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"I beg of you… My slave who lives somewhere in the universe! Oh sacred, beautiful and strong familiar spirit! I desire and here I plead from my heart! Answer to my guidance!"
For such powerful magic words they are quite vague are they not? The universe has long since been proven to be far more massive than can be measured and the reflections even more infinite. Beautiful and strong can be defined in numerous ways and differ by one's own views of strength and beauty. However, a plea that comes straight from the heart fueled by a desire created from years of emotional torment by one's peers? That is a voice heard by any who are willing to listen.
Familiars of Zero is a series of one-shots featuring a plethora of what-if's consisting of a large cast of characters ranging from the unique to the downright bizarre. However, while the cast of familiars will be diverse a few key little details will remain in effect. All familiars will be sentient and will, at the very least, be chaotic neutral. I may include an "evil" familiar or two but I'm not really into writing horror all that much…
All one-shots shall be followed by an explanatory note regarding the new familiar (the who's, the why's, and the what's), a brief summary of what could continue, and finally explanations towards an "OCness" on the pre-established characters. With that said, I hope you enjoy reading:
The Familiars of Zero
By Corvus no Genmu
"A Dragon of a Different Sort"
The woods are silent, the trees standing tall as silent monoliths forever watching the wondrous world around them with its ever changing creatures going by at what would be but a blink of an eye to most short-lived creatures. The denizens of the forest are mimicking the trees, staying as still and quiet as they can for they recognize the sudden change in the air, that strange coldness that burns away at their courage. A monstrous creature is walking these woods once again, stalking past trees with a graceful step almost unbecoming of such a behemoth. Ash is falling from ancient wings like snow, a spiked tail dragging lifelessly along the ground. Most would think this poor beast was dying and they'd be right in a way.
Living for as long as he has, life was bound to get boring after those first few millennia in a world that never changes and yet is always evolving into something madder, something greater than before. He witnessed the rise of the chessboard fields of the reversed lands, where order was chaos and chaos was order and saw the rise of the Red and White Families of the Ordered Courts. He watched the united rule of the underground divide amongst the Four Suit Families who turned each of their four corners to their whim, never greater nor lesser than the others.
Until she came.
Then, for the first time in a long time, everything changed.
For the better and for the worse, for the good and the bad, but did it really matter? Come another century or two, things would go back to the way there once were and then… what? The chance of another coming to this world was nonexistent and for there to be another child such as her with boundless curiosity and a wondrous sense of adventure?
That brought a pause to his sulking walk. Did he actually miss her? So many months, so many years later and still her face was so easy to see, her voice to hear… The only child in all the world to gaze upon a creature of nightmare and not feel even the slightest of fear. She scoffed at him then, as he recalled, and she wanted nothing more to do with him or anyone else unless they could provide her a way back home, back to a disgusting world of rules and logic.
Why would she even want to go back?
Why didn't she want to stay…?
"I beg of you…"
Webbed frills quiver, a familiar voice speaking in a soundless void.
"My servant who lives somewhere in the universe!"
It couldn't possibly be… but there, in front of him an ethereal oval of green.
"Oh sacred, beautiful and strong familiar spirit!"
Sacred…? Beautiful and strong…? Him…?
"I desire and here I plead from my heart!"
It wasn't her, not the one he knew, but… did it matter? Someone, somewhere was calling out to him.
"Answer to my guidance!"
What else could he do but answer?
Sad as it sounded, Louise had become accustomed to the explosions that accompanied, or resulted from, her spell casting. In point of fact, if she were to somehow cast a spell without blowing something up she'd be concerned. For all of three seconds before the elation sets in, but that moment wasn't yet here and she had something more important to focus on. This cloud of smoke was far larger than any that resulted from her previous spells and granted, this was a summoning spell and thus likely more powerful than a simple transfiguration but still…
When the smoke cleared at long last, Louise felt her heart clench in a painful vice at the sight of the creature before her. Towering above her was what she'd first describe as a dragon but it was by no means any kind of dragon she had ever seen or read about.
