A Shadow Across Amber

When the stars threw down their spears

Sorell shuffled his feet as he stared at the center of the Pattern, afterimage of Cilantreau quickly fading. Random scanned the room; he had not reappeared near the edge of the chamber as Nella had. A few minutes passed, then a distant shout between guards chained down through the tunnels “He’s in the library.” Tension drained, lines relaxed around the eyes, which moved along the remaining cousins, eventually resting on Sorell.
Random stepped close, rested a hand on his shoulder. “Are you ready?”
Sorell ducked away from the touch, turned, paced to the glowing line that started only a short distance away. “Let’s get this crap over…” A booted foot raised and lowered to meet the static lines that jumped up in anticipation.
He’d heard the stories and could feign irritation or indifference, but the instant his sole touched, he realized this wasn’t a joke. Each step felt like he was wading through water slowly congealing to molasses. But there was also an exhilaration that buoyed him and gave him strength. Even if he didn’t have any interest in this realm, he thought, the powers may prove critical in stabilizing his home. Twice in his lifetime, the Order had watched as those greedy for control, mad with power, threatened to tear his entire world apart. And even if these strangers suggested that his home was but an illusion, an echo of something more, it was still his home.
Suddenly, the resistance flared – molasses hardening to mud – and he realized he was upon the First Veil. Sweat began to drip down his brow as he drew deep down within himself to keep the one foot raising, lifting, moving forward. Inch by inch, progress was made; with the physical struggle, he was propelled back to his first struggle in the wars. A great army of assorted abominations had amassed to challenge the Cragged Spine; had washed over the smaller towns and villages scattered through the foothills; had left almost nothing in its wake. Sorell picked through the corpses, looking desperately for someone he could rescue. More often than not, he joined his brothers in putting down what was already too corrupt to save. He shuddered at the destruction and retched at the rape of these souls. Eventually, he’d learned to cope with these sights, but he was glad it never came easy.
Relief! He broke through the First Veil and was invigorated. A series of quick curves and switchbacks followed and as his confidence grew, so did he begin to see a greater connection to Amber and to all that Benedict had spoken of. No longer just impatient to return to his Shadow, he now began to see the relationship between that place and Here – how each were connected to the other.
The sparks were almost past his knees as he entered the Second Veil. As he began to negotiate the series of sharp angles and switchbacks, he knew his endurance was about to be pushed to its limits. He drew from his core as a new set of memories flooded through him.
But this was uncomfortable; unfamiliar. He was young – but a boy. Strapped to a table, nervous, anesthetized. Ruddy tubes ran to his arms from great hanging bottles; several men in white robes surrounded him. He hadn’t recall being injured, but the blood that flowed into his veins seemed to tingle. A long rack on the wall seemed to contain dozens more of the red-filled bottles, all nestled in a subtle white protective glow. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a bright orange tracing along the floor – some sort of circle containing a pentagram or other symbol. In the far corner of the room, a tall man in ornate black armor watched; behind him, a faint outline of two much older figures. The woman, frail and gray-haired, sat in a low chair; her legs shriveled and propped at unnatural angles. An odd panic began to set in – both back in Sorell’s deep memories and in the more critical present.

Back in the Pattern chamber, a low roar echoed as a reddish vortex fringed in yellow began to form near the ceiling. Although the blue-white sparks were nearly up to Sorell’s waist by now, a new glow began to dominate as his veins began to shine through his skin with a sickly red-orange light. His face began to quiver, tremor, shift. A gasp from Fiona as she realized that Sorell’s clothing was now occupied by the visage of her late brother Brand. Sword invisibly to hand, Benedict rounded the room and moved to the nearest point to the Veil. Veins cracked and leaked light as Brand/Sorell broke through the Second Veil and began fighting through the Grand Curve. The roar grew to an ear-piercing whine as the swirling vortex pulsed angrily. A lightning-clap and blinding flash; a shock-wave striking outward as if a grenade had gone off. Then silence. The Pattern stood barren; no more sparks; its light faded down to normal. Sorell was no more.
Random collapsed as Bleys rushed to his side.

