Amber Throne War

Places Page

Table of Contents
 


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.


Overview of the Geography of the Kingdom of Amber???Mystaria Naval BaseMystburghSethfortSethfore HillsIsles of ShalomarForkNicephorusMt. KolvirAmber CityRebmaForest ArdenCarlisleSorostShalomar Naval BasePetraBayleportDorcasCaerlonHarad CitySalisburySwanseaAvesburyLake HaradPlains of HaradAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberAmberNorostNocarlKafshaLorraineAlsaceWest BridgeEregnorKarestSihestBerestDarienBegmaTalma (Capitol)TalenKorchTalmaIosiaAegaMegaraThebesDelphiAltenCorinthUliaSingh (Capitol)SinghChalcedonTherinBackground

The exact size and dimensions of Amber proper remain debatable. Close to Amber, shadows blend into each other and tend to resist being molded to a degree which makes it unclear at what point you've actually left the home shadow. Also, those from shadows sufficiently close to Amber can apparently freely travel between those shadows at certain points or areas.

Castle Amber lies on the southeastern slopes of Mount Kolvir, which sits at the far western point of a U-shaped gulf which opens out eastward (It's at the 'bottom of the u'. It is about two thirds of the way up the mountain. At the top of the mountain floats Tir'na'og, also called the Castle of Illusion, a mirror image of Kolvir, Castle Amber and the City of Amber, on nights when the moon shines in the sky. It is upside down and reached by a stair that appears on top of Kolvir when the moon shines. Below Kolvir, at the mouth of the Barimen river, lies the City of Amber and Amberport, two cities grown together into one. Amberport has no walls, although the harbor is guarded by two towers and a chain, while the city is walled. A long staircase, a tunnel into Kolvir, and a long and winding road which switches back and forth frequently allow access from city to castle. (Gendo also has a riding beast that resembles a small dragon which he used in happier, healthier days to get up and down)

The Kolvir range spreads northeast along the northern side of the Gulf of Amber, blocking any travel by land in that direction, except by the road which circles Kolvir itself, and which can be effectively sealed by the controller of the Castle. The range of mountains also spreads west into the interior of the continent, closely paralleled by the Barimen River, for about three weeks ride, then turns into hills. 

North of the Kolvir Range are the Plains of Harad, the agricultural heartland of Amber, home to grain farmers and vinyards and orchards, cut through by many rivers and streams. Three weeks ride north of the Kolvir range is the Eregna River, beyond which lies the Golden Circle kingdom of Kashfa. The Shalomar Naval Base sits at the mouth of the Eregna river; the Northern Fleet is based here. Several castles manned by the army of Amber dot the western border of the plains and protect the major crossings of the Eregna.

Cities of Harad:


East of the Plains of Harad, in the Great Eastern Ocean, to the northeast of the Gulf of Amber, are the Isles of Shalomar, thousands of islands ranging in size from large rocks to the size of Crete. The larger ones contain petty kingdoms, the smaller ones contain wild animals and hidden pirate bases.

West of the Plains of Harad lies the Golden circle kingdom of Begma, nestled among the Begma hills. Northwest of the plains is the region known as Eregnor, a constant bone of contention between Begma and Kashfa.

South of the Kolvir Range, spreading west and south for a week's ride (on the roads, much longer off road), is Forest Arden, the great hunting preserve of the Kings of Amber. It is protected by the Warden of Arden. Along the southern coast of the Gulf of Amber, three days ride from Amber, is Rebma, the underwater reflection of Amber. It claims only a tiny portion of the coast, which is full of farming and fishing villages. Beyond Rebma, the forest gradually draws back from the coast, which turns to run more southeasterly, and rises into hills, which are dotted with mining towns and craftsmen. This region is known as the hills of Sethfore. Eventually, the coast turns completely southward, and the Mystara River empties into the sea. The Mystara naval base stands here. South of the Mystara river is the Golden Circle kingdom of Therin.

West of Arden and South of Kolvir is the Golden Circle kingdom of Talma. The main road into Amber forks in several directions as one leaves Arden. One fork goes straight west to Talma, another runs southwest to Uila, and the last runs along the edge of Arden south to Singh. The terrain here is gentle hills and downs running southwestward.


Castle Amber

Castle Amber is a huge sprawling fortress along the southeastern slope of Mount Kolvir. It overlooks the pass which provides the easiest access to the Plains of Harad to the north. It can be entered in three ways: climbing a steep staircase straight up to it from the city. Riding up a longer, but less steep road which winds up from the pass. Riding into the fortified tunnel that runs into Kolvir and leads to a magically powered 'elevator' controlled from inside the castle. Rumors persist of other access tunnels, but nothing has been proven.

A curtain wall surrounds the castle to the south and east, while the steep slope of Kolvir shields it to the west and north. Inside the curtain wall is a large courtyard, various small auxillary buildings such as the stables and smithy, a large garden on the northern side of the courtyard, and dug into the mountain itself, the main keep and palace on the western side of the courtyard. The 'elevator' access opens into a small building in the courtyard.

The palace has five external stories, plus many subterranean levels dug into the mountains. The ground level contains most of the governmental business and public function areas. The second level contains the great ballroom, the armory, the library, and the great dining hall with related areas (kitchen, servants, etc). The third level contains the quarters of your generation of Amberites and the main guest areas. The fourth level contains the King's quarters and the royal vaults. The fifth level is for the king only, and none of you know what is up there.

Below the palace are many layers of tunnels. These include the dungeons, Fuyutsuki's quarters, various laboratories and storage rooms, the wine cellar, and the Pattern chamber. The control room for the 'elevator' system is here as well, and a big door labelled 'Plumbing--Fuyutsuki, Mario, and the king only'. Only they know what actually lies beyond that door.

Anthy's Gardens

Roughly one third of the courtyard of Castle Amber is devoted to Dowager Queen Anthy's gardens.  They consist of a mixture of flower beds, trees, bushes, and benches for sitting organized into a shape that viewed from above resembles a multi-colored rose.  There is a white gazebo in the very center, sometimes used for small concerts by the Court Bard or by bands of musicians on special occasions.  Madoka can often be found here practicing on quiet evenings.

At the northernmost point of the garden, one can find a bower, covered with vines and flowering plants, which contains a bench; it is intended for the convenience of lovers, and provides some degree of seclusion.  A great bed of roses grows in front of the bower.  If two lovers each pluck a flower and keep it, so long as their love for each other remains true, the roses will not wilt.

It is generally forbidden to pick other flowers, although Queen Anthy happily supplies flowers on request; it remains unclear as to how she avoids defoliating the gardens on special occasions.  It is allowed to pick fruit from the fruit trees which dot the garden--peaches, apples, plums, apricots, and pears.  Several efforts to grow bannanas and oranges have failed due to the climate.

Dining Hall

Three times a day, promptly at seven to eight, eleven thirty to one thirty, and six to eight, the cooking staff of Castle Amber serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The Dining Hall is adjacent to the Great Hall, but smaller, only about one hundred and fifty feet long and forty feet wide.  Two double doors open into the Great Hall, while other doors provide access to the kitchens and other parts of the castle.

A great table sits on a raised dais in the center of the room; seating sixteen, the King and Queen dine here with their chosen guests for the meal, while everyone else eats at the roughly equally sized tables scattered about the room.  The King and Queen sit at the ends of the table, and the closer one sits to one of them, the more honor it conveys.

Breakfast typically consists of wine, milk, water, tea, coffee, fruits, breads/rolls/biscuits and butters/jellies/jams, and cold cuts of meat.  Lunch is usually a chicken dish of some kind (the cook has a mild obsession with chicken), often a stew or casserole.  Dinner involves great heaping amounts of food of every kind you can imagine.

Drake's Offices

Drake's offices are located near the 'rear' of the castle on the first floor, in an area which is actually imbedded inside Kolvir.  An entire hallway is given over to the Lord High Chamberlain and his subordinate officials.  Those wishing an audience must convince the Deputy Lord High Chamberlain, Lady Nabiki, to make an appointment...'tips' help with this greatly if you don't seem to be present on actual Royal business.

This complex of offices contains the most recent tax records, copies of the law codes, Tylor's will and any other notarized wills of members of the Royal Family, more land documents than you can shake a plow at, and endless piles of scribbled on paper.

Great Hall

The Great Hall is used for the most formal receptions and when the King must sit upon his Throne to pass certain judgements.  It is a two hundred foot long, sixty foot wide pillared hall with huge gold-plated doors at one end and the mahogany Great Throne of Amber at the other end.  The floor is tiled with alternating golden ships on a blue background and white unicorns against a black background.  Lamps hang next to the support pillars at night; a row of windows to the courtyard light the hall in daytime.

Major feasts are held here; normally food is served in the Dining Hall.

The Kitchens

This multi-tiered room has caused many a late-night pantry-raider to become lost for days, emerging from their expeditions ghostly white from digging around the flour bin.

The main atrium, which spans all three stories, houses the ovens and stoves Chef Bork is often seen slaving over, if he is not busy chasing down the ingredients he needs. There are ten brick ovens and thirty stoves in the central block, and an army of assistant chefs can usually be seen bustling about, each preparing his or her own dish to await final approval by Chef Bork.

The pantry, which is actually more of a labyrinthine warehouse, holds Amber's ample stores of grain and vegetables. The entire pantry, in fact, is furnished in lacquered wood, a luxury that Chef Bork maintains is necessary for the preservation of the perishable goods stored within.  Because the food he prepares is usually excellent, no one has really raised any serious complaints about the expenditure that was necessary to fill an entire warehoused-sized room with lacquered shelves and
cupboards.

The china room is the site of many kitchen catastrophes, as the system Chef Bork uses to store all the fine dinnerware has even the quickest of minds puzzled as to its logic. Dishes are often stacked upright, rim to rim in precarious positions. Dozens of cups, each from different sets, are hung from hooks designed to hold but one cup at a time. Forks, spoons, and knives are arranged in a precarious, interweaving sculpture of  sterling and pewter. One particular set of silverware is kept in a bath of raw egg -- Chef Bork claims that the corrosion adds to the flavor, whatever that means. Naturally, all but Kasumi are hesitant to even open the door of this room. Kasumi seems to have gotten the knack of this room, and even if she breaks something no one, not even Bork, seems to have the heart to take her up to task for it.

The wine cellar, in contrast, in arranged neatly by source, and in turn by vintage. The limestone walls of this room keeps the wine cool, and the lack of windows protects the wine from harsh sunlight. Even when pressed, Chef Bork refuses to explain how an above-ground room could have such thick, apparently naturally formed limestone walls. Then again, he doesn't explain why the kitchen is much larger inside than it appears from the outside, either.

A freshwater spring can be found in the deepest part of the wine cellar, oddly. The water is pure and cool, no doubt cooled by the limestone it passes through to get to the cellar. Chef Bork refuses to use any other water for his cooking -- and once again, no one argues with success.

The remainder of the rooms are either unoccupied or have been turned into chef's quarters.

Lina's Tower

The tallest tower in Castle Amber is dedicated to the use of Lina, the Court Magist.  Her tower juts about six stories over the top of the Palace; the bottom three floors are simply reinforced spiral stairs, designed to keep the operative area away from the rest of the castle.  The top three levels contain her lab and her meeting room, her library and the bedroom of Gourry, her bodyguard, and her bedroom respectively as one moves from bottom to top.  There are rumors she has a room full of Trump Doors that connect to other locations, but nothing is known for sure of this.

The front door of the occupied parts of the tower usually has a sign on it which invites visitors to come in, or tells them to go away.  She has been known at times to forget to change its setting.

Miki's Conservatory

This is on the second story of the palace, a circular chamber painted in blue and gold.  A grand piano sits in the middle, and shelves of instruments and sheet music and books line the walls.  There are many benches to sit on while practicing or viewing a performance.  Miki can often be found here.

The Pattern Chamber

This room is of especial note. The Pattern sits in the dungeons of Castle Amber, in a room which is usually locked. The key hangs in the hallway by the door. Yes, it seems to be locked in order to keep something in, not to keep people out of it...

Personal Quarters

Every member of the Royal Family recieves their own suite of rooms in the Palace.  This generally consists of a small bathroom, a closet, a lounge, and a bedroom.  The only standard defense is locks for the doors, but you can install whatever you like, so long as you don't want any maid service.

The Rose Duelling Arena

Situated in the sky between Amber and Tir'na-nog, the pristine white Dueling Arena is where most Amberite grievances are settled. Nestled on top of a pillar five stories high, in a courtyard near the back of Castle Amber, the round platform is large enough to give the duelists ample room to maneuver and outmaneuver, while still providing seating room for anyone who wishes to watch. Indeed, since a duel is usually an event that concerns nearly everyone, the arena has enough seating for everyone in castle Amber, and quite a few guests as well.

The bleachers are actually a fairly recent addition to the Arena, which Dowager Queen Anthy maintains -- three levels, with separate sections for the King, Queen, and their respective bodyguards. Behind the bleachers is a rather low railing, about waist-high to an average Amberite. This has caused much concern, and in fact, the matter has been raised to Queen Anthy's attention several times over the past few centuries, but she claims she has never gotten around to fixing it -- which is odd, considering how quickly she addressed the seating problem, and how she always manages to keep the Arena spotless even after the bloodier duels. Due to this 'oversight', many duelists and overzealous spectators have plunged to their deaths (or painful crippling) by toppling over the edge.

The object of the Rose Duel, as the name suggests, is to knock out your opponent's rose from his or her breast pocket with your weapon -- this used to be 'with your sword', but Utena's liberal use of whatever is handy required the revision of the rules to accommodate any melee weapon.

However, this rule, meant to prevent duels from becoming fatal, has not stopped quite a few 'accidental' deaths or maimings from occurring. The location of the rose, in particular, has caused many duelists (usually diplomats from neighboring shadows) to die from sword thrusts through the heart.

Tir'na-nog is visible in the sky from inside the Arena, no matter what time of day it is. No one is quite sure why this is so; some speculate that the boundary between reality and dream is thinnest within the Arena. Why this might be the case, no one knows, either -- and Anthy isn't telling.

The Stables

The stables of Castle Amber are quite large, housing up to two hundred horses.  Usually only about a hundred are here at any given time, most of them trained for dealing with combat and hellriding without freaking out.  The stableboys are always friendly and helpful if they think you like horses.  If you don't...they'll do little things to make your life hell.

The second story of the stables has two doors which can be opened to allow flying creatures to live here.  Gendo's pet dragon Sparky lived here for many years; he now lives in Arden with Corrine.
 


The City of Amber

Amber is a huge city of nearly 1 million people, supported by trade and craft production and the seemingly endless fertility of the Plains of Harad. Massive amounts of grain are carted across the Kolvir Pass and up the Gulf of Amber every day to keep the city fed. The city possesses its own army, the 'Trained Bands', which are divided into two sections. The 'Burghal Guard' is a small, elite squad of highly trained mercenary cavalry, numbering 100 light cavalry, 300 medium cavalry, and 100 heavy cavalry. The remainder of the army is made up of the 100 'Centuries' of the 100 Wards of the City of Amber. Each ward contributes 100 armed men. The result is an extremely mixed bag which ranges from 100 hired mercenary Ungolian horse archers supplied by the Ward of Gold, to 100 street thugs with clubs and knives from the Ward of the Dead Monkey.

The City of Amber is ruled by a Mayor and the Century of Aldermen, each of whom is elected from one of the 100 wards. The Aldermen serve six years, and the mayor is elected for ten. The Steward can choose to veto the choice of mayor and call for a popular election to the mayorship, which generally leads to the Steward and Aldermen working out in advance who will be mayor. City politics are notoriously corrupt.  The current Mayor and continual holder of the office for the last twenty five years is Sir Robert Walpole.

