Introduction to "Off the Road"
Off the Road with Bleys of Amber.
Recently I had a very strange conversation with myself and we came to a decision.
I was sitting in a cafe near the river Taliwal in the city of Nenton, in the world of Antheris. This particular cafe serves a lovely blueberry tart and has a collection of coffees from seven of the worlds Antheris admits that its connected with. So it has a variety. This morning mine was Cassarat Tree coffee, a heavy dark brew made from bean and bark shavings, just slightly adulterated with cream and brandy.
I was sharing breakfast with myself. Three of my selves in fact.
Who am I, your humble correspondent? Well, I go by many names in many places but to cut to the meat of the matter I am Prince Bleys of Amber.
Yes, that Bleys...Tried to conquer Amber, fought my way up Kolvir, redeemed myself at the Battle of Patternfall, saw Brand and Dierdre fall into the Abyss, saw the Unicorn come from the Abyss with a wounded Deirdre draped over her back and the Jewel of Judgment on her horn, swore fealty to my brother Random as King of Amber, entered Chaos as a conqueror behind Prince Benedict, returned to Amber with the rest of my kin. I go by Bleys.
And that brings me to my breakfast guests.
One was Prince Blays of Amber. He too tried to conquer Amber, fought his way up Kolvir, was redeemed at Patternfall, but he watched Brand and Deirdre lost in the Abyss before he also saw the Unicorn with the Jewel tap Random as king. In time he too returned to Amber with his kin. He goes by Blays
Another was Prince Blaze; Amber, Kolvir, Patternfall, Brand falling alone and then he swore fealty to King Julian, the Unicorn's choice. he left his family as they entered Chaos and decided to travel in shadow for an eon to let things settle down. He calls himself Blake Fisher.
The last was Princess Bleyes; Fought her way up Kolvir only to be captured, imprisoned and have her eyes burned out beside Prince Corwin. While Corwin escaped, she remained imprisoned until eventually she was freed from the dungeon when King Random granted her pardon in exchange for her fealty. She still has a little double vision and a sensitivity to bright lights. She calls herself Brandy Amberton.
This wasn't our first meal together. We have run across each other several times and have come to enjoy each other's company. Few understand the trails and tribulations, the ultimate failures and the new state of affairs in our various Ambers better then we do, regardless of the details. Its the kind of conversation only shadow-travelers can understand.
Those around us think we are quadruplets of a sort. We let them take a few pictures.
You might ask what we have in common? Besides hat size, inseams and food preferences, all of us have had our ambition to rule in Amber absolutely stomped to pieces by the coming of a new undoubted king. All our scheming and cabals ruined and cast aside. Crimes and betrayals, stabbings in the dark, all forgiven. We are no longer rebels, traitors, conspirators or fugitives. We are firmly in fealty and are good servants of the crown.
We know as well as any of our kin that there are uncounted variations of ourselves and uncountable numbers of outcomes for them. We are four of the possible shades of Amber. We argue which one has primacy but in the end it's really not important. None of us rules our Amber. In time, you will hear from all of us as this journal continues.
We were at loose ends. Told by our kings to behave ourselves and find something to keep us busy.
As each of our Ambers experienced different outcomes after Patternfall, each of the four Bleys' took different routes. In time you'll read how different our paths have been but since at the moment this is my journal let us stick to my path.
To say I was crushed is an understatement. I had a thousand years of ambition destroyed. How does one contest the ruling of the Unicorn? I wanted to stay close to home just to see how things developed. I had friends in the theater scene in Amber so I spent time with them during that first year. Acted a little. Wrote a play. Sponsored a couple theater companies. Attended parties nearly every night, the royal on the scene, the eligible bachelor. The tragic figure in a show with a cast of millions.
One night there was a gathering of royal kinsman, nobles of Amber, royals and ambassadors from Golden Circle kingdoms, nobles and notables from realms along many a shadow trail from Amber, as well as an unusual collection of people from across shadow, all to welcome the new ambassador to Amber from Chaos. The Ambassador was Lord Despil Sawall, of the line of Benedict that produced Dara and Merlin.
It was a fine affair in the castle great hall with King Random and Queen Vaille the center of attention. That night Prince Benedict, the victor of Patternfall, attempted to bid adieu and return to his orchards and his retirement in Avalon.
It was a quiet exchange, with Random giving Benedict permission to abandon his duty to Amber at his will and return to obscurity leaving his homeland to the wolves of shadow that would surely test the new king. He was casual about it, telling Benedict to feel free to leave and to please remember to send him some apples out of Avalon. Random turned his back on Benedict and the little fink walked up to me and asked if I had been enjoying the spring weather?
I was not the only one who saw the quiver of anger on dear Ben's lips. A less observant noble took that moment to address him, since he seemed to be standing alone, and received the full force of Benedict's silent ire. I believe the man pissed himself as he moved quickly away.
Ben stepped over and accepted the baton and the office of Marshal of Amber, commander of all its military forces in the name of the King. It was clear that Random had secured the safety of Amber for the next hundred years at least. Those of us who harbored secret yearnings and ambitions saw them fall before Random's guile and Benedict's blade.
I became a drunk. Time passed faster that way. A decade in Amber passed in a blink of an eye it seemed.
Oh I was useful to the crown. Ambassador, diplomat, swordsman, and other useful functions for a failed claimant to the throne on his best behavior. I even took to the field when there was a need for a slightly drunk warrior prince.
In time I started traveling. Without direction at first, taking ship, horseback, walking. Telling the pattern to send me anyplace. Whenever I returned to Amber I was full of tales of new worlds, wonders, and peoples. It was a game at first, to twist the tail a little of the wandering prince thrust into the role of king.
But a strange thing happened. I liked traveling. I'd find a trail that didn't need my nudging to lead me someplace new. I would meet people, see things, taste new foods, drink old wines.
Soon I was taking people with me. Julian joined me on a hunting world. Gerard and I went to a world rich in fine waters and people who traveled them. Benedict and I explored a shadow where faster-then-light starships might provide Amber with a new line of defense with a ready space fleet. Flora and I took in grand high theater in a world where it was the highest of arts. I even took King Random to a realm where card players were international celebrities and they had poker faces like granite. I found diners that served the perfect Denver Omelets, Ruben Sandwiches, Oysters on the half-shell, and sixty ounce steaks.
I had become the tour guide of Amber.
I started writing my experiences in a journal I kept in the Library of Amber. There my kinsman could merely ask Arloxedra, Eric's bookworm of a son, to show them the latest entry. Then the next time I was in town I found them asking me to show them the path to some out of the way place I found in some world of which they had never heard. The king even gave Arlo a standing order to bring my 'Off the Road" journal to him every time I made a new entry.
So I decided to cut out the middleman. I will no long maintain a private journal just for my kin.
Neither will the other three Bleys' who find themselves tour guides as well. We will provide our reviews of the worlds we find to our respective versions of the Amber City Gazette where it can be read by everyone, and our observations may be cast out into shadow to be published in any number of other formats under innumerable different names. Our kinsmen will just have to pick up a copy on their own and pay a copperwing like everyone else.
May you the reader find these worlds entertaining. May we four Bleys prove of service to you, as well as to our crown and kingdoms.
Prince Bleys of Amber.
Off The Road----------------