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The Citadel of Forgotten Myths
Table of Contents
About The Book
Elric along with his companion Moonglum return, in this prequel set within the early days of Elric’s wanderings, in order to investigate the history of Melniboné and its dragons, known as the Phroon, in this exciting new addition to the Elric Saga from World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Moorcock.
Elric is the estranged emperor of the Melnibonéan empire, struggling with his nature while desperately striving to move forward with his dying empire alongside the constant thirst of his soul-sucking sword, Stormbringer. Elric is on the hunt for the great Citadel of Forgotten Myths while traveling through the remnants of his empire with his tragic best friend Moonglum, as Elric seeks the answers to the nature of the phroon of The Young Kingdoms. Taking place between the first and second book in the Elric Saga, The Citadel of Forgotten Myths is perfect for longtime fans and those new to this epic fantasy series.
THE SUN, RIMMED in copper now and bloated as if with blood, settled upon the horizon. It cast long complicated shadows across a strangely wrought ship whose reflective brass flashed like eyes everywhere in the rigging. On deck, two dignified priestesses of Xiombarg, wearing elaborate ceremonial quilted habits with glinting bronze crowns, stood expectantly at the ship’s rail as, softly, they called a prayer to their patron and then peered suddenly upwards. There, in the soft depths of the sky, they detected a movement and, bowed in contemplation, listened to the distant hungry roar greeting the coming of darkness with godlike glee.
The priestesses were Lady Andra and Lady Indra of the Temple of Xiombarg in far Ko. The captain understood them to be pledged to some sort of mission on behalf of their patroness, the Queen of the Swords. They began to chant their final evening ritual and now saw a great shadow in the form of a sword-bearing woman, the shape preferred by their deity in Ko, appear in the sky overhead. As they completed their ritual, two men came up from the passenger quarters below. One was short, with a shock of startling red hair, a ruddy complexion, large blue eyes and a wide, smiling mouth. He wore a quilted maroon jacket and deerskin breeks tucked into soft boots. His tall companion was clad in black silk and black leather, hair the colour of milk, skin pale as the thinnest bleached linen. Like his companion he was unarmed. Any casual observer would know that he was not quite human. His long head with its slightly tapering ears and slanting brows was as remarkable as his sharp, glittering ruby-coloured eyes. He frowned. They had been in time to glimpse the last of the apparition.
Lowering their hands, the priestesses turned, surprised to see the men, who bowed politely. The dignified women acknowledged the pair and passed gracefully down the companionway, returning to their cabin belowdecks. The men took the place of the women at the rail. The disc of the sun was halfway below the horizon now, its light cutting a red road across the unbroken surface of the sea.
The tall man was well known in the North and West hemispheres but not well liked. He was Elric, sometimes called Kinslayer, former emperor of unhuman Melniboné, until lately the dominant power in the world. The short man was Moonglum from Elwher in the so-called Unmapped East. Since meeting again, they had been travelling companions, with Elric seeking answers to his questions concerning the beginnings of Melniboné and Moonglum seeking knowledge and treasure. They had shared rare adventures. Most recently they had come from Chun, where they had found two more people with complicated reasons for travelling with them, and who this evening had elected to stay below. Now nothing of Xiombarg, rival of Elric’s own patron, Arioch, remained.
Moonglum grinned after the disappearing priestesses. “Xiombarg’s worshippers are a little more comely in Ko! Our Lady of Weapons picks her women well. I’m beginning to regret that decision I made in the tavern.”
A faint smile from his friend. “I’m too closely bound to Xiombarg’s fellow Chaos Lord to wish any further entanglement with the Dukes and Duchesses of Entropy. Arioch and Xiombarg have always been at odds. They are over-interested in the sphere of mortals. Some think their struggles will end the worlds. And I think you’ll find those two priestesses aren’t interested in sharing themselves with anyone but their patron and each other, if my knowledge of their beliefs is correct.”
“Ah.” Moonglum regarded the empty companionway with disappointment. “Elric, my friend, sometimes I wish you would not proffer your knowledge so freely!”
“I assure you, I’m sharing very little.” The albino dropped his gaze to inspect the lapping waters below. Then he looked up for a moment, scanning the darkening horizon as if struck by an unpleasant thought. He did not like to feel Xiombarg’s presence so close. The Queen of the Swords was notorious for meddling in mortal affairs.
The albino wondered as usual about his decision to take this journey. Was it nothing more than escape from his fear of giving his love to another woman, or simply a troubled conscience? Surely this was more than a diversion, this restless search for an understanding of his people’s ancestral origins, this questing the natural and supernatural worlds for solutions to the mysteries of his and everyone’s existence? He had learned all the legends of Melniboné: how a mortal princess had been courted by a dragon of the Phoorn race and how Elric’s folk sprang from that supernatural union. His quests on the dream couches of Melniboné, when he was learning his sorcery, had confirmed the truth of that, but explained little else.
Now the sun was almost gone, but the distant roar was louder, as if in triumph. And then the sun went down, leaving the ship in a grey-gold twilight. The scent of brine was stronger. A powerful wind blew suddenly, filling the ship’s enormous blue sails as the oarsmen below shipped their long sweeps. Unusually, they drew the oars fully into the body of the ship and stowed them. The two men heard the sound of wood banging against wood, of metal being drawn against metal as the rowlocks were firmly shut.
