Thursday, July 7, 2011

Glyphs: On The Subject of Mythics and Familiars

Hello! Welcome to Writer's Podium Thursday! I have a brand new story in the works, and to keep my butt in gear on writing it, I will be posting new bits here every week. Theoretically I should get a chapter a week done and put up. For now, and for lack of a better name, the working title of this story is Glyphs. I hope that you enjoy it, please feel free to share feedback (negative and positive). This is definitely a work in progress, so I ask you to bear that in mind.

Feel free to share this, if you are so inclined, by linking to my page. All work below is mine, owned by me, not to be copied, reproduced, reused, you get the idea. Again, thanks so much for reading. Now, on to the story!

Here, have a prologue.


(Excerpt from The Age Arcana by Alain Bosgart.)

On the Subject of Mythics and Familiars

Historians may disagree on the common assertion that such a thing as "magic" existed in the Age Arcana (this scholar firmly believing such to be the case) but irrefutable scholastic evidence does show that the creatures known to us as Mythics[1] did at one time walk in our world.

After the Age Arcana ended with the separation of the Mundane and Forgotten Realms[2] many scholars assert that these now extinct beasts were not entirely banished from our realm, with some remaining stranded here, roaming the wild places in the world. A long-standing belief is also held by many that the rift between realms took many centuries to fully close, allowing for passage between the two places for those adventurous (or mad) enough to make the journey. These two factors allowed for the rise of a class of citizens known as Summoners.

Those who would become the Summoners discovered the creation of two separate realms placed certain binding laws on the interaction between the men of the Mundane Realm and the beasts relegated to the Forgotten Realm, the Mythics. Certain ancient words (that this scholar concludes must be left over from the time when magic was a tool available to men) could be used to capture and control these beasts, tying them inexorably to the will of their captors.

Once captured, a Mythic's life-force is redistributed and a pictorial representation of the beast appears on the skin of its captor[3], the Summoner. Should the Summoner wish to make use of his familiar's abilities, he need only touch the glyph on his skin and speak the Word of Summoning. The glyph would then disappear and the familiar reappear, ready to carry out its captor's commands.

Though the entire process itself seems to be one of "magic," that is all of the supernatural there is to it as far as this scholar has been able to ascertain. Once summoned a familiar can only do that which its nature allows, although these things may seem magical enough. For example, if one's familiar was a dragon, one could summon it to carry him through the air in flight, or to use its fiery breath to burn something down. If one possessed a unicorn as familiar, the unicorn could be summoned to detect the presence of virgins in a village, a phoenix might be summoned to heal someone ill beyond the care of our medicines, and so on.[4]

Surely the reader can imagine the kind of power this would place in the hands of a Summoner. Thankfully, all of the scholastic data available on the topic[5] shows that Summoners were from the very beginning a solitary sort and very rarely sought one another's company. A band of Summoners is a terrible thing to imagine and, this scholar believes, no town would have been able to stand against such a group had one decided to seek power.

Indeed, much has been speculated on why exactly Summoners were so solitary. This scholar suspects that when a familiar is carried as a glyph on the Summoner's body, the life-force of the Mythic is in fact joined with that of the Summoner. Most Mythics were also believed to be solitary creatures, and a human carrying the life-force of such a beast would begin to exhibit many of the characteristics of his captured familiar[6], preventing him from seeking the company of other people.

As one might expect, the solitary nature of the Mythics also tended to dissuade Summoners from seeking out more than one familiar. In the extremely rare cases of a Summoner possessing multiple familiars the individuals have been well-documented to exhibit signs of mental instability. It should be note that whether this was their reason for seeking out more than one familiar or a direct effect of such action is woefully unclear.

Certainly an argument can be made for mental instability as a consequence, since a Summoner must demonstrate remarkable power of will to bend a Mythic to do his bidding. Even captured and bound by whatever mysterious laws that cause the Words of Power to control these creatures, they are fiercely independent beings that, once caged, will fight furiously for their freedom. A Summoner must undergo a constant struggle for control while a familiar is unsheathed, so to speak, lest the beast turn on its own master in an ill-guided attempt for emancipation. Such a victory on the part of the beast is short-lived, however, as the death of a Summoner has been irrefutably documented to result in the instant death of the familiar as well.

