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Do no Guile nor Treachery

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Your fingers skimmed the pages, the tiny bumps whispering of complex magecraft and summonings, of how to bring forth familiars. You re-read the lines, certain that pieces of context were missing. Perhaps the braille converter wasn’t perfect or you hadn’t managed to get the last bits of text out from the embosser? Nonetheless, this was the last book in the pile you had collected and the most promising one at that. You weren’t well versed in familiar magic, but ever since it had been mentioned you had been feverishly researching all the methods you could get your hands on. If you could simply materialise a companion to guide you as needed, you were sure that independence would be nearly entirely in your grasp. You could be free from the pitying, patronising stares that had plagued you since the accident. You could watch dawn rise over the horizon, see the faces of your loved ones again...You wanted something small, maybe a mouse you could hide in your pocket. But you were against using living or recently deceased animals on principle, preferring a magical construct instead. Unfortunately, said constructs were significantly more complicated than what someone specialised in "healing" was used to. Your artificial sparrows withered in your hands.

You took a deep breath, packing your items and heading out into the forests. You’d never know if you didn’t try, tenth time the charm. Besides, best to embarrass yourself in private as opposed to accidentally wrecking your room. Channeling mana, you replicated the sigil onto the ground as best you could. You might not be able to see, but perception magic allowed you to be aware of your surroundings enough to get around on days you chose to forgo your walking stick. No details, but outlines and edges, surfaces. But more than that, it let you draw what you could visualise at the cost of mana. You pause, on the precipice of changing your mind. Maybe you ought to consult someone first? This was pretty advanced stuff. But you’d been relying on others for the past few months already, for once, you wanted to do this on your own. You felt reckless, impulsive but weightless as you drew a knife. You could do this. Hesitantly, you let your blood fall into the circle.

Fill, fill, fill, fill ,fill...

The surge of energy at your feet makes you flinch, blinding had you not already been so. You could feel something etching itself into the back of your hand, heavy and deeper than a mere cut. No, it dug into your circuits like liquid flames, engulfing you, settling in your heart as fear fluttered alive for the first time tonight. There was something else now too, a presence.

Trust, devotion, loyalty, honour.

You felt it first within you, a burning that settled into warmth in your chest, then heard him as he spoke.

“I ask you, are you my Master?”

You froze, not certain how to respond to such a strange question. You assumed that your were successful, because there was clearly something or someone here but you hadn’t been expecting a person. You merely continued staring in their general direction, tense and confused because no familiar should be another human. Then again, any familiar you summoned would need to be able to speak to you if they couldn’t share their sight. It wasn’t uncommon for magus constructs to talk, so this thing could be in any form. That relaxed you slightly, which they took as a prompt to continue.

“My lady, your Servant Lancer has answered your call. Henceforth I pledge to you my loyalty and my spears, our fates are as one.” he clarified respectfully, although it explained nothing to you.

“Um...thank you. But uh...who exactly are you?”

A moment of silence, surprise you think but he recovers swiftly.

They didn’t use a catalyst…

“Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, son of Donn, and first warrior of the knights of Fianna.” he introduces as you shake the quiet voice, a single thread from your mind. “I am at your command.”

“Ah, okay. There’s no need for such formality, but thank you for that. I’m (Name)...”

This was awkward, you knew you had made some kind of terrible mistake now and your brain was coming up blank on ways to fix this. You had somehow summoned this person here, and he seemed to think you were his boss or something. What should you even say? Hey, so I was trying to make a construct but messed up. Thanks for coming though, I appreciate it. Feel free to return back to the void from whence you came, sorry for the inconvenience. The longer he lingered, the more certain you were that he was some strange entity. His mana fluttered and twisted like nothing you had sensed before, even other familiars were not like him. In any case, there was no way you would have been able to summon something this powerful on your own. You were certain that he was drawing his energy from elsewhere, and that whoever had really called him here was about nearby. You swallowed, glad that your sunglasses hid at least some of your face because you were probably wearing a pretty big ‘oh crap’ expression right now.

“My apologies, I fear that you have been subjected to the curse, my lady.” he says suddenly, and the last thing you expect is how much contriteness is in his voice.

“What?”

“Any woman who gazes at the love spot beneath my eye is condemned to instantly fall in love with me. Seeing as to how you did not use a catalyst, this wasn’t an outcome you could have expected.” he elaborated guiltily, as your bewilderment grew.

Then it clicked. Oh, he was joking! You must have been staring (A+ in the eye contact department) and combined with your panicked expression, he must be trying to lighten the mood. He sounded so serious you had barely detected this. Had you had your sight, you would have seen that he had taken to kneeling and that you had been very clearly staring at the space over his head. Instead, you laugh belatedly.

