Though I knew many people were knowledgeable about cats, I was not one of them. I might technically be second most informed about Celmoth, but my knowledge didn’t extend all that much beyond the fact that they weren’t cats. But when Cat Buddy collapsed onto the counter, I wasn’t suddenly worried that he had a horrible illness that would kill him. I’d seen this kind of thing before, and the connection from Familiar Bond would have helped regardless.
It was pretty simple really. He’d passed out from mana exhaustion. The question was why. The first thing I knew led to a second thing that pretty much settled it. First, he hadn’t been using my mana. I would have felt it as it happened, and I would certainly be able to detect about a quarter of my mana being gone. If he hadn’t been using my mana, the only option was that he used his own mana. He passed out after using Storage five times, which was… exactly what one would expect from someone at level 0.
Passing out from mana exhaustion wasn’t great, but it ultimately wasn’t harmful if you didn’t hit your head on something on the way down. Midnight was just laying there on the counter, but I could tell he was otherwise fine, though my feedback from him while he was unconscious was limited.
I crossed my arms and began to think. At this point, I really wished I had studied familiars more. For someone who couldn’t get experience from it my amount of study had been more than most people would have done, but it was focused on certain areas. Like combat spells, which I would use to actually level up. I still knew the important parts of Familiar Bond though.
- Certain spells could be cast through a familiar, extending their reach or allowing for sneak attacks.
- Casting spells through a familiar cost the mage’s mana.
- Familiar Bond only worked on animals.
Upon reflection, it was possible that I only knew one thing about familiars. The other pieces of information were looking rather incorrect. The question was why. I doubted anyone was intentionally hiding this information, though it was possible. The more logical explanation was I had either been reading knowledge passed down that nobody bothered to doubt… or something was different about Midnight.
If Familiar Bond only worked on things in the shapes of animals, I had the feeling that drunk mages would have accidentally stumbled upon some interesting effects when someone was polymorphed. Maybe someone did, and then was too embarrassed to tell anyone. But I had the feeling it was more likely to do with Midnight in particular.
I focused on my memory. Sometimes it was important for mages to remember precise wording, so I’d trained my memory to be pretty good. It had only been a few days ago. What had Midnight said exactly? “Green ones are capable of cross-species bonds? Now I am curious.”
That was it. Not surprise that I could create a bond, but that it worked cross-species. What that meant was… any of a huge number of things, and from my current data they would all involve wild speculation. The easy answer would be to ask Midnight when he woke up in about ten minutes. If I was right, he was level 0 and had no mana. It wasn’t strange for him to pass out at a quarter of a mana remaining. Or… a tenth? It took him less than a minute to use Storage five times, after all. I didn’t know if he got my mana efficiency from spells. I assumed that, but I didn’t know it. Some spells had quirks that I didn’t know all about.
I looked at the clock. I had to go to work soon. Well, it shouldn’t be a problem to take him with me, and it would let him sleep for a bit longer.
The person who gave me a ride looked a bit confused at me having a passed out cat with me, but didn’t bother me as we started to go. When we reached the other end and Midnight woke up, he appeared more confused when I started to talk to Midnight. But he didn’t say anything as I paid and got out.
“So basically,” I said. “Since you were using your own mana, you ran into mana exhaustion. Fortunately with your reserves being small you easily return to a reasonable threshold for comfort.”
“Okay,” Midnight said. “So why am I here?”
“Because I had to go to work, and I didn’t want to just leave you passed out on the counter and disappear,” I said. “Besides, you could possibly help me with work. Though I’m not sure if you’d be okay with getting into combat situations, I’m sure they’d still like to see your utility here.”
Midnight flicked his tail as we walked into the building. “What would that involve?”
“Magical practice, mostly. You could see what else we could do with the bond, specifically using my mana.”
“That sounds fun,” Midnight said. “Are combat abilities important in this world?”
I shrugged, “More than mine. Probably somewhere around average.”
As we stepped through the door, Midnight followed me through the scanner on the left. The one for members of the Power Brigade. I wasn’t sure what the scanner was for but that was what they wanted me to walk through.
Oh, I’d looked up metal detectors. Some of the other scanners at least had components that were metal detectors, but as far as I was aware there wasn’t anything I wasn’t allowed to bring into the Power Brigade. Guns, for example, were perfectly fine. If I had a gun, and a license. I currently had neither, but the point stood.
