From: Sarah Pearson 
Subject: AM: Feeling right at home

Sarah knew she was in a strange environment before she even opened her eyes.
For one thing, there was no droning noise signifying the highway about two
miles from her house; and for another, her bed was nowhere near this
comfortable! The urge to snuggle in spread over her sleepy mind, but as she
did just that, she remembered where she was and sat bolt upright, fully
awake. The previous day's events replayed through her mind, from that
fateful discovery of that (really expensive) card, to the two people who
came to her world, Zachary and Laura, to the beautiful woman, Florimel,
showed her around the castle and its grounds. She remembered meeting a few
of the other residence of the hall, including a rather strange woman named
Julianna. Sarah couldn't really figure out what had seemed strange about the
woman, but something in her mind had told her this woman, Julianna, was not
to be trusted. She had the same feeling about Flora as well, which was, to
her, quite curious. She'd never considered herself a paranoid person;
she prided herself on her logical thinking. Yet, all of these people
inspired the strangest things in her; it seemed to her that all of them had
ulterior motives of some kind. Laura alone seemed to be safe, but that could
be an illusion too. Maybe she was just trying to lull Sarah into a feeling
of safety....

She shook her head, disgusted with herself. There was absolutely no proof
Laura would, or was, doing anything like that. There wasn't proof *any* of
them were doing things like that. She shrugged; maybe it was better to be
safe than sorry. Marc had always said she was too trusting anyway. Marc....

She shoved the thought away, intent on leaving the past behind; or at least
temporarilary. She swung her legs over the bed and stood up quickly.
Immediately, a headache assaulted her from getting up too quickly ('Probably
my human side acting up' she thought to herself), but ignored it and headed
into the small annex which seemed to house the bathroom.

The lights came on automatically, and Sarah looked into the full length
mirror. Her clothing was all rumpled from sleeping in them for the night,
and her hair was a total mess. She frowned at herself; she wasn't usually
this forgetful. Her mother had raised her to be a bit more civilized
than this! Then again, she hadn't had anything to wear at the time...

"Is there anything I can help you with Miss?" a feminine voice behind her
asked, causing Sarah to jump around in fright. A young maid stood there
behind her, staring studiously at the woman in front of her. Piqued at being
startled, Sarah was about to snap something rude at the young woman, then
caught herself in time. It certainly wouldn't help to alienate the servants,
especially those who she knew she'd be working close to. She already had the
stablehands to apologize to; she had just been nervous, and the way she
dealt with nervousness was to be a complete bitch. It wasn't a habit she
wasn't particularly fond of but one she couldn't quite get rid of.

"Well, is there anything I can wear? Something just to..." She was going to
say "wear around the house" but thought better of it. Who knew; they might
not even know what the term meant. "Something all purpose I can wear."

"Yes ma'am. Right this way." The maid turned around and walked quietly into
the room again. Sarah followed behind the maid, staring at her curiously.
Most of the servants she had met while touring the castle had been almost in
awe of the royal family, one of which Sarah was believed to be. This one
seemed almost oblivious to the fact that she was a servant. No, Sarah
thought privately, that wasn't it; she seemed to be servanty enough so far.
It was more her attitude, that she wasn't looking at Sarah the way a servant
should look at a member of the royal family. Then again, it wasn't yet known
that she was a royal...

"What's your name?" she asked.

"Moire, my lady," the maid answered, not bothering to turn around as she
burrowed in a wardrobe across from the bed. She pulled out some pieces of
clothing, laying them on the bed before going back to get more. Sarah stared
at the apparal, appraising its value. She could see some rinestones shining
on one of the dresses, and another was a lovely maroon satin. Her mother
would have had a field day with such dresses, she knew. Sarah herself hated
dresses, most likely because she had been forced to wear them as a child;
but her mother was never seen in pants. She was a socialite to the core;
even after waking up, not one hair was out of place. Sarah never could
understand how she did it; she herself always woke up rumpled, with hair
going every which way.

It was a while before she noticed just how many dresses and other clothing
was coming out of the small wardrobe. Already, the foot of her bed was
covered a foot high with clothing of all sorts, most of it dresses. And more
was still coming out of the small closet. "Good grief, where do you find the
space for all this stuff?" Sarah asked, surprised.

The maid just shrugged, pulled one more thing out, then shut the doors and
laid the last dress on top of the rest. Sarah just stared at the pile of
material covering her bed, wondering how on earth she was going to go
through all this and still go out like she'd planned. "I asked for
simple around the...castle clothing! Not all this."

