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.
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.