Sermon on the Mount

It was the morning of the second day after the incident hit King Random. Benedict really didn’t have time to do this, but it was important and he wasn’t really contributing to the investigations. He would’ve preferred to keep an eye on things, especially after Fi’s (deserved) blowup at Caine, but he was going to have to trust them to play nice and get the job done.
As he ascended the stairs from the troops’ gear storeroom to the fourth floor residences, he thought back on the past few months. It was no surprise that Amber was under threat again – he’d lived long enough to realize that any peace in the kingdom was mere illusion and delay. This may be the shining citadel, a crystalline perfect exemplar for all Shadow to echo. But Oberon’s plan was never for peace or stability; it wasn’t in his (or Dworkin’s) nature or heritage and nothing Eric, Corwin, Random or anyone else could do would change that.
Nor was it Caine’s prophecy that bothered him; the family had long been embroiled in plots hinted at by ‘mysterious higher powers’. Indeed, Tir had brought him an unearthly arm at a fortuitous moment only to take it away later at an equally unfortunate time. The Trumps were an ancient device predating the Pattern and all of Shadow and, though he really didn’t begin to understand their true workings, he’d be foolish to ignore their potence.
It wasn’t even the new nieces and nephews coming out of the woodwork, or his promise to Eric fulfilled sooner than he was prepared. Perhaps a bit convenient in timing – clearly orchestrated by someone or something unseen given recent evidence. But not all that troubling.
No – the thing that was gnawing at the back of his skull was far more personal. He could never really abandon Amber – that was, after all, the point of the morning’s exercises. But in the past, he sure as hell would prefer to be away from all the petty squabbling, the rivalries, the posturing and positioning in court. He had seen all the attempts at killing brother, sister, father, nephew. All the bargains and backroom politicking that led to unwise treaties, resentment of deals fallen through, assassinations and other recriminations. He’d even participated in the lot many many years ago. But he’d lost his taste for the machinations long ago; taking to long escapes into Shadow just to avoid the family business. It just didn’t work for him anymore. Or so he’d thought.
Recently, however, his mind – or some other equally fickle organ – seemed to betray him. As much as Bleys’ plotting or Florimel’s positioning or Caine and Fiona’s bickering and one-upsmanship made him sick to his stomach, he also began to see a bit of the old lust for the game creeping back in. Perhaps it was the simple fact that he was more experienced; did know a lot of the answers. It was only rational that he want to take charge on those grounds alone; put these foolish pretenders back in their place. Maybe it was just a desire for the challenge again – to rule someplace where it really mattered and not just Avalon or any of the other countless Shadows he’d made his own – through conquest, benevolence, worship or terror.
Whatever the truth, he felt he probably needed this hike as much as his charges.

He knocked on Cilantreau’s door first. Bleary eyed and resentful for being awakened at such an early hour, but eventually compliant. Sorell next; more grousing, but reluctantly agreeable. Kovaks keen to participate. Nella – hungover, but excited. Claudomir – ready and dutiful; a bit perplexed. Finally, Kyra – awake, vibrant and eager to go.
He’d intentionally overloaded the rucksacks and made a point of complicated layered clothing. The short hike up Kolvir was nothing any of them – even the elderly-appearing Cilantreau – shouldn’t be able to handle without even breaking a sweat. So throw in a slightly complex set of heavy-ish gear to help bolster both the challenge and the enigma. Reactions to apparently pointless hardships was part of what he was looking for.

