A parody of Roger Zelazny's first Amber book, Nine Princes in Amber (1970), in the style of a YouTube abridged series. An amnesiac man with a mysterious past finds himself thrust into the politics of a magically empowered group of siblings legendary in their immoderate lust for power and for each other.
This story also spoils later books in the first Amber pentalogy. Not so much the second, if only because I can't be bothered to read it. I have no plans to adapt any of them past Nine Princes.
You can also find this story on Archive of Our Own.
I Play with a Slightly Damp Set of Cards
So I woke up in this hospital with nothing but a lot of aches and pains and my resplendent wit. The nurse wanted to stick me full of sedatives, but after sleeping on and off for a few centuries, I was really looking for more of an upper. After a frank exchange of views with the hospital administration, I limped out of there with the address of my sister, some money, and a gun. And, of course, these guns.
I winced. "I got the joke. Do you have to kiss it, Dad?"
"What's the matter, Junior?" he said. "Emasculated in the presence of a real Prince of Amber?"
"I told you, my name is Merlin." I said. "Just get on with the story."
Dad shrugged. "Well, eventually I made it to Flora's, and I noticed, first of all, phew, she knows how to dress, and she sure fills out that dress nice. Have you seen her, Junior? I mean, off the battlefield."
"She's my aunt." I mumbled, not sure what else to say.
"Like that sort of thing would ever stop Corwin." said Random, not turning his head.
"Aren't you busy trying to save the universe?" said Dad in annoyance. Random didn't reply. "Thought so." said Dad, taking another swig of wine.
Well, according to Florimel, my name was really "Corwin of Amber". I didn't see why I would've been named after a cheat code from a 1994 computer game, but I was a little too busy trying to convince her that I knew absolutely anything about was going on to ask that sort of question. I did a bang-up job of convincing her, actually. The next day I remembered how good I am at medicine and swords. It turns out I'm good at everything. You have good genes, Junior, and ought to be thankful you got them twice over, what with me being both your dad and your great-great-great-half-uncle.
Eventually I found Flora's Trumps, which allowed me to admire a proper rendering of myself, and also stare daggers at my hated brother Eric and his horrible handsome, beautiful, gorgeous face. Obviously these things were part of some kind of children's card game, but I couldn't find anything about them on BoardGameGeek. I was inspecting Deirdre's card with particular care when I got a surprise phone call from your uncle Random.
"Listen, Corey," he said, "I'm in big trouble. Can I crash with you guys?"
I was too busy feeling relieved that Random wasn't some kind of wacky kid-appeal character who was constantly talking about robot monkey ninja zombies, as his name suggested, to pay close attention, but I managed to say "What sort of trouble?"
"I'm not sure." he said. "Roger hasn't written that book yet."
"Oh no, are we in a trilogy?" I said.
"That's what I'm hoping," he said, "but I fear the worst."
"Ugh. Well, get over here as fast as you can."
While I waited, I joined Flora for another little smoke-and-drink, my fifth of the day, or maybe the sixth.
"Here's to feelin' good all the time." she said, doing another shot.
I became contemplative. "Y'know Wolverine?" I said, taking a bite of a cannabis brownie.
"Who?" she said, arranging some cocaine on a mirror.
"The little guy with the claws from the comic books." I said, searching for a vein on my arm. I felt a kinship with Wolverine; like me, he was witty, subject to questionable medical treatment, nasty in a fight, amnesiac, beloved by all, and not quite American. "He's got this so-called healing factor that means he can be perfectly healthy even if he smokes three packs a day and drinks like a fish. So why does anything get him high in the first place?"
"He still feels all the same pain from being wounded, even if the wounds heal quickly, doesn't he?" said Flora, getting a lighter and one of her less nice spoons.
"Yes, I suppose it's only fair." I agreed, taking a sip of tea.
At that point our little sewing circle was broken up by Random crashing in at a great random (get it, Junior?). We quickly dispatched the trash mobs that had been chasing him.
I Stick It to Julian, Again
The next day, Randy and I went for a drive, and I said something offhandedly about how I'd like to see Amber. I'd heard something about "nine princes in amber" and was hoping for some kind of Jurassic Park thing where the nine of us were prehistoric men who had been resurrected through the magic of DNA, and my really real name was Conan. No such luck. I've banged a lot more chicks than Conan, anyway, and I've still got it after 700 years.
