The Kingdom of Amber

Table of Contents

The Origins of Amber, the Family, and the Pattern

No-one knows who founded Amber, or who drew the Pattern. No-one who's telling, anyway. Maybe they just sprang into being in a sort of big bang. Maybe some long-dead king drew it; after all, Amber is a 'kingdom'. Maybe Emily drew it, or Senlin. Regardless, it exists. The secrets of its making have been lost.

Of the lineage of Emily and Senlin, nothing remains but mystery. Did they spring into being with the Pattern, predate it, were birthed after its drawing? Are they the first children of a dead king, or wanderers from Shadow? They will not say.

Anton and Jennahdy are somewhat more certain. They were definitely born during the Black Years, but where and under what circumstances they will not say, nor will they name their parents.

Wren and Sterren are both the children of Annebel, as were dead Laura and Merlion. They claim ignorance of their father, and the older four aren't talking.

Cadence and Henri were born of Moins, who was identified by Sterren as bearing children who were Royal Siblings. Likewise were Jean and Matthew born to Adrienne di Corci and Mina Toestonejoy respectively, and identified by Emily and Sterren. In each case, the father has remained a mystery.

This has given rise to a few quiet theories, which include:

It has also given rise to questions about just what the hell everyone's exact blood relations to each other are. Emily and Senlin have always referred to each other and the rest of the family as 'brother' or 'sister', and so everyone has more or less assumed they know what they're talking about and that the family is, in fact, composed of siblings.

Regardless, the rule of family is a simple one. If you walk the Pattern, you're a Prince of Amber and family. If you can't or you haven't yet, you're not, and have none of the rights of a member of the Royal Family. Your heritage counts for nothing until you have actually walked the Pattern.

The Rights and Duties of Princes

Amber is an absolutist oligarchy. The Royal Family is in charge. The law is whatever they say is the law. If they want to kill and eat noblemen, nuns, and adorable orphans in the streets of Amber, they can. If they give an order, you obey.

All of the Princes and Princesses are expected to follow a set of unwritten laws. In rough priority order, these are:

  1. The Law of Amber. You don't sell out the realm, ally with enemies of the realm, ally with outsiders against your kin, or swear allegiance to anyone. You do not have to always work for the good of the realm, but you may never work against it.
  2. The Law of Blood. You do not kill your kin. Even in the Civil Wars, both sides took care to only kill each others' armies and not their actual siblings.
  3. The Law of Property. You do not openly trespass on another Prince's holdings. You cannot enter his domains without permission, and you cannot kill his retainers unless they clearly provoke you.
  4. The Law of Respect. You at least pretend to obey the laws of Amber, or don't flaunt them too often.

There are no set penalties for breaking these. The one sibling who broke the Law of Amber, Merlion, was punished by Wren breaking the Law of Blood and killing him. Wren wasn't punished at all, due to the circumstances.

After the Second Civil War, a sort of formal divvying up of the Castle and Kingdom into individual fiefdoms occurred. In practice, this means that each Royal runs or has authority over their holdings, and can allow and forbid access. Mostly access is never forbidden to the family unless two siblings are quarreling.

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

The colors of Amber itself are Green, Gold, and White. The flag is a white Unicorn on a field of green, with three golden chevrons.

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.

Laws and Government

The government of Amber is a bit of a mess.

The Royal Family rules as a sort of multipart absolute despot. There are no rules or laws that say which member of the Royal Family you need to defer to above any other member. So if two members of the Family give you contradictory orders, you're basically screwed, although the general protocol is to obey the last Royal to give you an order.

Several members of the family hold more or less permanent positions in the actual government. This has worked out well in some cases; Cadence runs the military very efficiently, Sterren seems to do a good job with whatever it is being Keeper of the Dead entails, and if Arden is not exactly a place of light and safety any more, it is generally held that Jennahdy is doing as good a job as anyone could do as Warden of Arden.

It has worked out less well in some cases, like Henri being Legate of the City, and Jean being a fairly perpetually absent Admiral of the North. The fact that there is no way to remove them from their positions hasn't helped matters.

