A sorceress and her familiar, admittedly with some similarities to CatsEyes, written much later. R, FM, BD (mild) 1998

Carefully, Talaya tested the soft cords binding her, wrists behind her, ankles together, as she lay on the bed. There was no give in them, the knots were secure. She surrendered, and waited, cut off from the world by the scarf tied across her eyes. What was going to happen? How long would she be left here like this?

There was no way to judge time. She squirmed a bit as her shoulders began to ache from the strain, but mostly she was still. The air was cool on her bare skin, the room quiet. How did this look, from outside her own body? Long copper hair spreading against the linen that was no paler than her skin, her wide hips and full breasts displayed perfectly by the position.... She was hardly aware of slipping into a semi-tranced state, all the world was this, nothing lay beyond, she need only wait and be patient.

After such a long, hard day, this was such a blessed feeling, this helplessness. How had she survived, before she had this to balance the strength and confidence the town mage must show the townsfolk? It seemed so strange now, she must have been so empty inside. Could she remember that other Talaya? She shifted her position, trying to ease her shoulders somewhat, and sent her thoughts back.

A thunderstorm. Coming home to her house, the house always given to the town mage, and nearly tripping over a cat huddled in the dubious shelter of her doorway. Out of pity, she had gathered it up, brought it inside.

Once she'd dried it somewhat with a towel and settled it on an old blanket under the woodstove in the kitchen, it seemed much happier, and began to wash itself. Talaya lingered to watch it for a minute more, then rose to take care of her mundane household chores. Some people thought mages of whatever type did nothing but cast spells; it apparently never occurred to those people that a mage had to live like anyone else. Particularly a sorcerer who didn't have a great deal of money.

By the time she began to make supper, the cat was definitely recovered from its soaking. It followed her around the kitchen, and twice jumped up on the counter only to be firmly dropped on the floor. Now that it was dry, it was a beautiful animal, a mid-sized long-furred gray tabby. She was sure she'd recognize it if she'd seen it in the area before, and it was too healthy to be a stray.

A minor mystery. Ah, well, once the rain ended she'd let it out and it would surely go home.

She shared her supper with it, then gave it a bowl of milk—it attacked that with an eagerness that surprised her a little.

By the time Talaya decided to go to bed, the rain had ended. She scooped up the cat, put it outside, and closed the door.

Thunderous purring woke her the next morning.

She opened her eyes, and found herself looking at gray and black stripes. That cat was curled up on her other pillow!

She sat up, intending to push it off the bed. The cat raised its head, regarding her with yellow eyes slitted against morning sunlight. It looked utterly pleased with itself.

"How did you get in here? You can go away. I don't have time for a cat. Go on, go back to where you belong."

It got up, stretched lazily, and curled itself up comfortably again, still purring.

Talaya got up, picked up the cat, and took it down to the front door. She set it outside and closed the door firmly. How had it gotten in? A quick circuit of the lower floor showed no open windows or any other such entrance.

She was beginning to tire of that cat.

With a cup of honey-sweetened tea, she made her way back upstairs. Her contemplation of what needed doing today was cut short.

It was sleeping on her pillow again.

On a sudden hunch, she took a closer look at the cat, invoking her mage-sight.

That was not a true cat.

"Get out!"

It just looked at her.

Then it was no longer a cat at all, but a person—no more than five feet tall, she thought, and very slender, with golden skin and dark hair. She couldn't tell if it were male or female, under the scanty black silks. It gazed at her with eyes as yellow as the cat's.

"You invited me in," it said, and disappeared.

Talaya spent the next few minutes swearing. The town mage should have known better than to invite anything under her roof, even a distressed cat. Trying to banish something that had been given that foothold was anything but easy.

It would seem she had something else to do today, as well as her usual responsibilities.

* * *

Talaya writhed around a bit, pulling vainly at her bonds. It gave her a strange sense of safety, that she couldn't escape. Around her throat was a leather collar, she'd worked the spells into it herself, and it confined her gifts as completely as the ropes her body.

She'd tried so long, so hard, to make her unwelcome guest leave. An attempt to trick it into revealing its name failed; it just grinned at her, said it liked to be called Bryn. Nothing had worked. At least Bryn waited for her in the house, she didn't have to confess to the townsfolk that their mage was unable to rid herself of it. She resigned herself to its company, its incessant and usually irrelevant chatter.