While I drove, Random navigated, loosely speaking. The bourgeois paradise of Westchester gradually gave way to a mysterious jungle, and then a vast desert. Eventually I found myself driving on some kind of iridescent highway that curved about crazily in an inky blackness.
"Are you sure we're going the right way?" I asked, narrowly avoiding a banana peel that a gorilla had carelessly left on the road.
"I knew we should've taken a right after Vvardenfell." said Random, looking at his phone. "This is the last time I use Apple Maps." You're looking at me skeptically, Junior, but remember, this was 1970, and Apple Maps was still a trash fire at the time. It wasn't until a lot of people got lost going to discotheques that Apple gave the Newton a major update.
At one point, I nearly crashed into a truck going the wrong way down the road. The driver, a bald man with a pork-pie hat, cursed us out vociferously. Random flushed with anger and drew his gun.
"What are you doing?" I said to him, appalled.
Random seemed to remember himself. "Oh, right, sorry. He's just a flimsy little mortal. He'd barely get to feel that." He holstered the weapon and rolled up his sleeves. "Which limb do you think I should tear off first?"
"I was actually suggesting to leave him be." I said gingerly.
"Huh, you've gotten soft, Corey." he said.
I reminded him swiftly that actually, I was as potent as ever, and like many men my age, I just needed a few minutes for the Viagra to kick in.
We continued in a tense silence. Somehow we made it the forest of Arden, and soon we were tangling with the first of Eric's flunkies, my brother Julian. We had to shoot up a bunch of his gross monster-dogs and then take out his helicopter when he tried to hunt us from the air. It was very thoughtful of Flora to keep a grenade launcher in the glove compartment. Eventually Julian had to chase us with his even grosser monster-horse, Morgenstern, but I subdued it with some sugarcubes, and I was shortly giving Julian the noogie of his life.
"What do you have to say for yourself, twerp?" I said, tossing him aside and into the dirt of the very forest he was so crazy about.
"I was just following orders." Julian whined. "Eric told me to keep an eye on you, so once I saw you, I had to get till I could see the whites of your eyes. I couldn't believe my eyes—I thought with what he'd done to you, you'd never set eyes on Amber again."
I scratched my head. "Why do you keep talking about eyes?"
"You'll see," said Julian, trying to suppress a smile, "or not.", immediately thereafter bursting into side-spilling laughter.
I was miffed, especially given how Random and I had just trounced him and here he was still the same smug little son-of-a-gun acting like the joke was on me. So I said "Fiona tells me Morgenstern's a lot bigger than you, and also better-looking." That shut him up.
I Hunt some Furries
I kept driving as long as I could. Once I could only pass the caster-level check to keep the car running this close to Amber on a natural 20, I decided it was time to stretch our legs. We wandered about in the woods, and by and by, we found a woman being kept prisoner by six goons.
"Eric's men." Random whispered to me as we crouched in the shadows.
"How can you tell?" I asked.
"Look at the hashtag that one has on his chainmail." said Random. "'#TheBigE'. That was Eric's campaign slogan last year."
"Campaign? Is Amber's head of state elected now?" I had a horrible vision of having to kiss babies and eat disgusting local food.
"Oh no, I mean his extermination campaign against the Care Bears and Smurfs in a nearby shadow. It was very popular."
I gritted my teeth. "He's as agile a statesman as he is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. We'll need all our wits to unseat him." I scanned the scene and with a shock, I recognized the prisoner. "Deirdre!" I hissed.
"I wonder what the bitch has been up to." said Random. The swear word was gratuitous, but he was still supposed to be the edgy one in this book.
"It looks like she's hanging in there." I said. I wasn't really listening, because I was concentrating on the sight of Deirdre in torn clothes all tied up at the stake, utterly at the mercy of any man who might happen upon her. Once I had this image securely installed in the spank bank, we drew our swords and made mincemeat of those mooks. I kept thinking about how grateful Deirdre would be when we rescued her, and—
At this point, I cut in "Dad, please don't tell me you had sex with Deirdre."
"Indeed I didn't," he said, starting on yet another jug of wine, "albeit not for lack of trying, and now that's never going to be remedied; I must pour one out for the nookie that will never be." He spilled a few drops.
