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Authors: John Gregory Betancourt,Roger Zelazny

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To Rule in Amber

BOOK: To Rule in Amber
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To Rule in Amber
John Gregory Betancourt

ibooks

new york

www.ibooksinc.com

An Original Publication of iBooks

Copyright © 2005 Amber Ltd. Co & iBooks

An iBooks Book

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

Special thanks to the Zelazny Family

And Kirby and Kay McCauley.

iBooks

1230 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10128

[email protected]

http://www.BrickTowerPress.com

eISBN: 1-59019-219-2

Trade Paper ISBN: 978-1596871328

Hardcover ISBN: 978-0743487092

Edited by Howard Zimmerman

Jacket art by Scott Grimando

Jacket design by Eric Goodman

Interior design by Gilda Hannah

ALSO BY JOHN GREGORY BETANCOURT
Roger Zelazny's
The Dawn of Amber
The Dawn of Amber
Amber and Chaos
To Rule in Amber
Fiction
The Blind Archer (forthcoming from ibooks)
Born of Elven Blood (with Kevin J. Anderson)
Cutthroat Island
Dr. Bones and the Dragons of Komako
The Hag's Contract
The Wrath of Poseodon
The Vengeance of Hera
The Gates of Hades
Horizon (forthcoming from ibooks)
Johnny Zed
The Dragon Sorcerer
Performance Art
Playing in Wonderland
Rememory
Slab's Tavern and Other Uncanny Places
Starskimmer
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Devil in the
Sky Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Heart of the Warrior
Star Trek The Next Generation: Double Helix, book I: Infection
Star Trek Voyager: Incident at Arbuk
Non-Fiction
The Sci-Fi Channel Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction
The Sci-Fi Channel Trivia Book
As Editor
The Best of Weird Tales: 1923
The Best of Weird Tales: The Terminus Years
New Masterpieces of Horror
Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey (with Anne McCaffrey)
The Ultimate Alien (with Byron Preiss)
The Ultimate Witch (with Byron Preiss)

This one is especially for KIM

The author would like to thank Byron Preiss for making this project possible; his editor Howard Zimmerman, who has done a superlative job through a sometimes grueling schedule; and Theresa Thomas, Warren Lapine, and Lee F. Szczepanik, Jr. for providing commentary, criticism, and advice on the early drafts.

One

Grayness surrounded me. Gray the color of morning twilight. Hours and days and years and centuries of gray. A featureless, all-consuming, all-encompassing gray that sucked the strength from your limbs and the will to live from your heart. So much gray that you couldn't take it all in no matter how hard you tried.

I fell through that gray, thinking of my crazy brother Aber, who had run out on me. Then I thought about my crazy father, Dworkin, who had left me guarding his back while he destroyed the universe.

For a while I wanted to kill them both. That lasted a long, long time. Then I wanted to hurt them.

That lasted even longer.

Finally I didn't care.

And still I fell.

Uncountable ages passed. My mind wandered; I dreamed unhappy dreams. Now and again my father's voice spoke to me.

"Be patient," it would say. "The end has come, and the beginning lies ahead."

"What's in it for me?" I asked warily.

"Nothing," he said. "You were a tool, nothing more, used and discarded."

"No!"

I jerked around and tried to grab him, but my arms windmilled through nothingness. He hadn't really been here. I had imagined it.

Dreams, nightmares, hallucinations, imaginings. Call them what you will. They were one and the same.

And still I plunged through that gray, a never-ending sea of it.

Forever passed. At least twice.

The end came with no sense of motion. Had I really been falling? Aber would know, some distant part of me remarked. Aber knew everything about magic.

Frowning, I tried to remember something important. Something about having to kill someone…

I couldn't recapture the thought. My head hurt. My muscles seemed to groan and my bones to creak, as though they hadn't been used in a long, long time.

Lurching, I almost fell. Suddenly I had direction again: a clear sense of up and down, left and right, forward and back. Thick, impenetrable grayness still surrounded me, but something had definitely changed. Something big.

"Aber!" I shouted. The air seemed to swallow my words.

"Aber! Where are you?"

No reply.

Besides, I knew my brother hadn't done anything to save me. He would have gone… where? I frowned. Back to the Courts of Chaos, probably. Who else could help me, then?

A face, a name on the tip of my tongue…

"Dworkin?" I whispered. That sounded right. "Dad?"

Memories suddenly flooded back. Our flight from Juniper to the strange Courts of Chaos.

Someone named Lord Zon trying to kill my whole family. My half-brother Aber, who painted magical cards called Trumps that could be used to travel between worlds… my half-sister Freda, who saw the future… and most especially our father, the dwarf I'd grown up calling Uncle Dworkin. It turned out he'd been lying to protect me. He really
was
my father, and he commanded magical powers I had only just begun to understand. Someday soon I too would command those magics. I knew it.

Dworkin had created his own universe, a huge sprawling place of Shadow-worlds, and in so doing had weakened the powers of the sorcerers who lived in the Courts of Chaos. So someone from Chaos - probably Lord Zon - had sent hell-creatures to kill our whole family and destroy the Shadows, along with the magical Pattern that cast them.

My head hurt just thinking about it.

Fleeing the Courts of Chaos, Dworkin, Aber, and I came to a secret place that contained the Pattern at the center of the new universe. Unfortunately, Dworkin hadn't understood the Pattern fully when he'd created it, and its very essence held a flaw. To fix things, he had destroyed the old Pattern and retraced it from scratch using his own blood. He had collapsed after finishing it, and I had fallen into a void.

Had it worked? Did a new and correct Pattern really exist now? I didn't know. How could I find out?

First things first. I needed a plan. Mentally, I made a list:

1. Get out of the fog.

2
. Find the rest of my family.

3. Stop everyone from trying to kill us.

If I had time, I'd add:

4. Beat my father to a bloody pulp for getting us all into this mess in the first place.

The air flickered around me, brighter then darker, brighter then darker. Stretching out my hands, I squinted into grayness, trying to see my fingertips. Nothing. Was I imagining things?

The light flickered again, subtly. I couldn't tell whether I had dreamed it, but somehow it felt different.
Real.

I fought back a rush of excitement; no sense in raising my hopes. I had been disappointed too often. And yet a small part of me wondered - could dawn finally be approaching? Had something else happened?

Anything would be better than this gray fog.

Slowly I inched my hands closer to my face. Dim shadows appeared. I wiggled my fingers; the shadows wiggled. The gray really
had
begun to lift. I could see again, if poorly. There's nothing more useless than a blind swordsman.

Hunkering down, I waited impatiently. The grayness seeped
away
slowly, like a morning fog lifting as the sun grows high. A long time later, I could see my hands clearly. A heartbeat later, and I could see all the way down to my boots. Another heartbeat, and I could see ten feet in every direction, then twenty, then fifty -

Rising, I looked around, but saw nothing but rock and sand and sky. No trees, no bushes, no blades of grass broke the desolation. Not even lichen grew here.

Gray fog continued to rush away from me in all directions, an outgoing tide revealing hills and valleys and distant mountains, all as barren as the land around me. I had never seen a place as dry and dead before.

The staff I had been carrying when I fell lay a few feet away, mostly hidden by rocks. Strolling over, I picked it up and leaned heavily on it, feeling old and tired. All I needed was a long gray beard and I'd be set.

The last of the gray vanished, but it didn't leave a promising world behind. Even on the distant mountains I saw no trees, bushes, or even grass - not a single living thing of any size, shape, or kind. No birds chirped or winged past; no insects
brred
. Not even a breeze stirred the dust on the ground.

I had never felt so alone in my life. Where
was
I? Where had my fall left me?

The sky overhead turned blue, the deepest, purest azure I had ever seen, without a single wisp of cloud. I gaped up into the vastness of it all.

At last, forcing my gaze back down to land, I sighed and resigned myself to work. My first job would be rescuing myself. I had to get off this Shadow - if Shadow it proved to be. If nothing else, I had begun to feel the first gnawing pangs of hunger.

I took a quick inventory. Sword, knife, boots, deck of Trumps - all where they belonged. All my limbs; all my fingers. I had not so much as a single bruise. My mental faculties seemed as sharp as ever.

If the Trumps still worked, I could use them to call any of my half-brothers or half-sisters for a way out. Or I could use one of the Trumps that showed a place, such as the Beyond or the Courts of Chaos, and bring myself directly there. The only problem was, I didn't know how safe any of those places would be. Too many people were trying to kill me right now to go blundering off to unknown destinations. At least, not without taking proper precautions - an army, for instance.

Removing the deck of Trumps from the pouch at my belt, I flipped through them until I came to the image of Aber. I liked Aber best of all my siblings; he was the only one who seemed to have a sense of humor, and he had been the only one to really take me in and make me feel as though I belonged. I hesitated. Should I contact him and ask to be rescued?

No… not Aber, not yet. I liked him, but I didn't quite trust him. He had his own problems and his own agenda. He had betrayed us to King Uthor of Chaos, though under duress. I could forgive him for that… but my trust would have to be earned back.

Moving his card to the bottom of the deck, where I could find it again easily, I kept going. My dead brother Locke… he couldn't be of any help now. My brother Conner… my sister Blaise…

Then I came to our father's card. It showed a dwarf dressed in a ridiculous jester's outfit, with bells on the toes of his pointy purple slippers and an idiotic grin on his face. Aber had painted Dad this way on purpose. He never missed a chance to secretly mock anyone who slighted him, our father most especially.

Raising Dad's Trump, I concentrated, envisioning him before me. But his image failed to come to life. I didn't sense so much as a flicker of consciousness when I concentrated on it. Dead? Unconscious?

Just ignoring me? All seemed equally likely, and I had no way of finding out the truth right now.

It also could be that my Trumps no longer worked. Dad had destroyed the Pattern they were based on, after all. No, I'd have to assume they worked. Dad could easily be unwilling or unable to respond. I'd try another card.

Who was left? Just my other siblings, and I didn't know most of them well enough to decide how much I could rely on them. Any of them could be in Lord Zon's employ. Someone in Juniper had deliberately let an assassin into the castle to kill me. The plot had failed, but I still didn't know who the traitor had been.

BOOK: To Rule in Amber
10.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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