Martin met them as he headed toward the back entrance and out through the gardens. Whether Random’s or his own, it was actually a pretty good idea for Martin to accompany them. He’d normally prefer delivering this lecture solo, but the boy’s presence might just help punctuate a few of the finer points.
The last of the court gardens was his own, stylized after Zen gardens from a hundred Shadows. He’d put centuries of work into it, meticulously sculpting every branch, twig, trunk, pond. In many ways, this exemplified the message, but it was far too personal for anyone other than himself to understand. No use pausing here; with the short time they had, the only one that would really benefit was himself.
So out through the back trail and up the side of Kolvir. Branches would lead to the Grove of the Unicorn, the ridge leading to the base steps of Tir Na Nog’th, others down towards the sea. But the one he sought was very specific – to a headwater far above the rest of the realm. He met all questions with a stony silence, setting a brisk enough pace to discourage a lot of talking amongst those behind him. Martin was looking a little less yellow than the past few days; the hike would help him recover and it would probably mean he’d have to deal with the cousins more. Good.
They neared his destination: Loch Cuimilt an Scamaill – a crystal-clear lake far up the side of Kolvir; the highest source of the main cataract that spilled down past Amber and out towards the sea. As they rounded the crest, the snowy peaks of Kolvir glowed in the mid-morning light and cast a brilliant reflection across the waters perfectly framed by the blue/green pines and firs and juniper scrub higher up.
Again, practically wordless, he bid them all sit in a semi-circle facing the lake. Martin assisted, then took up his position on the crescent. Benedict walked to the edge of the water, then found his seat facing his bewildered pupils. The last push had been particularly vigorous, so they were all still breathing somewhat heavily – exactly the place he wanted them to start from.
He paced slowly in front of them, pausing to look at each for a moment, trying to draw them in. Behind him, a perfect mirror of Kolvir’s remaining ridge framed him across the lake. “Take a few deep, slow breaths and relax”, he said. The crisp odor of evergreen, a touch of earthiness and clean mountain mist was nearly overpowering at this point. “Close your eyes and listen…” – an eagle’s cry punctuated his sentence. From the distance, sounds of the sea and town far below were just at the threshold of hearing.
“Now stand and open your eyes as you turn around,” he continued. The group slowly took their feet and were met with a glorious view of the valley below, stretching all the way to the sea in the East and Arden through the South. Amber’s golden spires were blinding in the morning sun and the city was full of busy ants selling their wares, leading horse and cart to market, marching down to the now toy-like great ships along the wharf. All senses threatened to be overwhelmed; the group teetered over something instinctively Important.
Benedict rounded the group on the other side, regarded each as the gazed at the Castle and the world stretching outward below. “This is the center. This is Real. This is ours. Yours! This is why we fight.” He paused as an even greater seriousness came over his face. “If you ever threaten her or betray her, I will hunt you down to the ends of Shadow and destroy you. I hope you will instead learn to love and defend our home as I have.”
The silence was deafening as each took in his words and knew he could, and would, calmly execute on every syllable if needed.
Martin shuffled across to stand next to him. Aside Benedict’s piercing gaze, he was almost insignificant, but he drew himself up and, eventually, began to speak. “Um, look. I can’t really threaten you or bargain with you or anything like that. But I can say that Brand and his allies came looking for me with the intent to end all of this. He stabbed me and bled me and almost destroyed everything.” At this, he paled, bit his lip, then continued. “But I managed to survive. And more importantly, we fought back and kept him from wiping this all out. It IS worth fighting for. It IS everything. And I am PROUD to be one of its defenders.” As he spoke, he seemed to grow in stature; almost standing as tall as Benedict for a moment. But finishing, he swallowed hard and relaxed down again.
One last glance at each of the assembled, then “Let us not speak of this again.” Benedict began the long walk back down the hill.
After a half hour or so, Martin broke the silence, dragging a hunk of bread out and started munching and commenting about the beautiful weather of the day. More smalltalk ensued and the group – quite hungry by then – joined in with a slow traveling breakfast.
As they passed down and back toward the city, Cilantreau asked whether anyone had ever tried base jumping from Kolvir, remarking that it might be an excellent way for deploying a force from the mountain. Martin said he hadn’t heard of anyone attempting it – and both he and Random were rather keen skydivers and pilots. They returned to the back of the Castle just as Random, flanked by Fiona and Bleys, came out to greet them. Random – looking much recovered, but still somewhat gaunt and with the shock-white hair – met them with a smile. “All set then?” Benedict nodded.
“Let’s get this show started…” Martin trailed off from the group; his current business ended. The procession marched down through the great Dining Hall to the narrow back passages that led down beneath Castle Amber and deep into the rock of Kolvir. Random and Bleys took point, carrying lanterns and torches and nodding to each guard. Fiona took the middle of the pack and Benedict brought up the end. Even without the energetic hike and promises of life and death sharply given, there was a lightning charge in the air…

