Prelude to a Pattern Walk (Cat's background explained)


Morgaine leaves the reception and Cat goes with her. She rubs her eyes once outside, blinks, looks around. "I know this little coffee shop near the palace...they have wonderful pastries as well. Are you game?"

Cat grins. "You bet. Hot chocolate with whipped cream as well?"

Morgaine grins back. "I'm sure they have it..."

She holds her hand out to Cat. Cat takes her hand and Morgaine teleports them to the coffee shop. It's called simply "The Beanery." The building itself is white, the sidewalk outside red brick. Black wrought-iron tables and chairs adorn the sidewalk, potted red geraniums scattered here and there. It's almost dark, and a waitress is lighting lamps and setting them in the middle of each table. Off to one side a band is playing acoustic jazz.

"Hey," Morgaine comments, smiling, "a band. What a stroke of good luck..." "Yes," Cat agrees. "I like jazz, especially in this sort of setting. Nice place, how did you find it?"

"I left the Haven bus tour for the same reason I did tonight--an argument between Family--people started arguing about Max, that time. I started walking and here it was."

"Does the family ever get together without arguing?" Cat asks.

Morgaine laughs. "I have yet to witness such an occurence..."

"I was afraid you would say that," grins Cat. She looks at Morgaine curiously. "How do you fit into the family, if it's OK to ask?"

She turns to Cat. "Oh, you can ask me anything. I don't care. My mother is Moire, the reigning Queen of Rebma, and my father is Prince Corwin. Would you like to find a seat by the band or one further away? We can even go inside, if you prefer. I don't really have a preference."

"Close enough to hear the music, but far enough away to be able to talk, I think. How about here?" Cat points to a sidewalk table about three away from the band. They sit down.

"What about yourself? How do you fit in?"

Cat gives an expressive shrug. "I don't know. My Amber genes come from a laboratory and we don't yet know who they got it from or why. I can't say I'm all that keen to find out really. As long as it isn't known people can't pigeonhole me."

Morgaine smiles at her as she flags down a waitress. "A laboratory? Sounds like an interesting story. Care to elaborate? I think the lack of pigeonholing is a good idea--personally, though, it would drive me nutters not knowing who my parents were--it takes a lot of guts to come into this family completely unknown like that."

Cat shrugs. "Perhaps. But then I didn't really know what I was letting myself in for, you see. And once you're known, it's hard to get back out."

Morgaine nods, understanding completely. "Once you're known you become one of two things: a player or a pawn."

"Well, I've no intention of being anybody's pawn," Cat says firmly.

The waitress arrives and Morgaine gestures for Cat to go ahead and order first. Cat orders hot chocolate with cream and an apricot tart. Morgaine asks for whatever the "coffee of the day" is, and a pastry. "I had one of them last time I was here," she explains. "It looks like this..." and Morgaine goes into a short description.

"Do you means a bavarian-cream long john?" the waitress asks.

"That's it!" Morgaine smiles. "I couldn't remember what it was called. Thanks."

As the waitress leaves Morgaine gives Cat a wry smile. "Why would anyone name a pastry 'long john'? Isn't that another name for underwear? And why would anyone want to eat underwear filled with cream is beyond me--" She starts to laugh. "They do taste good, though."

Cat laughs with her. "It's certainly not one I ever heard of before," she says. "Perhaps it's unique to Haven. But you wanted to know my story. Well, I was born, in the conventional way as far as I knew, in Ireland on Earth Prime twenty-eight years ago..."

"That's the same shadow Corwin spent so much time in," Morgaine comments.

"That's right, and where Merlin and Luke went to college. Anyway I had a pretty normal childhood, at least as far as anyone who grew up during the Mishu Wars could be said to have a normal childhood."

"Mishu Wars?" queries Morgaine.

"A major UFO invasion, though from something Paolo said I gather that Mishu himself had Amber connections. Some of the people who took a major part in the war to defeat Mishu were family, too. Paolo himself and Robert, for example. Anyway, when Mishu had been defeated, the world map had realigned into new empires, mostly controlled by what I now know to be family."

Cat pauses briefly, then resumes her tale. "My parents work for Biotechnica, which is a bio-engineering company, and one of the bio-engineering services they offer is what they call "embryo enhancement". It's supposed to be mainly screening for defective genes but my parents, as employees, got to try out the next stage, which seems to have been out-and-out eugenics. They still paid a pretty penny for it, though, which is why they were furious when they didn't get the high-earning corporate exec they were hoping for. That was when I found out - I'd always wanted to be a dancer, you see, and we had an awful row when they saw I was determined to follow that course."

"Why do parents do that? Assume their children are going to follow a particular course, as if they'd no will or ambitions of their own?" wonders Morgaine.

"Projection of their own ambitions? Plans for their security in old age? Lack of empathy? Plain stupidity? Take your pick. In my case, I think it was a combination of two and three." replies Cat.

Cat pauses as the waitress brings their order. She sips her hot chocolate, then continues. "I didn't know the whole then, of course, just that I wasn't my parents' child, biologicallty speaking. It was when Achmed brought Kelric to Paris to recruit me for the theatre tour that I was identified as having Amber blood and it was Queen Florimel who spotted it first. And that, basically, is it."

"How did Flora do that? Spot you were family, I mean."

Cat frowns. "I'm not sure. I was auditioning for Kelric and she was watching from a box. When she spoke to me after the first thing she asked me was who my parents were. When I told her what I've just told you she told Kelric to use his magic to confirm that she was right. He did and she was and here I am." She sighs. "I've benn promised I can walk the Pattern when we get to Amber, but it seems to be taking forever to get there."

Morgaine smiles. "If you like, I'll take you to Rebma now and you can walk the Pattern there."

Cat's face lights up. "Really? That would be wonderful. Thank you." She drains the last of her chocolate. Checking that Morgaine has also finished, she tosses some coins on the table before rising to her feet. "I'm ready."

Morgaine laughs. "I should prepare you a bit first...have you heard of Rebma? We're underwater but you don't need to panic...just breathe normally, okay?" She concentrates for a few seconds, then holds out her hand to Cat. "Take it and we'll be there, standing in front of the Pattern. This is your last chance to back out..." Morgaine smiles.

Cat smiles. "I've read the Chronicles, so I do know that in theory, though I admit it will probably take a few moments to get used to it in practice. As for backing out, no chance." She takes Morgaine's hand.

When they arrive, she stands for a while gazing at the Pattern. "It's even more beautiful than I had dreamed," she says softly, half to herself. Then she squares her shoulders. "Where do I begin from?"

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