Trees bend to pray for us
Life called to shame
Late for the birth ritual, ritual, ritual, ritual
You can drive my tail
To watch the surface
A (birth?) ritual
A bunch of idiots
Now I woke up blessed
And good strives for heart ache
Marked for the death ritual, ritual, ritual
-- Soundgarden, "Birth Ritual"
Saw you walking on your velvet lawn
Is it lonely on the moon?
You took a dive and swallowed all you could
Did you drink too much too soon?
Nothing left for you to fight about
And no-one wants to see you try
The nearest neighbors are a mile away
Does the ocean hear you cry?
Punching at the sky
They say the King is losin' his grip again
They said you're bullet proof, they said you feel no pain
It seems the hero is misunderstood again
Is it love or is it surgery
Makes he seem so ill at ease
As she's begging you to please calm down
In her silk Armani on her knees
Did you carry out those threats I heard
Or were you only playing macho?
And the stains on her Versache scarf
Were they really just gazpacho?
-- Marillion, "Gazpacho"
It seems that I may get everything I wanted. Oberon's return is
for real, and he favors Corwin as a successor, and me as Corwin's heir.
The time may come when I rule Amber, as I wanted to when I was ten - or
was it a million years ago? Time is always relative, and sometimes it's
more relative than others.
To prevent the official recognition of incest, my Mom is going to
have to claim that she was never mine, that she raised me for Corwin when
he could not properly care for a child.
To protect my status in the King's favor, I had to volunteer to
kill three people, only one of whom I really wanted to kill.
Most of my aunts and uncles are having to get married to cement
Oberon's various alliances. My mother is one of them.
Arthur now rules in Rebma, and Moire will be queen in Amber.
I will, in the fullness of time, get most of what I want, but it
seems that in the process, much will be done that I do not want to see,
some things that I would do made impossible, and debts incurred that may
have to paid back if I rule - debts of blood, perhaps.
Nor will I come out unchanged. I can't say I minded the feel of
the ax in Sand's neck. I was promised a chance to kill her, once, and
though I almost forgot her in my hatred of Arthur, a night's thought
recalled amply. I spoke the terms of my hate just before she died. I
wanted her to know that I did what I did out of hate, not out of loyalty
or the law. She messed with the wrong man, and died for it.
But Dalt... perhaps he deserved to die, but he had fought with
some honor, and carried himself like a man. I had no love of killing him,
and I did penance of a sort, as I dug his grave alongside the men who were
allocated that task. It was all I could do, in that case, to preserve my
I fear that loss most. The call of the throne is seductive, and
the favor of the King is a valuable prize, when one thinks on his
treatment of those he has less love for. At what point does one find
oneself in too far? At what point will I be asked to do something, only
to find that I cannot back out, and I will not go forward? What bridges
the gap between the trust my friends may have for me as a friend and ally,
and the loyalty I want them to feel if I ever reign in Amber?
Where will I find the line between my admiration for Oberon's
style, and my loathing for the uses he puts his power to?
There are no answers to these questions. In bad fiction, there is
always the claim that merely wondering about these things proves that you
are still human, still have a conscience. Balls. These meditations are
no proof of what I will do in the actual event. There is no proof for any
of it. My track record speaks only of foolishness, bravery, loyalty,
spite, and, in a very few cases, something I call love. Their proportions
are uneven, their assortment random, the predominant a function of
circumstance. I find myself realizing that I have taken too long to grow
up, and been given less time than I expected.
I have once again resolved, for what it is worth, to fear no
penalty for the actions I take in pursuit of my convictions. For now, I
will ride the train, and leave it if it goes where I cannot, even if the
act kills me.
One thing also I will not let go of: death. Arthur's death, for
the first. He knows. His mother spared him this time, but he knows. The
look in my eyes as I held my ax, was the same as the look in my eyes as I
put my ax down, was the same as the look in my eyes as they took him away.
There was death, and only death, there. While he rules Rebma, I am an
enemy of Rebma. If Oberon allies Rebma with Amber, I will be an enemy of
Amber. If I die, I will die with Arthur's name in my mouth. If I reign
in Amber, I will reign with Arthur's head on my walls. I can be as
patient as I need to be, but if he looked to my eyes with anything more
than casual attention, he knows.
There is an old story. An old man, with a mule pulling a cart. A
woman is riding with him. The mule stops pulling and sits. The man says
"That's one," and whips it savagely. The process is repeated later, and
the old man says "That's two," before the beating. The third time, the
old man kills the mule. The woman looks at him aghast, and says, "Why did
you kill that poor mule? He didn't deserve that!" The old man looks back
at her and says, "That's one."
Many tell this story as an example of excess. So it may be, for a
failure in a mule. For stealing a man's body, for trapping him in a shell
that mocks everything he once was, one is already far too many.
I could see in the eyes of the spectators at the execution, that
my point of view is not shared by all. Perhaps, in my fury, I have
already gone too far to ever rule; perhaps I am, in fact, as mad as Arthur
is. It all means nothing. I am who I am. I am Ahab, and Ahab neither
betrays, nor lies, nor forgives, nor forgets. Being Ahab may not be
enough, and it may not be good, but there is nothing in the world I want
enough to make me give it up.
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