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Arioch! Arioch! Blood and souls for my lord Arioch!

"I have this feeling that my luck is none too good.
This sword here at my side don't act the way it should.
Keeps calling me its master, but I feel like its slave;
Hauling me faster and faster to an early, early grave;
And it howls! It howls like hell!
I'm told it's my duty to fight against the Law;
That wizardry's my trade, and I was born to wade through gore.
I just wanna be a lover, not a red-eyed, screaming ghoul.
I wish it picked another to be its killing tool."
— "Black Blade", as performed by Blue Öyster Cult
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Originally a six book series by the influential fantasy author Michael Moorcock, the story follows its title character, Elric of Melniboné, in his journey from a sickly sorcerer-king of a decadent and corrupt empire to a top class warrior involved with the affairs of the gods of Law and Chaos. His iconic weapon is Stormbringer, one of two evil demonic runeblades that feast upon the souls of those their wielders slay with them, have wills of their own, and tend to take over their wielders on occasion, which leads to the tragic deaths of pretty much everyone Elric holds dear.


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Installments:

The series contains numerous novels and short fiction, not written in the same order as the internal chronology. Several of the Elric novels are fix-ups of short stories published years or decades earlier.

Original series

  • Elric of Melniboné (novel, 1972)
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (collection, 1976)
    • "Sailing to the Future"
    • "Sailing to the Present"
    • "Sailing to the Past"
  • The Weird of the White Wolf (collection, 1977)
    • "The Dream of Earl Aubec" (a.k.a. Master of Chaos)
    • "The Dreaming City"
    • "While the Gods Laugh"
    • "The Singing Citadel"
  • The Sleeping Sorceress (novel, 1971, a.k.a. The Vanishing Tower)
    • "The Torment of the Last Lord"
    • "To Snare the Pale Prince"
    • "Three Heroes With a Single Aim"
  • The Bane of the Black Sword (collection, 1977)
    • "The Stealer of Souls"
    • "Kings in Darkness"
    • "The Flamebringers" (a.k.a. The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams)
    • "To Rescue Tanelorn"
  • Stormbringer (novel, 1965)
    • "Dead God's Homecoming"
    • "Black Sword's Brothers"
    • "Sad Giant's Shield"
    • "Doomed Lord's Passing"

Later novels

  • Fortress of the Pearl (novel, 1989)
  • Revenge of the Rose (novel, 1991)

Moonbeam Roads trilogy

  • Daughter of Dreams (formerly The Dreamthief's Daughter) (2001)
  • Destiny's Brother (formerly The Skrayling Tree) (2003)
  • Son of the Wolf (formerly The White Wolf's Son) (2005)
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Collections

  • Elric at the End of Time (1984)

Anthologies Including Work by Other Authors

  • Michael Moorcock's Elric: Tales of the White Wolf (1994)
  • Pawns of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion (1996)

Graphic Novels

  • By P. Craig Russell
    • Elric of Melniboné (with Roy Thomas and Michael T. Gilbert; Pacific Comics) (1983-1984)
    • Elric: The Dreaming City (Marvel/Epic Comics) (1982)
    • Elric: Stormbringer (Dark Horse) (1997)
  • First Comics
    • Elric: Sailor on the Seas of Fate (1985-1986)
    • Elric: The Weird of the White Wolf (1986-1987)
    • Elric: The Vanishing Tower (1987-1988)
    • Elric: The Bane of the Black Sword (1988-1989)
  • Michael Moorcock's Multiverse (artwork by Walt Simonson and John Ridgway [respectively]) (1999)
  • Elric: Making of a Sorcerer (artwork by Walt Simonson) (2007)
  • Elric: The Balance Lost (Boom! Studios)(2011)
  • Titan Comics
    • Elric: The Ruby Throne (2014) (adaptation of Elric of Melniboné by Julian Blondel, illustrated by Didier Poli, Jean Bastide and Robin Recht with an introdution by Moorcock; originally published in French)
    • Elric: Stormbringer (2015) (adaptation of the novel of the name name by Jean-Luc Cano and Julien Blondel, illustrated by Didier Poli, Jean Bastide, Julien Telo, Robin Recht and Scarlett Smulkowski; originally published in French)
    • Elric: The White Wolf (2018) (written by by Jean-Luc Cano and Julien Blondel with art by Julien Telo and Robin Recht)

