It was a little bit like talking to someone with multiple personalities, Miles decided after a while. The thirty-year old Illyan gave way to the Illyan of forty-six, each man profoundly different from the Illyan of sixty. Miles waited patiently for the card he desired to be dealt again from the deck, endlessly repeating the date, the facts, the situation. Would it ever reach the point where all the Illyans had been informed, or would he continue to divide infinitesimally?
--- Lois McMaster Bujold, _Memory_
What the fuck?
Where the hell am I?
The last thing I fucking remember was killing that stupid bitch, Juri... and then talking with that pansy... and then...
... why the fuck can't I remember? Where the hell is Hummingbird?
Don't tell me I GAVE it to that bitch? What the hell was I thinking? That's MY sword, not hers! I've got to keep Juri and that asshole Tomas from releasing Brand; can't do the job without the right tools.
Dammit, whoever's done this is going to get an asswhupping when I catch up with -them-...
Who -are- these people?
Who the fuck's "Corrine"? Where the fuck AM I??
Why can't I remember? How the hell did I get here?
And what the fucking hell is that bitch JURI doing here?!
Oh, gee, you kill somebody, and they come back from the dead; what a fucking world we live in... she should've finished the job when she had the goddamn chance. Well, I won't make the same damn mistake... once I figure out where the hell I am and get these damn people offa me. Some redhead, skinny rooster boy here, blue-boy, the Kinslayer...
... Horatio? WHAT THE HELL?? What's HE doing here at the Keep of... the FIVE WORLDS??
WHERE THE FUCK *AM* I?!
Dammit, if somebody doesn't give me a straight answer here, really fucking damn soon, I AM going to have to bust some heads together! What the hell do they mean, I was drowning and almost died? I'm alive and right -here-, assmunches! Don'tcha got any ideas of field medicine, or do they need -Tess- to tell them I'm not a corpse?
At least -somebody- has their act together; Mom'll give them the fucking clue they need. And what the hell does Juri mean, she killed me? I'm here, I'm ALIVE! DAMMIT, what does it take to get a straight answer outta them?! WHO THE HELL *ARE* THEY??
TESS! FINALLY, mom'll set 'em to rights!
That is, if she doesn't start nagging me 'bout proper hygiene and clothing. Gee, mom, if I'd had a -chance- to get changed into a swimsuit before doing a dive into the ocean I -would- have, but...
... how the fuck did I get into the ocean? And then how'd I get here at this Keep?
One of mom's miracle cures. Fiiiinally. Maybe -this'll- take care of whatever the fuck's wrong with my head, and then I'll be able to get some damn underwear on, some REAL clothes, and then I'll be able to get some answers out of these people...
"Take two of the pills, but you need to drink with it, or you'll start coughing up green fluid again."
"Yeah, yeah, don't have to fucking tell me twice...."
"Well... well... double fuck. Double flaming fuck in a barrel."
"Excuse me, but who are you and can I have my cup back? Well, once you're done with it."
I want to grow up to be like Mommy.
Mommy's smart. Mommy's strong. Mommy does many neat things. Mommy can make the rain fall when the sky's blue. Mommy can make pretty flashes in the sky at night. Mommy can make flowers and trees grow up while I watch them. Mommy loves me and loves Eowyn and Juri and Catherine and even Little Haruka even though she's smaller than me. I love Mommy very very very much.
I love Eowyn and Juri too. Eowyn's tall and fast and strong, and she does stuff for Mommy and Daddy outside the castle. I don't see Eowyn lots. Eowyn gives me hugs and sometimes candy when she's around. I see sister Juri a lot more. Juri plays with me and tells me stories and wants to grow up to be like Mommy and Eowyn. She reads a lot and writes stuff and studies and practices stuff downstairs and outside a lot. Juri carries me on her back sometimes and pretends she's a horsie in the forest. I love Juri and Eowyn and Mommy lots and lots and lots.
Mommy and Eowyn and Juri and Daddy do so much. I want to be just like them when I grow up. They protect everybody, even me! Mommy rocks me to sleep when I'm scared and heals my hurts and don't let anything bad happen to me. Mommy says I'm not strong enough yet to help Mommy and Eowyn and Juri and Daddy protect people. Mommy promises me that I'll be able to someday. I want to help everybody I can 'cause I'm a Princess of Amber!
Where's Mommy? Can't sleep. Something's wrong... what's that? Who's there? Go away please! You're scaring me!! Please leave!!
