Brand and Dalt and the Blue sea
Brand and Dalt and the Deep Blue Sea Sitting on the edge of the curtain wall he looks out over the vast deep blue sea. Under fluffy white clouds the ships can be seen taking sail to head off into shadow or taking in the sea sheets to raise smaller clothes to work the harbor breezes into docking. A small fleet under the banner of Tosa head out toward the eastern horizon to seek combat in other realms. A pod of dolphins cavorts around the great flag ship of the navy of Amber, much to the pleasure of it captain, Admiral Jopin.
Footsteps from behind cause the redheaded prince to turn slowly. He regards his brother approaching. Tall, wide, blond, and a stranger to him, thinks Brand of the Dungeons.
Dalt nods, basket in one hand. "Are you thinking of how to fly from Amber? Random tells me he isn't sure he can suppress all your magic. Think you could trump away, font-style?"
Turning around fully, the prisoner prince of Amber smiles as he greets his brother. It occurs to him how strange it is to greet a brother with a smile.
Brand laughs under his breath.
"Is that an actual question, Dalt? Or are you teasing me? We don't know each other well enough for sarcasm yet. That will make verbal fencing tricky between us."
"Random mentioned it in passing." Dalt says. "Your protective detail mentioned that you were up here. So I raided the kitchens and decided to come check on you myself. As you said, we don't know each other well. Are you hungry enough to change that a little?"
Eyeing the basket of supplies, decked out in ribbons in the colors of Dame Margot, he nods. "Its a true fact that many a slow knife among our brothers has been sheathed over food and family gossip. I'll happily indulge in both if you managed to get anything good out from under Dame Margot's watchful eyes. Its strange that now that so many of the lost children of House Bariman have returned we can find blood kin we have spent little time with. Benefits of Patternfall and the benevolent dictatorship of King Random. "
Chuckling Dalt ignores the jab over Patternfall and runs a hand in the basket contents. Withdrawing a trump deck and slipping it into his belt.
"I've grabbed a string of manticore sausages, a couple blocks of Feta and Munster, a couple loafs of Tyler's sourdough. I also stole one of her endless pitchers that is currently dispensing a fairly good port. Will that suffice?"
Brand grin, "It will indeed."
Twisting his hands in a stage flourish he conjures two silver tankards and a wrapped pack of four dark red cigars.
"See? My magic works well enough. Conjuration at the least. I can trump as well, from the highest tower to the deepest dungeons. I certainly didn't walk all the way up here."
Dalt sets the basket in a down cut of the curtain wall and fills the tankards from the pitcher. "Well, tuck in then."
For a time the two eat in silence. Customs vary from place to place in shadow but in Amber it is considered rude to speak to someone in a meal before they have taken the first sip of their beverage. Brand raises his first and tastes the dark Port brewed in the vineyards of the Bayle estate and sighs.
Wiping his mouth Brand says, "That was delightful.. Allow me to provide an after-dinner smoke in thanks for a fine lunch."
Hands the cigar of to his younger brother and they both light.
Brand nods and waves the cigar while taking a chunk of cheese in hand.
"Alright Dalt... You wouldn't have hauled that up here or risked the ire of Dame Margot and her pack of culinary acolytes unless you had something on your mind. As you know, my agreement with the Poker King of Amber requires me to be of service to the realm. So, let me be of service and make sure you casually mention how cooperative I was to whoever will listen."
laughing he asks,"I am curious. We both have had our anger toward Amber. I was wondering how you are managing yours?"
Brand frowns, contemplatively. "Managing my anger? Tricky... My anger comes from the conflicts between my father and my siblings. Its the initial cause though others came in time. Mostly its daddy issues. You're interactions with Oberon were few I understand. He visited your caretakers over the years a few times and I gather those were contentious enough for you that you grew angry at Amber. My interactions with Oberon were ones of close proximity over the course of centuries. Millennia. My anger and my sadness toward him and Amber took a long time to sour."
"My siblings will all say Oberon was a distant, neglectful, and controlling father, yet each of us can point to periods of time, mostly in shadow, where we each spent long stretches one on one with him. Those were certainly times when we were directly under his thumb. He was naturally in charge. He casts shadows of people who have that natural knack of receiving deference. Yet during each of these times were many hours spent in conversation, over drinks, food, and cigars in many cases. Over corpses and womanly charms sometime. Bloodshed is a bonding experience and most of us shed blood beside our undoubted liege lord and father. So how did some of us become bitter? "
<div class="center" style="width: auto; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"Oberon and his Three broods
"You know the rumor that he has 47 children? Well, He has three distinct Broods, and a little fourth one. The First brood he had no control over.
"The second he had massive control over. The third he didn't have the time or interest to exert control over. And the fourth is only three children of Queen Paula of Padua but they are important considering the current state of affairs. Some he drove off, some he lost, some he kept close to Amber, and those toward the end he had little time to use. When you consider my anger, my rebellion, my sins, bear in mind, there are at least three sides to every story and every side has powers of magnitudes worth of nuance. No tale of Amber is an absolute. Historians here drink a lot."
Dalt refills their tankards as he listens to the mad prince monologue.