Familiars can be released, it seems, as there also exists a Word of Release. Again, research shows this to be an action rarely undertaken. In almost all cases, releasing a familiar has resulted in the freed Mythic turning instantly on its former captor, resulting in the death of the Summoner, although not of the beast. At least, until the rampaging beast was subsequently put down by local folk banding together against it in fear of their lives. This, too, was a common result of an attempted release of a familiar.

This scholar will note that a scrap from a journal found in his travels[7] seems to indicate that it is possible for a Summoner to release a familiar without incurring harm to oneself. The method requires the Summoner to locate a path into the Forgotten Realm itself and release the creature there, after explaining to it that it will be freed if it promises to let the Summoner leave unmolested. The author seemed to believe that only in the Forgotten Realm can a freed familiar avoid the "temporary madness" caused upon the breaking of the bond between man and creature. The author went on to suggest that the madness about which he wrote was the reason that released familiars so often turned upon their former captors.

This scholar is dubious about the veracity of the account but does find it an intriguing notion worth mentioning. It also brings up the question of communication between Summoners and their familiars. One must suppose that communication is necessary in order for a summoned familiar to carry out its master's will. No documentation, aside from a few ancient stories clearly written for young children, seems to suggest these creatures were at any time capable of human speech. Alas, this scholar has no solution to the question posed, but brings it up to illustrate how much information about this curious bond has been lost to the ages.

Scholastic evidence seems to support that Summoners did at one time exist in the Mundane Realm, though many would prefer to write them off as fanciful tales from less practical times. These same people would also, this scholar is sure,  very much like to argue that Mythics never existed as well, and that the bones so prominently displayed in museums are nothing more than an elaborate hoax. Or even that the Age Arcana itself is nothing more than a story passed down from our more primitive ancestors, meant to entertain rather than to educate.

At any rate, it is quite clear that no Summoners exist today. No Summoner, indeed nor any sightings of Mythics, have been documented in almost two centuries. Perhaps all paths between the realms have finally closed off, separating us forever from those fantastical beasts of olden days. Without any Mythics in the Mundane Realm, and without any way into the Forgotten Realm to find them another way, Summoners have sadly died out.

For posterity's sake, this scholar has, with great risk and effort, managed to discover the three words of power used by Summoners to bind and control Mythics. They are as follows:

               GĂ©illeadh (The Word of Command, used to capture a Mythic.)
               Toghairm (The Word of Summoning, used to call a familiar into being from its glyph form.)
               Saoirse (The Word of Release, used to set a bound Mythic free.)

[1] Mythics is the accepted classification of such fantastical beasts such as dragons, phoenixes, griffons, fairies, unicorns, winged horses, sphinxes, etc. For more detailed entries about Mythics, as well as illustrations, refer to Index 8C, beginning on page 456 of this work. -AB
[2] For information regarding the separation of the Realms, and the existing debates on that topic, please see this scholar's work Forgotten But Not Gone: An Answer to the Rising Assertion That There Is No Such Thing As the Forgotten Realm. -AB
[3] The fringe "art" of tattooing, or permanently  marking one's skin with pictures in ink,  can be traced back to the time from when stories of Summoners began to appear on record. In his work Struggling to Retain the Fantastical this scholar asserts that the two are quite clearly linked. -AB
[4] The examples provided are based on the legends of creatures known as Mythics and their asserted abilities. For more information, see Index 8C. -AB
[5] Of which very little remains, after the Great Purge of Useless Knowledge. This scholar searched far and wide to find the information used to create this work. For a complete list of references, please see Index 13. -AB
[6] Such phenomena have, in fact, been documented in several accounts of Summoners. See Index 13 for more information on these accounts. -AB
[7] Sadly, the document was found on its own with no indication as to its author or date of origin. See Index 12 for a full account of the validation of and a transcription of the referenced document. -AB

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