Mommy! Eowyn! Juri! Where are you? Help! HELP!!
Mommy's not here. Juri's not here. Where are they? Gotta find Mommy... Gotta find Juri...
In here? In here? Maybe down here? Not here...
... maybe the kitchens? Eowyn comes down here sometimes. Mommy does too after yelling at Daddy. Mommy and Daddy yell at each other a lot but I don't know why. Mommy and Daddy can be scary when they yell but Eowyn says they kiss and make up after so I guess it's okay. Juri hugs me in my room when Mommy and Daddy yell and tells me everything will be all right and it becomes all right. Maybe Juri will be in the kitchens?
Can't see anybody. Nobody's here... Sparkles? Why are you up there? Silly kitty cat getting up on the top of the cabinet. I know! I can help you!
There, see? I've got you. You're safe now. Now we can...
... we can ...
Mommy? Eowyn? Juri? Where are you? Help, please... I can't get down... I'm scared...
"What's your name?"
"Princess Corrine 'f Amber!"
"Very impressive. I'm Princess Juri of Avalon."
"... wow.... where's 'valon? 'v gotta sister juri... you a shadow, like brother tylor talks 'bout?"
"Avalon's quite far away. And it's probably easiest if you think of me as a shadow of your sister, for now."
"It is quite shadowy in this hallway, yes."
Blood and ashes!
What does it take to eliminate these damned Cimbri? No matter how many of their warrens and villages we put to the torch, they keep breeding and coming back for more! Are they truly that suicidal, or just stupid? Do they not know the folly of challenging the power of Amber?
I wheel my horse around for another pass. I send another Cimbri to an early grave, and good riddance to him. The archers on the left flank let loose another volley of arrows, taking down those whom the Cimbri are trying to shelter.
The stench of blood and fire assaults my nostrils, old familiar scents. The flames catch the silver trim of my armor, and the sigil emblazoned on my chest. The knights under my command are clad in my colors, black and silver, as we eliminate these cruddy barbarians, returning them to the depths of Shadow where they spawned.
A Cimbri lieutenant attempts to challenge me; a well placed crossbow bolt cuts off his braying voice. I finish the job with my broadsword, silencing him permanently.
Juri! Where is Juri? I do not see her colors, orange and white, on the battlefield. However, I have little doubt she is doing as well as I am, if not better, in routing these grubby lice. Her martial skills are unparalleled, and together my sister and I shall wipe the lands clean of the Cimbri's taint.
We run more Cimbri down; my knights make short work of them as I command their efforts and direct this portion of the pincer assault. A group of elders try to defend themselves with sword and pike, to little effect. Their corpses shall fuel the village's fires quite handily.
I turn my horse again, looking around for another fur-clad heathen to eliminate. There, two, running for the cover of the forest. I drive my spurs into my steed's flanks, and take up the pursuit. It does not take me long to close the distance. Before the tall, blonde-haired woman can turn to stab at my horse in a futile attempt to delay the inevitable, I run her through in one stroke, as well as the child she clutches to her breast. I withdraw my sword, leaving the two to fall to the ground, dying as one.
Innocence? Don't make me laugh.
There is no such creature; it does not exist, and never has. Any realist can see that only those with the strength and will to swing the blade and fight has the right to survive. Everything else is just ephemeral nonsense, chaff of the wheat we harvest and thresh.
I am Corrine, daughter of Gendo and Haruka, and I shall not rest until all my family's thricedamned enemies are -dead-!
"It's no trick. You are my... You are my beloved sister. But you need to remember happier days than this, or you'll be trapped in this... hell of death and fire forever. You need to remember that you were a child, that there is more than pain... Drink, sister, and remember.
"Or, if you think this is a trick, then strike me down. I won't defend myself."
"Fuck it. If you're Juri, you're not about to poison me. If you're not, I'll have you dead and bloodcursed before I fall."
"... no.... mom.... harold.... NOOOOOOO!"
Paris is beautiful in the springtime. It never ceases to amaze me how the city and the countryside comes to life after the snow melts and the weather warms. The skies brighten, and the streets become accented with flashes of color as the flowers bloom. The entire city becomes more vibrant, more -alive-, and for Paris, the city of lights, this is quite an accomplishment.
I'm proud to live here.
This is my home, and I have lived here all my life, as long as I can remember. I have always been interested in painting, especially landscapes and portraiture, so it's only natural that I sought out the best instructors to hone my artistic talents. And once that was done, I founded my own art school, so as to best pass on what I have learned to the younger generation. I was young too, once, but my family scattered when I was younger, and I barely remember them even to this day.