For one thing, it was huge, even bigger than the dragon her classmate Tabitha had summoned and looked immensely older. Its forearms were quite small, forcing it to use the hands of its huge, bony wings to move about and it had digitirade hind legs. Its long serpentine tail ended with sharp ivory spikes. Its head was covered in webbed tendrils that fell back along its skull. It was obviously ancient; the edges of its wings torn and ragged, its skin rough like tree bark and it only had enough muscle to move about. Ash fell from its skin with every move it made and when its eyes fell upon her, Louise let out a startled gasp.
Its eye were like flames, deep red and burning in its skull and they stared at her with a strange intensity that made Louise think the beast was looking straight into her soul. A snake's tongue slithered out from its lips, tasting the air and its burning eyes gazed over the gathered students and their familiars, all frozen like statues under its scrutiny.
Kirche managed a choked laugh that sounded more forced than anything as she openly mocked Louise's new familiar. "This makes what you said last night worth it! Only you would summon a dragon on its deathbed, Louise!"
Crimson eyes narrowed and scaly lips curled back in an angry snarl, revealing four large tusks and a mouth full of gleaming sharp fangs. Whether or not it understood Kirche, Louise didn't know but she could tell that it recognized the mockery in her voice.
"That will be quite enough Miss Zerbst." Colbert chided, his tone strict and unforgiving. Unlike the majority of Tristainians, Colbert had a greater level of respect towards certain magical creatures, none more so than dragons. Despite its aged appearance, it was quite obvious that Louise had somehow summoned an endangered, perhaps even the last, dragon of a breed he had never read about, even in the school's illustrious library. He glanced at the pink-haired girl with a bit of confusion in his bespectacled eyes. This was the student infamously named as the Zero by her classmates? His eyes narrowed.
'No elemental affinity… at least, not of the four… could it possibly be?' Clearing his throat, he gestured at the towering dragon. "You may continue with the ritual, Miss Vallière."
Louise stared up at the dragon looking like she'd rather do anything else but she resigned herself to finish the contract. She glanced up at the beast and gestured for it to lower its head down. Red eyes narrowed and the dragon's wings thumped the ground on either side of her as its serpentine neck lowered until it was face-to-face with her. Its slitted tongue slithered out between its lips once more and Louise couldn't help the shiver that went up and down her spine.
Gulping, Louise waved her wand. "My name is Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière. Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers; grant your blessings upon this humble being, and make him my familiar." Finished with the chant, she seemed satisfied that the magic was working without any explosions involved she reached forward and tapped the dragon's forehead with her wand and, quick as a blink, kissed its nose.
She leaned back in surprise, licking her lips. 'Cinnamon?' A blush of embarrassment turned to anger at her familiar's reaction. The thing had literally stumbled back from her, its wings fluttering for balance and its neck straight as a steel rod, disgust or surprise, she couldn't tell, on its face. It was almost comical really.
But something was wrong.
Runes started to trace themselves at the base of the draconic beast's neck, the magic burning brightly on its dark skin. The ash that once lightly fell from its skin was now falling like snow in a blizzard as the beast writhed in absolute agony, its spiked tail whipping across the grounds and sending the spectators running for fear of impalement. The cloud of ash and smoke grew until the dragon was completely out of sight.
And still it did not scream.
The ground suddenly stopped trembling and Louise feared her new familiar dead when suddenly, the cloud was blown away and with it, Louise's breath yet again.
Her familiar was alive; thank the Founder, but more than that it was—
"Beautiful…" Louise whispered, staring up at the draconic beast with dark sapphire scales with a stripe of ivory colored hair growing from the base of its neck down to the spiked tip of its tail. The wings, once torn and ragged at the edges were now pristine and gleamed like freshly poured wine. Its face still had a ferocious, almost angry, quality to it but it looked years, nay centuries younger save for its eyes which still burned like flames in its skull.
Her familiar didn't seem aware of the sudden change to its appearance, glancing first at the runes adorning its neck like a collar before suddenly realizing the difference in scale quality. Its head turned this way and that, wings spreading wide to catch the sun and tail making marvelous twists and turns upon itself. It flexed rejuvenated muscles and moved carefully in a tight circle before making a strange sound that was like a mixture of bleating, murmuring, and a bit of warbling at the end. Laughter she supposed.
