ZDIW: curtain in five minutes, principal actors on stage, please

Over in the Livejournal, Ginger puts down a few thoughts about how personality and face time work in House of Cards.
If you have spent any time here, you know I owe most of my casting effort, the visuals I share with my Players, to the House of Cards dramatis personae.
So collected here, for the first time are the GM reasons behind some of the faces–in order of age— because that’s what matters in this family.
Benedict: is the ultimate survivor who keeps a mannered but snappish regard for his family. He chooses his words carefully because his father was the ‘show me’ King of which all others are but shadows. Basil Rathbone is chosen for his precise speech, his ability to play a villain and his uncanny way of projecting competence when doing nothing at all but watching. It helps that he is narrow of face but broad of mind.
Eric: is the charming handsome prince who knows he’s better than most of his family and can often prove it. He can explode into action. He prefers to sneer and discuss the weaknesses of his opponents in detail. He can make you smile even when you don’t like him. Jonathan Frakes is chosen because he has attitude, charm, a terrific smile and I don’t trust him any further than I can throw him. He does a good sneer. It helps that he has done commanding roles and is a pretty good director.
Corwin: is a straight ahead bastard who just may have been even colder and meaner in a younger life. He was held down and abused by his much older more competent brother Eric. He resents authority, but can get a job done. He prefers wine, women and song. He is used to breaking rules to get things he wants. No one likes Corwin except people who don’t know him. Timothy Dalton is chosen because he is quite likable unless he is a stone cold killer. He has that air of switching between gentleman poet and psycho action hero. It helps that he played James Bond and got all the girls. He plays a good jerk.
Deirdre: we don’t get but a taste of Deirdre. She’s lovely, she’s quite feminine, she’s awfully good at talking people into things and she can break a werewolf across her knee and kill it. Oh, and she prefers an axe when most princesses use bows or daggers or spells. She isn’t exactly subtle but she seems to be a bit of a fussy femme. Possible manic mood swings, probable incredible manipulator given her father and older sibs. Catherine Zeta Jones is chosen because she does action roles, swords, cat burglar, femme fatales even though she is tiny and almost delicate. It helps that she has played killers without moral yardsticks and does a fair job displaying incredible vanity.
Caine: is an eccentric in a family of sibs that toe the line to King Oberon. He’s dark and laughing, alternately mean and crass and quite ingenious. He’s bloodthirsty but conniving and practical. He misbehaves, a lot. He doesn’t mind being underestimated in a family where that gets you out of favor and trampled. He will talk to anyone in persuasive manner, regardless of his station or ranking in the official lists. He’ll stick up for brothers he doesn’t even like. He’s a bit contrary that way. Oded Fehr is chosen because he is exotic to the entirely too Euro-centric feel of the myth in Amber. His look and feel bumps the appreciation of the princes into a whole different shape. It helps that he appears formidable even as he appears mysterious.
Fiona: we get a lot of Fiona canon. She’s glamorous, feminine, extremely petite and rather lone-wolf compared to other princesses. She likes puzzles, mysteries and she’s really really good with jibes. She’s off-handed in her brainy qualities and she knows that makes you crazy. Myrna Loy is chosen because she’s redheaded, smart, witty, playful and can also be mysterious, athletic and exotic. It helps that Myrna was once the woman all women wanted to be. Please do watch her in ‘The Thin Man’ or ‘Mask of Fu Manchu’ to get a sense of the range of intellect to her acting.
Bleys: is good at everything he lets you see. He’s good at things he hides. He’s just good. A worthy prince and a daring one. Impractical? Perhaps. Kenneth Branagh is chosen because he’s cool and charming and dashing and sharp like a knife. It helps that he has a terrific sense of humor and drama.
Llewella: is withdrawn and more than a bit guarded. She’s otherwise off doing other things. She quits the center of power, or so everyone believes. Maybe she’s not playing the Family game? Llewella is almost the only member of the Family obviously of another species. Grace Kelly is chosen because leaving the center of power when you are beautiful and important is part of her legend. It helps that she happens to look otherworldly also.
Brand: is whip-crack smart and quite the persuasive fellow. He’s a compulsive talker, but knows that and has as many layers of chat as he needs to hide his real agenda. Jeremy Irons is chosen based on faith that Ginger and Michael know what they are talking about. I liked him in ‘Lion King’. Never seen his work otherwise. Note that younger pictures of him are spot on for artistic redhead.
Julian: is refined and competitive and quite the wit. He takes the quiet intellectual route as all other brothers are busy dashing about proving something for Dad. He seems to like appearing cruel but definitely has his hidden side. His ability to think ahead of his brothers may be more than just wishful thinking on his part. This quality stands him well with his breeding of creatures for his gain of power. Jude Law is chosen because he looks like he could skewer you with a jibe and keep his armor immaculate. He’s also able to bring the smackdown action. It helps that his delivery of dialog is very precise and cutting.
Gerard: is likeable and somewhat dangerous to annoy. He protests he is not really up to snuff with the intellects in his family. So he asks a lot of questions. He jumps to conclusions. He roughs up folks. He preempts actions of his sibs when he thinks things are getting too complex. Liam Neeson is chosen because he plays a great affable fella. Then too, when he gets mean, he’s quite scary intense. He can deliver very soft dialog and equally ferocious growls. It helps that he is really large, looks good in a kilt and might be able to tip over a car.
Florimel: is so apolitical that no one is quite sure if she has personal agenda. She’s considered weak and sometimes stupid. However, she never seems to pick the losing side. Lots of chance seems to fall her way. Susan Sarandon is chosen for her accessible manner and ability to analyze men at a glance. She does glamour. She does wiles. She does quiet strength and bawdy laughter. She is versatile and sexy. It helps that she is a bit of a chameleon and can keep you guessing.
Random: is the youngest and conspicuous for his lack of any redeeming qualities by most accounts. Described variously as a layabout or drinker or homicidal fink. One gets the distinct impression that Oberon did not care much for his offspring at that point and Random took that lack of attention as license to be a royal pain in the ass. Ewan McGregor is chosen because he can range from rocker layabout and drunk musician to redeemed authority figure. It helps that you almost forgive him anything if he laughs and includes you in his joke.
Well…there. Certainly not modern or complex or definitive….casting calls like this prompt kudos and strong dislikes in equal chance. Folks bring to the exercise a hidden emotional agenda…which often will get you words like ‘hate this one’ or ‘omg, she is so not!’
But perhaps the narrative above gives you some insight into my Amber-verse.
and of course…. Oberon was a prick.