"Oh, thank the Logrus." I said.
Dad frowned. "Junior, I get the impression that Chaos has been a bad influence on you. Incest is perfectly natural. It helps to keep the bloodline pure. Mortals avoid it because they all have garbage genes and they know they'll just make the problem worse. Anyway, your great-great-grandfather's made some much worse choices with his Bendy-dick than I have, and he's supposed to be the smart one in the family. You can't believe what it was like to grow up with that guy around. With Dad, it was always Benedict this, Benedict that. He'd say 'Corwin, why can't you be more like Benedict? When you were in diapers, Benedict won a fencing tournament with a plastic spoon. When you got your first zit, Benedict conquered Asia.' Ugh."
"I guess those comparisons were hardly fair," I allowed, "with him being so much older than you."
"No, Oberon meant when Benedict had been the same age. You know what Ben's first words were? 'Where's my aide-de-camp?'. What a spoiled little dork."
"I think we got off-track." I said.
Where was I? Thinking about how hot Deirdre was, right. Anyway, Deirdre was too smitten with me to make a move, as usual, and I was too much of a gentleman to press the issue. We disemboweled some wandering LARPers doing one of those emo White Wolf games and sat down to talk strategy.
"Do you seek the throne, Corwin?" said Deirdre.
"I guess." I said. "To be honest, I have few memories from before I woke up in that weird hospital in Long Island. All I remember is that Eric is a huge tool, no matter how glorious his beard is, and I have to do whatever I can to liberate Amber from his iron grip."
"Oh, that explains why you're even more uselessly cryptic than you used to be." said Random. "Well, Corey, the way I see it, you have one important qualifying feature as a prospective King of Amber: you're not Eric. So I'll support you. Dee, are you in?"
"I've been thinking about that." said Deirdre. "I am no less skilled than either of you with words or with blades, and I have the sympathy of many of our siblings. I think we should aim to put me on the throne instead."
Random and I were weak with laughter. Imagine that—Amber, a real live country, ruled by a woman! Deirdre had such a sly sense of humor sometimes.
When we'd recovered, Random said "I think I know how to restore your memory, Corwin. You have to walk the Pattern."
I Join the Mile-Deep Club
"You have to walk the Pattern." said Random. To be clear, he only said it once. I just thought I'd remind you, Junior, since you seem to be nodding off.
"Is that a euphemism?" I said.
"No." said Random. "The Pattern is a magical representation of the forces that sustain the existence of Amber. It will allow you to tap into the mighty magic that is our birthright as children of Oberon."
"Neato." I said.
"Getting to the usual Pattern would require getting into the very center of Amber," Random went on, "and I'm not sure how well the three of us would fare in a fight against the entire array of Eric's forces at the same time. So, we'll have to go to the mirror image of the Pattern in the underwater kingdom of Rebma instead."
"Oh no." I said. "I hate water levels. There better not be any sliding-block puzzles where we have to change the height of the water."
I needn't have worried. Rebma turned out to be a lovely place, with a lovely queen, the bling-laden yet deliciously topless Moire. Dunno why she was named "Moire" and not "Norebo". Random, however, was ill at ease. It turned out that some time ago, he had eloped with one of Moire's daughters, and then ditched her when she got pregnant. The princess made it back to Rebma and had the baby, but then she became an hero, and Random didn't even send Moire a sympathy text or anything. As punishment, Moire declared that Random would marry a different woman of Rebma and stay there for a year. I was confused why Moire wanted to "punish" a guy who'd broken her daughter's heart by giving him another of her subjects to mistreat, but I didn't argue. Random was escorted away by a squad of dolphins while a crab with a Jamaican accent began to sing him some kind of national anthem for the ocean floor, I guess to help him feel more at home. So you see, Junior, you should stop giving me looks as if I'm the one in the family who can't keep his pants on; I'm not the one who gets himself into trouble.
Anyway, that night, I dove for pearls in Moire's clam with Grayswandir, and it was awesome. Unicorn be praised, she did not have the mermaid problem. I raw-dogged her, actually, 'cause I figured there was no way that my 900-year-old sperm could impregnate anybody. Clearly, I wasn't exactly right about that, but that's a story for another time. The important thing is that I got my dick wet. Get it? "Wet"?
