Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Unicorn Of Another Timbre: Campaign Log: Session 6

 The following is the campaign log for the sixth session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign. Most of this was typed up by one my players during the session.  Usually these are typed up by Brendan, but he had to miss this session, and another player, Andrew, helpfully took notes in his absence. As usual, I (the GM) have added a few notes of my own after the fact.

You can Start from Session #1 or just pick up at Session #5

Campaign log: November 9, 2020: Session #6

Setting the Scene: A unicorn of another color has been spotted in Arden. Caine's fleet is posturing in Amber's bay, pressuring Random to act against the Chaos delegates. 

The PCs are:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys. A scientist who has been in Amber for several months.
  • Maarit, daughter of Sand. An orphan with a magic pendulum.
  • Spinturnix, son of Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  • Medore, nonbinary offspring of Dierdre
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos. 

Most of the NPCs are from the novels.

Scene 1: Corwin and Medore follow the unicorn and stumble upon a Weir encampment. They agree to split up with Corwyn tracking the Weir and Medore searching for the unicorn.

Scene 2: David leaves breakfast and heads out into the city seeking sparring partners and information.

Scene 3: Dal takes an armful of scientific instruments down to the dungeons and announces himself to the guards as the new minister of science. He pokes a bit at the evidence from the prior evening but then spends several hours measuring aspects of the pattern and pondering its nature.

Scene 4: Abh Haram is disappointed in his legal research then is arrested near the stables on charges of espionage and accessory to murder and brought to the dungeons.

Scene 5: Maarit returns from her ride on Bronze (Sand's wonderhorse) and learns that Brute the Pig and perhaps the rest of his entourage has been arrested. She then collides with Fiona who is headed to paint and they decide to meet for dinner and perhaps a portrait of Maarit.

Scene 1B: Medore tracks down the black unicorn and treats its wounds. It begins pawing a message into the dirt but then a white unicorn appears and the black one charges it. Medore uses some magic to even the clash despite the horses’ disparate size and prevent them from seriously injuring each other.. Eventually Medore is saved from being trampled when space distorts and both unicorns head off down strange tunnels in space. Medore follows the black unicorn down one corridor.

GM's Addendum re: Corwin and Medore

I had intended for Corwin and Medore to stick together, and both be present when the two unicorns clashed in Scene 1B (below). Medore however had picked up on the black unicorn being somewhat uncomfortable around Corwin, and sent him off on a bit of a fool's errand. This, it turns out, was a very wise decision on Medore's part. I had actually planned to have a clashing unicorn put out one of Corwin's eyes. The player's decision here saved Corwin from some more painful regeneration.

Scene 2B: David investigates some wreckage in the harbor and seeks information from the harbormaster about activity in the city and recruiting of sailors. 

GM's Addendum re: David's investigations

Caine's 3 ships in the harbor have increased to 7. Two other ships, captains unknown, seem to be standing guard against them. Things remain tense.  

David also learned that Caine had recently (within the last fortnight) offered sign-up bonuses for the Royal Navy, paid for from his own coffers.

David also discovered that the ship Abn Haram and Nykae arrived in sailed from Kashfa, and yet arrived from the wrong direction. It took the long way, so was either trying to avoid detection, or intentionally settting up the ambush.

Scene 3B/4B: Dal speaks with Random via Card and agrees to talk to Abn Haram and appraise him of the situation while getting the King to agree to allow him to walk the pattern. He speaks with Abn Haram and they verbally spar a bit while he delivers the King’s message while also offering to visit him and talk regularly.

GM's Addendum re: Abn Haram's dungeon cell

The cell Abn Haram is being held in is one of the nicest cells in the dungeon, fit for royalty. In fact, it once held Osric, when he was under house arrest after killing that guy from Karm. It has a drafting table, a painting easel, a fancy chess table with a drawer for the pieces, its own privy, and a dresser with several outfits in blue and yellow.

Scene 5B: Maarit meets with Fiona for dinner. They discuss her mother and family history. Fiona rather enthusiastically supports the idea of obeying the omens of the unicorn.

Scene 1C/5C: Medore follows the unicorn down weird space corridor, then uses magic to try to save them from falling. The unicorn and Medore come through a door (or a tapestry) and fall into the room where Medore and Fiona were having dinner.

Medore and Marit chase the unicorn toward the dungeons. It runs like it knows where it is going. At the guard post it encounters the white unicorn and they clash again. It runs off again and Medore and Marit blow past the white unicorn shouting pleas at it to stop while still chasing the black unicorn.

