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Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné, Vol. 2) Paperback – July 29, 2008
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About the Author
Michael John Moorcock (born 1939) is a prolific British writer primarily of science fiction and science fantasy who has also published a number of literary novels. His most popular works by far have been the Elric novels. As editor of the controversial British science fiction magazine New Worlds, Moorcock fostered the development of the New Wave in the UK and indirectly in the U.S. He won the Nebula Award for his novella Behold the Man, which tells the story of a time traveler who takes on the role of Christ. He has also won the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, and many others, and in 2008 was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
BETWEEN WAKEFULNESS AND sleeping, we have most of us had the illusion of hearing voices, scraps of conversation, phrases spoken in unfamiliar tones. Sometimes we attempt to attune our minds so that we can hear more, but we are rarely successful. Between wakefulness and sleeping, I began, every night, to hear voices . . .
Had I hung, for an eternity in limbo? Was I alive–dead? Was there a memory of a world which lay in the far past or the distant future? Of another world which seemed closer? And the names? Was I John Daker or Erekos‘? Was I either of these? Many other names, Shaleen, Artos, Brian, Umpata, Roland, Ilanth, Ulysses, Alric, ﬂed away down the ghostly rivers of my memory. I hung in darkness, bodiless. A man spoke. Where was he? I tried to look but had no eyes to see.
“Erekosë the Champion, where are you?”
Another voice, then: “Father . . . it is only a legend . . .”
“No, Iolinda. I feel he is listening. Erekosë . . .”
I tried to answer, but had no voice. Swirling half-dreams of a house in a great city of miracles, a swollen, grimy city of miracles, crammed with dull-coloured machines, many of which bore human passengers. Of buildings, beautiful beneath their coatings of dust and of other, brighter buildings not so beautiful, with austere lines and many glass windows. Of a troop of riders galloping over an undulating countryside, ﬂamboyant in armour of lacquered gold, coloured pennants draped around their blood-encrusted lances. Their faces were heavy with weariness. Of more faces, many faces, some of which I half recognized, others which were unfamiliar, people clad in strange clothes. A picture of a white haired, middle-aged man who had a tall, spiked crown upon his head. His mouth moved, he was speaking . . .
“Erekosë, it is I, King Rigenos, Defender of Humanity. You are needed again, Erekosë. The Hounds of Evil rule a third of the world and humankind is weary of the war against them. Come to us, Erekosë and lead us to victory. From the Plains of Melting Ice to the Mountains of Sorrow they have set up their corrupt standard and I fear they will advance yet further into our territories.”
The woman’s voice: “Father, this is only an empty tomb. Not even the mummy of Erekosë remains–it became drifting dust long ago. Let us leave and return to Necranal to marshal the living peers.”
I felt like a fainting man who strives to ﬁght against dizzy oblivion but, however much he tries, cannot take control of his own brain. Again I tried to answer, but could not.
It was as if I wavered backwards through time, while every atom of me wanted to go forwards. I had the sensation of vast size as if I were made of stone with eyelids of granite, measuring miles across–eyelids which I could not open. And then I was tiny–the most minute grain in the universe, and yet I felt I belonged to the whole far more than the stone giant.
Memories came and went. The whole panorama of the twentieth century, its beauties and its bitternesses, its satisfactions, its striﬁng, rushed into my mind like air into a vacuum. But it was only momentary, for the next second my entire being was ﬂung elsewhere–to a world which was Earth, but not the Earth of John Daker, not quite the world of dead Erekosë, either.
There were three great continents, two close together, divided from the other by a vast sea containing many islands, large and small.
I saw an ocean of ice which I knew to be slowly shrinking–the Plains of Melting Ice. I saw the third continent which bore lush ﬂora, mighty forests, blue lakes and was bound along its northern coasts by a towering chain of mountains–the Mountains of Sorrow. This I knew to be the domain of the Eldren, whom King Rigenos had called the Hounds of Evil.
Now, on the other two continents, I saw the wheatlands of the West on the continent of Zavara, with their tall cities of multicoloured rock, the rich cities of the wheatlands–Stalaco, Calodemia, Mooros and Ninadoon.
There were the great seaports–Shilaal, Wedmah, Sinana, Tarkar, and Noonos of towers cobbled with precious stones.
