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.
You all know the basic concept, but no one has ever found a variation that works in Amber that you know of. Efforts to seek such a formula in Shadow mysteriously fail for reasons which remain unknown. Amber does have fireworks, but they are sorcerous in nature.
The Jewel of Judgement
This is the most powerful known artifact in Amber whose existence is proven. Close to Amber it is hard to shift shadow and mold it, but with the Jewel, you could turn Kolvir into a giant potato or turn the Gulf of Amber to blood. It can also control weather with ease, and be used in some way to store spells and do other tricks Gendo never really explained to anyone. King Gendo wears it on court occassions, and the rest of the time, it remains locked in the royal vault. Rumors persist that the royal family of Rebma controls a shadow of the Jewel of Judgement, and that the royal crown of Therin contains another such shadow.
Amberite Law is a complex and tricky thing. This is caused in part by the fact that Amber is not a completely unitary kingdom, although it has grown more unitary over the last few hundred years. Different regions of Amber have different lawcodes and judicial systems, united by the supreme judicial and lawmaking authority of the king.
Amber Law proper extends over Castle Amber/Amber City/Amber Port, the Kolvir Range, the region around Fork (west of Arden), and the Vale of Garnath (the farming region around Amber City that extends down the coast to the Hills of Sethfore). Amber Law defaults inheritance to the eldest legitimate male child, unless no male children survive, and then females inherit, but that can be overriden by a properly notarized will. Amber has fairly advanced contract law, and the courts ensure even nobles have to keep to their contracts. Amber Law uses a judge and jury for criminal cases and a panel of three judges for civil cases. Judges are appointed by the King outside Amber City and Amber Port, while Amber City and Amber Port have the right to appoint their own judges at the discretion of the Council of Aldermen and the Mayor.
The City of Amber has the right to make its own laws, binding within its borders, subject to the King's veto. The King, in consultation with his Privy Council, has the absolute right to make laws outside Amber City.
The Forest of Arden is the personal desmene of the King of Amber. He has utter, absolute power over it. If you enter Arden and he decides to kill and eat you, no one can say him nay. Only members of the royal family can enter Arden freely and hunt at will, and even they can be barred by the Warden's formal decree. However, formal Writs of Passage are easily available to merchants who wish to pass along the roads, and Writs of Hunting are fairly freely issued to nobles wishing to hunt there at their own risk. Hunting without a writ is Low Treason, punishable by death, usually by being hunted through Arden. Banditry in Arden is also Low Treason. Killing one of the Unicorn's children, regardless of the circumstances, is High Treason, punishable by forfeiture of all goods, money, titles, etc, and slow, horrible death.
Writs of Passage and Hunting can be issued by the King or Warden of Arden personally, or by their duly authorized representatives. Such agents can be found in Fork, Sethfort, and Amber City.
All trials are conducted by the Warden of Amber; results can be appealed to the King, but this is usually fruitless, as the King generally backs up the Warden's decisions.
Sethfore Law is much like that of Amber, but each major city has similar legal rights to make its own laws, subject to royal veto and appoint its own judges. Divorce law is much more liberal, and inheritance is equal to all children and the surviving spouse, unless overriden by a will. Sethfore Law protects merchant rights quite ferociously, and the cities are all ruled by mercantile oligarchies which frequently clash with the nobles who control the countryside.
Harad is technically still its own nation, although in practice, it goes where Amber goes. Harad is more feudal than the rest of Amber; the cities are smaller and weaker, and the rural nobility dominates it. It is divided into four provinces, each with a provincial Parliament, and there is a national Parliament. They control taxation in Harad, and all laws made in Harad must be channeled through them. However, centuries of warfare enabled Gendo to put through several permanent taxes, which made him largely independent of the Parliaments for tax revenues. As a result, the Parliaments have little real power, although they do a lot of work as the supreme courts of the provinces and in conducting improvement projects for the provinces.
Harad divorce law is very strict, and inheritance goes to the eldest child, male or female, unless overriden by a will.
All judges must be nobles or at least knights, and they have to be approved by the Parliaments. In practice, the Parliaments rarely object, and Gendo has taken care to choose popular nobles. They serve for ten year terms. Harad has many palantine courts in the border regions, where some noble is a hereditary judge. Elsewhere, misdemeanors are tried by nobles on their estates, and felonies are tried by travelling royally appointed assize judges, who make circuits around the country. Most cities have the right to appoint justices of the peace, who conduct misdemeanor trials in the cities, and Harad City has the right to appoint its own board of judges qualified to try felonies. Criminal and Civil cases both use Judge and Jury trials, with the Jury being selected from the social class of the highest ranked person involved in the case. Nobles must be tried in criminal cases before the regional or national Parliament.
Amber has many colonies abroad; their law codes vary tremendously, as each one has a seperate legal charter. In general, the king grants his powers to set laws and enforce justice to the ruling body of the colony, retaining powers to pardon or to override the colonial government's decisions, but this is rarely done.
