© 2018 by Padraig Timmins.

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Last Updated: February 2019

Benedict of Amber

Then there was Benedict, tall and dour, thin, thin of body, thin of face, wide of mind. He wore orange and yellow and brown and reminded me of haysticks and pumpkins and scarecrows and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He had a long strong jaw and hazel eyes and brown hair that never curled. He stood beside a tan horse and leaned upon a lance about which was twined a rope of flowers. He seldom laughed. I liked him.

Who was Benedict of Amber?

Father:

Mother:

Amber Age:

Mother:

Oberon

Cymena

Up to 1500

Several thousand years, possibly as high as 10,000

In order to understand who and what Benedict is, I think there are a number of questions that require consideration. I will endeavor to answer them using canon text on Benedict. Where I depart from the canon text, I hope to either extrapolate an answer from other elements of canon text or present a reasonably logical and persuasive answer, based on what else is known within the canon.

So, the questions that I find myself musing over when I think of Benedict are:

  1. Is Benedict the eldest child of Oberon?​

  2. How old was Benedict, in Amber years and Experiential years?

  3. How good was Benedict in combat and in warfare?

  4. Is Benedict (with Gerard) the most ethical of the children of Oberon?

There may be others, and I would welcome comments and feedback, so that I might expand the above and possibly come to a great understanding of Benedict.

Is Benedict the eldest child of Oberon?

The short answer is no.

There were children of Oberon who are older than Benedict and his two brothers. This is confirmed by Corwin, when he was thinking about their father, Oberon, during his conversation with Benedict in Avalon:

The Guns of Avalon
Chapter IV
...
Actually, I am quite surprised that the family is not much larger. The thirteen of us, plus two brothers and a sister I knew who were now dead, represent close to fifteen hundred years of parental production. There had been a few others also, of whom I had heard, long before us, who had not survived. Not a tremendous batting average for so lusty a liege, but then none of us had proved excessively fertile either.
...

This is after Corwin had recovered his memory. The only reason I even mention Corwin's memory at all, is because before he recovered it, he was wrong about him and Random being full brothers, and that he and Eric were not full brothers, but this was before he had walked The Pattern in an effort to recover his memories properly:

Nine Princes in Amber
Chapter VI
...
He [Random] was a homicidal little fink, who I recalled had always been sort of a rebel. Our parents had tried to discipline him in the past, I knew, never very successfully. And I realized, with that, that we had shared common parents, which I suddenly knew was not the case with me and Eric, me and Flora, me and Caine and Bleys and Fiona. And probably others, but these I’d recalled, I knew for sure.
...

The phrase from the earlier text "There had been a few others also, of whom I had heard, long before us, who had not survived." confirms the existence (even if they are now all believed to be dead) of children of Oberon older than Benedict and his two full siblings, Osric and Finndo. This opens a whole reality of possibilities (certainly from an Amber DRPG perspective) about children of Oberon who are older than Benedict.

Who were they? Did Benedict know them when he was a child? Did they stay in Chaos? Did some or all die as children themselves? Were they murdered or die naturally? If murdered, by whom or what, and why? Who was their mother? Were they born before the creation of the Pattern or after? If born in chaos, were they adepts of The Logrus, and did they get to walk the Pattern too? So many possibilities!

So, there were definitely children of Oberon older than Benedict, if Corwin is to be believed, and assuming he wasn’t just wrong.

But putting these children aside for the moment, there is a secondary issue relating to Benedict’s placement in the order of offspring. This may purely be born out of the interesting speculation within the Amber DRPG, which hypothesises how things might have been if one or both Osric and Finndo were older than Benedict. But I have seen it stated on other Amber DRPG websites and on Amber message boards, that either Osric or Finndo, or both, were the older brothers of Benedict, and it is also stated as such in The Complete Amber Sourcebook.

Of course, within an Amber DPRG setting anything is possible, and it would make for an interesting game to have one of them return, being the older, maybe tougher, brother to Benedict, and how such a return would be dealt with by the rest of the family, who wold not know anything about these older brothers?

