- 1 Character introduction
- 2 Character sketch
- 3 Biographical summary
- 4 Major themes
- 5 Sources
Camber Kyriell MacRorie is the seventh Earl of Culdi, a Gwyneddan noble who plays a pivotal role in the Haldane Restoration of 904. Additionally, he is an extremely powerful Deryni mage whose arcane abilities and knowledge are legendary. Although he was canonized by the Holy Church of Gwynedd shortly after his death, the Church later rescinded his sainthood and declared him a heretic.
Explanation of the character's name
To date, none of the Deryni works have included any information regarding a symbolic or honorific meaning to the character's name.
Not only does Camber have a strong sense of personal responsibility, but he is also a devoutly religious Deryni noble. Combined together, all of these aspects of his personality result in a man who is determined to always do what he considers to be the right thing.
Most of Camber's specific goals revolve around protecting the people of Gwynedd. While he is particularly dedicated to the safety of his family and the royal Haldane line, he also strives to safeguard the future of Deryni in Gwynedd by maintaining a political and religious balance between Deryni and humans. He also seeks to recover and preserve the knowledge and lore of the Deryni masters of the past.
Throughout the course of The Legends of Camber of Culdi, Camber first comes into conflict with the Festillic rulers of Gwynedd, King Imre Furstán-Festil and his sister, Princess Ariella. Camber also has an extremely strained relationship with King Cinhil Haldane, and several of Camber's decisions result in heated arguments with his son, Joram. By the end of the trilogy, most of the conflicts in Camber's life come from the ambitious human nobles and priests who are seeking to suppress Deryni throughout Gwynedd.
Despite his prodigious arcane talents, Camber repeatedly expresses his frustration that he was not born a Healer. Additionally, he is often forced to conceal his irritation toward those who avidly believe he is a saint, as he firmly believes he is unworthy of such a status.
At the end of Saint Camber, Camber eventually comes to terms with his own canonization. Despite being vehemently opposed to being made a saint, he accepts the positive results of the event and begins to view his new status in a more philosophical light. As a result, he makes no attempts to discourage the public's belief in his sanctity during Camber the Heretic, though he does remain guarded and wary of the more avid followers. Near the end of Camber the Heretic, Camber believes he has finally discovered how to work a powerful spell that can cheat death, but his belief is tested when a loved one lies dying in his arms. Although confident in his ability to work the spell, Camber reluctantly decides that he does not have the right to make such a decision for another person, and the loved one dies shortly thereafter. However, having worked out the moral aspects of the spell's use already, Camber later attempts the same spell when his own death approaches at the end of the novel.
Camber is born on August 3, 846, the third son of Earl Ballard II MacRorie of Culdi and his wife, Lady Ardis Drummond. Intended for the Church from an early age, he enrolls at the University of Grecotha in 861 and studies with some of the finest minds in the realm. It is at Grecotha that Camber first meets Anscom of Trevas, a close friend who later becomes Archbishop of Valoret and Primate of All Gwynedd. Camber flourishes in his academic studies, but he reluctantly chooses to abandon his religious vocation after the death of his elder brother, Lord Angus MacRorie. Camber returns to Culdi in 862, and he later succeeds his father as Earl of Culdi in 871, less than a month after marrying Lady Jocelyn de la Marche.
Camber's secular career is every bit as successful as his religious career had once promised to be. King Festil III appoints him to the Royal Council in 875, and the failing king relies heavily on Camber's advice during the final years of his reign. Camber remains at court following Festil's death in 885, and is named Chancellor of Gwynedd in 886 by Festil's son, King Blaine. Despite his civic duties, Camber retains the studious manner of a scholar throughout his life, and he is especially devoted to researching and recovering the lost Deryni texts of the past. His extensive knowledge of arcane rituals, combined with his own naturally significant Deryni powers, make him one of the foremost practitioners and masters of Deryni magic of his generation.
Camber's wife dies in 896, but he remains at court through the end of the century. After the death of King Blaine in 900, Blaine's son and heir, King Imre, is eager to replace many of his father's advisors, and Camber willingly retires to his estates after a quarter-century of service. Although Camber privately disapproves of many of Imre's policies, he keeps his peace publicly, and his eldest son, Lord Cathan MacRorie, enjoys a close friendship with the new king. At the beginning of Camber of Culdi in 903, the 57-year-old Camber spends much of his time tending to his lands and researching ancient Deryni lore with his daughter, Evaine.