Scene 3C: Dal walks the pattern and remembers sections of his life while noting some interesting aspects of the experience where he can. Upon reaching the center he makes the somewhat impulsive decision to try to reach the “real” pattern Random told him existed. He appears, successfully at the edge of the primal pattern.

GM's addendum re: Fiona

Fiona did a lot of very specific things that I couldn't tell if the players were picking up on or not.   I'm not sure I want to spell them all out, as she's definitely my most "read-between-the-lines" / "wheels within wheels" character.  When I'm prepping scenes for Corwin, I put a lot of effort into his words (trying in vain to emulate Zelazny's voice)... but with Fiona I put a lot more effort into every little detail because absolutely everything matters whenever Fiona is on camera (trying to emulate what Zelazny does in the novels). Fiona is complex, and operates on a level all her own.


Quote Log: Session 6

  • Corwyn: Do you know your way around?
    Medore: This is my second time in Amber, but I can see mountains…” 
  • “Seven ships isn’t an invasion… that’s somebody being grumpy!” - Soldier
  • “I look at him like I don’t want some filthy peasant touching my sword” - Peter
  • “Guard: I guess there’s a certain poetry in it.
    Abn Haram: Good! I like poetry!”
  • “Guard: I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk to you sir.
    Abn Haram: that sounds like a question for your superior, I can’t help you with that, but I have stood many watches and I know how boring they are.”
  • “Stablehand: Funny you should mention that, the pig was put under arrest.
    “Marit: …Do you think it understood the charges?”
  • “I may even apologize as long as you don’t tell any of my siblings.” Fiona
  • “If I can’t make a pig do what I want then I probably don’t deserve the throne.” - Random

Shock & Awe: How To Do A Decent Benedict

 A second installment in my takes on how to do justice to Zelazny's NPCs. In my first installment I talked at great length about how tricky it is to capture the feel of Corwin, and discussed the methods I use to prep for any scene or session I know he'll be in. 

This time, I discuss Benedict, the first bloody bastard of Amber.

"...the old arguments were resumed as to who was more legitimate. Of course, you and Eric are both my elders, but while Faiella, mother to Eric and myself was his wife after the death of Cymnea, they-"

"Enough!" cried Benedict, slapping the table so hard that it cracked.  The lamp danced and sputtered, but by some small miracle was not upset. The tent's entrance flap was immediately pushed aside and a concerned guard peered in. Benedict glanced at him and he withdrew.

"I do not wish to sit in on our respective bastardy proceeding," Benedict said softly. "That obscene pastime was one of the reasons I initially absented myself from felicity. Please continue your story without the benefit of footnotes..."

-Corwin and Benedict, in The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny


Benedict boils down to three main traits in order from most to least: Short-Tempered,  Erudite, and Laconic. He's the eldest of the family, meaning that he's had the most time to accumulate a sizable vocabulary and extensive education. A particular set of skills, if you will. Also, it means that all the other NPCs seem like squabbling children from his point of view. Depending on how deep you want to stare into the implied Abyss, you may or may not also see Benedict as Oberon's enforcer or enabler: The big bully of the family. We're sort of told by Corwin that Benedict's amongst the moral best of the siblings, or at least the only brother likely to be above suspicion. Despite that praise, he's clearly a murderous bastard with serious anger management issues... even more so than his siblings. He's not above suspicion because he's a good guy. He's above suspicion only because if he was the secret villain, he would have already killed everyone by now.

We are told that Benedict spends millennia practicing warfare, running the same campaigns and battles over and over again with minor changes. Actively sacrificing countless lives to find the most effective solutions and the most efficient methods. I put forth that he treats the language with the same martial determinism. He has figured out the best words to use, and the sharpest way to wield them. He moves to convey his meaning quickly and precisely, and remind the listener that he's better than them. Shock and awe.

So when I know that there's a big scene coming up with Benedict in it, I try to think ahead (between sessions) to the sorts of things he's likely to say, and write them out. Then I run them through a few "algorithms", I guess:

1.) I crank up the volatility a bit. Figure out how might he say it with an air of menace or insult. The man does not hesitate to throw his weight around, and he does not suffer fools.

2.) Then I break out a thesaurus, and upgrade my native vocabulary with a few $5 words. Terminology that I can mostly follow the gist of when they came up in conversation, but which I'd be hard pressed to give a nuanced definition of without a reference.