Magic in Amber
As per the usual rules, every shadow has its own laws of magic. Magic is fairly powerful, but not vastly powerful in Amber itself and its nearest shadows. It functions by tapping the ambient magical energy of the surrounding area, which tends to be strongest at certain magical hotspots known as foci. If too many sorcerors all try to tap the magic in a given location, their spells may fizzle due to using up all the local juice. Smart sorcerors find a foci and build something to let them tap it from a distance so they don't run into this problem.
Magic requires a special hereditary knack to be learned, making it somewhat rare. Still, about one out of every hundred Amberites has some degree of skill at sorcery.
My revised Magick rules can be found here.
Metals of Power
Cold Iron (Iron which was shaped by cold forging) has power against Magick. Weapons and items made of Cold Iron cannot be directly affected by magick. (Magically created fire can melt it, but it can't be telekinetically grabbed with magic, and it'll cut through magical defenses as if they were tissue paper). Cold Iron will also punch through conjured defenses and it will dispel conjured items with prolonged contact (it takes at least thirty seconds). Merchants in Amber City use cold iron bars to make sure they aren't paid in conjured gold. Carrying Cold Iron makes it harder to cast spells.
Mithril is a rare and precious metal, with several times the strength of the best steel, and a mere fraction of the weight. It also takes enchantments very well. Point value weapons are often made from mithril, and Greyswandir is an alloy of Mithril and Silver. (Werewindle alloys Gold and Mithril.)
Silver is proof against shapechangers. Wounds done by silver or silvered weapons cannot be shifted shut by Shapechangers. If enough silver is stuck in them, they can't shapechange at all.
Amber's money system is fairly simple. It is based on a decimal system, using metal coins, of which there are a fair number of denominations.
The base coin is the Silver Royal; every other coin is either worth
a certain number of Royals or is a fraction of a Royal, in the same way
that a dollar is the base unit of American currency.
|Coin Name||Value in Royals||Metal Type||Front||Back|
|Unicorn||10,000||Mithril||The Unicorn Rampant||"All roads lead to Amber"|
|Comet||5,000||Mithril||A Comet||"All roads lead to Amber"|
|Castle||500||Gold||Castle Amber||Mount Kolvir|
|Sun||100||Gold||The Sun||Mount Kolvir|
|Sickle||50||Electrum||A sickle||A sheaf of wheat|
|Moon||10||Silver||A crescent moon||Unicorn Rampant|
|Star||5||Silver||Five pointed star||Unicorn Rampant|
|Royal||1||Silver||A crown||Unicorn Rampant|
|Shield||1/2||Bronze||A shield||A sword|
|Axe||1/10th||Copper||An axe||A tree|
|Plow||1/20th||Copper||A plow||A tree|
|Mug||1/100th||Copper||A beer mug||A tree|
|Loaf||1/200th||Copper||A loaf of bread||A tree|
Most Golden Circle kingdoms use similar coins to facilitate trade. Beyond the Golden Circle, the metal value of Amberite coins usually enables them to either be sold as curios to get money or even simply spent. It should be noted that the weight of the various coins is proportional to their value within the same metal bracket; mugs are tiny coins, while axes are fairly large, for example.
Most business is transacted with electrum, silver, and copper, except between merchants and rich nobles, who make more use of gold and mithril coins. In terms of purchasing power:
You can find a detailed write-up on the Pattern power here at my Pattern Page.
The Pattern is a great icon carved into the solid rock of the Pattern Chamber, a more or less spiral that sometimes doubles back on itself and is marked by three 'veils', where the going is especially rough. The exact nature of the Pattern remains debated--how could drawing a big squiggle in the rock create the universe? Several of the Elders have made as exact a duplicate of the Pattern as they could, but it had no apparent effects. It is utterly indestructible, although rumor states that Gendo's fourth wife (who was also his first wife) tried to somehow use baby Nanami to destroy it. How a baby could destroy the Pattern is unknown, but it does tend to make people nervous whenever she enters the Pattern chamber.
It's usually thought that only Fuyutsuki's descendents can walk the Pattern because he made it, but it remains unclear as to how many generations descent from him will inherit this ability. Anyone else who steps on it or crosses its lines is consumed by fire.
The Pattern casts reflections of itself into Shadow, each of these reflections becoming progressively weaker and more damaged as one moves away from it. The Patterns of Tir-na'nog and Rebma are both fairly perfect reflections, although the one in Rebma is a mirror image of the one in Amber. Other reflections are known as Broken Patterns, which have progressively greater holes and kinks and chips in them, and thus grant progressively weaker and more dangerous power over Shadow. However, such damaged Patterns can be walked by entering through the hole and walking BETWEEN the lines to the center. Even Shadow people can do this and thus gain a flawed power over Shadow.
