Familiar feelings


Warnings/notes: Loiosh, Ambrus, shortie, ooc.

Disclaimer: The wondrous world of Dragaera was created by Steven Brust.

written at 15th july 2006, by Misura


For some reason, it never occured to me that there might have been trouble until it was too late. I'd just finished sort-of teaching my jhereg how to behave in someone else's house - you know, the basics, like not climbing the curtains or stealing food or sharpening his tiny claws on the table-legs. Thus, it only seemed logical to go and pay a visit to Noish-pa, to show him.

Perhaps, I admit, I also wanted to show off a little. Not a bad word about cats in general, and Ambrus in particular, but at the time I'm talking about, I was young. I wasn't stupid, I think, at least not in the not-yet-grown-up sense of the word, only I may have felt a bit proud of managing to get a jhereg for a familiar. Let's be fair here; Loiosh being a jhereg instead of, say, a cat has saved my life several times over. A fact of which he makes sure to remind me every time I compare him to Ambrus, but let's not go there now. This is a story about when I still thought Loiosh was somewhat cute and one of the best things that had happened to me.

I arrived a little after lunch-time. I remember I could still smell the food, even if I don't know exactly what Noish-pa had prepared that day. I recall the warmth though, the sensation of coming home that I never got when I came back to the place where I lived. Noish-pa's shop always had a special kind of smell that made me feel welcome and at ease. Even Loiosh seemed to sense it, calming down a bit after having fidgeted all the way there, making me wish I'd thought of a different way to carry him than simply holding him. Of course, in hindsight, he might have merely picked up on my anxiety at first, and relaxed when we arrived because I did so.

At the time though, I was sure it meant my grandfather was a very special person. I still think so, really, just not for the same reasons as back then.

Noish-pa rose when I entered, calling me 'Vladimir' and politely asking me if I'd eaten already. I told him I had, and coaxed Loiosh to come out of the cloak I'd wrapped him in and say 'hello'.

"Mama?" he asked.

I didn't think he'd really understand the concept of a great-grandfather, so I shook my head, before I realized he couldn't see me.

"Noish-pa," I said. "Friend." With my luck, he'd think all strange people who weren't trying to kill me were called 'Noish-pa'. Either that, or he'd do the same thing he'd done when I'd tried to get him to stop calling me 'mama'.

"Hello, Loiosh," my grandfather told the bundle on his table. Ambrus looked up at the sound of his voice and jumped on his lap. Maybe he was worried about my jhereg being competition.

"Noish-pa," Loiosh said, quite clearly. He waddled out of the cloak, nearly stumbling. I didn't laugh at him, but when I remember the way he looked, stumbling and looking clumsy and helpless, I can't imagine why. I guess I was still too awed by having an actual familiar. (Once he started getting the hang of talking back to me, it got old very fast.)

My grandfather solemnly reached out his hand. My jhereg sniffed at it for a few seconds, nodded, and allowed his head to be scratched. It also seems an anti-climax now, but I was very relieved that things had gone so well, and that Loiosh hadn't bitten Noish-pa or done something rude.

"Vladimir. I found some books that I think might be of use to you. I intended to show them to you the next time you came by for dinner, but since you are here, I suppose I might as well show you to them now." He rose and led me to where he kept all of his herbs and books. I followed him without any hesitation. It didn't even occur to me that it might not be safe to leave Loiosh behind.

Mind you, the weeks before, I'd have gotten a reputation for being paranoid about something happening to my jhereg, if anyone had been able to see the way I took care of him. Perhaps it was because I still felt like it was pure luck that he hadn't been killed in the egg when I'd gone and gotten myself into trouble. Perhaps, as Kragar told me once, it's because contrary to all impressions and expectations people may have of me, I do have a motherly side.

Whatever it was that had made me watch over my jhereg like a hawk with only one hatchling, it didn't make me doubt for a moment that Loiosh would be safe in my grandfather's house. I went to take a look at the books, which were indeed very interesting. They were about witchcraft and a little about sorcery, and one day, they'd get me into a lot of trouble with Morrolan, but that's another story altogether. My grandfather assured me it had cost him nothing at all to acquire them, and that I was welcome to consider them a gift, and keep them for as long as I wished.

I don't think we were gone all that long; I'd be surprised if it was more than half an hour. When we got back though, Loiosh and Ambrus were engaged what looked like a staring contest, eyeing each other warily and not moving so much as a muscle.

"Good. Friend." I tried to think happy thoughts about cats. "No danger," I added. Then I became aware that Ambrus wasn't actually the one I should be concerned about. True, a full-grown jhereg would probably have no problem at all in fighting off a cat, but Loiosh was still very small. Ambrus could pounce on him and break his neck before I'd even be able to do anything at all.

"Vladimir." My grandfather put his hand on my arm. He must have noticed I had tensed, although I truly hope he never realized how close I came to killing his familiar for nothing worse than looking at Loiosh in a way that made me nervous. "There is no reason for alarm. Ambrus would never harm a friend."

Loiosh's tongue flicked out. Ambrus' whiskers twitched.

"There, you see? They are merely getting to know each other." My grandfather smiled, grabbed a chair and gestured that I ought to sit down. I did so.

"Mama." Loiosh sounded curious.

"Cat," I told him. Then, because today seemed a good day for his learning new words, I added: "Ambrus."

"Cat. Ambrus," Loiosh repeated obediently. I rewarded him by scratching his head.

My grandfather stroked Ambrus, who started purring loudly. The sound appeared to surprise Loiosh at first, but he remained calm, his claws sheathed.

"Noish-pa. Friend. Ambrus," Loiosh recited.

"That's right," I said. "You're going to be talking in full sentences in no time at all." (Actually, it took him three months, and by then, I'd wisened up enough to realize the advantages of a familiar that wasn't capable of giving you his exact opinion of you. Too late, of course.)

"Mama." Loiosh sounded pleased, either with himself, or because I was pleased.

"Papa." One more try, couldn't hurt, I was sure. "Not mama. Papa."

"Mama," Loiosh said, stubbornly.

I sighed and gave up. It was a lovely day in Summer, and I intended to treat myself to a nice dinner - prepared by yours truly, of course, because at this time, dining at Valabar's was definitely not something my purse could handle.

To be quite honest with you, I think I was really very happy that afternoon, not to say lucky to have what I had. Like with many things though, I wasn't aware of it at the time. I guess it's true what they say about only knowing how good something you had was when you don't have it anymore.

(This goes for loved ones as much as for familiars who are incapable of coherent speech.)

the end