Melniboné, (pronounced mel-NIH-bo-nay), also known as the The Dragon Isle and The Bright Empire, is an island nation ruled by a 10,000 year old dynasty of emperors. Melniboné is populated by the Melnibonéans, elfin non-humans who worship Chaos. Melniboné's domination of the world is a result of their cunning, cruelty, their potent sorcery and their alliance with the Dragons. Elric of Melniboné is the last Emperor to sit on the Ruby Throne. Elric would later go on to destroy his own Empire and burn Imrryr, the Dreaming City, to the ground.
At the beginning of the Elric series, Imrryr is already ten thousand years old, and the Melnibonéans have lived on the island for an even longer time. Much of its past is legend. The Melnibonéans themselves are not originally natives of the dimension in which they live. In The Revenge of the Rose, the Melnibonéans are said to be related to the Vadhagh people who appear in the Corum books.
In the book The Dragon in the Sword it is said that the Melnibonéans are descendants of an elfin nomadic race - a group of the Eldren met with disaster while traveling through the Multiverse with a pair of dragons, the Eldren women became stranded in the dimension of Gheestenheem (one of the Six Worlds in the local group of planes) when the female dragon was trapped in the Dragon Sword. Adopting the identity of Cannibal Ghost Women, they survived for generations by mating with human males, a union that invariably resulted in Eldren daughters. Finally the Eternal Champion releases the dragon by breaking the Dragon Sword in the Iron Round. Upon her release, the she-dragon opens the Dragon Gate between the dimensions. The races of dragon and Eldren are reunited, and a minor character predicts the reforging of the broken pieces of the sword as two swords: Stormbringer and Mournblade.
Two contradictory accounts of Imrryr’s special relationship with Arioch are given in the Elric series. The first version says the Melnibonéans came from R'lin K'ren A'a (“Where the High Ones Meet”), a city on an island in the jungle-covered western continent. The people of R'lin K'ren A'a were peaceful by nature, but the Lords of the Higher Worlds wanted the location for a meeting. In exchange for giving up the city, the royal family received Arioch’s patronage. Some of the refugees went as far as Sorcerer’s Isle; others went on to Melniboné, where the dragons were already living. Imrryr itself was built two centuries after the settling of the island.
A different version says that originally the Melnibonéans were allied to the Cosmic Balance and lived in two cities, Imrryr and H'hui'shan. The two cities disagreed whether to shift over to Chaos and accept the patronage of Arioch. In a civil war three days in length, Melniboné was left in ruins, but the inhabitants of H'hui'shan, the supporters of the Balance, were all killed. This version is vouched for by the ghost of Sadric, Elric’s father, who claims that the dead are able to discern the truth. In both versions, the patronage of Chaos inevitably twists the Melnibonéans over time, making them cruel and aggressive instead of peaceful.
However it was achieved, the alliance with Arioch made the Imrryrians masters of their world over millennia. Besides the support of Arioch, they enjoyed numerous advantages: their natural command of magic, the aid of the dragons, their battle-barges, even the terrifying swords Stormbringer and Mournblade wielded by generations of Bright Emperors. The first human civilization that attempted to challenge Melniboné was Quarzhasaat, roughly 8,000 years after the founding of Imrryr. The Sorcerer Kings sent a deluge of sand to turn the fertile empire of Quarzhasaat into a desert, although the city itself survived in isolation.
Their gradual loss of power stems from their own apathy and withdrawal rather than from any outside pressure. Even in its last days, Imrryr remains the center of trade in the western world. Only in the last half of the tenth millennium did the human nations of the Young Kingdoms feel sufficiently free of Melniboné's dominance to attempt raids of the great city.
One such raid was successfully thwarted by Elric in the first year of his reign. Shortly afterwards, he unwisely left the throne in the care of his ambitious cousin, Prince Yyrkoon, while he spent a year in the Young Kingdoms. Yyrkoon usurps the throne and puts Cymoril, his sister and Elric’s beloved, into a magical sleep. Elric retaliates by leading another raid against Imrryr. Backed by his magic and his knowledge, the raiders loot and destroy the city, but are killed by survivors crewing battle-barges and riding dragons. The surviving Imrryrians become mercenaries. The ruins of the city stand until the end of the world a few years later. Thus begins a new cycle of the world: our world.