No one ever successfully controls a familiar.
Historically, familiars were said to be magical helpers of witches. They had the ability to shift shape, often appearing as cats, bats, or other creatures in their service to the witch. It was assumed by inquisitors that familiars, as a type of imp or evil spirit, served the witch willingly.
At other times, they were summoned by a magician, then trapped in a stone or piece of jewelry. The familiar spirit was trapped, coerced into service, like genies in bottles.
In the world of EMBERS, Anya has a familiar, Sparky. He’s a five-foot long speckled hellbender with eyes like marbles--a fire salamander elemental, a creature that’s the embodiment of fire. The German magician, Paracelsus, called fire spirits “salamanders” in the sixteenth century. Salamanders were long associated with fire, despite their amphibious nature, because they crawled out of forest logs cast on fires. The salamander was assumed to dwell in fire, and embodied the impetuosity, power, and destructive changeability of the flickering flame.
Anya’s had Sparky since she was a child. He’s tied to a necklace her mother gave her, which suggests that, like the familiars trapped in jewelry, he was coerced into service at some point in the past. But Sparky seems to serve Anya willingly, protecting her from malicious spirits (not to mention jealously guarding her against any potential lovers).
Life with a salamander isn’t easy. Sparky is only able to be seen by Anya and ghosts. When he’s not chasing ghosts, he’s busily getting into trouble. Aside from Anya and the ghosts, he’s only able to affect electrical fields. And electricity is delicious. He’s blown up every microwave that Anya’s ever owned. He chews cell phones and drains their batteries. He likes to lick electrical outlets, with disastrous results. In EMBERS, Anya takes him to a hospital, and he manages to wreak havoc with vital sign monitors.
But Sparky has his lovable moments. His favorite toy is a Gloworm. When he pats it, its cherubic little face lights up, much to his delight. Late at night, he curls up with his toy at the foot of Anya’s bed like any other pet, purring and chortling happily in the amber light of the Gloworm tucked between his paws.
At times like these, Anya rubs his speckled belly and imagines that he’s under control.
And Sparky opens one eye and snorts.
He knows better.