Residents of Amber City fall into two categories.  About half the population are known as Freemen, for they possess 'the freedom of the city'.  This provides several benefits:  they cannot be enserfed, they can vote in elections, and they may freely conduct business within the city without paying the alien taxes (although guild regulations still restrict them).  They may live anywhere they can afford.  Freemen can pay the weapons tax and bear arms within the city.  The 'freedom of the city' is heritable; all the children of a Freeman inherit his or her status.  If a Freeman marries an Alien, their children will all be Freemen.

Aliens are anyone else.  This includes people from other parts of Amber who haven't been awarded the Freedom of the City.  Children of Aliens born in Amber City are still Aliens.  They must pay a residence tax, and pay a tax on all business transactions (at least in theory.  In practice, this tax is generally only collected on merchant-level transactions.  Thus, the many aliens resident in the Ward of the Far Traveller rarely pay the business taxes, although their residence taxes are faithfully collected).

There are several ways to gain the Freedom of the City.  The Mayor and the Century of Aldermen can award it for service to the city.  In practice, this can be obtained by a sufficiently large bribe if one is from some other part of Amber.  Actual foreigners will likely have to both offer a bribe and play a lot of political games to get the Freedom.  All members of the Royal Family possess it automatically, as do their spouses.  An Alien who marries a Freeman can apply for the Freedom of the City after seven years residence.  The King can award the Freedom of the City, but almost never does without the consent of the Mayor and Aldermen.

The one hundred wards are roughly equal in size, but not in population or quality. The wealth level rises as one moves west, away from the frequently stinky and unclean port to the east. The richest ward is the Ward of Gold, home to wealthy merchants, and the most prestigous is the Ward of the Unicorn, home to nobles and the Temple of the Unicorn. The poorest is the Ward of the Dead Monkey, which lies just south of the gate to Amberport.

Notable Wards:

Ward of the Dead Monkey

Obi-wan got it wrong; _this_ is the most wretched hive of scum and villany. It's the only true one, after all; that cantina on Tattooine was but a poor refelction of this place. The Ward of the Dead Monkey.

You won't find assassins here, just thugs who kill other people for money.  They haven't got style--they can't _afford_ style. Muggers tend to keep clear of this area, because they'd be the targets for a club to the head and a suddenly-lighter money belt. The crooked, shifting alleyways match the crooked, shifty denizens of the ward, located just south of the gate to Amberport. You don't want to be here on a sunny day, and you really, really, really don't want to be here on a dark night.

As you may have guessed, this is the poorest section of Amber. The dregs of Amber society, the bums, the unemployable, the naturally evil (but not rich enough to be merely misunderstood) probably have dwelt here for at least some of their lives.

And yet, it even has its sort of charm, in a look-over-your-shoulder kind of way. Not everyone here is beyond redemption (though such are few, since if they do redeem themselves, they're usually out of here real quick).  Some folks are honest, hardworking, and only so misfortunate to have started life off on the wrong foot and gotten stuck here.

Moreover, certain things can only be found here. Things that look like junk tend to be tossed in with things that actually are junk, and the only people willing to sift through it all and seperate these items live here. If you can't find it anywhere else--you might find it here. Try Blogg's Interesting Knicknacks, for instance, or Jimmy's Pile of Stuff.  They've got an especially good eye for that sort of thing....

But let's not gloss it over too much. It's roach-infested, the majority of the people _are_ the type to slit your throat for a brass farthing, the gutters stink with who-knows-what...if you are going to come here, come prepared for general nastiness--that is to say, armed to the teeth. Most people here aren't truly evil, but most of those people aren't truly evil only because they aren't willing to make the effort.

Ward of the Dead Unicorn:

Some say the Ward of the Dead Monkey is the worst place to be in Amber City.  The Ward of the Dead Unicorn can put in a good arguement as rival for worst place.

Despite it having a modest hand in the shipping industry (being a part of the docks), it continues to be a place of not a lot of honest financial opportunity.  Dishonest opportunity, on the other hand, is another thing.  Many criminal gangs make their home here, and smuggling activity is high.  Crime is not limited to smuggling either, as every crime under the sun seems to exist within the ward.

The Ward's streets are lined with warehouses, shops and apartments, all in a similar state of disrepair and a bit more shady than one would think, even in daylight.  Most buildings in the ward aren't much taller than two stories, making the place strangely
uniform.

Places of note include the docks, Bumpy's, and the local Watch House.

The docks are what you'd expect from docks, with piers, warehouses, and lots of traffic from cargo ships.  Lots of 'familiies' (i.e. criminal syndicates) have territories down here, a haven for smuggling anything in.

Bumpy's is owned by Bumpy, a local gangster.  Its legitimate front is as a bar and casino, but it also serves as a place to get contraband goods and as a house of prostitution.  The place stands out as one of the taller places in the Ward, with five floors, Bumpy's personal offices at the top.  The building is of Cathay architecture, narrowing with each floor up, each floor having an outdoor walkway lining it.  The casino takes up the first two floors, while the other floors are where the less legal matters are handled. The place is also noted for its many holes due to arrow fire and swordplay, reminders that Inspector Shaft has visited often to beat someone down (on several occasions, Bumpy himself).

The Watch House is a stone structure three stories high, built primarily of stone, as it isn't quite as flamable as wood (which the last watch house was made of) and resembles a tall but narrow fortress.  Its most famous occupant is a member of the royal family, Ota 'Shaft' Tenjou, sent to the Ward on orders from Princess Nanami to straighten out the place.

Ward of the Far Traveller:

Most Cathayans have no interest in travel to foreign places...but some do, and enough have migrated to other Shadows that most Golden Circle ports have at least a few Cathayans in them.  The Ward of the Far Traveller, also known as 'Cathay City', is home to some 12,000 Cathayans, more than live in many towns in their homeland.  It is also known as 'The Flammable Quarter', because so much wood and paper and cloth was used in its construction, for the buildings here are in the Cathayan style.

The Cathay Embassy, a four story building that most Amberites mistake for a temple, is to be found here, along with hundreds of restaurants, artisan shops, laundries (some of the best in Amber), weavers, groceries, and in fact, just about everything Cathayans could want.  More so than most wards, this one is a city within the city, and many of its inhabitants never leave, except to buy raw materials.

This is the ward to go to if you want fine porcelains, exotic paintings, well cleaned and pressed clothing, or training in unarmed combat.  Eight different schools of unarmed combat operate here, accepting any student who will pay and obey.  The district is also noted for its restaurants, which attract many people from other wards.  Don't expect a lot of meat, but they work wonders with vegetables and rice.

Ward of the Iron Pot:

The Ward of the Iron Pot stands just inside the northern gates of Amber City, on the lowest slopes of Kolvir.  The roads are steep and twisty, and the buildings crowd together and lean crazily.  It's a place of honest hard-workers, who may not have much money, but they have their pride and relatively clean streets.  Most of the locals are Theran in descent.

One place of note here is 'Maison l'Roi', a neighborhood bar and grill sort of place, run by a woman named King.  The building resembles a Theran chateau, and thus looks a little odd crammed into the twisty, bendy streets, surrounded by run down flats and townhouses.  Still, you can find good food, and decent gin and malt liquor there.
 

Bill Vincent's Weaponshop:

If you want a weapon made to order, this is the place to go.  Bill makes both magical and technological weaponry, and is noted for his ingenuity in mixing the two.  It squats at an intersection in the Ward of the Iron Pot, an ugly one story building (with basement) with a bright red sign that proclaims:  Bill Vincent's Weaponshop.  While Bill is a fine weaponsmith, one must be warned that he tends to the incredibly literal in naming the weapons and armor he makes: Bigoldsword, Damntougharmor, etc.  He's especially noted for his skill with crossbows.
 

Chapel of the Unicorn:

The Chapel of the Unicorn, located in the Ward of Temples, is grand, but not overly so. It stands tall, at the center of the assorted temples and shrines located in this part of City Amber. Wide columns at the top of stone steps make its facade, the top of which has a bas-relief of the Unicorn itself, captured in mid-gallop. Between the center two columns are a pair of heavy oak doors, the main entrance.

Upon entering, one is usually struck by the high, arched ceilings far above, from which hang numerous banners depicting the Unicorn. At a lower altitude, lining the walls, are ornately carved panels depicting scenes from the Prophecies of the Unicorn. The floor is covered by a deep red carpet, running down the five aisles that separate the four columns of backed wooden pews (cushioned rather comfortably) from each other and the walls. Every other row has a candleholder at each end, for certain special ceremonial functions. Offering boxes are scattered througout this area discreetly.

In front of all these seats is a raised dais, a few steps high, also covered in the same red carpeting. In the center of this is an altar, bearing selected verses from the Prophecies. Above and behind it, on the wall, is a majestic image of the Unicorn rampant, easily seen by everyone in the audience. On the right side of the dais, there is a podium, where service leaders stand to address the faithful. On the left side, there is an octagonal pulpit--this is where High Priest Geo (and the occasional guest speaker) gives sermons and prays publically for Amber, its citizens, and the Shadows. It is carved like the panels, each of the four sides visible to the audience portraying a scene. Behind the pulpit and podium are the pews where the choir sits and leads the assembly in hymns.

Behind that region are the offices of the High Priest and other officials of the Cult of the Unicorn. But they're off limits to most. At any rate, they're simply your standard offices, really.


Chaos

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.


Forest Arden

Forest Arden is a thick, ancient woods riddled with trails which can move about at the command of Corinna, the Warden of Arden. Deep in the forest's heart is the Warden's lodge, a small fortress which serves as her refuge and base. Many small rivers and streams flow into the forest, eventually running into the Barimen river, which runs through the northern edge of the forest. The warden also controls the river locks which make the river navigable, and can open or close it to traffic accordingly.

Warden Corrine is served by the Forest Rangers, an elite force of several hundred highly trained archers.  About two thirds of the force is Elven, the result of Gendo planting a community of Elves in the southern end of the forest.  They ride specially bred horses, and have many packs of hounds and falcons capable of tracking any intruder.  Many of the rangers have some skill at sorcery, and Corrine is known to have supplied them heavily with Trumps for communications purposes.

About thirty years ago, a massive fire devastated portions of the forest.  Travellers now occasionally stumble into areas inhabited only by grass, young trees, and bushes where the fire was at its worst.


Golden Circle

The Golden Circle are kingdoms with which Amber has special trade relations.  Most of them are allies of Amber to some degree, although relations with a few of them fluctuate a lot.  The most prominent of these kingdoms are listed below.

Ashante

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  18th-19th century Western Africa
Population:  800,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  2 weeks sailing from Amber Port
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:
Ashante is a four hundred mile long strip of coastland that turns into jungle and swamp as you move inland about a hundred miles.  The ground dips as you move inland as well; the shore has several hundred foot high cliffs in most places, although deltas have formed around the major river mouths.  Four major rivers empty out of the swamp through the highlands into the ocean; a small trading city stands at each delta.  At its northern end, the highlands can be mined for a variety of precious metals.

The capital of Ashante is located a few miles from the coast in the northern mining regions.  It is itself named Ashante, and is home to twenty thousand people, surrounded by a great wooden palisade on the southern side of the Negir River.  Ashante Port stands at the bottom of the cliffs, below Ashante falls.  The Ashante have built a great water powered elevator that uses the power of the falls itself to lift and lower people; even Amberites consider it an impressive feat.

History:

This strip of coast was home to four small states, each based along one of the rivers when Amberite traders arrived.  These states became wealthy middlemen, importing spices and ivory from the interior and selling it to the Amberites, then getting luxury goods from Amber for themselves, and various bulk goods to sell into the interior.  This went on for centuries, and slowly the coastal states began to drive back the forest and drain the swamp, expanding their lands.

Then one of the forest tribes, led by a man named Ashante who had spent some time serving as a guard for one of the Amberite trading posts, took Amber's military methods and taught them to his tribe.  He led them down to conquer the northernmost state, captured its capital, and renamed it after himself.  He then demanded that the other states submit to him.

They refused, and the Thirty Years' War began.  They called upon Amber for help, so Amber sent an army to their aid.  Diseases and the heat destroyed it.  They sent a second one and it died off too.  Amber then had to abandon the coastal states to their fate.  Ashante conquered them all, then signed a trade treaty with Amber.

Today:

For centuries, the Ashante have flourished, creating a bustling, energetic trading society whose nobility has become increasingly commercial.  There are signs of trouble on the horizon, however.  The Ashante nobility has lost much of its military prowness, and only the inability of the forest tribes to unite have enabled them to hold back raids from the swamps.  The monarchs have become fat, happy, and lazy, sitting on their Golden Chair only a few hours a day and spending the rest playing with their concubines.  King Mali IX seems content to breed and eat, doing little else.  The government has become increasingly corrupt as a result.  Trouble is likely to come just as soon as the forest tribes find someone to unite them.

The Ashante produce gold and silver in their mines, bring down ivory and spices from the interior, and produce quality dies and enough sweet potatoes and yams for a dozen shadows.  They trade these to the Amberites to get iron goods (they lack a plentiful source of iron), cloth, and various luxuries:  tapestries, wine, mead, honey, books, paper, and other such goods.

The Ashante military is well-adapted for its environment.  The Ashante fight nearly naked because it's too hot to do anything else.  They make very high quality wooden shields which are usually brightly painted, and fight with spears, hurled javelins, and hand axes for close fighting.  The officer corps isn't up to its old snuff, and the soldiers have gotten a bit lazy, but they're still fairly well disciplined, organized into units of 10, 100, and 1,000, and trained to use horns and flags to pass orders along the line.  They also possess a corps of archers who use Amberite style bows, one of Ashante's innovations.  The archer corps remains quite elite.  There is a tiny cavalry corps used for scouting, but horses have trouble handling battle-level exertions in the heat and humidity.

The Ashante worship the High Skyfather, Ashakante, and the Orizons of Holiness who serve him.  Ashakante wars endlessly with the Orizons of Unholiness who serve the Devourer who lives in the spaces beneath the surface.  This tends to make devout Ashante nervous about mining.  They have abandoned human sacrifices since their conquest of the coast and now sacrifice animals.  The King is also the head priest of Ashakante, and Ashante, who founded the kingdom, is now one of the Orizons of Holiness.  The Orizons each watch over various specific virtues and aspects of life, and there is a very complex mythology dealing with them.

Begma

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Canonical Shadow, history modelled on aspects of France
Population:  3,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  3 weeks ride by land
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:

The Kolvir range turns into hills which run northwestward along Begma's eastern border.  These hills gradually turn into downs as you go west, then finally decline into gently rolling plains which run west to the Forest of Mysteries, a vast wall of trees that runs north and south for hundreds, maybe thousands of miles.  Begma's northern border is formed by the Desla mountains, which rise from the northern tip of the Kolvir hills, then arc westward to the Forest of Mysteries.  The Barimen River, which flows out of the Forest of Mysteries, has usually marked the southern border of Begma.

Most of Begma is alternating patches of forest and fairly flat farmland, cut through by several rivers which mostly run northwest to southeast and flow into the Barimen river.  However, the Harad River also runs through Begma to Harad, having had its headwaters in the middle of the Desla mountains.

Begma's capital is Begma City, far west of Amber, a good two weeks ride into the interior from Darien, the city of Begma closest to Amber City itself.  It is home to about forty thousand people; half the city sits on a huge island in the center of the Begma River, while the rest live in suburbs on the northern and southern banks of the river.

History:

When Amberites first found Begma, it was divided into dozens of city states along the river valleys and most of the land was overgrown with forest.  About half of them had been loosely united into the Wanecki empire, which was very unstable.  The Catalans came from the northeast around 400 AY, ushering the land into the Iron Age, conquering and uniting it.  But in 455, King Ura of Catala was assassinated, and his kingdom broke up as his heirs squabbled.  In 468 AY, the peace of Alsace divided Catala among three kings:  Kashfa, Eregna, and Begma, under the nominal leadership of Eregna.  However, Begma and Kashfa soon teamed up to squeeze Eregna between them.