Hail, Hail - The Gang's All Here

Martin slumped a bit deeper as his eyes skimmed the library. The recliner he’d selected was almost too perfect; while it helped exaggerate his ‘too helpless to move’ posture and was ideally positioned for view as well as a quick escape out the window should things go south, it was just too damned comfortable and he found himself struggling to keep focused without looking like he was actually paying attention to anything.
He’d grown to love these ‘casual’ family gatherings. Although he generally eschewed most prolonged family contact, this was nevertheless the best way to gauge everyone’s mindset and interests. Tonight’s session was already promising to be highly productive. Most of the family had already settled into their typical schooling patterns, but the addition of the new cousins was like so much chum in the waters. New patterns emerged as the familiar poked at the new, trying to determine how to best consume it without provoking a strike from one of the other sharks.
Fiona, as always, was a shining jewel, casually placed to be inescapable to the eye and a center of attention. She was raw power and skill; if anyone ever challenged her, they’d be toast. Fortunate that she chose to rule from behind the scenes, confident in her own control of everything and content to be merely amused by everyone else. It really was as if they all were beneath her, operating at a level more like ants than peers. She concealed it beautifully, of course.
Benedict chatted with Gerard near the weapons case, always a somewhat serene presence, absent of any twitch that would reveal exactly how prepared he was for just about any attack. Gerard was the easiest of the family to understand – no ambition, pure loyalty. Kinda like a puppy dog. Make that a bull mastiff; Martin had seen Gerard’s grip when he was angry and had no desire to be at the wrong end of his axe….
Dad, of course, played the uncomfortable host at the large desk, with Vialle trying to sooth him; the unease and irritation only partly a show. So much had transpired over the past couple centuries. Random was not only an incredibly good leader, but also a pretty cool father now that they’d gotten past all of Random’s earlier neglect when he was just a young punk himself. Of course, he hated almost all of it – the responsibility, the expectations, the courtly posturing and posing and always putting on a diplomatic face. The fact that he let that all go when dealing with family was clearly a relief.
Caine sidled past and headed over to speak with Julian – now there’s a pair. Martin almost felt sorry for Julian – instead of the normal peacock, he seemed very small – restricted to a leather-bound chaise, his doctor always present at his side. His scale armor gleamed even in this subdued light; beneath the haughty, disinterested smirk, Martin could easily detect labored breathing even without an enhanced view.
Whatever sympathies he could muster for Julian – he was struck down in battle, after all – Martin had none left for Caine. Sure – initially, he’d modeled a lot of his earlier life and strategies after Caine. He was a master manipulator, a keen spy. Hell – he’d faked out the entire family on several occasions by providing a convenient body (once, his own Shadow!) or other incriminating evidence that helped support the story he wanted to tell. But over the years, the respect for skill turned to a loathing of motive and character. Caine could be a brilliant liar, but was also quick to throw his weight towards whatever angle he felt advantageous. With no true agenda or strength of his own (other than for second-hand power and lustful women), he was also relatively easily manipulated. He also had some blind spots you could drive a truck through.
Sure – Dad had a good plan when he paired Caine and Fiona to manage security; working in concert, their opposing strengths would typically serve to help fill each others’ gaps and provide a sort of check-and-balance structure against abuse of power. The problem was their rivalry and ego; they could certainly check against each others’ gaps, but they spent so much time trying to figure out what the other was hiding that some external threats slipped through unnoticed. It was a good thing he’d convinced Dad – and, to a degree, Benedict – to allow him to play safety, a deeper line of defense.
His gaze slowly drifted to Corwin and Merlin. They started out being some of his closest friends and supporters early on. But Corwin has been struggling with the nature of his Pattern and has really lost all taste for adventure, intrigue and power. Although he’s never really said anything specific to Martin, it seemed likely Corwin still feels responsible for Dierdre’s death and, really, a lot of the fallout from the original Chaos attacks. Merlin is an even stranger duck these days. Dara was never a great mother and now rots in the jails of Chaos. And although Corwin’s been a great father in a lot of ways, he’s been completely unable to discipline Merlin in any way; the end result is a lust for knowledge and power gone completely unchecked. Mixed with his quirky naivete and Chaos-schooled brain, it threatens to be an unhealthy combination. It’s a good thing Merlin is completely allied with Amber; if his skills and knowledge could ever be turned…
At this moment, Florimel chose to make her customary entrance; no one could highlight the march of time as fashionably as her. Fortunately, she’d left her demon footmen and hounds elsewhere; they were definitely causing the house staff a great deal of discomfort and would be a real outrage to some of the gathered guests, who still hadn’t gotten over the war and didn’t really recognize the Treaty of the Abyss. He knew that Corwin – and probably many others – had always considered Flora a dumb blonde with no real ambition. And yet, she’d taken the Logrus and seemed relatively unscathed and had snagged her a very influential Chaos Lord as her husband, firming up the diplomatic alliance. No, thought Martin, she definitely knows what she’s doing…
And finally, Llewella and Bleys, chatting near the south stacks staircase – what a perfect blend of color and voice. Bleys’ animated face intent on some conversation that was truly fascinating to him, Llewella abandoning her usual air of sadness and completely engaged in the topic. Martin wished he was tighter with Llewella – she was going through hell in Rebma, so it was heartening to see Bleys succeeding in keeping her spirits up. Bleys seemed to have that effect on everyone, too. The Patternfall wars had left Corwin more mature and brooding, but the transformation of Bleys was equally as dramatic. Always full of life and gusto, he now seemed to truly appreciate what was at stake; the bravado and boisterousness no longer careless, but thoroughly genuine and firmly rooted in appreciation for life.

