Dramatis Personae - The Princes and Princesses of Avalon
"The first card showed a tall, imposing man standing atop a half-finished tower of the Citadel Avalon, looking out over the work with a critical eye. He was dressed in a flamboyant uniform of white and gold and pink, with a powdered white wig and a silver monocle, and held a roll of blueprints tightly in one hand while sketching silver lines of energy in the air with the other. His features, hard and soft at once, were somewhat obscured by a shadow cast from above."
Ludwig is... well... mad as a hatter.
The eldest son of the King With No Name, he designed the Citadel Avalon, laid out much of the city, and wrote many of the definitive texts and commentaries on the powers and topology of the universe. Unfortunately, he seemed to grow progressively crazier, and a astute eye can tell whether buildings or books were done early in his career (the Great Plaza of White Repose, the Book of Avalon) or later (Pit Trap and Falling Stone Death Trap Avenue, the Tome of What My Dead Parakeet Told Me Last June).
Prince Ludwig either left or was exiled; the records are uncertain on the point. He is likely either dead or far towards the more chaotic part of Shadow, which probably suits him better anyway. Almost none of the younger siiblings remember him in person.
The Ashen Prince
"This trump was done in an odd, blocky style that brought to mind images of Sumerian carvings or Japanese prints or Egyptian tomb decorations. It was a battle scene, with men and not-quite-men dying in droves, and their killer was a tall man in loose robes of black and orange. He had three arms, each of which was striking down a foeman with a massive, ornately carved mace, and his long red hair streamed back as he laughed and slew. His features looked like a devil mask, and his skin was gray and unwholesome."
The second oldest of the princes, The Ashen Prince rebelled against the throne years ago, and his name and heritage were struck from the records. He's either dead or in some sort of exile. You don't know much about him other than that he fought with three magical maces and was supposedly a terrifying warrior; Ludwig and Tess are probably the only ones in the family who really remember knowing him.
"Turning the next card, I found myself looking at a woman in a kimonolike dress of gold and blue, her haori coat emblazoned with silver roses where the crests would be. She had a loose tail of pure white hair tied with a gold ribbon, and her features were young, sharp, and manic. I noticed that she stood ankle deep in a swamp, red eyes in the underbrush glowing, but held a steaming teacup gingerly in one hand. Her lips were pursed, as if about to chide or rebuke or comment."
Tess is the resident sorceress of Avalon. She has probably the largest fund of knowledge around about Avalon, the Pattern, and the universe in general, with the possible exception of Prince Ludwig. It is generally agreed that she has the most powerful mental abilities in the family. She's also more than a little flaky, and is pretty scatterbrained and erratic.
Unless an emergency arises, Tess will rarely leave Citadel Avalon, spending most of her time in the tower she's commandeered as a combination lab/library/apartment. She has some sort of horrible cat-bear-hedgehog beast that drools a lot and occasionally eats the servants; she dotes on it and seems incapable of viewing it as anything other than a harmless lapdog.
Tess is usually bubbly and friendly to everyone, except when interrupted in the middle of a project. She seems particularly fond of Darako, which everyone else views as yet more evidence of her creeping dementia.
"Staring at me from the next card was an earnest young man, thin and somewhat weedy, a formal garden behind him. He had on canvas gloves, and leaned on a spade. He wore black jeans and a high-collared, tightly buttoned shirt of sea blue, and a pair of silver-framed eyeglasses covered rather sad-looking blue eyes. He had the look of one who hopes to pass muster, but who assumes he will not."
Angus was born sickly, weak, and generally puny. To make matters worse, he showed fairly pathetic psyche ability. In apparent disgust, the King With No Name put him out of the line of succession after the birth of Meredith, just to make sure that a failure would never hold the throne. Angus went off in shadow in humiliation, and hasn't been seen since.
His unpleasant childhood made him indrawn and brooding, according to those who remember him. He had a tendancy to take great pleasure from simple things, devoting days on end to them, and often seemed to try to compensate for his shortcomings by relentlessly practicing at a particular pursuit until he was better at it than his siblings by virtue of sheer preparation and experience.
He supposedly used to get along well with Tess, and was tormented the most by Joan and Meredith.
"I turned over the card and saw a scene shrouded in mist, trees looming hazily in the background out of black earth and dark green moss. A tall, slender woman in white and blue was on her knees in the center of it, eyes closed, head back, golden hair streaming back. She was dressed in bright chain armor with a blue surcoat showing a white rose, and her hands clasped a longsword, the tip embedded in the earth, the hilt pointing skywards. Lines of bright silver traced the blade, glowing with a light that seemed to cut the surrounding fog. I could not tell if she knelt in prayer, surrender, or merely reflection."
Joan is a singleminded woman. She seeks to be the finest duelist of her siblings, and has devoted most of her efforts of late to that pursuit. Exactly why she wishes to have the title is unknown, but she seems to know something that her siblings don't.