Actions in Camber of Culdi
At the beginning of the novel, Camber is at his family estate of Tor Caerrorie, where he and his daughter Evaine are working together on the translation of an old scroll. They discuss the recent murder of the Deryni Lord Rannulf, a crime that that has prompted King Imre to seize fifty of Camber's human peasants in an attempt to force the murderer to come forward. Two days later, Camber's younger son, Father Joram MacRorie, reveals that he and his childhood friend, Lord Rhys Thuryn, have begun to search for Prince Cinhil Haldane, a previously unknown legitimate heir to the throne. Although Camber is unwilling to support a coup against Imre at the time, he agrees that Cinhil should be located and examined to determine his potential for assuming the throne should the need arise. Over the next month, Imre executes two peasants each day as punishment for Rannulf's murder, refusing to be swayed by the pleas of Camber's eldest son, Lord Cathan MacRorie. Cathan falls into a deep depression over his failure to save the hostages, and his recovery is only accomplished by the joint efforts of Camber, Joram, and Rhys.
On November 14, 903, a disguised Camber accompanies Rhys to Saint Foillan's Abbey, where they confirm the existence of Prince Cinhil, who is living as a simple priest named Brother Benedict. Camber is so impressed by Cinhil's potential that he finally agrees to proceed with an attempt to overthrow Imre. However, Camber's plans are disrupted when Imre murders Cathan several weeks later. Realizing that they cannot afford to waste any time, Camber places a shape-changing spell on Rhys and Joram and sends them to remove Cinhil from the abbey immediately. He and Evaine then confer with Alister Cullen, the Vicar General of the Michaelines, and they make final plans to elude Imre's grasp. When Imre orders the arrest of the MacRorie family two days later, Camber and his kin successfully escape through a Transfer Portal.
Over the next several weeks, Camber and his allies attempt to convince the reluctant Cinhil to abandon his vows and take up the throne. During this time, Camber notices that Cinhil has several natural abilities similar to those of a Deryni, and he and Rhys discuss the possibility of enhancing those powers. On Christmas Eve, Camber enlists the aide of his old friend Archbishop Anscom of Valoret, and Anscom finally succeeds in convincing Cinhil to accept his duty. Anscom releases Cinhil from his priestly vows, acknowledges him as the legitimate heir to the throne, and marries him to Camber's ward, Megan de Cameron. Camber and his allies continue Cinhil's royal training over the following months, preparing the former priest for his future role as King of Gwynedd. On May 1, 904, Camber, Evaine, Joram, and Rhys perform an arcane ritual designed to bestow the full range of Deryni powers upon Cinhil. Although they believe the ritual to be successful, Cinhil makes no outward sign of his new powers until he uses them to strike down the man who murders his infant son in early November. One month later, on December 2, Camber and Cinhil lead a strike force into the royal palace at Valoret and overthrow King Imre, who commits suicide after being defeated in a Duel Arcane by Cinhil. As the fighting ends, Camber places the Crown of Gwynedd upon Cinhil's head.
Actions in Saint Camber
In June 905, Camber and the other leaders of Gwynedd's new government are preparing for the imminent invasion of the exiled Princess Ariella, who seeks to reclaim her brother's crown. Their preparations are interrupted when two desperate Deryni attack King Cinhil Haldane. Although both Cinhil and Camber are wounded in the attack, they are both Healed by Camber's son-in-law, Lord Rhys Thuryn. Afterwards, Camber and his allies discuss Cinhil's increasing antagonism toward Deryni in general and Camber in particular. However, despite Cinhil's growing resentment, Camber remains loyal to the king. That night, he performs a scrying ritual to spy on Ariella, assisted by his daughter Evaine, his son Joram, Rhys, and Alister Cullen, the Vicar General of the Michaelines.
