An Overview of the Amber Universe
All of creation is a panoply of worlds which stretch between Amber, the Eternal City, and the Courts of Chaos. These universes are known as 'Shadows', worlds which dimly reflect the glory of the only two 'Real' worlds. Those who possess the blood of Amber or Chaos may master arts which allow them to move through Shadow from world to world, finding anything they can imagine and bending universes to their will.
Amber is ruled by King Tylor I, son of King Gendo I, son of Fuyutsuki, who drew the Pattern by some unknown means. Gendo was respected but not much loved, while Tylor I has been a very popular king, in part because he mostly leaves people alone, and when he does meddle, it's usually to try to help them have fun.
The Amber pole of creation is maintained by 'the Pattern', a great spiral sigil inscribed into the stone of the Pattern Chamber beneath Castle Amber. Those who possess the blood of Amber (are descended from Gendo and Fuyutsuki) can walk the Pattern and bid it to send them anywhere in all of creation. They also gain the ability to 'shadow walk', travelling slowly and safely or quickly but more dangerously through shadow to anywhere they can imagine.
Different 'Shadows' have different laws of nature sometimes. Magic works in some, high technology in others. Some are the size of a breadbox, while others encompass billions of light years of space or more. If you can think of it, it probably exists out there somewhere.
If one rides far enough from Amber, one eventually comes to Yig, the World Tree, which holds up the vault of Heaven. Fuyutsuki planted Yig untold millenia ago to serve as a boundary marker for the region of Shadow claimed by Amber. Beyond Yig, the shadows turn strange, and the world grows dark and chaotic. The boundaries between Shadows begin to break down, and more and more of their inhabitants wield strange, incomprehensible powers, changing their form like we change our clothing.
It is said that if one rides far enough, one will reach an endless pit called the Abyss, the dumping ground of Shadow where Reality itself goes to die. Around the Abyss huddle the Thirteen Houses of Chaos, worshipping the Serpent of Chaos. They are believed to be led by a King, but this remains unclear. Their goals and intentions towards Amber are unknown, although two of the Houses (Hendrake and Helgram) became involved in the Succession Crisis thirty years ago. Rumors speak of them having their own Pattern, a constantly twisting and changing one, but nothing is known of it for sure but a name: Logrus.
Yig, the Pillar of Heaven
It takes about three weeks to move through Shadow to Yig; hellriders can make the distance in three days if they don't get delayed by riding into some disaster. Yig roughly marks the boundary point at which the power of Amber fades and that of Chaos waxes. It is also believed to hold up the heavens in some manner or sense. Yig often seems different every time one visits it; it remains uncertain whether one is simply seeing different Shadows of Yig or the true Yig changes.
Some things, however, are constant. Yig is always a tree with a trunk a good half mile across that rises so high into the sky you cannot see its top. Tunnels sink into the earth around its roots, guarded by a serpent (not the Serpent of Chaos, but possibly a relative), while a flying unicorn defends its upper reaches. Yig always stands in the center of a great, barren patch of earth. It rains every afternoon.
And from the branches hangs a giant man, a good hundred feet tall or more. Sometimes he is being hung by the neck. Sometimes a rope or spear pierces him, holding him in place. Sometimes he is crucified. Sometimes the serpent bites his heel and the unicorn pierces his chest. Always his eyes are shut, he does not speak except to moan, and his face mixes agony and pleasure. Who he is or why he is there is unknown. Rumors say that whenever his tortures end, he will learn the secret of life. Other rumors claim enlightenment comes to those who hang from this tree. Some say Fuyutsuki hung himself from it to learn how to make the Pattern. (Fuyutsuki himself claims he found the instructions in a book called Pattern Making For Dummies). Prince Shizumaru is known to have hung from Yig to gain the Seed of Hope, and it is said that Prince Drake hung from Yig to learn how to make Werewindle.
Yig is watched over by the Forestals, enigmatic priests who worship and defend Yig. They have, of late, strenuously objected to the use of Yig as a jumping point for travel, and now trumps of Yig simply do not work.
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