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Elric of Melniboné. Traitor. Savior. Lover. Thief. Last king of a fallen empire whose cruelty was surpassed only by its beauty. Sustained by drugs and the vampiric powers of his black sword, Stormbringer, haunted by visions of a tragic past and a doomed future, Elric wanders the world in quest of oblivion. But the great lords of Law and Chaos have other plans for this tormented adventurer. This volume is the third of Del Rey’s definitive collections featuring the tales of Elric and other aspects of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, along with essays, a selection of classic artwork, and new material never seen in book form.
Gorgeously illustrated by Steve Ellis, and featuring a foreword by Holly Black, The Sleeping Sorceress is a must-have for all lovers of fantasy.
From the Trade Paperback edition. less
Random House Publishing Group; November 2008 366 pages; ISBN 9780345509505 Download in secure PDF format
Title: Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress
Author: Michael Moorcock
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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 in?”
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 deeper water.
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 shoulders.
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 of corruption.”
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 into a sudden gallop as grey evening closed over the tranquil hills.