The Trumps

The drawer contained a packet of playing cards. And the packet bore… a white unicorn on a green field, rampant, facing to the dexter. I opened the packet and extracted the cards. They were on the order of tarots, with their wands, pentacles, cups, and swords, but the Greater Trumps were quite different. They were almost lifelike in appearance, the Greater Trumps ready to step right out through those glistening surfaces. The cards seemed quite cold to my touch, and it gave me a distinct pleasure to handle them."

Corwin, Nine Princes in Amber

The Trumps, which Corwin also sometimes refers to as the Tarots, are essentially tarot decks whose Greater Trumps possess unusual powers.

Most of the Trumps in existence were created by Dworkin, in the form of "family decks" depicting the children of Oberon. Such decks were issued in the form of an entire tarot deck; other than the Greater Trumps, the cards in these decks seem to be simply mundane. Dworkin also taught his art to some of Oberon's children, who in turn taught some members of the younger generation. The art of the Trumps seems in some way tied to the power of the Pattern, and as such, only those who have received initiation into that mystery are capable of executing the Trumps, though any who possess such a card may use it.

A Trump is always cold to the touch; even if the subject is somewhere that the Trump can't reach (or the subject is dead or otherwise incommunicado, or destroyed), the Trump remains cold. The card becomes even colder, when someone attempts to use it.

Using a Trump of a Person

"The cards," I said, "the family Trumps. They are more than a mere sentimental affectation. They are a means of communication. Get hold of mine, stare at it, concentrate on it, try to keep all other thoughts out of your mind, pretend that it is really me and begin talking to me then. You will find that it really is, and that I am answering you."

Corwin to Dara, The Guns of Avalon

Using a Trump of a person, in order to contact them, is straightforward; it works just as Corwin said. It is quite rapid, especially for someone who is experienced in their use, assuming that the person that one is trying to contact "picks up" the contact quickly.

I felt the pressure, gentle and questing at first. I couldn't tell for sure who it was. I immediately stood stock still, closed my eyes, and made my mind go blank. It was about five minutes before the questing presence withdrew.

Corwin, The Guns of Avalon

To the caller, concentration upon calling a person brings on a slight feeling of coldness. To the recipient, the beginnings of a contact attempt usually feels like a pressure in the back of one's head. The sensation is immediately recognizable to those who have experienced it before.

I felt the tingle of a familiar presence. I straightened and waited. Contact came moments later.
"Here, Gerard."

The Hand of Oberon

It is possible to recognize the caller before the contact is fully realized. Sometimes, the presence might merely feel familiar; other times it is identifiable as someone specific; and still other times, the caller can't be identified at all. This is dependent on many circumstances; however, the more frequently the recipient and caller have been in Trump contact, the higher the odds of identification.

I felt a familiar mental jab. I closed my eyes and rested my head in my hands, emptying my mind and building a wall around the emptiness. No one home. Out to lunch… It eased, then came on again, hard, and I blocked it again. There followed a third wave. I stopped that one, too. Then it was gone. I sighed, massaged my eyeballs.

Corwin, The Guns of Avalon

It is possible to refuse a Trump contact simply by ignoring it. If the caller chooses to press the effort, however, the recipient must make an active effort to not take the call. If a call is being forced, this is a contest of wills, with either Force or Resolve being appropriate stats to use for it. If the comparison results in the caller able to inflict a single consequence, it is simply difficult and painful for the recipient to refuse the call; if the caller gets a two-consequence advantage, the recipient must take the call, if only briefly.

I thumbed my nose at him and passed my palm over the card. It was like hanging up a telephone, and I shuffled Eric in with all the rest.

Corwin, Nine Princes in Amber

Ending a Trump contact with someone is quite straightforward; one merely covers the card one is holding (for the caller), or blanks one's mind (for the recipient).