Tabletop Games

  • Elric: Battle at the End of Time (1977) - Board Wargame published by Chaosium and later Avalon Hill under the name of Elric: Young Kingdoms Adventure Game
  • TSR's Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976) and the first edition of Deities & Demigods (1980) for Dungeons & Dragons had a chapter for Melnibonéan world. After a dispute with Chaosium over the copyright licence, the second edition of Deities & Demigods had a credit to Chaosium before Melnibonéan material was removed in the third edition.
  • Stormbringer (fourth edition was called Elric) (1981) - Tabletop Roleplaying Game published by Chaosium based on using their Basic Role-Playing system. Chaosium also published a version of the RPG using the d20 System called Dragon Lords of Melniboné.
  • Elric of Melniboné (2007) - Tabletop Roleplaying Game published by Mongoose Publishing using rules based on RuneQuest.

And yes, Fullmetal Alchemist fans, the Elric brothers from that series are indeed named after Elric of Melniboné.


These books provide examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: The Titan Comics graphic novels have made Elric a Villain Protagonist who kills hapless slaves, innocent civilians and his own, loyal followers on a whim, making his canonical moments of mercy and insight come off as whimsical, rather than moral, as well.
    • Also in the same comic Cymoril engages in killing naked slaves and eventually she usurps the throne of Melnibone.
  • A Day In The Lime Light: the archer Rackir is the main character of his own short story featured in Bane of the Black Sword.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Arioch usually appears to Elric as a handsome giant man with golden skin.
  • All Your Powers Combined: In The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, Elric fuses with the other eternal Champions and they turn into a giant warrior in order to fight two eldritch abominations.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Melnibonéans, who are almost all decadent sadists. Elric is largely an exception, and to a lesser degree, so are his lover Cymoril and his close friend Dyvim Tvar.
  • Anachronic Order: The conclusion of the saga was the first part to be published in novel form.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Stormbringer and Mournblade were made by the gods of Chaos more than ten thousand years ago and left forgotten in a cave made of organic matter where they are eventually found by Elric and Yyrkoon.
  • And I Must Scream: The city of Hwamgaarl is called the City of Screaming Statues because its walls are lined with unfortunates who have been turned into living rock. As the city's nickname suggests, the petrified people can't do anything but scream, and never stop.
  • Anti-Hero: Elric jumps between Pragmatic Hero, Unscrupulous Hero and Villain Protagonist throughout the series.
  • Artifact of Doom, BFS, Cool Sword and Evil Weapon: Stormbringer and its twin sword Mournblade.
  • Badass Bookworm: Elric has read every book in his library, which in turn taught him the ways of the sorcerer.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: Elric's eventual destiny, as the last king of a chaotic race, is to use the weapons of Chaos in order to fight the forces of Chaos, to restore Balance to the Earth and allow the powers of Law a chance to create something safer for the younger races.
  • Bathtub Mermaid: In the prequel comic Elric: Making of a Sorcerer, Chaos Lord Artigkern has captured the sister of King Straasha. Both Straasha and his sister being water elementals, Artigkern holds her in a container that's described in the original script as "a gigantic semi-transparent clam shell". Also, when Elric and his companions, Dyvim Mar and Queen Shyrix'x, attempt to release Straasha's sister, they break the clam shell container and haul the water elemental in another spherical one.
  • The Berserker: When Elric gets under Stormbringer's influence in the heat of a battle no one is safe.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: Between Arioch, Jagreen Lern and Stormbringer itself, depending how you view its relationship with Elric.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Theleb K'aarna functions as Elric's Arch-Enemy in the middle of the series, after Yyrkoon has been dealt with but before Jagreen Lern enters the scene. However, unlike those two, who both are serious threats with immense resources who do great harm to Elric, Theleb K'aarna is just a regular sorcerer who's completely out of his league against him but refuses to admit it. Elric, for his part, seems to regard chasing after Theleb K'aarna and foiling his latest overblown scheme as just something to occupy himself with for lack of a real purpose in life.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Elric fulfills his destiny at the end of Stormbringer but is killed by Stormbringer, and the sword assumes its true form as the force of chaos in the new world order. In Michael Moorcock's Multiverse, Elric and Moonglum are suddenly resurrected along with most of the other incarnations of the Eternal Champion, and after fulfilling a quest Elric is finally given the opportunity to take control of his own destiny.