It had taken her a long time to realize she was beginning to look forward to coming home, to the contrast Bryn was against the townsfolk who always wanted something from her, who were always so respectful and serious.

"Why do you stay?" she asked, one evening, sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and listening to Bryn ramble on happily about some city now destroyed.

It smiled sunnily at her. "You need a familiar. I've been a familiar before, I like it."

"I don't want a familiar."

Bryn just grinned, went back to its story.

Another day, a trader had come through, with many a curious object in the wooden cart pulled by his two brown goats. Despite Bryn's distressed pleas that she not go out, Talaya went.

The trader showed her a little bronze box he said had come originally from a wizard far to the east, and that only a mage could open it to see what lay within. Cautiously, but unable to sense any harmful magic in it, she unfastened the tiny clasp.

With absolutely no warning, Bryn was there, human-form, snatching the box from her hands.

"Bryn! What...."

"Don't open it. It's bad."

Pride made her want to take it back and open it anyway; wisdom bade her listen. "Bad how?"

"I don't know. Bad."

The trader, and a couple of townsfolk present, were all frozen, watching this, the cart's treasures forgotten. Talaya ignored them.

"What if I shield around it and then open it?"

"That would work, I think," Bryn said reluctantly. "I don't think you should open it at all."

"If it's harmful, I need to know so I can destroy it. Put it down."

Obviously unwilling, it obeyed, backed away a step, but changed to a huge gray and black wolf, poised to attack. The trader and townsfolk, she realized distantly, backed away in alarm.

Talaya cast a heavy shield around the box, and opened it with a quick wave of her hand.

Something like thick greenish smoke boiled out, reached the limits of the shield, and was thwarted from expanding further. Bryn growled, hackles rising. Talaya was inclined to agree with the sentiment, and was suddenly glad Bryn had intervened; no telling what that might have done if carelessly opened.

She cast a trio of spells on it, to denature it, to destroy it, and to make sure it stayed destroyed. The fog paled to white, and faded into nothing.

"Safe?" Talaya asked Bryn; the wolf frisked over to her, tail in the air, which she took as a good sign. She banished the shield, picked up the now-empty box. "How much?" she asked the trader calmly.

Wide-eyed and trembling, he waved away any question of payment. "Lady mage, I had no idea it held anything dangerous, I was told it held a magical jewel. Please, take it." His gaze kept straying to Bryn, though, who was now pressed against her thigh, watching the trader and the shaken townsfolk with cat-yellow eyes.

"You don't need to fear my familiar," she told them, and turned away, the box in her hand. Bryn frolicked along beside her back to the house.

There, it changed to human again. "See?" it said gleefully. "You need me. And you just called me your familiar."

So she had, without ever realizing it. She wavered, sighed, decided to accept defeat gracefully. "All right, you win, I need a familiar."

Another day, how long had they been together by then? Everyone in the town knew their sorcerer now had a familiar who followed her often as a gray and black cat, sometimes as a wolf, sometimes as a fey sexless human.

A long day, a hard day, so much had needed doing, and what wasn't menial small things, like recharging witchlights or casting spells on apple-trees to keep insects away from the fruit, was frustrating and tiring, like working with the Healer as they attempted to discover the reason a whole flock of sheep just outside the town had become inexplicably ill.

"Talaya?" Bryn said tentatively, sitting at her feet to give her a worried look. "What's wrong?"

"Just tired," she sighed. "Tired of having everyone think I can solve all the problems in the universe."

Bryn tilted its head to one side. "Almost every mage I've ever been with felt like that sometimes."

"And what did they do about it?"

"Different things. One went to her lover. One did things in his garden. There's something one taught me, if you like."

"Oh? What?"

Bryn rose. "Come?

Curious, Talaya followed it to the bedroom, and obeyed the request to take off her clothes—Bryn had been around too constantly for her to feel any shyness. As commanded, she laid down on the bed, on her front, and felt Bryn kneel straddling her legs.

Cool strong hands began at her shoulders and neck, loosening the tight muscles skillfully. Gradually they moved lower, missing not a single inch.

"Roll over," she was bidden finally. It was an effort to move, she felt so deliciously relaxed, but she complied.

