Burb Rocking
Saturday, February 09, 2008
  Thank you for your patience...

Apologies right up front for being such an unreliable writer. A writer is someone who writes. This is where I come up short, obviously. I can ramble endlessly, monologuing on a variety of topics with segueways natural or contrived, as need dictates. There's more I'd like to say about any number of things — about the Bushmen (still a tragic story), the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, the coming election in the U.S., our future as a species, our future in space, and cetera. But, just this once, trying to stay focused. So get ready for another chapter of the new chronicles. It may not be anything worth writing home about, but maybe it will move the story forward a little, which would be something...

[Edit: New material appears below, a piece of exposition requested more than once, a preface penned in mid-March, 2009:]

Three Kings of Chaos


Who am I? That is not important here. It is more important that you know some things about my father, Prince Corwin. And there are things you should know about the city at the center of everything, the only true Reality, the place where my father was born: Amber.

I guess the first thing you should know is that storytellers can never be completely trusted. They leave things out that are part of what happened, put things in that never happened at all, make some things seem important that weren’t, forget to tell you how important other things were.

My father is a storyteller.

This is his story, just the way he told it to me. But this part right here is just me. And I will tell you some things he might leave out, or be wrong about, or exaggerate, or forget.

Well, he often says Amber is the only real place, but even he knows that’s not really true. Amber is one pole of existence, but it’s not the only one. There are also the Courts of Chaos. And between them lie an unknown number of worlds or realities which are imperfect reflections of one pole or the other, or both. The places between belong to Shadow, are Shadows of the two real places. When something happens in Amber or at the Courts, it always affects the worlds in Shadow, though not always in expected ways. And time usually moves very fast in Chaos, but slowly in Amber. So it is even hard to tell when events at the poles of existence will be felt in those other worlds.

Amber did not always exist.

People living in the Courts of Chaos will tell you that Chaos has always been. There is no way to prove they’re telling the truth, but there is also no way of proving them wrong. Chaos was originally an island of stability, or maybe islands — nobody really knows — hovering in the abyss. The abyss would be all black empty space one moment, until you stared into it and saw all kinds of movement in that space, and in the next moment would be exploding with color or look like a blue inferno or a pink one, though there would be no heat. Was it illusion? Was it just reflecting things in the mind?

Yes, there were minds on that island in the abyss. Its stability permitted life to arise, and the flux around it provided the energy. All kinds of weird life, creatures difficult to describe, sometimes difficult to even see. Lots of the life born there wouldn’t work very well, would live only a short while, or would fall into the abyss. But new things were being born all the time, and Chaos had nothing but time. My great-grandfather Dworkin says that time as we know it didn’t exist then anyway, that the only reference points were the memories of living things that could communicate. There weren’t very many of those. But there were a few. Some had seen so much they could not comprehend that it made them behave strangely, even insanely. Some of the others adapted better. A few of them even began to think.

The thinking ones learned they could look into the abyss and make it show them anything they wanted. Whatever was in the inner eye could be made visible to the outer eye. Ages and ages went by, dreaming beside the abyss. Then a Chaos creature learned how to make what was in the abyss come up out of it. The abyss was not a true void, after all. It was somehow alive, and could give birth to the creations of the mind. Those who mastered the living void were called the Lords of Chaos.

One of those Lords of Chaos was Dworkin. He was in line for the seat of ultimate power in the Courts, the Chair of Change, the Gate of Going, the Greenstone Throne. It has many names. But he had always been unpredictable and difficult to control, like most shapeshifters. And he was bored by the confines of the island on which he lived. He wanted to journey out into the abyss itself, even though everyone knew there was nothing there but raw chaos. Chaos and death.

So when a new island spontaneously appeared in the abyss, Dworkin created a bridge across the void so he could travel out to it. He saw the Dragon winding through the spaces beneath him, and he was afraid. Then he saw a white form moving upon the surface of the mysterious island, and drove the beast he rode as fast as he could toward it. That form was the Unicorn, bearer of the Jewel of Judgment, who would later become the mother of Dworkin’s son, Oberon.

Armed with the seed of enduring order given him by the Unicorn, Dworkin inscribed the Pattern. The energies of the abyss swarmed up out of the void in violent rebellion, raging against him on all sides. It is said that he drew it with his own blood, that fire leaped about him as he walked about the top of the island, bringing the Pattern into being with each agonizing pace, playing his lyre, in the grip of a wholly new kind of madness — willing order into being with all his soul.

When he was done, everything had changed. The island was no longer an island. It was the last peak of a chain of mountains, its cliffs falling into a sapphire sea, reflecting the blue of a newborn sky. And worlds had sprung into being between this new place and that other place older than anything else. What we call Shadow was created that day. In days to come, dissidents from Chaos and people drawn from Shadow would go to Dworkin’s new home, where the Pattern could be found, the organizing principle behind the myriad unexplored worlds. Its creator named the new realm Amber.

