IN THE SKY a cold moon, cloaked in clouds, sent down faint light that fell upon a sullen sea where a ship lay at anchor off an uninhabited coast.
From the ship a boat was being lowered. It swayed in its harness.
Two figures, swathed in long capes, watched the seamen lowering the
boat while they, themselves, tried to calm horses which stamped their
hoofs on the unstable deck and snorted and rolled their eyes.
The shorter figure clung hard to his horse’s bridle and grumbled.
“Why should this be necessary? Why could not we have disembarked
at Trepesaz? Or at least some fishing harbour boasting an inn,
however lowly . . .”
“Because, friend Moonglum, I wish our arrival in Lormyr to be secret.
If Theleb K’aarna knew of my coming—as he soon would if we
went to Trepesaz—then he would fly again and the chase would begin
afresh. Would you welcome that?”
Moonglum shrugged. “I still feel that your pursuit of this sorcerer
is no more than a surrogate for real activity. You seek him because you
do not wish to seek your proper destiny . . .”
Elric turned his bone-white face in the moonlight and regarded
Moonglum with crimson, moody eyes. “And what of it? You need not
accompany me if you do not wish to . . .”
Again, Moonglum shrugged his shoulders. “Aye. I know. Perhaps
I stay with you for the same reasons that you pursue the sorcerer of Pan
Tang.” He grinned. “So that’s enough of debate, eh, Lord Elric?”
“Debate achieves nothing,” Elric agreed. He patted his horse’s nose
as more seamen, clad in colourful Tarkeshite silks, came forward to
take the horses and hoist them down to the waiting boat.
Struggling, whinnying through the bags muffling their heads, the
horses were lowered, their hoofs thudding on the bottom of the boat as
if they would stave it in. Then Elric and Moonglum, their bundles on
their backs, swung down the ropes and jumped into the rocking craft.
The sailors pushed off from the ship with their oars and then, bodies
bending, began to row for the shore.
The late autumn air was cold. Moonglum shivered as he stared
towards the bleak cliffs ahead. “Winter is near and I’d rather be domiciled
at some friendly tavern than roaming abroad. When this business
is done with the sorcerer, what say we head for Jadmar or one of the
other big Vilmirian cities and see what mood the warmer clime puts us
But Elric did not reply. His strange eyes stared into the darkness
and they seemed to be peering into the depths of his own soul and not
liking what they saw.
Moonglum sighed and pursed his lips. He huddled deeper in his
cloak and rubbed his hands to warm them. He was used to his friend’s
sudden lapses of silence, but familiarity did not make him enjoy them
any better. From somewhere on the shore a nightbird shrieked and a
small animal squealed. The sailors grunted as they pulled on their oars.
The moon came out from behind the clouds and it shone on Elric’s
grim, white face, made his crimson eyes seem to glow like the coals of
hell, revealed the barren cliffs of the shore.
The sailors shipped their oars as the boat’s bottom ground on shingle.
The horses, smelling land, snorted and moved their hoofs. Elric
and Moonglum rose to steady them.
Two seamen leapt into the cold water and brought the boat up
higher. Another patted the neck of Elric’s horse and did not look directly
at the albino as he spoke. “The captain said you would pay me
when we reached the Lormyrian shore, my lord.”
Elric grunted and reached under his cloak. He drew out a jewel
that shone brightly through the darkness of the night. The sailor
gasped and stretched out his hand to take it. “Xiombarg’s blood, I have
never seen so fine a gem!”
Elric began to lead the horse into the shallows and Moonglum
hastily followed him, cursing under his breath and shaking his head
from side to side.
Laughing among themselves, the sailors shoved the boat back into
As Elric and Moonglum mounted their horses and the boat pulled
through the darkness towards the ship, Moonglum said: “That jewel
was worth a hundred times the cost of our passage!”
“What of it?” Elric fitted his feet in his stirrups and made his horse
walk towards a part of the cliff which was less steep than the rest. He
stood up in his stirrups for a moment to adjust his cloak and settle himself
more firmly in his saddle. “There is a path here, by the look of it. Much overgrown.”
“I would point out,” Moonglum said bitterly, “that if it were left to
you, Lord Elric, we should have no means of livelihood at all. If I had
not taken the precaution of retaining some of the profits made from the
sale of that trireme we captured and auctioned in Dhakos, we should
be paupers now.”