Primarily, however, as far as the canon text is concerned, the suggestion that either or both Osric and Finndo are older than Benedict is just plain wrong, lacking any canon evidence at all, whilst all the discussion of the sibling order clearly places Benedict as the oldest child of Oberon (oldest named that is).

In terms of The Complete Amber Sourcebook, I think the author make some very bold claims. In his comments (visible on Amazon at the time of this documents creation), he says the following:

Roger Zelazny enthusiastically referred me to the editor at Avon Books in 1986, encouraging my writing of THE AMBER SOURCEBOOK. Every step of the way, Roger reviewed my writing, consulting with me by correspondence, telephone, and in person. In 1993, I interviewed Roger about matters Amber in front of an audience of fans at ICON in Stony Brook. As I completed entries, I mailed them to him, and he returned comments and corrections. Roger approved of all my elaborations as finalized in the Sourcebook. Not only do I feel the book is the last word on Amber, I believe, without reservation, that it is positively canon that any Zelazny aficionado can accept.

The relevant text within this book is:

OSRIC AND FINNDO

The two eldest sons acknowledged as being the late King Oberon's issue...

Of those still living in Amber today, only Lord Benedict and the demented wizard Dworkin remember the brothers Osric and Finndo. For his own reasons, Benedict refuses to shed any light on the history of his two older brothers.

...

Now maybe I don't give enough weight and credence to the relationship that the author of The Sourcebook, Theodore Krulik, had with Zelazny, and I am happy to be corrected on this point.

But, personally I find his claim that his word is the "...last word on Amber..." to be an astonishing claim, and not consistent with the well known position Zelazny took, of not wanting others to write officially in his universes. So, how can this be the "...last word..."? Especially since it is not logically consistent with what Zelazny wrote himself, i.e.: the Amber books themselves, or completely unambiguously authorised, i.e.: The Visual Guide to Castle Amber, for which it is in print in the Guide's Introduction, that he fully engaged with the book, and which was published while he was still alive (7 years before his death). The same is not true of The Sourcebook, published in 1996, a year after his death.

I dunno. I just have trouble taking The Sourcebook at face value. Maybe because it contradicts my view of the state of affairs, and maybe that is my failing.

However, with that in mind, what does the canon, as I see it have to say. Well, Corwin simply could not have been clearer:

Sign of the Unicorn
Chapter XI
...
Benedict is the eldest. His mother was Cymnea. She bore Dad two other sons, also - Osric and Finndo.
.....

There is no debate, no qualification, "Benedict is the eldest.", and the other two are clearly named after him. OK, Corwin might have been naming Benedict the eldest living child, but I think such an important distinction would have been included in his statement, with no cost to the narrative and without Corwin feeling he had given a family secret away to Ganelon (with whom he was discussing the topic – while Random in the background listening in).

...
Benedict is the eldest living child of Oberon. His mother was Cymnea. She bore Dad two other sons, also - Osric and Finndo.
...

Combined with the later clarification of Finndo and Osric's status of being dead, this would at least leave the door open to the possibility of them being older.

Or he might have said:

...
Benedict is the eldest among us. His mother was Cymnea. She bore Dad two other sons, both older than Benedict; Osric and Finndo.
...

That would have put the sibling order beyond any doubt.

Unless it is simply a game situation to keep the player’s guessing (which is perfectly legitimate), how could anyone think that either Osric or Finndo is older than Benedict? Maybe they just don't like the idea of Benedict being the eldest and are frustrated at his apparent immutable position as being the greatest combatant in all reality?

Morphing Osric and/or Finndo into an elder brother to Benedict, might salve such frustrations, as being older, they might easily be considered tougher and/or more fearsome than Benedict himself, and a brother to whom Benedict might have looked up, particularly given the rest of the family’s clear ignorance of these two older brothers. Certainly, Benedict's deference to Oberon (once it was clear he had returned and started issuing orders) was near absolute and may be a relatively thin indicator that Benedict might have a bit of a mental issue when it came to older family members.

