Read The Skrayling Tree Online

Authors: Michael Moorcock

The Skrayling Tree

BOOK: The Skrayling Tree
13.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
THE GOLDEN CITY

Under a paling blue sky reflected in the great plain of ice, Kakatanawa gleamed. An immense ziggurat, as high as a skyscraper,
made of solid gold. The base was at least a mile wide and the tiers marched up, step by enormous step, to a crown where what
might be a temple blazed. The city was alive with activity. I could see ranks of people moving back and forth between the
levels, the gardens which draped startling greenery over balconies and terraces. It was an entire country in a single immense
building! Ayanawatta laughed, and White Crow smiled at my astonishment…

CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR THE NOVELS OF MICHAEL MOORCOCK

THE SKRAYLING TREE

“Law, chaos, and balance all contend vigorously, aided by Moorcock’s knowledge of folklore, poetry, and storytelling.”


Booklist

“[A] classic character…. The tale is fun.”


Philadelphia Weekly Press

THE DREAMTHIEF’S DAUGHTER

“Sword and sorcery that stays true to its genre while reaching beyond it.”


Denver Post

“Moorcock is at his best.”


Locus

“A gripping and ambitious tale.”


Realms of Fantasy

“Full of magic and mystery.”


Booklist

“A combination of literary excellence and good storytelling.”


Science Fiction Chronicle

Also by Michael Moorcock

The Dreamthief’s Daughter: A Tale of the Albino

Copyright

This book is a work of historical fiction. In order to give a sense of the times, some names of real people or places have
been included in the book. However, the events depicted in this book are imaginary, and the names of nonhistorical persons
or events are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance of such nonhistorical persons
or events to actual ones is purely coincidental.

All characters, the distinctive likeness thereof, and all related indicia are trademarks of Michael Moorcock.

Copyright © 2003 by Michael Moorcock and Linda Moorcock

Except firm
Gloriana
copyright © 2003 by Michael Moorcock and Linda Moorcock All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any
form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in
writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Aspect®name and logo are registered trademarks of Warner Books.

Warner Books, Inc.

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com

Originally published in hardcover by Warner Books First Paperback Printing: July 2004

First eBook Edition: November 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-57121-0

For Jewell Hodges and them Gibsons

with great respect

Thanks, too, as always to Linda Steele for her

good taste and patience

Prologue

Nine by nine and three by three,

We shall seek the Skraeling Tree.

W
HELDRAKE,

“A Border Tragedy”

The following statement was pinned to a later part of this manuscript. The editor thought it better placed here, since it
purports to be at least a partial explanation of the motives of our mysterious dream travelers. Only the first part of this
book is written in a different, rather idiosyncratic hand. The remaining parts of the story are mostly in the handwriting
of Count Ulric von Bek. The note in his hand demanding that the manuscript not be published until after his death is authentic.

More than one school of magistic philosophy insists that our world is the creation of human yearning. By the power of our
desires alone, we may bring into being whole universes, entire cosmologies, and supernatural pantheons. Many believe we dream
ourselves into existence
and then dream our own gods and demons, heroes and villains. Each dream, if powerful enough, can produce still another version
of reality in the constantly growing organism that is the multiverse. They believe that just as we dream creatively, we also
dream destructively. Some of us have the skills and courage to come and go in the dreams of others, even create our own dreams
within the host dream. This was the accepted wisdom in Melniboné, where I was born.

In Melniboné we were trained to enter dreams in which we lived whole and very long lives, gaining the experience such realities
brought. I had lived over two thousand years before I reached the age of twenty-five. It was a form of longevity I would wish
upon only a handful of enemies. We pay a price for a certain kind of wisdom which brings the power to manipulate the elements.

If you were lucky, as I was, you did not remember much of these dreams. You drove them from your mind with ruthless deliberation.
But the experience of them remained in your blood, was never lost. It could be called upon in the creation of strong sorcery.
Our nature dictates that we forget most of what we dream, but some of the adventures I experienced with my distant relative
Count Ulric von Bek enabled me to record a certain history which intertwined with his. What you read now, I shall likely forget
soon.

These dreams form a kind of apocrypha to my main myth. In one life I was unaware of my destiny, resisting it, hating it. In
another I worked to fulfill that destiny, all too aware of my fate. But only in this dream am I wholly conscious
of my destiny. And when I have left the dream, it will fade, becoming little more than a half-remembered whisper, a fleeting
image. Only the power will stay with me, come what may.

Elric Sadric’s son, last Emperor of Melniboné

Should you ask me, whence these stories?

Whence these legends and traditions,

With the odors of the forest,

With the dew and damp of meadows,

With the curling smoke of wigwams,

With the rushing of great rivers,

With their frequent repetitions

And their wild reverberations,

As of thunder in the mountains?

I should answer, I should teü you,

“From the forests and the prairies,

From the great lakes of the Northland,

From the land of the Ojibways

From the land of the Dacotahs,

From the mountains, moors, and fen-lands

Where the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,

Feeds among the reeds and rushes.

I repeat them as I heard them

From the lips ofNawadaha,

The musician, the sweet singer.”

