Lara sets the official seal of the Sheriff of Amber down on her desk in the Sheriff’s office and looks at the last of the ‘Wanted’ posters she has made for Fiona’s arrest. They’re pretty basic, but most people in the Golden Circle know who Princess Fiona is, and they convey the relevant information. Wanted; Dangerous; Do Not Approach.
She is tired, so tired, but there is still work to be done. The posters need to be distributed to the City Watch, the relevant law enforcement arms of each Noble house, the different Amber military services, which includes Caine and his network of spies, and the rest of the staff of the Sheriff’s office. Most of the posters go into individual envelopes, each containing a note with a brief explanation, addressed to the relevant person and sealed with a wax impression of the official mark of the office.
Standing up, she stretches for a moment before walking to the door and calling for a staff member; even though it’s late she knows someone will respond. A footman, Johann, appears after a few brief moments. “Princess Lara, what can I do for you?”
“I need two things please, Johann,” she says handing him the sheaf of envelopes, “can you please ensure these are delivered as a matter of urgency.”
“Of course your Highness. And the second?”
She stops herself before she reflexively says, “Lara, just call me Lara.” She knows from past experience that he will still refer to her as ‘Highness’ despite the request to use her christian name. She says instead, “A large pot of very strong coffee please.”
“Two cups your Highness?” he’s used to the late nights she and Edan often work.
“Just one thank you Johann,”
“Of course your Highness, I’ll be back with it shortly.” He turns and leaves, footsteps echoing loudly down the otherwise silent corridor.
Lara slumps back down in her chair, closing her eyes briefly as she makes a mental list of the things she still needs to do before she can even think about sleep. She must doze off slightly as she is startled awake by a knock on the open office door and a quiet, “Your Highness”.
“Oh, yes, sorry Johann, just put it down on the desk if you don’t mind,” she moves the last couple of Wanted posters in order to make a clear space. The tray is placed down with gentle clinking noises and she thanks Johann as he moves to leave the office.
“Not a problem your Highness, have a good evening.” He closes the door as he leaves and Lara sighs as she looks back to the tray on her desk. A large coffee pot is accompanied by a cup, milk, sugar and a plate of pastries she didn’t ask for, but is very grateful to have. She pours a cup, adds milk and takes a sip. It’s far too strong for her normal taste, and she grimaces as she takes another mouthful, but it’ll keep her going for a while longer yet.
Holding a pastry between her teeth, she rifles through her Trump deck, pulling out Edan’s Trump. Two birds with one stone she thinks to herself as she takes a bite of the pastry and chews it quickly, brushing the crumbs off her face before picking up the poster of Fiona. Telling Edan about the new fugitive and getting him to also let his sister know and give her the poster for distribution suits Lara’s sense of expediency. The quicker she can get the word out, the quicker they can hopefully find Fiona.
The Trump goes cold as she concentrates on it and Edan swims into view, sitting on a heavily carved high-backed chair in what appears to be a huge firelit hall. She can see a green and white banner on the wall above his head; the suggestively horse-shaped symbol of his family, the Karm. He looks sleepily content.
“Oh, god, I didn’t wake you again did I?” She hears him huff a laugh as he shakes his head.
“Nope, not this time,” he narrows his eyes at her, “have you slept at all, Lara? You look even more like shit than you did last time you called.”
She’s about to answer in the negative when she hears a faint female voice ask, “Who’re you talking to E?”
Lara goes cold as she sees him glance off to the side and make a vigorous shushing gesture at someone obviously just out of frame. Oh. Oh.
“Oh, umm, sor…,” her voice stutters and she clears her throat, “Sorry, I’ll just umm, I’ll just call back later when you’re not, ah, not busy. Sorry.” She cuts the contact just as he opens his mouth to say something.
Edan’s Trump drops softly to the desk as Lara takes a shuddering inhale, squeezing her eyes closed tightly. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Do not let any tears fall.
In Garnath’s great hall of Eorthwick, Edan leans back in the ducal chair, looks across at his sister seated beside him and says, “Oh fuck.”