"I'm sorry madam. I wasn't sure what you considered as casual."

She didn't sound all that contrite, but Sarah really didn't care. "Do you
have maybe some pants and a shirt?" Seeing the bewildered expression on the
maid's face, she ammended the question. "Maybe some riding pants and a

The maid nodded, turned back to the wardrobe (It has *more*? Sarah thought)
and took out two folded pieces of clothing. Shaking them out, she revealed a
dark green blouse and semi-tight riding pants. "Will this do ma'am?"

"Definately!" Sarah was itching to get out of the clothes she had on, and
these looked quite comfortable. Motioning the maid away, who went just
outside, she quickly changed out of her own clothing and into the things
before her. To her surprise, they fit quite comfortably; the shirt
billowed a bit, but that was easily solved by a belt that she found in a box
above the wardrobe.

The maid entered the room when she called for her to. "How do I get to the
stables?" Sarah asked, braiding her red hair behind her back.

"Would you like for me to do that, miss?"

"No thank you," Sarah replied. "I repeat, how do I get to the stables?"

A slight frown flitted above the maid's brows, but was quickly gone. She
gave the directions in specific detail, and Sarah soaked them up quickly.
She put the hairband around the end of the braid and, throwing it behind her
back, stood up. The maid came over and handed her some shoes. Sarah saw they
were riding boots, or a good supliment, and praised the maid. "Nice choice!
And thank you."

The maid just nodded as Sarah put on the boots, lacing them up and rolling
her pant leg over them. She walked around a bit in them; they were obviously
new, but a couple days in them and they'd be a perfect fit. It was on the
tip of her tongue to ask the maid how she knew her shoe sizes, but she
thought better of it. Maybe she'd ask Laura sometime in the future.

"Oh ma'am, one more thing. I was told to inform you that you will be
expected to dine in the dining hall with the lady Laura for breakfast. She
said she should be coming soon."

"Thank you," she said to the maid then turned around and went out the door.

She left the maid pulling her room together, joined soon by more maids, and
headed for breakfast. On the way there, she met up with Laura and the two of
them proceeded to the dining hall.

Insert Judi's post

She walked out of that great hall with the queen and king, not knowing what
emotion she was feeling. She couldn't say she was surprised; everyone had
been treating her like a royal family member since she'd arrived, so she had
probably grown used to that. And it wasn't like she was suddenly rich; if
she'd stayed in her world, she would have been anyway. Maybe it was the
suddenness of it, the instantaneous decision by the strange procedure the
king had done; one minute she was Sarah Matthews citizen of Manhattan, the
next she was Sarah Matthews, princess of Amber. It had happened so fast, it
had yet to really sink in.

Leaving the castle, she remembered what she had told her maid she would be
doing this morning. Her apparal certainly hadn't been what most people would
have greeted a king or queen in; her mother would have been absolutely
mortified at the thought of her daughter meeting royalty in riding pants, a
shirt, and boots. Not that it mattered much anymore what her mother thought;
she was in a different world, and anyway Sarah was an adult.

Putting those thoughts aside, she followed the maid's directions, finding
the stables easily. She could smell the horses in the air, an earthy smell
she had grown up to and had grown to love. It was here where she felt the
most at home, not in the castle or the nice houses she'd lived in in her old
world. She stopped just before entering the grounds, watching the trainers
handle the horses, examining them. They were all magnificent to be sure; any
of them could have done quite well in her world. The trainers were putting
several through their paces; one group was practicing a complicated series
of steps, many of which seemed almost impossible feats even when the horses
did them. She didn't notice the stableman coming towards her until she heard
his footsteps a few feet away. "Hello," she greeted, turning towards him.

He took in her red hair and proud bearing, guessing she was a new royal. The
Pattern knew they'd had quite a few recently. "How may I help you ma'am?"

"Well, I'm looking for a horse," Sarah answered, smiling, "and I was
wondering if you could show me some. They're all very beautiful, but do you
have any particular favorites, or ones that show promise?"

The man smiled back, nodding. "Except for a choice few, all are promising
and my favorites. Some, I grant, are a little bit more trained than others.
Do you by chance know how to ride?"

Sarah laughed lightly. "Yes, I believe I'm fairly proficient," she answered,
smiling so as to lessen her haughty manner. "Care to show me around?"

