Fudge begins telling Amy his story. (Don’t know Fudge? The prologue is here.)
I came into being in the year you currently number 252 BCE. This is the year I was born as a cat in what you call the country of Egypt. When I opened my eyes, my mother knew there was something different between me and my other siblings and pushed me out of her nest, as one would do the runt of the litter who was not expected to survive.
As the Universe had planned, a young man was nearby and took pity on my mewling. He took me home and hand-fed me until I was old enough to catch food on my own. Abou was a slave-assistant to a mage priest overseeing part of the Library of Alexandria.
Abou had been purchased a few years earlier. He did not know his exact age and his memories of his family are faint…they are overshadowed by a strong memory of hunger. About the only thing he remembered well is scrounging for food in the discards outside a tavern and being caught by a large man who turned him over to a slaver. It was a common enough occurrence in his town that no one came to look for him.
Familiars are born with the knowledge of our kind and the natural instincts of the species we occupy. Even as a newborn kitten, I knew what I was and what I was supposed to do. I must say, waiting for a corporeal body to grow to adulthood can be a frustrating experience.
Also frustrating, we cannot make ourselves known to our human until that person’s magic manifests – usually around puberty but, as you well know, may be much later. It is not until then that their conscious mind will accept our presence. Abou’s magic did not come in until two years after he found me. I spent those first two years being a simple cat. Once I had been weaned off the goat’s milk Abou fed me, I killed rats alongside the other library cats. They were my food but more importantly, by keeping my part of the Library rat-free, I helped preserve the papyri, scrolls and codices of knowledge.
When Abou reached puberty, his magic manifested and I was finally able to fulfill my destiny as his familiar. My first few efforts had him running to his master for a headache remedy until I learned gentleness. After a lot of odd behavior on my part (like nuzzling his face while he was practicing), Abou finally realized the pressure was me and that his magical efforts seemed stronger and more precise. My presence was accepted and we began our partnership. Telling him I wished for water in my dish was as easy as projecting a sense of thirst. Although I still killed rats when I found them in the library, I mostly left that chore to the mundane cats. Abou quickly learned I preferred to share his meal of fish and was not averse to the occasional treat of goat’s milk.
For some reason, he decided not to tell his master about me. Instead, I was perceived as a favored pet and something of a security blanket: Abou took me with him nearly everywhere he went. He even made a comfortable carrier for me when I let him know that the sandy streets were too hot for my delicate paws in the summer and I disliked the mud in the rainy winter months.
I presume you studied something of that time in your history? No? Your educational system is sorely lacking. Then I must give you a brief history lesson before continuing.
Egypt was already an old country when I was born. They worshipped many gods and magic was thought to be a gift of these gods. They did not know about the gene that transmits magical ability. It was a time when magic was a normal part of life, although the practice of it was limited to the priesthood. If a common person manifested magic, it was considered a sign that a male was destined for priesthood to a male god, a female as a priestess to a goddess and those children were brought to a temple of the parents’ choosing as an offering.
While Egypt was a country with many gods, there were some that were only worshipped locally and others who were considered state gods – or those whose worship was dictated by their ruler, or pharaoh. As with most civilizations, they tried to live peaceably with their neighbors but if that could not be achieved, they made war. Egypt was at war quite a bit in my time there.
When Abou’s magic manifested, his master took that as a sign from his god that Abou should follow in his footsteps as a mage-priest and began teaching Abou, rather than simply using him as an errand boy. When not helping visiting mages consult the ancient scrolls for a particular piece of knowledge, fulfilling his function as a priest to his god through ritual and creating spells for petitioners, he taught Abou the Craft. I may have been there only to boost his power but along with Abou, I learned the methods of human magic: how to manipulate energy, the herbcraft of the time and place, and their rituals to their gods. As an aside, camel grass, an ingredient in kyphi, one of their favorite incenses, makes me sneeze violently. Please do not ever use it.
To be continued…