IMC :: Florimel, h.r.h.

“The woman behind the desk wore a wide-collared, V-necked dress of blue-green, had long hair and low bangs, all of a cross between sunset clouds and the outer edge of a candle flame in an otherwise dark room, and natural, I somehow knew, and her eyes behind glasses I didn’t think she needed were as blue as Lake Erie at three o’clock on a cloudless summer afternoon; and the color of her compressed smile matched her hair.”—Corwin”And while I ate, I pondered her. I saw her in a low-cut gown, green as the green of the sea, with full skirts. There was music, dancing, voices behind us.” —Corwin”The woman has very little imagination. Did she think she could walk back like a princess in state, treading on flowers the whole way? She’s a dumb bitch.” —Random

I find most of Flora’s actions far too effective to think she left “her” Trump deck in a secret drawer of a public room in her house with a brother staying over. When she could have been carrying it? When she could have left it in her bedroom?

When she could have made Corwin really sweat?

Flora cries too adroitly. Flora pushes her brothers’ buttons better than almost anyone else we see in canon except Oberon. Flora’s version of things is seldom questioned effectively and she is underrated by even Random who is low in the pecking order. Every scene with Flora is a case study of leading the boys around by misdirection and emotion.

I find it far more likely that said trump deck was there for Corwin’s benefit. Florimel leaves a shoehorn in the desk that will lever the drawer despite the lock. Really?

So IMC, Florimel is the magnificent woman, diplomat with teeth, Daddy’s girl and middle child that learned her lessons well from the master manipulator.


IMC :: Fiona, h.r.h.

I had simultaneous desires to curse and to smile. The arrant bitch was playing games with us again. Always remarkable, though … I moved forward, as she had known I would.

—Corwin, Sign of the Unicorn

Addressing the Zelazny canon of ‘Nine Princes’ brings you around to the pivotal redheads and their cabal. And finding a meaning there usually demands you ‘solve for’ the Fiona factor.
Does Fiona switch back to the ‘Pattern Loyalists’ because both Bleys and Brand are exposed and isolated? Or because the Chaosi turn out to be so much more effective than she wished? Or was she stunned by revelations from Oberon and Dworkin as to what might happen to Amber if the Pattern was brought down?
What did Brand do to provoke her to first imprison and then boldly try to kill him?
Was she always the ‘loyalist’ of the three redheads? Certainly Brand would not have been stopped without her help.
IMC, these events are canon, but only scratch the surface of Fiona’s complexity. As the eldest redhead she had plenty of influence on Bleys and the much younger Brand. But as the middle child of Oberon’s long line of children, she showed her sharp mind and good gamesmanship in taking opportunities that many of the princes did not see.