Only Juri, my true sister, I remember with any clarity. She cared for me, loved me, and I long for her return. I know not when she shall, but she is close to my heart, always, as sure as the rose locket that hangs around my neck.
I wish I remembered why she left. I have so many things I wish to tell her and show her. But now is not the time for reminiscence; not when there are students to be taught and drawings to be made. I am sure, in time, she shall return. I have travelled the world in the pursuit of my arts, and one day our paths shall cross again.
I walk the hallways of my school, exchanging kind words with the students who live here as I proceed to the first floor studios. Today's lesson is to be on the differences between perceptions and reality when observing the world and translating it to art, and I want to make sure everything is set up 'just so' before the class arrives.
The studio does not take long to set up; I arrange several items on the central platform in a collage for the students to study to draw. I wait for the young men and women to arrive, and my teaching assistant Maria, and watch as they sit down next to the movable easels with their large pads of newsprint. We exchange greetings, and from there the lesson begins, the spring sunlight streaming through the large room's windows.
I'm not entirely sure why I chose "Ursala Cori d'Ambrelle" as a nome de gurre for my artwork and business dealings; most likely because at the time it sounded sufficiently 'artistic' to impress people. But no matter. I know who I am, and that is enough for me.
I am Corrine Arisugawa of Paris, founder of Madame d'Ambrelle's Art Conservatory and the Juri Arisugawa Portrait Gallery, and I am proud of what I have accomplished here.
"Very nice, Corrine. You've done well for yourself."
"Thank you, Juri. Later, I'll have to show you the art gallery. I think you'll like it. Now... how do you open this thing?"
"Give it a try. It's a memorable flavour."
"what the.... .... juri?"
"Do you remember who you truly are, now?"
"... oh good unicorn you're -safe- you -escaped- I KNEW that the alans couldn't hold you!"
Becoming a Queen had never been my goal in life. I was satisfied with my duties and my place in the universe. My appointment to the wardenship of the great fire-forest of the Corona had been one of the proudest moments of my life, and I tried the best that I could to live up to the trust my parents had placed in me.
It was an idyllic life, one that appeared destined to last forever; so long as Ember, the One True City, the Kingdom at the heart of all Shadow and Reality, stood strong and true.
All that changed when the Ravager Beast came.
It came without warning, and attacked without mercy, destroying everything it touched in its madness. The kingdom was shattered, the people scattered, the city and castle destroyed by the Beast's horrible wrath. If it had not been for the valiant efforts of a few, the kingdom would have truly been lost in truth.
But even after the dust settled, and stock was taken of what had occured, the price was still too great.
My mother, dead.
My siblings, lost in the confusion.
I was the only one left, and to me fell the task of restoration. I rebuilt Ember over the centuries with my own blood, sweat, and tears. Especially tears, as I grieved for those whom had been lost.
Mystical Rei, crafty Tatsuki, daredevil John... Smug Ronald, practical Meryl, firebrand Shayla Minor...
And Jean, beloved Jean, warrior sister with her thoughtful green eyes and orange hair, whom I missed most of all. If it were not for my beloved husband, the Red Knight, and my pride and joy, our daughter Gabrielle, to help stem the tide of my despair, my heart certainly would have shattered at her loss.
I have no idea what happened to them. Vanished into the Shadows, or worse. Although there are ways to travel through the shadings, both mundane and mystical, that is not my heritage. A Queen -cannot- afford to have the sort of... fractures of the mind that a Broken Pattern inflicts on its initiates. And my memories of the time before and after the Devastation are unsettlingly uncertain as they are.
If only I was of the blood of Fuyutsuki. Then I could have walked the Fire Pattern in the depths of Mount Vesuvius, gained power over Shadow and found the answers I seek...
But "if only"'s and "could have been"'s do not run a kingdom.
And a kingdom cannot live without its Queen.
I am Queen Corrine the First, youngest daughter of Queen Shayla the First of Ember; and I shall carry on her legacy, with the Pyricorn's blessing, as long as I draw breath.
Long Live the Kingdom of Ember. All Hail the Queen.
"Thought it was time for a change. I brought you something. Picked it up during my wanderings... in the early days, when I wasn't even sure who I was. Someone served it to me in a tavern, though... and just the taste brought things back. See if you can remember it too, dear sister.
"I'll be interested to see if you can. It was so long ago..."