OK, despite Oberon being Benedict’s father, Benedict does make his distaste (anger even) of his father’s carnal behaviour clear, when Corwin first met Benedict in New Avalon, and Corwin started relating to Benedict the events that led to his exile:

The Guns of Avalon
Chapter IV
...
  “Enough!” cried Benedict, slapping the table so hard that it cracked.
  The lamp danced and sputtered, but by some small miracle was not upset. The tent’s entrance flap was immediately pushed aside and a concerned guard peered in. Benedict glanced at him and he withdrew.
  “I do not wish to sit in on our respective bastardy proceeding,” Benedict said softly. “That obscene pasttime was one of the reasons I initially absented myself from felicity. Please continue your story without the benefit of footnotes.”
...

And yet when Oberon returns and starts issuing orders (through Dara and confirmed by Corwin) Benedict enacts them without a second thought. Of course, the orders were about the defence of Amber and about taking the fight to The Courts. So maybe this was something Benedict wanted to do anyway to teach them a lesson, and therefore, maybe I am reading too much into this.

However, if this is an indication that Benedict deferred considerably to those older than him (let’s face it, there were not many who were), then it is conceivable that Benedict might have harboured similar feelings for older brother versions of Osric and Finndo. One of them might have been Benedict’s own Master at Arms and teacher, as Benedict was to the rest of his younger siblings, and this could easily be a reason why Benedict might hold such an older sibling in high esteem.

But such speculation is not in the least bit convincing enough for me.

There are two other considerations that it is useful to incorporate into this conversation, before concluding Benedict’s sibling rank:

  • The “Introduction” to “Combat Command: The Black Road War”. An Introduction that was written by Zelazny himself, and

  • The “Family Tree” in “The Visual Guide to Castle Amber”, which was authorised by Zelazny.

The “Introduction” to “Combat Command: The Black Road War” identifies the same parts of the canon as I do, and the purpose of which was the discussion of the children of Oberon and specifically the order in which they were born. At no point is it suggested that either Osric or Finndo is older than Benedict. And given the impetus for this Introduction, this would have been the moment for Zelazny to clarify the situation.

The "Family Tree" on pages 220 and 221 of “The Visual Guide to Castle Amber” details all the children of Oberon known from the first and second series of books, under the appropriate mother/wife, and they are clearly listed in age order. The order for the children of Cymnea is "Benedict - Osric - Finndo". Given all the other children are clearly listed in age order, it would take a truly spectacular leap of imagination to think that the children of Cymnea were not in age order.

Either way, as far as the canon is concerned, Benedict is clearly the eldest named child of Oberon. But given the thoughts of Corwin in The Guns of Avalon, Benedict is clearly not the eldest child of Oberon.

How old was Benedict, in Amber years and experiential years?

Nailing down the age of any of the Amberites is actually quite difficult as far as I can tell, except for Benedict. An Amber Timeline that exists here - http://www.indiana.edu/~fantasy/ambertexts/timeline.htm - puts Benedict, Osric and Finndo having been born 1430 Amber Years (AY) before the Corwin Chronicles, which actually feels quite accurate given the limited knowledge we can gain from the texts.

The salient text is:

The Guns of Avalon
Chapter IV

...
Actually, I am quite surprised that the family is not much larger. The thirteen of us, plus two brothers and a sister I knew who were now dead, represent close to fifteen hundred years of parental production. There had been a few others also, of whom I had heard, long before us, who had not survived. Not a tremendous batting average for so lusty a liege, but then none of us had proved excessively fertile either.
...
“…Can you conceive of a millennium? A thousand years? Several of them?..."

Nailing down the exact age for any being capable of moving through Shadow is difficult, as they might pass through Shadows that have vastly different time speeds. A being capable of Shadow travel should be able to find somewhere where time might pass ten times faster than in Amber. Or theoretically, I suppose, ten million times faster than time in Amber. I think the higher rates are probably impossible, as if they were possible then any enemy of Amber might spend literally millions of years preparing in some far off, isolated Shadow, and then march on Amber with truly overwhelming force.

But beings with compelling reasons to see Amber in ruins clearly did not prepare in this way, which if available, must have crossed their minds. For example, why wouldn’t Dalt have simply walked to a Shadow that had a million to one time flow; that included a race of beings that needed no food or water (and so needed no train of resources/supplies behind them); were real demons with their weapons; and simply marched several billion of them to Kolvir. Against such odds, one would have to assume that even Benedict would have failed.

