True Slayers: Reckoning, Part Fifteen

Jack’s a genius. I know you think that’s just the crush talking. Hey, he’s also handsome, cute, urbane, witty and great fun to be with – even when we’re working. THAT is the crush talking. The genius part is professional respect.

Jack had said the next part wasn’t essential but it would work. James and I were sure it wouldn’t stand a chance. Jack was right.

A warlock’s familiars – even those of an arcane – are like an extension of himself. The bond between warlock and familiar is much stronger than that of a slayer’s familiar. To Mr. Myers, losing his familiars was like losing a dear friend. To a warlock, it’s like losing an arm and your best friend ever. True, none of his familiars were dead – and he knew it. He’d have felt that loss, sanctuary or no, but the fact that they were in a sanctuary kept him from sensing them or connecting with them – doesn’t hurt quite as much but it must really hurt.

Anyway, having so many familiars go missing is a big deal. James and I were sure he wouldn’t risk any of the others. We didn’t think there would be any strays for Ayami to pick up that night.

But Jack said what the warlock wanted didn’t matter – Vinnie would want them sent out so out they would go. He was right. Ten more mice, another hamster and the final ferret were rounded up by Ayami. Sometime around three she’d brought in the last. An hour later, she asked permission to hunt in the warlock’s building. Jack gave it and Mr. Myers went outside to the alley to be available if Ayami needed him.

Ayami was back an hour later, insufferably pleased with herself according to Mr. Myers. They went back in and Ayami was delighted to report she’d gotten into the warlock’s apartment. It had been easy – he had left the door open. She found him sitting by a desk, reading aloud from a large book in a language she didn’t recognize. He didn’t notice her so she surveyed the entire apartment. Not a rodent to be found – only a lonely opossum (she described it to me later and I identified it – ‘possums are common back home but not in New York or Tokyo) – that was definitely a natural creature and not a familiar. She went back out the way she came, the man never even looked up.

Mr. Myers told Jack that it confirmed the guy was an arcane, not a warlock. A warlock would not need to intone the spell just to keep up with his familiars. That was when Jack asked why he was doing it at all if they already had the entire crew. Mr. Myers said later that Ayami turned a bright crimson just before transforming and diving out the window. They met her in the basement – another hamster.

Ayami went back in the other building. The door was still open but the man was definitely moving around and no longer reading aloud. She slipped back out the front, not bothering to go in. Her work was done.

She woke me as usual coming in at dawn. This time I sat up, “Hey.”

“So sorry, not mean to wake.” She whispered.

“Not your fault.” I told her truthfully. “How’d it go?”

“Ayami capture all – warlock have no more familiar. Just pet with rat tail – not rat.” she paused, climbing into bed, “That funny – he have no rat. Many mice, other little mice things, no rat.”

Now that she mentioned it, it was odd. I got my phone and sent Jack a text so I wouldn’t forget. He wasn’t asleep yet and responded.

“Jack wants to know if you smelled any rats when you were in the apartment.”

Ayami, thought for a moment, “No, no rat smell. Funny milk smell from big thing with rat tail but no smell of rat.”

I texted as I spoke to Ayami. “The thing with the rat tail, did it have wiry fur and a sharp, pointy nose?”

Ayami nodded, “Yes. Look like rat face but longer. Fur like wire, not like rat.”

“Opossum.” I told her, reading Jack’s response. “It’s a marsupial.” I texted that tidbit to Jack. “Jack wants to know if you smelled any normal rats around the area while you were hunting.”

“Oh yes, many rats in city.” Ayami confirmed. “None belong to warlock. Not… Ayami not know word in English.” She pronounced something in Japanese.

“Sense.” Kagome offered as she rolled over and sat up, “Do you two ever sleep?”

I smiled apologetically, “Not a lot, no. Sorry to wake you.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Ayami spoke something in Japanese then said, “How say?”

Kagome thought for a moment. “Familiars feel different – they have a different… Hang on.” She grabbed her phone and did a quick search, “How do you pronounce a-u-r-a?”

“Aura.” I told her.

She nodded and turned to her cousin, “They have a different aura.”

Ayami nodded, repeating the new word.

“And none of the rats you came across had that?” I asked.

Ayami nodded, “Yes, they just rats.”

I sent Jack the reply. I wanted to go back to sleep but now that bothered me. I climbed out of bed and went to my bookcase. “Hey, Ayami, you are gonna get enough sleep, right?”

She laughed, “Ayami have classes in morning. In afternoon, can take catnap.”

I chuckled at the pun, pulling down the volume I wanted and went back to the bed.

“What are you looking up?” Kagome asked.

“Arcanes.” I answered. “A warlock doesn’t have restrictions on the types of animals that he can use as familiars, just the number. This guy has a tremendous number – more than a warlock could handle – but I’m wondering if…” I got lost in the book, reading the part I was after.

The cousins waited politely for their rude, crazy American friend to stop reading.

I looked up, “I got… Oops, sorry…” I blushed.

Kagome shook her head, “What did you find?”

“Arcanes rely on spells – that makes it possible for them to control more familiars than a warlock just acting under his own power – but there will always be a catch. Depends on the spell as to what the catch will be…”

“But his spell may forbid rats?” Kagome completed the thought.

I looked around at her, “Exactly. You sure you’re not a slayer?”

She smiled, “No, no, nothing of the sort. Is there a way to find out?”

I shrugged, “Steal his spell book, I suppose. Not sure if it matters.”

I texted Jack. His first response was to ask if I ever slept. I texted back that we were having a PJ party – sleep was optional and to come over so we could do his hair and nails. He passed on the free manicure and said it probably didn’t matter about the rats but he’d find out tomorrow – assuming I ever let him get any sleep. I sent back that I’d teach him how to use the sleep feature tomorrow and good night.

Ayami was asleep when I looked up from my phone. Kagome had questions that had nothing to do with slaying and everything to do with a guy I knew well enough to text in the middle of the night. We never did get back to sleep – girl talk, you know.