Amber: The Time of Red Knives
The Patternfall War
In the last years before the death of Oberon Barimen, the first King of Amber, the Kingdom of Amber was torn with civil strife. Oberon had vanished for nearly a century. His children waited impatiently for his return, and they plotted and they turned on each other. Later it would be learned that one group of three full siblings, Fiona, Bleys and Brand, arranged some sort of trap, possibly with the help from Amber’s ancient and nearly forgotten rival from the other end of reality, the Courts of Chaos.
The Cabals schemed. Eric, Caine and Julian held Amber. Brand grew more unstable and his own cabalmates imprisoned him. Somewhere in the mix, the long lost Corwin emerged from a centuries long disappearance to make a run at taking the crown even as Eric and the others began to finalize their hold on the throne. He formed an alliance with Bleys against his hated rival brother Eric. They raised an army together, launched a bloody assault on Amber and were ultimately defeated by Eric close to their goal. Corwin was captured, blinded and imprisoned. At this time, perhaps due to secret actions of Brand, or perhaps due to Corwin’s curse on Eric, a great and vast Black Road appeared across all of Shadow running from Chaos to Amber and crossing every shadow in between. Vast, monstrous armies of mythical creatures, demons, and strange Lords wielding unknown powers appeared, assaulting the very base of Kolvir, the mountain on which Amber City and Castle are built. The war against these creatures would consume the short reign of Eric I of Amber.
Corwin escaped into shadow, recovered from his blinding. He recruited another army, armed them with some devastating new weapons and brought them to Amber. He arrived in time to see Eric die defending Amber from the forces of Chaos. Corwin turned his army against the invaders and instead of conquering Amber saved it from its enemies. Later he was implicated in Caine’s murder. Many confusing events followed, including Brand’s recovery from a strange imprisonment, the revelation of Brand’s alliance with the forces of the Black Road, and the return of Oberon shortly thereafter. Oberon set out to perform some act of great magic which wiped the Black Road out of Shadow. At the same time Oberon’s children led a counterstrike at the heart of the Courts, which was successful beyond all imagining. Oberon died for his efforts in working the great act of power. Brand and Deirdre were slain in inter-sibling combat at the edge of the Courts, and Caine was revealed to have faked his own death. Improbably, Random, youngest and one of the least ambitious of Oberon’s children, was crowned King of Amber.
The Price of Peace
Chaos was in the midst of its own political crisis. The Empire had become a loose confederation of autonomous noble houses, united by a weak central government of the house heads. The Emperor had been reduced to a figurehead. In recent eras, the only thing that unified the Court of Counts, highest of the Courts, was the ambition for conquest and the promise of pacifying their rebellious province on the far end of reality. The Party of War, bolstered by religious assurances by the Serpent Priesthood that catastrophe would await them if the Pattern could not be reduced, had spent great expense outfitting the horde which had journeyed along the Black Road to end Amber. When Oberon’s counter-stroke fell, the vast majority of the Chaosite armies were slain or scattered through Shadow.
Amber seized the capital, and some members of the war party fought bitterly to resist the capture of their city despite being overwhelmed. Some prepared to destroy the capital itself to deny it to their enemy. In this Chaos, the Emperor Swayville IV emerged, with allies in the Court of Counts, to order the surrender of Chaos. Random and Swayville met to ratify that surrender and peace was had. In the weeks that followed, unhappy Great houses launched unsanctioned attacks against the Amber forces and, with permission of Swayville, those that did were brutally pacified or even seized by the crown. Numerous assassination attempts were made on Benedict, Random and Swayville. While they waited to reestablish connection with Amber, Random and Swayville reached an accord where a small force of Amberite peacekeepers would remain in Chaos to monitor the actions of the hostile Houses, pacify small uprisings and act as bodyguards to the Emperor.
The Long War
Random returned to Amber to rule, but the bargain he struck with Chaos turned out to be a
costly one. Garrisoning Chaos was challenging. Shadow forces would burn up in the local
environment, dying or mutating in numerous ways. Only troops born and raised in Amber
itself or its close allies in the Golden Circle had natural resistances to the exotic diseases, treacherous weather, and bizarre physics of Chaos. Even some of them would succumb to
the Changes, where they’d develop strange altered features or abilities perhaps due to latent
Chaosian bloodlines. To minimize these effects soldiers were supplied almost entirely from
Amber. However, material goods suffered the same challenges, and it was discovered that some of the rarest, most precious substances known to Amber provided the only relief.
Time is also the enemy. Even with consistent quartering in some of the most acceptable shadow time differentials, a tour of duty in Chaos lasts about ten times longer than the same amount of time in Amber. The best logistics would allow at minimum a six month (Amber Time) tour of duty meaning each soldier has five subjective years in the hostile environment, fighting off terrorist attacks, investigating hostile nobles, and being regarded as an interloper. This duration is very hard on the families of even the longer lived denizens of Amber.
Twelve years have passed in Amber since then. The Occupany exhausts Amber’s military
and political will. Julian, Fiona and Gerard serve Random securing its borders and guarding
the realm. Florimel serves the crown as an Ambassador to the Golden Circle Nations.
In Chaos, Swayville is struggling to form strong civic institutions which will maintain political stability and remove the need for the Occupancy. Benedict, ambassador and general
of the Occupying force, has become Swayville’s left hand, tutoring him in kingship while trying to contain the wildly turbulent forces of political disarray in Chaos. Meanwhile, back in Amber, Random holds his end of reality with a stripped-down Home Guard. He has exhausted Amber’s treaty partners for supplies, men, and expertise to support the Occupancy. The nobles of Amber and the Royalty of the Golden Circle are getting restive, angry and frustrated, wondering when this costly and useless war will end. Old rivalries and hostilities long held in check by mutual fear of Oberon are bubbling up to the surface again.
In Shadow there are disturbing rumors of forces gathering for unknown purposes.
Countless demons and creatures were left astray after the destruction of the Black Road.
Some returned home to Chaos, but some sought sanctuary in Shadow. It is said that great
demon military forces are even now consolidating and training themselves and mortal
‘Demon touched’ in preparation of some unknown conflict. Contraband substances, drugs,
slaves, and exotic and dangerous pets are being brought back from Chaos by soldiers and
visitors. Banned in Amber, these new diversions and perversions are circulating, possibly
with the help of cross shadow criminal syndicates that seem to be springing up. With both
governments consumed by internal issues, factions are finding safe havens in Shadow to
work toward their own ends, whatever those might be.