Prologue

A fire danced in the heart of the clearing while scattered lights dancing over the painted faces around it. Each sat ceremoniously in a circle around the fire, heads bowed to the odd flame; its hue a magnificent violet. A young girl walked forward into the clearing, seeing the ceremony for the first time. She gasped quietly, breathing in the aroma of the burning violets, an acrid smell that permeated the air. A final step led her to the center of the clearing, leaving her staring into the hypnotizing, purple flames.

A tall, lean man rose from his seat, standing with an air of power. He walked forward towards the girl and the fire, his Leader makings visible in the eerie purple glow. The girl shivered with excitement as he stared at her, he bright violet eyes a reflection of his own.

The leader turned away, walking to the opposite side of the fire, facing the young girl. His arms rose to the sky, and he looked up at the stars, their light reflecting in his eyes. Then he turned to look piercingly at the girl.

"Naitsuki Hakumei," his voice boomed, "you have been called upon by the Great Armaron Spirits to receive the gift of Familiar. Your soul has been judged worthy, and your heart pure. In the sacred tradition of our people, you shall now receive your Familiar."

Naitsuki shivered with delight, her hands squeezed into fists. Finally she was going to receive her Familiar! Custom dictated that no one without a Familiar was permitted to see the ceremony, unless it was for them. She had heard stories that other children told, but nothing could ever prepare her for the sight before her now. She watched intently as their leader, Toklo, lowered his arms over the fire and closed his eyes. He inhaled, then began to chant, his voice layered with the magic of Armaron.

"Suutagami Famila, Suutagami Hatiku," his voice almost sounded song-like as he repeated the incantation again and again, his voice growing louder with each repetition.

The flames seemed to be controlled by Toklo's strong voice. His eyes remained closed and calm, his arms relaxed over and to the sides of the fire, but his voice was full of emotion and being; the magic of Armaron. Little by little, the fire grew in size and intensity, rising between his hands. They were nearly ten feet high by the time he was chanting the last verse. The last repetition was sung with so much meaning and command that the fire rose higher than the highest trees, and changed to a shimmering silver hue. Toklo's hands were still raised, his eyes now open.

Naitsuki felt a tingle and looked down at herself and gasped in awe. Her body was glowing the same silver as the fire. Looking back up, she gasped again when she was her own colors in the flames themselves. They had switched colors! She looked around, noting that no one else was silver but her. And the stars and moon, she reminded herself happily.

Suddenly, the fire began to spin and twirl, twisting into a shape. With a shining flourish, the fire morphed into a harmless butterfly that held all the colors of Naitsuki. She looked around in confusion. Everyone else who had a familiar had an animal that described them. A sly fox for one, a playful dog for another, even a proud hawk. But no one's Familiar was as pathetic as hers.

"My familiar's a butterfly?" Naitsuki asked, unable to hide the disappointment welling up inside her. Was she really that pathetic?

Toklo glared at her, silencing her in an instant. He didn't dare roll his eyes or speak to ruin the ceremony, but he wanted to. No want wants the butterfly Familiar. He sighed, wishing that the Armaron messenger would get more credit.

The huge butterfly fluttered down from the fire, Naitsuki's colors flitting over its body as if trying to find an escape. As the butterfly descended, it shrunk as well until it was about the size of Naitsuki's head. It noticed the discomfort in the girl, and touched her forehead with its antennae. A blinding flash of silver sprung through the clearing, and everyone but Naitsuki had to shield there eyes. The light had no effect on the one receiving a Familiar.

When the light had gone, Naitsuki gasped in awe. A lithe silver cat stood before her, intelligence sparkling in her clear eyes. They reflected Naistuki's face, and she gasped again. Her color was back! She held out an arm, relieved to be back in her natural color. The fire was once again silver, though it was quickly fading back to the ceremonial purple. The cat leaped onto Naitsuki's shoulder.

She was so amazed by her Familiar, she had almost forgotten the ceremony was not over. She would have forgotten all about the ceremony in fact, if her familiar had not darted her eyes toward the leader. Quickly, Naitsuki turned her attention back to the ceremony, silently thanking her new friend.

"By the Armaron Spirits, you and your Familiar are now one!" The tribal leader announced, as the group broke into quite cheers. Then, they began chanting her name along with her Familiar's form. Naitsuki's eyes were locked on her Familiar, oblivious to all, when she noticed an odd sensation. She could "feel" her Familiar's thoughts. Not read them or know them for sure, but she had a feeling that would come in time.

Toklo walked over to Naitsuki, patting her on the back now that the ceremony was almost through. There was only one more part. "What shall her name be?" He asked, refraining from touching her Familiar, out of respect and courtesy. Especially on the first day, that would be considered rude to both the Familiar and the human counter part.

Naitsuki thought for a second, and then looked up towards the sky. She gasped as her Familiar's head blocked the moon; the cat was on her head now. She looked into the feline's large deep eyes, and saw something there. And the she knew exactly what her name should be. In fact, what it already was. The girl gathered the cat up in her arms and grinned, speaking her name aloud.

"Kaiki, the eclipse."