This week I read:
Elric: Stormbringer! by Michael Moorcock
The end of the Elric stories (and the end of Elric, too), and definitely the most well-written of the lot. It made me laugh with how incredibly “Elric” it is: so much happens that would be entire novels by other authors, big events are covered in a sentence or two. He kills four gods, goes on two separate quests after different legendary artefacts, talks to the ghost of his father (a common theme), summons the Lords of Law to Earth, destroys the world, remakes the world… just about everything that could happen in an Elric story happens in these scant 230 pages, and somehow it doesn’t feel rushed.
I particularly liked the description of the arrival of the Lords of Law. One chapter ends with Elric’s kinsman being slain and Elric desperately blowing the horn that would summon them, to avoid an otherwise inevitable defeat at the hands of Chaos:
There was no time for mourning. Elric and Moonglum and the bare score of remaining dragons could not possibly win against Jagreen Lern’s strength, which had hardly been touched by the attack. Standing over the body of his cousin, he placed the Horn of Fate to his lips, took a huge breath and blew. The clear, melancholy note of the horn rang out over the battlefield and seemed to carry in all directions of the cosmos, through all the myriad planes and existences, through all eternity to the ends of the multivere and the ends of time itself.
The note took long moments to fade and, when it had at last died away, there was an absolute hush over the world, the milling millions were still, and there was an air of expectancy.
And then the White Lords came.
The next chapter begins with, in stark contrast, a hopeful and triumphant tone:
It was as if some enormous sun, thousands of times larger than Earth’s, had sent a ray of light pulsing through the cosmos, defying the flimsy barriers of time and space, to strike upon the great black battlefield. And along it, appearing on the pathway that the horn’s weird power had created for them, strode the majestic Lords of Law, their earthly forms so beautiful that they challenged Elric’s sanity, for his mind could scarcely absorb the sight. They disdained to ride, like the Lords of Chaos, on bizarre beasts, but moved without steeds, a magnificent assembly with their mirror-clear armour and rippling surcoats bearing the single Arrow of Law.
I think it works really well.
The Elric stories go out of their way to emphasise that Chaos is not “evil” and Law is not “good”, but a different axis entirely. Chaos is usually a bad force (indeed the Lords of Chaos are frequently called the Dukes of Hell), but the Bright Empire of Melnibone only attained its heights because of its patron, Lord Arioch of Chaos. Humanity needs Law, but it needs a dose of Chaos too to it doesn’t stagnate.
Too much Law is as bad as too much Chaos, what the world needs—what the Eternal Champion fights for—is Balance.
No Arden Vul this week, because I was visiting friends instead. But we did play, in person, a bit of Thousand Year Old Vampire and Delta Green.
Thousand Year Old Vampire worked pretty well as a cooperative game, we just discussed the prompts as a group and advanced the story together. We played for a few hours, and our vampire was running kind of low on resources (and so getting close to death), and we also were starting to think about wrapping the game up to make dinner, so we just picked a few prompts that would lead to them getting killed.
Our vampire began the wife of a Mayan chocolatier (did they have chocolatiers? doesn’t matter) and ended up getting killed several centuries later in some European war, while trying to hide out and wait for it to blow over. Along the way she kept a succession of pet birds, even though in the end she couldn’t remember why (her husband gave her a bird while they were courting). Friends turned to enemies, and enemies to friends. Some characters died, some came back changed. An immortal posing as a local deity became a bitter foe. Business dealings went south. A fun story.
For Delta Green we started playing The Last Equation but unfortunatly didn’t have time to finish it off before I had to go catch a train—we’ll just have to continue online. This is only the second Delta Green scenario we’ve done, so we’re still kind of learning the ropes, but it’s fun and I think we’re all getting the hang of it. I do have to keep reminding the players that their characters aren’t actually interested in solving the case, they’re just posing as that so they get access to things and can act to shut down further investigation into the unnatural (and if they can best do that by committing crimes like falsifying evidence to blame something else and destroying the actual evidence, so be it).
It’s like we’re playing an RPG about LARPing.
As mentioned above, I visited friends this weekend. It was actually really nice, and not something I do that often. I don’t really travel to visit people much; I tend to hang out with people when they’re visiting my area, and otherwise mostly just talk to people online. But hopping on a train, going somewhere, and hanging out for a weekend is a nice change of pace and something I should do more often.