in the Shadow of Greatness

 

November 16, 2006

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 Cowin's benefit. Florimel leaves a shoehorn in the desk that will lever the drawer despite the lock.

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.


Florimel was born of danger and grace, extraordinary chance and scandal.

In the years of Queen Rilga, a scouting party of Chaosi chanced near to certain shadows watched by Corwin, then Warden of Arden. From wars dark centuries before Corwin knew some signs of these eerie people even if he did not know their source. So he had the small regiment destroyed by troops and beasts. A few soldiers survived with grievous wounds and one officer was found alive in the massacre. Survivors were trussed and handed over to Oberon—who for his own reasons concealed the Chaosi origins as he had for centuries.

The king visited the officer in the dungeons and questioned her repeatedly regards how she found her way so far north of Ygg. She, named Dybele, was very young but of a temper to hold her secrets—and she knew something of Oberon's dishonored past.

The king had little luck in learning much from Dybele, even when he resorted to harsh methods. The Courts do not much inform their junior nobles but Oberon persisted. And later after weeks of interrogation and failing strength, she found her moment to attack him. She made a good show, but guards arrived and subdued the bestial creature she had become.

And yet weeks later, Oberon confirmed the eerie woman was pregnant with his child as a result of the assault. Because the truth was more dangerous, Oberon let most think he had raped the woman and she had defended herself.


Dybele did not prosper in her term carrying an Amber child, but grew weaker still. But a strong baby girl was delivered and named by Oberon: Florimel.

Dybele had no interest in the baby.

To Dybele, Oberon offered a pledge that she would be ransomed back to her country if she helped raise the girl to age nine (despite the grave truths she would carry back to that place of his birth, no Chaosi thus far had ever found Amber and lived.) Dybele refused anything to do with Oberon or his wants.

Oberon set his mind to make sure the girl survived despite. He brought experts and wet nurses of various kinds to the castle. He worked day and night to sustain the child. Florimel's health fluctuated but she strengthened.

Months later, Dybele was repatriated, never to be seen again. There are those who whispered she was taken into Arden and killed by Corwin.


Under a succession of governesses and canny females of the Amber court, Florimel grew and prospered. This was the court of Queen Rilga and the well-respected queen took a shine to the clever little girl. Some said that because the queen had never had a daughter of her own, she spent much attention on Florimel. Rilga's sons found her a welcome balm to more serious work.

Certainly Florimel found the adult Gerard and Julian to be good escorts and teachers.

Born with hair as black as night like her odd mother, Florimel's hair yet became lighter and favored as Rilga's over time until once she was a teen, it was a striking shade of candle-flame blond.

Unknown to any but Oberon, Florimel was the first true child of his own blood ancestry. She was pure of Chaos. Not since his flight from those Courts had Oberon had occasion to match his blood with that of the strongest found anywhere in the universe. And as such, he made certain in every way that she was indulged in all arts of tradition, precendence, intellect, rulership and strategy. And that she be loyal as well.

Florimel in her split skirts was taught the blade and command of men by Benedict, equestrian skills by Deirdre, the scholarly procedures by Fiona, and the social court by Rilga and Oberon.

And in these arts, she became a stunning jewel of Oberon's court, far exceeding even Deirdre's impressive hold on men's hearts. Men unburdened themselves with Florimel and she grew canny in the ways of protecting Amber and serving her king.


Queen Rilga became ill with a wasting sickness. So things changed dramatically for Florimel. The young woman became a champion of medical information to soothe the queen's distress. When this lore proved insufficient, Florimel became clearing house for shadow information brought to Amber.

When Rilga still did not rally, Florimel at thirty-five essayed the Pattern so she could go into shadow and seek cure in her own manner.

But the Pattern nearly killed the fair scion. Burned and blinded by her walk, Flora went to healer's care not to rise for several months.