The flaming eyes fell upon her once more but she did not flinch back this time. When they first gazed upon her, those crimson orbs were a smoldering inferno just waiting to be unleashed, a distrust so cold it burned. Now, the eyes still smoldered but it was the light of heated coals in a fireplace one wintry evening, warm and inviting.
It wasn't a dragon, she didn't know how she knew just that she did and to refer to it as such would be as insulting as slandering it as a commoner, but perhaps it was something better for it certainly had the beauty and it appeared quite strong… Not bothering to hide the smug smile on her face at the gobsmacked expressions on her more vocal tormentors, Louise gestured once more at the draconic beast. "Come, familiar. Let's see about getting you a place to sleep for the night."
The beast's gleaming eyes shined at her voice and it followed along with a brief stumble, still unused to its sudden renewed strength, but it followed her and that was all that mattered.
The nighttime hours were different here but he could answer honestly that the sight of two moons was truly something to behold. The stars are different too, their constellations unrecognizable but that was fine. He could create new ones and name them as he wished. The air was thick with that delectable taste of magic that it was hardly any different from home and he wondered if the nearby forests could substitute for his old Wood but he did away with such notion. The runes on his neck were old as Time but he was well acquainted with the Old One and received some answers.
This wasn't the Aboveland, at least… not the one from his world. This was a whole new world entirely, one still rich in the ways of magic where there were creatures as eternal as he and, dare he believe, an adequate order that was disturbed with a dash of chaos every now and again as to almost be repetitive. There was sovereignty here of course, but it was a stable ruling with equally sane rulers, for the most part. The humans here were stiff and unbelievably boring. All but her.
Her hair and eyes were of a different, starling different, shade and her voice was edged with a sense of nobility that wasn't there before but he recognized her light all the same. It saddened him that she was different now, in a different body with a different kind of power but she was alive again and he was all the happier for it, even more so that it was he and no one else that she chose as her champion.
No one had ever wanted him as their champion…
It was a strange feeling, not a bad one but still so very strange.
The runes on his neck had a light to them, better seen in the darkness of the night and though he knew of the letters, he could not immediately recall the meaning though Time assured him that he would eventually. Time said that these were marvelous runes spelled in a word of power as ancient as the Old Magic, which was something powerful indeed for even the Chess Royals and the Four Suit Families feared such whispers of power and to have it ascribed to his very skin…
Still, what use was there in wondering of the new and possible when the old and capable were here now? He hadn't felt this young in millennia since before the division of the underground into its two divided quarters.
Wine colored wings spread and in a single flap he was airborne, a second and he was clearing the highest tower and by the third he had just reached the cloud line and was soaring like the abominable Gryphon! His frills tucked in tight against his head, he twisted, corkscrewing down towards the ground with an elated bellow that surely woke some of the slumbering humans in the castle towers but he didn't care! He hadn't flown with such ease in decades! It was positively frabjous is what it was!
He flew up and landed lightly atop the castle's highest tower, which groaned from the strain of supporting his weight but it did not crumble. He lifted his head high to feel the wind on his spread wings ready to fly again when a small, timid cry came from down below. He twisted his head about and looked down at the beast, a dragon youngling if he were to wager a guess with her summoner, a human child so emotionless it was as though she were made of stone rather than flesh and blood.
The girl obviously wanted to test her dragon's capabilities in the air but it was quite obvious to anyone that the dragon youngling was downright terrified of going anywhere in the sky with him occupying it. He sighed and leapt from the tower, floating down in large lazy circles until he landed not far from the pair. He started walking toward them, lips pulled in a vicious smirk as the dragon youngling whined terribly, shuffling back on all fours with her head bowed low. Suddenly, the girl stepped between him and her familiar, her staff up and aiming at his head.
Crimson eyes alit themselves like flames, this child reminded him too much of the Spades to his liking. He glanced once more at the cowering dragonling and snorted in contempt. Obviously, he would have to find his own adversaries rather than having them come to him in this new world. His wings opened with a startling snap and he was up and away before the two could recover from the sudden shock, his red eyes shining like blazing comets high in the sky.
