A Conversation on Oracles
A Flashback in the Bariman-Sawall Pentouse, Nenton, Antheris
Fiona looks over Mandor's shoulder as he casts a private fortune one sunday morning. She tssks under her breath as she reads the cards herself despite her disdain for the practice.
Fiona says, "Dear, you know where real oracles are. Don't you think casting card auguries is just a little too cute? What would Suhay say?" chuckling at the irony.
Mandor sips the light rose wine-"yes, I do know where real oracles are. Would you care to discuss your experience sitting in the Oracle of Night? "
She flicks his ear as she storms out of the room.
Putting down his book Henry asks, "Where are real Oracles, Father?"'
Looking up, Mandor reaches for his drink and finishes it..…'Do you want the short answer or a substantial one?"
Henry considers before answering, "substantial. I'm also curious why mom is so against tarot reading"
At Mandor's silence he asks, "Want another drink?"
Mandor nods, "Yes, something substantial."
"That's a hard thing to answer.. First, you must understand that shadow and Chaos have infinite variety so any oracle can predict the future because all futures exist. But that isn't their point. so we must establish a difference between examining possibilities and soothsaying. What i do with the cards is examining the possibilities. I see the symbolism, the accords and i consider possibilities suggested by unexpected combinations of symbols and experiences. That good so far?"
"You sift through possible futures with a relation between them." Henry nods.
"Yes, the Channicut Dancer card sits next to the Hendrake Bone Warrior," Mandor explains, " symbols of ecstasy and bloody war. So i might consider the possibility of a war many people are excited to have occur. Alright?"
"Real soothsayers, as the theory in Chaos and some realms of shadows goes; once someone places themselves within the perceptive sphere of the oracle, either a person or a place, the forces looks down possible lines considering the person involved. The better the oracle, the more exact the reading. However, the same person, and the same oracle, have often yielded different results at different times. When this occurs skeptics think the soothsaying false. Others, such as myself, think it was merely looking down another likely outcome."
"The question then, is how accurate in the oracle and what is the bias of the oracle? Can the oracle look down a few possible lines or down millions of lines or look down a line for a million years? How often does the oracle pick the most likely outcome and deliver that result? And that is where your mother gets in trouble. She consulted a highly accurate True Oracle...If I go on...I foretell a frosty week for the both of us with her. Do you think that is soothsaying or experience with the principle? Shall I go on?"
Henry stands nodding, "I want to go on, but let me talk to her first."
Mandor says softly, "Hell No. Its me or no one. I'll tell you what she will say..."
Henry stops and listens to his father smiling. "Please go on."
Mandor mimics Fiona's voice perfectly, "Oracles are evil constructs designed to prey on the folly and arrogance and greed of someone stupid enough to ask them the future. Now, go move everything in your room to the bedroom in the east corner. I want to clean your rugs"
Henry smiles and shakes his head.
Mandor asks, "Think I'm wrong? Is that soothsaying?"
Henry suggests, "I would think that with a high enough mental acuity, sensitivity, psyche is it possible to get the correct future for the shadow you are in. No I don't think you're wrong."
Mandor now shakes his head, "Mental acuity is just good reasoning. Psyche and sensitivity might nudge it a little. But all futures are correct futures for any one shadows. Those won't make you a True seer."
Lighting a small cigar and taking a couple puffs.
"Now there are some regions of Shadow where time is porous. In those realms, a true soothsayer looking into the possibilities might see a nearby shadow, and expound with great accuracy. Some regions are hard as hell and the soothsayer is seeing only likely outcomes not nearby actions. In the end many of these depend on the soothsayer and the querent .
"However, there are a few Oracles who are what are called True Oracles or True Seers. These may have a connection to a construct of power; Logrus, Pattern, Mark, or such high connections. These can look down the infinite timelines of of infinite shadow and consider infinite possibilities, and knowing all about the infinite number of people involved in that vastness, all things considered, and present a nearly unavoidably accurate prediction. I'll speak of three True oracles. The Oracle of Drisna. The Oracle of Mandalay. "
He takes a big drink, refilling his glass, sipping again, "And the Oracle of Night."
Henry says, "The Oracle of Night, Mother doesn't like her I take it. The way she stormed out of the room."
Mandor asks, "Did you foresee a true oracle of that fact or do you just know your mother? The three oracles i mentioned are places, not people. There are a few True Seers i could speak of in time but for the moment lets stick to places."
