Location: The Forge
Timeline: November 23, 2011 After the rest of the Payers have left
Cat sat at her work table, the torch before her lit and burning, her mind on the other hand was a million miles away. Bennie's Pegasus hadn't been ready by the time Drake and she had left, it still wasn't quite finished annealing. Cat was always extra careful with pieces that were gifts, making sure that they went through the proper process so that they wouldn't get thermal shock and shatter the instant they left the forge or even worse once the recipient had them hung in their room. She had apologized to Drake, promising to have the figurine wrapped and waiting the second the two of them got back from Winter Break. Only now it was different. Now they were Orphans like the rest of them.
What she couldn't figure out was why she cared so much, why she had actually felt bad that Bennie wouldn't get to have the present on Christmas even though that wasn't what Drake had been planning on giving her. Yeah, Bennie was a sweet kid and she didn't treat the Orphans like crap, rather like her brother, but that didn't explain why Cat had almost broke her own cardinal rule and tried to hurry the annealing process. Sighing she shook her head, that wasn't what was really bothering her anyway.
She leaned back in her chair for a moment before she picked up a clear glass rod and began to layer oranges, reds and yellows over the clear glass so that she could make a rod that reminded her of flames. What was really bothering her was the fact that the forge felt empty, just because the boy that she had been watching over wasn't there. It was stupid and she knew it, nothing would ever happen or come from the school girl crush that she had for him. There were times when she thought that maybe that was why she had allowed it to develop at all, because he was safe, he couldn't reject her because they hadn't been allowed to be anything but friends and so it was okay to think about him that way. As much as she loved her siblings she didn't understand what they saw in her, though she did her damnedest to live up to their expectations. At the same time there was always this tiny voice in the back of her mind that told her that one day they would see her for who and what she really was, that they would see that she wasn't worth the time and effort to love. Her logical mind always fought against it. They loved her for who and what she was, she never hid herself from any of them because there was no reason. They had never given her a single iota of reason to doubt that they always would love her, but still that tiny dark voice whispered not because she had any doubts in them but because she had so many doubts about herself. It was hard for her to understand, let alone explain to anyone else. She knew, bone deep without a doubt that the other Orphans and the staff loved her, even when she got so preoccupied by trying this or that technique that she didn't talk to anyone for days. She knew it, but something always whispered that she wasn't worthy, that her parents hadn't loved her so why should they. Only now things were starting to come to light that maybe her parents had loved her and that was setting everything on it's ears.
She had always thought of herself as trash, that her parents had just thrown her away like she was nothing. Yet she had never, ever thought that about any of the other Orphans, she always thought that their parents had thought it out that there had been a great debate about giving them up. She didn't know why though, why would she give other people's parents the benefit of the doubt but never her own, maybe it was because she had always wanted her parents to love her, to come back and say that they were sorry. To say that they should never have let her go. Only now Cat was beginning to wonder if it had been their idea at all. And with that wondering that tiny dark voice became even smaller, and somehow even darker, like it didn't want to let her go.
A wandering mind is never a good thing when working with open flame and molten glass. Cat wasn't paying attention to what she was doing with her right hand when her left hand moved to grab another rod of colored glass, causing the molten tip of the glass she was working with to press to her forearm. She felt the pressure and a sort of thick coolness roll against her arm like she had dripped syrup or honey on it.
Cat felt the pressure and felt her mouth drop open, there was no burn, no pain. Some of the glass had actually dripped onto her arm and it didn't hurt a bit. Yet another tidbit of information to file away, she remembered Hulga saying that she wasn't human and now Cat was starting to wonder if she was human at all. Great that was all she needed to add on top of everything else. A crush on a Payer, albeit a nice Payer, finding out that her parents may have actually cared if she lived or died, and now this. She shook her head as she started back to work, she needed to make sure that she didn't do that in front of some Payer or their parents. She flicked the cooled glass off of her arm and it fell to the work table with a clatter.
"That always takes some getting used to the first few times," Hulga's voice murmured softly as she entered with a tray of snacks.
"Has it happened to you?" Cat asked as she set her things aside and swiveled in her chair to face Hulga. "Why didn't it burn? Shouldn't I be in pain or something?"
"Because you're of Fire," Hulga replied and reached into the flames and pulled out a handful of coals, white hot and held them for several seconds. "I can only do that for a little bit before my hand gets hot because I'm of Metal, for you there really is no such thing as 'hot'."
"Is that why I never get burned?" Cat said even though the answer was more than obvious. She looked at the coals and bit her lip as she debated doing what Hulga had done and picking up the hot coals. Finally she decided, not waiting for her mentor's answer as she plunged her own hand into the burning embers of the forge.