At this, both men reluctantly left the deck and descended their own companionway to seek their cabins. In the gangway they met the captain’s first officer, the plump, pimpled giant Ghatan Tiun, who saluted politely. “Make sure all’s watertight within your cabins, masters. We’ll be going over just a couple of hours after moonrise. A bell will be sounded in the morning, when it’s safe to unbatten.”
“If we still live,” Moonglum muttered cheerfully.
The mate grinned back at him. “Indeed! Good night, masters. With luck you’ll wake in the World Above, as it’s known there.”
Wishing them both good night, Elric entered his own quarters. From outside came a series of heavy thumps, creaking and the sound of rattling chains as the ship was tightened against the water.
His cabin was filled with a deep orange light from a lantern swinging at the centre of the low ceiling. A seated woman frowned over a small scroll. She looked up and smiled as the albino entered. She was extremely beautiful, the black-haired Princess Nauhaduar of Uyt, who, these days, called herself simply Nauha. Her large, dark eyes reflected the light. Her lips were slightly parted in an intelligent smile. “So we have passed the point of no return, my lord.”
“It seems so.” Elric began to strip off his shirt, moving towards their wide bunk piled with quilts and furs. His wiry muscles and slender form showed a man of action. His entire appearance denoted the mercenary and treasure-hunter he pretended to be. “Perhaps we’d do well to sleep now, before the real noise begins. Too late for you to consider returning to Uyt.”
She shrugged, replacing the scroll in its tubular case. “Never would I wish to miss this experience, my lord. After all, until you convinced me otherwise, I shared the common view of our world as dish-shaped. I believed all other descriptions to be mere fools’ tales.”
“Aye. It’s as well so few believe the ovoid truth, for the reality would surely confuse them.” He spoke a little abstractedly, his mind on other matters. “And one’s magic becomes more fluid…”
“I am,” she said, “still confused.”
“Well, the actuality will be demonstrated anon.” He was naked now, slim and muscular in all his strange, pale beauty. He picked up a pitcher and poured water into a bowl, washing languidly. Once again she noted the sweet, attractive scent of his alien body. Did he seek dragons? Ancestors? The words were similar in his language. Still, she wondered why she confused them.
She, too, began to prepare for bed. Since she had taken up with Elric, the ennui to which she had become reconciled had disappeared or had been absorbed into his. She felt it could never return now. Elric’s dreams rarely gave him a full night’s sleep, but even if the albino were to abandon her, she would never regret knowing him or, as she suspected of herself, loving him. Womanslayer he was called, but she did not care. Kinslayer and traitor he might be, it had never mattered to her what he was or what she risked. Dark and light were inextricably combined in this strange half-human creature whose ancestors had ruled the world before her own race emerged from the clay of creation, whose terrible sword, now rolled in rough cloth and skin and stowed in the lower locker, seemed possessed of its own dark intelligence. She knew she should be afraid of it, as of him, and part of her re-experienced the horror she had already witnessed once, there in the foothills of the Mountains of Mourning, but the rest of her was drawn by curiosity to know more about the sword’s properties and of the moody prince who carried it. She had understood the cost of following him. He had warned her against himself, yet she had insisted she leave her father and twin sister in the lowland city of Nune and accompany him, even though she abandoned all that was familiar to her. Lying beside that hard, wonderful, pale and vibrant body which already slept tense and cool beside her, she listened to the sounds of the ship and the sea as timbers creaked and the thunder from the horizon grew louder. She sensed the galleon’s speed increasing, evidently borne on a rapid current. She had some notion of what to expect but wanted to question Elric. He slept, murmuring a little, yet apparently at peace, and she could not rouse him. At the same time she could scarcely believe his lack of concern.
Faintly, from above, a slow bell began to sound. The albino shivered against her, unwaking. The ship reared, rolling her against his body, reared again, sending a vibrant shock through her. The Paladino rocked, shuddered, her timbers moaning and straining as her hull dipped one way and then another, rolling from one side to the other so violently that Nauha was forced to wrap her arms around her lover to steady herself. Elric moved as if to resist her, then woke for a moment. “Are we over?”
He closed his crimson eyes again. For a while they slept. Perhaps for hours, she could not tell.
ELRIC HAD RARELY slept in peace since the death of Cymoril, his first betrothed. And now, it appeared, he slept with any fine woman who would distract him from his new love for Zarozinia. He feared, no matter how Moonglum tried to reassure him, that if he committed himself to her, she, too, would die. Every oracle he had consulted on his travels confirmed this. And so he chose to test himself and to forget himself in the arms of any foreign noblewoman he met. Zarozinia, better than Elric, had known what to do. If he returned to her, she knew it would be for as long as they lived.
Nauha awoke to sense the ship’s speed increasing. She gasped as they were tossed violently up and down and from the locker below came a deep grumbling out of that sentient blade; but the noise of the water grew into a deafening roar, drowning the complaints of the Black Sword, and bearing them at a steeper and steeper angle of descent:
Towards the edge of the world.
- Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press (December 6, 2022)
- Length: 336 pages
- ISBN13: 9781982199807
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More books in this series: Elric Saga, The
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