For the previous part of this story go to GOLDEN EYES AND A BLOODY KNIFE .
Didisus soon found all her company were cleared, tentatively, to learn--which of course was why they were here. Their instructress next was to introduce them to their familiar.
"Sagin takes shadows from the possessors of the Great Power and substitutes their own...in our time, the possessor is Dahnmaya. Lesser power...but still great by any standards you can measure...is taken by taking the shadows of animals, and using those as a window of access to Sagin's servants. Through it, you can gain power, and a wise ally. You will need to select an animal, and hopefully one you can use on the surface, since you will eventually return. Hence, we do not recommend a ghoul, a wampyr, or a goblin, but rather one more native to the surface.
"We have quite a selection of surface animals here. I want you to think about what would work best in your region, what animal would be most inconspicuous for you. For make no mistake...the bond between you and your familiar will be very hard to break."
She gestured at a large mirror. "First though, each of you will have to pass in front of this mirror. One at a time. You will do for a start."
She pointed straight at Didisus.
Didisus came forward. To refuse would be madness. There were still Thronite guards watching them, ready to kill them at the faintest rebellion. The instructress told Didisus,
"Stare into the mirror."
She did. Her own reflection stared at her. She wondered what else she was supposed to see. But then, startlingly, the face began to move on its own. It winked at her. Then combed its hair back. It looked like it was laughing, even though her own face was looking more and more horror-stricken.
Her own reflection stepped out of the mirror, like a swimmer emerging from the surface of a stream, and there were two Didisuses, one exulting and one fighting down feelings of panic.
"Regard her well," said the instructress. "She is your doppelganger. We send them into the Caves of Endless Dark, beyond the Bright City, and they lie in wait. Ghouls and wampyrs and goblins will touch them, but not eat them, for if they do, the doppelganger would take them over. The doppelganger has a mystic connection with each of you. Thousands lie there, and they feel a connection between themselves, and the person whose image they are. "Should you by any chance ever feel an urge to betray Dahnmaya, to betray Sagin...not accusing you specifically, every single one of your party will do this...this doppelganger will leave the Caves of Endless Dark. No matter where you are in the World Waterrimmed, it will eventually find you. It will slay you. Then it will take over your life, only without any inhibitions or repressions. It will kill out of mild annoyance.
"Go." The instructress said to the doppelganger, who made a sprightly bow...far more light-hearted than Didisus herself...and marched out of the room.
"You may return to your place with the group." She pointed out another one. "Next."
Didisus went back a little shaken. I've seen my own death climb out of the mirror, she thought.
At that, she did better than the rest, since she had had no idea what was coming. Many were visibly shaking, and a few gave a cry of terror when their doppelgangers appeared in the mirrors....all sent out to the Caves of Endless Dark.
When that was done, they went to the zoo/stables where many animals were grazing. "Look at them carefully," said the instructress. "Try to decide which animal you want as your familiar. Tommorrow, you will return and make your choice...and it will be a choice for life."
One of the women muttered she wanted a satyr as a familiar, and then made a ribald jest.
Didisus was too creeped out by the Doppelganger to join in. She looked at the animals, but she would make her decision tonight. She noticed the Thronite guards were gone. Why not? If she acted wrongly, her own doppelganger would come back to kill her. For all she knew, her doubleganger was even now being pawed by a meeping ghoul. She couldn't make a choice now, from a unicorn to a hippogriff to a small fairy or sprite...she couldn't make a choice at all. She couldn't think, while remembering the sight of her image crawling out of the mirror. A familiar image, one she saw every day.
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