Begma's dynasty was short lived--in 490-500 AY, the Pecheneg, driven from Harad, invaded and conquered it, turning it into a state much like Merovingean France.  The Pecheneg dynasty gradually went into decline, and by 604 AY, Begma was reduced to paying a tribute yearly to the Cimbri to avoid being invaded.  Things didn't turn around until the Mayors of the Palace, theoretically simply the stewards of the royal estates, more or less took over the government and ran the country, able to do so because the repeated Cimbri assaults created a demand for leadership.

In 635 AY, Pepin the Short defeated the Cimbri at the battle of Karest, driving them out of Begma.  He defeated them again in 639, 645, and 660.  It wasn't until around 680 that his descendents managed to drive out the Cimbri entirely, though.  His grandson, Pepin the Strong took the throne and founded the Silesian Dynasty.

By the nine hundreds, the Silesian dynasty had also crumbled and become corrupt, with its authority largely usurped by the Prime Ministers.  The Orkuz family managed to turn that position into a hereditary one in the 990s to 1020s, when they expanded into Eregnor in the wake of the collapse of the Alans who had seized it.  This led to conflicts with Kashfa, and a dozen wars since then over Eregnor with Kashfa.

Today:

Prime Minister Nadia Orkuz rules Begma, and her sister Coral is heir to the nominal king of Kashfa, King Rinaldo.  King Tylor recently negotiated a settlement of the Eregnor issue, although it remains to see if this will last.  Begma clearly has its eyes on Nicephorus, the Talman city which lies between it and Amber along the Barimen river; they could trade with Amber much more cheaply along that route if they controlled that city, instead of the slower route along the Harad River.  However, Nadia seems more the sort of person to gain the city by intrigue rather than force.

Begma flourishes, mining ore in the mountains and cutting timber from the forest of mystery and producing a wide variety of metal and timber products.  They're especially noted for their production of paper and books; the Begmans do have printing presses and love to use them.

Begman society is dominated by the hereditary nobility.  They've lost most of their personal political power, but they control the regional assemblies, and the central assembly where all the major decisions are made.  The Silesian dynast who holds the throne, Pepin XVI, is largely powerless, while the real executive power is in the hands of the Prime Minister, Nadia Orkuz, who struggles with the assemblies to direct the course of government.  Pepin seems content to make clocks and locks; he's a noted maker of mechanical gizmos, and seems little like a king.  This has made him beloved of the people, who can see him as one of their own.

The Begman military is very efficient when well paid, but has constant financial problems.  It consists of regiments of pikemen and crossbowmen, supplemented by a small force of light cavalry for scouting and a very competent noble-dominated heavy cavalry corps.  Begma is noted for its excellent siege equipment and skill at seige warfare.

Many Begmans have adopted the Cult of the Unicorn; the rest worship the Sons and Daughters of Pechena, the twelve dieties worshipped long ago by the Pecheneg, the usual squabbling pagan pantheon of horny people who act out humanity's worst impulses.  Each city has a different member of the pantheon as its patron; there are many minor deities, the sons and daughters of the Sons and Daughters.

Cathay

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  China
Population:  160,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  2 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:

Cathay is reached by sailing straight east from Amber to the Isle of Emeralds, then circling around it to sail north east until one reaches a place where the coast runs north and south.  Here, the land is a 1500 mile long great coastal plain rising gently hundreds of miles into the interior, where it turns into hills, and then mountains.  Rivers run westward from those mountains, creating vastly fertile zones through the plains, and the largest concentrations of population live along them.  Passes leading into the mountains eventually lead to Hang-Kung along Unicorn Tracks.

North of the Yangzee river stands the Great Wall of Ch'in, a several thousand mile stone wall that stretches from coast to mountains, intended to block out the Ungol nomads who live in Ungolia, the increasingly frozen steppes which stretch northwards to a land of ice beyond the wall.

Moving south, the Sung, Ming, and Can rivers run into the sea in that order.  The capital of Cathay is Mingjing, the great port city at the mouth of the Ming River.  It almost rivals Amber itself in size and beauty, home to hundreds of thousands of people. It is laid out like an octagon, with the Ming River running through the middle.  The Imperial Palace of Cathay sits on an island in the middle of the river, in the center of the octagon.  Major ports sit at the mouths of the other rivers as well.

History:
When Amber's ships first found this land, it was inhabited by hard-working farmers who grew rice, millet, and wheat along the many long river valleys which cut through the plains.  They were ruled over by chariot-riding aristocrats who were descended from the northern nomads.  Amber built trading cities at the mouths of the major rivers and taught advanced arts of metal working and shipbuilding to the natives.

The result was anarchy, as rising merchants and artisans clashed with the nomads, culminating in a crisis in which iron wielding, horse riding nomads descended on the divided Cathayan kingdoms.  They cried out to Amber for help, but Amber was unable to provide adequate help.  This created a lot of resentment, and eventually, when one of the local kinglets, the Ch'in, managed to drive out the nomads, they adopted an isolationist policy, restricting trade with foreign lands to a single city and building the Great Wall across their borders to keep the nomads out.

The Ch'in dynasty finally collapsed after four centuries of becoming increasingly degenerate.  Civil war broke out as various nobles fought for the throne.  Two hundred years of chaos ensued, the Time of the Six Warring States, as each of the provinces became independent.  Nomads broke through the Great Wall and conquered two of the provinces.  This finally ended when Prince Beitung reunited the lands, crushed the Ungols, and revived the Empire.

The Beitung dynasty has ruled Cathay ever since, presiding over a new age of peace and prosperity and trade.  For the moment, Cathay looks outwards, gathering in the resources it will need to fulfil the Chin dynasty's dream of pushing beyond the Great Wall and finally bringing the northern nomads to heel.  Emperor Chou III came to the throne only two years ago, and seems to have dreams of glory in his eyes.

Today:
Cathay has become a powerful empire under the Chin dynasty, rivaling even Amber for wealth and power.  Its trading vessels ply the major sea lanes blazed through Shadow by Amber's traders, competing in a peaceful manner.  Cathay is a powerful, but tolerant land where a thousand cults flourish side by side and philosopher bureaucrats study the wisdom of the past and improve on it.  It uses a civil service system based on examinations (although the exams test your ability to paint, quote philosophy, and write poems more than your governing skills).  Cathayans are especially noted for their medical and alchemical skills.

Cathay has friendly relations with Hang-Kung, one of its major trading partners, while it feuds with Lipun.  It has some trade and contact with Sind and Siam as well.

There is a large Cathayan quarter in Amber City itself, called simply the Ward of Cathay, where the many rites and practices of the complex and confusing Imperial Cult of Cathay are followed.  Smaller such quarters exist in every city the Cathayans trade with.

Cathay has a large and powerful army which focuses on cavalry to enable it to cope with the Ungol nomads.  These cavalrymen train with lance and bow, using light armor or none, since most armor can't stop arrows from Ungolian bows anyway.  They also maintain heavily armored foot units for dealing with the mountain tribes to their east.

Daiga

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Holy Roman Empire (Name is Canonical; Caine died here, but nothing is really told of it in the Chronicles)
Population:  200,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  3 weeks sailing time
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 hour in Amber.

Geography:
Daiga's home shadow is shaped roughly like Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa combined.  The bodies of water all have different names, but the same shapes and connections.  Great deserts border the land on the east and south, full of nomads.  Unicorn Trails lead across those deserts, eventually connecting to Cathay and Sindh.

Daiga's capital, Argos, is home to three hundred thousand people.  It is located roughly where Constantinople/Byzantium/Istanbul is located on Shadow Earth.  This beautiful city is paved with gold (literally), and noted for its many beautiful temples and its great harbor where much trade takes place.

Bratislavia (geographically similar to France) and Prezyml (Morocco) are the two major locations of Amberite trading posts.

History:

Daiga has six thousand years of recorded history, and untold thousands of years of stone age life before that.  When Amberites first arrived, various bronze using empires had arisen and were competing for control of the land.  Amber traded with all concerned, setting up trading stations around the lands.

Time passed swiftly, and the Iron Age began.  Iron wielding nomads swept out of the eastern deserts and conquered everything in the name of their gods, uniting the entire shadow into one empire, the Empire of Daiga.  This empire then tried to send armies along the Unicorn Tracks to invade other shadows.  But these invasions failed, in part due to Amberite intervention.

Then for a time, the Daigan emperors turned to art and culture and building, and many beautiful things were created.  But these emperors let too much authority slip out of their hands, and the land began to fracture as governors turned into hereditary nobles and began consolidating their own power blocs.  The final stroke came in the War of Brothers, when two Brothers fought for the throne, and the winner was forced to grant away many powers to the major nobles who had supported him.  They became the Electoral Lords, gaining the power to choose future emperors.  Imperial authority has declined ever since then, and the major lords are increasingly independent.

Today:

The current emperor is expected to die soon, triggering another struggle when it comes time to elect his successor.  The Emperor of Daiga is elected by the thirteen Electoral Lords, hereditary Princes whose services gained their ancestors the right to vote on who becomes Emperor.  Four of the Electoral Lords are Theocrats, the High Priests of the major religions of the Empire, three are Grand Dukes of the Empire, three have gained the title of King for themselves, and the last three are actually united in the Haufsberg dynasty itself:  the Kingdom of Bratislavia, the Grand Duchy of Prezyml, and the March of Wistula, all of which are controlled by Vlad Haufsberg IV himself.  However, Bratislavia is on the verge of revolt against the Haufsbergs, who have exploited it oppressively...and in theory, Bratislava elects its own King.  It is considered likely that the Diet (parliament) of Bratislava will elect the Grand Duke of Lotharingia, Ludwig II, as king of Bratislavia instead of Vlad's heir Boris Haufsberg.  This could lead to a successful challenge for the throne by one of the Ducal or Royal electors, which the Haufsbergs wouldn't let pass without a fight.

Daigans follow a faith somewhat similar to Islam.

Daigan military forces vary greatly in quality and size by region.  Typical forces consist of well-trained medium cavalry, crossbowmen, and pikemen.

Grand Duke of Lotharingia, Ludwig II

It's said that Ludwig II is the most stable guy around, caring not much for the current intrigue that surrounds Daiga and the Electoral Lords.

After it's been said, people snigger and laugh, saying, "That's good, tell me another one!"

Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Lotharingia is the most Machiavellian, most scheming duke ever to walk the shores of Daiga.  If he'd have met Machiavelli, he would have become his friend, while seducing his mother and trying to find a way to depose him of his power.  That's how he managed to gain the sympathies of many of the Electoral Lords in his bid for succession of the emperorship over the other major power players, the Haufsbergs.

He stands a good six feet seven inches, and is rather formidable opponent with the crossbow.  He's come in second place to Ota Tenjou in the three times they've managed to meet in the semi-annual Daiga Games.  He had dark hair and eyes that have been described as blue and piercing.  (This description was from his mistress, who later perished in a carriage accident.)

His colors, when he manages to bother to dress in them, are royal purple and sandy beige.  However, he's usually dressed
comfortably in an outfit similar to that of a relaxed insurance salesman.

All the better to mess with your perceptions by.
 

Eregnor

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Canonical Shadow
Population:  500,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  3 weeks ride by land
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

An unfortunate province caught between millstones.  It is now divided into Western and Eastern Eregnor.  The aging Duke Jade rules Eastern Eregnor from the city of Lorraine under the sovereignty of Kashfa.  Palatine Rudolph controls Western Eregnor from the city of Alsace.  Raids continue across the border between the two.  Its southern border with the Plains of Harad is a great forest, the Forest of Eregnor.

Euboea

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Classical Greece
Population:  1,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  3 weeks sailing time
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 2 days in Amber.

Geography:
Euboea is southeast of Amber, several weeks sailing time, on a huge mountainous island the size of England divided into many small valleys, each of which is currently a city state.  It has a Broken Pattern, which is located in the basement of the citadel of Lacryis, the main city of the Boetian League (of seven city states) which forms the largest of the eight leagues into which the city states of Euboea are divided.  Once Narwhal Currents connected it to many other Shadows, but now only the one to Amber survives.
 

History:
Long ago, Euboea was a powerful commercial empire centered around a Broken Pattern.  Adepts of that Pattern led Euboea's fleets through Shadow, enabling them to grow greatly in wealth and power.  They began to conquer other Shadows.  When they encountered Amber, they assumed it would be more easy meat.  The Euboean wars were one of the fiercest struggles of Amber's history.  Finally, a horde of sea-going barbarians descended on it from Shadow and sent it back to the Bronze Age.

Today:
Modern Euboea is divided into many squabbling city states, unable to unite effectively, in part because Amberite diplomacy ensures it stays that way.  They are trapped in the Bronze Age, selling ores, wine, and wool to Amber in return for spices and other luxuries.  Each city state is a semi-oligarchy, ruled over by ten to thirty thousand citizens who rule over non-citizens and slaves who usually outnumber them at least three to one.  Each city is ruled by oligarchic democracy; every citizen is qualified to attend the assembly which approves laws and elects the council that formulates law proposals and runs the city day to day.   However, most residents have no political rights.

The city states are united into a dozen or so leagues of various sizes, usually organized around a shared patron diety and shared rivalries with another league's members.  Every four years, each league celebrates a large athletic and religious festival where their alliance is reaffirmed.

Euboean city states have citizen armies; a random draft selects citizens in times of war, and a smaller body is drafted each year to act as police and garrison strategic points.  Different cities select their generals in different ways; most choose a member of the Council by lot.  They form large bodies of highly disciplined spear and shield wielding foot in bronze breastplates, arm guards and metal 'skirts'.  The richest citizens provide cavalry services, but the terrain of Euboea is poor for cavalry operations.  The poorest citizens become archers and slingers.

Each city has its own patron god, and each league shares a patron as well.  Other gods are revered, but recieve no active worship except in crises if they are not the patron diety.  There are usually eight to ten major festivals and a fair number of minor ones which provide a break for everyone from the daily grind of work.  Euboeans treat their worship as half an excuse to party, and half a business contract with the gods:  we worship you and you help us in our daily lives.  The Euboean gods have been known to show up and break windows or worse when the humans fall down in their half of the deal.

Hang-kung

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Korea
Population:  4,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  2 weeks
Time Differential: 3 days here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:
Hang-Kung is a great peninsula, about six hundred miles long and three hundred miles wide, crooked like a dog's hind leg.  The spine of the peninsula is a range of hills which occasionally rise into mountains, and are rich in minerals and usually well forested.  The hills slope down on all sides into coastal plains, except in the north, where they rise into mountains.  Several Unicorn Tracks lead through these mountains which eventually connect to south-eastern Cathay and western Siam.  Land access to Hang-Kung is only possible via these Unicorn Tracks, unless one enjoys mountain climbing.  Hang-Kung is, theoretically speaking, east by southeast from the Isle of Emeralds.  Sea access inevitably leads you into the great Maze of Coral.  Coral reefs surround Hang-Kung for a width of two hundred miles on all sides, and only those who know the right routes can thread their way through the reefs without sinking and being eaten by the carnivorous coral itself.  Native guides are thus a necessity.

History:
When Amber's trading vessels first came to this land, it was inhabited by stone age tribesmen who worked great wonders of magic by drawing great figures in the dirt and empowering them to perform magical tasks and tattooing animals onto themselves to gain the powers of those beasts.  Amber founded a few mining colonies and traded for furs, but largely ignored the land in favor of trade with Cathay.  They did discover the Unicorn Tracks connecting the two lands at this time.  This lead to the tribesmen using them to raid Cathay, which was not the idea.

Eventually, they irritated the Ch'in dynasty to the point where Emperor Han personally invaded Hang-Kung and conquered it.  It remained a stubborn, fractious province, however, hard to hold because time flowed three times faster in Hang-Kung than in Cathay.  Still, the Ch'in persisted, and eventually managed to throw a veneer of civilization over the land.  The natives took the things they liked and ignored the rest, developing a new civilization that took some of the best of their traditions and Cathayan lore, science, and engineering.

