An Owl on My Sceptre

by Joe

Chapter 1



An adventure in eleven chapters where amazing things happen to all kinds of people, most of whom are in high school; at least they all start out in high school. It involves Elves (not to be confused with the Elfs at the north-pole). There is magic. Magic requires familiars. There is an adjacent Earth in an alternate dimension that marches to a different drum.

There are several sets of same sex lovers in this story and if that is offensive to the reader they should stop now; there are also sets of opposite sex lovers. Generally, the author will bring you to the bedroom door, but the reader must do the door opening.

Several other authors have looked at this story as it developed; my thanks to them all.

This story is meant to be fun and I hope you enjoy it.

I welcome all civilized feedback.

Chapter – 1

The huge grey owl was perched comfortably on the back of an Adirondack chair on the patio. Its talons had effortlessly carved a comfortable grip in the wood of the chair back. The owl regarded the teenager with great yellow eyes. A feather ruffled lightly.

Hi. I'm Cameron. I'm your familiar .

The teen stared. There had been no sound; but he had clearly heard the words, or at least he heard them in his mind. He started, as if to jump and run, or at least put some distance between himself and the owl, but he was frozen in place.

Do you even know what a familiar is? If you know anything about witchcraft and familiars, you might have thought of Pyewacket from Bell, Book, and Candle, or maybe Wizard Justyn's tatterdemalion black cat from Owlflight. Well, you may be a little young for Pyewacket; but Mercedes Lackey should work, anyway there's way more to it than that. How we appear all depends on the job.

"Job?" The teen queried in something of a daze. Amazingly, the owl seemed to be lecturing, and a question seemed a normal thing; it was an effort to try and impose some order on a clearly abnormal situation. Sitting on the patio listening to an owl speak to him telepathically, was enough to make anyone strive to achieve some sense of normal.

Yes, job! Most of what you think you know about us is just make-believe. Just so much stuff and nonsense. But we have a tough job. We are the first line. The intermediaries between your world and a fey world you are barely aware of.

Do you remember the Salem Witch Trials from school? Back then your ancestors were busy killing their neighbors: crushing them with weights, burning them at the stake, hanging them, all that sort of thing. They thought these poor innocents might be witches or wizards. They were also slaughtering thousands of animals thought to be familiars. This was horror. There are witches, wizards, and what not, and there certainly are familiars – I'm here as you can see; but never was harmed a single witch, wizard, or familiar. The animals and people that were so horribly slaughtered were just people, people like you; people like you see on the street every day. It was the same for the animals, usually pets, just like the cat in the window and the dog on the leash that you walked by today. I mean, let's be reasonable. What would be the point of going to all the trouble of becoming a witch or wizard if you couldn't avoid a mob of peasant clods with torches and pitchforks?

"I never killed anything. My dad is allergic to dogs. I never heard of Pie Locket or of that other wizard either. What do you want? What's a familiar? What's a 'fey' world? Come on! This is America!"

It was difficult for the teen to know what to say; or even if he was expected to say anything. Still, it was not his nature to be bullied even in an implausible situation. Questions seemed like a good way to buy time. A way to distract a talking owl.

Well there you have it! Once again, the ones who do all the work get no credit. A sad state of affairs if ever there was one. Wizards and witches parade around in outlandish outfits doing their mumbo jumbo, the most of which doesn't even work, while we take care of them and do the actual work as often as not.

Let me just tell you a thing or two. Familiars are the ones who get things done, and make no mistake about it. For example: Prince Rupert's dog Boye was a ferocious familiar; he helped the Prince in a number of battles and he fought bravely alongside the Prince. It was important for non-magical reasons that the Prince survive. The Prince was not a wizard, but he was guarded by a familiar: the dog Boye. The enemy was scared of Boye; they tried to kill him with a silver bullet, but missed. No surprise there, nothing but a great lot of ill-bred revolutionaries and stumble-bum republicans they were.

"Prince Rupert?"

Yes of course, Prince Rupert. He was a great soldier even as a teenager. Later he'd be an admiral and he was always a loyal follower of his king. His sword was a formidable weapon in the English Civil War. And later, too, after the return of the king. That's when he became an admiral and fought the tenacious Dutch. Ask Colin about him later; he'll know.

