Mark of Creation-Mandalay
The Mark of Mandalay & the Green Man
Beneath a dark starless sky a man in green leather leans against a massive tree. Low hills richly scattered with fruit trees surround a wide vale that dips to a flat plain. A man could run for an hour from the hills and only reach the center where the man begins to pace.
At the center is a man and a tree. Off a ways sit a collection of companions, eating, drinks, making soft music and a pack of wolves. listening, waiting. They rest aways away because they know the man and the tree need privacy.
The tree shakes and speaks, "They come. They have it."
"Good," the man responds.
Two men ride over the hills astride what can be generally described as horses.
The tall man is a few inches shy of 7 feet. He wears armor of a Gothic sort, stained with rust, painted black. His horse is tall for the race, a sleek coat of black with white markings about the hooves. Its eyes scan right and left for danger, betraying intelligence beyond the equine.
The second man is short. Hunchbacked, balding, he holds reins with gnarled hands. His eyes seem the kind to laugh at jokes few understand. The thing he rides looks like a horse but it clearly has a larger sense of itself then mere fetlocks and mane.
The man in green strides to stand beneath the last of the boughs of the tree. He crosses his arms, aware of what it suggests but not caring. When he speaks he does not try to be friendly.
"You look more lively than the last time I saw you, Old Man. I stood on a balcony of the Tower of Grief [] as your coffin rolled by. Did you return with the secrets of Life and Death? Did Chaos have a ferryman?"
The tall man dismounts and faces one he had cradled as a child.
"Death is no reprieve from duty, my son. Virulence is a poor way to start this work."
The man in green regards the hunchback as the horse beneath him lowers itself to the grounds and takes the form of a lizard with a decidedly carnivorous aura.
"Dworkin. It's been ages. How fare thee in the new regime? Random sits Amber's throne, and your younger brother is the new Swayvil and sits upon yours. You seem fairly superfluous"
The hunchback chuckles, "I have long since accepted the loss of my succession to Chaos, and I never wanted Amber's throne. You assume motivations not in evidence, child."
He approaches the man in green and regards him with worry. "You would be well advised to heed thy father's words. Bitterness is not the first thought you want on your mind tonight. Let us say we have all had our differences and paid for our sins in cash."
"Very well, grandfather. I accede to your wisdom."
The armored man speaks, "If debts are paid, will you take my hand before you proceed?"
The man in green regards his father, remembering the many little crimes, the large betrayals, and the final death sentence. He remembers hanging on the dagger of the King of Amber who would trust no mere executioner to complete the final act. Yet, he recognizes the truth in the words.
"Let us say that if this works, I will consider us on good terms. Then I would shake your hand."
The three men appraise each other as they walked toward the tree. The tree was beginning to feel ignored. It speaks in greeting.
"Oberon. You look well. Death becomes you." The tree shivers in what can only be seen as a chuckle.
"Ygg, most ancient. Are you sure you want my son to do this? It will drastically effect the shadows for tens of millions of veils and cast it's own shadows to the rim of Chaos and up to the slopes of Kolvir. It can not be easily undone, either."
"Let it be done, my brother. The earth trembles for its neglect. If he will risk it, so shall I."
"Very well, Ygg. You have paid your own debts. So be it." Oberon regards his son.
"What Name will you take, my son, to rule in this place?"
"I was tempted to take Merovech but decided that was ill-omened. I'll take the name Adrian, but I suspect I shall become known as the Green Man regardless of the name I take."
"Adrian? Interesting choice. The stones shall echo that name, my son. What we contemplate shall steal sovereignty from both poles. Swayvill and Random will both hate you the minute we begin. Random will be the angriest though, because the place we choose is closer to Amber than Chaos. The Great Abyss divides Chaos from the shadowlands. However Ygg marks the boundary where the forces of the Pattern and the Logrus trade dominance."
"I understand all of that, Oberon. What I want to know is how will my Sign compare to the Sign of the Logrus or the Sign of the Pattern? Will it damage them? Will it damage Avalon? What will it do to other sigils like Bursain, Regor, Azcala, Talwas or even Paragon or Calmir? "
Oberon and Adrian look to Dworkin.
"It will be weaker then the Pattern of Amber. That is unavoidable given your choice of location. Were I to do this act I would proceed thus. Rip Ygg from the ground, take this whole vale if you must, smuggle him into Chaos, and forge there. Chaos would be shaken asunder and the Sign you devise would be a true brother to the powers. Amber has her Unicorn, Chaos its Serpent and you will have Ygg, regardless of where you forge. But Chaos can accommodate the disruption of creation. Amber may not. The Pattern rules here. Yours will be powerful, only a sliver less than the Pattern, but still less. Such as Corwin's bastard pattern, powerful, but tainted by it's creation in shadow rather than in primordial chaos. His will be more powerful than yours though because it is more ancient, and it was created, in shadow, at a time of flux, when the stuff of chaos was bathing shadow in response to Oberon's repair of Amber."