Unfortunately for her, her quest is lined with obstacles. The Ashen Prince, who was held to be the best, has vanished, and thus cannot be contested against. Darako is the closest competition in Avalon, and so far their fights tend to either end in draws or be split fifty-fifty. Her greatest liability has been her weak strength - while her sword is lightning fast, there just isn't much power behind it.
She gets along well with most of her siblings, but hates Darako as an insult of a rival. She views Walker with slight amusement and patronization.
"The next card showed a library or a drawing room somewhere, with lots of wood paneling and old leather books. Rising from a wicker chair was a dapper man in a blue-gray Regency costume that would not have looked out of place in Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. One hand rested upon a walking stick topped with a gold knob, and the other was in the beginning of sketching a bow. His features were sharp, sallow, and cheerful, and his eyes were green."
Meredith is a charming, courteous man, second only to Dante in his ability to overwhelm via sheer personality. He's the second most powerful mental operator in residence in Avalon, but often acts as though he's really the first. He's a fair hand with a blade, but seems lacking in physical power and stamina.
While almost all of his siblings like Meredith, few actually trust him. He has a power-hungry streak that occassionally shines through his shining, friendly exterior, and all of his brothers and sisters know it.
Meredith is on bad terms with Darako, and to a lesser extent with Tess. He frequently works with his full sister, Joan - or against her.
"The next card showed a street or alley somewhere, the crumbling brick emblazoned with graffiti. A corpse lay facedown next to a motorcycle that was mostly engine and seat, and hunked down by it in a sort of slouching sprawl was a burly woman in brown canvas pants, a black leather jacket dripping chrome, and a black tank shirt emblazoned with a brown rose. Her features were broad and Asian, and had a sullen, unattractive cast to them. One hand was busy wiping blood off the blade of a knife and onto the corpse's shirt, and the other was extended in an offensive and easily understood gesture."
Darako is a technology junkie, a brawler, a musician, and a public nuisance. She annoys practically everyone by drag-racing her assortment of motorcycle-like vehicles through the Citadel Avalon, playing hideous-sounding techno music with a band that looks like they crawled out of a gutter, getting massively drunk with said band and going on a destructive spree through the castle, and similar charming habits. She once demolished a good portion of the Citadel trying to shoot Prince Walker with some sort of gun.
Darako is generally considered to be bad-tempered, suspicious, sullen, unatractive, and a thoroughly disagreeable person. Or, in short, a punk.
Darako is on bad terms with practically everyone. Walker and Meredith hate her because she's better than them with a weapon or bare hands, and has repeatedly subjected them to humiliating beating in public. Joan sees her as competition for the best warrior resident in Avalon, and the two frequently come to blows. Her tormenting of Angus at a young age was what finally made him pack up and leave. She gets along with Dante, and seems to view Tess with an uncharacteristic awe and admiration.
"The next card showed someplace high and craggy and windswept, with a blue-green sea in the background and gulls wheeling overhead. A figure sat sprawled on a broken marble column, his hair black, his eyes bright, his bearded face turned upwards towards the sun. He was dressed in jeans and a loose shirt of green and gold, and was playing a stringed instrument of some kind, a mandolin perhaps. A glass of wine, a book, and a plate of bread and cheese sat atop a second nearby column, and I got the impression that it was them he was playing to."
Dante is a sort of poet, scholar, and musician. The Prince of Art is elegant, dashing and easygoing, and loved by everything female. He has painted most of the Trumps in common use, written much of the renowned literature of Avalon, and has composed most of the music popular in the city.
He's also strong enough to uproot stone buildings, and is held to be probably the most physically powerful of the siblings. Noted for his luck, cheery outlook, and general good company.
Dante gets along well with practically everyone, putting the men at ease and charming the ladies (or, in Darako's case, shop-talking music with her.) He would probably be the leading candidate for King if he ever expressed any interest in it, which he hasn't.
"The next card showed a man with closely cropped blond hair, broad shoulders, alert, smiling confidently. You could almost smell the soap and apple pie; he looked like a Boy Scout recruitment poster, a Norman Rockwell one. He wore a suit of plate armor, and a massive twohanded claymore was slung casually over his shoulder. A cloak of blue and silver and gold wrapped his neck and back."
Walker is one of the youngest of Amber's princes. He wants to be the best in everything, and has been sort of crosstraining in everything he can. He's solidly built, fairly popular with people, and doesn't seem to have any obvious weak points that you know of - he appears to be as adept with a sword as a spell. While he's a long way from being the best in anything, let alone everything, Walker does manage to stay third or fourth-best in most areas.
While he's taken the Pattern, he doesn't seem to have much interest in the finer points of lore, and will probably develop his martial skills over his mental ones.
Walker wants to surpass all of his siblings, but especially Joan and Meredith, both of whom represent his goals. He dislikes Darako to the point of hatred, and tends to give her a wide berth. He is very friendly with Dante, who is too easygoing and uncompetitive to offer his jealousy much of a hold.