It was 'warm' but not uncomfortable though, she noticed, the coals began to darken and she started to feel kinda tingly inside. And inside like in that part, like something was going on down there and nobody was doing anything but the sensation was coming from inside her.
Cat let out a little gasp as she dropped the coals back into the forge. She looked at the coals with a confused frown before turning her expression onto Hulga. "Is it supposed to feel like that?" She asked. It was a nice feeling but not something she was really used to, not that she hadn't felt that kind of thing before just that she didn't really go out of her way to go after the feeling.
"Wait until you're set on fire or standing in an inferno," Hulga chuckled. "Its very...'stimulating'."
"So, basically fire is erotic for me?" Cat asked with a slightly confused look at her mentor.
“Fire IS eroticism Cat,” Hulga explained. “Fire is the element of Passion and Lust. Humans have spent centuries writing poetry about how the heat and fires of lust and love filled their hearts. It’s also the element of creation, the ‘Fires of Creativity’. That intellectualism of the element is what changed each of us from our original primordial natures to the forms we have now. You are an Ifrit, a fire-genie from Arabic myth, a woman of sultry beauty who fills the hearts of men (and women so inclined) with lust and, if you’re skilled, love.” She smiled winsomely, “Which, I believe, is why all the Payer-boys have been going more overboard this season than before, because your nature is coming out strongly.”
The confused look simply drew deeper on Cat's face. "I think I'm confused." She said softly, she could get to a point how fire was all things erotic and passionate, writers for eons had talked about burning lust and things like that. "Shouldn't that have affected me before now? I mean, I've never really been into anyone like that before and shouldn't I have? Since it's my nature and all, shouldn't I be like some kind of sex kitten looking to get lucky all the time, rather than kinda just blase about the whole deal?"
“What drives you Cat?” Hulga asked her by way of answer. “What is the thing you’re interested in, what makes you happy, what fulfills you?”
Cat gestured around the room. "This and my family, the rest of the Orphans and creating things that make people smile or gasp or whatever the intention is of the item created." She gestured towards the glass eye that was hanging on the rack so that it wouldn't roll somewhere and shatter. "Finding that thing that is just what the person would love but never thought about."
“And that is your Passion,” Hulga replied with a broad smile. “Creativity, in whatever form, is fueled by Fire.”
Nodding Cat looked up at her mentor. "So how do I keep being bathed in fire from incapacitating me when it makes me feel like that?" She asked with a solemn note to her voice. She knew that something more than what they were being told was going on and she had a feeling that she was going to need to be able to fight even when she was walking through an inferno.
“I’d either get used to it so it doesn’t affect me so strongly,” Hulga offered, “or I’d stay away from fires in general. The problem is, the first time you use your abilities and drop your Guise, that’s going to be difficult.”
Cat let out a sigh. "Somehow I had a feeling you were going to say that." She thought for a moment before offering Hulga a large grin. "Mind if I start sleeping in the forge?" She asked with a chuckle that said she was only half kidding.
“You might scare some people half out of their Guises,” Hulga chuckled, “and we’d prefer everyone to come into on their own. Naturally. But,” she paused and considered, “let me talk to Jericho about it, we might be able to work something out.”
"Yeah but could you just imagine the Payer's faces?" Cat let out an evil little cackle. "That would be priceless, however I know that we can't do stuff like that around Payers. They still think we're like them." She gave Hulga a pouty look. "But it's so much fun to imagine."
“Trust me,” Hulga gave her a semi-serious look, “when they see the real thing, everything goes to scary clowns really quick.”
"Yeah and it's not like Payers have the lion's share of bravery either." Cat snorted. "But still, I don't think we're after wanting mobs with pitchforks after us either."
“Yeah no,” Hulga was seriously, “they have organizations with government and private funding now.”
"Why does that surprise me even less than finding out you're not a human?" Cat asked with a smirk. "Hell I wouldn't be surprised to find out that dragons and unicorns are real, though I'd really like to meet a dragon as long as it doesn't want to use me as a toothpick, or appetizer."
"'Fire Drake'?" Hulga said, "You're fine. Anything else, play it by ear and prepare to run. Dragons are elemental as well and they get persnickety about other elements, depending on what they are. Ur-Drakes, call in all your markers or better yet, send a Calling to all the Guardians and Celestials in range and then go far away and watch. I promise it'll be bright and flashy," she snorted.
"What the 'Fire Drakes' have an affinity for befriending Fire creatures?" Cat tilted her head to the side as she chuckled.