A civil service does exist, largely run by the nobility, who are in charge of hirings and firings. Nobility inherit their government posts in the same manner as they inherit their estates, although they may resign or sell their offices to someone else if they like. This means that they can more or less run their part of the government like a private fief, although getting too ambitious or incompetent is likely to result in a Royal noticing and having you replaced. The degree of Royal supervision here varies; Cadence carefully conducts performance evaluations of all posts connected to the military and assigns on merit, while Henri quite openly sells City offices or gambles them away.

The nobility have certain rights granted to them. These include the right to a trial by a jury of twelve peers or one Prince, the right and duty to own a sword and armor, the right to buy and sell land, the right to administer non-lethal justice, the right to raise and maintain companies of armed men, and the right to attempt to walk the Pattern. Nobility is hereditary, although a Prince can ennoble or degrade someone at his whim. In practice, this does not happen very much, as the Royals prefer to keep their really big sticks and carrots in reserve, and do not want to anger the people who run most of the realm if they don't have to.

Freemen are the vast bulk of the population. They are citizens of Amber, salt of the earth, all that. They also have rights, including the right to trial by a jury of twelve Freemen or one nobleman for crimes that do not carry a possible sentence of death or imprisonment, the right to a jury of twelve freemen or six noblemen for other crimes, the right to inherit land based on descent or a legal will, the right to maintain such arms as may be required for one's livelihood, the right to defend their land against any attacker, and the right to own as much wealth as they like. Freemen who rent land have the right to demand that their landlord protect the property.

Migrants are people from other Shadows who have come to Amber. Migrants have rights that depend on the treaty they signed as part of the Golden Circle. A few Shadows give their citizens most of the rights of Noblemen while in Amber, some barely give enough to protect wealth and safety. If you are from a Shadow that Amber has no treaty with, you have no legal rights, and can legally be shot down in the street by anyone who feels like it (although they would probably be charged with causing a public disturbance). Migrants may pay a fee of coin, goods, or labor to the Family and renounce all other alliegences, and be created Freemen.

Finally, Sworn are the direct retainers of a Royal. They have the rights of the class they came from, with an important distinction - they are considered the direct property of the Royal they serve. This limits the ability of any of the other Royals to act against them, due the Law of Property, and makes anyone else reluctant to take direct action against them either.

Slavery is illegal in Amber; anyone who is found to use slaves or slave labor is given a choice between hanging and being sold into slavery in the Golden Circle. Note that HAVING slaves in Amber is illegal, but there is no law saying that you cannot BE a slave. So if Joe the Nobleman enslaves Bob the Treatyless Migrant, Joe is breaking the law, but Bob's rights are not being abused, because Bob has no rights. Amber also does not outlaw the slave trade among its citizens; you just can't bring them to Amber.

Amber has complete gender equality under the law. In practice, it is still a male dominated society, and many people expect women to be subordinate to their husbands. Despite this, there are still a fair number of women in positions of power, and many citizens of Amber take the position of 'woman, man, who cares'.

In practice, the system works, if not always smoothly. The borderlands and agricultural areas are feudal in function, with the north tending towards isolated farms, the south to large plantations, and the rest a mix. The north is largely run by the five Reckonings, each of whom is governed by a council composed of hereditary nobles and elected freemen. The south has each plantation owner in charge of his holdings, and little other government. The middle lands are a patchwork of elected mayors and hereditary nobles. All lands pay an annual tax to the Castle, collected by the Revenue Service, which Cadence largely runs.

The City runs like a large and complex machine oiled by graft. The motto of the great men of Amber should probably be "Let's all shut up and make money." There are a great number of laws, most of which aren't enforced. Henri keeps a hand on the crime syndicates by becoming the majority shareholder in them. It is not an honest or fair city, but it does let a man make a living and live a relatively decent life, as long as he's not too poor and stays out of the way of the powerful.

Ethnic Groups

Amber has been settled in waves over the years, and has a fairly diverse ethnic base. Sometimes everyone gets along. Sometimes they don't.