3.) So armed, I pare it back down, so that there's not a lot of wasted words, nor time for people to interrupt. Benedict is lean, and so are his paragraphs. His sentences certainly aren't short or simple, but he doesn't pause to let you process, and he sure as hell isn't going to elaborate or repeat himself if you weren't quick enough to parse it the first time.

For example, in a recent session of my current A Horse Of Another Timbre campaign, Benedict and Random were talking, and Ben said:

"Your first duty as sovereign of Amber is to demonstrate the immutability of the realm, NOT the pursuit of your cornucopian fantasies of libertine socialist reform! Your overly egalitarian reign has fostered the appearance of caducity. This weakness will not be allowed to persist. You will end it, or I will end it, before our enemies can!"

Obviously, that leans most heavily on steps 1 (volatility) & 2 (vocabulary), and could arguably have benefited from a bit more of step 3 (brevity).   I delivered the lines as quickly and sternly as I could, though, and it made all the players flinch on Random's behalf. That's Benedict for you.

A Horse Of Another Timbre, Campaign Log: Session 5

The following is the campaign log for the fifth session of my current Amber Diceless RPG campaign. Most of this was typed up by one my players during the session. I've added a few notes of my own. 

You can Start from Session #1 or just pick up at Session #4.

Campaign log: 26 October, 2020

Setting the Scene: At this point the "murder mystery" angle (re: the attempted assassination of Nykae the Chaos ambassador) was fading in the background, and more of the immediate threats to Amber start showing up. Still, it starts off calmly with a peaceful group breakfast.

The PCs are:

  • Dalziel, son of Bleys. A scientist who has been in Amber for several months.
  • Maarit, daughter of Sand. An orphan with a magic pendulum.
  • Spinturnix, son of Julian. Grew up in Forest Arden.
  • Medore, nonbinary child of Dierdre
  • David Weyreth is a retired officer from the militaries of Amber.
  • Abn Haram, the human-shaped son of Lady Nykae of Chaos. 

Most of the NPCs are from the novels. The only real exception are the Chaosites, Nykae and Sevran (who are reused from previous Amber campaigns -- ages ago with other players -- so I didn't have to dream up new personalities and backstories.)

 Scene 1: Abn Haram "wakes," David serves eggs
A knock early in the morning wakes Abn Haram. Waiting in the hallway is a messenger asking him to visit the King. The messenger mentions that Nykae survived the surgery, and invites Haram to join the King for breakfast. The food David serves is VeryTasty™. 

(One of the two main inspirations for the character of David is apparently Hannibal, so he's a bit of a foodie. He makes a meal that seems fancy to the GM and other players, but in-character David insists it's nothing special.)  

Abn Haram and David have a chance to chat before the King arrives. King Random and his wife arrive. The King eats some without using a taster first, then invites his wife to eat. Random reports that when he stepped away to use a card, Nykae used a card as well and slipped away.

Nykae tells Haram she has returned home. Random swears he will find the person who arranged the attack and make them pay. Random questions Haram, mentioning that Nykae had something "important" to tell him, but never got the chance. Random asks if perhaps Nykae was there to stir up trouble, rather than conduct diplomacy. Random asks if Haram had a reason Nykae brought him. Haram reveals that Osric is Haram's father (he's a nephew of Random!). Random wonders if Haram might have been the target of the assassination; he wonders whether Haram should stay or not.

After a bit more thought, Random asks Haram to leave, because he's a diplomatic pain. Meanwhile, Haram takes a trump call from his uncle Sevran (Nykae's brother, also from Chaos). Corwin comes in and Random becomes a bit more belligerent, telling Abn Haram he needs to leave.  Haram agrees and stands up to go get Brute (the pig). Random says he wants to go talk to Caine, and take Corwin along. Corwin says he's tired of trying to fix everything in Amber, Random asks for his help; he's convinced Caine was the one who attempted the attack. Corwin says he doesn't want to go along and stand up to Caine, tells Random he needs to be firm enough to stay on the throne to keep it. 

GM's notes on the call from Severan: "Your mother is safe, we have rescued her from attempted murder and from imprisonment. She is recovering at home in Moenways, but is not yet hale enough to call you directly herself. She expressed concerns about your safety, and wanted me to bring you to home, along with any members of your combined entourage who survived the encounter."
Abn Haram decides he will leave immediately... or as soon as Random gives him Nykae's necklace.

