I've already gotten a bit of feedback from friends, but I'd like more from an unbiased pool, as well. Please let me know what you think, whatever it may be!
“It’s alright, Rose.” Allistair murmured reassuringly, his soft, calming voice washing over her.
The moon illuminated the area around the forest, catching the small family that sat at its foot in a dull glow. The mother’s skin crackled with energy, as she laid out the wards needed to protect her daughter. The daughter in question clung desperately to her father’s leg, trembling from the intimidating aura brought on by her mother’s sheer display of power , despite the man’s gentle coaxing.
“It’s d-dark,” she whimpered into his leg, hoping that she might be able to convince him to leave her be if she closed her eyes tight enough. Alas, that wouldn’t be the case.
“Don’t worry your little head, dear,” her father whispered, as gently as ever. He bent to her level, stroking through his daughter’s deep red, wavy locks. “Your mother wouldn’t send you in there to be hurt, now, would she?” Rose sniffled, finally bringing her self to look at her mother, and took a few moments to take in the great energy the woman was giving off. She was certainly a force to behold, and perhaps more frightening than most any monster Rose had ever thought up on her own. This gave her some comfort.
“…do I have to stay for a long time?” Rose asked uncertainly, wiping the tears from her face. Her father gave a soft smile in response.
“Well, it’s important for you to meet with your familiar,” he said. “They’re going to be the start of your training, after all, and that’s very important. But even so, if it gets to be too much for you in there, we can try again next month.”
“It’s ready, Alistair!” called Rose’s mother, the last bits of magic fading from her skin as she rejoined her family. Her steely gaze met Rose’s soft one, and the young girl felt herself tense up. “Ready, Rose?”
The witchling hesitated.She knew this was a big day, and while she didn’t fully comprehend it, even at the tender age of 5 she could tell this meant a lot to her family. She’d been raised on these stories, after all. Having one’s own familiar was about as important for a fledgling witch as having a pair of working arms was for anybody. Or so her mother would tell her. Being the latest in a long line of powerful spell casters certainly didn’t ease the pressure of such a vast milestone.
It took a few moments, but finally Rose nodded her little head, and reluctantly begrudgingly released her hold on her father’s leg.
The mother nodded back. “Good. Now remember, speak your true name only to the creature that calls out to you,” her mother instructed, her tone much more stern than the man beside her. “If anyone else is to hear that name, you risk losing control of yourself to another. Understand?”
“Y-yes, mama,” Rose muttered. She didn’t, really, but she could tell it would make her mother very angry if it was let out, so she didn’t want to disappoint.
“Alright then.” She replied curtly. “Let’s not waste anymore time – if you run into trouble, call out and we’ll come get you. But be sure to only call out in an emergency, else your familiar may not appear before you.”
So that was that. With some final words of encouragement from her father, Rose began the trek deep into the trees. The thick leaves above quickly blocked out the light of the moon and stars, leaving only the faint blue and purple glow of mushrooms to light her path. That, and the occasional spark of light that came from various different inhabitants of these woods – from faeries to curious nymphs, all training their eyes on the little witch-to-be.
She was hardly the first, the creatures knew, and she wouldn’t be the last. Rose was just one of many children to perform this ancient ritual, whereupon after learning their true name–a name bound to her very soul – the child would venture out on a full moon to discover her familiar. A creature destined to guide a witch through her studies, empower her and lend strength, a constant companion through her trials. At least, according to the stories Rose was told. She wasn’t sure if her mother’s thunder bird familiar, Arok, was much of a guiding anything, with how often the beast scorched her toys. Rose wrinkled her nose at the thought, a tinge of resentment bubbling forth at that cursed bird, before quashing it.
She needed to focus. Loyal guide and teacher or no, Rose knew she would have to go through this for every full moon if she didn’t find her familiar this night, so she wasn’t going to argue the topic much. She figured she would just try to make friends with the first forest animal that didn’t run from her and get this madness over with. But as the thought crossed her mind, it felt as though the forest’s creatures wanted very little to do with her, outside of getting a free show to a child stumbling in the dark.
Though discouraged by the thought, she walked forward, until finally she found a break in the trees, opening to a small clearing bathed in the soft, white light of the moon. Initially, Rose hoped she might be able to take a break while she collected her thoughts on what to do next – perhaps simply call it quits now and deal with another trip later – when something else caught her attention. Much to her surprise, Rose could see someone wandering about on the far side of the clearing. A tall figure wrapped in a dark cloak, hunched over and doing…something to the ground. Rose couldn’t tell what, but she was mostly concerned that a person was here at all. They lived in a fairly small town, so most everyone should’ve known that tonight was her ritual night. And even if they hadn’t, her mother’s wards should have taken care of anyone who hadn’t gotten word somehow…
Heart thrumming loudly in her chest, Rose took a step back, hoping to sneak back to where her mother and father were waiting, when she stumbled. She didn’t have time to see what caused the fall, as the figure immediately took notice of the intruder, and the familiar flash of magic lit the clearing with in a chilling blue glow. Rose tried to let out a cry for help, but she found the words seemed to die on her lips, and she couldn’t tell if it was a spell, or her own fear. Perhaps a mixture of both, her heart pounding furiously out of her ribcage as the stranger drew closer. She tried to move but found herself rooted to the spot on the ground, her body tensing under the pressure of the magic restraining her.