* The Old Ones appear to be the first people to dwell in Amber. They are pale to olive skinned, and tend towards brown or black hair. Their eyes are narrow, with the remains of a fold that still shows up from time to time, and tends towards grey, brown, or black. Albinoism is abnormally common among them. They are not usually very tall, and have long lifespans.

Every Old One theoretically belongs to one of five Reckonings, which are complex clan-like extended families. In the north of Amber, the Reckonings are pretty much the law and society runs by what they say. In the City and the south, they have amount as much power over their members as a US political party or Elks Lodge has.

The Old Ones were more or less wiped out in the south during the Black Years, and their numbers everywhere took a massive beating. They are now a minority everywhere but in the north. Many of them fixate on this fact, and two of the Reckonings forbid intermarriage with Rebmans. Old Ones have a reputation as being clannish, dwelling on the past, suspicious of strangers, and secretive. This reputation is about as true as any broad ethnic stereotype can be; ie, don't set your watch by it.

* The Ostfolk are the descendants of those Old Ones who fled into Shadow during the Black Years, married the locals, and returned with their new families after the Veriacordia were driven away or destroyed. The Shadow strain is strong in them; they are generally pale white with brown or blond hair, green, blue, or grey eyes, and heavy amounts of body hair. They tend to be more thickly-set than the Old Ones, but live a shorter span.

The Ostfolk can be found everywhere in Amber in sizable numbers, not exactly a majority or a minority. They tend towards the culture of whatever group they live beside. The one noteworthy custom they do maintain is the Homecoming Festival, celebrated at the winter solstice, commemorating their arrival in Amber after the Black Years. The festival involves ritual hunts, a parade, and is the traditional time for holding weddings and losing one's virginity. It has more or less become an Amberite Christmas; everyone puts up decorations for it and takes a day off work and watches the parades, even if only the Ostfolk really get into it and see deep meaning in it.

* The Rebmans came to Amber during the Migration that occurred around and after the War of the Dead. They are usually quite tall, are given towards slender frames, and in many cases have webbed hands and feet. Rebmans have black or dark brown skin, and tend towards blue and green eyes and red or dark green hair. They live almost as long as the Old Ones on average.

As the Rebmans settled mainly in the south and the city, and have not suffered a depopulating disaster after the Migration, they are the majority ethnic group in both areas (although not by much in the City). They have brought with them a huge array of customs, foods, and odd practices from their homeland; some have become mainstream Amber culture, others are still 'those weird Rebman thingers'.

Rebman culture is more obviously religious than most of the other groups, possibly a result of their history. They practice male circumcision, which is looked upon with a shudder and polite horror by the rest of Amber. A few splinter groups also practice female circumcision, although most Rebmans look upon this practice with distaste. There is a popular prejudice that Rebmans stink of fish; this is slander, although fish is the staple food of Rebman cuisine, as is a green, acid-hot paste made from seaweed. Rebmans burn their dead. They have several holidays, most of which are celebrated at home and are unspectacular, and the Day of Remembrance, where they fast and wear traditional Rebman attire; ie, almost nothing. This often translates into 'I lock myself in my house all day' for Rebmans who are very modest or located in an area without many Rebmans.

The Rebman attitude towards their old homeland varies, ranging from 'Amber is my home, never seen Rebma, not interested' to 'we must reclaim our land'. The Rebman Revival League caters to the interests of the latter group, and seeks to built up support for a reconquista. Both groups, however, are loudly and almost embarrassingly pro-Amber.

* Creoles are people so mixed between the groups that it's impossible to really slap a label on them. This title is also given to immigrants from out of Shadow who have long since settled down and 'gone local'. Creoles have a reputation for crime, poverty, and loafing. This is a slander; they have no more tendancy to this than any other group. On the other hand, they have a higher poverty rate than most of the other groups, if only because the nobility intermarries less and adopts the identity of one of the groups when they do. By a strict definition, probably 70% of Amber is Creole, but the title is only applied to the 15% so mixed or lacking in family tradition that they have no cultural identity, or to new immigrants from Shadow.

Depending on the person, Creoles can have no customs at all to exotic rituals.