The man nodded with a smile, and commenced a tour of the facilities. He
showed her the tack room, complete with a wide variety of equipment. Several
different types of saddles were there, some of which Sarah had never seen
before. She asked question after question, switching from topic to topic
like lightening; her guide answered her questions calmly and professionally,
which only led to more questions. He showed her the stables themselves,
which he seemed proud of. He explained he had helped design these particular
stalls, and had made them roomier while still keeping the same number of
stalls for the same amount of room. Sarah, naturally, had questions for this
as well, which he answered with the same professionality he had her previous

Finally, they got to the horses. Others had come to the stables by now, and
were excercising their own steeds in the practice areas. The dancing horses
were now gone and a dark bay stallion was being led out into the arena,
followed by a large number of handlers. Quite a beautiful stallion if the
distance wasn't playing tricks on her.

"Who does the horse I road yesterday belong to? Rainpuddle, I think its name

"Ahh yes, we're quite proud of that horse. He belongs to the crown prince
Zachary and...."

A sudden scream made them look in the direction of the arena. Several
trainers had surrounded the huge bay each with a whip in hand, effectively
trapping the large stallion. Two people were holding onto the lead rope,
trying to keep away from the flying hooves while still holding on. It reared
up and pawed at the air, walking towards the men around it. All scattered
but a few who snapped their whips at the dancing horse, forcing him back and
to the ground.

The stableman beside Sarah frowned. "We're not usually that harsh with our
horses. He's just a bit difficult."

"A bit?" Sarah asked incredulously, giving the man a 'That's an
understatement' look. The man grimaced slightly. "Okay, he's a little more
than a 'bit difficult'."

"Are you trying to train him to saddle?" It seemed impossible by the looks
of it; gelding would probably be the only thing that calmed that beast, and
that would be a big waste of horseflesh.

"No, actually that's not the problem. He's saddlebroken and bitbroken as far
as we know. He was a gift to us from another kingdom, but frankly I think
they just wanted to get rid of him."

He was absolutely magnificent, even when he was enraged. His ears were laid
back to his head and he was jumping about, obviously wanting to attack
someone or something. His already dark coat was streamed with sweat, making
him seem black; his mane and socks blended in with the rest of his body. One
trainer got too close, and the horse lunged at him. The little man plunged
through the bars of the fence, and the distraction gave the other handlers
the chance to grab the horse from all sides and force it to be stile.
Nostrils flaring, eyes completely surrounded by white, it was saddled with
what appeared to be something close to a very deep western saddle and a bit
was forced into its mouth. During one of several tries to get the bit
inside, a trainer yelped loudly, backing away and holding onto his hand
which had obviously been bitten. The horse was, however, eventually saddled,
and the trainers on a cue let go of the ropes to let the horse
buck.....and nothing happened. It just stood there.

Something about the horse pulled at Sarah. She was certain she could ride
it, even though it seemed like a demon out of hell. The man beside her was
talking, but she wasn't even listening; all she saw was that horse.

After a long pause, she stated "I'm going to try" and headed towards the

Startled, the man stared as the soon-to-be princess headed towards the
stallion at a quick gate, then raced after her. "My lady, there are other
horses that might be better," he pleaded, trying to keep pace with her.
"This one, he will surely kill you..."

She waved him aside, and he obeyed reluctantly. He'd seen his best trainers
hurled from this monster; two had been trampled before they could escape.
Luckily, nothing major had been damaged, although one would never train
horses again. He certainly didn't want this woman hurt, no matter if she
thought herself a good rider. And if she really was a royal....he passed his
hand over his face nervously, hoping nobody would blame him for her

As she drew closer, she watched as a trainer vaulted onto the horse's back.
Immediately, a frenzy of bucking ensued, the horse screaming his rage and
the trainer trying desperately to hold on. Sarah watched as the horses
leaped up onto its hind legs and took a couple steps backwards, then fall
backwards to the ground. The trainer lunged off the horse before it fell
on him, landing only inches from getting his legs crushed. He crawled
quickly back under the fence as the horse took back to its feet, seemingly
unhurt by the fall. It just stood there again, as if taunting someone to try
to ride him again; but nobody even entered the arena.

Sarah stared at the horse for a while, then climbed over the fence. Behind
her, she could hear voices imploring her to stop, but she ignored them and
nobody was brave enough, or stupid enough, to go in and try to stop her.
Some whispered she was a royal, judging from her red hair; they should stop
her. But still, none went after her: they were all too afraid of the horse.