GM's reconstruction of the Random-Corwin argument over breakfast, based on my notes and plans pre-session:

Random tries to boss Corwin around, and it backfires.   "You're gonna help me with Caine. A show of force. You'll be at my side when I sail out to meet him. Maybe two hours of your time."

Corwin doesn't like being told what to do: "I spent all night checking the locks on cupboard drawers and poking bodies with silverware. I feel I've done my part, and then some. It's damn easy to fall back into the old patterns of trying to fix everything broken in Amber, but that's some other sap's job now."

Random:  "Come on man, it's me. Usually my biggest advantage over brothers is their tendencies to underestimate me. Him thinking I'm weaker than I am isn't exactly an asset when trying to dissuade treason or posturing. You being at my si-"

Corwin: "Caine is just expressing his dissatisfaction that you've been cozy with chaos. I've literally slept with the enemy, so my presence is not the boon you're imagining. Be a strong, just, Amber-centric king, and your rule will be the better for it. Caine will back down when he sees you pick family over foreigners. If he doesn't, then we'll talk again." 

Random: "If he doesn't, I might be dead. You know how he plays. Your king is in danger. The crown commands you to step up."

Corwin: "The same crown I once wore for a half a second? I threw it away. It clashed with my manacles."

Random: "I also spent those years under arrest. I did right by you! Why are you making me beg? Screw! Have you had second thoughts about your abnegation? Are you in this with Caine?"

Corwin: "Don't be stupid. If I felt like ruling a universe, I have a whole new one to play with. I don't want Amber destroyed, but I won't start up the old vendettas again against a threat that's both family and not of the existential sort. I did one night of detective work, for which I won't submit an invoice, because it amused me to see how my nieces and nephews think. Be happy with the facts uncovered. Caine trying to kill her revealed that Chaos has some defense against the Pattern.  That ought to bridge the ideological gap between yourself and Caine. I've done my part. So unless you're arresting me, I'll be taking my leave and bringing my niece to her mother's grave."

Scene 2: Spinternix and Fiona "just happen" to provide arrows for Julian

Nix wakes early and, after his morning ablutions, plans to go birding with the rising sun. When he leaves his room, he finds Fiona "walking by," with a quiverful of silver arrows and a bow with a broken string. Nix accompanies her to the armory, telling her while on the way of the Cat that came to the library, of the crazy banquet, and asking her about Caine (she hadn't seen Caine). She indicates she had a "hunch" that Julian would need help with silver arrows, as she hands several quiversful of arrows to Nix. She suggests that Nix call Julian and hand over the arrows, but not to mention Fiona's involvement.

Nix does call Julian--ostensibly to mention that Nix was returning to Oberon's Loupe with Silver Arrows to defend against future attacks from the Cats--and learns his father is in a heated battle with the Wier, running low on silver arrows. Nix passes all but one of the quivers through and finds his father thankful (a rare thing). Julian asks Nix to tell the King that "Eric's Weir are acting up" and Julian expects to have them under control by the end of the day. Nix heads toward the King's breakfast chamber and finds himself waiting to speak to the King as the King argues with Corwin.

Scene 3: Dalziel joins the breakfast, too

Dalziel wakes up and heads toward the King's breakfast room. He sees Nix in the hall (but doesn't know him) and joins the page, who is waiting to interrupt Random and Corwin, who are shouting at one another. Dalziel edges into the room, listens to the argument for a minute, and interrupts to tell the King that Bleys has left the castle for a short while, but asked his family to stay and help the King. Dalziel tries to help Random find the best course of action for the royals to proceed. Just as Random is getting especially upset about Bleys, Dalziel reveals that Abn Haram had been asking about how to blow things up in Amber.

Random reveals that the dead folks from Chaos "should have been burning and they weren't burning." Things here are supposed to be fine-tuned to keep the Chaosites out. But that fine-tuning seems to be failing. Random tells the story of Nykae fighting with swords, recently out of the bath, but still wearing her bracelets. When her blood sprayed across the room, it started smoking. Random imagined that the bracelets gave her protection from the magic of Amber. He reveals that he kept one of the bracelets.

In the discussion of the fight, it becomes evident that "Caine's assassination attempt" revealed a crucial flaw in the Amber defenses. Dalziel reveals, secretly, that his scientific research makes him think that their inability to discuss how to secure the kingdom endangers us all. Dalziel offers himself as the King's science man, suggests he would be helpful to learn about the nature of the kingdom. Random declares that Dalziel will be the Royal Science Advisor™, and challenges him to figure out how the assassins came through the cabinet. Random also offers David the job of Royal Chef.

