Dalice’s family Christmas lunch had been interesting, to say the least. Her sister’s four children had been revealed to be magically endowed, every single one of them. It had also emerged that her own mother was under a mind altering spell, and had been most of her life. Dalice was finding it particularly disturbing that her mother either wasn’t the person that she was supposed to be or wasn’t really the person she thought she was. That and further revelations about their family’s history had left her feeling shaken in herself and she arrived home ready to comfort eat. There was going to be Christmas pudding with cream and custard washed down by a Fluffy Duck or a Sizzling Rainbow very shortly indeed, if she had anything to say about it.
“Oi, lady!” The rough, male voice seemed to come out of the bank of agapanthus beside the carport. When she took a second look there was a cat there, an adult version of the winged kitten that her niece, Olivia, had found under the Christmas tree that morning. Instead of being lavender grey though, it was a blue black colour and a recent injury to its face made it look like it might have lost an eye.
“Are you talking to me?” She bent to talk to it but didn’t kneel or get too close.
“Yeah, I am.” It looked around as if to make sure they weren’t being watched and then it said, “I used to be a familiar until my principal got himself killed a few weeks ago, partly through not taking my advice.” It coughed in a way which did not suggest a hair ball and went on, “It turns out that living rough is a whole lot tougher than I thought. It also turns out that you have a house with a mouse problem.”
“I do, agreed Dalice. “I get rid of one lot and another lot moves into the walls and ceiling.”
“I can deal with that,” the winged cat told her. “Also, rats, cockroaches and birds that nest inside the roof. Plus I’ll work for a decent grade of cat food, somewhere warm and dry to sleep, and a clean litter tray.” It added in a very quiet voice, “I could even vet potential boyfriends for self-centred jerks.”
Dalice straightened and asked sharply, “How long have you been watching me?”
“My former principal was working over in one of those old factories out the back of your place,” it slunk down in a submissive posture. “It was one of my jobs to scout our perimeter for threats.”
“He was…difficult,” admitted Dalice, “but a threat?”
“Potentially. Both of you had to be checked out. Him because he likes upsetting other people’s apple carts and you because you’ve got just enough of a whiff of magic about you that you could have been pretending…” It looked at her sort of sideways out of the good side of its face, “But you’re not.”
“Before today I would have said that I didn’t have a magical bone in my body,” agreed Dalice, “but it seems that’s not true. Is that why you can talk to me?”
“You’ve got just enough underlying magic for me to attach to you as your familiar,” it admitted in a small voice.
Dalice said in a wondering tone of voice, “You really have bet everything on me taking you in, haven’t you?”
“Yes.” It was a small, quiet word.
“I’ve only got tinned sandwich tuna, cold chicken and milk for tonight,” she told it. “I hope that will do. There’ll be somewhere we can get everything for you in the morning, I’m sure. Also, we’ll need to find a vet to look at your face.”
“And only my face?” That was said challengingly.
“Only your face,” she agreed, “unless you’ve got other injuries. Now let’s go inside – you must be starving and I want a nice, strong Sizzling Rainbow.”