The Pattern is one of my favorite concepts in a novel, I associate the idea with the labyrinth of chartres or the Borobudur. From the Amber series, a conversation with Random, Deirdre and Corwin about how to help Corwin, prince of Amber.

““I’m not going the full distance. You’ll have to take over at the shore and talk with your sister’s sister.” “You mean for him to take the Pattern again?” “Yes.” “It’s risky.” “I know. Listen. Corwin,” he said, “you’ve been decent enough with me recently. If by some chance you’re not really Corwin, you’re dead. You’ve got to be, though. You can’t be someone else. Not from the way you’ve operated, without memory even. No, I’ll bet your life on it. Take a chance and try the thing called the Pattern. Odds are, it’ll restore your memory. Are you game?” “Probably,” I said, “but what is the Pattern?” “Rebma is the ghost city.” be told me. “It is the ref!ection of Amber within the sea. In it, everything in Amber is duplicated, as in a mirror. Llewella’s people live there, and dwell as though in Amber. They hate me for a few past peccadilloes, so I cannot venture there with you, but if you would speak them fair and perhaps hint at your mission, I feel they would let you walk the Pattern of Rebma, which, while it is the reverse of that in Amber, should have the same effect. That is, it gives to a son of our father the power to walk among Shadows.” “How will this power help me?” “It should make you to know what you are.” “Then I’m game.” I said. “Good man. In that case, we’ll keep heading south. It will take several days to reach the stairway…You will go with him, Deirdre?” “I will go with my brother Corwin.” I knew she would say that, and I was glad. I was afraid, but I was glad. We walked all that night. We avoided three parties of armed troops, and in the morning we slept in a cave.”