“Cat’s with you?” the guard asked.
I nodded, and she shrugged.
We stepped into a waiting elevator- there were several, and there was usually one on the ground floor at this time of day. I didn’t see anyone else looking to go down, so I swiped my badge and pressed the button for B7. Every day had to start with a bit of basic fitness.
I saw many familiar faces, if you could call masks faces. There was no requirement to be in our costumes at all times, but it was important to get familiar with moving around in them. The masks were actually quite comfortable, hardly restrictive.
Either way, I saw Rasmus and Maks- Acid Man and Shockfire- along with some of the others we’d worked with. Finally there was Meztli, with her actual face visible. Or at least, I presumed that was her face. The trainer wasn’t wearing a mask, at least. I didn’t know if her powers allowed for a disguise through other means.
Some people were already running around the track, while others were just loitering around for the group training period that was about to start. “You brought a cat?” Maks asked.
I nodded. “That’s right. This is Midnight. Midnight, meet Acid Man, Shockfire, and Meztli.”
“Hello Midnight,” Meztli crouched down in front of him and waved.
“Greetings, Meztli,” Midnight flicked his tail back and forth. “Turlough has spoken of your training prowess.”
Meztli blinked, then stood up. She walked over to me, putting an arm around my shoulder and dragging me away. “Turlough.”
“Is that a talking cat?”
I had to think about that one. “Technically no?” I answered.
“I think we’re going to have to go more in depth on that answer,” Meztli said calmly. “Because I certainly heard your cat talk.”
“Midnight isn’t a cat,” I clarified.
“Is it some sort of magical construct?” Meztli asked.
“No,” I shook my head. “He’s a Celmothian.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Meztli continued. I was getting from her voice that I might have done something wrong, but she was pretty sure I didn’t know it was wrong. I heard that voice from people pretty regularly here. “But that sounds like he’s an alien.”
“No, that should be right,” I nodded. “I’m pretty sure he should be from another planet and not a different dimension.”
“He spoke pretty clearly. Sapient?” Meztli asked.
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“Then why is he here?” Meztli gestured around the room.
“Well, I was coming in for training and thought it would help to have him. Is there… some sort of problem with aliens?”
Meztli raised an eyebrow, “You think we have a problem with aliens?” Meztli gestured towards a writhing mass of tentacles. “Jim works here. Lots of aliens work here. What I have a problem with is bringing an unauthorized person into the Power Brigade.”
“But he’s my familiar?” I tilted my head.
“Knowing someone doesn’t mean you can just bring them in here,” Meztli sighed. “I don’t care how ‘familiar’ he is-” I was trying to figure out how to explain when I was saved by another arrival.
“That’s your familiar?” Great Girl had entered the room, and looked from me to Midnight. “He’s so cuuuuute!” She scooped him up and held him in front of her. “What’s your name, little guy?”
Cat Buddy looked perturbed at being picked up, but he really didn’t have any way to escape except to try to wiggle out of her grasp. “My name is Midnight Deathstalker,” he said plainly. He waited for a moment as his wiggling didn’t produce fruit. “Could you please put me down?”
“Oooh, you can talk?” She placed him back on the ground and patted his head, then looked at me. “I didn’t know cat familiars could talk. I thought it was only ravens?”
“We are sharing the Translation spell,” I commented.
Great Girl was pulled into our little group while Midnight readjusted himself on the ground, looking at all of the new people. Meztli looked between me and Great Girl. “Alright, so I’ve gathered that familiar is some sort of official terminology. Turlough, you wait a moment while she explains what she thinks that means.”
“A familiar is an animal that shares a magical bond with their master,” Great Girl explained. “Or sometimes a summoned spirit.”
Meztli looked to me.
“Basically the first thing,” I confirmed.
“Except that Midnight isn’t an animal,” Meztli pointed out. I shrugged. She held her face in her hands.
I was pretty good at understanding things, once they were explained to me. Bringing unauthorized people into a place like this was a ‘security risk’, and apparently a magical bond connecting Midnight to me wasn’t a good enough guarantee of his safety. Not that they had a specific clause for magical bonds, but there were various sorts of powers that created connections of various levels of durability between people. Either way, I was supposed to get approval before bringing someone into restricted areas, which was basically the entire building.
I’d technically read that section of the rules- I read all of them- but I’d not really absorbed it at the time because I didn’t have a familiar, nor intend to get one. Things with Cat Buddy just sort of happened.