So, I think some restrictions on a Shadow’s time flow, in terms of the difference between it and Amber, must exist, although (admittedly) none are ever specified.

I am going to assume that the time differential in any Shadow is limited in how different it can be to Amber, and I am using Benedict’s age and experience to try and extrapolate what this limit might be, whilst trying to nail down his Amber Age (years that have passed in Amber) and his Experiential Age (years he has experienced).

The reason being, I would expect Benedict to have maximised the speed of his learning, by observing the many battles that he did, in Shadows where the time differential was as great as possible. This would mean he could become as amazing as possible in as short a time as possible. Something one could easily see Oberon encouraging a young Benedict to do.

Benedict’s Amber age is around 1500, as expressed by Corwin in the above excerpt in Amber years. But from the same section, Benedict is said to have spent “…A thousand years? Several of them?...” learning his military craft.

We must nail down what “Several…” means in this context. At a base level, several means 3 or more, but less than a “majority”, which is generally termed as “Many”. One might waste a lot of time thinking way too much about this (…as I have done, to no more legitimate an understanding of what Zelazny might have meant as anyone else…), but I’d rather not bore you more than I already will with this write-up. I am going to assume that in this context several means between three and nine thousand years. This is because if we push it over ten thousand, then I think the statement of “…Several of them?...” becomes inadequate a term to describe the time Benedict spent in this activity. And one might start to feel the need to use terms like “…over ten thousand…”, or “…tens of them…”, etc.

The next question is when did Benedict fit this experience in, and how much of his 1500 Amber years did it soak up? This is a very difficult question to answer and my thoughts are pure speculation. The only thing I can think of is that Corwin remarks that he was too young to really remember Osric and Finndo (Chapter III, Sign of the Unicorn), which leads me to believe that there may have been a considerable gap between the birth of Finndo and the birth of Eric.

What “considerable” means, I don’t really know. How old Eric was, I don’t really know, but I get the feeling that none of the children of Oberon (except for Benedict and his brothers), were older than a thousand years. And growing up, all the other children of Oberon had Benedict for a teacher in combat, and the mythology of Benedict being awesome seems to be one the others grew up believing too.

So, I think it a reasonable position to take that Benedict probably fitted most (if not all) of his military time in, before the birth of Eric, which would have meant him fitting it in in the first 500 years of his Amber life span.

This means that at the lowest end of having spent 3000 years conducting his military learning, then he would have used Shadows that had about a 6:1-time ratio with Amber, but it might be as high as 18:1, if he spent 9000 years doing his military thing. So, this would put Benedict’s experiential age at somewhere between 4 and 10 thousand years. Either way, very old.

How good was Benedict in combat and in warfare?

Benedict's life is dedicated to learning all there is to learn about combat in all its forms, and to the perfection of his own personal combat capabilities.

Benedict has commanded vast armies, which might take days to walk by an observer; and probably all sizes of forces small than that. He refined his knowledge of battle to a most granular level, by walking between shadows, so he could observe slight variations in the conditions of a conflict, so he might understand all the possible iterations of the event, which he used to develop and test his theories on warfare. He literally spent thousands of years doing this.

Corwin explains this in plain terms to Ganelon, soon after their meeting with Benedict in New Avalon:

The Guns of Avalon
Chapter VI

..."I am sorry," I said. "Excuse me, please. You do not understand. You do not really understand who it was we talked with in the tent that night. He may have seemed an ordinary man to you - a handicapped one, at that. But this is not so. I fear Benedict. He is unlike any other being in Shadow or reality. He is the Master of Arms for Amber. Can you conceive of a millennium? A thousand years? Several of them? Can you understand a man who, for almost every day of a lifetime like that, has spent some time dwelling with weapons, tactics, strategies? Because you see him in a tiny kingdom, commanding a small militia, with a well-pruned orchard in his back yard, do not be deceived. All that there is of military science thunders in his head. He has often journeyed from shadow to shadow, witnessing variation after variation on the same battle, with but slightly altered circumstances, to test his theories of warfare. He has commanded armies so vast that you could watch them march by day after day and see no end to the columns. Although he is inconvenienced by the loss of his arm, I would not wish to fight with him either with weapons or barehanded. It is fortunate that he has no designs upon the throne, or he would be occupying it right now. If he were, I believe that I would give up at this moment and pay him homage. I fear Benedict."