"It's just so -good- to see you again... eh? Ah, there we go..."
"Hello, Aunt Corrine."
".... shizumaru.... gabrielle... juri?"
"Shizumaru! Juri! Good Unicorn and Pyricorn it's good to see you!"
An angled, spiraled staircase circling an ornately detailed column. A high, arched gateway, flanked by ornamental bars. A broad expanse of white marble, traced in red and gold tiles in the shape of a rose. A low crenelated wall circumscribing the area.
This place is familiar to me, engraved in my memories, painfully so. It is the Rose Duelling Arena.
It seems to be my destiny, somehow, to end up here, even though I hold little truck with such thoughts. I fought here to defend the honor of my siblings, to test my skills against the younger generation, to fight for what I had thought was right, even when mistaken.
I have always sought to protect the members of my family, even those whom I do not always get along with. Tylor, Ludwig, Touga, Saionji, Tess, Angus, Drake, Joan, Saionji, Meredith, Corrine, Trucido, Makoto, Cupio, Gil-Galad, Dante, Nanami, Miki and Kozue, Gideon, Derith, Walker, Utena, Finn, Wakaba, Horatio, Venir... Yes, even Darako, in the end, though my mistakes and stupidity cost us her life. I have watched their progeny grow up proudly, especially my beloved daughter Hiko, who was returned to me from Shadow...
... That can't be right. Can it? I don't -have- a daughter. Or that many siblings. Do I?
My head hurts. This doesn't make -sense-. None of it does! One moment, I know that my mother is Haruka of Amber. Another moment, Ryoko of Avalon. Both? Neither?
The one thing, the only thing that is certain to me at this point is that Corrine, daughter of Gendo and Haruka, is my sister.
And that impossibly, across the arena, stands my long-dead sister, Darako. She shouts a challenge at me, swearing to stop me.
But Brand is dead, long since dead on my blades at the Battle of the Font. And Dar even earlier, dead above the Abyss. She should not exist... and for that matter, should I?
I tell her as much, my hand already on the hilt of my sword.
She doesn't listen to me. I am not surprised when she lifts her blade and charges towards me with a howled curse, the edges of Hummingbird glowing with that horrid dark radiance, fueled by her hatred.
This is how it shall be, then? Very well.
I draw Eternity's Rose, not bothering to salute, and parry Darako's blade. I try to convince her to forsake this path, but she does not listen. She never listened. But then again, long ago, neither did I.
I am Juri, older sister of Corrine, and I will do what I need to do to get my sister back. All of her.
"Dammit, don't want to -die-... not AGAIN...."
"Nor do I, 'Darako'."
"Here, have some of my special ginger mint tea. It's very relaxing."
"Thank you, Tess ..."
... Juri just -vanished- ...
... Could it be that she was right?
My existence is NOT a lie! I am NOT a fucking figment of that sop Corrine's broken brain! I damn well DO remember who I am and what I do!
I am Darako, the daughter of the King Without a Name!
I was born in Avalon, the Rose of All The Worlds!
I go where I want to, I do what I need to, and NOBODY tells me that I can't exist, not even TESS!
Magic. -That's- what it's gotta be. Whatever the hell Juri drank, it sure the fucking hell wasn't -tea-. And I'm NOT about to let TESS try to do me in! Even if she IS my mother!
Hummingbird. Hummingbird won't fail me. This is MY blade, NOBODY else's! It did in Juri once before, dammit...
... I think...
Dammit, she -didn't- kill me! I Killed HER! When that bitch Corrine interrupted us!
'For My Own Good'? Bullshit! What sort of crap is THAT? I thought she -wanted- me around, the way she was talking! Well, gee, I'm HERE, and now they try to get RID of me??
Fuck this metaphysical shit!
I am NOT a memory! I remember who the hell my siblings are: Ludwig, Angus, Joan, Meredith, Trucido, Cupio, Dante, Gideon, Walker, Finn, Horatio, Venir, and damn the lot of 'em!
I remember Avalon!
I remember Avalon Port, I remember The Hound, I remember Citadel Avalon!
I remember the Duel Called Revolution at the edge of the Abyss!
WHY THE FUCK CAN'T I REMEMBER? WHAT DID YOU *DO* TO ME, TESS??
That's it. No more shitting around. I'm going to put an end to this. Whoever the hell this is, she can't be Tess. She's not my mother, *either* of them!
I don't care what you say, bitch! I'm gonna see your body on Hummingbird's blade!
