IMC :: slavery

In the shadows, which must reflect substance, from whence comes the reflection of slavery? Is slavery, as some philosophers have said, a state of mind?

I walked among Shadows, and found a race of furry creatures, dark and clawed and fanged, reasonably manlike, and about as intelligent as a freshman in the high school of your choice—sorry, kids, but what I mean is they were loyal, devoted, honest, and too easily screwed by bastards like me and my brother.

—Corwin (Amber prince, writer and poet. Nine Princes in Amber, chapter six)

“The blunting effects of slavery upon the slaveholder’s moral perceptions are known and conceded the world over; and a privileged class, an aristocracy, is but a band of slaveholders under another name”

—Mark Twain (American humorist, writer and lecturer. 1835-1910)

We were their gods, and that was that.


Yet there are no slaves in Amber.

Did Oberon not need labor, men and great urgency to build and defend his kingdom? Were the men of shadows not just there waiting to be taken or led to Amber’s need?
Is an illuminated warrior a slave?

Personality is the one thing we cannot control in our manipulations of Shadow.


No. The illuminated mystic or holy warrior has made a choice, or believed in their own culture’s choice. Is there anything in Zelazny’s canon about slavery? Just this:

‘It was a slave-spell,’ I said. “It would force me to take the throne, to follow orders.”

—Merlin to Dara

and this:

“I cannot call Caine to countermand my orders, without releasing you, and the moment I release you I will fall beneath your mental domination or suffer physical assault.”

—Eric to Corwin

It would appear that slavery is a state of mind, and reflected out into shadow can be a tyranny of body.
Who taught this to Eric, Corwin and the royals? Oberon. And where was this rule created? Not Amber. Chaos.
Then IMC I decided that to create a slave in Amber was to give Chaos that small acknowledgement. Oberon escaped from Chaos. He found those who chose to help him. He did not make slaves. He did not trust them.
I don’t think Oberon did this because of moral compass. I think he wanted to keep from his realm each trace of Chaos he thought he might by act of plan and will. And so also in my Golden Circle, there are no slaver nations, nor ones that profit by allowing partners and allies to hold slaves.* And while there are cotters, yeomen and feudal lords a plenty in my Golden Circle, Oberon did not look kindly on slavery.
Now if you wanted to swear oaths and bind yourself into eternal service for personal reasons, well, that was certainly a possible thing.
In Chaos, the demons are bound to service (some by choice), likewise the conquered intellect of other cultures, and so too the physical labor of servants who have grown up to be nothing but servants as were their ancestors back through centuries.
The Courts prosper standing on the backs of a bred slave community within each House. The Lords of Chaos call them servants, but like the demons chained by sorcery, there is only one kind of servant in Chaos: those without the choice to do otherwise (or educated to forget there is a choice.)
IMC, I don’t think the Chaosi do this because of moral compass. I think that they need slaves for many reasons twined within their culture. Conquest is the first cause for this. The Chaosi are great conquerors. Of course, they could destroy any conquered culture and leave desolation behind, but then I think there are reasons that they do not do this either and would consider it a strange idea.
Perhaps a thought for another day—that one.

* in A Grand Affair, one of the plot threads that Benedict followed was that he would act secretly to free the women of Mek’kha from cultural enslavement, thus strengthening the shadows of Amber and pushing back another Chaosi influence. It was also a cross plot with the Rising Phoenix delegation. None of this was suggested by the GMs or other players, it was just one of Benedict’s secret little projects that he had emulated from his father.
In the cosmic sense, any slavery ‘north’ of Ygg is an infiltration direct from the Courts of Chaos and therefore Benedict has a lot of work to ‘bonsai’ trim those infiltrations through infinite shadow.



  1. So, is Frakir a slave? Ghostwheel? Is the Amber Navy full of pressed men? If you’re not special enough for the cells under Castle Amber, what happens to you if you’re convicted of a crime?
    Is slavery in Shadow Earth an aberration or an assult by Chaos? Did the long presence of Corwin lead to the natural atrophy of the perculiar institution?
    Is a spikard intelligent? If so, is it a slave? What about an intelligent construct? I wrote about 685 words on the subject of Construct Slavery (Spartacus) in which the construct is specifically a slave in revolt. Slave rebellions and fear of slave rebellions are great grist for the mill.
    Plus, I love putting questions of morality versus entrenched institutions to players.
    I’ll probably write more on my blog about our campaign and how we’ve used slavery, including your character’s slave.

  2. Excellent. Look forward to that.
    (And enjoyed reading ‘Spartacus’.)
    The answers to your questions IMC are really some of the great stories still unfolding. IMC, it is Flora’s arrival that begins to actually shift slavery out of Earth, not Corwin’s.
    IMC, spikards are intelligent and slaves–though not of Amber’s creation. By most yardsticks that would matter IMC, Frakir and Ghostwheel are both slaves, though Merlin doesn’t think of them that way and his ignorance creates many problems.
    But then, also IMC, the Logrus is exactly a tool for binding energies, people and things into slavery.

  3. IMC Chaos is also a place of owners, slaves and ferals — livestock yet to be domesticated.
    Even spawn (children, clones, related constructs) of a Lord of Chaos are not people until their parent, or some other LoC, has claimed them as kin.
    Dworkin and Oberon tried something different, part of the artistic vision that is Amber and the Pattern.
    The human noble houses of Amber, nearly all of them trading houses greater than the British East India Company ever was, trade with, influence or control hundreds of shadow lands and in many of those places slavery is commonplace. Amber folk who own slaves (except to turn them into freedmen and potential employees) are considered to have ‘gone native’ in a bad way. Amber is cosmopolitan but some native customs are seen as clearly inferior, and slavery is one of them.
    On the other hand, IMC *things* don’t have power, people and spirits do. So all enchanted devices contain bound spirits, mostly elementals. Elementals are looked upon much as animals and the vast majority of them are no more intelligent than beasts. The exceptions have been granted intelligence by their binders, a limited, Scrof-like (made for the job and all joy to do it) variety of sapience. Unhappy magical servants are nothing but trouble. A.I. design is a tricky art.

  4. IMC: Slavery

    House of Cards GM Log: IMC: Slavery Ginger mentions slavery in House of Cards in the link above. Arref kicks us off with a discussion of Slavery in his Amber. The other half of the hivemind, Michael Croft, has a bit on a slave-Construct which turns on …

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