Then there was Eric. Handsome by anyone's standards, his hair was so dark as to be almost blue. His beard curled around the mouth that always smiled, and he was dressed simply in a leather jacket and leggings, a plain cloak, high black boots, and he wore a red sword belt bearing a long silvery saber and clasped with a ruby, and his high cloak collar round his head was lined with red and the trimmings of his sleeves matched it. His hands, thumbs hooked behind his belt, were terribly strong and prominent. A pair of black gloves jutted from the belt near his right hip. He it was, I was certain, that had tried to kill me on that day I had almost died. I studied him and feared him somewhat. -- Nine Princes in Amber
And good-bye Eric. After all this time I say it, in this way. Had you lived so long, it would have been over between us. We might even one day have become friends, all our causes for strife passed. Of them all, you and I were more alike than any other pair within the family. -- The Courts of Chaos
The King My Father:
A Biographical Sketch
Regardless of the opinion one holds of his kingship and the legitimacy thereof, a discussion into which I shall not enter, no one may discuss Amber without discussing Eric. I cannot eulogize him, but I shall be fair, which is more than most may get from their biographers, and far more than anyone in this family has any reason to expect.
First and always, there was his charisma, as much a part of him as his skin. Though one may have disagreed with him, or even hated him, one always listened to him. Rooms fell silent when he spoke, lit when he smiled, darkened when he frowned. On or off the battlefield, Eric could lead. In my opinion, it was this more than any other factor which paved his way to the Throne--though alloyed with other traits, as the charcoal turns iron, useful in itself, to steel, more useful still.
The charcoal in Eric's furnace was his drive. My father was ruthless. Let no one be mistaken in that regard. If one was not on his side, one was against him, and it was this single-mindedness that led him to the Throne. I sometimes wonder if there was anything to him but that goal, hoping that there was. It is not entirely comfortable to suspect that one's birth was tactical. Who might I have been had my mother lived to raise me, and what goal had the two in mind when they conceived me? This was Eric--political strategist par excellence. Could anyone rightly call him a friend, or did his scheming run too deep?
Eric was a cause of turmoil from conception--though he cannot be blamed for that. Oberon's peccadilloes are another discussion into which I shall not enter, but as for the bare historical facts: Eric's legitimacy, as Benedict's, was uncertain, and Oberon made no effort to clarify it. His marriage to Cymnea was not yet annulled when Faiella bore Eric, and speculation as to the reasons involved in both Princes' uncertain standing, while within my professional expertise, is better left to the reader's imagination, where it will doubtless be far more entertaining than anything approaching the truth.
Thus Corwin was the first of Oberon's children to be born solidly within wedlock, a fact which contributed no small amount to the tension between Eric and him. Their rivalry continued across the centuries, and served to define the characters of both men, who were far more similar than either would have cared to admit. Still, of the two, Eric was the more social. He made friends and allies more readily, which stood him in good stead when he made his bid for the Crown. In his way, he was as monomanical as Benedict. His face never showed anything but what he wanted it to--save perhaps when he was thinking of Corwin.
The two contended back and forth, until Eric one day gained the upper hand. Corwin told Merlin that Eric struck him from behind while the two hunted in Arden, but neither Corwin nor his son is a reliable source, least of all where Eric is concerned. No one disputes, however, that Eric had Corwin at his mercy--and stayed his hand. Whether his forbearance sprang from fear of Oberon, who openly favored Corwin, or from a more tender motive is a mystery interred with Eric.
Regardless, he exiled an amnesiac Corwin to Shadow Earth, and weathered Oberon's suspicions until the King disappeared. Then Eric took the Throne, and held it. With persuasion, charisma, leverage, fear, and every other weapon in the family arsenal, he built the largest coalition of the Blood ever to exist prior to the Battle of Patternfall. Florimel, Julian, Caine, and Gerard stood with him, and perhaps most importantly, Benedict did not stand against him. He politicked with the Golden Circle, signing treaties with most, including Moire of Rebma. Had Brand's madness not intervened, we might still be bending knee to King Eric of Amber. (Or even to Oberon. History is too full of turning points to regret any single one.)
As King, Eric withstood assassination attempts both by Corwin, and by his eventual successor, Random, assault by the combined armies of Bleys and Corwin, and years of attacks by the forces of Chaos along the Black Road. He did other things not nearly so much to his credit. He fell to Chaos after reigning five years, having been at war for all of them.
Let this stand as an epitaph: He achieved what he most desired, most loved, and did not shrink when that love cost him his life. There are infinite deaths poorer than that. Rest, Father, if you can.