No one but Oberon might consider that strong Chaosi blood would handicapped Flora with the Pattern, nor did folk speak openly of the strange Dybele now long gone. After all, Florimel showed scant interest in the mother that returned to her own shadowlands. But in the trial of the Pattern and afterwards, Florimel gained a reputation in court for weakness and delicate constitution. There were those who remembered she had sometimes been a sick child.

And for a time, Rilga and Florimel both languished and saw visitors from sickrooms.

Florimel recovered. Rilga grew worse. When Rilga finally convinced Oberon that she must leave Amber to live out her life in a shadow where her pain was lessened, Florimel went with her as escort.

And Flora then sought for answers to that sickness in Shadow, though Rilga eventually died. Some say that Florimel has never walked the Pattern since her first trial.


Much about Amber was a statement of Rilga's influence in that era, but Oberon tried to fill the void left by the queen and he elected Florimel to the role. As if Rilga's blood daughter, Flora took up that legacy that had brought together the Golden Circle treaties and made it her own. She gathered nobles in friendship. She invited distant lords to Amber. She listened and advised between powerful nobles with different agendas.

She was very good at easing the harsh edges off of Oberon's true nature. She was every bit the clever diplomat that Oberon was not. Amber thrived despite the loss of the queen. Florimel became the de facto Chatelaine of Amber.

It might be said that Rilga's influence never really waned. Amber's strength recovered from the unexpected loss of her most personable queen, most notably in the great character of Rilga's sons and in the magnificent charm of Florimel.

After many years, Oberon changed things once again: he returned to Amber with Paulette. Young Paulette was the antithesis of elegant royal: passionate, sensual, vivacious and able to make Oberon laugh with little effort. Queen Paulette was no intellect and made no secret of it.

Florimel tried, but Paulette wanted things her own way. So Flora took an extended tour of shadow and the Golden Circle. She had many friends around near shadows.

Paulette was an exotic choice who ruled with Oberon but never set policy and then she was publicly caught in an affair and killed herself in depression. Oberon started talks with Darrheabarr for a young imperial, Lora, to sit as his queen and one day add her empire to Amber's shadow reach.

In the Golden Circle, Deela touted the twisted vision of Amber, the Shadow Tyrant.

Florimel knew her place was once again at home where diplomacy and wit could assist her father's goals. She there found herself in a role Rilga would have approved: understanding sister to the very young Mirelle and Random. Closest in age to them and best suited to buffer with Oberon, Flora sought to protect and cherish the young duo.

However, her years of experience were not Rilga's and the pain of Mirelle and Random were not eased by Flora's efforts. Florimel failed to find the right tone.

Quite the opposite, in trying to help, Flora became a target of Random's wild mischief. The young man proved himself at every turn to be spiteful and crude, especially delighting in pranks against his elegant older sister. Florimel nearly lost her reputation for composure. Small vindication that years later, Benedict would decide to give up teaching after Random was his student for a few years.

When Random was still a young Patternwalker, Florimel introduced Lora of Darrheabarr to court. Oberon married Lora. It was not long before Lora decided on changes to the way Rilga had done things. Court became stately and formal and elaborate.

Florimel, with regrets to her father, took another leave to explore shadow and let the young Empress make her mark on Amber.

These years in shadow gave Florimel a first uninterrupted view of things beyond family and Amber and a chance to explore her own unique gifts. Florimel found her tastes changing and growing, found shadow contained more variety than Amber's philosophy would suggest. All roads might lead to Amber, but sometimes the road not traveled was quite delightful.

Florimel perfected shadow skills that came to be known as the Royal Way.

And after a time, she created something of a project: a shadow of her own, with extracts and essence of the best of the Golden Circle and shadows that she had admired. In some ways her shadow was a wild and unforgiving place, stitched together with so many conflicts and cultures that it never seemed a place at rest.

She called her exotic hybrid earth the Lily of Flora or Flori-de-Lys in one of the tongues of the Golden Circle.