“An endorsement of higher education. Fiona and Brand paid attention to Dworkin while the rest of us were off indulging our assorted passions in Shadow. Consequently, they seem to have obtained a better grasp of principles than we possess. They know more about Shadow and what lies beyond it, more about the Pattern, more about the Trumps than we do.”

—Corwin to Random


Mysteries of Amber :: Clarissa

Mysteries of Amber
Section 3.1.3 :: Clarissa

Dad did not remarry for many years after mother’s death. When he did, it was a redheaded wench from a far southern shadow. I never liked her. He began feeling the same way after a time and started fooling around again. They had one reconciliation after Llewella’s birth in Rebma, and Brand was the result. When they were finally divorced, he recognized Llewella to spite Clarissa. At least, that is what I think happened.

—Corwin, discussing Queen Clarissa

It was Clarissa’s lot served us best.
—Dworkin, speaking of Oberon’s children

Oberon managed many women and their children before Corwin came along.
Interesting that Clarissa drew sparks in the few canon comments about her.

Imaginative sparks fly regarding the redheads in Amber rpg and so likewise for their mother. The lady is given a powerful background (often Chaosi—a far southern shadow, after all) and figures large in explaining much about the redheads.


IMC :: royal profiles, 2

We have done a h.r.h. summary once before and since then have added Llewella to the list.
Which means these are the canon bloodlines I have not yet profiled.

Of Brand we should say little, because he is reticently defined by those who knew him. Such is enigma.
Of Random we shall say more later.
Of Delwin or Sandmorel, we have said much, but not within the pages of this blog, so perhaps…….
Of the blood of Deela, we have not made much mystery.
Opinions, suggestions?

IMC :: Llewella, h.r.h.


“For some reason, I knew she was not like the rest of us.”

“Rebma is the ghost city. It is the reflection of Amber within the sea. In it, everything in Amber is duplicated, as in a mirror.”

“That is not what we would have of you, dear Moire, but only a small thing, to be achieved at no pain or cost to yourself or your subjects.”

In a family of canny and elusive minds, Llewella remains still mysterious to her family after centuries—though there never seems a shade of doubt of her commitment during PatternFall.

In Corwin’s tale of Patternfall, there is short shrift given to the alliance and support of Rebma. It is there, clearly seen in the interactions and assumptions of the family. There is an elusive yet tenacious bond between the two cities.

Oberon was not a man to make friends with any but the strongest and best. There were strengths that Rebma brought to the alliance from the earliest days of Amber. Oberon and Lir were nearly like brothers in Amber’s beginnings. Rebman history records that Lir died a hero in battle protecting Oberon.

Centuries later, Oberon and Moins knew each other for many decades and had long discussed trying to mate the line of Lir with the blood of Amber.
Moins, granddaughter of Lir, cultivated a repair of lingering Rebman resentment for the loss of Lir to Amber’s needs. There was no marriage as part of this and Moins did not require one for her plan. The early years of Llewella’s life are recorded only in Rebma. The personal journals of Moins are sealed.

Llewella ap Moins
. Born out of wedlock while Queen Clarissa was still alive and later acknowledged along with Caine by King Oberon when Queen Rilga Ironhand took the throne.

It is a misfortune that Moins’ plans for a stronger alliance with Amber and an end to the resentment of Rebma’s losses in Amber’s wars were not satisfied by Llewella’s birth. Almost the opposite came to pass. Llewella caused a huge split between the great thrones. There were secrets in the Athanor blood of Rebman royals. One of those secrets nearly undid all expectations of greater good.

Moins became very ill during her early pregnancy.

Rebman Athanor scholars defined the problem to Queen Moins. Her plans to weld the powers of Amber and Rebma had succeeded too well. She was pregnant with girl twins. The twins developed each in Yin and Yang to the powers they were heir to, and the powers, not compatible in all respects, warred between the twins inside her. It was doubtful the pregnancy could last.

Moins elected not to tell Oberon. Faiella was a good friend to Rebma. Oberon had lost Faiella to childbirth despite a healing struggle with magics and experts brought specifically to save her. He blamed himself for he had promised Faiella he would save her.

Moins tasked her savants with finding a way to save both twins.

They offered several plans to save the Rebman child. Moins refused these options, even when she learned it was the Amber-biased baby that was growing stronger while the Rebman-biased baby suffered. After a month of heated discussion, it became clear that Moins herself might die if some action was not taken. The savants finally reached a solution acceptable to the Queen of Rebma.

The stronger daughter was removed with a delicate arcane procedure and put into a layered stasis. This daughter could be reintroduced to the womb later after Moins recovered fully. The already weakened and crippled daughter was brought to term.