"As for the other Sigils; It will be far more powerful then any of them but it will snake tendrils into their shadows as well. Paragon and Calmir are broken beyond repair already and perhaps your work will make life in their shattered realms a bit better. This work might break Bursain's isolation. As for the others, i don't know. We shall see and the damage will be blamed on us all I imagine."
A table appears with three comfortable chairs. Their arrival keeps Dworkin from falling to the ground. Tea steams from alabaster cups. Dworkin lifts one and moistens his throat.
"Random is your brother, Adrian, though he knows it not. He is of the generation that fought for the throne. They plotted to gain the power of Amber and even though he played a supporter's role in most of those battles he none the less won the game. He will resent the disruption and the smashing of so many of his realms. Do not underestimate the power of the King of Amber. In the end, the Jewel of Judgment is his, and his control over shadow is far superior to yours. You will have to raise defenses quickly and even the power of this new artifact may not protect you."
Dworkin takes a cookie from a tray and idly dips it in his tea.
"Furthermore, your creation will be Wild for a time, as Amber once was, as Avalon is now. Corwin attempts to calm it and it may take centuries. Your work will be unpredictable, wild, and perhaps even mad for a time. Those who assay it in the first years will bear a more powerful imprint than those who come after it's taming will, even as those of us who remember the youth of Amber or the Logrus do. Beware who you let walk this Mark. There will be unexpected consequences"
Dworkin glances toward the small cluster of future lords of Mandalay. "And if those lords are here at the creation, their mark will be vastly more powerful then any lord who comes later. And lastly, Oberon and I shall assay your work of course. It might be wise to offer the Mark to King Random as well."
Adrian considers Dworkin's advice as he sipped his own tea.
Oberon strolled around Ygg to examine the preparations. As he passed the collection of people gave way before the the dead king. Oberon glanced briefly at them, recognizing a shock of yellow hair there and bearded face here. A belligerent teddy bear in a Seville Road suit, nods acknowledgment, gaining the barest of nods from the Dead King. Seeing those who will be the new Lords of this realm, he considers them. Off a ways he sees the wolf-pack and nods to his son. Seeing by them one he has not seen in many a long millennia, a tall green haired daughter who fled into the waters in her youth, never to return.
As he turns to the tree he sees a smiling tall thin pale man with loud hair leaning against Ygg the tree. Smiling Oberon speaks softly to his friend, a chuckle in his voice. "Et tu, David?" He shakes hands with his old traveling partner, remembering many songs sung together when his friend called himself Ziggy Stardust.
"Thank you Dworkin, "Adrien says with a nod," I understand what you are saying but I think I want to proceed as planned. Everything that exists in Chaos is but temporary shape and form of the primordial stuff of chaos. None of it has any permanence. Only in the Shadows of Amber does anything exist that holds its own reality. Those are the stones that cry out to me. It needs to be here. From here it will effect the lands to either poles. I do not seek control, merely a chance to protect that which has no advocate."
"Then it will not be a true brother to the Pattern or the Logrus, but it will be a mighty cousin, mightier than anything else in shadow save for the Pattern of Avalon." Dworkin lamented. " I also see the possibility that there may be powerful side effects. The Jewel itself may fight you. As you know, you will have to force the jewel to do your bidding rather than being a conduit of an image already within it as I did. The ritual you have prepared should reduce the chance of this but be aware when you work. I especially like the bit with the jewels and with the roots."
Adrian smiles broadly, accepting Dworkin's verdict. "Then let us begin."
They walk to the center side by side to regard the tree. Oberon awaits them.
"The Jewels, Adrian?"
"Mounted already. Seven jewels. Each the first shadow of their kind, each one shadow away from the Jewel of Judgment. Each an artifact of great power, split in twain, half now ground into powder and meticulously mounted into the root ring."
Dworkin nods." The root ring is ready of course?"
Ygg answers as they approach him. "Yes. 25 miles of thick root. I grew it to spread to the circumference of a great circle 16 miles in diameter. 12 inches wide. When he begins I shall sever myself from it at my base first, then at the ring. A branch 5 feet wide and 8 miles long will lie between the ring and me. Much of the power of the forging will melt into it. That wood shall be raised afterwards. It will be used as we have discussed. The path is prepared. The Jewel?"
Oberon gazes upon Dworkin who shrugs and looks skyward. Oberon reaches beneath his armor and withdraws a heavy chain with a gigantic red ruby. It glows from within with power & light.