Corwin takes Dalziel for a walk, and gives him a chance to ask questions and find answers. Corwin tells Dalziel what he knows of the magic that makes Amber work the way it does. Oberon's setup created a situation designed to stop an arms race. Dalziel expresses concern that the members of the family could cause a lot of trouble. They chat about Corwin's discovery of Amber gunpowder, but he won't give Dalziel much information about it. Dalziel insists that his efforts could help detect and protect against our enemies. Corwin says the pattern likes us, Dalziel asks if he's being cryptic, Corwin thinks it's more than that -- the universe that he made maybe wanted to be made. Corwin worries he infected Dalziel with the idea of the universe, but offers to bring a sample of the explosive substance at some point in the future.

Scene 4: Medore and Corwin head to the Cenotaph

After Corwin finishes his conversation with Dalziel, he gets Medore from their rooms and invites them to visit the cemetery. Medore is dressed in an outfit not unlike a priest's robes. They go riding toward the cenotaph, and Corwin points out that the Forest Arden grew up aggressively. He says part of it didn't grow after the war, and other parts DID. They travel to the two stone cenotaphs, one for Medore's mother--Dierdre--one for Corwin himself. Corwin reminisced about Dierdre, telling Medore about her life and her death. He explains to Medore that he tried for a couple years to find Dierdre and had no luck. He had the feeling of anticipation for her return, Iktsuarpok.

Medore mentions that they've had less than a day to deal with Dierdre's death. The first time Medore was in Amber, Eric didn't want them to walk the pattern -- Dierdre let them walk anyway. The second time they visited.... Amidst the diplomatic incidents, Medore has been distracted from discussing Dierdre.  Medore says Corwin seems like the only one who's given Dierdre her due, so Medore offers to help defend Amber in Dierdre's memory.

Medore asks Corwin - "what would my mother be doing if she were here right now in Amber?" Corwin says it depends on whether she and Random were getting along. Corwin thinks he might have to go lean on Caine. She was strong and smart, but would figure out the moment when she HAD to lean in. Medore asks to learn more, and Corwin tells the story of the other brother who sided with Chaos. Corwin acknowledges that this conversation will lead him on a wild goose chase again, but Medore assures him it will be different this time. He mentions getting help from Fiona first and extensively, but then later wondering if maybe she was actually leading him astray. So he got Random, Bleys, Llewella, Gerard and Benedict together to give it another try. He didn't ask Caine or Julian to help. There are also people who are missing. Medore comes away from the discussion feeling like they should be the one who goes to confront Caine.

GM's reconstruction of the scene at the Cenotaph, based on my prep notes:  (Some of the lines below are appropriated from Alyson Noel and others from Edna St. Vincent Millay, because the GM Corwin steals lines stands on the shoulders of giants.)

She doesn't have a proper grave, because there was no body, but I did raise a Cenotaph in her memory. It's a decent spot for a picnic, with a breathtaking view of Arden, yet far enough away that no nosy relatives are likely interrupt us.

As I was almost saying last night, when we were kids, your mother and I were thick as thieves. Twin blades, back-to-back against our Father, our Brothers, and the World. Then, later, I messed that up, and have always regretted it. 

She was my favorite relative, which means little, and my favorite person, which means a good deal more.

If I should manage to do right by you, Medore, it would help me feel a bit better about an ancient karmic equity, a debt I'd thought I'd lost all opportunity to repay.

I'm coming on strong, I know, and your instinct should be to distrust every word I say. Just the same, I hope that, given time, we might grow to be friends.

On the topic of grief:

In my experience, you never really stop missing someone -- you just learn to live around outskirts of the huge gaping hole of their absence. Tiptoeing around it by daylight, falling in deep at night.

Your mother was beautiful, and brilliant, and ferocious. The ultimate survivor, the embodiment of grace under pressure. A perfect princess and a bitchy tomboy, somehow both at once without it feeling a contradiction. 

What I'm saying is, she could cut a rug, and she could cut a man in half. Backwards and in high heels for either, if need be.

