Amber: family conversation

So, one of the things that’s powerful and good about Amber rpg is that conversations are the thing that makes it zoom along. Talking to your family makes things happen.
Talking heads as it were, not powers, not hit points, not dice or angst. Well, sometimes angst in modest measure, and less so powers or battles.
That’s why some call Amber genre ‘soap opera’.

Presented as a current example (the faults of the example all mine):

Her eyes hate Celina, but not her voice. “I assure you this awkwardness is a passing thing, Celina, but if you would be kind enough to free me, kill Khela with that sword, and then fall on it, that would help.”
Khela leans in towards Celina and whispers to her. “She is inventively abusive, but I admit I have no idea what to do with her.” Her warm breath stirs the water by Celina’s ear.
Celina nods to Loreena and perhaps Khela. “So noted, offer of rescue refused. Perhaps you think enough of your honor to give me your parole, Duchess? You don’t have to be trussed while you remain prisoner. You could be untrussed chum if you agree not to attempt escape and allow me to repatriate you to Rebma under my command.”
Loreena laughs, bitterly. “Why should I trust the word of traitors? If you forswear your oaths to Rebma, why would you honor yours to me. You may just wish to get me away to where you can kill me without witnesses.”
“I have walked the Pattern of Rebma,” Celina says, “and I speak for it’s life and future, not Moire, who is only Regent despite all. Consider your words well, Cousin. I know there is no love between us.”
Celina looks briefly about the tent and then considers her niece. “I can kill you here as there is no one present I fear to speak of it.”

In this scene I’m writing Celina—who is a recently revealed member of the Amber family dealing with the fallout of that reveal. She and Loreena have history; they haven’t liked each other much for several years.
Now I’ll admit that I’m very pleased with the NPCs personalities and dialog here… but have a few reservations about Celina’s responses. She’s not the most diplomatic young lady, but she tries hard to be fair. Here, when she could have said, “Take you off and kill you? You are being overly dramatic and unreasonable, Loreena. If I wanted you dead, we wouldn’t be talking now.”
Instead she says something much more awkward and subject to misinterpretation.
Is that sort of awkwardness Zelazny canon or Celina or my bad writing?
My personal take is that Zelazny is a whiz at dialog. It flows naturally from his characters, and often those people make a point of saying things obscure, witty or deliberately misleading or breaking the moment with a sly joke. Battles of words are part of the canon. Most of the fencing in the Amber chronicles is verbal not swordplay or magic.
But misleading and ‘misinterpretation’ are different. Is Celina intending to mislead the captive Loreena? Did Celina misspeak or speak too quickly or did she want Loreena to worry? As the writer, I don’t like to write, edit and poke at the responses of a young character too much. If Celina were a hundred years old, I might ponder every word. She isn’t that ‘dry’ and may never be.
So I try to get an emotive reaction tempered by some sense of restraint.
Celina’s a creature of restraint actually. Yet she knows there are lots more people who can hurt her than are helping her. She knows Loreena is her enemy, even if not why. She knows that Loreena’s life actually does rest in her hands at the moment and would like Loreena to understand that.
She knows things that Loreena can’t imagine yet. Celina is trying to tell Loreena this, even as she tries to protect herself still. The words are there, but not smooth. The emotions are there but not hidden well. Celina sounds like a cold bitch with no anger, no feeling and no need to defend herself against the ‘traitor’ charge, as if the horror of that were also true and needed no explanation.
Is there some advantage in being a traitor? Or is it a young women’s mistake?
Well, the canon is full of mistakes. Characters say (or think) crazy stuff; a lot of it turns out to be untrue. Sometimes they say things just to get a reaction. Feint. Lunge. Parry. Laugh.

“We spend so much time lying to one another that I decided it might be amusing to say what I really felt. Just to see whether anyone noticed.”


Despite the awkwardness of delivery, Celina is dropping a bomb into the conversation to see who notices. Khela or Loreena or both might react strongly to things she has just said, for there are secrets therein as well as possible threats or offers of freedom.
Celina is working things out in her head. One of the essential puzzles is: who is the true (pattern) liege of Rebma? Moire took the throne and is acknowledged queen, but the strange facts of family Amber seem to be clear: there isn’t a working Pattern unless there is a royal blood connection to it. Martin? Llewella? Celina? Who is keeping the Rebma Pattern intact? It seems that due to age, Llewella must be the answer. Moins is gone so Llewella inherits.
Celina doesn’t know that a pattern always breaks when the ruler dies, but since Moire and Khela apparently can not walk the Pattern… they are not the true liege of Rebma.
Perhaps with Moins gone Rebma has been fading slowly for several centuries as the Family says Amber will now with Oberon dead. But the Pattern of Rebma sure doesn’t seem like it is fading.
Only conversations (and seizing the moment when it comes) will uncover the answer.
If only Celina had a higher ‘cool factor’ or red hair, this might be a lot easier.
link: ‘At Camp’, House of Cards wiki



  1. Thanks!
    But her ranking in Family Wit is not terribly high. She’s a disadvantaged child, being brought up completely ‘at sea’ to her place in Important Things.
    Timing-wise, she is leaving that behind and taking chances now. She’s walking on the broken glass even though she’d rather not.
    She has an advantage or two over Merlin, but so does he have some over her. They make a delicate pair of mismatches.
    I like that part.

  2. Meanwhile, Conner tries to dispense his years of wisdom to these two youngers while feeling completely out of his depth next to them both. Not being of Rebma or Chaos he can only peer in from the outside and help as he can.

  3. I thought it was perfect because I don’t know that Celina’s sure, either. She’s got motivations and she’s got people listening for any deviation from their plans. It was a perfect response, very Zelazny, very to-the-gut-awesome!

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