This is a work of short fiction by Alanea Alder- it is unedited and under copyright 2019
“Okay, all familarlings that are part of this year’s Impression please settle on your final forms and get ready to present yourselves to our newest mages!” The portly older mage that took care of them looked out over their gathered group. “Jakin! What have I told you! No Level 5 animals for Impression Day… Don’t you breathe fire at me youngling! Now choose something else,” she ordered.
Gilley looked around, nearly all of his age group was phasing into their final forms so that they could be chosen as familiars by the young mages that they would spend the rest of their lives with. They would help them perform great feats and protect them from harm.
Fear beat a staccato in his chest as anxiety exploded within him. He had struggled for the past few months in deciding on a form. He had seen an amazingly beautiful bird on their trip to the kingdom’s menagerie, but he had only seen it in passing and only the one time.
The clock struck twelve. It was time. The witching hour was upon them. The other familarlings began to meow, bark, purr and chirp around him as they took their place in a long line to be chosen.
In a blind panic he closed his eyes and focused on something practical, a cat, a lovable, serviceable animal that was chosen by many mages. In the distance he heard the door open and excited voices flooded the room.
“Take your time children, remember you will be with your familiars for the rest of your lives. There’s no rush, pick the one that you feel will be a good partner for you.” The older mage smiled warmly at the children.
Gilley swallowed hard. Slowly the line of children inched it’s way through the room.
“This one! She says her name is Raina!”
One by one his friends were chosen and the line moved closer to him. Suddenly a boy was looking down at him his eyes wide. Moments later his mouth twisted before he exploded into laughter. “What a freak!” The little boy pointed at him. “Come look at the freak!”
Gilley tilted his head to one side before looking behind him, instead of a fluffy cat’s tail, to his horror starting mid-back he saw ugly brown feathers sticking up. He looked up at the boy meowing pitifully. In his shame he tried to curl himself around his body to hide the ugly feathers. Child after child pointed and laughed as tear after tear fell.
“Oh dear, children move along, this one will be going back to the hatchery later, failures like this happen sometimes. Keep the line moving.”
Gilley shook from the older mage’s harsh words. He didn’t mean to get stuck in two different forms, it just happened! He’d never be chosen now.
“Don’t cry,” a soft voice said, before a warm hand began to stroke him gently. “Don’t cry.”
He looked up, a little girl was kneeling down beside him. She had unruly red curls sticking up in every direction. She removed her wire glasses to dash away her own tears. “They make fun of me too. They say I’m too fat and my hair is ugly, that I’m too different.”
He stood on shaky legs and placed a comforting paw on her knee. He rubbed his cheek against her leg.
Very carefully she scooped him up and cuddled him against her chest. “But you know what? My gram says that being different is it’s own kind of beauty. If you want, you can come home with me.” She sniffled and held him up so they were eye to eye.
She wanted him? “But I’m a failure, why would you choose me?”
She tilted her head at him. “But, I don’t think you’re a failure, I think it’s amazing that you’re different. Do you not want me?”
“Now see here young lady, why don’t you choose another, a proper animal?” The older mage said reaching for him.
Instinctively the girl turned her body and shielded him from the older woman. “No.”
“No! He’s mine…” she hesitated, then looked down. “Right?”
“Yes! For forever! My name is Gilley!”
She broke out into a wide smile. “He says his name is Gilley,” she announced proudly.
“It figures, a freak for a freak,” the mean boy said holding up a small lizard. “He says his name is Jakin.”
The older mage sighed. “Nothing can be done now, Impression has occurred. I sincerely hope you don’t regret your choice young lady.”
“I won’t.” The girl said firmly. When the mage turned away to assist another child Myra made a face at her back. Gilley tapped her nose making her laugh. She rubbed their noses together before walking away from the group of children still deciding.
Gilley found himself purring as his new mage carried him back to the front of the room to be registered.
“Myra Tempest registering familiar Gilley.” She announced to the handsome male mage holding a quill and scroll.
“Congratulations young Myra and Gilley,” he blinked. “What should I put down for animal type?” he asked.
“What do you think Gilley? You’re the only one like you.”
Gilley never thought he’d be responsible for naming a new animal, especially his own new form. He thought back to the beautiful bird he had tried and failed to become. He looked over to his new best friend. “Hmm…wh-wh-what about Jeweled Storm?”
She nodded. “Perfect!” She turned to the other mage. “Jeweled Storm.”
He smiled broadly. “Excellent choice, especially for that type of bird.”
“What do you mean?”
“Yeah, what does he mean?” Gilley asked.
The mage pointed the quill at Gilley’s back. “He’s still young, just a kitten right? Young birds have different types of feathers as they grow, they’re brown now, but when he grows up they will be stunning. The name really is perfect for the pair of you.” He recorded it carefully before stamping it with an official looking seal. He handed her the certificate. “Best of luck to you both.”
Myra clutched the paper with a death grip. “Thank you. Come on Gilley, time to go home!”
Home! He finally had a home! He lay his head down on her shoulder and began to purr.
Little did he know that tonight was the first night of their lives together and just the beginning of their adventure together, where he would become known as one of the fiercest protectors and his mage the most powerful in the land… but that is another story.