...

This is one of the more comprehensive statements on the relationship Benedict has with combat of all kinds and is the informed opinion of a senior member of the Amber family, as to the nature of being Benedict is.

It speaks to a number of aspects of Benedict’s character. His self-discipline, meticulousness and patience in tweaking the conditions of a battle, just to see what happens, and having spent thousands upon thousands of years do this. What kind of being could do this time after time after time, just to hone, to the most minute degree, his theories on military strategy and tactics? And his ability in personal combat is so superior Corwin’s (one of the other greatest swordsmen in all reality) that Corwin fears Benedict to such a degree, that had Benedict designs on the throne, then Corwin would simply give up there and then.

There is no debate in Corwin’s words, no suggestion that one might find a means or method to defeat Benedict. It seems that Benedict represents an almost absolute measure in the universe between Chaos and Amber. These are in stark contrast between Corwin’s thoughts on whether or not he could defeat Eric, who, whilst on balance I think Corwin thought Eric had the edge, such a conflict could easily go either way if the right circumstance prevail, as we see in their first fight in Nine Princes in Amber.

Of course, Corwin could simply be wrong about Benedict. Corwin’s knowledge of reality is clearly far from complete. But his knowledge of combat must be considered relatively thorough. The almost laughably easy way he defeats and kills the best The Courts has to offer (when he kills Lord Boral), is a good indication of his own personal melee ability, as is his near defeat of Eric. Plus, the way the Pattern Ghost of Benedict literally toys with the Logrus Ghost of Boral is great evidence to support Corwin’s assertion that “He is unlike any other being in Shadow or reality.

The only complication to this last example of Benedict’s superiority over Boral, is that it is unlikely Logrus initiates “walked” The Logrus more than once, given it had the effect of turning one mad. So, Boral may well have completed The Logrus just the once, which one would have to assume was in his youth. So, The Logrus only had a young Boral to work with. But then unless he was still considered the best The Logrus had to work with, otherwise, why send him after Merlin? Maybe The Logrus maintained some link to its initiates allowing it to kept the imprints of its initiates up to date in some way?

Whereas The Pattern had to work with a version of the being that had actually walked it. Which for Benedict is no problem, as he walked it in The Hand of Oberon. So, the Patterns version of Benedict was very much up to date.

The fight between Corwin and Benedict in The Guns of Avalon is a treasure trove of data about Benedict’s skill in personal combat:

The Guns of Avalon

Chapter VII - Corwin's fight with Benedict:

...

...The blade was a long, scythe like affair that I had seen him use before. Only then we had stood as allies against a mutual foe I had begun to believe unbeatable. Benedict had proved otherwise that night. Now that I saw it raised against me I was overwhelmed with a sense of my own mortality, which I had never experienced before in this fashion. It was as though a layer had been stripped from the world and I had a sudden, full understanding of death itself...
...

...Benedict had hammered out his reflexes over the centuries, and I seriously believed that the removal of his cerebral cortex would not have altered his movements from their state of perfection...

...
...With a mighty cry, Ganelon sprang from somewhere, wrapping his arms about Benedict and pinning his sword arm to his side.
   Even had I really wanted to, though, I did not have the opportunity to kill him then. He was too fast, and Ganelon was not aware of the man’s strength.
   Benedict twisted to his right, interposing Ganelon between us, and at the same time brought the stump of his arm around like a club, striking Ganelon in the left temple. Then he pulled his left arm free, seized Ganelon by his belt, swept him off his feet, and threw him at me. As I stepped aside, he retrieved his blade from where it had fallen near his feet and came at me again. I barely had time to glance and see that Ganelon had landed in a heap some ten paces to my rear.
   I parried and resumed my retreat...

...