As she approached the horse, Sarah began making a crooning noise in the back
of her throat, talking softly to the horse. Its ears went up and down as it
just stood there, waiting for her to come close. Sarah, not trusting it
enough to put her hand near its face, went around its side and laid her hand
on its hot neck, stroking slowly as she proceeded toward the saddle. Laying
her hand on the saddle pommel, she said one more thing softly to the horse,
who had one ear turned her way, the other laid back to its head; then she
vaulted quickly onto its back, prepared for the ride.

She wasn't disappointed. Immediately upon feeling the weight on its back,
the huge stallion screamed its outrage and bucked furiously, throwing itself
all around the pen. People on the sides took a step away as hooves flew
towards them, many gasping in awe and fear. Most had never seen a horse this
wild, certainly not here at the royal stables. The horse twirled around,
then began crowhopping, throwing itself up and down on the ground trying to
dislodge the weight on its back. It screamed again as it threw up its
hindquarters, its body going almost vertical with the ground.

To put it mildly, Sarah was having trouble staying on the horse. Never in
her life had she been on such a ride; even when helping to break the new
horses on her family's ranch, she'd never been given such a powerful animal!
All she could do was dig her knees into its back, tighten her hold on the
reins, and hold tightly onto the mane, praying she wouldn't be bucked off.

The horse threw its hindquarters into the air, and spun around on its front
legs. Sarah was jerked unexpectedly to the side, and barely managed to stay
on. Sensing its newfound advantage, the horse bucked up once, then
crowhopped to the side quickly. Already precarious in the saddle, the lunge
to the right completely dislodged her. To keep from falling down right next
to the horse and in range of the deadly hooves, she threw herself from the
saddle, landing a couple feet from the fence. As she hit the ground, the
wind was completely knocked from her, and she struggled to get up. She felt
her arms being caught, then she was hauled back as the stallion lunged
towards where she was laying prone on the ground; he missed her legs by mere

"Madam, are you hurt?" a worried trainer asked. Immediately, other voices
piped up with inquiries along the same theme. "Are you okay?" "I've never
seen anything like that!" "That fall must have hurt!" "How did you stay on
so long!?"

Sarah took a couple deep breaths, then tried to stand up. Hands grabbed her
arms and pulled her to her feet, holding her up as she caught her breath.
"Wow," she whispered, staring at the horse. She had never, since she was
seven and learning how to break a horse, been thrown! She stared at the
horse, who had gone back to just standing there, its sides heaving from the
exertion. "Wow," she repeated inanely.

"Should we take you back to the palace, ma'am?" the stableman asked,
concerned. He'd underestimated the woman; she *was* a proficient rider. Few
of his trainers had been able to stay on as long as she had, and they had
quit right after their ride. He was fairly certain it would be better for
his own handlers to finish the horse now; he doubted that the woman would
want to get back on him.

Once again, he had underestimated her. She looked at him as if he'd said one
of the craziest things she'd ever heard. "Hell no! I've never quit, and one
horse won't change that!" She jerked her arm out of his hands, then went
over to the fence again and leaped over. The stableman saw her mount the
hellhorse again, and closed his eyes as he heard the horse scream. Just as
he suspected, he heard the thud of a body less than ten seconds later and
watched the woman being pulled out of the ring again.

"Let go!" Sarah shouted, vaulting over the railing and staring at the horse.
The bay,for his part, stared just as hard at her. "Listen, you son of a
bitch," she stated to the horse, "I am NOT going to give up. You either let
me ride you, and save us both some energy; or you kill me. Either way, I
won't be stopping all this until we either ride together, or I'm dead and
cold. You got me?" And with that, she stalked over to the horse, grabbed the
saddle pommel and mane, and leaped up onto the horse, digging her legs in.

This time, there was a pause between the time she mounted and the horse
began bucking. When it did, there was a noticable change; the kicks and hops
weren't nearly as high as they had been, the scream not as full of rage as
it had previously been. Sweat was streaming down its hide, making it appear
full black; and the bloodshot eyes only heightened the effect, making it
appear to have red eyes. Sarah was bruised all over, hanging on for dear
life. The insides of her thighs was aching like fire, and her shoulder felt
about to come off. She held on, however, hoping that she wouldn't have to
get back on him. If he threw her off one more time, she wasn't sure what
she'd actually do, no matter what she'd said to it.

One more small buck, then the horse began trotting around the corral. Sarah
didn't let up on her legs still, just held tight. Sure enough, a couple
bucks came still, but they lacked the heart the previous ones had. She
pulled back on the reins, and the horse slowed down; a little bit harder of
a pull, and the horse stopped totally.