  • Bodyguard Crush: When the Melnibonéan fleet returns without Elric and Cymoril knows that Yyrkoon killed him, one of her guards says that he will kill Yyrkoon for her. He either doesn't know or doesn't care that this will almost certainly result in his death, because he loves Cymoril.
  • Body Horror: Jagreen Lern and the forces of Chaos do this to most of their victims, converting them into abominations covered in reptilian and insectoid scales. Zarozinia, Elric's wife, becomes a worm-like being with only her human head when Elric reunites with her. She uses her remaining will to impale herself on Stormbringer, so that her soul can give strength to her husband.
  • Both Order and Chaos Are Dangerous: This trope is integral to the entire multiverse. Should Order win total dominion over a universe, it will completely erase it, reducing it to a single static and unchanging vacuum. For this reason, the Lawful Evil "caste" of the Lords of Order are referred to as "The Original Insect" or "The Singularity"; in the comics, one such Lord of Order is portrayed as a monstrous insect-thing that is devouring whole worlds through its ever-hungry maw. In comparison, the dominion of Chaos will reduce its conquests to a swirling, seething soup of ever-shifting color and proto-matter. This is why the Cosmic Balance exists to keep either force from attaining dominion, and why the Eternal Champion is created to enact its will.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Cymoril is so good-looking that her brother Yrkoon wants to take her as his bride when he usurps Elric.
  • Byronic Hero: Elric. He is not devoid of love, and does heroic deeds, but he is also a deeply flawed character who also suffers through much tragedy in his life.
  • The Caligula: Jagreen Lern, like Yyrkoon, has a pretty flamboyant attitude and he has no issues with killing a good chunk of his subjects in order to summon the Chaos gods for help.
  • Canon Welding: The novel The Sailor on the Seas of Fate is the first Moorcock novel in publication order to feature characters from different subcontinuities interacting together.
  • Cargo Ship: Elric and Stormbringer. Lampshaded rather bitterly by Zarozinia: invoked
    I see your other mistress still shares your bed... And now you need never try to dismiss her again, for that black Lord of Nihrain has given you an excuse to keep her forever by your side.
  • Cartwright Curse: Both of Elric's major love interests died tragically. Lampshaded when he wonders at one point if every woman he loves is doomed to die.
  • Character Alignment: Invoked; the original alignment system of the very first edition of Dungeons & Dragons was based on the Elric saga's concepts of Law vs. Chaos and Good Vs. Evil, with the original D&D alignments being Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic, with Lawful being roughly equated with Good, and Chaotic with Evil. The addition of the second Alignment Axis of Good/Neutral/Evil, which allowed for such concepts as characters being both Chaotic AND Good (such as rebel freedom fighters) or Lawful AND Evil (such as Nazis) wasn't added until later, with the release of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (First Edition.)
    • The original alignment system for the Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing Game, like other elements, were also cribbed from the Elric Saga.
    • This also qualifies as an Unbuilt Trope. Elric's Chaos and Order operate on Blue and Orange Morality, and neither is "good" or especially friendly toward humanity. Later uses of Law and Chaos identified the two concepts in relation to human morality as much as cosmic principles, and furthermore, non-AD&D-based applications generally run with the implicit assumption that Law is Good and Chaos is Evil.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: This saga can be considered a Spiritual Predecessor to the works of Yoshiyuki Tomino and George R. R. Martin regarding this trope. Throughout the series, pretty much every named character dies in one tragic way or another, culminating in the final battle between the armies of Law and Chaos where the titular Elric and his evil sword Stormbringer are the only survivors. And then Stormbringer murders Elric so it can become the new embodiment of Chaos.
  • Chick Magnet: Elric has had quite a few women after him, and is canonically very good in bed. Though once he meets Zarozinia, he becomes surprisingly serious and faithful to her, and tries to be a good husband.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Throwing away Stormbringer isn't an option for Elric, even when he can bring himself to do it. Throwing it into the ocean just causes it to get lodged in the surface as if it was solid ground, and throwing it off a dragon's back causes it to fly all the way back to Elric's armoury back home. In both cases, it doesn't take him long to fall to the temptation to pick it up again.
  • Clock Punk: In The Vanishing Tower, Lady Myscella gives Elric a giant mechanical bird to use as a flying mount.
  • The Constant: Elric, or at least the Eternal Champion, is the contant feature throughout the Multiverse.
  • The Corruption: The physical degeneration that happens to humans who serve Chaos.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Anyone who deals with the Gods ends up as one.
