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Sign of the Unicorn

Sign of the Unicorn is the third book in the Chronicles of Amber series by Roger Zelazny.

Plot introduction

Eric is dead, and Corwin now rules Amber as Regent—but someone has murdered Caine and framed Corwin. Random tells his part of the story, and Corwin decides to find out what happened to Brand. Corwin begins to find his obsession with the throne is a two-edged sword that may cost him his life, as it has his brothers'.

Plot summary

Corwin returns to Castle Amber bearing the body of one of the same spined, bloodshot-eyed humanoid creatures which pursued Random to Flora's house on Earth—one which had moments earlier killed his brother, Caine. Fearing that he has been framed for Caine's murder, Corwin summons Random, who tells Corwin how he came to be chased across shadow to end up in New York:

Random had been enjoying life out in a shadow, Texorami, which he had selected/created to be an ideal place to gamble, hang-glide and especially play the drums. He received an unusual Trump call in the form of the Jack of Diamonds, which spoke to him as his brother, Brand, asking for help escaping from an unfamiliar shadow.

Random set out to rescue Brand from the shadow, a land lit without a sun, where boulders orbit each other in complicated patterns. He found the tower where Brand was imprisoned, but could not overcome its guardian, a glowing, prismatic dragon-like creature. The spined humanoids then pursued him through shadow despite his efforts to stop them—a feat which he had believed possible only for members of his family. Seeking an ally, he headed for Earth, hoping to exploit Flora, but finding Corwin. Since Corwin had been missing for so long, he assumed the creatures belonged to him, and though confused by Corwin fighting the creatures, was sufficiently scared to aid Corwin in getting to Amber—from which point Corwin (and the reader) know the rest.

Corwin dismisses Random, and descends to the chamber of the Pattern, to attune himself to the Jewel of Judgement, a powerful artifact which allows control of the weather in Amber. He walks the pattern, and then commands it to project him into the Jewel. He is metaphysically carried through a higher-dimensional Pattern within the Jewel, emerging with what he describes as a "higher octave" of awareness.

Corwin teleports to a high tower of the castle. After testing his new attunement to the Jewel, he summons Flora, to get a promise of corroboration that the creature is not his doing. He learns that most of his brothers had sought him in shadow during his absence—some to try to find him; some to implicate Eric as a fratricide.

Gérard accompanies Corwin to the Grove of the Unicorn, where Caine was killed. Gérard wrestles with Corwin, and knocks him unconscious. Corwin comes to being dangled down the side of mount Kolvir, and is told that if he turns out to be responsible, Gérard will kill him; and that all the siblings are listening, so if Gérard is killed, they will know Corwin did it. Corwin points out that if someone wants to kill Corwin and free themselves from suspicion, they now only have to kill Gérard. Gérard, angered, accuses him of trying to complicate matters, and throws him into the air—but catches him again. They return to Caine's body, and see a glimpse of the Unicorn.

Corwin then arranges a family meeting, allowing Random to re-tell his tale. While not entirely convinced of Corwin's innocence, they agree to attempt to recover the one remaining person who has seen these creatures—Brand. With their combined efforts, they are able to contact Brand through the trump, and pull him through to Amber. Although Brand was relatively intact in his cell, they find he has been stabbed. Gérard pushes the others aside and gives first aid to Brand, while the others realise the implications of the stabbing—one of them must have tried to kill their brother.

The siblings guardedly discuss who the murderer might be. They discuss their last meetings with both Brand and Oberon. Julian is the first to leave, and Fiona points out that only she and Julian are sensible suspects—and she is "innocent of all but malice". She warns Corwin that the Jewel is more than just a weather-control device; it is an artifact of great power which draws upon its bearer's life force—and may well have been what killed Eric. She says that when people around the bearer seem like shadows, the bearer is near death.

Corwin heads for his rooms, discussing matters with Random, who has a hard time keeping up with Corwin. He enters his room, noticing just too late a figure poised to stab him—but the stab is so slow that it only grazes him. Corwin blacks out.

He comes to in his former home on Earth, bleeding and near death. He drops a pillow, but it hangs in the air. He realises that the Jewel is killing him, so he hides it in the house's compost heap and heads for the road, hoping to hitch-hike to a hospital where he can recover. He is eventually picked up by Bill Roth, a lawyer who knew him when he was Carl Corey. In hospital, he learns that his car accident happened during his escape from a mental asylum, where he had been committed by a Dr. Hillary B. Rand by his brother Brandon Corey. He is contacted via Trump by Random, who returns him to Amber, saying that Brand has woken up and wishes to speak to him.

Brand gradually tells Corwin about how he, Bleys and Fiona had removed Oberon and tried to claim the throne, but were opposed by the triumvirate of Eric, Julian and Caine. He says that after he objected to Bleys and Fiona's plan to ally with the forces of Chaos, he was pursued and came to Earth seeking Corwin as an ally—trying to restore his memories with shock therapy—but was captured and imprisoned in the tower where Random found him. During the conversation, Brand displays pyrokinetic abilities.

Corwin then heads to Tir-na Nog'th, the mysterious, moonlit Amber-in-the-sky where he hopes to gain insight into the situation. His sword Grayswandir has special properties in the moonlit city, having been forged upon the stairway to Tir-na Nog'th. With Random and Ganelon watching him from mount Kolvir, he ascends to Tir-na Nog'th, and in the throne room sees Dara as queen, flanked by Benedict wearing a metallic arm. The ghostly Benedict is able to reach Corwin with the arm, and they fight. Corwin cuts off the arm, and is trumped back to Kolvir by Random, with the arm still clutching his shoulder.

The three set off for Amber, but are drawn through shadow—which should be impossible this close to Amber—and come to an enlarged version of the Grove of the Unicorn, where they see the Unicorn. They are led back to where Amber should stand, but instead there is a plateau on which there is a copy of the Pattern. Corwin and Ganelon realise that this is the true, Primal Pattern, of which the one in Amber is but the first shadow.

Trivia

References

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