Slowly downwards again. It felt good, when Bryn reached her breasts; she was a little startled when it mischievously leaned forward to lick each nipple briefly, but she didn't protest. Nor when those wandering hands quested between her thighs, brushing lightly over the auburn fur there, stroking gently deeper, that felt even better, and suddenly she was remembering how long ago her last lover had left her. She thought Bryn was curious, which made sense, a woman's body might well be entirely new. It didn't pause there long, went all the way down to her feet, lingered there for a time—a wonderful sensation, she discovered.

Bryn got up, moved away. She listened to it searching around her room, but lacked the energy to move.

It returned, took one of her hands, began to wrap something soft carefully around her wrist. She opened her eyes, discovered that it was one end of a long scarf she sometimes wore as a belt; Bryn smiled, didn't stop. The other end of the scarf was tied to that corner of the bed.

"What are you doing?" She was more amused than concerned.

"Wait." Bryn started on the other wrist, did the same, then both ankles. She pulled experimentally, found that she was held firmly, but not uncomfortably.

Bryn looked her over, and perched beside her on the bed.

And began to tickle her mercilessly.

Talaya yelped and writhed, laughing breathlessly, completely unable to escape the assault.

When she thought she couldn't possibly bear it another instant, Bryn stopped.

"Most dignified sorcerer," it teased.

Talaya fought to catch her breath. "That's not fair...."

"Of course not," Bryn agreed. It shifted position, to lick at her nipples again, this time longer, switching randomly back and forth between them. Talaya heard herself moan softly, enjoying the attentions thoroughly.

Bryn moved again, knelt between her legs. "This I don't know," it said gravely. "You'll have to teach me."

Bryn learned fast, with some suggestions from Talaya, learned where and what and how. Eventually, Talaya had to plead enough.

Her familiar freed her, cuddled against her; Talaya hugged it close.

"Thanks," she whispered.

It looked up at her with cat-yellow eyes. "I like doing that. Tell me when you want me to."

Guilt snuck in. "What about you?"

Brief confusion, then comprehension. "I don't feel things like you do. I like to touch and I like to please you."

Talaya chuckled. "I think I'm starting to understand where the demon-lover ballads come from."

"I'm a pretty minor kind of demon."

"I'm more than happy with you."

* * *

Nails ran hard down Talaya's side, wrenching her out of her memories and back into the present. Again, and again, they had to be leaving red marks on her skin.

A gentle kiss on the side of her throat, it became a bite, the pressure increasing until she was whimpering. It hurt, she wanted it and wanted to escape it both at once, but she couldn't get away, could only submit to it. A quick shove and she was mostly on her back, though her bound hands interfered, that kiss switched to the other side of her throat with the same results.

"Let's play," Bryn whispered in her ear, and nipped the lobe, just hard enough to sting.

* * *

Talaya stirred, opened her eyes.

Bryn was nestled against her still; its kind didn't sleep, but it did love to cuddle and knew Talaya liked the company.

"Good morning," she was greeted brightly.

"Mmhmm." She shifted away, yawned, stretched lazily. Miserable as yesterday had been, she always felt better after one of their private games. "What do we need to do today?"

"Monthly report to the council. Debra needs us at her inn to make sure the wards haven't faded."

She sighed. "Right. We both know the wards are fine, she's still paranoid about that mage a decade and a half ago who didn't set them right and one of her customers got hurt. And the council wants the same old boring thing. Y'know, there are times I seriously think about finding another job."

"I'll go with you wherever you want to go. Where doesn't matter to me."

"Good, I'd be lost without you now."

It smiled at her. "You didn't listen when I first tried to tell you that."

"We both know how obstinate I can be. Move it, so I can get up."

Prompt obedience. In fact, it disappeared on its daily scouting trip, checking over the town for anything that might otherwise be overlooked.

Talaya found a comfortable linen blouse and a pair of doeskin pants, and a vest to match the pants. A quick breakfast, over which Bryn reported findings—nothing of note—and they left the house, Bryn now at her heels cat-form.

The clerk who watched over the door to the council-hall seemed oddly nervous as she waved Talaya in.

Why quickly became apparent: a stranger waited in the council-room, with the seven councillors, a well-dressed man a little younger than she, and her other senses registered magic, strong.

"Talaya," the chairman acknowledged her. "This is Arek. He wishes to challenge you for your position."