  • Crapsack World: Melnibone aside, most of the Young Kingdoms aren't a very safe place to live and don't get us started on Pan Tang.
  • Crossover: With Conan the Barbarian in Marvel Comics.
    • And with all the other Eternal Champion characters.
  • Crystal Weapon: In the story "To Rescue Tanelorn", the Olab are reptilian creatures that wield large clubs. The clubs have discs a foot in diameter made of crystalline rock embedded in them. The Olab swing their clubs to fling the crystal discs at opponents.
  • Cursed Item: Michael Moorcock has his doomed hero Elric dependent on hard-to-obtain alchemical preparations to maintain his strength and vitality against his debilitating sickness. Then Elric discovers Stormbringer - The Black Sword which does away with the need for drugs. But this comes at an awful price; every time, Stormbringer kills and sucks the soul-energy from the victim to obliterate them and sustain Elric. And the sword isn't fussy about who it kills: one by one Elric's closest friends and lovers die to keep him alive. The sword is also a corrupting influence on Elric's soul.
  • Dark Fantasy: A major Trope Codifier of the genre. Rather than a fight between Good and Evil, it's a fight between Law and Chaos, both entities having ideas closer to Blue and Orange Morality. The fantasy setting suffused with magic, rather than an area of wonder and mystery is an unstable and horrific world filled with monsters, sorcerers, demons and kingdoms which makes the entire landscape feel inherently dangerous and wild.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Jagreen Lern is killed by Elric in this fashion, with Elric cutting him with Moonglum's sword, because he doesn't want to use Stormbringer and give Jagreen a quick death and have his soul part of him. The text states that he kept him alive for nearly a hour by cutting him piece by piece until Moonglum asked Elric to kill him. The P. Craig Russell version of Stormbringer shows a panel where Elric cuts the lower lid of his eye.
  • Decadent Court: A fundamental trait of both Melnibone's and Pan Tang's aristocrats.
  • Deconstruction: Of The Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian, and Heroic Fantasy in general.
    • Stormbringer, the titular Cool Sword is a parody of the very trope, its power derives from its victims rather than its shininess, its hilt and scabbard or the metal, unlike other tropes in fantasy fiction. It reminds readers that the first purpose of any sword is to kill people.
    • Elric himself is an attack on The Hero and other associated tropes of mythological and fantasy stories, which featured such figures as prophetically pre-destined to save the world. Here Elric is a barely stable sorceror who is little more than a puppet for fate, and whose death has none of the grandeur and majesty of fantasy fiction.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: Elric all but cites this trope as his reason for sparing Yyrkoon after his first attempted coup. It was a bad idea.
  • Defector from Decadence: Elric, who has to fight his cousin for his throne, as he was seen as being weak and unworthy of his title since he was less willing than his countrymen to indulge in pointless cruelty.
    • The key word here being pointless. Elric could be a total bastard given proper motivation.
  • Defector from Paradise: The troubled hero finds and experiences the secret city of Tanelorn which stands outside Chaos and Law, a place of peace and tranquility where heroes may find rest and the Eternal Champion may lay down his burden. He later decided that he could not settle down there and became the only person to renounce Tanelorn and return to the world outside.
  • Determinator: No matter how much Stormbringer and the universe craps on Elric, he never gives up in his quests.
  • Deus ex Machina: Elric almost literally does this by summoning Arioch or elemental and beast lords to help him when faced with tough enemy monsters.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Stormbringer can even kill gods.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Elric also uses this from time to time. Evil cousin take your throne, and, more importantly, your girl? Burn the entire nation to the ground, abandoning your race and countrymen to the men of the Young Kingdoms.
  • Doom Magnet: Woe to anyone who becomes Elric's companion and/or love interest.
  • Droit du Seigneur: Melniboné has a variant; when an emperor dies, noblemen prowl the streets raping any woman they want in order to produce as many children of aristocratic blood as possible.
  • Dual Wielding: Moonglum, Elric's Sidekick, fights with a longsword and a scimitar.
  • Dying Race: Elric's.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Chaos Gods and Lords of Order, of course. Both are meta-cosmic embodiments of forces integral to the very foundation of the universe, and whilst they may assume human-like forms, they are actual entities beyond the definition of humanity. They wield apocalyptic powers and are able to operate on multiple levels of the multiverse simultaneously.
    • One of the Sailor On The Seas Of Fate stories also includes two creatures even more alien, from outside of the multiverse entirely. The heroes mistake them for buildings and wander through a Womb Level before they figure it out.
