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Authors: Michael Moorcock

Revenge of the Rose

BOOK: Revenge of the Rose
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For Christopher Lee—
Arioch awaits thee!


For Johnny and Edgar Winter—
rock on!


For Anthony Skene—
in gratitude.



could enjoy the tranquility of Tanelorn only briefly and then must begin his
restless journeyings again. This time he headed eastward, into the lands known
as the Valederian Directorates, where he had heard of a certain globe said to
display the nations of the future. In that globe he hoped to learn something of
his own fate, but in seeking it he earned the enmity of that ferocious horde
known as the Haghan’iin Host, who captured and tortured him a little before he
escaped and joined forces with the nobles of Anakhazhan to do battle with
them …

Chronicle of the Black Sword





What? Do you call us decadent, and our whole
nation, too?

My friend, you are too stern-hearted for
these times. These times are new

Should you discern in us a selfish introspection;
a powerless pride:

In actuality, self-mockery and old age’s
wisdom is all that you descry!



Love, Death, Battle & Exile; The White Wolf Encounters a Not Entirely
Unwelcome Echo of the Past


THE UNLIKELY peace of Tanelorn, out of Bas’lk and Nishvalni-Oss, from
Valederia, ever eastward runs the White Wolf of Melniboné, howling his red and
hideous song, to relish the sweetness of a bloodletting …

 … It
is over. The albino prince sits bowed upon his horse, as if beneath the weight
of his own exaggerated battle-lust; as if ashamed to look upon such profoundly
unholy butchery.



the mighty Haghan’iin Host not a single soul survived an hour beyond the
certain victory they had earlier celebrated. (How could they not win, when Lord
Elric’s army was a fragment of their own strength?)

feels no further malice towards them, but he knows little pity, either. In
their puissant arrogance, their blindness to the wealth of sorcery Elric
commanded, they had been unimaginative. They had guffawed at his warnings. They
had jeered at their former prisoner for a weakling freak of nature. Such
violent, silly creatures deserved only the general grief reserved for all
misshaped souls.

the White Wolf stretches his lean body, his pale arms. He pushes up his black
helm. He rests, panting, in his great painted war-saddle, then takes the
murmuring hellblade he carries and sheathes the sated iron into the softness of
its velvet scabbard. There is a sound at his back. He turns brooding crimson
eyes upon the face of the woman who reins up her horse beside him. Both woman
and stallion have the same unruly pride, both seem excited by their
unlooked-for victory; both are beautiful.

albino reaches to take her ungloved hand and kiss it. “We share honours this
day, Countess Guyë.”

his smile is a thing to fear and to adore.

Lord Elric!” She draws on her gauntlet and takes her prancing mount in check. “But
for the fecundity of thy sorcery and the courage of my soldiery, we’d both be
Chaos-meat tonight—and unlucky if still alive!”

answers with a sigh and an affirmative gesture. She speaks with deep

host shall waste no other lands, and its women in their home-trees shall bear
no more brutes to bloody the world.” Throwing back her heavy cloak, she slings
her slender shield behind her. Her long hair catches the evening light, deep
vermilion, restless as the ocean as she laughs, while her blue eyes weep; for
she had begun the day in the fullest expectation that the best she could hope
for was sudden death. “We are deeply in your debt, sir. We are obligated, all
of us. You shall be known throughout Anakhazhan as a hero.”

smile is ungrateful. “We came together for mutual needs, madam. I was but
settling a small debt with my captors.”

are other means of settling such debts, sir. We are still obliged.”

would not take credit,” he insists, “for altruism that is no part of my nature.”
He looks away into the horizon where a purple scar washed with red disguises
the falling of the sun.

have a different sense of it.” She speaks softly, for a hush is coming to the
field, and a light breeze tugs at matted hair, bits of bloody fabric, torn
skin. There are precious weapons and metals and jewels to be seen, especially
where the Haghan’iin nobles had tried to make their escape, but not one of
Countess Guyë’s sworders, mercenary or free Anakhazhani, will approach the
booty. There is a general tendency amongst these weary soldiers to drop back as
far as possible from the field. Their captains neither question them on this
nor do they try to stop them. “I have the sense, sir, that you serve some Cause
or Principle, nonetheless.”

is quick to shake his head, his posture in the saddle one of growing
impatience. “I am for no master nor moral persuasion. I am for myself. What
your yearning soul, madam, might mistake for loyalty to person or Purpose is
merely a firm and, aye,
determination to accept responsibility only for myself and my own actions.”

offers him a quick, girlish look of puzzled disbelief, then turns away with a
dawning, woman’s grin. “There’ll be no rain tonight,” she observes, holding a
dark, golden hand against the evening. “This mess’ll be stinking and spreading
fever in hours. We’d best move on, ahead of the flies.” She hears the flapping
even as he does and they both look back and watch the first gleeful ravens
settling on flesh that has melted into one mile-wide mass of bloody meat, limbs
and organs scattered at random, to hop upon and peck at half-destroyed faces
still screaming for the mercy laughingly denied them as Elric’s patron Duke of
Hell, Lord Arioch, gave aid to his favourite son.