"You are still attuned I take it? "
"I should be. That would depend on the Unicorn and the Serpent I assume. Let me have it, Oberon."
"The stones first."
Adrian withdraws a pouch and removes seven broken stones. He hands them to Oberon. He peers deep into each one. Satisfied, he hands the Jewel of Judgment to Adrian.
"Title passes." Adrian states.
"Ah, Adrian?" Oberon says with a chuckle under his breath," Title does not pass as far as Random is concerned, nor by the jewel's reckoning I would guess. Frankly by that comment he has been made aware of you. Begin now and he may not get here till it is too late."
Adrian looks worried suddenly and moves briskly to Ygg. "To the work, my Friend. Is the sap ready?"
"It is. Take the sap from the hollow. Coat your hand well. Good luck!"
Adrian dips his hand into a hollow in Ygg's trunk. Thick life fluid of the tree covers his hand as he jogs quickly to the edge, his steps covering great distances at every leap. As he runs he draws a blade carefully carved from Ygg's branches. The sword on his hip matches the dagger he uses now to slit his wrist. The blood pumps freely, mixing with the sap, as he reaches his chosen spot. Barely breaking the ground is a wooden path, speckles of gemstones impressed into the grain shimmer in the light with multicolored glory.
Adrian regards the stone, drawing upon it. It leaps in his hand, fighting, avoiding, then glowing as sap, blood, and a focused mind enfold it. Adrian sets his foot upon the wood, power flows into the wood, lubricated by sap and blood. He stepped forward, his face serene. Light came up from the ground and wafted like smoke to the extremes of the vale. Colors and sparkles rise, he walks, leaving a glowing path, five inches wide behind. Embedded into the wood, granules of crystal suddenly receive the breath of the jewel and creation. They fly upwards sharply, some striking Adrian as he walks, some litter the ground, some float, some disappear off into shadow to make their own marks, some fly east, some west.
Oberon and Dworkin ride before the light, cresting the hills, avoiding the light that brakes like waves upon the foothills. The first light of a new sun coats the land. Down a far hill ride three horsemen, fast. Oberon draws a mighty sword, shimmering in a foul black light. He drops his visor over his face.
Beyond the hill an echoed cry is heard and the sound of horses approach. The flap of wings is heard above.
"Stand and be recognized, pass at your peril!"
The horseman attempt to ride around him. He swerves his horse to block the center rider, reaches out and smashes his sword into the helm of the north-most rider, who falls unconscious. His horse kicks out and unhorses the southernmost one. The middle rider jigs his horse to barely pass on the side and is bodily pulled from the back of his horse. Oberon leaps from the horse and slams the warrior he holds to the ground. The other two pull swords and turn to advance. Oberon pulls the head of his captive back and tucks the sword against his throat.
"Stop, Lords, or the King of Amber dies the real death. Julian, Caine, don't make me defy the unicorn's choice."
The man in white asks, "Who the bloody hell are you?"
"Stop the bastard! Forget me!" Random yells.
"Move and he dies" Oberon leans in to Random's ear. "The Unicorn chose well. I would never have guessed."
Random's eyes widen in recognition, terror, hope and despair. He slumps in resignation.
Random speaks softly, "You defend this creature, Father?"
Julian and Caine regard Oberon with look of men unwilling to betray their thoughts, emotions raw and hard peak through their fragile reserve.
"Yes, Son. It must be done. To ward off Chaos, and to protect the shadowlands from future damage to either pattern. It must be done. It will be the Mark of Mandalay and the Green Man, Adrian, will rule here. The stones will sing his name, trees will bow as he passes and bushes will shiver. This was always planned but I never controlled the Pattern well enough to allow the work to be done. Now I do."
"But you're dead."
"I but rested. Soon I shall return to my rest. Grant me this, my son, and I shall ask no more of you or yours; make peace with the work of this place and it's king, even common cause, and I will sleep content."
"No promises, old man. I will send my troops home, and let this place begin. I may one day come to throw it down, but in deference to you I will not do that today."
"Fair enough, Random"
Oberon nods his head and grasps his son's hand to raise him. He looks deeply at his son, approvingly and surprised. He would not have guessed this one would be his heir. He looks to Julian, always so stiff, cold, determined. He remembers Julian's stand in Arden against so many foes. Caine, the dark one, he remembers his feet upon shipboards and in dark paths. He remembers having taught this one things the others would not have guessed. But did he use those secrets to unthrone the unicorn's choice? No. He realizes with shock, that he is a proud father and wonders if that would make them laugh.
"You are served well, my son. Julian, Caine, I am proud to see you grown to honorable manhood, standing at the side of your king. No longer at each other's throats. I shall rest better for the knowledge." He turns his eyes to Random and knows that that statement will not be enough for this one, the one he neglected the most of the ones he chose to bring to Amber.