"The Oracle of Mandalay was once an oracle in a world near the center of shadow in a chaos sway world called Gknfhnismznup . It was a weathery place that the querent cast his questions into the wind and had a vision of his answer. It was powerful, True, and fairly obnoxious. When Mandalay was created the realm was taken into the Green Sway. The Oracle was taken under the auspices of the mark, and the accuracy of the oracle went up astronomically... but... it told damn near everyone. It turned up in people's dreams. and splashed over people with a susceptibility to receiving these messages; prophets, soothsayers, crystal ball readers, and fortune tellers. It cast images of the visions onto walls as if they were murals. It impacted in people who could not shake the idea. Some of these later think they created the vision out of their own minds, and write them up as books, plays and movies. That's fairly annoying to the querent who might have liked it to remain a secret. That's the Oracle of Mandalay. []"
Henry got a wine bottle and filled both glasses, his with wine and his fathers with bourbon.
"Please go on. I want to visit Mandalay more now."
"The Oracle of Drisna is a True Oracle deep in Shadow near the realms of Cynsure and its thousands of intershadow pathways that existed long before the Jeweled Road. Its not a friendly place but it gives highly accurate visions. It is immersive in that you feel like you are in the prophecy as its played out. You can feel it, smell it, even taste it. While the effect varies most querents say they spent time in their prophecy. Not just hours but days, weeks, even years. Long enough to eat, drink, love, fight, and travel in the time of the conclusion of the prophecy as if the Oracle transported them to the shadow where the oracle is complete. Yet when they leave the vision no time in Drisna has past. "
"Now there are two bad things about this one. It may give you a True Vision, but afterwards as you take paths forward it nudges you to stick to the vision it fortold. One might never know its happening but the effect is unavoidable and may effect people around the querent and the shadows they travel in.. Its an invasive bitch. Second, it gives the querent a glitch. A facial tick, the inability to taste pork products, a lazy eye, farting during intercourse... Something. And the tick won't go away till the vision is achieved. That's the Oracle of Drisna.[]"
"Shall I go on?"
Henry nods, "There is a song on Earth, The Best is Yet to Come. Please go on."
He sits looking out at the morning sky over the grounds of the Anorusa Plaza in the city of Nenton, Antheris, where they raised a son. Smokey colorful fireworks over the baseball stadium go off signaling a game's beginning. He looks down at people in the hiking trails and the swimming lake. Aerial drones fly in the air lanes bringing deliveries as the day gets underway for so many people in this technological age. He takes a deep drink and sighs...
"I would not know your mother if not for the Oracle of Night."
As a Lord of Chaos and as someone in the line of succession to the High Lordship of Chaos, albeit low on the list, i have to respect the Oracle of Night and its twin realm the Tower of Grief as they sit by the Fane of Zila and the battlefield of Patternfall where Benedict defeated Chaos in a time of war."
He puffs his cigar and refills both glasses.
"What price knowledge? What price power? What price are you willing to pay for glory?"
He looks Henry square in the face.
"You might live a very long life and never truly have to face those questions or having done so, to pay the prices for them. Your mother and her brothers Brand and Bleys have done so"
He waits for Henry's reaction.
"Someday, someday soon, you may talk to your kin in Amber and they will tell you about life in the Court of Oberon. He was a cruel father in many ways but he ruled the universe as a god. Who can cast stones at him? Not even Swayvil. He held his love for his children close to his chest. I never met him, but i know there are ancient and cruel Lords of Chaos that respect him and fear him."
Another sip and a pause for effect.
"His children vied for his love. Feared its loss. Longed to stand beside him or to rule in his stead. Your aunts and uncles will all have tales of how they managed their life in his court. Your uncles Brand and Bleys and your mother sought power to gain his respect and failing that sought to replace him on The throne of Amber. They sought to set up a triumvirate with direct access to Chaos and unlimited power. The price was bloodshed and madness.. In Chaos they were shown the path to the Oracle of Night. They ascended the stairs and sat in the Seat of Seeing."
He flicks his cigar out into the air to see it scorch the security field.
"Afterwards they followed the oracle but failed along the way somewhere.. They forged a cabal, shed blood for their cause, saw Oberon distracted, opened the Black Road from Chaos, and started the war. That led to uncountable deaths in wars in nearly all shadows. That led to Patternfall and the defeat of Chaos. The fall of Brand and Deirdre to near death and damaging in the Abyss. The marring of the pattern, the damaging of Oberon in the Repair. To The Court of Queen Margot. To the kingship of Random and the creation of the primal realms of Avalon and Mandalay and the Jeweled Road."