Llewella was saved and delivered in Rebma. Her sister, named Capella, was stored in a special shrine in the palace.

Oberon arrived and reacted badly to his first sight of Llewella. The girl lay pale green, frail and twisted of body, unmoving in her cradle. Her head seemed normal but it was obvious she might never be able to walk on land as her legs were unfinished and her arms were twisted. Left unsaid to any by Amber’s King, in Oberon’s past there were monstrous offspring–born of strange shadow-women before Amber’s founding–that had to be put down. This secret flamed deep in his mind.

Oberon suggested to Moins the girl be quietly killed.

Moins told Oberon to leave Rebma and not return. She left unsaid that if he didn’t, she might have HIM quietly killed.


IMC :: Benedict, h.r.h.


“Then there was Benedict, tall and dour, thin; thin of body, thin of face, wide of mind.”


I’ve been honored by the observation that I portray an interesting Benedict. As would be true of any of the Elder portrayals, this is a nice thing to know.
Elsewhere, M said:

I dislike the Oriental Benedict fallacy…

What’s she referring to? Well, the Visual Guide and a number of other interpretations either on the web or in print make a big point of Benedict living within an Asian cultural style; using a katana blade, wearing kimono, and/or being surrounded by Asian personal effects, etc.
The canon does call his blade a ‘sycthe like’ weapon, obviously meaning curved single edge. Benedict draws it reaching up over his shoulder to pull it up in a sweeping arc. Certainly you could say Zelazny intends this description to imply the katana.
In particular what puzzles me about the ‘Asian Benedict’ is that it often seems to overwhelm the portrayal when it shows up instead of being a small reflection of the man.
For example: I can see Benedict having philosophies, or adopting habits, or wearing gear, or employing expert people of Asian culture, while still being very, very Amber in doing it.
The fallacy, if there is one, is trying to define Amber only by examining shadow. Isn’t it really the Asian culture taking something from Benedict, not the other way around? So Benedict must be much larger than the Asian element.
As observers, this is part of the Earth-centric fallacy that can really rob the myth from Zelazny’s work. Yes, we are stuck with our Earth images, but we don’t have to limit our imaginations to copying those images without re-dressing them into something more wondrous.


Mysteries of Amber :: the Unicorn

Mysteries of Amber
Section 00.01.1 :: the Unicorn

…I followed the direction of his gaze and froze. Neither of us moved as we regarded the apparition: a soft, shimmering white encompassed it, as if it were covered with down rather than fur and maning; its tiny, cloven hooves were golden, as was the delicate, whorled horn that rose from its narrow head. It stood atop one of the lesser rocks, nibbling at the lichen that grew there. Its eyes, when it raised them and looked in our direction, were a bright, emerald green. It joined us in immobility for a pair of instants. Then it made a quick, nervous gesture with its front feet, pawing the air and striking the stone, three times. And then it blurred and vanished like a snowflake, silently, perhaps in the woods to our right.
…It had a way of remaining partly concealed the entire while�looking out from behind something, passing from cover to cover, moving with an incredible swiftness when it did move, avoiding open areas, favoring glade and shade.
…Various intensities of white emerged from the planes of existence, and brightest of all, immense, awful, the unicorn suddenly reared, pawing at the air, filling perhaps ninety percent of creation with what became a slowmotion gesture I feared would annihilate us if we advanced another pace.
…Still, I had mixed feelings about being descended from a unicorn�
…The Unicorn took a step forward and halted.
  She was such a lovely thing that somehow I was heartened just by looking upon her. It was a kind of aching feeling that she aroused, though; hers was a beauty of the sort to be taken in small doses. And I could somehow sense the unnatural intelligence within that snowy head. I wanted very badly to touch her, but knew that I could not.
  She cast her gaze all about. Her eyes lighted upon me, and I would have looked away if I had been able. This was not possible, however, and I returned that gaze in which I read an understanding beyond my own. It was as if she knew everything about me, and in this instant had comprehended all of my recent trials�seeing, understanding, possibly sympathizing. For a moment, I felt that I saw something of pity and a strong love reflected there-and perhaps a touch of humor.

—Corwin on the Unicorn

To steal from a man who knew how to turn a phrase: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
Shall we solve it here? No.


IMC :: Eric, h.r.h.


Then there was Eric. Handsome by anyone’s standards, his hair was so dark as to be almost blue. His beard curled around the mouth that always smiled, and he was dressed simply in a leather jacket and leggings, a plain cloak, high black boots, and he wore a red sword belt bearing a long silvery saber and clasped with a ruby, and his high cloak collar round his head was lined with red and the trimmings of his sleeves matched it. His hands, thumbs hooked behind his belt, were terribly strong and prominent. A pair of black gloves jutted from the belt near his right hip. He it was, I was certain, that had tried to kill me on that day I had almost died. I studied him and I feared him somewhat.