That just leaves the newcomers… Martin turned on his enhanced senses – passive only, for now – and remembered to tag a filter around Merlin to prevent himself from going temporarily blind. (Got to remember to have another talk with that kid; that ring is dangerous.) A flash of faint auras floated up and around everyone. Some were very subtle – almost no power other than the lightest hint of silver-blue Pattern on most of these new folk. A warm orange on Bleys, Cilantreau and Julian, hinting at their prowess manipulating Shadow-stuff. Brilliant crimson threads around Fi and Merlin, with golden spells strung along them like so many creatures struggling against the webs to free themselves. The oily rainbow of Trump on himself, Merlin and Caine. And a few others, like the undulating purple-black that Flora and Merlin kept deep in check or the soft white healing surrounding Julian and his aide. He switched the enhancement back off and allowed his normal vision to float across the room again.
Kovacs seemed straightforward enough, but Caine was grooming him, so that was strike number one. Definitely one to be wary of, but possibly a good ally in a fight; certainly, on the ball.
Sorell clearly was struggling with the whole thing. He had a lot of problems from his own home and was not to thrilled to be hijacked and have another heap of stink thrown upon his lap, no matter what the rewards. Martin could sympathize; wanted to reach out. But no – better to play it slow for now.
Claudomir was another tragic fellow, but seemed to be falling into place more quickly. Still, the whole pacifist thing really doesn’t work well in the family. Benedict has mastered it better than most, but then again it’s always just the calm before the storm for him. And he’s been through more bad weather than the rest combined.
Cilantreau is fooling no one, of course. Well, at least not Martin. He has lots of power, but grew up in a place where there were a ton of constraints. Good that he learned the moral rules. But so limiting… Still, he’d come around quickly if he just spent a little time with the others and started to drop his preconceptions. The problem with that, Martin considered, is that so far he’s preferred to lecture others rather than listen – something that hasn’t really flown well for those of the family that had spent a thousand years in studies long before Cilantreau’s wet nurse was born. Maybe Merlin can multitask enough to keep engaged…
Of course, Nella is a lot of fun; Martin was thrilled that he got her card. Naive and fun-loving, but quick to react and an intent scholar. The problem, of course, is that his original gift may no longer be feasible, forcing him to figure out a plan B. Kyra’s unexpected appearance pretty much assured that.
Martin took another swallow of water, refilled his glass, pondered. No – it absolutely has nothing to do with attraction, he decided. Both were equally appealing in their own ways. Nella’s crush was simply adorable. The practical matter is that Kyra was a complete unknown; Benedict and Eric had done extremely well hiding her. That meant she was also a critical factor – someone that couldn’t have been in the prophecy, and thus could be of great import in settling things – as a threat, a tool, a surprise weapon, an unparalleled ally. No – of all of these cousins, he decided, he needed to find out what was going on with Kyra.

Amazing. They’d been there almost an hour and he’d successfully avoided any real conversation. Of course, he knew no one was really buying his illness anymore, but he’d long ago decided to keep up the deception. After all, he was really hiding a big lie within several smaller ones. Better they focus their attention on that; pass him off as a poor poser, a weak actor and a weak player in the games. It still served his purpose – they either pitied him (and avoided him because he was complaining/suffering and spoiling their mood) or laughed at him (and avoided him because he was just not really in their league of deceit). Either way, he could sit back and not have to deal with direct conversation and simply watch as they circled each other, looking for an opening.