Then when the Ch'in collapsed and the Warring States period began, a governor of one of the five prefectures of Hang-Kung, Dragon Rider, the local head of the Cult of the Dragon, led a revolt against the powerless Ch'in.  He soon became King of Hang-Kung.  The Dragon Rider Dynasty still rules Hang-Kung.  His Serene Majesty, Pin-Yan VI, has ruled for the last ten years from the Dragon Palace of Five Mirror City.

Today:
Millions of people live in Hang-Kung, mostly in the coastal lowlands, although extensive mining operations continue in the hills and mountains.  The capital is Five Mirror City, home to a hundred thousand people.  It is laid out like a wheel with a piece missing from it (where the harbor juts into the wheel), with the Royal Palace of Hang-Kung at the hub of the wheel.  It is but a pale shadow of Amber itself, but worth visiting for the food (or if you want a tattoo).  A dozen or so cities in the range of 20,000 people exist along the coasts near major routes through the Maze of Coral, flourishing on trade with other nations.

The primary religion of Hang-Kung is a modified version of the Cult of the Dragon, which sees him as the leader of a group of five animal-gods, over whom he rules as Celestial Emperor of the Heavens.  The other animal gods are Shark, (Lord of the  Waters),  Tiger (Lord of Hunters), Dog, (Friend of Man), Phoenix (Lord of Flames).  The High Priest is named Yuien-Ko.

Lipun and Hang-Kung have fought several wars recently, and relations are bad.

Isle of Emeralds

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Ireland in the Middle Ages
Population:  1,300,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:   1 week by sea
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:

The Isle of Emeralds is a green and pleasant land about a week's sail straight east from Amber.  It is an island about 500 miles long and two hundred and fifty miles wide, roughly oval shaped, pointing northeast and southwest.  The northwestern side of the island is a highland of mountains and hills, which then gently shade off into downs then flatlands in the remaining three fourths of the island.  The mountains and hills are very, very rich with mineral wealth, especially emeralds.  Rivers run down into the rest of the island from these highlands.  Much of the interior is thick forest, with the coastal regions turned into farmlands.

The High King's Palace of Emeralds stands in a five mile across clearing in the heart of the Forest of Emeralds at the exact center of the island.  It is surrounded by the city of Tara, home to fifteen thousand people.  It is not the largest city on the island, but it is the capital.

The largest city is Milesia, the Amberite trading city on the center of the eastern coast of the island.  It is home to forty thousand people, and sits at the point where Narwhal Currents to Hang-Kung, Cathay, Amber, Sind, Siam, and Lipun converge.  As a result, it is a bustling trade center.  The region around Milesia controlled by the Amberite government is known as 'the Pale'.

History:

When Amberite traders first arrived, the inhabitants of the Isle of Emeralds were divided into seventeen squabbling tribes who rode around in chariots whacking each other, then dipping the severed heads of their enemies in lime and using them as thrown weapons.  Their legends, recorded in six traditional lays, claimed they had come to the Isle of Emeralds from the east in great boats (now mysteriously vanished) and fought a thousand year war with the Firbolg, twisted monstrous inhabitants of the island.  They then settled down to a steady diet of killing each other and fighting to become High King.

The Amberites built a trading city and named it Milesia, and began to trade with the natives.  The tribe from whom they rented the land decided they'd rather plunder the city for its wealth, so Gendo sent Drake with an expeditionary force and exterminated that tribe down to the last dog.  Rather than getting angry, the other tribes gained a new respect for the Amberites, who they had previously seen as cowardly merchants, soft and weak.

Those tribes closest to Milesia benefited from Amberite trade, and the Amberites worked to strengthen those tribes and build friendly ties with them.  Armed with iron weapons against bronze users, the result was the rise of those tribes to dominate the island.  Over the next few centuries, four kingdoms arose, with a fifth small kingdom which belonged to whoever held the title of High King.

Most of the history of the Isle of Emeralds since that day has consisted of the four kingdoms beating each other up for the High Kingship, and the rulers of the kingdoms trying to keep all their clan chief vassals in line.  Amber has largely stayed neutral in these struggles, except during the War of the Five Dead Cows two hundred years ago when a disgruntled king attacked Milesia because it had sold weapons to his rivals as well as to him, and during the invasion of the Sea Peoples in 1265 to 1273.

Today:

The Sea Peoples have abandoned their assault on Amber, but this seems to mean they've decided to turn their attentions more wholeheartedly to the Isle of Emeralds.  Virtually every year since 1265, there's been a major raid somewhere on the island, although they've become more cautious since the destruction of much of their forces twenty years ago.  The king of Munster has allowed a group of the Sea peoples to settle around Clontarf on the northern side of the island, in return for protecting his coasts against raids.  It seems to have worked so far.

The Isle remains divided into four kingdoms, plus the High King's Desmene in the center.  The four kingdoms roughly form triangles, coming together at the High King's domain of Tara.  The northeastern end of the isle is home to the sailors and herders of Ulster.  The western highlands form the kingdom of Connaught, poorest but most defensible and best able to shield itself from the Sea Peoples, who no longer even bother trying to raid it.  It is also the least unified, with its clans and tribes barely giving lip service to their king.  The eastern seaboard is the wealthy agricultural lands of Leinster, which now controls the land approaches to the Milesian Pale and makes a lot of money off internal land trade as a result.  The southern lowlands are home to metal crafters and weavers, the kingdom of Munster, also noted for its cheeses.  They control a fringe of the highlands which they heavily exploit for its mineral wealth.  They're also building a strong navy aided by the Longarm clan of the Sea Peoples who have settled around Clontarf.

High King Brian O'Connel rules the island in theory from Tara.  He is also king of Leinster.  It is an open secret that he wishes to establish the High Kingship more firmly in his family and eventually convert the Emerald Isle into a kingdom on the model of Amber.  The other kings for obvious reasons, wish to resist this, but also know that division in the face of the Sea Peoples could lead to disaster.  It remains to be seen how this will turn out.

Emerald Isle armies have two basic components: a levy of poorly trained footmen with spears, javelins, and slings, and elite armored cavalry recruited from the noble families.  Their cavalry is the equal of any Amber has to offer, while their footmen are only marginally more threatening than angry sheep.  To say they are wretched would be a compliment.  Most battles are settled by the two armies agreeing on a place to fight, meeting, charging, and fighting until one group of cavalry flees, leaving its foot to be slaughtered.

Milesia relies on moderately trained pikemen, longbowmen, and small bodies of light cavalry used for scouting.  They also maintain a very small navy, but usually call on the Admiral of Mystara for help in a crisis.

The folk of the Emerald Isles worship the Tuatha de Daanan, the deified heroes who led them to the Emerald Isles and fought against the Firbolg.  Their legends speak of a coming apocalyptic battle in which the Firbolg will return from the grave to try to reclaim the island, and in theory their internecine wars are supposed to help prepare them for that day.  They also worship the goddess Tara, who is the goddess of the island itself.  The High King becomes her husband when he is crowned, and thus her high priest.
 

Kashfa

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Canonical Shadow
Population:  3,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  3 weeks ride by land, 12 days by sea to the nearest major Kashfan port, 9 days by sea to the Shalomar Base, from which one could ride into the interior
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:
Kashfa lies north of Amber along the coast, beyond the Plains of Harad.  It is roughly square.  The sea coast forms its eastern border, the Eregna river marks the south, the western border cuts north from the Eregna to to the Silphin River, and the Silphin flows into the sea, its course defining the northern border.  The land gradually rises as one moves west and north, becoming hills in the far north and uplands in Eregnor.  Much of the land is covered with farms, but the northern highlands are forested, and small forests dot the land still.

The capital is Jidrash, two weeks ride from the southern border, along the Rishfa River.  The royal palace is surrounded by a triple ring of ivy covered walls, each encompassing several buildings with a cluster of four in the center.  The city also has a wall, but the river splits it and the city has long outgrown the walls.  Some eighty thousand people live there.

History:
Before 300 AY, this area was divided into many Bronze Age city states and small kingdoms.  Contact with Amber enabled the coastal city of Catala to arm itself with iron and superior military methods, then spread along the coast and into the interior, forming the Catala Empire over what is now Begma, Eregnor, and Kashfa.  A member of the Royal Family even married Gendo, King of Amber.  But when Catala turned its eyes towards Harad, Amber inspired civil war after 455 AY tore Catala apart.  The peace of Alsace in 468 AY divided Catala among three kings:  Kashfa, Eregna, and Begma, under the nominal leadership of Eregna.  However, his kingdom soon found itself squeezed between the others, and devasted by Pechenegs, who overran Eregna.

Kashfa absorbed part of that land, but a century later, it was overrun by the Cimbri, divided up into many small kingdoms, united in a loose confederation.   Kashfans became slaves and bondsmen to their new overlords.  After 660 AY, the defeat of the Cimbri at the Battle of the Plains of Harad led to the collapse of the confederation, and the kingdoms went their own ways.  These states paid tribute to Amber and squabbled among themselves.  The Old Kashfans and Cimbri fused together into one people.

This process was sped up when, after the murder of Haruka of Harad by Cimbri assassins, Gendo invaded the Cimbri lands and sold the entire aristocracy into slavery (915-919 AY).  This left the lands defenseless when the Alans invaded, overruning everything.  By 992 AY, however, the Alans were in turn pounded to rubble.  In the aftermath, the state of Jidrash began to conquer and assimilate the others, aided by Amber, who wished to create a buffer state.

By 1100 AY, this state controlled all of modern Kashfa and proclaimed itself New Kashfa.  It had begun to expand into Eregnor, gobbling up the petty states there, and came into conflict with Begma, beginning the first of a dozen wars over the area.

Today:
It is a feudal state evolving towards a still aristocratic 'Old Regime' style state (think Three Musketeers France).  Kashfa's rulers dream big, and they've had a lot of success ever since Queen Jasra murdered her husband and took direct control of the country.  Despite her son Rinaldo coming to maturity decades ago, and despite his marriage to Coral Orkuz, daughter of a former Prime Minister of Begma, she continues to control the country in fact, if not in name.  Rumor has it that he is plotting revolution against his own mother.

In recent years, Jasra has pushed north into the barbarian-infested wilderness and begun to send out Kashfan ships to found trading posts and colonies beyond the Eastern Ocean.  The pirates of the Shalomar have sabotages many of these efforts, and Jasra is now building a large fleet to deal with them.

The Kashfan army is modelled after that of Amber.  It is quite effective.  The Kashfan navy, however, tends to be rather comically inept despite hundreds of years of Kashfans at sea.

Kashfa has come to adopt the Cult of the Unicorn; it forms the dominant national faith.

Lipun

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Japan
Population: Roughly 5,000,000
Travel time from Amber: 2 weeks
Time Differential:  1 day here equals 1 day in Amber

Geography:
Lipun is an archipelago of moderately-sized and small islands. There is one main island in the rough shape of a crescent, a pair of smaller ones to the south, and one to the north. Among these, a large number of small islets are sprinkled throughout. The islands push up against the coral reef which separates it from Hang-Kung on the west; to the east is open
ocean. As these are all islands, no Unicorn Tracks are to be found.  Narwhale Currents link Lipun to Amber, Hang-Kung, and Cathay.

A mountain range runs along the edge of the curve of the main island, like a backbone. They rapidly slope down on the western side into spreading plains, which reach to the sea; this is the main farming region of Lipun.  On the other side of the mountains, there is some plains area, but not as much. Many of the ore mines are located around here. The two islands to
the south are generally flatter and more wooded. The northernmost island rises to a high peak in the center, and slopes down on all sides. The colder climate there makes grain farming a bit prohibitive; most people there concentrate on fishing or mining.

The capital city is Daikyou, a city on the western plain, near the Senzui River. In its center is Ishishiro, the castle of the ruling Warlord.  Spreading out from it are quarters of the lesser nobility and chieftans, who also serve as the administrators for the country, then commercial and residential areas. Peasants and farmer types usually only come into the city to trade and such during the day, and go back to the countryside at night.

History:

The earliest recorded natives in the region were only barely out of the stone ages and working with metals (though at a level which seemed somewhat more advanced than it should have been) when Amber explorers arrived. Some level of magic was known--that involving drawn pictograms.  The majority of this population seemed to share many physical traits as
those in Hang-Kung and Cathay, as well as the magic, so it was surmised that they originally came from there. However, there were physical distinctions between the Lipun islanders and the rest, particularly in peoples in the northern reaches of the islands. In addition, the language was radically different in nature for the most part, despite some measure of borrowing.

Amber established a few trading outposts here, for some of the unique crops and metal ore deposits in the region. This resulted in rather quick advances forward in technology and culture for Lipun, and awoke an ambitious nature in the native population. Soon after acquiring seafaring ships greater than their own fishing boats, as well as a small military force, they made an attempt to invade Hang-Kung, in the days before Cathay took the peninsula. This failed, but the often vicious conflict left a scar on the collective memories of both countries.

Lipun turned its attention next on Cathay, which was a big mistake. Cathay easily defeated Lipun in a series of battles, and drove Lipun's ships back to the islands. Fortunately, the larger state was not particularly interested in invasion, and merely demanded tribute, which Lipun grudgingly paid for a few decades. Cathay didn't seem to notice when they stopped, which felt like an insult to the ruling warriors of Lipun. This led them to turn inward for a century, isolating themselves from the rest
of the Shadows. Only Amber had much contact through two trading outposts it maintained during this time. While this occurred, a small civil war broke out among the warrior lords of Lipun. One, named Yoshitane, won, and united all of the islands under his rule.

An attempted invasion by a more adventurous Cathayan general during the Time of the Six Warring States forced the outside world back on the Lipunese. A great storm which, for some reason, could not be magically averted, destroyed a reinforcement fleet sent by that general, however, and Lipun easily beat the invaders. This led some Lipunese, including one of the more powerful generals, to believe that they were divinely chosen, and they decided to invade Hang-Kung again. This time, they managed to capture a small amount of it, naming it the Kankou Province. They held onto it for some time, until an alliance of Hang-Kung and the new Beitung ruler of Cathay drove Lipun out. All of this added to the rancor between Lipun and the other two countries.

Today:

The house of Yoshitane still rules the rather militaristic Lipunese. Their ambition, reawakened by the failed Cathay invasion, remains strong, and eyes are still upon Hang-Kang. There have been naval skirmishes between the two nations, and Lipun has claimed a small, largely uninhabited island that has traditionally been within Hang-Kung's sea borders, in the Maze of Coral. It is unimportant strategically and tactically, but politically....  Lipun's relations with Cathay are also strained, though not as tense as with Hang-Kung.

Lipun is a land of skilled metalworkers and artists. They also reap the treasures of the ocean, and are known for their seafood, flavored with unique spices native to the islands. Despite the fact that they have antagonized their neighbors and many other members of the Golden Circle, their goods are still highly valued, and a grudging amount of trade continues.

Their land troops are trained in the use of swords and bows, and to a smaller extent, lances. They do not have much in the way of cavalry. Their navy is large and quite skilled, which befits an island country with expansion on its mind.

Lipun's religion is somewhat different from its neighbors. A few of the residents follow the spiritual ways of Hang-Kung and Cathay (without any real fear of persecution, fortunately; no one really minds much, and they _are_ few), but most worship the native Kami--gods and goddesses of the islands. The sun, the moon, the stars, the forests, the mountains all have
kami inhabiting them. As a result, the Lipunese have a certain respect for the land and nature, taking care never to take too much without giving back, for fear of drawing divine wrath.

Sailoon

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Sailoon (Slayers)
Population:  6,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  4 weeks sailing from Amber
Time Differential: 4 days here equals 1 day in Amber.

