Or The World May Die
Steed's Tale - "Or The World May Die"
Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Jo Ann Spencer during Ambercon XII, 2001.
The title of the game is taken from a poem found near the start of the first volume of Stephen R. Donaldson's "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant."
Cast of Characters (in alphabetical order):
Bran, orphan - Michael Trout
Jinx (Jordan Mackenzie Reagan), daughter of Bleys – Deb Atwood
Keldian, son of Julia and Jurt – Scott Olson
Ruther, parentage is unknown – Sean Thompson
Steed, son of Flora - Cal Westray
Sylvie, daughter of Eric – Carla Arnoldi
Personal History Time Line:
"Something there is in beauty which grows in the soul of the beholder like a flower
Fragile – for many are the blights which may waste the beauty or the beholder,
And imperishable – for the beauty may die, or the beholder may die,
but the soul in which the flower grows Survives."
Stephen R. Donaldson, "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant"
Character Trumps and Descriptions:
Name:BRAN Physical Age: 12 Amber Age: ??
Height: 5'2" Weight: 87 lbs. Hair: dark blonde Eyes: frosty blue
Description: "A mess of unruly dark blonde curly hair, below a cap and on top of a skinny wisp of a boy, not quite in his teens. Bright, frosty blue eyes behind large and thick glasses, on a pale, freckled face. Dressed in an odd mixture of light blue military trousers, with a wide yellow stripe on each side and a green stable belt; a red and white striped shirt; and blue and white athletic shoes. A little unkempt and dirty, like he had been playing outside, or, more likely, involved in some adventure of his own. And he held a ring-and-pommel sword in one hand and a blue and silver scabbard in the other."
Speech: If Thari, as spoken at the Court of Amber, is considered equivalent to the Queen's English, then Bran speaks Thari as English is spoken by boys from the Bogside of Derry in Northern Ireland.
Handicap: Significantly nearsighted in Amber and most other Shadows
Birthplace: unknown Birth date: unknown Parents: unknown; does not remember ever having parents and considers himself an orphan. Home Atmosphere: "Grew up" in the gutter — in the streets and army camps of various Shadows.
Jordan has only been known in Amber for about a year or so, and for a part of that she wasn't there. Bleys brought her to Amber to walk the Pattern, and immediately upon doing so, she promptly disappeared. She returned some time later, seeming somewhat chastened and occasionally prone to bouts of wistful silence.
Jordan has a very artless charm. She is pale and willowy, with long blond hair streaming down her back and big blue eyes. She can be sweet, and very effervescent. Despite occasional arguments with Bleys (she is VERY stubborn) she obviously adores her Daddy. But then, she is also still young, perhaps around 17, maybe 18. She is strong willed, and loathes being called by any title. She will tolerate Miss Jordan, but prefers simply Jordan, or better yet, Jinx.
Everyone knows that she has explored the castle thoroughly in her time there, as well as the grounds. She hasn't ventured out into Shadow much since her return. She spends some of her time in the library, curled up in a window seat, reading.
She is impatient, stubborn, strong-willed (wait, I already said that... but some of it deserves saying twice *grins*). She leaps before looking.
A young man approaches you. You recognize him, even if you have never met him.
"Good day to you," he says with a slight smile.
Aelric is about 5 feet, 11 inches tall with brown hair, blue eyes and a moderate build. He likes to know a little about everything, and can hold a conversation when it suits him. Once the "Knight in Shining Armor", he saved his Shadow from a demonic invasion. To reach the demon for the final battle, Aelric crossed an odd looking Pentagram inscribed on the floor. After the defeat of Diablo, the people raised him as a hero. He ruled as Regent of Sanctuary until the recovered and young Prince Albrecht was of age. He became an advisor to King Albrecht. He was eventually sought by Julian, who brought him to Amber. To test that he was of the blood, he walked the Pattern. He was kept a secret during the Corwin rebellions, and was recognized formally as the son of Caine after Random had taken the throne. Befriending Martin, Aelric had small interactions with King Random, who learned of his skills as a diplomat and advisor. Aelric accepted a position as an Ambassador to several Golden Circle nations, and reports on Amber's interests in the Golden Circle to King Random. He is generally a nice guy, though you may have heard him once or twice speak an ill word against Chaos. While he is not a fanatic on the subject, there is certainly distrust of things Chaosian.
Keldian of Sorrenfell:
Keldian is known to be the son of Prince Jurt of Sorrenfell and his wife Lady Julia. He is, of course, a child of Chaos. He seems to have inherited a lot of his looks from his mother, although his height could have come from either side of the family. In his most common human form, he's about 5'11", has dark hair (sometimes it's brown, sometimes it's black), and he usually has bluish-green eyes (though he has been known to experiment with this, too). In this form, he usually weighs around 180 pounds. On the ring finger of his right hand, he wears a blue crystalline ring, and he commonly wears a lightweight rapier on his left hip.
In the last several years, he has spent some time in Amber, as part of a diplomatic delegation from Chaos (nepotism & his memory got him the post), so he's not totally unfamiliar with those of Amber and they have had a chance to encounter him. Diplomacy may not be his ultimate calling, but he's low-key enough (and was uninvolved in previous unpleasantness) that it worked quite well. House Sorrenfell is a spin-off from House Sawall, that Jurt spun off from his House of birth. It is allied with Sawall, but separate at this point in time.
When he awoke and left his storage box, he was wearing an ensemble of brown, dark red, and white, the House colors of House Sorrenfell.