The Crown Weighs Heavy

Bleys rounded the corner, packing his pipe and glaring at Corwin. Without pausing, a flame flared up just past the tip of his finger and he drew deeply.
“Random’s starting to lose it; this just isn’t right. Five kids of ours – ones we don’t know crap about – turn up out of the blue thanks to these blasted Trumps. And not only does he want us to drop everything and go find them, he wants us to give them ____ing gifts??? You can’t tell me that he isn’t getting soft.”
Corwin struck a match and lit his own pipe. “Just think about it for a second, man. Think of his kid. He feels guilty and he’s trying to make up for it. He’s been doing it for the past couple centuries with Martin and he still doesn’t know if it’s made any difference. Hell – I don’t even know and I’ve got my own son to worry about, too.”
“Yeah, exactly. Think of Martin. If he’d been around and coddled Martin like that, do you think he would’ve survived Brand’s attack. Of course not. It was because Random was a prick of an absentee father that jaded Martin and prepared him by making him not trust anyone.” Bleys passed another landing, a wreath of smoke swirling, agitated as his mood. “Face it – if Random had been there for Martin, especially back before he learned how to be responsible for himself and others, Martin would’ve bled out and the Pattern would’ve been toast and we’d all be bowing to Brand right now.”
“Bull____,” Corwin replied. “I won’t apologize for Random’s not being there when Martin was growing up – he made those choices. And learned from them. Martin survived because he’s a fighter. He’s tough and smart and lucky and he got a lot of that from his father, even if they didn’t have a house and a yard and a white picket fence. And sure – Martin still makes some bad choices; he wouldn’t be Random’s boy if he didn’t. But like his dad, he’s learning from those, too.”
At this, Bleys did pause a beat. “I hope you’re right,” he mused. “But giving favors – bribes – just sounds too much like the old favoritism and factions that got us into the old rivalries in the first place.”
Corwin reached a hand to his brother’s shoulder. “So maybe Random’s trying to put a little faith and trust in us – that we’ve gotten a bit mature under his reign. Stranger things have happened.”
“True, that. True, that.” He restarted their brisk pace, the echo of their footsteps suggesting they were drawing near the bottom. Another glare at Corwin: “Which reminds me – how come you and Merlin get to skip out on this Royal goose chase we’re so fortunate to have been volunteered for?”
Corwin raised an eyebrow. “Really? Would you be making this familiar hike down if you didn’t already know the answer to that?”
A smirk – “Probably not. Where the hell is Merlin, anyway?”
They made the level they sought, grabbed the key from the ring, and began walking down the tunnel, Corwin counting off doorways as though they weren’t burned into his memory. “He’s gone ahead in Shadow, trying to ride to my Pattern. It’ll take him a while, of course, to find it, but he’s got a much better chance than any of you and I’m needed here.”
Guards hadn’t been posted on this section since Eric’s reign. Most prisoners weren’t commonly held in the castle anymore anyway. Of course, Corwin’s plea to Random had also made sense; he was just glad that they hadn’t walled the whole thing up after all.
They reached his old cell; the door hung open and like the smells of the dank room, the memories flooded in, overwhelming his senses. The white-hot pokers, the humiliation, Rein’s kindness, the years spent wasting. He shuddered and it was Bleys’ turn to reach a hand out. But he said nothing, knowing no words to comfort and feeling anything else would be condescending.
At the touch, Corwin straightened up and regained his composition. They were here for a job, after all, not for musing over days better forgotten.
He held up the lantern as he and Bleys grew near. The light flickered along the wall and he was immediately able to locate the sketches Dworkin long ago carved into the stone using that sharpened spoon he was so grateful for. His eyes lingered over the lighthouse at Cabra – if only to be able to rest there again – to sail away from that immortal island and ride the waves under a carefree sky. But that was not in this future.
Bleys drew up beside him, incredulous that they still held up even after a score of decades of grime had assaulted the wall. He carefully wiped at the adjacent sketch and they began to concentrate. Soon, Dworkin’s long-abandoned study began to superimpose over the cell wall and, in unison, they stepped through.
As they began to work their way out towards the cave mouth, Corwin broke the silence. “So – you’ve made your objections clear. What are you going to do?”
Bleys’ familiar laugh drove away the last of the tension. “Find the child of my charge, give him whatever I find suitable, deliver him to Amber, smile, sit back and watch. I may not like what Random’s suggested, but he is my King and I am loyal to him and our dear City. We’ve butted heads on issues like this before and like it or not, he’s usually right. He’s been a damned good ruler – far better than any of us would’ve ever considered.”
The light from the entrance washed over them and Bleys doused the lantern. Stepping into the open glade, Corwin looked his brother over once more. “Ah – that explains it.”
“Explains what,” said Bleys in mock defensiveness.
“Would you have complained so much had Dad taken more of an interest in us? Given us a gift or two and taught us about Shadow and threats and such rather than pawning us off to our trainers?”
But he did not wait for an answer. Placing his foot at the entrance of the Primal Pattern, he began to order his mind against the challenges to come. He thought he heard Bleys respond, but maybe it was simply “Good luck, Brother.” Whatever.
They needed to determine whether Corwin’s Pattern was causing these new problems and that meant he needed to walk while Bleys stood back and observed. And neither of them could focus on the trivial matters of family and fatherhood any more. As the sparks began to rise up his legs he realized that, for once, he was sure that the familial squabbles of the past really didn’t matter all that much. All of reality was in jeopardy and it was going to take a Family united to keep things together.