The owl regarded the teen with unblinking solemnity for several long moments. The teen returned the solemn gaze. Then the owl continued.

Anyway, I'm particularly fond of this owl manifestation and I've used it many times in the past. Particularly around Athens. I do a mean oracle. Can't you just see me? Perched on Athena's arm? Giving Pericles the eye? With some thunder and lightning in the background?

Although the teen had managed to interject a comment or two as the owl lectured on. He continued to regard the owl with an expression that while somewhat dazed, was becoming increasingly attentive. It was difficult enough to assess the relevance of Prince Rupert and Boye, without having to also listen to the owl congratulating himself for the incredible cleverness of his disguise. Young Justin was beginning to analyze the flood of information being presented. It was his nature to be assertive. Still, the flood of information was somehow soothing as it made the situation seem almost normal.

So here we are, sitting in a backyard in San Diego in the shade of the patio awning just as though it were the commonest thing in the world for a large and very handsome grey owl to be chatting with a fourteen year old boy in a t-shirt and cargo shorts. Strictly speaking, of course, we're not really chatting. And, strictly speaking, it's not like it was a casual visit since you can't really move and are rather a captive audience.

I think you understand that something eldritch is taking place here; and I also think that you're beginning to relax just a little, so I'm going to let you have your freedom of movement back; but believe me when I tell you that you must listen to what I'm about to tell you, and as I suspect you now know - it directly affects you. Why don't you go into the kitchen and get us some cold drinks. I'd like a root beer in a nice bowl, if you please.

The teen complied. But he moved slowly and his mind was awhirl with what was happening. The whole situation was bizarre, but somehow, what made it almost believable, and certainly less threatening, was the fact that the owl was a real character who seemed to enjoy talking and seemed awfully full of himself. He was almost human in that way. The owl was not solemn and threatening. He was not being warned that "resistance is futile"; he was not being threatened with "assimilation".

Thanks. I'm pleased to see that you've realized that you have nothing to fear from me. I am, however, going to turn your world upside down. This is excellent root beer by the way.

You are Justin Alisson-Fielding. You attend an excellent charter school that is within walking distance and you are an above average student. You excel in the study of foreign languages, are ahead of your peers in English, you love words, their evolution and meaning but you don't call it philology yet. You pay attention to local and international events. You swim and play basketball.

No one in your immediate world knows who your father is. Well, that's no longer quite true. I'm in your world now, and I know who your father is.

"Oh my God," Justin muttered inanely. Then he thought, 'what the fuck,' quietly and angrily. 'This can't be happening.'

"How can an owl know about my father?" He wondered out loud as he stared back at this apparition. He hoped he looked formidable but wasn't at all sure he did. The owl, familiar, whatever, had surprised and astonished Justin when he mentioned his father. Justin was worried and uneasy. This was so much bullshit. Even as he thought it he realized it wasn't bullshit. Watching the owl sip root beer from a cut glass bowl wasn't calming and it was making him angry – but it wasn't bullshit.

Well for starters, like I just said, I'm not an owl, I'm a familiar. Try to relax. I'm sorry. I don't know how to say some of the things I'm going to say without worrying you. But you should be prepared for it you know. How often does a huge and beautiful owl swoop down into someone's backyard and start chatting with them while holding them prisoner? I thought you had begun to understand earlier, but let me make myself perfectly clear. This is an eldritch moment. Eerie. Supra-natural. Paranormal. However, you are in no danger. Do you begin to get it? Good.

Now, as I was saying. I know that you were orphaned, and I know how that happened and it was on that day that I became your familiar. But I'm not going to go there now; I was with you when you were a ward of the state; and I knew, and was close by, when you were adopted by your dads. They are trying their best to give you love and every advantage that they can. I know you don't think they understand you, but get real, no one understands fourteen year olds, not even other fourteen year olds.

"Goddamn it!" Justin interjected. "I'm not so sure I need to know who my father is! I'm happy and my Dads love me! What the fuck's the big deal?" Justin was winding up and letting off steam. Here was a topic he could argue. "I'm not so sure I even care where he is. He's never been around for me and I wouldn't know him if I walked by him on the street! And, while we're at it, please tell me what the fuck is going on here. I know it's weird. But come on! Things like this just don't happen. Anyway, what would you know about me?" Justin felt the comment about fourteen year olds had been wrong and unfair.

