They say home is where the heart is.
Random dreams sometimes that Amber is a living, breathing thing. That if you lie perfectly still on the stone of the corridor you can hear the gently lull of its breathing, the slow pulse of a heart beat. He dreams the city blinks its windows, eyes of coloured glass, hair of the vines that crawl up the walls here and there. The hallway to his room curves gently, like a finger of a reposed hand. People push through the halls, organizing, running, the blood of this creature.
His father sits in its heart, and he wonders sometimes about cancer; the rotting, spreading tumour of the throne that's corrupting all of them, making it not what's best for Amber, but who's sitting there.
The Pattern sits in the belly of the city, in her womb, and pulses with a life of its own, too. He comes down here sometimes, stepping over the stair that doesn't work (he remembers when the others don't) and sits at the edge of it, watching it. Imagining he can see it breathing too.
Being here makes him feel like there's power behind his eyes, something not to be reckoned with. The trumps feel like lead in his breast pocket. He wants to get up and Walk and run. Away from all this, to the very core, to make love to the world as it lies spread out and spelled out before him. How easy it would be. There's no one here he'd be sorry to see behind (except sometimes Corwin, and even then, not now.
Not with his skin still raw and red from being left out there on that island.)
What a pathetic case am I, he thinks one day, to himself, as he watches the horses riding up towards the castle from the forest. He can't tell which one's Julian from this distance.
It's watching his brother, actually, his older, twisted brother coming into the castle and bowing low to his father that does it. It's not grovelling, it'd be impolite to call it that, but it rankles every inch of him and he takes the stairs down to the Pattern at a run.
He sets his first foot onto the lines without an instant of hesitation, and then it hits him both that he could die some time within the next two minutes and that this is what he's supposed to be doing. What it feels like when you've found your life's meaning. The real one.
His heart in his throat, he pushes on, half blind in the darkness, with the beautiful burning lines burnt onto his retinas as the living being of the thing comes alive under his feet. He imagines he can feel it pulsing through him. It's hard. It's not as hard as he thought it'd be.
He leaves Amber, his home, and doesn't look back. Not for a very, very long time.
"And how have you been Random?"
Llewella's voice was as steady, pleasant, lilting as ever, and her hands were steady as she poured the scotch. Single malt. Neat. The way Random liked it.
His smile in return was grateful, and it widened when he took his first sip of the drink.
"Well enough thanks. Yourself?"
Someone walked by the door holding a candle, and the light caught her hair, suddenly making it shine green, she smiled, and in that moment two thoughts flitted through Random's mind, neither of them showing on his face.
The first was; She is beautiful.
The second; I could bed her here and now and no one would care to stop us.
The fact that his eyes widened slightly, despite himself, was hidden as he turned on his seat to toss an apparently annoying throw pillow out of his way, though in truth it hadn't been causing him overly large amounts of difficulty.
The thought, now given birth, lingered. Because just last night he'd thought he was lonely and just last night he'd wondered about going to Texorami to find someone willing and just last night he'd seen Fiona and Julian stealing kisses in the garden as though they were teenagers again.
When he turned back to look at his sister- the word now sending a faint feeling of unease through him, it was with an appraising eye. She was undeniably lovely. Her hair was long and shone green in the low light. Her throat was thin and the angle of her head was graceful. Her hands were elegant and her breasts…
I could bed her now and have her forever.Someone forever to have and---
---"Are you listening to me?"
"Sorry, Llewella, just thinking."
His eyes, which had never really flicked downwards, simply shut because that was easier than looking up and admitting where his gaze had been.
Past the faintly sickening, slightly dizzy thrill of doing something he wasn't supposed to be, there was relief, because though there was a rush of defiance there wasn't arousal and though defiance wasn't precisely safe it wasn't uncontrollable.
Safe, in a way the burning glances Corwin directed at Deirdre weren't.
Random swallowed once more, and then looked up.
Once, at about two in the morning, in a place called Amber, a young man had pounded on his brother's door. Noise getting weaker as bloodloss sets in.
When Benedict opens the door he wonders if Random even knew whose it was, or if he just needed someone roused. Or if he even recognizes who's answered.
The younger of the two is on the ground and bleeding, and bleeding badly. The thing to do seems to be to scoop him up and bring him in. In times like these, they all remember why they carry first aid kits.
"Don't call anyone else," says Random faintly, and his sharp eyes focus on his brother's face. Then he starts to smile.
"Benedict. Benediction, benedictus qui venit in nomine domini."
Benedict thinks Random's lost a lot of blood, and probably had a few drinks before that, so there's no sense answering that. He starts taking care of the wound.
"Benediction, Benedict, you could save us all if you wanted to."
He doesn't look up.
"We all almost wish you would."
He does look up.
Bright green, hollowed eyes, hanging over him. His little brother looking down at him.
"I think this place is killing us all," says Random, and he sounds pathetically young, "I think we're all going to die. I think whoever wins will have been fighting so long that they won't care for the city and she'll fall. They hate each other more than they love Amber, Benedict, and we hurt each other because that's all we know how to do but we could be so strong standing together."
He can't look away. Neither of them can look away. Random shudders once.
He turns back to Random's wound, and the moment is gone. The youngest prince falls silent, briefly.
"You know Caine's never smiled at me? Actually never."
Young and plaintive again, not the wise creature he'd been turning into for a moonlit moment.
"Caine never smiles at anyone Random."In the morning, Random is pushed out the door, and sent on his way. He leaves the castle. So does Benedict, suddenly sick to death of all of them.
They won't speak again for years, and they'll never speak of that night. Ever.