The Flame Bringers
aka The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams
The Flame Bringers, a short story by Michael Moorcock, featuring Elric of Melniboné and Moonglum of Elwher. The fifth Elric novella, first published in Science Fantasy, #55 (October 1962), the periodical edited by John Carnell, who originally encouraged Moorcock to produce his early Elric stories.
Publishing History (UK)
- Science Fantasy #55, (Nova, October 1962), edited by E.J. Carnell (periodical)
- The Stealer of Souls, (Neville Spearman Ltd, 1963) (hardcover)
- The Stealer of Souls, (Mayflower Books, 1968) (paperback)
- The Bane of the Black Sword, (Grafton, 1984) (paperback)
- The Tale of the Eternal Champion, Volume 12: Stormbringer, (Orion Books, 1993) (hardcover & paperback)
- Elric, (Gollancz, 2001) (paperback)
Publishing History (US)
- The Stealer of Souls, (Lancer Books, 1967) (paperback)
- The Bane of the Black Sword, (DAW Books, 1977) (paperback)
- The Bane of the Black Sword, (Berkley, 1984) (paperback)
- The Elric Saga, Part II, Doubleday, 1984
- The Bane of the Black Sword, (Ace, 1987) (paperback)
- Elric: The Stealer of Souls, (White Wolf, 1998) (hardcover & paperback)
- Elric: The Stealer of Souls, (Del Rey, 2008) (trade paperback)
* * The following section may contain spoilers * *
Moonglum returns to Karlaak, where Elric has put aside Stormbringer and settled down to married life with Zarozinia, warning that the horde of Terarn Gashtek, the Flame Bringer, is crossing the Weeping Waste, leaving scorched earth in its wake, and heading inexorably towards Karlaak, and urges the citizens to flee. Moonglum explains how Terarn Gashtek is using the sorcerer Drinij Bara to achieve feats that would normally be beyond the ability of a simple barbarian because he possesses the cat into which Bara put his soul, and if the cat is destroyed, Bara's soul will be sent to Hell. Elric speaks with the city elders, but they refuse to evacuate the city, so Elric decides he and Moonglum must formulate their own plan to save Karlaak. They have but three days before the horde arrives. As they are both unknown to Gashtek Elric suggests that they infiltrate the Horde as mercenaries. Sending a messenger to his kinsman Dyvim Slorm, Elric bids Zarozinia farewell, telling her to pray not to the White Gods but to Arioch and Voroon for he needs their evil to defeat Terarn Gashtek.
Elric and Moonglum are attacked by a band of Terarn Gashtek’s outriders in the unceasing rains of the Weeping Waste, all but one of whom are killed by Stormbringer. Elric persuades the survivor to take them to Gashtek's camp and the Lord of the Mounted Horde himself, whereupon they offering their services to the barbarian warlord on the basis that they are familiar with the local areas and can lead him to rich spoils and easy pickings. Taking lodgings within the 500,000 strong camp, Elric and Moonglum discuss their plans, for even without Drinij Bara’s sorcery, little could withstand the might of the Horde. Gashtek invites them to a feast, where he produces Drinij Bara, Drinij Bara’s cat and an iron blade, forcing the sorcerer to perform magic tricks. Bara recognises Elric as a sorcerer, but at a secret sign Elric makes doesn’t give him away, instead he conjours a golden cloud in the form of Terarn Gashtek on horseback, trampling the Young Kingdoms underneath him before dissapating in fragments. Unlike the warlord, Elric perceives Bara's hidden meaning. After the feast, Elric manages to meet with Drinjj Bara, who tells him if he and the cat can exchange blood then his soul will return to his body. Gashtek discovers the two together but accepts Elric's explanation that he got lost looking for his tent.
The next day, the Horde attacks Gorjhan, a small community that presents no threat to the Horde, but Terarn Gashtek instructs Drinij Bara to summon a demon - Dag-Gadden the Destroyer - to destroy the walls, whereupon the horde storm the defenceless city and massacres the inhabitants. Elric and Moonglum are careful not to participate in the rapine, actively saving four children by hiding them in their loft. A barbarian enters with a female he intends to rape, but Elric draws Stormbringer and slays him. He then hides the woman in the loft with the children. After nightfall, they help the survivors escape before setting out to free Drinij Bara. Back at the camp, they find a drunken Terarn Gashtek and Moonglum is able to substitute a stuffed rabbit skin for the cat within the warlord's robes. As they exit the tent, they are accosted by some barbarians and in the ensuing melee the cat escapes. When Gashtek discovers the cat is missing, and suspecting Elric and Moonglum of some involvement in the cat’s disappearance, he has them locked up with Drinjj Bara. However, the sorcerer refuses to help them escape until the cat is found. A fourth prisoner soon joins them - the messanger Elric sent in search of Dyvim Slorm - who reports he found the Melnibonéans, and says cryptically that Slorm said only "a few young ones might be ready". Elric summons Stormbringer, using its vitality to free himself, then calls upon Meerclar, Lord of the Cats to draw the cat to their wagon. Once inside, the cat bites Drinij Bara and the sorcerer’s soul returns to his body and the prisoners escape.
