    • If the house ever got flooded, the hair wicks the moisture even higher into the walls. Ask me how I know this . . . Happily, my job was stripping 80 years of paint off of window frames.

  5. I figured the familiars were angelic spirits given form to help us poor humans defend ourselves from the incursion of other-worldly forces. They know each other from literally forever and have different talents and personalities. They also have different positions on the power hierarchy, which are not obviously apparent from their current mortal form. Their form seems to be somewhat related to their personality, but that is nebulous and culturally sensitive.

    • Not strictly angelic. Tay is tethered very strongly to physical pleasures. I have wondered whether death is full death, or whether they wait and get sent back again to serve at need.

      • Since Angels in Christian (& I think Jewish) theology are pure spirits (ie no physical body), the familiars because they have obvious physical bodies can’t be Angels.

        Then we have the case of Hamster Junior who is called that because his mother was running out of names. That speaks against them being “angelic spirits in animal bodies”.

        Off Topic question for our host.

        Have you read Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series?

        Ms Wrede had a Rabbit named “Killer” because his mother couldn’t think of a better name (ie too many children).

        Earlier while thinking about Hamster Junior, I remember the rabbit named Killer. 😀

    • Yes, they could communicate. Rodney is bilingual (English, German, plus GI Arabic [the bad words]), but he could “speak” with a Russian or Cameroonian Familiar.

  6. Just a note to say that Familiar Tales is your series that I enjoy the most.

    (And I’m haunting Amazon to see if the next one is up early.) :crazy:

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