Opening her eyes, Lara has to blink a few times before the desk clears in her vision. She puts down the Wanted poster for Fiona that she was still holding in her left hand and draws an envelope towards her, addressing it to Her Grace, Duchess Seona Karm, via Edan Karm, Deputy Sheriff of Amber. She quickly pens a note to the Duchess, a carbon copy of the notes included in the envelopes she sent off earlier. Picking up the wax and seal, Lara quickly applies one to the other on the back of the envelope, closing it ready for delivery.
She stands and walks to the office door, envelope and second last spare poster tight in her hand. She opens the door and calls, “Johann, have you got a moment please?”
Johann appears round a corner, as if by magic, a moment later, “Yes Princess Lara, what can I do for you?” He’s looking at her slightly quizzically, brows drawn together in something that could be almost called concern.
“I’ve got another envelope to be delivered, it got caught up with some other documents on my desk,” she waves her hand at the piles of paper sitting on its surface, “Can you please ensure it’s delivered ASAP.”
“Of course your Highness. Will there be anything else?”
“No, thank you Johann. You have a good evening.”
“You too your Highness.”
Lara watches him walk back off down the corridor for a moment before turning and closing the office door, locking it tight. She looks at the poster in her hand and sighs. Yet another difficult task is next on her list. Part of her had hoped to put off this conversation forever, but she knows she can’t.
She shuffles her Trump deck again and the picture of the MI6 building appears in her hand. She glances at it and then turns it over and over, thinking. The guilt she feels about what has happened to Sean, no, what she chose to do to him, is almost overwhelming and she feels ill at the thought of it. Well, more ill than she already did given what she heard in… her thoughts skitter away from Edan’s name. No. Do not think about that. Focus instead on how much she hates herself for what she’s done to Sean. Yes, much better.
M needs to know that his brother is safe and, if not exactly well, at least in no danger for the time being, she owes him that much at the very least. She needs to let him know that she will do everything in her power to return Sean to him as soon as she’s able to free him safely from his possession by Oberon. She also needs to let him know about Fiona and the danger she presents. It seems as if Earth is somewhat of a magnet for Amberites who want to disappear.
The motion of the Trump in her fingers ceases and straightening her shoulders she concentrates on it until it goes cold.
Eve Moneypenny is at her desk in the anteroom to M’s office when Lara arrives. She looks at Lara quizzically for a moment before glancing at her computer. Her face clears as she reads something and she says, “Miss Green, right on time. My apologies, it’s been a bit of a day and I’d forgotten you had an appointment.”
“Not a problem at all Eve, I’ve had a bit of a one myself. Am I ok to go in?” She gestures at the door to M’s office, “I don’t want to interrupt anything.”
“Let me check,” Eve picks up the phone on her desk and waits a moment before saying, “Miss Green for you sir. Yes sir, I’ll send her in.”
She looks back at Lara, “you’re okay to go straight in,” she pauses for a moment before continuing, “it’s good to see you Lara, it feels like it’s been forever.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” Lara steps towards M’s office and puts her hand on the knob, “Take care Eve,” she says and steps into the room, closing the door behind her.
M is sitting at his desk, flicking through a file which he closes as she walks up to him. M gestures at the chairs in front of him and says, “Take a seat Miss Green, I’m sure you have a lot to report.” He raises an eyebrow at her with this statement. She knows that eyebrow and it doesn’t necessarily mean good things ahead.
“Yes sir.” She pauses for a moment, wondering which issue to bring up first. She knows M will be desperate to hear any news of Sean, but that it’s possible that opening with it will cloud anything else she has to say. So, Fiona first then.
Lara slides the Wanted poster for Fiona across the desk to M, “Princess Fiona of Amber is a fugitive from justice. We’re trying to find and contain her, but we don’t have a bead on her whereabouts as yet.” M regards her steadily, eyebrow raised further, which she wasn’t sure was even possible.
“I know it’s not likely,” Lara continues, “but it has been known for members of the royal family of Amber to find themselves on Earth, in fact they seem to have a particular fondness for it and I don’t want you to be unprepared. She’s vicious, incredibly dangerous and likely to cause massive trouble.”