This is a recent addition to the Golden Circle.  For four millenia, it was sealed inside a barrier that prevented the entrance of Pattern users.  Kozue found a way to batter down the barrier and opened it to Amber's trade.  It is a world straight out of a medieval fantasy novel, full of orcs, elves, dragons, fish-men, and very powerful sorceresses.  Lina claims it is a shadow of her own home shadow, which was apparently destroyed at some time in the past.

Siam:

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Thailand
Population:  8,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  3 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:

Between the Tenyama Range and the Holy Mountains lies Siam, the Land of a Thousand Temples.  The Tenyama range forms the western border of Siam, a land of steaming jungle highlands cut through by fertile river valleys.  These rivers empty into the sea along a seven hundred mile long coastal plain covered by farms and cities.  The Holy Mountains rise along the eastern border of Siam, eventually joining with the Tenyama range to the north; these mountains are full of monasteries and temples and holy hermits.  Unicorn Tracks lead west through the Tenyama Range to Cathay and Hang-Kung, north to the Plateau of Leng, and east to Sind.

Much of Siam is still untouched jungle; only the river valleys and lowlands have been cleared and turned into farmland.  The Royal Capital, Siamkow, sits fifty miles into the jungle up the Siam River, which roughly splits Siam in two.  It is essentially a giant temple complex half a mile across.

History:

For untold centuries, the people of Siam grew crops and did the will of the gods, divided into hundreds of petty states ruled over by king-priests.  Traders from Amber came and founded trading cities along the coast which gradually took control of the lowlands.  A different trading company controlled each city, and they squabbled among themselves.  But they did not penetrate the disease ridden highlands and jungles.

Then the Chosen One came from Sind to the east, a disciple of the Enlightened One.  He called the peoples of Siam to the Way of Light, and his words spread throughout the land.  There were wars as some of the corrupt king-priests tried to resist the spread of this faith, but the Chosen One's followers could not be defeated.  Finally, at the battle of the Siam river, the heretics were crushed, and the Chosen One became the first King-Priest of Siam.

He built his capital at the battlefield, and took wives, raising up children.  The eldest, Nimya, became the second King-Priest when the Chosen One finally died, and he demanded that Amber hand over the lowlands to him, for the sacred land of Siam had to be brought under one roof and one faith.

To the surprise of everyone, Gendo abandoned the lowland cities to their fate, in part because these cities paid no taxes to Amber and had been using their wealth to meddle in internal Amber politics.  Amber was also fighting two simultaneous wars already at the time as well.  This incident has made many speculate in recent years whether the Kashmir Trading Collective may suffer that same fate.

The uplands and the lowlands didn't get along very well, and the result was a series of civil wars that paralyzed Siam for nearly two centuries.  Finally, the King-Priests had to give practical autonomy to the coastal port cities, and the people of the lowlands were allowed to incorporate their traditional religious practices into the Way of Light.

Today:

The result has been the fragmentation of the Way of Light and of the nation.  The King-Priests are increasingly impotent, swaddled in religious duties that keep them too busy to run herd over the regional temples which become increasingly independent and deviant in practices.  Every five minutes, a sage seems to descend from the Holy Mountains, bearing new ways of enlightenment.  Meanwhile, the coastal cities flaunt their irreligiousness, wealth, and connections to foreigners.

The highlanders continue to live in their traditional ways, following the Way of Light and giving deference to the saffron-robed monks who practice its strict disciplines.  The Way itself is rather like Therevada Buddhism these days, when practiced in its pure forms.  The lowland 'Broad Way' sects are beginning to infiltrate the highlands, however.  Temples own the best land in the highlands and dominate the local communities, owing allegiance to other temples, in a sort of feudal arrangement.

The lowlands are dominated by great merchant families with their plantations and by the artisans who fill the cities.  These plantations grow spices, fruit, cotton, silk, and other luxury goods for export.  Five major port cities jostle to dominate the land and compete with each other, but unite against outsiders.  Each is ruled by an oligarchy of the most powerful merchants.

The army of Siam consists of large, ill-trained peasant levies led by elite corps of warrior monks, who are deadly in hand to hand combat.  They use little armor due to the constant heat and humidity.  The military arts have been neglected in Siam, except for unarmed combat, which has been developed to a high level.  The peasant levies, while mostly useless in field battles, are capable of nastily effective guerilla warfare, which has enabled them to repel many an invader over the years.  The lowland cities each maintain a small force of armored foot and cavalry, and a small fleet of efficient, well-armed ships.
 

Sind

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Eighteenth Century India
Population:  60,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  5 weeks
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:

Sind is most easily reached by sailing straight east from Hang-Kung or Siam or by following a curving Narwhal Track through the sea that heads south by southeast from the Isle of Emeralds.  Sind is a vast land to the east of Siam, separated from it by the Holy Mountains which form its western border.  Unicorn Tracks run through the mountains, connecting the two shadows.  These mountains are full of monasteries and temples and hidden sacred communities.  Foothills gradually sink down into a great plain.  It's eastern border is a vast desert caused by the Tagus Mountains, which run along the coast to the east of Sind.  Northern Sind gradually dries out and turns into steppes inhabited by nomads; Sindhi legends claim the steppes eventually become wetter and turn into forest far to the north.

North and central Sind is a mixture of gentle hills and plains, forests, and farmland, cut through by many rivers which flow out of the steppe to the north or out of the Holy Mountains.  Three great rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, and the Bengal run through northern and central Sind to empty into the Bay of Kashmir to the west and the Sindhi Sea to the east.  Southern Sind is a vast triangular peninsula, a thousand miles across at where it joins to the mainland, narrowing to its tip a good fifteen hundred miles to the south.  Southern Sind becomes hotter and hotter as one moves south, rising into jungle highlands before dropping down into a large swampy delta at its southernmost end.  Many rivers cut through southern Sind, few of them very large.

History:

Once, there was a time of peace and light in Sind, a time when the gods dwelt among men and taught their secrets to them.  But the gods quarreled and made war with weapons of unimaginable destructiveness.  They destroyed most of the world, sinking it beneath the waves.  But the great god Sind saved his native land from destruction, erecting mountains and steppes and desert to keep out invaders and preventing the seas drowning the land.  Then he ascended into the heavens, for it had been shown it was not safe for gods to dwell among men.

For many years, those humans lived in peace, the silver age when great cities rose and the arts and sciences flourished.  Men waxed in wisdom and strength, and began to believe themselves gods. They ignored the warnings of Sind and his children, the new gods.  Finally, they tore themselves apart in a great war between two religious sects.  And when the land lay prostrate, the nomads of the mountains, desert, and steppes poured down with their great wains and cavalry and conquered the land.

The dark-skinned Naryans became a ruling warrior elite over the lighter-skinned previous inhabitants of the land, who were reduced to becoming peasants, traders, and untouchables.  Gradually, a caste system arose, in which priests, sorcerors, and warriors ruled over artisans, traders, and peasant, each caste bound by various duties and rights, rigidly segregated.

The traders of Amber first arrived along the western coast of Sind, a region known as Kashmir, centuries ago.  They brought new ideas, which destabilized Sindhi society, for Amber had no caste system, and its traders followed other gods.  New cities dominated by trade arose and Sindhi ships began to ply the seas.   Two centuries of turmoil followed in which new sects arose and the merchant class threatened to overthrow the priests and warriors.  The Way of Light, similar to Buddhism, arose, challenging the need for the priestly caste at all.

The period of turmoil ended when the Noguls descended from the steppes and simply conquered most of Sind.  The Noguls had come to adopt the religous beliefs of Sind, and they moved to crush the increasingly militant Way of Light, forcing it out of much of Sind (and resulting in some of its disciples going to Siam and conquering it).  They also crushed the merchants, despising them.  The result was a brutal feudal empire ruled by ruthless, uncultured warriors.

The Nogul dynasty did the usual 'nomads take over a civilized nation thing'--they became decadent.  More and more power slipped into the hands of the regional governors, who eventually set themselves up as Kings.

Sind is now divided into three dozen squabbling kingdoms under the nominal rule of the Nogul emperor, who mostly sits in his palace and plays with his concubines.  Bengal province has been taken over by the Way of Light and is in open rebellion to the northwest.  And along the coast, a new problem has arisen...

For centuries, a collection of merchants held a joint monopoly on trade with Sind--the Kashmir Trading Collective.  They originally operated out of a small peninsula of land rented from the various Sindhi governments over the year.  This land, the city of Kashmir, is technically part of Amber so long as the leases continue to be paid.  For centuries, the merchants simply traded with the Sindhi.

Then, forty years ago, the new Rajah of Kajakastan decided to conquer Kashmir and add it to his realm, ignoring the leasing of the land by the Nogul Emperor to Amber.  The KTC hired mercenaries, defeated the Rajah, then conquered his lands.  Amused by this, the Nogul Emperor made the Guildmaster of the KTC the Governor of Kajakastan.

In the last forty years, a series of wars have added six more provinces to the lands controlled by the KTC, and with a new Nogul Emperor, Mahal, on the throne who isn't simply a drunken sot, it seems possible that some sort of showdown may be coming between the growing power of the KTC and the Nogul Emperors.  The other province/kingdoms are rapidly choosing sides, and it seems possible the King of Amber may need to stick his nose in soon.

Today:

Sind is divided between the KTC, its eight allied provinces, the twelve province/kingdoms which have rallied around the new Nogul Emperor, and ten provinces which have yet to choose sides, located mostly in the distant jungles of the South.

Kashmir Trading Station, often called simply Kashmir, is a thriving city of a hundred thousand, including a strong contingent of Cathayan traders who have been allowed to settle here, although they can't join the KTC.  It is ruled directly by the KTC council of merchants, a self-selecting body, and by their appointed Governor-General, who leads the KTC's armies.

Sindhi armies typically consist of elite lightly armored cavalry, highly trained professional archers, and vast hordes of poorly trained footmen with spears.  Battles traditionally were determined by the cavalry.

All of this is changing as the KTC's professional armies have demonstrated their ability to annihilate traditional Sindhi armies.  They rely on lightly armored but well trained masses of pikemen who can reduce cavalry to carven chunks of meat quite effectively, backed up by horse archers, foot archers, and cavalry which while inferior to that of the Sindhi, can hold them long enough for the archers to do their work.

Religiously, most Sindhi follow any of hundreds of sects which are united by shared mythology and philosophy, and are quite similar to real world Hinduism.  The Way of Light remains common near the Holy Mountains.
 

  Singh

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Athens
Population:  70,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  2 weeks ride by land
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:
Singh is a roughly triangular nation, with its capital, Singh, in the northern tip of the triangle where two rivers and two trade roads intersect.  Southeastern Singh is hilly, as the western end of the Sethfore Hills gradually fade into downs then fade away into flatlands, covered with forest in the southwestern corner of Singh.  The hills are mined for ores and precious metals, and the forest is lumbered.

Singh itself is a walled city, home to 10,000 of the 25,000 citizens of the country.  Another 10,000 of the 20,000 'galla' (resident free non-citizens and foreigners) live in Singh, along with 5,000 of the 25,000 slaves held by Singhese citizens and galla.  The rest of the population lives in scattered small villages and mining towns.  Singh has an unusually high percentage of free citizens for its culture,by deliberate city policy; this enables them to maintain a larger army.  Singh is most noted for its temple of the Goddess Sing, patroness of hunting and the Moon.

History:
The regions now known as Talma, Uila, and Singh have seen many transitory kingdoms in the millenia that Amber has known of them.  Around 650 AY, the Dorians defeated the Kingdom of Linkha and began to overrun this area.  While Talma united to repel the Dorians, all of the cities of Uila and Singh fell to them, and they then pressed east against Amber.  In 678, they defeated Corrine at the battle of the Barimen River and invaded Arden.  In 680 AY, Dorian forces besieged Amber City.  But after their defeat, they retreated and their federation fell apart into a dozen squabbling city states, each independent.

The most powerful of these was Singh, which in the nine hundreds gained a brief-lived ascendency over the others.  Talman intervention, however, aided a revolt against Singh, and the states reverted to their usual squabbling.  Around 1150-1165 AY, under the leadership of King Philip I, the Uila swept down from the mountains to the south and conquered the squabbling states, who proved unable to unite against them, despite aid from Talma.  He then turned to attack Singh, who had appealed to Amber for protection.  In 1167-1180 AY, Philip dueled with Marshal Juri of Amber, and was repeatedly defeated by her.  He withdrew and died shortly thereafter.

Today:
Singh survives by the grace of Amber, and they know it.  As a result, they've elevated the Cult of the Unicorn and do their best to be as gracious to Amberites as possible.  The city's government slavishly follows Amber's foreign policy, in return for which Amber largely leaves them to manage internal affairs as they see fit.  Singh is governed by a council of ten archons elected yearly by the assembly of citizens, which meets periodically in Singh itself to elect officials, to decide on matters of war and peace, and to approve or reject proposed laws.

Singh has a citizen army; every citizen is subject to randomly chosen terms of military service and monthly drills.  They have adopted the Uilan military methods of the use of phalanxes and archers.  They have also adopted Amberite cavalry tactics.  Singh also frequently uses its wealth to bribe Theran lords to raid the Uilans in times of war.

The Singhi worship the great huntress Singh in ten yearly civic festivals and many smaller rites.  They have also adopted Unicorn worship, placing it on an equal level.
 

Talma

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Renaissance Italy, if it had united
Population:  1,500,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  2 weeks ride by land
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:
Talma stretches out along the river valley of the Talma River, gently rolling plains, covered with farms and pastures.  It is about a hundred and twenty miles wide, and some five hundred miles long.  The capital of the league, Talma itself, is home to some 80,000 people.  There are eight major cities and many small villages and towns.
 

History:
The regions now known as Talma, Vila, and Singh have seen many transitory kingdoms in the millenia that Amber has known of them.  Around 650 AY, the Dorians defeated the Kingdom of Linkha and began to overrun this area.  While Talma united to repel the Dorians, all of the cities of Uila and Singh fell to them, and they then pressed east against Amber.  In 678, they defeated Corrine at the battle of the Barimen River and invaded Arden.  In 680 AY, Dorian forces besieged Amber City.  But after their defeat, they retreated and their federation fell apart into a dozen squabbling city states, each independent.

Talma, however, remained independent of them, having pulled together in the mid-7th century to repel the Dorians.  It became a league of cities, working to manipulate the Uilans and keep them disunited.  It also had to repel periodic invasions from the expansionist Begmans.  Since entering the Golden Circle a few centuries ago, this has become easier.

Today:
Talma is a league of eight cities, each ruled by a merchant oligarchy, who select the central council of the land.  The league mainly functions to resolve border and mercantile disputes and to provide for a common defense in times of war.  Talmans are very mercantile in mentality.  There have been some problems with Begman customs officials extorting from Talman merchants; this is expected to lead to trouble.

The Talmans maintain forces of mercenaries paid for out of the central treasury.  The bulk of their army is moderately well-trained pikemen backed up by crossbowmen.  They maintain a force of heavy cavalry, but it is inferior in quality to that of Begma and Amber.

Some Talmans follow the cult of the Unicorn, but most worship various mystery cults which initiate their members into secret rites and levels of initiation.  Most of these cults teach some degree of sorcery, and thus magic is quite common in Talma.

  Therin

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  A cross between Absolutist France and the Antebellum South
Population:  20,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  3 weeks ride by land, another three weeks to the capital to the south.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:
Therin is a great sprawling nation which stretches southward for a thousand miles from Amber, and from three to six hundred miles into the interior at various points.  Northern and western Therin tends to be hilly and upraised, with the country becoming lower and wetter as you move east and south, finally terminating in a massively impassible swamp along the southern border.  Most of Therin is plains and downs, devoted to growing various cash crops, although the land grows more forested as you move south into the hotter zones.

The capital, Roncesvalles, sits on a delta some three hundred miles south of the border with Amber, where the Ronce river dumps into the sea.  It is home to nearly a million people, about half of whom basically are on the dole for life.  Once beautiful, it is now beginning to crumble.

Chalcedon is one of Therin's major trading cities, home to 30,000 people. Much of the population is of Dorian descent.