Ruther arrived to Amber out of Arden, with a story of a dark, masked rider on a strange horse that yelled something about his "fortune" and "birthright", then led a chase through land that broke apart and got put back together at the same time. The stranger left him there at the edge with the warning that this was his "final obedience" to Ruther's father, and promptly left. Soon after he arrived, Ruther walked the pattern, and received a set of trumps. He spends most of his time in the city, regaling the people with stories of his exploits and hearing all about his extended family and the politics of the realms.
His build is lean, but not spare, and his sandy-blonde hair often falls just over piercing blue eyes that have stood witness to over a thousand years of Shadow. If the Earth Shadow that Ruther grew up in was similar to the one Corwin spent so much time, then he was born sometime around their year 850 a.c.e., in a place of cold climate, huge men and a culture built on the warrior spirit (AKA, Vikings). Over time he has constantly tried to find the good life for himself. Lavish comfort, Constant attention, adulation of the populace, that sort of thing. Every time, though; something gets in the way and the whole scheme falls apart. "The Big Score" always seemed to elude his grasp. I'll leave the details of his exploits to play, but there have been a lot of tries.
He is still a bit crude at times, as if human customs and manners are ill-fitting garments with which he is well familiar. His touchstone in Amber, though, is with the beasts that inhabit it. The horses, Julian's Hounds, and the dogs and cats of the city are his favorite companions. He has fought in too many wars to count, and he thinks another is on the way. There may not be that many to stand against whatever is coming, but he can be counted on to be on the front lines. Ruther is finally Home, with a family he is just getting to know. he won't let anything take it away so soon after he's found it.
Sylvie is a petite, slim girl. Pale faced with jet black hair, cropped short. Heart shaped face and big blue eyes. She has scars on her wrists from an attempted suicide. She walked the Pattern with these scars and therefore they are a part of her genetic make-up. She seems proud of the scars and often absentmindedly runs her fingers across them.
Nothing lasts forever. But when everything you know is gone, how do you begin again? A shared-world adventure for six young Amberites and Chaosians. Heavy on the angst and Merlin Chronicle references. Warning: Power junkies may find themselves in a lot of trouble!
The setting is post-Merlin Chronicles. The events of the short stories have not taken place. Random and Merlin are Kings of their respective realms. Amber and Chaos have been on cordial terms for some time, and there has been ample opportunity for Amberites and Chaosians to mingle peacefully.
Everything has been great, in fact, except for the gradual increase in frequency and severity of the Shadow Storms. For the past year (Amber time,) they seem to have been growing worse and worse, and no one has proposed any workable explanations or solutions. Lord Mandor and Princess Fiona had announced their intentions to conduct a joint study of the problem, and neither has been seen or heard from in several months; they have not been answering their Trumps. This has been generally dismissed as either an irresistible scientific opportunity or a long-overdue romantic interlude, on the part of two individuals eminently capable of taking care of themselves. (In other words, nobody's been too worried about it.)
Within the past few weeks, several Golden Circle Shadows, as well as members of Chaos' Black Zone, have complained of increasingly severe and strange weather causing delays and damage along their major trade routes through the Shadows. Over the past few days, members of both Courts (including Prince Bleys in Amber and Grand Master Suhuy in Chaos, among others) have been noticeably absent from their usual routines. Rumor has it that Lady Jasra has also shut the doors to the Keep of the Four Worlds to all visitors and has not been heard from since. Any PC's who keep personal Shadows far out from the "poles" will have noticed that the weather has been terrible there lately--hurricane-season terrible if you have no particular environmental controls in place, but bad even if you do.
Earlier today, on opposite ends of reality, Kings Random and Merlin abruptly and without explanation cancelled all of their appointments until further notice, leaving strict instructions that they were not to be disturbed for any reason. Whether they are currently in residence at Castle Amber or Thelbane, no one has had the temerity to investigate just yet. The weather in Amber has been overcast and drizzly; in Chaos the environment has been more than usually, well, chaotic. The general atmosphere in both Courts has been one of uneasiness and foreboding. Princess Florimel has even called off a much-anticipated party due to multiple cancellations. So it "must" be serious...
The top of the side panel has a release lever, which I pull and the side panel falls downward. I slide out and get to my feet. It takes a bit to get steady. That would indicate that I have been out of it for some time. I'm in my normal clothes and have my traveling possessions. Moving around restores circulation and warmth. I feel alright, but some coffee would be heavenly. I survey the surroundings and wonder what has transpired. This chamber that I am in appears to be a mausoleum. There appears to be a lot of coffins, like the one I was in. And I'm the first to rise. The coffins are surprisingly dust free.
Having a strange thought, I do a quick check on my vitals. My body is warming, I 'do' have a pulse, and I can 'see' my reflection on the metal of the coffin. That is good, I am apparently alive - not something rising from the dead. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not overly religious, but if this the resurrection, I'm not impressed. Using my brolly, I start tapping on the glass sides of the coffins. "Rise and shine, this is your wake up call."
I hear a panel open and a body falls from an upper level. I recognize Jinx's voice letting out a brief profanity. Young Bran emerges next, followed by Aelric, Ruther, Sylvie, and Keldian.
Jinx tries a Trump but it doesn't work for her.
We check on the coffins of those who haven't emerged. Ivar, a son of Julian, looked badly beaten, so we left him suspended in the cocoon.
Martin, the son of King Random, slides out. Others emerge from their coffins: Despil Sawall, Gilva Hendrake, and Garen Hendrake. Amberites and Chaosians, very interesting. Some are not emerging from their slumber, so I check one out. Where my coffin was cold, this was warm and there is very little left of the occupant. Decomposition occurred a long time ago. How long ago is a detail that I'm afraid will give little comfort. There are no name plates on any of the coffins and we can only guess the identity of the occupant, based upon possessions. Their appearance, well I already covered that. There are as many more dead bodies here than live ones. I should consider myself fortunate, for as long as there is life - there is hope.
