Lara’s not even sure why she does it, why that tiny little shop in that tiny little alleyway in Amber City catches her eye. But it does, and she’s drawn in like a moth to a flame.
She’s just finished a gruelling practice with Greyswandir and is on her way into the city to go to Amber’s version of a hamam and get some of the knots worked out of her shoulders and back.
Her head is again starting to fill with the thoughts she left in her journal that morning, her feet moving on autopilot to the bathhouse, when she looks up and realises that she’s taken a wrong turn and is in a laneway she’s never seen before.
As she’s turning to leave something catches the corner of her vision and she looks back. It’s a bead curtain fluttering in the doorway to a small store. The store itself appears to be of the ilk she recalls seeing in the Camden Lock markets, dark, and full of mysterious objects and the smell of undefinable incense.
A voice echoes out of the darkness, “Come in Princess, you’re more than welcome.”
Lara finds herself moving forward into the gloom of the shop, her hand unconsciously seeking out her Trump deck as she does so.
“Please sit, Princess. You’ve much troubling your mind, perhaps I can help with that.” It’s more a statement than a question.
As her eyes adjust to the dim light, Lara sees a woman of early middle age sitting at a table. Contrary to the apparent nature of the store she is dressed the way most of the women in the city do and there’s nary a crystal ball in sight.
Sitting at the table Lara brings her hands to rest on the cloth covered surface, her left hand still gripping her Trump deck tightly.
“Ah, I see you’ve brought your own method of divination with you,” the woman moves the deck of cards which had been sitting in front of her off to the side and gestures at Lara’s Trumps, “shall we use these then Princess?”
Hesitating for a moment, Lara finally nods and carefully hands over the Trumps. The woman closes her eyes and begins to shuffle the deck, offering them back to Lara after about five passes with the instruction, “Cut.”
She cuts the deck and hands it back. Another five passes and the woman pauses, nods and begins to lay out a pattern of ten cards.
The woman gestures to the picture of Dworkin, “Such a thing you have created recently, or should I say, re-made from what he shaped? It is no small matter to use the power of creation.” She waves a hand in the air, “all of this, the fundamental reality of Amber, how are you connected to it now? How is it shaping you Princess? How have you shaped it?”
The card bearing Talion’s image is next. “Oh, a brand new face! Who is he, where does he come from?” The woman raises her eyebrows, “Perhaps he has you wondering about your own parentage and even your place in your family? It is something you need to think about, neh, and the answers may well be surprising.”
Moving onto the image of Osric, the woman begins, “The past is bitter rebellion and aftermath. The result of challenging the status quo was fatal and the consequences of this one’s death are now coming to pass. But what does this mean for you, Princess?” Pausing, the woman looks curiously at Lara, “By coming to this place, have you destroyed your own past too?”
“And this”, here the woman points to Oberon’s card, an odd expression flickering across her face as she begins to speak, “is your future, what has the potential to occur if you choose it. Lord Oberon created all we have here; he built it, shaped it and made it what you see now. It is possible you too could come to hold this kind of influence.” She hesitates for a moment, almost as if she were going to say something more, before her hand comes to hover over the card bearing Edan’s image.
“Oh. Such are the possibilities of what lies above. Here you will find your best outcome and what you should aspire to.” She looks Lara dead in the eye. “Even apart from your obvious attraction to each other, and what an intensity that burns with, there is much more here. Loyalty over self-interest, the quest for self-worth and to be a hero. This, Princess, is what you can become.”
She moves on to the sixth card, Olivia. “Above must be matched by below. Here you find your past, Princess, your mother.” At Lara’s sharp inhale she looks up, “You favour each other and I can see the love and sorrow that went into the creation of this card. Your story may be about heritage, matrilinage, as a foundation for identity. Think on the new card that appeared in position two of this reading and what it shows you. Are you faced with a choice: to try to hold on to the old you, or to become a full Princess of Amber?”
Pointing to the Trump bearing Bleys image she continues, “This card represents where one comes to. The actions of this man have set you on your current path, have enmeshed you and perhaps will trap you. You are going to need to be careful with this one, Princess; this is a card of hubris.”
The woman taps the fabric next to the card showing Deirdre. “She is an old, powerful, and angry force, separate from the establishment, but not able to be ignored or discarded,” Lara nods at this and the woman continues, “Could it be that Amber is beginning to see you as a power that must be taken into account on its own terms?”
Julia’s Trump is next, “Julia. Poor Julia. Poor dutiful, polite, self-controlled Julia, almost self-exiled to her realm on the forest marches.” There is a tone in the woman’s voice that Lara can’t identify, could it be scorn, or perhaps sorrow? Her voice regains a much more neutral quality as she continues, “She is admirable of course, and she is influential, but perhaps you see such a role in Amber as an unsatisfying place to end up Princess?”
There is only one card left in the spread and the woman looks at Lara thoughtfully, “it appears that the cards have chosen you as the resolution. This is very positive, Princess, for it means that the unfolding of this issue will shine the light of events on your hero-quest, and there will be an alignment of them with your own enlightenment.”
She sits back and looks at Lara steadily for a moment, “you have much to consider Princess, be sure to think carefully and choose wisely.” With this said she gathers the cards into the pile of remaining trumps, and hands them back to Lara with a nod.
Lara rises from the chair and clears her throat, speaking for the first time since she entered the shop, “Thank you madam. I… You’ve… given me a lot to think about. How much do I owe you?”
Pushing her own chair away from the table, the woman stands and smiles at Lara, “Princess, there is no charge for you, but the streets around here have become less safe at night. Perhaps you could have a word with the Captain of the Watch about running a few more patrols here each evening?”
“I’ll speak to the Captain about it this afternoon. Thank you again, madam.” Moving to the door, then back onto the street Lara replaces the Trump deck in her pocket and resumes her journey to the hamam, mind whirling even more than when she began her walk.