M takes a closer look at the poster, “treason against the crown?”
“Yes, she tried to kill the Queen. Thankfully she failed, but she’ll be off somewhere regrouping, so it’s only a matter of time before she tries again.”
“And you want to catch her before that.” M nods his head in agreement as he goes on, “fair enough too, can’t have potential regicides bloody well running around as they please. Obviously I can’t send this out as is, but we’ll work something up that’s suitable for distribution in the intelligence community.” He leans back in his chair consideringly and steeples his fingers. “Anything else to report Miss Green? You look like you haven’t slept in a week.”
She supresses a grimace as his words sail too close to Edan’s for comfort.
“I do, but you’re not going to like it.” Lara catches his gaze and holds it, steady, “I’ve found Sean.”
The sudden, intense focus on her is a palpable thing as M leans across his desk; hands placed either side of the file he was looking at earlier. “And why would I not like that Miss Green?” His tone is so cold it could freeze oceans in an instant.
Her first inclination is to shrink back from M’s fierce scrutiny, but she doesn’t, can’t. What happened to Sean is on her and she must own it and accept the consequences.
“Because I can’t bring him back to you yet.”
“Why not?” M has now stood up out of his seat and is walking around the desk towards her, “I thought you had powers beyond those of us mere mortals?”
Lara stands to meet him as he moves towards her chair, “because I can’t guarantee his safety here, not with her on the loose,” she gestures to the poster of Fiona, “not with other people out there who would use him for their own gain.”
That brings him up short and he hangs his head, shoulders slumping. “Tell me.”
So she fills him in. Sean’s possession by Oberon, capture by Bleys, their plan to remove Oberon and contain him and the decision she made not to do it. He stares at her as she details the reasons why and why they locked Sean away in a place inaccessible to all bar herself, Sioned and Hagen.
M sits heavily on the edge of his desk, “so I can’t even visit him?”
“I’m sorry, no.” Lara can’t bring herself to look him in the eye, “please know that I’m doing everything I can to keep him safe and work out a way to get him back to you as quickly as I can.”
“But you can’t tell me when that will be.”
“No. I’m so sorry M.”
The silence stretches between them, heavy and uncomfortable.
Just as she is about to speak the intercom on M’s desk buzzes and he reaches over to pick up the phone. “Yes, alright, I’ll be right out.”
Lara can see him mentally pull himself together as he stands up from his seat on the desk. He turns to her saying, “you will keep me informed Miss Green, I expect immediate notification of any change in the current situation. Indeed, you will provide me a weekly status report on the situation, including any potential whereabouts of your fugitive.”
“Yes sir, of course sir.”
M nods at her once, “you are dismissed Miss Green.”
“Thank you sir.” She leaves quickly, closing the door behind her and saying to Eve, “he’ll be out in a minute.” She doesn’t stop to hear Eve’s response.
Lara finds herself at her mother’s grave in Gunnersbury cemetery. It’s a lovely late Summer afternoon in London, soft golden light dappling through the trees. She’s not sure why she’s here, but she knows it’s been far too long since she last visited.
She lowers herself to the ground beside the grave and says, “I think I’ve cocked it up Mum.” It’s like a damn bursting and it all comes flooding out, Sean, Edan, the situation with Erica, the Pattern, Luce; everything from the last few months.
Finally she quiets and inhales and exhales steadily for a few moments. The chirring sound of crickets fills the air, but it’s silent otherwise. She doesn’t know what she was expecting. Absolution? Someone to hug her tight and tell her that it will all be ok, that she’s loved and safe?
She nods to herself.
“I’m sorry Mum, it’s been too long. I’ll come again soon, I promise.”
Standing up Lara pulls her Trump case out and finds the card depicting the City Gates. There’s a momentary swirl of rainbow light and then she’s back in Amber.
Inhale. Hold. Exhale.
She begins the walk up Kolvir, back to the palace, back to whatever awaits.