Talaya stared at the stranger, wanted to laugh. He expected her to fight for this job?

Bryn changed, pressed close beside her. "He has one of us bound," it hissed angrily. "Can't get free."

That was another matter altogether.

"Fight, then?" she murmured, running a hand over Bryn's hair. "Do you think we can win?"


She raised her head, resolve now firm. "Free your familiar and I'll concede here and now."

Arek laughed mockingly. "I scarcely think you're one to speak of such things."

"Bryn stays with me by choice."

"Which is it? Do you concede or do we fight?"

Talaya sighed. "Fight. Outside."

"Of course."

In front of the town hall, in the open street. Talaya made half the circle, waited for Arek to cast his half. That would protect bystanders and keep all magic contained. Bryn crouched beside Talaya, wolf-form; beside Arek was a red deerhound, now, one with ears back and tail low.

Circle complete. Talaya held still, waited again, this time for Arek to make the first move.

Which he did, sending a serpent made of scarlet light at her. She held her ground, answered with a dragon of gold and green light, which flew at the serpent and attacked it. The serpent's form melted into that of a tiger, retaliating; Talaya, obliged by the rules to now change the form of hers, made it into a wolf. The tiger and the wolf fought bitterly, and the tiger won, shredded the wolf until it disappeared.

Bryn fidgeted, pressed against her leg. She glanced down, as she wiped sweat out of her eyes. Arek waited for her to begin the next round. What should she do? Stay with the classic pattern still, and trust her wits and Bryn?

Bryn whined softly. Talaya decided: she threw the power to Bryn, let it decide what to do, from its experience.

The energy formed into reaching tendrils of green and gold light, reaching up from the ground around Arek, avoiding his familiar but wrapping around the sorcerer's ankles, attempting to climb higher. Within the rules, barely. Arek spat a curse, turned his attention to freeing himself. Talaya used the opening to attack with a different kind of spell, one that was actually more of a necromancer's trick, designed to leech energy from him. He countered in time, barely, while Talaya flung a rainbow shield around herself and Bryn for a quick conference. Her familiar changed promptly to human.

"Can you free his familiar?" Talaya asked rapidly.

"No. You'll have to. I can keep him busy if you give me the power. Once the tie is broken, he won't catch another. We'll see to that."

"All right. I'll give you what I can. As soon as it's free, we concede."

"If you like."

"Ready? Here." She 'tossed' Bryn the energy for a spell, and dropped the shield.

Bryn made the energy into a green and gold eagle, sent it at Arek; it tore apart the attack he threw in their direction the instant the shield was gone. Talaya divided her attention between feeding Bryn and trying to find a way to undo the bond between Arek and his unwilling familiar—who seemed to be acting mainly as a grounding-point and catalyst, taking no active part as it crouched beside him. Power to Bryn, search, interrupt to give Bryn what it needed for the next, search again... there! She threw a negation spell at it, 'saw' it snap and shrivel – heard the wild shriek of laughter as his familiar was freed. In a heartbeat, the red deerhound had become 'human', as androgynous as Bryn and no larger. It spun away from Arek, laughing madly, and disappeared. No time to celebrate, she helped Bryn block the next attack, and called, "Concede!"

Arek paused, lowered his hands slowly. "Bitch," he snarled.

"I told you the conditions," she said, as coolly as she could manage, given that she was out of breath and sweating. "You're welcome to the town, and I wish you joy of it. I'll be out of the house by tomorrow at noon."

He banished his half of the circle with an angry gesture. "I'll only call another."

"You're welcome to try." Bryn was a cat now, sprawled on its side, panting; she gathered it up, dispelled her half of the circle. "Excuse me, I have to pack."

* * *

Every mage knew how to create a bag or a chest that held impossible amounts; Talaya had one of each, the bag for things she thought she might need soon, the chest for such items as were heavier or less likely to be needed often. The chest she banished with a quick spell, to be summoned again at need, and the bag she slung over her shoulder.

"Harder to tie you up with no bed," Bryn observed.

Talaya laughed. "Use your imagination. You'll think of something. We'll find a place to live—someplace we'll be appreciated better than here."

Wolf-form, Bryn frisked along beside her as she walked out of the town and left it in Arek's hands.


(c) 1998