The stranger bent to grasp her arm none too gently, yanking her up. And it was only now that she noticed an odd shadow looming behind, something she could only just barely make out. It whispered in the ear of the other person, who upon reaching Rose, she found to be a man.
He stared down with cold, crazed eyes as Rose struggled in his grip. She tried again to scream, call out, anything, but her throat felt tight and closed whenever she tried. All she could do was let silent tears drip down her face while fear took over.
"Sorry, kid," came the gravelly voice of the stranger. "Can't have you ratting me out." As he spoke, the shadow behind him seemed to tremble, and those bizarre eyes began to glow fiercely. She wasn't sure what it meant, but she knew this man – whoever he was – wasn't about to let her see her mother or father, if he could help it. What that entailed precisely, she wasn't sure, and felt herself succumbing to defeat. Was she going to die here? Would her parents ever find her, when morning came? Her mind could scarcely comprehend either concept. She didn't want this, but what could she do otherwise?
Even as these thoughts raced through her mind, however, her eyes stayed fixated on the shadowed being behind the man. While she couldn't seem to cry out for her mother, she found herself mouthing, "Help me" to this creature. At doing so, there was another tremble, and it glanced off to the side.
The stranger's hand rose, and magic energy began to crackle around him. But before he could perform whatever spell he had in mind, suddenly his face turned to great fear. He immediately dropped her, letting Rose tumble to the ground. Air rushed in to her lungs, and her throat no longer had the same tight feeling as before. Looking up to see why, she found the stranger had tripped over himself, and was quickly backing away from what looked like a large dragon now hovering above them.
"S-stop that thing!" the man shouted in the direction of the shadow. The creature's form shook once again, however this time, a figure appeared in front of them. The figure of a tall man, with twisted horns sprouting from a head that flickered with violet flames. Five separate eyes fixated on the agitated stranger on the ground, looking unimpressed.
"I'm sorry, I don't believe we've fulfilled our deal, yet," replied the creature. "I'm afraid I don't have much influence over this plane until we do, so you're on your own. I do suggest fleeing, however."
The dragon let out a vicious roar, and Rose thought of running as well, but when the stranger began fleeing the woods, she found herself once again compelled by…something. Not magic this time, thank goodness, but… something that was both foreign and familiar all at once. Before she could fully understand it, however, she watched as the dragon turned to mist, vanishing from sight, and now the unknown creature – man? – focused his attention on her.
"Quite an unusual familiar you have," he mused, kneeling before her. Rose couldn't help but note the creature's clawed feet, and a whip-like tail that curled around him as he observed her. She tensed at his approach, but something about the way he was now smiling at her kept her calm. Was this the work of magic?
"Worry not, little one. I won't be hurting you. I couldn't even if I wanted to." As if to demonstrate, he moved to touch her hand, only for his own to become shadow once more until he moved away. "I'm afraid I don't have much more time in this plane, if I've no one to make a deal with. But you won't have anything more to fear – it's not often that a young witch is blessed with the attention of a creature of the fae."
"F…fae…?" Rose squeaked, though as she did, she suddenly felt a fuzzy something bump against her arm. Looking down, she saw what resembled a rabbit, except this rabbit had blackened fur, piercing fuschia eyes, and what looked to be a small horn on its head. A long, winding tail topped with a tuft of fur curled around her arm like a protective hug, which sent an oddly pleasant sensation of electricity throughout her body.
"You're going to be quite the interesting little witch," said the creature, pulling back Rose's attention. She could see he was beginning to fade, but still kept his smile. "I can't imagine anyone better suited to handle Selena's promise."
A blaring alarm began to sound off, signaling her mother's wards had gone off. And with that, the creature vanished into nothing, long before Rose could think to ask what he meant. Instead, her attention shifted to the fae rabbit, who had taken it upon themself to curled up in her lap, and growl at the noises as though to protect her from them, too.
The rest of the evening from that point on was something of a blur. Her mother and father rushed to her side, both relieved beyond words to see that she wasn't hurt. Authorities were called, and the hooded stranger was eventually pulled away in restraints. Rose heard something about the man illegally summoning demons, which she didn't fully understand, nor did she really care to. She was tired, and was simply glad that the night was finally over.
At least, almost.
"I'm…supposed to say my true name to you, right…?" she inquired of the rabbit. Their nose twitched curiously, as her parents spoke in the background. "That way…we'll be together forever, I think…would you like to hear it?" At this, her familiar's ears perked up, as if to listen closely. "Alright. My name is…”