Pulling Someone Through

There were two ways to depart directly from Amber into Shadow… One was the Pattern, seldom used for this purpose. Another was the Trumps, if you could trust a brother. I considered Bleys… I stared at him… He seemed to move. The contact came like an icy wind. The figure on the card seemed life-sized now and changed position into whatever stance he presently held. His eyes did not quite focus upon me, and his lips moved.
"Who is it?" they asked, and I heard the words.
"Corwin," said I, and he held forth his left hand, which no longer bore the goblet. "Then come to me, if you would."
I reached forward and our fingers met. I took a step. I was still holding the card in my left hand, but Bleys and I stood together on a cliff.

Corwin, Nine Princes in Amber

If two people are in Trump contact, one of them may offer his hand to the other. The other may take it, and step through to where he is. The moment of touch is neither truly physical nor truly mystical in nature. Note that objects cannot be passed through a Trump in this manner.

"With one of us on either end of a Trump connection we can transport the troops right through, as we did that day from Kolvir to Garnath."

Benedict to Corwin, The Hand of Oberon

It's possible for two people at the ends of the contact to pass other people through, by handing them off, hand-to-hand. Obviously, it's time-consuming and tiring to ferry people one-by-one in this manner, but it is effective.

By extension, if one touches someone who is involved in a Trump conversation, one is drawn into that Trump conversation, just as if one was directly involved in the original contact. However, contact must be maintained between the one who holds the Trump, and the one that the Trump portrays; if the primary contact ends, so do the contacts of those who joined the conversation.

Handing off people is a function of them joining the contact. Therefore, it's not possible to pass through dead bodies, unconscious people, or anyone who is otherwise is a state not to be able to participate in the contact.

Using a Trump of a Place

Would my final match serve me, though? No, I didn't think it would. A longer period of concentration than that was required for me to use a Trump as a gateway… I concentrated on the tower and recalled it. I thought I heard the cry of a gull. I sniffed something like a salt breeze, and the place became more real as I stared… soon the lighthouse seemed as real to me as my cell. Then it seemed the only reality, and the cell but a Shadow at my back. I heard the splashing of the waves and felt something like the afternoon sun upon me… I stood upon the sandy, rock-strewn edge of the small island of Cabra.

Corwin, Nine Princes in Amber

Trumps of places are less common, and more difficult to use, than Trumps of people. They take a longer period of time to use than it takes for a single match to burn down — call it thirty seconds to a minute to successfully use a place Trump. One stares at the Trump and envisions it, as slowly it becomes more real, and one is taken to the destination pictured upon it.

The Trump for Amber indicated that a warm, dry autumn prevailed there.

Corwin, Nine Princes in Amber

It is possible to look at a place Trump and concentrate upon it to see the image of its current state, without concentrating for long enough to actually activate the Trump's transport ability. It can be performed by anyone who understands how to use a Trump. It is not detectable. It does not, however, give anything more than a glimpse of the view, sort of like looking briefly through a window. It is not possible to do anything more than a brief glance through this means, since longer concentration would result in the user being transported to that location.

What Trumping Out Looks Like

"She claimed that you walked to the center of the room, became two-dimensional, and just faded away, like the old soldier that you are, with a rainbowlike accompaniment."

Bill Roth to Corwin, relating the story of a nurse who saw him Trump out (pulled through by Random), The Hand of Oberon

I added my wishes and watched him fade, When his rainbow afterimage had vanished I looked away and noticed that Dara was crying silently.

Corwin watches Benedict use a place Trump, The Courts of Chaos

If one is leaving via a "pull through" from someone else, one first becomes momentarily two-dimensional. Regardless of whether one leaves via a hand offered by someone else, or directly by using a place Trump, one fades out at one's current location (leaving a rainbow afterimage), and appears suddenly in the new location.

Physical Proximity via the Trumps

"The blood of Amber," he finally said. "Whoever did it walked the Pattern first, you see. Then they stood there at the center and contacted him via this Trump. When he responded and a firm contact was achieved, they stabbed him. His blood flowed upon the Pattern, obliterating that part of it, as mine did here."