History:
Unlike many of Amber's neighbors, the formative period of Therin history was largely free of Amberite influence.  Many Bronze Age states arose in the fields of Therin long before any Amberites saw them.  Amberite traders settled along the coast, but had little impact, for there was little good trade to be had at the time.  The Therins were a barbarian peoples from the southwest who poured into the area around 300 AY, pushing north into the regions closest to Amber and conquering them, then pushing back southwards.

Therin peaked around 700 AY, then started to go into decline as the economy decayed and the central government increasingly lost control to the provincial governors.  Around 800 AY,  a series of civil wars began, which culminated with the ascension of the Capetians around 920 AY.  They began suppressing the provinces fairly harshly and consolidated their power.  They also began growing cash crops which could be traded to Amber for money to hire mercenaries to further crush the provinces.

The result was a stronger Theran state, which then began gazing hungrily at Amber's southern provinces.  In 974 AY, Prince Corey, an illegitimate son of Gendo, insulted the Theran ambassador and was cut in half in a duel.  Gendo demanded Therin hand him over for punishment after he fled to Therin. The Therans, pointing out it was a legitimate duel, refused.  Gendo declared war on Therin.

In the First Theran/Amber War (974-985 AY), Drake led Amber's armies south, and repeatedly crushed Theran field forces.  Gendo returned the conquered lands to Therin, in return for Therin ceding independence to several of its outlying provinces which had been recently rebellious.  This began a process of disintegration.

This process was briefly halted by the last great Theran king, Louis XIV (1050-1075 AY ).  In 1060-3 AY, King Louis XII had exploited Rebman/Amber disputes to quietly overrun and reannex the provinces his ancestor had been forced by Gendo to grant independence to.  Gendo now ordered him to release them, and he refused.  The result was the Second Theran/Amber war (1065-1075 AY).  Juri, having returned from Shadow, resumed the office of Marshal of Amber and marched south, crushing the Therans repeatedly.  She forced the conquered lands to be released and carried back the King of Therin to Amber herself.  The Therin Estates General tried to declare her Queen, but she refused the offer, convincing them to elevate the House of Valois to the throne instead.  Therin became a Golden Circle Shadow.

Today:

The Therin government is a puppet state, and the Valois king, King John II, knows it.  His nation is slowly crumbling away around him as the nobles usurp more of his power and the provinces increasingly deny the taxes needed to keep his government running.  The eighteen provinces are slipping through his fingers, and he is becoming increasingly desperate.  To further complicate matters, he has reason to believe Prince Drake may be his father, which could complicate matters.  However, he fears to try the Pattern, as it would kill him if he's wrong.

Therin society is a cross between Old Regime France and the Antebellum South.  Northern Thera is full of free peasants and small landholdings, but as you move south, more and more of the land is worked by slaves growing cash crops for sale in Amber.  Meanwhile, the decadent nobility parties the night away.

The Therin military is notoriously corrupt and lazy, staffed by men who were pressganged and officers who bought their jobs.  Each officer raises his own unit, then pays the men from a stipend provided by the central government.  The Therins use corps of crossbowmen armed with repeating crossbows, spearmen, and lightly armed skirmishers, backed up by a still impressive set of siege artillery and by light cavalry and horse archers.

In recent years, the Cult of the Unicorn has spread among Theran slaves, becoming a faith of liberation that is leading to unrest.  Certain rumors claim King Gendo planned it that way...Amber itself has no slavery, after all.  The nobility worship a close-knit family of militant gods and goddesses from their barbarian past, although being religiously apathetic is currently the 'in' thing.

Uila

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Greece under Macedonian rule
Population:  1,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  10 days ride by land
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:
Uila has two main geographic regions.  Northern Uila is a region of gentle downs and lowland river valleys, very fertile and covered with fields for crops.  This region was once divided into fifteen squabbling city states, now united by Uilan force.  Southern Uila is hilly, gradually turning into mountains.  These highlands once held the Dorians before they conquered the lowlands, and now the Uilans live there.

The capital, Uilapolis stands a little way into the hills.  Home to thirty thousand people, it is the largest city in the Uilan highlands, full of badly copied Dorian architecture.  The palace is rather nice, though.

History:
The regions now known as Talma, Vila, and Singh have seen many transitory kingdoms in the millenia that Amber has known of them.  Around 650 AY, the Dorians defeated the Kingdom of Linkha and began to overrun this area.  While Talma united to repel the Dorians, all of the cities of Uila and Singh fell to them, and they then pressed east against Amber.  In 678, they defeated Corrine at the battle of the Barimen River and invaded Arden.  In 680 AY, Dorian forces besieged Amber City.  But after their defeat, they retreated and their federation fell apart into fifteen squabbling city states, each independent.

The most powerful of these was Singh, which in the nine hundreds gained a brief-lived ascendency over the others.  Talman intervention, however, aided a revolt against Singh, and the states reverted to their usual squabbling.  Around 1150-1165 AY, under the leadership of King Philip I, the Uila swept down from the mountains to the south and conquered the squabbling states, who proved unable to unite against them, despite aid from Talma. He then turned to attack Singh, who had appealed to Amber for protection.  In 1167-1180 AY, Philip dueled with Marshal Juri of Amber, and was repeatedly defeated by her.  He withdrew and died shortly thereafter.

Uila joined the Golden Circle in 1227, under king Demetrius III, who hoped to promote trade and turn his land into a modern trading nation.  Trade has flourished, but now the Uilan nobility grumbles and fears loss of control to the reviving Uilan cities, who chafe at the Uilan yoke.  In 1272-74, King Alexander II tried to conquer Singh while Amber was distracted with the Sea Peoples, but he had waited too long. Saionji crushed him and forced him to commit suicide for his breach of treaty violations.  Berenice, the Queen Mother, became regent for Demetrius IV, his two month old son.

Today:
Demetrius IV is about to be crowned, having finally turned eighteen.  A power struggle between himself and his mother is expected.  Certain rumors speak of a secret alliance between himself and King Rinaldo of Kashfa, who has a similar problem.  There is some fear of a possible civil war; the nobility favors a revenge war on Amber, as does Demetrius IV, while his mother and the subject cities support continued accomodation to Amber's demands.

The subject city states are autonomous in internal affairs, but there is an Uilan garrison in each of them, and they have to provide levies and tribute to the Uilan government.  Most of the population of the plains is Dorian in descent; the uplands are the homelands of the Uilans, who are largely farmers and herdsmen.

The Uilan military is based on the phalanx, backed up by slingers and light cavalry for scouting.  In recent years, they've built up an archer corps modelled after that of Amber.  The cities provide similar forces and medium cavalry.

The Uilans and the Dorians worship the same pantheon of gods and goddesses under the rulership of Amaranth the Thunder Lord, although the Dorians tend to pick a specific patron and the Uilans try to appease them all.
 

Wroland

Historical/Fictional Inspiration:  Early Modern Poland
Population:  10,000,000 roughly
Travel Time from Amber:  5 weeks sail to the south.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Geography:
Wroland is reached by sailing southeast of Amber to the Isles of Wro, then making west by southwest to the north coast of Wroland.  This is the only known way of entering it through Shadow; efforts to take a more direct route simply put you in Therin instead.  Wroland has a hundred mile stretch of coast which is is the northern end of a hundred and fifty mile long stretch of land which connects to the main body of the nation which is in the interior.  The Wistula river runs through the center of the country and up the Wistula Corridor to the sea, emptying into the Sea of Wroland.  Wistula Port stands there, and most Amberites never go further into the interior.  A Narwhal Current runs from here to Amber.

If they did, they would pass through flat farmlands until they reached the main body of the nation, which is roughly oval.  It's about three hundred miles wide north to south and five hundred miles west to east, with the Wistula corridor jutting north from the western end.  Many rivers run through it from the south and east, most of them eventually running into the Wistula or into the Pripet Swamps which run along the coast east of the Wistula corridor.  The Yizniki river forms the eastern border, while the curving Gazpatch mountains form the western and southern border.  The land gradually rises west, south, and east, turning into hills in the south and west.  Most of the interior is gently rolling plains, covered with farms and orchards and patches of forest.  Eastern Wroland is heavily forested.  Unicorn Tracks eventually lead to several Shadows which are great plains regions, home to horse nomad tribes and farmers along the rivers.

The capital is Wroclaw, situated on the Wistula, near the geographic center of the country.  It is home to three hundred thousand people, a bustling center of scholarship, artisans, and noble houses.  The Great Diet of Wroland meets here, and the Royal Palace, a gleaming three tiered mountain of marble dominates the northern half of the city.  It is a beautiful sight.

History:
At some distant time in the past, this land was inhabited by primitive workers in bone and stone, but then the bronze wielding  Wro tribes descended upon them, conquered and enslaved them.  They built up a great feudal kingdom, which had broken up into its constituent parts by the time the Amberites arrived.  They built Wistula Port and began to trade with one of those kingdoms, Little Wroland.  Little Wroland blossomed and used its new economic might to gradually crush the other kingdoms.

For centuries, Wroland flourished in what is now called the Silver Age.  Then the Carnacki came, pouring out of the east.  They plunged the land into two centuries of warfare, conquering half of it, which they built up into the Carnacki Empire.  Gradually, the Carnacki settled down and became more civilized.  Finally, the two lands were united by the marriage of the Wroland heiress to the Carnacki heir.  This began the Carnashi Dynasty, which ruled for two centuries.

Then, the last of the Carnashi died without an heir.  This crisis was solved by the institution of an elective monarchy, chosen by the nobility.  This solution held the land together, but at the cost of the monarchy having to trade away more and more power at every election...

Today:
Wroland is an elective monarchy ruled by squabbling nobles jealous of their privileges and mostly paralyzed by the necessity of unanimous decisions in their Diet (parliament).  Wroland is well on its way to disintegration, but it produces a lot of raw materials, food, metals, and excellent musicians.  Printing presses are known here, making it a major source of books for the Golden Circle.

The Wroland military consists of very excellent heavy, medium, and light cavalry.  Light cavalry are horse archers and scouts, medium and heavy cavalry wear chainmail and plate respectively and charge with lances.  They are usually backed up by mostly useless peasant levies of spearmen, and well trained forces of archers and pikemen from the cities.  Most of the nobility are soldiers in service of the greater nobles.

Wrolanders worship the Phoenix of Wroland, who led their ancestors here and the Pegasus of the Carnacki, who led the Carnacki to Wroland.  Contemporary stories claim the two are married, although it remains unclear which is wife and which is husband.
 


Rebma

Rebma is three days ride from Amber, and according to Amberites, it's an underwater reflection of Amber, complete with its own Pattern.  Of course, the Rebmans say the same thing about Amber.  It's underwater, but if you enter by the stairs in, you can breathe the water.  It is similar to, though not completely the same in geography as Amber City and Castle Amber.  It has its own pattern, etched in light green into a dark coral floor.  Rebmans tend to have green and blue hair and skin, but can interbreed with normal humans.  Gendo's fourth wife was from Rebma, Rei of Rebma.

Rebma has been ruled for centuries by Queen Moire; her origins are unknown to the average Amberite, but some rumors claim she is Gendo's sister.  She has been married thirteen times and has nearly twenty surviving legitimate children; it's generally expected that there will be a thinning of the ranks whenever she dies, but she's showing no signs of it.

Rebma is said to possess a 'Coral Circle' of underwater civilizations it trades with, but little is known of that in Amber.

Relations with Rebma have been mixed; currently relations are somewhat cordial, although Rebma has been having problems with Therin, whose ships have been abusing their oceans through overfishing and whaling.


Shadow

If you can dream it, it's out there for you to find.  Or possibly you actually create it by your will from the unformed stuff of Shadow.  Amberites debate endlessly over how real Shadow is and whether anything in Shadow actually exists before an Amberite encounters it.  Do Shadow Dwellers have rights?  Is there a sharp distinction between Shadows and Reality or is it a sliding scale?  The existence of the Golden Circle further complicates matters, as does the vast variety in size of shadows.

Shadows become bigger and more flexible as you move away from Amber towards Chaos, then become even more flexible but tend to shrink in size again as you move past Yig.  There is a similar hardening of boundaries between Shadows which is greatest in the middle between Amber and Chaos; close to Amber and Chaos even those without the blood of Reality can step between Shadows.

Shadows become more real the more they are exposed to Amberites (and one would suspect, to Chaosians).  A shadow dwelt in by Amberites for prolonged periods of time becomes more complex, more solid, and more lasting.  It can no longer be as easily molded, except by those who remained resident in it.

Shadow dwellers are not necessarily inferior to Amberites in strength or power; Cthulhu, Shiva, Sauron and other frightening beings can be found in Shadow who can even tapdance on the graves of Elder Amberites.

Notable Shadows:

The Beach

Transit Time from Arden: 1 week normal shadow shifting, 1 day by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 hour in Amber.

The beach is a shadow which is simply nothing but a sandy beach with a narrow strip of dry land behind it on one side and a large stretch of ocean going the other way.  Some regions of The Beach are built up with civilization and comforts, while others are isolated and peaceful.  Virtually every Elder maintains a residence there somewhere for vacations.  Parts of the ocean are wide enough to contain islands to explore or island resorts to relax in.  A strip mall stands in one stretch of the Beach, which contains portals to Friday's and Cafam.

Certain aspects of the Shadow's reality are best not questioned, such as where all the industrial goods, clothing, food, etc, actually comes from or how the economy can function.  It's just there for having fun.

Beleriand:

Transit Time from Arden: Two weeks normal shadow shifting, 2 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 4 months here equals 1 day in Amber.

This is a fantasy world of Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Dragons, and the Valar.  The Elves of Arden originated from here, fleeing to escape their enemy Morgoth, a renegade Valar (roughly equivalent to a 'god').  Morgoth rules much of the shadow from an iron fortress known as Angband, beneath Thangodrim.  Gil-Galad was held captive her for centuries, and by means still unclear, Gendo's sword Justice ended up here as well.
 

Cafam:

Transit Time from Arden: 2 weeks normal shadow shifting, 2 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber...usually

"Blue Light Special on Pattern Blades in Aisle 56783847384738743-B!"

Shadowwalking to Cafam seems to always end up with you in a stripmall in front of the main doors.  Friday's can be entered at the other end of the mall.  One such mall stands in 'The Beach', allowing easy shopping access.

Cafam is the ultimate store.  Imagine if the entire planet Earth was hollowed out and turned into a shopping mall.  From the outside, Cafam is about the size of a typical department store.  On the inside, it contains at least as much space as the entire land and sea surface of the Earth, possibly more.  Fortunately, Cafam also has high tech public transportation to facilitate shopping.  Those seeking a little more adventure can rent a mule train and pass any of the several wilderness zones which exist inside the store for no discernable reason whatsoever except to make one's trip more interesting.

If you can imagine it, Cafam likely has it for sale...if you can find it.  Fairly mundane simple things can be found near the checkout counters within a few minutes walk.  But the really cool things like giant mechs, trumps of supposedly dead relatives now trying to destroy the Pattern, designer Spikards, and other such toys have to be quested after in the depths of the store.  Indeed, Cafam seems in some ways to be a miniature of the universe, with Amber as the Checkout Counters and Chaos as the far distant storage rooms; Pattern is nearly impossible to use near the checkout counters,until one steps out the front doors.  Using Logrus is a bad idea in Cafam...some force seems to ensure you always grab the wrong thing.  Making a Trump of your favorite aisle works for a while, until the next time the store is reorganized.  (Trumps of the Checkout Counters remain good forever, however).  Magic is unreliable, working only in some regions of Cafam.

In general, if Cafam has something in stock, you can find it in 1 hour per 1 point property, 6 hours per 2 point property, and 1 day per four point property.  Items with 8 point or even 16 point properties are ocassionally for sale, but this is fairly rare and usually prompts a rush and a riot.