These were in the times when Elric left his
friend Moonglum in Tanelorn and ranged the whole world to find a land which
seemed enough like his own that he might wish to settle there, but no such land
as Melniboné could be a tenth its rival in any place the new mortals might
dwell. And all these lands were mortal now

He had begun to learn that he had earned a
loss which could never be assuaged and in losing the woman he loved, the nation
he had betrayed, and the only kind of honour he had known he had also lost part
of his own identity, some sense of his own purpose and reason upon the Earth

Ironically, it was these very losses, these
very dilemmas, which made him so unlike his Melnibonéan folk, for his people
were cruel and embraced power for its own sake, which was how they had come to
give up any softer virtues they might once have possessed, in their need to
control not only their physical world but the supernatural world. They would
have ruled the multiverse, had they any clear understanding how this might be
achieved; but even a Melnibonéan is not a god. There are some would argue they
had not produced so much as a demigod. Their glory in earthly power had brought
them to decadent ruin, as it brought down
all empires who gloried in gold or conquest or those other ambitions which can
never be satisfied but must forever be fed

Yet even now Melniboné might, in her
senility, live, had she not been betrayed by her own exiled emperor

And no matter how often Elric reminds
himself that the Bright Empire was foredoomed to her unhappy end, he knows in
his bones that it was his fierce need for vengeance, his deep love for Cymoril
(his captive cousin); his own needs, in other words, which had brought down the
towers of Imrryr and scattered her folk as hated wanderers upon the surface of the
world they had once ruled

It is part of his burden that Melniboné did
not fall to a principle but to blind passion …

Elric made to bid farewell to his temporary ally, he was attracted to something
in the countess’s wicked eye, and he bowed in assent as she asked him to ride
with her for a while; and then she suggested he might care to take wine with
her in her tent.

would talk more of philosophy,” she said. “I have longed so for the company of
an intellectual equal.”

go with her he did, for that night and for many to come. These would be days he
remembered as the days of laughter and green hills broken by lines of gentle
cypress and poplar, on the estates of Guyë, in the Western Province of
Anakhazhan in the lovely years of her hard-won peace.

when they had both rested and both began to look to satisfy their unsleeping
intelligences, it became clear that the countess and Lord Elric had very
different needs and so Elric said his goodbyes to the countess and their
friends at Guyë and took a good, well-furnished riding horse and two sturdy
pack animals and rode on towards Elwher and the Unmapped East where he still
hoped to find the peace of an untarnished familiarity.

longed for the towers, sweet lullabies in stone, which stretched like guarding
fingers into Imrryr’s blazing skies; he missed the sharp wit and laughing
ferocity of his kinfolk, the ready understanding and the casual cruelty that to
him had seemed so ordinary in the time before he became a man.

matter that his spirit had rebelled and made him question the Bright Empire’s
every assumption of its rights to rule over the demibrutes, the human
creatures, who had spread so thoroughly across the great land masses of the
North and West that were called now “the Young Kingdoms” and dared, even with
their puny wizardries and unskilled battlers, to challenge the power of the
Sorcerer Emperors, of whom he was the last in direct line.

matter that he had hated so much of his people’s arrogance and unseemly pride,
their easy resort to every unjust tyranny to maintain their power.

matter that he had known shame—a new emotion to one of his kind. Still his
blood yearned for home and all the things he had loved or, indeed, hated, for
he had this in common with the humans amongst whom he now lived and traveled:
he would sometimes rather hold close to what was familiar and encumbering than
give it up for something new, though it offered freedom from the chains of
heritage which bound him and must eventually destroy him.

with this longing in him growing with his fresh loneliness, Elric took himself
in charge and increased his pace and left Guyë far behind, a fading memory,
while he pressed on in the general direction of unknown Elwher, his friend’s
homeland, which he had never seen.

had come in sight of a range of hills the local people dignified as The Teeth
of Shenkh, a provincial demon-god, and was following a caravan track down to a
collection of shacks surrounded by a mud-and-timber wall that had been
described to him as the great city of
Toomoo-Kag-Sanapet-of-the-Invincible-Temple, Capital of Iniquity and
Unguessed-At Wealth, when he heard a protesting cry at his back and saw a
figure tumbling head over heels down the hill towards him while overhead a
previously unseen thundercloud sent silver spears of light crashing to the
earth, causing Elric’s horses to rear and snort in untypical nervousness. Then
the world was washed with red-gold light, as if in a sudden dawn, which turned
to bruised blue and dark brown before swirling like an angry current towards
the horizon and vanishing to leave a few disturbed clouds behind them in a
drizzling and depressingly ordinary sky.

this event was sufficiently strange to merit more than his usually brief
attention, Elric turned towards the small, red-headed individual who was
picking himself out of a ditch at the edge of the silver-green cornfield,
looking nervously up at the sky and drawing a rather threadbare coat about his
little body. The coat would not meet at the front, not because it was too tight
for him, but because the pockets, inside and out, were crammed with small
volumes. On his legs were a matching pair of trews, grey and shiny, a pair of
laced black boots which, as he lifted one knee to inspect a rent, revealed
stockings as bright as his hair. His face, adorned by an almost
diseased-looking beard, was freckled and pale, from which glared blue eyes as
sharp and busy as a bird’s, above a pointed beak which gave him the appearance
of an enormous finch, enormously serious. He drew himself up at Elric’s
approach and began to stroll casually down the hill. “D’ye think it will rain,
sir? I thought I heard a clap of thunder a moment ago. It set me off my
balance.” He paused, then cast a look backward up the track. “I thought I had a
pot of ale in my hand.” He scratched his wild head. “Come to think of it, I was
sitting on a bench outside The Green Man. Hold hard, sir, ye’re an unlikely
cove to be abroad on Putney Common.” Whereupon he sat down suddenly on a grassy
hummock. “Good lord! Am I transported yet again?” He appeared to recognize
Elric. “I think we’ve met, sir, somewhere. Or were you merely a subject?”

BOOK: Revenge of the Rose
9.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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