Random, The Hand of Oberon

"He was not brought through on the Trump, then. The person who did it therefore made contact, but was unable to persuade him to come across."
"So? The contact had progressed to a point of sufficient solidity and proximity that he was able to stab him anyway. He was probably even able to achieve a mental lock and hold him where he was while he bled. The kid probably hadn't had much experience with the Trumps."

Corwin and Random, The Hand of Oberon

Trump contacts are intimate. They are not quite physical proximity, but they are close. The same quasi-physical state that allows one to reach out for a hand to be brought across, also permits physical attacks through firmly-established contacts. Note that in this particular case (though noncanonical for our storyline), even through the contact, Martin actually ends up bleeding through onto the Pattern on Brand's end.

Mental Combat Via the Trumps

I turned to make my wishes known to my officers, and the power fell upon me, and I was stricken speechless. I felt the contact and I finally managed to mutter "Who?" through clenched teeth. There was no reply, but a twisting thing bored slowly within my mind and I wrestled with it there. After a time when he saw that I could not be broken without a long struggle, I heard Eric's voice upon the wind:
"How goes the world with thee, brother?" he inquired.
"Poorly," I said or thought, and he chuckled, though his voice seemed strained by the efforts of our striving.
"Too bad," be told me. "Had you come back and supported me, I would have done well by you. Now, of course, it is too late. Now, I will only rejoice when I have broken both you and Bleys."
I did not reply at once, but fought him with all the power I possessed. He withdrew slightly before it, but he succeeded in holding me where I stood.
If either of us dared divert his attention for an Instant, we could come into physical contact or one of us get the upper hand on the mental plane. I could see him now, clearly, in his chambers in the palace. Whichever of us made such a move, though, he would fall beneath the other's control.
So we glared at each other and struggled internally. Well, he had solved one of my problems, by attacking me first. He held my Trump in his left hand and his brows were furrowed. I sought for an edge, but couldn't find one. People were talking to me but I couldn't hear their words as I stood there backed against the rail.
What time was it? All sense of time had departed since the beginning of the struggle. Could two hours have passed? Was that it? I couldn't be sure.
I smelled smoke then and heard the sounds of metal on metal. That would mean that Caine had come upon us and was doing his job.
"Good," said Eric, catching it from my mind.
"Stop them! Please! My men don't have a chance against that many!"
"Not even were you to yield-" and he bit it off and cursed. I caught the thought, then. He could have asked me to yield in return for their lives, and then let Caine continue with the slaughter. He would have liked to have done that, but he'd let those first words slip out in the heat of his passion.
I chuckled at his irritation.
"I'll have you soon, anyhow," be said. "As soon as they take the flagship."
"Until then," I said, "try this!" And I hit him with everything I had, boring into his mind, hurting him with my hatred. I felt his pain and it drove me harder. For all the years of exile I'd spent, I lashed at him, seeking at least this payment. For his putting me through the plague, I beat at the barriers of his sanity, seeking this vengeance. For the auto accident, for which I knew he had been responsible, I struck at him, seeking some measure of anguish in return for my hurt.
His control began to slip and my frenzy increased. I bore down upon him and his hold upon me began to slacken.
Finally, "You devil!" he cried, and moved his hand to cover the card that he held.
The contact was broken, and I stood there shaking.

Corwin and Eric, Nine Princes in Amber

Of note is the fact that the caller has one distinct advantage in such contests — he can break the contact at any time by covering the card. Under assault conditions, for the recipient to break the contact, he either needs to obtain a one-consequence advantage, or he needs to be rendered unable to stay in contact (such as being knocked unconscious).

Such contests are extremely dangerous for both parties involved, as they bring minds into extremely close proximity, sufficiently close that it may be possible to read each other's thoughts.

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