Then I saw the fortress cities of the Continent of Necralala, with the capital city Necranal chief among them, built on, into and about a mighty mountain, peaked by the spreading palace of its warrior kings.
Now a little more came clear as, in the background of my awareness, I heard a voice calling Erekos‘, Erekos‘, Erekos‘ . . .
The warrior kings of Necranal, kings for two thousand years of Humanity united, at war, and united again. The warrior kings of whom King Rigenos was the last living and aging now, with only a daughter, Iolinda, to carry on his line. Old and weary with hate–but still hating. Hating the unhuman folk whom he called the Hounds of Evil, mankind’s age-old enemies, reckless and wild, linked, it was said, by a thin line of blood to the human race–an outcome of a union between an ancient queen and the Evil One, Azmobaana.
Hated by King Rigenos as soulless immortals, slaves of Azmobaana’s machinations.
And, hating, he called upon John Daker, whom he called Erekosë, to aid him with his war against them.
“Erekosë, I beg thee answer me. Are you ready to come?” His voice was loud and echoing and when, after a struggle, I could reply, my own voice seemed to echo also.
“I am ready,” I replied, “but appear to be chained.”
“Chained?” There was consternation in his voice. “Are you, then, a prisoner of Azmobaana’s frightful minions? Are you trapped upon the Ghost Worlds?”
“Perhaps,” I said. “But I do not think so. It is space and time which chain me. I am separated from you by a gulf.”
“Already we pray that you may come to us.”
“Then continue,” I said.
I was falling away again. I thought I remembered laughter, sadness, pride. Then, suddenly, more faces, I felt as if I witnessed the passing of everyone I had known, down the ages, and then one face superimposed itself over the others–the head and shoulders of an amazingly beautiful woman, with blonde hair piled beneath a diadem of precious stones which seemed to light the sweetness of her oval face. “Iolinda,” I said. I saw her more solidly now. She was clinging to the arm of the tall, gaunt man who wore a crown–King Rigenos.
They stood before an empty platform of quartz and gold, and resting on a cushion of dust was a straight sword which they dared not touch. Neither did they dare step too close to it for it gave off a radiation which might slay them.
It was a tomb in which they stood. The Tomb of Erekosë–my tomb. I moved towards the platform, hanging over it. Ages before, my body had been placed there. I stared at the sword which held no dangers for me but was unable, in my captivity, to pick it up. It was my spirit only which inhabited the dark place–but the whole of my spirit now, not the fragment which had inhabited the tomb for thousands of years. The fragment which had heard King Rigenos and had enabled John Daker to hear it, to come to it and be united with it.
“Erekosë!” called the king, straining his eyes through the gloom as if he had seen me. “Erekosë–we pray.”
Then I experienced the dreadful pain which I suppose a woman to go through when bearing a child. A pain that seemed eternal and yet was intrinsically its own vanquisher. I was screaming, writhing in the air above them. Great spasms of agony–but an agony complete with purpose–the purpose of creation.
At last I was standing, materially, before them.
“I have come,” I said. “I am here, King Rigenos. I have left nothing worthwhile behind me–but do not let me regret that leaving.”
“You will not regret it, Champion.” He was pale, exhilarated, smiling. I looked at Iolinda who dropped her eyes modestly and then, as if against her will, raised them again to regard me. I turned to the dais on my right.
“My sword,” I said reaching for it.
I heard King Rigenos sigh with satisfaction.
“They are doomed, now, the dogs,” he said.
They had a sheath for the sword. It had been made days before. King Rigenos left to get it, leaving me alone with Iolinda. I did not question my being there and neither, it seemed, did she. We regarded one another silently until the king returned with the scabbard.
“This will protect us against your sword’s poison,” he said.
I took it, slid the sword into it. The scabbard was opaque, like glass. The metal was unfamiliar to me, as John Daker, light, sharp, dull as lead. Yet the feel of it awaked dim remembrance which I did not bother to arouse. Why was I the only one who could wear the sword without being affected by its radiation?
Was it because I was constitutionally different in some way to the rest of these people? Was it that the ancient Erekosë and the unborn John Daker (or was that vice versa?) had metabolisms which had become adapted in some way against the power which ﬂowed from the sword?