Amber has no official state religion. There are no laws on the books concerning religion or the practice of it, except for a few dealing with safety and tax regulations for those wishing to construct places of worship, an explanation of what constitutes 'expression of religious belief' and what constitues 'incitement to riot', certain tax exemptions for relious organizations above a certain size and endorsed by the nobility, and a ban on the practice of any faith involving the worship of snakes, the Veriacordia, Chaos, the eating of actual human flesh, the Undead, or 'The Elder Ones,' although no-one is sure what that last means.

The popular religion of Amber is Unicorn Worship. This takes several different forms. The Old Ones have a number of variations on a dualistic good and evil belief, and believe the Unicorn is to be honored but avoided, unless approached through the agency of a priest. The Ostfolk have an even broader set of beliefs, but frequently use the motif of the Unicorn as guide, both in a moral and physical sense, and often use phrases like 'hunt the Unicorn' to mean 'strive for some good thing'. The Rebmans have an entire series of saints and holy days, a more orthodox set of beliefs and a fairly unified priesthood, and see the Unicorn as the guardian of the soul and the protector of the living from supernatural evil. Creole beliefs vary wildly.

Of course, there are a lot of people who simply don't believe in the Unicorn at all, or who believe vaguely in the Unicorn but don't really worship or think much about him. This is very easy to do, because the Unicorn does not appear to grant miracles, no-one has ever reliably seen him except 'from a great distance' or 'through the trees' or 'in a vision,' and there is no single, unified church to indoctrinate the population en masse.

There are three cults that bear special mention, due to being underground, illegal, and possibly fictional.

The so-called Sixth Reckoning are worshippers of the Veriacordia, or the gods of the Veriacordia. Their practices are unclear, but are said to involve murder, multilation, and all sorts of obscene atrocities. Their membership is reportedly entirely Old Ones.

The Serpenters worship the Serpent of Chaos, and claim that the Unicorn is evil and must die. They seem more given to spiritual rather than temporal murder, although there are the usual rumors of baby-eating and the like, and the general thrust of their faith means that they are probably all instant traitors, just add Chaos invasion.

The Cult of the Dead is mostly made up of Rebmans, and worships the current landlords of Rebma. The mere mention of this group is enough to drive most Rebmans into frothing fits. They supposedly have all sorts of nasty habits, including various bits of unpleasantness involving Undead.

Money and Economics

Amber is a wealthy nation, for several reasons.

First of all, the City of Amber is a major trade hub, and the marketplace of the Golden Circle. Amber has favorable trade treaties with almost every GC Shadow, and makes money off virtually every transaction somehow. Amber merchants are sharp as the proverbial tack, and frolic merrily under a government where anything goes as long as it doesn't cause too much trouble.

Second, Amber has rich metal deposits in the Caltbrunner Alps, including iron, gold, assorted gems, copper, and many others.

Third, Amber produces more wool that it can use, expensive spices and dyes, salt, and is able to provide a fair amount of its own agricultural needs.

Fourth, Amber has a huge merchant fleet.

Fifth, Amber has more timberlands than it really wants.

The currency of the realm is the Crown, a large, thin, flat coin made of Real gold. It bears a crown (surprise!) on one side, and Kolvir and the castle on the other. It also has a sort of natural seam down the middle, allowing it to be easily broken in half. There is also a silver coin called the Talent which is stamped with a Unicorn on one side and a ship on the other. The Bank of Amber, Great Bank, Circle Bank, and Bank of Rebma, as well as several smaller financial houses, all mint their own notes and copper coinage backed by their reserves of gold and silver. Only the Royal Family is allowed to mint gold or silver coins.

The Military

Amber's standing army is organized into Cohorts, which vary wildly in size depending on the circumstance.

* The Urban Cohort are basically policemen and riot control troops. They have the unenviable job of keeping order in the City, and are undermanned and underfunded for this job. They double as gate guards and the city's defenders.

* The Rose Cohort is the division everyone serves their first year in, followed by a transfer to one of the others. It also has a core of career soldiers. This unit is the 'training pool' used to harden new troops, and tends to get the details that involve things like ditchdigging and bandit-chasing.