I overheard Despil say to Keldian, "Don't look," while walking hastily away from one of the "coffins" near his own and looking rather ill. This suggests that it contained the remains of either Jurt or Julia.
These coffins appear to be some sort of cryogenic sleep chambers. There is no mechanism involved, so it must be maintained by magical spells. The spells failed on the chambers of the poor unfortunate ones. I never learned spell casting, for the same reason I don't like depending upon fire arms. Unreliable when you need them and there was no guarantee they would work everywhere.
What happened and why are we here? The last thing I remember was... oh yes, sampling a splendid brandy in the castle Library. I was reading a splendid novel. One of many I brought from Shadow Earth. This one was an amusing little tale, written by a chap called Pratchett. Well, I was amused at the exploits of this Rincewind fellow (perhaps it was the brandy) and someone Trumped me. I don't know who it was, but I was unable to block it. Then nothing!
Rather rude of them, I guess I'll never know how the novel turns out. Back to the present, in the center of the chamber is a white stone pedestal with no markings.
There appears to be only one door to the place. Opening it reveals a smaller chamber like this one, with many small coffins. Inside are babies. However, only three of the occupants are viable (to put it delicately). It is a terribly sad and grisly scene. My chest tightens and my eyes fog, as I witness the dashed hopes of many parents that their infants would survive this. I push it aside for now, there is work to do. The remaining children 'will' be cared for. And we agree to leave them there, suspended like Ivar, until we get this sorted out.
A door on the far end of this chamber opens into a vast chamber filled with wooden cases. They are labeled with their contents: food, water, clothing, tools, and items too numerous to mention. An inventory list may be around somewhere. There is only one other door and it looks like an airlock. It appears that we are in some sort of bomb shelter, not at all a pleasant thought. No one is in a particular hurry to check the outside to see if it is safe to explore.
Aelric examined the spells that kept us suspended and determined that Fiona and Mandor had cast them. I examine the pedestal to see if there are markings or openings. When it is touched, a holographic image of Fiona and Mandor is displayed. They look completely exhausted and they speak to us.
Fiona speaks. "To whomever receives this message, we are aware that this is an unconscionable violation of your rights. The time and circumstances did not permit otherwise. You are no doubt confused and angry and we will try to explain our actions. You are aware that we have been studying Corwin's Pattern since it was created. At the time, Corwin was unaware that Oberon was successful at repairing the Pattern - and he did what he thought was necessary. There was no malice involved, only the desire to preserve of the realm. Order was restored, but now another Power exists. There has been balance between the Powers for quite some time, but Corwin's Pattern is causing instability. Everyone ignored the potential threat - even the Powers themselves. Until it was too late. The instability is spreading and soon Primal Chaos will envelope everything. We will try to preserve what we can. The structure you are in will protect you until you are able to emerge and rebuild reality."
Fiona pauses to think and Mandor continues. "We would have been gentler about it if we could. Everything that we and others could conceive of to halt the threat has been tried, and failed. We cannot predict how much time must pass, or how many of those we have gathered here will survive until the conditions without have calmed sufficiently to permit your revival. And we do not, in all honesty, know that you will awaken to a situation which is any better than that which you would have faced here, in this time. It is a chance we feel compelled to take. If you have lived to see this message, the spells we have laid upon this shelter should be sufficient to protect you, so long as they remain undisturbed. Exercise extreme caution before exiting the shelter."
A note of finality in Fiona's voice and Mandor's features harden in resolution. "May whatever Powers exist beyond the scope of our understanding watch over you, and preserve you to a future worth living for. Farewell."
This is it then. All that remain is within this shelter. A hard pill to swallow. Now we must find out what is outside and if we can rebuild anything.
We decide to see what power is available to us. I try to bring the Pattern to mind and it isn't there. I am Pattern blind! It no longer exists! I learn that the Logrus users have the same situation. Shape shifters can still shape shift. Trumps work - for those who still live. Some place Trumps still function - somewhat. Trumps of 'inside' Castle Amber, 'inside' some Chaos houses, and the Unicorn Grove still work. They may still exist in some way - that doesn't guarantee that the place is safe, just that it still exists. Magic still works - it is the only thing that has saved us so far. How many hundreds or thousands of years has passed during our slumber? Is there anyone still out there somewhere? The only way we will find out is to get out of here.
We get organized into teams. Keldian and Jinx are working on building an airlock, so we can check outside without risking anyone else inside. Bran and Ruther organize a group to sort through the storage cases for what supplies are available for food and material for the airlock. Aelric is using magic to detect magical items among the dead bodies. We need all the resources we can get, and the deceased are no longer in need of their possessions. That leaves Sylvie and me to dismantle the coffins. The plexi-glass and metal sides can be used to make the airlock itself.
It is all very tedious work that takes many hours. The empty coffins are used first. We carry them out to the warehouse area to be dismantled there. When the only ones left are occupied, we used our discretion on how to handle the remains. Typically, they were 'shared'. Beyond that, you 'don't' want to know more. The coffin that Despil told Keldian not to look at 'did' contain the remains of Jurt, or at least an indication of a male body. Either would have been traumatic. None of the coffins contained any Elders. So, I am glad that I didn't find the remains of my mother Flora.
I have dealt with dead bodies before - for many years. Some that I was even responsible for. Death is part of the job of living, but I don't dwell on it. Very unpleasant business, death.