In the end, Meztli gave her temporary approval, on the condition that he be kept under watch- and that I demonstrate the practical reasons I had brought him. That involved getting Great Girl’s assistance, or rather she volunteered to help.
So now we were in a big training room, having already gone through morning exercises. Midnight had run laps too, though only a couple. I couldn’t really blame him though, with those short legs.
“So basically,” I said, “I can duplicate most magic I use on myself on him, as well as use some spells from his location.” I was really hoping this worked, because I hadn’t really tested it. “With your permission, I can demonstrate Shocking Grasp. I’ll reduce the power so it’s less… unpleasant.”
“Yeah,” Great Girl nodded, “I’m not a big fan of pain. So I’d appreciate that.”
“Okay Midnight,” I said. “Just go stand next to her. When you feel the power, just reach out and touch her ankle, and will the electricity to flow into her.” If he hadn’t used Storage all on his own, I would have been more worried about him getting things first time- but I was the one making the magic happen, and all he had to do was let it.
Midnight nodded. I reduced the power of Shocking Grasp to about a tenth. More than the tiny zaps I used on the people in Mossley, but too low to cause any real damage to someone with powers. I noticed Great Girl was standing about eight feet tall. Did her durability scale with size? Even if it didn’t, with more area for the electricity to spread it should help. Probably.
“Ready?” I asked both Midnight and Great Girl. Then I had the power flow into Midnight, casting the spell through him. I didn’t often get to see what it looked like from an observer’s perspective, though I did see my hands covered in lightning. It seemed it was mostly concentrated around Midnight’s paws, but little sparks of electricity came off of him elsewhere.
Then he batted his paw against Great Girl’s ankle.
“Ack!” she lifted her leg and danced around. “That still stings.”
“Sorry,” Midnight said. “Turlough made me do it.” I could feel a small sense of amusement from Midnight. Even if he kept his tail still, I could still feel he had enjoyed using magic like that.
“Oh please, I didn’t make you do anything. Anyway, the power was significantly reduced on purpose but at full power it should be the same effect as when we sparred.”
Great Girl nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense. I didn’t expect it to be different. Though I thought you’d have to charge him up next to you and then send him out.”
“That would be stupid,” I said. “If it worked like that, who would bother casting through familiars? They’d just be an obvious threat that people squashed.” I paused. “Don’t worry Midnight, with Force Armor up you’re probably nearly as durable as me.”
“Is that really better than your floating hand, though?” Meztli asked. “I mean, it’s certainly less expected for a cat to suddenly be a danger, but…”
“It costs mana to use Mage’s Reach,” I said. “Besides the initial creation of Familiar Bond, it’s free.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Meztli said. “It has to cost something to maintain a magical connection.”
“Does it?” I shrugged. “There have been no recorded issues. Maybe the animal provides the mana? They don’t have much though.”
“Animals have mana?” she asked.
“Well, kind of…” I frowned. That got back into that whole blood magic thing. A base humanoid had five mana at level 0, though only a small portion of that was retrieved. Animals either had less or the process was less efficient. Midnight clearly had the proper amount, but he was… a person. Not a humanoid though. “It’s not really something that was studied. Even the people who could talk with animals couldn’t get them to do math.”
“Hmm,” Meztli frowned. “And Midnight isn’t an animal. Or from your world. So it’s difficult to tell.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“While this is interesting,” Meztli said. “I’m not sure it was worth the security risk. You really need to start thinking ahead.”
With the conversation shifting towards possible real punishments, I decided to try to distract it. “Hey Great Girl. If it’s not a secret… how big can you get? I saw you hit twelve or something.”
“Well, something like that,” she hedged. I didn’t know if that was actually her limit, but I knew she hadn’t stayed that size for long. But it was just an excuse to shift the topic anyway.
“… Wanna get bigger?” I looked over to Meztli. “For reference, she should about double in height.” I looked up. This was one of the tall, cylindrical rooms. It should be more than enough.
“… You can use Enlarge Person?” A grin crept onto Great Girl’s face. “Yeah! Let’s do that!”
I couldn’t actually use Enlarge. Not until a few seconds later, anyway, taking 5 points to learn the 3rd level spell. With no objection from Meztli except maybe a sigh, we were absolutely going to do this. And not just to distract things from me maybe getting actual punishment.