"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I remember Meliniboné.  Not the empire, obviously, but it's aftermath, its débris: mangled scraps of filigree from brooch or breastplate, tatters of checkered silk accumulating in the gutters of Tottenham Court Road.  Exquisite and depraved, Melbinonéan culture had been shattered by a grand catastrophe before recorded history began--probably sometime during the mid-1940s--buts its shards and relics were still evident in London's tangled streets as late as 1968...

Alan Moore, "The Return of the Thin White Duke"

Despite having visited the Bright Empire several times the last three and a half decades of my existence, I never really understood Melniboné...until now.

How could I, really?  It was hardly any fault of mine.  I lacked the particular foresight Michael Moorcock possessed, that his manifestation in a certain time and place afforded. I was not in possession of the secret knowledge his countryman, Alan Moore, demonstrated when he wrote the the essay glimpsed above. There was no way any of this could be my fault.  It was merely an accident of birth. Moorcock and Moore both originated in the same corner of the Multiverse, a corner that had endured similar experiences. My particular plane was running slower...about seven decades or so behind.

Now, however, I see it clearly.

You cannot know Melniboné until you too have seen a once proud empire crumble, afraid to look forward and unable to stop itself from staring back. Not until, like the denizens of Imrryr, you have watched an entire nation of people retreat from the rest of the world, from reality, into mad dreams of lost power and prestige can you grasp what Elric was dealing with. Only once you have witnessed idealistic princes paralyzed by their philosophy, and swaggering Yyrkoons who prance and croon of "making Melniboné great again," do you know who and what Melniboné is. 

And by that time it is too late. Arioch is already on his way.

Like Elric--maybe secretly spurred on by him, for I have always felt the same affinity that Neil Gaiman expresses in "One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock"--I left Melniboné before the end fell upon her.  I set sail out into the Young Kingdoms, the wide world that my people had so long ruled and so long taken for granted, knowing that nothing outside our own borders could be of any worth.  By this time, of course, the decadence had already set in; Melniboné was already finished.  The world was secretly sick of Melniboné's oppressive arrogance, the sorcerous stench of "exceptionalism" that its populace marinated in.  There had been an attempt, just prior to my departure, to sack the Dreaming City, but while two of our proud and unearthly towers fell, the impenetrable sea maze nevertheless thwarted the barbarians, and the golden battle barges and venomous dragons had been sent out for vengeance.  This only had the effect of increasing the world's antipathy, for Melniboné had begun to see her enemies everywhere.  Nations tumbled.  Sacrifices were made.  Demons and Chaos unleashed.        

Over the course of my travels, a new figure took the Ruby Throne, one considerably darker than the Albino (or anyone who had claimed the throne before) but who offered the world a reprieve, a possibility that Melniboné may not yet be wholly damned.  I settled in the Unmapped East, an island beyond even Phum, and wondered if the Bright Empire really could be saved.  Like Elric, however, too many in the imperial court felt this emperor was "not one of them."  He did not, apparently, show the proper respect for Melniboné's byzantine and ritualistic traditions.  He stank to the pureblooded Dragon Princes of the outside world--the most heinous of all Melnibonéan crimes.  One of these princes in particular rose to prominence the way so many like him do... by peddling the most outlandish and inane lies, lies that only a invalid and disintegrating people could possibly believe.  Endlessly, he taunted and jeered his boorish insults, and like Elric the emperor did nothing.  Until, again just like Elric, this emperor finally left and this Yyrkoon took his place.

I suspect the previous emperor is out there, somewhere, sailing the seas of fate.  We are already well past the fall of Quarzhasaat, that much is quite clear to me.  Imryrr seems ever more eager than ever to dream, to ignore the warning signs that the end is near.  Beset by Straasha and the Lasshaar in the east, with islands drowned and coastlines ravaged, and by the unleashed fury of Kakatal in the west, the omens are easy to read but they do not.  Here in the Unmapped East, a particularly noxious Pan Tang seethes, infuriated by Melniboné's pointless and endless taunting.  There is no diplomacy--what need has Melniboné for it?  Who could dream of assailing her!  Let the Young Kingdoms try.  

So the armies of Chaos stir, the Balance swings widely, and the rest of us can do little but wait for Roland's Horn.  

Here's hoping the next world is somewhat closer to Tanelorn.


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