To Rescue Tanelorn...

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'To Rescue Tanelorn...' is a short story by Michael Moorcock set in the Young Kingdoms setting of Elric but containing only a passing reference to the former ruler of Imrryr; instead it features Rackhir the Red Archer and the eternal city of Tanelorn. First published in Science Fantasy #56 (December 1962), the periodical edited by John Carnell, who originally encouraged Moorcock to produce his early Elric stories.

Publishing History (UK)

Publishing History (US)


* * The following section may contain spoilers * *

Long resentful that the city of Tanelorn provides a peaceful sanctuary for those who have turned their backs on the eternal struggle between Chaos and Law, the Lords of Chaos hatch a scheme to destroy it. Unable to move against the city directly, Narjhan raises an army of beggars from Nadsokor and drives them towards the City of Peace. Tanelorn’s neutrality means its citizens are unable to appeal to the Lords of Law for protection, and while they attempt to muster a defence against the innumerable horde heading towards them, Rackhir, the Red Archer decides to seek the way to the Domain of the neutral Grey Lords for assistance.

A local hermit, Lamsar, tells Rackhir that the Grey Lords may be reached through five gateways and agrees to accompany him on the quest.

"You must pass through all five gates. Each gateway leads to a realm which lies beyond and within our own dimension. In each realm you must speak with the dwellers there. Some are friendly to men, some are not, but all must answer your question; 'Where lies the next Gate?' though some may seek to stop you passing. The last gate leads to the Grey Lords' Domain."

Journeying through the gates, Rackhir and Lamsar encounter a village whose inhabitant attempt to cajole the travellers to join their festivities; a realm of Chaos where Hionhurn the Executioner who attempts to kill them; a peaceful forest where they discover twelve Guardians, the original founders of Tanelorn; and finally a great plain of utter greyness. Within this final realm there is no movement, no noise, nothing but a world of Absolute Law, inhabited by a single individual obsessed with creating absolute nothingness. In order to complete their journey, Rackhir grants him 'non-reality' by shooting him with his bow, and finally they pass into the Domain of the Grey Lords.

Rackhir is reunited with his former lover, Sorana, whom he believed died at Yeshpotoom-Kahlai, the Unholy Fortress, though she still serves the Lords of Chaos and acts as an observer here for her master Eequor. Lamsar negotiates with the Grey Lords and by skilful argument persuades them to assist Tanelorn. The Grey Lords decide that the Boatmen of Xerlerenes are best equipped to defend Tanelorn, and appoint Timeras to guide Rackhir and Lamsar. Meanwhile, Sorana informs Eequor of these developments, and the forces of Chaos send air elementals to attack Rackhir's party as they travel to Xerlerenes, but these are defeated by fire elementals summoned by Lamsar. The Boatmen of Xerlerenes agree to help and send up to thirty ‘air-ships’ to rescue Tanelorn.

Back in the world of the Young Kingdoms, Sorana has joined Narjhan's army, which attacks Tanelorn. The warriors of the city attempt to hold back the beggar army, but when all seems hopeless the ships of Xerlerenes and Lamsar's fire elementals arrive. Narjhan summons the Kyrenee, a black mass of air with poisonous tendrils that kills all it touches to counter the reinforcements, but Lamsar again sends the fire elementals against it, and they destroy the Kyrenee, which falls to earth eradicating the army beneath it. Using nets the Boatmen capture Narjhan and Sorana, but when Rackhir removes Narjhan’s helm there is nothing within his armour. Rackhir secures Sorana's release from the Boatmen and takes her back to Tanelorn rather than permit her to be slain, saying she 'will learn to love its peace' with him. Lamsar tells Rackhir that it was not a city he defended but an ideal - for Tanelorn will always exist while men exist.


Moorcock's first novella set within the mythos of Elric but not featuring him is an excellent background piece that fleshes out some of the concepts which the previous Elric novellas that appeared in Science Fantasy touched upon. Here we learnt that not only are there agents of Law and Chaos but there agents of the Balance as well. Furthermore, Moorcock expands upon his earlier references that Law and Chaos transcend such man-made concepts as 'good' and 'evil' by depicting the realm of Absolute Law as a grey, stagnant wasteland whose central tenet is essentially nihilistic. The Gods of Law must be terrible indeed for they must look upon the ever-changing world of men with horror. In that context, it makes a sort of sense why we see more of the Lords of Chaos in the Elric novellas since they would have a greater affinity with Mankind, although not always have humankind's best interests at heart.