She had 5 cruel older brothers, me among them, and an abusive psychopath for a father, and she could play as nasty and hard as any of us, but she could also surprise you with a tenderness that was uniquely her own. It couldn't have been easy being the first daughter in a family like that. When we were young, I tried to protect her, especially from Eric, who blamed her for our mother's death, ...but from Dad, too. Eventually, she grew up, and insisted on doing her own protecting.

If asked about her death:

She perished on the battlefield, axe in hand and fully armored. Her murder was the final act of treason by a villain who had tried to Brand the entire universe with his own iron. She fought him all the way, but he pulled her with him into the yawning emptiness at the end of all universes.

There was no body, so I held out hope. I tried her Tarot a hundred times. I walked among the enemy, and asked all the leading experts in Chaos if there was any chance of survival. No one lost to that pit has ever returned. I tried anyway. I even asked for fairly risky help from my sister that understands the cards better than all but their original artist. We failed, and I still didn't give up. My worse if wiser self remembered a time when Fi had sabotaged an attempt by a group of us to save someone else by card. So I gathered a different group of family, without her, and nagged them into all trying it together. When that failed too, I even went in search of that original artist I alluded to earlier, but he was no longer home. Nothing, nothing, and nothing again, each less sane than the nothing before it.

After all that failure and nothingness, I decided to build a cenotaph for Deirdre, here, next to mine. Some sort of wish-fulfilment, I guess. 

Whenever I'm here at her Cenotaph, I get this intense feeling of Iktsuarpok - You know what I mean? It's a word from this little place I used to live, called Earth. On Earth there were these people, the Inuits. I spent a long hard year with them before walking home when our ships got stuck in the ice. Anyway, they had this word, Iktsuarpok... it means the intense anticipation that you feel when waiting for someone to arrive, that keeps sending you out into the cold every few minutes to see if they're here yet, even though you know that if they were out there, they'd be rushing inside to warm up next to your fire.
Scene 5: Maarit sleeps in

Maarit wakes, meditates, then heads for brunch.

Scene 2b: David counsels Random, Nix delivers a message

Random feels unconfident about his choices and performance thus far. David implies that Caine and Bleys are working to undermine Random. Nix arrives and delivers Julian's message that Eric's Weir are causing a bit of trouble, but will be under control by evening. Nix is invited to join them for breakfast. He mentions off hand that the chef wanted time alone with the banquet hall, and mentions the other rumors he heard about the banquet. He and David get to talking about Xandria and Narnia. David never agrees to become head chef for Random.

Scene 1b: Abn Haram in the library
An old book on law and politics in Amber declare that Osric and Findo were removed from the line of succession before they died. It's unclear what that means for Abn Haram's status, but the book is a summary, not a direct translation. Osric was arrested in Karm and then transferred to Amber, where he was held in the dungeons. He learns that concessions were made to Karm, and that a discussion regarding the line of succession is ongoing. Haram discovers that if he's able to prove his paternity, he might have a claim to keep the king from exiling him.

(The player keeping these notes was away from keyboard for a bit, so there's a hole in the log here.)

Scene 5b: Maarit goes to get Bronze
The stablehand feels embarrassed and scared that he misunderstood Maarit's nature when he was telling Maarit about Sand. She asks to take him for a ride or a walk. They take the horse out, and Maarit goes a' ridin. The horse is very excited to go riding, Maarit leads him down the royal promenade, by the valley. The horse leads Maarit to a rarely-used road that runs along the shore, far from the woods among civilized territory. The horse leads her to a series of intersections toward ericsburn.

The horse catches something on the wind, then turns and heads on a route and begins moving faster. This leads past another sign, heads further along the path. Maarit discovers that Bronze is heading past Baylesport, toward Murn. She decides that she doesn't want to risk going out into shadow, or just several days out near the woods full of werewolves, and so she turns around and heads back to the Castle.

Scene 4b: Medore and Corwin in the Grove of the Unicorn.

Coming down from the Cenotaphs, Corwin leads Medore on a different route to the bluffs overlooking Garnath, to a place called the Grove of the Unicorn. He says that in times of trouble, the Unicorn would often show up here in visions. If it doesn't, he thinks that might be a good sign that the current troubles are more minor than they seem. They wait a while, and then decide to ride off. But wait! There is a unicorn here! It's just not the tiny alabaster-and-mother-of-pearl creature Corwin is used to. It's a full sized black horse with a golden horn and bloody claw marks on its haunches. It's leary of Corwin, but seems to be okay with Medore. Medore tends its wounds while Corwin stays at a distance. Then there are horns and hounds in the distance. Several Weir rush into the area, but they aren't attacking, their running for their lives. Corwin and Medore kill a few and scatter the others. One even jumps off the cliff!. Then Julian's hounds arrive in pursuit, and this is too much, the Black Unicorn runs off into the woods. There's a tense moment where Corwin has to kill a couple of the hounds before Julian shows up to call them off. The hounds try to chase the Black Unicorn (which Julian hasn't seen) so Corwin claims it's Medore's horse that was a gift from her mom. Julian's reaction to Medore makes Corwin's awkward double-take seem progressive and sensitive by comparison.