Okay, okay. Calm down. I'll tell you, but you need some more information. Your father isn't some John Doe from Paducah. So just cool it for a bit or I'll just leave and come back next week. Your English could improve somewhat, I know you are capable of a more civil use of the language. You are not an ill-bred peasant oaf and you ought not speak like one. And for the record, things like this happen all the time. They just don't make the news. And think about it. You are completely sane and functional. The one thing you're not going to do is run in, jump on Facebook, and tell the world that you've been chatting with an owl about family matters. I mean, come on, think about it.

Yes there are some folks out there that would do that, but no one pays any attention to them under any circumstances save, I guess, to laugh at them. No one laughs at you. Have you noticed that?

And did I forget your boyfriend? He's a part of this too! Colin Spurgeon is his name, he is also fourteen, and lives a few blocks away. He's very good in math and helps you with that subject. He's into military history, martial arts, and swords. The two of you are in love, and yes, it is the genuine article. The real thing. He is the only one you will ever love, and he will love only you. You will be partners for life. And it will be a long one.

Justin was now worried for Colin. "Can an owl 'out' someone? Who have you told? Who are you anyway? Are you trying to ruin me? No. Who'd believe you anyway? No, wait! I suppose anyone would believe you if you did them like you've done me. And what about Colin? Are you going to fuck with him too? I know we're in love! I don't need you to tell me that." Justin stopped, aware that he was gibbering.

Okay. Wait a minute. This is getting completely out of hand and you need some time to settle down and remember who you are, Your Royal Highness. Tomorrow is Tuesday; your dads will be home at the usual time. So have Colin come home with you after school and we'll continue this discussion. If you're a tea drinker, now would be a good time. Tea helped to win an empire, don't you know.

And with that, Justin watched as he lofted into the sky on silent wings and left Justin on the patio. It was a beautiful and elegant exit.

"Wait a minute goddamn it!" Justin yelled as he watched the owl – Cameron, he remembered, lift smoothly into the sky, gaining altitude effortlessly as he dwindled out of sight. He didn't disappear, or anything magic like that, he just flew away. Like any other huge owl that you'd just been chatting with. Justin noted that he'd drunk all his root beer. What a thing to notice. And no, he answered Cameron silently and wildly: I don't drink fucking tea. Justin took the only conceivable action open to his generation and grabbed for his cell phone.

Justin knew that Colin was in his Tae Kwon Do class; so he texted him to call as soon as he got out of class so they could talk. Then he paused for a moment wondering who to contact next. The phone chirped: "only talk colin cya cameron", popped-up on the screen. It was eerie, just like Cameron said. Justin retired to his room.

'Royal Highness,' he wondered.

Justin was in something of a daze that night and was monosyllabic at the dinner table despite the best efforts of his Dads. They did not seem to find this unusual; but they wanted to talk about school and homework and friends, and he'd just been talking to an owl.

Colin had answered his text and agreed to come over after school. Colin's mom was picking him up after school as they had to stop downtown and get some stuff for his chemistry project. Then they'd go right home and he'd be over.

Needless to say, the school day passed slowly and Justin was barely able to say 'hi' to his friends and probably said three words at lunch – if that many. Justin was virtually dancing in place on the patio when Colin came in. Colin was a fixture at Justin's so he just walked in yelling for Justin and followed the answering yell to the patio.

"You won't believe what I just saw," Colin reported excitedly. "There was this huge grey owl sitting on a branch right outside my house and he was looking right at me. He was awesome."

"What did he say?" Justin asked.

Colin looked at him askance. And right on cue, Cameron came winging into the backyard, swooped toward them, back-winged beautifully and landed feather light on the back of a chair. Colin looked at Justin, and then at Cameron, and back to Justin, the look of amazement on his beautiful face was, as they say: priceless.

Your Highness , Cameron nodded to Justin. My Lord Earl, he greeted Colin.

"Colin, this is Cameron. Apparently he's a familiar, you know, like an assistant to witches and wizards, he speaks to us telepathically and he seems to know a lot."

Thank you, Justin. It's wonderful what a little time will do to settle the nerves and absorb new information. I think you may have to help Colin a little as he seems to be doing a creditable imitation of a stranded fish just now.

