Creatures Chaotic: Uncanny Inhabitants of the Elric Saga

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Creatures Chaotic: Uncanny Inhabitants of the Elric Saga

by Bill Ward

The wild and restless adventures of Elric of Melniboné feature strange landscapes, powerful sorceries, weighty dooms, and an endless array of bizarre creatures. With a myriad of stories divided over a dozen books, with monsters and misfits as varied as the vicious Hunting Dogs of the Dharzi, the degenerated Men of Org, Winged Apes known as Clakars, Meerclar the Lord of Cats, the shape-shifting Chaos chimerae known as Oonai, Lord of the Fire Spirits Kakatal and his eternal rival Misha of the Wind Giants, the wall-crashing Dag-Gadden the Destroyer, or exiled god Mordaga the Sad Giant, forever brooding over his curse of mortality – with all of these and many more, the Elric series has an absolute wealth of tantalizing minor characters and weird encounters that ensures this sword-and-sorcery rollercoaster continues to thrill through every loop, bend, and corkscrew of plot.

Melnibonéan Dragons

The 10,000 year rule of the Bright Empire of Melniboné is due in part to its sorcery, in part to its ruthlessness, and in part to its command of dragonkind. While the dragons sleep longer now between wakings as the world creeps toward its end, their combustible venom is still deadly to ships and men, their claws still sharp as diamond, and their Melnibonéan riders still fierce and keen as hunting hawks.

Up beneath the swollen sun, up into the hot, turbulent air, up towards the East where the camps of hell were waiting… Ninety-five . . . dragons, males and females, darkened the deep blue sky, all green, red and gold, scales clashing and flashing, wings beating and, in concert, sounding like the throbbing of a million drums as they flew over the unclean waters with gaping jaws and cold, cold eyes.” (Stormbringer)

The Olab

On a journey to a lost jungle city in search of the mysterious origins of his people, Elric’s ship is attacked by the semi-humanoid Olab. Assailed by whizzing disks of sharpened rock from both banks of the river, weapons with the power to behead a man or dis-mast a ship, the horrified crew take cover as the creatures wade out to attack:

“The things were essentially reptilian but with feathery crests and neck wattles, though their faces were almost human. Their forelegs were like the arms and hands of men, but their hindlegs were incredibly long and storklike. Balanced on these legs, their bodies towered over the water. They carried great clubs in which slits had been cut and doubtless these were what they used to hurl the crystalline disks.” (The Sailor on the Seas of Fate)

When the bloody fighting doesn’t go their way, it’s only Elric’s appeal to an ancestral ally, Nnuuurrr’c’c, Lord of the Insect Folk that dispatches the Olab – though Elric is left with the lingering horror that the strange beasts possess an unsettling familiarity, a twisted resemblance to his own people.

The Kelmain

A strange people from beyond the World’s Edge, speaking no known tongue, the Kelmain assembled a vast and formidable host containing many mighty engines of war at the behest of Elric’s hated foe, Theleb K’aarna. Their goal was the capture of Castle Kaneloon, once the outpost of reality itself, and the slaying of the enscorcelled Myshella, Empress of the Dawn, one of Law’s chief representatives on earth.

“These people had golden skins and eye-sockets that were almost square. Their faces, in all, seemed crudely carved from rock, all sharp angles and planes, and their armour was not rounded, but angular.” (The Vanishing Tower/The Sleeping Sorceress)

The Elenoin and Grahluk

Dancing, whirling, naked demons in female form – the Elenoin’s red hair falls to their knees, their teeth gleam like steel, and their eyes are huge, orange, and animal. Summoned by a sorcerer of Pan Tang, they viciously attack a vulnerable caravan:

“And Carkan was suddenly in the midst of a dozen slender, slashing swords and he and his horse were cut all to tiny morsels of flesh which lay in a heap at the feet of the Elenoin. And their laughter filled the valley as some of them bent to pop the flesh into their fanged mouths.”