— Corwin, Nine Princes in Amber

“Acquit yourself as well as I have — bastard!”

— Eric’s last words, The Guns of Avalon

There are few living who pretend to understand the deceased King Eric. His rivalry with Corwin was insatiable. His disrespect for various royal brothers is quite a matter of record.
Invariably, Eric prompted strong feelings in others. Perhaps it was the very fire of Eric’s personality that caused such varied responses.
Eric’s life is much a matter of public record—truly, he is one of the most public of princes. Born out of wedlock of Faiella Silverbrow, he was four years old when his mother became Queen Faiella. Eleven years later Corwin was born, and nine years later, when Eric was just twenty-five years old, Faiella died in childbirth adding Deirdre to the family.
It is said that Oberon mourned the unexpected tragedy. Yet Eric lost nearly everything with that death. For a time, the young man was not the always smiling and easy to know youth he had been. He did not withdraw from Amber’s world, but embraced it and completed all of his mother’s projects in the next few years after her death.


IMC :: Caine, h.r.h.


“Then came the swarthy, dark-eyed countenance of Caine, dressed all in satin that was black and green, wearing a dark three-cornered hat set at a rakish angle, a green plume of feathers trailing down the back. He was standing in profile, one arm akimbo, and the toes of his boots curled upwards, and he wore an emerald-studded dagger at his belt. There was ambivalence in my heart.”


“Caine is a coward.”


As mysterious and elusive now in death as he was in life—though one of Caine’s great-grandsons is working on a biography of the hero of PatternFall.
In addition to Corwin’s tale of Patternfall, there is one by Caine, which is larger than Zelazny’s but much smaller than Corwin’s. Lots of scenes that don’t appear in either of the other two, plus it is written in third person. For those with a taste for sex, violence, and nail-biting suspense, it is the preferred version.
Caine Rilgason. Born out of wedlock while Queen Faiella was still alive and later acknowledged along with Llewella by King Oberon when Queen Rilga Ironhand took the throne. The early years of Caine’s life are mystery. Oberon and Rilga met in shadow, and the records show that she was not of noble birth.
In the long period that followed Faiella’s death, and through the reign of Clarissa, including the birth of Llewella, there is no official record of Rilga and Caine at all. Some accounts say Rilga was once a pirate. Other tales tell of her career as a smith of fine weapons. Still others note she was a mercenary sword for hire. Most of these are discounted as the name is not uncommon in shadow before or since.
What is known is that some seventy years after Clarissa returned to her far southern shadow, Oberon went into shadow and came back to Amber with Rilga. They were married in the castle. Caine was an experienced man already and gave his mother away at the ceremony. Caine ceased his travels in shadow during the first years of Rilga’s reign at Oberon’s side. Once Julian was born, Caine went back to the double-dozen seas of shadow.
Caine was a frequent visitor to Amber during the childhood of Julian and Gerard. When Gerard was about ten years old, Caine returned and settled again at the castle, adding to the near-shadow maps. Shortly after this, Rilga and Oberon started the Golden Circle travels that knitted the first shadow alliance Amber had enjoyed since the ill-fated Eregnori Incursion.
While Oberon cemented the Golden Circle alliance with his personal politicking, Caine was not idle. He spent time sharing his expertise of shadow and life with his younger brothers, giving Julian and Gerard some of his love of exotic people and discovery. Caine brought a new style to Amber during Oberon’s absence: interaction with common citizens and travelers to Port Amber. It is said that the news and gossip of Port Amber flowed through Caine’s many outrageous parties. These bashes also attracted a good number of mercenary captains who later became officers in Amber’s growing merchant marine.
Street rats of Amber also became secret visitors to the Green House in midtown where the sorceress Lippa lived. During the Golden Circle diplomacy years, the sorceress Lippa was an advisor and bed-partner to Prince Caine. She was from the Jungle Kingdoms, far south of normal shipping lanes. Her skin was darker than Caine’s with a texture like silken chocolate.
When Oberon returned from his travels, Amber began an expansion of trade and influence of nearby shadow that is hard to imagine today. This is the period of history when the phrase, “all seas lead to Amber” became popular. The Golden Circle had a great influence in the next twenty years over other distant shadows. The first contact with the Empire of the Gleaming Banner occurred at the peak of this expansion period.
Prince Caine was the first Amber royal to visit Darrheabarr, where he was well received by the Emperor.