I only mention this because of the person helping me dismantle the coffins, Sylvie. An attractive enough young lady - if she tried. I always try to understand the younger generation - because we can always learn from each other. But with Sylvie, she... troubles me. How can I put this without being acutely judgmental? She is a conflicting example of bored and misguided youth in an overly permissive family and society. Her Amberite parent, Eric, should have spent more time with her. I know what Eric and Flora was doing over the last century, but he could have had Flora work with her. Mother would have 'found' a nurturing influence. I grin inwardly at that bit of humor. Let's face it, few Amberites have done a good job at parenting. That's what nannies are for.
While talking with her, I sense that Sylvie loves the environment but hates humanity. She wants the Garden of Eden but without Adam and Eve. She is self-destructive - because the scars on her wrist are testament to a low self esteem and to self loathing. What could cause such a personality has always been a mystery to me. Sylvie also has a fascination with death - more interested in the dead bodies we find in the coffins than the survivors among her. The others seem to distance themselves from her because of her views and attitude. On Shadow Earth, she would possibly be classified as a Goth eco-terrorist. She is probably a vegan to boot. I shudder inwardly at that.
The results of our combined searching netted us glues and duct tape for sealing the airlock. Adequate but not fool-proof, but we will take our chances. Aelric found Werewindle, Rinaldo's Pattern blade; among the remains of King Rinaldo, of Kashfa. The Pattern etching was blackened - signifying what we already guessed - the Pattern is no more. There is plenty of magically preserved food, mostly Spam-like products and plenty of drinking water. There are plenty of Haz-Mat suits, in case the environment outside is toxic.
In addition to the glue and duct tape, as the airlock was being built, Keldian and some of the others with Sorcery studied the magical seals put on the outside door. They were able to create a passable imitation of the magical seals, with which to reinforce the inner one and we finally have a completed airlock. Large enough to hold three people, Gilva, Sylvie, and Keldian volunteer to wear the Haz-Mat suits and test the outside. Keldian casts environmental protective spells on the suits to make them better suited for dangerous conditions. We can observe through the plexi-glass what happens. We are also in Trump contact with them, in case they need to be pulled back in. They open the massive air-lock door and step through. There is no decompression due to vacuum, a good sign.
There is a force field surrounding the structure we occupy. Beyond it is Primal Chaos; pinkish, cloudy, and deadly. At the two poles of our confinement are large pillars where the magic is channeled and maintained. One pillar has two skeletons: one horned equine and one smallish human. (we surmise the Unicorn and Fiona) The other pillar has two skeletons: one serpentine and one larger human. (we surmise the Serpent and Mandor) Between them they spelled and maintained the force field until they died from exposure to Primal Chaos.
Eager to check the outside environment, they take off the Haz-Mat suits and find the atmosphere within the force field is suitable.
The Hendrakes, Gilva and Garion, are anxious to determine the condition of Chaos, they all don Haz-Mat suits and Trump to Chaos. Many of us are as interested in the condition of Amber. Keldian maintains Trump contact with Aelric and Jinx as they suit up and Trump to Amber. The air lock is removed so we can examine the outside better.
I suit up and have Keldian secure it with a spell. I join Trump contact and have Jinx pull me through to Castle Amber. They have discovered that Castle Amber is protected with a force field, like our structure is. One can assume that Chaos is protected as well.
Keldian and Jinx keeps my Trump handy. I want to do some exploring myself, but it involves the Pattern Room. It took a considerable amount of time to get to the bottom, but I got there, found the badly rusted key, and pulled opened the rotted oak doors. Nearly everything wooden was rotted badly. The castle needs some serious repairs. Inside is the Pattern. But now it is only a blackened marking on the floor. There is an occasional spot of blue flame, barely visible in the dark chamber. The feeling within me is as cold and dead as the Pattern itself. What are we going to do to rebuild the universe and hold Primal Chaos at bay?
I came to the realization, as have others, that we are have our jobs cut out for us. We must somehow rebuild our world. It begins with locating an item that will help us. The Jewel of Judgment! I have a slight attunement to it but I haven't tried it yet. This seems to be the right time, so... I close my eyes and envision the ruby Jewel in my mind. The three dimensional Pattern within it's facets, Dworkin drew the Pattern with it and Corwin drew his Pattern with it. I reach out my awareness. Is it in the castle? No. So, I extend my awareness further, further, further. Far away from here, I sense it, but it isn't 'exactly' the same as I recall. But it is there. I need to travel far from here to find it. We have a 'chance' anyway.
I have Jinx pull me through to the castle, saving my long walk back upstairs. I tell the others what I discovered. Everyone else was as busy. Aelric and Jinx were looking through the Library and court records to find out what they could about the creation of the universe. Not just mythical documents, but actual documents from the original pages of the 'Book of the Unicorn'. I decide to accompany them as they Trump to Dworkin's quarters for other information.
We reach Dworkin's lair and find it in a shambles. There are many Trumps scattered around the room. We do a thorough search of the quarters.
Through Trump contact with Keldian and Sylvie, we learn that the Chaosians found similar documents that will be of help. They have also found an item of power; a statue of the Serpent and Unicorn entwined. The statue was found in the remains of the Cathedral of the Serpent, and had survived (along with the original pages from the 'Book of the Serpent') because it was hidden away and warded as though both very precious and never intended to see the light of day again. The pages from the 'Book of the Unicorn' were found among various documents left in the shelter, and were the standard text; but a passage referring to the Unicorn's "only offspring, Oberon," were amended "HAH!" in Dworkin's hand.