The next day, I got my jogging shorts and Walkman and ran the Pattern. Only a real weakling, like Brand, would literally walk the Pattern. I worked up a good sweat, and by the time I was at the end, all my memories were back, just like good ol' Randy had promised. I took a few moments to reminisce about some of my favorite benders. Then I checked my watch for a piece of paper from my Death Note, but I realized I'd gotten my wires crossed, so I fast-traveled to Amber.
I Parlay with Eric, and Would've Shish-Kebabbed Him, if He Hadn't Broken off the Duel like the Yellow Little Weasel He Was
Back in my home and native castle, I hurried to the library and ransacked the tabletop-games section. Between a battered copy of The Book of Weeaboo Fightan Magic and something called the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game, I found them: some spare packs of Trumps. Just then a footman came in to empty the ashtrays and replace the heroin needles, but I cleverly avoided detection by contorting my body into a rectangle and saying "bookshelf, bookshelf". Unfortunately, the next person to enter the room was Eric, and his dazzling azure eyes quickly penetrated my ruse.
"What are you doing here, Corwin?" he said, in a tone of evident disappointment.
"I've come to take my rightful place as King of Amber, you rogue." I said to him, brandishing Grayswandir. The sword, I mean.
"Oh, leave off." said Eric. "I've cleaned your clock twice and I'm all set to be crowned. You missed your shot. Just give it up. I'll give you a nice position in the court and we can leave all these tiresome centuries of fighting behind us."
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" I said, and charged at him.
A fierce duel ensued. I was having trouble at first, but Eric said "Corwin, why are you holding your sword in your left hand?" and I said "Uh, just trying something new." and switched it back. Being out of practice for a few centuries will do that. And even with lots of practice, when you get to be 2,000 years old, you have to be prepared for a little absentmindedness.
I'd given Eric a few good cuts and was on my way to something more definitive when a knock came on the door. "Everything okay in there?" said a voice I recognized as the captain of the guard.
Eric called out "Help, Corwin is back!", but I yelled louder than him "Yep, everything's fine; it's just me, Eric, training in case my far superior brother Corwin ever tries to attack me. How do you like my Corwin voice?"
"It's very convincing, my lord." said the captain of the guard. "Carry on, then."
Eric was indignant. He continued stepping back as I pressed the assault. But then I realized I'd walked right into his trap: he was now within range of a chair, upon which he sprang. "It's over, Corwin!" he cried triumphantly. "I have the high ground!"
"Curses!" I said. By cheating, he'd proven himself the worse swordsman, but the better Amberite.
I scaled a bookshelf so as to get on even higher ground. But by then, some other, less comically foolish guards had arrived at the library to defend that pretender to the throne.
"This was supposed to be a duel!" I protested as I took cover from a rain of crossbow bolts. "Call those men off, Eric!"
"This isn't exactly the Olympic Games." said Eric.
"You haven't seen the last of me!" I declared. With that, I Trumped the hell outta there.
I Collect some Warm Bodies
As the Leeroy Jenkins approach had not quite gone as intended, I decided to try an assault with more manpower. I sat down with Bleys and we bonded over how much we hated Eric and his sickeningly handsome face and nauseatingly impeccable taste in clothes.
Once I was properly tipsy again, I said "Point is, I just can't wait to be king."
"Me neither." said Bleys.
There was an awkward silence.
"Brother Corwin," said Bleys, "are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
I scratched my head. "Gee Bleys, I think so, but what if vanilla Angband eventually gets picked up again and makes huge strides in both the health of the codebase and game balance, and then our variant is left as a mere historical curiosity?"
"Actually," said Bleys, "I was thinking we'd both collect some forces, take Amber as a united front, and then fight among the two of us to decide who gets to take over. One of us will probably die, but at least Eric won't be king."
"Oh, that makes more sense. Let's do that."
Once Bleys had retired for the evening and I was sufficiently hammered, I decided to slide into Eric's TMs so I could troll him epically. I tried to reach him by mooning his Trump, but it remained the case that only Brand knew how to do that (the trick is that, technically, Brand's entire body was a butt), and the resultant situation when a servant walked in to tend the fireplace was a little awkward, so I used my middle finger instead.