Anyway Justin, I called you 'Your Highness', because you are the son of King Henry VII Indomitable. And I called Colin, 'My Lord Earl', as he is the son of Ranald Earl Martial to the King, Master of the Royal Horse, and Colonel-in-Chief of the Ancient and Honourable Company of Artillerists and Infernal Device Artificers, amongst other things that we'll get to later.

Now you're both among the better educated young men of your world, and I suspect you've never heard of a King Henry VII Indomitable or of the office of Earl Martial to the King. That's because neither exist in your world. There is a world, however, that is in close conjunction with yours, though in a different universe. That's where I come from. There is a considerable amount of movement between these two worlds. Mostly it comes from the Elven Lands. That which comes from your side is usually just us going home. Although, every once in a while one of your wizards or witches learns how to make the trip. Please don't even think about asking me to explain the science or physics of this connection. I only know how to make the trip, not why it's possible.

Your legends and folklore are littered with characters from the Elven Lands. Some of your authors even had an inkling of the Eleven Lands though they called it other things, like 'Middle Earth', or 'Wonderland', or 'Neverland' and such like. I don't want to get into a lengthy discussion and catalog of what creatures are real, and which are not; but by way of example, there is no such thing as a vampire. There are no werewolves, or were-anythings, but that legend is based on witnessed transformations by familiars from time to time. Tommy Knockers do exist and you've probably been the victim of one of their pranks. That author who wrote a book titled Tommy Knockers knew absolutely nothing about them and perpetrated a vile libel when he wrote that book.

Both of you are the sons of Elves and that means that you are Elves.

"What do you mean, 'Elves'?" Justin demanded.

Colin looked from one to the other with a sort of dazed expression; but he was beginning to regain his equilibrium and was no longer doing the fish thing.

"I suppose the next thing you're going to tell us is that we're going to shrink down to midget size, wear silly tights, and get pointy ears."

Well, you can pretty much wear what you want and you won't be shrinking. You will grow quite naturally in the normal way. However, you will be going into Elven puberty pretty soon and you're going to have to come home and become acquainted with your duties in the Elven World before that happens.

You see, one of the things about Elves is they live very long lives. But those lives, too, must come to an end. Your Dads are both over three hundred years old. Because of these long lives, elves don't have many children if they have any at all. In this case, neither Henry nor Ranald have any children except yourselves, so sooner rather than later; you, Justin will become King and, you Colin will become Earl Martial. As King and Earl Martial there are certain ceremonial clothes you will have to wear from time to time. And Colin, as the Earl Martial will have to select a uniform from time to time, but otherwise you can wear pretty much whatever you want. It's customary to wear nothing when swimming and I suspect you'll enjoy that.

Colin was listening very attentively by this time. "What, exactly, does an Earl Martial do?"

Well as the name implies, you'll be in charge of the Kings military forces. As token of this, next Saturday pay close attention to your porch. You'll receive a large package that will contain a commission appointing you Colonel-in-Chief of the Ancient and Honourable Company of Artillerists and Infernal Device Artificers among other things. This appointment makes you something like the chief of staff and second in command to your Father who is in command of all of the Kings forces. On your first visit to the capital you'll be introduced to them. You'll have to be fitted for the proper uniform before the visit.

Oh and by the way, you both need to take riding lessons as you will be spending a lot of time on horseback when you get home. Have your parents arrange for lessons at the Regency Stables. They're pretty close, and they are eldritch, so you'll learn quickly. Your folks will think it's a great idea.

"Rad," Colin commented.

"Hold it right there," Justin interjected holding up his hand. "You didn't answer all of my questions and now you're going off about riding lessons. I asked you about 'pointy ears' remember? And you talked about uniforms, commissions, not being midgets, skinny dipping, and horseback lessons at some elves school. You make it really hard not to use the 'F' word, but I'm trying, so what about the ears?"

Well, uh, yes. You're like your father in that way, he's very attentive to detail too. While it's true that the popular conception of elves as little people making toys at the North Pole is largely false. Well, ah, but, the bit about the ears is essentially correct. Shortly after elven puberty begins, your ears will gradually change shape and become quite strikingly beautiful.

"Fuck," Justin said.

"What kind of sword comes with my new uniform?" Colin asked.

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