We come to the realization that we will have to work together to create a 'new' Power, thus creating the universe again. We need to merge the statue with our Jewel, once we find it.
One of the Trumps gets my attention. It looks like the Unicorn Grove, but a bit different than the one I have. As I look at it, it feels like the Grove, it 'sings' to me - summoning me. We activate it and step through. The Grove is there, very different over time and protected as well with a magical force field holding back Primal Chaos. I extend my awareness and sense the Jewel beyond the hill.
Like using a divination rod, I use my awareness to follow the Jewel's energies until I indicate the location to dig. Jinx shape shifts to a dog form and begins digging. Aelric steps back in shock, obviously not comfortable around a shape shifter and not being aware of Jinx's talent. Jinx gives out a canine-like laugh, continuing to dig. I help dig, using my steel lined bowler. Eventually we reach a glowing spot within the soil. The glowing area has red and green lines swirling over the surface, seemingly alive. The closer I get, the more I feel the last vestiges of Pattern and Jewel energy leaving me. We try to dig around it so we can pull it out. However, it is too big to dig out. I try to pull on it and upon touching it, I receive a severe shock that knocks me on my backside. The glowing swirls include more green lines than before. I am stunned, but I realize that the 'last' of the Pattern energies have left me. My companions and I discuss it.
If this huge stone is the Jewel of Judgment, it has changed considerably. We can't bring the Jewel to them, so they must bring the statue here.
Aelric mentions that passages in some documents infer that all Powers must be purged for this joining to become triggered. Aelric touches it, gets zapped, and more green lines appear. We agree that everyone must follow suit before the two items of Power are joined.
We bring the Chaosians to us and explain the situation. As each person touches the stone, the last of the Logrus energies are removed from them and more reddish lines appear - restoring the balance of the swirling colors. Ivar was removed from his coffin and carried over to touch the stone to remove his last traces of Pattern. He will probably be alright, but others will look after him to see that he gets any treatment he needs.
Soon all arrive to touch the stone. Some are very hesitant but are finally convinced to follow suit. The last is Bran, who has surprised us all by aging from 12 years to a young adult. The eternal youth that Bran seemed to have, has ended with the removal of Pattern.
Everyone steps back, then Keldian puts the statue on the stone and steps back. Some tremors first, then the stone rumbles closer to the surface, and the swirling designs shift and merge. The statue has disappeared into the stone. A crack appears in the stone and a fountain of flames shoot from the fissure. A large bird, a Phoenix emerges from the cocoon - displaying a myriad of shades in: yellow, orange, and red. It's red eyes indicate a decendency from the Serpent of Chaos. With the colors of a living flame, it preens itself as its wings dry. It squawks but seems at ease and pleasant around us. I got the impression that the Phoenix was feminine, with the same personality of the Unicorn. I found that I genuinely 'liked' this being. Hypnotized by her presence, we are trying not to spook her. We discuss backing away from the scene to leave the Phoenix alone. But Jinx is transfixed by the vision of the Phoenix. She steps back a pace and the Phoenix approaches Jinx and rests her head on Jinx's shoulder and nudging as if to stay. So, Jinx became the 'favored' of the Phoenix. We keep our places and observe the rest that is to occur. The Phoenix seems pleased and returns her attention to the stone.
More rumbling occurs. The cocoon continues to expand, but darkens this time. From a crack in the shell, a jet-black male Wolf emerges. He surveys the area and takes notice of us with suspicion. The Wolf reacts to us with distrust in its intense emerald green eyes, indicating a decendency from the Unicorn. However, the eyes have a venomous and malevolent cast quite unlike Hers.
Keldian holds his hand out for the Wolf to sniff. He seems standoffish as if considering his actions; slowly approaching Keldian and watching us all very cautiously.
Sylvie is attracted to the Wolf and approaches it slowly from behind to touch him. She is within arms reach of the Wolf. Surprised, he threateningly turns on her to attack.
The Phoenix senses the danger, becomes increasingly protective of us, and leaps in to block the Wolf from attacking Sylvie.
What happened next surprised us all. The Phoenix rises and engages the Wolf, in pitched combat. Sylvie screams "Noooo!" She doesn't want the Phoenix to attack the Wolf.
The attack is vicious and bloody. Thus intertwined, they roll around the grassy field, spilling each other's blood. The impression I got was that there was no deliberate attempt on their part to create anything; they were fighting because they disliked each other, or rather, because their natures were in fundamental opposition.
However, wherever they roll, the grass burns away and is replaced by a golden trail. The interstices in the design are made by the blood they shed - the Phoenix's like liquid fire and the Wolf's like black acid. The design they create is nothing like the Pattern or the Logrus. It is an ornate interwoven golden ribbon of Power. When they stop their Dance of Power, they separate and fall aside in exhaustion, a safe distance from each other.
We look with fascination at the design they created. There doesn't appear to be any starting point or ending point. The lines overlay each other in many places. We consider attempting this design, but uncertain how. Sylvie runs out, steps on the design, and walks, without a thought about how to do it. It appears that there is no problem with it, energy crackles around her and she doesn't appear to be fighting much resistance.
The Phoenix seemed excited and curious about the golden design. Jinx looks at the Phoenix, the question in her mind. The Phoenix squawks approvingly. So, Jinx steps on the golden line and begins her Dance along the tracery. We watch, intrigued by the process. Soon, all of us are approaching to take our turn in the Dance.