I found Eric in bed, wearing his favorite pajamas, which were embroidered with black-and-red kittens. God, he could be so cute it drove me crazy.
"Now what?" he said, rubbing his eyes.
"Hey Eric." I said, holding back a giggle.
"Hey Eric, is your refrigerator running?"
Eric grimaced. "Perhaps it would be if you'd spent as much time trying to get electricity to work in Amber as you've spent plotting against me."
"Funny you should bring that up. I just recently figured it out."
"The secret is ligma."
Eric sighed heavily. "It's not updog?"
"Ligma balls!" I said and burst into laughter.
Subsequently, Eric put a pillow over his face and refused to engage in the conversation, so I made some choice remarks about his mother and broke the contact. Not my finest moment, perhaps, but when your dad is as much of a stud as mine, it can be hard to remember which of your sibs are full-blooded. You should really keep a list, Junior.
The next day I took a tour of Shadow and began putting together a fighting force. Really, recruiting a few hundred thousand suckers to die for you in your family squabbles is NBD when you're as charismatic a leader of men as I am. I told them that Eric was saber-rattling and harboring weapons of mass destruction and would soon make the world cower under the specter of communism, and I promised that anybody who earned a glorious death under my command would be rewarded in heaven with their own planet, 72 big-tiddy goth GFs, and a toaster. I also did a karaoke of "Be Prepared" so they understood that I was the good guy here. Soon I had 'em lining up around the block: Klingons, Wookies, Uruk-hai, Dementors, displacer beasts, Cyberdemons, grid bugs, Koopa Troopas, several talking pastel-haired ponies, and some kind of pervert in a skintight red-and-black suit with two swords. They weren't all the greatest warriors in the multiverse, but Bleys and I were in a hurry, so they would have to do.
I Foolishly Trust Bleys with Something More Ambitious than Tying His Shoes and Everything Goes Just Swimmingly
Once we were all set, Bleys and I split up. I led our navy to attack Amber by sea while he led our army to attack it by land.
It felt good to smell the salty sea air and watch our Water-type Pokémon splash playfully about the flagship. But then we hit some nasty weather. It started with unpredictable winds, escalated to raging thunderstorms, and finally gave way to raining cats and dogs. One of my best officers was struck down by a falling St. Bernard, and crews scrambled to bail out the kittens that swarmed the decks.
By the time we actually met the enemy navy, the weather had already done most of its work for it. Eric's ships had somehow avoided even a single poodle, whereas my flagship was listing under the weight of dachshunds.
I heard a voice. "Hey Corwin." It was Eric.
"New Trump; who dis?" I cleverly feigned.
"Now would be a good time to surrender." he said. Before me was a magically projected image of him. He sat on a throne as he fingered a large gem. "See this? It's the Jewel of Judgment. I command the heavens themselves against your feeble invasion."
"Joke's on you." I said. "I just got Caine to agree to hold off last night, so you won't have—" I looked up and saw that the enemy flagship flew Caine's colors. "Blast. Well, at least Gérard hasn't betrayed me yet. Right?"
"He won't betray you. He has this weird thing called a 'conscience'."
"Some sort of mortal hang-up. Sometimes I wonder if that big old dope is even our brother."
"You said it." I agreed, and we shared a little laugh. "Be honest, Eric, how many of our brothers are working for you at the moment?"
He thought about it and said "Several."
I glowered. "Alliances are just a cheap tactic to make weak Amberites stronger."
"Aren't you working with Bleys right now?"
"Don't change the subject!"
Eric sighed. "Please just give up and I won't have to humiliate you."
"Never!" I said boldly. I hung up and cried out "Onward, me hearties! To glory! If he be Caine, than we shall be Abel!"
"Wait, what?" said an admiral.
"Never mind." I said. "Just sink those ships."
We were badly outnumbered, and found ourselves doing most of the sinking. At that point I felt it most tactically astute to Trump myself over to Bleys, only to find that Bleys hadn't yet gotten as close to Amber as I had, and he'd already lost the vast majority of his army. It figured.