    • In one short story, one of the Gods of Law is this. However, it's also mentioned that that particular Law God had been fighting Chaos for far too long.
  • Empathic Weapon: Elric's sword Stormbringer is sentient and capable of compelling Elric to certain actions.
  • The Emperor: Elric is the 428th-and last-Emperor of Melniboné.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Without Stormbringer, Elric is still a very capable warrior, at least as long as he gets his medicines. With Stormbringer he's an unstoppable One-Man Army who can butcher entire cities.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Initiating this is Elric's final act, destroying the current world in order to create a new one — ours.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Elric at the end of the Last Battle just before Stormbringer kills him.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: At the beginning, Elric is entertained by his court musician torturing a tuned array of human slaves, each of which has been surgically altered to scream one perfect note.
  • Evil Counterpart: Yyrkoon to Elric. Elric is a Defector from Decadence while Yyrkoon relishes the perversions of Melnibonéan society; and they both have the opportunity to win a magic souldestroying sword.note 
  • Evil Overlord: Jagreen Lern, the ruler of Pan Tang and high priest of the Chaos gods. Yyrkoon tries to be one but Elric gets in the way.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Stormbringer. See the quote at the bottom of the page.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Theleb K'aarna, Yyrkoon and Jagreen Lern, all powerful sorcerers. Elric tries (not always successfully) to not be this.
  • Evil Weapon: Stormbringer even admits such as it turns on Elric and kills him. See Eviler Than Thou.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Ship Which Sails Over Land and Sea, a magical vessel Elric uses to pursue Yyrkoon.
  • Fate Worse than Death: This is why Prince Gaynor is commonly known as "the Damned". His life is filled with such suffering that he serves the Gods of Chaos in hopes of finally achieving death. His ultimate goal becomes to seek the Holy Grail — an artifact that will allow him to directly manipulate the Cosmic Balance — in hopes that this will either cure him of his punishment for betraying his status as an Eternal Champion or allow him to die... even if this means destroying the entire multiverse in the process.
  • The Fair Folk: Melnibonéans are beautiful, elf-like amoral hedonists that traffic with the Lords of Chaos and are universally feared by ordinary humans. Always Chaotic Evil is almost putting it mildly. Sadism is in their blood to the point that they make music in which each note is a scream from a tortured (human) slave, whose vocal cords have been mutilated such that they can produce only that particular note.
  • Fog of Doom: Yyrkoon invokes it to escape Melniboné after his first defeat.
  • Formerly Sapient Species: Humans who join the Chaos Legions devolve into bestial half-man, half-animal things, becoming whichever animal was nearest to their human nature.
  • Fountain of Expies: Stormbringer is the grandaddy of the magical swords with the ability of absorbing the souls of their enemies, including the Black Sword from Ultima VII, the Soul Reaver from Legacy of Kain and Froustmourne from Warcraft. Although these are less dickish to their wielder compared to Stormbringer.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Elric and Zarozinia decide to get married after knowing each other for about a day.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The Elenoin, a race of extradimensional women warriors, fight naked.
  • Gem Tissue: The Chaos Lord Pyaray is a giant red octopus who stores his soul in a blue crystal embedded in his forehead.
  • Genocide from the Inside: In the short story The Dreaming City Elric leads an attack on the capital of Melniboné that winds up almost completely destroying the people, the city, and his own betrothed.
  • God Is Evil: The Gods of Chaos are pretty much Always Chaotic Evil, though one may come up now and then that's Chaotic Neutral. Other stories set in the Multiverse, but on characters other than Elric, focus more on the Singularity (the evil faction of the Lords of Order) and the Chaos Engineers (the Chaotic Good Gods of Chaos).
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: The Lords of Order are too weak to intervene in the collapse of the universe itself until the very end of the saga.
  • Golem: A ferocious golem is the antagonist of The Dream of Earl Aubec. Aubec scares it away by showing it its own reflection.
  • Götterdämmerung: Elric's ultimate destiny is to create a world free of the influence of gods or cosmic powers, resulting in The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The reason Theleb K'aarna became an antagonist is because he's jealous of Elric getting the affections of Queen Yishana.
  • Happily Married: Elric and Zarozinia, they enjoy it while it lasts.
  • Here There Were Dragons: Most of Melniboné's dragons have died off, and the few remaining are weak to the point that they must sleep for centuries between flights.
  • The Hero Dies: At the end of Stormbringer.
  • Hero Killer: Stormbringer at the very last page of the sixth book.