From the Amber perspective, the Pattern is the center of creation; everything radiates outwards from it. Chaos forms the far distant periphery where the power of Order finally fades away, consumed by the entropy of the Abyss.
Pattern Blades are weapons which have a segment of the Pattern inscribed in them. Two are known to exist, Greyswandir--the Night Sword, and Werewindle --the Day Sword. Rumors speak of Dawn and Evening blades as well, but who might wield them is unknown.
They will cut through almost any armor with ease, they're virtually unbreakable, and they cause those who possess the Blood of Chaos to burn to death with just a nick.
Persistant rumors speak however, of Chaos Blades which do the same thing
The Prophecies of the Unicorn
The Prophecies of the Unicorn form the main holy text of the Cult of the Unicorn, and a great riddle which Amberite mystics and scholars struggle to unlock to this day. It consists of thirteen chapters of varying length, each of which is divided into verses of varying length, although the number of verses is always a multiple of thirteen. The verses range from single line sayings to thirteen page long stories or parables. Each chapter is named after something prominent in it.
While the Cult of the Unicorn treats it as a religious document, many
Amberites use it as a fortunetelling tool, whether by opening it randomly
or using complex methods to either randomly select passages or to turn
people's names into passages.
The Serpent of Chaos
Rumor speaks of a Serpent of Chaos who watches over Chaos as the Unicorn watches over Amber. His powers or appearance (besides being a snake) is unknown.
Legends speak of these items, rings which draw magical power from Shadow, granting fantastic powers to those who wear them. These legends claim the Spikards pre-date the Pattern and the Logrus, that they were used to make those Icons. It is said that whoever controls all of them will become a god. Then again, legends also claim one of the Chaos houses is descended from a cow...
The number of spikards remains debated. There may be five or seven or nine. Amberite legends identify four of them:
Magnus the Unseen: This spikard made its wearer absolutely undetectable by any means but another spikard, and granted its wearer power over the minds of others. Prince Van perished in battle against the dragon who wore this spikard, which was never found.
It was recently revealed to have been recovered by Kozue, who lost it to Embra-Derith. Drake cut off Embra-Derith's arm and now wears it.
Gaerthos: The Ring of Tides: Queen Moire is known to wear this Spikard. It grants her great power over the ocean, to change the tides and currents, to make the sea rage or calm it. She is known to have once destroyed an entire fleet with a single gesture.
Silya: The Ring of Wood: This was possessed by the royal family of Harad, and passed to Queen Haruka when she married Gendo. After her murder, it was never recovered. It granted great power over green and growing things, and power to reshape or destroy wood.
The Breath of the Dragon: This spikard granted its wearer the ability to generate many forms of deadly gases and energy. Legend claims Fuyutsuki did battle with its wearer, a Lord of Chaos named Keele many centuries ago during the first years of Amber. The ring supposedly was destroyed in the battle.
Many speculate that Fuyutsuki bears a fifth (possibly the last spikard) himself, one he used to overcome The Breath of the Dragon long ago. If so, its powers remain unknown.
Certain recent events would seem to hint that the Embra Wakaba and Queen Anthy may possess spikards as well.
Technology in Amber
Technology in Amber is at roughly a Renaissance level, without gunpowder. Steam engines do work, but a practical fuel which could fill the role of coal in the industrial revolution is lacking, keeping them expensive toys. (Amber has no coal deposits, and imported coal will not burn for reasons unknown). Water power is the most common substitute for muscle power, used in mills and some forms of craft production. Amberites have, however, advanced to a much higher level of skill in chemistry and medicine than in Earth's Renaissance.
The 'Standard' Amber Trump Deck for this chronicle contains:
The origins of the Unicorn remain debatable. It definitely predates Amber, and probably assisted Fuyutsuki in creating the Pattern. Many Amberites worship it as a god, and all Amberites know that it watches out for Amber. Most have never seen it and never will, but it tends to manifest itself at times of crisis. Amber City has a great Chapel of the Unicorn where High Priest Geo presides over the Unicorn Cult. There is also known to be a Grove of the Unicorn in Arden where the Unicorn sometimes appears to those who seek it.
The Cult of the Unicorn is the great civic religon of Amber; by participating, the participants also re-pledge allegiance to Amber itself. For many people, the Cult provides the great civic celebrations and eight major festivals a year (roughly every 45 days). These festivals effectively mark the start of each of the eight Amberite months.
Unicorn Tracks/White Roads and Narwhale Currents/Sea Lanes/Alicorn Winds
The origin of the White Roads is unknown. At some point in the past, some force burned roads through some of the shadows on the Amberite side of Yig. Legends claim they're made by the movement of the Unicorn through Shadow, but it's been seen travelling about without creating any such roads. Thus, their origins remain a mystery.
Similar routes through Shadow exist at sea, known as Narwhale Currents. (Rumors speak of Alicorn Winds as well, but few Amberites can fly to find them).