Scene 3b: Dalziel talks to Random again

Dalz and Random have another longer conversation, and the King actually opens up a bit. He acknowledges the Jewel of Judgment is how the nature of Amber can be tuned, and cops to having done a bit of that. He says his attempts were mostly social equity improvements, not laws of magic or science changes, but acknowledges he's learning as he goes and could be changing more than he realizes. He also speculates that changes could have been made by Oberon, Dworkin, Eric, or Corwin. Another bombshell concerns actual bombshells: Random says that according to old records and things Benedict has told him, Corwin's rifle company wasn't the first time guns had fired in Amber. They did so thousands of years ago, in the days of Osric and Finndo. He said Dad changed things after that so it wouldn't work any more. Dalz suggests that Corwin's universe could have "evil twins" of people they know. Random says that Corwin had promised to show him his universe, and then went AWOL for three years instead. They talk about the ramifications of reflections and galaxies. Random spells out how Rebma reflects Amber. King Oberon went missing and thereafter Queen Moins vanished. Queen Moire took the throne of Rebma and some years later Eric became King of Amber. Eric and Moire died within a few days of each other, each fighting against their realm's version of the Black Road. By rights, Random's son Martin (son of Morganthe the deceased daughter of Moire) should have been King of Rebma, but Random didn't really back his play, and an underdog candidate Queen Psamathe took the throne of Rebma instead. This causes Random to remember that there's a Jewel of Judgment analog in Rebma, and he wonders if that couldn't be what's changing things in Amber, since he's not sure who has it. Random essentially confesses that he's not only be making tweaks with the jewel, but that he's also actively trying to subvert the power and financial systems of Amber and bring power to the downtrodden at home and abroad.  Random talks about the Primal Pattern Land, but without calling it that or really providing many details. Dalziel advocates for the idea of bringing thousands of scientists to study Amber and make it all open-source.

Quote Log: Night 5 10/26/20
Compiled by one of my players during the game, these are memorable statements by players and/or the GM.

  • “We draw energy from what we consume.” -David
  • “Are you asking me to leave?"  "...I think I might be asking you to leave."  "Well, let me know when you know.” -Abn Haram / King Random

  • “Welcome to the Family…" - Corwyn

    "Fuck!” -Dalziel

  • "Go and spend time with your niece and mourn the dead. But don't forget about me please." - Dal
  • "I assume I can't just pee a Pattern into the snow..." - Dal

  • "It doesn't work like that. I don't just magically know everyone's secrets... I only magically know the secrets of those I choose to focus on.” - Fiona

  • “You never really get over losing someone. You dance around the edges of the gaping hole they left during the day and you fall in hard at night.” Corwyn
  • “She could cut a rug, and she could cut a man in half, both backward and in high heels if necessary.” Corwyn
  • “And here I am, a horrible mess of a man, and I manage to turn my memorial of her in to talking about myself."   "Well, I wasn’t going to say anything....” Corwyn / Medore

  • “I may have to decline to answer your question on the grounds that I would then have to ride back in there and go deal with Caine like Random wants me to.” - Corwyn to Medore

  • “Corwyn: Whatever man… oh… I’m sorry

    Medore: You aren’t wrong…

    Corwyn: I’ve misread something…

    Medore: No you haven’t.

    Corwyn: I thought you were your mother’s daughter but with her tomboy streak.

    Medore: I am…

    Corwyn: stammers.”
(For context on that last bit, one of the PCs in non-binary, and the NPCs reactions have ranged from acceptance, to awkwardness, to far worse, depending on how open-minded they are and where they fall on the spectrum from hero to villain. One can make a good case that the thesis of the first five novels is that Corwin starts out wrong about everything, but every 50 pages or so he discovers that he was wrong about something else and adjusts his world view to incorporate the new information. That trend holds true with this topic as well.)