It was early in the morning when he was roused from his slumber by one of the man-servants of the castle, a young maid of a different blood than the others here; he could taste it on her scent. Though the sun had just started to rise on the horizon the servants were hard at work feeding the newly summoned familiars their morning meal which consisted of them laying out a variety of foodstuffs and seeing which ones the familiars would take. Though obviously quite frightened by his appearance, the young maid spoke to him with only a faint quiver in her voice.
"C-Come this way please, we have some beef I think you'll like."
Beef…? As in meat?
He rose imperiously to his feet and, ignoring the maid entirely, made way over to the piles of fruit where a small group of herbivorian familiars were already halfway finished with it. The maid gasped behind him and chased after him, trying to overcome his larger strides while being mindful of his tail.
"Wa-Wait! They aren't for eating!" She pleaded and he ignored her still. Ticking clocks, she reminded him of that foolish maid of that equally foolish rabbit, the one that always flew into a foul-mouthed tizzy whenever she got so much as a speck of grime on her person. Though he couldn't help the fanged smile at the reminder for it was that girl, and no one else, who could lay claim to smacking the Bloody Queen upside the head with her own royal scepter.
The animals scattered at his approach and he didn't follow them, his burning eyes focused more on the pile of fruit and spotting his favored kind, plucked it neatly from the pile and turned back to the maid, holding out the small red thing. She blinked in surprise and stared open-mouthed at it. "Apples? You want… apples?"
In answered, he tossed the fruit up into the air and swallowed it whole and stared back down at her, hungrily licking his lips. She was off like a shot and he nodded, thoroughly pleased with himself.
Actions do speak louder than words.
Taking tea with Louise, such an odd name he rather liked her old one better, was an almost forgotten experience. It had been a long, long, long, long time since he had taken tea with, what were they called… friends? Yes, that was the proper word, he was sure of it. Well, it wasn't so much as taking tea as it was the young girl sipping from her own cup of brew and taking some treacle tart for brunch-time desert while he enjoyed a barrel of apple-flavored drink. It wasn't tea but it was certainly the best drink he ever had.
Happy with how pleased he was with his drink, young Louise smiled. "I heard from the servants that you made it a point in asking for apples for your morning meal and I thought perhaps you'd enjoy some cider." She refrained from mentioning that the barrel didn't come cheaply and it would likely only be a sparing treat he'd get every now and again.
He took another sip and his wings quivered with pleasure at the pleasant tang of flavor that this cider had. Certainly better than chewing a mouthful of apples for a drink that was for certain!
Louise reached over and started to stroke the hairs along the back of his tail, and blinked in surprise at how softly they felt. "Your hair is quite soft; I suppose I ought to name you for it rather than your wondrous scales…"
He was too distracted to really pay all that much attention to her words but he took time to make an inquisitive grumble.
Louise giggled and pretended it an actual question. "Well I can't simply refer to you as "Hey you!" now can I?" She frowned and rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "That stupid woman named her salamander so plainly… and Tabitha has given her dragon a rather unique name I suppose…"
Now he was starting to realize where she was going with this and growled, quite displeased by the comparison. Obviously, he hadn't caught up fully to what she was intending what with the delightful source of entertainment already underway at a nearby table.
Realizing her error, Louise apologized and stroked the hair along his tail. "I know you aren't some measly salamander… and you're not a dragon, not really… I wonder though, if you're not a dragon, then what are you?"
He set down his half-empty barrel and made as though to answer when a sudden surprised squawk came from a table nearby. The blonde boy, Guiche, from the previous night had caught sight of the brown-haired girl he had been courting the night before. The problem being that he was currently wooing another girl at the moment, a blond with large curls, Montmorency. Frantic to escape with his dignity and second love intact, Guiche rose to his feet and tried to usher his girlfriend away when a large tail slammed down in front of them. Guiche shot a heated look up at Louise's familiar who hid his conniving smile behind his barrel of cider.