I Get an Eyeful
We fought as hard as we could and faced intense resistance. Eric's foot soldiers and meteorological assaults continued to wear us down. Finally, after several more adventures involving Julian being a nasty little creep, but which sadly did not involve me strangling him, we reached the foot of Kolvir. Bleys and I and our army (what was left of it) ascended the stair carved into the mountain, which narrowed into single file. Eric's goons came down the stair to meet us, and so we fought, two men at a time, slowly gaining a little forward progress with each kill, rather like waiting on line at Disneyland, except less violent.
I marched just behind Bleys. Eventually all our men in front of Bleys were down and it was Bleys's turn. He fought ferociously and cut through a good many of the badniks, but, being Bleys, he couldn't last forever. When he was struck decisively and sent sailing down the mountain, I tried to throw him my Trump, so he could admire my face in his final moments. Alas, the Trumps, being a tad clammy as always, were stuck together, and I accidentally gave him a whole pack. So he ended up with plenty of options for teleporting out of there before the ground caught up with him. At least I could feel secure that he was one of my sibs who wasn't secretly plotting against me.
Without clueless ol' Bleys in the way, I whipped out Grayswandir (again, to clarify: the sword) and showed those rascals how it was done. I carved my way up the stairs, through the city gates, into the castle, and across Eric's throat. Then I became King of Amber and lived happily ever after. The end.
I glanced at Random. "Was any of that true?"
"Some of it was." said Random.
"Most of it." said Dad.
"It sounded like you skipped over some stuff around the end." I said.
"You want the gory details, hmm, Junior?" said Dad. He hiccuped.
"For the last time," I said, exasperated, "my name is Merlin!"
"'Merlin'!" he snorted. "Your name is Corwin and that's final. If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for you. No son of mine will be named after some lame ol' vizier in Arthur's court. I could take on the entirety of Camelot with one hand tied behind my back, you know. And I practically did. But I'm getting behind myself…"
I made it to the city soon enough. Once I was off the stair, though, Eric's remaining goons—of which he seemed to have no end—unchivalrously surrounded me. I simply couldn't get them to behave and fight me one at a time. They dogpiled me and I was buried under the weight of their stupid little mortal bodies. The remainder of my army was promised ice cream if they abandoned me, so they promptly, er, desserted. I gave Eric my best stink-eye as I, shackled and a prisoner, was dragged before him in the heart of Castle Amber.
"Corwin," said Eric in front of his many distinguished guests—I could see Julian, Caine, and Flora, among other familiar faces, sitting at the long table, on which a great feast was spread—"this wasn't what I had in mind when I imagined you attending my coronation. Nevertheless, it will do. You've spent your whole life making things difficult, so at least it's true to form."
"I bet you wish I was easy." I said. "You think that just because you're amazing at everything you do and you're breathtakingly virile that I should be putty in your hands? Ha!"
"Well, the time has come." he said. "You've lost, once again, and this time for good. Now will you recognize me as King of Amber?"
In reply, I spat in his face.
Eric cringed. A duke hurried to wipe his face off with a handkerchief, and the coronation ceremony commenced while I sulked quietly.
Once Eric was crowned and the cheering had died down, Eric clapped his hands. "Fetch the pokers, lads." he said. "Make them nice and hot. It's time to give Corwin what he deserves."
"Whu… what's that?" I said as some thugs began to drag me away.
"You'll see." he said, waving to me.
"Eric, wait!" I cried out. "I thought you were supposed to be the reasonable one."
He shrugged. "I tried, but you've been such a persistent thorn in my side for so long that now I want you to suffer properly. And Julian gave me an idea that just sounds so gratifying." He grinned wickedly. At the mention that this was the doing of Julian, wimpy, malicious, sadistic little Julian, my eyes bugged out in horror. "Yeah, enjoy those while you've still got 'em." Eric added, taking a sip of wine.
I didn't stay conscious very long for the torment that awaited me. The last thing I remember was hearing Julian say "Talk about eye candy!"
I Fail to Think of a Good Funny Percy Jackson-Style Title for This One, Seeing as I'm Not Exactly at My Best
Eric wasn't satisfied with putting out my eyes, and in a particularly excruciating manner. Oh no. He tossed me into the deepest, darkest dungeon of Amber, which even the rats considered uninhabitably filthy. I asked how soon I might be paroled, with good behavior, and the guard just laughed a deep, rumbling, sadistic laugh. I asked about conjugal visits and spun a tale about being married back in Paris, but the guard didn't even humor me.