As the Gwyneddan army marches to meet Ariella's forces, Camber is forced to repeatedly deal with Cinhil's surliness, but the king refuses to place his full trust in Camber, as he still blames the Deryni lord for placing him on the throne of Gwynedd the previous year. The two armies finally clash on the plain of Iomaire on June 25, and the invaders are soundly defeated by the Gwyneddan forces. After the battle, Camber and Joram discover the bodies of Ariella and Cullen, who fought a vicious battle that claimed both of their lives. Realizing that Cullen was one of the few Deryni at court to whom the king was not openly belligerent, Camber proposes to switch shapes with Cullen, which would allow him to use Cullen's relationship with the king to moderate some of his negative attitudes toward Deryni. Joram initially refuses the plan, but Camber eventually convinces him that, given Cinhil's personal resentment toward Camber, the king and the realm need Alister Cullen more than they need Camber MacRorie. Joram reluctantly agrees, and Camber quickly reads the few remaining memories in Cullen's mind. Camber switches his clothing with Cullen's, and Joram performs the shape-changing spell. When they return to camp a short time later, the world believes that Alister Cullen is alive and Camber MacRorie has died.
Camber returns to Valoret with the victorious Gwyneddan army, but he is increasingly plagued by headaches from Cullen's memories, which he must assimilate into his own memories if he is to avoid madness. Evaine, Rhys, and Joram assist Camber in the necessary procedure, but they are interrupted by the arrival of the king. Unable to stop the process, Camber's disguise momentarily slips, leaving Cinhil stunned by the brief appearance of the supposedly dead Camber. Nonetheless, Evaine and Camber complete the procedure, which allows Camber to better perform his public role as Cullen. The following night, Camber again drops his disguise long enough to appear as a vision to his despondent former squire, Lord Guaire d'Arliss. Camber spends much of the next week fulfilling the role of Vicar General of the Michaelines, but it is Cullen's impending promotion to Bishop of Grecotha that concerns him most. The night before the ceremony, at Joram's behest, Camber reveals his identity to his old friend Archbishop Anscom of Valoret. Anscom agrees to consecrate Camber as a priest, which will enable him to legally perform the duties of a bishop. In the early hours of the morning, Anscom ordains Camber in the presence of his children, and Camber becomes Bishop of Grecotha later that day.
Camber soon travels to Grecotha to take up his new duties, and he spends much of the following four months settling into his new position and researching ancient Deryni arcane in Grecotha. He returns to Valoret in November in response to the king's summons, and Cinhil appoints him Chancellor of Gwynedd. Over the next year, Camber spends most of his time at Valoret, making only occasional visits to Grecotha. His relationship with the king develops into a close friendship, and he becomes Cinhil's most trusted advisor. Camber's desperate deception appears to reap nothing but positive results for most of the year, but events take an unexpected turn following Anscom's death in September. When a new religious group known as the Servants of Saint Camber seeks to canonize him, Camber cannot refute their claims without revealing the truth of his public death. As Cullen, he can only sit and watch while the leader of the Servants, Dom Queron Kinevan, calls several witnesses to testify to Camber's supposed miracles, including Guaire, Joram, and even Cinhil. In the end, the synod is convinced by Queron's presentation and Camber can do nothing to prevent his own canonization. At the end of the novel in January, Camber and Cinhil each come to terms with the course of their lives.
Actions in Camber the Heretic
At the beginning of the novel, Camber is summoned to Ebor by Rhys, who has discovered the ability to block Deryni powers and abilities. Although intrigued by Rhys' discovery, Camber quickly returns to Valoret, where the aging King Cinhil's health is steadily declining. Although Cinhil has rarely used his own magical abilities during his reign, he admits to Camber and Joram that he believes them to be very useful to a king. He orders them to prepare a ritual that will allow Cinhil to set the Haldane potential in his three sons. The following night, Cinhil performs the ritual with the assistance of Camber, Joram, Evaine, and Rhys, but the strain of the working is too much for the king. Cinhil dies after completing the ritual, but not before he finally learns the truth of Camber's dual life as Alister Cullen. The day after Cinhil's death, the new Regents of Cinhil's underage heir, Prince Alroy Haldane, immediately remove Camber and almost every other Deryni from the Royal Council.
Camber remains in Valoret through the spring to assist in Alroy's coronation. Fearing an approaching wave of persecutions against Deryni by Alroy's human Regents, Camber suggests that Rhys' talent may be used to conceal a Deryni's powers, thus protecting them from harm. While the Camberian Council begins preparations for enacting his proposal, Camber and Rhys engage in a futile search for another Healer who can duplicate Rhys' ability. Camber spends much of the summer in Grecotha with Joram, though he continues his work with the Camberian Council to prepare Deryni in Gwynedd for a violent anti-Deryni backlash. An attempt to infiltrate the royal court after its move to Rhemuth ends tragically in September, when Camber's disguised grandson, Earl Davin MacRorie of Culdi, is slain while attempting to protect the king's brothers from an assassination attempt. Although Camber is monitoring Davin's actions through a psychic link, he can do nothing but watch as his grandson dies.