It all went downhill from there for Guiche the Bronze and by the end of it received a painful double-slap for his troubles and two very angry females. Angry and more than a bit embarrassed by the laughter of the nearby students, Guiche strove to try and regain some of his loss dignity by taking his anger out on what his idiocy perceived as an adequate and justifiable target.
"Can you not do anything about your familiar, Louise the Zero!"
Louise's eyes narrowed at the title and slapped both hands on the table, rising to her feet. "Hey! Don't go blaming him for getting caught in your two-timing, you self-centered skirt-chaser!"
Above the two, fangs spread in a knowing grin. There was that famous temper he had heard about…
Guiche seemed caught by indecision for a moment before replying right back, "At the very least I have proven successful in my endeavors! What have you to show for yours? Your summoning this dragon was more luck than actual skill, most likely."
"Luck? I cast the summoning right and proper and received my familiar just like everyone else!" Louise stamped her foot. "No one here can claim to have such a wondrous familiar as my own!"
Knowing grin morphed to a pleased smile, small arms crossing over a muscular chest. Pride wasn't a familiar friend but it was nice to have his ego stroked, still this was getting entirely out of hand and the last thing he wanted was for her to get in trouble because the dunce couldn't keep proper decorum in courtship.
"As entertaining as it is to watch you berate this slurvish fool, do we not have better things to converse?"
Gasps abound with heads snapping up at such speed there was nary a neck that didn't crack loudly from the sudden turn. Wide eyes and gaping mouths met his own impassive face.
"D… Did that dragon just talk…?" queried a timid male voice.
He shook his head, tired with the whole lot of fools he was forced to deal with and glanced down at a gaping Louise. "Surrounded by such fools 'tis a wonder that one ought find reason to speak at all. Just another impossible thing I suppose."
"Out of six, unquestionably." She responded automatically and blinked; surprised at how familiar that response was no matter that she didn't understand from where it had come.
A pleased nod. "Unquestionably."
Louise shook her head, trying to maintain some sense of composure that her classmates had apparently forgotten. She shot her familiar a rather dry look, her arms crossed over her chest. "I suppose then that you already have a name for yourself?" At his nod, she continued, "What is it then?"
He rose to his feet and spread his wings wide, the fires of his eyes burning brightly as he announced in a voice filled with ancient pride and terrible power, "I am the Jabberwocky!"
On the next Calling...
The Jabberwocky has always been a particular favorite of mine in the cast of Wonderland and is also one of the most underutilized to boot. I know of only three particular appearances of the Jabberwocky appearing in a Wonderland film and only the latest by Tim Burton truly captured the magnificent beast as it should be. However, this particular Jabberwocky is far more benign in nature and though bearing a strong resemblance to the Burton-version, his personality is more akin to the unused one in Disney's Wonderland.
As for the "youthening" brought on by the runes, well you got to imagine that, not being human, Jabberwocky would not be able to use weapons no matter the size or make so the runes escribed upon him did something different, they brought him back to the prime of his life, back when he was truly the greatest beast in all of Wonderland.
Louise's reaction to him, while nearly polar opposite to Saito, is actually quite a reasonable one if you think about it. The ritual of summoning a familiar was her last true chance to prove that she is worth something and, in canon, she got a human, more than that a commoner. I think the best comparison would be receiving a pair of wooly socks for Christmas. They have their use but they're not something to brag to your friends about. Louise herself even hoped for something as magnificent as a griffin or a dragon (rather ironic if one knows McGee's Alice, neh?) and what she got wasn't quite a dragon, but truly just as magnificent.
Were this story to continue… hmm, well there would definitely be more play on the whole "Louise is Alice" bit. That would be my added flair to the story and before you light the fires, those of you who've seen Disney's Wonderland remember Alice's temper yes? Not as bad as Louise's but hey, reincarnation will do that to you. There would also be more interaction between Jabberwocky, Tabitha, and Sylphid, particular between the two familiars. Though just as afraid of him as all the other familiars, I'm sure Sylphid would warm up to Jabberwocky eventually, especially as he can talk just like her, can use magic like her, can turn human just like her… What, wait?