  • Historical In-Joke: Roland, the semi-mythical French paladin who served under Charlemagne, is implied to be a future incarnation of Elric.
    • Tie-ins from other Moorcock stories indicate that so is King Arthur.
  • Hungry Weapon: The sword Stormbringer is hungry for souls, often moaning when it wishes to feed. When it hits an opponent, it drains their soul and Life Energy, killing them. It can force Elric to strike at other people by controlling his mind.
  • Ill Boy: Elric is anemic and has various other ailments. Until he acquires Stormbringer, he requires constant medicinal treatments just to be able to stand upright or dress himself.
    • His personal assistant and mentor, Tanglebones, reminds Elric that he was able to become an accomplished fighter as a young man. So the drugs and spells were fine, but they had to be taken/renewed regularly, probably several times a day, making it impossible for him to travel. With Stormbringer, he could see the world.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Being forced to eat a meal made out of your loved ones is just one of the inventive cruelties prisoners of the Melnibonean court may have to endure.
  • Immune to Stormbringer: Stormbringer and its other incarnations are the greatest weapon in the cosmos, however there are enemies that shown themselves to be immune to Stormbringer's soul-devouring effects or even completely immune to any attack from Stormbringer. In those instances, Elric has to resort to spells or using a different weapon. Interestingly, all the enemies that are immune to it are minor creatures, while gods are vulnerable to Stormbringer.
  • Jerkass: Elric often acts like one. His patron god, Arioch, is also a major Jerkass. In fact, all the Gods pretty much are Jerkasses. For a Melnibonéan he's positively humanitarian. That's not saying much, of course, but his cousins hated him and plotted against him for being too philosophical and soft-hearted and insufficiently sadistic and maniacal to be worthy of the throne.
  • Karma Houdini: Stormbringer gets away scott free at the end of the saga despite all the Death and suffering it caused at the expense of poor Elric.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Elric accidentally murders Cymoril with Stormbringer, and her soul enters the blade and gives Elric strength. Later Zarozinia and Moonglum impale themselves on Stormbringer so as to help Elric fulfill his destiny.
  • King of the Homeless: There's the Beggar King of Nadsokor. A whole city where everyone has the kind of defects that characterize the worst of the lumpenproletariat beggars, and the story is about their king stealing Elric's imperial jewels.
  • Kissing Cousins / Incest Is Relative: Elric's betrothed, Cymoril, is actually his cousin. Apparently this isn't unusual for Melnibonéan royalty — Yyrkoon, Elric's rival and Cymoril's brother, also lusts after her (to spite Elric more than anything else). It's not been all that uncommon for real-world royalty, either.
  • King Trope the Nth: Elric VIII, 428th emperor of Melniboné, son of Sadric LXXXVI.
  • Last of His Kind: Elric, eventually; mostly self-inflicted. Some few other Melnibonéans survive their nation's destruction, but in the end Elric is the only one left alive of his people and soon after of his entire world.
  • Lazy Dragon: Dragons need a lot of sleep, slumbering for months or years after a few weeks of activity.
  • Life Drinker: Elric, via Stormbringer, has the power to consume the souls of those he slays; doing this fills him with supernatural strength and vigor, allowing him to forgo his traditional need of magical tonics in order to have the strength to get out of bed.
  • Lizard Folk: The Olab from Sailors of the Seas of Fate, a tribe of man-eating reptilian humanoids who are immune to Stormbringer.
  • Long Title: In-Universe, Rackhir whistles a tune called "Song of the Son of the Hero of the High Hell who is about to Sacrifice his Life."
  • Lost Technology: The Melnibonéans have long since forgotten how to build their golden battle-barges, among other things.
  • Loyal to the Position: Valharik, the captain of the guard in Melniboné in the first novel, claims this as his reason for betraying his mistress Cymoril and following Yyrkoon's evil orders when he takes power in Melniboné, including cutting down one of his own men who tried to defend her against Yyrkoon and feeding the poor guy to Cymoril's slaves. Needless to say, Elric doesn't buy it.
  • Magic Knight: Elric and Jagreen Lern are skilled in both spell casting and sword fighting.
  • Magitek: In The Sleeping Sorceress Elric rides a sentient, talking mechanical bird.
  • Mind Rape: When the Mirror of Memory is destroyed in Elric of Melniboné, all the memories it had stolen over thousands of years spill out into the minds of those nearby. This kills many and leaves many more insane.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: The Dharzi hunting dogs, large hounds with the head of a bird of prey.
  • Morality Pet: Moonglum tries to be this to Elric, not always successfully. Doesn't help that his friend Elric is often influenced by Stormbringer.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Elric wants to reform Melnibonéan society, which goes against their tradition (which just happens to be the closest thing Melnibonéans have to a conscience). That said, Elric is still the Melnibonéan Emperor, with all that entails.