* The Kingfisher and Swan Cohorts are the heart of the regular army. They defend the realm and castle, go on campaign, and perform similar tasks. Usually, one cohort is present in the castle and one is out in the countryside on various errands.

* The Frostwater Cohort is the 'elite unit' of the army. In theory. Currently it's a tiny bunch of ceremonial guards with antiquidated weapons. It's really dead, it just doesn't know it yet.

Amber also has three groups which serve a paramilitary function. The Rangers of Arden patrol that forest. The Revenue Service collects taxes, by force if need be, and serves as a customs service. And the White Watch guards the Upper Mount with almost fanatical devotion.

Amber raises troops in times of war in Legions. Each Cohort is assigned a set of Legions which they serve as the command staff and core of, and quickly fills the ranks with recruits, draftees, and levys. Most Legions have a Battle Standard and tales of their long and glorious achievements which are used to foster espirit de corps, even though there is pretty much zero continuity between one war and the next.

Every noble is required to maintain arms and armor and to come to the defense of the realm when summoned, with a force of not less than ten men. Failure to meet this obligation means you get stripped of your title and demoted into the Freemans' ranks. Nobles who pay enough and raise enough equipped men can lead independant companies outside the Legion structure, though still under the Cohorts' command.

The Sworn Companies do whatever their Royal tells them to do.

Free Companies operating out of Amber are required to serve the nation without pay in the event of invasion, although after the end of hostilities they may submit a bill of compensation based on their normal rates.

Amber's Navy is not as high quality as its army, and the crews are largely press-ganged. It is based out of Fleuren's Landing, and divided into two fleets, Northern and Southern, each with about 100 ships. Amber maintains several bases in the Golden Circle by treaty. The navy spends most of its time chasing pirates, escorting shipping, or doing coastal patrols.

Foreign Foes

Amber has seen its fair share of enemies over the years, kicked them in the head, and been kicked in the head right back. While the realm's foes are legion, and do not all advertise, some have made more of an impact than others...

* The Courts of Chaos are a shadowy, poorly-understood place. It supposedly lies at the end of the world, literally and figuratively, and is inhabited by demons. They have a power called the Logrus which is the opposite of the Pattern. They are ruled by the High Lords of Chaos, and worship an evil demon-god called the Serpent. Chaos has attacked Amber twice, although only the details of the second attack are remembered.

* The Veriacordia boiled out of Shadow a thousand years ago and conquered Amber, the only force ever to do so. Their years of rule are known as the Black Years, and were supposedly a hell of terror and massacre. They chopped the numbers of the Old Ones severely, and that group has never really recovered. It is unclear exactly what or who the Veriacordia were. They have been described in similar terms as werewolves or vampires, sometimes as blood-drinking ghosts, sometimes as demonic creatures. The only four members of the family to live through that time do not talk about it. The Veriacordia were either destroyed or driven off; in any event, the elders seem to regard them as gone for good.

* The Fleet of the Dead is said to have appeared without warning off Rebma. Survivors tell a tale of the Lords of the Dead and their armies appearing in the city and killing without mercy. Sterren records that the Rebman navy and army sacrificed themselves holding a corridor open for the population to flee down, and that the royal family of Rebma died to the last child. The Fleet of the Dead went on to attack Amber, but was defeated by Senlin's reenforcements and Sterren's slaying of the Queen of the Dead in the heart of Rebma. The Dead have since withdrawn to Rebma and mostly stay there, aside from occasional raids on shipping. It is unknown where they came from or what power gives them strength.

* The Shalomar Pirates are a recent arrival on the scene, and appear to be nothing more than particularly cunning and skillful buccaneers. They operate out of bases on the coast and prey on shipping. Every so often the Navy goes and burns them out, but like cockroaches, they usually come back after a while.

* The Erl are a troubling new development. Recently low mounds or barrows have been appearing in Amber and the Golden Circle, inhabited by pale, cold, beautiful beings with a vaguely elven appearance. They raid and kill the surrounding lands, carrying off humans as slaves or playthings. Amber has stomped out a fair number of hills, but they keep appearing. It is unknown where the Erl are from or what they are, although many people believe this is some insidious new ploy of Chaos.

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Last Update June 9,2003