Following the death of Archbishop Jaffray of Valoret in October, Camber and Joram travel to Valoret for the election of Jaffray's successor. Although the Regents attempt to pressure the Synod of Bishops to elect Hubert MacInnis, the bishops are unable to agree on a single candidate for over two weeks. Finally, several bishops ask Camber to accept their nomination as a compromise candidate. After reluctantly accepting their proposal, Camber, as Alister Cullen, is elected Archbishop of Valoret and Primate of All Gwynedd on Christmas Eve. However, Tavis O'Neill warns Camber that the Regents are planning to destroy several Deryni religious institutions as retribution for Camber's election. Camber and Joram use a Transfer Portal to warn the Gabrilites at Saint Neot's, but they arrive too late to save many of the pacifist monks.
Camber is installed as Archbishop of Valoret on Christmas 917, but the ceremony is interrupted by Alroy and his Regents, who refuse to acknowledge his election. Camber and his supporters refuse to surrender, prompting a violent confrontation when the Regents' soldiers attempt to arrest them. Camber and several of his allies manage to escape through a Transfer Portal, but Rhys is severely wounded during the fracas. Camber attempts to help his son-in-law, but Rhys dies in his arms a short time later. Over the next several days, as the Regents unleash a bloody wave of violence against all Deryni in Gwynedd, Camber and his colleagues desperately scramble to protect as many of their people as possible. He meets with Prince Javan and Tavis, securing their future assistance and confirming that Tavis also has the ability to block Deryni powers. Several days later, Camber and Jebediah d'Alcara attempt to rendezvous with Joram and Evaine at a remote abbey, but they are recognized and attacked by a group of the Regents' soldiers. The two aging warriors are sorely wounded in the battle, and Jebediah soon dies from his wounds. As Camber lies bleeding in the snow, he returns to his own shape and remembers the final spell attempted by Princess Ariella years earlier, a spell that might allow the caster to elude death. Though weakened and dazed from his wounds, he believes he knows why Ariella's attempt failed. With death fast approaching, Camber MacRorie reaches out with his mind and casts his final spell.
Actions in other Deryni works
Throughout The Harrowing of Gwynedd, Camber remains trapped in an arcane limbo between life and death, the result of his failure to truly understand the final spell he attempted at the end of Camber the Heretic. However, he does appear in a vision to Evaine, Joram, and Queron during Queron's induction into the Camberian Council. At the end of the novel, Camber is finally freed through Evaine's sacrifice, entering a higher spiritual state that allows him to continue the work of his life after death.
Camber appears several times in other Deryni novels, usually as a vision during the activation of the Haldane potential in one of Cinhil's descendents. To date, he has appeared during the empowerment rituals of the following members of the Haldane line:
- Javan Haldane (King Javan's Year)
- Rhys Michael Haldane (The Bastard Prince)
- Owain Haldane (The Bastard Prince)
- Kelson Haldane (Deryni Rising)
- Nigel Haldane (The King's Justice)
- Conall Haldane (The Quest for Saint Camber)
Additionally, Camber appears at least twice to Kelson Haldane in The Quest for Saint Camber. Kelson experiences a vision of Camber while undergoing a ritual trial, and later summons a surprisingly real image of Camber while battling his cousin, Conall Haldane, in a Duel Arcane. At the end of the novel, Kelson and Dhugal MacArdry encounter a mysterious stranger with detailed knowledge of Camber's tomb, but this stranger's true identity is never definitively established.
Camber is also a character in two of the short stories that were published in the book The Deryni Archives. In Catalyst, set fifteen years before Camber of Culdi, Camber appears only briefly at the very end of the story to congratulate a young Rhys on his newly discovered Healing talents. In Healer's Song, set between the events of Saint Camber and Camber the Heretic, Camber takes part in an intimate family ritual after the birth of his newest grandson, Tieg Thuryn.