  • Nemesis Weapon: Elric's signature weapon is the magical sword Stormbringer. One of his opponents is his Evil Counterpart cousin Yyrkoon, who wields Stormbringer's "brother" sword Mournblade. Later, in The Revenge of the Rose, Gaynor the Damned (a Chaotic Evil Counterpart not just to Elric, but to all versions of the Eternal Champion) wields a "leach blade" which drains the power from magical weapons, including Stormbringer.
  • New Wave Science Fiction: Elric was born out of this movement (which also covered fantasy); in fact, Moorcock was one of the leaders of the movement.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Despite ominous warnings from Arioch, Elric summoned him to R'lin K'ren A'a anyway, thus setting in motion the events that led to the final struggle between Law and Chaos in that plane, resulting in its destruction and recreation. In other words, Elric broke an entire plane of existence.
  • Not His Sled: In the Titan Comics adaptation, Cymoril usurps control of Melniboné away from her brother, then takes off at the head of their fleet to hunt down her treacherous lover, Elric. Elric does not know of this yet, but it is sure to turn the central conflict of the stories over its head.
  • One-Man Army: Pretty much anyone who wields The Black Sword, be it Mournblade, Stormbringer, or one of their equivalents in other stories of the Champion Eternal. Justified, since the Black Sword is a Life Drinker and can pass on the stolen vitality of its victims onto the wielder, providing them with supernatural strength and endurance for as long as they keep killing. Elric, however, takes it Up to Eleven, since not only does he have Summon Magic, he's also known as one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world, effectively making him a Person of Mass Destruction.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The Melnibonéans follow the Lords of Chaos; Elric does, too, until he realizes he's upset the Balance Between Good and Evil and begins to serve the Lords of Order, or maybe fated to restore the Balance Between Good and Evil, or both.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Definetely not the case with the Melniboneans, a decadent and self destructive society of sadistic fey humanoids that worships demonic entities of Chaos and are a major inspiration for the modern versions of dark elves found in tabletop gaming.
  • Overly Long Name: When Gaynor started to appear in non-heroic fantasy novels, he often used the name Paul von Minct or van Minct. The Dreamthief's Daughter reveals that his original version, a Nazi Nobleman, was named Gaynor Paul St Odhran Badehoff-Krasny von Minct.
  • Perpetual Storm: In the Young Kingdoms, the area called the Weeping Waste is so named because it has constant rain.
  • Perspective Flip: Elric is essentially the kind of character who would be killed by Conan: a physically weak, evil, sorcery-wielding ruler of a decaying empire.
  • Phlebotinum Battery: Stormbringer's benefit to Elric, sustaining his vitality with a share of soul-energy.
  • Physical God: The Lords of Chaos and Order both qualify; it's only because of ancient treaties that they don't meddle more directly in the affairs of mortals. Once or twice, it's explicitly stated that the Young Kingdoms are a kind of Space Cold War territory in the cosmic struggle between the two powers... until Elric's actions change things for the worse.
  • Planar Champion: Elric often goes to other dimensions to set right what's gone wrong.
  • Plea of Personal Necessity: Darnizhaan tells Elric and Dyvim Slorm that killing him will begin the death of the world they know. When they decide to do so anyway, he says, "Fools! In destroying me, you destroy yourselves!"
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Pan Tang's war machine is fueled by conscripting the adult men of their tribute states, then sacrificing their wives and children, on arcane altars which are in operation 24 hours a day, depopulating an entire continent in the process, to summon the Lords of Chaos
  • Precursors: All the civilizations of the "Young Kingdoms" were built on the ruins of the old Melnibonéan empire.
  • Prehensile Hair: The Elenoin, extradimensional female demons, have this.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Not to the Melniboneans. One of their customs is that, after the death of the emperor, nobles are required to go out into the streets and rape as many women as they can to try and produce more nobles.
  • The Red Baron: Elric's friend Rackhir the Red Archer.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning:: Elric's crimson eyes are a visual warning cue that he can be just as deadly and cruel as any other Melnibonéan.
  • Rising Empire: Unlike in the books, where Melniboné is portrayed as a Vestigial Empire, the prequel comic, Elric: Making of a Sorcerer, tells the story behind the rise and descent of the empire. The four issues mostly concentrate on Elric gathering new allies among the elementals and the peoples of the Old Kingdoms. At the same time Elric (or rather his ancestors whose role he gets to play on the dream quests) gets to meet Arioch as well as wield Stormbringer for the first time.