I sat there wasting away in the dark, damp silence. The hours ticked by. Ponderously they gave way to days, weeks, and months. I could only keep track of time by feeling the length of my beard, which proved to be imprecise. I had nothing to drink but water and expensive aged wines from exotic shadows (smuggled into the dungeon for me by a sympathetic noble), nothing to eat but bread and fine Cuban cigars (likewise). I amused myself with increasingly elaborate fantasies of how I would murder Eric and Julian and have a threesome with Deirdre and Flora, or vice versa.
Once a year, on the anniversary of Eric's coronation, I was let out of my cage, cleaned up, and allowed to join the party, with Julian assigned to keep me from getting into too much trouble. I gorged myself, got sloppy drunk, and made awkward passes at anybody who would listen. It was a nice change of pace. Ultimately, though, I felt I was only there so Eric could gloat over my powerlessness. They made me play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey every year. I was so bad at it that nobody noticed I was actually trying to stick the pin in Julian's eye. "Goodness, look where you're going." he'd chide me, and chuckle as I whimpered with impotent rage.
Overall, these years were pretty lame. 2/10; would not be endungeoned again.
I Escape with the Help of My Senile Unicorn-Banging Magical Grandfather, and I Postpone My Terrible Revenge till the Sequel
One day I woke up and saw how filthy my cell had become. "Gross." I muttered, and then realized that I'd seen something. My eyeballs were finally growing back. Sweet.
Bit by bit I regained some ability to see. I was careful not to let on to the guard that anything had changed. Anyway, there wasn't much to see in that sad oubliette. Usually I would've admired myself, but the less said about my personal appearance after several years down there, the better.
Soon I had another stroke of luck, in the form of an unusual visitor. He was someone I didn't often think of, an eccentric man with a lean, cadaverous figure, but I actually owed my very existence to him, as I was to learn much later. I speak, of course, of one of the watchmen, Roger.
"How are things in the nether world?" he asked me. He held a lantern, and so he was the first person I'd actually seen in a long time.
"The usual." I said. The sudden exercise of my long-disused voice was a strain and provoked a sepulchral cough. "Pretty nethery. What've you been up to?"
“I am writing a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity." said Roger. "I work on those parts down here.”
"Fitting, fitting." I said. "What's it called?"
"Funny you should ask." he said. "I have just been cogitating on that. I want to make it plain that this piece is a work of fantasy, but I also want to give the title a little something unusual, so as to provide reassurance that I'm not just going to crank out another Lord of the Rings rehash. Any ideas?"
"Well, you could put the name of some well-known fantastic location in the title. That's a concise way to convey the flavor of the setting."
Roger pondered this as he lit his pipe. "Like 'Tír na nÓg'?" he said.
"No, don't be ridiculous. Tír na nÓg is real, in a manner of speaking. You want a place that's clearly not real."
"Good point. How about 'Avalon'?"
"Smashing. And then to get that unusualness, you could put in a reference to something that you wouldn't usually associate with fantasy or Arthur or whatever. Say, guns."
Roger frowned. "What's a gun?"
"Oh, right." I said, remembering that he'd spent his whole life in Amber, which Oberon had declared a gun-free zone ages ago. "Well, they're like swords, except much noisier…"
Roger listened eagerly. Overall he seemed fascinated with me and what I had to say, so I figured I might as well milk this for all it was worth. Every day he would come down to my cell and I'd tell him some more about what I thought should happen to the hero, who, I decided, might as well be me.
One day he said "Lord Corwin, I have a surprise for you." He passed me a thick stack of mimeographed sheets through the bars. The cover read "The Guns of Avalon".
"Finally!" I said, ecstatic. "Say, Roger, would you do me a favor?"
"Give a note to His Majesty for me." I said.
I scribbled "Eric—I'll be back. And I'm gonna bring these guns." I doodled a bicep next to it, to be sure he got the joke. As my time in the dungeon had not been wholly beneficial to my figure, I must admit that the drawing was somewhat aspirational.
With the note handed over, I concentrated on the first page of the manuscript. It said something about me leaving a ship and standing on a beach. I pictured the beach in my mind's eye…