Cafam only accepts Real precious metals (in coin, lump, or jewelry form), drafts on Amberite banks and moneylenders, or jewels as payment from Amberites, although the many shadow customers seem to be allowed to use their own universe's currencies.  It remains unclear how these customers get to Cafam.  Normally, when you exit, the doors put you back in the shadow you came from, but if you follow shadow dwellers out, you may end up almost anywhere.

Calendar World:
(Written by Beowulf Kohl, D.PLH, Panopticon University)

Transit Time from Arden: 1 week normal shadow shifting, 1 day by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Sand. Hot, sandy, and dry. Did I mention the sand?

Calendar World isn't one of the oddest places I've visited -- in Shadow, it isn't even in the top 100 -- but it has an atmosphere all its own, shared only with a hundred Westerns of Shadow Earth.

Ah... perhaps that wasn't the best way to put it, but it's probably truer than any other description I could come up with. Calendar World is a desert planet, dotted with small towns and cities that often struggle for survival against the encroaching dunes. (There are only twelve major cities on the planet, each named after one of the months of the calendar; hence its common name among Amberites.) This shadow apparently operates at a technology level consistent with the Industrial Revolution, but only just, with no weapons more advanced than the common gunpowder firearm (admittedly very well-developed in this shadow). Buildings are largely made of wood, with some leavening of adobe and stone; streets are unpaved. Set yourself down in the middle of a Calendar World town, and you'd swear you'd wandered into the Old West of Shadow Earth. Until you look at some of the more anachronistic details, of course...

For Calendar World hides a much higher level of technology than the facade might lead you to believe. Motorized vehicles do exist, though they are few and far between. There is a surprising amount of cyborg technology, though on a relatively primitive level. Most of all, there are the Plants. These gigantic structures, which resemble nothing so much as an enlarged piece of laboratory glassware, use very advanced technology to convert sand into water and arable soil. The Plants are very old, and considerably in advance of Calendar World technology in general -- leading one to suspect possible colonization by a more advanced civilization, and a catastrophe that cut off contact with the industrial base of that civilization. (Another possibility, of course, is an advanced civilization originating on this planet which was destroyed by catastrophe. I lean against this theory myself.) Rumors of this possibility are what led me to visit Calendar World.

Unfortunately (both for myself and the unhappy inhabitants of this shadow), most knowledge of this technology -- particularly the most advanced examples, such as the Plants -- has been lost, presumably in our posited catastrophe. This includes any knowledge of the colonizing civilization. My visit there hence proved fruitless.

However, Calendar World is not necessarily a fruitless destination for Amberites; indeed, a certain amount of covert trade exists between the worlds. Presumably, this is facilitated by a Unicorn track leading here from Begma. Potential visitors should strongly consider a short course in using gunpowder firearms before you arrive, as they unfortunately appear to be a rather active part of this society.

Castrovalva:
(Written by Beowulf Kohl, D.PLH, Panopticon University)

Transit time from Arden: 1 week normal shadow shifting, 1 day by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals... well, I'm not entirely sure, actually. It almost seemed like time was speeding up and slowing down in the period I spent there. Most odd.

Castrovalva... a place of perfect peace and tranquility. The atmosphere has a profoundly calming effect, making it an ideal place to recuperate and heal, particularly from overall shocks to the system. So the references say.

I decided to visit Castrovalva for myself after a rather... unfortunate... encounter I had with a group of odd beings out of time and space, on the fringes of Yig, left me with a yen for rest and recuperation. I found it much as advertised -- a very soothing place, simple and unadorned, and quiet. I could almost feel myself healing as I lay back and relaxed, sitting and letting my mind clear. For a while, at least...

For Castrovalva posed a most intriguing puzzle, when I had recovered enough to think of it. It seemed uncommonly easy to become lost there, for one thing. The inhabitants seemed peculiarly inept at giving directions, as a simple request for the route to the library would inevitably end with four different villagers pointing in four different directions. It seemed that this odd confusion is a part of the environment, as I found my own sense of direction becoming confused the longer I stayed there. Heading down a street heading east, I would somehow find myself at a communal dining area to the west. I would set out for the Library, go up a staircase and through a narrow winding path around the courtyard, and end up outside my room again without descending. Curious.

Ah, the Library. A magnificent edifice, indeed -- elegant Gothic rooms filled with ancient books, all 600 years old at the very least, chronicling the rise of Castrovalva to the present day. I enjoyed the time I spent perusing their contents, and hope to spend more time researching the city's history the next time I visit.

I would have loved to spend more time there, exploring the intriguing mysteries of the place. Unfortunately, I had rather pressing business elsewhere, and thus had to trump out before I could come to the heart of the matter. I fully intend to return someday and solve the riddles of Castrovalva.
 
 

The City of Brass

Transit Time from Arden: 4 weeks normal shadow shifting, 4 days by hellride.  The City of Brass is a week past Yig.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Emerging from the whirlwinds of Chaos, the City of Brass is home to the efreet, wish-granting beings who have fire at their command.  The City itself floats on islands of basalt with rivers of lava that separate the main islands.  Barges traverse these lava-rivers connecting the main island Impara to the satellite islands.  The only road into the City is the Fire Highway that the Efreeti traders use to ply trade with Umayadd, Abbasid, Fatmid, Zoroastria, the Emirate of Ylarum, Nithia, and Dysthenia.  It is very much a trader's paradise, that is, if you can withstand the constant 350 degree temperature.  It is because of this reason that not many humans trade with the efreet who live here and the efreet generally look down on humans anyway as being easily cooked appetizers.

The City of Brass is ruled by the Caliph Fahram ibn-Alshuana, who was once imprisoned by King Gendou of Amber.  It is said that after he escaped, he fled to Yig, dripping blood-fire along the way, giving rise to the magical flame-flowers that impart wisdom that are found only around the City of Brass.  There, he traversed the underground rivers back to the City and imparted  a decree: Anyone who is revealed to have Amber blood in them  must be killed on sight, no questions asked.  A siege was attempted, but Drake, the Marshal of Amber at that time managed to turn them back at Yig.

Ibn-Alshuana rules alongside Queen Timpara in an autocratic monarchy.  The Grand Vizier, Al-Ghazali, the most powerful
mage of his generation, has custody of the legendary Heart of Flame.  The City of Brass has a population of about 5,000 efreet and 3,000 slaves.  The four seasons are Very Hot, Hot, Warm, and Hot.

There is a caste-like society in place in the City of Brass, and the castes are as follows: the nobility, the merchants, the traders, the soldiers and the slaves.  Nobility are granted plots of land for dubramin farming with each noble being granted a set amount of soldiers according to his yearly production value.  The merchants have formed their own separate guilds which are headed by a master of each guild.  Under guidance from the Caliph, they set prices and guard against monopoly in any one guild.  The traders are mostly autonomous, with a Ducat Trader named to run interference with the Caliph.  Slaves are captured along the Fire Highway and wherever the pirate-traders roam.  They range from humans, to humanoids, to mobile protoplasm, to other efreet.

The Heart of Flame's Significance for the City of Brass

About six centuries ago, a small human army rode in from the Fire Highway, the leader holding aloft a ruby the size of his fist.  It pulsed with a magical fire and as the army rode through the streets, tendrils of fire arced out of the ruby to strike every efreet they passed.  They started to shrink, and as they shrunk, the other riders on horseback opened bottles to trap the efreet.  The markings on their uniforms showed them to be from a far off shadow named Darinstar.

Abduna Lamdimar, the Caliph at the time, was on a state trip  through the Trade Lands, so over two thirds of the populace were imprisoned before he returned.  Using the Fire Amulet, Lamdimar was able to defeat the leader of the army, Bargle, and capture the ruby, which he named the Heart of Flame.  He then traveled to Darinstar, laying waste to the city using the Heart, capturing and killing the members of the Senate and forcing the Empress to return as his concubine.

Since the day of that great victory, posession of the Heart has been passed down from Vizier to Vizier, hidden deep inside the castle in the middle of the City.  Every year on the anniversary of that battle, the Conquest Festival is held, starting with a parade through the streets, a lively booze up the following day, and  a competion in the Fourteen Strengths for prizes.  There is also a slave auction, held at the end of the second day, with  the proceeds going to charity.

The theft of the Heart of Flame during the recent Conquest festival (AY 1292), has sent the Efreet into a tizzy, especially as reports remain confused as to whether humans, efreet, or some combination of the above stole it.

Coral Circle:

The largely underwater shadows which Rebma trades with.  A handful of names are known to Amberites:  Lemuria, Atlantis, Mu, R'yleh, but nothing else.

Detention
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 minute in Amber.

Sooner or later, you've all been sent here for annoying Miki.  You end up stuck in a chair, in a corner, with no way out and nothing to do but stew in your own juices.  The only way to get out is via Trump, usually him Trumping you out of there; Trumps carried with you seem to mysteriously vanish from your pockets most of the time.  Trump Artists can be a pain sometimes.

DOOM

Transit Time from Arden: 4 weeks normal shadow shifting, 4 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 hour in Amber.

Think live-action Doom.  Drake found this shadow, and goes there to hone his combat skills.  It's an endless maze of tunnels and mutants.  Kill all you want, they'll make more.  An example of the sort of treatment of shadowdwellers which bothers some Amberites and amuses others.  DOOM is beyond Yig.

Endor

Transit Time from Arden: 9 days normal shadow shifting, a little over one day by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

The word for world is forest.  Utena found this shadow when drunkenly shifting shadow after watching the Star Wars movies at a party on Shadow Earth.  The entire planet, about the size of Earth's moon, is one giant forest, inhabited by sentient tree civilizations.  Amberites who enjoy a good walk in the woods or want advice on nature magic often come here.

Flawed Ambers

Amber casts many reflections of itself into shadow, some of them nearly the same as the real thing.  Some feature shadows of the royal family.  Others warp the geography or history of the real thing.

Friday's

Transit Time from Arden: 1 week normal shadow shifting, 1 day by hellride.  Most people just trump there.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

By definition, it is always 5:15pm on Friday in this shadow. The week is out, it's time to relax, to take a load off. And what better place to do that than at a bar and grill the size of a large city? This is Friday's.

It's staffed by a veritable army of cooks, several battalions of bartenders, and plenty of waiters and waitresses--the only people at work at this time, of course. But they're quite happy to serve, so long as you tip, and the next guy gets on the shift on time. And they're good at what they do. Medium rare steak? The prime choice grade A cut of beef will have a center which is a warm, juicy red. White Russian? Expertly and quickly mixed, using only the finest vodka, the finest coffee liquer, and the finest milk--skim, lowfat, or whole, whatever you want. The beer is strong, the buffalo wings spicy, and your choice of professional sports will probably be playing on the nearest 48" television.

For those wishing privacy, there are rooms that you can rent. Well, one says rooms, but they can approach the size of banquet halls, for the really big parties. Some are large enough to have their own kitchen to serve them.  And they're not just for eating, either. They have karaoke rooms, movie rooms, dance floors, even some rooms for passing out peacefully. Friday's aims to cover every base. It's got the space and the resources for it, after all.

There are a couple of house rules, of course. No violence--please check your weapons at the door. Don't worry, you're guaranteed to get them back when you go. No shirt, no shoes, no service...and though casual dress is acceptible, too many holes will get you turned away at the door. This is, after all, open to families, too. And the strongest thing you can smoke is a bad cigar; marijuana, crackpipes, and hypodermic needles bring a frown to the face of the bouncer standing a few tables down. Besides, there's more than enough alcohol here to make you happy in less dangerous ways. Please follow the rules, or no soup for you. Fortunately, the patrons seem to be pretty well behaved, and no one can remember the last time someone was
forcibly booted out the door. Really.

Friday's is a place to hang out, plot dirty deeds done dirt cheap, try to pick up someone, catch a good meal...but mostly for having fun. Bring your gold doubloons, because they don't take American Express. Nor Visa, nor Mastercard. In fact, at Friday's, the mention of the word 'credit' is commonly regarded as an act of violence. But don't despair--the dishwashers
could always use a couple extra helping hands. Can't you just imagine how much silverware needs to be cleaned?

Friday's. Enjoy.

Groundhog Day:

Transit Time from Arden: 10 days normal shadow shifting, 2 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

It remains unclear to most of the Elders as to why Wakaba named this shadow 'Groundhog Day'.  It is a shadow caught in a time loop, reliving the Fourth of July three day weekend over and over, ending with nuclear fire destroying civilization.  No matter what anyone does, the shadow restarts from July 3rd, 1992, and the events repeat over and over unless a being of Reality intervenes.  The Elders come here to study human interactions and the ways in which history can and can't be changed.  The shadow is much like Shadow Earth except for its endless time loop.

The Infinite Library:
(Written by Beowulf Kohl, D.PLH, Panopticon University)

Transit Time from Arden: 3 1/2 weeks normal shadow shifting, 3 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals one second in Amber. (Trust me, you'll need the time.)

Ah, the Infinite Library. Legend across a universe of Shadow, dream of a million readers, hope of researchers everywhere. Every book possibly printed, all collected in one place. Surely this is *the* place worth seeking after?

Think about the old cliche of an infinite number of monkeys turning out the works of Shakespeare. There's quite a lot of dross to weed out before you could actually read those works, yes? And so it is with the Infinite Library.

Physically, the Library resembles the lattice of a crystal structure. Each 'reading room' has four hallways leading out of it, at the four cardinal points; a spiral staircase in the center of the room leads up and down to other levels. So far as anyone has been able to tell, the rooms go on forever, with no 'outside' to go to; there are no discernable identifying markings in the rooms, and indeed any signs you post will mysteriously vanish by the time you return to any given room. One could, presumably, come up with some kind of index or map by using the books in the room as identifiers; however, given the nature of the books, this would be rather difficult, and at this time no one is known to have done so.

Thus we come to the books themselves. A careless consideration of the notion 'every book possibly printed' might lead one to think of a library filled with the works of Shakespeare, Heinlein, Hemingway, and even (unfortunately) Danielle Steele. Indeed, all of these things are here. There are also an unimaginable number of books filled with every typographical error ever made. Entire rooms are filled with books that are nothing but permutations of the letters 'a' with one 'b', liberally mixed with punctuation. In short, throw away any of the cliches about hard-to-find items -- needle in a haystack, grains of sand, all of them -- because none of them are adequate to the situation. Attempts have been made to work out a pattern to the arrangement of books, both within and between rooms, so far without success.

At least you sit in comfortable surroundings as you engage in your quest. The reading rooms are paneled in an odd wood that doesn't match anything I've seen in Shadow, but which lends a warm glow to the walls. The rooms are small, only about 30 meters across, making for a cozy feel. The lighting complements this atmosphere, coming from perpetually-burning gas lamps set in the corners of the octagonally-shaped rooms. (I have tried breaking the lamps, as I am sure many visitors have, to make sure they could not set the books on fire; they are made out of crystal too strong for me to break with any tool at my disposal. I suspect it would take a Pattern blade to cut them.) Shelves fill the four walls not featuring hallways, and the floor and ceiling are covered with intricate interlocking parquet patterns. A circle of padded chairs surrounds the staircase, exceedingly comfortable with lapdesks that swing up from the side for note-taking. The temperature always seems to be perfect -- just warm enough to relax you while cool enough to keep you alert. Soft music plays in the background of every room, seemingly adapting itself to the occupants, as it never becomes distracting nor annoyingly banal. I have brought my own books here to study many times, as I find it a most conducive atmosphere.
 

Isles of Avalon:
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

The location of the Isles of Avalon in Shadow remains obscure, as travellers have found it all over the place, including beyond Yig.  It is most commonly found within the seas of the Golden Circle, however.  Travellers sometimes find that the Narwhal currents will bear them there instead of to where they normally go, especially when such travellers are on the verge of disaster.  They are ruled by a red-haired warrior Queen known as the Morrigan and by her masked sister, Morgan le fay, a powerful sorceress.  The isles are green and beautiful, and seem to be mostly inhabited by red and brown haired women, who are noted for both their fighting and their healing skills.  The time flow of the Isles seem variable, as some travellers have stayed for decades, then returned to Amber only a few years after they left.

