So. That’s a time bomb. Where I come from, time bombs are, well, timed. You set them, they go off some time later. Pretty standard, really.
The… Device which just exploded in a cloud of spicy smoke in Random’s strange bar caused no harm, and it obviously exploded immediately. The time aspect? Well, this bomb kind of… Stopped it. Not that we were frozen, but more that our relationship to time outside of this shadow was changed. We slowed down, so that in a moment here was days, weeks… Months? Time swept around us, like a rock in a stream.
Clever move – it effectively removed Corwin, Random, and, I guess, my own mad self out of play.
But for what?
I knew – intellectually – at least, that vampires are a thing in Amber. But they seemed urbane, polite monsters. Hagen is quite charming, more or less. But in the three weeks that we were locked down by the time bomb, some real monsters had attacked and taken over the shadow.
Random wanted to move on, let it be someone else’s problem. But I can’t do that anymore; not after Flo… Not after I was shown a better way.
I used to think that if you try to fix every broken thing you would just go mad. But I went mad anyway. I wallowed in loss and rage, lost who I was. But she helped me find myself again, and every day since I’ve felt closer to the man I was.
The trick now is to not lose my way when I’m so close. And to stay the path I cannot just walk past the weak and the unjust. It’s not enough to cry “Witness!” and just carry the pain and memory.
Before things went south back home, before the famine and wars, the death of the seas and the coming of the Whirlwind, there was a soldier, and he said something I didn’t pay attention to at the time. But it seems something to live by now.
“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”
I was a policeman, once upon a time. But it was just a job; I was young, I had a family, and I was good behind the wheel of a pursuit vehicle. And maybe if I had believed more in what I was doing I could have… Saved the world?
I don’t know. But now? Now I can save worlds.
So we stayed, and we killed every last vampire we could find in that small shadow. Hopefully more won’t come – but at the least the survivors know now that they can fight and win.
Hopefully that’s enough.
Well, it never rains, but it does pour vampires. Seems the undead problem is an offshoot of Fiona’s turning up every one of the extant Pattern curses. So, of course the Venway basically go feral across the city.
It also turns out there was something about an earthquake, and gods coming down, and… Lara, when I Trumped her, was a little, um, distracted. So I’m not sure of it all, but a week has passed and there are armies and vampires and Erica was ill… I don’t know the half of it, but I know I can’t keep heading away from it all.
So I’m going back. So’s Corwin, and the kids, and we’re dragging Random along as well. Maybe even he can do some good.
Yeah, that’ll work out just fine.
Shapeshifting Fiona, poisoning the Queen, Corwin and Random confined to quarters, a complete lack of trust when the family needs it most.
Amber. Under threat. Again.
For what felt like one brief moment we were almost all together again. Then it all flew apart. Hagen is pursuing Fiona, and likely looking to die, Emil has a crazy idea about saving… Hell, I can’t even keep up with him. Lara is trying to keep the whole crazy machine together, and Sioned has shuffled the dying Queen off… I have no idea.
Amber is a pit of snakes. Why can I not stop myself from coming back?
Well, fuck. The Pattern.
So this is Emil’s idea. Apparently Lara healed the Pattern once upon a time, and since Fiona has now tweaked the Pattern to inflame the Curses, he hopes that Lara’s memory of the Pattern can reset the Pattern to short-circuit the Curses.
Yeah. Glory, Ty, if you’re reading this… Shoot Emil in the head.
Shit. Fuck. Damn. Fiona.
Fuck. Damn. Shit. Fiona.
After poisoning Erica Fiona fled to Rebma. Crazy underwater city, the mirror of Amber. Hagen was pursuing her from without the city, as she attempted to assay the city’s Pattern. I heard this from Flora – no idea how she knew, but hearing the news there was only one option.
To walk the Pattern beneath the Palace, beat her to the Center.
Lara and Emil followed, and I think I helped them with their plan, but, to be honest, I just wanted to get Fiona in my sights. So I walked. Again.
The Pattern is a copper-plated fucker. Every step it challenges you, but… Well, with every step you become more yourself. It pares away anything extraneous; I’d never noted that before. But it showed me my… My family. My wife, my child. Those taken from me in the fall of a dying world. But the challenge is not to dwell on that – I spent an age doing that. The challenge is to move on, to make a world for those yet born.
I don’t care what the Pattern thinks of that, but it let me pass. To Rebma, where Fiona was walking the Pattern and avoiding bolts fired by Hagen.
I shot her. Back sight, front sight, target, fire. The old mantra of the range, drilled experience becoming lethal fact. Emil appeared in my rear and did something… Magical? I have no idea, but I know it helped.
Fiona took nearly a dozen shots before she began to go limp. As she finally started to fall, I shouted across the distance.
“You will never threaten my family again.”
I hope it’s a promise I can keep.
You will never know what a better man you have made me. I can try to explain; over Fiona’s sodden corpse I did just that! But they’re just words. Amber is full of words, of promises and oaths.
These are nothing. I can make promises, but it is actions that matter. Actions that from this day I promise to take to make Amber live up to it’s dream – to be that bright Center of all things. A place of refuge, a place that can be home for any who can seek it.
And for those that cannot? Well.
Shadow is infinite. No one man can make that wide and deep measure of reality something even like safe. But one man can do what he can.
I told Flora that I wore a badge once. I was once a protector. It is time to take up that badge again.