Florimel nutured her wild place with an eye for detail and took up residence. She held events and social occasions there and the sons of Rilga were often her guests. Because her place held such variety and seemed so stable, varied pleasures were inventive and many. Her sibs often found some small country or interesting person that seemed entrancingly familiar yet intriguingly new.

Truely this earth became a place of heady art and invention, sometimes at a mad pace.

And then a quarrel between Corwin and Eric exploded. Eric made the error of trying to hide his mistake within shadows of Flori-de-Lys. And Flora shortly found this out, for the paths of Amber's blood cross easily in shadow.

Eric and Florimel talked about this matter. She did not trust Eric or Corwin to act in a prudent matter, so she placed addled Corwin under her protection. And since he was not quite in his right mind, and since his revenge would be a terrible thing, Flora agreed to see if she could nudge Corwin back to health in a way that would not get Eric killed or shamed. Eric promised considerations.

Oberon did not take well to Corwin's disappearance.

But then many decades sailed by in Amber. Lora was gone. Decades after that Deela was dead. Oberon's trips into shadow became longer and less spoken of. Sometimes he would talk about his trip with Florimel on her visits to home, but more often he spoke much less to anyone in the family. Sometimes he would rage at some hidden problem.

Under cover of Flora's "social shadow" many of her sibs came and went without ever finding brother Corwin lost amongst mortal kind there.

But then Oberon vanished. Dark things seemed to be straying near Amber.

During the years of Oberon's absence from Amber, Eric organized most of the nobles into a council of advisors. Eric consulted Florimel regards the traditional families for he had never had constant support there and she had. Eric wondered if Corwin might be called back to Amber if need arose. Florimel had theories that might shock Corwin to remember something of his former self, but Corwin had always been a violent sib prone to dark rages.

The stage was set for the family struggle that became the PatternFall War.

When Amber's safety prompted Eric to the regency, and then throne, there were many who felt that Prince Caine had a better claim to the crown. Eric was still unacknowledged by the King's choice. Eric's position was solid as long as the sons of Rilga supported him. And Gerard and Julian often took their lead from Caine. Though the three brothers were like different seasons, they held a true respect for each other. When Florimel lent her voice to this strategy, it became palatable to all the noble families of Amber as well.

But the deeds of the Black Road were already writ.
The center unraveled.
Amber was at war with itself.

Someone tried to kill Corwin and everything changed. Flora had protected him for many years and she took up the challenge now and brought him near to her. Caine and Eric shared various suspicions. It seemed the redheads might be moving to take the throne by force.

Luckily for Random, when he crossed the redhead plans unwitting, he found a path to Flora's door.

Florimel provided haven for both brothers. She also provided reasons for them to try for Amber. She knew they might find more danger alone in shadow and that Amber needed their help.

She did not try to convert them to Eric's cause. She did have words with Caine and Julian, however, to expect them. The trumps taken by Corwin were not hers, they were a gathering of odd spare cards she had collected over time.

So Corwin's destiny is set in motion by Florimel in a predictable direction. But then, Corwin is not exactly constant or the man he was from Flora's memory.


Corwin travels after Patternfall. Llewella comes up from Rebma. Eric's honored place in history is assured. Oberon is mourned. Random, in a shock to all, is king.

Life will present more shocks, more deaths and more challenges.
Flora will turn out to be essential, or knowledgable, or a haven for you to catch your breath and think things through. Your Aunt Florimel will talk to you when others seem hostile.

Some say she's a bit smarter than you would think and gives good advice despite being more focused on parties and table settings and the latest theater plays. Some say she's the dumb blonde in the family but harmless.

Still, it's nice to have a sympathetic ear.
Go see Flora.

[on the lighter side: go see Florimel on the march]


Filed under : IMC, Profiles at 16.11.2006
comments
Paul says...

Flora is underestimated at the peril of those who would consider her a foe.

Posted November 16, 2006 9:43 PM
Arref says...

And Paul has more comments over here.

Posted November 18, 2006 1:08 PM