"Random, the Unicorn's chose well."
He kneels. He places his sword on his fingertips.
" I hereby render my sword and fealty to the King of Amber."
Julian stands stoically, but Caine's face can not take the strain, eyes wide, tears thick. Oberon would be surprised to know that the same thought screams loudly in each of his son's mind, from the place where every son doubts his father's love. Only Random voices it, weakly. "Father"
Random pales but takes Oberon's sword in his shaking hands, examines it and returns it. " I accept your fealty, father. Rest well."
Oberon rises and extends his hands to his other sons who grasp it uncertainly. He than turns and walks to Dworkin's side, followed by Random, Julian and Caine, to watch as Adrian comes near the completion of his work.
The vale is awash in sparks; life bold and bright fills every crevice. Trees once small and dark are tall and wide, thick with fruit. The sky, once dark, now stands blue, the sky of Amber, and new as birth. Small animals hop, walk, slither and run as they would. Deer spring. Water babbles and a stream can be seen.
Beyond all else five things can be seen. At the horizon a sun rises, it's first dawn, comprised of 5 wedges of color, yet it casts a yellow light, bluing the sky obscuring the stars, this first sun rise over the land of Ygg. In the center of the Vale is a mighty tree where once frail Ygg stood. It spreads far out from the base where a pale and exhausted man slumps against it. He is bloody, near dead, but exultant and just barely controlling the power growing within him. Out from the center a glowing circle is inscribed in the ground. It sparks and sets off jets of power. It shimmers. It is created, but not yet walked. It hums a green song, and life exudes from it. Like a babe crying at its birth, the Mark of Mandalay sends calls out into shadow, battle cries for the defense of the real. Fourth, upon the ground are round stones the size of walnuts rolling toward Adrian slumped against the tree. Random picks up several; they are warm to the touch. Lastly, A road of puzzled stone extends east and west, each stone one of five colors.
The watchers realize they stand upon this road, on the path east. Julian examines it closely.
"Random, I have a bad feeling about this road. These stones are the same size as the stones you used to repave all of the city of Amber. The same shape, sizes, even the same texture."
Dworkin chuckles, gazing into shadow.
"You are right Julian, but I suspect the Lords of Chaos will be more angry. Random's Road into Shadow now does not end at the Golden Circle worlds. It starts at the courtyard of Amber, covers all of the City of Amber, extending out to a thousand Golden Circle Worlds, deep into shadow. It comes through here and then all the way to the Fane of Zila and the Courts of Chaos. Every single stone marked and colored as these. I must admit this was not a side effect I had expected."
Random frowns deeply, not pleased to have such a path exist. He knows that company will be coming to Amber. He shows Dworkin the jewels he holds. Dworkin takes a red one, stares deeply into it.
"Power focuses. There must be tens of thousands of these things. I would guess they all have different properties. Finders' keepers I would say. My king, I would advise you to gather as many of these as you can before Adrian claims all in this veil to be his."
Random frowns, examining the stones. "Swell. Just what I need. A new road leading to my door, a million powerful rocks, and this guy down here with his delusions of grandeur. Come friends, let us police the area of these baubles and go and meet this person who has disrupted all of shadow."
As they approach Adrian they see a sight to give them pause. Curled with the man at the base of Ygg is the white tufted Unicorn of Amber, a red jewel on a gold chain hanging from its horn. It rises and comes before Random. He removes the jewel and places it upon his breast. The Unicorn lets him scratch her and lets the others touch her as well. Reverently each does.
Julian, fulfilling a life long dream, places his hand upon the beast, begins to cry. The unicorn wedges its horn in amongst his armor, giving a quick flick, it snaps off the last inch of its horn, then flees into shadow, lost again. Julian grasps the bit of horn as a relic, his eyes bright, his face joyful as none have ever seen it, his face glows white, something deep is born within him. He smiles beatifically at his brothers and his ancestors; he shows them the precious horn. None, not Dworkin nor Random dare ask to hold it.
A voice speaks behind them. Adrian, clean, bold, revived, clad in green, a sparrow on his shoulder, a mouse peeking from a pocket, " The unicorn has blessed my work. Let there be peace between us, Brother."
"Random, Caine, Julian, this is your brother, Adrian."
Random looks to Oberon, than Adrian.
"Let us say I am not ready for peace, but I shan't make war yet either. Let us exchange ambassadors and see what develops."
"Let it be so, then"
The brothers shake hands around, tentatively. It is then they notice that Dworkin and Oberon have both left.
"Well, that is just like Oberon. Always leaving just when I have questions for him. Well. Adrian, we both have work to do. I think I shall see if this road really does go all the way to my door. Good luck. You will need it."
The three ride east, into the rising sun.