I don't need saving, I can damn well save myself!
I know who I am, and NOBODY can tell me otherwise!
I am the agent of the King Without a Name!
I AM DARAKO OF AVALON!
"I'm sorry, Darako. I've failed you again."
"You musn't, Dar. Not Tess. Not your mother."
"She's NOT MY Mother! My Mother's... RAAAGHHHH!"
"The law of the Table..."
"No... Tess, no... why couldn't... just once... couldn't we all live, just once?
"Goddamnit. Why couldn't things be different, just once?
"Even... even just in a dream...
"Just once... can't it all be okay?"
"It is different. Because this time, you didn't kill each other. Darako. It's time for you to sleep."
It is not often that I put pen to paper immediately after a crisis. I generally save my narratives of major events in my life for after the experiences have passed, so that I can gather my thoughts and summarize them fully with the clarity of hindsight. But this latest occurance practically -demands- that I take the time to write.
I nearly died today. For all intents and purposes, I would have, had it not been for the last minute intervention of my family. I am trying not to dwell on this fact, but it is difficult not to, given the circumstances.
What is frightening is that I have no recollection of the events that led up to it. Only that which has been told to me by Juri, Shizumaru, my daughter, and the rest. And without the memories... how can one learn from one's mistakes?
Gabrielle tells me that my body is now filled with higher-order Pattern energy laced with Fire signature, coded into my cells at a molecular level. In effect, I am now permanently bonded to the Fire Pattern that I repaired, making me a form of conduit. This is why the Wood Pattern tried to kill me, according to Shizumaru's description.
After all, Fire burns Wood, and the Patterns are not stupid. If they can create the Pattern Knights and Pattern Ghosts to protect themselves, they can certainly take even more drastic measures to ensure their survival.
Why didn't I realize this before? Was I just in denial of the full ramifications of what I had accomplished in Ember? A faint hope that given the crisis across the land that even the Patterns would realize that the dominance games of the Elements were stupid? Or was it hubris, a desire to prove to the Universe that none could dominate me, not even the Patterns?
I do not know, completely, and I doubt that I ever will. I have no memory of walking the Wood Pattern, or even its location. On reflection, it is likely a very good thing that I do not, so as to prevent this incedent from happening ever again. All that remains is the imprint, according to my daughter, and the experiences seen by my family as they repaired what they could of my fractured psyche.
If it were not for Juri filling me in on the past two month's events in Amber and at the Keep, and the notes on my desk written in my own hand, I could almost delude myself that no time had passed at all since my last Pattern walk in Ember after repairing my daughter.
But I cannot. And I am left with a hollow feeling, with information learned second hand, with knowledge of occurances and no original emotional associations linked to them.
However, there is one thing I am certain of. I will not deny it.
I am Corrine.
Mem"o*ry (?), n.; pl. Memories (#). [OE. memorie, OF. memoire, memorie, F. me'moire, L. memoria, fr. memor mindful; cf. mora delay. Cf. Demur, Martyr, Memoir, Remember.]
- The faculty of the mind by which it retains the knowledge of previous thoughts, impressions, or events.
- The reach and positiveness with which a person can remember; the strength and trustworthiness of one's power to reach and represent or to recall the past; as, his memory was never wrong.
- The actual and distinct retention and recognition of past ideas in the mind; remembrance; as, in memory of youth; memories of foreign lands.
- The time within which past events can be or are remembered; as, within the memory of man.
- Something, or an aggregate of things, remembered; hence, character, conduct, etc., as preserved in remembrance, history, or tradition; posthumous fame; as, the war became only a memory.
- A memorial. [Obs.]
--- Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
(G & C. Merriam Co., 1913, edited by Noah Porter), page 911
Corrine, Princess of Amber, created and played by Philip Moyer
Darako, Princess of Avalon, created by Mike Loader, played by Philip Moyer
Juri, Princess of Avalon, adapted and played by Alan Harnum
Tess, Princess of Avalon, created by Mike Loader, played by John Biles
Shizumaru, Prince of Amber, adapted and played by Andrew Huang
Nagisa, Prince of Amber, adapted by Ron Cordova, played by John Biles
Disclaimer: This story was inspired by events on 3/9/01 and 3/10/01 in the "Through A Mirror Darkly" Amber DRPG campaign conceptualized, designed, and Game Mastered by John Biles, 2000-2001. No money is being made from this story. It is copyrighted to Philip J. Moyer, 2001.