  • Sidekick: Moonglum the thief from the east and Rackir the Red Archer are Elric's loyal adventuring buddies. Don't get too attached to them though.
  • Sissy Villain: Yyrkoon is described at being quite foppish in both clothing and behaviour. At the beginning of the saga he presents himself to Elric by doing some flamboyant dance moves.
  • Soul-Cutting Blade: Stormbringer.
  • Squishy Wizard: Elric starts out as one, but gets better once he gets Stormbringer and ultimately gives it up.
  • Start of Darkness: The Dreamthief's Daughter finally provides an origin for Moorcock's recurring villain Gaynor the Damned.
  • Storm of Blades: At one point, Elric and his comrades are set upon by three Chaos Gods — including Arioch — and in order to kill them, Elric uses Stormbringer and Mournblade to summon over one hundred of their brother and sister swords from alternate realities.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Smiorgan in Weird of the White Wolf is a weird inversion, since the story that Smiorgan died in was written before the one in which he was introduced. You could call this "Sudden Prequel Life Syndrome" instead.
  • Summon Magic: All magic in Elric's world is based upon summoning various demons and elemental spirits, and asking them for a favor. Elric is lucky that the Melnibonéans have made ancient pacts with practically every single spirit and demon. It's also noted that nature spirits have much lower "costs" than Gods of Law or Chaos, and indeed Elric calls for help from the former more often than he does the latter.
  • Summon to Hand; Stormbringer can also float to his wielder's hand when called.
  • Tanks For The Memories: The Mirror of Memory in Elric of Melniboné, which is able to forcibly steal the memories of others.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The End of Elric's World triggers the birth of ours. And Stormbringer's still alive in it.
  • Together in Death: A transformed Zarozinia commits suicide by falling on Stormbringer, so that her soul can join Elric's.
  • Torture Technician: Doctor Jest is the chief torturer of the Melnibonéan empire, in charge of making spies spill their secrets for the Emperor in nightmarish fashion. He also serves as chief carver for the Emperor's table, using those same spies before they die. They must be able to see the parts he removes being cooked and devoured.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Elric gives the throne to the guy who earlier usurped him. Even the guy's sister (who's Elric's fiancee) says that Elric's actions are criminal in their foolishness.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Elric often flies into one of these when pushed beyond his limits, since he both wields highly destructive Black Magic (and can also use Summon Magic to call monsters and daemons to his aid) and is also the bearer of the soul-drinking blade Stormbringer, which grants him greater strength, speed and ferocity as it kills more victims and which can kill most things with a single strike.
  • Vestigial Empire: Melniboné is one; in fact, one of the reasons why the Young Kingdoms are called such is because they liberated themselves from Melnibonéan tyranny only relatively recently (a few centuries back, versus the Melnibonéan Empire's ten millenia of history at the saga's start). Unsurprisingly, their fall from grace was due as much from the Melnibonéans' growing decadence turning inwards — they are a Dying Race due to internal attrition and hedonistic ennui by Elric's time — as from uprisings from their vassals.
  • Villain Protagonist: Elric actually starts out this way; before "upgrading" to an Anti-Hero.
  • Walking the Earth: Elric
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: It takes three books, but Elric's eventually the one who destroys Melniboné.
  • Womb Level: Elric's quest into the Pulsating Cavern results in him exploring an eerie, fleshy-textured cave, which turns out to be the interior of an enormous creature.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Elric of Melniboné just can't get a break. Every time he kills it makes him stronger and it also makes him hate himself more. On top of that every girl he loves (each of whom wants to wrap him in the proverbial blanket and feed him the proverbial soup) dies, which usually leads to him needing to wreak revenge on someone. And kill them with his sword and take their soul, and then hate himself. It's a vicious cycle.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Cymoril is the most beautiful woman of an elf-like inhuman race known for their beauty - this just serves to make her an object of lust for her brother, the other most beautiful woman is the Law sorceress Myshella who looks exactly like Cymoril.
  • Wretched Hive: Oin and Yu, the two "mean nations" that Yyrkoon holes up in in the first Elric adventure. Dhoz-Kam, the shared capital, is populated by shiftless, dirty, disease-ridden scum. Later Elric has to go to Nadsokor, a city made up of thieves, murderers, and beggars.
  • You Just Told Me: How Elric discovers Yyrkoon's plans about the two Black Swords.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: What Stormbringer and Mournblade do to anyone killed with them.

"Farewell, friend. I was a thousand times more evil than thou!"

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