The Wolf eyes the Dance, sneezes with disgust, and turns to leave. He snarls at us, as he departs. Sylvie steps off the Dance and follows the Wolf into Shadow. Sylvie's decision is confusing, since the Wolf tried to attack her and the Phoenix tried to protect her. She still chose the Wolf over the Phoenix.
I followed Jinx, eager to learn its secrets and Power. Where to begin or end didn't matter. Each combination of curves, lines, and intersections have different sensations and potential. Golden sparks climb our legs and outline our bodies. There 'is' a certain resistance when walking it, but it's different from the Pattern; the adversarial quality - the sense that it's almost trying to stop me - isn't there. So, we can walk it as long as we want. I am guessing that the Dance provides the same abilities and accomplishes the same ends that the Pattern or Logrus did. So, I gave it a lot of thought as I walked the golden path.
I sense possibilities! My missing Pattern senses are replaced with the new Powers of the Dance. I focused my thoughts on a new beginning, a new world with a new home. The old Amber was no longer suitable, and we needed a new home. I envisioned a new Castle nearby; as large as the old one but with many differences. It was time for a style change, warmer and less foreboding; so a Tudor Manor came to mind and it felt exactly right. The Manor is designed from Flora's and my home in England, it has many rooms and many wings for a growing new family. The Manor would be staffed with the most capable and reliable people in Shadow.
The placement of the Manor didn't matter, it just formed and pushed the Primal Chaos back. Further and further it retreated. Replaced with this new and very 'real' place.
A vast nursery would be needed, near the main quarters on the upper levels. There are many windows around the Manor to give a beautiful view of the lush gardens and stables that surround it. There is no need for mountains, so it is surrounded by rolling plains. To the back of the Manor is a forest that rivals Arden, but is more inviting and lush. To the sides are gardens and farmland, to provide food for the residents and animals that occupy the land. The stables are occupied with a wide selection of horses, my stables are stocked with Andalusians. It wouldn't seem right without them. The front of the Manor has a road that leads to the new town, because we need people of Shadow to maintain our new home.
Satisfied with my progress, I move outwards, driving the Primal Chaos back further, and envision the Shadows I visited before. I thought of Shadow Earth, 'my' Shadow Earth. Without change as I last visited it. Well, perhaps some things can be improved upon. I did what I could to improve the environment and the lives of the inhabitants. There is so much potential there and there is still time to accomplish so much. All the while Primal Chaos was forced back. I could sense that my effort was joined by others; as they create their own Shadows, they also force back the Primal Chaos further and further.
I felt my Power growing within me during the Dance and I'm becoming physically tired but I'm also energized! Like I have caught the mother of all second winds. I want to recover my lost Power and thought of what I wanted, for myself. My Pattern abilities I had before are now altered to those of the Power of the Dance. I feel that I have reached a higher attunement than I would have thought possible, higher than I had by walking the Pattern before. Possibly because I was one of the first to walk it. If I am correct, Sylvie and Jinx will have a higher attunement as well. Later, I will have to experiment with the limits of the Power of the Dance.
First, I want to be able to Teleport as before. Confident and eager to try it, I concentrate upon my Manor, 'our' Manor. Through a golden fire, and still on the Dance, I step through the glow. And I appear on the front steps of the Manor. I look around and notice a subtle shifting in my perceptions; colors seem more intense, sounds have more resonance, and everything seems just a shade more 'real' than it did before.
From this new perspective, the view of the Manor is breathtaking. Enormous and very beautiful, this is our new home. I look around, taking in the wonder of it. I enter the halls and see the architecture, freshly built and cleaned to where everything shined. Polished wood, marble, glass, and steel are the building material used. Portraits, mirrors, statuary, and flowers decorate the main hall and stairs; the portraits once decorated Castle Amber. This will be our new home and I smile at all that I had accomplished.
Eager to get started, I Trumped Jinx at the Grove of the Phoenix. The Chaosians left to visit their new Chaos. I am certain that they forced back the Primal Chaos on their end of reality as well. Jinx stepped through and joined me. Jinx was pleased with the arrangements and asked me where the Dance was reflected in the Manor. "There should be a reflection of the Dance within the Manor - just like the Pattern in Castle Amber was a reflection of the Primal Pattern." It made perfect sense.
I told her that I hadn't given it a thought, but it 'must' have been included. So, we looked in the same area that the stairs 'should' be and found them easily. However, the stairs to the Manor's Dance was very short. The Dance was in a huge basement and very accessible, not in the deep dungeons, like the Pattern was. Its color was pleasing, a coppery reddish-gold.
Jinx was excited and made mental contact with the Phoenix. She was overwhelmed at the mental backlash from the Phoenix, but was OK. I learned from her that the Phoenix was excited and came to the Manor, roosting on the roof of the Manor. She was pleased with her view of the new realm and I was pleased that I made it possible.
So all was good.
I Trumped Aelric, Keldian, and Ruther. They visited the Manor and approved of it. We began making plans. I teleported us back to the Grove of the Phoenix and looked upon the Primal Dance. We now know there are at least two Dances. Have the Chaosians created their own New Chaos with its own Dance?
The others have left to do what they desired. Bran took a few possessions and wandered off into Shadow. Gone is the impish lad I remember. Appearing around nineteen and looking much like Eric. He knows his parentage and has a new sister, Sylvie. He knows how to find us when he is ready to return. He has to learn who he is as a young adult and experience the adventures he desires. I hope he finds everything he wants.
Sylvie is a different story. She became disgusted with us for changing what she attempted during her Dance. Did she create her own reality and with it her own Dance? The possibilities are infinite and she has no monopoly on this new world; as much as she wants it. I don't understand the way she thinks, but no matter - neither Sylvie or the Wolf have been seen since leaving the Dance. What will happen on her return is anyone's guess, but I don't expect a pleasant visit from her. If I am correct about higher level Dance attunement, then Sylvie could be a force to be reckoned with, as the 'first' to take the Dance.
The rest of us had our work cut out for us. First, we used Trumps to pass all the storage containers into various rooms in the Manor. The Manor staff would sort through the containers and distribute them where needed. Then we brought the babies through, still in their sleep chambers. The nannies were organized into full activity to prepare caring for them. Finally, we removed the force fields from the warehouse and gathered the remains of the guardians of the mausoleum (Fiona, Mandor, the Serpent, and the Unicorn) placing them into their own coffins. We closed off the structure for the final time as a tomb for those who fell before us. It will serve as a tomb for the rest of us when it is our time. Which I hope will be a long time from now.
The Chaosians are contacted and are told about the Manor, they are welcome in the Manor as family. They will probably join us eventually. At least we have a central common home to meet and live when we wish to. Perhaps they have a new home to share with us as well.
There was only one baby which was identified. She wore a bracelet, identifying her as Mirima, the daughter of Fiona and Mandor. She was only two months old. Aelric removed the spell that kept the babies asleep. Upon seeing the tiny beautiful baby, Mirima, he decided to adopt her as his own. The nannies hovered around Aelric and Mirima. I think he will make a wonderful father, but all his diplomatic skills will be needed to convince the nannies that (I can care for her just fine, thank you very much). Yes, they will do just fine.
Around six months old, are the other two babies: a boy with black hair and blue eyes and a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. I claimed them for myself and named them Eric and Flora. My uncle and mother should be pleased at that. We will have to learn how to feed, bathe, change, and care for the future of the realm. I think we can do it, with the nannies help. There will be many sleepless nights, but it will be worth it. One day, I will escort them on their first time on the Dance. But that is for another story.
Yes, all was good.
It is time for me to settle down and become the Guardian of the Manor. I will be the new Gérard. A form of ruler ship will be determined later. Perhaps Jinx, the favored of the Phoenix, will become the figure-head; after all, Random was chosen by the Unicorn. I would support it and my position in the realm would be relatively unchanged. I am 'comfortable' as an investigative and enforcement agent of the crown and I have no desire to sit on the throne. By the way, the crown and scepter awaits the new ruler in the Throne room. I 'borrowed' them from Castle Amber, or perhaps they came with the Manor. The how and why of it is unimportant. What is important, is that these things must be done properly.
We have a new start and I plan to make sure that all goes well. Many of my prior skills are no longer needed and it is time I served the realm in a different way. I look forward to the day when the children will look upon me as I once looked upon Gérard and other protectors of the realm.
I call out to the memory of the Elders, that we will do what we can to see that their sacrifice was not in vain. And we will do what we can to honor and continue their memory for future generations. We will become the new Elders and I sincerely hope we will not fall short in their eyes. I think kindly upon Flora, Gérard, Fiona, Mandor, and the others. Even Corwin, because he had no idea that his Pattern wasn't needed at Patternfall. Or that it would become the instrument of destruction, of the realm he so desperately tried to save. Sleep well, kinsmen, the realm will be in good hands.
Thus it was written, in the pages of the 'Book of the Phoenix', that the old world of Amber and Chaos had died; completely. In it, we wrote our memories and experiences, old and new, to pass on to future generations. The old world is now replaced with this new world, borne of the Phoenix and the Wolf. Only a handful remain to rebuild it, and that should be enough.
We will take turns visiting Shadow to re-populate the Manor with others of our blood. We have a lot of work to do, but it will be a labor of love. There is one person in Shadow, that shines like a beacon to me; and I will ride in Shadow to find her when it is my turn. A perfect mate to continue the lineage. Our children will have dark auburn hair and their eyes will be brown or steel gray. And one day, they will join the Dance with Eric and Flora. Yes, another story.
New names will be found to separate us from the old ways. The Dance instead of the Pattern and Logrus. The Manor instead of the Castle. Something else is needed to replace Amber and Chaos. Over time, something will be decided upon, perhaps England? Or perhaps not...
Afterward (from the author):
This story became very special to me for a variety of reasons. Being a grandfather for the first time was a milestone, much like being a parent for the first time.
Steed is a fantasy persona of mine and I often wondered what would ultimately happen to him and what life-changing event would cause him to decide to settle down (myself as a fantasy persona for Steed); thus coming full circle.
In my mundane life, I envision myself as a Gérard type of personality. The loving and responsible: son, brother, nephew, husband, father, uncle, and now grandfather; and (without question or doubt) the reliable and dependable influence in the realm. Without the excessive drinking, of course.
If I had the Power of the Pattern (or the Dance), I don't think I would be much different than I am - or Steed is now. With the exception of doing a bit more traveling (although teleporting would be nice), but I don't think it would change me 'too much'. I have my partner, of over twenty years, so I don't need or want to search in Shadow. So, I see this story as Steed becoming me (in his fashion).
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Thanks, Jo Ann, for helping Steed find 'me'.
I was moved so much, that the story had to be shared and continued, like the Dance...