Armed with Stormbringer and Drinjj Bara's sorcerous powers, they face the Horde of the Flame Bringer. As dawn arrives, so do Dyvim Slorm and four other Dragon Masters and their dragons. Terarn Gashtek kills Bara with an arrow, and is slain in turn by Elric, whom he curses with his dying breath. Elric brushes off the curse saying he has rid himself of such things, then mounts one of the Melnibonéan dragons and leads his brothers in the destruction of the Mounted Horde. As he soars in the sky, he momentarily feels reconnected with his Melnibonéan heritage and casts Stormbringer away. Returning to Karlaak, Elric tells Zarozinia that his days of swords and sorcery are over and he has finished with the hellblade forever, but she knows before before he returned that Stormbringer came screaming into Karlaak, returning to its former place within the armoury.
Although with his Elric novellas Moorcock was writing Sword and Sorcery stories, he rarely fell back on clichéd traditions, such as having his characters speak with faux-medieval ‘thees’ and ‘thous’. The exception to this - and it is used very effectively in The Flame Bringers - is when Elric reverts back to ancient languages, such as High Melnibonéan:
- [Elric] said in the same language: 'Thou art one of the warriors of Terarn Gashtek the Flame Bringer?'
- 'That is true. And you must be the White-faced Evil One of legends. I beg you to slay me with a cleaner weapon than that which you hold.'
- 'I do not wish to kill thee at all. We are coming hence to join Terarn Gashtek. Take us to him.'
- The man nodded hastily and clambered back on his horse.
- 'Who are you who speaks the High Tongue of our people?'
- 'I am called Elric of Melniboné – dost thou know the name?'
Another revelation, in the original version of the story - as it appeared in Science Fantasy and the The Stealer of Souls collection - is that Stormbringer is female or, at least, Elric thinks of the runesword as female:
- "He cried: ‘Stormbringer! Sister Stormbringer, unite with your brother! Come, sweet runeblade, come hell-forged kinslayer, your master needs thee...'"
This adds a new dimension to the relationship between Elric and his sword. If Stormbringer is indeed female then it maybe explains why 'she' is so antagonistic to the mortal women Elric loves (cf. the death of Cymoril in The Dreaming City).
However, in later revisions, including when it appears under the new title of The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams, all references to Stormbringer's gender have been excised.
The Flame Bringers takes place three months after the events of Kings in Darkness.
James Cawthorn’s cover art for Science Fantasy #55 actually depicts scenes from The Dreaming City rather than the featured story and was originally intended to appear as the cover of Science Fantasy #47. In Cawthorn’s illustration, Elric is depicted as having the tapered ears traditionally associated with elves, although Moorcock has specifically said that Melnibonéans are not elvish.
- "I wasn't as enthusiastic about the later Vance Dying Earth stories as the original book, where it seemed to me he had begun to produce conceits rather than the visions of the first stories. I'm not sure who was actually first, because I think it was around the same time, but he and I were also the first to describe cultures developed between humans and dragons (The Dragon Masters by Vance). There had been dragon riding queens in Leigh Brackett in Planet Stories, but not stories about specific rapport between both species. Vance, like me, acknowledges Leigh Brackett as one of his major influences."
- "Thinking up a world in which airships are the dominant flying machine or people on dragons control the skies is the easy bit -- telling a story which makes some sort of use of these images is the hard bit. Especially when you don't want readers to get bored with any proseletyising. The action has to reveal the moral point."
- "Although Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword did have elvish people and that book did influence me, I didn't use elves. I think the physical description of Elric has come to be how people represent elves in general now, but you have to remember that I started doing this stuff before there was a genre and such distinctions were fairly vague. To be honest my notion of an elf was something you found on a toadstool in a West Country tourist shop… I don't draw much on what you might call the genre conventions, largely because they weren't there when I started. So the Melniboneans and the various other races to whom they're related (including the Phoorn' dragons) are generally part of my own multiverse..."
- Fantasy Masterworks vol 17
- Moorcock's Miscellany Q&A Archive Article #725
- Moorcock's Miscellany Q&A Archive Article #2277
- Moorcock's Miscellany Q&A Archive Article #1314