I had become, in that transition from my own age to this, unconcerned. It was as if I was aware that my fate had been taken out of my own hands to a large extent. I had become a tool. If only I had known for what I should be used, then I might have fought against the pull and remained harmless, ineffectual John Daker. But perhaps I could not have fought.
At any rate, I was prepared from the moment I materialized in the Tomb of Erekosë to do whatever Fate demanded of me. Later, things were to change.
I walked out of the tomb into a calm day, warm with a light breeze blowing. We stood on a small hill.
Below us a caravan awaited–there were richly caparisoned horses and a guard of men dressed in that same golden armour I had seen in my dreams, but these warriors were fresher-looking.
The armour was ﬂuted, embellished with raised designs, ornate and beautiful but, according to my sparse reading on the subject of armour, coupled with Erekosë’s stirring memory, totally unsuitable for war. The ﬂuting and embossing acted as a trap to catch the point of a spear or sword, whereas armour should be made to turn a point. This armour, for all its beauty, acted more as an extra danger than a protection.
The guards were mounted on heavy war horses but the beasts that knelt awaiting us resembled a kind of camel out of which all the camel’s lumpen ugliness had been bred. These beasts were beautiful. On their high backs were cabins of ebony, ivory and mother-o’-pearl, curtained in scintillating silks.
We walked down the hill and, as we walked, I noticed that I was dressed in the pyjamas I had worn when ﬁrst I went to bed. I was surprised, although they were not wholly incongruous, since the king’s garments were ﬂowing and loose, but they seemed wrong. I felt that I should have left these, also, behind me–on another body. But perhaps there is no body left behind.
Top customer reviews
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"The Eternal Champion" is a different matter entirely. One of the best works in Moorcock's catalogue, it involves several of his signature elements: a reluctant hero, a powerful magic sword, misrepresented identity and a fantastic twist. The protagonist, an anti-hero named Erekose who bears many similarties to Elric, even makes his own brooding, melancholy observations on human nature: "But there must be countless forms of love. Which is the form which conquers the rest? I cannot define it. I shall not try." How many such sentiments, voiced by Erekose but not by Elric, drive the last emperor of Melnibone to moody,often self-destructive and sometimes bloody action?
Rakhir the Red Archer, an interesting character in his own right, appears in a couple of stories. "To Rescue Tanelorn" is good fantasy and "The Roaming Forest" is a great mix of fantasy, action and horror. Is Elric invovled? No. Are the stories in any way diminished by Elric's lack of presence? No. Do these tales of the Red Archer help develop the mythos of the world in which Elric lives, and entice the reader to be drawn further in to this fantastic setting? Absolutely.
Lastly any review of this collection would be remiss without mention of "Elric at the End of Time." Allow a quote from that story;
"Aye", said Elric darkly, "return me to my realm, so that I may fulfill my own doom-laden destiny..."
Werther looked upon the albino with affectionate delight. "Aha! A fellow spirit! I, too, have a doom-laden destiny."
"I doubt it is as doom-laden as mine."
Kudos to Mr. Moorcock for being able to have fun with his most famous character, all while showing strong comic chops, to boot.
In summary: fans of fantasy, especially darker fantasy, will not be disappointed. Cursed swords, time travel, powerful magic, strange worlds... what's not to enjoy?
Unfortunately, this collection has too many stories that have nothing to do with the Albino emperor/warrior. Half the book goes by without a mention of Elric. If I wanted to read about Moorcock's other characters I'd find a tall bridge and jump off first to spare myself the pain. Other than Elric and Erekose, the rest of his characters are really boring.
I do highly recommend the Elric saga for all the same reasons the other reviewers say.
VERY MINOR SPOILERS
is shot at starts dancing in a hail gunfire trying to avoid being shot while being blown full of holes by the five to ten sub-machine guns firing at him.
END VERY MINOR SPOILERS
I probably made it seem a lot more interesting than it is, but you can always skip it if that is your taste, as there are plenty of Elric-like stories throughout the book, but pure Elric stories are few and far between. The Volume's namesake is the first story, and Elric is just mentioned by name a handful of times. Up to the long short story I mentioned (past the halfway point) there is only ONE pure Elric story, and it is not only one of the shortest (about five pages or so), but also one of the most brilliant short stories I ever read (it's kind of hard to decipher what happened, but I thought it was cool when I realized what transpired).
Overall, this book is not what I expected, but I didn't hate it. It just miss Elric.