L
ONGFELLOW
, “The Song of Hiawatha”

Contents

THE GOLDEN CITY

CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR THE NOVELS OF MICHAEL MOORCOCK

Also by Michael Moorcock

Copyright

Prologue

THE FIRST BRANCH: OONA’S STORY

CHAPTER ONE: The House on the Island

CHAPTER TWO: On the Shores of Gitche Gumee

CHAPTER THREE: A Prince of the Prairie

CHAPTER FOUR: Strange Dimensions

CHAPTER FIVE: Feathers ana Scales

CHAPTER SIX: The Snows of Yesteryear

CHAPTER SEVEN: The White Path

THE SECOND BRANCH: ELRIC’S STORY

CHAPTER EIGHT: Conversation in Satan’s Garden

CHAPTER NINE: Pielle d’Argent

CHAPTER TEN: The Mouth of Hel

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Klosterheim

CHAPTER TWELVE: The Vision in the Lodge

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The Trail of Honor

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Gentleman at Large

THE THIRD: BRANCH ULRIC’S STORY

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: The Chasm of Nihrain

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Fate’s Fool

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Against the Flow of Time

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: The Hawk Wind

CHAPTER NINETEEN: The Shining Path

CHAPTER TWENTY: The Pathfinder

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Skrayling Tree

EPILOGUE

About the Author

A Preview of
GLORIANA OR, THE UNFULFILL’D QUEEN

T
HE
F
IRST
B
RANCH

O
ONA

S
S
TORY

Nine Black Giants guard the Skraelings’ Tree,

Three to the South and to the East are Three,

Three more the Westward side will shield,

But the North to a White Serpent she will yield;

For he is the dragon who deeply sleeps

Yet wakes upon the hour to weep,

And when he weeps fierce tears of fire,

They form a fateful funeral pyre

And only a singer with lute or lyre,

Shall turn the tide of his dark desire.

W
HELDRAKE
, “Tke Skraeling Tree”

CHAPTER ONE
The House on the Island

Hearing I ask from the Holy Races,

From Heimdall’s sons, both high and low;

Thou wilt know, Valfather, how well I relate

Old tales I remember of men long ago.

I remember yet the giants of yore,

Who gave me bread in the days gone by;

Nine worlds I knew, the nine in the tree

With mighty roots beneath the mold.

T
HE
P
OETIC
E
DDA
,

“The Wise Woman’s Prophecy”

I
am Oona, the shape-taker, Grafin von Bek, daughter of Oon the Dreamthief and Elric, Sorcerer Emperor of Melniboné. When my
husband was kidnapped by Kakatanawa warriors, in pursuit of him I descended into the maelstrom and discovered an impossible
America. This is that story.

With the Second World War over at last and peace of sorts returned to Europe, I closed our family cottage on the edge of the
Grey Fees, and settled in Kensington, West London, with my husband Ulric, Count Bek. Although I am an expert archer and trained
mistress of illusory arts, I had no wish to follow my mother’s calling. For a year or two in the late 1940s I lacked a focus
for my skills until I found a vocation in my husband’s sphere. The unity of shared terror and grief following the Nazi defeat
gave us all the strength we needed to rebuild, to rediscover our idealism and try to ensure that we would never again slide
into aggressive bigotry and authoritarianism.

Knowing that every action taken in one realm of the multiverse is echoed in the others, we devoted ourselves confidently to
the UN and the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which H. G. Wells had drafted, in direct reference
to Paine and the U.S. Founding Fathers, just before the War. The U.S.A.’s own Eleanor Roosevelt had helped the momentum. Our
hope was that we could spread the values of liberal humanism and popular government across a world yearning for peace. Needless
to say, our task was not proving an easy one. As the Greeks and Iroquois, who fathered those ideas, discovered, there is always
more immediate profit to be gained from crisis than from tranquillity.

By September 1951, Ulric and I had both been working too hard, and because I traveled so much in my job, we had chosen to
educate our children at boarding school in England. Michael Hall in rural Sussex was a
wonderful school, run on the Steiner Waldorf system, but I still felt a certain guilt about being absent so often. In previous
months Ulric had been sleeping badly, his dreams troubled by what he sometimes called “the intervention,” when Elric’s soul,
permanently bonded to his, experienced some appalling stress. For this reason, among others, we were enjoying a long break
at the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed summer house of Nova Scotian friends currently working in Trinidad. They were employed
by the West Indies Independence Commission. When they returned to Cap Breton we would then leave their airy home to visit
some of Ulric’s relatives in New England before taking the
Queen Elizabeth
back to Southampton.

We had the loveliest weather. There was already a strong hint of autumn in the coastal breezes and a distinct chill to the
water we shared with the seals, who had established a small colony on one of the many wooded islands of the Sound. These islands
were permanently fascinating. The comings and goings of the wildlife provided just the right relaxation after a busy year.
While Ulric and I enjoyed our work, it involved a great deal of diplomacy, and sometimes our faces ached from smiling! Now
we could laze, read, frown if we felt like it and stop to enjoy some of nature’s most exquisite scenery.

BOOK: The Skrayling Tree
13.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Apostle by Brad Thor
Shadowed Ground by Vicki Keire
Dying for a Date by Cindy Sample
Just Like a Woman by Madeleine Clark
Cloud Permutations by Tidhar, Lavie
Weavers by Aric Davis
Wedding of the Season by Laura Lee Guhrke
The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock