(The story picks up at the end of chapter 12 of The Courts of Chaos)
The Unicorn of Amber regarded the array of nobles before her: Julian, Random, Bleys, Fiona, Llewella, Benedict.... and me. The Jewel, rescued from oblivion, hung glittering from her horn, and swung in the winds from the storm at our backs.
She paced a few times, and finally stopped. The quiet sorrow in her eyes made me wonder if she were simply going to stand there and watch the rest of the Pattern's descendants die in the wake of reality crumbling. I thought back to my father's last words... "With my passing, the problem of the succession will be upon you... I have no choice but to leave this on the horn of the Unicorn." Could she not choose?
Then she paced out away from us, and simply shook the Jewel to the ground. A last look back, and she was gone.
"So who's the king?"
Random's voice rung out in the awed silence the Unicorn had left in her wake. "It doesn't matter." I replied. "That's something we can sort out when we get home" If there is a home, I thought bitterly.
I walked forward and picked up the jewel. Fiona appeared at my elbow. "Help me," I said, "Help me fight it back." She nodded, and with my attunement and her mental prowess, we were able to fight back the storm.
Back in Amber, we discovered why the jewel had been dropped, and not passed on. We still had a king.
Oberon lay in bed, a shadow of the man he had been. All the years of hate and distrust melted as we regarded this thin and shattered man. He opened his eyes, and smiled, something I had not seen in thousands of years. "My children..."
Bleys regarded him sadly. "Looks like we need a king anyway."
Flora gasped. "Bleys! He's right here! By the Unicorn, don't you have any sense of propriety?"
"Does it matter? The old fool's simple. Bet he doesn't live the night."
"No. I just dabble in being a realist sometimes. Sure you don't want to take me up on that bet? Five'll get you ten..."
Flora levied a glare that would have struck mortal men sunder, I'm sure. Bleys shrugged it off.
Fiona walked in. "I've been talking with Dworkin. Apparently the pattern used our father to repair itself."
"Repair?" I asked, "How?"
"It ripped the pattern in his blood out and used that to repair the breaks." My blood went cold. The pattern in us is more than the result of a walk on a magic artifact. It's in us from birth, a part of our make-up, our soul... And dad had his ripped out. I shuddered. No wonder it destroyed him. She continued: "I think the Pattern left him alive for a reason. Killing him would most likely have been easier than preserving him."
"And what reason is that?"
"How would I know, Corwin? Perhaps it likes him. After all, he's Dworkin's only son. Perhaps he hasn't passed on enough of his knowledge, and that makes him indispensable. Perhaps the Pattern has an odd sense of humor and wants to see us groveling to an idiot." She shrugged. "My pet theory is that he has to pass on the crown before he can pass on himself."
Random, who had been studying a somewhat trite painting of the Unicorn, looked over his shoulder. "So who is it dad?"
Oberon stirred, and looked straight at me. "Corwin..."
"No deal. I turned that down a long time ago. I have no intention of ruling Amber. Pick someone else."
"No. You. Amber needs you."
"Like hell it does. I almost destroyed it, remember? You have plenty of other children to choose from."
He frowned. His voice took on a wheedling pitch. "The others are gone. I lost them. So it has to be you..."
I looked at my siblings. Apparently none of them knew what he was talking about. "Dad, what do you mean? Who's gone? What did you lose?"
All he did was look at me with eerily baleful eyes and sigh. "I'm sorry. I lost them. I didn't mean to."
I walked out of the room. His childlike demeanor set me on edge. He should have died. The most powerful man in the universe should not have been reduced to a crippled simpleton. Eventually, Fiona followed me. "Please tell me he's faking it, or something."
She was silent for a moment, then replied, "I don't think so. We know he's good, but there's no pattern in him at all... just nothingness where something should be. I don't think you can fake that. I tested his mind, and it feels like he doesn't even know how to block."
She paced a few times across the hallway, then turned to face me. "We're going to have to pick a king, and I'm afraid you're the most likely candidate." Before I could object, she continued. "Benedict has no legal rights to the throne, and I think he's glad of it. Julian may be loyal, but lets face it, he's just not bright enough to run half the universe. I think Arden is as far as his authority needs to reach. That same logic strikes out Gerard too. Flora's not political enough, and Llewella would most likely make her first action as queen to burn Castle Amber to the ground. As for me, I happen to believe a leader needs to have presence, and being the most diminutive of the lot of us, I find myself lacking. Bleys and Caine are too unpredictable. As for Random... I'd hate to see what trash he drags in his first week. Flora would go ballistic."
She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I'm afraid you're the only one that could take the position. You'd look good in a crown, you're not so sneaky that we feel we'd have to watch our backs all the time, you're smart enough and even took the helm for a while. And hell, if things go sour, at least you have a son."
I looked at her wryly. "Thanks for the vote of confidence."
She smiled back. "Any time."
A few days later, I was crowned King of Amber. Having lived through the pomp and ceremony, I won't bore you with the details. Two years later, I found out my son had ascended the throne in Chaos, and that the man who sat as ruler in Kashfa was none other than the son of Brand. I let it be, since he seemed to have none of his father's maniacal qualities. In time, many of my other siblings started producing children. Until today they have kept them in their own shadows, to be raised to be absolutely loyal to their parents, I'm sure. But they come to Castle Amber today, to pledge their loyalty, and to walk the Pattern. I wait for them, the Jewel quietly glowing on my chest.