The Turn of Friendly Card

Lines creased Caine’s face as he stared down at the table. The Trumps, he knew, were fickle and unpredictable and cryptic, but they were usually also trustworthy – at least, to a measure. And this was unusual even for them.
Random tapped at the door, then entered Caine’s outer chamber, which was currently strewn with books, charts and scrolls detracting from the normally neat and stylish room he used for entertaining guests before often leading the female members to his quarters within.
“What is it that required I come here?”, he asked with maybe a bit more gruffness than required. Politics be damned, he was tired and he was King and Caine would just have to deal with it.
Caine picked up the Deck and handed it to Random, who thought about the cold firmness of the Trumps before looking back up at Caine. “What?”
“Just shuffle and deal them; I’m not even sure I trust my own subconscious anymore…” Caine replied. “Maybe I’m stacking the Deck and don’t even see it.”
Random shrugged, then studied the stack carefully for a moment. The familiar white unicorn rampant on a field of green grass held no secrets and was identical on each. The Cards seemed even, no wear or marks, not that it’s trivial to physically mar a Trump. He briefly fanned them facing him, then collected them back to the table and ran through a quick face-up ribbon spread where he paused again so that both he and Caine could look for anomalies. A few running cuts, a riffle shuffle and a Hindu or two for good measure, he was confident the Deck was as good as it was going to get. He began to lay a familiar Tarot spread. Nothing obvious jumped out, however.
“Do it again,” said Caine with a slightly fatigued voice.
Wash, rinse, repeat, thought Random, but gathered the Trumps, went through a mixing routine as elaborate as before, then cast out the Cards. This time, the problem was obvious. A third and fourth repetition left Random scratching his head as he slumped against the chair to Caine’s left. “What do you think it means?” he asked.
Caine wordlessly gathered up the Deck one last time. Shuffled them thoroughly, but without the card-shark tricks Random was fond of. Dealt only five Cards face down on the tableau. He slowly and purposefully turned each over, revealing a Lesser Trump each time – the same Lesser Trumps he had been getting in every spread he’d cast that night – with not a family portrait in sight. Although the Lesser Trumps and Major Arcana usually gave color and meaning to the castings, the Court Cards were integral to most readings since the family was usually involved in the outcome.
“I think it’s saying we’re going to have company for dinner,” sighed Caine. “Better set out the kiddie table,” a pause, “though who knows how the hell we’re going to find them…”
Random searched his thoughts – the family had gone searching for relatives before, of course. But despite thousands of years and endless carefree carousing – the two seated at this table arguably the most promiscuous of all – only a handful of children had ever been discovered, lending credence to Corwin’s suspicions that they were an infertile lot. And now five unknown children of the blood are uncovered – so pivotal to the underlying forces of the Trumps that it chose Lesser Cards to mark out their presence… Aha!
" Caine – you need to infuse these with sorcerous energy. Reinforce the psychic signatures that the Trump casting is invoking." Random smiled, “We can then give them out to scouts and we’ll ride through Shadow seeking their counterpart – the ones that evoked these castings.”
“That’s impossible. I mean even an Artist as gifted as I couldn’t possibly…” Caine shrunk down in the middle of his protest.
“Don’t bullshit me, Caine,” glowered Random, “we both know what’s at stake here.”
Caine sighed. “Give me a couple hours, then.”
As he stood, Random drew himself up to his full height and puffed up with all the Kingly authority he could muster. “You have five. I’ll have the stables saddle your horse, too – we’ll need to find them as quickly as possible.”
Caine started to protest again, his eyes following Random’s hand as he turned over the top card of the Deck. The Tower stared back at him.
“You’ll have them in three,” was all he muttered as he drew a brass-bound chest from his sideboard and began laying out arcane implements on the table, careful not to disturb the layout.

Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.


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