The crowd around was silent as she dismounted and walked over to the
stablehand, who hastily opened the door for her. "I'll take him," she stated
imperiously, jerking her head towards the stallion.

"Yes ma'am!" He was, quite simply, happy to finally get rid of the horse. It
would do good for his stables to save the trainers the embarassment of being
thrown day in and day out.

"I believe you said he has been fully trained?" Sarah asked, wiping off her
face with a towel one of the people had given her.

"Yes, he's fully trained. We were told he was given training on hellriding,
but it might be best to reinforce the training. He may not even be trained
in that aspect at all."

She glanced back at him. "He sure is a beaut."

"That he is ma'am." Under his breath, he muttered, "I just wish he had a
personality to match."

Sarah chuckled at the observation. "Well, does he have a name?"

"We believe it's the owner who should name the horse. And as he's yours, it
is your privalege."

"Hmm," Sarah wondered outloud, staring at the horse. As he was led out, he
lunged at a person leading him and bit him soundly on the shoulder. "How
about Memnoch? It certainly suits him."

"Yes ma'am, that it does. Now, is there anything else I can give you?"

"No, you've been quite helpful. I thank you."

"You're quite welcome, your ladyship. If you ever want to come helps us
train the horses..." He paused, wondering if he'd crossed over his
boundaries. Why would one of the royals, or a woman like this, want to train
simple horses....

Sarah just smiled. "I'd love to," she answered, then bidding him goodbye
headed back towards the castle.

As she headed in, she thought about all the people she'd met. Laura was one
of the first she had met, along with Zachary. She knew Laura was from earth;
there was no other way she could have known about the Beach Boys unless
she'd either travelled there or had grown up there. But Laura seemed to be
from the sixties, not the nineties; there had been something in her demeanor
when the king had played the song that had given Sarah that impression.

The king and queen themselves seemed normal, if such a thing could be said
about royalty. Sarah felt sorry for the queen; it must be awful being blind.
Yet, she'd seemed to get along alright; she'd felt Sarah's face as if it was
the way she looked at people. Sarah had seen blind people in her world doing
the same thing. The king himself seemed to be a musician if his playing said
anything. The comment from the previous night made by Flora when that other
woman was present made sense now. What was her name....ahh, Julianna.

There was something about this Julianna that intrigued Sarah. She had been
quite curteous to Flora and Sarah, stately like Sarah had always imagined a
princess to be. Yet, there was something strange about her; well, maybe
strange wasn't the word. Hidden seemed a better way to describe the woman.

Then there was Zachary. As far as she could see, he and Laura were a lot
alike. Both were kind and patient, putting up with her (which, at times,
could be quite a lot to handle). They had answered her questions graciously,
and had been ... well, nice. Sarah really couldn't find any other way to
describe them.

She entered the castle again, intent on touring it herself. She remembered
passing a library when Florimel had given her the tour, and she was
determined to find it again. She set out on her own, going all over the
castle, giving her own little tour. Some of the places were self
explanitory; she found the kitchen and dining hall easily, and passed the
hall with the king and queen resided. Other rooms contained beautiful pieces
of art, from sculptures to paintings. The sculptures in one particular room
were absolutely beautiful yet haunting. Many of them were in patterns Sarah
had never seen before, alien to her. She wondered if much of this artwork
was from other worlds, or shadows. It seemed that way to her.

In her wanderings, she came across a corridor behind the Great hall. As she
approached, she felt a curious pull, as if something was drawing her towards
that part of the castle. Ingrigued, and more than a little curious, she
moved towards that particular corridor.

"Sarah! I've been looking all over for you."

She turned around to see Laura walking towards her. "I'm exploring," Sarah
gave in way of an explanation and turned back to enter the corridor.

"Sarah? We need to talk before you go down there," Laura stated
emphatically, rushing towards her new cousin. Angry eyes were turned her
way, but Laura wasn't deterred. "It's not safe for you just yet. You're not

"Ready for what?" Sarah replied angrily. Something was pulling at her from
down this corridor, and she'd be damned if some small woman claiming to be a
long lost relative was going to stop her from exploring this....

Laura took a deep breath and stated simply, "It's the Pattern."

Suddenly, those pullings Sarah felt coalesced into one word: Pattern. Those
wantings, those feelings of being complete if she went; that magical
feeling.... "The Pattern?" she asked.