Kumbayah:
(Written by Beowulf Kohl, D.PLH, Panopticon University)

Transit time from Arden: 7-9 days normal shadow shifting, 1 day by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

A rather odd place I stumbled across on a random trip through Shadow, Kumbayah was admittedly a place I was rather glad to see the last of.

At first glance, Kumbayah seems a most pleasant shadow, filled with quaint little houses set in neat rows with well-kept lawns. The inhabitants are quite friendly, and always stop to greet you cheerfully when you walk by.

Perhaps it's the greetings that made me slightly unsettled. They all seem to be variations on a simple theme: 'In Aibo there is Love, and in Love there is Aibo, and in Aibo there is The Way.' 'In Aibo there is Mind, and in Mind there is Aibo, and in Aibo there is The Way.' Rather charming, the first 20 or 30 times you hear it, but it does wear on the nerves after a while. It may be simply the amiable monotone and glazed eyes they have when chanting... hm. It's difficult to say.

The people also take a gratifying interest in strangers; it seemed like I could hardly walk down a street without a cheery inquiry regarding my name, what I was off to do, and particularly my health. For some reason, they seem to be obsessed with one's mental state; I was continually fielding questions about how I felt, and politely refusing offers to join something that sounded like a mental health spa. (I'm not entirely sure about that, actually; they were distressingly vague when I asked for specifics on this place.) I'm not entirely certain why the culture has this fixation; the people seem quite intelligent and well-balanced, and indeed show many manifestations of above-average mental ability. (People seem to sense each other's feelings at a glance, use Power Words casually... even Sorcery and Conjuration are uncommonly common here.)

As for physical type... well, most of the population is the average racial mix you'll find in Shadow, with one odd exception. About one in 25 people will be a tall (over 6'), strongly-built male with a heavy Germanic accent, with (minor details of clothing and hairstyle aside) identical features. Outfit and personality will vary slightly, but these individuals will always be in positions of authority, and are treated with a great deal of respect by the population at large. They are seldom seen together; if three or more congregate, it is a matter of great moment. At the end of my stay there, I was met in the street by a delegation of seven of these gentlemen, who invited me to 'come to the Center of Aibo for processing'; at this point, I felt rather uncomfortable continuing my imposition on their hospitality and reluctantly chose to leave, contacting my friend McGillicuddy and trumping out.

Lucas:
(Written by Beowulf Kohl, D.PLH, Panopticon University)

Transit time from Arden: 8-10 days normal shadow shifting, 1 1/2 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 5 days in Amber.

Ah, the joys of classic adventure serials. You remember those while you were growing up, yes? No? Pity. Mother always loved them, and she 'raised me right,' as they say.

Those who do remember them will feel right at home in Lucas. The shadow is packed cheek-by-jowl with hideous temples, exotic jungles, vast deserts, and a teeming metropolis as the capital city, with wall-to-wall skyscrapers and an eee-vil underground society of muggers, noble cat-burglars, talented swindlers, ladies in the (ahem) Oldest Profession, and other denizens of the entertainment business. On any given day, you'll see three dramatic bank robberies, five battles between G-men and organized crime syndicates, one team-up between an organized crime syndicate and G-men against secret agents from the neighboring evil empire, two quests into the wilderness for mysterious lost artifacts... I believe the pattern is sufficiently clear?

As a consequence, perhaps, the inhabitants of Lucas are uncommonly capable. While the average shadow-dweller is 'only human,' I daresay even a teenage child from Lucas would be able to give the average Amberite more than a challenge in most feats of physical or weapons skill. They hold each other to high standards, and will hold you to the same should you visit. There are a few unfortunates who fail to meet the societal standards in any area; these are generally looked-upon with disdain, and end up having to take the dirtiest jobs (alligator cleanout in the sewers, digging underground bunkers, and the like).

Lucas might well be a good place to visit for people who are in sudden need of some fairly talented manpower. Just be sure, if you try to recruit, that you are someone they can respect... or they're likely to laugh in your face.

Marketplace:

Transit Time from Arden: 18 days normal shadow shifting, 2.5 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Uncle Drake's cyberpunk mega-corporate shadow.  He goes here to hide from his relatives sometimes, as Trump only reaches into a single room in this shadow, from what you've heard.  You've heard stories, but unless he's your father, you probably haven't been there.

Rumor has it that Marketplace has recently been destroyed.  By a giant squid.  No, really.
 

Nedra:

Transit Time from Arden: Just off shore, if you're on the sea coast.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Uncle Derith's shadow.  It is a great and beautiful coral forest which defends the 'land' approaches to Rebma under the waves.  Derith has a great mansion here, and it is protected by a variety of sealife, along with giant seahorse riding rangers.

Ohtori Academy:

Transit Time from Arden: 1 week normal shadow shifting, 1 day by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

Similar to eighteenth century Europe.  Many of your Elders were sent here to learn social graces and swordsmanship, and you quite possibly were too.  The Academy itself contains a hidden arena which can only be accessed by those who have the Blood of Fuyutsuki flowing in their veins.

Pinata:
(Written by Beowulf Kohl, D.PLH, Panopticon University)

Transit time from Arden: 1 week normal shadow shifting, one day by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 hour in Amber.

There are those who believe that adversity builds character. That one gains strength by doing things the hard way. Might I suggest those with such inclinations pay a visit to Pinata?

Oh, and be sure to duck the instant you arrive.

Pinata has access to neither magic nor high technology. Therefore, its residents have come up with... creative... methods to work around these deficiencies and achieve a surprisingly high-level civilization using nothing more than springs, rubber bands, pulleys, levers, and miscellaneous household objects. Myself, I suspect some shadow-traveller in the past dropped off a collection of cartoons by a Shadow Earth artist known as 'Rube Goldberg'.

Cultural contamination aside, Pinata's inhabitants have shown a remarkable creative genius in assembling complex collections of objects to perform common tasks out of the normal reach of their technological level. Walking down a typical residential street in their capital, Hatlo, provides a spectacle unrivaled by many a carnival midway. Objects fly through the air with abandon, roll down chutes, *plonk* into cups, and otherwise put on amazing acrobatic displays for the discerning viewer... who is well advised to wear a hard hat at all times, as one never knows when a particularly enthusiastic effort will send a golf ball flying at one's head. (Indeed, passive protective garments of various kinds are fashion de regiur in Pinata. Active protection, on the other hand, has been officially frowned upon ever since one particularly aggressive protective item managed to knock the fez off the head of the Grand Poobah during a national celebration.)

I enjoy visiting Pinata when I have the opportunity. It never fails to cheer me, viewing the magnificent creative transcendence the human spirit is capable of when placed in adversity.

Of course, I do worry sometimes about what would happen if the Pinata folk ever get their hands on some fairly advanced technology.

Plateau of Leng:

Transit Time from Amber: Transit time to an adjacent Golden Circle shadow, then 2 days travel along a Unicorn Trail.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

There are things that go bump in the night; the Plateau of Leng is a Shadow that goes bump in the night, and during the day, as well. It is a huge, craggy plateau, filled with dark caves and crevices, deep valleys and simple holes in the ground, some of them turned into temples to mutated horrors barely imaginable by nonresidents of this place. It's thought that Leng had once been an actual towering mountain, absolutely huge, until the activities of its denizens blew off the top like a volcano with a really terminal hiccup. The landscape certainly looks blasted enough to support that theory. In its history, it is known to have been destroyed once through a terrific effort by the late King Gendou, but somehow came back, much to the dismay and interrupted celebration of its neighbors. No one is sure just how this happened, exactly.

Those who live here (used loosely to include undead types) number mad sorcerors with magical abilities that rival the most powerful spellcasters of Amber, deranged monks serving in their twisted shrines to unholy spirits, cannibals, hideous monsters, and a fair amount of ghoulies and ghosties. Many speculate the only reason the inhabitants of Leng haven't completely destroyed most nearby shadows is because they're spending most of their time battling each other for ascendancy and resources. Still, they have quite often either settled their differences for long enough or were able to spare some of their forces to cause a great deal of problems for those lands of the Golden Circle nearby.

The group that exercises the most control in Leng, relative to the others, is the one led by the Priest in the Yellow Mask, chief cleric of the Saffron Temple of Night. Not much beyond this is known about them, as few have gone in and managed to come back from their inner sanctums, and none of them were quite sane afterward.

Ramon's Party House:

Transit Time from Arden: 1 week normal shadow shifting, 1 day by hellride.
Time Differential: However much time Ramon wants equals 1 day in Amber.

This is a shadow which is all one huge party pad, with all the conveniences of life.  Ramon comes here to heal, rest, and throw parties which last for months.  You can call out for just about anything, and it'll be delivered in thirty minutes or less, or your money back.  It's known to include at least five pools, a jacuzzi the size of the Hippodrome, a shooting gallery, a golf course, and several nightclubs.
 

Sargasso:
(Written by Beowulf Kohl, D.PLH, Panopticon University)

Transit time from Arden: 25-27 days normal shadow shifting, 3 1/2 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

A truly sad place, inhabited by the dwindling remains of a once-great people.

Sargasso is a shadow of jungle -- thick, rich, tree-y jungle... hot, moist, swampy jungle... vine-tangled, giant spider-infested quicksand jungle... Sargasso has it all. (Along with some rather interesting tropical diseases, but that's neither here nor there.)

I first visited there as part of a field expedition from Panopticon University, formed to investigate rumors of a series of pre-Logrus ruins sighted in this shadow. These rumors proved to be inaccurate; Sargasso is actually the home of an entire (though small) intact city dating from the pre-Logrus era, although the current inhabitants are almost certainly not the original builders. I believe the city, which the other expedition members nicknamed 'Gratuitous Demise' for reasons I cannot fathom, will be an incredibly valuable site as soon as we can persuade the inhabitants to allow us to explore it.

Unfortunately, they have proven somewhat recalcitrant. They do not appear to take kindly to strangers, and two of our members went missing when they attempted to infiltrate the city; we must assume that they met their fate at the hands of the natives, as all we could find of them later were small bits scattered around the city walls.

Our first glimpses of them were rather sketchy, watching from the top of the city walls; flashes of moving green, nothing more. (Rather hard to tell, as there were very few natives in the city.) It seemed to unnerve some of the less stable members of our group, who fled screaming silently (I think they were too terrified to make a sound) into the jungle. Alas, they never made it back to the expedition's camp; I do hope they have managed to survive, and will be able to meet the next expedition when it arrives.

When we were finally able to encounter one of the natives outside the city, we found a most surprising fellow -- an anthropomorphic serpent, if I may twist definitions that far. Definitely bipedal, with well-developed grappling appendages and solid feet for walking, it nevertheless gave the impression of slithering as it moved; perhaps it was the meter-long tail. We attempted to make contact, but it seemed most reluctant to talk, and we were forced to calm it down through the
judicious application of physical restraint. The poor fellow didn't look very comfortable at all, even though we made sure to use our softest straightjackets for him; kept ranting about how his people were the Chosen Successors, how they would bring the Great Ones back, and usher in an era of peace and happiness. He wasn't very polite, either; refused to answer any of our questions about the city, how long they'd lived there, or anything like that. The other expedition members were fairly disappointed... I have to admit, though, that I was looking forward to exploring the city on our own, experiencing the thrill of discovery in its purest form. I did want to bring our erstwhile friend along with us, taking him back to his home, but it proved to be impossible -- he started writhing inside the straightjacket before he'd been in there an hour, as if it were burning his skin; he went into convulsions shortly after, and died in a few minutes. I made sure he got a proper burial inside a convenient crocodile. Poor thing.

On our first attempt to enter the city, we made it about a hundred yards before Yuna met her end; I was rather surprised, as most Shadows don't go to the trouble to find a compound that will poison a shapeshifter, let alone a lord of Chaos. I suggested we press on, as it was highly unlikely that even paranoid shadowdwellers would put more than one poisoned pit-trap in a row, but I was outvoted and we returned to base camp. We made three more attempts to enter the city, each ending with a rather unfortunate reduction in our party; in the last one we lost the expedition's leader, and her replacement decided we should make sure that at least the minimal information we had gathered would be returned safely to Panopticon. I have so far been unable to convince anyone in the department to sponsor a return expedition, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

Shadow Earth:

Transit Time from Arden: 2 weeks normal shadow shifting, 2 days by hellride.
Time Differential: 5 days here equal 1 day in Amber.

Roughly similar to real-world Earth; many of your Elders went here to gain training in 'modern technology' and related skills.  Drake loves it.

Shadow Theatre:

Transit Time from Arden: 1 week normal shadow shifting, 1 day by hellride.
Time Differential: 1 day here equals 1 day in Amber.

  A small shadow near Ohtori Academy is the Shadow Puppet Theater, a lone island sitting in the midst of the ocean. What rests upon it is a classic Greek amphitheater, a semicircle of stepped seats facing a large stage, backed by a high wall. The curve of the seats is broken in the middle by a large gap, through which the sun--almost always on the horizon, as if locked in sunrise or sunset--shines, right against the wall. The entire structure seems to be created of a single piece of seamless rose marble, as if there had once been a monolith of the stone placed there, then carved into its present shape.

  The rays of the sun diffuse through the gap and casts shadows of invisible origin onto the wall. They are usually of spindly female figures and their assorted props, acting out mysterious and often whimsical scenes; they are accompanied by voices speaking out from somewhere in the vicinity of the wall itself. What is played out here is often prophetic or contains some hidden lesson. They may or may not be pertinent to whoever the current audience is; it takes some measure of wisdom even to figure that out, let alone what the meaning is.

  Every so often, the sun will quickly rise into the zenith of the sky and shine straight down onto the stage, and have a scene play out there, on the ground. This happens rather rarely, and it is uncertain why this happens. Once the scene is played out, the sun sinks back to its usual place behind the gap, and normal showings resume.


Tir-na'nog, the Castle of Illusion

When the Moon shines bright in the sky over Amber at night, a great duplicate of Amber City and Castle Amber appears in the skies over Kolvir, floating upside down.  Gravity is reversed within it, and it is accessed by a staircase that appears on those moonlight nights.  Should the Moon be covered, it begins to fade, and if it vanishes completely, all within it fall, usually to their doom.

Where Amber is What Is, and Rebma is What is Reflected, Tir-na'nog is What Might Be and Could Have Been.  It is a place of dreams, visions, and illusions, where the wise seeker can learn the answers to mysteries, and the unwise seeker misinterprets what he sees and rushes off to his doom.  Shadows of everyone in Amber, maybe everyone in all creation can be found here, and will interact with you, generally in ways unexpected. They play on your doubts, on your fears, on your hopes and dreams.

Three things usually bring seekers here.  In the Hall of Paintings, every painting is a trump which can bear you to places you've only dreamed of...if you pick the right one.  Deep 'below' the Dream Castle is the Pattern Chamber, which works just like the ones in Rebma and Amber.  Well, except for the risk it'll evaporate under you and you'll die.  And then, there is the Forbidden Gate.

The Forbidden Gate lies in a chamber which can only be accessed by climbing down a ladder from the center of the Dream Pattern.  It is a thirteen-sided chamber with a huge rectangular door in its floor.  There are four slots in the door which look like keyholes, although they'd require fairly huge keys.  No one has ever successfully opened it.  Once you climb down into the room, the way back up vanishes; hope you brought trumps with you or you can survive a long fall when the Castle vanishes.  Runes on the door say in Thari:  Beyond this Gate lies power unimaginable, waiting for whosever finds the keys to unlock it.  There is more writing, but no one has ever admitted to successfully translating it.  Fuyutsuki once claimed it was runes of the Sidar, but has never told the same story twice as to what a Sidar is.


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).



 

Useful Links

Last Update March 3, 2001