“Aye,” returned Elric carelessly, and he spurred his horse up the
path that led to the top of the cliff.
In frustration Moonglum shook his head, but he followed the albino.
By dawn they were riding over the undulating landscape of small hills
and valleys that made up the terrain of Lormyr’s most northerly peninsula.
“Since Theleb K’aarna must needs live off rich patrons,” Elric explained
as they rode, “he will almost certainly go to the capital, Iosaz,
where King Montan rules. He will seek service with some noble, perhaps
King Montan himself.”
“And how soon shall we see the capital, Lord Elric?” Moonglum
looked up at the clouds.
“It is several days’ ride, Master Moonglum.”
Moonglum sighed. The sky bore signs of snow and the tent he carried
rolled behind his saddle was of thin silk, suitable for the hotter
lands of the East and West.
He thanked his gods that he wore a thick quilted jerkin beneath
his breastplate and that before he had left the ship he had pulled on a
pair of woolen breeks to go beneath the gaudier breeks of red silk that
were his outer wear. His conical cap of fur, iron and leather had
earflaps which were now drawn tightly and secured by a thong beneath
his chin and his heavy deerskin cape was drawn closely around his
Elric, for his part, seemed not to notice the chill weather. His own
cape flapped behind him. He wore breeks of deep blue silk, a highcollared
shirt of black silk, a steel breastplate lacquered a gleaming
black, like his helmet, and embossed with patterns of delicate silverwork.
Behind his saddle were deep panniers and across this was a bow
and a quiver of arrows. At his side swung the huge runesword Stormbringer,
the source of his strength and his misery, and on his right hip
was a long dirk, presented him by Queen Yishana of Jharkor.
Moonglum bore a similar bow and quiver. On each hip was a
sword, one short and straight, the other long and curved, after the fashion
of the men of Elwher, his homeland. Both blades were in scabbards
of beautifully worked Ilmioran leather, embellished with stitching of
scarlet and gold thread.
Together the pair looked, to those who had not heard of them, like
free-traveling mercenaries who had been more successful than most in
their chosen careers.
Their horses bore them tirelessly through the countryside. These
were tall Shazaarian steeds, known all over the Young Kingdoms for
their stamina and intelligence. After several weeks cooped up in the
hold of the Tarkeshite ship they were glad to be moving again.
Now small villages—squat houses of stone and thatch—came in
sight, but Elric and Moonglum were careful to avoid them.
Lormyr was one of the oldest of the Young Kingdoms and much of
the world’s history had been made there. Even the Melnibonéans had
heard the tales of Lormyr’s hero of ancient times, Aubec of Malador of
the province of Klant, who was said to have carved new lands from the
stuff of Chaos that had once existed at World’s Edge. But Lormyr had
long since declined from her peak of power (though still a major nation
of the south-west) and had mellowed into a nation that was at once picturesque and cultured. Elric and Moonglum passed pleasant farmsteads, well-nurtured fields, vineyards and orchards in which the
golden-leaved trees were surrounded by time-worn, moss-grown walls. A sweet land and a peaceful land in contrast to the rawer, bustling north-western nations of Jharkor, Tarkesh and Dharijor which they had left behind.
Moonglum gazed around him as they slowed their horses to a trot.
“Theleb K’aarna could work much mischief here, Elric. I am reminded
of the peaceful hills and plains of Elwher, my own land.”
Elric nodded. “Lormyr’s years of turbulence ended when she cast
off Melniboné’s shackles and was first to proclaim herself a free nation.
I have a liking for this restful landscape. It soothes me. Now we have
another reason for finding the sorcerer before he begins to stir his brew
Moonglum smiled quietly. “Be careful, my lord, for you are once
again succumbing to those soft emotions you so despise . . .”
Elric straightened his back. “Come. Let’s make haste for Iosaz.”
“The sooner we reach a city with a decent tavern and a warm fire,
the better.” Moonglum drew his cape tighter about his thin body.
“Then pray that the sorcerer’s soul is soon sent to limbo, Master
Moonglum, for then I’ll be content to sit before the fire all winter long
if it suits you.”
And Elric made his horse break ...