Sins of the Fathers
a Chronicles of Amber fanfic
Notes: I owe thanks to the Visual Guide to Castle Amber, written by Roger Zelazny and Neil Randall, and illustrated by Todd Cameron Hamilton and James Clouse. A great reference work.
Luke strode the lamplit halls of Castle Amber, his shadow flowing across the tapestries. He had visited three times: once as a hostage, once as a pawn, and once as a king. But there remained one place his hosts had never shown him.
He mounted the stairs to the second floor, but instead of turning right to the library, he turned left to the apartments of the royal family. Somewhere in the distance, the mournful tones of a saxophone haunted the air. Luke counted down the doors, until he reached his destination: the rooms that had belonged to his father, Brand.
Luke pushed the door open onto shadowy gloom. Four windows along the far wall stood shuttered. The air hung heavy with dust and silence. Luke ignited the candles; one by one, they blazed to life, illuminating the room and the man who had lived here.
Luke turned a slow circle, taking in the sombre oil paintings on the walls, the geometric patterned rug by the door, the black leather chair with the books piled beside it. A glass of red wine stood on the table nearby, unfinished.
Papers lay scattered across the desk, amid coloured jars and vials. Luke brushed away the dust, revealing notes in achingly familiar handwriting. One described a spell for seeing the past in a prism. But the instructions were nearly lost in the scrawl spilling from the margins, tangents of thought running wild. Luke tried and failed to decipher them; he had the feeling they would all be enigmatic to the outside observer.
One drawer held a folder of sketches, in that same unmistakable style. Portraits, a thick sheaf of them, faces known and unknown. Luke leafed through them, wondering if he would find himself there.
"Brand?" a hoarse voice said.
Luke whirled, dropping the folder on the desk. A man stood in the doorway, gripping the frame in one hand. He sported an orange mohawk and silver piercings, and wore black leathers hung with steel chains. Completely incongruous in the archaic surrounds of Castle Amber, and Luke thought for a moment he was hallucinating.
As they stared at each other, the man changed expression, growing closed and wary. Well. If in doubt, bluff it out. Luke strode forward and stuck out a hand. "Rinaldo of Kashfa. But everyone calls me Luke."
The other man did not take his hand. "I know who you are. Son of Brand."
His neck prickled. "And you are?"
"My name is Martin."
"Damn," Luke said, before he could stop himself. Martin, son of the king of Amber. Martin, the man who Brand had sacrificed on the Pattern, in his grand ambition to remake the universe in his image. Luke had never met him. But he had seen the sketches Brand worked on, based on descriptions he had gleaned, trying to create a Trump of a man he had never seen. No one else had ever done it before. No one else had ever done it again.
The man in the sketches had looked like a younger version of Random: a little taller, a little blonder, with a shy smile and hopeful eyes. Martin had transformed himself since. There was little trace of that naive optimism now.
"You, uh," Luke said. "You don't look so much like your dad." Smooth. Salesman of the year.
"I'm trying a new style," Martin said. His mouth twisted. "You look a lot like yours."
"So I've been told." The most neutral response Luke could think of.
"I wonder how deep the resemblance goes?" Martin framed the doorway with both arms, regarding Luke with cool assessment. They were alone, no witnesses. Luke was abruptly struck by the thought that vendettas ran both ways.
"You tell me," Luke said. "You were the one who called me by his name."
Martin flickered his gaze aside. "I saw a light."
"And what? You thought I was a ghost? You believe in ghosts?"
Martin made no answer. He released the doorframe and stepped inside. "My father ordered that these rooms remain undisturbed. Exactly as Brand left them." His fingers circled the rim of the wineglass on the table. A casual gesture, even familiar. It occurred to Luke that Martin had been here before, perhaps many times, and he wondered if the other man had found the answers he sought.
"You know," Martin said, "they never found his body."
Don't. Luke tightened his hands. "No one could survive the Abyss."
"They said no one could do a lot of things he did."
Luke wanted to believe it. How could his father be dead? The man who had given Luke his first horse, taught him how to draw the Trumps, guided him to walk the Pattern in the sky. A man who was fearless and clever and bold. Surely, it was far more reasonable that any moment he would step through that door, laughing at their mistake. His arrival was always a surprise, always made every day a holiday.
Only Luke could hardly say that to the man his father had stabbed on the Pattern.
"I want to ask you something," Martin said.
Luke nodded, wary, braced for something awkward and impossible. He never apologised for his father, ever, his own feelings a tangle of pride and love and anguish. What could he dig out to say to the man who had nearly died by his hand?
Martin said, "You tried to kill Merlin."
Not what Luke had expected. "Yes. I did. Not anymore."
"You wanted to avenge your father's death," Martin said. "Caine, I understand. Bleys, I understand. Even Corwin, even Random, I would understand. But Merlin had nothing to do with it." An edge to his voice. "He was an innocent."
Luke had learned there were times for plain speaking. He had that feeling now, that blunt honesty would go over better than excuses and evasions. "It was because he was an innocent. He was supposed to be an easy mark."
Practice, his mother had called it.
"An easy mark," Martin echoed. "And was he?"
"No. He was smarter and tougher than I thought. He had protections I didn't know about. And he had the devil's own luck."
"And then you decided not to kill him. Even though it messed up all your plans."
"I got to know him," Luke said slowly. "We had a lot in common." It had taken him by surprise: fierce rivalry to reluctant admiration to real friendship. As real as you could get, anyway, when you were both hiding your true names. But somehow, still, they had connected. "I didn't expect that. I didn't want him dead. Screw the plan. I liked him."
The silence stretched.
Martin lowered his head, eyes veiled. "Maybe you're not so much like your father after all."
- fin -