“Sorry if I was staring, but you need not worry. I’m completely immune to your curse!” you reply brightly, before unfolding your walking cane. “Also, you can just call me (Name), no need for this ‘my lady’ business.”

“I...how...As you wish, my-- (Name).” he responded, stumbling over his words in confusion and it seemed to you that no one knew what was happening.

Well, best get it over with then.

“So, this is kind of embarrassing but I think I made a mistake. Um...if you will, I’ll explain it back in my room.”

“...Of course. I apologise if I have displeased you.”

While his tone was even and calm, you didn’t miss the sudden drop of disappointment you felt. It made you grow still. Those were not your emotions…

“What? No! If anything, I hope you’re not going to be mad after this for wasting your time…” you muttered as you started heading back, too drained from the ceremony to use your magic and sweeping your stick ahead of you.

"Of course not! I am here only to serve you." he informed you promptly, no judgement in his words.

You didn't know how to reply to that, so you just started heading off. When you didn’t hear him follow, you stopped, turning your head briefly.

“Are you coming, Diarmuid?”

“I am here, my lady.” came his immediate response from close behind and you jumped.

“Ah, okay.”

You couldn’t hear his footsteps, not even the softest crunch of leaves. It felt eerie, but he must be particularly familiar with moving quietly if that was so. Just what kind of summon were you dealing with--?

“...If I might be so bold as to ask, how are you unaffected by my curse? I do not sense any magic resistance around you.” he suddenly says, as you two make your way through the undergrowth.

You incline your head in the direction of his voice, not sure if he was still playing this scene. You decide this time that he isn’t pulling your leg.

“...Because I’m not in love with you? That’s what you said it did right? Or is this some kind of game?” you ventured, giving more questions than answers. “I’m blind so I can’t ‘gaze’ at you in any case.”

Is that the correct answer to this riddle? If he was joking, it was a little conceited to keep pushing the point and if he wasn’t, then you didn’t exactly know what to do with him. Give him the address of a modeling agency?

“No, my lady. I would not trifle with you in such a manner. I should have realised sooner that you had visual impairment, I thought it the darkness of the forest. But this certainly works in our favour.” he said happily, and you nodded uncertainty, not sure whether he seemed to hover closer upon learning of your condition.

He hadn't worked out your were blind when you started using your walking stick? Or from the fact you were wearing dark sunglasses in the middle of the night? Either he had been living under a rock for the last 1700 years or he too, was also blind. Still, it was rather rude to mention it so you settled for merely making a weird face to yourself.

“So...do you just have flocks of women chasing you around?” you finally asked, as even without sight you could feel his mood sour.

“Unfortunately yes, this curse has indeed caused me...hardship in the past.”

“Have you tried wearing a mask? Celebrities have some pretty creative ones for avoiding the paparazzis.” you suggested lightly, trying to move quickly past what was clearly a sore spot for him.

“...A mask? Surely such charm magic would be beyond simple measures...”

Yet he had never tried, walking around like a bandit was inherently suspicious but surely better than the alternative he had since learnt. He felt foolish somehow not to have thought of it himself. Or perhaps more accurately, at having dismissed it as being too easy. You reached up, taking the sunglasses from your eyes and holding them out.

“Here, its under your eye right? Does this cover it? Clearly line of sight is related to its effectiveness since I don’t feel any different, so its worth a try. These are enchanted to increase the wearer’s perception, but could probably be reversed to make it harder for people to observe that part of your face.” you mentioned briefly, stopping abruptly as your stick hits the first step of the stairwell.

He nods unseen, before quickly reaching out as if to catch you, fingers just skimming the top layer of your clothing before he withdraws.

“Thank you, my lady. If I may, could I be of assistance?”

“(Name), just call me (Name).” you reminded again as you hesitated before accepting. “And yes please, thank you.”

Ordinarily you would have had no issue, however tonight’s escapade had certainly drained you. He must have noticed the slowness in your walk, or perhaps that was simply his personality. He did seem rather old-fashioned, but it was not unwelcome. Gently, you felt an arm slipped around you before your feet were lifted easily off the ground. Instinctively, you grasp onto his shoulder for balance, feeling the solid warmth of his body. He’s human after all, and you don’t know enough about familiars to wonder if this is expected. His clothing feels rough like hardened leather, earthy in scent and his strides are long and effortless as if you weigh nothing.

He sets you down in the landing, as you quietly orientate yourself again, finding your way to the only apartment marked with magical energy here. Turning the key, you hold open the door to playfully match his previous chivalry.

“Welcome, make yourself at home.”