Hailing from the Eighth Plane, the Elenoin are hated by the Grahluk, who “sought revenge at every opportunity.” Elric opens a portal to their realm and grants them one:

“A shuffling sound. A grunting noise. The stink of something unnamable . . . The Grahluk had come. They were apelike creatures as bestial as the Elenoin. They carried nets and ropes and shields. Once, it was said, both Grahluk and Elenoin had had intelligence – had been part of the same species which had devolved and divided.” (The Vanishing Tower/The Sleeping Sorceress)

The Reptile Men of Pio

Summoned by Theleb K’aarna’s infernal machine to destroy Tanelorn, the Eternal City, the Reptile Men of Pio and their dinosaurian mounts are from a realm that operate under a different law of sorcery – and are thus immune to anything Elric can throw at them.

“It reminded Elric of a dragon from one of his own caves, but it was bulkier and upon its enormous back were two rows of flapping ridges of bone. It opened its mouth to reveal row upon row of teeth and the ground shook as it walked . . . Another came pounding . . . and another, great reptilian monsters from another Age of Earth. And following them came those who controlled them . . .They bore a peculiar resemblance to the dragon creatures and their size, also, was many times greater than a man’s. In their hands they had ornate instruments . . . attached to their arms by sprials of golden metal. A hood of skin covered their black and green heads and red eyes glared from the shadows of their faces.” (The Vanishing Tower/The Sleeping Sorceress)

The Horses of Nihrain

“Through the sticken lands of the west rode Elric and Moonglum, astride sturdy Nihrain steeds that seemed to need no rest and contained no fear. The Nihrain horses were a special gift, for they had certain additional powers to their unnatural strength and endurance. . . in fact, the steeds did not have full existence on the earthly plane . . . their hooves did not touch the ground in the strict sense, but touched the stuff of their own plane. This gave them the ability to appear to gallop on air – or water.” (Stormbringer)

The horses of The Ten Who Sleep in the Mountain of Fire, re-awoken servants of Fate, make fine gifts for Elric and his allies at a time when the very earth itself is breaking down into the raw stuff of Chaos.

The Devil Riders of Pan Tang

The dread armies of Pan Tang, Isle of Sorcerers, upstart imitators of the Bright Empire of Melniboné, boast many a fearsome division or bound beast. From the giant owls that are the nemesis of the Winged Men of Myyrrhn, to the fifteen foot high vulture-headed lions originally created by Elric’s own imperial ancestors, Pan Tang employs sorcery in all its war making. The Devil Riders embody this:

“Behind them, instantly observable, came the Devil Riders of Pan Tang on their six-legged reptilian mounts, bred by sorcery it was said . . . they carried long, curved sabers, naked at their belts. Prowling among them came over a hundred hunting tigers, trained like dogs, with tusk-like teeth and claws that could rend a man to the bone with a single sweep.” (Stormbringer)

The Elder Trees

Elric and his companions are warned by Straasha the Sea King about the guardians protecting the castle of Mordaga, the exiled god doomed to a mortal existence and bearer of the Chaos Shield. But it isn’t the guard of one hundred and forty-four warriors that concerns them as much as the forty-nine malevolent Elder Trees lining the one hundred thirty-nine steps up Mordaga’s lonely mountain:

“The green leaves, their veins seeming to throb in the sunlight, were beginning to detach themselves from the branches and drift purposefully toward the group. . . They were coming in a green wave now, and he felt a peculiar stinging sensation . . . He knew, instinctively, that they were sucking not only blood from his veins, but the soul-force from his being . . .” (Stormbringer)

Of course, Elric and his cousin, Dyvim Slorm, bear the twin hellblades Stormbringer and Mournblade, and it turns out Elder Trees, too, have souls to suck.

The header image is “Elric and Flamefang,” and the featured image is “The Hunting Tigers of Pan Tang,” both by Rodney Matthews for the Centipede Press edition of Stormbringer.

Author: billward

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