Rackhir and Lamsar's journey through the Five Gates really comes into its own with Moorcock's depictions of the lands they travel within. Here we get one of the earliest presentations of The Multiverse within Moorcock's mythos (although not the earliest - that occurred in The Sundered Worlds,[1] (1962). There is a dream-like quality to their travels, which is brought into focus when we learn that for what seems (to the reader) like a few hours in the company of the Red Archer, two full days have passed in Tanelorn. Rackhir himself easily stands out as an attractive character - a decent foil to Elric's grim pessimism - and the way he decides to redeem Sorana after her betrayal goes a long way in making us want to see more stories of the Red Archer in future.


The events in 'To Rescue Tanelorn...' takes place concurrently as events in 'Dead God's Homecoming', the seventh Elric novella (part of the novel Stormbringer), which appeared six months later in Science Fantasy #59, where Elric is absent from Karlaak, being in pursuit of his wife Zarozinia who had been kidnapped by minions of Chaos.

As well as Nadosokor and Karlaak, other previously mentioned locations that get a name check in this story are: Bakshaan, Elwher, The Weeping Wastes, Org and The Forest of Troos. This helps give a coherent sense of a 'real world' within the stories themselves, thanks (no doubt) in no small part to the map of the Young Kingdoms that James Cawthorn drew for Moorcock.

In the 1972 novel The Queen of the Swords (1971), Jhary-a-Conel tells Corum Jhaelen Irsei he is:

"...a friend of heroes. I have travelled - under several names, of course, and in several guises - with Rackhir the Red Archer to Xerlerenes where the ships of the Boatman sail the skies as your ships sail the seas..."

Is Timeras an incarnation of the Eternal Companion? As well as the above reference, Bolorhiag in the Corum novels, also calls Jhary by that name. If indeed he is, that appears to make Rackhir an incarnation of the Eternal Champion co-existing in parallel with Elric.


The version of 'To Rescue Tanelorn...' that appeared in Science Fantasy #56, as well as in the The Singing Citadel collection was incomplete and omitted the last few lines, due to a page of the original manuscript being lost. A carbon copy of the missing page was later rediscovered and Moorcock was able to reinstate the final lines for the story's inclusion in the The Bane of the Black Sword collection.[2]

Mike Says

  • "Some [Champions fight] for Chaos, some for the Balance. In the Multiverse comic Chaos are the good guys (more or less) and also in the forthcoming Elric novel The Dreamthief's Daughter."[3]
  • "I've developed the ideas of Law and Chaos from an early age because they seemed better to describe the two chief warring temperaments both in ourselves as well as in society -- and to describe such elements in terms of Good and Evil seems (as I hope I demonstrate) a rather useless way of looking at our problems. Poul Anderson influenced me in this, with his The Broken Sword, the first edition of which I heartily recommend, and also, to a degree, with his Three Hearts and Three Lions. In a sense he used them, as I tended to more in the very early stories, as substitutes for Good and Evil, but even there I was beginning to realise how much better terms Law and Chaos were. That way, for instance, we don't get to demonize those we disagree with! Not unless they're actual demons, of course... I am explicit in suggesting that to find the balance between the two elements in oneself and to make them positive might have some point to it..."[4]
  • "I think the idea of the Balance must reflect my own spiritual views. My notion, perhaps that circumstances can frequently make us 'good' and 'evil'. These could be seen as fundamentally Christian views, of course. I always call myself a cultural Christian, even if I can't accept some of the ideas of Christianity, since that was the culture I grew up in and I know my work has to reflect its values. In 'To Rescue Tanelorn', the Grey Lords (I think I called them) represented the Balance, didn't they? I write only from memory, not having any of the books to hand...I'm not a relativist, as too many US liberals seem to be, these days, but I do believe evil deeds can have good consequences and vice versa. I also believe that one has to take responsibility for one's actions, even if those actions happen to be writing books. The Balance is for me the ideal state of being -- Romance and Classicism, if you like."[5]
  • "I don't think Timeras appears anywhere else. Take your point about possibly Sojan or someone, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a series of his own. Unless, of course, he IS Jhary. But, of course, Jhary doesn't have a series of his own. Or does he?"[6]