Amber was the greatest city which had ever existed or ever would exist. Amber had always been and always would be, and every other city, everywhere every other city that existed was but a reflection of a shadow of some phase of Amber. Amber, Amber, Amber...
I remember thee. I shall never forget thee again. I guess, deep inside me, I never really did, through all those centuries I wandered the Shadow Earth, for often at night my dreams were troubled by images of thy green and golden spires and thy sweeping terraces. I remember thy wide promenades and the decks of flowers, golden and red. I recall the sweetness of thy airs, and the temples, palaces, and pleasances thou containest, contained, will always contain, Amber, immortal city from which every other city has taken its shape, I cannot forget thee…
-Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
Amber City has seen much change since the Patternfall War, mostly instituted by its Governor, Prince Benedict, and the High Council. Amber is highly cosmopolitan and its population has grown tremendously (approximately 750,000 persons; 1,000,000+ metro).
An influx of refugees and dispossessed from the Patternfall War has created an amalgamation of cultures and races. One can stroll through an ephemeral Goblin market, stop to listen to jazz or folk musicians, or sample Rebman sponge-cakes and daemon-on-a- stick beneath the spectral glow of the mage-lights. From one cobbled street to the next, a traveler will discover—and rediscover—a city resembling Paris, New York, London, Prague, Berlin, or Kyoto at the turn of Shadow Earth’s 20th century.
Amber, the First City. It is said that all other cities in Shadow are based upon it to one degree or another. No one could hope to adequately define such majesty and diversity as Amber City. But what follows is a taste of the greatest city in the Universe.
It was a cool night with the breezed smells of autumn burning down the world about me. I drew it into my lungs and sighed it out again as I headed for the Main Concourse, the distant, almost-forgotten, slow clopping sounds of hoofs on cobbles coming to me like something out of dream or memory. The night was moonless but filled with stars, and the Concourse below flanked by globes of phosphorescent liquid set atop high poles, long-tailed mountain moths darting about them.
-from Merlin’s Chronicles
“Modern” Amber City is split into two main sections with residential wards in the east and commercial wards in the west. Before the PatternFall War, the city had been a labyrinth of narrow streets and brick and half-timber houses, with few buildings being taller than three stories. The Second Age has seen a dramatic change in architecture and urban remodeling. Under Prince Benedict’s instruction, entire quarters were leveled to make room for wider streets and neo-classical stone buildings. With few exceptions (Little Kyoto being one), most districts require that a building’s height be defined by the width of the street it lined, resulting in a “flat” city.
The most prominent feature is the Main Concourse, which dominates the center of the city. The Main Concourse loops around away from the harbor, swings southeast and then eastward before eventually looping around again to mark Amber’s main city boundaries. Along its winding path are a vast collection of shops, restaurants, and cafes that offers delights to suit every taste and need. The majority of the restaurants stay open well after dark, and even after midnight on feast days. Expansive parks and green spaces are located within the Concourse’s boundaries, as well as some of the most prestigious districts and wards. A new canal system crisscrosses the interior, offering a more pleasant and quieter place to walk and explore than the Concourse itself. Perhaps most importantly, of all the locations in the city, the Concourse is the best place to catch a glimpse of the members of the Royal Family; Princess Flora, in particular, frequents many of the exclusive shops.
The northernmost section of the city merges with the rolling tree-line that surrounds Mount Kolvir and the stretches into the lush countryside. Before the city transforms into alpine wonder, Amber City features some of the finest estates in all Creation. The northeastern portion of the city, in particular, is dominated by opulent country houses and vineyards. Flag Hill, known for the hundreds of national flags displayed, is one of the most prestigious districts in this area. As idyllic as northeastern Amber might be, a hidden class war has sprung up between the landed gentry and the growing merchant families. Row housing and similar dwellings now encroach on the extensive estates, driving out some of the noble families, indignant with sharing their alpine home with ‘lesser’ folk. Other nobles have bought up undeveloped land just to keep it out of the hands of the merchants.
When I reached the avenue, I strolled. A few closed carriages rolled by as I passed along the way. An old man walking a tiny green dragon on a chain leash touched his hat to me as I passed and said, ‘Good evening.’
-from Merlin’s Chronicles
The Main Concourse is traversed by Vine Street, which is the largest and longest street in Amber and runs the city’s entire breadth from west to east. Outside the city’s western walls, Vine Street eventually transforms into Harbour Road. This cobblestone road, in turn, gives way to a stretch affectionately known as Death Alley before ending at the docks. Because of its location, Vine Street has recently been expanded and now features the tracks for Her Resplendent Flame, Amber’s first steam-train. The train begins its journey at the extravagant Crow Station (also known simply as ‘The Crow’) before traveling down Vine Street to pick up cargo and steerage class passengers. Finally, it winds its way along the coast to the Valley of Garnath and the beyond.
Off to the east of the Main Concourse is Temple Street, which eventually ends at the extensive campus of Faiella University. Ever since the Pureness Movement forced most temples devoted to the Unicorn to be relocated into the countryside, Temple Street has become the center of Amber’s entertainment and art communities. Theatres have sprung up along the winding road, including the prestigious Crown Theatre, so named for its pentagonal construction (like Amber’s royal crown). Until recently, the Crown Theatre dominated the theatre scene. However, it has begun losing business to the Players of the Unicorn, a troupe of players offering better ticket prices and better roles for women. It is rumored that Princess Flora is one of their silent benefactors, which may be why many of the Princess Florimel Society Sisters frequent the establishment and begin their acting careers there. In addition to the theatres, galleries, music halls, restaurants, and specialty shops line the lengthy boulevard.
Temple Street becomes the center of activity during the summer months, featuring street artists, musicians, performers, vendors, and the occasional goblin market. Some of the finest jewelry and china can be found in the many shops and stalls, as well as the most unusual and beautiful tapestries and clothing. Indeed, Temple Street is where most Amberites go to show off their latest fashions. Cultures and peoples mesh here in a energetic and colorful display, filling the city with wonders rarely found elsewhere. This vibrancy and richness then spills out to the rest of the city.
The four of us strode back towards Harbor Street. Interested bystanders got out of our way quickly. Someone was probably already robbing the dead behind us. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. But what the hell, it’s home
-from Merlin’s Chronicles
Despite its obvious danger, the Harbor is one of the most intriguing sections of the city. The harbor area features hundreds of warehouses and homes woven together by a complex lattice of roads and cobblestone streets. Because of the tiered architecture, almost anyone with a southern exposure possesses one of the best views of the ocean money can buy. It also allows sailors to get an idea of the weather and see what ships are coming and going. New construction is almost continuous and small crafts are towing cargo or passengers between the permanent barges and small islands nonstop. It goes without saying that some of Amber’s best seafood can be found here.
A particularly intriguing section of the harbor is known as The Rigs. Shortly following the historic sea battle between Princes Caine and Corwin, thousands of hulks and pieces of wreckage began to wash ashore along the Amber coastline. Ever-resourceful, local shipbuilders and sailors salvaged these remains and built a floating city. A virtual maze of timber and rope now dominates the harbor, allowing workers to literally walk from island to island without ever getting their feet wet.
Population: 750,000 (1,000,000 metro)