"Fire is the element of Passion and the primary element in all of us," Hulga reminded and explained to her something she hadn't quite connected. "It is the drive, the energy, the vigor of creation, innovation and strong emotions, positive and negative. So Fire Drakes are generally a gregarious lot, hang out together, like company and have a lot of sex. They're also very friendly towards others," Hulga added, "depending on who or what the others are. Plus, you're of Fire as well, so they would be instantly more inclined to like you."
"Birds of a feather and all that?" Cat asked with a chuckle. "I can understand that." She nodded thoughtfully before tilting her head to the side and looking up at her mentor. "What did you have in mind for getting me immune to this whole fire thing?" She asked with a frown. Apart from spending all her time bathed in fire she really couldn't see what else they could do to help her get used to even the idea.
"Spend some time each day sitting in the forge," she told her simply. "Naked, of course. We don't have anything you can wear that's immune to the heat and you're not far enough along to make your own armor yet."
"Why do I get the feeling your not talking about forging it the old fashioned way that I know of?" Cat said as she debated stripping off her clothes and climbing into the forge, just to discover what Hulga was talking about. It wasn't like she'd never gotten off physically before, she had it just hadn't involved anyone else or anything else really. She wondered if it would be different, if the sensation would be more and her curiosity was prodding her hard.
"Because its not," Hulga replied. She gestured in the air and whispered something soft and the overlay peeled back, revealing her much taller and more metallic-looking self. It also revealed her hammer, the one people normally saw but not the way people saw it now. It was even bigger, large enough to crush a car if she got a good swing but then she had to stoop to fit under the high fifteen foot ceiling now. The head of her hammer glowed with unearthly light, sigils of some sort actually projected out from the sides, from the flat planes, several of them repeated. Each side of the hammer projected out a small ring of light like a forcefield of some kind all in white light. She pointed at the head of the hammer, which she heft like it was a broom stick, "I crafted this with my powers, just as you will craft your own armor and weapons," and she smiled, "in time."
"How?" Cat said looking the hammer with an almost eager expression. She wanted to start working on whatever this new skill was going to be. "Will the things I make be permanent or will they only be for me? I mean could I create a shield for someone and have it stay even if I'm not around?" Her mind raced over the possibilities and her hands itched to start creating. "Do you know what my powers are? I mean other than getting off on being burned."
"Because some things are based on what you are," Hulga replied, "and those things are things everyone of your kind have in common. "The things that come from who you are can be and usually are different, with variations and shading of differences and those are the things that are learned. All of you come from long lineage with notable ingrained abilities passed down from generation to generation." Then she looked at her hammer, "Some things are powered by you, some things can be powered in other ways and some things can be powered by whomever picks it up, if they have some sort of power at all. It depends on what you make, how you make it and what, of course, its made from. These are all things you'll be learning soon enough."
"I'm ready to start when ever you are." Cat said rubbing her hands together.
Hulga chuckled and waved a finger at her, "Not so fast Cat, not everyone is where you are yet and everyone needs to get there before we transition. We need you senior ones, the ones awakening now, to be ready for when others start awakening, to help describe things to them and help prepare them. But at the rate you lot are progressing, its going to be soon, probably before break is over."
"How can we start helping to describe things when we don't know very much of what is going on?" Cat asked with genuine curiosity, it wasn't the incessant why type of question but a request to help her understand logically how she could help the others when she felt a bit adrift herself. "Hulga, did you know my parents?" She changed direction just as quickly as a flame flickered.
"I knew all of your parents," Hulga replied quietly, all the joy gone out of her and her face became stony and sad. "Jericho, myself and Kyort knew them all, some of us better than others. It was various of them that helped create this, and other, legacy for you children."
"They're dead aren't they." Cat said just as softly as Hulga. "Most of them at least. That's the only reason I can think that you're so sad talking about them." She stood up and wrapped her arm around her mentor. "Did they want to keep us? Did any of them think of keeping us despite the danger?"
"Oh you have no idea how loved you've been child," Hulga hugged her back. "You've been my own child, growing up here, my only daughter was killed in the war and her child, birthed just before, was lost. But they couldn't keep you in that danger, my loss was the final straw for some of them, Maus' mother gave him into Jericho's arms herself and then went out and..." she almost sobbed but it was an angry sound too.
"I do know. Cause you've been my mom." Cat smiled up at her. "I couldn't ask for a better one either. I'm sorry about your daughter and granddaughter." She tightened her arms around the larger woman. "They went out and the danger or whatever was causing the danger got them, didn't it?" She asked softly wanting to know about what had happened to all their biological parents.
"Yes," Hulga whispered softly. "And I couldn't let that happen to you and the others until and unless you were as ready as we could make you."
"We'll make you proud of us Mama." Cat said just as softly.