From the back of the book:
"'...they are cruel and clever and to them 'mortality' means little more than a proper respect for the traditions of a hundred centuries."
Michael Moorcock, Elric of Melniboné
For ten thousand years, The Bright Empire of Melniboné ruled the face of the earth, subjugating the barbarian tribes and using them as slaves. These inhuman folk kept the world in bondage with demon magic and dragon flame. The people of the Dragon Isle rest in their capital city of Imrryr, secure in their place as the undisputed rulers of the world.
But their rule was never truly permanent. Addiction and hubris made them short-sighted, and they refused to see threat before it was too late. Wars were fought and won, but at too great a cost. Now the Empire lies in ruins, a bright shadow of its former glory.
With the coronation of Dragon Prince Elric, the citizens of Melniboné clamour for the Emperor to spearhead an assault on the world, to awaken the sleeping dragons and have their proud Dragon Princes ride the air once more and retake what was once theirs. But the pensive albino merely broods, a victim to this curious emotion called 'conscience,' foreign to the alien Melnibonéan mind.
Amongst his court, there are rumoured whispers that the albino Emperor's reign will be a short one and that it will bring profound changes to the Bright Empire. Indeed, there are factions at work to ensure that very thing comes to pass
For good or ill."