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The Familiar Spirit is a creature with origins in the mythology, legend and folklore of cultures around the world. No one place can be stated as the true origin for the use of familiar spirits. However, it should be known that a familiar spirit comes in a couple of varieties.
In some cases, the Familiar Spirit is a Fairy, or perhaps a lesser Demon (such as an Imp), which may or may not take the form of a small animal. Or, it may be a similar spirit (like an Elemental) that has taken over the body of a small animal. Or, in increasingly common circumstances, the Familiar may not be a spirit at all, but rather an animal enchanted for the service of the mage in question.
Additionally, many races assume a role of service under a master, and are referred to as 'Familiars' (such as a human servant to a Vampire master). Some even consider a Spirit Animal to be the same as a Familiar. The former is common, though a tad inaccurate, for the psychology and abilities typically attributed to true Familiars.
Depending on the sort of Familiar that is taken, even the same Familiar might have any number of different shapes. In the simplest, most straightforward case, the Familiar is a Fairy, an Elemental or a Demon (ie an Imp). Their appearance does not change, but they are given to subservience toward a given master (or group of masters).
On the other hand, any of the above may be found in the form of another creature. Common