Oberon would rule that place, the place of the Pattern. For thousands of years he ruled it, quelling challenges to his power, leading armies against all invaders eager to test the strength of Amber. Different queens ruled at his side at different times. They gave him sons and daughters, who fought amongst themselves, striving for supremacy, each hoping to be the one to rule on the distant day when Oberon’s throne would stand empty.

With his son preoccupied with the needs of the kingdom, Dworkin delved into the secrets of the Pattern, the abyss, and Shadow. There was much to learn. Intuitively, he recognized the power of certain archetypes, and then he tried to encode those symbols in a system of some kind. This system became the Tarot deck employed by the royals of Amber. The subjects shown on the Major Arcana, each drawn by Dworkin himself, were all members of the royal family. By holding the cards and concentrating (similar to how a Lord of Chaos would call upon the power of the living void), Dworkin’s descendants could communicate through the Trumps, even move through them into other realities. Without the cards, royals could still reach other worlds by walking away from Amber and reshaping reality with their minds as they went, mentally altering one detail after another until in a place shaped by their own desires. This is called Shadow-walking, and is harder and slower than using a Trump. On horseback, the trip can be made to go faster, becoming a hellride. But nothing beats a Trump.

Well, one thing does. And that is the Pattern itself. An Amberite who walks the Pattern not only awakens his or her Shadow-walking abilities, but once at the Pattern’s center anyone of Dworkin’s line can transport themselves instantly to any place they can imagine.

Like any tool, the Trumps and the Pattern can be turned to evil purposes and used as weapons. Oberon’s children discovered ways this could be done. They fought. And a few died. And then one day Oberon left the palace of Amber. No one knew where he had gone, and he never came back.

The war had begun.

At first it was a civil war, and there were two main cabals. Eric led the cabal made up of himself, Julian and Caine. Eric also led the troops and held the strongest position. Gérard shared command of the navy with Caine, but was not truly part of the cabal, only going along with it so peace might reign in Amber. Benedict was the greatest general ever seen in Amber and Shadow. (I’ve been told one or two of the slain brothers of long ago might have matched him, but none has a legacy to match Benedict’s.) But Amber’s Master of Arms had not been seen or heard from since before Oberon’s disappearance. The other group were the family’s redheads: Bleys, Fiona and Brand. Except for Fiona, the princesses — Deirdre, Llewella and Flora — tried to remain outside the conflict. Only Llewella truly succeeded. Deirdre wanted her favorite brother, Corwin, on the throne. But Corwin had gone away centuries before. Everyone had searched for him, and he was believed dead.

But he wasn’t.

On the Shadow Earth, where Flora dwelt, Corwin, wounded, had been left to die in the midst of London’s black plague by Eric. His body survived the plague, but his memory didn’t. Flora agreed to keep watch over Corwin on Eric’s behalf, keeping at the same time a very powerful secret. For it was suspected that Corwin had been Oberon’s choice for an heir, though no one really knew. Oberon had never clearly made his wishes known.

Only one child of Oberon left that I haven’t mentioned: Random. He was the youngest of the princes. When Corwin began to slowly regain his memory and then located Flora so he could learn more, Random returned from a long self-imposed exile from Amber to find Eric was about to crown himself king. Random brought Corwin to the Pattern and his memory. Then Corwin and Bleys took on Eric, Julian and Caine, and lost. Bleys escaped. Corwin was blinded, that he might never escape his dungeon cell with the aid of a Trump.

Besides benefiting from very long lives, those of the blood of Chaos, and of the blood of Amber, all heal better than most humans. Corwin’s eyes recovered, and he did escape. He brought guns to Amber and almost became her king.

Instead of kingship, Corwin found a black road running through all of Shadow, from the Courts of Chaos to the foot of Kolvir, the mountain home of the eternal city. Brand had marred the Pattern, creating that road, giving enemies in the Courts of Chaos passage, betraying Amber. He would do anything for Amber’s throne. He murdered Deirdre for it. And paid for that crime with a fatal fall into the abyss. And Oberon would give his own life in his attempt to repair the Pattern.

Amber confronted Chaos in war. And won.

And then what, you ask?

Then the Unicorn chose Oberon’s successor: Random.

And my father? He had done something that only Dworkin had been able to do. He had created a Pattern of his own. But it did not seem to be part of the system of worlds created by Dworkin. He went looking for it, but never found it.

And then, one day, he made his way home.

copyright © 2009 Lokabrenna @ Blogger (JTB)

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