Surely, this cannot do anything other than crystalise the certainty that Benedict is one of the most fearsome beings, if not THE most fearsome, in all reality. Corwin is no pushover. He knows he isn’t and we know he isn’t. It might be argued that Corwin is by this point so frightened that his mind might have been running away from him, and therefore he was not thinking rationally. He already feared Benedict, and he now finds himself facing Benedict's full fury. Of course, he would be frightened, and maybe just a little bit irrational at the thought of fighting Benedict for real (hence the silly “cerebral cortex” comment). But it seems to me that this fear is probably more based on the rational knowledge that Benedict is just that good. Corwin knows what he is facing, and he is understandably terrified at the prospect.

How Benedict deals with Ganelon (who we know is actually Oberon) is also very telling. There maybe more, but there are three good questions to ask about Ganelon/Oberon’s involvement in this combat:

  1. Did Ganelon/Oberon consider Corwin critical to his hidden plans to save Amber?

  2. Did Ganelon/Oberon truly fear Corwin might be killed by Benedict, and therefore put these plans at risk, or being significantly adversely affected?

  3. Did Ganelon/Oberon do everything he could to thwart Benedict’s attempt to kill Corwin?

To the first question, I think it clear from Corwin's chat with Oberon (after Corwin's attempt to repair the Pattern in The Courts of Chaos) that Oberon needed Corwin to continue his path at the time. Once Oberon learnt of Corwin's guns, then I think it easy to assume that Oberon saw the great benefit such weapons could bring to the war effort, if only in the defence of Amber. They would at least secure the immediate future of Amber against the Black Road enemies, giving the family breathing room to make new plans.

To the second question, I don't think there can be any doubt. The way it is written clearly shows Benedict in a very unstable state of mind, and someone who was out for blood. The fact that Corwin only narrowly misses being killed several times by Benedict’s attacks is proof of this. Would Oberon (who probably knew both Benedict and Corwin better than they knew themselves or each other) have thought that Benedict would have had a change of heart just before his blade made the final stroke? I don't think Oberon could have taken that chance.

Finally, had Zelazny decided at this point that Ganelon was in fact Oberon? If yes, then the above is almost certainly true. If no, then we must still back fill this situation with the knowledge that Ganelon was in fact Oberon, and somehow justify the events as they turned out, and also bear in mind Fiona’s later comments about the result of a potential conflict between Oberon and Benedict. It doesn’t matter if Zelazny wasn’t thinking that Ganelon was Oberon at the time. Ganelon was Oberon, therefore we must somehow rationalise the events of this combat with this in mind.

So, to my mind, the answer to the third question must also be a firm yes.

I think it’s helpful to compare Oberon’s complete failure against Benedict, with his complete success against Gerard, the only other sibling that Corwin later feared capable of to killing him. Oberon took both Benedict and Gerard by surprise, but whereas Gerard was completely overcome by Oberon's attack and the fight was over in seconds, Oberon's attack on Benedict was a complete failure.

How can this be the case? Well Oberon did only try to restrain Benedict. But given that I believe he put everything into it and we know Oberon had the physical strength (combined with a surprise attack) to overcome even Gerard, Benedict’s complete victory over Oberon loses none of its wonder. The difference between the Gerard and Benedict combats, therefore, must be that Benedict's melee combat ability is so supreme; so much greater than anyone else in the family; that he was able to turn an attack on him, by someone who had the strength sufficient to take down Gerard (this does not mean Oberon was stronger than Gerard, only that he had sufficient strength to do the job), into an absolute victory. It was completed so fast, that even Corwin, the second or third best swordsman in reality, was unable to take advantage of the momentary pause in Benedict’s onslaught, to try and finish the fight or wound Benedict sufficiently to create a pause in the combat.

Neither Oberon nor Corwin wanted Benedict dead, and that may have made them slightly reluctant to try and finish Benedict off and therefore put them at a slight disadvantage. But Corwin did not want to die either, and he know he had to employ every ounce of his skill and cunning just to stay alive.

As if the above were not enough, it isn't just Corwin who puts Benedict on this pedestal, as we hear from Fiona when some of the family were discussing who might have stabbed Brand after his rescue:

Sign of the Unicorn
Chapter VII

...
“I’ll go down the list, subjective, intuitive, and biased as it is. Benedict, in my opinion, is above suspicion. If he wanted the throne, he’d have it by now, by direct, military methods. With all the time he has had, he could have managed an attack that would have succeeded, even against Dad. He is that good, and we all know it..."

