The Kingdom of Amber
Table of Contents
The Kingdom of Amber
Amber is not a large country, consisting for the most part of a single overgrown city and numerous small steddings, halls, and farms. This is partly dictated by the terrain and partly by the political situation.
To the north and west rise the Caltbrunner Alps, vast peaks which scrape the sky with snowy fingers. They are impassable, although folk do live on the lower slopes. There are mines there, and trappers.
Beneath the mountain, in the hills and the high fields, the livestock and much of the agriculture of Amber takes place. Folk here are of the Old Ones, the people who have been in Amber since the beginning, and belong to one of the five great Reckonings of Amber.
To the east the Caltbrunner falls into low mountains and hills, well-worn, topped by crumbling and abandoned castles and watchtowers, home to a few lonesome shepherds and their flocks. These are the Mossbacks, and they are surrounded and engulfed by the Great Forest of Arden, the mother of all woods, tall and dark and life-haunted. The Old Forest Road runs through it, but is not used.
At the pass known as Blackboulder the d'Oloron river pierces the Mossbacks, winding through Arden into the heartlands of Amber. Most of Amber's trade travels it.
In the center of it all is the Mountain, Kolvir, the seat of Amber. It rises high into the air, though not so high as the Caltbrunner Alps, and at the top stands Talltree. The Castle occupies the rest of it.
The d'Oloron winds around Kolvir, coming from the east and proceeding south, and to the west and south of the Mountain the land dips sharply and the Bayou-Loup begins. The City sprawls around it, having long outgrown its original boundaries, straddling the river and overflowing into the marshy land. Population is estimated at almost a million. Maybe more.
The Bayou-Loup proceeds south, where at uncertain bounds it becomes the Bayou-Puanteur. This area is inhabited by rice-growers, mostly the folk who came to Amber during the Migration. They stay close to the d'Oloron. Soon the swamp is too fierce for them, and just the river retains any habitation.
The River empties into the Steaming Mirror, a large lake, surrounded by a band of agriculture and with the island settlement of Fleuren's Landing at the center. Here is where the trade changes from river to ocean craft. At the southern end of the lake is the Grand Canal, a deep channel lined with vine-draped stone that leads further through the swamp and jungle to the Grand Gulf, ocean sea onto Shadow.
There are four practical ways in and out of the Kingdom.
The first is the Old Forest Road, but this is no longer safe, and Jennahdy discourages travel along it.
The second is the river, which is by far the most common.
The third is the sea route into the Grand Gulf, then up the Grand Canal to make port at Fleuren's Landing, then by riverboat up the d'Oloron.
The last is via the Underground, the trains that run beneath the city.
The City of Amber
The City sprawls around Kolvir, extending up onto its lower slopes, and sometimes overlapping into the Castle in places.
The wealthy tend to live up on the slopes, where the air is better. Things decline somewhat as one proceeds down the slope to the river, but still stay lively and prosperous. The River Bazaar is a 24-hour affair, lit by paper lanterns and abnormally large fireflies at night.
On the other side of the river, things stay managable until you get to the crumbling, sinking remains of the Old City Wall. The City sprawled past it long ago, and the further away from the river the worse conditions get, especially in the south and west.
The city is patrolled by the Urban Cohort, who do their best to maintain order. There are also numerous private forces known as Free Companies who provide security for a fee. Crime is high but not out of control, although things do get tense in the summer.
Scattered around the city are stations that lead to the Underground, a rail network under the city of uncertain origin. It's unclear who built them or why the trains run; the station names are all in the tongue of the Old Ones. Some are said to lead out of Amber. They go down fairly deep in places to avoid the swampy earth.
The Castle takes up almost all of Kolvir. It is huge. Massively, stupendously huge. So big, in fact, that most of it is abandoned and empty for lack of occupants or purpose.
The first boundary of the Castle is the Hedge, a large and solid hedgerow of rosebushes planted around the perimeter. It is far from an impassable barrier, and in several places people have cut their own entryways into it and expanded into the Castle.
Past the hedge is a maze of stone buildings and galleries and steps and alleys, most abandoned. Some of the buildings are burnt shells, others are simply dusty and neglected. A few of the ones near the Hedge are unofficial parts of the City and are being lived in. The barracks of the Rose Cohort stand by the main enterance.
After a time comes the First Wall, a tall affair with three gates. Past the gates, a deep, broad ravine circles the mountainside. Bridges of stone span it. Below are the Ring Gardens, lush and wild. The bidges lead over it to the Second Wall, beyond which is the Middle Castle.
The Middle Castle has several burnt-out towers and halls, but many more still in operation, unlike the nearly abandoned areas past the Hedge. The Bastion, which is the military nerve center of Amber, is located here. So are the barracks of the Kingfisher and Swan Cohorts. Most of the servants, court nobles, and retainers live and work in this area.
After a time, steep cliffs emerge, and the Duelist Stair leads up it for a fair ways until it stops at the gate of the Third Wall. Beyond this is the Upper Castle, with the palaces of Amber, the Parchment Tower which houses the library and records, the Tower of the Veil, which is the highest structure on Kolvir, and the Great Hall. The mostly empty barracks of the Frostwater Cohort stands here, and it is here that most of the Royal Family dwells.
After a time one comes to the glacier band that is the Final Wall, and proceeds through the ice tunnels up it to the lawns and tombs and centotaphs of the Upper Mount. None live here except Sterren and the White Watch, the honor guard of the dead.
Finally, at the very summit of Kolvir, is Talltree. It reaches into the sky until is becomes lost in the band of clouds that always surrounds it. Rumor says it has no top. Only Wren has ever climbed past the clouds.
There is a tunnel between two of Talltree's roots, and if one follows it down for long enough, one comes to a long circular stair known simply as The Descent. It has ten thousand and five steps, and comes to rest in an anteroom of green jade, with many odd objects lying in niches. There is a golden door, and through it is the chamber of the Pattern.
Heraldry, Legates, and Sworn
Every Prince or Princess of Amber has their own colors, and most have their own emblem. These are:
|Sibling||Colors||Insignia, Badge, Blazon, or Sigil|
|Emily||Blue and Silver||A Silver Hand|
|Senlin||Purple and White||A Phoenix|
|Anton||Rust-Red and Black||A Crocodile's Head|
|Jennahdy||Red and Green||A Great Cat's Footprint|
|Wren||Green and White||A Tree Ringed by Clouds|
|Sterren||Black and Silver||The Full Moon|
|Cadence||Grey and Gold||A Swooping Hawk|
|Henri||Black, Red, and Gold||A Mockingbird|
|Jean||Blue and Brown||A Ship's Wheel|
|Matthew||Blue and Red||A Blue Horse|
Most of the siblings have a body of soldiers who answer to them personally. These are Sworn Companies, or just Sworn, to distinguish them from the Free Companies of the city. They wear their liege's colors and emblem, and answer only to them. They are led by a Legate, who oversees and runs them.
There are some exceptions to this. Emily and Senlin do not appear to mantain a Sworn Company of any sort. Neither do Jennahdy or Sterren, although the Arden Rangers and White Watch respectively answer only to them and serve the function of such a company. Cadence does not have a Legate, running her Sworn personally.
Generally, each Sworn Company numbers between 100 and 1000 men, although these numbers tend to balloon in times of war.
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Last Update May 20, 2003