“In a place in this building,” she said, “there is a room where few would go. In that room,” she continued, “upon the floor, traced in fiery outline, there lies a duplicate of the thing we call the Pattern. Only a son or daughter of Amber’s late liege may walk this Pattern and live; and it gives to such a person a power over Shadow.” Here Moire blinked several times, and I speculated as to the number of her subjects she had sent upon that path, to gain some control of this power for Rebma. Of course, she had fai!ed. “To walk the Pattern,” Deirdre went on, “should, we feel, restore to Corwin his memory of himself as a prince of Amber. He cannot go to Amber to do it, and this is the only place I know where it is duplicated, other than Tir-na Nog’th, where of course we may not go at this time.” Moire turned her gaze upon my sister, swept it over Random, returned it to me. “Is Corwin willing to essay this thing?” she asked. I bowed. “Willing, m’lady,” I said, and she smiled then. “Very well, you have my permission. I can guarantee you no guarantees of safety beyond my realm, however.” [..] “In a room the size of a ballroom the Pattern was laid. The floor was black and looked smooth as glass. And on the floor was the Pattern. It shimmered like the cold fire that it was, quivered, made the whole room seem somehow unsubstantial. It was an elaborate tracery of bright power, composed mainly of curves, though there were a few straight lines near its middle. It reminded me of a fantastically intricate, life-scale version of one of those maze things you do with a pencil (or ballpoint, as the case may be), to get you into or out of something. Like, I could almost see the words “Start Here,” somewhere way to the back. It was perhaps a hundred yards across at its narrow middle, and maybe a hundred and fifty long. It made bells ring within my head,. and then came the throbbing. My mind recoiled from the touch of it. But if I were a prince of Amber, then somewhere within my blood, my nervous system, my genes, this pattern was recorded somehow, so that I would respond properly, so that I could walk the bloody thing. [..] Then we stood at the place where the Pattern began, near to the corner of the room. I moved forward and regarded the line of inlaid fires that started near to the spot where I had placed my right foot. The Pattern constituted the only illumination within the room. The waters were chill about me. I strode forward, setting my left foot upon the path. It was outlined by blue-white sparks. Then I set my right foot upon it, and I felt the current Random had mentioned. I took another step. There was a crackle and I felt my hair beginning to rise. I took another step. Then the thing began to curve, abruptly, back upon itself. I took ten more paces, and a certain resistance seemed to arise. It was as if a black barrier had grown up before me, of some substance which pushed back upon me with each effort that I made to pass forward. I fought it. It was the First Veil, I suddenly knew. To get beyond it would be an achievement, a good sign, showing that I was indeed part of the Pattern. Each raising and lowering of my foot suddenly required a terrible effort, and sparks shot forth from my hair. I concentrated on the fiery line. I walked it breathing beavily. Suddenly the pressure was eased. The Veil had parted before me, as abruptly as it had occurred. I had passed beyond it and acquired something. I had gained a piece of myself. I saw the paper skins and the knobby, stick-like bones of the dead of Auschwitz. I had been present at Nuremberg, I knew. I heard the voice of Stephen Spender reciting “Vienna,” and I saw Mother Courage cross the stage on the night of a Brecht premiere. I saw the rockets leap up from the stained hard places, Peenemunde, Vandenberg, Kennedy, Kyzyl Kum in Kazakhstan, and I touched with my hands the Wall of China. We were drinking beer and wine, and Shaxpur said he was drunk and went off to puke. I entered the green forests of the Western Reserve and took three scalps one day. I hummed a tune as we marched along and it caught on. It become “Auprés de ma Blonde.” I remembered, I remembered…my life within the Shadow place its inhabitants had called the Earth. Three more steps, and I held a bloody blade and saw three dead men and my horse, on which I had fled the revolution in France. And more, so much more, back to— I took another step. Back to— The dead. They were all about me. There was a horrible stink—the smell of decaying flesh—and I heard the howls of a dog who was being beaten to death. Billows of black smoke filled the sky, and an icy wind swept around me bearing a few small drops of rain. My throat was parched and my hands shook and my head was on fire. I staggered alone, seeing everything through the haze of the fever that burned me. The gutters were filled with garbage and dead cats and the emptyings of chamber pots. With a rattle and the ringing of a bell, the death wagon thundered by, splashing me with mud and cold water. How long I wandered, I do not know, before a woman seized my arm and I saw a Death’s Head ring upon her finger. She led me to her rooms, but discovered there that I had no money and was incoherent. A look of fear crossed her pained face, erasing the smile on her bright lips, and she fled and I collapsed upon her bed. Later—again, how much later I do not know—a big man, the girl’s Black Davy, came and slapped me across the face and dragged me to my feet. I seized his right biceps and hung on. He half carried, half pulled me toward the door. When I realized that he was going to cast me out into the cold, I tightened my grip to protest it. I squeezed with all my remaining strength, mumbling half-coherent pleas. Then through sweat and tear-filled eyes. I saw his face break open and heard a scream come forth from between his stained teeth. The bone in his arm had broken where I’d squeezed it. He pushed me away with his left hand and fell to his knees, weeping. I sat upon the floor, and my head cleared for a moment. “I…am . . . staying here,” I said, “until I feel better. Get out. If you come back—I’ll kill you.” “You’ve got the plague!” he cried. “They’ll come for your bones tomorrow!” and he spat then, got to his feet, and staggered out. I made it to the door and barred it. Then I crawled back to the bed and slept. If they came for my bones the next day, they were disappointed. For, perhaps ten hours later, in the middle of the night, I awoke in a cold sweat and realized my fever had broken. I was weak, but rational once more. I realized I had lived through the plague. I took a man’s cloak I found in the wardrobe and took some money I found in a drawer. Then I went forth into London and the night, in a year of the plague, looking for something…. I had no recollection of who I was or what I was doing there. That was how it had started. I was well into the Pattern now, and the sparks flashed continually about my feet, reaching to the height of my knees. I no longer knew which direction I faced, or where Random and Deirdre and Moire stood. The currents swept through me and it seemed my eyeballs were vibrating. Then came a pins-and-need!e feeling in my cheeks and a coldness on the back of my neck, I clenched my teeth to keep them from chattering.” — Ambe

academic discussion about the Pattern