...

Whilst Fiona is not the most trustworthy of the family (who are collectively amongst the most untrustworthy beings across all of Shadow) I see no reason for her to be obfuscating or lying at this point, about Benedict. She knows who stabbed Brand, and she knows what Amber faces, i.e.: a significant portion of the power of the Courts of Chaos, because she helped strike the deal, and she was well aware of the weakened and damaged Pattern. Given she was back on the side of Amber at this point (although still not trusting of her relatives), I think it arguable that she wanted to put any doubt aside, or at least do her bit, and isolate Benedict from any chance of being tarred by the Brand stabbing or being in league with the enemy. She wanted Amber to survive, and she knows that Benedict was a key player in ensuring that happened.

Given all the above, it is difficult not to just accept the position that Corwin offers up to Ganelon in the first place. That Benedict is SO superior to all others in military and personal combat, that Benedict does indeed represent an almost absolute in the Amber Universe, as far as combat is concerned.

Is Benedict (with Gerard) the most ethical of the children of Oberon?

Whilst Fiona is not the most trustworthy of the family (who are collectively amongst the most untrustworthy beings across all of Shadow) I see no reason for her to be obfuscating or lying at this point, about Benedict. She knows who stabbed Brand, and she knows what Amber faces, i.e.: a significant portion of the power of the Courts of Chaos, because she helped strike the deal, and she was well aware of the weakened and damaged Pattern. Given she was back on the side of Amber at this point (although still not trusting of her relatives), I think it arguable that she wanted to put any doubt aside, or at least do her bit, and isolate Benedict from any chance of being tarred by the Brand stabbing or being in league with the enemy. She wanted Amber to survive, and she knows that Benedict was a key player in ensuring that happened.

Given all the above, it is difficult not to just accept the position that Corwin offers up to Ganelon in the first place. That Benedict is SO superior to all others in military and personal combat, that Benedict does indeed represent an almost absolute in the Amber Universe, as far as combat is concerned.

Benedict is painted by his siblings as one of the family members, along with Gerard, who was “...a notch above the rest of us - moral, mature, whatever...”.

He could certainly care for those not of his own family. His pursuit and attempted murder of Corwin for the perceived killing of his servants in New Avalon is sufficient proof of this. But, whilst there is little evidence that Gerard was anything but one of the more temperate and moral of the family (although that fact he was prepared to kill Corwin on pretty thin evidence does not speak highly of him), we do know that Benedict must have sent millions, if not billions of shadow dwellers to their deaths, during the thousands of years he spent honing his military skills. Hardly the behaviour of an ethical being. Maybe this was something he was perceived to have outgrown. But there is nothing really suggesting this.

Also, Corwin gives us good insights into the darker side of Benedict's character, from his perspective, in that Benedict is not above killing, even if Corwin though it a last resort:

The Guns of Avalon
Chapter VI
...
Benedict could be as tough and mean and nasty as any of us when he wanted to be. Tougher, even. He would fight to protect his own, doubtless even kill one of us if he thought it necessary.
...

Indeed, when Corwin fights Benedict, the act that has driven Benedict to his unstable fury is the murder of his Shadow servants in New Avalon, who were people he clearly cared about. In the Chronicles, Benedict certainly considers some Shadow beings as worthy of life, and worthy of seeking justice for crimes against them. Even if such justice means going against and attempting to kill members of his own family.

Most the of time Benedict appears calm and rational, but on several occasions, Benedict shows himself to have a temper to match anyone in the family, and not one that only flares up and then dies away quickly, but an anger that can last days. Clearly his fury at the death of his housekeepers in New Avalon lasted for more than just a few moments. Lengthy enough to follow Corwin on a long hellride, and stubborn enough so that none of Corwin’s protestations were sufficient to deflect Benedict from his act of murderous vengeance.

Also, whenever Corwin brings up Dara, Benedict is instantly angered, and seems incapable of controlling these flashes of anger:

The Guns of Avalon
Chapter IX
...