- Earl Ballard II MacRorie of Culdi and Lady Ardis Drummond
- Lady Elspeth MacRorie (later Abbess of Saint Hilda's Abbey)
- Lord Adrian MacRorie (died age 14)
- Lord Angus MacRorie (died age 18)
- Lady Aislinn MacRorie MacLean (later married Earl Iain I MacLean of Kierney)
- Married Lady Jocelyn de la Marche on May 18, 871
Of the major protagonists in the Legends of Camber of Culdi trilogy, Camber is clearly the leader. While characters such as Joram, Evaine, and Rhys often defer to his patriarchal authority, Camber's other colleagues and allies respond to his intelligence, experience, and keen analytical judgment. Although others share in his goals and objectives, it is Camber's actions and decisions that have the greatest impact on the overall social and political events in the novels. When Rhys and Joram discover the existence of a Haldane heir in Camber of Culdi, one of their first actions is to seek Camber's guidance on the matter, and it is ultimately Camber's participation in the plot (specifically giving Deryni-like powers to Cinhil) that enables it to succeed. In Saint Camber, Camber's assumption of Alister Cullen's identity allows him to befriend Cinhil and provide the guidance the new king needs to become a successful ruler. And after Cinhil's death in Camber the Heretic, Camber continues to use his Cullen identity to provide invaluable leadership to the developing Deryni resistance movement. While Camber rarely works alone in his endeavors, it is often his counsel and direction that the other protagonists follow.
By the time of The Deryni Chronicles and The Histories of King Kelson, set over two centuries later, Camber has become a historical figure with a disputed reputation. After his death, Camber's actions during his life serve as the basis for a towering notoriety that either terrifies or inspires future generations. Whether viewed as an evil heretic or a heroic savior, he has become an enigmatic legend shrouded in mystery, with neither his supporters nor his detractors knowing or understanding the full truth of his life and actions. Moreover, he is one of the primary symbols of the conflict between humans and Deryni, given his famous history as a Deryni noble who overthrew a Deryni king to place a human prince on the throne.
Camber is portrayed as an intelligent and thoughtful man, though there are numerous examples of his decisions to take bold and dangerous risks. Although Camber's choice to overthrow Imre might result in his execution for treason, his riskiest act in Camber of Culdi is his attempt to give Cinhil Deryni-like powers, as it involves unknown circumstances whose final results cannot be accurately predicted at the time. In Saint Camber, he hesitates only briefly before deciding to assume Cullen's identity, essentially abandoning his own life in the process and continuing a pattern of making potentially rash personal decisions in the cause of the greater good. Even when he faces his own approaching death in Camber the Heretic, he makes one final, desperate gamble by attempting to cast a spell that he does not fully understand.
Camber is also a passionate scholar, throwing himself into research of ancient Deryni lore on several occasions. In addition to his vast knowledge of Deryni arcana, his personal magical abilities are highly developed and powerful, and he is universally acknowledged as a master ritualist. He possesses a keen analytical mind and often seeks to solve a problem by debating various courses of action with his family and colleagues. Camber also has an extremely strong religious faith, and his piety is a central part of his overall personality. Even with his central role in secular and ecclesiastical politics, he remains dedicated to his family and enjoys a close relationship with all of his children, despite occasionally heated arguments with his sons.
- Katherine Kurtz, Camber of Culdi, ISBN 0-345-24590-3
- Katherine Kurtz, Saint Camber, ISBN 0-345-27750-3
- Katherine Kurtz, Camber the Heretic, ISBN 0-345-33142-7
- Katherine Kurtz, The Harrowing of Gwynedd, ISBN 0-345-33259-8
- Katherine Kurtz, King Javan's Year, ISBN 0-345-33260-1
- Katherine Kurtz, The Bastard Prince, ISBN 0-345-33262-8
- Katherine Kurtz, Deryni Rising, ISBN 0-345-01981-4
- Katherine Kurtz, Deryni Checkmate, ISBN 0-345-22598-8
- Katherine Kurtz, High Deryni, ISBN 0-345-23485-5
- Katherine Kurtz, The Bishop's Heir, ISBN 0-345-31824-2
- Katherine Kurtz, The King's Justice, ISBN 0-345-31825-0
- Katherine Kurtz, The Quest for Saint Camber, ISBN 0-345-31826-9
- Katherine Kurtz, King Kelson's Bride, ISBN 0-441-00732-5
- Katherine Kurtz, The Deryni Archives, ISBN 0-345-32678-4
- Katherine Kurtz and Robert Reginald, Codex Derynianus (Second Edition), ISBN 1-887424-96-2