"We each are iconic, dynamic, aren't we? He spent a long time deciding which icons he wanted to cast shadows from the center of things. Random does not have that luxury. Oberon rarely, rarely lost one of us he wanted close to the center of things. Each of those he kept betrayed him in some way at some point. Disappointed him. Each of us did something that made him proud, earned us treasures and accolades. Each of us served regencies, were trusted. "
Inhaling, he thinks a dramatic moment before exhaling.
"His treatment of us was purposeful. Bear that in mind when you look at that deck of cards. Consider what each one that he kept close to him brings to the tapestry around here. Benedict, Eric, Corwin, Caine, Gerard, Deirdre, Flora, Random, even Bleys, Fiona and myself all were kept close while at the same time he drove off Osric and Finndo, Elfwyne, Borlak, Evelyn, Llewela, Giovanni, Mirelle, and Philippe. The children he failed with, those who left despite his wishes, like Orsoloa, Delwin & Sand, are interesting absences. He eventually regretted their leaving but was too proud to bringing them back. "
Dalt asks, "What of Nina and Emilie? Considering their effect on the current politics, I wonder about them"
Brand nods, sipping his port for a moment. "They were before my time. There was something powerful about them that was beyond Oberon's ability to control. They somehow ensorceled Julian and Caine and it worried Oberon. So he took them and sealed them into that squiggle. The boys held that against Oberon even though they came back to serve him. Yet when the sisters were disinterred the boys ran to them. Oberon was right about them and I think Amber will rue their release one day. Oberon had good reasons to fear them. They had too much in common with the First Brood, I understand "
Brand continues his lessons. "Its not common knowledge that he had what he called his First Brood. We are his second brood. You, dear brother, I would set in the third brood. As well as Coral, Pierre, Hamilton, Kibar, Kundjiq, Joseph, Jacques, and the Eves. All siblings that either grew outside his control, if not outside his knowledge. All wearing the stain of his neglect. Some ignorant of their birthrights. Some willful enough to be uncooperative even to him. Some come too late to be useful."
"But its the First Brood that haunts him. They were born when he was young and had little or no power to control them. He sought initiations and rites in the young shadows of Amber and many were vastly powerful and wild. He had fathered children in those wild places. They were ruined in one way or another, broken things. Adrian, Fleece, AvReet, Eater, Vox, Hinarik, and Nalshik, To some degree Osric and Finndo and Benedict fit in this group as well."
Dalt looks sly to his red haired brother,"Clymnea? "
Brand-'The Duchess of al Marat? Well, he certainly knew her well enough. well enough to have three children with her and make her Queen of Amber for a thousand years. Yes, discovering he had fathered her poisoned his relationship with Osric and Finndo. Benedict as well to some degree. Have you made a pilgrimage to see her yet?"
Dalt shakes his head, "No. Though I have received an invitation. "
Brand looks seriously at Dalt, "Guard your heart, soldier. She steals them for fun."
"When you consider who he kept close and who he drove off carefully consider our good King. He has a full sister and a full brother, born of a wildly corrupt mother. Yet neither Mirelle or Giovanni were brought to Amber when Oberon brought Random. Then once he was here Oberon all but ignored him. It was a critical time, he may have lost control of his passions and his plotting by then. Random brought Mirelle to Amber himself and she rests in a cell not far from mine. Mad and melancholic"
Dalt, waves his cigar, bringing the prince back to the subject at hand, "the first Brood?"
Brand-"Yes... horrors. Mistakes. I doubt he knew he had fathered Fleece. While he traveled with Adrian they were close enough in age that a century of travel made them companions more then father and son, and they traveled together in the early days of Amber for thousands and thousands of years. As for the others...He found powers and places and paid dark prices. The creatures were uncontrollable for him. When he settled down with Clymnea he tried to forget them. He sealed off huge sections of shadows in the hopes they would never have ambitions beyond them. Each in a destiny trap of their own. Yet he feared that each of them would one day be a danger to Amber. If he was right, then Good King Random will have the pleasure of their acquaintance. "
Dalt nods in agreement, "Yes, that's my understanding. I traveled with King Random to meet with Vox and the two seem on good terms. Such a dragon I never heard of before. I've not met Adrian or Fleece yet but I will be attending the king when his Progress takes to the Jeweled Road in a few weeks. What of the others?"
Brand casts a serious frown toward his own memories. "I have to admit I sought them out in my quest for power. Bleys and Fiona and I sat the Oracle of Night and it suggested I do so. Vox was conversational but shares his powers rarely. His is an amoral and narcissistic code. He may rule a land of dragons but he does not care overly much for their well being. Eater is a creature of mindless hunger. He has no reason and little intellect. Yet he has an animal cunning and a great force of presence. Creatures fall before him to be devoured."
