The following is a summary of the Stormbringer/Elric Saga of stories as published in Chaosium’s 5th Edition of the Stormbringer roleplaying game. Rather than rewriting this excellent overview it is presented here with only minor changes.
The Elric Novels and short stories encompass approximately seven years of the albino emperor’s life. In order of events, the books are Elric of Melniboné, The Fortress of the Pearl, The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, The Weird of the White Wolf, The Vanishing Tower, The Revenge of the Rose, The Bane of the Black Sword, and Stormbringer.
A ninth book, Elric at the End of Time, contains two Elric tales among the works collected in it, but need not be considered a vital part of the saga. Of these, one takes place after The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, and the other fits between the last two stories in The Bane of the Black Sword.
A tenth (and similarly extraneous) book is Tales of the White Wolf, an anthology of Elric stories by various authors. It includes Moorcock’s short story “The White Wolf’s Song,” which takes place at an undefined time between the end of Elric of Melniboné and the beginning of The Sailor on the Seas of Fate. Finally, the Elric novel The Dreamthief’s Daughter was published in April 2001. This tale is not dealt with here.
Elric of Melniboné
Elric of Melniboné describes, less than a year after Elric has been crowned the 428th emperor of the Ruby Throne, how the machinations of his ambitious cousin Yyrkoon plunge him into the beginnings of his dark fate. Elric is forced to invoke Arioch of the Seven Darks, one of the Lords of Chaos, who has not manifested upon the earth for centuries. Using the power this gains him, Elric chases Yyrkoon, who has kidnapped Cymoril, the woman Elric loves, and fled Melnibone. In recovering her, Elric gains possession of Stormbringer, a rune-carved sword possessed of both malign sentience and the power to drain the souls of those it slays. A portion of this power transfers to the weak albino, giving him the strength he has needed, but at a dreadful cost. At the conclusion of the first book, having made the acquaintance of the human hero Rackhir the Red Archer, Elric leaves his cousin as regent. He himself goes adventuring in the Young Kingdoms for a year, in search of the knowledge to revitalize his stagnant, dying kingdom.
The Fortress of the Pearl
After several minor adventures vaguely described, Elric arrives at the desert city of Quarzhasaat, last remnant of an empire that long ago threatened Melnibone, in The Fortress of the Pearl. Here Elric is dragged into feuds between the rulers of the city, and is forced by them to embark on a journey in search of a legendary treasure. Crossing deserts and other planes, Elric at last returns to Quarzhasaat to destroy it, completing a sentence passed against the city by Melnibone centuries ago, but never carried out.
The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
In The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, Elric learns something of his true nature, as he joins with three other aspects of the Eternal Champion to battle frightful twins who threaten the entire multiverse. Although this episode seems almost a dream to Elric later in his life, it has a profound effect upon him. Afterward Elric leaves the mysterious ship upon which he has sailed, taking his leave of its blind captain, and finds himself in a world beneath a blue sun. Here Elric meets Count Smiorgan Baldhead of the Isle of the Purple Towns. Befriending him, the two escape back to the Young Kingdoms, only to be caught up with the adventurer and explorer Duke Avan Astran, a Vilmirian of considerable fame. Duke Avan enlists Elric’s aid, which adds to Elric’s knowledge of his nation’s past, but the adventure ends in the duke’s death. Stricken with remorse, Eric returns with Count Smiorgan Baldhead to the Purple Towns.
The Weird of the White Wolf
After a short adventure at the far end of time, Elric returns to Melnibone as described in The Weird of the White Wolf, not to rule the Dragon Isle (as he had hoped), but to destroy it forever. Elric’s travels confirm his belief that Melnibone is an anachronistic parasite. Then his cousin Yyrkoon seizes the Ruby Throne, declaring Elric a traitor and himself emperor. Leading a fleet of Young Kingdom raiders, Elric attacks the Dreaming City, his home, and the reavers he leads pillage and burn the oldest and most beautiful city in the world. Attempting to save Cymoril, Elric accidentally slays her because of Yyrkoon’s treachery. Only Elric’s ship escapes Melnibone’s final, fiery breath, and he abandons and betrays Count Baldhead, his friend and ally, so he himself might live.