As we waited, I said, “Benedict, Dara is here. She was able to follow you through Shadow when you rode in from Avalon. I want…“
He bared his teeth and shouted: “Who the hell is this Dara you keep talking about? I never heard of her till you came along! Please tell me! I would really like to know!”

...

The Sign of the Unicorn
Chapter VII
...

“Where did you learn of this, Corwin,” Benedict inquired.
“Back in Avalon,” I said.
“From whom?”
“Dara,” I said.
He rose to his feet, came over, stood before me, glared down.
“You still persist in that absurd story about the girl!”

...

Whilst Benedict doesn’t come to blows with Corwin again, despite the “provocation” of the mere mention of Dara’s name, Benedict clearly has issues controlling his temper at times. One does not bear one’s teeth, or shout, or glare, if one is the soul of calmness and serenity. It is not until in The Courts of Chaos, when Benedict finally meets Dara, that he seems to be able to have a conversation about her that doesn’t start with him displaying anger of some fashion.

So, not only does Benedict have a short fuse and a hot temper (even if he clearly keeps in check most of the time), given his military history and his willingness to kill Corwin, I find it a little hard to reconcile Corwin’s words that Benedict (with Gerard) is “...a notch above the rest of us - moral, mature, whatever...”.

The problem with Benedict

And yes, there is a problem.

The trouble with such a being as Benedict, is that he is so good and is usually perfectly prepared (like Gerard) to aid a relative in need when asked, it is a wonder why everyone, when on the back foot, doesn’t just run to him when they have a problem? In most cases, Benedict would just need to put in an appearance, and that would probably resolve most issues.

Of course, players of the game of thrones in Amber may not run to him if their political machinations have gone wayward (i.e.: those from either of the two Amberite cabals in the first series – they’d be too proud), but the very existence of Benedict, always gives an “out” to anyone in the family if things are getting just a little too serious. And as everyone knows that Benedict would more than likely help, and his help would almost certainly result in victory, it makes his existence in the first place, very problematic. This is why, I believe, he is almost completely absent from Merlin’s Chronicles. OK, Merlin was a different kind of player than Corwin and was very much a loner. But as a member of the family, should he have asked, the chances are Benedict would have helped him, no questions asked.

Benedict is certainly who is called upon when Amber itself is threatened. When all seems lost and the Moonriders of Ganesh seem to be unbeatable, Benedict steps up and does the businesses (apparently on his own). When Dalt attacks Amber and gets way too close, it is Benedict that meets him at the base of Kolvir (notably NOT Eric or any of the other brothers, who, except for Corwin, were still all around at the time – it might just as easily been Eric faced Dalt, but he didn’t). When Amber suffered the most serious attack by the Courts, coming down the Black Road, it is Benedict who was called to take command of the defences (the battle that Corwin caught the tail end of in The Guns of Avalon, and made the victory absolute with the arrival of his firearms). When someone needs to be ready to stop Brand using The Pattern at Tir-na Nog'th, it is Benedict who is ready and prepared to risk his life stopping Brand. And it was (inevitably) Benedict who Oberon instructed to carry out the assault on The Courts of Chaos.

When something very serious takes place, the family invariably turns to Benedict, and he sorts it out for them. Don’t get me wrong, I like Benedict a lot, but his existence in the story is a problem, and his use in any Amber DRPG ought to be kept to a minimum.

Conclusions

Of course, much of the above are thoughts and words of characters in the story and are therefore by their very nature, their own opinions. But what else does the reader have to go on? They are, without question, informed opinions, and collectively they build the picture of Benedict being a creature quite unlike anything else in Shadow. Single minded in his pursuit of combat excellence; the preservation of the realm being the highest purpose; but quite willing to do what must be done, where his nearest and dearest are threatened, and not above using shadow beings in their millions, to serve his purposes.

So, to finish (and this may well just be preaching to the choir), although I do like him as a  character, I can't help but think there remains some on this Shadow Earth, who harbour the mistaken opinion that somehow Benedict isn’t the eldest named child of Oberon, that he isn’t the best military and melee combatant there is or likely ever will be, and that he is actually far from the moral and ethical stalwart he is made out to be.

 

But despite his questionable ethics, you’d definitely want him on your side, whatever the situation.