"And Fiona tells me that neither Bleys nor her own vision are complete. If you speak to Brand in the dungeons of Amber I feel he will say the same. Fear the Oracle of Night as it stands by its twin realm the Tower of Grief. It is a font of great wisdom, a place where sadness flows from, and a True Oracle. That's the Oracle of Night. []"
Shocked, Henry is silent for a moment. He looks at his father and doesn't know what to say. He gets up, goes to find his mother, and hugs her. "I love you, mom, no matter what, and for all time."
Fiona hug back briefly, rolling her eyes humorously at her son's unusual affirmation. "What brings this on? Is your father speaking of foibles of mine he foresaw in the entrails of goats?"
Henry leans in listening. "What is it about oracles you dislike?"
She frowns, losing her, humor, "Oracles? Of all the irresponsible ...He knows how i feel.."
Standing, putting a hand on Henry's shoulder. "Its all well and good to listen to fortunetellers if you do so laughing. But too often people like us take them seriously.. When we do we create uncountable tragedies large and small. Oracles are dangerous things to put one's faith in. A carnival fortune teller in a dime store scarf is as likely to be a True Seer as are the D'donori augiers. And the carny gypsy in one shadow might be a True Seer while her shadow in the next is not. There is no reliable determinant of accuracy except results. And their results are only accurate if their querent follows them to their resolution. And the resolution is certain to include death."
Mandor comes to stand in the doorway, listening, glasses in hand.
"So is the seer predicting the future or dictating a course of action for the gullible to follow? Henry, it is a dangerous thing for a sorcerer to think their magic is so powerful that they can force fate and destiny. That way lays madness. And madness is especially dangerous for sorcerers such as us. We have access to the great powers; Chaos, Patterns, primal forces. We can force fate at spell point and the suffering will be great."
She takes Mandor's glass and finishes it, handing it back to him with a scowl.
"Son, my brothers and I sought to level the field of powers and talents and influence by gaining more of our father's love and approval. In seeking that were stupid. We were gullible. Father withheld knowledge of the great powers from us for reasons we did not know at the time. Lords of Chaos offered us great powers and great knowledge if we were brave enough to sit the Oracle of Night and accept the vision revealed. We did so. It made us crazy. We followed the vision till Bleys and I realized how foolish we had been. By then it was too late to stop."
"We imprisoned Brand in order to stop him from doing what we found out he already had done, bled a kinsman on the Primal Pattern and opened the way for the Black Road to enter shadow.
Fiona says, "Lets set aside that one caused me to reevaluate my morals but i suppose you had to know eventually...Alright... I love you too.. I...have kept many things from you. I hope some of them you never learn. But one day you will go to Amber. When you are there ..Seek out my brother Brand and Bleys, Bleys is trying to be the town drunk still, but remember he is the second best at almost everything. Second to Benedict in swordsmanship. Second to Brand in Sorcery. He survived almost conquering Amber while Corwin failed and lost his eyes for it. He is free and has been pardoned by Oberon for standing to battle for Amber at Patternfall. Brand was captured in Regor by your cousin Vandor and now rests comfortably in the deepest dungeons of Amber. I have not dared visit Amber while you are still unknown to them. "
She looks aside at him, shrugging slightly, "oh.....you have a bother and a sister.. "
Shocked again, Henry stares at his mother for a moment, "What do they look like, what are their names?"
Mandor leans against the door jam, glasses in hand.
"One is Marke, a weapon master in a sword age of the realms of Belieriand and Middle Earth. He does not get out much. The other is Emma, who is a stone cold bitch who hangs out in the Gallras Galleries with a collection of rebels and artists. she is apparently very anti-Napoleon."
Fiona smiles at her husband warningly, 'I assume Stone Cold Bitch was meant as a complement, Lord of Chaos?
Henry asks excitedly, "What do they look like? And when can I meet them? Do you have a Trump for them? Can we organize a family get together? I have a brother and a sister, that is fantastic!" Henry turns to his father pausing a moment, "you don't like Emma, why dad?"
Fiona smiles wickedly at Mandor, "Yes, why don't like Emma.....dear?"
Mandor walks in and hands the glass to Henry with a smile, "She has certain preferences your mother does not share. Nor do I especially, except on occasion. She can be abrasive and opinionated and dismissive in a way your mother makes cute and Emma really does not. I also think she will one day make Benedict slap her really hard. As for Marke, i have not met him"
Fiona stands and takes the whiskey from Henry and swallows with a gulp. "Marke tends to be of a rugged hero type. Reminds me of Gerard and Dalt, as well as his father Tulkas."
Fiona says, "Henry, be a dear... take a vacation. Your father and I are going to argue for awhile"
"If you need me, call via trump," and with that he heads to Galatea.