"Hinarik is a walking corpse. A Necromancer of great powers. I spent some time with him and eventually had to fight him to not be made into a necromanic follower of his. It was a close thing. He has little interest in Amber since most of his powers function in realms close to Chaos. He is more like the great Chaos Lords then any the children of Oberon or Dworkin, yet he hates Chaos more then any of us do. Most of us had little interaction with Chaos till the drive toward Patternfall. Few of us achieved the State of Affairs to reach the Courts of Chaos. And when Bleys, Fiona, and I finally did, we regretted it almost immediately. I was in the whirlwind of my own personal angst and madness by then but I realized that I did not want unbroken Chaos to rule and my madness made me think my version of Order, my Brandenburg, would be a stronger bastion of Law then the fey thing Dworkin created with the Unicorn."
"I think when you ask how I manage my anger, its a better question to ask how I abandoned my madness."
Dalt laughs knowingly,"Alright, I'll bite. How did you abandon your madness?"
The mad prince sighs, "Painfully."
Taking a deep draw on his cigar and exhaling the red smoke over the battlements above the seas of Amber.
"Dalt, whatever you or my other siblings and kinsman may think, I have paid for my crimes. not entirely, and not in a coin they can understand to be sure. Deaths happens and a trillion souls can shuffle off and swap themselves between bodies every day and not reflect a fraction of the amount of sorrows experienced. The fault for them can be spread around a lot too. Certainly trillions died, this time, due to my ambitions but the next day something else caused new deaths. So who is to blame for my crimes? I am. In the end i accept the blame for them. I don't expect forgiveness just understanding. The Oracle of Night warped my already potent arrogance. Lords of Chaos fed my ambitions with dreams of glory and acts of power. they taught me deep secrets. They fed me lies and I was eager to believe them. They showed me Bariman Way, hanging ancient and empty in the stuff of Chaos. Dworkin once ruled there. It waits filled with potent artifacts and ancient servants waiting for the return of their Master, whomever he may be. They told me they would recognize my realm and my people as Allies."
"In the end, i brought war to my kin . Maneuvered Oberon off his throne. Convinced brothers and sisters to support me in treason. Led the forces of Chaos in war till they pushed me aside. Allowed my capture. Too much...too much happened...for naught. In the end i was struck in the throat by a silver arrow and fell into the abyss. There i suffered as few might ever know. I lived ages of torment. I was sacrificed to the Serpent. Flayed, slain, revived, and sold as chattel in the slave markets of the Abyss by creatures beyond description in their horror. I saw things that put the crimes done by me or by my father in perspective."
"Once i clawed my way out of the Abyss i was a broken thing. My mind was lost, moment to moment. I dragged myself through shadow suffering indignity after indignity. I might have a few minutes of comprehension to organize my effort to survive before my self-awareness faded away. I went toward Regor and found sanctuary in my mother's empire. I convalesced for centuries in the deep shadows there, regaining my mind. Those years i was smothered by the Czarina of Regor. I'm not sure which was worse; the Abyss or Clarissa."
"I was angry at first when Vander captured me in Regor and brought me here. I was certain my fink brother would put my neck below the ax. Any other brother, or sister almost certainly would have. Caine sank a knife in my stomach the first time he saw me here, before he had heard the King's ruling. Benedict watched me like a hawk, from far away, out of the range of my rhetoric, ready to swoop and kill. Gerard embraced me, said he was sorry for my pains, then kneed me to the groin...hard. Corwin told me that the moment he saw me away from Castle Amber was the moment i would face his wrath. All my local siblings have come to give me their rarely kind regards."
"Carissa, Gerard's girl, came and expressed her ire over my treatment of her in her youth. Gerard was fairly pissed about that too. A duahgter of mine, Laravela came all this way from the Courts to tell me she lived and to cast her derision on me. Vance, Delwin's son, came and asked me some extremely detailed questions about life in the abyss. Benedict has spent a lot of time here discussing the military might of Chaos and the Black Zone worlds. Delwin himself, has spent time at my cell discussing the esoterica of power magics. Random has even included me in his private council, taking my advice on numerous topics.
"I've decided that spending a thousand years in the deepest dungeons of Amber and under house arrest in Castle Amber is by far the easiest prison sentence ever. I have access to the cellar's wine and brandy without having Margot taint my supply with vinegar or worse. I can ride a horse around the training grounds and in the horse trails within the walls. I can dine in the Sea View Gardens. I can attend the Court of Commons Cause and hear King Random dispense High, middle, and low justice. The ratfink even had a chair with short legs put on the dais for me to sit uncomfortably within range to advise him in need. "
Dalt chuckles and nods, "Ya, Gerard cut the chair legs down himself. Bleys suggested a jester's suit but Droppa took offense at the suggestion of competition for the role of Court Fool."
Nodding Brand says, "Figures. Ours is a overly clever family."
"Do you expect to ever be freed?"
Brand shrugs..."Maybe, but not for an age of the world. Not till Random's reign is secured by loyalty and experience not just trust in the Unicorn's choice. I don't really want it either. If possible i'd like to include house arrest at my estates east of Yaj or my island down in the Far Isle. Even my quarters the family compounds in Acadia would be nice. To be able to feel the water beneath my feet would be nice. But i don't expect it nor need it. Random offered to let me have a suite built up in this very tower because my quarters in the family wing of the castle would cause me to be a little too close for comfort for some of my kin. I declined. My cell down below is satisfactory."