Next Elric meets Moonglum of Elwher, an adventurer from the Unknown East who proves to be Elric’s steadfast companion in the years ahead. An encounter with a minor Chaos Lord dashes Elric’s hopes of discovering the true nature of the universe. Elric has a brief affair with Yishana, Queen of Jharkor, earning the hatred of Theleb K’aarna, a Pan Tangian sorcerer who thereafter becomes his deadly enemy.
The Vanishing Tower
In The Vanishing Tower, Elric is involved with Myshella of the Dawn, the ultimate Champion of Law in the Young Kingdoms, saving her castle from destruction. Then, because of Theleb K’aarna’s manipulations, he is caught up in a battle against the beggar hordes of Nadsokor. Elric seeks refuge in Tanelorn, the eternal city, a haven for any whose lives are fraught with suffering, but he cannot find the peace that Tanelorn offers all others.
Riding through the desert that surrounds the city, Elric’s fate catches up with him again, and he is flung into another world, there encountering two aspects of himself as the Champion. Aiding them means Elric aids himself, and he returns to the world of the Young Kingdoms just in time to save Tanelorn from Theleb K’aarna’s wrath. Alas, Elric cannot save Myshella from the Pan Tangian and, with her dead, Chaos increases its influence upon the world.
The Revenge of the Rose
Departing Tanelorn in The Revenge of the Rose, Elric rides east, to the Unknown Kingdoms, but is dragged back to Melnibone and back through time by the magic of his father Sadric, whom Elric believed long dead. Sadric is, but his spirit sends Elric on a quest through countless worlds in search of Sadric’s soul. It is concealed inside a carved rose-wood box stolen by the dead emperor’s body-slave several years ago. In saving his father’s soul, Elric saves his own from that which he most fears, his Melnibonean heritage, and learns something of the truth concerning Melnibone’s past. He also earns his father’s long-begrudged love.
The Bane of the Black Sword
The Bane of the Black Sword sees Elric reunited with Queen Yishana in Ilmiora, three years after their first meeting. There the albino finally has his revenge upon Theleb K’aarna, but at the cost of the life of Dyvim Tvar, his kinsman and one of his oldest comrades.
Fleeing the destruction he has wrought, Elric, with Moonglum, meets Zarozinia of Karlaak, a senator’s daughter lost in the ill omened Forest of Troos. Even as Elric begins to fall in love with this spirited young woman, his doom is upon him, and he sends another ancient civilization crashing to destruction by his passing.
Traveling with Zarozinia to her home, Elric weds her, hoping to find happiness. For the first time in years Elric puts Stormbringer aside, able to survive on drugs he discovered in Troos. Then he must reclaim the sword in an attempt to save his new home from the depredations of a savage eastern army. Successful, Elric is reunited with Zarozinia, and resides for a time in Karlaak by the Weeping Waste.
Stormbringer, the final novel of the Elric saga, sees the albino emperor’s doom embrace the world at large. Jagreen Lern, the Chaos-worshiping Theocrat of Pan Tang, unleashes madness and horror upon the earth. Zarozinia’s simultaneous kidnapping catapults Elric into action. Although briefly reunited with his friends and wife, in the end Elric’s destiny means their deaths at his hands, on the blade of his vampiric rune sword. Having gone on a desperate journey to another world to gain a magic horn with which the ravaged earth can be renewed, Elric himself is killed by Stormbringer. Dead, Elric still cannot know peace: his soul is absorbed, like the thousands of friends and foes whom he himself has slain, into the essence of the demonic black sword. The last words of the saga are spoken by the entity that is Stormbringer itself, as it laughs in mockery at the Cosmic Balance and all it stands for. “
Farewell, friend,” it says to Elric. “I was a thousand times more evil than thou!”