Summary by Deb Atwood:
Our characters woke up
in a sterile cryogenic sleep environment, and discovered that we and about
6 NPCs were the only survivors of the destruction of the universe back
into Primal Chaos... the game was a wonderful mix of figuring out how to
survive, and how to create the new power to stabilize the universe once
more, as well as character interactions. Jinx (my ever cheerful and
overly loyal daughter of Bleys -- "Daddy says...") developed an
almost immediate animosity with Sylvie, the daughter of Eric with a
fascination with death (and boy was there a lot of it around for her to be
fascinated by). Then we had Aelric, who distrusted Chaosians, who
found himself with about half the group being Chaosian (and I simply can't
quote the look on his face when he realized that Jinx wasn't just an
Afterward by Jo Ann Spencer (slightly edited by the author):
Regarding Chaos, is it new, rebuilt, dusted off, or left as is? As of the end of the story, they had pretty much left everything in Chaos as they found it. When the Dance came into being, it basically grabbed the Primal Chaos for as far as anyone has cared to venture in any direction, and solidified it into new Shadows (or whatever you want to call the new reality. It may or may not be so neatly divided up into separate little worlds like the old one, that's something you'll have to work out as you go along.) So all that would really have needed to be done would be to remove the protective spells over what was left of the Chaos structures and clean up.
Of course, since each place was basically stuck on a free-floating chunk of matter amidst the Chaos, the remains of the Cathedral, the bits of Houses, and Thelbane are no longer anywhere near each other geographically... nor are they necessarily situated in convenient or habitable places. The same is true for what's left of Castle Amber and the Grove of the Unicorn. God only knows where the bomb shelter wound up in the grand scheme of things.
As far as merging Amber and Chaos; for purely practical reasons, I think the Chaosians would be pretty much amenable to a merger. It will be pointed out (most likely by the very practical Lady Gilva) that there's no telling what's out there or when the Wolf and Company might show up again. Strength in numbers and all that. There is also the matter of establishing a stable gene pool, since there's no telling how the ability to walk the Dance is passed along or what effect mixing with "Shadow" dwellers will have on future generations. In short, at least in her opinion, monogamy or straying far afield may not be the most advisable course of action at this stage of the game.
Regarding a new name; you could name them in honor of the former Elders, or other people you knew, or the colors of the rainbow, or anything you like. People being what they are, I wouldn't be too surprised if more than one classification system sprang up and competed with one another.
Regarding multiple dances; the Manor Dance is a sort of coppery reddish-gold color. Other Dances are a matter yet to be revealed; if anybody threw them into the mix when they were walking the Primal Dance, by all means, speak up. (Or not, if you prefer to keep the matter private.) Broken Dances? It's entirely possible, but I'm afraid you're just going to have to go out and look if you want to find out.
P.S. You know, I think I forgot about five minutes after the game started that Martin was one of the survivors? Poor guy must have spent the whole game frantically searching the warehouse for a saxophone and some weed, or something. Incidentally, if anyone ever bothered to revive Ivar and actually talk to him, they would have found out that he knew all about the business with the Unicorn and the Serpent and how to create the new Universe. He was my back-up plan in case I had created such an awful scenario that the PC's were left running around in circles with no idea what to do. Kudos to all you guys for not needing him.
Afterward by Scott Olson (slightly edited by the author):
Keldian's thoughts as he was Dancing and after visiting Chaos; he wasn't, unlike Steed, looking so much to `improve' or change the Chaos he'd known as he was looking to restore it, return it to life. Finding Sawall perched like an island in the new world was mildly surprising, but not something to get worked up about. Keldian would tend to agree, the fact that we're rather short on members of the female sex (and yes, some of us ARE shape shifters, and no, some of us are NOT so talented at that, that becoming women is going to work very well or stick all that long) makes it more an issue than it might otherwise be. Not to mention that there are the babies to raise. And then there's the fact that Gilva can take Keldian's head off without much thought, so I think I'll agree with her.
Regarding other Dances; Keldian was looking to see if there was one beneath Sawall, since when he was Dancing, he was thinking of returning life and power to the wreck of the Courts that he'd visited. Didn't find an entrance there, but that's not to say that there isn't one connected with the ruins that were the Courts.
Regarding Ivar, we figured he was so beat up that it was more of a kindness to let him sleep.
Author's final note:
Regarding Ivar, I agree with Scott. I was curious why he was so badly beaten, but we left him alone as more of a kindness. And he would have been more of a hindrance, like the children, until things were resolved. We would have been changing his dressings and the babies diapers instead of taking care of business. Steed is caring but very practical.
As for Martin, I'd forgotten about him very early on. He was probably going through the storage bins with Bran and Ruther. Yes, looking for weed and a saxophone. Oh yes, and munchies.
You can read Sylvie's Story to see the story from her point of view. She becomes the future adversary in this new world in alignment with the Wolf. Her story provides insight to her actions. As much as Steed (and myself) don't understand her motivations, we 'accept' her as family and 'hope' that she returns to the 'fold'. Excuse the pun.
Presently Lady Gilva is the only lady of proper breeding age and will have her choice of males to select from as suitable breeding stock (it is disturbing to think in these terms - like a queen bee). As a shape shifter, she may be capable of bearing litters at a time (also disturbing). Jinx may be ready in a few years, I'm sure that she is quite stressed out about that. Whether either women find Steed suitable to their tastes is uncertain. The male to female ratio is horribly unbalanced. So, it is critical that we protect and keep healthy at all costs, the women of the Dance. It's a pity that the follower of the Wolf was Sylvie and not one of the lads.
Steed is still planning to 'attempt' breeding with one from Shadow and seeing if such an offspring could survive the Dance. Because 'someone' will have to try it sooner or later. He also feels that he wouldn't ask anyone 'else', to do something he wouldn't do 'himself'. He most definitely 'isn't' excited about the option of male shape shifters filling that role. He isn't 'that' practical!
However, Steed would bow to the wisdom of the lovely Gilva. Especially if she was looking for volunteers...
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